History of Westerville

Richland Township
Decatur County, Iowa
Westerville was founded in 1853 by Theron WESTERVELT. William HENSHAW was the first settler on the west side of the river. Some say that he started the town first and called it Milford. Westerville's post office was established in 1853 and Theron Westervelt appointed as postmaster. He also built the first grist mill on the river. A second one was built on the same site after the first burned. In a 1868 issue of the Leon paper it stated "The Westerville Mill has been rebuilt by a new owner, Richard ROBERTS." There have been several operators of the mill. In some history written by Elizabeth Jane HOLLENBECK she states that Peter HOLLENBECK ran the mill at Westerville. They washed their clothes on the bank of the Grand River, heating the water in a big iron kettle. The children attended school in a cabin and the teacher was a Mr. LUTTON. The HOLLENBECK family left Westerville in 1864, going to Holton, Kansas by covered wagon. Other mill operators were Mick VELTON, Mr. CORNICK, Jim JONES and Wait CASE. In the days when the mill was in operation, you would see teams of horses pulling wagons loaded with sacks of corn or wheat to be ground. The miller received cash or part of the meal as payment. The teams were then tied to the hitchrack, and the arguing of politics or the playing of pitch or checkers began. Night would usually be approaching before they started home.

Pete and Mina WESTERVELT son and daughter of Theron, lived nearby for many years and are buried in the Westerville Cemetery. Other early settlers were Alexander BRAMMER, I. P. Lamb, Sam LANDES, James McGRAW, Michael FOLAND, W. H. YOUNG, ADAMS, GOINS, SNOOK, BURCHETT, GRIMM, METTS, PENCE, HUKILL, EAVES, JONES, GILREATH and SHIELDS.

In 1877, the town consisted of the John LANDES general store, Michael FOLAND hardware and harness shop, Thomas WILLIAMS blacksmith shop, Robert's mill, Miss SWANSON'S millinery shop, drug store, saloon and the district school. Dr. BROWN was the physician and D. S. EWAN was postmaster. Two early teachers were Jennie GROGAN and Alta HAUENSTEIN.

In 1881, after Grand River was established, part of the homes and businesses were moved there. The post office was closed in 1904. The last store closed in 1940. It was owned and operated by Adrian CARR, who lost his life in World War II.

Today (1981) Westerville consists of an idle school house and four homes belonging to the David PETERSONS, Ronald STARKS, Joe SHIELDS and Mrs. Raymond (Alice) McGRAW.

"Westerville History." Reflections of Grand River, Iowa 1881-1981. Clarke Pub. Co. Osceola IA. 1981.

Recollections of Westerville

By Marie McGraw O'Hair
On the southeast corner of main street across the road from the McGraw house was a two story building used as a store. Some of the proprietors were: Mr. Roger, Ed Sanders, Dennis Edwards and Walter Briner. It also housed the post office. It was destroyed by fire in 1903. The next house north was built by Mr. Roger, later lived in by the Hukills, Jim Coles and presently the Joe Shields family. On the southwest corner of main street was another store. Proprietors were: John Landes, Mr. Oxley, Charlie Hukill, and Bart Carr, (Dr. Carr's father and Adrian's grandfather).

The first house north, was lived in by the Hukills and Bart Carr. Next was the Cornick home, later the Jim Jones home. On the north across the alley was the Dennis Edwards home, later being the Walter Briners and the Cafferys. The next house belonged to D. S. Ewan and the next a Mr. Brammer. Going west on the alley on the south side was the Ed McIntosh residence.

James McGraw purchased the S. A. Miles farm in 1902. Before that it was owned by Capt. Landes. West of the McGraw residence was the Amos Ladd house, later occupied by the Austen Drapers and the Frank Metts. Next was the Barnium house and then the Tom Williams house. Across the road from the school house was the farm owned by Henry Landes, later by Harry Gilreath and now by the Ronald Starks. On north, on the corner, was the Dr. Bone house (before he moved to Grand River), later occupied by the Bohals, Starks and Metts. The next place north belonged to Ohio Hukill, later John Landes and presently owned by Dave Peterson. The next place housed a family named McNamara and later J. D. Foster.

There was a road, going down to the river from the west side, along the south side of the bridge and then under it. It was here that Mr. Ewan dropped dead while watering his horse from the river. There was also a large orchard on the east side of the river.

NOTE: Henry LANDES was my 3rd Great Grandfather and John Franklin LANDES was his brother. They originally came from York County, PA then to Greencastle, Putnam County, Indiana and then to Decatur and Clarke Counties in Iowa. ~ Thanks, Jan Lund

"Reflections of Grand River, Iowa 1881-1981." Clarke Pub. Co. Osceola IA. 1981.
Copied by Stacey McDowell Dietiker

Westerville Mill, located north of Grand River at Westerville.
This is the second mill and the picture was taken in 1917. Esther STARK identified this picture. Pearl SHIELDS had a print like this one labeled 1917. Forrest Cole, photographer.

There was another building that burned, according to Nick FOLAND, who said he went to the mill with grain to grind on horseback. His dad would lift him up on the 'old work horse' and way to the mill he would go. He said later he used to swim in the waters at the location which is north of Alice McGRAW'S home today.

Source: Leon Journal-Reporter, October 23, 1975; transcription by Sharon R. Becker
In 1902, this iron overhead bridge, Westerville, Richland Township, Decatur County, Iowa, had just been completed. The workforce consisted five teams of horses with the wheeler scrapers, 3 hand shovels, 18 men and 2 children. The smallest child, in the back, is Nelson SHIELDS. He is standing between his sister, Lucille (SHIELDS) BOLES and his father, Oscar SHIELDS. The man at the very top on the right is Bert STARK (Noel STARK'S uncle). The [county board of] supervisors at the time were: W. H. CAMPBELL, C. W. CARR, T. MORRIS and T.E. LEEPER. It is believed that the man standing in front at the left is Mr. LEEPER.

The bridge is still standing [1975 or 1976] but a new floor is needed. - Source Leon Journal-Reporter; submitted by Nelson SHIELDS.
History Index   ***   Decatur County IAGenWeb