Century Ends - Part 2--

The middle of the month a man drowned in the river. No one knew who he was or where he came from. His description was sent out widely and there was a considerable correspondence, but no identification was made.

Professor Wilson was making an outstanding record with the schools of the community. In June a graduating class of 14 received their diplomas. In the class were Maybelle Norton, Mason Smock, Ortus Henry, Emma Schooler, Raeburn Post, Carlton Grout, Edna Piele, Glenn Vail, David Miller, August Griesse, Emil Tonne, Ward Merrill, Charles Carroll and Lotta Brown.


By the time 1901 started the depression of the late 1890s had pretty well faded but there were still memories of the hard times. People of northwest Iowa gradually pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and living was comparatively good. Early that year the people of Lyon County opened their new poor farm. The facility was located northeast of town and was built to take care of the people who could not care for themselves. It had been estimated that about twenty people would move to the farm, but when the doors were swung open only one person moved in.

There were still repercussions from the tight money; depressed condition of recent years and there was considerable uneasiness in the community when the Canton State Bank folded. The Canton Bank'' closing meant a big loss, not only for stockholders but depositors. The bank closed in early May.

Although there were numerous changes in the business of the community-new owners opening businesses or buying out existing stores, one of the major improvements was the start of construction by J. F. Nagle of a huge implement house. The Nagle firm expected not only to sell farm equipment to farm operators of the area but they expected to do a large wholesale business as well.

H. G. McMillen was expanding his operations at Lakewood Farm and in the fall he started work on a new residence at the farm and also of a new barn to be 60 by 80 feet in size.

The community was still pushing for the construction of more sidewalks-and in November the council ordered in, by resolution, a large number of additional walks. Specifications still called for the walks to be constructed of wood, but it was also optional with the property owners if they preferred to use bricks or concrete for the work.

While the council and community leaders objected strenuously the authorities listed the population of Rock Rapids at 1,766. Council members said that figure should be substantially higher than that.

The trend towards consolidation of utilities was seen even at the early date of 1901. That year Western Electric Telephone Company bought out the Iowa Nebraska Telephone, and added a number of additional towns to its list of communities served.

Rock Rapids had three fine banks in 1901 and the men of these banks were interested in expansion. Iowa Savings Bank people started a new bank at Lester, the Citizen's Savings Bank, incorporators were J. S. Ramsey, L. J. Sutter, T. Mitchell, E. C. Roach, F. L. Sutter and D. R. Mitchell. The bank was to have a capital of $25,000 of which one-half was paid in.

The local banks were host to bankers of Group II of the Iowa Bankers Association in April, and scores of bankers from northwest Iowa were here for the meetings and to take part in the bountiful banquet that was served.

In a statement issued mid-July of 1901 the Iowa Savings Bank showed assets of $116,527.40. The First National Bank issued a statement the first of August that showed its footings to be $259,910.58.

In November the First National Bank people opened a new bank at Hills. The State Bank of Hills was organized by J. W. Roach, S. S. Wold, S. D. Riniker, B. L. Richards and E. Bradley.

O. P. Miller's Lyon County State Bank had already become interested in a number of banks in the area. They were aligned with a bank at Forest City-with banks at Pipestone, Windom and Blue Earth in Minnesota.

Late in January H. C. "Hal" Barber's Londale Theatre Company opened for its season. The repertoire group played three days in Rock Rapids, and then left for southern Iowa where the company started a series of appearances that were to take them through the winter and spring. The opening bill in Rock Rapids was "His Mother's Sin." In July the Review said that Barber's company played to packed houses at Carroll and that the company had extensive booking still to be met.

Possibly the success of the Barber Company had something to do with it, but two Rock Rapids girls decided to go on the road with an entertainment program. They were Cassie Mullinix and Said Wallace, who were booked as a violinist and as a reader. Cassie's father, Elmer Mullinix, was go to along with the girls as manager and general agent for their programs. He was a professional violinmaker.

