History of Marion County, Iowa by Wright and Young (1915)

Chapter XIV - Finance and Industry

Public Finances - Bonded Indebtedness - Value of Taxable Property - Agriculture -
Statistics Relating to Crops and Live Stock - Farmers' Institutes - Their Influence - Coal Mining -
Brief Sketches of the Leading Mining Companies - Manufacturing


That Marion County now has an unquestionable reputation in the matter of public credit is seen in the ease with which her bonds have been refunded in recent years at lower rates of interest. But such was not always the case. In the early years of the county’s history public revenues were meager, and although the rate of taxation was low it was regarded as onerous by the struggling pioneer. The annual expenses of the county during the first few years did not exceed two thousand dollars, yet even this small sum was not always easily obtained. County officials were often compelled to purchase stationery and other needed supplies on credit, at prices that were considered exorbitant, and to assume personal responsibility for the debt. Donnel mentions an instance where the commissioners sent to Oskaloosa for a quire of foolscap paper, a bottle of ink and a bundle of quills (steel pens had not come into general use at that time) and were informed that the goods would be sent only on condition that they would agree to pay the debt in case the county failed to do so. Warrants were issued, many of which were sold to “shavers” at from thirty-seven and a half to forty cents on the dollar, to pay the county debts. The purchasers of these warrants received 6 per cent interest on their face value until the county redeemed them at par - a profitable investment for the purchaser. When an official seal was needed the county commissioners decided that they could not afford to purchase one made expressly for the county’s us and adopted a resolution that “the eagle side of a twenty-five cent United States coin shall be the legal seal of this board.” To take an impression of this improvised seal the coin would be placed upon the document, a stick then placed upon the coin and struck a sharp blow with a mallet or hammer. The first seal of the Probate Court was the tail side of a five cent coin.

The oldest county bonds outstanding at the beginning of the year 1915 were the courthouse bonds of 1895, of which $70,000 were refunded on December 1, 1900. On October 1, 1901, the board of supervisors authorized an issue of bridge bonds, of which $23,000 were refunded on January 1, 1912, and $10,000 were still outstanding at the close of the year 1914. Another issue of bridge bonds of $65,000 was authorized on January 1, 1912, making the total bonded indebtedness of the county on December 31, 1914, $145,000.

And what security has the bondholder for the ultimate payment of his claim against the county? The question is easily answered. These bonds constitute a lien upon all the taxable property of Marion County, which property is assessed for taxation at a value far below the actual one. Even considering the low valuation the property of the county was assessed for taxation in 1913 at $21,931,776, distributed among the several townships and incorporated towns as follows:

Clay Township 1,252,552
Dallas Township 1,247,656
Franklin Township 1,044,584
Indiana Township 1,079,324
Knoxville Township 3,096,492
Lake Prairie Township 2,251,960
Liberty Township 1,005,004
Perry Township 365,336
Pleasant Grove Township 1,046,512
Polk Township 539,116
Red Rock Township 696,924
Summit Township 1,249,800
Swan Township 615,036
Union Township 661,196
Washington Township 1,135,840
City of Knoxville 1,880,560
City of Pella 1,539,356
Town of Bussey 243,500
Town of Dallas 119,352
Town of Hamilton 77,516
Town of Harvey 156,492
Town of Marysville 66,188
Town of Melcher 29,572
Town of Pleasantville 524,272
Town of Swan 95,636
TOTAL $21,931,776

From these figures it may be seen that the tax duplicate for the year 1913 shows more than fifteen dollars of collateral for each dollar of outstanding bonds. When it is taken into consideration that none of the farm lands in the county are assessed at a higher rate than $66.60 per acre, while many of the farms would readily sell for twice that amount, it is safe to assert that the actual collateral is nearer forty dollars for each dollar of the bonded debt. In addition to the property valuation as shown by the above table, the semi-annual report of the county treasurer for the six months ending on June 1, 1914, shows a balance on hand of $50,013.43, or more than enough to pay one-third of the outstanding bonds, if the balance could all be applied to that purpose.


