Town of Osage

Also known as Cora, in 1854, and as Hart's Settlement in 1853

Osage Township, Mitchell County, Iowa


     The town of Osage is situated just south of the center of Mitchell County, and about one mile east of the Cedar River. When Osage was founded, the area between it and the river was

Osage as it appeared in 1856

almost continuous timber, and open prairie in the other directions.

     The first settlement upon the site now occupied by the city of Osage was made by Hiram Hart in the spring of 1853. His claim consisted of eighty acres of land now in the southwest part of Osage. He erected a little claim shanty upon the same block now occupied by the Cleveland Hotel, and lived there many years.

     In the fall of 1853, Dr. A. H. Moore came to the county with his family. He entered a claim on eighty acres, now comprising the south east part of Osage. He established his home in the south west corner of his claim.

     During the same season O. E. Tripp came to the county and claimed a piece of land adjoining that of Hart's on the north. Early in the spring of 1854, Benjamin C. Whitaker came from Michigan and secured the tract of land lying east of Tripp's and north of Moore's. These tracts of land comprise the present city of Osage, there being only two small additions since that time.

     In the fall of 1854, Dr. Moore platted a town on his land, and called it Cora, after his daughter. But this plat was never recorded. The next platting to be done was by Dr. Downs and Gibbs, Boardman & Co., of Lyons, Iowa, in the spring of 1856. The Lyons Company bought in with Doctor Moore, in his Cora site, and bought the Whitaker land just north of it and included it in their plat, east of Seventh Street and on both sides of Main Street in the present city. Gibbs represented the banker and capitalist, Orrin Sage, of Ware, Mass., and induced the proprietors of the second plat, to name it Osage, after this capitalist. This plat was never recorded.

     The first plat of Osage that was recorded was made in the spring of 1856 by Dr. S. B. Chase and others. It included the lands included ill the other plats, and much more, extending quite a distance west of Seventh Street.

     Dr. Chase came to Osage from Decorah in the winter of 1855-56 and bought land in what is now the southwest part of Osage. He was the main mover in the new plat and the name of Osage was

Early Osage street scene, about 1870, looking north on Second Street, from
Main Street. The rail yards are in the background.

retained. The plat was duly recorded, and Dr. Chase named the streets as they are today, with one exception. The first street north of Main he called Free Street. After his death, this name was changed to Chase in his honor. The owners of the land which went to make up the present city of Osage were: A. K. Eaton, Sarah A. Eaton, John and Elizabeth Strayer, Adam and Elizabeth Heckart, James D. and N. M. Jenkins, Robert Dowling, Charles and Henry A. Holdship, Edmund M. and Caroline L. Downs, Frederick and Betsy Hess, Mary and John M. Bennet, Sumner B. and Almira Chase, and Jane and Theodore Wilson. In 1879 Theodore Wilson platted land to fill out blocks on the west side of the city.


The United States Land Office

     The government land office was removed from Decorah to Osage in June, 1856 and opened up for land entries at once. A. K. Eaton was the first receiver. The land office remained in Osage until 1859, when all of the land had been sold and the office was removed to Des Moines. While the land sales were going on, Osage was a lively frontier town. Land seekers, surveyors and speculators came in great numbers. In the spring of 1857, it was estimated that there were 1500 persons in Osage besides the regular residents. During that spring, several congressional townships were sold, and more than one million dollars changed hands at Osage. Several business houses had opened up and a fair foundation had been laid for a new western city. Four general stores had been established in 1856, and a church building had been erected by the Presbyterians.


Early Business Men

     John N. Bennet conducted the first store in Osage beginning in 1854, and B. C. Whitaker, the second, S. W. Hastings came in 1856, and engaged in merchandising, building three or four stores in his life time. William Woods, Isaac Morse, Mr. Merchant, Mr. Everingham, Mr. Snell, Mr. Theopold and Crowell & Crowell were early merchants. Most of the early stores handled all lines of goods that were in general demand. Dr. Chase helped to start the first drug store. Peter Morse and J. F. Daily were the most prominent early druggists. Peter Lohr was the first furniture dealer and undertaker in the city. He began this business in 1856, taking in his son, Frank S. as a partner. Arad Hitchcock began a general store in the latter 1850's and continued for many years.

