Cerro Gordo County Iowa
Part of the IaGenWeb Project
1886 - 1986
The town of Meservey was originally christened "Kausville," and was first platted under that name in 1886, by Hamilton BROWNE and others. Karl and George KAUS, brothers, came up from northwest of Hampton and bought a section of raw prairie land in this locality and the original town was platted from this land.
The price paid for the section was a little less than $4 an acre, about what taxes, etc., were worth. Farm land changed hands here those days at from $3.50 to $7 an acre.
About 1887 the railroad was talked of. Stillman T. MESERVEY (1848-1927), a prominent citizen of Fort Dodge, was one of the promoters. He made visits here in connection with locating the road, and became popular with the few settlers then living here. In 1887 the town was replatted as Meservey in honor of the railroad promoter, and the old Mason City and Ft. Dodge railroad became a reality in 1888, being completed late in that year.
The real town of Meservey with its railroad was then incorporated in 1893, with the late David MOSHER its first mayor. The first store building was moved in here across the country six miles from Amsterdam, the old original town on the Iowa river, near what is now Goodell.
Thomas ELDER moved it here for C. W. REINKE of Ackley. He ran the first country store in town, started a little while before the railroad was completed.
Gilbert THOMPSON bought the first lot sold after the platting, from KAUS Brothers, and built the first building erected here, and put in a hardware stock. This was shortly followed by Dr. BODDIE, with a drug store, in rented building, and later by R. W. BAURMAN, druggist, who built, and stocked up, a drug store. This building now houses DORENKAMP Construction.
Others of the first businessmen here were HILL Brothers, general merchandise; MOSHER Brothers, later buying out HILL Brothers; R. L. CALLINS now of Swaledale, hotel; Blair BARNEY, hotel; A. W. RUSSELL of Belmond, harness shop; F. D. BURLINGAME, insurance and real estate; O. S. BROWN, E. RUSSELL, J. F. ZIMMERMAN, barbers; L. HUMPHREY, Restaurant; W. P. Vander ZALM, attorney; John PETERS, blacksmith; Cal DRIES, postmaster and store; Chris ENABNIT, Sr., hardware; PIPERT and JAGER, general store.
Meservey, in its early days, boasted of a fine half-mile race track, where many interesting "hoss-races" were run with the usual amount of "jockeying" and betting on favorites.
Meservey is within the Altamont Marine of the Wisconsin Glacier. It is characterized by knobby hills 20 to 80 feet high. The depressions between the knobs formed swamps, marshes and ponds.
The agricultural soils group is predominantly Clarion and Webster. Drainage varies from good to poor. Much tiling was needed.
In 1882 there were vast prairie lands in this community. Large herds of cattle were on these prairies. There were herder shacks and cattle corrals scattered around the community.
In the spring cattle were brought in from Iowa Falls and other communities to be herded on these prairie lands which included the land which is now Meservey. In the late fall these cattle were returned to their owners' homes to be cared for during the winter months. These cattle were branded and several herds roamed together on this prairie land.
Wild game was plentiful in this period. Large flocks of Cranes and Prairie Chickens were here. Also large flocks of wild geese and ducks were plentiful as there were many swamps and low grounds. This also made homes for many snakes, such as spotted adders, black snakes, garter snakes and others. Wolves and foxes were quite common.
Land sold for about $4.00 an acre. Before the railroad came, several old timers homesteaded in this community. Some of them were George WICKERSHEIM, Jacob NISSEN, Albert HARTWIG, Chris MAYER, C. A. BUCHE, Edward FOSS, William MESSLHEISER, N. A. MYERS, Hans WOHLER and others.
The town of Meservey was platted on April 7, 1887. The business places built in this period were 2 general stores, grocery store, hardware, depot, grain elevator, lumber yard and stock yards. A church was also built as were several homes.
There were wooden sidewalks built on Main Street and some other parts of town.
On April 7, 1887 the Town of Meservey was platted by a Hamilton BROWN and others. The surveyor was C. A. Des BOISAY. This was on the east side of what is now Main Street. Three brothers by the name of KAUS (Clark, Fred and George) owned the land west of what is now Main Street. They wanted the town named Kausville but the railroad officials insisted on the name of Meservey. In 1886 the railroad officials named their station here Meservey, after the MESERVEY brothers who had a large investment in the railroad. So the part on the east side of what is now Main Street was named Meservey. The part west of what is now Main Street was soon added and named the Kausville addition to Meservey.
The town was not incorporated at this time but the citizens wanted to run it as a town. Blair BARNEY acted as mayor. Town meetings were held to take care of various problems.
The children of the community attended a school one half mile north of Meservey. It was a country school with one teacher for all grades.
