The Town of WellsburgWellsburg is regarded as one of the best trading centers in Central Iowa. There is possibly not another town under 500 inhabitants within an area of a hundred miles around us that does as large a volume of business during the year as this town. There are at present three elevators, and their grain receipts for the year exceed those of any other town in Grundy county. There are five general stores which do a business on an average of $175,000.00 a year. There are three hardware stores, the same number of implement dealers, two lumber yards and two banks.
The town is located in the center of one of the best farming sections in Iowa. The farmers are specialists in their line of business they are unusually prosperous and naturally a town that draws its support from such a people possesses an advantage that helps to keep it in the front rank of thriving towns in Iowa. The town has a good system of water works, it has a splendid gas lighting system and a new $10,000 school house is to be one of the improvements made in 1911. Property values are high and they are going higher. Incidentally Wellsburg showed a larger percentage of population increase in the 1910 census than any other town in Grundy county.
--Atlas of Grundy County, Iowa, 1911
WellsburgYesterday, Today And Tomorrow
A Pen Picture of One of the Liveliest Little Towns in Iowa.
A Few Items Regarding the Town's Progress.
A year ago citizens of Wellsburg came together and resolved to incorporate their town. The thought was carried out. Wellsburg was incorporated, and active, wide-awake men were put in as officers. The town immediately awake and began the improvement, which is still going on. We venture the assertion that Wellsburg has made more advancement in this, its first year, as a town, than any other place in Iowa has done in the same length of time. A representative of the Democrat has made almost weekly visits to Wellsburg and has noted the improvements and the awakening.
During the year just passed a good jail has been built, and a rock pile arranged for. The latter has a tendency to keep vagrants and tramps at a distance, but those who do come this way generally contribute a little towards macadamizing our streets.
The work of macadamizing the streets was begun January 1, and will be completed early this spring. When this is finished, our town will have the best paved streets in Grundy or Hardin county, with sidewalks in front of every house in town, also from the depot to the business center, a distance of six blocks.
Five more blocks of sidewalk and five more street crossings will be put in as soon as the weather will permit this spring.
For the year just ending the mayor reports the receipts of $13.72 from poll and other taxes, in work and cash. From fines collected the school fund received $107.00. The total number of convictions this first year in the mayor's court was 63. The number sentenced to jail by the mayor was seven. The number of fines remitted by the mayor, four. The first improvement ordered was an eleven foot sidewalk, which was put down in front of all business houses about July 1, 1896.
Mayor's Report For The Past Year
March 8, 1897
Gentlemen of the City Council: I herewith present you with my yearly report of my office for the year commencing May 13, 1896, and ending March 1, 1897:
The number of trials under the state law was as follows:
|Disturbing the peace||13|
The number of trials under ordinance were:
Total number of cases tried was 63
Total amount of fines collected under the state law, $99.00.
|Sent to jail||9|
|Not guilty under state law||3|
|Fines collected under city ordinance |
for disorderly houses
|Grand total from all sources||$714.72|
W. T. Chinn, Mayor
Receipts and disbursements for the town of Wellsburg for the year ending March 9, 1897:
|Poll tax and property taxes||13.72|
|Lumber, jail, road work, crossings, |
sidewalks, and general expenses, total
|Balance on hand||$116.21|
The City's Officers
We give below a sketch of the town officers during the first year of its incorporation. Their portraits will be found on a separate sheet of fine paper, and are presented to our readers as a souvenir of the first year of the incorporated town of Wellsburg. What has been accomplished by these efficient officers will be found elsewhere in this issue.
William T. Chinn was born in Rock Island, Ill., August 27, 1852. After attending public schools and receiving instruction from private teachers, he took the medical course at the State University of Iowa and also graduated at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Iowa, at Keokuk, Iowa. He holds state certificate No. 3595, A.
Dr. Chinn practiced in his chosen profession in both Scott and Muscatine counties, coming to Grundy county in November of 1894.
It was through his efforts and the assistance of others that Wellsburg was incorporated. He has shown himself thoroughly competent to manage municipal affairs, being broad-minded and working always for the city's advancement.
Mayor Chinn is personally known to inhabitants of northwest Grundy, and highly spoken of by them. A visit to his hospitable home, presided over by his excellent wife and entertaining daughter, Mabel, will convince all that Dr. Chinn deserves the kind words from his friends and neighbors. Mayor Chinn is well read in his profession, and also keeps himself posted on national, state, and local politics, and is qualified to fill any position our people could bestow upon him. As a mayor his judgment is clear. He believes our laws were made for everybody and he deals out justice accordingly. He knows no clique or clan and gives all cases a thorough investigation, his only desire being to do his duty. Our people have shown their appreciation of this worthy townsman by electing him to the office of mayor for another term.
John G. Bullanger was born in Dyersville, Dubuque county, Iowa, in 1861, and resided there with his parents until he was 23 years of age. He went to Jesup, Iowa, and accepted a position as harnessmaker with Theo. Miller, he having worked seven years at this business at Dyersville. After leaving Jesup, Mr. Bullanger worked at Earlville, Dyersville, Worthington, Dubuque, and finally returned to Jesup and again accepted a position with Theo. Miller, and was married in October, 1893 to Miss Mary Miller, a daughter of his employer. He remained with Mr. Miller for three years more, when he moved with his family to Wellsburg, and accepted the position of harnessmaker with Martin & Faust, which position he still holds with the Martins, Mr. Faust deceased.
The subject of our sketch has given the people of this community good service as a harnessmaker since he has come to Wellsburg and is a fine fellow socially. Everybody knowns John.
John H. Muller was born in Leer, Germany, July 4, 1845, of German descent, came to this country in 1868, locating in Grundy county on a farm five miles southeast of Ackley, Iowa. He moved to Chicago in 1890, where he lived four and one-half years. He worked on the ornamental work of the World's fair buildings for a year and a half and was expressman for about eighteen months. He came back to Grundy county two years ago and located in Wellsburg where he engaged in the butcher business. Mr. Muller was elected as recorder of the town of Wellsburg the first year of its incorporation and has been re-elected to that position for the coming year. Mr. Muller is well known in this community and has the respect of all.
Dick Peters was born one mile north of the town of Wellsburg, and has resided here ever since. He farmed with his father, Jacob Peters, until February, 1896, when he entered the lumber, coal and lime business with Claas Primus. He is a thoroughly reliable young man and has been conducting a very good business here for the past year. He is the deputy marshal of the city.
Peter Klugkist was born in Weener, Ostfriesland, Germany, in 1862, of German parentage. He came to Chicago, Ill., in 1882, where he worked at the bench as a journeyman shoemaker for two years, he having served an apprenticeship of seven years at this trade in his native country. In 1885 he came to Grundy county and located in Wellsburg. He accepted a clerkship with Joseph Doyen, a general merchant which position he held for two years. In 1887 he purchased the stock of his employer, and has continued the business here since that time. He has a fine store building to which he will add another story in the spring. A special feature of his store is the neatness of arrangement and cleanliness with which he keeps his goods and building.
Mr. Klugkist is a lover of fine horses and has several good ones of his own. He is a public-spirited man and is always one of the first to take hold of anything of benefit to the town or the people of Wellsburg. He does business on business principles and has the esteem and respect of the entire community.
D. H. Bonacker
D. H. Bonacker was born in Johnstown, Pa., in 1857; left there with his parents at the age of 6 years, and located at Freeport, Ill., in 1863, where they resided until the spring of 1877 when he came with his parents to Clinton, Iowa. In 1879 they moved to Ackley, Iowa, where his parents still reside. Mr. Bonacker lived in Ackley for seventeen years, during which time he worked for four years with the firm of Martin & Faust, and afterward engaged in the furniture and agricultural implement business for himself. Over a year ago he was again employed by Martin & Faust to take charge of their store at Wellsburg. He was married to Miss Louisa Heffelmeyer at Ackley, Iowa, in 1882, and now has a nice family of two boys and four girls.
As will be seen by the foregoing sketch Mr. Bonacker is a man who is thoroughly reliable, and has made a host of friends during his short residence here.
J. A. Schafer
J. A. Schafer was born in Campen, Germany, and came to this country in 1865, locating in Steven county, Ill., and came to Grundy county twenty-nine years ago, locating two miles east of Wellsburg. He has been engaged in the machinery business in this town for twelve years. Mr. Schafer has the respect of this community and is a steady and trusty man.
J. Doyen, one of Wellsburg's first alderman, was born in Lubbertsfehn, Amtaurich, Germany on the 10th of September, 1853. He came to this country with his parents in 1867, and located on a farm near Wellsburg. in 1876, Mr. Doyen was married and moved to Chicago, where he resided for about seven years. He again located in Wellsburg in 1883, and entered the general merchandise business, which he successfully conducted until 1887, when he sold to Peter Klugkist. He then opened a general hardware and implement business and is today conducting a very successful business in this line. His advertisement may be found in another column.
J. L. Hartman
J. L. Hartman was born near Nelsonville, Ohio, in November, 1858, and came to Linn county in 1861, with his parents. After this they made several changes, but their home was at Springville, Iowa. In 1872 the family moved to Hardin county, where he resided until he moved to Wellsburg in 1892. On arriving at this place Mr. Hartman opened a blacksmith shop and is conducting a very successful business in that line at the present time. He has followed farming principally and owns a fine farm in Hardin county.