The Schroeder-Rocker case would not die. In spite of the many investigations and court actions in connection with the death of the well-to-do Lyon County farmer, no final actions had been taken in the case. Rocker finally decided to take things in his own hand so he sued Adolph Schroeder, a brother of the dead man, for malicious prosecution. The case finally got into court, but the jury found Schroeder not guilty.

In January the new people's church was dedicated. The beautiful new structure on Main and Green Streets was built of Sioux Falls granite with the superstructure of wood. It was the finest church around, according to newspaper reports.

In March the community got a further scare when many new cases of smallpox and scarlet fever broke out. Dr. O. B. McKinney, George, who was the county health officer, issued a statement reassuring people of the community and said there was no cause for alarm.

McKinney's assurance was taken with a grain of sand when the Maine Hotel at Sibley was quarantined for 17 days when one of its transient customers was found to have smallpox.

There was an optimistic spirit among farmers of the county when spring work opened in 1901. They were in hopes of a good crop and fair prices for their grains. The county was becoming more and more prominent as a livestock feeding area. In April Roach, Keck and Wold made another shipment of fat beef to England. There were 328 head of cattle in this particular transaction. The cattle were shipped to Boston by rail and then by boat to the British Isle where they found a good market. In May another shipment of 500 head was sent abroad. This time E. A. Hunt had 125 head of cattle, J. P. Mulhall had 100 and Rock Keck & Wold had 275 animals in the shipment.

The weather all spring was very spotty and there was a growing spirit of uneasiness. On June 10- a bad storm hit along Mud Creek. The high winds had tornadic force and many farmsteads were flattened. At the home of Onne Zylstra their 7-months old daughter was killed, Mrs. Zylstra suffered a broken jaw and he was seriously injured when their home was destroyed. There was heavy property damage all down the Mud Creek Valley and Larchwood and Rock Rapids both had extensive property damage.

The weather continued bad. In July it was reported that temperatures were hanging right at 100 degrees day after day-rushing the grain to maturity too fast and cutting yields. Late in July a high temperature of 108 degrees was recorded. A bad electric storm was reported on July 25-and at least two men, John Harmes of George and J. W. Parkinson of Ben Clare were killed by bolts of lightning.

In spite of unfavorable crop conditions the market for farmland continued brisk. Robert Bornstein bought the H. D. Messners' half section in Riverside Township for $52 an acre. Other land was selling at that general price level. In October a deal was completed in which Matt Priester sold his Allison Township farm to Fred McNiles for $55 an acre. This was a new high for property of this type. Priester had bought the place 17 years previously for $10 an acre.

Rains started falling in early fall and revived pastures although it was too late to do much for the small grain. The Berkholtz lower mill had been out of operation for several months because water in the river was too low to turn the wheels. It was able to resume operations the early part of October.

Politics as usual was attracting much attention. In May a campaign was started to win the republican nomination for lieutenant governor for Col. J. K. P. Thompson, and local organizations and leaders all endorsed his candidacy. The campaign failed, and when the state convention was held Thompson saw the cause was hopeless and withdrew from the race.

While the republicans and the democrats were slamming each other each week in the papers of the community, there were others who could see no good in either of the established parties. In September the socialists of the county met. H. C. Middlebrooke was chairman of the meeting and Dr. J. E. North was the secretary. They decided that a full ticket of candidates for the various offices in the county should be named. The prohibitionists also decided to put up a slate of candidates for the fall voting.

The November election was a sad disappointment to prohibitionists, socialists, and democrats alike, because the voters gave the republican candidates a big majority. The prohibitionists got only a handful of votes and there were only 20 votes cast for the socialist candidates. Charles H. Leichliter, who had come from Larchwood and bought P. H. McCarty's Review in August, was bitter about the outcome. He pointed out that in all but one township in the county republican majorities had increased over the previous election. The one township where the democrats showed a slight gain was Lyon.

