Muscatine County, Iowa
Muscatine Journal & News-Tribune
Centennial Edition
31 May 1940

Section 7 - Page 16-17, Submitted by Shirley Plumb, July 6, 2012

Page 16

Many Louisa Towns Over 100 Year Old
Toolsboro Was Scene of First Settlement: Known at First As Black Hawk

Louisa County is the site for many towns and villages whose vintages run back more than 100 years—17 in all being located at present within the confines of the county. They are Wapello, Columbus Junction, Morning Sun, Columbus City, Oakville, Grandview, Letts, Cotter, Wyman, Cairo, Fredonia, Elrick Junction, Toolsboro, Marsh, Gladwin, Newport and Baird. A few of these are nothing more than railroad stations and are now practically extinct and have no history apart from that of the surrounding territory, while others are rich in historical lore. In addition to these, many settlements which were flourishing trading posts in the early days have now vanished entirely and are but escaped memories.

Toolsboro was the first place to be settle in the county and at the time of its founding was known as Black Hawk. For a number of years it was a manufacturing and commercial center of some importance and was the port of entry for the country. It boasted the first post office in the county, established on May 27 1937, and also had the first schoolhouse and probably the first tavern. Picturesquely located on the brow of a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, the town is one of the most beautifully located towns to be found in these parts.

The town of Fredonia, located on the east bank of the Iowa River, immediately below the junction on the Iowa and the Cedar rivers, was laid out by Alvin Clark in July, 1840 and the plat surveyed by John Gilliland, county surveyor, Feb. 12, 1846. Fredonia was incorporated in 1874 following an election on May 30 which resulted in a vote of 23 to 0 in favor of the proposition.

Cotter which is situated along the C. R. I. and P. railway, about five miles west of Columbus Junction, was laid out by Margaret E. Cotter on Jan. 23, 1878 and was first known by the name of Cotterville, the “ville” being dropped later.

One of the earliest settlements in Louisa County is the town of Grandview where the first house was built in 1837 by Gabriel Wailing. The town proved to be an early seat of learning for this legislature on Jan. 24, 1843 passed an act incorporating a seminary of education here to be known as the Grandview seminary. The post office was established in Grandview, May 2, 1838, with Alvin Clark as the first postmaster. Grandview was first incorporated in 1878 but soon abandoned the corporation and remained a village until 1907 when it was again incorporated.

Morning Sun, today one of Louisa county’s larger towns, was first laid out by Cicero Hamilton on Sept. 13, 1851, although the first settlement in the vicinity of the place was made by Jonathan Harkeman who came here from Ohio in 1836.

The first postmaster was W. P. Brown, but the first post office was known as Virginia Grove. Mr. Brown had the post office before the town was laid out and it is believed that he gave Morning Sun its name. Morning Sun was incorporated in 1867, and J. C. Brown was elected as its first mayor in August of that year. The finest schoolhouse in the county was erected by the town in 1867, and when it was destroyed by fire early in 1899 it was replaced with a fine, modern structure.

Originally known as Ononwa, the present town of Letts which was laid out about the time of the advents of the Mississippi and Missouri River railroad Co., now the Rock Island, enjoyed considerable prominence as a shipping point for cattle raisers and feeders. The town was laid out by Joseph “A. Green, Oct. 6, 1855 under the name of Ononwa, and in 1868 became Lettsville. The post office however was called Letts, and the town still popularly is known by that name.

The railroad was completed as far as Letts some time in 1856, and in 1877 the town was incorporated by action of the circuit court. W. K. Trabue was the initial railroad agent and postmaster, Seth C. Curtis was the first hotel keepers and the first doctor was A. L. Bayard.

The original town of Columbus City, located one and a half miles south of the forks of the Iowa and Cedar rivers, was situated on two of the main territorial roads through this part of the country-one running from Iowa City to Burlington and the other from Wapello to Iowa City. The town believed laid out in 1839 or 1840, and the first merchant mentioned was an Italian named Myler who started a store here in 1842. He was not the first merchant, however, as licenses to sell merchandise were granted as early as Aug. 15, 1840 to Gildea and McGannon and on Dec. 11, 1840 to G. B. Alexander and Co.

Tobias Hammer was appointed on March 3, 1843 as the first postmaster. Columbus City became quite a trading center in its early days, its trade extending into Muscatine, Johnson, Washington and Henry counties.