Claas Primus was born in Campen, Germany, in 1851, of German descent, and came to this country with his parents in 1856, locating in Sheybogan, Wis. He moved to Illinois in the spring of 1857, and came to Grundy county in 1865, his parents locating on the old Primus farm four miles southwest of Wellsburg. He worked on the farm with his parents for ten years when he married Miss G. Riekena, and began operating a farm for himself, which farm he still owns. In 1894 Mr. Primus opened a store in Wellsburg. This business he still conducts and in connection has a lumber and coal business with Mr. Peters.
Mr. Primus was chairman of the board of supervisors for four years and served six years on the board, and has held a number of other influential positions in the county. He was alderman during the first year of the incorporation of Wellsburg and holds the respect of the entire community.
Town officers for ensuing year elected March 1, are as follows:
|Alderman||J. L. Hartman and W. Trey|
|Street Commissioner||Peter Klugkist|
Some idea of the amount of business done in Wellsburg may be gleaned from the following report, made by the agent of the B., C. R. & N. railway, at Wellsburg:
|Martin & Faust||2,157||152,795|
|H. B. Koolman||236|
|J. A. Carton Co.||111||307|
Mdse. received, in round numbers, 1,500,000 pounds yearly.
Neessen Bros. and Primus & Peters handled each about seventy cars of lumber, coal and building materials.
From May 1, 1896 to Oct. 21, 1895, J. L. Sperry, Grundy Center's creameryman, purchased eggs from the following dealers, which the figures will explain:
|H. B. Koolman||756|
W. F. Graham
W. F. Graham was born in Wigtonshire Scotland, August 15, 1870, of Scotch descent. He remained there until 16 years of age. Came to Earlville, Ill., in February, 1886. In 1887 he went to Elgin, Ill., and accepted a position with the Elgin Butter company, remaining about a year when he was sent to Watertown, Wis., by this firm where he conducted a creamery for them over two years. He then moved to New Hartford, Iowa, where himself and brother purchased a creamery. This firm of Graham Bros., also conducted two creameries in the western part of the state, one at Hull, and one at Sioux Center, both in Sioux county. After four years the brothers sold out their business and the subject of our sketch visited his old home in Scotland for about one year. Returning to New Hartford in October of 1895, the brothers again formed a partnership and purchased the Dairyville, Grundy county, creamery. This they conducted for one year, when W. F. sold his interest to his brother and purchased the Wellsburg creamery December 1, 1896.
This creamery receives about 45,000 pounds of milk a week, is conducted on thorough business principles and the product is all shipped to New York where it brings the top notch in prices. Mr. Graham attended the National Butter Maker's association at Rockford, Ill., in 1894, and secured a bronze medal for the product of the New Hartford creamery. He is a man in love with his business and Wellsburg is fortunate in securing him as one of her business men. The Wellsburg creamery is in position to handle all milk brought to it and pay the highest prices. Our farmers will be wise if they add more cows to their herd and those who have not as yet gone into the milk business should investigate the subject. We have good grass in the county and the market for milk is always good compared to that for grain. Study on this subject will help our farmers to solve the problem of how to make money out of their land.
--Grundy County Democrat (Grundy Center, Iowa), 11 March 1897
The City of WellsburgWellsburg is situated in the northwestern part of Grundy county in the midst of the richest farming community in the state. For miles on either side thrifty German farmers, happy in the possession of their homes, have joined hands with the business-man in making Wellsburg one of the most important towns of its size in Iowa. Its many business lines are represented by five general stores, three hardware store, two drug stores, three implement stocks, two furniture stocks, harness shops, two lumber yards, two elevators and one of the most substantial banks in the county; besides hotels, restaurants, livery barns, shops, etc., all well capitalized and prosperous. The Rock Island railway furnishes ample provisions for freight and passenger traffic. The town is provided with city water, a local and long distant telephone system; together with the best of school and church facilities. New cement walks are being layed along every thoroughfare while substantial business blocks and beautiful homes adorn the well kept streets. Wellsburg has long enjoyed a steady, healthy growth; her citizens are happy, entertaining and hospitable constituting an ideal place to enter business or live in retirement.
|Dr. W. T. Chinn||Mayor|
|R. J. Williamson||Attorney|
|H. B. Koolman, Pres.||D. J. Riekena|
|Walter Neessen||John Tjaden|
|D. J. Peters||Joseph Doyen|
--The Wellsburg Herald (Wellsburg, Iowa), 11 January 1907, pg 4
Monday Fire At Wellsburg Brings $6000 LossOld Church Building Owned By Doyens Burns With Much Machinery
Fire Monday afternoon destroyed the old church building at Wellsburg owned by the Doyen estate, causing a loss estimated at $6,000. The building was used as a warehouse for the storage of new farm machinery.
The fire originated between the ceiling and the roof of the building. When it was discovered the flames were coming through the roof. The fire company responded promptly after the alarm was turned in but before they got there the entire inside of the building was in flames. It was not possible to remove any of the contents. The fire company turned two hoses loose on the building and they were able to hold the blaze within the walls of the building. The roof and the interior of the building and the contents were completely destroyed. Nothing but the shell of the building remained and this was partly burned from the inside. What is left is not worth enough to pay the wrecking charges.
The building was located in the northeast part of town. There was a strong wind from the south. Had the fire not been kept confined within the walls it would have been difficult to save the Tjaden residence property directly north of the building.
The cause of the fire is not known. It is possible that it might have caught from a lighted cigarette carried to the building by a sparrow. The building was locked at the time and there had been no one inside of it during the day.
The skating rink west of the burned building suffered some damage to the floor.
The loss is a severe blow to the owners as they carried no insurance on building or contents. The Doyens have two other buildings in town in which they carry a portion of their stock. There is insurance on the other buildings and the stock they contain. They believed that this building being pretty well out of the fire range would justify them to get along without any insurance protection.
The new farm machinery in the building may have some salvage value. Such pieces as may have some value will be rebuilt and offered for sale.
The burned building was the first church erected in Wellsburg by the Reformed denomination. It was built 34 years ago. The rapidly growing congregation outgrew the first frame building and in 1916 it was replaced by the present modern and commodious church. J. C. Doyen bought the old church building and moved it to the vacant lot which it since occupied.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 25 June 1931
Main street Wellsburg is considered the two business blocks of Adams Street. It was a two-way street until 14 April 1958. At the 17 March 1958 Community Club meeting, Mayor Luke Groninga introduced discussion the possibility of making the two business blocks one-way going north. After considerable discussion the club voted unanimously to go on record as favoring a trial run for the proposal. Backed by action of the Community Club, Main Street became one-way on 14 April 1958 in an effort to relieve the hazardous heavy truck travel from the south and to allow ease in parking on both sides of the street when approaching from the south.
--Wellsburg Herald (Wellsburg, Iowa), 20 March 1958
From Wells To Wellsburg
|Mrs. Lillie Lindaman||Mrs. George Sietsema, Jr.|
|Mrs. C. C. Graham||Mrs. Mayo Tjaden|
|Stenciling And Mimeographing|
|Mrs. Ronald deNeui|
The history of Wellsburg for the February 14, 1962, program for the Study Club by Mrs. Graham and Mrs. Lindaman. That sounded rather difficult to us. In fact someone made the remark, "Why they don't know anything about Wellsburg. They weren't even born here." Well, that was no fault of ours because our parents lived in Tama and Grundy Center, respectively. So naturally, that was where we were born.
With such a challenge, not being born here, we decided to do the best we could in ferreting out the early history of Wellsburg. We contacted the now elderly sons and daughters of the early settlers, who were more than anxious to reminisce about the stories their parents told them. We found an old Grundy County Atlas, published in 1911, that contributed very meager information. We found old clippings, old pictures and choice tid-bits of gossip which we will combine to make the history of Wellsburg.
We are not infallible, so no doubt there may be some errors and many events have unknowingly been omitted. Much time and labor was spent in compiling this manuscript, but it has also been mixed with pleasure. Listening to stories of the olden times sharing something new, sometimes sad and sometimes ludicrous, the work has proved rewarding. We are indeed grateful to everyone who has assisted us in obtaining this information and will kindly overlook any errors or discrepancies.
Early in 1860, a Connecticut yankee, a fearless pioneering character by the name of George Wells journeyed to the Iowa prairies. He wished to find land favorable for cattle raising and found what he sought for in Grundy County. George Wells and his partner, Martin Armour, of Chicago, bought land in the vicinity of what is now Wellsburg, from a syndicate at $2.50 an acre. They purchased 1500 acres of this virgin prairie and raised cattle by the thousands.
Eventually, Mr. Armour went back to Chicago and became affiliated with the Armour and Company packing house which is still doing business.
Mr. Wells remained here to continue his cattle raising business. His foreman was Robert Hamilton, remembered by many of the old settlers.
Mr. Wells built himself a home south of what is now the town, on the place now occupied by the John Meyer family. He took advantage of the natural resource there, the springs, where he put his watering troughs for his cattle and also piped it to his home. One of the springs is still running. Incidentally, the house occupied by the Eberline sisters is a part of the original George Wells home.
When the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern railroad came this far west, it cut diagonally through Wells' land.
