The early history of a town is always interesting,
but in this age of strenuous life, when men are
striving, competing, and making history for a future
generations, a greater interest is attached to
accomplishments of present times. However, to begin,
we will give a short reverie of the little city of
Waukon in its early days.
George C. Shattuck was the man who formed the pioneer
settlement in July, 1849. Mr. Shattuck, then a man
nearing 70 years of age built his campfire on the
site, but it was not until fall that he moved his
family here and laid the foundation for the thriving
town of today. From this time on immigration was very
rapid and the surrounding country was quickly
settled. In the winter of 1853 the legislature of
Iowa appointed three commissioners to re-locate the
county seat of Allamakee County, which was then
located at Columbus.
At the time there were several splendid springs
bubbling out of the prairie where Waukon now stands,
and Mr. Shattuck offered to give forty acres of his
land if the county seat would be located thereon.
When the commissioners were convinced that no other
site possessed so many natural advantages, they drove
their stakes on the land thus donated. The house
built by Mr. Shattuck and in which he died still
stands in a corner of the farm which is owned by his
brothers widow, Ms. Luhman Shattuck.
The town was named from John Waukon, a Winnebago
Chieftain. Five men are still residing here who
were here in the early village days, namely: W.C
Earle, J.F. Pitt, O.F and M.C Feris and Leroy Bearce.
Mrs. C.J.F. Newell, we believe, is the surviving
pioneer mother of the town.
Town Growing Rapidly
Waukon increased rapidly in growth
and business and soon gained the name that it bears
today as the best business town for its size in
northeastern Iowa. Until the court house was built in
1860, the courts were held in a log house which was
put up on what is now the H.S. Cooper farm who miles
southeast of town, and was moved up by a
bee, the neighbors all taking a hand in
the moving. In the fall of 1853 the post office was
established with the founder town as postmaster. P.S.
Narum is the present incumbent.
The first newspaper published was the Waukon
Journal, established in 1857. In January, 1868,
the first issue of the Waukon Standard came
out, was published by R. L. Hayward & Co., who
sold out to A.M. May of this city. For several years
E.M. Hancock was associated with Mr. May in 1902,
when he retired from active business, his son, R.B.
May took charge of the standard and edited it until
June, 1909, when he disposed of his interest to John
H. Dewild, the present editor.
The Waukon Democrat was started in 1877 by
Daniel OBrien. In 1879 it passed into the hands
of John W. Hincheon, who published it three years,
and in June, 1882, sold out to T.C. Medary & Son.
Upon the death of the senior editor, the son Edgar F.
Medary, assumed charge of the paper and edited it
until 1898, when it was purchased by Bock &
Coffeen, who changed the name to the Waukon
Republican. Later Mr. Bock bought out Mr.
Coffeens interest and is still its editor.
In 1899, Wallace & Son of Postville moved the
office fixtures of the Postville Graphic,
which they had previously bought of Mr. E.F. Medary,
to Waukon and started a democratic paper under the
name of the Allamakee Democrat, but not
making a success of the venture, disposed of it to
Mr. Medary, who now published it unter the name of
One page of the Allamakee Journal is edited
here by Mr. T.D. Dunlevy, but published by his
brother in Lansing.
Several Bad Fires
After several fires which nearly
destroyed the town, the city voted a system of
waterworks. Two wells were drilled, each over 500
feet deep and 22 feet apart, and a stand pipe over
180 feet high was erected from which the water, which
is the purest to be found anywhere, is forced through
pipes all over the city.
About this same time Pioneer Fire Company No. 1 was
organized by about thirty-five active businessmen who
purchased apparatus and other necessary equipments.
Old members, who have served the company faithfully
and well, have dropped out and new members have been
added until the company numbers but a few more than
the original number. Sheriff Swebakken has been the
efficient chief for several years, and the last
report of the treasurer showed funds on hand to the
amount of $1,455.
This is the age of electricity. For lighting,
heating, power and numerous other purposes that
wonderful force, the electric current, the
constituency and elements of which no man has yet
been able to analyze, is rapidly supplanting all
others. During the winter of 06 and 07
Curtis & Howard, then operating plants in Decorah
and Waukon, began the construction upon the Upper
Iowa River near Decorah, of a large concrete dam
which after many discouragements and much expensive
experience was finally completed and fitted out with
the latest improved hydraulic electric machinery at
an outlay of $100,000 which now supplies Decorah,
Postville and Waukon with lights and power, with
transmission lines being extended to Lansing, opening
this city to same.
