Cerro Gordo County Iowa
Part of the IaGenWeb Project



History of Falls Township
Cerro Gordo County, Iowa

"First Settlement" by Elijah Wiltfong
The Gregory Family
The Village of Plymouth
Shell Rock Falls: Its Fine Water Power

In an early day Falls township constituted a part of Owen [township], and it was not until 1856 that it became a geographical division of Cerro Gordo county. As at present constituted it comprises congressional townships 97, range 19 west, and is bounded on the east by Floyd and Mitchell counties, on the north by Worth [County], on the west by Lime Creek township and on the south by Portland [township].

The present topography of the township is the product of the Iowan drift, its ancient hills having been leveled and its old-time valleys filled by the action of that mighty glacier. So far as known Falls township contained no important stream prior to the glacial epoch, the Shell Rock being wholly a creature of post–glacial times. Prior to the age of ice the waters which flow in the channel of the Shell Rock found an outlet probably through Lime creek, as there is every reason to believe the Lime was a much larger stream in pre-glacial than in post-glacial times. The Shell Rock dates from the melting of the Iowan glacier and its present channel shows the amount of rock cutting done by the water since that ancient event.

At the time of its first settlement by white men, there was considerable natural timber along the banks of the Shell Rock and in early days there were sawmills along that stream for the manufacture of the timber into lumber. The saw timber was used up long years ago, but there is still considerable second-growth timber along the Shell Rock. There are also many fine groves of artificial timber in different parts of the township.

Falls township has a surface that is gently underlating (sic), a soil that is for the most part deep and rich. It has from the earliest times been one of the most productive, populous, and important townships in the county. During the decades of the '50s, the '60s and the '70s its principal agricultural product was wheat, but for the last thirty years stock-raising, dairying and general diversified farming has been the rule.

The Shell Rock river is the second in importance of the streams of Cerro Gordo county. It enters the county in Falls township on section 5 and flows in a generally southeasterly course, crossing sections 8, 16,17 21, 22 and 27 and across the corner of 26 to 35 and thence into Portland township. The channel of the Shell Rock is literally a gully grooved out of the solid rock and is capable of furnishing an almost unlimited amount of water power. In the days of the early pioneers it furnished an abundant supply of excellent fish. Falls township is well watered by the Shell Rock and its tributaries which combine to give to the township one of the best natural drainage systems in the county.

Falls township was first settled by Elijah WILTFONG, who came from Indiana in 1853 and settled on the banks of the Shell Rock where the village of Rock Falls now stands. For a pioneer WILTFONG was fairly well blessed with this world's goods and played quite an important part in local affairs along the Shell Rock in early days. He remained only ten years in this locality and then moved on towards the "far off golden west." He finally found his heart's desire on the Pacific coast and with his heart's desire, peace and happiness and "length of days." When Elijah WILTFONG came to Falls township, he was accompanied by his son, Enoch. This son has told the story of the first settlement and early history of Falls township, which will be found in another chapter of this history.

TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: Elijah married at LaPorte County, Indiana Elizabeth (HEFNER) ARGABRITE. Elizabeth was born in [West] Virginia, August 23, 1810, descended from German immigrants. Her first husband, William died in 1839, LaPorte County, Indiana. Elizabeth died in Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, on February 3, 1861. Elijah, born October 15, 1812/14, Darke County, Ohio, died in Los Angeles, California, on October 2, 1902.

Before the WILTFONG family's arrival, it has been said that there was an Indian village about a mile up the Shell Rock River. When Elijah WILTFONG was exploring the countryside, he noticed a natural waterfall at the site. Thinking the water fall would be an ideal site, he entered a claim for the land.

In 1855 the town that sprung up was named Shell Rock Falls, later changed to Rock Falls.

In writing the history of a township which can at best be but an outline sketch, it is impossible to do little more than give the names and date of settlement of the first pioneers. The only exception that can be made is where the experience of the pioneer is considered typical or where he was a soldier in the Civil war. These are entitled to and will received something more than a mere passing notice.