In 1880, Mr. Wells gave one square mile of land to be the town of Wells. The name Wells was on the depot for many years but later had the burg added to it. He wished to have the town located where the railroad crosses the street east of town and have the main street run east and west. While he was gone east on a business trip his plans were changed for him. He originally had about thirty Irish and Yankee cowboys working for him. But enterprising, hard working East frisian Germans migrated into this territory from Illinois. They decided it would be better to have the town where it now stands with Main Street running north and south and ran it dead at both ends.
Mr. Wells continued his cattle raising business, but cattle raising needs cowboys and cowboys needed horses of which he had vast numbers. In the summer the cattle were herded north of town and in the winter brought south of town. One winter the horses contracted a disease and he lost over forty head. No rendering works existed so they were left on a heap all winter. That summer, straw was hauled around them and an attempt was made to burn the carcasses. With the north winds of winter and the south winds of summer, the town was a dreadfully foul smelling place.
About ten small houses built far apart constituted the town. But what is town without a store? Joseph Doyen built the first store in 1880. Then H. Frerichs constructed a building and began business. About a year later Mr. Wells built the store on the corner now occupied by Sentman's. Later he sold out to T. Isebrands. Martin and Faust used the east part for a hardware store. In 1885, the whole town was destroyed by fire with the exception of the Wells' store and a few of the dwellings.
The town was incorporated in 1896 with a total of 25 legal voters. The first mayor was Dr. Chinn and E. Davis was the first marshall. The councilmen were J. H. Hartman, Joseph Doyen, Claus Primus, Peter Kiugkist, John Schafer and Dan Bonicker.
Gradually more people settled in the town and more business houses were established along Main Street now named Adams Street.
Let's take a look at this early Main Street and see what went on there. Let's begin at the north end where the Boy Scouts have their meetings now.
Here was a Livery Barn owned by John Freerksen and son. The Livery Barn was where you could drive in and tie up your horses while you were doing your business in town. You paid a nominal sum and your horses were fed and out of the cold. Also, just in case you were a country school teacher or your best girl lived in the country, you could hire a rig and drive out.
Next, where Dr. Meyer's office is now, was another building which housed a saloon. It was also owned by the Freerksens who lived upstairs. It had a porch upstairs built out over the sidewalk, where the folks would sit and rock in their rocking chairs in the evening and watch the goings on, up and down the street.
Adjoining this was a small frame building where the Robert Flentje Variety Store was located and he really carried a variety. For the children there were long black stockings, Ferris waists with garters, black sateen bloomers, and Baby booties, pinning blankets, baby rattles and pacifiers. Ladies gauze vests, various colors of long bloomers, corsets, strings and black stockings were displayed on the lingerie counters. There were straw hats, suspenders, sleeve holders, pipes and moustache cups for the men besides the tin kitchen ware, pencils, slates, hair ribbons, lace and paper fans.
The next building was a brick and built by John Miller. It now houses the Public Library in the basement, Eldon Huisman, attorney, has his law office on the first floor and living quarters are on the second floor. In it's time it has served as a Pool Hall, Post Office, Bowling alley, skating rink, garage and printing office. Neil Ashby edited the Wellsburg Herald here for years and his slogan was "Watch Wellsburg Work." A butcher shop was in the next frame building and later a bakery owned by Beecroft and Brocksmith. The Tom Beecroft family lived on the second floor and Mr. Beecroft was the baker. Later Klaas Witbaard and family who were newly arrived immigrants from Holland took over the business. It was very difficult to do business with them until they learned to speak a little English and how to make change in American money.
Next we come to the J. C. Doyen store where a new up to date building stands. Now owned and operated by the son and grandsons and great grandson of the original owner. You could spend hours in the old store and never see everything. The pot bellied stove occupied the center of the room, surrounded by numerous spitoons, and incidentally some of those men had poor aim, coal buckets, piles of broken crates and cardboard cartons which were used for fuel to keep the place warm. The small windows in front didn't let in much light but you could distinguish that the ceiling was completely covered with merchandise for sale. Hung on long wire hooks, the items included lanterns, coal shovels, dust pans, lamp wicks, rat traps, hamestraps, horse collars, small kettles, whisk brooms, diaper satchels, tea pots, coffee pots and gray granite chamber pots. If you wished to make a purchase you could only look to the ceiling and it no doubt would be there. There were a couple of cold rooms off to the side, one was filled with furniture which he also sold and the other room, if you ever got to peep into it, gave you an eerie feeling because there were rows of coffins lined up. He was also the undertaker, as is his son and grandson.
On leaving the store you passed a glass case which contained an assortment of mouth watering candy concoctions, long ropes of black licorice which if you chewed you could spit tobacco juice just like your dad. There were jaw breakers, little nigger babies, pink and white peppermints and those tiny tin frying pans and tiny tin spoons with which to eat the miniature fried egg out of the pan. All for a penny a piece.
On top of this case there were boxes of cigars which if you purchased one and wished to consume at once, you could light on an automatic cigar lighter for free. Home Comfort, Old Rye, Bull Durham smoking tobacco and Horse Shoe chewing tobacco were also available.
And last but not least you could get "Alpenkreuter" which was some type of herb medicine which was a sure cure for anything and everything. You would get a large bottle for $1.00 and no doubt the alcoholic content was high enough to make you forget all your ailments.
Let's go on to the next building which is now the Heronimus Feed Store. There was another saloon, in fact at one time there were seven saloons open and doing a thriving business. Later there was a restaurant here and finally a moving picture show operated by the depot agent, Cecil Filer. His wife played the piano in harmony with the murder pictures, the slapstick comedy and the mushy love scenes. One stove heated the building and in the winter you froze your feet and in the summer you nearly suffocated: no ventilation. One night during a particularly exciting show, where a man was chasing a lovely lady, an elderly bachelor, Eilt Stopplemore, got carried away, jumped up and shouted, "Kill the son of a @#$%^!" On the corner where the tavern is now used to be a general store run by Peter Klugkist. Later it was Gladstone's store and then was made into a bank. Chris Neessen, Claus Primus, Harm Frerichs and Dick Riekena were some of the men connected with the bank. The west end of this building was used as an office by the local veterinarian, Dr. C. C. Graham for over 20 years.
Let's cross the street, and before the days when anyone had ever heard of "Radiant Heating" which now occupies the building and is owned by the Geerdes brothers, there was another saloon owned by Charlie Schrage. This was during the time when everyone wanted to invent perpetual motion. Schrage also had the idea and a well was dug back of the saloon. An enormous wheel would turn for a few minutes, but nothing perpetual came of it. Dr. Uran had his office there later, and numerous restaurants followed.
Next door to the south was another general store owned by Claus Primus. It was like all country stores. Barrels of crackers standing around, boxes of dried fish and big round cheeses with a huge knife to sever triangles of cheese from the big round cheese. Everyone helped themselves to crackers and cheese. An old gray cat roamed about and it is rumored it had kittens in the big box of tea. Tea came in big square matting boxes lined with tin foil. The kids collected the foil and the women wanted the matting to make into sun bonnets. Later his son-in-law, Dick Riekena, took over and he sold it to Maurice and John Gladstone. They were Jews and Jews have always been noted for being splendid businessmen which they were. After that, Jack Fischer had the Wellsburg Hardware Store there for many years. Now the front part of the place is fitted up as a barber shop run by Fred Potter.
If Alpenkreuter from Doyen's failed to cure your ailments, you could go to the next business establishment, the Drug Store run by Diebner. Beside the usual run of things found in drug stores like the shelves full of big brown square bottles with big round knobs for stoppers which contained all sorts of pills, powders and capsules. They had a corner for an ice cream parlor. There were round tables and chairs with curly wire legs where you could sit and eat your five or ten cent dish of ice cream or sip lemonade. A small case in front displayed an amazing array of watches. The dollar Ingersoll pocket watches guaranteed for a year and the braided leather watch chain to go with it. Jake Lutterman and O'Neill were druggists before Mart Boeke took it over. He still dispenses ice cream and soft drinks over a high counter where you sit on stools or in a booth where the fellows can take their dates after a game.
If the Hostetter's bitters or the Swamp Root Tonic or Lydia Pinkham's for Pale Women, a baby in every bottle, which was sold in the early drug stores didn't serve your purpose you could go upstairs to Dr. Heddens who was the local physician for many years.
We are getting modern now and a large brick building was built by Dick Claassen. The Ross brothers rented the north half of it for a garage since automobiles such as the White Steamer, Flying Cloud, Maxwell, and Essex were becoming more numerous and always needed repair. Later it was occupied by the Flessner Implement Company.
The south half was a grocery and dry goods store for many years run by Herman and Miner Haack, then Herman Haack and Herman Hook. Due to ill health Haack sold out to Hook who took over until the building was sold to the Wellsburg Hardware Company owned and operated by Ed Ammann. He has an exceedingly well stocked store carrying everything in the hardware line. You might say it was a "Tools Paradise." He also dispenses free coffee in the rear of the store.
Next to this was a small wooden building in which first Dr. Thom and later Dr. Chinn had their office.
