Histories of Weldon

Franklin Township

Decatur County, Iowa


Weldon, 1890 - Joe Coffey Carpenter Shop, Charles DePew Section Foreman and Charles Pettis Blacksmith Shop
"The Racket Market" 2nd from right of storefronts
Photograph courtesy of Sherry Balow


Copied by Nancee (McMurtrey) Seifert
 The Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska Railroad was built halfway across Decatur County in 1880. soon after this the portion of the line west of Humeston was sold to the Humeston and Shenandoah Railroad which extended the road west about 100 miles. In early 1860 J.P. KLINE and his Uncle LAMBERT KLINE came to Iowa from Illinois, looking for land; eventually J. P. KLINE purchased a section of land in Southern Iowa. His first deeds were dated 1869. The land lay ing northwest Franklin Township. At that time the town was Green Bay which lay south of the present Green Bay Cemetery; but when the railroad was being surveyed MR. KLINE offered to give the right-of-way across his land if the road went straight across the northern boundary; this they agreed to do. In the summer of 1880 the railroad purchased from J.P. KLINE 70 acres of fine farm land adjacent to and south of the railroad for a town site. The railroad company established their station on this land.

Among the villages to which this new line gave existence was Weldon. It was one of the brightest little villages in southern Iowa. It was laid out on level ground in the northwest part of Franklin Township. On August 3rd, 1880 it was laid out in streets and lots which were rapidly purchased. MR. KLINE gave the streets to the town. The main street is 140 foot wide. It was given on condition that there should never be a tavern in town.

The proprietors of the town were a company composed of L.P. SIGLER and J.L. YOUNG of Leon, MESSRS. DRAKE AND HILL of Centerville. The population had grown to 300 by late 1881. L.G. and FRANK M. JAMISON purchased the first lots. One lot being purchased for their store building, which they moved from Smyrna along with their stock of goods, thus becoming the first business firm in the town. This was just south of our Post Office. They hauled all their goods for the store from Humeston which was as far as the railroad was finished at the time.

DR. ENOS MITCHELL purchased one lot and built the first residence. He moved his family in at once. DR. WALL purchased two lots and built a house. He soon saw a drug store was needed so he and MR. FIPPIN started one on the west side of Main Street. The MERRIT FRENCH family was the first to begin housekeeping.

After some delay a post office was established; the delay being over the name of the town. MR. KLINE wanted some variant of his name, but there was a similar name in northern Iowa so the name Weldon was chosen for Weldon River, which begins as a small creek on the KLINE section. Weldon was incorporated in 1902. L.G. JAMISON was appointed postmaster. To accommodate the office he built an addition to his store. This building with all its contents was destroyed by fire several years later.

The second general store was that of LEDGERWOOD and HODGES. The first lumber yard was that of BALDWIN and WILLIAMSON. BALDWIN soon sold his share in the business to JOHN BULLARD of Ft. Madison. MRS. WOLEVER, who had kept a boarding house at Green Bay, built a hotel near the depot and did a good business. METIER, JAMISONS, and NORTON became the first grain dealers, shipping out an immense amount of grain. EALS and NORTON were the first stock shippers.


H. HUGHES was the first hardware merchant in the town. The ROGER SISTERS had the first millinery firm, and DICK MURPHY was the first furniture dealer. In the spring of 1881 JOHN BARNARD moved his shop from Smyrna and became the blacksmith for Weldon. DOCTORS MITCHELL, WALL and STUART were the first doctors in the town. Several other businesses came to Weldon but particulars are not available.

The railroad finished building their depot. Until churches were built the people held Sunday School and all religious services in the waiting room of the depot, the bank parlor, or wherever a room large enough could be had.

In 1882 both the Methodist and Christian people united their efforts and built the Methodist Episcopal Church at a cost of $2,000.00. It was a substantial frame structure painted white. It was dedicated in August of the same year by PRESIDENT PARK of Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa. REV. D.O. STEWART was the first pastor of the new church. In 1906 the Methodists remodeled and enlarged their church, putting in a full basement and building a belfry and spire.

The Christian Church people decided after a time that they were strong enough in number and financially to build their own church, so the Methodist people returned the help given them earlier. The church was completed in January 1886 and dedicated in May 1886 by L.L. CARPENTER. The church cost $2,400.00. In 1902 an annex was built to the structure for the young peoples' meetings.