Cerro Gordo county was originally settled in three separate colonies: The Clear Lake settlement, the settlement in the valley of the Lime and the settlement along the Shell Rock. The first settler along the Shell Rock was Elijah WILTFONG, who with his family arrived there about August 3, 1853, coming from Laporte, Indiana, to which place he had emigrated from Ohio, the place of his birth. WILTFONG emigrated to Iowa with three teams and wagons; two ox teams, each team consisting of two yoke of oxen, and one horse team. Mr. WILTFONG drove one of the ox team, one was driven by Enoch his son, a young man of 19, while Mrs. WILTFONG drove the horse team. After the overturning of the lead wagon in the waters of the Shell Rock, the cavalcade succeeded in crossing the steep, rock-cut channel of that stream and after driving about fifty rods from this earliest white man's ford, pitched camp. The next thing was to go into the woods and chop enough logs for a cabin large enough to hold eight people; to build the cabin, to prepare chinks for the walls and split shakes for the roof; then to build a log heap, pile the heap with lime stone, burn the lime for plastering of the chinks between the logs, then to take scythes, pitchforks and wooden hand rakes and put up hay enough for the stock for the approaching winter.

In the meantime, catching fish from the well stocked river and shooting plenty of game that abounded in woodland and plain. Mr. WILTFONG at one time killed a fat young bear and at another a big fat elk. This first habitation of white men along the Shell Rock, the cabin built in the summer of 1853, was located on a low eminence, from the foot of which flowed a spring of pure, cold water. Then came on the first winter in the new strange land, and with it deer hunting, getting firewood, tending the stock, and splitting rails for fencing, with an occasional trip to Chickasaw in Chickasaw county for provisions and the mail, a distance of thirty miles by the trail.

The first school was seven miles away at Rock Grove in Floyd county, and this, young Enoch attended for two months, Miss Sarah GRIFFITH being the teacher. While attending this brief, two months school, young WILTFONG found time to fall in love with his landlady's daughter, propose and get refused. That his heart was not hopelessly broken by the unfortunate termination of his first heartburn, we may believe from the fact that the records show that in 1856, on the 31st day of August, Enoch WILTFONG was married to Miss Julian HUNT, the Rev. Thomas TENNEY officiating.

In 1855, the elder WILTFONG laid out the town of Shell Rock Falls. He afterwards engaged in the milling business, operating both a saw and grist mill. Young WILTFONG had charge of the mills for the most part. In 1862 Enoch went to the Pacific coast and the next year he was followed by his father; and so these pioneers of the Shell Rock and the first settlers in Falls township pass out of the history of the township and county.

John MYERS came in the spring of 1854 and located on section 6.

James WRIGHT purchased a claim on section 17, in the spring of 1854, but sold in the fall of the same year to Lewis MOSHER and took another claim on section 5.

Robert CAMPBELL came in October of 1854, and settled on section 16. Here he built a log cabin 14x16 feet. The floor was of puncheon and the roof of shakes. It was in this humble log house that occurred the first marriage, that of George FREDERICK and Urvilda or as it some times appears, Arvilla Campbell; and the first birth in the township, that of Delphina CAMPBELL.

Mahlon BROWN settled on section 16 in May 1854.

George and Peter CLYMER came from Allamakee county in the spring of 1854, George settling on section 8 and Peter up near the Worth county line.

As a type of the better class of pioneers who settled Cerro Gordo county during the fifties, we select Richard MORRIS, who settled in Falls township during the summer of 1854. Mr. MORRIS was born in the State of Vermont, Bennington county, November 28, 1812, and was married to Miss Fannie STODDARD, also a native of Vermont, in 1833. Richard MORRIS was born and reared on a pioneer farm and farming was his vocation until he added the trade of carpenter to his life equipment. When they arrived on the banks of the Shell Rock, aside from their team and wagon, their household effects, their children and a pair of stout hearts, he and his wife had nothing in the world, except $1.60 in the lank wallet of Mr. MORRIS. This was not a large sum, with which to face the coming winter, keep a family a year and buy a farm with, yet with that sum to start with, Richard MORRIS did all of these things. He secured employment as a carpenter, on a mill that was being built at Nora Springs. He sowed a patch of buckwheat and planted a small field of corn near Nora Springs and, in October, bought a claim on section 22 Falls township. To pay for his land he was obliged to sell one of his horses and borrow a sum of money at 40 per cent interest. On the land he bought there was a small log house; minus a roof. He split out shakes and covered the house and moved in. His family lived the first winter on buckwheat cakes and mush and milk and johnny cake. In the following spring of 1855, he went sixty miles distant to Turkey river and bought flour for which he paid $6 per hundred. Mr. and Mrs. MORRIS would have made glad the heart of the great reformer, Theodore ROOSEVELT for they were the parents of ten children.

