IAGenWeb ~ Decatur County IA ~ History of Grand River



Decatur County, Iowa

Part of the IAGenWeb Project


Contact Us
Decatur Co. Files:
Census Records
Courthouse Records
Family Pages
History Pages
Military Pages
Vital Records
This site is supported by
Friends of IAGenWeb

Search Decatur County's Site
site search by freefind advanced


History of Grand River
Decatur County, Iowa

The land where Grand River eventually was established originally was an ancestral hunting and gathering ground for the Sac and Fox. They harvested sugar maple sap in the spring and nuts in the fall. During the winter of 1851-52, approximately two hundred Pottawattomies encamped on the creek west of the YOUNG farm, located east of present-day Grand River.

One time, while camping on the YOUNG farm, the women 'borrowed' a young William H. "Bill" YOUNG. At the end of the day, he was returned to his mother, fully clothed in buckskins and mocassins which were adorned with beadwork.

My grandfather, Homer FOLAND, often would find artifacts such as arrowheads and stone implements while working in his fields.

With the upcoming arrival of the Humeston & Shenandoah Railroad, the town located approximately a mile from the west bank of the Grand River was laid out in 1881 by E. C. PERKINS for the Town Lot Coporation. The corporation was organized with the purpose of laying out towns along the route of the railroad.

This site was selected after the town of Westerville, located north of the site, passed down the railroad's office to establish it as a railhead.

Several of the early residents suggested names for the new town, which included Beulah and Westerville. During a public meeting held in 1881, C. H. CHAPMAN, proprietor of the Chapman House, made a motion to call the town Grand River. His motion carried and the name was adopted.

When lots were opened for sale, they sold rapidly. The town had a good business from its very start, helped by the existance of the railroad.

By 1886 the following businesses were established:

S. C. Jennings, general store     Brothers and Fear, general store
Samuel Landes, barber shop
    Bay Brothers, grocery store
    and livery stable
Wm. B. Howard, agricultural implements     A. C. Turner, wagon & blacksmith shop
C. Smith, harness shop & coal     Dr. Bone and Cole, drug store
C. W. Stanley, general merchandise     Taylor & Overholtzer, meat market
Kirkendall & Day, wagon & blacksmith shop     Treanor Sisters, millinery shop
J. D. Hargove, Valley House Hotel     Chas. H. Chapman, Chapman Hotel
Patrick Griffin, Postmaster     Noah Farenstaff, clothing store

The school building was erected in 1876; Union Church in 1881.

At the first meeting of the town council December 26, 1899, the following were sworn into office:

Patrick Griffin, Mayor     James C. Brothers, Clerk     A. L. Ackerley, Treasurer
T. T. Beck, Councilman     J. Switzer, Councilman     J. H. Crees, Councilman
Wood Binning, Councilman     J. W. Robinson, Councilman

V. R. McGinnis drew up the articles of incorporation.

The only serious problem that Grand River faced was that there wasn't a bridge over the river. This problem was resolved when an iron bridge was constructed in the summer of 1887, located 1/2 mile east of town.

Early residents of Grand River included: Schuyler JENNINGS, C. H. CHAPMAN, A. R. TAYLOR, John BURHAM, Dr. H. C. BONE, Doctor LANDES, W. J. BECK, and H. C. JENNINGS.

The first business building, known as the Blue Front, was constructed by BOSWORTH & MILLIGAN. The Blue Front operated as a grocery store until it was destroyed by fire in the spring of 1905. Some accounts state that G. W. BRADSHAW established Grand River's first store in 1881. He later entered into partnership with Mr. LAMB. Schuyler C. JENNINGS established a store in 1886.

Patrick GRIFFIN established a bank in 1889. It conducted business as a private institution under the name of Bank of Grand River. A. L. ACKERLY purchased the bank in 1899. It operated as a private bank under the same name until it was incorporated under the name of State Savings Bank of Grand River on July 1, 1900. The name was changed by 1915 with A. L. ACKERLY, president; Patrick GRIFFIN, vice-president; J. C. BROTHERS, cashier; and Charles KELLEY, assistant cashier.

The Farmers Bank was established in 1903 with J. SWITZER, president, and A. R. SWITZER, cashier.