Sam Snittjer tore down the old building and put up a brick meat market operated by John Snittjer with the assistance of Henry Ashing. Later Wessel Haack was the butcher here. You didn't buy meat in paper containers wrapped in plastic, but you designated which half of a roast you wanted and he would cut off a slab to suit you. Threw in a little suet too. You could buy real soup bones which are unheard of now. They all go under the name of hamburger. He would give you a little liver for the cat and a few bones for your dog. Dill pickles or oysters or pickled pig's feet were sold in square pasteboard buckets with a wire handle over the top. They were convenient to carry, but usually leaked. He always kept sawdust on the floor which you pushed around into fancy designs with your feet while you waited. Lawrence Ackerman had a grocery store here. Orville Kramer was the next butcher and then it was sold to Sherwood Snittjer. A beauty parlor and barber shop have occupied the basement recently, but now is the living quarters of Westendorfs who run the pool hall where the meat market was formerly.
Martin and Faust built the next place for a hardware and implement store. Dick Beving purchased the business which is now owned by his two sons, John and "Red." It is an all inclusive store. Besides handling things usually stocked in hardware stores, they deal in furniture, TV sets and both boys are licensed morticians.
South of their place of business is a brick building built by John Lush and George Wells. It housed the Wellsburg Savings Bank for many years. Messrs. Biebesheimer, Dick Claassen, George Geerdes and Herb Ballard were some of the personnel who served in the bank. Recently it was sold to Harold Fischer where he has his insurance office. In the west end is a beauty parlor operated by Joylyn Stoehr. There is an apartment on the second floor. West of this building is a new cement block building which houses the new dial telephone system and was erected in 1961.
We have come to one of the dead ends of Main Street. We will make a U turn and enter the first store built by George Wells. Incidentally, there is a very tall pretentious monument, which towers into a pine tree, in the Grundy Center cemetery on the site of Mr. Wells grave. It bears the following inscription:
George Wells, born May 14, 1821. Died August 2, 1906
Sarah died November 9, 1895. age 60 years
Frank C. born April 19, 1853. Died July 10, 1861
It was the only store in that block for many years. It was a general store and still is. It has been owned by Walter Neessen, Ben Neessen, Henry Brower and now by Charlie Sentman who has modeled and remodeled it into a very modern business establishment, a real credit to a small town. It even has an electrically operated door to let you out without using your hands. Upstairs are several living apartments and the telephone office was in the southwest corner until the new dial system was inaugurated.
Going north the next small building could tell many tales if only the walls could talk. Dr. Trussel had a dentist office in conjunction with a jewelry store here followed by the Henry Ross and Odie Wilts electric shop. At present Henry Ross has a radio and TV repair shop at his home. Later Mrs. Jake Lutterman was post mistress while the Democrats were in office. When the Republicans came into office, Mrs. Neil Ashby assisted by Margaret Beecroft carried on. The past twenty eight years Richard Claassen has been Post Master ably assisted by Mrs. Annette Bausman. Frank Lutz operated a barber shop in the basement for years. The Post Office is a very popular place. Everyone goes once or twice a day to get their mail. After the mail is out you may ask or be asked by someone to go to the basement for a cup of coffee and a couple of doughnuts. This eating place is now operated by the Maas family and has been a popular restaurant for years. Many of the world's weighty problems have been cussed and discussed here. We don't think any were ever solved.
Next was an old frame building moved from across the street. Here Dick Peters ran a hardware store. His family lived on the second floor and it was there that Minnie Potter first saw the light of day. Later Bevings used it for a store room. It was torn down and replaced by a cement block building and was a furniture store for several years. It was sold to Jake and Kenny Lindaman who have a modern By-Lo Super Market. You can get most anything from meat to mousetraps, clothing to crackers and toys to Tonis.
North across the alley, in 1911, was a butcher shop operated by Ben Peters. Tom Ackerman, Bud Tjaden, Eva and Minnie Meyer also had grocery stores here. Later it was a barber shop owned and operated by Earl Eygabroad assisted by Harry Schwager. Now we find Mr. Tessau running a barber shop in the north half and a beauty shop in the south half with Miss Thelma Flater as operator. Now you can get a shave and a haircut in one half of the establishment and/or a permanent and hair cut in the other half. In the front part of the beauty parlor is a small cubicle assigned to the Wellsburg Herald where Marcella Neessen holds forth to glean all the latest happenings. Such as who went where after church to drink coffee, who had a baby last week, who moved away, who got married, all the school news, and the classified column, like who has boars and yearling hens for sale.
Another building of the past came next. A saloon where George Dunn was bar keeper. Menko Grimmius operated a pool hall here as did Earl Greany. It was recently torn down to get rid of the rats which were the sole occupants.
The next place on the corner was a pretentious General Store built by and run by Benjamin Koolman and later his son, Herman Koolman. He really had everything to sell. Ladies and Men's ready to wear, yard goods, smelly oilcloth, pressed glass pickle dishes and salt and pepper shakers with corks in the bottom which had a way of slipping inside with the salt and pepper. You could get a lot of stuff for a quarter in the notions department. In the grocery end of the store you could get a couple pounds of coffee beans and have it ground right on the spot in a big red grinder. A couple of turns of the wheel by hand was enough and talk of added aroma, there you had it. Boxes of dried peaches and apricots stood on the end of the counter and nearly everyone took a few to chew on. They don't come that way anymore. You could bring in your kerosene can for a refill and a potato was stuck on the spout to keep from spilling too much. It was sold to Miner Haack and things began to change and it became more up-to-date.
On the second floor is where some of Wellsburg's night life took place. It was a spacious room with a platform at one end. Here lodge meetings were held. Here square dances, round dances and maybe the peppermint twist were held with a real orchestra on the platform. Sometimes masquerade parties were held. There was one of particular interest where prizes were offered for the best costumes. Bessie Lutz and Ruth Riant wanted to go but parents objected. But they were going and they found a way to get costumes. They snitched white cotton flour sacks, no paper bags then, made dresses and pasted flowers cut from wallpaper all over them. They also covered black button shoes with white cloth pasted on and went to the party as flower girls and came away with first prize. Those were the days. The place was remodeled by the Beecroft brothers and made into a D-X filling station. John Kruse owned it until it was razed to make way for a new Post Office which we expect to be put up in 1962.
Let's turn east off Main Street for a block and find the Ashing saloon which had been moved in from another block. Later it became another restaurant, they didn't call them "cafe's" then. The Ashing family resided on the second floor. Mabel Ashing Luwe tells how frightened she was and hid under the bed when the sheriff would come around once in a while to investigate the saloons. After the eating house was closed, Mrs. Ashing had a millinery shop here. In those days traveling salesmen, known as Hat Men, came to town by train with huge trunks full of huge hats. The ladies hearing of the big event would rush down to select hats of the latest style. It, too, has been demolished by Harold Fischer, who had his insurance office here.
Further east we find a large hollow tile garage built by Herman Koolman, operated by his son Bernie Koolman who was a Buick dealer. John Frerichs and Henry Kruse were later owners.
On the corner to the east was a small insuspicious structure housing the Mayor's office. Many heart rending decisions were decided here and penalties meted out to the guilty law breakers. It seems a small portion of this building was fitted up as a city jail. This too is all gone.
Let's cross the street to the north and on the corner is a large garage and car display room owned and operated by W. H. Meyer and his son-in-law, Ray Nichols. Claus W. Ross is the present owner.
Going west we find the American Legion Hall, known as the Ashing Jaspers Post No. 213 built in 1933. Here all voting is done for elections.
On further west is an old frame building that is owned by Art Miller. A great variety of businesses have held forth here. Mrs. Walter Neessen and Mrs. Dick Beving had a hat shop here. Incidentally, Mrs. Beving was a hired girl for George Wells before she was married. In 1914, John Snittjer and Albert Ashing had a picture show here. Great serial pictures such as "The Diamond from the Sky" and "The Million Dollar Mystery," were viewed here. Serial pictures made you want to come back the next week to see further episodes of these thrillers. As an added attraction, home talent was used such as Norma and Glen Peters, aged 7 and 8, singing "Bobby Shaftoe's Gone to Sea." Frank Huisman's had a hatchery here until it was turned into a Produce Station operated by Emil Miller. It stands vacant now.
The next structure was erected in the early 1900's by Odie Eells. You guessed it, another saloon to be made into a restaurant for Frank Lutz. The place was a favorite hangout of the younger generation and many a romance commenced here. Mr. Lutz used the front part for a barber shop and is now living quarters for his wife.
We are back on Main Street now. A Mr. Gerke erected the Hotel in 1897. Hotels did a big business in those days. Traveling men came by train and needed food and lodging until they could get another train out of town. C. J. Eells and Odie Eells were later proprietors. Here also was a saloon in conjunction with the eating place. The hotel was condemned for further use and now a magnificent Peoples Savings Bank has replaced it.
Back of the hotel was another livery barn owned by Charlie Johnston. Finally with the advent of automobiles the barn disappeared.
Alfred Meyer erected a modern meat market and locker plant. You could bring live hogs and cows into the rear of the building and they were slaughtered; cut up, wrapped, sharp frozen and put into big drawers which you could rent, a few days later. Now Elmer Finke owns the market.
One more substantial store on the corner built by Liebsohn Brothers. They also carried almost every conceivable item carried in early country stores. If and when you paid your bill on Saturday night you would get a small red, blue and green striped paper sack of gum drops or jelly beans or on rare occasions chocolate candy cigars for the kids. Also, a barber shop in the basement. The store had been vacant for many years when John W. Ross converted it into an Allis-Chalmers and New Idea Implement Shop.
