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The Old Plug
by Grayce Darting Squires

Transcribed by Shirley Plumb, April 21, 2015

     I have many wonderful memories of childhood days. You who grew up with me in Wilton know the joy of riding the old Plug. It was a slow moving train, running between Wilton and Muscatine.

     To me, one of the best days of the year was a Saturday in early December. Rising earlier than usual to catch the first train and hurriedly dressing wasn’t easy as you had to fold your underwear legs neatly, so that they would tuck under long stockings. There was hardly time to eat as the hands on the old clock were moving swiftly toward train time and who would want to be late and wait for the next trip?

     Quickly dressing in my Sunday best, I grabbed a neck scarf, pulled a stocking cap over my ears and dashed down the deserted street with Mother not far behind.

     There was excitement all through me as the approaching train whistled and came to a steamy, swooshsy stop. Climbing the high steps and picking a seat near the window, I closed my eyes and sighed with relief. Then all of a sudden the train gave a chugged chug and we were off, riding on high.

     After Summit there was never a stop until we reached Muscatine. Jumping down the steps and hurriedly entering the station, I stood there elated. The marble floors and fancy windows above the doors were fabulous to a child like me who came to the city to shop. One never saw such sights when traveling by car.

     From all the excitement I was giddy and gay and Mother would tape me and give me a look. After shopping all day for family and friends, wishing it wouldn’t end. Train time always rolled around.

     Homeward bound I was full of Christmas spirit, anxious to share my bag of gifts.

     There were other times I fondly remember, but this day in December was a very special one.

Fred Maurer’s Cash Store
By E. F. W. Maurer

    Fred Maurer, son of the Wilton pioneer Benedict Maurer, grew up on his father’s farm in North Wilton and worked as a farmer before he became a storekeeper. His first store was located in one of the wooden shacks on the north side of west 4th Street where Dr. Peirce now has his office. He was in partnership with another man. After a short time he bought out his partner and moved the business across the street into the Maurer brick building which he built in 1876.

     The new store was a double front building with two street entrances. The west side of the store was used for dry goods. It was stocked with bolt after bolt of cloth and all kinds of sewing supplies. Women made their own dresses in those days.

     The east side of the store was devoted to groceries and also lamps,…

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Picture – Fred Maurer’s Cash Store in the 1890’s – Courtesy of E. F. W. Maurer
This shows the loading platform in front of the store.

Picture – Fred Maurer Family – Courtesy of Blanche Kelley
Mrs. Strobel, widow of Rev. W. T. Strobel first pastor of Zion Lutheran Church and mother of Mrs. Fred Maurer, sits at the head of the table. Mr. and Mrs. Fred Maurer, five daughters and son Ed complete the family group.

…tinware, pots and pans, dishes, toys, dolls and some hardware. Vinegar and molasses came in 50 gallon wooden barrels. Flour, which was shipped in by the carload, sold for 98 cents for a 48 pound bag. A barrel of salt could be bought for one dollar. In the fall we brought in a carload of apples in barrels. Just inside the front door on the grocery side was the rotary one cent candy case. Many residents of Wilton can remember the penny candy they used to choose from that case. Much of the candy which sold for one cent would cost 10 cents if you could find any today.

     When a customer left an order the clerks had to sack and weigh everything he had specified. Granulated sugar was packaged in 25 cents, 50 cents and $ 1.00 bags.

     The store had a delivery wagon and delivered orders twice a day. Sometimes a special order would come in for a small item, like a spool…

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Picture – Fred Maurer’s Store 1900 – Courtesy of E. F. W. Maurer
The flag in the store window was given to Mr. Maurer by the ladies of the town of Wilton for use by the Maurer Band when they marched in parades.

…of thread. This would be delivered promptly to any part of town.

    The busiest time of year was just before Christmas when the store would be loaded with merchandise for Christmas gifts. Trade started 2 weeks before Christmas and there were always 4 or 5 extra clerks for the rush. It was a real traffic jam.

     There were shoplifters years ago just as there are today. We had a musical picture album which played a tune when opened. It disappeared during the Christmas rush and I often wondered where it is today. One woman tried to hide a whole bolt of cloth under her cape. She did not know the clerk was watching her and she did not make it out of the door.