In May another class was graduated from the Rock Rapids high school. In this class were Catherine Carpenter, Glenn M. Allbright, George H. Greene, Harry O. Parsons, Arthur A. Wallace, Elizabeth A. Kemplay, Roy H. Bradley, Phineas J. Miller, Ralph C. Puckett. Iowa's silver-tongued senator, George Dolliver, was the speaker for the commencement service.

The nation was putting on a great exhibition at Buffalo. This was the Pan-American Exposition and everyone who could do so went to New York State for the world-renowned event. C. H. Puckett went east in July for the show and the F. L. Sutters also attended. Dr. J. J. Grout returned from Buffalo in September and Chan Smith went east in October to see the exposition and to visit with his brothers in New York State.

The nation was plunged into mourning in September when President McKinley was assassinated. At first it was hoped he might recover from the bullet which tore into his body while he was attending the exposition, but he died and Theodore Roosevelt became president. In Rock Rapids a big puclic service was held to memorialize the dead president. The members of the Grand Army of the Republic organized and conducted the service and prominent politicians-J. M. Parsons and E. Y. Greenleaf were the speakers. All of the churches of the community also held special services in honor of the dead president.


One thing that impresses readers of the 1970s about the conditions at the start of the century is the tremendous increase in the valuations of property. At the start of 1902 the county auditor certified to county and state authorities that Lyon County had a valuation of taxable property of $4,124,137-against that property he proposed to raise taxes in the amount of $182,475. This total valuation was divided as follows: town lots, $329,589; land, $2,846,571: personal property, $522,530: railroads, $411,275: telephone and telegraph companies, $1`1,322: express companies, $2,850.

A major change in the county's banking setup took place at the start of 1902, when Charles Shade, Larchwood, bought out control of the Richards line of banks. The First National Bank was the top bank in this group. And in addition, there were banks at Alvord, Inwood, Larchwood and Beaver Creek.

The Lyon County Bank, of which O. P. Miller was the head, had acquired affiliation, through stock ownership of a number of banks in this area, -and early in April it was announced that Miller and F. B. Parker were off on their annual inspection of other banks of the group. They visited banks in which they had major holdings at Sioux Center, Jasper, Pipestone and Slayton, Minnesota.

In May Shade was the featured speaker at the meeting of northwest Iowa bankers in Sioux City. He discussed the many benefits of branch banking-and became the outstanding advocate of group operation in the tri-state area.

In December bank statements showed that the Rock Rapids bank was doing real well as far as financial affairs are concerned. The First National Bank showed footings of $354,277.55. The Iowa Savings Bank statement of condition as of December 8, showed footings of $139,865.82.

Business, professions and even local society pretty much were lined up around the people involved in the three banks. The Roachs and the Ramseys were connected with the Iowa Savings Bank-both of the men being directors and officers of the bank-and one of the social cliques of the community revolved around that group. Then there were the Millers, the Thompsons, and the Parkers, who were all tied in with the Lyon County State Bank. There was still another group connected with the First National Bank, in that group the Shades, the Richards, the Parsons, etc.

There were numerous dinners for small groups-and the groups who attended these functions were closely knit, generally along bank lines. There was a general meeting place for the women of the community in the Ladies Reading Circle and in the PEO society-but even in these groups there was some struggle for supremacy-and much of the competition went right back to the bank groups.

One of the social events of the summer that attracted much attention was the house party held at Lakewood Farm. This was a two-week event and guests came from a wide area. A month prior to the party advertising was done in the local papers for a woman to cook for the house party at Lakewood Farm. It was specified that she would not have to do any washing or ironing for the guests-and the cook would be paid the munificent sum of $5 per week.

The Ladies Reading Circle was a very active and progressive group. This is the group that started the local public library, and in July they tackled another problem for the benefit of the community-which was the opening of a rest room for women. The rest room was established in the building next to the Lockwood & Pirwitz Store and it provided chairs, rest rooms, etc., so that women who came to town to shop could go to the rest room, sit and rest and "rock their babies."

