ORGANIZATION OF TOWNS
HARLAN, the county seat of Shelby County, Iowa, was named in honor of one of
Iowa's early and quite distinguished U. S. Senators, James Harlan. The original plat for the town was located
on section 7, a mile from the present business center, the plat was executed by Adam and May Tuttle on August 9, 1858.
The next platting was what is known as "Long's Addition", which was laid by James M Long, July 15, 1859, and
together with "Wyland's Addition" and "McDonald's Addition", constitute the greater part of the early town of Harlan. It
was in the year 1859 that the Shelby County seat was moved from Shelbyville to Harlan. Harlan was incorporated May 2, 1879 and William Wyland served as its first mayor.
SHELBY was built near the beautiful stream known as Silver Creek, and was on the main
line of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad. B. F. Allen originally platted the town in 1868, who purchased land
from James Hawkins, who in turn received this tract of land for services rendered in the Mexican War. The village
was incorporated in the fall of 1877, the first mayor being John W. Harrod.
IRWIN was platted on June 6, 1881, on the banks of the Nishnabotna River. It was
an important station on the Kirkman branch of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, and was named after E. W. Irwin, whose family were among the first people who settled in the northeastern part of the county. The place was first known as Tibbettsville, in honor of William Tibbetts, when a post-office was established there in 1879.
DEFIANCE was originally platted February 20, 1882, situated on the banks of the
Nishnabotna River. It was a station on the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad. Defiance was incorporated in
January, 1883, with H. B. Sooy as the first mayor.
EARLING was platted September 1, 1882 by the Milwaukee Land company. It was situated on the east branch of the Mosquito Creek, and on the Council Bluffs branch of the great Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. Its original name was Marthan, but it soon took the name Earling. A post office was established in October, 1882 with Joseph H. Kuhl as postmaster.
PANAMA was incorporated May 13, 1886, with Lyman H. LaSalle as its first mayor. Panama was originally platted by the Milwaukee Land Company, for railway purposes, in April/May 1882. Much of the land was owned by Benjamin Crandall, one of the earlier settlers of Galland's Grove. A post office was established in 1882 with J. W. Kleeb as first postmaster.
PORTSMOUTH was platted on August 17, 1882, by the Milwaukee Land Company. The land was originally owned by William Williams. The village was incorporate in 1883, with A. W. Sims as the first mayor. A post office was established in 1882 with George Walters as first postmaster.
ELK HORN was a post office established about 1882, in the midst of heavy Danish settlement of Audubon, Shelby and Cass counties. It was the location of the Danish Lutheran Evangelical College, founded in 1878, with O. Kirreberg as its first president. The town was incorporated in 1901.
WESTPHALIA derives its name from the German province of Westphalia, and was a center of German Catholic settlement in the county. A post-office was established in 1875, with Joseph H. Kuhl as first postmaster. The village was platted by Emil Flusche, June 22, 1874.
KIRKMAN was platted in November, 1880, and was the terminus of the Kirkman branch of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway. It was situated on the Nishnabotna River, known as the crookedest stream in all Iowa. A post office was established in 1881, with James W. French as the postmaster.
CORLEY was a small village and the only station on the Harlan branch of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad between Harlan and Avoca. The Harlan branch was completed December 1, 1878. Thomas McDonald opened a general store here in January , 1881, and was the first postmaster, having obtained an office as early as 1878. Corley was platted in June, 1883, and was [probably] named or one of the Corley family who had previously owned land here.
BOTNA was platted by the Western Town Lot Company, August 21, 1884, and was called "Rochdale", but the post-office name, as well as the railroad station, was known as "Botna". It was a flag station on the Kirkman branch of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, and in 1889 had one general store, operated by S. B. Fritz.
JACKSONVILLE was settled by Danish pioneers beginning about 1870. In 1897 a post-office was established at the village.
**Information from the Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties, Iowa. W.S.
Dunbar & Co. Publishers, 1889. Contributed by Dennis Walsh.