     Maurer’s store was a family business and all the Maurer children worked there as they were growing up. Other clerks were also hired over the years.

     This store conducted business on a cash basis for most of its existence. Because of this policy Mr. Maurer was known throughout the community as “Cash Fred.”

     When automobiles became common the customers began to go out of town to trade and business in the small town stores declined. In his later years Mr. Maurer operated store on a smaller scale until his death in 1931.

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Picture – South side of Fourth Street about 1900

Maurer’s Store
By Ruth Jipp

    I like to recall when I was clerking in the Maurer store just after I graduated from high school. There were six grocery stores in Wilton at the time. One of the oldest was Fred Maurer’s Dry Goods and Groceries. It filled the space between Roederer’s Bakery and Lola Dunker’s Restaurant. This area has now been replaced with the Maurer Garage and Oldsmobile Agency which is owned by E. F. W. Maurer, son of Fred Maurer. Maurer’s store was advertised in The Wilton Advocate and Review as a cash store, but any deliveries desired were made anywhere in town. Mr. Maurer was also known as “Cash Fred,” perhaps to differentiate from another citizen of the same name. Maurer’s store had two large entrances with two or three steps up to each set of double doors. These guided the customers up two wide aisles which joined in the center and then extended in two narrow aisles to the back of the store. The east side of the store featured the groceries, the practical items for housekeeping plus the aids for outside chores, gardening, and such other needs. The west side held the dry goods, clothing, an array of personal needs, and some luxury items, too. A book section was of interest to me as well as to the public and I understand that before my time an extensive toy department contained a very good assortment, especially so at Christmas time. On Nov. 20, 1913 The Wilton Advocate & Review carried the following advertisement for Maurer’s store—“Cut Down Your Gift Expense—Christmas is nearly here and right now is a good time to save money on your Christmas shopping. How do you like the prices quoted below-yes, and we have hundreds of other bargains awaiting you: $ 2.00 Dolls (25” high) $ 1.00; Beautiful Lemonade sets $ 1.75 now 75 cents; 300 story books 25 cents value now 10 cents.” On December 4, 1913 there was another Christmas ad—“The Store with the Christmas Spirit-mechanical toys, games, books, animals, toy trumpets, dolls, etc. Buy them now and we will deliver them anytime you wish.”

     When the dry goods boxes came from such places as Carson, Pirie & Scott, Chicago, it was a thoroughly delightful project unpacking all…

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Picture – Interior of Fred Maurer’s Store 1899 – Courtesy of E. F. W. Maurer
The east side of the store was devoted to grocers, hardware, dishes, etc. This shows the revolving candy case on the right.

…the new items, admiring them and getting them arranged in the display areas. In 1918 the prices for yard goods were-prints 10 cents per yard, outing 15 cents, percale 15 cents and gingham 15 cents. The price for the best sewing machine was $ 35.00.

     There were many dishes of every kind, practical everyday dishes, kettles, etc., and many beautiful imported items that came from central Europe and Japan and China. I still treasure several of these among my own small collection.

     An elevator at the back of the store was very simply a large section of the floor drawn up or down by hand with rope and pulleys. A big load of supplies could be stored upstairs or brought downstairs.

     At the back of the store were also kept the eggs the customers brought in to be candled and traded for groceries or dry goods. A case of eggs really meant something in those days because it usually bought the groceries for the family and often there was some left over cash for the customer.

     Saturday night was the big night for shopping and visiting. We would be all sacked up ahead with 5 and 10 pound sacks of sugar, also rice, powdered sugar, brown sugar, navy beans, and any other of the bulk items. Coffee came in huge gunny sacks and this could be ground for the customer as he wished. What a pleasing aroma that was. Some folks preferred grinding their own at home.

     Candies came in bulk also and one of the special occasions in this connection came at Christmas time when the church committee came to the store and sacked up a child’s dream of an assortment of candies in each sack. There were beautiful hard candies, chocolate, vanilla creams, plus an apple and an orange. I can remember the …

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Picture – Interior of Fred Maurer’s Store 1899 – Courtesy of E. F. W. Maurer
Dry goods was sold in the west half of the store. This shows the counter stools where the ladies sat while choosing yard goods. Hair ribbons shown in the ribbon case were a very important item of that time.

