Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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Grimes Township, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa

Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Sunday, January 2, 2011
by Richard JOHNSON

Backroads North Iowa: Thornton

Thornton was founded in 1885 and incorporated in 1892. The first mayor was J. D. BARLOW with A. C. BAILEY, George DOWNING, H. M. JOHNSON, James POWELL and C. F. ALBERTY listed as councilmen. Mr. BARLOW is credited with being very instrumental in the early development of Thornton.

An article in the newspaper of May 19, 1892 states that A. J. LAWRENCE went to Geneva to procure trees for the park. The story is told that women of the community carried water to these trees to aid their growth. The soil in this area was believed to be poor for trees and much effort went into helping these trees early growth. Pictures taken of Thornton in its first days certainly verify the fact that Thornton was a treeless community.

A newspaper was started in Thornton in 1892 and was called the Thornton Enterprise. The editor was a cousin of the famous newspaperman and bore his name, Horace GREELEY.

Businesses advertising in the on May 19, 1892 were as follows:

  • Bank of Thornton - capital $10,000 and responsibility $200,000.

  • Barlow and Lawrence - dealers in grain (which tells us that Mr. Lawrence did set up his grain buying business in Thornton)

  • City Hotel - Asa Bailey, Prop.

  • City Restaurant - J.T. Powell, Prop., warm meals at all hours, temperance drinks

  • Ford and Wood – dray

  • Gregory and Alberty - contractors and builders

  • Henry Beck - painter, calsominer and decorator

  • Schneider and Schroeder - dry goods and clothing

  • Sidney Seney - contractor

  • Two blacksmith shops - Ingersoll and son at 2nd St. Westside and A.E. Chase with shop at the corner of Main and 2nd St.

  • Wimmer and Spindler - wagons, buggies, binders, mowers, and windmills

    The population of Thornton in 1905 was listed as 293 while all of rural Grimes township was 482.

    Thornton's main street has been the victim of many major fires. Records could not be found but indications are there were three or four severe ones. One fire was October 22, 1908 and there had been three fires in the preceding seven months. These fires help to explain why all of Thornton's buildings on main street are of brick or a fireproof material.

    Early pictures of Thornton show board sidewalks. When these were cemented could not be determined but must have been a most welcome change.

    In 1908 the first "Roast Oxen Day" was held in Thornton. The menu for this town and country festival was barbecued steer, boiled ham, cheese, sweet pickles, bananas, thirty large cakes, buttered buns, hot coffee, iced tea, and iced water. After the dinner a baby contest was held with the winner Helen Irene ARNOLD and second place going to Leona GROSS. This event, believed to be the brainchild of Ray SEYNEY, was held annually for many years and was very popular indeed. Heritage Days in 1976 revived the Roast Ox Day to help celebrate our nation’s bicentennial.

    Thornton continued its growth with the twentieth century. The coming of World War I and World War II had a dramatic and changing effect on the lives of every rural community and Thornton was no exception. There is little that can be said about these two conflicts that historians haven't told us in many profound ways.

    Thornton started its modernization program by installing a city water system which was completed July 21, 1939. A less aesthetic improvement in Thornton, but certainly a long awaited service, occurred when Mayor Leonard ANDERSON turned on the valve at the pumping station on August 16, 1967 and Thornton was fueled by natural gas. Thornton continued its modernization by installing a sewer system in 1969.

    A sad note of the 1960's & 1970's was the loss of our beautiful elm trees to Dutch Elm Disease. When we realize the work the early pioneers did to start these trees we can only hope this generation of Thorntonites will replace them soon.

    A map of Thornton was dated in 1896. It was the last township to be settled due to its location and the condition of the land.

    ~ Thornton Chamber of Commerce

    ~ ~ ~ ~

    Globe Gazette
    Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
    March 11, 1908

    Town Wiped From Map by Fire.
    Property Loss At Thornton Is Seventy Thousand

    THORNTON - Thornton was almost wiped from the map by fire on the 11th. Seven business blocks, almost the entire business section of the city were destroyed. The property loss is about $70,000, with $12,000 insurance.

