the History & Business
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
M. R. Lyon has a drug store in operation here, and is at present
the only practicing physician in Earlham.
Cook has erected an agricultural warehouse, and does a commission
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
& Hawkins are already occupying their large store-room, (60
feet deep) and have filled it with a splendid assortment of
& Thomas E. Barnett have a number one grocery establishment.
They are live, energetic young men, and they are doing a good
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.
and edited by Kent Transier