The first banking institution in Marion County was the Pella Savings Institution, which was organized in 1857 and was conducted as a private bank until 1872, when it was reorganized as the Pella National Bank, under which name it is still doing business and is recognized as one of the substantial financial concerns of the county. From a report of its condition at the close of business on September 12, 1914, it is learned that the bank then had a capital stock of $50,000, a surplus fund of the same amount, undivided profits amounting to $3,144.06, and deposits of $331,500. The officers of the bank were: R. R. Beard, president; Henry Nollen, vice president; H. P. Scholte, cashier; Edward S. Cook and H. Paul Scholte, assistant cashiers.

About the close of the Civil war J. E. Neal and Larkin Wright embarked in business as brokers at Knoxville and this firm was the first to do a banking business in the county seat. J. D. Gamble, afterward judge of the District Court, hauled the lumber from Coalport for a small frame building at the northwest corner of the public square, in which the business of the bank was conducted. A year or two later Mr. Neal went to New York and Mr. Wright continued the business under the name of “The Banking House of Larkin Wright.” In 1868 Mr. Wright organized the Old Marion County Bank, which became the Knoxville National Bank in 1871. The Knoxville National occupies the corner where Neal & Wright built their little two room frame house, and by virtue of its being the successor of the Marion County Bank is the oldest financial house in Knoxville. The capital stock of the bank in 1914 was $100,000; its surplus and undivided profits, $35,000; and deposits, $600,000. John B. Elliott was then president of the institution; C. C. Cunningham, vice president, and J. J. Roberts, cashier.

The Marion County National Bank, the next oldest bank in the county, was organized in 1872. It is located directly across Main Street from the Knoxville National, and according to the Bankers’ Directory for July, 1914, had a capital stock of $60,000; surplus and undivided profits of $45,000, and deposits of $500,000. At that time O. P. Wright was president; Charles Perry, vice president, and O. L. Wright, cashier.

Ten years elapsed after the opening of the Marion County National Bank before another bank was established in the county. In 1882 the Citizens Bank of Pleasantville was organized, numbering among its stockholders some of the most substantial citizens of Pleasantville and the surrounding country. In 1914 this bank reported a paid up capital of $35,000; surplus and profits amounting to $7,000, and deposits of over two hundred thousand dollars. The officers of the bank were at that time as follows: H. Horsman, president; J. A. Galvin, vice president; B. F. Heiny, cashier.

Two bank were organized in the county in the year 1891 - the Farmers Security Bank of Percy, and the Citizens National Bank of Knoxville. The former closed its doors in 1914. The Citizens National Bank, located at the southeast corner of the public square, reported in 1914 a capital stock of $50,000; surplus and profits of $8,000, and deposits of $350,000. L. S. Collins was then president; W. R. Myers, vice president, and J. C. Collins, cashier.

The Bank of Bussey was organized under the laws of Iowa in 1892, with a paid up capital stock of $15,000. In 1914 it reported a surplus of $1,500 and deposits of $140,000, with James Schee, president, and Elmer A. Johnson, cashier.

In 1898 the Security Bank of Pella was organized with G. Van Vliet, president; N. Van Vliet, vice presidetn, and J. H. Van der Linden, cashier. The responsibility of this bank is given as $300,000. In 1914 N. Van Vliet was president; A. T. Klein and A. B. Van Houweling, vice presidents; J. H. Van Vliet, cashier; S. B. Baron and T. H. Klein, assistant cashiers. This bank carries deposits of about a quarter of a million dollars.

The First National Bank of Pleasantville was organized in 1900. Its officers in 1914 were: Charles Clark, president; Reuben Core, vice president; F. T. Metcalf, cashier. The capital stock of this bank is $25,000, the surplus and undivided profits amount to $9,000, and the deposits to $200,000.

On July 12, 1902, article of incorporation of the Columbia Saving Bank were filed in the county recorder’s office by David Bell, O. L. Wright, James A. McCorkle, Frank Carruthers, William Van Loon, A. L. Maddy and J. N. Maddy, who constituted the first board fo directors. The capital stock of the bank is $12,000, the surplus and undivided profits in 1914 amounted to $18,000 and the deposits to $70,000. At that time Frank Carruthers was president; O. L. Wright, vice president, and C. Carruthers, cashier.

