The vicinage of this prosperous town was thickly settled before the railway was constructed from Cedar Rapids westward, and two or three minor scraps of local history that occurred prior to the formation of the town have happily been preserved.
The Hickory Grove Debating Society was organized in the Winter of 1858-9. Three questions discussed were: " Resolved, That slavery is constitutional;" "Resolved, That the signs of the times indicate a speedy dissolution of the Union;" "Resolved, That timber stealing is morally right." Robert Desha, a Southerner, was one of the disputants who spoke to the second question, and his speech was almost prophetic. He soon afterward abandoned his wife and family at Vinton, and, during the war, was captured at the head of a Confederate regiment. Speaking in the affirmative of the third question, timber; he had improved two farms, and had stolen every stick of timber, he had used. When asked if he could prove it, he said he thought he could "by every man in the house!"
The Chicago & North-Western Road was completed to this point in November, 1861, but the town was not laid out till February, 1862. Isaiah Morris and Eli Hill were the proprietors. The town is near the center of Le Roy Township, and is on the high ground south of the railway track. Prairie Creek, a beautiful stream of clear water that rises in the western part of the county, flows along the northern edge of the town. The fine body of timber skirting the Iowa River comes up to within a mile of Blairstown. The first year, Mr. Morris, with far-seeing liberality, donated a number of lots to those who sought locations here. The site of Blairstown is on the highest ground along the railway between Clinton and Boone.
The first house erected after the plat was surveyed was that of Philip Buck, a plasterer by trade, followed soon after by a building for business purposes, constructed by G. R. Dickinson, who opened a general store as soon as his building was ready. H. M. Hanford erected the second business building, and about the same time W. D. Watrous and J. J. Snouffer built a grain warehouse.
The first hotel was the Howard House, presided over by I. Morris.
Bryant & Green were the first blacksmiths, and L. E. Watrous was the first Station Master, Express Agent and Postmaster.
The first religious services were held by Revs. Messrs. Hugh Beardshear, Lather Keller, Steenbarger and Bradshaw, all Christian preachers. The place of assembling was at the log school house. Rev. Mr. Fillmore, of Ohio, a Dunkard, was among the first to preach here.
A Sabbath school was organized in the school house soon after it was built. The library was donated by the Congregational Church at Big Rock, Clinton county.
The M. E. Church was organised by Rev. Mr. Black. S. S. Parks was the first class leader.
The first school on the town site was taught in a little log cabin, by Miss Eunice Ranstead, probably in the Summer of 1862. Hiram Black was her successor.
J. Bryan, who had been elected a Justice of the Peace in St. Clair Township, removed to Blairstown in the Fall of 1862, before the expiration of his term of office. Township lines did not disrobe him of his functions in his own opinion, and many deeds and other papers pertaining to transactions in Le Roy Township, were acknowledged before him; the legality of his acts never having been questioned by the people of Blairstown.
At the close of 1862, as nearly as can be ascertained, the following were the male inhabitants of Blairstown : I. Morris, E. Hill, G. B. Dickinson, P. Buck, W. D. Watrous, J. J. Snouffer, H. M. Hanford, J. Bryan, J. F. Greer, L. E. Watrous and S. B. Gill, the latter having been one of " Osawattomie " Brown's veterans in Kansas. He escaped hanging in Virginia on account of having engaged to teach a district school just before Brown got ready for his raid into the sacred territory south of the Potomac, and could not be released from his engagement.
W. L. Brockman, a Linn County pioneer of 1843, and a resident of Linn County since 1855, is an extensive nurseryman near Blairstown, and has been doing a very satisfactory business since 1867.
In 1868, there were six general stores, two groceries, two hotels, two lumber dealers, five blacksmith shops, one farm implement house, two hardware stores, one flouring mill, three harness shops, two tailor shops, two painters, two shoe shops, two druggists, one jeweler, two milliners, one photographer, two barbers, two attorneys, four physicians, one meat shop, several carpenters, one cooper shop, one livery stable, etc.
The business at the railway station for 1868 was represented by the following figures. Freight forwarded, 12,114,470 pounds; charges on same, $53,324.23; freight received, 12,715,800 pounds; charges on same, $38,254.45; amount of passenger tickets sold, $29,989.65; cash received for freight and tickets, $68,244.10; actual earnings, $83,318.88; lumber received, 477 cars; grain shipped, 511 cars; stock shipped, 77 cars.