What would probably have been the social highlight of the year-in early December-had to be cancelled. Leta Thompson, daughter of the J.K.P. Thompsons, was to be married to A. S. Wold. All the plans were made, the invitations were out-and then Thompson became seriously ill. The invited guests were notified through the newspapers that the invitations were being canceled because of Thompson's health, and a small family wedding was held.

On January 9, 1902 it was reported that A. V. "Dad" Greene had bought the M. Payton pool and billiard hall, and would operate it in the future. He also announced he would put in bowling alleys and run a real high-class business.

Green had played baseball here in former seasons and was highly regarded. He had played at Iowa State College and made a name for himself. Local ball fans, and there were a lot of them, were united in urging Greene to come here and enter business-and also take over management of Rock Rapids' baseball efforts.

Rock Rapids' 1902 ballteam, "The Browns" were competing in fast company. In the league were LeMars, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, Sheldon, Pipestone and Flandreau. The season opened on a very disappointing note. The Browns were getting beat in practically all their games. In their first pair of games with Sioux City they lost 12 to 3 and 4 to 2. Later they made a little improvement and won from Sioux City 6 to 5; from Sioux Falls, 4 to 3 and 7 to 3; and they beat Sheldon 11 to 9.

By late July everyone was disappointed about the showing the Browns were making-in spite of the management and playing of Greene, so a public meeting was held-and it was decided to go out and hire enough players to win the league. Fans were dispatched to Des Moines, Algona, Sioux City-and up to Flandreau to hire players and get on the winning track.

One of the better players hired by the Browns was an Indian, George Shellafo, from Flandreau. He was an outstanding shortstop and he added greatly to the power of the local nine. Shellafo, it was reported, was disenchanted with the Flandreau set up. Flandreau had gone east and hired practically the entire Princeton College team. They were referred to as the "eastern millionaires."

Rock Rapids also hired a pitcher by the name of Thomas and his catcher named Snook. This acquisition caused a lot of trouble. By mid-August Thomas had been suspended for drunkenness and Snook for drunkenness and insulting " respectable married lady of Rock Rapids."

Rock Rapids won its last game of the season by defeating Flandreau 3 to 2-but the Flandreau team won the league championship. It was announced on September 18 that Greene had returned to Rock Rapids with the close of the baseball season and some of the players had come back with him. Others had returned to college or had gone south for the winter. There was an argument whether Rock Rapids should field another professional team the next year or not.

The high feelings which accompanied some of these games was demonstrated by reports of a mid-season contest here. The Browns were getting the worst of the play, and the fans decided that the officials were not giving the local boys a fair shake. Things finally got so hot that "Billy" Junkin, the postmaster and a partner with W. G. Smith in the Reporter, rushed onto the field at the head of a large number of fans and beat up on the umpire. He reported later that he was sorry for his actions-and the editor of the Review said that Junkin's actions were not to be condoned, but the umpire had it coming.

In October, Rock Rapids fielded its first football team. The team was coached by a young dentist who had just come to Rock Rapids from the University of Iowa, where he had played football. The coach of that first team was Dr. J. A. Roth. The first game played was against Luverne and that team, with many games experience, took the locals to a cleaning 43 to 0. First good news for the local football fans came in November, when the locals beat Sheldon in a return match 16 to 0. Sheldon had won an earlier game from Rock Rapids.

Not to be outdone by the boys, girls at the high school decided they had to have some sort of intra-mural sport, so they organized a girls' basketball team.

The community had a major change in its business ownership in January, when J. H. Harrison, who had been a traveling man for Marshall Field of Chicago, and then had operated a store at Manson, moved to Rock Rapids and bought out the Wold General Store.

In August the first garage business was started here. Grant Vickers was advertising "Anyone interested in the purchase of a gasoline Oldsmobile is requested to call on Grant Vickers of Rock Rapids."

Another man who was to be prominent in Rock Rapids business circles for more than a half century, came to Rock Rapids in the fall of 1902. He was C. C. Brugmann, who came here from West Bend, Iowa. Brugman was a graduate pharmacist and he bought out the drug store that had been operated by A. L. Severin. The ethnic background of the community was emphasized when Brugman advertised that he was a "Deutsche Apotheke."

