Town of St. Ansgar
St. Ansgar Township, Mitchell County, Iowa
By Conrad Groth
The town of St. Ansgar was platted by the government surveyors O. Brunius and Jongsted, under the direction of Rev. C. L. Clausen, in 1856. In this plat was included 120 acres claimed
by Rev. Clausen and was divided up into lots and blocks. The town was called St. Ansgar by Rev. Clausen in honor of a Christian monk, St. Ansgar, who first brought Christianity to Scandinavia.
St. Ansgar as it appeared about 1900.
Click here for full picture.
A Dane named C. G. Classen was the first settler on the town plat, arriving in the spring of 1854. He bought a small stock of goods kept by Clausen's brother, Peter Clausen in the Clausen cabin. He built a log cabin on the property south of the present First Lutheran parsonage in the west part of town. He used it for a store and was St. Ansgar's first postmaster, the mail coming by stage or horseback from Cedar Falls. He was also the first merchant to sell hardware in the vicinity. He built other houses in town and became a prominent citizen until his death in 1861.
In 1856 or 57 C. L. Clausen and Zolner, a
Norwegian friend, opened a store east of the park (Clausen Memorial Park). Others in those early days who operated stores were Park & Marcey, Tenure, Crowell, Marcey & Burt and Larsen & Irgens. These businesses were all located east of the park. In 1859 Stephen Bates opened a small store in the tavern building across the street east of the Classen store. He became postmaster and Justice of the Peace and remained in business on that corner until his death in 1880.
Bird's eye view of St. Ansgar, circa 1910
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The first blacksmith in town was a Mr. Olson who set up his forge in a building in the Classen block in 1855. Jonathan Allen started the first tavern and hotel in 1854 east of the Classen store but soon left town. The Keystone House was erected in 1857 by A. G. Owen. At that time it was the largest and finest hotel in Northern Iowa. It was 40 feet square, two stories high and finished entirely in black walnut. It cost about $8000. Owen operated the hotel until his death in 1863. Then others operated it until it burned to the ground in 1883 at which time Cyrus Foreman of Osage was the owner.
The early years in St. Ansgar were difficult ones. Money was scarce and farmers had difficulty in finding a market for their products. There were no railroads and farmers had to haul their produce long distances to find a market. The Civil War also affected the economy in many ways. The town had scarcely sixty inhabitants and only a few buildings. Martin Moe in the St. Ansgar Enterprise issue of July 21, 1880 describes the town in this way: "Your editor came to St. Ansgar in 1869. Then there was no railroad. On the south side of Main Street there was one store building occupied by William Frazer, selling groceries and later occupied by Hanson and Stubbs. The only other buildings were the residences of A. R. Jones, M. S. Rogers, C. H. Owen and the old stone schoolhouse. On the north side of Main Street was the Keystone House, E. Anderson's Shoe Shop, Harry Evertson's saloon, one building owned by L. N. Nelson and the one used by our printing office besides 13 or 14 residences making a total of less than 25 buildings in the whole town."
In December 1869 the Illinois Central railroad came to St. Ansgar and joined the town with the outside world. The railroad located their engine house and turntable here making it the end of the line until the following year when the tracks were laid to Mona.
The coming of the railroad started a building boom and more buildings were moved to Fourth (Main) Street to be closer to the railroad. Henry Lubiens closed his store in Newburg and moved to the corner of Fourth and Mitchell streets where he opened a general store. Lars Moe also arrived at this time and opened his store and R. Helfritz opened the first drug store. Peter Smout started the first exclusive hardware store also in 1869. The Dykeman House was opened on what was later the Klindt Hotel site and was owned by Mr. Turner. At this time nearly all of the retail business had been relocated on Fourth Street.
Additional Photos of St. Ansgar
Color picture postcard of City (Klindt) Hotel
St. Ansgar's Methodist Episcopal Church
Reproduced with the approval of the Mitchell County Historical Society; from
THE STORY OF MITCHELL COUNTY 1851-1973.
LOCATION: Approximately - Highway 218, Highway 105.
Transcribed in July 2002 by: Neal Du Shane
St. ANSGAR MASTER 071802 MCHS.doc