Dam Furnishes Power
Their power dam, located thirteen
miles from Waukon on the Upper Iowa River, resting on
a solid rock bottom, is an immense structure 114 feet
long and 36 feet high, of reinforced concrete, across
the channel, abutting against a 60 foot solid cliff
of rock opposite, and provides for 1,400 horse power
at low water.
The Waukon iron mines having been recently placed in
operation necessitated the installation by the Upper
Iowa Power company of an emergency power plant to
insure constant hourly power under all conditions
such as possible wire trouble or low water in the
river at an additional outlay, for steam machinery at
Waukon, of $20,000. The iron mines require a constant
supply of 250 to 300 horse power.
Waukon is fortunate in possessing one of the best
electrical supply establishments in the country. The
Upper Iowa Power company has been growing with
remarkable progress for several years past; its
business is still expanding and its future bright
with greater possibilities.
The largest project done in the way of improvements
and the one thing that placed Waukon on the map was
the building of the branch railroad from here to the
main line at Waukon Junction in 1874. The
incorporators considered several leading businessmen
of the time, C.D Beeman and D.W. Adams, both
deceased, being the principal instigators of the
project. The first officers elected were D.W. Adams,
President; C.D. Beeman, Vice President; Martin Stone,
Treasurer; and G.W. Stoddard, W.C. Earle, James
Halohan, H.C. Gratten, H.H. Stiwell and Fred Hager,
The first depot was in a room in the building owned
by Squire Pennington, now the C.S. Stilwell block,
and in here the agent, Mr. E.B. Gibbs, made up his
own supplies for several months. The present depot
was built in 1877 by A.J. Rodgers and John Taggart,
who hauled the lumber from Lansing with which it was
built. Mr. Gibbs remained in the position for 33
years and upon his resignation two years ago, Mr.
Fred Intlekofer was chosen. In the spring of 1880 the
road passed into the hands of the C.M. & St. P.
Co., who are still its owners.
Among the business institutions which
have proven a success is the flouring mill, located
north of the railroad track near the stockyards.
Messrs. Fasse & Kracht, an experienced firm of
millers who came here from Jasper county, Iowa,
started the enterprise. The mill is what is known as
a 3-brake system, and has a full equipment of rolls,
plain sifters, aspirators and a line of wheat
cleaning machinery. In addition to this there is a
three-high Milford feed mill. A 11x20
engine, developing 60 horse power, furnishes the
power. The mill was started in the spring of 1902,
and is up-to-date in every aspect. A few years ago it
was sold to H.F. Opfer, now deceased, who disposed of
it to a stock company of 25 men, who are known as the
Waukon Milling Company. The present officers are J.H.
Simons, President; Conrad Kruger, Vice President;
F.A. Ludeking, Secretary; O.J. Hager, Treasurer; and
John Simons, E. Dillenberg, F.A. Ludeking, Fred
Becker and Conrad Kruger, Directors.
Another late improvement is the cement walks of the
town. For the last three years cement walks have
taken place of almost all the old board and stone
walk. With three large new churches which were built
in the recent past the city has the best church
buildings of any town of its size.
Churches of Town
The Cumberland Presbyterian church
was organized in 1856 by Rev. J.C. Armstrong, a
minister acting under the direction of the board of
missions of that church. The first building was a
frame structure and later the boards were removed
from the outside and the building was veneered with
brick, and it was also placed upon a higher
foundation and a basement with furnace room, kitchen,
and new dining rooms added. In 1902 a new edifice was
erected of red granite brick with stone trimmings and
is a modern structure in all its appointments. The
present pastor, Rev. R.L. Van Nice has served his
people for the last twenty years.
John Webb, an itinerant Methodist preacher, was the
first to have regular work and teach Methodism in
these parts. The Waukon Methodist church was founded
under his pastorate. Services were first held in the
old court house. In 1859 a small frame church was
erected at a cost of $800, where the E.D. Purdy
residence now stands. The M.E. Society worshiped in
this first church for about ten years, when the
growth of the town demanded a more central location
and the little church was moved and placed upon the
lot where the church now stands. But soon the
increasing congregation required larger audience room
and the present brick deicide was planned. The old
church was sold to C.S. Stilwell, moved, and it his
resent residence. The church was built in 1872 at a
cost of a number of thousand dollars. It has been
remodeled since that time and various improvements
added. The present pastor, Rev. Robinson, is very
able filling the position temporarily until a regular
pastor is appointed next fall.