On October 2, the community got a business shock when N. Koobs, Son & Co. announced they were closing their general store. They said they had a business opportunity in another community, which was so good they could not afford to pass it up, so they would regretfully leave Rock Rapids.

A Rock Rapids industry which was advertising its wares in 1902 was F. Tausch, the cigar maker. He was advising men to smoke his "The Chick" cigar.

Politics had always been actively pursued in Rock Rapids. For many years H. G. McMillen for the Republicans and J. M. Parsons for the Democrats carried on a political war of great intensity. Parsons was usually on the losing side-but he was famed over the state as a democratic leader and fine political orator.

In January Parsons was called to Waterloo to be the speaker for the statewide Jackson day dinner given by democrats.

Parsons was not only interested in state and national politics, but he was active in local community affairs. He was the pick of the citizens' caucus for mayor of Rock Rapids. The Review-a democratic paper-told its readers that more than 200 people attended the caucus. He poked fun at the republicans who also held a caucus and nominate M. A. Cox-connected with the Lyon County National Bank-as its candidate. When the municipal election was held April 1, Parsons won-but by only a few votes. He received 203 votes and Cox had 185. T. J. Vail, on the republican ticket, beat out the incumbent clerk, J. K. Medberry.

When the republicans of Iowa held their state convention in Des Moines in late July they paid tribute to another prominent politician in Lyon County. E. C. Roach, attorney and director of the Iowa Savings Bank was named as chairman of that convention.

Democrats, holding their state convention the last of August, also looked to Lyon County for leadership. They picked Parsons to preside over their meeting; probably the only time in the history of Iowa when two men from a rural Iowa County were picked to chair the major parties' conventions.

When 11th district democrats met in convention to pick their candidate for congress, they finally picked J. M. Parsons, and after some heavy persuasion he agreed to run against the incumbent, Lot Thomas of Storm Lake.

The November election went almost solidly republican. Parsons was defeated, along with other democratic candidates for state and county offices. The only democrat elected locally was the highly popular young George G. Mcnab, who was elected clerk of courts.

There was the usual amount of crime in the early 1900s-reflecting the fact that Rock Rapids was still a young and slightly rambunctious community. A case of much local interest with almost comic aspects developed late in January. Ed Tressler had an icehouse and so did Tom Sheridan. The two were feuding most of the time. Someone slipped into Tressler's icehouse and put salt on the ice he was storing. The crime was discovered before much more ice had been put in and search was started for the guilty person. It seemed that Sheridan had "talked" in the saloons a little too much, so the law visited his place of business and found a barrel of salt which he had very recently bought, almost all gone. Sheridan was arrested.

Grand jury met the first week in February and they returned an indictment against Sheridan for salting his competitor's ice. It also brought in two other indictments-George R. Cole was indicted for keeping a gambling house and Mrs. (Herman Berkholtz) Stoltenburg was indicted for keeping a house of ill fame.

The first of August the community had a thrill when two prisoners broke out of the county jail. Frank Bayles was in custody of the sheriff on a booze charge, and Charles Lee had been arrested on a charge of receiving stolen property. One evening when deputy sheriff and jailer Chan Smith had to go and milk his cows, the two men cut through the wall of the jail and made good their escape.

The community really was upset when late in November the body of W. C. Gilliam was found in a hog house in east Rock Rapids, known as the Briniger place. The sheriff was summoned and he found that Gillian had been shot-the gun was in his hand-he also had part of a bottle of booze beside him, a bottle of laudanum, and part of a bottle of beer. At first it was thought to be a suicide, until it was found that the "private parts of his body had been mutilated." A special coroner's jury was summoned and after viewing the body-and finding that Gillian had only a very dull pocket knife, it was decided that the crime had to be a murder and the jury brought in a verdict of murder by parties unknown.


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