By the legislative act for the organization of the county in 1851, Beverly Searcy, James Graham, and Samuel D. Bishop were appointed to locate the seat of justice for Clarke County. They made selection for the present site of Osceola (see document). The land on which the county seat was located had been entered at the land office in Chariton on the 14th day of March, 1851, by George W. Howe. Other additions to the town were subsequently laid out, so that it now contains some 250 acres.
In the autumn following John Shearer hauled a quantity of rails, built two "pens" and covered them over, and in these kept boarders until he had completed a two-story hewed-log building, where now stands the Arlington House. This was the first building on the site of Osceola, and is yet standing.
At about the same time that this building was erected, George W. Howe put up a hewed-log structure at the northeast corner of the square, and opened up a stock of dry goods and general merchandise. He sold goods and speculated here until his death, in September, 1864.
Messrs. Goss & Cowling put up a small general store in the latter part of 1852, and a year later were sold out by the sheriff. Jacob Butcher & Co. started a general store in 1853. The "Co." included David Brewer and John Butcher. In 1854 Robert Beckett bought out Brewer, and in 1855 he purchased the interests of the others. When Beckett was elected treasurer and recorder of Clarke County, he sold to James Polly, who two years later, sold to Brown & Harlan. This firm failed.
The third house in Osceola was a residence, built of hewed logs, on the east side of the square, by M. R.Lamson, who was soon after elected clerk of the courts. Israel Miller built a frame residence in the autumn of 1852, a block from the northeast corner of the square. William W. Hurst built a frame residence in the autumn of 1852, just at the northeast corner.
The first marriage in the town of Osceola was at the residence of John Shearer, between David A. Waynich and Martha E. Shearer, September 2, 1852. The first birth in the town was that of Florence A. Lamson, daughter of M. R. Lamson, and the first death that of Mary Hurst.
The village moved along slowly for two years more. Then came three years of unhealthy excitement and speculation, followed by the severe crisis of 1857. The town had been laid out by the county in March, 1851, 160 acres of land being purchased from Howe & Richards. The county paid $100 for the tract. The town was surveyed in August and September, 1851, and October 13, the first lots were sold, 85 being disposed of at an average price of $22 each. Dickinson Webster traded a yoke of oxen for ten lots that afterward brought about $100 each. Among the first purchasers of lots were Bernard Arnold, Beverly Searcy, W. Buchanan, G.W. Conger, George W. Howe, J. Lewis, J.C. Smith, A. Williams, L. Gardner, Dickinson Webster, Ivison Ellis and Howe & Richards.
The court-house was built in 1854, the contract being awarded to P. J. Goss. He hired John Gebhart, of Agency City, to build it, and the latter boarded with Goss. It is related that Thomas Morehouse, an immigrant, had camped on the square, and had a dozen chickens in a coop behind his wagon. Goss had a fat dog, which was coveted by some Indians near town. Gebhart here saw his opportunity to play the middleman, and accordingly, offered the Indians Goss' dog if they would steal Morehouse's checkens for him (Gebhart). This sinister bargain was made and executed, and the next day the Indians had a toothsome feast of boiled "dorg" while Gebhart refreshed his tired system on "chicken fixings."
The business houses of Osceola are ranged round a large square, which makes a pretty park of five acres. Within it is a stand, erected by the city and county together, for public speaking. A majority of people favor building the new court-house in the square.
The streets run due north and south and east and west. The east and west streets are, north of the square Washington, Webster, Clay and Ayres; south of the square, Jefferson, Cass, McLane, Vine and Pearl. The north and south streets are east of the square, Main, Park, Adams and Kossuth; west of the square, Fillmore, Jackson, Temple, Lincoln, Delaware, Exchange, Lake and Gustin. In 1883 Jefferson street was macadamized from Fillmore to Jackson, and it is intended to improve similarly all the principal streets when the city is financially able.
The city possesses a volunteer fire department, organized in 1882. N. W. Deering was the first chief, and there were then about thirty members. The city bought a hook-and-ladder outfit, a number of buckets and a fire bell, and at an expense of some $250 put up a frame building for a mayor's office and a tower for the bell. At present, Levi Taylor is chief and W. E. Harper, secretary.
Osceola was under the district-school system until after the war, when it was made an independent district. Six teachers are employed in the east building, including the principal, O. A. Shotts, and seven in the west building. The high-school course of four years prepares pupils for any Western college, excellent work being done throughout.
A woolen factory was built just north of the northeast corner of the square before the war, and operated by H. F. Gross half of each year until his death in 1880. He was very successful, and made money, but after his death no one could be found to run the factory, and it was accordingly discontinued.
D. R. Raymond and J. W. Kelly built a frame flouring mill in the eastern part of the city, in 1868, and in 1874 Mr. Raymond became sole owners. In February, 1884, the mill was burned, involving a loss of $16,000, half of which was covered by insurance.
J. C. Painter built his mill early in 1884, south of the depot. It is a good mill, having three burrs, and also the roller process.
The Osceola foundry was built in 1884, burned in autumn of 1885, and rebuilt. C. Standish has operated it from the start, and is now owner.
The Osceola Creamery, the first establishment of this character built in Southern Iowa, was started in 1874 by George C. Holt and W. H. Hall, who fixed up quarters in the rear of Holt & Cramer's produce building. I. W. Johnson of Kansas City, became proprietor in the spring of 1884, and he sold to the present owner, John W. Hall, March 1, 1885. Over $25,000 of business was done by Mr. Hall in 1885. Eight teams are employed in gathering cream from the surrounding country, as far as fifteen miles, and seventeen men are employed in all. The monthly pay roll aggregates nearly $1,000. Mr. Hall's creamery has a capacity of 3,000 pounds per day but the greatest quantity actually made in a day has been 2,200 pounds. He pays from two to five cents more for cream than the market price for an equivalent amount of butter. He is only enabled to do this by reason of his butter bringing the highest price in New York City. He deals also largely in eggs.
The repair shops of the Des Moines, Osceola & Southern Railroad are located in the southeastern part of the city, and give employment to thirty or forty men.
The last few years have seen several handsome brick blocks got up on three sides of the square, and the result is a great improvement in the appearance of the place. Among these is Pritchett's opera house, built in 1880, at the cost of $7,000. In this building are two stores below, and a hall, seating 400 people, above. The fine brick hotel on the west side was built by a stock company in 1882, the prime movers being B. H. Harding and Henry Stivers. The cost was $20,000, half of which was raised in the East, where it is now entirely owned. S. R. Johnson operated it from 1883 to 1885, and now S. R. Howe is the landlord. It is called generally the Arlington Hotel, but under the present management is known as "Howe's." In design and management this is pronounced by all travelers one of the best hotels in Southern Iowa.
Three of these institutions are doing well at Osceola--The Osceola Bank, Clarke County Bank and E. F.Riley's Bank. All of these are private.
The population of Osceola at different dates has been:
Last Revised August 31, 2010