Allamakee co. IAGenWeb Project

Hardin- Northeast Iowa’s
Most Flourishing Town in the 1850s

Hardin was the most important and surely the most flourishing town in northeastern Iowa in the early 1850’s. It was located at the intersection point of Allamakee and Clayton Counties. Since it was located in the southwestern corner of Franklin Township, it was barely a couple of miles to the north of the reservation line. It is south of a region which was previously settled by a few farmers for less than 10 years.

It lies on what was an Indian trail from the Indian village close to Luana and on to the Decorah village. This was an early route between Dubuque and St. Paul, which passed through Monona, Lybrand, Granville, Frankville, Trout River, Decorah, Burr Oak, Elliota, Minnesota, Carimona and Rochester.

As soon as the Indians left in 1848, things began to develop. A post office was established and on Jan. 1, 1851, L.B. Hodges assumed the duties of postmaster. At that time there were only 3 other offices in the area: Postville, Lansing, and Tom Corwin in Fairview Township. The fifth at Lybrand was established later that year. It became a natural “point of entry” to the newly opened area, but some of the professionals who located there moved on to towns that could offer them more possibilities for success. Some of them were: Dr. John Green and L.B. Hodges, clerk of district court who went to Columbus. James M. Sumner, who was one of the county commissioners, and Joseph W. Holmes, were from this area.

County surveyors S.P. Hicks, Joel Dayton, and H.O. Dayton began their careers from this point. Hon. Henry Dayton came into Allamakee County by this gateway and taught the Hardin School in 1857-58. A.D. Frazier opened the first store in Hardin in 1851 and the next year R.T. Burnham brought in a large stock of goods. In 1855 there were five general stores and other businesses as well, so Hardin was on its way.

Across the line into Clayton County, a large steam-operated gristmill was operated and the well-known “Collins Tavern” was in operation. Rev. Bishop, a Methodist minister, held the first religious services in the log schoolhouse. In 1858-59, a Baptist congregation was begun by Rev. James Scofield, but this was discontinued in 1863.

The town of Hardin was platted in January 1854 by L.B. Hodges, who was owner of the land which lay in Allamakee County, and Joseph Collins, who owned the Clayton County land. Additions were platted in 1856 in what was known as Hardin Center. The name was taken from Col. Hardin of Illinois.

Today you could drive through what was once Hardin and never realize that a town has existed there. It seems to be nothing other than a farming community. Since transportation was a major problem in the development of any area, Hardin began to disintegrate. Plans were made to extend the rail line through Postville, and this was a real threat to any further development. One building appears to have been a store or perhaps a post office. Other buildings are in bad repair. Some seem to have been renovated to make them more useable. Mrs. Ralph Bacon said the spot where their home and farm buildings stand was once the main street of town. She said that all along the road which passes their premises were business places, and on down the road a way, dwellings stood, but they have been razed. Another farm a short distance from them in Clayton County is occupied by the Bob Keeler family. On a hillside is a set of buildings which are unoccupied. This farm is owned by David Schieholz. The son of the Bacon’s remarked, “I trap gophers on that farm. It is mostly hay ground.”

Numerous other settlements in Allamakee County have fallen by the wayside, but this is part of the progress of the area. Towns of Dalby, Elon, Maud and even Waterville have fallen into this category.

- source: unknown newspaper; article by Madonna Storla, March 18, 1987
- transcribed by: Debra Richardson

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