Etna is the extreme northeastern township in Hardin county comprises congressional township 89, range 19, and is a beautiful rolling prairie country, well watered in the southwest portion by the Iowa river. The three railroads which traverse its territory are fully described in the railroad chapter in this volume. The population of this township, in 1905, exclusive of the town of original ten townships organized in the county, and was set off by the county judge before the organization of the supervisor system in the state.
The date of the first settlement in Etna township was in 1853, when Thomas Humphreys, Ichabod Lathrop, Daniel Richardson, David Hawk and Thomas E. Shumway laid claims to land within its borders, and erected for themselves cabins. In 1882 only one of these pioneer survived, Ichabod Lathrop.
The settlement in 1854 was increased by the advent of William P. Hays, Adam Frantz, Michael Ryan, Amos Sawyer and Augustus Leiser. The last mentioned met death by being kicked by a horse June 9, 1882.
In 1855 came A. G. Barnum, J. Barnum, Samuel Smith, Joseph Strahorn, John Albertis and John Strotser. Before 1880, the township had more actal settlers than any other township in Hardin county.
Ichabod Lathrop, who settled on section 34, in July, 1853, ws of New England stock, but was a native of Genesee county, New York. He finally moved to Iowa and owned two hundred and forty acres of valuable farming lands. He was a highly successful agriculturist, a prominent Republican and a pillar in the Methodist Episcopal church.
Herman Eggers, a native of Germany, born in 1818, came to America in 1848 and remained in New York five years working in a sugar refinery. He came as far west as Illinois in 1853 and to Etna township in 1854, settling on section 35.
Solomon Clover, prominent among the pioneer band of this township, located on section 27, May 31, 1855, and there purchased four hundred and twenty acres of land, now the most valuable in the township. He lost his thousand dollar house in 1862 by fire, but soon rebuilt. He gave to his children all but a little more than a hundred acres of his landed estate.
A. Bongar, another thrifty German, was numbered among the settlers who braved the prairie wilds of Etna township in 1855, having lived in his native land until about that date. In 1880 he gave the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern railroad (now Rock Island) seven acres of his land, thus securing a station known now as Cleves.
Another 1855 pioneer was Joseph Strahorn, who purchased five hundred acres of land before coming to this country, but of this he gave his sons three hundred and forty acres. He died in 1876, owning a quarter sectoin farm in Etna township. He was a native of Chester county, Pennsylvania, born in 1805.
The first birth in Etna township was Martha, daughter of Daniel Richardson and wife, September 7, 1854. She became of the wife of Edwin Bedford, who settled on section 22.
The first marriage in this township was August Leiser to Mary Ann Humphreys, August 5, 1855. Rev. E. C. Crippen officiated at their marriage. She died in 1880, and he was killed by a vicious horse two years later, both being buried at Hazel Green cemetery.
The first death in the township was Thomas Downs, who was frozen to death March 22, 1856, the hard winter mentioned by old-time settlers. The next to die was Thomas E. Shumway, in Hune, 1856, of lung fever. He was the first person to be buried within Etna township.
The first school house in this township was built in the winter of 1864-65, of hewed logs, by the people of the neighborhood, each one contributing either work, timber or cash. It stood on the southwest corner of the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 34, on land owned by Ichabod Lathrop. The first term of school was taught, however, in the summer of 1855, by Martha George, who taught twenty-one pupils.
The first religious services in Etna township were held at the home of David Hawk, on section 34, in November, 1853, by Elder Crippen, the well-known Methodist preacher.
Representative citizens of this township were spoken of in the early eighties as these: Frederick Kelocow, a German settler; Robert P. Wilson, native of Pennsylvania; John Windecker, of Wayne county, New York; Martin E. Ryken, of Holland, who became a land owner with four hundred acres in this township; Herman Reitsmeyer, of Prussia, born 1829, came to America in 1853 and to Hardin county in 1867; James B. Hathaway, of section 31, a native of Vermillion county, Indiana, born in 1839, was a member of an Illinois regiment during the Civil war.
Samuel Patton, born in Stephenson county, Illinois, in 1848, enlisted as a mere boy in the Union army in 1864, was imprisoned at Andersonville prison pen seven months; he came to Hardin county in 1869.
William Stiarwalt was born in Ohio, 1820, learned the carpenter's trade and came to Iowa in 1858, locating first at Earlville, coming here in 1870, locating on land which later he succeeded in platting as Abbott Station. He became station agent and express agent at that point, aw well as postmaster.
The Town of Ackley
Beautifully situated on the Beaver creek, a tributary of the Cedar river, is the thriving town of Ackely, within one of the fertile garden spots of the great Northwest. It ws surveyed and platted in 1857, for a company composed of William J. Ackley, Henry L. Huff, Robert P. Parriott, Abigail Parriott, A . J. Parriott and Mathilda Parriott. This plat was duly recorded on the records of Hardin county, December 12, 1857.