In 1889 the Evangelical association built a church in Meservey costing $1,628.00. Before this time services were held in the homes and country school houses. Ministers came from the surrounding towns. Rev. Valentine GRIESSE was minister in charge when the church was built. He lived in Belmond where he served a church.
Articles of Incorporation were drawn up on June 17, 1889. Signers were: Rev. Val GRIESSE, F. PAUL, L. S. FOELL, John A. FINGER, F. L. LENKE, W. F. ZAGER, G. C. YAHNKE, J. NISSEN, C. MAYER, Valentine CORELL, Henry IMMEL, L. S. BADKER, W. C. ZAGER, Charles A. BUCHE, Wm. EICKSLADT, C. BIER, D. D. KNOLL and John CORELL.
Ministers were: O. ROLL (1881), F. ZAGER (1881), M. KNOLL (1882), H. HARTMAN (1883-1884), H. BUTZ (1885), F. BELZZER (1886), D. STABLER (1887-1888) and V. GRIESSE (1889).
In the early 1880's the people of this community got their mail in Sheffield. Of course there was no delivery so they often went a couple weeks without mail. They heard of a stage coach route between Dubuque and Fort Dodge. It carried mail and passengers and made a stop at the little town of Amsterdam, one mile east of the present town of Goodell. Many changed their post office from Sheffield to Amsterdam, which was less distance and they could always get their mail at least once a week.
After the railroad was built they had their Post Office in Meservey.
The first Post Office in Meservey was located in the C. J. REINKE & Son Store in 1886. (This is what we knew later as the HULSEBUS Store.)
Meservey's Post Office was established May 23, 1887 with Charles REINKE as the first Postmaster.
In 1885 after several families settled in this community a group of men started making plans to build a railroad through this community to Mason City from Fort Dodge. These plans were successful and the railroad was completed in 1886. It was called the Mason City and Fort Dodge Short Line.
Two brothers living in Fort Dodge were named MESERVEY. They had large interest in the railroad. The railroad named their station here after these brothers.
The railroad used a boxcar for the depot the first year. The first trains were a motor car and a freight train. They ran both ways once each day.
George CALPINE was the first agent. Pat HANDLY was the first section boss. He lived in a small house east of the depot.
The depot was built on the east side of Main Street. This was the first building in Meservey.
The first general store in Meservey was built by C. W. REINKE and son William in 1886. They lived in an apartment above the store. The first Post Office was located in this store. (This building was removed in the 1960-70 period.) Later C. W. REINKE moved to Ackley, Iowa, leaving his son William to run the store.
HILL Brothers built the second merchandise and grocery store in 1888. It was located south of the REINKE Store. The first floor was used for the store business and the second floor was a large hall called HILL'S Hall. It was the community center where community affairs were held such as lodges, school programs and other entertainment.
Mr. ERICKSON and sons built a building on the southwest corner of Main Street in 1889 and operated it as a grocery store. They called it the Corner Store.
The first hardware store building was moved to Meservey from Amsterdam to west Main Street. Bert THOMPSON was the owner. This was in 1888. Thomas ELDER moved this building.
In the late 1880's the first elevator was built. It was called the Farmers Alliance Elevator and was located north of the railroad tracks west of the depot. Blair BARNEY was manager. It was run by horse power.
In 1888 a lumber yard was built southeast of the railroad crossing on Main Street. Blair BARNEY was the manager.
A school building was moved into town in 1890, and in 1898 a new school building was built. The First Methodist Church was organized. Dr. LODGE was the first doctor to come to town.
The following businesses came to town: Bank, Blacksmith Shop, Barber Shop, Corner Store, Creamery, Drug Store, Elevator, Farm Implement, Hotel, Harness Shop, Livery Stable, Meat Market, Real Estate, Restaurant and Wagon Shop.
On July 4, 1890, a tornado hit the Meservey Community. There was some damage such as broken windows but no buildings were destroyed in town.
The first steam threshing machine in this area was owned and operated by J. C. HILL. The jail building was located in the back of the hardware store. Wooden sidewalks were built in many more places in town.
The Petition for Incorporation was signed by: Joseph KNOLL, C. D. Dries, J. H. BROWN, G. D. FLAGLER, James HILL, E. E. BARDSLEY, John PETERS, Mark HILL, Fred THOMPSON, W. J. CHASE, A. W. RUSSEL, Chris ENABNIT Sr., D. HUMPHREY, Gilbert THOMPSON and W. F. NOLTE. Also, Arthur BIER, George WICKERSHEIM, Jacob NISSEN, O. O. FRICK, Theo. MENTZ, Jacob ZIMMERMAN, M. J. KERNEN, J. J. STOFFER, G. ARMSTRONG, Fred ENABNIT and K. KAUS.
