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

Section 7 - Page 22 Submitted by Shirley Plumb, July 23, 2012

Page 22

Columbus Junction Laid Out In 1870
Town Known as Sand Bank Once Occupied Area

Photos of downtown Columbus Junction and the Columbus Junction Community Center where young and old share alike in the varied programs of entertainment.

The present town of Columbus Junction in Louisa County was laid out on March 1, 1870, but a number of years earlier a settlement known as Sand Bank flourished briefly on the same location.

The first train of cars on the Mississippi and Missouri railroad ran to this town on Nov. 17, 1857, and Sand Bank marked the end of the road for nearly a year. Sometime in 1858 the station at the Sand Bank was discontinued, and a station was established at Clifton: but before the Clifton station was established the town of Sand Bank was the scene of considerable business activity.

Stocks and grain were brought there and residents in the northern part of the county, west of the Iowa River, received most of their goods at this point. After the station transfer, activity slumped until the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Minnesota railroad was located, crossing the M. and M., now the Rock Island railroad, at this point.

It was at this time that J. W. Garner, the owner of the land, laid out and established the new town of Columbus Junction. The first lot was purchased by George Jamison of Wapello, and other sales were made occasionally until in 1871. Mr. Garner sold 96 lots and the five acres of land adjoining them to H. C. Wortham and Co., of Matton, Ill. On Feb. 7 the first train of cars on the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Minnesota railroad arrived at Columbus Junction.

One of the first men to engage in business at the Junction was August Gilber who came to this city from Muscatine. Loading a house upon cars of the M. and M. railroad, he shipped it to the Clifton station and from there had it taken to Columbus Junction, where he operated a restaurant and boarding house.

When Wortham and Co. purchased the town site, they immediately took steps to push development of the community and in 1872 built the Wortham House which was opened to the traveling public in October of that year. It was a pretentious affair at that time, covering four lots.

Banking facilities were established when the Louisa County National Bank was opened in a storeroom of the building in July, 1872, with Andrew Gambies as its president and John W. True, cashier.

A post office was located at the town in July of the same year, with Mrs. Gentzler as postmistress at the salary of $12.00 a year. In April 1874 Charles M. Fulton became postmaster and shortly after this the office was moved to a frame building on Walnut Street. Growth and expansion of the town was rapid during its first several years, and steps were then taken to incorporate it at a special election held May 25, 1924. The vote favored incorporation by a majority of 55 to 17.

First town officials elected were: Mayor, C.M. Fulton; city councilmen, George W. Merrill, O. E. Hobble, Robert Foster. Then, Crilly and A. T. Lewis; recorder, W. F. Hall, James R. Smith was appointed marshal but declined, and August Darrow was named in his place, R. H. Hanna was the first town attorney.

Education got off to an early start in Columbus Junction, and the first public school was taught in a small house built for that purpose a few years after the town was started. Before that, Miss Kitty Truesdell had taught a select private school. At one time, in 1874, the building owned by Asa Merrill was used for school purposes, and afterwards the structure which was built as a court house was converted for school uses until in the fall of 1882 a fine new school building was put up. Prof. Edwards was the first principal in the new building. He was succeeded by Prof. J. K. Pickett and Prof. G H. Mullen, the latter in his day one of the noted educators of the state.

As one of the flourishing young towns of Louisa County, agitation was not slow in getting underway for removal of the county seat from Wapello to Columbus Junction. Residents in the northern end of the county were particularly interested in the plans and a fund of $ 24,000 was secured for erection of a two-story brick building suitable for a court house. Considerable agitation resulted which culminated with an election held on Oct. 12, 1875 where Wapello supporters won out by a slim majority of 20 votes.

After jumping off to an early start, the growth and expansion of the town has been slow but steady to attain its present status in population and physical aspects. The business section of the town is well laid out and boasts of numerous attractive buildings and store fronts, while in the residential district the visitor may find many beautiful homes with well-kept lawns and tasteful landscaping.

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Photo of Columbus Junction’s Post office

Presented here is a sketch of the new Columbus Junction post office which will be constructed by the James I. Barnes Construction company of Logansport, Ind., low bidders on the project. The firm’s figure for construction was $ 43,963. The building, to be of colonial design, will stand on the southwest corner of Second and Walnut Streets. It will be of faced brick trimmed with stone and wood with a pitched slate roof covering the major portion of the structure and a flat composition section used over the remainder. Three sections will be arranged in the interior, a public lobby, postmaster’s office and “swing” room or comfortable quarters where carriers may relax between deliveries. Plans call for four service windows and 170 boxes within the lobby.

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“Louisa County is going in on another county seat contest. One of the local papers suggests that “Columbus Junction tack a few meat rinds on the court house and then let the dogs pull it out of town.” Only a few years ago the question was up and voted on and the county seat remained at Wapello by a small majority.”—Muscatine Journal, Feb 24, 1889.

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