…thrill of being such a child, when after the service and children’s program the men went up to the Christmas trees and from behind them, brought the bushel baskets filled with candy sacks. Every child in the program received a book and a sack. Then these baskets were carried down the aisle and every child in the audience also received a sack.

     Very likely the penny candy merry-go-round lingers in many memories of the folks who spent any part of their childhood here in Wilton. Just inside the doors on the grocery side of the store was this large glass case. Inside of which was another glass case. The inside case was tall, octagonal, and the pie-shaped series of shelves or compartments, held an assortment of penny candy that was every child’s delight. The boys and girls from the youngest clutching one or more pennies. To the older ones also, spent many minutes deciding what was to be the purchase. I could open the outside glass door and keep the candy container revolving on its “axis” as they looked over the contents. Believe me, this was an important decision because some kinds came two for a penny, while one of the larger pieces at a penny each might seem more worthwhile. This candy case represents a lovely childhood souvenir.

     Another bulk item that the parents were pleased to use was the section of stacked cookie cases where the glass-topped doors were simply fitted on the full boxes when they arrived. The customer would indicate “Some of these” and maybe “a few of those.”

     I can remember only two standard kinds of cheese. These were a square American, deep yellow in color, and a brick cheese very light …

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… Yellow in color, but also a brick shaped lug. These we simply sliced off in the desired widths and weighed on the neat white porcelain scales. The brick cheese was my favorite and made a tasty snack with soda crackers. I really haven’t found this kind of a brick cheese since.

     Bananas did not come in boxes, but in a long paper sack encased in a tall basket. It was Mr. Maurer’s task to lift the banana stalk free and secure the whole thing to a pulley arrangement. Thus we could cut off any number of bananas as desired. I remember two occasions when live tarantulas also came out of the sack with the fresh banana stalk. These black hairy velvety spiders, almost the size of your hand were a frightening thing to me. I was glad Mr. Maurer was equal to the occasion and his weapon was the thin curved-bladed banana knife.

     Wednesday and Saturday nights were the friendliest and also the longest night of the week. Friends and neighbors were visiting all over the store and we never made them feel we were anxious to close. So we stayed until there were no more customers. This was considered the courteous thing to do.

     The narrow aisle on the west side of the store led back to the “office.” Mr. Maurer’s desk occupied its own area and behind it was a door to the vault or safe. This was, of course, a sacrosanct area where I had no business to go and was not invited to do so.

     Apparently a successful businessman, Fred Maurer is remembered by me as a person of dignity, gentleness and kindness. He was a gifted man also, because I can remember him serving as organist in church. In our town of Wilton with its many worthy citizens who lived during several generations, I’m sure Mr. Maurer has also left a worthy memory.

Lamp’s Store
Editor’s Note: This article has been prepared with the help of Mr. Gretchen Doden Anthony.

    Lamp’s Store was the successor of the Strong and Co. General Merchandising Store which Mr. Lamp had managed for many years. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Lamp bought the store in 1905 and operated it until Mr. Lamp’s death in 1934. The store was continued as a partnership of Mrs. Lamp, her brother Louis Miller and her nephew Carlton Winter. Later Carlton Winter became the owner. In 1957 the business was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Taube and was operated by them until 1969.

     Lamp’s store was a long, narrow brick building on the southwest corner of Cedar and 4th streets. Mrs. Anthony remembered that “the front part of the store made up the dry goods section with long counters on each side with stools in front of them for the customers. Back of the counters were shelves for yard goods and on top of the shelves were piled boxes of corsets and underwear. Here and there were showcases of lace, ribbons, spools of thread, etc.