With great fanfare and her streets filled with many celebrants, Grand River her centennial anniversary in 1981.


"Reflections of Grand River: 1881 - 1981." 1981.
Grand River Alumni Book, 1969, Vol. 4

Compilation and submission by Sharon R. Becker, July of 2013; updated November of 2015



Grand River Photograph Album

Click on thumbnail photo or caption to see an enlarged view of the photograph.
Click on "back button" to return to this webpage.


Main Street, 1910

(note unpaved muddy street)

Main Street &

Lamoree Funeral Parlor

Latta's Furniture Store


Grand River bridge


CB&Q Depot

Grand River

Grand River Library


Chapman Hotel


Chapman Hotel

Courtesy of Leo McConnell

City Park, 1909

Courtesy of SRBecker

Grand River, 1911

Courtesy of SRBecker

Parade, year unknown

Opera House in background

Horse Show

year unknown

Horse Show

year unknown

Opera House

under restoration

William "Little Bill" Overholtzer

and his new car

Waubonsie Trailers

year unknown

Ralph, Fred & Tug

Daughton & Friends

John Taylor

and his ice wagon

Charley & Jennie Ann
(Foland) Boles family

Brown's Shell Fence Posts


Putting up hay

Sam Foland farm

John Dale Young


William Hamilton "Bill" Young

Decatur County Treasurer

William H. Young home

northeast of Grand River

John Dale Young

with Martha and Fred

Nervesta (Edwards) Young

& Armina (Ramsey) Edwards

4 Generations

William H. Young family

4 Generations


W.H. Young family


W. H. "Bill" Young

& Custer

Armina (Ramsey) Edwards


Anderson Edwards


Armina (Ramsey) Edwards
& Rachel (Ramsey) Foland

Alexander & Jane (Edwards) Ramsey family

Bessie (Chipp) Jimmerson's

baby photograph

Children of Thomas and Anna (Hopkins) Ramsey

Alvice Ramsey

celebrates 90th birthday

Ramsey Siblings

year unknown

Lucinda (Edwards) Foland

year uknown

Rebecca (Ramsey) Edwards

year unknown

Wilma (Ramsey) Foland

ca. 1960

Homer Foland and team

NE of Grand River

Cleaning catfish: Sam Foland, Russel Boles, Homer Foland

Mary, Harry, Dale & Beulah Foland

Homer Foland cultivating corn

with mules Bill & Dave

George & Anna Grimm Family

August, 1928

Nina and James Miller

50th anniversary 1948

Sanford Foland and first wife, Martha

Sanford Foland and second wife, Eliza

Nellie & Vernie Grimm

50th Anniversary, 1974

Elizabeth "Lizzie" & Edward Emley

Wedding Day, 1891

Esther (Foland) & Ralph Palmer

50th Anniversary, 1969

Mae & Willie Warrick

35th Anniversary, 1945

George & Celeste (Little) Foland family

Van Foland

son of George & Celeste

John and Minerva Foland family

Chris & Lucinda Foland family

Andrew & Henrietta (Foland) Weldon Family

Isaac & Elizabeth Foland Family

Samuel & Sarah Belle (Emley) Foland Family

Homer Lowell Foland

son of Sam & Sarah Belle

sisters Mary Bradshaw, Cass Brammer, Ret Weldon

Mary Ann's descendants

Foland Reunion, Aug. 1960

Bill's descendants

Foland Reunion, Aug. 1960

John's descendants

Foland Reunion, Aug. 1960

Chris' descendants

Foland Reunion, Aug. 1960

Sam's descendants

Foland Reunion, Aug. 1960

Ike's descendants

Foland Reunion, Aug. 1960

3rd Generation Cousins

Foland Reunion, Aug. 1960

Sherman & Gerna Baker

52nd Anniversary, 1968

Tressie & Roy Clawson

50th Anniversary 1964

Hollie & Ella Emley

50th Anniversary, 1970

Dena & Leonard Foland

50th Anniversary, 1958

Fishermen Albert Foland, Zell Boles, Homer Foland

Thelma (Foland) Simbro