The population at the close of 1868 was estimated at about 1,100. The "Central South Slope Old Settlers' Association " was organized February 11,1869, at the residence of James Bryan. The pioneers had assembled previously for a re-union, and the society was an afterthought, which was formed as just stated. A. G. Hanna was made President; A. Dean, Secretary. Another re-union was appointed for the first Saturday of the following September, and a committee appointed to arrange the details for the meeting.
J. D. Huggins, saloon keeper, at Blairstown, April 2, 1869, committed suicide by taking two ounces of laudanum. Domestic troubles, and a prolonged spree, were the moving causes.
Joshua Green, a young man employed by Thomas Ryan, three or four miles north of Blairstown, on Tuesday, April 13, 1869, plowed up some wild parsnips, which he ate, and was picked up unconscious from the poisonous effects of the vegetables soon after. He died the same day.
A bank was established by Allen & Amidon, in 1869.
A son of Ephraim Robertson, at Blairstown, lost his life from inhalation of carbonic acid gas, July 5,1870. Robertson had let him down into the well to ascertain the depth of water, when he lost his hold and fell to the bottom. Supposing the boy had fainted, Robertson tied a younger boy to the rope and let him down also, who also appeared to grow faint, when the father let him in the water twice to revive him, but not succeeding drew him up again. By the help of the neighbors the other boy was raised to the surface in about two hours, quite dead.
July 17, 1870, the dead body of a German, partially devoured by swine, was found by James W. Athey, living near Blairstown. The coroner's inquest revealed that the deceased was named Claus Large, a resident of Davenport, who was visiting friends near Blairstown. He had committed self-destruction by means of a navy revolver, which was found in the mud near by. He had been engaged to a maiden in Germany, to whom he sent money to pay her passage to America. She came, but found another whom she thought she could love better than Claus.
July 25, 1871, two young men who had attended a ball at Blairstown, the night before, and had started home intoxicated, laid down on the railway track about three miles east of that place, and went to sleep. They were run over by a west-bound freight train and killed before the engineer discovered them.
In 1871, Blairstown had become quite a shipping point for strawberries and raspberries, the principal growers being C. Carter, A. Dean and W. S. Snow.
Producer's Grange, No. 49, P. H:, was one of the first societies of this order to be found in Iowa. Its officers in 1871 were - Staats G. Burnett, Master; George Black, Overseer; Dr. J. K. Warner, Secretary.
John Van Metre, an estimable young citizen, of Blairstown, died Jan. 31. 1876. The funeral services were conducted by St. Bernard Commandery of Belle Plaine, and the escort was composed of the Masonic, Odd-Fellows, and United Workmen Lodges of Blairstown.
Blairstown was incorporated in September, 1868, and at the first election J. Houck was chosen Mayor; W. H. Eldred, Recorder; John Book, Treasurer; A. J. Tongeman, Philip Hoebel, J. Bryan, D. W. Moore, John Book, Trustees.
Under the town organization, sidewalks have been constructed along most of the streets.
In the Summer of 1877, the Enterprise Fire Company volunteered as a police force to secure quiet in the town during the migration of the tramps, four doing duty every night. A warehouse was occupied for police headquarters and for calaboose.
The municipal officers of Blairstown for the year 1878, are as follows: M. D. Barney, Mayor; Sam P. Silliman, Recorder; W. H. Ehred, James Bryan, W. B. Wagner, F. G. Laubach, George Felt, Trustees; W. S. Snow, Assessor.
Enterprise Fire Co., No. 1. - The first meeting to organize this company was held January 12, 1875. On the 19th, a constitution and by- laws were adopted. John T. Brewster was elected President, and John Van Metre, Secretary. The company was uniformed with caps and shirts within a month or two afterward.
The present officers are: Alien Green, Foreman; M. Fitzgerald, First Assistant; William Sheim, Second Assistant: John T. Brewster, Secretary; Charles Wise, Treasurer. There are about twenty-five members.
The engine is a hand engine, of the " Little Giant " pattern.
Blairstown Hook and Ladder Co . - This company is now being reorganized, it having been formed some four years ago. At a meeting held in July last, S. P. Silliman was elected Foreman; Henry Hartung, First Assistant; Francis Ritter, Second Assistant; J. D. King, Secretary; H. L. Bassett, Treasurer. The company is well equipped with truck, ladders and buckets.
A new school house was erected in 1866, which was enlarged by the addition of two rooms in 1871. The teacher, in the Winter of 1866-7, was Amos Dean.
The Blairstown Academy, which was erected in 1868, is a well-managed and successful institution. A fuller account of this institution will be found in the educational chapter.