     “Father back was the grocery section. Those were the days when everything was sold in bulk including dry beans, crackers, cookies, lard, butter and everything else. Each customer had to be waited on individually. In another room at the back were sacks of flour, sugar, 100 pound sacks of salt, barrels of vinegar and kerosene and the big…

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…icebox for butter and cheese. Upstairs were rugs, curtain goods, window shades, coats, dresses and dishes.” Mrs. Anthony continues, “I have many fond memories of my days at the store. I started to work there in 1920 and was there off and on until 1929. I remember especially the Saturday nights when the band played. The store would be crowded with farmers bringing in their cases of eggs to trade for groceries or due bills or cash. It was usually midnight when the last customer would depart. What a wonderful group of people they were. I also remember Uncle Henry sitting at his desk at the back of the store, with his inevitable cigar, doing his bookkeeping. We were all a little in awe of him and all kept busy when he was around. He did not tolerate idleness, but he had a heart as big as all outdoors. He once said he wanted to die with his shoes on and he nearly made it.

     Here are the names of some of the people who worked in Lamp’s store. I am sure there are many more, but I don’t recall their names. Louis Miller, Carlton Winter, Gail Looney, Mae Cronin, William Templeman, Helen Brammeier Wacker, Leona Brammeier, Marie Doden Coyner, Katherine Schiele, Ethel Wacker, Isola Brydges Wacker, Nora Sullivan Hucke, Thelma Winter, Christina Holtz, Clifford Hussel and Raymond Schnack.

A Customer Remembers Lamp’s Store

    Lamp’s store was known for its quality merchandise and great variety of items. Whatever you needed in dry goods or groceries could be found at Lamp’s.

     For the ladies there was an excellent variety of top quality yard goods, the finest Irish linen for your best tablecloth, cotton damask for everyday tablecloths, wool fabrics for coats or dresses, silk, rayon, dotted Swiss, organdy, cotton prints, broadcloth, fine Peter Pan in plain colors, sheeting, pillow tubing, linen toweling, French lace for trimming, beautiful silk ribbons for hair bows-just about anything a lay could want. There were Butterick patterns and the Delineator magazine for sale.

     Down the line was the candy counter: as a child you could press your face against the glass to gaze at those delicious morsel. Five cents bought a generous sack of chocolate drops. On top of the candy case was a large ornate glass bowl filled with colorful packages of gum including the delightful brand called California Juicy Fruit.

     The grocery section had a complete line of foods available. The main brands were Monarch and Del Monte. Smoking and chewing tobacco were available. A large tobacco cutting board was used when …

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     “New Lamp-Bacon and McIntire have inaugurated an enterprise we would like to see followed up closely-that of placing a large street lamp on the corner in front of their store.” ~ Wilton Review-May 9, 1878

    This page sponsored in memory of Henry Wildasin by his daughter, Irma Wildasin.

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…slicing off the amount of chewing tobacco desired. Wooden boxes held fresh oranges and a large stem of bananas hung nearby. Fresh country butter, made by local farm wives, and eggs right from the farm were available. Lanterns and lamp chimneys were in generous supply as were brooms that hung from a rack.

    On the second floor were ready-to-wear clothing, glassware and dishes, curtains, rugs and other household supplies.

    Christmas was a festive time. The store was decorated with festoons of red and green tissue paper ropes with large, red folding bells hanging from the ceiling. Over the counters were arches to which were pinned dozens of beautiful handkerchief, helpful suggestions for Christmas gifts.

    Lamp’s store was in business many years-a store that graciously and thoughtfully supplied the needs of area families.

J. H. Wacker and Co. Implement Business
By Curtis Frymoyer

    When the J. H. Wacker and Co. closed its doors in 1958 it had completed 76 years of service to the community. The business was started by John H. Wacker in 1882 as a blacksmith and wagon shop. John’s younger brothers all helped in the blacksmith shop. The youngest brother, Peter, used to drive the horses on the horsepower which furnished power for the machinery in the shop. After a few years the firm began trading in farm machinery as a sideline. When Peter grew up he became a partner in the business, and many years later the sons of John and Peter, Herbert and Harold were brought into the firm. Arthur Wacker was also associated with the enterprise.

     A complete history of farm practices n this area might be written from the records of this company for almost every type of machine used in farming passed through their hands. Each season of the year is represented by the special equipment suited to it.

