Crawford County, Iowa, IAGenWeb


Westside History

1869 - 1994

Settler's Arrive in Crawford County

The first homes were log cabins built in and around groves so there was access to wood and water. The settlers who arrived first in the area came because they were told of it by hunters and trappers who had been through the area earlier. The first settlements in the county were at Dunham's Grove, about six miles east of Denison on the Boyer River, and Mason's Grove on Otter Creek.

As settlers arrived, many came north from Council Bluffs, which became the main trading station for this area. Travel at this time was by oxen-driven farm wagons or by foot, as few people owned horses. The roads were rough paths following ridges to avoid sloughs and low areas. Streams had to be forded as there were no bridges.

The Railroad Telegraph Road was built from Boone to Council Bluffs in 1866 and helped serve West Side area people.

Townships Are Organized

As Crawford County grew, it had to be subdivided into townships. Jackson Township was created in September 1866. In 1869 West Side Township and East Boyer Township, comprising East Boyer, Hayes and the southern sections of West Side Township, were created.

The final completion of township organization in Crawford County came in June 1872, when West Side, Hayes and Jackson Townships were created or reduced to their present size.

Townships were very important governing bodies. The Board of Trustees, elected by the people of the township, had the power to pass ordinances or resolutions. The trustees and clerks met monthly for business meetings, and settled such things as fence disputes as well as posting quarantines on homes for such diseases as measles, diphtheria and scarlet fever.

The Superintendent of Roads, appointed by the Supervisors, would schedule each farmer to spend one day a year paying off his Poll Tax by working on the roads. The farmers would usually harrow the road first, then use the road drag to keep it smooth. Of course, all the farmers helped during the winter snows and spring thaws when the roads "bottomed out".

The Town Council of West Side also instituted a Poll Tax, not to exceed $5 to be paid by "every able-bodied male resident between the ages of 21-45". The tax collected was to be spent on streets and alleys.

Early Settlers in West Side

Early family names of this area included Patterson, Hope, Woolhiser, Bovard, Evison, Glasscock, Lundy, Morgan, Lawler, Winks, Knights, Allen, Dobler, Scheldorf, Bowen, Catt, Waterman, Hannah, Crosswell, Wilken, Malloy, Brotherson, Benton, Happy and Isobell. A few of the descendants of these families still live in this area.

Railroad Builds Station at the Summit

The first railroad crossed the state of Iowa from the Mississippi River to Council Bluffs in 1867.

The Chicago Northwest Railway built a station at this point west of the summit, the division of the water flowing to the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. The Iowa Railroad Land Company bought the land for the town and divided it into lots. It was necessary for the railroad to put in a turntable, a round house and two large water tanks. At least two engines had to be kept ready to help the trains, especially the freights, over the steep grade. Railroad business from January 1 to June 1 in 1873 amounted to $7,205.99 according to Charles B. Smith, the state agent. He also had to look after the mail.

In December 1873, the railroad water tank was completely destroyed by fire with a loss of $4,000. The second railroad line was added in 1901 for rail traffic going both ways.

Immigration After the Civil War

The tide of immigration was started by Americans at the close of the Civil War with the coming of the railroad. Isaac and Robert Patterson came to West Side with their friend, Lee Lundy, and with the help of Morris McHenry, a surveyor, they selected land on which Isaac lived for 60 years. Isaac Patterson paid $4 per acre for this land. Since this was prairie land, he traveled to Onawa, dug up young trees and planted them around his land.

The first settler to this area had to be resourceful. John J. Woolhiser, an early settler, helped Isaac Patterson with his trees and also planted cottonwoods around his farm which was thereafter known as the "Cottonwood Farm". Because of the age of these trees, only a few are left standing on the land now.

J.J. Woolhiser also had a meat market and route, selling fresh meat slaughtered on his farm. He ground his own grain with a stone burr grinder powered by a stationary steam engine. He had a cheese factory which used milk from his cows and sheep.

Charles W. Payne was another early settler. Payne was involved in farming in eastern Iowa, then ventured to western Iowa and Crawford County where he became involved in land speculation. Besides extensive farmland, Payne owned two business blocks and six lots on which the elevator stood.

These were times of great prosperity for the area. The immigration of Irish and German families brought new money into this area, stimulating activity in all trades and in every line of business.

Organized School for the Children

A church for families and school for the children became a high priority once a settlement had been established. Usually the building that was erected was central to the area and was used as schoolhouse and meeting house. This was especially true in the townships. These rural schools continued to give area students a good education until the West Side Consolidated School opened its doors for all area youth. The first school in West Side was opened in 1873 in the carpenter shop. Miss Mattie Snodgrass taught the winter term.