Chauncy LUGARD, an Italian by birth, came from Canada in 1854 and settled on section 25.

Benjamin SUTTON, a native of Devonshire, England, entered 400 acres in the township in 1854, but did not permanently settle here until 1857.

Ira WILLIAMS, a soldier of the Civil war, came to Falls township from Illinois in 1855 and settled on section 17. Here he built a house out of hay, walls, roof and floor, and lived in it two years. In 1857 he built a log house which he at first covered with bark, but later covered with shakes. In 1859 he sold out and moved into Lincoln township from which place he enlisted in Company C, 37 th Iowa Volunteer Infantry and served during the war. He died in Lincoln township in 1877.

Among the other settlers who joined the Shell Rock colony in 1855 were John MORGAN who located on section 8, Heman M. REDDINGTON, who also located on section 8, Charles TENNEY, who located on section 8, Thomas PERRETT, who located on section 27, Charles JOHNSON, who located on section 17, Edwin BECKWITH, who settled on section 36, A. J. GLOVER, who located in the village of Rock Falls, Horace GREGORY, who located on section 12, George FREDERICK, who located on section 5.

Charles W. TENNEY, son of Rev. Thomas TENNEY, was one of the first justices of the peace elected on the organization of Falls township. He also held many positions of trust, the highest in rank being member of the state general assembly. He went to the Pacific coast several years ago.

Thomas PERRETT was born May 27, 1827, in Somersetshire, England. He belonged to the better class of English yeomen and received a good education. He was reared to agricultural pursuits and learned farming in a country which at that time possessed the best farmers in the world. His sketch will be found in another part of this work.

The Fighting Gregorys.

Horace GREGORY, the father of the Fighting GREGORYS, was born in Delaware county, New York, August 14, 1805, and was married to Miss Sally VERNALD March 22, 1829. Twelve years after his marriage he removed to Kane county, Illinois, and emigrated from there to Falls township in 1855. He and his family located on section 12. After fourteen years residence in Falls township, in 1869, he emigrated to Rock county, Minnesota, where he died in 1873. Although a man of more than ordinary intelligence, character, and industry, his greatest claim to remembrance among men lies in his having been the father of the "Fighting GREGORYS," so called because of their service in the armies of the Union in the Civil war. No less than five of the sons of Horace GREGORY served in the armies of the North, as follows: Thadeus W., Elba S., Horace A., Salathiel D. and Francis M.

Thadeus W. GREGORY was born in Delaware county, New York, May 6, 1832, came to Iowa with this parents and in 1862 enlisted as a soldier to fight the battles of his country, but did not live to enter the active service. He died a month after his enrollment. Although by an inscrutable providence, he was not permitted to exhibit the red badge of courage on the field of battle, when the final roll call comes Thadeus W. GREGORY will answer from the shining rank of heroes who, when their country called in its hour of need, willingly laid their lives upon its altar.

Elba S. GREGORY, when the war drums throbbed and his country called for defenders, enlisted in the Iowa Volunteer Cavalry and served faithfully and well until armed resistance on the part of his country's foes had ceased and he received, with his brave regiment, an honorable discharge. Shortly after resuming civil life, he emigrated to Washington territory, now the state of Washington.

Horace A. GREGORY enlisted in Company B, 11 th Iowa Volunteer Infantry. At the battle of Belmont he received a severe wound and was discharged from the service. As soon as he recovered, he re-enlisted and served his country until the close of the war. After the war he too emigrated to Washington territory, where he became an honored citizen.

Salathiel D. GREGORY, the fourth son of Horace GREGORY who wore his country's blue and fought to keep his country's flag floating in the blue canopy of heaven, enlisted in Company A, 21 st Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and served until he earned the honor of an honorable discharge from his country's service at the expiration of his enlistment. After leaving the military service he returned to his own county and again took up residence in Falls township.