     In March 1898 Wacker’s sold 20 plows and 17 harrows, but only 4 discs. The plows were mostly 14 or 16 inch walking plows and a few 16 or 18 8nch sulky (riding) plows. A man and team with a walking plow could turn about one acre a day. With 3 horses and an 18 inch sulky plow a farm could plow 1 ½ to 2 acres a day. Plows continued to sell well all during April and near the end of the season one gang plow was delivered. Most of the harrows sold were 60, 70 or 9- tooth “zigzag” harrows probably made with a wooden frame in 8 to 12 foot sizes. In the field the farmer had to walk behind the harrow while driving the team. Only one 20 foot harrow was sold. The discs sold were in 6,7,or 8 foot widths. At that time many farmers did not own a disc, but prepared their corn ground with a corn cultivator and harrow. During the spring of 1898 a few seeders were delivered and 1 stalk cutter.

     Corn planters were in great demand in May, followed in a few weeks by corn cultivators. Sales were about evenly divided between walking cultivators at $ 15 and the “New Deere Rider” at $ 23. On one June day Wacker’s sold 4 walking cultivators, 4 “Riders” and 1 tongueless cultivator. (This latter outfit would fall down in a heap when the team was not pulling, but it handled easily and with 4 big…

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Picture - The Wacker Blacksmith Shop – Courtesy of the A. Wacker Family

…shovels did a wonderful job of cultivating.) A popular item was a set of cultivator shovels called “Eagle Claws.”

     In the summer of 1898 Wacker’s sold many mowers in 4, 5, and 6 foot sizes. Brand names were McCormick, Woods Brothers and Buckeye. All hayracks delivered were of the dump variety with either a hand or foot trip lever. Several farmers brought “Tiger” hay tedders. Hay loaders were priced at $ 40. At harvest time many 6 foot binders were sold at $ 110 each.

     In the fall when corn was ready to be husked there was less machinery sold than in any other farming Season. The most expensive item was the “New Moline” wagon at $ 55. Extra wagon sideboards (the “tip top box”) and scoop boards were in greatest demand. Wacker’s sold 25 scoop boards in October 1898. Not a single elevator was delivered. Also during October many buckets of axel grease were sold.

     Some of the bestselling items in all seasons were buggies, surries, farm wagons, spring wagons and in the winter, sleighs and bobsled. A popular item in the winter of 1898 was the “New Portland Cutter” with plush upholstery. Wacker’s bought all these vehicles by the carload and sold hundreds of them over the years. When the Velie Co. began making automobiles Wacker’s had the agency and at one time said Dodge cars also. The firm sold International trucks and in the early days had for their own use one of the first trucks in town. This truck was equipped with solid rubber tires and therefore never had a puncture.

     When tractors came into use Wacker’s sold the International line. Their hardest job was to convince the farmers that the tractor could replace the horse. To demonstrate the all-purpose Farmall, the…

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     This page sponsored in honor of Marshall Tufts Butterfield and his wife, Dr. Rosabell Armentrout Butterfield by their granddaughter and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Smith.

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Picture – J. W. Wacker Co. Building 1899 – Courtesy of E. F. W. Maurer
The Wacker Co. was located on the corner of 4th St. and Maurer St. In 1899 the town had electric street lights as shown. Sometime later the Wilton manufactured arc light was installed at this intersection and also at 4th and Cedar.

…Wacker Co. equipped one of the tractors with a cultivator and sent it through the countryside in the summer of 1929 to plow corn for any farmer interested. Neighbors gathered to see the demonstration and in the next few years many tractors were sold.

     Since that time there has been a complete revolution in farming practices. The machinery business started by J. W. Wacker so long ago, under different management today, is still serving the Wilton farming community under the name of Eastern Iowa Equipment Co.

Picture – Maurer Garage in Wacker Building 1927 – Courtesy of E. F.W. Maurer

The Maurer Garage by E.G.W. Maurer

    In 1909 my father, Fred Maurer, decided that he could never make a storekeeper out of me and got me a job with J. H. Wacker and Company. That year J. H. Wacker acquired a Velie automobile and in…

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Picture – The First Gas Pump in Wilton 1913 – Courtesy of N.N.C.
Fred Ilten (left) and E.F.W. Maurer stand beside an early gas pump at Maurer’s Garage in the J. H. Wacker Co. building.