The first marriage was that of C.B. CHASE and BLANCHE ROACH. The first child born in Weldon was JOHN LEWIS MITCHELL, son of REV. GEORGE E. MITCHELL and wife. This son did not live to grow to manhood.
L.P. SIEGLER of Leon built the first bank for the Decatur County Banking Association. The Association organized the Bank of Weldon in the spring of 1881 and conducted business until January 1, 1886. It was then sold to a company consisting of THOMAS J. EALS,



CYRIL C. WOOD, A.E. CHASE, S.O. HINGSTON, OSCAR JUDD, J.Z. MCALISTER, U. CHASE and E.L. CHASE. T.J. EALS was President, C.C. WOOD - Vice President and E.L. CHASE - Cashier. It was an excellent business and had the confidence of the community. In January, 1888 this bank was taken over by B.D. DEKALB and for twelve years his daughter, Helen, took care of the business. Sometime later the bank was sold to W.W. LYON of Des Moines. GEORGE AYERS continued as cashier. The bank was soon sold to C.C. WOOD, who had already started the Citizens Bank.

The Weldon Savings Bank was organized in 1901 with S.L. CURRY, J.W. NEWELL, C.M. MCFARLAND, HEDDING BLAIR, URIAH GARRIS, H.E. STEVENS, W.R. WARREN, OSCAR JUDD, and GEORGE AYERS as stockholders. A short time afterwards they bought the Citizens Bank from C.C. WOODS, and Weldon had only one bank. The Weldon Savings Bank had to close during the depression in 1932. Some of the Bank's Presidents were W.R. WARREN, SHELBY EDDY, and CHARLIE HALL. The cashiers were OLIN MONROE, W.R. WARREN and GERDA KLINE.

This town is located on the Humeston & Shenandoah Rail Road. The town has about 30 business houses though it is only about a year and a half old. It has some fine stores, a nice church, bank, well edited paper, good hotels, a good school, etc. The town is surrounded by as fine a country as any in the state, which is well settled and improved. The town is well built, and the citizens a very enterprising and energetic class. Parties seeking a good point to engage in business should stop at Weldon. June 10, 1882


In 1882 Weldon had 30 some business places. Here are a few of them:
Bank of Weldon, E.L. CHASE, Cashier; The Weldon Witness, ED BURLEIGH, Owner; Maxwell House, D.K. MAXWELL; General Store, W.M. BAKER; General Store, W.M. BAKER; Weldon House, A.M. MOORE; Weldon Livery Stable, JAMES HOWARD; Harness Shop, E.S. GRIMES; Hardware, MATHENY, METIER & CO.; Standard Implements and Shelf Hardware, M. HUGHES; Drugs & Medicine, DR. L.T. GREENLEE; House and Signpainter, J.S. ABBOTT; Druggist, CYRUS B. CHASE; Boot & Shoemaker, H. DEWILD; Furniture, W.A. STANDISH; Real Estate, H.G. BURLEIGH; Western Restaurant, OREN GREEMAN; Lumber Yard, BULLARD, EALS & CO.; Baker, MRS. WOLEVER; Contractors, FRENCH & COFFEY; Blacksmith-Wagon Repair, J.D. BARNARD; City Meat Market, MCVAY & MOYER.

In the fall of 1881 EMMA DESELM taught a subscription school in the I.O.O.F. Lodge Hall. The next spring the children were sent to a country school, "Shelby", located one mile north of Weldon. That fall WILLIAM E. MORROW was hired to teach in town; expense for the school was paid from the township school funds.

October 1, 1882 the town was set off as an independent school district and W.C. WHITMARSH hired to teach the school, which was conducted on the second floor of the Town Hall. The members of the first school board were GEORGE MITCHELL, S.M. POWELL and L.T. GREENLEE. DR. ENOS MITCHELL was hired to teach the school during the months of May and June, 1883 at a salary of $25.00 per month. He was often obliged to leave the school in charge of one of the older pupils while he attended his practice of caring for the sick. The next fall MRS. M.A. CRICHFIELD took charge of the school and had an enrollment of about seventy pupils. The next year MRS. CRICHFIELD hired MISS MILA GRIMES to help her for a few months.