Albert & Nolan Foland


5 Generations

Nolan & Wilma Foland

Fred & Elsie Boyd

50th Anniversary, 1951

Leo & Laura McConnell

Wedding Day, 1902

Minnie & James Cole

50th Anniversary, 1957

Vernon & Maud Bradshaw

60th Anniversary, 1976

Thurman Spray Family


Miller Sisters

Clara, Amy and Mary

Harrison Brown


Beulah (Foland) Richards


Pearle V. Bramon & Homer Foland Wedding Day

Samuel "Sam" Foland


Jim Hopkins


Grand River Motorists


Mabel (Foland) Acton


Joseph Andrew Crees


Dale Grimm & Hazel (Grimm) Cushman

Alberta & Eugene Foland

60th Anniversary, 2003

Michael & Huldah Foland

35th Anniversary, 1946

Wilda & Noel Boles

50th Anniversary, 1982

Opha & Shannon Edwards

50th Anniversary, 1974

Wilma & Nolan Foland

44th Anniversary, 1975

Zelma & Ralph Baker

50th Anniversary, 1968

Belva & Mendal Dow Foland

43rd Anniversary, 1975

Grand River Swimming Party

54 lb. catfish

July 9, 1919


Grand River

George & Dale Grimm


Frank & Tersa Foland

50th Anniversary, 1944

Mason & Opal Snethen

50th Anniversary, 1978

Royal & Ruth Boles

50th Anniversary, 1974

Frank & Delma Baker

55th Anniversary, 1983

Grand River Garage

year unknown

The Grand River Local

year unknown

Grand River Filling Station

year unknown

The Overholtzers

year unknown

Unknown Residents

year unknown

John Taylor Ice Wagon

year unknown

Taylors cutting ice

year unknown

Robert Jimmerson home

ca. 1969

Grand River Cafe
ca. 1920

A.M. Spray Auto Garage

ca. 1920

"Bluebird" & Goldie Foland

date unknown

Richard & Ronnie Boles

year unknown

Norma & Homer Foland

& "Ring" ~ Summer 1943

Burnell LaVerne Boles

7 mos., Summer 1940

Della Vanderpool

and unknown

New Manure Spreader

Summer, 1943

Grand River Schoolhouse Museum

Lucille & Reese Boles

Wedding Day, 1920

Mabel & Herbert Foland

43rd Anniversary, 1973

Patty's Back Door & Grill

Aug. 29, 2009

The Palmer Family

Ralph's Furlough WWI

May, 1942

mules Bill & Dave

ca. 1940

Richard Boles

Summer, 1937

Grand River men

names unknown

Cast of "AllStar Wedding"

Fri., April 12, 1946

"AllStar Wedding" Program

Fri., April 12, 1946


year unknown

Percy & Tressie Gilreath

year unknown

Making Cider

year unknown

Gary & Larry Rose

Summer, 1940

Takin' A Picture With My Brownie Camera

Drivin' to Missouri

ca. 1920

Alice & Ernie Foland Home


Pvt. Ernest Dale Grimm
& Jackie Gilreath

Plowin', 1940


Grand River Men

year unknown

Rachel H. (Hopkins) Wheelis

year unknown

Little Narvesta (Wheelis)
Comstock Burchett

Joseph A., Minerva,
Lois & Ethel Moren, 1905

Luster & Nettie Margaret
(Burchett) Foland

Luster & Nettie Foland


William Cole family


William Cole family

year unknown

Foland Brothers

Arthur, Harry & Homer, 1944

Richard and Ermal Boles


William Wheelis

year unknown

Pvt. Charles A. Ladd


Olga and Emil Carlson

year unknown

4-G Club

June, 1946

4-G Club

ca. 1955 or 1956

Becker kids
get a plane ride

Becker kids all grown up

Homer Foland

with one of his hogs

Grant & Jon Becker

feeding the pigs

Pearle V. Foland

with her flock of chickens

Mary and Harry Foland
& Mary Beth Richards

Emma, Edd & Ida Emley

year unknown

Anna and George Grimm

year unknown

Eldon Spray

year unknown

3 Generations of students

Mrs. Irene Schwalbe

Daughton & Bone

Investment & Insurance, 1925

Grand River 42# Catfish

Year Unknown

Grand River Post Office


Hewlett Lumber Supply


Grand River Oil Co.


