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Manilla History


Manilla in 1908

All Was Peaceful in Astor Until ...

All was quiet and peaceful in Astor until one day some strangers appeared - railroad officials - people soon found out. A short cut to Sioux City was their aim. The question was - were they going to build from Astor or Defiance? It was soon found out they were going to build a new town just two miles east of Astor. The railroad bought W.L. Paup's farm, had it surveyed, and lots were staked out.

You can imagine the excitement this brought to Astor. The townsmen were bewildered, then decided they had better move to the new town. The sale of lots was held in Nov. and $13,000 worth of lots were sold. Lots in the new town sold like wild fire and houses sprang up like mushrooms overnight. Residents of Astor put their business places and homes on wheels and moved to the new town, the moving being done with horses, mules, and oxen.

It was a lot of hard work. They soon were lined up along the new main street with corn stalks and fodder under their feet. Instead of a gold rush, it was a rush for the new town. With stores still on stilts, they were ready for business.

The two blacksmiths, Palmer and Brown, were the first to leave Astor and move their places of business. Their business was necessary for the building of the new railroad as it took many horses, mules, and equipment. A box car served as depot and freight house in one, it was a bit crowded but was all they had.

E.H. Hanne was the first grocery store to move to the new town. It was located where the Memorial Hall now stands.

Paupville or Manilla?

Let a Tug of War Decide the Winner!

The new town did not as yet have an official name. In 1885, Astor celebrated the Fourth of July and one of the program features was a tug-of-war. Since the new town did not have a name, they decided to name it with the tug-of-war contest. There were some who thought the town should be named after Les Paup (who owned the land before the railroad bought it). They wanted it called Paupville.

Until this time, grain had been bound by hand, but the self-binder had just been invented. With it a twist had to be used. Mr. Blackburn's Hardware store in Astor was sending out circulars advertising the new twine, called Manila Binder Twine. Mr. Blackburn furnished a Manila rope for the tug-of-war and suggested the town be named Manilla.

Some of those pulling for Manilla were Cash Crakes (father of Grace Schram), Ad Morgan (Cicero Morgan's father), Luke Tillet, Charley Schroeder, and two others.

Those pulling for Paupville were Ed Saunders (father of Harry Saunders), Charles Saunders (father of Chuck Saunders), Will Theobald (father of Ed Theobald), and three others.

There are those who wonder how Manilla got its two L's. This seems to have happened at the recording of the town name.

The Manilla Community Begins to Grow

The First Churches

The Methodists of Manilla purchased lot 12 in block 15 and hoped to move the Astor church to Manilla.

The Presbyterians purchased lot 2 in block 15 and started to raise money to build a church. Mrs. S.M. Neely, a member, went to Denison for help in furnishing the church. Large hanging lamps were donated by H.C. Laub, J.P. Miller, Schlumberger & Wrigley and Dr. Wilkinson; Paul Mahler, who had a shoe store, gave chandeliers for 2 lamps; Mr. Garrison, a large pulpit bible; the following donated money for a table to be used as a pulpit, Goldheim, J.G. Wygant, D.W. Shaw, A.H. McAhren, C.P. Stocking and W.D. Luney.

The Manilla Methodist Church was dedicated May 22 with W.T. Smith the presiding elder of the Council Bluffs District in attendance. The pastor was H. Linn.

From Cornfields to Buildings, 1886-1887

By May of 1887, 200 buildings had been erected in Manilla. The previous year it was a corn field. A dozen building were still under construction. An official of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad purchased 240 acres at $40.00 an acre. Then he laid out lots on a portion of it and received from $500 to $1,000 for each lot.

The Manilla newspaper was called the Register, which was upstairs over Gleisters' store. Mr. Baer was the editor. His wife set most of the type.

Next came a school. Here, trouble arose. The nearest school building was two miles from town. Suddenly 100 children clamored for admission. There was no money in the city treasury to build. The Presbyterian church was leased. A curtain partition was hung across the room and two teachers put to work.

M.N. Smith had charge of the Union Hotel in Manilla, doing a rushing business. He had over 35 boarders.

Manilla is Incorporated

The people of Manilla talked of incorporation. At the September term of District Court the Judge appointed T.J. Garrison, and E.K. Burk of Denison, A.L. Barrett, F.S. Garleck and G.W. Baer of Manilla to hold an election. In early October the people of Manilla, by a vote of 93 to 13 decided to incorporate. There were by now 200 families in Manilla, 25 business houses, 3 churches and a nice hall 22 x 60, and the town also boasted of a brass band.

Manilla, with 800 population, was somewhat of a railroad center. It boasted a roundhouse with 12 stalls, costing $50,000. J.R. Miller was foreman of the roundhouse, employing 15 men. Four passenger trains went each way each day besides 18 freight trains. The depot agent was F.A. Jackson who had 5 assistants.

Churches, Schools, Newspapers and More

There were four churches in town, the Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Catholic. The public school was a two-story frame building with an attendance of 330 students. Prof. S.W. Meyers was in charge assisted by five teachers.

