Winnebago County, IA
USGenWeb Project







In the early settlement of the West every state had its quota of land speculators, whose principal object seems to have been the laying out of towns, without the slightest regard to the geographical importance of the site or its possible future commercial advantages.  The great aim of these speculators was to sell lots to new immigrants.  An early Iowa writer (Hawkins Taylor in the Annals of Iowa) says:  “Everybody we met had a town plat, and every man that had a town had a map of the county marked to suit his town as the county seat.”

Many of these prospective towns were advertised throughout the East in a manner that did not reflect much credit upon the veracity of the advertisers.  The proprietors of some of the towns along the Des Moines River sent out circulars showing a picture of the town, with a row of three or four story buildings along the river front, large side-wheel steamboats lying at the landing, etc., when the truth of the matter was that only an occasional steamboat of very light draft was able to navigate the Des Moines, and the town consisted of perhaps half a dozen small cabins.  A few of these towns, by some fortunate circumstance, such as the location of the county seat, the development of a water power or the building of a railroad, have grown into considerable commercial centers.  Others have continued to exist, but have never grown beyond the importance of a neighborhood trading point, a small railroad station, or a post village for a moderate sized district.  And some have disappeared from the map altogether.

Fortunately for Winnebago County the mania for founding towns had about spent its force before the first settlements were made within its borders.  The pioneers who settled and organized the county were more interested in the development of its natural resources than they were in speculation.  A few towns were laid out for purely speculative purposes, but those of the present day, with a few exceptions, are laid out upon railroad lines and have at least some excuse for existing.  Many of them were founded after the railroads were built.


Forest City was platted and laid out on the 14th, 15th and 16th of September, 1856, on the east half of Section 35, in Township 98 North, Range 24 West of the Fifth Principal Meridian, at the request of Robert Clark.  Lots on the plat were 132 feet long by 66 feet wide; the streets were 66 feet in width and the alleys 33 feet. Robert and Rebecca A. Clark were the proprietors and A. B. Miller was the surveyor.  The plat was beautifully located on Lime Creek and the city proper was situated upon the hills which have often caused the community to be called the Hill City.


The first man to settle within the limits of the present Forest City was Robert Clark, who located on the northeast quarter of Section 35 in the spring of 1856.  In March he laid out the plat of the town and in April built the first log cabin.  This log shanty stood until 1870, when it was torn down.

The second log cabin was built by A. T. Cole in June, 1856.  Mr. Cole was the first man to bring a family to Forest City.  The next building was constructed of logs and was used to accommodate a store.  It was erected in the fall of 1856 by Alexander Long on the later site of the City Bank.  Long & Moreland kept store in this building for several months.

The fourth building was built for hotel purposes by Samuel Akers, in the fall of 1856.  This hotel occupied a corner lot, in fact, two lots, for one of which Akers paid Mr. Cole the sum of $5.

The next building was erected in November of the same year by Robert Clark.  It was a frame structure, 18 by 24 feet.  In 1861 Samuel Tennis purchased the building, moved it, and also used it as a hotel.  Mr. Tennis owned the building for two or three years, then sold out to DeWitt C. Hayes, who refitted it into a home.  J. C. Harwood became the next owner and he in turn sold out to John Plummer.  The latter used it as a residence for several years, then transported it out of town and constructed a new home.

In 1857 quite a number of houses were built, among which were the residences of Nathan Jefford, Thomas Bearse and A. P. Harper.  During this year and the following, 1858, many structures were erected in Forest City.  It was in October of the latter year that Forest City became the county seat of Winnebago County and naturally this gave a decided impetus to the growth of the town.

The following is a list of the citizens here at that time:  Robert Clark, Charles H. Day[,] B. F. Denslow, A. K. Curtis, N. G. Curtis, William Gilbert, B. A. Hill, Cornelius Baker, Avery Baker, John S. Blowers, A. T. Cole, James Church, Charles Church, James Lackore, William Lackore, George Lackore, C. H. Lackore, Harrison Beadle, George Beadle, John Maben, Charles Lutz, David Lutz, David Stancliff, Nathan Jeffords, Charles Bice, Thomas Bearse, A. P. Harper, Sylvester Baker, Sylvester Belcher, Martin Bumgardner, H. S. Botsford and George Strong.

Among those who came in 1859 were:  David Secor, George Butts, John H. T. Ambrose, Simon, Johnathan and Edwin Trumbull and Ethan Ames.  George Butts married Sarah Beadle in 1861 and moved to Des Moines.


