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"The Town of Luzerne"
Excerpts from Belle Plaine, Iowa - A History 1862-1962, Chapter 8
Compiled by Jean Newland Swailes with the assistance of the Centennial
Historical Committee in connection with the Centennial Celebration of
Belle Plaine, Iowa. July 1, 2, 3 and 4, 1962.
The town of Luzerne owes its parentage to the Chicago & North Western Railway Company. In October of 1867, this company decided to abandon the Buckeye station and have one half way between Belle Plaine and Blairstown, on the line between Iowa and LeRoy Townships.

On an inspection trip by the president of the railroad shortly after Luzerne beauty of the surrounding hills and valleys which reminded him of the city of Lucerne, Switzerland, a city he had recently visited.

The new town built up rapidly for two years. Some of the houses were moved from Buckeye. E. J. Ditzler erected the first store. In 1869 this town had 40 buildings, including a fine church and school house. About 20 persons were engaged in the following businesses: general store, hardware, meat market, wagon shop, tinsmith, blacksmith, grain elevator, lumber and coal yards, two hotels, livery stable, ice house, barber shop, dressmaking shop and at one time seven saloons. The population of the village was about 300, mostly Germans. Some of the early settlers were Conrad Tatge, Johann Grummer, Fred Wenzel, William Holst, William Greenlee, Henry Nichols and Andrew Stephens. The latter was a prominent local character, known as Andy Stein, the Indian interpreter. He was hired to take the Indians to the reservation at Tama and acted as contact man for them.

A. F. Tatge built the first elevator and John Shellenberger also bought grain. Since there was no other railroad in the vicinity grain was delivered to Luzerne from a distance of many miles. Other business men were Matthew L. Nismonger, Jacob Buch, William Rohbein, and John Jones. Later William Taege, a tinsmith, arrived and opened a hardware store with Henry Ilten. They were known as Ilten and Taege and became a very prominent firm, later moving to Cedar Rapids.

Lutheranism in this area began about 11 years before the existence of the town. The first Lutheran sermon was preached in April, 1856, by Rev. A. Selle in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Conrad Tatge, one- half mile south of the present Luzerne. On May 22, 1859, St. Paul's Lutheran congregation was organized with 19 voting members. Some of the charter members were the Conrad Tatges, the Johann Wonraus and the Johann Grummers. There are grandchildren of these charter members who are present members of St. Paul's. In 1861 a small church was on the site of the present Lutheran Cemetery. The first resident pastor, Rev. Philip Studt, was installed May 10, 1866. The same year a Lutheran Day School, which is still in existence, was opened by the Rev. Studt. The original congregation which had dwindled down then began to grow. Many new families moved in and the following year, 1867, the town of Luzerne was founded. Present pastor of St. Paul's is Paul H. Eggold.

The Luzerne public school was built in 1870. There were two buildings, known as the little school house and the big school house. In 1890 the little school house was closed and all the classes were conducted in the other building. The present school house was built in 1930, and was closed in 1961 when the district consolidated with Belle Plaine.

The post office was established August 2, 1870. The first postmaster was Matthew L. Nismonger. He was succeeded by Andrew Shriver, Julius Studt and William Kouba, the latter serving for 43 years. The rural mail delivery was established in 1902. John Beem served as the first carrier for 18 years and was succeeded by Otis Wright who started in April, 1920, and continues to the present day.

The Farmers Merchantile was organized in 1906. Some of the managers were Herman Lorenz, George Lechtenberg and Adolph Roth. The Luzerne Savings Bank was built in 1908 and Martin Studt was the only cashier. It closed in 1932 but paid off its depositors completely.

The first automobile in this vicinity was owned by A. F. Tatge and was a 1907 Mitchell. The Tatges and the Martin Studts were frequently seen riding in this car. Several years later F. H. Kluss was also bitten by the car bug and bought a Thomas Flyer.

Luzerne had a number of serious fires. In 1879 the furniture store burned; in 1887 the Ditzler store, which had been moved from Buckeye, burned; and in 1889 the flour mill was destroyed by flames. The town of Luzerne was incorporated in 1895 and the viaduct was built in 1896.

In 1881 the Chicago Milwaukee Railway was constructed a few miles north of Luzerne and many of the business houses and residences were moved to the newly established town of Keystone.

At the present time, 1962, the town of Luzerne has eight places of business, Luzerne Motor Company, Stelling's Store, Donnan's Tavern, Froning Grain and Lumber, Koehn's Furniture (cabinet making and woodworking), Smith's Plumbing and Heating, Wehrman's Trucking, and a barber shop. It also has a post office, St. Paul's Lutheran Church, and St. Paul's Day School which has an enrollment of 56 pupils. The population at the time of the last census was 136. - Kate Koehn, Leora Saurteig and Oscar Schroeder.

Transcribed by Carleton Ealy.
© 1998 by Carleton Ealy




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