Across the street to the north was another eating house run by Egyabroads. Mrs. Egyabroad also wove rag carpeting, which if you sewed enough strips together you could have wall to wall carpeting.
We have reached the end of main street as far as business houses are concerned but now let's look at the street itself. In the summer time if it didn't rain, it was a dusty, rutty thoroughfare. Hitching posts were in front of all the stores where the farmers tied up their teams. The wives and youngsters did the grocery shopping while dad got repairs for his machinery and some nails, staples, and barb wire to use on the farm. By this time he was pretty hot and dry so he would have to visit several saloons to remedy that situation. In the winter and spring the street was a quagmire of mud, snow and slush. But there were sidewalks, too. Wooden sidewalks propped up with short posts where the horses had stomped flys off their legs and pawed all the dirt out from under the walk while they were tied to the hitching posts. The kids used to hide under these sidewalks and poke sticks up through the cracks. Imagine the surprise of the unsuspecting gentleman walking sedately along when a stick is suddenly thrust up his pants leg. Or the lady who suddenly sees her dress and numerous petticoats rise up in front of her due to the kids under the sidewalk. It was a good place to hunt for small change that might have been dropped through the cracks.
The life of the early Wellsburg pioneers was vastly different from ours today. In the winter, the social events consisted of singing schools, birthday parties, weddings, bob-sled rides (with the bob-sled lined two feet deep with straw and horse blankets and robes over one to keep warm), quilting bees, corn husking bees, followed by a dance on the barn floor, and also square dances.
One mustn't forget charivari parties which were put on with money received from the groom. Even after I came to Wellsburg, we had some never to be forgotten charivari parties. One I will always remember is the time we charivaried Herman and Dena Haack. Herman gave us $20, which was very liberal at that time. The party was to be held at the town hall. The day of the party, I had a sick headache, and was in bed all day, but around 6 p.m. it eased up, and I decided to attend the party. Doc thought I was crazy, as it was about 10 below zero and very windy. The old hall swayed, and cold air permeated the cracks in the floor, but we kept the old pot-bellied stove roaring and had a wonderful time. I can still see Lizzie Riant, Elsie Peters, Anna Meyer, Ella Claassen, Mrs. Gladstone, Tillie Schwager, Frances Miller, Minnie Dilly, Delia Trussel, Dena Hayenga, Ida Weitkamp, and others all sitting around the long table, eating and talking. Indeed, these are happy memories.
In the early days, some farmers raised cane sorghum, and in the fall, sorghum molasses was made from the cane juice. This sorghum was used in making cakes, poured on pancakes, and in making taffy at parties known as "taffy pulls".
Buggy rides and sleigh rides helped in the courtship of earlier days. Young men took pride in the appearance of their horses and buggies, and I shouldn't forget to mention the gay lap robes that were standard equipment in every buggy and sleigh. Young ladies of yesteryears wanted to look beautiful, but oh, how differently dressed they were from ladies of today. Long wool underwear, black cotton stockings, high button shoes, corsets, corset covers with crocheted yokes, several petticoats, dresses with high necks, tight bodices, mutton leg sleeves, long skirts trimmed with braid and flounces; all were normal attire. A great deal of time was required to prepare for any dress-up affair, especially with the elaborate hair-dos of those days. On Saturday nights, the old washtub was used for the family bath, and everyone had a clean outfit on Sunday morning.
In the summer, there would be picnics, buggy rides, church socials, and the Grundy County Fair to attend. Anna Meyer gave us the following:
"We always had a new outfit for the fair. One year I bought a new hat from Mrs. Ashing, a large brimmed white beaver. We went by horse and buggy, and the weather was damp and misty. My hat began to droop, and by the time to go home, it came down around my face until I looked like I was wearing an inverted lily." Wellsburg also had a race track which circled past Clarence Geerdes' new home, and then north to John Snittjer's home and curved west to Amanda Neessen's. Herman Koolman, among others, owned race horses, and Tom Beecroft was a driver.
July 4th was always a big day with fire crackers, balloon ascensions, horse races, picnics, and always some sort of carnival or medicine show as entertainment. Tent shows set up in George Neessen's pasture would sometimes run for a week, and give wonderful prizes in their candy boxes.
Once in a great while, a circus would be heard of, and although this was as late as 1923, I must tell about one incident I particularly remember. Posted bills advertising that Ringling Brothers circus was coming to Iowa Falls created a lot of excitement. Everyone thought the children should go, but I believe it was mostly the grown-ups that really wanted to attend. A train of one coach was chartered to take us to Iowa Falls, and back. But, oh, the weather! We had our tickets, so we had to go. Laden with raincoats and umbrellas, we set out. The circus tents were several blocks from the depot, so it poured on us both going and coming. Elsie Peters had a navy blue wool suit lined with red silk. The wool shrank, and red lining sagged down about two inches all around the jacket. Norma had a wool knitted cape, and as it got wet, it got longer and longer, until it touched the ground. We were a sorry-looking lot, but we did have a ball! But to get back to the 1880's.
One can almost visualize Thanksgiving and Christmas as celebrated in Wellsburg, then, with family gatherings. Tables were laden with good things to eat that were all raised on the farms or in the gardens, and gifts were useful and often handmade, but were more prized and appreciated than the glitter and show of today. Christmas trees were cut and brought home by the men folks, and decorated by the children with strings of popcorn and maybe cranberries or colored paper rings. Sometimes a few candles were lighted, but if this were the case, a handy pail of water always stood near the tree. The long black stockings were hung in a row, and by morning, they would be bulging with things for the children. The Christmas eve programs and church on Christmas day were held sacred and always well attended.
Church and family gatherings during the winter were attended mostly by bob-sled with horses bedecked with huge strings of sleigh bells. Much depended on the roads. Deep snow and mud roads stopped nearly all travel. As late as 1918, I can remember "Doc" attending calls on horseback or with a high two-wheeled road cart. In the winter of 1919, his car stood in the garage for 14 weeks, while he used a cutter, and another winter his car had to be left in the country for over a month covered with snow.
Up until 1920, there were still all dirt roads in this area, but at that time, the grading of roads began. If one had to travel any distance, the railroads were used. In the early days of Wellsburg, there would be only one train a day. Everything was brought in by freight, and as gradually more trains were put on, one could sometimes see freight trains of 30 cars or more. At one time, we also had a motor twice a day traveling from Sioux Fall, South Dakota to Cedar Rapids. Now, trucks bring in most of the freight, and people travel by car, bus, or plane, and the trains are gradually disappearing.
With the coming of telephone, communications improved. The following history of the Wellsburg telephone system was submitted to us by Harold Fischer.
The history of the telephone system in and around Wellsburg is interesting. Seemingly about 1897 or 1898 there was a telephone line into Wellsburg from Grundy Center that terminated in a telephone in Wellsburg and nothing more. A little later a group of farmers northwest of Wellsburg started a rural line with about twenty farmers on the line. This line also terminated in Wellsburg and there was some sort of a ringing device to call the different members on the line.
I believe that this line had one station in Wellsburg in the office or home of a Dr. Houston (this name is not correct but it is fairly close). The farmers or at least one of them on occasion called Dr. Houston and asked him to get the other doctor in Wellsburg, a Dr. Chinn to come out and treat him. Dr. Houston never did pass this message on to his competitor but somehow Dr. Chinn found out about the message. The result was the Dr. Chinn had to have a telephone in his home or office right now. Dr. Chinn went to Grundy Center and hired a telephone man to come to Wellsburg and install a telephone for him. After the telephone was installed the telephone man was instructed to connect it with some telephone line, the good Doctor did not care which one (at the time of this event there were two farmer lines into Wellsburg but there was no switching arrangement between them). The telephone line that was selected for the connection was the original farmer line that had about twenty farmers on it. Joe deNeui was on this line. When the farmers discovered that the good doctor was on their line they immediately held a meeting and one of the good members of the community brought his "law book" and told the rest of the boys that the Doctor could not do that. The result of the meeting was that Mr. deNeui was appointed to go and see Dr. Chinn and tell him that he had to get off the line. This was done, although Mr. deNeui had considerable misgivings about tackling the Doctor.
Mr. deNeui says that he called on the Doctor and told him that since he hadn't contributed to the building of the line (about $40 per subscriber) that he would have to take his telephone off the line. After a great deal of argument the Doctor finally agreed to do this. Not only did the good Doctor disconnect his own telephone but he had the town marshall take down a half mile of the line to the edge of the town limits. Were the farmers surprised! The farmers evidently forgot that Dr. Chinn was the Mayor of Wellsburg. The group called another meeting and Mr. deNeui made sure that the fellow with the "law book" was there. They were forced to decide that there was not a thing they could do since they did not have a franchise to operate in Wellsburg. You can see that even in those days a franchise was a necessity on certain occasions. The result was that Dr. Chinn got back on the line and the line was restored to the terminal station that was in town.
The first local exchange in Wellsburg was started by W. E. Reed in 1905 or 1906. Earl Neessen was manager of the Bell Telephone Company for many years. For the last 18 years Mrs. Larson had charge of the local office located above Sentman's store but that has all ended with the advent of the dial system.
The railroad and telephone played a big part in the family life of Wellsburg's early settlers.
Early Home Life
Let's peek into some of these early homes.