When the proprietors platted this town it was believed that within a short time the railroad from Dubuque west would be within the new village site, but the financial panic of 1857 thwarted all plans and blighted all their sanguine hopes - another decade must be endured before the iron horse was to be prancing through her streets! The war for the Union came on and all attention to the building up of new towns was absorbed in the one issue, "We must preserve the Union." Practically speaking, Ackley, named after one of its proprietors, was but a paper town for at least eight long years. All of the original proprietors sold out and Mr. Ackley was sole owner of the plat. This became a fortune to him, as the sequel proved. The Burns and Foster addition made later also proved a happy hit for the proprietors.
First Commerical Enterprises
Jesse C. Foster, a native of North Carolina, located in the grove hard by the town plat in 1863, and there opened the first general store. As the country settled up, he drew a large, paying trade and continued there until the advent of the Dubuque & Sioux City railroad, when all enterprise was being centered on Ackley, proper, when he had the foresight to move to the Main street of the plat and there, on the north side, erected a store building. Just before the road was finished from Aplington, Carton & Joseph began the erection of an elevator, which was, in fact, the first structure erected on the plat. William Francis completed the first building on Main street, and put in a stock of general merchandise, making him the pioneer dealer in Ackley, an honor indeed, when one looks back over the years of the sprightly city's history. There is, however, another version of the "first merchants" and it is probably correct. That is, that the first store was conducted by Secrist & Mershon, in the spring of 1865. It was located in the same block where later stood the German Methodist church, and where it is stated they remained until the autumn of that year.
M. Burns, who had been long engaged in the lumber trade at Cedar Falls, believing in the future of Ackley, established a lumber yard here. He hauled over a hundred thousand feet of pine lumber from Aplington over almost impassable roads, a distance of more than ten miles. A Mr. Eggert also started a lumber yard about the same date. J. S. Nye, an early settler, soon built a fine store building and engaged in the hardware trade, and the writer well recalls selling goods to him away back in the seventies and eighties.
John Rath, for many years so well known as a business factor and banker at Ackley, got his start in the commercial world here. He was in the employ of Mr. Burns in his lumber yards at Ackley, and rose to the dignity of a partner in that business, and later owned the entire business.
In the month of September, 1865, Ackley had but a few houses, but at the close of that year they boasted of five good stores, three grain warehouses, two lumber yards and several good residences. During the next two or three years the place grew rapidly. It never had a real western town boom, but has always kept growing in keeping with the development of the surrounding farming community, of which there is none more productive in the state of Iowa, and none better tilled by thrifty farmers, both American and German.
Let it be remembered that the first store-house in Ackley was erected by William Francis.
The first grain elevator was by Carton & Joseph.
The first livery stable was established at Ackley by George Lyman.
The first physician was Doctor Ghrist.
The first furniture was sold by A. F. Meyer.
The first jeweler was E. P. Ripley.
The first birth in the town was George A., son of Judd Bradley, in November, 1865.
The first death was that of Sarah Newell, daughter of B. Newell, who ws buried in the Ackley cemetery.
The first brick block was built in 1869, by Dr. W. H. Roberts, who conducted a drug store in the same.
Judd Bradley erected the first dwelling in the place.
The first load of wheat brought to Ackley market was October 16, 1865, the same being purchased by John A. Carton.
Long before Ackley was projected a postoffice named Fontaine, with Miner Gallop as the first postmaster, was established in this vicinity. Shortly before is was moved to Ackley, Joseph C. Knowles was postmaster and became the first postmaster in the new village. The change to Ackley was effected in the autumn of 1865, just after the completion of the railroad to the place from the east. From that date on it has been known as Ackley postoffice, the old name having been dropped. Ackley became a money order station in 1871. Coleman P. Cain drew order No. 1, amounting to two dollars, in favor of parties in Boston, Massachusetts. The business of the Ackley money order office during the last year amounted to $3,391. It has six free rural deliveries extending out into the surrounding contry, the first being established in 1900.
The following have served as postmasters at Ackley: Joseph C. Knowles, who continued until he was let out by President Andrew Johnson, in 1867, when Julius Hoffman was appointed, and served until President Grant appointed E. P. Ripley, who held the office until February, 1879, being succeeded by William Francis, the pioneer merchant. Then came these postmasters: E. G. Higgins, 1886; A. W. Jamison, 1890; August Neuman, 1894; S. D. Brenning, 1899, the present incumbent. It is now a third-class office. This office has been fortunate in never having loss by fire or robbery.
Ackley is now a "town." It became incorporated as such in 1869, with the following as its first officers: William Francis, mayor; William H. Roberts, recorder; E. S. Ensign, F. Eggert, H. Trainor, J. S. Nye and E. J. Higgins, trustees; John Diller, marshall; John A. Carton, treasurer.
The following have served as mayors since the town was first incorporated: William Francis, 1869-71; Winthrop Dyer, 1871-72; William Francis, 1872-73; M. F. Obrecht, 1873-75, when he died; E. S. Ensign, June, 1875 to March, 1877; John Rath, 1877-79; W. V. Allen, 1879-80; J. H. Reese, 1880-81; S. Bloch, 1881-82; W. H. Bennacker, 1882-83; J. Seaton Kelso, 1883-84; J. H. Scales, 1884; T. G. Tiddens, 1885; J. C. Lusch, 1887-92; J. S. Roberts, 1892-1901; D. Eiler, 1902-1906; J. S. Roberts, 1906-1912.
