This thriving town was laid out by Messrs. Cantonwine & Fluke, and the plat was recorded June 16, 1854, it being the third town site surveyed in Benton County. The original plat contained twenty-four lots of ordinary size, with two streets — Main and Pearl. The surveying was done by H. M. Drury.
John Sells, one of the early settlers of the township, was desirous of having his own name joined to the appellation of the town, but the proprietors preferred another name, and still wishing to oblige the old gentleman, decided to compromise the matter by naming the town Shellsburg, Sells and Fluker afterward removed to Missouri, and Cantonwine to Oregon.
John White was the first to open a tavern at Shellsburg, which was a stopping place for John Weare's line of stages between Cedar Rapids and Vinton; the post office for Shellsburg at first being at Beulah, two miles north.
Cantonwine was among the first to engage in trade at Shellaburg, and tradition has it that his stock was largely in fluid goods. Vinton then being strongly prohibitory in sentiment, the thirsty souls at the county seat were wont to be refreshed at Cantonwine's store.
Other early settlers at Shellsburg were David Bobb, the second Clerk of Benton County, B. R. Dwigans, D. M. Sterns, Royal Storrs, Russell Bowe and K. H. Carroll, all of them among the pioneers of Benton County.
It is stated that during the Winter of 1855-6, a lawyer and an editor of Vinton invited their wives to accompany them for a sleigh ride to Shellsburg, supper to be taken here. They came, the men went to Cantonwine's — to see a man — and the ladies can tell who drove home.
The first church organization at Shellsburg was the New School Presbyterian, formed by the missionary efforts of Rev. Mr. Wood, of Iowa City, and Rev. Williston Jones, of Cedar Rapids. It was organized at the "White School House," in 1850, one mile east of where Shellsburg was afterward laid out, and was removed to the village after Rev. Mr. Summers became Pastor, probably in 1855. Its members afterward transferred themselves to the 0. S. Presbyterian Society.
In June, I860, the town had about one hundred and fifty inhabitants. The hotel was kept by L. A. Lebor. A flouring-mill had been built a short time before by Clark & Oyler, and Denison & Hadley had a pottery in successful operation.
The shipments from Shellsburg, in 1870, were: 40,666 bushels wheat; 8,500 bushels corn; 833 bushels oats; 24,300 pounds pork; 2,867 live hogs; 331 head of cattle; 200 cords wood ; 27,000 pounds nursery trees.
April 12, 1872, a destructive fire occurred at Shellsburg, whereby eighteen buildings were burned, with a loss of about $30,000. The fire began in a saloon owned by J. Drefahl.
Miss Cowell, of Shellsburg, was drowned at Fisher's Ferry, August 10, 1873. She was in a carriage with J. B. Robb. They undertook to ford the Cedar, but the horses, getting into deep water, became entangled in the harness, Robb and Miss Cowell left the carriage and he undertook to swim to shore with her, but became exhausted and was compelled to abandon the lady to save himself.
The Farmers' Exchange Bank of Shellsburg began business October 9, 1874. with a capital of $30,000. The first Directors were J. L. Budd, John Parker, P. M. Harbert, J, H. Miller and B. R. Dwigans.
William Dwigans, of Shellsburg, is one of the smallest men in physical proportions now living. He is twenty-four years old, and his height is but twenty-nine and a half inches. He is well proportioned, and is a very intelligent, prepossessing young man.
Shellsburg was a village of considerable importance before the railroad reached the town in the Summer of 1870. For three or four years, the timber lying east of the town gave the town a considerable business; hundreds of car loads of railroad ties and bridge timber being cut and shipped from this station.
Shellsburg has been a heavy sufferer financially, caused by several destructive fires. It has thriven steadily, however, and its business men will in due time be rewarded for their constancy and courage. The town enjoys an excellent trade with a large scope of country.
Shellsburg is an extremely orderly, moral town, a large proportion of its inhabitants being connected with some church society.
The election to form the Independent District of Shullsburg was held March 10, 1870, at which time there were nineteen votes cast, all but one being for the measure. The officers were chosen on the 21st. D. P. Marshall was first President; J. H. Miller, Wm. Kreader, Alex. Runyan, D. M. Howell, Wm. White, Directors; J. P. Skea, Secretary; T. Gray, Treasurer. The first teachers employed by the Independent District were H. B. Warner and Miss Haines. May 3d, the school was divided into three grades.
July 26th, a committee was chosen to prepare a plan for a larger school house.
In March, 1871, the people voted a tax of five mills for school house fund, which amount was again levied at the annual meeting of 1872. In 1873, a three-mill tax was voted for the same purpose, and in 1874 the previous taxes were swelled by a further levy of five hundred dollars. July 23, 1874, the board invited proposals for furnishing the materials for the foundation of a new school building, which was let in August, to Richard Noallar.
In March, 1875, the sum of $750 was voted to the school fund. August 17thj the board appointed a committee to contract for brick for the proposed school house, and another committee to obtain plans and specifications. September 24th, a contract was made with Nicholas Boos to build the house and furnish the brick for $2,200.