Young people of today can hardly imagine what pioneer life was really like in and around Wellsburg in the 1880's. Out on an almost boundless prairie alone to experience the rough and rugged frontier life with no close communication with friends and relatives, it could be dreary indeed. Sometimes severe storms left remembrances of horror and grief. We were told of one snow storm that lasted seven days. Drifts reached a height of 18-20 feet. All travel ceased, and there was great suffering among people and stock. Notwithstanding these discouragements and troubles, few gave up but struggled on to make future homes in this truly bountiful country.
A home of our first Wellsburg settlers might consist of a small frame house of only a few rooms, sometimes only one room with a few windows that had small panes. The houses would be banked in the winter with manure or dirt to keep out the cold. A wood burning heater in the living room and a wood burning kitchen stove furnished the heat for winter. A large wood box behind the stove was always filled at evening as were also the lamps filled and cleaned.
During the winter, the men-folks cut down trees, sawed, split, and stacked the wood near the house for the year's supply.
Sometimes there would be a corner cupboard, hand-made. Table and chairs were strong and plain. There was a large bed, with rope springs, straw ticks and feather beds for the grown-ups, and a small trundle bed for the children. The trundle bed was pushed under the big bed during the day. The quilts and rugs were made from worn clothing. Every home had a cave which was used as a haven in summer in case of a tornado, and in winter a storage place for vegetables, fruits, and salted or smoked meats. The trusty rifle hung over the door on the deer antlers and was used a great deal in providing wild game such as duck, geese, rabbit, prairie chicken, wild turkey, quail and deer.
Cooking utensils were mostly three legged iron kettles and large skillets, called spiders.
These were humble homes indeed, but they were inhabited by kind-hearted industrious people. Travelers seeking lodging or help always found a welcome. In times of sickness or trouble, the neighbors came and helped until their help was no longer needed. Doctors had to come long distances over bad roads, and sometimes could not be had at all.
The women in the homes made practically all the clothing, often sewing by hand after the children were in bed. They also milked, churned, baked the bread, cured the meat, dried and preserved the vegetables and fruit, made the soap, and sometimes made the candles. They had large gardens, washed with the wash-board, ironed with the old sad irons heated on the stove, and still had time to teach and train the children, and make happy home, which often included aged parents.
The family Bible was found in every home. When a minister appeared, he was always welcome. The early settlers of Wellsburg were blessed with respect to religious influences. They were at first served by the Presbyterians southeast and northwest of here, and also the Christian Reformed church west of town. Mr. Wells, himself, held Sunday School and services in a room above Sentman's store. Later more Eastfriesens came, and in October of 1896, the community gave Rev. Geert Vienker, a missionary of the Reformed Church of America, a mission field call, and he accepted. He found the field very rewarding and on June 2, 1897, with 42 charter members, the Wellsburg Reformed church was organized. It's first consistory was composed of Jacob Peters, Jurgen Lutterman, Koene Reiter, Claus Primus, and Fred Hook.
Their first church was erected on land donated by Mr. Wells, who also donated land for the cemetery east of the church. In the winter of 1899, the congregation gave the student J. G. Thielken a call to become their pastor, and he accepted. He was pastor for 14 years and 7 months.
In 1913, the original church became too small for the congregation, and the present church was erected for $17,000, including the cost of the pipe organ, seats, etc. This church has had a fine growth through the years. The Dorcas society was organized on February 7, 1906, with 11 members. Through the years they have served their church faithfully in various ways, celebrating their 25th anniversary in 1931, and their 40th in 1946. At present there are 56 members.
The Ladies Aid society was organized in October 1901 with 14 members. They have also celebrated their 25th and 40th anniversaries. At present there are 16 members.
On January 3, 1940, the young Men's Club was organized, and has been very active in serving the church in it's every need. The church has been served by four ministers, Rev. J. G. Thielken, Rev. William Landsiedel, Rev. Edward Jurgens, and the current pastor, Rev. George Poppen.
The second church to be built in Wellsburg was the Second Christian Reformed Church. On July 6, 1919, a group of interested people who felt the need of providing more religious instruction in the English language met in the school house to establish a Sunday School. The school began with an enrollment of 56 scholars. Mr. Martin deNeui was elected superintendent and in the weeks that followed, it grew rapidly. On July 6, Rev. H. C. Bode conducted a service in the English language. These services continued, and on October 9, 1919, an English Christian Reformed Church, as it was first called, was organized, with 24 charter members.
The first consistory was composed of W. A. Meyer, elder, and Martin deNeui, deacon. Rev. Bode served faithfully as counselor. Ben Lindaman was outstanding as a worker in the church, on the consistory, and as Sunday School teacher, and Superintendent for many years.
In 1919, the Willing Workers Society was organized with 30 charter members. In 1959, they celebrated their 40th anniversary and through the years they have been very active in helping the church in any way needed. There are at present 30 members including the following charter members: Mrs. Anna Meyer, Mrs. Elsie Peters, Mrs. S. J. Snittjer, Mrs. Bessie Lutz, and Mrs. C. C. Graham.
In 1925, the younger ladies organized the Helping Hands society with 9 charter members, and have indeed been a helping hand to the church. At present there are 36 members.
In 1933, the Men's Volunteer Club was organized with 22 charter members, and has also been active in church matters.
A church building was erected, and was dedicated on August 24, 1920. This chuch has also been greatly blessed. It has been served by Rev. Corneal Holtrop, Rev. Edward Boeve, Dr. John C. DeKorne, Rev. Raymond Haan, Rev. John H. Rubingh, Rev. John H. Olthoff, and at present, by Rev. Carl Toeset.
The third church to be organized in Wellsburg was St. John's Lutheran Church. It was organized in May, 1942, because several Lutheran families in the area felt the need of a church in Wellsburg. In November, 1942, the congregation dedicated the chapel. The parsonage was dedicated in October of 1950. During the fall and winter months of 1953, the church was enlarged to its present size.
Rev. Alfred Ernst, the first pastor, served the congregation until May, 1948. In October of that year, Rev. Dean Kasischke was installed and remained until August of 1955. Rev. Hugo Hein was installed in March of 1956, and remained until March of 1958. During July of that year, Rev. Robert Wolff, was installed, and delivered his farewell sermon on January 21, 1962.
The following men served as officers when the congregation was organized. Chairman, Harvey Vahlsing; Secretary, Wilbur Rust; Financial Secretary and Treasurer, Norman Harms; Elders, Harm Rust and Harvey Vahlsing; Trustees, John Schoon, Albert Loots, and George Diekman. The following organizations are active within the congregation: Sunday School, Adult Bible Class, Walther League, Ladies' Aid and Lutheran Womens' Missionary League, Men's Club, Golden Age Club and Choir.
Quite a few families living in Wellsburg have moved here from the country, and continue to worship at the following churches: First Christian Reformed Church St. Paul's Lutheran Church St. Peter's Evangelical and Reformed Church Pleasant Valley Evangelical United Brethren Church Eastfriesland Presbyterian Church Shiloh Cemetery located at the south edge of Wellsburg was plotted in 1926. The first burial there was Dorothy Huisman, daughter of Bryan Huisman, who has been section boss for the Railroad for many years.
Coupled with the religious life was a desire for knowledge. Let us now look at the early schools.
Let's see how the younger generation was educated. The first two room schoolhouse is still being used as a warehouse by John Doyen, the boy that slept in the tent.
Many were the trials of the teachers and escapades of the pupils. A few of the early teachers were Misses Pfiffner, Gaffey, Mary and Helen Neessen and a Mrs. Craig. It was during Mrs. Craig's rule or rather non-rule that the yongsters had more fun than learning.
A patriotic program was scheduled for a Washington's birthday and a small tent was set up on the platform to illustrate the song, "Tenting to Night on the Old Camp Ground." John Doyen crept into the tent during rehearsal and slept all afternoon and was never missed.
On another occasion Bernie Koolman was playing the part of a king standing on a raised throne which consisted of a wooden crate covered with a horsehide robe. He became so enthusiastic during this reign and stamped around so much he stamped a hole completely through the horse hide robe and crate. That was the downfall of one king.
One Jewish Goldblatt boy regularly threatened to beat up the kids the following week if they didn't pay him five cents every Saturday night. He was a shrewd business man at an early age.
The big boys were real helpful to the teachers. It was always a privilege to ring the bell for teacher. When the big boys rang it they rang it so vigorously that it would tip the bell. Long noon hours ensued. Teacher said the bell was broken and she couldn't ring it to call them back into school on time. Finally after beating on the side of the schoolhouse with a ruler, she assembled her unruly pupils. Big boys to the rescue again. They would fix the bell. A tall bookcase, a chair on top and a tall boy on top of that to tip the bell back into ringing position. Recess now, and sliding down hill took them so far away it took them too long to come back and shortly it was time to go home.
In 1911, a new brick school was built to house a twelve grade school. There were only three teachers at first. In 1914, under Charles Lewis, principal, Wellsburg had its first tenth grade graduation class consisting of two graduates, Minnie Tjaden Dilly and Albert Ashing. Gradually the school grew in size and numbers and a great many graduated every year. In 1936, the largest class graduated from here consisting of 26 members.
