History of Leon

Center Township
County Seat of Decatur County, Iowa
This is the present county seat, and is situated about two miles northeast of the geographical center of the county. Something of the early history of the place has already been given. Thomas H. East had built a house on the town site before the town was laid out. Judge C. S. Thompson built the first house after the location of the town. Clark, Winn & Co. built the first business house, and I. N. Clark sold the first goods in September 1853.


A writer of history of the place in 1868, thus sums up the business houses: Five general stores, five family groceries, two drug stores, two stove and tin ware stores, one boot and shoe store, two printing offices, two harness shops, one jeweler, two milliners, three hotels, one livery stable, two blacksmith shops, one wagon shop, two cabinet dealers, two land agencies, six law firms, five physicians, two churches, one school house, one flouring mill and one woolen factory, with the usual proportion of mechanics of different kinds.

Among the prominent and well-known business men are Richards & Close, N. Perdew, and A. Miles & Son, general dealers; J. D. Baldwin, dealer in family groceries; Hildreth & Sales, and T. W. Hammer, druggists; S. Farquhar, in stoves and tin ware; M. H. Wood, in boots and shoes; A. S. Updegraff, harness dealer; J. R. Bashaw, jeweler; Mills & Cross, blacksmiths, and John Kennear, wagon maker. Judge L. H. Sales is the proprietor of the Sales House, and also of the only livery stand in the place, as well as one of the firm of Hildreth & Sales.

Among the prominent and well-known attorneys of southern Iowa are Warner & Davis, A. J. Evans, and Young and Harvey. Mr. Harvey is a promising young lawyer, who recently graduated and associated himself in the practice with Mr. Young. Mr. Evans is a lawyer of long standing as well as one of the pioneers of the county.

Among the leading physicians may be mentioned Drs. AH. Clay Sanford, B. F. Raiff and J. R. McClelland. Dr. Sanford is engaged in the manufacture of several patent medicines which are coming into notice.

The newspapers of Leon are the Decatur County Journal, published and edited by P. O. James; and the Leon Pioneer, by G. N. Udell. The former is Republican and the latter Democratic. The Pioneer has been published several years, and the Journal only a few months. Our friend James is printing a paper worthy of the liberal support of the people of Decatur County.

A Masonic Lodge, known as Grand River Lodge, No. 78 and Leon Chapter, No. 33, are located at Leon, and both said to be in a flourishing condition. Leon Lodge, I.O.O.F. has also just been reorganized.

Some attention has been given by the citizens to the planting of shade and ornamental trees and shrubbery. The public square, a block of ground 216 feet square, has been enclosed and planted in forest trees, mostly maple.

Such was the status in 1868. Since then considerable changes have been made. Leon is now a railroad terminus, that of the Leon branch of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, bringing into the place the business, shipping and trade of quite a large area of the surrounding country. Since the completion of this road, a new impulse has been given to the various branches of business, and the town has become one of the lively inland centers of a healthy and prosperous trade.


The independent district of Leon has a commodious and showy school edifice, built of brick several years ago. It is 45 by 64 feet, and two stories high, with two rooms below and two above. The building is well finished, and surmounted by a cupola, with a good bell. It occupies a fine, dry, rolling block of 288 feet square, and neatly fenced.

In this building is conducted a very excellent graded school. The number of pupils enrolled is between three and four hundred. One male and three female teachers are employed, the former at a salary of $40, and the latter at a salary of $30 per month. Aaron Frazier, Principal.


M. E. CHURCH - Rev. A. Wilson, Pastor. Preaching every Sabbath at 11 a.m. and 7 1/2 p. m. Sunday school at 9 o'clock a. m. Prayer meeting every Thursday evening at 8 o'clock.

PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH - Rev. C. M. DesIlets (sic), Pastor. Preaching two Sundays out of three at 10 1/2 a. m. and 7 1/2 p. m. Sunday school at 3o'clock p. m. Prayer meeting Wednesday evening at 7 o'clock.

CHRISTIAN CHURCH - No regular preaching. Prayer meeting every Sunday at 11 a. m. and Wednesday evening at 7 1/2 p. m. Sunday school every Sunday at 3 p. m.

R.A.M. - Leon Chapter, No. 33, R.A.M. meets at their hall every Wednesday evening after the full of the moon. All transient company invited to attend.
A. S. UPDEGRAFF, H. P. I. N. JONES, Secretary

A.F. & A.M. - Grand River Lodge, No. 78, A.F. & A.M. meets at their hall every Tuesday evening on or before the full of the moon. Transient brethren invited to attend.
J. S. WARNER, W. M. ED K. PITMAN, Secretary

I.O.O.F. - Leon Lodge No. 84, I.O.O.F., meet at their hall - north upstairs room in Castor Block - every Saturday night. Visiting brothers are cordially invited to attend.
A. FRAZIER, N. G. W. H. ROBB, Secretary

Decatur Encampment, No. 38, I.O.O.F., meets in the Odd Fellows Hall in Leon, Iowa, on the first and third Monday evenings of each month. Transient Patriarchs are invited to meet with them.
C. B. JORDAN, Scribe W. H. FORTUNE, C. P.

The daughters of Rebekah meet in their hall in Leon every second and fourth Tuesday evening in each month. Transient members are invited to attend.
Mrs. M.E.JAMES Mrs. J.P.FINLEY, JR, Sec.


The papers now published at Leon are the Decatur County Journal, edited and published by Mrs. M. E. James, and the Decatur County Advocate, edited and published by R. F Knapp. The former is Republican, the latter Independent in Politics. Both papers are well patronized.

Source & date unknown. Transcription by Jack Scott
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