There were two newspapers, the Advocate, independent in politics with Morgan as editor, and the Register, edited by Ernest E. Nichols.

The town boasted of a water works system. The Depot Hotel was a two-story frame building with 15 rooms, managed by J.C. Ruby and charged $2 per day. The Klondyke Hotel was also a two-frame hotel, of 15 rooms, one block from the depot and was new. Offineer was the proprietor. The Bank of Manilla, reorganized in 1888 was managed by D.W. Shaw. Barstow had a large hardware store occupying two rooms, one 22 x 96 and on 25 x 50. The other hardware store was owned by Peter Hoffeins. He employed Charles Sykes. C.H. Westbrook dispensed drugs and other items from his place of business in the Gardner building.

A City Father

Dr. J.G. Gardner came to Manilla from Aspinwall in 1887 and is regarded as the "father" of the city, moving to Manilla in 1887, where he erected 25 homes. His office was in Westbrooks Drug Store.

Businesses and More Businesses

J.B. Alfred was associated in the furniture business, C.C. Norgaard with the brick and tile factory, J.L. Dyson with harness making, as was E.A. Begelow. John Gleiser sold real estate. A.S. Savery dealt in lumber and grain and was a money lender. Fred and S.S. Hoff ran a restaurant. Charles Schroeder also had a restaurant. Mrs. C.M. Fritz' millinery business could be found the third door east of the bank. Miss Mary Dahuly gave lessons in elocution.

C.A. Brown was in charge of the St. Paul and Kansas City grain elevator. F.C. Bock boasted that he had the finest bar in town. Other grain dealers were H.N. and N.L. John and M.F. Arnold, who had an office in the Quinn Lumberyard. He was also an auctioneer. J.J. Perion managed the Green Bay Lumber Company. The F.A. Quinn Company, pioneer lumbermen, had 5 yards with headquarters in Woodbine. Frank Longnecker managed the Manilla yards, C.C. Gleiser had a mercantile store. His first store was in Astor but he moved his business to Manilla in 1886. He carried Butterick patterns. Six clerks worked for him. C.V. Campbell had a grocery store; he came in 1883 moving from Astor with his general store, putting it down in the cornstalks and weeds. G.E. Barber had a drug store.

Some Firsts for Manilla

I.W. Callimore was the first mayor of Manilla.

The post office at Manilla was established at the opening of the town. The first postmaster was G.W. Brokaw. In 1886, the postmaster at Astor resigned for nearly all had moved to Manilla.

The first doctor in Manilla was Dr. J.B. Gardner. The doctor's territory was Buck Grove, Aspinwall, Botna, Irwin, Defiance, and Manilla. They traveled by horse team and buggy or sleigh.

In 1892, a waterworks was built.

A city hall was erected in 1894 at a cost of $3,000.

The Manilla National Bank was organized in 1887 with S.F. Smith as president.

The Methodists moved their church to Manilla from Astor. The Presbyterians built a new building where the Presbyterian manse now stands. The Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul railway presented the lot for the building. This church was used by the town for a school until a building for education could be built.

In 1889, school district no. 6 and no. 7 were combined to form an independent school district and a new school house was built. It contained four classrooms. Some of those who started first grade the fall of 1889 in the new school were Effie Flint Beck, Minnie Steckleberg Miller, Gertie Browkow Schram, and Emil Lueth.

In 1889, the Manilla Community subscribed donations to build a community building which was at first called "Germania Hall" and later "The Manilla Opera House."

In 1891, the town suffered an epidemic of Diphtheria, resulting in the death of many children. Many families lost several children. School was closed for some time.

Manilla Today

Manilla has mellowed with the years. Many have wandered to other folds or gone on to their reward. Many have had a share in the making of our town. Let us bow in homage to our pioneer fathers and our dear yesterday. We cannot live in the past; we must go on to the future.

Manilla today is admired for its park-like appearance, with shady trees lined with beautiful residences, for its excellent school system, and for its substantial business houses. Manilla can dwell with deep satisfaction upon the past, upon pioneers, upon the advancement it has made from the first years as a new town, upon the ambition and energy which we find in it today, and upon the fact that its future is in good hands.

To the inhabitants of Manilla, one hundred years or a century seems a large part of eternity. Thirty-six thousand days and nights or even ten decades still reaches far into the recesses of the mind.

This century has included the greatest revolution in change for our ways of living known to human history. Yet, placed against the great expanse of time, our locality is practically an infant. The farmers of today have been preceded six thousand years by Egyptian workers of soil who worshipped the sun and had no written language. Our own United States was formed one hundred and eight years and had nineteen presidents before us; our own State of Iowa was proclaimed forty years before Manilla was chartered as a municipality.

One hundred years ago there were railroad strikes and anarchistic uprisings in Chicago; wire nails were just being manufactured and the Statue of Liberty was being unveiled.

Source: Manilla Community Folks & Facts 1886-1986.

We thank Holly Ehlers for submitting this material.

Photo courtesy of Phyllis A. Heller