IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co. Misc. Historical Items
updated 01/28/2013

How New Albin Got Its Name

Community Named for Child Victim of Burns
By Robert C. Gehl, LaCrosse Tribune Staff Writer

The tragic death of a small boy led to the naming of this town "New Albin".

lt was July 4, 1872 and a group of frolicking boys were celebrating the holiday by jumping over a large bonfire on the street here.

Suddenly, Albin Rhomburg, 11, his pockets filled with gunpowder, stumbled, and fell into the flames. He was pulled out of the fire and placed in a tub of molasses to "salve" his burns. Albin died the following day.

The townspeople voted to name the town "Rhomburg" after the lad's father, J. Albin Rhomberg, but it was his wish that it be, named "Albin" after his son.

lt was discovered, however, that there was another town by that name, so they called it "New Albin." But that is only one brief chapter in our story.

The town might well have remained the most southeastern community in Minnesota instead of becoming the most north­eastern one in Iowa.

Before it was founded there had been a small settlement of houses and a stone warehouse up-river a mile or so tightly cramped between the river and foot of a high bluff.

This first settlement was called "New Landing" and later "Jefferson" and was located in Minnesota. There was not enough building space there so its inhabitants pulled up stakes and moved to a larger townsite which was to become "New Albin" across the state line in Iowa.

The land upon which the village was to be located was first purchased by John Ross from the government in 1854 and it remained until as late as 1868 no more than a wheat field.

J.A. Rhomburg, S.H. Kine and J.H. Graves contracted with Ross for enough land for a town­site in 1871.

Rhomburg was one of the financiers of the Clinton, Dubuque and Minnesota Railway which was extended along the Mississippi River to the Iowa and Minnesota border and began regular train service to the village Oct. 1, 1872.  R.F. Gilas was agent of the depot built here in 1872.

The first businessmen in the town were Edward Jones, lumberman; Ole Rice, taylor; Dr. J. Hoyer, druggist; Peck, harnessmaker; Samuel Stevenson, drayman; Engelhorn, wagoner; Doolittle, furniture dealer; Joseph Haberkorn Sr., butcher; J. B. Murray, grocer; and Fred Spelling, jeweler.

The first school was built in 1847 with H. G. Smart the first teacher.

The first newspaper was published by an Ejhrler in 1873.

The post office established in 1889 with Jacob Fitschen postmaster.

A telephone system was built in 1893 and William Bock was its first operator.

The new settlement grew rapidly and in 1895 had 489 inhabitants.

It was the same year of 1895 that the town was incorporated with first officials William Coleman Jr., mayor; H. Martin, R. Thomson Sr., G.A. Erickson, M. Moore, F. Meyer and L. Salhi, trustees; and Louis Fritz; recorder.

New Albin Savings Bank was organized and built in 1898 with L. H. Gaarder its cashier.

The town hall was also erected in 1898.

A Royal Neighbor camp was chartered in 1902.

An interesting sidelight in the history of the town centers about an event which occurred some 22 years before any land was even picked for a townsite.

The history of "Captain Lee's Iron Monument," as it is called, began in 1849 when a Mississippi River steamboat landed at Victory across the river and unloaded an iron obelisk, five feet, eight inches long, 12 inches square at the base, and tapering to seven inches at the top.

This Pyramid of cast iron weighed 600 pounds and bore the inscription "Minnesota" on one side and "Iowa" on a second side. On a third side was inscribed "1849." The fourth side bore the inscription "Latitude 43 degrees, 30."

In the winter of 1849-50 a small band of men led by Capt. Thomas J. Lee of the U.S. Topographic Engineer Corps. hitched a team of oxen to a sled and hauled the iron marker across the frozen river and erected it at a spot where the north edge of the town was later to be.

lt stood there mostly unnoticed some 80 years until local persons decided to preserve the marker. They built a concrete base with bronze marker to tell .the history of the old landmark.

Because the old historic marker was in a rather lonely and abandoned spot, and near a road not frequented by motorists, tentative plans were made by the Minnesota Highway Department in 1931 to move the monument once more.

The plan was to move it 10 rods to the west closer to Minnesota State Highway 26, which becomes Iowa Highway 182 at the border, so it would be seen by travelers on the highway. The federal government, however, forbade moving the marker because the town was surveyed from where it was located.

Consequently the old monument remains to this day in its original spot.

~source: September 1963 LaCrosse Tribune Newspaper Clipping
~contributed by Errin Wilker


Dubuquer’s Information Tells…How Neighboring New Albin Acquired Its Name

New Albin, 1975

The following information was recently supplied by Mr. J A. Rhomberg of Dubuque, Iowa in response to a request that he furnish information concerning his uncle, Albin Rhomberg, after whom the town of New Albin was named. J.A. Rhomberg has a business office in the Fischer Building.

New Albin was named by Joseph Andrew Rhomberg, a pioneer Dubuquer who was one of the organizers of the railroads known as the Chicago, Dubuque & Minnesota and the Chicago, Clinton & Dubuque. Its first settlers had proposed that their town be called "Rhomberg" in appreciation for the railroad service, but Mr. Rhomberg requested that it instead be called "Albin." His 10 year old son of that name had recently died of burns sustained while he and other boys were playing with gun powder.

However, the postal authorities pointed out that confusion already existed because the spelling of other lowa towns began with the same two letters. There are an Albia and an Albion in Iowa. Thus it was decided to call the new settlement "New Albin."

The father of the present J.A. Rhomberg was a younger brother of Albin Rhomberg by four years. He had a terrible memory of his brother’s agonizing death. It is not certain whether he witnessed the accident, but in any case, Albin and three or four other lads of about the same age found a keg of gun powder. After filling their pockets with the explosive, they built a fire and had great fun tossing the explosive into it. One boy opposite Albin threw a handful into the flames and the sudden burst ignited the powder in Albin’s pockets, making him a human torch. The doctor who was called placed Albin in a bathtub filled with molasses. This apparently reduced the pain, but Albin lived for only a few days.

It is safe to say that Albin Rhomberg never lived in, or visited, the town named after him, although Albin’s father most likely visited here on railroad business. Albin Rhomberg was born on November 10, 1860 at the family home located on the southeast corner of 8th and Locust Streets in Dubuque. This is the present Roshek department store in downtown Dubuque. Albin was baptized "John Albin" in the old Holy Trinity Catholic Church, built in 1850 at 8th & White Streets for Germam speaking families.

That church was later razed and a new edifice for its members was built at the corner of 15th and White Streets, which was completed in 1867 and became known as St. Mary’s. It was from this church, which still stands, that Albin Rhomberg was buried after his tragic death on July 19, 1871.

In 1866 the family of which Albin Rhomberg was a part moved from downtown to a location on the top of the hill in Dubuque which overlooked the downtown district and now bearing the address of 495 W. 7th St. The structure there had been a private school for boys which Albin’s father purchased and added to its size until it contained 20 rooms. The disastrous game played by the boys occurred near the barn which formerly occupied a part of this property. Albin Rhomberg was buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Dubuque on the family plot about 40 feet south of the old chapel, marked with a monument and the individual grave marker.

The Rev. Thomas Rhomberg, present Director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, would be a grand-nephew of Albin Rhomberg.

This article was submitted to this newspaper by Rev. J. J. McBride, pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, New Albin.

~source: Allamakee Journal, Lansing, IA, June or July 1975
~contributed by Errin Wilker


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