    The fire originated in a bowling alley, where the flames were first noticed about 2 o’clock a. m. The alarm was given promptly. Thornton has no fire fighting apparatus and the flames were soon beyond control. The structures were all of frame construction and the flames spread rapidly from one to another. The buildings were so quickly consumed that it was impossible to remove the stocks of goods and they were almost entirely consumed.

    The losers in the fire are:

    W. H. PARISH, barber shop and billiard hall; George DART, bowling alley; J. A. ANDREWS, meat market; J. W. BRAGA, restaurant; Perry BAILEY, general merchandise; ENGLEBREISON & Son, general merchandise; Dr. HUNTER, physician's office.

    ~ ~ ~ ~

    Globe Gazette
    Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
    Thursday July 8, 2010
    By Laura Bird

    Thornton marking its 125th birthday

    THORNTON — The city of Thornton plans a big celebration July 9-11.

    The community of around 358 people will celebrate Thornton’s quasquicentennial — or 125th anniversary.

    "It's going to be a fun time,” said Mary Schlichting, co-chairperson of the event. “I think everybody will enjoy the weekend and hopefully the weather is good and we have a good turnout."

    The three-day event will kick off with a torch run led by Thornton native John KASPER, who was on the 1998 U.S. Olympic bobsled team.

    The run will also include other current and former Thornton residents.

    "A lot of people are coming back for it," SCHLICHTING said.

    Another highlight of the weekend will be the parade. More than 100 veterans and current military members are expected for the parade where they will be honored as grand marshals.

    "We chose to honor them for their precious time and efforts that they gave to maintain our freedom," said Bonnie YOUNGE, parade committee chair. "We just really appreciate what they do for us."

    Other events include free children's activities and live music.

    Schedule of events

    Friday, July 9:

  • 5 p.m. Food served.
  • 5:30 p.m. Torch Run.
  • 6 p.m. Opening Ceremonies.
  • 7 p.m. Kiddie Parade
  • 7:30 p.m. Watermelon feed.
  • 8 p.m. Endless Summer Band and the beer garden opens (free admission).

    Saturday, July 10

  • 10 a.m. Parade
  • Noon: Adult bag tournament ($40 per couple).
  • Noon: Horseshoe tournament.
  • Noon- 5 p.m. Inflatables, climbing wall and children’s games (all free).
  • Noon to 8:30 p.m. Free live entertainment in the park.
  • After the parade: Isiserettes, a drum and dance group from Des Moines.
  • 1 to 1:30 p.m. Kala Halfpop, singer/actress.
  • 1:30 to 2:15 p.m. Silly Sally, entertainer, clown and educator.
  • 2:15 to 2:45 p.m. Jive for Five, quintet of brass players.
  • 2:45 to 3:15 p.m. Larry Delawder, of Branson, Mo., Barney Fife impersonator with a Gospel message, comedy, harmonica and singing.
  • 3:15 to 3:45 p.m. Don Shire, of White Lake, Wis., trumpet/shofar player.
  • 3:45 to 4:15 p.m. Forgiven, a Gospel quartet from Bartlesville, Okla.
  • 4:15 to 4:30 p.m. Little Miss Swan.
  • 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Dan’s One Man Band, local band.
  • 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. Jive for Five.
  • 6:15 to 7 p.m. Larry Delawder.
  • 7 to 7:45 p.m. Don Shire.
  • 7:45 to 8:30 p.m. Forgiven.
  • 5 p.m. Pork chop supper at the fire station ($8 per person).
  • 9 p.m. Johnny Holm Band and beer garden ($10 admission).

    Sunday, July 11

  • 10 a.m. Worship service featuring Forgiven.
  • EMT breakfast after worship.
  • Noon: Opening of 1985 time capsule.

