Source: "Parnell Centennial: 1885-1985 - 100 Years in Little Ireland"
From the year of 1850, a number of Irish
people located in Greene Township in the vicinity, where Holbrook is now located. They
were Boyles, Butlers, Archibalds, Gillens, Greys, McCunes, Murphys, Sheridans, Spratts,
Han-nons, Cashs, Duffys, Donohoes, Smiths, Toomeys, Lees, Fays, Shays, Gaffeys, Blacks,
Quinns, Convoys, Noones, and many others.
Thomas Boyle, the first postmaster at Holbrook, was born April
10, 1830 on Cooley Shore, Ireland. He served in both the Mexican and Civil wars and
was sheriff of Iowa County for many years.
Mrs. Catherine Quinn owned and operated the first grocery store
in Holbrook. In 1884, a new store was built and managed and operated by R.H. Dunn. He
was in charge of this store for fourteen years. He sold it to W.J. Hanson, who later
sold it to J.G. Grady. Mr. Hanson then moved to his farm now owned and operated by James
Malloy. After selling the farm to Mr. Malloy, Mr. Hanson purchased the store again and
operated same until it was sold to the last owner, Joe Gaffey, Jr.
J.C. Donohoe was the local bee-keeper of Holbrook. He captured
his first swarm of bees in 1879 and remained in the business of selling honey until
his retirement, which was caused by illness. The farm on which he resided with his wife
and son John is located a short distance south of the Holbrook store.
In 1850, the first church built by the local Catholics was a
little frame structure near where St. Michael's Church now stands. The new building
which was erected in 1867, was named St. Michael's and Father Sullivan was pastor. The
completion of this church, expanded the boundaries of St. Michael's Parish until its
area had a radius of at least twelve miles. This meant people came to church in Holbrook
from Keokuk County, Millersburg, Williamsburg, and what is now Cosgrove.
Two of the schools which have played an active and im-portant
part in the history of Holbrook, are the Hannon and Boyle Schools. The Hannon school
was located about 21/2 miles east of Holbrook and the Boyle School is still standing
on the farm owned by Leon and Merle Spratt. It is located a short distance east of the
store. When these schools were first built, they were typical schools of that time.
Long ben-ches around the room were the seats for the pupils. A small blackboard was
at one end of the room. One store, which consumed several four foot lengths of wood
at a time sup-plied heat in the winter and was always red hot. The pupils burnt on one
side while they froze on the other. Drinking water was carried in buckets from a well
on a near-by farm. When the pupils recited, they stood in a row lengthwise of the room.
There were no grades. In arithmetic, the children worked individually, with the teacher
going from one pupil to the other, at their places, to give needed instruction. They
were regularly in various stages of advancement in the dif-ferent subjects, except reading,
which was conducted in classes.