The City Directory for 1893 was as follows: Blair BARNEY, Mayor; W. P. Vander ZALM, Recorder; J. E. HILL, Treasurer; John QUANDT, Marshal. Councilmen - F. D. BURLINGAME, A. W. RUSSEL, M. J. KERNAN, K. H. KUS and C. ENABNIT.
In 1890 the school building, 1/2 mile north of Meservey was moved to Town. In 1898, a two-story school building was built. At the start they only used the two rooms on the first floor. The teachers were: Primary - Miss SCOTT, Grammar - Mrs. CASTLE.
School Board members were J. E. HILL, President, G. Thompson, Secretary, Blair Barney, Treasurer and A. SHLOSSER.
School programs were held in HILL'S Hall above HILL'S Store.
Methodist: On May 11, 1896 Articles of Incorporation were drawn for the building of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Meservey. This church was dedicated October 25, 1896 by Rev. D. M. YETTER and C. E. ANDERSON was pastor.
Joseph F. FRANKLIN was minister from 1897 to 1900.
In 1890 the Post Office was moved from the REINKE Store to the HILL Bros. Store. Mr. HILL was the Postmaster.
Later it was moved in the building vacated by the hardware business. Miss Lydia BARNEY became Postmistress. She was followed by Mr. Calvin DRIES who moved the Post Office into the Corner Store. There was no rural delivery at this time.
During this period (1890-1900) the freight coming into town was much more than the preceding period. This made it necessary to enlarge the depot to store the freight inside.
In an 1895 railroad book the tracks are shown through Meservey and Kausville.
Information taken from an 1895 Cerro Gordo County Plat Book located in the Auditor's office of the Court House at Mason City includes:
BARNEY and HILL - Bankers of Meservey doing a general banking, real estate, loan and collection business.
Farmers in Grimes Township with Meservey address: C. A. BUCHE, Ed Foss, Wm. MESSELHEISER, N. A. MYERS, J. NISSEN (owner of Pleasant Hill Stock Farm), G. WICKERSHIEM and Hans WOHLER.
From another document: In part - C. A. Des BOISAY, surveyor, was called upon by Hamilton BROWNE and went on April 1, 1887 to survey and lay out the town of Meservey. As shown in the plat book comprising of the west half of the SW1/4 of Section 32, Town 94 N. Range 22 West of the 5th P.M. At the points indicated in the plat book iron monuments 12" long and 1" in diameter driven 6" below the surface of the ground to govern future surveys.
Hamilton BROWNE and Mary L. BROWNE of Fort Dodge and Orange National Bank of New Jersey, Proprietors and owners of the town site . . . do hereby dedicate the streets and alleys... to public use forever. Was sealed by above plus T. J. SMITH, President and of bank with corporate seal.
On March 3, 1888, the Cerro Gordo County treasurer, Recorder and Clerk of District Court signed and sealed a document stating the land embraced in the Plat of Meservey there was no tax or unredeemed tax sales against it, is owned in fee by Hamilton BROWNE and the Orange National Bank free and clear and no judgments or liens of any kind were against the owners.
The railroad ran along Des Moines Street.
In the 1910 County History of Cerro Gordo County [by WHEELER] on page 150 it states the Meservey Messenger was founded by Joseph MOORE. Joseph MOORE is the present postmaster (1910).
On Page 251, it says Meservey has post office, lumber yard, newspaper and small bank. The population was 234 in 1905.
Mason City and Fort Dodge Railroad built through Meservey in 1887. Meservey is located in Grimes Township, which was formed in 1880 and named after Governor James W. GRIMES. The first settler in what is known as Grimes Township was Lorenzo PRATT who came in 1869 and settled in Section 30.
Stillman T. MESERVEY was born at De Witt, Illinois, December 17, 1848, and was educated in the public schools and at Clinton Liberal Institute of New York. His father removed to Home, then to Webster County in 1854. After the family's removal to Fort Dodge [Iowa], Stillman grew up to manhood. He was an active Republican and in 1885 was elected as Representative to the house of the Twenty-first General Assembly. In 1902 he was again a member, serving in the Twenty-ninth Assembly.
MESERVEY was one of the three Fort Dodge men who were pioneers in the development of the great gypsum deposits in that vicinity and was one of the directors of the Iowa Plaster Association.
He was a long-term president of the First National Bank of Fort Dodge and of the Fort Dodge Power & Light Company. He had other large financial interests.
Because of gypsum, he became one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the U.S. Yet he died basically penniless and was buried in an unmarked grave at Fort Dodge. He made a tremendous impact on Fort Dodge's early growth, yet is relatively unknown.