Oakville is one of the newest of the Louisa County towns, coming into being in 1891 when the place was first laid out by Abe and Harry T. Parsons. The original town consisted of only three blocks, but numerous additions have been made since then. Oakville was incorporated on Sept. 5, 1902, with H. T. Parsons being elected as its first mayor.

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Important Community Centers

Photos of Grandview Community Church, Grandview Community School, Letts Community School ~ Many activities in neighboring cities in Louisa County Center about events arranged by the church and by church organization and in the schools.

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Page 17

DeForest, “Father of Radio,” Resident Here While a Child

Photo of Lee De Forest ~ When he millions of American radio listeners press a button or turn a dial on their radio sets to tune in their favorite orchestra while they read their evening newspaper, they are taking advantage of - and paying tribute to – the inventive genius of a man who, in his early childhood, enjoyed sliding down Muscatine main street hill and going for a picnic on one of the log rafts in the Mississippi River here.

Called “Father of Radio.”

That man is Lee deForest, now of the Lee deForest Laboratories of Los Angeles, Calif., who is widely known as the ‘father of radio.” That designation has been applied to the man, who, as a youngster, romped on Muscatine playgrounds, because of his many and varied intentions which have made radio reception, as it is today, possible. Prominent among his scores of inventions, and hailed in many quarters as his outstanding contribution to the development of the radio receiving set is the audion tube, which in addition to its uses in radio also plays a prominent part in long distance telephone communication.

The feedback radio circuit, also credited to deForest’s ingenuity, was another of the important contributions to the science of communicating through the ether waves. Dr. deForest was recognized many years ago for his pioneering work in wireless telegraphy. He was the recipient of a gold medal at the St. Louis exposition in 1904 for accomplishments in wireless. Another of the honors accorded him came in the form of another gold medal, received in 1915 at the San Francisco exposition for development of the radio telephone.

Other honors he has received include the medal of the Institute of Radio Engineers, the cross of the Legion of Honor from the French government, and honorary degree of doctor of science from Yale and Syracuse universities.

Dr. deForest was the son of a minister, whose hopes for a time were that his son might also become a clergyman. But when the son failed to win a $50 prize, offered for the best essay on Bible passages, during the period when he was a student at the Mount Hermon Boys School near Northfield, Mass., he decided against entering the ministry and decided to develop his inventive tendencies, which had been displayed earlier in life.

Graduate at Yale.

Looking toward the life of an inventor, deForest worked his way through Sheffield Scientific school at Yale University, where he was graduated in 1896. After service in the Spanish-American war where he was a bugler he returned to the university to work for a Ph. D. degree, which was obtained in 1899.

Subsequently he entered the employ of an electrical manufacturing concern at Chicago, and it was at about this period in his life that he started on the inventions which brought to him high position in the radio world. Later deForest organized his own companies to promote his inventions.

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Construction Work In City Made Gains Even In Depression Period

Photo of East Second Street in the year 1899. ~ The so-called depression years that began with the stock market crash in October 1929 failed to check Muscatine’s progress in the field of building activities. Old Journal files reveal that while the economic upheaval did disrupt the city’s industrial life as it did in all other centers of the nation, it did not materially discourage construction except for a comparatively short period.

The year 1930, the first year after the stock market crash, saw Muscatine residents spend $ 210,000 on new homes, new commercial buildings and other improvements, the records show. Having unbounded confidence in the nation’s inherent stability and power to recover from the economic blow, Muscatine citizens in the year 1931 lavished large sums on construction again, spending $ 198,951 during this “depression period.”

Expenditures for building were $ 121,029 in 1932 and in 1933 they declined to $ 34,175, but in 1934 the value of improvements constructed here zoomed upward again to $ 93,708 and there has been an almost steady increase each year since that time.

Outstanding among the building projects for the year 1931 was the construction of the new Uptown Theater which occupies the former armory hall site. In addition to new homes, the five-year period saw elevator and barge loading facilities improved at the river front and many other miscellaneous projects completed.

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Accept Our Thanks

The Muscatine Journal staff is deeply indebted to many individuals and groups who lent valuable assistance in preparing material for this centennial edition. Special recognition is given to the Muscatine office of the Iowa Writers’ project for valuable news contribution. The courtesies extended by the staff of the P. M. Musser public library were also greatly appreciated. Many others who submitted pictures and information of historical import helped in a material manner to prepare this edition. To all of these members of the Journal staff extend thanks.

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