Picture – E.F.W. Maurer on his motorcycle 1911 – Courtesy of E.F. W. Maurer

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Picture – Maurer Service Car 1913 – Courtesy of E.F. W. Maurer
This first service car was made from a Moline Dreadnaught.

…1909 all I had to do was drive that car for people who rented it.

     That fall when Mr. Wacker paid me off for the summer’s work, I told him (just out of the blue sky.) “I think I’ll start a garage next year.” He said he had been thinking about the same thing and told me I could start a garage in the south part of his building and he would move his office to the north end. Rent was to be # 10 a month. This was all carried out and I opened the doors for business on March 10, 1910. I had saved up $ 300 and I promptly spent $ 200 of it for a screw-cutting engine lathe. I used the rest of the money for small tools. The lathe was the first of its type in Wilton. I still have it and it works perfectly today.

     I opened the doors of the garage at seven o’clock in the morning and closed at eleven o’clock at night – a 16 hour day. In those days gasoline was stored in a 50 gallon barrel and put into the car with a 5 gallon can and a funnel. I started dealing in Goodyear tires in 1913 and am still selling them today. Tires did not last long in those early days and if you got 2 or 3 thousand miles out of your tires you were doing well. At that time there were only two places in town that sold gasoline and tires, the Maurer garage and Bill Baker’s station. The dealer made one cent a gallon profit on gasoline and the price was set each morning by the gasoline company. In 1913 I put in an underground gasoline tank and installed the first gas pump in Wilton. That tank is still in service today.

     My first car was a second hand, broken down Moline “Dreadnaught.” I made it into a service car and used it until 1925. Before I had a car I did all my service work with a motorcycle.

     There were not many cars around in 1910 – you could count them all on your two hands. There were Chalmers, Buick, Overland, Hudson, Moline, Velie, Cleveland, Ford, Maytag and some others. Cars were not drive in the winter time – only in warm weather.

     I started selling Oldsmobile automobiles in 1926 and now have my 50th Oldsmobile contract. I also sold F.M. C. trucks for a number of years.

     After I started in the garage business every Tom, Dick and Harry …

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…thought it looked like easy money. We must have had at least 20 people who took a crack at the business, but as they knew little about cars and were not mechanically inclined they soon gave up. I am the only one from that period who is still in business. I was in the Wacker building 22 years. After my father passed away in 1931 I remodeled the store building into a garage and have been there 44 years.

     When Henry Ford came out with his cheap Model T there was an alley garage in every old barn in Wilton. In cold weather you had to jack up one rear wheel of a Model T so you could crank the engine. I was always glad to get rid of a Model T when I had one in stock. They were “a pain in the neck.”

     The garage business years ago was not like it is today. You ran a regular repair shop with a lot of machine work and welding. The worst time for the business was during World War II. I got so fed up with trying to do all the work alone that I just felt like closing the doors and taking a vacation. In recent years my son Allan F. Maurer has been associated with me in the business.

Random Notes on the
Quality Hardware Building
Wilton, Iowa

By William Nelson

    Wilton’s tallest business building, known as the “Scott & Blanchard Block” when it was completed in 1878, houses today’s Quality Hardware Store.

    The original picture of the building shows the main floor occupied by a dry goods and grocery store – with insurance and law offices housed on the second level – front.

    The building boasted several “firsts” for the thriving Wilton community. Real plate glass windows imported from France towered 15’ to the ceiling of the main front allowing daylight to enter the front part of the store. These were the first really “big” plate glass windows in the town. Cast iron fluted pillars with Corinthian capitals supported a steel girder which gave an “open-front” look except for the stairwell entrance for the Opera House. Galvanized iron frieze moldings above the windows, complete with dentils and elaborate support brackets divided the building front at the second floor level. Decorative cast iron pediment ornaments adorned the circle-head second floor windows and a grand “Steamboat Gothic” frieze of galvanized iron complete with tower, columns, brackets and finial topped the roof line of the structure.

    A wide board walk in front of the building rested on raised posts to make loading of heavy items into horse drawn vehicles most efficient – as well as providing hitching space for those who came from Miles around to shop.

