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

Section 7 - Page 8, Submitted by Shirley Plumb, July 6, 2012

First Home at Wilton Built in 1849
Original Town Plat Made In 1854;
Construction of Rail Line In 50’s Spurred Growth

Photos of Wilton’s High School, Wilton Water Storage Tank and New Wilton Municipal Building

Wilton, which today ranks as Muscatine County’s third largest community, flourished for a period during its earlier history as a booming railroad town. The “boom period” in the town’s growth occurred about the middle 1850’s after the construction train for the M. and M. railroad, now the C. R. I. and P. railway, had first reached Wilton.

Location of the railroad shops at Wilton brought with it a large growth in population, but a sharp drop was noted when the Rock Island decided in 1881 to move its shop and round house to Brooklyn, Ia., some miles west.

The first man to erect a cabin within the present limits of the town of Wilton was Christian Marolf who came there in July, 1849 and built of logs a small house opposite the location of the present German Lutheran church.

The only other home nearby was that of a Mr. Stearns, just west of town, on the south side of the old Moscow road. For several years, Mr. Marolf made hay where the business section of Wilton now stands, while herds of deer, which abounded in this territory, crossed over the same ground on their way from Mud creek to Sugar Creek.

Mr. Marolf was soon followed by Ben Maurer and Peter Marolf, in 1850-51, who obtained land nearby—Maurer in what is now north Wilton and Peter Marolf in a section now known as Marolf’s addition.

On May19, 1849, two entries of land transfers were made by Henry Strohm and Benjamin Kauffman, which comprised the lands now within the corporate limits of Wilton, excepting Marolf’s addition. Mr. Strohm entered the 80 acres south of the railroad, and Mr. Kauffman the 80 acres north of what is now Butterfield’s addition.

It is interesting to note that in July, 1853, franklin Butterfield purchased of Mr. Kauffman the north fractional half of the southwest quarter and south fractional half of the northwest quarter of section 6 in township 78, range 1, west—containing 205 1-2 acres—for $ 2.00 per acre.

In August, 1854, Messrs. Green and Stone, Muscatine bankers, who owned considerable stock in the M. and M. railroad, proposed to buy the whole or a part of Mr. Butterfield’s interest in the land; the secret of the desire being agitation of a branch road from this point to Muscatine and the fact they wanted an interest in the junction.

Butterfield sold a one-fifth interest in the whole at $ 10.00 an acre with the provision that the Muscatine men bought 40 acres of Mr. Marolf, this land later being the railroad “Y”, and that portion of the town west, which they did, at $ 10.00 an acres. He induced Greene and Stone to take a two-fifth interest in the land south of the railroad and relinquish the north of the tracks, which they readily did, as it brought their interest nearer to their purchase from Marolf. These transactions were all leading up to the platting of the original town of Wilton which took place in September, 1854. The town was recorded on Oct. 22, 1855, and included Green and Stone’s 40 acres and the land lying south of the railroad.

A name for the town was among the first questions to plague the little settlement, and it was first known, for almost a year as Glenwood. Later the name of Wilton was permanently chosen and so recorded.

It was in 1854 that Butterfield sold the first lot to Henry S. Giesler for $ 40.00, and in July or August of the following year Mr. Giesler built the first house, the lower front room of which was occupied by a stock of dry goods, and groceries, owned and shipped from Seymore, Conn., by Tuthill and Hull, which firm name was the first to appear on a sign in front of the door.

The firm of Rider and Sanford was their agents. They first went to Muscatine with the stock with the intention of operating a permanent store at that place, but soon afterwards reshipped the goods to Wilton. They afterwards bought out the interest of Tuthill and Hull, and carried the business on in their own names, adding grain and pork buying to the enterprise.

Mr. Giesler received an appointment as the first postmaster of Wilton about this time. The construction train reached Wilton Oct. 1, and two months later, on Dec. 1, the passenger trains commenced to run to Wilton.

Building activities and increasing number of new arrivals take up the next few years of the history of Wilton. The first school was opened and taught by Miss Rebecca McClennan in 1856. The first three births recorded in the town are: John Lamb, May 30, 1856; Lucy Chatfield, July 27, 1856; and Wilton Reed, Nov. 3, 1856.

Municipal government was organized in the new town in 1857, and the first officials included O. J. Grover, president, R. A. McIntire, clerk; William A. McNaughton, H. S. Giesler, and A. J. Friend, trustees; and Henry Sanford, marshal.

The year 1874 will go down in the history of Wilton for two notable happenings; one the organization of the Farmers and Citizens bank and the second the “Big Fire.” The bank was organized with a capital of $ 50,000, all of which was subscribed by Wilton business men within six weeks.

The fire, the most disastrous in the history of the town, began in the Reed and Dow elevator and glutted the busiest and most valuable section of town at a total loss of about $ 73,000. This configuration, followed by the moving of the railroad shops from Wilton in 1884, formed two major setbacks to the development of the town, from the results of which the community was forced to call upon all of its civic enterprise and resourcefulness to rally.

Today, though, Wilton stands out as an example of a modern, progressive town — well equipped with education, religious and recreational facilities. It boasts of a fine new municipal building, wide thoroughfares and many attractive homes sheltered by rows of large, imposing shade trees.

* * * * * * *

“The total bond issue and indebtedness of the town of West Liberty is $ 19,000 based upon property of the assessed valuation of $ 402,000. The town is asking for bids for $ 9,500 bonds to refund its water works bonds.” –Muscatine Journal, Jan. 7, 1898.

* * * * * * *

This day saw a monster mass meeting at the Muscatine County houre house when residents endorsed the president and his proclamation and adopted resolutions cheering the soldiers in the field. At the same meeting a warning to “traitors” at home to keep still was also issued. – January 8, 1863.

* * * * * * *

“Vacant lots (except on the business part of Second Street) are selling at from $ 100 to $ 500 and land in the county under cultivation at from $ 3 to $ 25 per acre. Wild timber land at from $ 10 to $ 20; prairie, $ 4 to $ 6 per acre.” –Muscatine Journal, January 8, 1855.

* * * * * * *

Return to Centennial Table of Contents Page

Back to the Muscatine Co. IAGenWeb, Index Page

Page created July 16, 2012 by Lynn McCleary