Cerro Gordo County Iowa
Part of the IaGenWeb Project




There can be naught of inconsistency in referring to Mr. [William Ellsworth] BRICE as one of the most progressive and liberal business men of Cerro Gordo county and he has been most prominently identified with the promotion of public utilities that have greatly tended to conserve the advancement of the state of Iowa, where his interests are now of broad scope and importance. He is one of the popular and influential citizens of Mason City and is especially entitled to consideration in this publication.

William E. BRICE was born at Rochelle, Ogle county, Illinois on the 26th of July, 1861. His father, James BRICE, was born in Washington county, Pennsylvania, where he was reared to maturity and whence he removed to Illinois when a young man. He established himself in the mercantile business at Rochelle, that state, where continued to reside until 1865, when he removed his family to Iowa and located at Tama. There he built up a prosperous mercantile business, which he continued until his death in 1888, at the age of forth-nine years. His wife, who maiden name was Sarah HILL, was born at Waverly, Tioga county, New York, and she likewise passed the closing years of her life at Tama, Iowa, where she died when about forty-nine years of age.

William E. BRICE was about four years of age at the time of the family removal to Iowa and he is indebted to the public schools of Tama for his early educational disciple, which was supplemented by a course in Cornell College, at Mount Vernon, Iowa.

When eighteen years of age he became associated with his father's mercantile business, which he individually conducted after the death of his father until 1896, when he disposed of the stock and business.

He became one of the projectors and stockholders of the Tama & Toledo Electric Railway and Light Company and he is still vice president of the company operation the same. The line of this road extends between Toledo and Tama and is about two and one-half miles in length. It is in successful operation and provides facilities and accommodations that are of great value.

After disposing of his mercantile establishment in Tama in 1896, Mr. BRICE came to Mason City and in the same year he secured franchises for and projected the construction of the electric interurban line between Mason City and Clear Lake and the street car line in Mason City, a distance of eighteen and a half miles. The line was completed on the 3rd of July, 1897, and is one of the best interurban roads in the state. Mr. BRICE is virtually the entire owner of the line.

In August, 1898, he organized the Iowa & Minnesota Northwestern Railway Company and he assumed the practical management of making its survey, securing the right of way and constructing its line from Belle Plaine, Iowa, to Fox Lake, Minnesota, a distance of one hundred and ninety-nine miles. In 1899 he sold the line to the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company, though he continued as president of the original company until the road was completed and became a part of the great Chicago & Northwestern system. He and his associates retain twenty-two townsites along the line of this road and these properties they have effectively developed under the corporate title of the Iowa & Minnesota Town Site Company. Of this corporation Mr. BRICE is president. He also platted and has developed what is known as the street railway addition to Mason City, the same comprising a tract of one hundred and fifty acres and having been platted into five of these attractive lots.

Mr. BRICE is also a director and the principal stockholder in the Iowa State Bank of Mason City and is a stockholder in twelve other banking institutions.

In 1900 he effected the purchase of the gas, electric light and heating plant in Mason City and in 1904 this was entirely rebuilt, being brought up to the best modern standard and thus furnishing most effectively gas and electric service for light, power and heat, the plant being adequate to meet the demands placed upon it for many years to come. The power plant of the electric railway owned by Mr. BRICE was enlarged and modernized in 1910 and its machinery, rolling stock and all incidental equipments are of the best type.

In view of the brief statements already incorporated it may be well understood that Mr. BRICE is a valuable man to have in any community and his enterprising and progressive activities have not lacked for popular appreciation, giving his prestige as one of the leading business men of this section of the state. He is a citizen well worthy of the confidence and esteem in which he is held. Though he has never had any desire to enter the arena of practical politics he accords a staunch allegiance to the Republican party and he is affiliated with the Mason City Lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

On the 22nd of June, 1884, Mr. BRICE was united in marriage to Miss Minnie H. TALLON, who was born and reared at Montrose, Susquehanna county, Pennsylvania, and she is a popular factor in connection with the leading social activities of Mason City, being a woman of much charm and most gracious personality.

NOTE: William Ellsworth Brice was born July 26, 1861, Rochelle, Illinois, and died at the age of 89 years, Mason City, on December 29, 1950. Minnie (Tallon) Brice, his wife, was born in Montrose, Pennsylvania, and died October 5, 1938, Mason City, They were interred at Oak Hill Cemetery, Tama, Iowa.

SOURCE: Wheeler, J. H. History of Cerro Gordo County, Iowa. Vol. II. Pp. 415-16. Lewis Pub. Co. Chicago. 1910

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, February of 2011

~ ~ ~ ~

The Globe Gazette
Mason City, Iowa
Saturday, November 24, 2007
by Kristin Buehner of The Globe Gazette

MASON CITY — Capable of speeds up to 48 miles an hour and costing a mere nickel a ride, the electric trolley provided transport to passengers, mail and other freight in Mason City and Clear Lake during the early days of the 20th century.

From 1897 to 1936, the quiet running trolleys, with pole extending to a power line from the roof, made daily rounds around Mason City and to and from Clear Lake at a time when most city streets were gravel roads.

"I was just enthralled with it," said Murray LAWSON, 84, of Mason City, of his first glimpse of the Mason City trolley. "I thought we’d moved to heaven."

The trolley made an impressive sight, gliding along the street with huge rotary brushes in the front that removed snow from the tracks, said LAWSON, who moved to Mason City from South Dakota as a boy.

Trolleys that ran in town were called streetcars. Cars that ran between towns were called interurbans.

"It was just our means of transportation," said Margaret (PATTON) HANLEY, of Mason City, who remembers riding the interurban to Clear Lake. "Everybody didn't have a car, like they do now."

The wheel on the end of the poles, that connected with the power lines overhead, was the actual trolley, said Mason City native Thorin MARTY, 48, now of Milwaukee, Wis.

The Mason City & Clear Lake Traction Company, one of the earliest interurban railways in Iowa, was the creation of William E. BRICE and Lewis "Lew" ONG, both originally of Tama.

BRICE had been associated with steam railroad construction, while Ong had connections with several early power companies, as well as the Tama & Toledo Railway, said Mason City historian Art FISCHBECK.

Trolleys were often owned by electric companies, according to MARTY, an information consultant with We Energies in Milwaukee.

"They were seen as a way to introduce people to electricity," he said.

BRICE and ONG viewed a trolley route as integral to their real estate development in northwest Mason City — the BRICE & ONG — B & O — subdivision, Fischbeck said. It was located from 12th to 17th Street Northwest and between Quincy and Federal avenues.

Mason City, which had a population of about 5,000 in 1896, came to rely upon the trolleys to provide passenger service between the various railroad depots, FISCHBECK said. "The idea was to go to each of the railroad stations and get people downtown, even though there was a hotel near every station."

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, February of 2011

~ ~ ~ ~

BRICELYN, MINNESOTA -- Bricelyn gets is name from one of the railroading pioneers, William E. BRICE. Mr. BRICE, a business man from Mason City, Iowa, helped to establish the rail lines in the area and soon after businesses were established and small towns began to form.

At first the town was named Brice. Postmaster K. O. SANDUM, suggested Mrs. BRICE'S name, which he thought to be Evelyn; it was later discovered her name was Minnie.

Mr. BRICE later moved back to Mason City and the town of Bricelyn continued to grow. Auction of town lots were held at 11 A.M. on Wednesday, September 27, 1899.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, February of 2011



  • Return to Biographies Index Page

  • Return to Cerro Gordo Home Page


    © Copyright 1996-
    Cerro Gordo Co. IAGenWeb Project
    All rights Reserved.