History of Dekalb

Long Creek Township
For some reason Dekalb has been overlooked by Decatur County's historians. The little settlement came and went, leaving behind only a few scant notations in the history books.

William H. YOUNG recalled one instance when a band of Indians camped in his locality and had a sick woman with them. She was very sick and they expressed the fear that she would 'nippoo' (die). She was being transported on a platform made by fastening two long poles at the horse's neck and letting them extend well behind the horse where the platform was fastened. Here the sick woman was laid. Their fears that she would 'nippoo' were well founded for "nippoo" she did and was put to rest in a tree top near where DeKalb now is.

When Michael and Elizabeth (SOWERWINE) FOLAND came west in 1855 to Decatur County from Muncie, Indiana, Elizabeth was expecting their 7th child. Winter was coming on so the family stopped at Dekalb to wait for spring and the birth of a daughter they named Henrietta before completing their journey to their homestead east of Westerville.

Himena V. Hoffman, in her 1970 History of Decatur County noted "In 1879-80 the Humeston and Shenandoah Railway, first owned by the Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska line, reached Van Wert and by 1885 the stations in the county on this line were LeRoy, Weldon, Van Wert, DeKalb, and Grand River." (p. 82.)

A notation in 'A CENTURY OF MEMORIES' OF VAN WERT, IOWA stated, "Our county is one that has furnished a good habitat for a number of animals and fowls. The addition of the 1100 acre Game Reserve on the old DeKALB farm and surrounding land has increased the hunting grounds for our community and many traveling sportsmen as well."

Decatur County Journal
Leon, Iowa
Thursday, March 28, 1912

BENJAMIN DREW DEKALB, son of SAMUEL and SUSANNA DEKALB, was born in London County, Virginia, on the 17th day of July, 1841. Died March 29, 1912, being 70 years, 8 months and 3 days old.

He studied medicine and graduated from Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the year 1865, going from there to Sharpsburg Maryland, where he practiced with Dr. A.A. Biggs until 1868. Here he was married to MARGARET A. SMITH on the 18th day of January, 1866, who with four children, HARVEY DUNGLESON, at home; Mrs. L.P. VAN WERDEN, Leon, Iowa; Mrs. E.H. SHARP, Leon, Iowa; Mrs. L.J. LANDIS, Grand River, Iowa, survive him. In the fall of 1868, they came to Leon, Iowa, and lived in the house with Dr. And Mrs. Gardner until the following spring when they moved to the farm which has been their home for 43 years. He followed his profession after coming here, riding miles and miles over the prairies and unbroken country, over rough roads and trails frequently being called into adjoining counties and into Missouri, enduring the trials and hardships that came to the pioneer doctor. In 1880, on account of poor health, he gave up active practice. From then on he engaged in managing his farm, in mercantile and banking, until 13 years ago when he retired from all business. Nine years ago the disease that caused his illness developed, and while he has been a continuous sufferer, yet he bore it all patiently and was ready to go when the summons came.

He united with the M.E. Church, at Sharpsburg, Maryland, when 25 years of age. After coming west being so far distant, he was denied church privileges but never lost faith in his God.

Funeral services were conducted at the home Friday at 1 o'clock by Rev. J.L. Boyd, Glidden, Iowa, formerly Pastor of the M.E. Church, Leon. The remains were then borne by train to Leon and tenderly laid to rest just as the sun was going down behind the western hills. The floral tributes were many and beautiful. Dr. DEKALB was a man of strong and admirable character. Quiet and retiring by nature, he was nevertheless firm in his convictions, persistent in his purposes, steadfast in his friendships and faithful to every trust. How sad it all is! One instinctively shudders in imagining the disorder and havoc and chaos which might characterize this sphere of mortal habitation, if it were not for the innate conviction that death cannot possibly end all and that the curtain which veils our eyes and refuses us permission to see the morrow or beyond the grave is simply the dividing line between two realms of existence.

Copied by Nancee (McMurtrey) Seifert
December 28, 2009

NOTE: Margaret Ann (SMITH) DeKALB, the daughter of John Hamilton and Sarah (KRETZER) SMITH, was born in Sharpsburg, Maryland in 1848, and died in Leon, Iowa, in 1927. Harvey Dungelson DeKALB was born in Sharpsburg, Maryland in 1866, and died in Leon, Iowa, in 1927. They were interred at Leon Cemetery.

Helen Roberta DeKALB married Dr. Lou Van WERDEN; Lillian Alverda DeKALB married Dr. Harvey Bennett McKLEVERN; and Rose Estella DeKALB married Dr. Lucien Johnson LANDIS.
~ SHEALY, Mrs. Walter H. "Vital Statistics of Physicians of Sharpsburg, Washington County, Maryland."

The Leon Reporter
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
Thursday, June 11, 1914

Store at DeKalb Burned.

The depot and store building at DeKalb was destroyed by fire about six o'clock last Thursday evening. The stock of goods kept in the depot building was owned by George South, and practically the entire stock was destroyed, together with all his books. The fire had gained such headway when discovered that but little could be saved from the building. The building was owned by the railroad company and Mr. South had insurance of $600 on the stock. The origin of the fire is unknown, but it is supposed to have started from an egg candler which had been left burning in the store.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, July of 2015
Photographs courtesy of Decatur County Historical Museum & Grand River Quasquicentennial Book 2006

The Dekalb House was built in 1868 by Dr. Benjamin Dekalb, a Virginia physician who moved to Iowa following the Civil War. In the above left photograph, Elizabeth and Fred Burchett are standing in front of the house, April of 1917. Harve DeKalb lived in one room of the house.

~ Grand River Quasquicentennial Book, 2006 
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