The municipal officers in 1911 are: Mayor, J. S. Roberts; J. B. Bleeker, W. P. Flossa, William Bush, F. G. Goettel, H. A. Carstens, councilmen; marshall, C. H. Pepperling; city physician, C. W. Vroom; treasurer, S. Y. Eggert; assessor, August Neuman.
In 1906 John Rath donated the small electric plant he had to the town and they have greatly added to and improved it. It has been established as a private plant in 1894.
The water works is a private concern, that leases to the city. It was established in 1894.
The fire company of Ackley is an old volunteer body of men, who give their services. They are aided by a hose cart, hand engine and the city hydrants.
J. C. Lusch donated the the town the fine park site in 1892 and it has been beautified by many shade trees and generally improved. It is the pride of the town.
The milling interests of Ackley commenced in 1870, when the Ackley Steam Flouring Mills were erected. This was a three-story, forty by sixty-foot building, with four run of stones, propelled by a forty-five horse-power enginer. Jesse Foster built this mill at a cost of thirteen thousand dollars. In 1874 it was purchased by William Roosevelt. It is now the property of Roosevelt Brothers, who do an extensive business.
Ed. H. Mix Post No. 311, Grand Army of the Republic, was organized in the early eighties, but will removals and deaths has been reduced to about seventeen members, who seldom meet. Decoration day in Ackley has always been maintained by the efforts of these old veterans, who plan the interesting program annually, and the populace from far and near come into town that day, and the stores and shops all close.
The hotel history of Ackley is one with considerable interest attached thereto. For more than a year after the town began to show signs of real activity, the old Fontaine postoffice building was the only place the weary traveler could find lodging and something to sustain the natural wants at meal time. The Crawford House was erected in 1866, but within a few years this hotel was burned. R. Bolander's Ackley House came in next as a stopping place, and good cheerful place it was, too.
The third hotel was the unfortunate Bolar House, erected in 1870, at a cost of twenty thousand dollars, and ws called the finest hotel in all northwestern Iowa. Within a short time after it was opened to the traveling public, it was burned to the ground. Two lives were lost in this sad fire. Next were built the Revere, Central and Commerical hotels, the first named being in all ways a first-class hotel, for the western country. The Revere served well its day and was finally torn down and on the site now stands one of Ackley's best residences. The old-time hotels have all disappeared and today the Hotel Ackley, built a dozen or more years ago by a stock company, is the only first-class hotel in the town. There are two other houses of the dollar-a-day type.
Present Township Officers
The present (1911) township officers are: Justices of the peace, John Bleeker, W. A. Young; constable, F. J. Schrader, J. H. Ubben; clerk, W. J. Scourick; trustees, Ben Bleeker, Jake Bleeker; assessor, H. Strahorn.
Village of Abbott
This village was laid out by the contruction company of the Iowa Central railway, on sections 34 and 35, in 1870. It has never materialized into a large trading center, it being too closely surrounded by other towns of much more importance. The first store here was opened in 1871, by William Stiarwalt. An elevator was built in 1880. A potoffice [sic] was secured in 1871, with the first merchant as postmaster. The hamlet had only forty inhabitants in 1880. In 1904 it had fifty people. Its business was carried on largely by the following persons: Hotel, W. T. Green; Genner & Johns, stock shippers; Way-Johnson-Lee Company, grain dealers; Wickert & Zieller, general merchandise.
Village of Cleves
The village of Cleves, about a mile to the southeast of Abbott, and a station point on the Rock Island road, is on section 36. It was platted in 1880 by railroad company, and an addition made by N. Bonjer, in 1881. A postoffice was secured here in August, 1881, with E. Arends as postmaster. Martin Brothers, dealers of Ackley, opened the first store at this point in 1881. In 1880, Lusch, Carton & Company erected an elevator. The village now has a population of about one hundred, with the following business interests represented in 1904, according to the State Gazetteer: Agricultural implements, A. Gerdes; blacksmith, H. Hartman; grain dealer, Martin Jansen; lumber and stock, King & Janssen; general dealers, John Koolman, H. & J. Meyer.
The postoffice was established as stated, 1881. It has no rural routes as yet, but was made a money order station in 1902. Three mails arrive daily. The office is of the fourth class. The postmasters have been E. Arends, Herman Goettell, George Bleeker, John Koolman and Simon Janssen.
The Village of Robertson
Robertson is situated on section 19, on the line of the Rock Island railway, southwest from Ackley, and was platted by a company. The first store was opened here by A. Risse in 1880. The following year an elevator was erected by A. A. Robertson and a blacksmith shop put in operation by A. Doan. A postoffice was secured in 1880, but no mail received until 1881. A. Risse was appointed first postmaster.