Another bank organized in 1902 is the Iowa State Savings Bank of Knoxville. According to the articles of incorporation filed on December 6, 1902, the capital stock of the bank was fixed at $25,000, with S. L. Collins as president; Lafe S. Collins, vice president; L. B. Myers, cashier, and Scott Collins, assistant cashier. This bank occupies the same quarters as the Citizens National and in 1914 the officers of the two institutions were identical. The Iowa State Savings Bank then carried deposits of $75,000 and reported a surplus fund of $5,000.

On June 25, 1903, the Peoples Bank of Dallas was organized with O. L. Wright, president; J. S. Highberger, vice president, and O. C. James, cashier. New articles of incorporation were filed on July 29, 1905, when the name was changed to the Peoples Savings Bank of Dallas and the capital stock fixed at $20,000. Edd McCoy then succeeded Mr. Highberger as vice president, the other officers remaining the same. On March 4, 1914, this bank was removed to Melcher and the name was again changed, this time to the First Trust and Savings Bank of Melcher. The capital stock was increased to $35,000; O. L. Wright was elected president of the reorganized bank; M. H. Bucklew, vice president; W. S. Wilson, cashier, and W. L. Brasher, assistant cashier.

Two other banks were added to the list of Marion County’s financial institutions in 1903, viz.: The First National Bank of Harvey and the Iowa Savings Bank of Tracy. According to the Bankers’ Directory for July, 1914, the First National Bank of Harvey has a capital stock of $25,000, surplus and undivided profits amounting to $5,000, and deposits of over fifty thousand dollars.

O. L. Wright was president of the Iowa Saving Bank of Tracy in 1914; J. B. Lyman, vice president, and F. W. Lyman, cashier. The capital stock of this bank is $12,000. The Bankers’ Directory above referred to credits it with surplus and undivided profits of $3,500 and deposits of $100,000.

In 1905 the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Pella began business. This is a private bank and no statistics regarding its financial condition are obtainable. The officers of the bank in 1914 were: R. Vander Ploeg, president; A. Vander Ploeg, vice president; W. H. Vander Ploeg, cashier.

The Citizens National Bank of Pella was organized in 1906 with a capital stock of $25,000 and the following officers: L. Kruidenier, president: H. Wormhoudy, vice president; B. H. van Spanckeren, cashier. The last named still held the position of cashier in 1914, but W. D. Wormhoudt had succeeded to the presidency and J. S. Rhynsburger was vice president. The bank owns the building in which it is located at the corner of Main and Franklin streets; has a fund of surplus and undivided profits of $7,500, and deposits of $125,000.

In 1907 the Bussey Savings Bank was organized under the state laws governing such institutions. The capital stock of this bank is $20,000. In 1914 it reported surplus and undivided profits of $2,000, and deposits of $75,000. James A. Bussey was at that time president; R. M. Boyer, vice president, and William H. Lowman, cashier.

The year 1908 witnessed the organization and opening of the Citizens Bank of Cordova, which conducted a fairly successful banking business for over five years, but in 1914 it liquidated its affairs and passed out of existence.

The Guaranty Bank of Knoxville commenced business in 1909 with a capital stock of $35,000. It occupies a new building on the west side of the public square facing the courthouse. The officers of the bank in 1914, as given by the Bankers’ Directory, were: George W. Crozier, president; Thomas Nace, vice president; E. R. Jordan, cashier.

The Swan Savings Bank was organized in 1910, with a capital stock of $10,000. In 1914 it reported surplus and undivided profits of $500, and deposits of $40,000. C. L. McIntyre was then president of the bank; Leroy Hunt, vice president, and W. H. Wier, cashier.

Articles of incorporation for the Melcher State Bank were filed with the county recorder on September 6, 1912, showing a capital stock of $25,000. R. G. McCoy was chosen president; John R. Abbott, vice president, and G. O. Seaton, cashier.

Two banks were organized in the year 1914. After the removal of the Peoples Savings Bank from Dallas to Melcher, J. S. Highberger and other citizens of Dallas organized the Farmers Savings Bank, of which Mr. Highberger was elected president, and late in the year the Otley Savings Bank was incorporated, the articles being filed with the county recorder on October 29, 1914. A. G. Dykstra was elected the first president and H. G. Schultz the first cashier. These two officials, with J. D. Reitvelt, G. H. Fennama and H. L. Renaud constituted the first board of directors. The capital stock was fixed at $10,000.