In 1885 the first school house was erected in East Weldon, where MERLYN OILER now lives, at a cost of $2,000.00, ground included.

JOSEPH COFFEY was the contractor. The first year in the new building MRS. CRICHFIELD was assisted by MISS NORA BROWN in the Primary Department. In 1886-1887 J.H. JAMISON became principal and the next was I.S. CONDIT. A.A. ROY, the next teacher, took the first steps in arranging a graded system in the school. The next teachers were J.C. WINGETT, CHARLES FISHER, and J.W. COZAD who held the first graduation exercises in the spring of 1893 with six graduates as follows: FRANK DURNALL, ANNA KLINE, J.L. LANE, MATE MAXWELL, JESSIE MARSHALL and ELLA TALLMAN. ANNA KLINE was the daughter of J.P. KLINE who had once owned the land Weldon was built on. The Class of 1894 had his son, CARL, Class of 1898 daughter, GERDA, Class of 1900 daughter, NEVA. He had many grandchildren graduate in the later years.

As the years went by, the number of children having outgrown that first school building, the grades were continued in the old building while the High School was held in the Opera House until the new modern two story structure was completed in 1895.

As the school continued to grow they put an addition on the building. Some of the Superintendents were: MR. RADCLIFFE, MR. LATTA, MR. HILL, MR. A.N. SMITH, Professors J.M. HOWELL, J.N. MCINTOSH, H.J. O'NEIL.

The first girls' basketball team was organized in 1909. The team included the following girls pictured above left to right: MAUDE BARGER, EUNICE HALL, EVA TANSEY, MAE TRISLER, HELEN HOOVER, ROSMAN THOMSON, EVA TILLOTSON, VERNA HIDEBAUGH, ETHEL LOMAN and HAZEL BARGER not pictured. It was said they were a good team.

(I'm not allowed to include attachments to the List - so the picture mentioned is not included..) N

On the morning of April 12, 1917 the school house burned to the ground.

The pupils continued school, some in the churches, the older ones in Parr's Theatre above the locker. Before too long a rough building, covered with tar paper was built on the southeast edge of the school yard. They called it "The Sheep Shed" and it housed the elementary and grammar grades. The last to graduate from the old school was the class of 1917 consisting of PERLE BARTHOLOW, HELEN LOCKWOOD, HAZEL LANE, MAGGIE PETTIS, MABEL FISHER, TESSIE TRISLER, HESTER BARTHOLOW, VERA YOUNG, GLADYS EVANS AND MATT GARTON.

The school officials soon made plans for a new modern school building and by fall of 1918 a new structure was up. By now the U.S.A. was in World War I and the following young men, some Weldon graduates, had entered service; JOE CLINTON, FRANK DELK, C.W. DELK, LESLIE EVANS, MEREDITH EVANS, GORDON FARMER, MATT GARTON, CASH GARTON, HERMAN LIGGETT, LEONARD MCVEY, BURRELL MONROE, OLIN MONROE, ROY MONROE, LEO PAGE, WILLIAM TOMPKINS, CLAUDE WESTFALL, ROY WILSON, HARRY WILLIAMS, AND RUSSELL DELK still in High School and his Professor, J.E. PRITCHARD. No classes were graduated in the years 1918 and 1919.

One of the Weldon graduates, GORDON FARMER, son of the JOHN FARMERS, graduated from Weldon High in 1914 and then joined the United States Navy. On January 15, 1918 during a violent storm, Farmer, then a first class seaman, and Naval Lt. OMAR T. PFEIFFER were in the crow's nest l50 foot above the deck of the U.S.S. Michigan. The ship was off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina when the crow's nest went down killing six men and taking GORDON's right arm and his left arm was badly injured. He survived his injuries and later served the Postal Department for many years.

LOWELL E. COCKRILL was the first Superintendent of the new Weldon School.

The first class to graduate from the school was the class of 1920 with just one graduate, CLIFFORD MITCHELL.

The Weldon Alumni Association was organized sometime before 1906. They did not have meetings every year, but some years they had elaborate Alumni Banquets. The following is a program for the Banquet - a three course dinner - Saturday, May 16, 1925.