Of all the fighting GREGORYS the highest honors fell to Francis M. He was born in Steuben county, New York, April 16, 1839. He went with his father to Illinois and on September 18, 1861, he enlisted in the 8th Illinois Cavalry. His regiment was among those sent to the east for service in the Army of the Potomac. He received his baptism of fire at the second battle of Bull Run at Manasses Junction and was on the firing line and in the charge at Yorktown, Williamsburg, Gettysburg, South Mountain, and Antietam, besides more than a score of minor engagements. He was commissioned second lieutenant September 11, 1864, and promoted to first lieutenant September 18, 1864, and on December 15, 1864, he was raised to the rank of captain. With his gallant regiment he was honorably discharged July 21, 1865. After his discharge he came north and first settled in Portland, but after a few years he came to Falls township. He was married February 11, 1866, to Miss Maggie J. SMITH.

TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: Francis M. GREGORY died on May 23, 1911. Maggie J. (SMITH) GREGORY was born December 6, 1844, and died September 26, 1915. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery, Mason City.

Among those settling in Falls township during the years 1856, 1857, 1858 and 1860, were William SHERICK, William WILSON, Jacob FREDERICK, John CLAUSE, Joseph PERRETT, B. A. BROWN and George A. MORSE.

B. A. BROWN was at one time postmaster and merchant at Rock Falls. He afterward removed to Clear Lake and served six years as member of the board of supervisors.

William C. GRAVES was born in Oneida county, New York, January 1, 1841. On the 28 th day of August, 1862, he enlisted in Company I, 81st New York Volunteer Infantry. He was engaged in a number of pitched battles include the "Battles of the Wilderness." Finally, on June 3, 1864, in the disastrous assault at Cold Harbor, he was dangerously wounded, being shot in the right shoulder. He was taken to the hospital at Washington [D.C.], where he remained until October, when he obtained a thirty day furlough and went home. On his return to Washington, he was considered no longer fit for military duty and was honorably discharged. Shortly after he left the service his parents emigrated to Iowa and he came with them and remained with them until 1870, when he married Miss Elizabeth HOLDEN. In 1873 he located on section 5.

Among the soldiers of the Civil war who have made Falls township their home was Captain Samuel R. APKER, a native of Pennsylvania, where he was born in Lycoming county, July 7, 1834. In December, 1861, he enlisted in Company H, 17 th Wisconsin Volunteers. He was mustered in as first lieutenant and a few months later he was promoted to the rank of captain. In July he veteranized and was discharged at Louisville, Kentucky, 1865. He participated in a number of battles, among them being that at Corinth, Atlanta, and the siege of Vicksburg. He marched with SHERMAN to the sea and during his period of service he led his command in twenty-one general engagements. Following is a reprint from a Madison [WI] paper: "The members of Company H, 17th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, presented Captain S. R. APKER with a beautiful gold watch and chain as a token of their love and esteem for him as an officer and a gentleman."


Falls township was organized as early as December, 1856. The first election was held in April, 1857, at the house of John F. FORD, on section 2, of what afterward became a part of the civil township of Portland. At this election there were thirty-four votes cast for the following named officers: Trustees, Rev. Thomas TENNEY, John M. HUNT, Horace GREGORY and A. J. GLOVER; assessor, Frederick PATTEE; justices of the peace, George L. BUNCE and Charles W. TENNEY; clerk, L. S. EAGER; constables, John BROWN and Robert CAMPBELL.

First Events.

The first birth in Falls township was a duaghter of Robert and Amanda CAMPBELL, which occurred July 28, 1856. She was named Delphina, and became the wife of Albert WEEK.

The first marriage was that of Arvilla, or as it sometimes appears in the records, Urvilda, daughter of Robert and Amanda CAMPBELL, and George FREDERICK; the ceremony taking place at the home of the bride's parents on section 16. The Rev. Thomas TENNEY, a pioneer clergyman, officiated and the marriage altar was the interior of a rude log house. Mr. and Mrs. CAMPBELL had the distinction of being not only the parents of the first child born in Falls township, but of presenting the first bride, and their log house, with its severe simplicity was the scene of the first wedding.

