LYON COUNTY GENEALOGY
LESTER NAMED AFTER CLEAVELAND
According to tradition, Lester was named for one of the young Cleaveland boys. The Cleavelands lived near the siding where the trains uncoupled box cars for unloading. Lester Cleaveland loved to write his name in bold letters on the sides of the box cars. Railroad men fell into the habit of calling cars destined for this siding Lester cars.
During the blizzard of 1888, Lester and his brother never returned from herding cattle in the pasture north of Lester. They sought refuge in a haystack, but both were frozen to death. The name Lester, which began with a small boys scrawl on a box car, became official when the town was platted on November 29, 1889. It was not the first plat that had been prepared. Plans for the community to be located south of the Rock Island line were scrapped when it was learned that a second line would pass through the town, the Sioux City and Northern Railroad. The town was platted farther north where it would encompass both lines. The buildings constructed to the south were moved to the present Main Street. One, originally a store, then a pool hall and now a steak house, still exists.
When more farm products, especially cattle, were shipped by rail, Lester was an important transportation center. It was J.H. Hastings who opened a general merchandise store in 1889 and was appointed the first postmaster. When Penrey and Wick bought him out, they moved the building as noted above. H.A. Wick was the second postmaster until he was replaced by a democrat in the Cleveland administration. Parker, Richards and Company opened a bank in 1890 and; like many small communities, Lester offered a variety of services to the surrounding area. A lumber yard, elevator, blacksmith, barber, millinery, dentist, doctors, and druggist all were a part of the Lester scene.
The town incorporated in 1893 and built a town hall. There was also a band stand and water tower surrounded by a park. As cars became popular, there was need for a garage. This was located in a huge building with a dance hall on the second story. Until the demise of the big bands during World War II, the Lester Ballroom attracted dancers from a wide area, featuring bands with famous names. One of those bands is still nationally prominent, the Lawrence Welk Band.
Lester banks changed hands and closed several times in the days before regulations prevented too large an investment in fixed capitol. Farm mortgages could not be converted to cash when hard times hit.
Many young people from the surrounding area, as well as the town, attended the two room school house, which was expanded to four rooms and finally replaced by a modern brick structure in the 30s.
People no longer went to the milliner to have their hats made, but they began to buy milk and eggs instead of bringing them to town to trade for staples.
When the barber retired, no one took his place. The drug store closed, as did the lumber yard. Lester citizens aged and few young people moved to the community. In recent years the school closed as the area schools were reorganized and a new educational center was built out in the country.
However, although the population is small, there are young people living in the community again. Many work elsewhere but make their homes in this little town.
The Lester Betterment Club has done much to rekindle civic pride and unite the town and the surrounding area. Their annual celebration includes a parade and threshing demonstration. A local museum has an impressive collection of antiques and several citizens collect antique cars. Lester also hosts an antique car meet annually.
Three churches serve the community; there are two antique shops, two elevators, implement and feed dealers, plumber and electrician, a furniture store, and two general stores.
One of the most notable changes in recent years is the addition of a new residential area located along a new street which was the route of the Rock Island. Floods washed out that line in 1969, and the line as abandoned. All of the homes in the area have been built since that time.
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