The twenty-one banks in Marion County at the beginning of the year 1915 represented a combined capital stock of considerably over half a million dollars, and deposits of approximately three million. All these banks are conducted along conservative lines, but without being non-progressive, and command the confidence of the people.


Marion County has from the beginning been an agricultural community. And it is almost certain that for another generation, at least, tilling the soil and raising live stock will remain the principal occupations of the people. Gradually the little clearing in the timber or the sod cornfield of the prairie along the latter ‘40s have developed into well managed farms that compare favorably with those in other counties of the state.

There is neither romance nor rhetoric in statistics, which are not always interesting to the reader, but the story of a community’s progress can often be better told by figures than by any other method. Adopting that method, then, for the purpose of showing the county’s agricultural growth and status, and taking statistics from official sources, the Iowa Year Book of Agriculture for the year 1914 gives the number of farms in the county as 1,948, the average size of which is 144 acres, making a total acreage of 280,512 for the entire county. As the county has a total area of 576 square miles, or 368,640 acres, this leaves 88,128 acres for town sites, public highways, the right of way of railroads, the beds and bluffs of the various water courses, etc. The amount of waste land, not used for any purpose, is given as 1,779 acres, which is considerably below the average of waste land in each of the ninety-nine counties of the state. The following table, showing the acreage of the principal crops, has been compiled from the year book above mentioned:

  Acres Bushels
Corn 77,486 2,152,316
Oats 28,081 826,169
Winter wheat 14,850 293,970
Spring wheat 2,029 27,494
Barley 944 21,017
Rye 520 8,891
Potatoes 514 14,889
Tame hay 27,719 36,503 tons
Wild hay 288 351 tons
Alfalfa 60 133 tons
Timothy seed 934 3,467
Clover seed 4,327 4,762

Of the 280,512 acres in the farms of the county, 157,752 acres were planted to the crops above enumerated. Of the remainder 110,149 acres were in pasture; 245 acres devoted to gardening; 1,016 acres in orchards, and 356 acres were given over to the crops of a miscellaneous character. The orchards of the county yielded 14,747 bushels of apples and some small fruits were raised. For several years Knoxville has shipped more cherries than any other station on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railway System in Iowa. The number of domestic animals is shown by the following table:

Horses 16,219
Mules 802
Hogs 91,540
Cattle 2,567
Sheep 39,555
Fowls (all kinds) 421,061

Of the cattle thus reported, 7,126 were kept for dairy purposes, but no statistics regarding the output of milk and butter are given. The county stood twenty-eighth in the number of horses, twenty-fourth in the number of mules and forty-seventh in the number of cattle. Of the sheep, 32,739 were shipped in for feeding, and during the year 34,103 were sold for slaughter, the largest number of any county in the state. The number of pounds of wool clipped was 69,219. In this respect the county stood tenth. The egg crop amounted to 1,197,920 dozen, only twenty-seven counties reporting a larger number. It is a noteworthy fact that a large majority of the farms of the county are owned by the persons who operate them, the number of tenant farmers being comparatively few, and the percentage of farms mortgaged is below the average for the state.


By the enactment of liberal laws, the State of Iowa has from time to time offered great encouragement to the farmers and stock raisers of the state. The act of 1907, regarding farmers’ institutes, provides: “When forty or more farmers of a county organize a farmers’ institute, with a president, secretary, treasurer and an executive committee of not less than three outside of such officers and hold an institute, remaining in session not less than two days in each year, which institute may be adjourned from time to time and from place to place in said county, the secretary of the State Board of Agriculture, upon the filing with him of a report of such institute and an itemized statement under oath showing that the same has been organized and held and for what purposes the money expended has been used, shall certify the same to the auditor of state, which state auditor shall remit to the county treasurer of such county his warrant for the amount expended not to exceed seventy-five dollars,” etc.

