Little Cedar
Founded 1896

Liberty Township, Mitchell County, Iowa


     The year 1865 marked the ending of the Civil War and only a few white settlers had migrated to the area know as Little Cedar. This section of the country was only Rolling prairie, green as now, but unbroken, and full of blooming flowers. Sioux and Dakota Indians used this area for their camping sites. In the ensuing twenty-five years several veterans of the Civil War came here with their families to settle in Liberty Township. According to farm abstracts, these veterans received the land as back pay from the U.S. Secretary of the Interior who saw a chance to reimburse the soldiers and at the same time encourage settlement of western lands.
Main Street in Little Cedar
(Viewed at 80% full size; photo digitally enhanced)

     One of these families, the J.G. Laughlin, settled north of Little Cedar and when their little son, Albert Lea Laughlin, passed away, they made a burial on their farm in 1868. Later, a public cemetery was established at this burial site on the line between the S.B. Myrick and W.B. Danforth farms. The present Little Cedar Township Cemetery was incorporated in 1880.

The town of Little Cedar is about three-forths of a mile from the ghost town of Wheeler.

     In Little Cedar's "hey-day," they could boast of the following business places: two grocery stores, pool hall, hardware store, coal sheds, two doctors offices, blacksmith shop, bank, barber ship, hotel, livery barn, depot, stockyards, two restaurants, wood working shop, ice house, two meat markets, two rooming houses, two churches, harness shop, ice cream parlor, creamery, lumber yard, two elevators. M.W.A (Modern Woodman Association) Hall, I.O.O.F. Hall, radio and electric shop, gift shop and beauty shop. The population at its peak had reached 200, but which has since decreased to 50.

     The "march of progress" has seen the disappearance of the blacksmith business started by Tom Woldridge in 1891 to the coming of the automobile and tractor. The late Peter Johnson purchased the building in 1933 and started a thriving and successful garage, later he expanded into the Case machinery business which is being carried on by his son, Keith Johnson.

     In 1870 mail was brought to this community by stagecoach for the dozen or more families. The post office was located on the Lewis J. Laughlin farm (now owned by Heine Lammers), and
Approximated Plat Map Recreation, by Neal DuShane,
Vivian Du Shane, and Beulah Cockrum.
[Click graphic for full map (108k)]
Lewis J. Laughlin was the postmaster. The post office was housed in several different houses and buildings of Little Cedar. At the time W.T. Roberts was postmaster, the office was in the hotel. W.T. Roberts held the reputation of being the oldest active postmaster in the U.S. as he filled this capacity until his death at the age of 95. It was in 1904-5 that rural free delivery came into operation in Little Cedar.

     In the summer of 1914 Little Cedar organized a 17 member military band led by John and Clarence Arsers. Band concerts were held in the Little Cedar streets during the summer months. This band disbanded in 1918, due to World War I.

     Little Cedar could also in the early day boast of a park. In 1899 and encampment of Civil War veterans stayed over night at this park located just east of Little Cedar on land now owned by Glen Ketelsen.
Plat Map of Little Cedar
[Click here for large map (150k)]

     The education of the early pioneer children was received in small rural schools of the community. In 1896 the first wooden two story building was erected on the hill east of the present creamery which consisted of eight grades and four years of high school. The school system in Liberty Township was consolidated in 1916 and a new brick structure was built. Later a larger gymnasium was added in 1937. These buildings have been abandoned due to reorganization and are now grim reminders of happier days.

     The bank known as the Little Cedar Citizens Bank was started in 1911 with Amos DeBuhr as cashier. During the "Bankers Holiday" in 1933 it was closed and never reopened.

     The Chicago Great Western Railroad provided passenger and freight service between Osage and Little Cedar for many years. The train traveled to Rochester in the morning and returned to Little Cedar
Steam Engine Crossing river at Little Cedar
[Click photo for original (44k)]
in the evening. Progress also marked the passing of this railroad as the service was discontinued April 10, 1968.

     The first Little Cedar Creamery was built east of the town on the river bank. It burned in 1927 and the present creamery was completed in 1928. There have been several butter makers at the creamery but now Merrill Loney, the present operator, make the only butter in Mitchell County.

     At one time the community supported two general grocery stores located on opposite corners of Main Street. In 1923 Ross Decker purchased the Cash Grocery and Hardware store on the north side of Main Street. He operated this store for 36 years, selling the business in 1960 to Jack Doane. In October 1962, the store and the adjoining M.W.A. Hall burned leaving only one grocery store which is now operated by Lorna Conrad.
A montage of pictures from the book.

     The present co-op elevator has been managed by Kenneth Knapp since the year 1937. During this time a new elevator has been added.

     In 1902 the first telephone service in the community was installed by William Gardner and Son, with the central office in Stacyville. In 1942 a community telephone service was built with the switch board in Ross Decker's store. This system served the community for fifteen years. In 1957 the Riceville Exchange purchased the local system and installed dial telephone service.

     The R.E.A. (Rural Electric Association), in 1939, marked a new milestone in progress for the community; for now it was possible for all houses and public buildings to be served with electricity and modernized. Amos Echoff started an electrical shop in Little Cedar during this period in the vacant bank building. He sold electrical appliances, radio, and did the electrical wiring in the community. Carroll Johnson became his helper and protege. As a result Little Cedar now has an expert electrician.

     Progress changes all ways of life, but to those fortunate enough to have lived in the Little Cedar Community, there will always be found memories of a friendly and pleasant community that will never change.

Additional Photographs

Little Cedar Depot - circa 1920?? (95 Kb)

Mill and Dam - circa 1900??(116 Kb)

Little Cedar Main S. Looking East - circa 1900 (150 Kb)

Creamery Building - circa 1900?? (30 Kb)

Downtown Little Cedar - circa 1960(400 Kb)

Inside a store in Little Cedar - circa 1960 (330 Kb)

Mrs. Albert Hultman
Mrs. Claude Culbertson

Reproduced with the approval of the Mitchell County Historical Society;

LOCATION: Approximately 430th St and Primrose Avenue. Little Cedar is located for the most part southeast by approximately 1/2 mile east and 1/2 mile south. Current Mitchell county maps do not list the actual street names that the main street follows in either direction (north or west). Update to follow.

Edited, 2002, by: Neal Du Shane

Contact information:

Little Cedar MCHS 071102

Edited and revised by Kermit Kittleson Sept. 24, 2004.