Madison County




From the History & Business Directory

 of Madison County, Iowa, J. J. Davies, 1869

             Earlham is a village recently located on the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, and is the only railroad town in  Madison County at the present time. It is situated on the south half of the southwest quarter of Section 6-77-28. Its distance from Winterset is about 13 miles. The land on which it is laid out was originally entered by Seth Wilson, Sr., and conveyed by him afterward to Mr. David Hockett. Last autumn, B. F. Allen, Esq., of Des Moines, purchased the land of David Hockett, for $20 per acre. When Mr. Allen bought the land, it was understood that he intended to make a town of it, and several parties immediately began to arrange for building. Before the town was surveyed, two or three houses occupied the site of the future village. Martin Cook, who had built a store-house a half mile west of the place, removed it to Earlham at once; and Dr. M. R. Lyons commenced building a dwelling and a drug store. When the town came to be laid out, Martin’s store was found to occupy a part of two lots and a street; and Dr. Lyons’ building stood squarely in the center of a street 100 feet wide. Of course these gentlemen had some moving to do.

          As soon as the survey was complete by the railroad engineer, lots were offered for sale at prices ranging from $25 to $125. Martin Cook bought the first lot in the new town, and many others followed in rapid succession. Before the village had existed 15 days, one half at least of the lots were owned by men who intended to improve them as soon as the weather and other circumstances would permit. A side railroad track had been put down late in the fall, and a section house and water tank erected by the Railroad Company.

             Sometime during the winter, Messrs. Gethcel & Tichenor of Des Moines, established a lumber yard at Earlham; and later Messrs. Thompson & Maddern, of Davenport, opened a competing yard. These establishments furnished material for building, and, notwithstanding the season and weather were the worst possible for such operations, business houses and dwellings began to go up with a rapidity and steadiness that demonstrated at once the determination of the new settlers to build up the town. The result is that scarcely five months since the first stake was planted in the frozen earth, Earlham contains at least thirty-five buildings, many of which are first class for a country village.

            The name of the town was chosen by Mr. Milton Wilson, and was taken from the Earlham of Indiana, noted fro its Quaker College . It was this circumstance, we suppose, that suggested to the minds of the first settlers the idea of making it a college town. However suggested, it was their first idea, and was immediately acted on. A stock company was organized for the purpose about two months ago and the plan is steadily maturing. Something like $5000 worth of the stock has been taken, and since the best men in the county are interested in the enterprise, there is no doubt that at least $10,000 worth of stock shall be taken before any step toward building shall be taken. This amount will be subscribed for by July 1, 1869. The citizens have also subscribed about $1200 for the purpose of erecting a Union Chapel for Divine service.

              Anyone at all familiar with the surroundings of Earlham can have no doubt of its future prosperity. Railroads, churches, schools &c., are great developers of towns; but their ultimate success and prosperity depend almost solely on the country surrounding them. All towns look to the farming community, more or less, for support. In this respect Earlham is peculiarly fortunate in its location. For productive powers, variety of soil, ease of cultivation; amount of land in pro­portion to the whole susceptible of cultivation; for the purity of the water and healthfulness of the air; for its beauty and for its every natural advantage, the country around Earlham can well bear com­parison with any other section of Iowa, or with any country in the world. A large proportion of the land within six or eight miles of town is under cultivation. The assessed value of the township, as per assessment just completed for 1869, is, exclusive of the village, within a fraction of $300,000.

              One mile south of town is a quarry of peculiar stone, which is now being opened by its recent purchaser, Mr. Joseph E. Parkins, formerly of Winterset. He bought it from Milton Wilson, two months since, for $2000. Competent judges in Chicago and  New York have pronounced this stone inferior to none known in the West, for building purposes. When first taken from its bed it is extremely soft, and almost as easily worked as chalk. Exposure to the air, however, renders it as hard as granite. Mr. P. has a force of twenty-five or thirty men quarrying the rock and dressing it on the ground, ready for shipment. We understand that he has secured the contract for building the Railroad depot at Earlham of this stone. He has erected a patent lime kiln near the quarry, and will be able to turn off a car load of lime daily, when he gets the thing in running order.

              Mr. Seth Wilson, from Madison County, has a fine large hotel, nearly ready for the reception of guests. In so good a house, and under the care of such a gentlemanly landlord, a traveler can spend a day or two very agreeably in Earlham.

              The Railroad Company has appointed Martin Cook, Esq., their agent at this place, and the selection is certainly a happy one, for “Mart” is a good and capable fellow.

              Dr. M. R. Lyon has a drug store in operation here, and is at present the only practicing physician in Earlham.  

             Joseph Cook has erected an agricultural warehouse, and does a commission business generally.

              Messrs. Cammack & Hill are about to erect a large building for the same business. They are competent and experienced gentlemen, and are favored with the full confidence of business men and the community generally.

              Barnett & Hawkins are already occupying their large store-room, (60 feet deep) and have filled it with a splendid assortment of general merchandise.

              Asa & Thomas E. Barnett have a number one grocery establishment. They are live, energetic young men, and they are doing a good business.

              But we cannot specify even a tenth of the different firms and enter­prises in this flourishing young city. The depot will be commenced immediately and rapidly pushed to a completion. According to the most reliable authority, Earlham is to be the permanent division station of the railroad, an honor that Desoto now enjoys temporarily. There is good reason also to believe that the B. W. & D. M. Railroad will intersect the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad at this point.

The high road to prosperity is broadly open to this infant town, and without doubt Earlham is destined to be one of the best towns between Des Moines and Council Bluffs. It certainly possesses sufficient advantages to raise it to that distinction; and we have no doubt that its enterprising inhabitants will use them well to that end.



Transcribed and edited by Kent Transier


Maintained by the County Coordinator

This page was last updated Thursday, 13-Apr-2017 16:53:18 EDT .