The act further provides that no officer of the county institute shall receive any compensation for his services and that all reports shall be made to the secretary of the State Board of Agriculture by the first day of June of each year, or no money well be paid by the state to any institute that fails to report in the manner and within the time specified.

Under the provisions of this act a farmers’ institute for 1915 were as follows: M. Shivvers, president; D. W. Ward, vice president; C. W. Cloe, secretary; E. R. Jordan, treasurer. In addition to these officers there is a board of township directors, composed in 1915 of the following: Clay Township, W. H. Cummings, T. P. Overton and John Adair; Dallas, W. A. Hollowell; Franklin, S. B. Hudson; Indiana, R. C. Converse; Knoxville, Harry Crouch and S. S. Fisher; Lake Prairie, John H. Ver Steeg; Liberty, Albert Fall, Chester Bingham and W. H. Van Benthuysen; Polk, Grant Reynolds; Red Rock, Charles B. Livingston; Summit, Teunis Van Zante; Swan, Roy Walker and Alonzo Jordan; Union, George Jones; Washington, E. E. Fast.

The institute of 1915 was held at Knoxville during the entire week beginning on the first day of February and was advertised as the “Marion County Short Course and Farmers’ Institute in Agriculture and Domestic Science.” Among the instructors were men prominent in agricultural work, and the institute closed with an address on Saturday evening by Governor Clarke. The banks and business houses of Knoxville offered a number of prizes for the best specimens of farm products, bread, cakes, butter, etc., and the school children were encouraged to take an interest in agriculture and domestic science by the offer of a number of premiums for the best collections of seeds, samples of sewing, etc.

As a rule the meetings of the county institute have been well attended, and by the interchange of ideas the farmers of the county are becoming more and more up to date in many of their methods. Through the medium of the short course the influence of the agricultural college is being felt by many farmers who are unable to attend the institution in the regular course of study, and the business of farming is gradually being placed upon a more scientific basis. Other industries may be established and flourish, but for many years to come corn will still be king in Marion County.


Next to agriculture, the mining of coal is the most important industry of the county. As mentioned in Chapter I, coal was first noted in Iowa in 1835. The presence of coal in Marion County was noticed soon after the county was settled, but the early history of the mining industry is veiled in obscurity - mainly because of the still prevailing idea that the works of the pioneers who blazed the trail for subsequent industrial progress were matters of small consequence to the present and future generations. About all that can be said, therefore, of the first efforts to obtain coal from the numerous deposits in the county is based upon the recollections of old settlers.

J. W. Harp, one of the first settlers of Red Rock Township, frequently stated that steamboats, during the period of Des Moines River navigation, regularly took on coal at Coalport, Polk Township, between the years 1847 and 1851. In a geological report in 1909, Calvin says: “In the early days of steam-boating, Coalport was the most important coaling station between Eddyville and Des Moines.” Professor Hall visited the coal deposits at this point about 1856 or 1857, and in his report on the geology of Iowa in 1858, says: “At Coalport (Marion County) section 14, township 76, range 19, on the south side of the river, a heavy seam of coal outcrops in the face of the bluff. The coal in this seam appears somewhat slaty, especially in the upper part, but it has only been penetrated a few feet and the quality may improve after reaching a point beyond the influence of atmospheric conditions. Mr. Welch, who is now engaged at running a coal mine at that point, informs me that, at time of low water, another coal seam is exposed in the river bed.”

From that statement of Mr. Harp and the reports of Professor Hall, it is almost certain that the first coal mined in the county was taken from the vein at Coalport. When Prof. C. A. White made his visit to the county in 1867, engaged upon the third authorized geological survey of Iowa, he found Bousquet & Thompson operating a coal mine at Coalport “in coal that measures six and seven feet in thickness,” and adds: “It is in the same vein or bed as that seen in the mammoth exposures on Cedar Creek at Marysville.”

The coal beds of Liberty Township, near Marysville, were worked in a small way in the early ‘50s, and about the same time coal was taken in considerable quantities from the “upper veins” in the neighborhood of Knoxville. These workings were noted by White in 1867, when he also visited the mines worked by Roberts, Fisher and Barnes in the vicinity of Otley; the Nossaman mine southwest of Pella; F. J. Brobst’s mine “immediately at the outskirts of Knoxville,” and O’Neil’s mine in Liberty Township were worked by Jacob Kline, John Yenser, G. F. Clemons, A. B. Lyman and the Mill Company.