Freeman Knowles, a lawyer by profession, a carpenter by trade and a telegraph implement manufacturer and operator for recreation, was hired to build a schoolhouse for the sum of $1,300, to be completed by October 1, 1873. It was to be 24x30 feet in size and an "undoubted ornament to the town."

The number of students increased rapidly and an addition of 16 feet was added to the school. Freeman Knowles taught 40-50 students for several terms in this building. In 1879, George Worchester became principal.

An item in the November 1873 newspaper states: "West Side can boast of having the neatest looking schoolhouse of any town its size along the railroad. It reflects credit upon the liberality of the people and merit for the ability of the contractor."

Churches Established

The Rev. Benjamin Shinn was perhaps the first preacher to bring the gospel message to West Side. The first church services were held in the railroad depot. By 1879 the Methodists began building their own hour of worship. The townships of West Side and Hayes became divided into two different Methodist Conferences, which was detrimental to the opportunity for mutual helpfulness between the people and preachers of the townships. John Pendray was a preacher at this time.

St. Matthew's Catholic Church, a mission church of St. Ann of Vail, was built in 1887 at a cost of $2,700. Fr. Murphy of Vail served a congregation of 100, holding services once a month.

In 1897 St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church was built to serve about 80 families.

West Side Recognition

The Denison Review of October 23, 1869, says that "West Side is now a town--or a town of lots at least." An 1873 description of the town follows: "The town of West Side has an excellent location, situated in the extreme eastern part of Crawford County, in the midst of a thriving farming community, and yet its growth appears to be very slow. Here it is that the railroad company has a turntable and two large water tanks, it being the evident intention of the railroad company to make this place the location for an extra engine to assist heavily loaded freight trains over the summit."

"The prevailing opinion of the slow growth of this town was because of the selfish action of the Iowa Railroad Land Company. The company held back business and valuable lots from the market in order to build up the town of Vail which was named for a railroad official. Because a suitable lot could not be obtained for a schoolhouse, recourse to the law was needed and then lots were opened for public purchase."

Nature's Interventions

During this time, the settlers were planting grain and fattening livestock for their food and market. They had to face the good times and the bad, just as now. The winds, rains, hail and tornadoes did a lot of damage to their homesteads, crops and livestock. A diary of the summer of 185 said that out of a certain 43 days it had rained 41 of those days. The East Boyer River was flowing out of its banks. (It still does.)

Between the years of 1873-76, the area was hit with large invasions of grasshoppers. Stories are told of one September afternoon when the grasshoppers alighted in the corn fields and by night fields were stripped of blades. The corn itself was not greatly damaged, but the grasshoppers laid their eggs and the greatest damage was done the next year after the young hoppers hatched and ate every green thing.

It is told that grasshoppers were so thick upon the rails of the railroad that freight trains were stalled, unable to run over slippery tracks. Farmers were called to clear the rails in front of the trains. Farmers then made an exterminator called a "hopper dozer". This was a wooden or galvanized iron trough which was filled with kerosene or tar. These troughs were attached behind a drag and then driven across a field. The drag caused the grasshoppers to jump, and those that got into the troughs were killed. Another grasshopper crusher was made with barrels or rollers, two in front four feet apart and one following four feet in the rear. The driver sat in the middle and the hoppers were caught as they tried to jump out of the way.

In 1876 the area was hit with an invasion of cinch bugs. No longer would all farmers grow just one grain crop. Some would start to diversify their crops.

The People and Their Organizations

The population figures of 1875 show the township of West Side at 629, Hayes at 315, and Jackson at 264. The town of West Side itself was shown at 367 people. At this time, land in Hayes Township was valued at $6.09 per acre by the County Assessor.

Many of the immigrants to this area came from Germany--quite a few from the Schleswig-Holstein region. They brought many of their customs with them. One custom was of their social entertainment. The Hayes Township Schuetzen Verein was organized in April of 1883 as a shooters' society. The Five Mile House, was and continues to be, their meeting place. The Verein celebrated 110 years of existence in 1993.

The Germania Verein was organized in West Side in 1888 for their social events. The Verein Hall, or Opera House, as it was called, was built in 1893 at a cost of $8,000. The first dance was held there on July 4, 1893. the Germania Verein celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1943, and in 1949 the Verein was dissolved and the hall was sold to the American Legion. This building was then sold to Ray Peters and used for storage. The building was burned down in 1987 to make room for the diesel island of the C Store.

Both Verein Societies regularly held dances and other types of family entertainment, including Children's Day, in which a King and Queen ruled for a day and target shooting and ball throwing, masquerades, dances, wedding dances, school plays, basketball games, free movies, mission fests and other special activities took place. August Rohwer was king at Three Mile House, Five Mile House, and Wall Lake in one year. His gift was sad irons with detachable handles.

The Fraternal Order of the Masonic Lodge, Setting Sun Lodge 349, was chartered June 6, 1876. The Miriam Chapter 457, Order of Eastern Star, was chartered October 23, 1913. The Chapters gave up their charters on October 21, 1968.