The first child born in Forest City was Brentner Clark, son of Robert and Rebecca (Brentner) Clark, in the summer of 1858.

Shortly ater [sic] the organization of the county in October, 1857, Judge Clark officiated at the first marriage ceremony, either in the city or county which was that of Sylvester Belcher and Viola Lackore.

The first death in Forest City was that of Samuel Jeffords in the fall of 1859.  Tuberculosis caused his demise.

Reverend Hankins, a Methodist minister, preached the first sermon in a little building used by the county officers and called the “court house.”

The first title to lots in the village was acquired by A. T. Cole.  Robert Clark, owner of the town plat, offered to give two lots to every person who would build thereon and Cole was the first to take advantage of the offer.

Forest City postoffice was established in 1857 with Robert Clark as the first postmaster.  The office was then held by Keeler Curtis, David Secor and J. W, Mahoney.  In 1874 the office was made a money-order office and the first money-order was issued July 6, 1874 by Marcellus Halvorsen to J. W. Phillips of Clear Lake, the amount being $6.


During the spring and summer of 1856 Robert Clark kept a small stock of goods in his shanty on what was later the site of the Blennerhassett Block.  Alexander Long and Joshua Moreland opened the first regular store in November, 1856.  They had a large stock of goods for that early day and their store was the headquarters for all trading for some time.  They occupied the building constructed by Long.  In December, 1856, Alexander Long was frozen to death and Moreland continued alone in the store until the following spring when the stock passed into the hands of Robert Clark.  In the fall of 1857 Clark sold out to Blowers & Byford, who continued the business for nearly a year.  About this time Byford pocketed all the money he could find and shook the dust of the town from his heels, leaving Blowers nothing but the residue of the stock, which the latter shortly afterwards sold to Robert Clark, who moved it to his own store.  After six or eight months A. K. Curtis became the owner of the stock and removed it to a frame building which he had constructed for the purpose.  He continued the business about one year, then sold out to C. H. Day.

In the spring of 1859 Martin Bumgardner opened up a store.  He operated for about two years, then sold out to Day, who merged the stock with that which he had purchased from A. K. Curtis.  In 1863 Day sold to a Mr. Cummings; after another year Cummings disposed of the business to A. L. Plummer.  Plummer took into partnership a person of Hebrew nationality who soon departed, owing to the government draft about this time.  In the spring of 1866 Hiram K. Landru became proprietor and after four months alone took in Samuel Herrick as partner.  Within a few months Herrick retired from the firm and then Landru sold the entire stock to A. L. Plummer.  Mr. Plummer added to the stock and built an addition.  In 1868 B. A. Plummer purchased an interest in the store and the firm was Plummer Brothers until May 1, 1869, when J. W. Mahoney and B. A. Plummer became the owners.  After a year and a half Mahoney became the sole proprietor.

The third general store was opened in 1866 by David Secor.  He occupied one of the rooms in the court house for about seven months, then moved his goods to the Abbie Secor building, where he continued for about two and a half years.  Solmer & Morgan then purchased the stock, added more goods, and had a man named Brown in charge for a year.  The store then became the property of E. D. Hinman, who intended moving the stock to Lake Mills, but inside of two or three days he sold out to George Lackore.  The latter erected a new corner building and after there running the business for a period of six months took in J. W. Fisher as partner.  This partnership lasted about a year, when Mr. Lackore retired and J. W. Fisher became sole proprietor.  Jasper Thompson soon afterwards purchased a half interest.  In six months Thompson bought out his partner and continued the business as sole owner until the summer of 1883, when he sold out to J. H. Lewis.  Soon after the firm became Lewis & Skarie.  About December 1, 1883, Jasper Thompson, holder of the mortgage, took possession of the store and closed out the stock.

In 1870 B. A. Plummer constructed a brick store and placed a stock of goods on sale.  A few months later J. C. Harwood became a partner, but retired after eight months.  At this time John Plummer became a partner and so continued until 1876, when he became sole proprietor, remaining so until 1879.  Within the next year Myron Barton became owner.

In 1871 W. O. Hanson and A. A. Aiken brought a stock of goods from Decorah, Iowa, and opened up a store.  Two years later Hanson bought his partner's interest and constructed a new building.  Here he kept his general store for about a year, then sold out his dry goods and made a specialty of boots and shoes.  One year later he sold out to Jasper Thompson, who merged the goods with his other stock.