The First Baptist church is a beautiful structure of
pressed brick and buff sandstone and is modern in
every particular with dining hall and reading room
and ladies parlor in the basement; auditorium,
seating 400; study, library, prayer room and several
individual robing rooms on the first floor, with
organ, choir gallery, and waiting rooms on the second
floor. The cost of the church was between thirteen
and fourteen thousand dollars and was erected in
The Baptist church was organized on Makee Ridge in
1854, and was composed of nine members. For many
years after the church had been removed to Waukon the
congregation worshiped in the brick structure which
was built by the Congregationalists and sold to the
Baptists, which stood on the present site. In 1904
the old structure was razed. Rev. Benfry, who came
here from the east, is the pastor.
In 1855 Rev. Fr. Kinsella purchased 40 acres of land
northwest of town and build a log church thereon¸
in which the people worshiped for many years. In 1868
the present St. Patricks church, a large
structure was erected. The congregation are planning
to build within the coming year one of the finest
Catholic churches in this part of the state. Rev. Fr.
Walsh, the resident pastor, is spending the summer at
his old home in Ireland and his charge is being
presided over by Rev. Fr. ODonnell, a student
from the seminary at St. Paul.
The Seventh Day Advent church is a small building in
West Waukon where services are held regularly.
In the early days there were many Episcopalian
families in town and vicinity and a church was
organized in 1859 by Rev. Bentley, who had charge of
the parish for many years, but within the last few
years the church has been remodeled into dwelling
houses. For about ten years, from 1868 A.M. May was
pastor of this church, remaining in that capacity
until services were discontinued.
The German Reformed Zion congregation was organized
in 1885, by Rev. B.R. Huecker, about thirteen
families constituting the first membership. The
German Reformed church of Waukon was organized from
the Presbyterian Zalmona membership and the German
Reformed Ebenezer congregation. During the year 1885
a small brick church was erected. Rev J. Christ
followed Rev. Hecker as pastor and later came Rev.
Elliker, who had charge of the pastorate for ten
years, and during his time the present beautiful
edifice was erected. The auditorium and Sunday school
room will seat 600 people and the cost was about
There is also a Lutheran congregation here whose
church was erected about twenty years ago.
Education and Clubs
Education has received the attention
it deserves from the very earliest days of Waukon. A
small log school house was the first building. In the
fall of 59 Prof. Laughran erected a brick
building known as the Waukon seminary. Later the
property was sold to the district which became known
as the Independent School District of Waukon in 1862,
and a graded school was started. The present modern
building is valued at $35,000 and the apparatus
contained therein at $960. There are thirteen
teachers employed- one male and twelve females.
And this year a new teacher is to be added to the
list, as a county high school is to be established in
connection with the present high school. The newly
elected superintendent is Prof. Pye, who comes from
his former positions at Forest City and Guttenberg,
Iowa. Besides the public school a parochial school is
maintained by the Catholic church.
Waukon is known far and wide as a literary center. It
has seven well organized clubs whose members devote a
portion of their time to study. The Womens
Literary club was organized in February, 1884,
through the efforts of Mrs. W.C. Earle, and is the
second oldest club in Iowa.
The club now numbers eighteen working and five
honorary members, fifteen having passed to the world
beyond. The officers for the current year are: Mrs.
F.J. Robbins, President; Mrs. J. Smith, Vice
President; Mrs. W.C. Earle, Secretary, and Miss
The Nineteenth Century club has been organized for
about fifteen years and the officers are Mrs. John
Lee, President; Mrs. Chas. Colsch, Vice President;
Mrs. P.M. Heiser, Secretary, and Mrs. B.F. Dasher,
The New Century club was organized in 1900 and its
officers are Mrs. Ellison Orr, President; Miss Pratt,
Vice President; Miss Lewis, Secretary; Miss
The Browning club was first started like the W.L.C.
as a purely social club, but later took up the study
of Browning and so obtained its name. The
officers are Miss Grimm, President; Mrs. M.J.
Bartheld, Vice President; Miss Hall, Secretary; Miss
The Daughters of Norway is a club composed entirely
of Norwegian ladies, and they number 33 members. They
are taking up the study of music, literature and
language of their own country. Miss Mary Westby is
the President; Mrs. J.H. Johnson, Vice President;
Mrs. B.O. Swebakken, Secretary, and Mrs. Olaf Hanson,
The officers in the youngest club, The Friends in
Council are: President, Mrs. R.I. Steel; Vice
President, Mrs. S. Jones; Secretary, Mrs. H.
Ludeking; Treasurer, Mrs. B. Klinkle.
The Thursday club was organized about five years ago,
and its officers consist of: President, Mrs. C.A.
Beeman, Vice President, Miss Leah Jones; Secretary,
Mrs. E.W. Goodykoontz; Treasurer, Mrs. C.J. Hale.