    The Opera House occupied the rear of the second floor. It was quite a spacious room well over 100 feet long and the full width of the building. The stage occupied the north end of the room. Some scenic painting on the walls could still be seen when the furniture business was liquidated in the early 30”s. At that time the ticket booth at the…

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Picture – 117 West 4th Street – Courtesy of William Nelson
Two pictures of the building that is now the location of the Quality Hardware store, Scott and Johnson, dry goods and groceries occupied it in 1879 with Insurance and Law offices on second floor along with the Opera House. The picture on the right was taken in 1922 after a repaint job by A. T. Nelson, Hardware and Furniture, for the Wilton Homecoming. The axe hanging over the doorway was designed and made by Mr. Nelson about 1906. His slogan was “Under the Axe – Where prices are Right.”

…head of the stairway was still intact, and some of the scenery flats were still stored on the balcony.

    The Opera House itself could easily seat 250 to 300 persons on the main floor. It was the largest single public room in existence in Wilton at that time. A balcony-or-“nigger heaven” as it was usually referred to, extended to the front of the building over the offices. It was equipped with stair-step rises for good viewing for possibly another 75 to 100 people. The I.O.O.F. (Odd Fellows) used the opera house for many years as their meeting room, as did the Modern Woodmen and several other lodges and social organizations. Four pot-bellied stoves using 4 of the building’s 6 chimneys were the Opera House’s only heat source.

    The Opera House flourished until the turn of the century when Nelson closed it because of a turn-down on fire insurance. By this time there were several other buildings in Wilton available for larger gatherings. The Opera House became a display room for the line of furniture which Nelson added a few years later. After Nelson sold out the Opera became a storage area for seasonal goods for the hardware store.

    Unfortunately, neither the contractor nor the designer of the building are known. According to stories passed down by my dad, one of the…

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…longest occupants of the building to date, a complete building crew was brought to Wilton from “The East.” The crew included stone and brick masons, stone cutters, carpenters, tin smiths (who also served as roofers) and the like. The stone foundations of the building are at least 24 to 30 inches thick and the brick walls are three courses thick, fully 12”.

    Only the central area of the basement was excavated at the time the building was built. A brick-lined, arch-topped tunnel connected the excavated part with the rear annex so that coal thrown down the elevator shaft in later years could be moved by wheel barrow to the really up-to-date “pipeless” furnace which Mr. Nelson installed to heat the main business floor. The Nelson boys used this tunnel for many years for target practice, testing out guns that were offered for sale or brought in for repairs at the store. In the early 20’s when a series of robberies caused the founding of a Vigilante’s Group for mutual protection, many members used the tunnel area to test out their newly acquired pistols and other “robber guns.” Target practice with .22 caliber rifles was a popular winter pastime on the “firing range” for many years.

    Just when the frame structure extending to the alley was added is not clear. When Dad went to work for Clarence Walker in the Tin Shop in 1894 after having been a traveling representative of Schwab & Sercomb Furnace Company of Milwaukee, the building was in existence. By the same token, it is not definite when the hardware business took over the building. A notation in Dad’s handwriting on an A. T. Nelson Hardware letterhead which was found in his papers lists the following owners of the hardware business:

Oscar Shaw …. to 1878
Frank Hayford 1876 to …….
Blanchard & Pingrey …. to 1890
Kenasaw Blanchard 1890 to 1893
Clarence Walker 1893 to 1895
Ashton T. Nelson March 18, 1895 to March 1, 1929
Duard V. Smull March 1, 1929 to ….

    The Tin Shop annex had a freight elevator (operated by ropes to serve the basement, sales floor, alley door, oil storage and second floor levels.)

     At the height of the tin shop business, which lasted until the late teens, the main items turned out by hand and hand operated equipment from sheet metal consisted of pails of all sorts, stove and furnace pipe, special tin containers for specific uses such as butchering and the like, copper was boilers and rinse basins, metal roofing, metal ceilings, stock watering devices, decorative sheet metal work such as weather vanes and countless other items of the trade. Repairing leaking vessels with solder was a steady business. Mr. Nelson patented a hammer to be used for raising the joints on metal roofs when replacement sheets were to be applied. Several cases of these were given away when one of the recent owners of the store held an open house.

