The History of Keokuk County, Iowa
DES MOINES: UNION HISTORICAL COMPANY.
1880.

I. & W. RAILROAD.

The next railroad enterprise was the Iowa City & Western, which is a branch of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern. This latter, named corporation, although it has had for years quite an extensive line, was unable to get coal without trouble and expense, as its line at no point passed through any extensive coal fields. Some two years since the company projected a road to Iowa City with a view ultimately to reach the coal fields of Keokuk or Mahaska county.

Early in 1878 there was talk of extending the road southwest into Keokuk county, several lines were surveyed, the enterprise extensively agitated and the question of subsidies canvassed. Finally a proposition was made to the northern tier of townships to build the line through that part of the county if the required tax should be voted. Liberty township refused to vote the tax. August 20, 1878, English River township voted on the tax; Adams voted July 20, same year; Prairie voted August 29 and Washington August 28, in all of which there was a majority in favor of the tax.

The result of the elections being favorable, and the other conditions being satisfactorily arranged, the company began to make preparations to build the road. The work of grading began early in 1879 and has been energetically pushed forward till the present time. The grading is about finished and the work of track-laying approaches completion. The present terminus of the road is What Cheer, in Washington township. This point is in the most productive part of the coal field of Keokuk county, while the entire line in the county passes through the most fertile region of the State. Owing to the diversity of resources of the county and the distance from other lines of communication this part of the county will be greatly benefited by the road, while the company building it will reap large returns for its investment in the heavy amount of traffic which it will undoubtedly receive.

The stations so far established along the line of the road in Keokuk county are Kinross, South English, Webster, Keswick, Thornburg and What Cheer.

Beside the roads already mentioned there were several other roads projected across the county. Some of these were surveyed, of others the proposed lines were simply prospected on horseback, while still others were only talked of and prospected from the counting-rooms and offices of Eastern capitalists. The Iowa City & Southwestern, commonly known as the Kirkwood road, was to have followed, in part, the same direction as the Iowa City and Western, with the exception that its general course was south of the latter line and its terminus was to have been Ottumwa. The Burlington & Northwestern was to have started from Burlington and having passed through Louisa, Washington and Keokuk counties reach out for any prize which offered the greatest temptation in the way of subsidies and traffic. The Muscatine, Oskaloosa & Council Bluffs railroad was an enterprise much talked of. It was in fact but a resurrection of the old Fort Wayne & Platte River Air Line road. The proposed route lay through the counties of Muscatine, Washington, Keokuk and thence due west to Council Bluffs. In this enterprise were enlisted the leading men from every county-seat of that tier of counties between Muscatine and Council Bluffs. Without the aid of any other corporation these men proposed to build a road across the State and although it was a tremendous undertaking it probably would have finally been carried to a successful termination had it not been for the early completion of other trunk lines across the State which rendered this road less necessary, and as a consequence less feasible.

The agitation of this railroad enterprise was at fever heat in January, 1868, when a mammoth convention was held at Oskaloosa. Delegates were present from Muscatine, Washington, Keokuk, Mahaska, Marion, Warren, Madison, Adair, Cass and Pottawattamie counties. The delegates present from Keokuk county were J. C. Johnson, J. H. Sanders, L. McCoy, J. W. Havens, J. H. Shawhan, L. Hollingsworth, W. M. Rogers, M. C. Boswell, S. Rogers, B. A. Haycock, A. C. Romig, S. T. Street, C. H. Smith and B. F. Crocker. G. E. Griffiths, of Warren, was chosen chairman and each county had a vice-president; J. C. Johnston had the honor of being the vice-president from Keokuk county. There was a corporation formed with sixty-six incorporators. There were fourteen articles of incorporation. A committee consisting of ten persons was appointed to nominate directors. B. A. Haycock and L. McCoy had the honor to serve on the said committee from Keokuk county. There were fifteen persons nominated for directors and the persons nominated had the honor to be elected. The persons elected from Keokuk county were J. H. Sanders and B. A. Haycock. The Board of Directors thereupon held a meeting for the purpose of electing officers. A President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Executive Committee and Attorneys were elected. B. A. Haycock, of Keokuk county, had the honor of election to a place on the executive committee.

The convention adjourned, and the delegates went home to gladden the hearts of their constituents with the assurance of a speedy completion of the road. The corporation was doubtless large enough to have built, and the officers numerous enough to have operated, a road twice the length of the proposed one, together with feeders and branch lines; but there proved not to be enough money, or enough credit, or sufficient pluck, to grade across a county or lay a mile of track. Upon the return of the delegates rousing meetings were held at the county-seats of all the counties along the proposed lines; eloquent speeches were made, subscription books passed around and the meetings adjourned to afford the people an opportunity to discharge the pressing duty of selecting depot sites. In a county-seat town west of this the people did in fact agree upon a depot site and on the plat of that town at the present time is a block termed "Muscatine, Oskaloosa and Council Bluffs Railroad Depot Grounds."

But alas for the vanity of human hopes and expectations when inspired by the flattering unction of a railroad; the Muscatine, Oskaloosa & Council Bluffs Railroad like the Philadelphia, Ft. Wayne & Platte Valley Railroad and many other railroads of high-sounding, and far-reaching names, never became a railroad only on paper and like the relics of the mound-builders and the fossils of the mastadon will be unearthed at future times to paint the antiquarian's moral and adorn the historian's tail.

Transcribed by Pat Wahl. Thank you, Pat!

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