Charles Ladd American Legion

Post & Lions Hall

Michael and Elizabeth (Sowerine) Foland hearthstone

Michael and Elizabeth (Sowerwine) Foland home

Sam Foland home

ne of Grand River

Brown Produce

old Evans building

Grand River

Courtesy of Leo McConnell

Grand River, 1940's

Courtesy of Leo McConnell

Fletcher Barber Shop

present day Post Office

Rev. Mooberry


"Grand River Hotel"

east of Grand River

Grand River Veterans

year unknown

restored Victorian

Aug. 29, 2009

E. Ray & Gussie (Foland) Morrell home

Aug. 29, 2009

E. Ray Morrell


Grand River Fun Day

Parade Marshals

Grand River Fun Day


Norma G. (Foland) Becker

July 5, 2013

Frank S. Bone Family


Valley Grocery

Courtesy of Leo McConnell

Van's Grocery

Courtesy of Leo McConnell

Van Ritchie


Switzer Home

September, 2013

Ruth Boles

& Cookie the bird

Goldie (South) Stark

our lunch lady

Grand River Rodeo


Grand River T-Shirt & Caps


Grand River Ball Field

July 9, 2016

Grand River Cemetery

courtesy of Melinda Mackey

Leonard & Dena Foland Home

north of Grand River

Decatur Co. State Bank

Grand River Office

Richard Schwalbe


Baker/Moren house


Bob Burchett



From Grand River Alumni Banquet booklets:

Old Time Shucking Bee

C. Brothers & H. Griffin

Ford Days

Grand River Local

1909 Town Band

4-H Demonstration Team

Girls' 4-H, 1929

4-H Orchestra

1929 Big Snow
Dr. & Mrs. J. Carr

Grand River's Baseball Team

Baseball became the rage across the nation during the late 1890's and early 1900's. Almost every town had their own baseball team. When one team played another nearby town's team, home town fans would follow, some by the carload, others by rail. Below are photographs of Grand River's town ball team.

Click on thumbnail photograph or caption above to view enlargement;
click on your browser's 'back' button to return to this webpage.

Grand River Baseball Team
, ca. 1905
Photograph from Grand River Quasquicentennial Book, 2006

Roy Burchett
Sunday, June 21, 1910

Mike (Burchett?) &
Roy Burchett, ca. 1910

Roy Burchett (left)
& Reese Boles?, 1910
Photographs courtesy of Bob and Kate Burchett, Jenni Boles Determann

Photographs courtesy of William "Bill" & Alice May Johnston

Grand River Business Directory, 1894

Click on thumbnail then magnifying glass icon
to see an enlarged view of the directory page.
Click on "back button" to return to this webpage.


Click on image above to view The Centennial Edition of the Grand River Local;
click on your browser's 'back' button to return to this webpage.



Grand River Centennial

Click on image above to view Grand River's Quasquicentennial 1881 - 2006 Photo Album;
click on your browser's 'back' button to return to this webpage.

Articles Regarding Grand River

  • Early Civic Matters

  • A Visit to Grand River, date unknown

  • Grand River News:
       Sept. 28, 1893    Oct. 28, 1897    Feb. 04, 1904    June 16, 1904    July 28, 1904

  • First National Bank robbery, 1912

  • Grand River fire of 1915

  • Grand River Reunion, 1938

  • Grand River Goes to Dial Phone System, Dec. 6, 1980

  • Community Center's Grand Opening, date unknown

  • "Along The Way" by Herb Owens, The Des Moines Tribune
        featured Grand River residents:

        Hannah (STREET) BAKER        Bessie (CHIPP) JIMMERSON

        Malvina (COLE) MILLSTEAD     E. Ray MORRELL


  • Grand River Fun Day, September 10, 2016

    Webpage created by Sharon R. Becker, 2010; updated November of 2015; updated February of 2017

    Grand River's churches may be found on Decatur County's Church Pages.

    Grand River's schools may be found on Decatur County's School Pages.

    webpage created by Sharon R. Becker, 2010; updated Feburary of 2017

    NOTE: Many people have generously opened up their photo albums and collections
    to graciously share with us. Please extend the same courtesy back to them ~
    ask for permission from the coordinator of this site before you "borrow" these images. Thank You.