This school proved adequate until 1954 country schools were abolished and a new Community School for junior high and high school was built at a cost of $350,000. It was opened for classes in August, 1955. Four years later, 1959, due, perhaps to population explosion, a need was felt for more school room. An addition was built to the community school at a cost of $195,000. The new addition was named the Fred Gross addition in honor of Fred Gross the custodian, who has served for thirty-two years. It is now a beautiful school with Superintendent Gilbert Schantz and a faculty of 17 lady teachers, 10 men and one half time librarian. Ample play ground is provided for all including swings and merry-go-rounds for the little folks and a softball diamond, baseball diamond, football field, track, two tennis courts and shuffle board. Truly an asset to any town.
Wellsburg has always shown a keen interest in sports. We have already mentioned the sport of horse racing. Prior to 1913, George Lindaman, Bill Buss, and others had a fine baseball team. During 1914, Joh Brand came to town, and with a hired pitcher, Wellsburg "went to town" (as the saying goes). The playing field was just south of the John Snittjer residence, but later, the players used the Tjaden field. At that time, the Tjaden field included a fine grandstand. Today, the old field is farmed by Emery Riekena, just north of the city limits. Under the pitching of Smoke Meyer, Si Dorman, and Clarence Ives, the "Pathfinders" (team's nickname) won a big majority of their games. One outstanding win was the game with the Colored Union Giants. Other players deserving mention were Ben Peters, catcher, Bernie Koolman, 1st base, Fred Riant, 2nd base, and Heinie Luwe, 3rd base. Heinie came to us in 1917 to play ball, but fell in love and married Mable Ashing, and as a result, we have now our fine young bank cashier, Leland Luwe. Heinie now sells insurance, as he has for many years. Henry Geerdes was also a player and big booster. Pages could be written about these ball games, but we must continue.
Wellsburg's first public school girl's basketball team was organized in 1906. Included were Elsie Tjaden Peters, Bertha Doyen, Dena Meyer Haack, Matilda Wulf, Jennie Biebesheimer (teacher), and others. I believe there was also a girl's town team at that time. On this team were Bessie Lutz, Elsie Luitjen, Dena Geerdes, Anna Thomas, and others.
The first basketball was introduced in high school by Superintendent Alfred VonTersch. The games were played outside. Again, we won a sizeable majority of the games. Anna Terfehn Ruter, Anna Bakker Cooper, Frances Miller Smith, and others were on this team.
Later, in 1923, a gym was built, and we continued to play good basketball.
For the girls, the first trip to the state finals was in 1928 at Ida Grove. In two overtime periods, we lost to Ida Grove by one point. Norma Peters Riekena, Dena Lindaman Eldred, Eva Meyer Widman, Viola Meyer Geerdes, Jane Krull Holcomb, Florence Maas Tjaden and others were on this team. We played in our next state final game in 1930 at Hampton where we played round robin and captured 2nd palce, losing to Hampton. Since then, Wellsburg girls have made 9 trips to Des Moines in participating in state tournament play. We were crowned state champions in 1934 and again in 1949. I, Mrs. Graham, have seen all these games, even serving as chaperone at several games under VonTersch. In 1961, a Wellsburg girl, Viola Meyer Peters (Mrs. Harris Peters) was honored by being named to the high school girls basketball hall of fame. Anyone who ever saw Viola play, knows that she justly deserved this honor.
Our boys also have had some fine teams. In 1936, they entered the state tournament with a perfect record. Unfortunately, they drew Ames in the first game and were defeated. Ames went on to win the tournament that year. We were leading them by several points until they put in a big colored boy, about like "Wilt, the Stilt". From then on, they were ahead of us. After the final game, the Ames coach stated that Wellsburg was their hardest competition. In 1956, we started using our new gym, and Wellsburg has continued to have some fine teams with large attendance at the home games.
Early in the growth of the town a need for a town band was felt, and Hank Riant organized the first band. Other band leaders were Charles Biebesheimer, Dan Sheller, Clate Chenette, and Romaine Baskins. Practices were held on the second floor of the old town hall. On band concert nights an old wagon was hauled up to the intersection of main street near the hotel. This wagon was equipped with a large platform, and extra sections on the sides which could be raised to make a very rickety platform on which the band was seated to play the weekly concert. A few of the early members of the band were Tom Beecroft, Ben and George Lindaman, Henry, Claus and Riek Ross, Albert Meyer, Dick Riekena, and John Doyen.
In later years, weekly band concerts are held in the park in a beautiful band shell and the members of the band are the high school students, who also have a wonderful marching band. Concerts usually begin on Memorial Day, and continue until September.
As the years passed many changes came to Wellsburg. Until 1900, everyone had a well and a hand pump or windmill to supply their water. At this time, a water system was installed with a gasoline engine for pumping and a large water tank and pressure pump. This equipment was enclosed in a large building, which had a room above known as the town hall. In 1915, in the same location, a new well, electric pump, and water tower were installed, and water mains were extended over more of the community. We now have a splendid water system, including a water conditioner.
Until 1920-21, every home had a cesspool, or a path leading to a small often visited building located on the rear of the lot, but at that time the necessity for the path ceased, for a sewer system was installed, which has since been extended several times. The last disposal plant was completed in 1959, with over 31,000 feet of sewer pipe.
Curb and gutter were also installed in some portions of the town, with improved roads east and west out of town.
The first town lights were kerosene lamps put in during 1897. Later a gas lighting system was tried, but this didn't prove very satisfactory, and most of the time, the streets would be without lights. In 1915, electric lights were installed, and an electric franchise was secured from the Iowa Power Company. At that time only a few places were wired, but more were added as time passed. The successor to the Iowa Power Company, Iowa Power and Light Company, is ably represented in Wellsburg by John Electric Riekena.
Fire protection is most essential in any community. Such protection in early Wellsburg was of course, the bucket brigade. Later a large two wheeled cart carrying the hose drawn by fireman foot power was used. This was replaced by a larger four wheeled hand drawn truck. In 1928, the first self-powered truck was purchased. We have a picture of this truck with Dr. Graham, Henry, Reike and Claus Ross, Herman Haack, Hi Boomgarden, Ray Nichols, Jack Fischer, George Lindaman, John Schmidt, and Earl Eygabroad riding on it. Some years later, a second fire truck and tank wagon were purchased. Today, we have a fine volunteer fire department and equipment.
Some of Wellsburg's more serious fires were the town burning in 1885 (everything except Sentman's store), both elevator fires and the Wessel Haack home in 1919.
In the spring of 1914, Wellburg acquired its first veterinary, Dr. Charles Coleman Graham, who drove in with his team and buggy two weeks after graduating from the McKilly's Veterinary College of Chicago, Illinois, started his practice. Mrs. Graham tells the following: "I did not come for a month as Doc did not know whether he would get any calls or not, but he did and I came. There were only two houses for rent. Henry Neessen had just finished building the residence now occupied by Superintendent G. W. Schantz, and very kindly offered it to us. But there was no barn and Doc had a team and buggy to care for, so we rented the house now occupied by the John Beving family, and started housekeeping in a very meager way. There were 288 people here then. German was spoken freely in the homes and on the street. Everyone was very nice to me and I liked them. Several amusing things happened during those first years. One day a farmer came and said if Doc knew anything about cows, he would like to have him come out, but he (farmer) thought that Doc being a horse doctor, he might not know anything about cows. I assured him that Doc treated all domestic animals, so we got by that fine." I could tell of many interesting things that have happened pertaining to his practice and life as he served as Mayor, Marshall, and Justice of the Peace.
Before we rented, Doc kept his team and buggy at Henry Peters' livery stable located where Lindaman's lumber yard is now. Just west of the barn, in 1919, C. W. Ross and Fred Breckbiel had a garage. Fred roomed with us at that time, as also did Superintendent VonTersch, and Joe Dimke (Slim, as he was then called), a young man just starting out. Across the street, from C. W. Ross, Rieke Ross had his shop for years. In 1918, the College Hill (what wishful planners) addition was opened up with the selling of lots. Now, almost all of the lots have homes built on them.
Other Business-Off Main Street
As mentioned before, in the spring of 1880, Mr. Wells built a warehouse near the depot and began buying grain and selling some lumber. He soon sold the lumber business to Henry Neessen, who continued in the business for many years at three different locations, the last location on the corner where his grandson Clarence Geerdes is erecting a residence. Mrs. Henry Geerdes tells of a trip from Chicago her father made with a carload of lumber. After the car was loaded, Mr. Neessen found himself locked in the car by accident. There was just room on top of the lumber for him to lie down. He had a pocket knife and after working many hours, he finally succeeded in opening the small top door on the car. This was at Clinton, Iowa. Needless to say he was hungry and had suffered many anxious hours shut up in the car. Ed Meyer worked for him many years.
On August 9, 1905, Lindaman and Sons purchased the lumber business of the Iowa Lumber Company. For some years they were located where their coal depot is now, but later on, they purchased the livery barn from Henry Peters across the street and remodeled it into their businss place of today. Now Woodrow and Bob Lindaman, grandson and great-grandson of the original owner, carry on.
I forgot to add that Mr. Wells sold his grain business to Lush and Carloss of Ackley. These men built a large elevator, but this was destroyed by fire. A new elevator was built and was run by John Tjaden. Some years later, another elevator was built on it's present site and was owned and operated by John Tjaden, and later by John's son-in-law, Shirley Dilly until 1935, when it was sold to George Potgeter. It now operates under the name of George Potgeter Grain Company. For years, George had painted on his elevator, "The Blackest Soil and the Whitest People on Earth." Potgeter's also sell coal and lumber.