Other organizations which were strong for a few years but were gone by 1900 included The Good Templars and the Grand Army of the Republic. The Highland Nobles, which became the American Nobles, was started in West Side in 1899, known as Dunavanty Lodge 55 which constituted an insurance order. The West Side Camp 2991 M.W.A.--Modern Woodmen of America--was a social organization in point of membership. Meetings were held in the Masonic Hall with gatherings as social events.

An Insurance Company of Neccesity

The Home Mutual Insurance Association of Carroll County was born of necessity. In 1878 a fire completely destroyed the William Kusel farm five miles north of Manning. The Eastern Insurance Company would not consider writing insurance out on the Iowa prairie, so Mr. Kusel had no insurance.

Wilhelm Pruter, George Lehmkuhl and Dethlef Lehmkuhl contacted 18 of their neighbors and took up a collection to help Mr. Kusel rebuild. When that was done, they had money left over, so they decided to start a mutual insurance company.

The first meeting was on June 23, 1878, at the Five Mile House. Wilhelm Pruter was first president; George Tank, secretary; and Dethlef Wiese, treasurer. The first eight policies were issued to Henrich Hagge, Jurgen Ohde, Dethlef Wiese, William Pruter, Claus Thiedeman, John W. Moeller, Johann Wiese and Otto Kruse. The organization was first known as Der Deutchen Gegenseitigen Feur Versicherungs' Gesellschaft fur Carroll und Crawford Counties. In 1920 that name was changed to Home Mutual Insurance Association of Carroll County, Iowa.

The first annual meeting reported 38 members and $26,470 insurance in force. The first meetings and all transaction were written in the German language. This was changed in 1918 and at that time the restriction on only German membership was lifted. The sole purpose of the organization was to provide its members with the best protection at a low cost.

West Side Officially a Town in 1878

The town of West Side was officially incorporated on March 11, 1878. The first officers included Mayor Carl Welding and trustees A. Waterman, M. Smith, W.L. Spotswood, F.J. Gary and C.J. King. The marshal was E.M Whipple. The mayor's salary was $50 per year.

On November 12, 1878, an ordinance was passed to be able to sell intoxicating liquor and to license the dealers who applied. A month later, on December 9, 1878, an ordinance was passed to license pool tables.

In March 1879, Mr. Nelson was elected mayor. In April 1879, an ordinance was passed which required wooden sidewalks. That ordinance reads: "Residential districts to have planks not over 10 inches wide and not less than 6 inches, securely fastened to two 2x4s and nailed with nothing smaller than 20 penny spikes." Sidewalks in the business district were to be the same with the exception of three 2x4s used to secure the planks.

West Side had its first newspaper in 1879 called the West Side Enterprise. This paper was hand set and printed on a glorified "proof press" which was a flat piece of cast iron with guides to hold a large, heavy cast-iron cylinder which furnished the pressure needed for printing. Ink was applied by a hand operated roller. H.C. Ford was editor in 1882.

On May 10, 1880, Mr. Harris was installed as mayor and A.C. Bavin as clerk. In July 1880, Major Harris was charged with defrauding the marshal of his fee to the amount of $2.75, for working against him in the discharge of his official duties, issuing a circus license for $15, and using abusive language. He was impeached from office and Mr. E.W. McCracken was appointed as acting mayor.

A Town Name is Important

West Side became Westside on July 1, 1800, although two words were used as the town name for several years after.

In August 1883, the first major's court case listed in the Criminal Justice Docket was between J.S. Barnes and W.W. Bailey over payment of a promissory note for $11.30.

By 1890 the name of the paper was changed to the West Side Dispatch, with B.L. Ballau as editor.

The city was protected by a volunteer fire department by 1895, although their first written records start in 1899.

The German character of the town is shown in its love of music. The Westside Cornet Band was established in 1897, and the band continued for quite a while. Most towns had their own bands, and they traveled all over to play for those which didn't. The Dohse band played for many years at the Opera House and Five Mile House. The Dohse Quartet, with Alfred Dohse and sons, Peter, William T., and Leroy, also traveled the area.

A Corn Harvester is Invented

Patrick James Lawler, son of John Lawler, Sr., built the first mechanical corn harvester in 1886. The machine was driven with a chain from an old binder bullwheel pulled by horses. It lacked the speed and power to work well, but the principal used in today's corn picker is the same. Patrick and a friend, Frank Berry, built this machine in a blacksmith shop and livery in Vail. Patrick did not profit from this invention, as the McCormick Deering Harvest Company waited until the patent ran out in 1907 before manufacturing their harvester.

Source: Our History Quasquicentennial 1869-1994

We thank Holly Ehlers for submitting this material.