George G. KAUS was five years of age when he came with his parents to Franklin county, and he grew up upon the homestead, residing with his parents until he was twenty-three years of age. At that time his father gave him a quarter section of land in Cerro Gordo county and he cultivated this for four years, after which he returned to Hamilton township, Franklin county, where he remained for five years. At the end of that time he moved into Latimer and became connected with business interests there as an implement dealer, following which he engaged in the drug business for three years and in the clothing business for two years and a half. Eventually he resumed his farming, buying one hundred and twenty acres adjoining the town of Latimer, and here he has since engaged in general farming. He has made substantial improvements upon the property, providing it with excellent buildings and modern equipment, and it is now one of the finest farms in his locality.
On the 11th of April, 1887, Mr. KAUS was united in marriage to Miss Carolina RODEMEYER, and to this union have been born three children, Clara, Arnold and Luella.
Mr. KAUS is a member of the Lutheran church and a republican in his political beliefs. For many years he has been very active in public affairs, cooperating heartily in all measures and projects of community advancement and serving with credit and ability in various positions of trust and responsibility. He has been township trustee, was for two terms a member of the city council and has been mayor of Latimer for two terms, his official career reflecting credit upon his energy, enterprise and reliability. He is a man who through his own industry and enterprise has succeeded in the conduct of his farming interests and has gained an enviable reputation throughout the county.
MESERVEY -- For years, Watermelon Day was the big annual celebration in Meservey.
"We could have all we wanted," said Ruth WADDINGHAM, 94, a 1934 graduate of the former Meservey High School. "They cut us slices and we just ate it," she said.
That was when Meservey had a Chevy garage, a hotel, at least three implement dealers, a stockyard, a hatchery, two grocery stores, a hardware store, a pool hall, a telephone office and a roller rink - and you could buy candy at Mel SMITH'S counter in the Post Office.
There are just a few businesses left in the city of about 252 in southwest Cerro Gordo County.
There's nowhere to fuel up or get groceries, to the dismay of Meservey native Sylvia RAEKER, 90.
"We need a gas station and a convenience store," she said. "I think it would work. Just can't make it too big."
Hope is hard to squash.
And there's plenty of it here as residents prepare for the city's 125th birthday party on Saturday and Sunday, July 2-3.
There will be twice as many fireworks as normal on July 2 in Meservey, which is known for its annual Independence Day fireworks display.
"A lot of people come to the fireworks from all over. Best around," Mayor Richard MILLER said.
"It's our home," Ruth WADDINGHAM said. "Our only home."
"Great little town," Sylvia RAEKER said.
Brothers George and Karl KAUS of Hampton bought and platted prairie land in 1886. They paid less than $4 an acre for the area, named Kausville, according to a city history at www.meserve.org/ stories.htm.
S. T. MESERVEY of Fort Dodge promoted the Mason City & Fort Dodge Railroad Co., established in 1888, a year after the city was re-platted as Meservey in his honor.
Meservey was incorporated in 1893. Still, a weathered Kausville Café sign remains atop a boarded-up business on First Street.
Long-timers love that history.
Ruth WADDINGHAM'S eyes sparkle as she recalls Saturday evening music sessions back in the day.
There was a band: Ruth on saxophone and her late husband, Wayne, on drums. They earned 50-cents each to play on a hayrack.
"Just a Meservey bunch they got together," Ruth said.
Sylvia RAEKER played in the stockyard and on the fire escape at the old Meservey school.
Tramps camped in the stockyard and often ate breakfast at Sylvia's house.
"My dad never turned anybody away," she said.
She also remembers a visit by men believed to be part of John DILLINGER'S infamous gang.
"My husband (Robert) put gas in their car," she said. Robert noticed guns in the backseat.
Donna's Lounge is still going strong (try the prime rib on Friday nights).
So are the MaxYield Cooperative, First Security State Bank, the Meservey Public Library and DCKR Horse Racing/Schmale Feed & Commodities, among other businesses in Meservey.
The American Legion and Legion Auxiliary post presents the big July Fourth fireworks program along with the Meservey Fire Department.
Nate PALS, 78, a former firefighter and City Councilman, leads the Meservey Area Promotional Organization (MAPO).
Sylvia RAEKER is president of the senior citizens' Golden Years Club, which meets the first and third Tuesdays of each month at the Legion hall.
"I'm retired but I'm on 101 things," she said. "That's what happens when you're retired. But it's fun. I enjoy it."
Points of Interest
Quasquicentennial schedule of events
The schedule of events for Meservey's quasquicentennial celebration, Saturday and Sunday, July 2-3:
Saturday, JULY 2
SUNDAY, JULY 3
NOTE: A reunion of persons who graduated from Meservey High through 1962 is Friday, July 1 at the First Reformed Church fellowship hall. A social hour is from 5 to 6 p.m., followed by a catered dinner.
Return to Cerro Gordo History Index Page Return to Cerro Gordo Home Page