The School Board of Blairstown Independent District is as follows for 1878: W. S. Snow, President; J. G. Burnet, Secretary; M. D. Barney, James Brain, E. Lehr, B. W. Shreeves, Directors; A. F. Alien, Treasurer.
J. B. O'Sullivan was Principal of the schools for the school year of 1877-8; Miss Emily Brain and Miss Carrie Barney, Assistants.
Methodist Episcopal - The first church of Blairstown is, as must be expected, the Methodist Episcopal, a class having been formed in the vicinity in 1858. Rev. S. W. Heald was the Pastor in charge of the Circuit in 1868, in which year the Church was incorporated, with J. D. King as President of the Board of Trustees ; Hugh Jordan, Secretary; W. C. Keir, Treasurer. Other members were Hiram Lipe, James W. Athey, James H. Chamberlain and Orson Davis.
In that year, the number of members on the Circuit, including two other appointments, was seventy-two. The church building was erected in the Fall of 1878 and dedicated in November, costing $3,000. It is 40x54 feet in size. Sabbath School Superintendent in 1868, H. P. Baker.
At present (1878) the outside appointments have been taken off and Blairstown is a station with Rev. L. Catlin as Pastor. Board of Trustees; H. L. Bassett, President; J. D. King, Secretary; L K. Wise, Treasurer; John Bork, T. F. Barnes, H. Lipe and John McCarty.
J. D. King is Superintendent of the Sabbath school; H. A. Buffington, Secretary; C. P. Hayes, Treasurer. The usual attendance of pupils is about sixty.
Evangelical Association . - This Church was organized in 1865, north of Blairstown, by Rev. C. W. Anthony, the first members being George Herring and wife, Uriah Keck, Jacob Hartung and wife, Prof. J. W. Hawn and wife.
The society was removed to Blairstown in 1867, but the construction of the - building was begun in 1866. The building was dedicated in 1867, by Rev T. C. Cluvell, editor of the Evangelical Messenger, Cleveland, Ohio. The building cost about twenty-five hundred dollars.
The present membership is about thirty. Rev. J. F. Yerger is the Pastor.
The Trustees are Jacob Hartung, E. Hess, Jacob Nauman, D. N. Long, M. S. Herring, B. H. Miller.
M. S. Herring is Superintendent; J. A. Rank, Librarian. The average attendance is about thirty.
A class was organized at Eldorado, in 1862, of which Mr. and Mrs. Long, William Thompson and wife, Martin Mickey and George Briggle and wife were members. A church was built in 1868, at a cost of $3,000. The membership is now about seventy. Rev. Henry Kane is Pastor, and services are conducted in German. Henry Berie is Superintendent of the Sabbath school, which has an attendance of about thirty.
The church building in Le Roy Township was built in 1867, and cost $2,000. The first members were Martin Mickey, -- Elias J. Schoeneberger. There are about forty members. Two Sabbath Schools are held here; one in German, the other in English.
Presbyterian. - This society was organized May 7th, 1864, under the ministrations of Rev. Alex. Caldwell, appointed by the Presbytery of Toledo. The following were the members at that time: H. C. Robertson and wife, Ephraim Robertson and wife, Alex. Kelly and wife, William Kelly and wife, all of whom bore letters from other churches.
About one hundred and sixty persons have been members of the society since its formation. The present number is about one hundred.
The Pastors of the society have been Robert Porter (now deceased), Rev. J. N. Wilson, Rev. George Lodge, and Rev. J. S. Dickey, the present Pastor, who assumed charge in August, 1876.
The present Trustees are John Silliman, C. I. Vail, Esq., B. W. Shreeves, G. H. Smith, G. R. Pierce.
The Board of Ruling Elders is composed of H. G. Bennett, G. H. Smith and G. R. Smith. The Deacons are John Silliman and Charles Jennings.
Charles Jennings is Superintendent of the Sabbath School; Miss Mary Barney, Secretary. The average attendance of pupils is from ninety to a hundred, instructed by twelve teachers.
Mrs. N. C. Dickey is President of the Ladies' Missionary Society; Mrs. Bella Burnett, Secretary and Treasurer.
The building of the church was begun in May last. It is 36 x 60 feet in size, with a belfry, and will cost about $8,000. It was dedicated August 18th, 1878, and the dedicatory sermon was preached by Rev. Stephen Phelps, of Vinton.
