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Cedar Rapids History

From Room 13 Post Office Block in a Decade the Y.M.C.A. Transfer to a Three Story Brick Block. The History.

“Presto change!” has been a characteristic of Cedar Rapids people ever since it became a village. A change however which has always been growth and improvement, advancement, enlargement, progression. Our historian…the city directory…tells us that when Robt. Ellis came fifty years ago he found no small portion of Cedar Rapids asleep in a garden patch in the person of Phillip Hull, but that never since that time was Cedar Rapids found knapping. Then the west side, then “Kingston,” name in honor of David W. King, father of Alderman King, attracted the larger number of inhabitants. Osgood Shepherd was the first white settler on the east side as was Wm. Stone on the west. Mrs. Shepherd was the first white woman who graced the east side, and Mrs. Gainor the west side and that was but forty-eight years ago, a long time it seems to the young people of the city, but short in the memories of such men as Mr. Ellis and other old settlers. Then came the Greenes, the Browns, the Daniels, the Earls, the Mansfields, and the Weares. Isaac Cook was the first lawyer. Rev Searles, father of Capt. Searles, preaches the first sermon here. The post office was established in 1847 with Joseph Greene post master. In that same year the first school house was built and in it the religious worship was held and debating society. In 1842 the first steamboat the “Maid of Iowa” arrived, and in 1843 the original plat of the city was filed and the charter of the city was approved in 1856.

Today what a change! Twenty thousand people, 100 manufacturing and jobbing institutions, over twenty churches and nearly as many school buildings, with all the facilities of modern improvement! These scattering thoughts have been suggested by the exercises of tomorrow in connection with the laying of the corner stone of the new Young Men’s Christian Association building. That institution has had as remarkable a growth perhaps as any institution in the city.

Centennial year was an eventful one for the Young Men’s Christian Association in Cedar Rapids. Early in that year the attention of the international committee through its western secretary, Robert Weidlnesall was called to this place and March, 1876 found a few men in the Lutheran church near the Troy laundry, considering the advisability making an effort to save young men.

Among that little company was one who always took a great interest in the welfare of the young, and that one was called to take charge of the work, and he, Mr. T. M. Sinclair, was made its first president and under his wise counsel the Association was placed on its feet. The second president of the association was J.C. Broeksmit and from that time to this the organization has had one to whom it could go in its time of need. For two years Mr. Broeksmit consented to serve them as their president.

In ’79 Mr. O.H. Adams was called to be the executive officer. During that year a good deal of religious work was done, and it was during this year that the association had its first state secretary. At the next annual election Henry Rickel was called to the presidency, and served the association one year.

At the annual meeting March, ’81, Mr. George Larrimer was asked to serve as its president and did so till October of that year. On the return of the delegates from the state convention held at Burlington, a special meeting was held and the matter of doing more aggressive and broader young men’s work was discussed and it was decided to change the course somewhat. Mr. Wm. Waterhouse was asked to lead in the good work. During the four years which Mr. Waterhouse had the presidency the work took different shape. From No. 13, post office block they moved to room 38 First Avenue and it was here that they called their first general secretary, Mr. H. G. Smead a man who was very successful, laying a good broad foundation for the Y.M.C.A. work. Mr. Smead spent fourteen months with this association and was called to another field of labor. From 38 First Avenue the association moved into the spacious rooms on Third Street, rooms 13 and 14 and shortly after the present general secretary took charge of the work.

In these quarters they attempted to do the four fold work that the association proposes to do for young men. Here they remained nearly four years. As the work developed it was apparent to the Board of Managers that it was impossible to do in rented rooms what was proposed to be done by the Y.M.C.A.

In October 1885 Mr. C. B. Weeks took the presidency and is still the incumbent of the office. These years have been years of trial and disappointment as well as encouragement.

It was during the monthly meetings of 1886 that the subject of building was discussed by the board of managers. The first move made was by J.A. Dunlap who secured the refusal of a lot of land of E. K. Larimer on, a term of years to put up a temporary building. And then a most generous gift came from Mrs. T. M. Sinclair. It was then deemed best to hold a mass meeting and to ask the people of Cedar Rapids for a home. J.V. Farwell, of Chicago, was invited to our city and spoke in Green’s opera house Sunday April 17, 1887, in the interests of the association. At that meeting a committee of twelve was created to secure funds for this organization and afterward the number was increased to thirty.

The canvass for funds was commenced in May and the amount asked for at the mass meeting ($20,000) was secured by the following October. After the close of the canvass there were several offers for location. It was largely through Mr. C. G. Greene’s liberally that this very desirable lot came into the possession of the association. In Sept. 1877, the association saw the necessity of being, legally able to hold property of its own, and asked for an incorporation Sept. 24, 1887.

The board of trustees are: J.C. Broeksmit, C. B. Soutter, P.C. Frick, Sydney E. Lindair, E.K. Larimer, J.R. Morin, Wm. Krebs, A.B. Reed, C.G. Greene, Wm. Buchanan, C.B. Weeks and A.S. Lawrence.

As the work grew the association increased its officers from ten to fifteen so that now the officers are:
C. B. Weeks, President
O. H. Adams, Vice President
A. E. Kurtz, Treasurer
L. A. Brewer, Secretary
C. D. Jordan, General Secretary

Board of Managers: J.J. Powell, B.H. Witwer, S.S. Dowart, J.R. Campbell, H.D. Cone, F.H. Whiting, George Gladfelter, E. H. Taylor, E.R. Moore, J.W. McDaniels.

The laying of the corner stone occurs tomorrow at 2 p.m. Governor Larrabee has consented to be present and the following program has been arranged for:
Music, Myers’ bank; reading of scripture, Rev. Stattou; prayer, Rev. B.O.Aylesworth; address, Dr. Marshal; music, male chorus; laying of corner stone, Mrs. C. B. Soutter; music; address, Gov. Larrabee; music, “Praise God from Whom all Blessing Flow.” Mr. J. C. Broeksmit will have charge of the exercises of the afternoon.

Source: The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, IA, 11 Sep 1888, pg. 4

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