The Redpath-Vawter System of Cedar Rapids has put on
a Chautauqua here for the past three years, and our
people liberally patronize a lecture course during
The Waukon State Bank is the oldest
bank in Waukon, having been first established in 1871
as a private bank by L.W. Hersey. In 1892 it was
incorporated as a state bank with a capital of
$40,000 and at the present time its surplus and
undivided profits amount to over $22,000, with
deposits of $350,000. The officers are L.A. Howe,
President; M.W. Eaton, Vice President; S.W. Ludeking,
Cashier; C.M. Stone, Assistant Cashier. Over forty
years of safe conservative and successful banking
have made this institution one of the foremost in the
Among the financial institutions of Allamakee county
and northeastern Iowa the First National Bank of
Waukon stands bar at the head of the list. The bank
was organized in 1893. Capitalized at $50,000 the
bank has accumulated a surplus fund of $60,000, in
addition to paying dividends in amounts second to
none in this part of the state. The deposits are
$650,000. The success of this bank is largely due to
O.J. Hager, its President, and A.T. Nierling, its
Cashier, who have been with the institution since its
The Citizens State Bank was organized in 1892
with a capital of $25,000 by men of well known
integrity and financial standing and although the
ruthless hand of time has removed all except one of
its first officers and directors. It has stood as a
tower of strength through its 19 years of existence,
performing the usual functions of banking, whether in
panic or plethora. A year ago, in order to keep pace
with its ever increasing business, the capital was
increased to $50,000, and with a surplus almost equal
in amount gives depositors the assurance of security
that is due them. The officers are W.C. Earle,
President; D.J. Murphy, Vice President; W.H. Niehaus,
Cashier; C.H. Earle, Assistant Cashier.
Among the leading firms are Hale
& Sons, whose business was established in 1896 by
Adams & Hale, who put up the first brick store
building in the Village. As the business grew the
store was enlarged until now this firm is possessed
of a modern city store, containing dry goods,
groceries, millinery and ladies furnishing
Captain John Hale, after the civil war, entered into
business here with Doe & Burton. After their
death Mr. Hale went in with A.H. Hersey, and the firm
became Hale, Townsend & Jenkins, the later two
now being deceased. Mr. Townsend retired in 1878, and
for over a quarter of a century the firm of Hale
& Jenkins continued in business. Upon the death
of Mr. Jenkins in 1905, the two sons of Mr. Hale,
Charles and William, who had been brought up in the
business entered into partnership with their father.
It will thus be seen that Mr. Hale, the founder of
the business, has continued in its management for 41
years without changing its location.
Lee Bros. are a newer firm, having only been here
about ten years. They bought the J.M. Murray store
and after a number of changes now have a fine large
R. J. Alexander, the leading clothier, has been in
business 33 years. This firm was first known as the
Chicago Clothing House and established by Armstrong
& Alexander. A few years ago the former sold his
share of the business to his partner, who is still in
Meierkord & Bieber are a new firm who have only
been in business about a year, but who carry a good
and full line of clothing.
For over twenty years the leading Milliner of the
town has been Miss Cummings. There are two other
The oldest well established drug store is W.T.
Gilchrist, formerly Nesmith & Gilchrist. The
others are Grimm Bros., John Opfer and A.E. Pratt.
J.M. Collins is the oldest grocery establishment,
having been first started in 1889. There are also six
other firms who carry a full line.
C.D. Beeman, the originator of the Beeman Mercantile
establishment, followed the pursuits of a farmer for
over twenty years and in 1874 embarked in the
mercantile business in Waukon, in the old Barnard
block and it was known as the grange store. In 1879
he build the large department store in West Waukon
and continued in business until 1897, when he retired
and turned the business over to his three sons, C.A.
Beeman, groceries; I.E. Beeman, hardware; and F.L.
Beeman, dry goods and furniture, who still continue
the business. The upper floor of this building is
occupied by a business college conducted by Prof.
The leading hardware firms are T.B. Stock & Co.,
and Klees & Klinkle, who have made a splendid
success of their business.
Waukon possesses two large and up-to-date furniture
stores, owned by H. Martin & Sons and F.H.
Molumby. They also make a specialty of the
There are two large elevators here owned by Nagel
& Minert and Eaton and Jones, also a number of
flourishing jewelry and china stores.
There are eight lawyers of whom Dayton & Dayton
is the oldest firm. Henry Dayton, the senior member,
was born in Saratoga, N.Y., in 1836; he came to Iowa
in 1859, but soon went to Arkansas, where he remained
until July 1861, when he returned to Iowa and in 1862
settled at Lansing, following surveying until 1871.