     G. W. Weinrube and Ed. H. Rose opened the first blacksmith shop. James L. Logan conducted the first harness shop. H. Z. Shipherd and the firm of Burns & Bishop were early wagon makers. Jacob Graves was the first shoemaker in town. The first carpenters and builders were J. H. and Edward F. Merrill, D. B. Cotton, J. J. Bowers, W. S. Johnston and George W. Davis.

     The financial crash of 1857 badly crippled the new business interests in Osage. Then came the Civil War which demanded men and money of the few pioneers. These were the darkest days for this new town, and relief did not come until the war was over.

     The railway came through Osage and Mitchell County in 1869, and in 1870 the county seat was permanently located here. Since then the town has not lagged.



     There have been many hotels in the history of Osage. The first was a large hewn log house raised in the winter of 1855-6, by Downs and Company. After four years it was torn down and a better one built. Isaac Morse erected a hotel in 1858 and conducted it a number of years. In 1856, W. G. Higbie built the Cedar Valley House, near the corner of Main and Eighth Streets. Arad Hitchcock finally acquired it and named it "The Hitchcock House". After changing hands a number of times, it burned in 1878.

     In 1857 the first section of the old Merchants Hotel was erected by Marion Loomis and was first called the American House. Additions were made to it and the name changed to the Dunton House. In 1884, it was called the McConnell House. In 1874, it was rebuilt and finally called the Merchants Hotel. R. M. Cleveland acquired a lease to the place in 1877. It was rebuilt and enlarged and has become the Cleveland Hotel as we know it today, although it is now under different ownership and management.

     In 1865 a residence was erected on the comer of Sixth and Free (now Chase) Streets. It later became the Lawn Hotel, then the Travelers Inn, and after many changes in ownership and much remodeling, it is today known as the Osage Hotel, and is being operated as such.


Various Industries

     Osage has never been known as a manufacturing center, although some industrial development has taken place. There were the usual saw mills and grist and flour mills operated at first by water power and then by steam. The Appleton Fanning Mill, a small chair factory, the Severson Violin Factory, the Eckford Cigar Factory, two different lime kilns and a brick factory in the south part of town were among the early industries.

     Perhaps the most extensive factory that ever flourished in Osage was the J. E. B. Morgan & Kelly Company. This company made well drilling outfits, well pumps and equipment, and farm machinery. An iron foundry was operated in connection with it.

     The more recent factories are being mentioned elsewhere.


The Gardner Nursery Company

     Possibly no enterprise that has ever developed in Osage has grown to the proportions, and has been so universally known throughout the country as the nursery business established by Captain Charles F. Gardner. The business started on a ten-acre tract of land which was later enlarged to 130 acres by his son, Clark E. Gardner. (Click on photo to see larger rendition.) The first catalog was issued in 1869. There were some partners but in 1910, it was known as the Gardner & Son Nursery. It was incorporated as the Gardner Nursery Company. In 1901, the traveling salesman plan was discarded and since then all sales were on the "mail-order" system. Their card index with names of customers had tens of thousands of names from all parts of the United States, and some foreign countries. Among the special features of the nursery were the ever-bearing strawberries, of which they had ten acres, and they sold millions of strawberry plants. Later, the nursery developed a 40-acre patch of strawberries and picked more than 1000 quarts daily. Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the nursery was the evergreen windbreaks sold in all parts of the United States and Canada. The nursery in its height employed 125 men and women. It went out of existence in about the year 1950.

     From a $65,000 bank in 1900 to one having assets over $13,000,000 is truly remarkable for a community this size. There are now six banks in Mitchell County, of which two are in Osage.

     Present officers of The Home Trust & Savings Bank are: Lester J. Ahrens, Sr., president; Frank A. Ahrens, Charles A. Young and Joseph B. Casey, vice presidents; Margaret I. Hendry, assistant vice president; Ray A. Brown, cashier; and John M. Euard, assistant cashier.


Additional photographs of Osage

The Cedar Valley Seminary (65 Kb)

The Greenhouse on West Main (138 Kb)

Kelly, Morgan & Co. foundry (153 Kb)

Dellage home - used as hospital (37 Kb)



Reproduced with the approval of the Mitchell County Historical Society; from THE STORY OF MITCHELL COUNTY 1851 - 1973, and MITCHELL COUNTY MEMORIES 1946 - 1996.

LOCATION: Osage Township, Highway 218 and Highway 9.

Please respect landowners property, ask before you enter.

Transcribed in July 2002 by: Neal Du Shane

Contact information:

   OSAGE MASTER 071702 MCHS.doc