Jacob Peters and Sons built the second elevator. Later owners and operators were Dick Peters, Anno Peters, John Meyer, Dick Riekena and Snittjer Grain Company. John T. Riekena, the present manager began working there in 1929. Their first elevator burned and the present one was built on the same site. In the last few years, more and more grain storage bins have been erected at both Snittjers and Potgeters.
In 1915, Neil Ashby and family came to Wellsburg and bought the newspaper business and building. He edited the Wellsburg Herald for many years and one of Wellsburg's biggest boosters. His slogan "Watch Wellsburg Work" was known far and wide.
In 1920, Heiko Kramer built the creamery on it's present site. He sold it to Ray Gimer in 1936, who in turn sold it in 1944 to it's present owner, Gordon Junker. Gordon has installed much new modern equipment, including ice cream machine, which makes the first commercial Wellsburg ice cream.
We have many men living in town whose patrons are mostly farmers of the surrounding territory. Dick Huisman, Harold Weichers, and Delbert Hippen operate corn shellers and do custom work for the farmers.
John Weichers owns and operates a welding shop and caters to the needs of broken machinery.
Herman Eckhoff is the Surge dealer in this area and supplies and keeps in repair the milking equipment. There was a time when all you needed was warm hands.
Leland Heinrichs has recently opened a John Deere tractor repair shop, in what used to be Aeilt Stopplemore's house, moved between Weitkamps, and Sander deNeui.
The Mid-Equipment Corporation operated by Gene Blythe and Don Gauch, has started manufacture of a hoist used on trucks. Willard and Whitey Ross have the Ross Construction Company. No, not houses, but they move mountains of earth up or down, as you please.
Farmer's Produce is managed by Eldon Loots.
Meint Bakker, Odie Meyer, Herman Koch and Roger Hippen all run tank wagons to keep the country side gassed and oiled.
Sander deNeui has a mechanics shop at his home. He also has served as Justice of the Peace for the past 20 years. He has records of law suits since 1908. Some of the earlier J. P.'s were W. W. Riekena, always called "Squire", Joseph Doyen, Claus Primus, H. B. Koolman, Dr. Graham, and Henry Ross.
In 1931, Miss Helen Staples opened a beauty shop in the Peoples Saving Bank building (the bank merging with the Farmers and Merchants Bank). John D. Beving succeeded in keeping Helen here, and she operates a shop now in their home.
Dr. Bagwell also had a dentist office in the same building for several years.
In 1940, land was purchased from Chris Neessen, and our park was started. It now has lovely shade trees, a band shell, and a fine shelter house. The band shell faces a natural slope, and makes a lovely outdoor ampitheater.
In 1947, a new Doctor's building was finished, and here Dr. Meyer listens to all our troubles, both real and imaginary.
Wellsburg also has a new dentist's office, and we are fortunate in having Dr. Wise with us.
In 1951, Wellsburg welcomed back one of our boys, Mr. Eldon Huisman, who had graduated from Drake University, passed the bar exam, and is now an attorney.
Another one of the local boys returned as a Veterinarian, and in 1959, Dr. Heddens and Drum built a fine new office and animal hospital.
Conrad Weichers opened a laundromat in 1960. It's been a long journey from the wash board to the pressing of a button.
We must not forget our service stations, which were toally unnecessary when the town began.
Herman Hippen operates a service station on the site of the old blacksmith shop. Incidentally, the old "smittys" were Souke Tjaden and Hank Riant. Hank Riant must have been quite busy, for he also had a singing school way back then. But our very first blacksmiths were a Mr. Trusby and a Mr. Hartman. Getting back to Herman Hippen, he operated a station in the old Hotel for a long time.
Henry Hippen owns a fine modern station on the corner east of Sentman's store, where the Walter Neessen house used to stand. It is leased by two enterprising young Wellsburg men, Clarence Heinrich and Lawrence Bausman, and it is called the B & H. The west portion of the building houses a restaurant that is operated by Mrs. George Eckhoff, a good cook.
Right across the street from the B & H Station is Kruse's Cities Service, operated by John Kruse. This is the site of Dr. Heddens Sr. home.
Bernard Stahl manages the Stahl Oil Company and also runs a tank wagon service, and Refuse Removal Service, once a week, in which he is ably assisted by his son, Carroll.
Claassen Brothers built a large cabinet shop just east of the creamery in 1948. They specialized in fine cabinet and wood work. In 1961, they sold their business to Leonard Gelder, local contractor. Mr. Gelder has done quite a bit of construction in this area, and currently is building the John Snittjer home.
Another local contractor is Raymond Riebkes. He is currently constructing the Clarence Geerdes residence. Another contractor is David Taffinder.
Carpenters need the assistance of masons to complete the structures they build. Joe Dimke came here in 1919 after the War and with the help of his brother-in-law, Tyle Huisman for 32 years, have plastered many houses and put up many chimneys. In later years, the Hoekstra brothers also have been doing all sorts of mason work.
In 1918, a Commercial Club was organized. Dr. Graham and Jack Chucker, the depot agent at that time, are, we believe, the only surviving charter members.
Following the World War I, the Ashing Post #213 of the Iowa American Legion was organized on September 16, 1919. It was named to honor Henry Ashing, the first local boy killed serving his country in the first World War. The members first met in the old town hall. In 1933, the Legion Hall was built and dedicated. C. W. Ross was the first commander. During the "War to end all Wars", eight men from our community lost their life. After World War II, the name was changed to the "Ashing-Jaspers Post". This was done in honor of Franklin Jaspers, first casualty of World War II, from Wellsburg. This post has taken an active part in community service, observing all patriotic holidays, conducting military funerals and always working in harmony with other organizations for the good of Wellsburg.
The American Legion Auxiliary was organized on February 15, 1922. On February 12, 1962, Mabel Luwe, Bessie Ross, and Kate Ashing were honored as charter members at a dinner. The auxiliary has also helped very much in making the Memorial Hall possible. It was only by the work of both organizations that this was accomplished after seven years work. They stand ever ready to help whenever help is needed.
The first service organization of the W. W. II servicemen was the "United Service Women of America, unit #162." The charter was granted June 2, 1944, although this group of women had been working together since 1942. They later affiliated with the Amvets Post #91 as their auxiliary. This charter was secured on August 28, 1947. The Veterans organization was known as Amvets Post #96. It's charter dates from July 15, 1947. The Amvet hall was built and dedicated in 1948. Lester Huisman was the first commander. Eldon Huisman was state commander for a term. The primary objective of this Post and it's Auxiliary was service for hospitalized veterans of all wars and their families. Regular monetary commitments are made, as well as voluntary workers going one day each month to an assigned Veterans Hospital. Secondly, they are a service group in a patriotic way for our town and community, ever ready to assist in any emergency that might arise. The Amvet hall has accommodated large county groups as well as smaller groups on the local level. By working with all civic groups they are an asset to Wellsburg.
In April of 1955, a group of ladies of the community met in the M. M. Boeke home with the state president, and the Grundy County Chairman of the Federated Women's Clubs of Iowa for the purpose of organizing a Woman's Club. A follow-up meeting was held in April and in May. Permanent officers were elected for the new club.
The group chose the Wellsburg Study Club as it's name and Article II of the Constitution and By-laws reads: "The object of this club shall be the intellectual and social advancement of women." As it's name indicates, it is a study group which serves as a means of adult education for the women of our community.
It also served the community through it's community project program. The first was the organization of a Public Library in 1956, which was located in the Wellsburg Community School Library in conjuection with the school library. In 1960, the Library was moved downtown in the Eldon Huisman law office building. The Town Council then consented to allot tax money toward the Library, thus making it legally a Public Library.
The present project of the club is to assist the Wellsburg Fireman in the purchase of an Emergency Vehicle.
Mrs. E. W. Ammann is president of our local club, and Mrs. Gordon Junker is president of the county Federation.
Another new organization is the Boy Scout and Cub Scout troops. They were organized in December, 1960. There are now 20 members in Troop 85, Boy Scouts of America. Kenneth Cordes is Scoutmaster, with Leonard Gelder and Kenneth Adams assistant scoutmasters. The Cub Scouts have a membership of 12 with Lawrence Bausman as Scoutmaster. The Weblos have seven members and were organized in 1962 with seven members. Delbert Hippen is the leader with Dennis Beokhoff as his assistant.
Wellsburg has the honor of having two citizens living in our midst, who have served in the state legislature. C. W. Ross served during 1937-1939. He also served in both World Wars. Harold Fischer is currently serving his second term as our local representative in the state legislature.
Iowa Power and Light added Wellsburg to the list of Natural Gas Franchises in 1959. This was a great asset to our community, and now we have converted to the dial system phone exchange. Sometime in 1962, we expect our new Post Office to be completed. Our population is now 827.
Wellsburg has always remained the original square mile for 65 years. Lots were laid out south and west of the school ground and the Lindaman Addition was incorporated in 1961, and six new homes have already been built here.
We are indeed proud of our Wellsburg, "The Home of Beautiful Homes." We think the slogan that won the latest price of $10 still holds true. Wellsburg, a small town with BIG IDEAS AND BIGGER IDEALS.