He then removed to Waukon and since has followed law
practice. Mr. Dayton has been county surveyor and for
two terms was a member of the
The eclipse Lumber Company, with headquarters at
Clinton, Iowa operates 25 line yards and one of them
is located here in Waukon. T.W. Miller has charge of
the yard. The stockholders all belong to one family
with the exception of the secretary, F.J. Ward, who
was a former Waukon young man. G.W. Dulaney, who
resides at Hannibal, Mo., is the President of the
company, and G.W. Dulaney, Jr., Vice President and
Another lumber yard under the charge of George Chase
is owned by the Central Lumber Company of Dubuque.
This company owns about 60 retail yards in different
parts of the country. The yard here was the former
C.O. Howard yard and was owned and operated by him
for many years before his death.
The two exclusive shoe firms are Anderson &
Straate and the Waukon Shoe Company. The latter
business is managed by Henry Carter, who has been
connected with the boot and shoe business here since
Waukon has one hotel that deserved more than passing
mention, as it is spoken of by its patrons as one of
the best commercial hotels in northern Iowa. For its
homelike atmosphere and bountiful table makes The
Grand Hotel liked by all. There are two other hotels
here that look to the wants of the traveler and a
number of restaurants. Among the latter should be
mentioned Max Willinger, who is Waukons pioneer
restaurant and bakery Proprietor.
The implement business is well taken care of by three
firms, J.H. Hager, Thos. Kaveny and Chas. Dravis.
This year has been an exceptionally busy one with
them all. With the automobile fever came the erection
of a large brick garage by Werham and Markley, who
handle a number of different machines and do all
kinds of repairing.
Waukon has every reason to be proud of her military
company which was first mustered in by Capt. Bascom
of Lansing, and was known as Company F, Fourth
Regiment, Iowa National Guards. The officers were
D.W. Reed, Captain; J.W. Pratt, First Lieutenant. In
July of that year the company was transferred to the
Ninth Regiment, becoming Company E, and Captain Reed
was elected Major of the Regiment. Late in
July, 1879, the company was retransferred to Fourth
Regiment and became Company I, where it has since
Company I was called on during the Spanish-American
war and responded, and at that time they were
transferred to the Fifty-Third Regiment. The company
has been under the instruction of a thorough drill
master in the person of Capt. Colsch. Special
attention has been given to target practice which has
developed marksmen of state and national reputation,
among them Lieutenants Carlson and King.
Iron Ore Found
In 1860, Charles Barnard, an expert
miner from Virginia came to Allamakee county and
discovered the vast deposits of iron ore that lies
near Waukon. He endeavored to organize a company but
was unsuccessful on account of a lack of local
capital. Twenty years later, in 1880, a man came from
Chicago and endeavored to organize a company, but
that also failed. It was not until 1899 that the
first serious effort was made to develop the country
around Iron Hill, which is 1360 feet above sea level
and 720 feed above the Mississippi, thirteen miles
away in an air line. This first iron mining
organization was formulated by D.J. Murphy, a leading
attorney; W.C. Earle, and W.E Beddow of Waukon; and
Rev. Fr. Norton of Lycurgus, now a resident of
Webster City; and a number of stockholders, all of
whom were residents of Allamakee County.
The company was known as the Waukon Iron Company. A
modern washing plant was installed and put into
operation, and the ore beds were worked by the open
pit method. Experience soon taught the promoters that
better transportation facilities were necessary to
make the investment profitable, but the Chicago,
Milwaukee & St. Paul company refused to consider
the construction of a branch road from the Waukon
branch to the mines, a distance of about three miles.
About two years ago the Waukon Iron Company disposed
of its interests to the Missouri Iron Company, who
were composed of St. Louis Capitalists. They sent R.
W. Erwin out to assume full charge of the development
of the mines.
This organization is headed by F.C. Coltra, a St.
Louis millionaire, as President, and owned by St.
Louis capital. When this company first took
possession they began the erection of a reduction
plant at Waukon Junction, but when the plant was
completed and before the machinery was installed it
was torn down and removed out to the mines. The new
reduction plant involved an outlay of over $100,000.
A track was also laid from the mines to the
depot at Waukon. Much expensive machinery has been
added and arrangements are about perfected for the
removal of ore from the mines.
According to Prof. Calvin, the state geologist, the
main body of ore covered an area of 240 acres. This
body has a depth of from thirty to seventy feet and
in some places 100 feet.
Three new buildings are in process of erection on
Main Street, the business houses are all occupied and
dwelling houses are hard to obtain. We have many
beautiful residences. Waukon is noted for its
hospitality, its bright men and women, and its
hustlers in the business line.