Saibert & Stife opened a general store and continued in partnership for two years, when Saibert became sole owner.  G. G. Onstadt was the next owner and in 1880 built a new building just north of the old site and took in John Isaacson as partner.  The latter became sole proprietor two years later.

J. S. Olson and Nels George opened a general store in the George Building in 1874.  They continued their partnership for about two years, then dissolved.

In 1877 Thomas Jacobs, O. B. Knudson and J, S. Olson formed a partnership and opened up a general store.  This business afterward passed through many hands.

The above description of the early mercantile stores in Forest City will serve to show the unsettled condition of things at that time.  It was a time when men were groping around, attempting to become settled and seeking the best vocation and investment.  The stores were small and the amount of capital invested was extremely small in most cases.  Business failures were plentiful, and for this reason each store passed through the hands of many owners and suffered various and varied fortunes.

In the spring of 1872 L. L. Brentner opened a general store in the Secor building.  He ran the business one and a half years, then sold out to James Pinckney, who closed out the dry goods and continued the store as a grocery.  T. Jacobs was another grocer of this period.  In the autumn of 1870 Dr. W. H. Jones opened the first drug store.  In 1872 the stock was sold to James Pinckney, who combined it with his grocery business. The latter erected a building for his store in the same year.  A. Blennerhassett and P. O. Koto & Company were other druggists of this time.

The first hardware store in Forest City was established in 1870 by L. Stilson, in a little building next to the Summit office.  Soon after his son, E. L., became a partner.  The elder Stilson died in January, 1879, and then the son ran the business alone until the fall of '81, when H. C. Reed purchased an interest and the firm became Stilson & Reed.

The second hardware store was opened in 1876 by James Woodowiss, who brought his stock here from Rockford, Iowa.  William Larson afterward acquired a mortgage upon the stock and sold it out.

The first elevator was built in Forest City in 1879 by M. P. Hayes of Minneapolis, at a cost of $5,000.  The elevator had a capacity of about 25,000 bushels.

Dwight E. Johnson, of Rockford, Iowa, erected a building in 1879 and established two of his sons in business here, following the hardware line.  They continued until 1882, when H. McCusker became the proprietor.  Stilson & Reed and Wells & Company were the representatives of this business in 1883.

The first carriage and wagon shop was opened in 1860 by J. J. Barker, in the north part of the town.  The first blacksmith shop in Forest City was opened in the spring of 1857 by A. T. Cole.  After a year he sold out to Lemuel Lackore.  John Trumbull began blacksmithing in his own shop sometime during the Civil War.  Henry Grates next owned this shop and then came Robert Clark and A. L. Plummer as owners.  Plummer sold the shop to Cole, who moved it out of town.  In 1870 Lunsett & Jenson opened a blacksmith shop in connection with their carriage factory.

The first tailor shop was opened in 1870 by P. Anderson. L. S. Lewis and J. E.  Howard established the agricultural implement business in 1879.  O. H. Twito began in the same line the next year.  The first lumber yard of any importance was established in the summer of 1878 by C. H. Lackore and E. A. Ames, who hauled their lumber all of the distance from Garner by teams.


From the incorporation records of the county in the recorder's office at Forest City the following is taken:

“In the circuit court of the state of Iowa, in and for Winnebago County.  Be it remembered that on the 8th day of February, A. D., 1878, there was filed in the office of the clerk of the cirucit [sic] court of the county and state aforesaid, the following petition for incorporation, to wit:

“To the Honorable Circuit Court of Winnebago County, Iowa:

“We, the undersigned citizens and qualified electors of the within described territory, to wit:  all of Section 35 and the west half of Section 36, Township 98, Range 24, petition your honorable circuit court to appoint commissioners for the purpose of incorporating said territory into the town of Forest City.  That the number of inhabitants embraced within the limits of the territory above described is about 700.  That a plat of said territory is hereunto attached and made a part hereof.”