    ~ ~ ~ ~

    KMIT-3 News, July 11, 2010

    Thornton Looks Into The Past

    Folks in Thornton wrapped up their sesquicentennial celebration Sunday by looking into the past.

    A time capsule buried during the city's centennial celebration 25 years ago was opened today. Old calendars, pens, books and other random items were in the capsule. All were in good condition.

    Organizers of the sesquicentennial celebration say this is a great way to remember the history of their community.

    "It was buried in October of 1985. The committee put different items that we thought would be of importance for our community to look at 25 years later," said Mary SCHLICHTING.

    SCHLICHTING is currently collecting items for another time capsule to be buried in a couple months. That one will be opened 25 years from now.

    ~ ~ ~ ~

    Globe Gazette
    Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
    Friday, December 6, 2001
    By Dick Johnson

    Thornton out to save its store

    THORNTON - Small-town residents get used to having a "hub" like Thornton Hardware and Gifts.

    It's the kind of place where you can drop off your dry-cleaning, get something sharpened, buy a furnace filter, carpet cleaner and a birthday card, and, of course, shoot the breeze.

    If you're stuck at home, the owners might even drop off your order.

    That's life in Thornton, pop. 364. Everybody looking out for everybody else.

    But things are changing. Steve and Cindee DICKMAN, who have owned Thornton Hardware and Gifts for 51/2 years, plan to sell it by Jan. 1.

    The DICKMANS' selling price is $52,000. The building has been there at 321 Main St. for at least 80 years.

    "We felt when we originally bought the place that we did it to keep the hardware store going," Steve said. "We did our share. We need some new ideas. It's time for us to move on.

    "The main object here is to keep it open for the farmers. You do it to keep things going, keep the town going, keep the farmers going."

    A movement is under way to do just that. On Nov. 7, about 19 people gathered to present their feelings about the store, consider options and gauge interest in saving it.

    About 50 attended a town meeting on Nov. 21 at Meservey-Thornton Elementary and Middle School. Ideas presented include selling local products and crafts on the gift shop side of the store, and having a seasonal farmer's market.

    A corporation may be formed, with staff and an unpaid board of directors; shares in the store could be sold.

    People were asked to write down a realistic number of shares they'd be willing to purchase. A total of 210 shares were "raised" at $100 apiece.

    Memberships also could be offered, Thornton resident Julie CARLSON said. In return for buying memberships, customers would get discounts on goods and services from the store.

    "The feeling was that people really do want the hardware store," CARLSON said. "I know there is interest in this. I want to be a part of it. The main thing is, the hardware store needs to be here."

    "Small towns are trying to rally," said Connie PALS of Thornton, who attended the Nov. 21 meeting. "If you don't get together and try save some of it, you don't have a small town anymore."

    A deadline of Dec. 20 was set to determine the hardware store's future. If community interest in preserving it is low, the goods inside will be auctioned off and the building sold.

    "Everybody in the community wants to keep the store open," Steve DICKMAN said. "It's a real store. There aren't many 'mom and pop' stores left.

    "Older people come for a lot of services. They like the services you give them: 'Can you find this?' 'Can you clean my gutters?' That's what we do. I guess that's the benefit of shopping here - it's a lot of little things that make it go.

    "And," DICKMAN added, "we wouldn't have it any other way, to be honest with you."

    ~ ~ ~ ~

    Globe Gazette
    Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
    Friday, March 7, 2003
    By Dick Johnson

    Thornton store finds new life

    THORNTON - Three months ago, the future was uncertain for the century-old Thornton Hardware and Gift store.

    Owners Steve and Cindee DICKMAN had put the store up for sale and planned to close it on Jan. 1 to pursue other interests.

    Concerned about the potential loss of a town institution, Julie CARLSON of rural Thornton purchased the store at 321 Main St. for $47,000 and took over on Feb. 15.

    "It's very fun," she said. "It feels good to be contributing something to the community. I like being part of the community."

    "I didn't want it to close," said Chad STECKEL of Meservey, a frequent customer. "We want to keep things that we have and add to it, instead of having things go away. I like it. It's a good move."

