Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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The History of Rockwell
Geneseo Township, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa

  Rockwell is located in the southeast quarter of section 3, township 94, range 20, Geneseo Township of Cerro Gordo County. It is eleven miles south of Mason City, Iowa, at the intersection of Highway 65 and County Road B60.

The town was named by Charles C. GILMAN, the first president of the Central Railway of Iowa, in honor of George B. ROCKWELL, the owner of the ground on which the town is located. It was laid out by Mr. ROCKWELL and the Iowa Valley Construction Company. The survey was executed by C. F. VINCENT, in the fall of 1870, at a time when the track of the Central Railway of Iowa reached this point. The original plat, however, only included the west half of the present limits. The northeast quarter of the plat, lying east of the Iowa Central track, was laid out several years later, by NEWELL, DICKSON and TODD.

Rockwell served as a station on the Central Railroad of Iowa.

The first house was built by James HOWLAND, in the fall of 1870. The depot and house for the section hands were built the same fall. The following spring the PUTNAM House and several dwellings were put up. The first store was opened by Albert BRUCE, in the front part of the PUTNAM House. He was a resident of the place in 1883.

The first wagon maker was Christian ZEIDLER, who, in 1883, was engaged in the lumber trade in Rockwell. The first blacksmith shop was opened by James PLATT. The first shoemaker was John WINSHIP, who afterward engaged in the harness business at Chapin, Franklin county. He was succeeded by Hans R. HANSEN, who represented the trade in 1883.

Early Business Interests

In 1883 Rockwell had three general stores, as follows: Myron DEXTER, J. B. PIERSOL and Hugh McLAUGHLIN.

The first regular grocery store was kept by M. V. TODD, who sold to FORD & FULLER.

The first drug store was kept by MILLER & CURTIS; and in 1883 the drug business of the place was carried on by J. KINYON & Son.

J. KINYON & Son, druggists, succeeded E. BONNER, on the 1st of March, 1882. John KINYON was born in the State of New York, July 10, 1826. He went to Portage Co., Ohio, with his parents, when he was a child, where he grew to manhood. He was an early settler of Winneshiek Co., Iowa, having settled there in 1857. He came to Cerro Gordo county, March 1877. His wife, formerly Priscilla HAUGHAWAUT, was born in Pennsylvania. They have three children - Benjamin, Alice, wife of A.B. Willsey, and C.P., who is associated with his father in business.

The first hardware store was kept by HARRIS Bros., who were succeeded by E.P. NYE, who sold to J.A. FELTHOUS, the present [1883] hardware merchant.

The grain business of Rockwell, for many years after the first location of the town, was an extensive and paying branch of industry, as all the broad prairies are first made to produce wheat and oats, they being the most profitable crop, until after the soil has been better subdued and adapted to corn raising. In 1883 there were two good-sized elevators and a warehouse in the village; one was built by J.B. PIERSOL . . .remainder of article missing


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The Nashua Reporter
Nashua, Iowa, August 09, 1907

Tornado Sweeps Through Mid-West

A tornado swept over the southern part of Minnesota, northern Iowa,, the southwestern end of Wisconsin, and a part of Illinois Tuesday evening. Three persons were killed and four injured with thousands of dollars worth of damage done through this section of Iowa.

The dead were Ashland TWEED, a farmer of Hantontown, and his wife and son.

The heaviest damage was to farmers in the vicinity of Rockwell where twelve barns were destroyed and much live stock was killed. The crops were heavily damaged. Four houses near Rockwell were the demolished, and the roof was blown from the Catholic Church. No one was seriously injured.


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The Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
article by Deb Nicklay; photograph by Sarah Schutt

History of Rock Falls topic of new book

ROCK FALLS "Rock Solid: A History of Rock Falls" is now on sale, preparing the way for the community's 150th celebration Aug. 19-21, 2005.

The book was written by local historian John CUNNINGHAM, a Mason City writer known for his research and accounts of area communities, including Dougherty, Hanford and Rockwell's Sacred Heart Cemetery.

The book tells of the small river town nestled on the banks of the Shell Rock River.

In fact, the town's first name was "Shell Rock Falls," but officials had to change it later due to confusion caused with another town was called Shell Rock.

CUNNINGHAM'S book covers the birth of the village, the coming of the railroad in 1872, and other highlights. He uses newspaper articles, maps, directories and pictures of almost all high school graduates including the Class of 2005.

The town at one time had an oatmeal mill, lumberyard, general store and other conveniences. One of the more interesting reads is about the town's old stone church, built in 1867, and the Covered Bridge.

The book also has an extensive biographical section.

The historian indexed all plots in the Rock Falls Cemetery, an area he walked himself. It is the oldest cemetery in Cerro Gordo County.

Ron WELLER and Tennis GORDON were also instrumental in design and photography in the book, CUNNINGHAM said.

"And, of course, all the people of the community," he said. "Once the word got out, everyone got involved. They say it takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to write a book. They really helped me out."

Those interested in obtaining a copy should write and make a check payable to: The Rock Falls Betterment Committee, P.O. Box 13, Rock Falls, IA 50467. Books are $25 each and handling and shipping is $5.

Those with questions can call CUNNINGHAM at (641) 423-6776; WELLER, (641) 696-5534; or GORDON, (641) 696-5572.


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  • Rockwell Post Office
        Built in 2893 as the First National Bank of Rockwell; painted red with white and blue trim for the nation's bicentennial celebration in 1976.

  • Rock of Ages Rock Garden, 204 S. First Street
      :  The garden features fossils, petrified wood and many other rocks from across the United States, a variety of flowers and plants, fish ponds and gift shop. Phone: 641-822-3436.

    Rockwell had a population of 989, 2000 census.

    History of Franklin and Cerro Gordo Counties, Iowa. Chapt. XXV. Pp. 943-955. Union Pub. Co. Springfield IL. 1883.

    The Globe Gazette Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
        NICKLAY, Deb "Rock Solid" 15 Jun 2005.
        Cerro Gordo County's Points of Interest.

    HAIR, James T. "Cerro Gordo County" Iowa State Gazetter. Baily & Hair. Chicago.

    Transcriptions & compilation by Sharon R. Becker, May of 2011

  • 1883 History of Geneseo Township, includes early biographies

  • First Baptist Church

  • First Congregational Church

  • Sacred Heart Academy

  • Sacred Heart Catholic Church

  • Evangelical Lutheran Church, present-day St. Peter Lutheran Church

  • Sedality Club, circa 1937

  • Rockwell Legion, Post 208



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