The first real, systematic mining of coal in Marion County was inaugurated by the Union coal Company at Flagler, about the time the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (then the Albia, Knoxville & Des Moines) Railroad was completed to Knoxville - the opening of the mines having been about 1874 or 1875. The old No. 5 mine at Flagler was for years recognized as one of the greatest coal mines in Iowa, employing from forty to fifty men and producing from 140 to 160 tons daily, the vein ranging from eight to nine feet in thickness.

Contemporary with the Union Coal Company, the Oak Hill Company also operated a mine at Flagler, in the same vein, both the Union and Oak Hill mines being worked on the slope plan. About the same time J. T. James opened a mine in Knoxville, only eight blocks north of the courthouse, which he continued to operate until about 1890, and during the same period W. A. Gamble was engaged in mining operations in North Knoxville, the veins in both the James and Gamble mines averaging about four feet in thickness. The coal was shipped chiefly over the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad. S. L. Collins subsequently became the owner of the James shaft, which was 109 feet in depth.

Sometime in the ‘80s the White Breast Fuel Company began extensive operations in the county, and in the No. 11 mine at Flagler and the mine at Swan employed from 250 to 285 men. The Swan mine was closed in 1888, and the No. 11 mine in 1892, on account of low and faulty coal. About three years before the closing of the latter, it was working in one of the largest veins of coal ever discovered in the state - fourteen feet in thickness. But this deposit proved to be a “pocket,” shaped like an inverted wash basin and “feathering out” in all directions until the vein was less than three feet.

In 1890 J. A. Powers, then a young man of twenty-six, came to Liberty Township and began prospecting for coal. A little later he had a sufficient amount of capital interested to open the O. K. Mine and secure the construction of a spur from the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad from Bussey to the mines a mile south of the town. From 1895 to about 1902 the O. K. mine was the largest producer in the county. Mr. Powers was also the principal factor in the development of the Mammoth Vein enterprise, around the shaft of which has grown up the Town of Everist, three and a half miles west of Bussey. The Mammoth Vein Company was organized in 1903, with Mr. Powers as president. The coal veins in this part of the field average about eight feet in thickness and the product is of good quality. In more recent years the mines about Everist have been operated by the Empire Coal Company. They are connected with the Wabash Railroad at Tracy by a spur about seven miles in length. The mines at Everist embrace both “slope” and “shaft” methods of extracting the coal and are electically equipped. Mining machines are used to some extent and from 90 to 300 men are employed, according to the season and trade conditions. As high as 800 cars of screened coal have been taken from these mines in a single day.

Early in the present century the Consolidated Indiana Coal Company began prospecting in the coal field about Dallas, and purchased some five thousand acres of land in that vicinity. When the building of the Allerton division of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad became a certainty, the company commenced the development of its property. A shaft was sunk to the depth of 200 feet and walled up with a seven-inch wall of reinforced concrete from bottom to top. The tipple, powerhouse, shops, etc., are all of fireproof construction, the tipple being so built that it can be taken down and removed to another mine should occasion require. The shaft is located at the new mining town of “Electra” - so named because electricity is used for power in practically every operation of the plant - about two miles southeast of Dallas. The company claims to have enough coal in this field “to hoist a thousand tons a day for the next forty years.”

In the fall of 1910 B. F. Evans and his two sons began negotiating for lands in the eastern part of Knoxville Township, about three miles south of Flagler, and by the end of May, 1911, forty-two prospect holes had been drilled, all penetrating a fine vein of coal at a depth of from sixty-five to seventy-five feet. The main shaft, located on section 22, township 75, range 19, was commenced on June 27, 1911, and was completed the following September. Owing to delay in getting a spur of railroad built to the mine, the first shipment was made in September, 1912, about a year after the completion of the shaft. The company operating this mine is known as the Anderson Coal Company. Concerning its holdings, State Mine Inspector Rhys said in his report for 1912: “The shaft is sunk in a good field of coal ranging in thickness from five to nine feet, and (as a producer) has a very promising future.” The works of the Anderson Coal Company are of the most modern type. From 40 to 120 men are employed, according to season, and the out put runs from 90 to 270 tons daily. The mine is connected by a spur with the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad at Flagler.

