Town History



Livermore Brick
Tile Factory




July 4th 1893


Elevator Explosion

Humboldt County Town Histories

Livermore, Humboldt Township


The town of Livermore was situated at the junction of the Rock Island and the M. and St. L. railroads. It is a beautiful location, close to the west bank of the East Des Moines River, and on the northwest, borders upon a deep wooded ravine of Lott's Creek. It was laid out in the fall of 1879 under the name of Washburne.

During the year of 1879 the M. and St. L. railroad was being built from Britt to Fort Dodge. There was a debate over the location of the line. It was do to the influence of C.C. Washburne, Governor of Iowa, that the road curved west through the central part of Humboldt county instead of the first proposed straighter line several miles East. The grateful villagers wished to name their town in his honor.

The M. and St. L. Railroad reached the settlement in December 1879. By January 24, 1880, a stronger influence had been felt for the town was plotted and filed for record on that date as "Livermore." The Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railroad was finished to Livermore in the fall of 1881. By April 1882 the town had outgrown its village clothes and was duly incorporated under the laws of the state. George Tillson was elected its first Mayor.

 Gazette Article - Sept. 1882

"Perhaps it would not be amiss to say a word this week in regard to Livermore. It is very pleasantly situated in the edge of the timber near the east fork of the Des Moines River and at the junction of the M. and St.. L, and the B. C. R and N. railroads, ten miles north of the county seat. It is surrounded by as good a farming county as can be found in Iowa. Its population is about 400 and its businessmen are mostly young men of energy and enterprise. Everything shows marked signs of thrift. A Catholic Church, a two story schoolhouse and mill are all fine improvements and just being completed. The town is filled with land seekers but no loafers. The main street from East to West consists of, J. B. Altman's blacksmith shop, Clark's grocery, Hewitt's flour, feed and grocery, E. S. Frank's drug store, Robert Roy's boot and shoe shop, Geo. Turner's livery stable, Perry Tuttle's restaurant, C. M. Hamilton's Furniture Store, S.C. Mc Cauley's Dry goods and Grocery, Shemmon and Merril's Hardware, M. H. Dealy's dry goods and grocery, W. D. Weeds' boot and shoe store, J. Meagher's meat market, J. M. Meagher's dry goods and grocery, A. Turner's grocery, B. J. Conklin's harness shop, Miss Dell Talcott's Millinery, and G. A. Luther's blacksmith shop. Among the hotels are the City Hotel, a block N. of Main St., the St. James Hotel, between the two depots, and the Weeks House on Main St.

The M. E. Church in the western part of town is a well built and nicely finished building with a seating capacity of about 200, and free from debt. It was built at a cost of $1,800. The Baptists and Presbyterian each have a parsonage and expect in the near future to build a place of worship. The Catholic Church and the public school are in the east part of town. There are also lumber yards and a mill. These with the residential portion constitute the greater share of the busy little village of Livermore.

When we take into consideration the fact that the first building was put up here less than three years ago, that new enterprises are constantly being added, that the railroad facilities are unexcelled by any town in Northwestern Iowa, and that the surrounding country is almost unequaled we think they bespeak a healthy condition, and we predict a prosperous future."

Gazette December 29, 1882

On December 24, 1882, "the prosperous future" that was predicted in October didn't look so prosperous. The headlines of the Gazette for December 299th were, "Livermore in Ashes."

About 4 o'clock a.m. last Sunday the inhabitants of Livermore were hurriedly called from their beds to witness and fight and fire which originated in the Meagher meat market situated near the center of main street, which contained nearly all the business places in the town.

Owing to the fact that the fire had gained considerable headway before it was discovered, the flames spread from that to the J. J. Meagher Dry Goods store on the west and it was with great effort that willing hands succeeded in removing a part of the stock from the flames. None of their household goods were saved except one trunk and its contents. The women escaped in their night clothes with not even a pair of stockings to shield them from the fire or the snow. Mary and J. M. Meagher escaped the flames only by jumping from a back window onto a shed and from there to the ground. The buildings on the opposite side of the street were saved by constantly throwing water and keeping carpets saturated which hung from the top of the buildings. It was but a short time until all the buildings on the east were on fire and the flames stopped only when there was no more to burn. It is a solemn ordeal to pass through. It is sad sight to see the earnings of a lifetime licked up in a few moments. While we greatly sympathize with all in their loss we rejoice that no lives were lost and all are left with their physical strength to enter once more into the battlefield of life. May their efforts be successful and their fortunes, which so suddenly fled, come back to them ten-fold."

Livermore Rebuilds

The business district at that time was one block north of the present main street on what is now Highway 222.

The Gazette of February 1883 gives this account. " The businessmen met for the purpose of determining the question as to whether they should go up on the hill between the two depots. Mr. A. Branaman of Reinbeck was present and promised that he would come and start a good bank as soon as the businessmen of Livermore would decide to move their buildings on top of the hill."

As a large number of business places had to be rebuilt the town was later moved up the hill to its present location. The Livermore Gazette changed hands several times until it was purchased in 1884 by W.F. Miller who continued to publish it for sixty two years.

Having been started on July 5, 1882, Jasper Lodge No. 424, AF and AM is the oldest active organization in town. The Order of Eastern Star was instituted February 27, 1903. The Twentieth Century Club, a member of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, was organized in 1901 - Federated 1902. Besides the Federation projects the club maintained two loan closets for sick room suppliers. The Equality Club was organized in 1913. It was through the efforts of this club that the Community Library was started in 1936.

To the American Legion and its Auxiliary we owe our Memorial Day Services and Independence Day Celebrations. The Legion also sponsored the organizing of the Boy Scout Troops.

The Lion's Club was organized in 1938. Its activities are two fold, first , civic improvement in the local community, second, the projects of the Lions International namely, Sight Saving

The Miller Opera House

Livermore was a town that from the very beginning did not lack for good social entertainment for their own community, as well as its surrounding neighbors. In 1891, W.F. Miller constructed at 70' x 25' opera house, at the southwest end of Main Street. This building held 400 people and was called "Miller's Opera House." The interior of the building had fancy opera seats and a fine stage. The operas that were performed were of a refined class.

Then in late 1919 or early 20's, Frank Collins purchased the opera house. Dances, stage shows and silent movies were presented for public entertainment. In the late 20's, Bert Sheppard took over this building, enlarged it, and added a roller skating rink.

In 1945, Rich Osborn, and John Olson leased the building and used it for a repair shop. Later, Bob Shaw used it to make cement blocks. The building was finally taken down by Iner Fredricksen.

St. James Hotel

In March, 1880, "Doc" Russell constructed a 20' x 120' brick building which was the "St. James Hotel." In the late teens the Rossing sisters, Amalia and Kate purchased the hotel and along with this, had a dining room and cafe. In the 20's the business was leased to Tony Mack. After a few years, the Rossing sisters again took over the hotel and leased it to a niece, Dorothy (and Carl) Pedersen. They managed it until 1938, when Lester and Helen Smith, from Waterloo, purchased the building and remodeled it into a dance hall. The dance hall was called the "Figueroa," named after the longest street in Los Angels, CA. Thanksgiving night in 1940, the dance hall was sold to Millie and John Groh, and the Smith's moved to Nora, MN. Bill and Helen Nunamaker bought the place in November of 1945, and in 1951 it was sold to Ace and Irene Bordwell. In 1956, Leonard and Alice Roseau purchased it and from a dance hall it went to a roller skating rink and a bowling alley and then back to a dance hall. Then in March of 1976, "Rose" sold it to Melvin Mertz and in the month of June 1979 the building burned down, thus ending the history of a nearly 100 year old building.