Toastmaster- - - - - - - DR. O.P. JAMISON
Prayer - - - - - - - REV. HUDSON
Welcome to Sr. Class - - C.M. KLINE
Response - - - - - - - MURIEL MITCHELL
Piano Solo - - - - - - - MRS. J.I. WADE
Toast Ability- - - - - - HELEN EDDY
Toast Loyalty- - - - - - MADGE SAFFELL
Vocal Solo - - - - - - - MRS. DONALD PRICE
Toast Understanding- - - MRS. L.E. COCKRILL
Toast Motive - - - - - - GLEN MCFARLAND
Toast Nobility - - - - - CECIL MITCHELL
Toast Intelligence - - - ALFRED MARSHALL
Vocal Solo - - - - - - - EDNA LOCKWOOD
"Pieces of Silver"- - - REV. FRANK MOORE
Piano Solo - - - - - - - MISS WILLIAMS,
Conservatory of Music
Simpson College, Indianola



written by RUTH SIMMERMAN.
Shared by Larry McElwee, Dodge City, Kansas
 Prior to the year of 1854, the territory on which the town of Van Wert now stands, was in the midst of an almost limitless expanse of gently rolling prairie, broken only by a small amount of timber that followed very closely the water courses and consisted principally of large trees without the smaller timber and underbrush that prevailed in latter years. On this vast expanse, the blue stemgrass, native to virgin soil, waved in the gentle breeze or furnished material for almost annual prairie fires that swept with devastating effect across the country. This was the natural feeding ground for deer and buffalo and antelope.

Hundreds of these animals were seen by the early settler feeding unmolested, save as some hunter or settler sought to replenish his larder or secure skins and robes for the protection of himself and household against the call of winter.

Prior to the coming of the settlers, this section, as others of our vast domain, was claimed by the red man. Neither did he relinquish his claim without a struggle. Within three miles of Van Wert there is a field that bears even today, unmistakable evidences of a mighty Indian battle, whether with some luckless emigrant train, some daring settlers or some other Indian tribe, will perhaps never be known, but the battle was fought and the Indians moved on.

About this time, the emigrants from the east, attracted by the wealth promised by our fertile prairies, began the settlement of this section, and among others, came JAMES IRVING, a man of culture, who had enjoyed social distinction in his native state, and settled in the year 1854 on the northeast quarter of section 13, Long Creek Township. In this he used his homestead right and paid the federal government $1.25 per acre. A man by the name of LAMBERT TAYLOR secured the homestead right to the northeast quarter of the same section. MR. IRVING built his cabin home a few feet south and west of HARRISON DEVORE's residence. MR. TAYLOR built his near where the GRANT SPENCER house now stands. As the country was being rapidly settled at this time, these two enterprising citizens at once conceived the idea of adding materially to their wealth by locating a town on their lands, and in order to play fair with each other, they decided to open up a new road running north and south between their lands, even though this was not on a section line, and lay out a certain number of lots on each side of said road. This they did and named the town this created, Florence.

Just what sentiment entered into the selection of the name, is perhaps not known by anyone now living. Neither have I been able to ascertain definitely why the name was changed within a few years to Prairieville or Prairie City. Some people claim that those two names were used interchangeably and were applied to the same town during the same period of time. Others thought it was first Prairie City, then Prairieville, still others the other way around. Prairieville and then Prairie City. There came a time, however, when the name because of post office complications, was again changed, this time at the suggestion of ADAM JOHNSON, a then prominent citizen of this little village, to Van Wert. I understand that he wished it thus in honor of Van Wert, Ohio, his native home.

The first post office in this new town was kept by MR. IRVING in his own home. The first store by JAMES TAYLOR, a relative of LAMBERT TAYLOR before mentioned. This store was located in a log building that stood across the street from TEIDJE GARAGE (near where the back of what is now DAVY JONES OIL STATION, and faced the north.) There was another store soon after, located near where MR. OWEN's barbershop now is, operated by GEORGE BIGFORD. Still another on a parcel of ground near where the bank building now stands, but I have not been able to ascertain the name of the first owner.

The first blacksmith shop, a very necessary part of every pioneer town, was erected by an Irishman by the name of GALLAGHER. The shop was located at the extreme south end of the row of surveyed lots and was very near where BILLY FRY now resides. MR. GALLAGHER was followed in this shop by FRANK MEDKIFF, he in turn by FRANK MANVEL, and still later by STEVE IMMS, whom many of our citizens still remember.