Moravian Church of United Brethren. - The first minister of this faith to preach at Blairstown was Rev. Francis F. Hagen. The Church was organized June 16th, 1878, by Rev. Charles Moench. The members composing the society were Henry S. Clewell and wife Fyetta, Charles W. Shireman, Edward Knecht and wife Amelia, John M. Lehr and wife Alice J., Henry C. Neumeyer, Ernest F. Grunewald and wife Elizabeth, Henry Reisser And wife Margaret, Richard Knecht, Camilla Knecht, Christian Shireman, William Reisser, Christian Becker and wife Abigail, Mrs. Magdalena Rupp, Mrs. Elizabeth M. Asch, Mrs. Mary M. Grunewald, Mrs. Sarah Lehr, Mrs. Anna Winch, Mrs. Elizabeth Gensiche.
The elders are John Rupp, Wm. Grunewald, Oliver Asch; Trustees - Enos Lehr, A. T. Winch, Christian Gensiche.
A. T. Winch is Superintendent of the Sabbath school, which numbers fifty pupils, instructed by eight teachers.
Rev. Charles Moench is pastor.
Catholic. - There is a considerable body of members of this faith at Blairstown. Rev. Mr. Maher is pastor.
Young Men's Christian Association. - This society, which has been in existence for some time, has a reading room supplied with magazines and papers, besides a well-chosen library. The society own a handsome organ. This association is composed of the young men of the town and vicinity, and is productive of much good, not only in town but in the surrounding country, conducting Sabbath schools, holding gospel meetings, and diffusing a union spirit throughout the different churches, striking a telling, yet Christian, blow at selfish sectarianism. The association is helped, financially, by the business men and Christian professors.
Lincoln Lodge No. 199, A. F. and A. M. , was organized in 1866. The charter was granted June 5th, 1866, and W. S. Bates was named as W. M.; W. D. Watrous, S. W.; H. L. Bassett, J. W.
The deaths in the membership have been John Van Metre, January 30th, 1876, and 0. W. Merrimon, one of the charter members, June 2d, 1868.
The present officers are Jacob K. Wagner, W. M.; H. L. Bassett, S. W.; Charles I. Vail, J. W.; H. M. Hanford, Treasurer; S. P. Silliman, Secretary ; 0. Home, S. D.; L. Hoebel, J. D.; D. J. Simmons, Tiler.
The membership is about fifty. Meets on Saturday evening on or before full moon, at Masonic Hall.
George Higley, who affiliated in the Summer of 1876, was made a Mason in November, 1814, in Liberty Lodge, No. 120, Willardsburg, Tioga county, Pennsylvania. He demitted from this lodge in 1819, and became a member of Temple Lodge, No. 78, Harpersfield, Ashtabula county, Ohio. He took the chapter degrees in 1822, in Ohio. He demitted from Temple Lodge March 7th, 1822. He never affiliated with any Lodge until he petitioned at Blairstown, although he occasionally visited a Lodge near his residence in Illinois. Mr. Higley will be eighty-five August 22d, 1878, and is in excellent health, in the full possession of his faculties, except a slight deafness.
Protection Lodge, No. 116, I. 0. 0. F. - This Lodge was chartered October 176h, 1868. The first members were W. H. Ehred, H. Jordan, B. F. Franks, S. H. Sebern, J. P. Cuer.
The present officers are: S. R. Heck, N. G.; George Cook, V. G.; E. D. Heck, Treasurer; I. G. Burnet, Secretary.
There are twenty-five members. Lodge meets on Saturday evenings, at Odd Fellows' Hall.
Harmony Lodge, No. SO, A. 0. U. W. - This lodge was organized March 31, 1875, by I. M. Chrissinger. The first officers were: H. L. Basaett, P. M. W.; J. K. Wagner, M. W.; H. D. Moeller, F.; H. M. Hanford; H. P. Silliman, Recorder; F. Ritter, Financier; A. J. Tangeman, Receiver; J. Van Metre, Guide; Geo. W. Goss, I. W.; 0. J. Buffington, 0. W.
There have been two deaths - Charles Budorf, August 19, 1875, - Policy of $2,000 paid in about thirty days; John Van Metre, noted elsewhere.
The present officers are: S. S. Spicer, P. M. W.; Jacob K. Wagner, M. W.; M. D. Barney, F.; 0. P. Macklin, 0.; S. P. Silliman, Recorder; John M. Lehr, Financier; H. M. Hanford, Receiver; George Richardson. Guide; James Bryan; Philip Hoebel, 0. W.
The Lodge has fifty-three members. Meets Tuesday evenings, at Masonic Hall.
The surplus fund is about $300.