This petition for incorporation was signed by the following citizens:

Peter Lewis
W. C. Hanson
H. C. Reed
G. W. Elder
L. C. Green
J. W. Mahoney
C. H. Lackore
G. K. Lien
Eugene Secor
W. H. May
Thomas Jacobs
C. C. Foss
James Woodowiss
J. H. Twito
William Lackore

John Law
J. H. T. Ambrose
A. A. Prescott
W. H. Jones
O. B. Knudson
D. E. Skinner
H. W. Stowe
J. E. Howard
A. H. Chase
Miles Plummer
K. Knudson
Martin Cooper
Nelson S. Lewis
George P. Smith
M. Olmsted

M. C. Wheeler
M. C. Halvorsen
V. A. Jones
A. Pierce
J. A. Plummer
John Conner
W. H. Fisher
T. C. Ransom
J. T. Thompson
B. A. Plummer
L. H. Draper
E. L. Stilson
J. D. Mason
J. E. Anderson
J. C. Wright

Following is the further record of the incorporation proceedings:

State of Iowa,
Winnebago County.  ss

Be it remembered that at a term of the circuit court of Iowa, holden in and for said county, at the court house in Forest City therein, on the 6th day of May, 1878, were present the Hon. C. T. Granger, sole presiding judge of said court, J. H. Twito, sheriff of said county, and W. O. Hanson, clerk of said court, when the following proceedings were had, done and entered of record, to wit:

In the Matter of the Incorporation of Forest City, Ia.

Now, to wit, on the 7th day of May, A. D., 1878, a petition signed by forty-six citizens and qualified electors of Forest City was presented to the court by T. C. Ransom, Esq., attorney for the petitioners, praying the court for the appointment of five commissioners as provided by statute, for the purpose of incorporating into the town of Forest City the territory described in said petition, which petition was granted by the court, and Eugene Secor, W. 0. Hanson, J. AV. Mahoney, B. A. Plummer and K. Knudson were appointed as such commissioners.

These commissioners met according to order and gave notice that an election would be held at the court house in Forest City on June 14, 1878, for the purpose of voting on the question of incorporation.  The election was held as decided, with Secor, Mahoney and Knudson as judges and Hanson and Plummer as clerks.  There were 96 votes cast altogether, of which 53 were in favor of incorporation and 43 against it.  Thus, by a majority of ten votes Forest City became an incorporated city.

The first officers chosen under the new regime were:  J. F. Thompson, .mayor; S. K. Gregg, clerk; J. E. Howard, treasurer; Elwood Alexander, marshall [sic]; Eugene Secor, B. A. Plummer, C. H. Lackore, W. O. Hanson, H. Lunsett and J. W. Mahoney, councilmen.


It is established upon very good authority that the first banking business in Forest City was done by Robert Clark.  As the most convenient place, people went to his store to have checks cashed and drafts issued, but no regular banking organization was in effect until about the year 1877.  Banking was carried on prior to this time, but not exclusively as a banking business.  Robert Clark died August 12, 1876.  After Judge Clark 's' death the banking business which he had conducted largely as a courtesy was taken over by his son-in-law, J. F. Thompson, who continued to operate the bank, known as the Winnebago County Bank, privately, until 1896, when a reorganization was effected under the name of the Winnebago State Bank.  The partners in the undertaking were J. Thompson, J. F. Thompson, William Larrabee and E. Huntington.  Jasper Thompson became the first president after the reorganization, J. F. Thompson, vice president, and B. J. Thompson, cashier.  Articles of incorporation were filed June 29, 1896, and the bank capitalized for $50,000. The institution then occupied a small one-story brick building on the site of the present home.  In 1899 the present two-story business block built of brick was constructed.  The present officers of the Winnebago County State Bank are; [sic] J. F. Thompson, president; B. J. Thompson, vice president; M. M. Thompson, cashier; and Otto Beckjorden, assistant cashier.  The deposits at this bank run about $400,000.

The present First National Bank of Forest City was organized as such in the year 1891, succeeding the City Bank.  The first officers were: B. A. Plummer, president; Eugene Secor, vice president; David Secor, vice president; and W. O. Hanson, cashier.  B. A. Plummer started to do a small private banking business as early as 1871, the business transacted being largely of the nature of that undertaken by Judge Clark, cashing checks and issuing drafts for the convenience of patrons.  The firm of Secor Brothers & Law began in the land business in Forest City as early as 1861, when the senior member of the firm, David Secor transacted land deals; Eugene Secor entered the business in 1865, and John Law in 1875.  The Forest City Bank was established in the spring of 1877 by B. A. Plummer and in January, 1882, the firm of Secor Brothers & Law acquired an interest in the business, which was removed to their building and the name changed to the City Bank.  The firm then became Plummer, Secors & Law.  W, O. Hanson afterward took over Law's interest in the institution by purchase.  In 1915 the first National Bank was moved to its new home, the fine building erected that year at a cost of $50,000.  The bank is fitted with modern equipment and fixtures and is attractive as well as popular.  The present officers are:  B. A. Plummer, president; R. C. Plummer and M. Jane Plummer, vice presidents; W. O. Hanson, also vice president; John Olson, cashier; and W. C. Haugland, assistant cashier.  The capital stock is $75,000; and the deposits about $575,000.