At a very early date there was a family by the name of WHITAKER living where the bank now stands. Also one by the name of WALDONS just south of the hotel, and GRANDAD MURRAY, an old bear hunter, lived where B.A. HALL now resides. There also seems to have been two families by the name of WROTH living on the west side of the street and one by the same name where IRA ROGERS now lives.

Among the early merchants of our town, no one name stands out with greater prominence, than that of JOHN GEMMILL, who was for many years the leading merchant of the town. He built the house where BILL FRY now resides and lived there several years before he left for other parts. Next came EPP STONE, a hustling merchant for those times, followed by JOHN TALLMAN and still later by W.F. BLAIR, then a very young man, who operated his first independent store on the corner where the TIEDJE GARAGE now stands, forty odd years ago. Since that time we have had many enterprising merchants, but they are of too recent date to mention here.

Very early in the town's history there camped by the side of the road one night an emigrant by the name of DR. POWELL. The next morning the neighbors were shocked to learn that during the night his little baby had died. This raised the question of a suitable place to bury not only this baby, but all others that death was sure to claim as time went on. At this time MR. IRVING, ever in the forefront, gave one acre of land located in the southeast corner of his quarter section, to be used as a public burying ground. Since that time literally hundreds of bodies, including the body of an Indian woman have been laid away.

After the burial of his baby, DR. POWELL decided to locate here, and his wife taught one of the first, if not the first term of school in this district. The school house stood where CLYDE GOULD now resides and the land on which it stood was donated by MR. STEEN for school purposes. In all we have had four school buildings, the first being a log school house referred to above, the second was a frame building 22 by 28 feet in size, built in 1872 at a cost of $465. The third was built in 1885. On the lots costing $2,700, the present building was erected in 1918 at a cost of $2,100. The last bonds were paid off in April of 1936.

It was a great day when we got our first railroad. This occurred in 1880; in October of that year there gathered an immense crowd of people, some of whom are living still to witness the coming in of the first regular train over the then called Humeston and Shenandoah Road. The crowd then was perhaps never surpassed at the place until years later when Theodore Roosevelt, then President of the United States, spoke to the people who had gathered on the same spot to listen as America's first citizen made his Van Wert speech. Two years later the Des Moines and Cainsville Road was built through Van Wert and located their first depot just west of the main street of today. I ought to mention as of special interest, the coming of our first bank. The bank was started and operated for a short time by MR. SHAW who later sold out to the bank of Van Wert and organized in 1900, "The Van Wert State Bank." This bank operated until 1930.

Christianity has held an important place in our community life. From the very beginning of the town's history there has been an organization of the Methodists and I find that JAMES BLAIR and wife, parents of E.J. BLAIR, were charter members. Before the town was three years old there had been erected by his band of pioneer Christians, a church. This building served the people for many years until the new frame building was erected on the ground where the fine brick structure now stands.

The Christian Church has not so early a history. Just after the days of the Civil War, or about ten years after the first Methodist Church was built, a man by the name of JOSEPHUS PORTER held a protracted meeting in a log building that stood one mile south of town where MR. KLING's orchard now is and at the close of the meeting organized the Christian Church. About two years thereafter, this band in turn built their first church building with which you are all familiar, was dedicated after which it was moved and converted into the present home of MR. and MRS. C.C. WALKER.

The town has enlarged her borders many times. First there was IRVING's First and Second additions, BRANSCOMB's addition, CORBETT's first and second additions. CORBETT also gave the town the beautiful park that we now enjoy. Later there was BAVIS, BLAIRS and THOMPSON's additions. Altogether, we now have the beautiful little town called Florence, Prairie City, Prairieville and Van Wert, your home and mine.

Practically all of this history was taken from a newspaper article written by A.E. PRICE. The article appeared in the Leon Paper May 12, 1926.

First Christian Church was organized 1886, one mile south of town where the KING ORCHARD is, the first house of worship built summer of 1886 on the east side of main street on DR. TALLMAN's lot. This building was moved, rebuilt where the parsonage now stands. In 1914 a new Christian Church was built, and closed April 13, 1969.
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