|The Town That Moved
John Kincaid of Virginia brought his family in a covered wagon in 1857
to a little town called Warren, which was three miles west and a little
over a mile south of present day Donnellson. It was in Van Buren
Township and had been named Van Buren in the beginning but on December
24, 1889, the name had been changed. Some called it Old Warren.
It was a lively little village with a post office, stage coach stop, a
blacksmith shop, and a Baptist Church with Bowman Cemetery as the
John Russell and his brother Benton had a store. Then in 1871 the
Burlington Railroad built a line from Viele, through Donnellson,
Farmington, Bloomfield and on down into Missouri. Businesses
began to move into the new town and settlement was made on both sides
of the track. The sign painted on the depot called it Warren Station.
There were stockyards used by the farmers of the area for shipping
their livestock, a blacksmith shop, post office and a hotel or in as it
was called inn those days, where one could get food and lodging.
Salesmen could come in on the train, hire a horse and buggy and go out
to the countryside to sell their insurance, patent medicines or
lightning rods. Warren Station had it all. The Russell Brothers moved
the store from Old Warren to the new village and they sold everything
-- one could buy a horse collar or a package of needles. In 1885, the
Ft. Madison Weekly Democrat said the Union Church was getting a new
bell from the McShane Foundry out of Baltimore, MD.
There were two historical events in Warren Station history, the
reunion and the sale, so read on to see what exciting
things happened at these two events.
In August 1875, the Ft. Madison Weekly Democrat announced that the 5th
annual reunion of the Old Settlers Association would be held in
September at Warren Station. Several hundred people attended, coming by
train and by horse and buggy. It was a glorious day in a beautiful
grove of trees with speeches and reminisances and as Exum McCulloch,
postmaster from Primrose stated, it was “an old fashioned dinner,
served the old fashioned way by old pioneer ladies.”
Alexander Cruickshank and William Skinner, two of the first settlers to
the area in 1834, were each presented with a cane as a gift. Then J.W.
Campbell, President of the Old Settlers Association, gave a speech
telling of the pioneers and the homesteads that were here in 1830. All
of them had Indian connections in the Half Breed Tract -- Indian wives,
were doctors, teachers, or connected with the military. Settlers
were not allowed on this side of the river until after the Black Hawk
War in Illinois was settled and treaties were signed in 1833.
Campbell’s address can be found in the Lee County History Book of 1879.
After the reunion at Warren Station, the meetings were always held in
Old Settlers Park in Ft. Madison.
John Russell closed his store circa 1905 and his daughter Bessie, who
was a school teacher, took care of him for 21 years. After his death in
the 1920’s, Bessie continued to live in the old 15-room home with 60
years of merchandise and other furnishings. She passed away in August
of 1948 and her heirs announced a sale of her belongings to be held
September 1, 1948. It was the biggest day in Harrison Township history
with over 2,000 people attending from all over the Midwest.
The sale had the finest collection of antiques to be found; the sale
lasted from 10 in the morning until 11 o’clock at night with over 1,000
items being sold, according to the auctioneer. If the sale were held
today with the present interest in collectibles, these items would
bring 10 to 20 times what they brought that day. The Burlington
newspaper carried a story about Bessie on September 2, 1948 and some of
the things they said were not complimentary. A copy of this story and
also a copy of the sale bill are in the Warren scrapbook in the
Genealogy Department in the Donnellson Library. The old store building
was torn down in 1949.
After the town of Donnellson came into existence and there were better
means of travel, business began to dwindle and the town declined. Only
a couple of houses are in the area today. It is a ghost town without a
sign; the grove is gone and so is the old depot; the tracks have been
taken up. The train does not stop there any more; only the wind
whistles now as it blows down across the surrounding fields on a cold
Researched, transcribed and submitted by Erma Derosear