The youngest banking institution in the city is the Forest City National Bank, which was established in 1895.  G. N. Haugen is the president of this institution; C. H. Kelley, vice president; H. R. Cleophas, cashier; and O. E. Gunderson, assistant cashier.  The capital stock is $50,000 and the deposits about $425,000.


Truth Lodge, No. 213, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, was established on the 9th of January, 1867.  The members present were:  Robert Clark, J. R. Burge, J. J. Otis, Austin Orvis, J. P. Gardner, S. W. Herrick and John S. Blowers.  Robert Clark was the first worshipful master.

Forest City Lodge, No. 440, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was organized under a dispensation December 27, 1881; and the charter was granted October 19, 1882.  The charter members were:  J. D. Leland, Nels Thorson, M. C. Wheeler, J. E. Howard, Peter Metz, John J. Sharp, W. H. Fisher and W. H. Jones.  J. D. Leland was the first noble grand.

Hayden Post, No. 151, Grand Army of the Republic, was organized at Forest City on March 8, 1883.  The first officers elected were:  Martin Cooper, post commander; J. W. Mahoney, senior vice commander; John Isaacson, junior vice commander; T. J. Butcher, adjutant; W. W. Olmstead, officer of the day; W. R. Mattocks, officer of the guard; J. F. Thompson, quartermaster; Charles A. Clark, chaplain.


General Merchants—Myron Barton, Nels George, J. S. Olson & Son, John Isaacson, J. W. Mahoney.
Drug Stores—A. Blennerhassett, P.  O. Koto & Company, James Pinckney.
Hardware—Stilson & Reed and Wells & Company.
Groceries—T. Jacobs and James Pinckney.
Banks—Winnebago County Bank and City Bank.
Bookstore—M. H. and S. F. Johnson.
Clothing—Clark Brothers & Company.
Boots and shoes—John J. Anderson.
Jewelry—James S. Jacobson and John P. Haadeland.
Harness—F. S. Spofford and R. H. Bahner.
Furniture—D. W. Adron.
Restaurant and bakery—William Spicer and Paul Anderson.
Millinery—Abbie J. Secor and L. E. Ames.
Shoe shops—John J. Anderson and K. Knudson.
Tailor shops—0. C. Steen and P. Anderson.
Meat markets—Frank Farlow, L. Larson and J. Clemenson.
Flour and feed—Paul Anderson and Wickwire & Reed.
Newspapers—Winnebago Summit, A. H. Chase; Winnebago Review, H. M. Halvorsen.
Attorneys—Martin Cooper, Ransom & Olmstead, J. E. Anderson, David Secor, W. H. Fisher, C. L. Nelson, J. F. Thompson and J. T. Lattimore.
Physicians—Jones & Irish, J. A. Hewett, J. W. David, and W. R. Franklin.
Lands, loans, real estate—Secor Bros. & Law, Thompson Brothers and J. E. Anderson & Company.
Hotels—Clark House and Pinckney House.
Saloons—J. M. Quam, Miller & West and H. C. Holland.
Livery—H. Seeley and James Pinckney.
Draymen—Babbitt Brothers and G. G. Macomber.
Painters—J. J. Dale and W. A. Phelps.
Building contractors—Lackore & Ames, Benjamin Johnson and Leander Farlow.
Cattle buyer and Shipper—John A. Plummer.
Lumber—C. H. Lackore, E. J. Joice and P. Poulson.
Coal and wood—Babbitt Brothers.


In the matter of public improvements Forest City has advanced with rapid strides.  From the small town, with dirt streets and straggling rows of frame business houses, it has grown to a well ordered, attractive and proud city.  Brick and stone buildings line streets well paved; electric lights and curb electroliers add the ornamental touch; an adequate sewerage system disposes of the waste accumulation of the city; the business houses and stores of the city are metropolitan in appearance and the residence streets are attractive and beautiful.

