History of Elwood

This comes from the Elwood Centennial booklet, 1972. It was sent to us by Tom Upshaw.

Elwood is located in the extreme southwest corner of section 16.  By an act of the General Assembly of Iowa on February 25, 1847, section 16 of Iowa townships were designated as school land, and on July 5, 1849 the township trustees as required by said act platted this tract and valued it at $1.25 per acre.  The first recorded purchaser of the southwest quarter (160 acres) of section 16 was Edward Sparks.

It was conveyed to William Sparks and Mary Sparks in 1859, and in 1865 was purchased from Mary Sparks by Kinsey Elwood.

In 1872 Kinsey Elwood granted a right-of-way deed across his land to the Sabula, Ackley and Dakota railroad.  The town was then platted by Kinsey Elwood and Barnabas Clark assisted by their wives and named after Mr. Elwood.  The business area was laid out south of the railroad.  But this area was later found to be too wet and the buildings were moved to higher ground north of the tracks.

George Wilson the first merchant starting a store before the railroad tracks were finished, and this building was later moved to the north side where it once served as the Elwood Savings Bank and is occupied now by the Post Office.  A 4th class Post Office was established in 1872 with Noble Ryther, the first Postmaster, followed by S. H. Clark, W. S. Hill, J. O. Wade, Jim Anderson, Gilbert Riggs and David Riggs.  A 22-mile rural route was established in 1907 with Harry Hicks the mail carrier.

The Kinsey Elwood family lived in the farm home he built about 1870 just east of town.  This house stood until 1958 on the north side of the highway and was better known as the Charles Schoenthaler home.  A few years later Mr. Elwood built the first house on the north side of Main Street.  The name painted on its south side, it was known as the Elwood House, and once housed the telephone exchange, now owned and renovated by Roland Dietz.  It still stands at the corner of Seminary and Entrance Avenues across from the park area where the Methodist Church was destroyed by fire in 1954.

One of the largest early creameries of the county was operated for many years by Clark and Beard just east of town on the north side of the road.  In spite of much earth moving by the highway builders the site of this creamery is still marked by an old pump in the flate between Highway 136 and the railroad.  This well was inside the creamery.

Doctor H. M. McKinsey was the town's first and only doctor coming in 1874 and practicing for over 50 years.  His office and drug store at the corner of Main and Wells Street was in the building last occupied by Ben Hamilton's Grocery store.  Dr. McKinsey kept his fast driving horses in a lot south of his home.  He made patient calls with one horse on a tow-wheeled road cart.  He is said to have won a race with the towns first automobile, a single-seated Brush owned by Post Master Jim Wade.

A grain elevator with long plank ramps up which farmers' horse-drawn wagons were driven to dump the grain, was built along side the railroad at the east end of Main by Charles Meyer in 1872 and was later operated for nearly half a century by John Phelps, who also dealt in the buying and shipping of livestock. A later livestock dealer was John Galloway.

All the buildings on the north side of Main Street were destroyed by fire in September 1890 and later rebuilt.  T. B. Leinbaugh built the west corner store which after serving several operators including H. P. Hicks and Ray Smith, finally became an Inn.  Further east on the north side of Main Street J. A. Riner built the town's largest general store which had several operators of the years including Busch and Kriete and Walter Myatt, who, besides the store, conducted a thriving farm implement business.  The area's earliest International Harvester tractors, mostly Titans, were purchased here.  In between these two stores were the post office and a pool hall.  Some of these building fronts provided built-in benches where local men and boys liked to gather to visit in the evening.  Another popular past-time was to go down to the deopot to watch the evening train come in.  There is a story of a fellow who purchased a round-trip ticket to Marion on the morning train.  When his friends gathered at the depot to witness his return on the evening train and to hear about the trip, his comment was, "If it's as far east as it is west then this is a big world."

On the south side of Main Street and east of the present Post Office two different building at one time served as hotels.  The west one later became the home of Gus Gabriel, a local land owner.  The east one with an iron-railed balcony was last used as Walt Hartvigsen's store.  It was once known as the City Hotel of Elwood, and when operated by a John Guyer, served meals and also provided the travelers with horse and buggy livery service.  This hotel was later operated by Fannie Hagge and after that housed a roller-skating rink.

Just east of this building was a sidewalk leading to the depot.  In between was the scale office and city scales.  Further east in the area, now taken by the highway, were two garages, one on each side of Main Street.  A feed mill also once stood in this area.

A lumber and coal yard in the area of the present Farmers Supply Co. was established by C. C. Ruus in 1872.  The ownership changed to G. R. Clark and sons in 1877, to Mr. Leaply in 1880, and in 1897 was purchased by E. G. Franklin.

Several blacksmith shops once operated in Elwood.  Doc Olney was the first and is said to have built the first house in the village.  Among the pioneer blacksmiths were O. P. Cornish and Ed Gurius and later Fred Jansen.

The stockyard east of the lumber yard was a busy place in the days when all livestock went to market by railroad.  Walter Hartvigsen began the first Chicago livestock trucking service.

The Odd Fellows and Rebekahs once had a lodge in Elwood, also the Woodman of America at one time.  These lodges met upstairs above the present post office building.

The social life and community spirit of Elwood has always revolved around the school and church.

When Brookfield township was first established it comprised what is now Brookfield, Bloomfield, Grant and Welton townships.  There were only six voters in the whole township to fill its nine offices.  One solitary tree stood conspicuously on a high rise in the rolling prairie and was known far and wide as "The Lone Tree".

The earliest pioneers came about 1838 and built houses of logs thatched with hay.  Probably the first claim to be settled in this area was at what was known as "Wright's Corner".  This was the corner south of Maquoketa on Hwy. #61 at the Clinton-Jackson County line.  Many of the early settlers had timber land claims to the north in Jackson County where they obtained their wood supply and found a source of maple syrup and sugar.

The greatest drawback to prosperity was the distance to market.  Early crops had to be hauled as far as Lyons, and building materials were often hauled back on the return trip.  The cost of hauling ate up most of the proceeds from the crops which the early settlers had so laborously raised.  One young farmer in 1860 let nearly 1000 bushels of golden corn rot on the ground because he could not afford a team to haul his crop to market.