    The learning began at once for CARLSON, 35.

    Running a hardware-and-gift store means tinting paint, working with plumbing and electrical items, cutting glass and pipe and assembling balloon bouquets, among dozens of other responsibilities.

    CARLSON discovered that large tacks arranged every five feet in the old wooden floor were put there to measure rope and chain.

    "I love that, the variety and the diversity," she said. "It's a work in progress, but everything that I like to do and everything that I can do, I'm putting all the pieces together.

    "I'm like a sponge, learning all this. If people come in here and they describe their project - what they're doing - I can probably figure it out."

    Along with Trustworthy Hardware products, CARLSON is selling Niman Ranch meats and food items including honey, barbecue sauce and condiments. Baked goods also will be sold eventually. On the gift shop side, she has gift cards, crochet work, arts and crafts, goat milk soap, homemade candles and bath-and-body products, among other items.

    Members of the Thornton Women's League will operate the I-35 Farmer's Market on the second Saturday of the month, starting in June.

    While she's making some changes, such as adding a credit card machine, Carlson said she intends to maintain the store's character.

    "I have lights on in here," she said. "I have a candle burning. It's a cheerful place. The coffee's not that great, but the hospitality makes up for it."

    The Thornton Hardware and Gift store is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.

    ~ ~ ~ ~

    Globe Gazette
    Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
    Thursday, August 28, 2008
    By Laura Andrews

    Chit Chat thrives as Thornton's gathering spot

    THORNTON — If you're looking for a restaurant with a small town feel and home-cooked food, look no further than the Chit Chat Cafe in Thornton.

    Decorated with Marilyn Monroe mementoes and other 1950's memorabilia, the Chit Chat Cafe has been successfully operating in a town of fewer than 500 people the past 32 years.

    Richard and Janice DORENKAMP own the restaurant, but it’s mostly run by Shirley PROCTOR, Thornton.

    It's the restaurants regulars that give it the small-town feel.

    Five days a week the restaurant opens at 5:30 a.m. and a regular group of women and men wander in for morning coffee. The women sit at one table, while the men sit at what has been dubbed the "liar's table."

    "You gotta come up here every morning and get your news,” said Bob LEININGER, Thornton, who's a regular at the men's table. “It’s good food, too."

    The groups help themselves to coffee and Richard DORENKAMP and PROCTOR trust they'll pay for their coffee and food before they leave.

    They also trust regulars to lock up if they want to stay past closing. All they ask is that they shut off the lights.

    "It's so tight knit that if someone doesn't show up we want to know why," PROCTOR said. "We get concerned."

    Even though the regulars are close, they welcome out-of-towners and people off the interstate.

    The out-of-towners come for the food, DORENKAMP said.

    Dinner includes a choice of four meats and three desserts.

    The main part of the restaurant usually fills up quickly and then the back room has to be opened up. Another overflow room also is available.

    Sunday dinners are what keep the restaurant going and in turn the Chit Chat Cafe keeps the town going.

    "We're here for Sunday dinners practically every Sunday," said Marvis FLOY, Thornton.

    It's been the DORENKAMP'S goal since they bought the restaurant to keep it open so the town stays strong.

    "We've gotta have a restaurant in town," DORENKAMP said.

    Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2011

    TRIVIA: Thornton had a population of 422 ~ 2000 census.

    Thornton Photo Album
    Click on either the thumbnail photograph or caption to view enlargement;
    click on your browser's 'back' button to return to this page.

    Chicago Great Western Railroad, 1966

    Chicago Great Western Railroad, 1980

    Chicago Northwestern Railroad, 1987

    McLaughlin Station, 2013

    North Main Street, 2013

    North Main Street, 2013

    Thornton Post Office, 2013

    Thornton Library, 2013

    Veterans Memorial, 2013
    2013 Photographs courtesy of Sharon R. Becker 


  • Richland Lutheran Church, Thornton IA

  • Thornton School, Thornton IA



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