Public utilities were first established in 1894, when water and electric light plants were installed.  In a little over three months after the project was conceived an electric light plant was in operation, known by the name of the Forest City Electric Light and Power Company.  It was owned and operated by a home company.  About two miles of pole line, an ample power house with a 75-horse power boiler and engine, a 30 arc dynamo and 600 candle power incandescent dynamo comprised the first plant.  The company was incorporated and articles filed October 6, 1894; the incorporators were:  J. F. Thompson, N. P. Hanson, T. F. Danaher, Thomas Jacobs, John Lunderg, A. O. Grjellefold, L. Larson, M. Barton, C. L. Prescott, Ida Fuller, S. H. Larson, John Daniels, C. H. Lackore, and N. H. Bailey.  The capital stock was placed at $25,000.  Forest City is now supplied with electricity by the Northern Iowa Light and Power Company, a corporation, of wide extent.

The vote in 1894 having authorized the town council to erect and maintain waterworks, the contract was let to erect a standpipe and put in mains, and as soon as the frost had disappeared in the spring of 1895 work began.  The system was completed about July 1st.  By this public enterprise a much needed protection from fire was provided and an ample supply of pure spring water for household use was made accessible.  The standpipe, 100 feet high, was erected on the highest point in the city.


The following sketch of the beginning and growth of Forest City is from the pen of Mr. Eugene Secor, and was prepared for the historical edition of the Winnebago Summit, September 11, 1895:  “In 1856 a party of men drove up from Mason City to lay out the town plat of what is now known as Forest City.   Up to that time, and indeed for some time afterwards, the settlement was known as the ‘Big Brush.’  The surveying party consisted of Robert Clark, one of the prospective proprietors of the prospective town site, A. B. Miller, surveyor, Horace Bronson and Henry Allen.  They were assisted by A. T. Cole, who acted as one of the chainmen.  They ran a few lines, stuck a few stakes and returned to Mason City.  A. T. Cole was the only one of the party who lived in the county at that time.  He, with his wife, lived just north of the town site.  He shortly moved into the newly laid out ‘city’ and says his wife was the first white woman who resided within the town plat.  Robert Clark moved here in April, 1856, built a log shanty and ‘bached it.’

“I said the town site was laid out in March, 1856.  My authority is A. T. Cole.  He says that they had to shovel the snow off in places to drive stakes.  But according to the certificate of A. B. Miller, the surveyor, which is of record, ‘Forest City was laid out on the 14th, 15th and 16th days of September, 1856, upon the east half of Section 35, Township 98, Range 24—at the request of Robert Clark, esq.,’ and it was not dedicated to public use until some time after.  Robert Clark and wife executed their certificate of dedication August 8, 1857, and Friend Burt, who obtained title to the northeast quarter of Section 35, September 27, 1858.

“It is not strange that so long a time elapsed before completion of the papers necessary to complete the title of the town plat, as the land upon which the town is located was not entered until May 15, 1857.  Robert Clark entered the northeast quarter and Horace Bronson the southeast quarter.  The first deed recorded conveying property in the new town was dated September 27, 1858.

“The name of the town was first suggested by J. S. Church because of the fine timber skirting the settlement on the east and north.  To those who have recently become residents, it is almost incredible that fine black walnut timber was abundant in those forests and that many of the first dwellings were finished with that native product.  Black walnut fence posts, too, were common.

“Pine lumber had to be wagoned from McGregor or Dubuque and was a luxury not to be thought of for many years.  A saw-mill was the first industry introduced.  Mr. Cole says that in 1856 Judge Clark offered him all of Block 48 if he would build on it and entertain travelers.  This he agreed to do, but before the log house was raised he sold his chance for $5 worth of logs.

“But in 1860 things began to boom.  A fine, large, two-story, brick school house was built near the standpipe.  Judge Clark also built a brick residence.  The material for these buildings was dug on Block 31 near the residence of J. F. Thompson.  The excavation whence the clay was taken has long since been refilled, but was a familiar sight to the old residents for many years.

“A new era began with the building of the M. & St. L. Railroad.  This project was conceived and carried out by Forest City business men.  The Minneapolis road had been extended to Albert Lea, but its projectors had no thought of extending through this town.  But a few men here laid their heads together, formed a local company, got a 5% tax voted to the home corporation and then sent a delegation to Minneapolis to interview President W. D. Washburn.  After a good deal of hard work and personal expenditures that never returned, the road was built and on the 10th day of December, 1879, the first passenger train brought the officers of the M. & St. L. Railway from Minneapolis and a grand jubilee was held in honor of the event.  The officers of the local company and the principal ones who brought about this happy consummation were David Secor, president; J. W. Mahoney, secretary, and J. Thompson, treasurer.  These men, supported by the generous and progressive citizens of the town and county, succeeded in securing a public enterprise which assured the permanence of the town and prosperity of the county.