The first death in the township, and the grim specter always stalks close to births and weddings, was that of Thomas CORKERTON. He had been married but a few months and his wife was absent on a visit to the old home in Illinois, when he was stricken with fever while boarding at the house of Elijah WILTFONG. He did after a short illness and was buried on his own land, on section 10. His remains were afterwards removed to Plymouth cemetery, where they are still awaiting the time when the sea gives up its dead.

The first sorghum mill was that of Rev. Thomas TENNEY. This mill had the old fashioned wooden rollers and a boiling pan of wood lined with sheet iron.

The first military campaign was that made by J. M. HUNT, Elijah WILTFONG, Joseph PERRETT, C. W. TENNEY and three others, in 1862 at the time of the time of the Sioux war under the leadership of the renowned Little Crow. This expedition from Falls township went as far as Mankato [MN], where they learned of the arrival of a punitive expedition of United States troops and the defeat and retreat of the Indian forces. The expedition returned by way of Forest City, Clear Lake, and Mason City, every where informing the people of the situation at the seat of war and thus quieting their fears.

The Methodist Episcopal church held their first service at the stone school house in 1865. Rev. Z. R. WARD organized a society there that fall.

The Free Methodists held their first meeting at the school house in district No. 3. Rev. Thomas La DICE was their first preacher. He organized a class of twenty members.

The German Baptists of Falls township held their first meeting at the school house on section 36, in 1873. Rev. John CRONE was the first preacher.

The German Methodists of Falls at first joined a society across the line in Portland township. Rev. R. FIGENBAUM was the first pastor, in 1870. They afterward met in Rock Falls.

The first Catholic services were held in a private house in Plymouth. Rev. Michael CAROLAN was their first priest.

Early Schools.

The first school in Plymouth was held in a log house owned by Rev. Thomas TENNEY. The school was taught by Miss Harriet TENNEY, in the winter of 1856-7.

The first school house built in Plymouth was in 1858. C. W. TENNEY was the first teacher. Their building was made of granite and its benches of slabs. It was torn down in 1867 and a stone structure erected in its place.

The first school house built in Rock Falls, which is really the premier colony in the Shell Rock valley, was built in the fall of 1855 and was made of slabs. The first term of school taught in this house was by Miss Julian HUNT, the young lady, it will be remembered, who was married the next year to young Enoch WILTFONG.

The second school house was built in 1859. The first teacher in this was Miss Emma ADAMS. This building was used for school purposed until 1867, when becoming too small for the growing school, it was sold and became a store. A new stone school house was built to replace the one that was sold. Commodore Farington was the first teacher. In 1877 this building was condemned as unsafe and torn down and three terms of school were taught in a store building. The next school house was built in 1878. Duncan RULE was the first teacher. Myra KLING and Ella HOYT were his assistants.

The first school in district No. 3 was taught by Truman JUDSON, in 1856 at Edward BECKWITH'S house on section 36. This school was supported by private subscription. In 1867 Commodore FARINGTON taught school in this district in a dwelling house on section 36. The first school house was built in 1869 on section 36. Helen CARPENTER was the first teacher.

The first school in district No. 4 was taught in a granary owned by John CLAUS, in the summer of 1866, the teacher being Ann A. REDDINGTON. The same summer a school house was built on section 3. Belle Rule was the first teacher. This building was torn down in 1881 and a new one built. Miss Bell LEWIS was the first teacher.

The first school house in district No 5 was built in 1874 on section 34. Miss Lela DOUGAN was the first teacher.

The first school house in district No. 6 was built in 1876 on section 24. Miss Elizabeth PERRETT was the first teacher.

The first school in district No. 7 was built in 1874, on section 30, Mary MAHAR was the first teacher.

The first school in district No. 8, was held in a building owned by Isaac LEWIS and was taught by Miss Lena L. GARDNER.

The first school house built in the district was built in 1876 on section 1. Miss Anna TEELE was the first teacher.

The Village of Plymouth

Plymouth village was surveyed and platted in 1858, by Stephen HENDERSON on land owned by Rev. Thomas TENNEY and his son, Chas. W. [TENNEY]. John MORGAN and Levi SHEPARD also had an interest in this plat. At the time there was a single log house standing on the plat. This first plat was situated on the east quarter of the northeast quarter of section 7, and a few lots on the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 8. Levi SHEPARD erected the first building that year and opened a general store.