At the annual meeting in 1876, the board were authorized to sell the old school house if they should find it advisable.
The building as completed cost about $2,500.
The present officers of the board are as follows: Elisha Runyan, President; A. J. Dickinson, B. R. Dwigans, F. W. Deekeraw, H. H. Miskinens, D. M. Stern, Directors; J. H. Miller, Secretary; Thomas Gray, Treasurer.
The teachers for the school year of 1877-8 were: W. H. Brinkerhoff, Principal; Emma Phelps, Intermediate; Clara Blackburn, Primary. Thomas Parker has been engaged as Principal for the coming year; the intermediate and primary teachers of last year are retained.
Baptist. — This is the oldest church society now extant in Shellsburg, having been formed in February, 1855, with about fourteen members. Rev. Richard King was the first Pastor, and removed in 1857. Rev. M. Hazen succeeded and remained till his death, which occurred about a year after his removal here. Rev. Mr. Shirley stayed one year, and was succeeded by Rev. John W. Thompson, who remained two years. The brick church was begun during his stay. He was succeeded by Rev. J. W. Daniels. The construction of the church building was begun in 1870, but it was not completed till 1877, being dedicated September 24, 1876, the sermon being preached by Rev. Mr. Weaver, of Vinton. After the sermon, Mr. Weaver, in behalf of Mr. Mix, of New York, presented the society with a communion set valued at forty dollars.
Rev. Mr. Daniels, the Pastor, then made a statement of the trials undergone in completing the church, commending especially Messrs. Simeon Maxon, Robert Heath, Wm. Kreader, Mr. Bixby and others, for their great liberality.
The church, up to the time of dedication, cost nearly $10,000, and at the meeting about enough was pledged to build the bell tower. The belfry, bell and furniture have since swelled the total to about $1,600.
The present Pastor is Rev. J. W. Thompson. The membership is seventy-six. Simeon Maxon, Elisha Runyon, Robert Heath are the Deacons; 0. J. Smith, Clerk; Miss Flora Kreader, Organist.
Arad Thompson is Superintendent of the Sabbath school; Robert White, Librarian. The average attendance of pupils is about seventy, taught by nine teachers.
Old School Presbyterian. — This society was organized on Sand Prairie, north of Shellsburg, in 1856, by Rev. Walter L. Lyon, of Vinton, and George Beren, of Big Grove, May 17 1856. The Pastors, since its formation, have been W. L. Lyon, James Fullerton, Alex. Caldwell, A. G. Martyn, H. K. Henneigh, A. S. Ross, D. McDermid, and Alex. Caldwell, in April, 1876; the latter is still Pastor.
At a meeting of the new and old organizations, held at the M. E. Church March 27, 1870, resolutions were passed uniting the two bodies. At this meeting, John Parker, Abraham Scott, William Crawford, James Strong, Paul Miller, Mrs. Harriet Elson, Hannah Greenwood and Hannah M. Miller became members of the united church.
The church was built in 1870, and dedicated in the same year, the sermon being preached by Rev. Alex. Marshall, of Marion. The building cost about $2,200.
The membership is about forty. The Trustees are: John Parker, Alex. Johnson, Paul Miller, James Strawn. There is a vacancy in the number caused by the recent decease of William Crawford, John Parker and W. P. Lorey, Elders.
John Jones is Superintendent of the Sabbath school; W, P. Lorey, Librarian. The average number of pupils attending ia about seventy, divided into seven classes.
Methodist Episcopal — This society was organized in 1856, with fourteen members, Rev. B. F. Taylor remaining as Pastor till 1858. The ministers who have since been sent here are as follows: D. Donaldson, H. P. Hollensworth, C. W. Brewer, H. W. Beach, George Rains, D. C. Wortz, William Glassner, Joseph Wilkinson, J. Baker, James Leslie, Asa Critchfield, L. Winsett, A. N. Lee and Reuben Bicker,
The first church building was constructed in 1861, at a cost of $1,200, but the continuous growth of the society was such that a new edifice became necessary, which was built in the Summer of 1876, at a cost of $2,600. The church was dedicated by Rev. Mr. Crippen, of Waterloo, whose text was Mark x., 29, 30.
The present Trustees are: P. F. Hughes, Thomas Gray, John Miller, T, K, Ford and R. Bowe. The Stewards are: F. Shumler and F. F. Hughes.
The Sabbath school was organized in 1863, with about thirty pupils; F. F. Hughes is Superintendent of the Sabbath school; ---- Losey, Librarian. The average attendance is about seventy-five.
Young Men's Christian Association. — This society was organized June 15, 1877, with 0. J. Smith as President; A. A. Manning, Vice President; Wm. H. Anderson, Secretary; C. P. Losey, Treasurer. The other members at the organization were: Mr. Wentworth, Albert Losey, Rev. B. Rieker, F. F. Hughes, Carey Nevin, C. DeVillbiss, W. P. Losey, E. S. Hughes, Mrs. C. Hughes, Mrs. R. Rieker, Mrs. Emma Thompson, Mrs. R. C. Bobb, Mrs. C. DeVillbiss, Miss Addie G. Lewis, D. W. Esget, Rev. J. W. Daniels, 0. Kellogg, Miss Anna Arndt, Miss Mary Arndt, Miss R. 0. Blackburn, Thos. K. Ford, B. F. Garmer, Samuel Arndt, Olin Ecker, B. F. Trumbower, J. E. Wyant, A. Thompson, Miss Mollie Jewell, Dora Lurk, Rev. R. Bowe.
The society is in a healthy, growing condition, with a membership of seventy. Holds prayer meeting every Monday evening, and Gospel meeting on each Sabbath afternoon.
The present officers are: 0. J. Smith, President; D. S. Adams, Vice President; Frank F, Hanford, Secretary ; C. P. Losey, Treasurer.
Shellsburg Cornet Band. — This well-known musical association was organised in October, 1875. Its present membership is as follows: G. A. Fawcett, Leader and E flat; Frank Anderson, second E flat; C, E, Smith and J. H, Devine, first B flat; Will Anderson and Tom Kreader, second B flat; D. W. Stiver, solo alto; Will A. Lewis, first alto; Frank Lewis, second alto; Frank Jones, tenor; J, E. Wyant, baritone; E, 0. Bowe, tuba; M. M. Toms, bass drum; G. A. Jones, snare drum.
Benton City Lodge, No. 81, A., F. and A. M. — Dispensation was granted October 31, 1855. The first officers were: W. V. Denslow, W. M., A. G. Green, S. W.; W. C. Stanberry, J. W.; C. 0. Charles, Treasurer; J. K.
Turk, Secretary; J. M. Safford, S. D.; R. L. Johnson, J. D,; Isaac Featherby, Tyler. Its report to the Grand Lodge included the following M. M.'s: John Graham, Joshua N. Springer, Charles B. Johnson, Recompense Stanberry, John Boot, Joseph Wilson, Thomas Roberts.
The Lodge was constituted under charter January 4, 1856, First officers: W. V. Denslow, W. M.; A. G. Green, S. W.; John Graham, J. W.; C. 0. Charles, Treasurer; C. H. Johnson, Secretary; J. N. Springer, S. D.; R. L. Johnson, J. D.; Isaac Featherby, Tiler.
A. G. Green was W. M. in 1858.
After the glory and business of Benton City had departed and Shellsbnrg had sprung up to be a considerable village, application was made to the Grand Lodge for permission to remove the Lodge to the latter place, which was granted.
The Lodge has been burned out twice since its removal to Shellsburg.
The present officers are: Jerome Shurtleff, W. M.; Joseph Van Kirk, S. W.; V. C. Hemenway, J. W.; F. W. Deckeraw, Treasurer ; Arad Thompson, Secretary; J. C. Davis, S. D.; S. A. Bowe, J. D.; J, L. Co well, Tiler.
There are about forty-five members. The Lodge meets at Masonic Hall on Saturday evening before full moon.
Shellsburg Lodge, No. 171, I. 0. 0. F. — This lodge was established under charter January 22, 1869. The first members were C. T. Horton, E. M. Wilkinson, Henry E. Parker, A. Clark, A. Greenwood, H. E. Parker, P. P. Marshall and J. F. Crawford. Three others were initiated the same evening the Lodge was formed.
There have been two deaths — J. W. Crawford, December 15, 1876, caused by falling from a railway bridge; J. H. Sherry was killed in the Fall of 1877, by a timber falling from a bridge while he was at work underneath.
The present officers are as follows : M. W. Slaight, N. G.; A. Greenwood, V. G.; Arad Thompson, Recording Secretary; Thomas Gray, Permanent Secretary ; F. Shumler, Treasurer.
The lodge has forty-five members. It meets every Wednesday evening at Masonic Hall.
Centennial Lodge, No. 48, A. 0. U. W. — This Lodge was organized February 8, 1876, by A. D. Griffin, of Vinton, then Deputy Grand Master. The first officers were as follows: Arad Thompson, P. M. W.; E. T. Langley, M. W.; D. P. Marshall, F.; I, S. Boles, 0.; J. C. Summers, Recorder; C. L. Summers, Financier; Thomas Gray, Receiver; W. H. Anderson, Guide; James L. Cowell, I. W.; Clinton Thomas, 0. W. There were twelve other charter members.
The present officers are: I. S. Boles, M. W.; W. H. Brinkerhoff, P. M. W.; N. Boss, F.; S. A. Bowe, 0.; F. Shomler, G.; D. W. Stiver, Recorder; J. M. Elson, Financier; W. Kreader, Receiver; Z. Clemens, 0. W.
The Lodge has thirty-two members. Meets every Tuesday evening.