In November, 1912, George H. Ramsay came to Knoxville, having been previously engaged for a number of years in mining operations in Mahaska County. Some five or six months before coming to Knoxville, Mr. Ramsay purchased the D. B. Cherry coal lands in sections 4 and 9, township 75, range 19, and afterward added other lands, until he owned about two hundred acres within two miles of the City of Knoxville. Thirty-eight prospect holes showed that the greater part of this land contains a vein of coal varying from four to seven feet in thickness. Work was commenced upon shaft No. 3 on April 28, 1913, and the first blasts in the coal were fired upon the evening of the 1st of July. The works at shaft No. 3 include the regulation shaft 8 by 14 feet, cured for the entire depth with three-inch timber, reinforced at the center and ends with timber 8 by 8 inches; a tower or tipple sixty-five feet in height, covered with corrugated iron; the very best modern hoisting machinery; over two thousand feet of sidetrack, and a large railroad scale for weighing empty and loaded cars. Mr. Ramsay’s experience has taught him that “the best is none too good,” and consequently he has made the equipment of his mine equal to that of any in the Marion County field.

Besides the mining projects already mentioned there are or have been several other mining enterprises in the county. Notable among theses are or were the Marion County Coal Company, of Otley; the Wild Rose and Midland Coal companies, of Morgan Valley; the Black Diamond Coal Company, of Dunreath, and the Red Rock Coal and Mining Company. The last named was organized in 1883, eastern capital being interested, and over four thousand acres of land in Red Rock Township was purchased, but the company disbanded without sinking a shaft. It is said that the reason for this course was that the land was purchased without careful prospecting and was afterward found to be practically worthless as a mining proposition. About half the land is still owned by the company or its stockholders in the vicinity of Dunreath. The mines at Morgan Valley have been abandoned for several years and the one at Dunreath is worked only on a small scale. A volume might be written on the coal industry of Marion County, if all the various phases of the business were treated in detail, but enough has been said to show the importance of the coal field as a commercial factor in the county’s history.


Marion has never been much of a manufacturing county, as compared with some of the other counties of the state. Necessity compelled the establishment of saw and grist mills in the early days, and these were the first manufacturing enterprises. Accounts of many of these early mills have been already given in the chapters on Township History. The first grist mill in Knoxville was built by John M. Jones, about 1860. It was located in the western part of the city and later Mr. Jones added a woolen mill, which did a prosperous business for several years. In 1875 Mr. Jones sold out to the Lever Brothers and removed to Mahaska County. The woolen mill feature was then abandoned and the flour mill was afterward sold to Martin Cherry, who continued to operate it until some time in the late ‘80s, when the building was torn down.

Another manufacturing industry of Knoxville in the years gone by was the Baker Barbed Wire Fence Company, which carried on a successful business for some years, when the plant was removed to Des Moines. In 1914 the building was occupied by Seth Way & Company, dealers in hay and grain. At that time the only manufacturing concerns of consequence in the city were the three flour mills, operated respectively by Isaac Beebout, E. C. Pringle and the Schimelfinig Brothers; the cement block works of E. C. Pringle, and a similar factory conducted by Leopold Liike.

About three hundred people are employed in the different manufacturing enterprises of Pella. Foremost among these stands the Pella Stacker Company, which makes stackers, band cutters and threshing machine feeders. The Garden City band cutter is the invention of A. C. Van Houweling, a Pella man, and it is meeting with the approval of threshermen who have given it a trial. The Pella Roller Mills ship large quantities of flour; tanks for watering live stock are made by the Pella Pipe and Tank Works and sent all over Southern Iowa; the tile factory ships drain tile to all parts of Central and Southern Iowa and to some of the adjoining states; Pella canned goods are well known, as are the Buerkens wagons; the Heeran Furniture Factory employs a number of people; and other factories turn out overalls, cigars, harness and ditching machinery.

Transcribed by Mary E. Boyer, February 2007, reformatted by Al Hibbard 10 Oct 2013