A postoffice was established the next year, with Martin REDDINGTON postmaster. This office was on the mail route from Charles City to Mason City and from Rock Falls to Albert Lea, Minnesota. Martin Reddington kept the first hotel, which he opened in 1859 in a building 26x42, built partly of logs and partly frame. This was called the Plymouth house. Mr. REDDINGTON also opened the first blacksmith shop in 1860. Old Plymouth finally petered out. About all there ever was to it was a store opened and abandoned, a postoffice first in a private house and then in a tavern and a blacksmith shop, and Martin REDDINGTON was [owned?] the whole thing. And then the Chicago, Burlington & Northern Railroad came through the county and a new Plymouth was laid out and new hopes were born.

Plymouth Depot

The new Plymouth was surveyed on land owned by Rev. THOMAS and Chas. W. TENNEY and Charles GRACIE, and situated on the west half of the southwest quarter of section 5 and a few lots on section 6. This plat was recorded December 23, 1870.

The first building was erected by Geo. WARDE and was used as a store. It was afterward remodeled by Benj. KENYON, made into a hotel and called the Plymouth House. The first hotel in the town, however, was opened by Captain R. A. WAREHAM in 1870. The first drug store was opened in 1875 by Dr. G. H. WALLER. The first blacksmith shop in the new Plymouth was opened by Martin REDDINGTON in 1870. The first wagon shop was opened in 1870 by Truman S. HILL. The first furniture shop was opened in 1878 by HILL in company with T. A. BARNES. The first warehouse was built in 1870 by L. A. PAGE who began buying grain that fall. The first elevator was built in 1878 by Bassett Hunting and Company. The first sorghum mill was started in 1874 by George DANEY. The Plymouth mill was begun in 1874 and completed the next year by Fred EHLERS. The building was 36x50, three stories high and contained three run of stone. The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad was complete to this point in 1870 and a station built. R. G. CARTER was the first agent.

The postoffice was moved from the old town in 1871, at which time Captain WAREHAM was postmaster.

The Plymouth Cemetery Association was organized in 1880 and five acres of land purchased. The trustees were J. N. MALSBURY, L. A. PAGE and Joseph M. PENNELL; president, C. W. TENNEY; secretary, Dr. G. H. WALLER; treasurer, R. A. WAREHAM.

Plymouth Store, circa 1915

Rock Falls.

The Stickney House, Rock Falls, former post office

This village [originally called Shell Rock Falls] was laid out and platted by Elijah WILTFONG in 1855. It is located on the northeast quarter of section 21. Soon after platting he sold to A. J. GLOVER, who the came year erected a sawmill and opened a small store. L. S. EAGER opened the first general store in 1856. The postoffice was established in 1855 and was on the road from Charles City to Mason City. A. J. GLOVER was the first postmaster. When first established the postoffice, like the village, was called Shell Rock Falls, but when the railroad was built through, the station was named Rock Falls and the name of the postoffice was also changed. The hotel, tavern, inn or "public house" was opened by David JOHNSON in 1855. He opened his new place with a dance. As there was no business for a hotel, he closed up in a few months and went back to Delaware county. Jesse CLAUSEN was the first blacksmith. He came in 1855, but closed his shop in a short time. The next shop was opened in 1856 by Frederick DREW.

Once of the best water powers in the state is located at Rock Falls. When Elijah WILTFONG first camped on the banks of the Shell Rock river, he beheld a perpendicular fall of the river over a solid lime rock ledge of about four feet. It was this fall of water that decided him to locate where he did. Since WILTFONG'S time this four-foot fall has by improvement been increased to twenty feet, making it one of the most potent water powers in Iowa.

The first sawmill on this water power was built by A. J. GLOVER in 1855. There followed some changes in ownership until the mill finally, as had been stated elsewhere passed into the hands of WILTFONG, who added a grist mill. Many changes in ownership and improvement have followed since then.

A dam in the river was built for power for the mill, however ever spring when the ice went out of the river, the dam went out too.