"Later another railroad project was conceived by the citizens of Forest City, which, however, did not materialize although considerable time and money were spent in the effort.  This was the C. I. & D., better known as the ‘Slippery Elm.’  But if we did not get what we started after, we finally got the C. R. & N. (now C. R. I. & P.)

“In April, 1891, at a citizens' meeting called for the purpose of discussing future railroad prospects and to decide what action, if any, the people of Forest City ought to take to protect their interests in railroad matters, it was decided to form a local railway company for the purpose of procuring right of way, local aid, etc., if necessary.  This resulted in filing articles of incorporation of the Chicago and Iowa Western Railway Company.  The following citizens of the town were made members of the local company:  J. Thompson, president and general manager; B. A. Plummer, first vice president; C. H. Kelley, second vice president; O. A, Olson, superintendent; J. W. Mahoney, treasurer; Eugene Secor, secretary; and J. F. Thompson, solicitor.  The board of directors from Forest City was comprised of the following:  J. Thompson, B. A. Plummer, C. H. Kelley, Eugene Secor, O. A. Olson, J. W. Mahoney, J. F. Thompson, M. Barton, W. O. Hanson, T. Jacobs, C. Isaacs and P. O. Koto.  This company was instrumental in building the line from Forest City to Armstrong and after its completion turned it over to the B. C. R. & N.  The line to Garner was afterward straightened, having run to Madison, and the whole is now a part of the Rock Island lines.”


Public spirit in Forest City has always been much in evidence, as proved by the energetic and capable treatment of various civic and municipal questions which have arisen.  Not the least factor in this spirit has been the establishment of associations for the betterment of the town.  One of the first of these was the Forest City Club, incorporated March 2, 1895; objects, “charitable, educational, social and recreative.”  The first officers of this association were:  George D. Peters, president; C. J. Thompson, secretary; O. A. Olson, treasurer; W. Northrop, G. H. Babbitt, G. I. Koto, directors.  The members signing the articles of incorporation were: George H. Babbitt, Homer A. Brown, E. H. Chase, T. F. Danaher, S. C. Gardner, G. S. Gilbertson, C. H. Gruver, H. M. Hanson, J. E. Howard, H. R. Irish, C. A. Isaacs, C. H. Kelley, G. I. Koto, T. M. Lewis, G. G. Lincoln, G. A. Lyon, M. H. Moser, W. Northrop, O. A. Olson, C. L. Prescott, George D. Peters, P. A. Saxerud, B. J. Thompson, C. J. Thompson, Frank J. Ward.

The Forest City Commercial Club was incorporated and articles of incorporation filed March 16, 1900.  This club was organized for the “advancement of moral social, educational and business interests of Forest City, Iowa, and the encouragement of manufacturers and business enterprises.”  The first officers were: M. Barton, president; J. J. Sharp, vice president; T. Jacobs, treasurer; B. J. Thompson, secretary; C. J. Thompson, H. R. Irish, J. Thompson, George D. Peters, and Eugene Secor, directors.

The Forest City Improvement Association filed articles of incorporation March 27,1906.


The Forest City Public Library Association was organized and articles of incorporation filed June 7, 1897.  These articles were signed by B. A. Plummer, L. O. Hatch, B. J. Thompson, T. Jacobs, H. R. Irish, Mrs. E. W. Virden and Mrs. E. Perkins.  These mentioned composed the first board of directors.  In 1899 a building for the library was constructed and it was formally opened at 8 P. M., September 14, 1889.  The building, street and court house grounds were brilliantly illuminated for the occasion and the Forest City band supplied the music.  The board of directors turned the building over to the city, and the same was accepted by the mayor.  This public library is an appropriate monument to the generosity and efforts of the citizens who made it possible.  The shelves of the library are well filled with standard works of all kinds, fiction and magazines, and is of valuable assistance to the public schools of the city.

A History of Winnebago County and Hancock County, Iowa. Vol. 2.  Chicago:  Pioneer Publishing Company, 1917.  124-37. Print.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy