WHAT HAPPENED TO SOME OF THE NEW TOWNS
Spring Lake post office was established in the spring of 1856 with Edward Fairhnrst as postmaster. The name was suggested by the existence of numerous springs gushing out of the north bank of a bayou that juts back from the Cedar river. When the state road was straightened out on the half section line, Fairhurst's house was left several rods east of the road, then the post office location was changed to Samuel Cave's home, near the school house, and he was appointed postmaster and retained the office until it was discontinued after the close of the Civil war.
In 1857 Fairhurst conceived the idea of starting a town upon the tract of ground directly east of where Irma station is located. Wm.
M. Stephensen bought a steam saw mill plant and set it up, and got ready to work up logs into lumber, when he awoke to the fact that an impassable gulf lay between the mill and the timber in the presence of old Cedar river. A few logs were brought over on the ice in the winter, but in the absence of a bridge of ice, logs could not be gotten to the mill. The result was that in 1859 the .mill was removed to the east side of the river and set up on Section 16, were it remained many years. In addition to the mill Fairhurst secured a blacksmith shop With Erastus L. Bruner as the son of St. Vulcan, to pound the iron. When the mill was removed the town site scheme fell down, and Bruner departed with his kit of tools. In 1883 when I went to Dakota, I was in Bridgewater one time and met Bruner, whom I had not seen or heard from after he left Spring Lake in 1860 until I met him there.
Another town site scheme and saw mill to be run by water power was evolved and promoted by J. M. Moss, Dr. Oscar Burbank and Alf. P. Goddard in 1858 on the banks of the Cedar on a part of the old Mason Eveland farm. A dam was built which was swept out soon after its completion and rebuilt again and a saw mill was put into operation for a short time. A town was laid out and given the euphoneous name of Yell City. L. B. Ostrander and Samuel Pratt located there with great expectations. A post office was established with Ostrander as postmaster. He was also elected justice of the peace. Pratt was acting mayor, town site agent, public dictionary
.or information bureau. The location was nearly inaccessible, away off from all thoros of travel. If the saw mill had been a success it would have had a good business, but for some reason every move t6improve it failed and at last the promoters gave up poorer than when they started. Its failure drove Alf. Goddard out of the county which was a distinct loss to Waverly.
When the second dam went out, Doc Burbank, on being rallied by a bunch of his cronies, declared he had a damn that had never failed him when needed to express his opinion of such loafers as was then teasing him about Yell City and added, "We made a mistake in naming the place. We should have used (H) instead of 'Y' in the front of the name."
Another scheme for a town was tried by Silas Farr in 1855 at a spot about a mile or less, north of the present site of Plainfield. The name is all that was left of it after about two years or so, which was later appropriated by the present beautiful town. In the efforts to do something to develop the country and add to its industries many suggestions were made. Mr. Farr decided he would start a distillery and use up the surplus corn and barley. It was generally believed to be a solution of the corn market question, and as far as I recollect not much, if any, objection was made to the enterprise. Accordingly the plant was put in and for a little while was operated. The disappointment came when the farmers discovered that such a plant would need but a little corn to make a "heap" of whisky, not only so but the tendency of the institution was to attract men from their homes to it, where they loafed and idled away their time, if nothing worse happened. Mr. Farr was a good citizen and of good morals, and he discovered the mistake he had made and shut the plant up. He lost all the means he had, in the effort to do something for the country, and for years he struggled to recover from his embarrassments financially. He lived many years in the beautiful valley where he had settled in 1855 and named it Plainfield, which clings to it to this day.
Another town site scheme was started and promoted a mile or so farther north about the same time by J. H. Woodcock and W. N. Gaines and was called Syracuse. The latter built a large hotel and kept ii for several years. It was located on a very sightly spot and in its youth promised to be some town. But like many other pioneer enterprises it was prematurely born; born before the country could support it. No town can go faster than the surroundings will support. Both Woodcock and Gaines spent much of their capital in trying to make Syracuse a successful town. The former died many years ago and the last I knew about Mr. Gaines he lived near Janesville on a farm. Both were splendid citizens.
Harvey Hutchins bought the hotel in the early 60's and kept it open for several years, but finally quit because of lack of patronage.
Last updated 10/1/2015
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