The ice problem was addressed and resolved when a 20-foot high dam was finally constructed. It lasted for many years until April of 1888. That spring a heavy thunderstorm which followed several weeks of melted snow accumulating in the sloughs caused rapid flodding. During the crest of the flooding, river ice took out the 20-dam and some of the houses located in the south part of town were swept down river. It has been said that one house was crushed. The the ice gorge gave way, the 155-foot iron bridge was swept away with the dam. With no power and the dam gone, the town turned to steam power. At this time the mill was the largest in the state of Iowa. It never recovered from this last onslaught of river ice. Several years later the owner ordered it to be blown up.

When the flood waters of April 1888 receded, 10 to 15-feet high cakes of ice remained in the streets.

There is no sawmill there now [1910] , but one of the best flouring mills in this part of the state.

The first creamery was started in 1882 by CARNEY and Company. The first elevator was built in 1878 by R. M. TODD.

The Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern railway was complete to Shell Rock Falls in 1872 and a depot built. W. W. WELLER was the first agent.

Ice harvested from the mill pond was a big wintertime industry. Robert TODD contracted 1,000 railroad cars to haul ice and employed 100 men and 4o horses in 1880.

The town of Shell Rock Falls was incorporated in August, 1882. The town adopted a mayor and councilmen form of government. The first election was held August 8th of that year, in the school house, and the following named officers elected to serve until the following March: Mayor, R. M. TODD; councilmen, W. C. OWENS, R. KINNEY, W. C. BAKER, B. A. BROWN, L. SUMNER, and John BLIEM; recorder, A. W. HARDWICK.

Rock Falls, circa 1911

The first church organization in the town was the Congregational, which was perfected in 1856, by Rev. Thomas TENNEY.

A union Sunday school was organized at an early day with David BUTTS as first superintendent.

The Congregational church was built in 1867. N. W. CUTTER, member of congress from Connecticut, generously donated a quarter section of land to aid in its construction.

The Methodist Episcopal held their first services in the school house about 1865. Elder WARD of Mason City was the first preacher.

A union Sunday school was organized at the church in February, 1882, by Rev. D. E. SKINNER of the American Sunday School Union.

The cemetery at Shell Rock Falls was laid out in 1865. One acre of land was purchased of David BUTTS and half an acre was donated by C. W. TENNEY. The cemetery is the oldest one in the county. David BUTTS was the first to be buried there.

Several small hotels were established to accommodate people who were traveling through the town. Businesses included several stores, blacksmith shops, millinery shops, meat markets and grain elevators.

As people began to move further west or to nearby towns, the stores began to close. The last hotel was eventually torn down.

The BLIEM Brothers store remained in business for over 50 years. Valentine and Leonard BLIEM opened the BLEIM Brothers store in 1880 as a boot and shoe store. Gradually the store evolved into a dry goods and grocery store which featured a country delivery service. The store operated as a family business until 1941.

DX Station, Rock Falls

The bank, lumberyard, blacksmith shop and DX gas station remained open for a time. In time the bank moved to Mason City. The DX station for a time was the oldest business in Rock Falls for quite some time. After it had been closed for several years, it was converted into a beauty shop. The bank building was converted to the City Hall building, and the school building became the Community Center.

In 1962, the Farmers Savings Bank at Rock Falls was robbed late one morning. John WILKINSON, the bank cashier's son who was working at the bank during summer break from his studies at the University of Minnesota, handed over an estimated $700 to the robber. WILKINSON and Lloyd HANSEN gave chase through the countryside north and east of Rock Falls, through Plymouth, Manly and Nora Springs. When WILKINSON and HANSEN ran into the ditch, they watched the robber disappear out of sight.

Lieftime residents Edith and Rufus WILKINSON donated 19 acres to the Cerro Gordo Conservation Board to establish a park. The Conservation Board added more property to the WILKINSON Pioneer Park, located on the Shell Rock River.

Rock Falls' population was 175 in the year 2000. The town celebrated its 150th anniversary in the year 2005.

Covered Bridge near Rock Falls

With this altogether inadequate sketch we must close the history of one of the most important townships in Cerro Gordo county. This is not pretended to be a history of the township. A real history would require ten times more space than we have at our command.

WHEELER, J. H., Ed. & Comp. "Falls Township." History of Cerro Gordo County, Iowa. Chapt. 20. Lewis Pub. Co. Chicago. 1910.

Additional source (italics) www.rockfallsiowa.com/HISTORY.htm

Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, April of 2011



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