     In the heyday of the tinning business, most every barn of any size in the countryside was topped with a weathervane that reflected the owner’s specialty – such as roosters, horses, cows, etc. The better barns boasted copper ornaments though most were content with …

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Picture – Mr. and Mrs. Arthur T. Nelson – Courtesy of Curtis Frymoyer
This couple gave generously of their time and talents, which were many, to the development of Wilton. Mr. Nelson was a prime mover in the Wilton Homecoming, 1922, and he designed and built the “Mother Wilton” statue which stood on Maurer Street where it was the first thing seen by Homecomers who came by train. Durant-born Mr. Nelson planted a 5 mile row of walnut trees on Highway 6 linking his two home towns.

…Gilded or silvered galvanized iron figures. The patterns for some of the more common designs are still in the possession of my sister, Jane Knupp of Vinton. I had made copper copies for use in decorating my own home.

     In his early days in the hardware business, Nelson installed furnaces. He had a crew that went from job to job by horse and wagon. Their sales covered an area about 50 miles around Wilton. Most of the pipe was made from scratch in the tin shop to lengths and diameters determined by a job size-up. The crew moved in with the family and stayed until the job was complete, often taking several days if it was a “pipe” installation, rather than the more common “pipe less” job. John Luethye, who apprenticed to my dad as a tinsmith, later founded his own heating and plumbing business and took over practically all of the tin shop business. His establishment was next door south of our home on Maurer Street.

     For many years an “oil room: was located along the west wall of the tin shop annex. It was a narrow room housing 6 or 7 tanks set on end which held 60 to 120 gallons each. Spiggots on each tank drained over a catch basis so that accidental spills would run down to into a collector vat below the counter. The “spills would run down into a vat below the counter. The “Spills” were used to oil the alley area behind the building. It was never dusty. The tanks held both raw and boiled linseed oil and turpentine for paint mixing, two grades of kerosene (one pink), neatsfoot oil for harness dressing, as well as several grades of machine oil for farm implement lubrication. The oil drums were rolled off the elevator on the roof of the room and onto a drain system which could be switched to fill the tanks below. The 12” brick wall of the building served as a fire barrier to this volatile storage area.

     Dad bought the building around 1905. According to his story, Frank …

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…Rider came to him while he was at work in the store offering the building for sale at what Dad thought was a very reasonable price. He looked for a piece of paper-but none was hand-so he grabbed a piece of sandpaper from the bin behind him and wrote an IOU on the back of it. I still have this early example of “over-the-counter” transactions.

     Dad added galvanized iron shutter to all the side windows for additional fire protection. Most of them are still in existence.

     Soon after he acquired the business and the building, Dad added the huge axe which hangs out over the side walk from the front of the building. He made the axe in his Tin Shop at the rear of the building. The handle was hand-hewn from a large timber. He used “Under the Axe”-Where Prices are Right! – as his business slogan during the entire time he operated the business.

     Probably because Perry was a pilot, Dad painted the words “WILTON” about 20 feet high – plus a compass rose – in white on the tin roof of the main building in the early 20’s. This was continued and repainted every 4 years until the time he sold the business. He received several letters of thanks from early day pilots who navigated by the “seat of their pants” and lost their bearings frequently. Their most common method of locating themselves was to fly low over the railroad station in hopes of being able to read the town name on the end of the buildings. Dad thought this was rather dangerous. The letters had a clear visibility of over a thousand feet…quite visible when one considers that most flying at the time rarely exceeded the 1,5000 to 2,000 foot levels.

     Duard Smull had worked for Dad since his return from the army in 1919 after World War I. Smull remodeled both the interior and the front of the building, replacing the tall plate windows with divided-light sash. He added the gift and notions sections which have proven quite popular. Many of the original display shelves are still in place along the Walls. He also added the old Heabner Grocery Store building next door west as a display floor annex. Much of the galvanized eave decorations had deteriorated badly and were removed at that time. I understand, that later owners added apartments of some sort on the second floor. I have not been back in Wilton since that took place.

Eastern Iowa Light and Power Cooperative
By John W. Staschke

    Before 1949, Eastern Iowa Light and Power Cooperative was located in Davenport, Iowa. This made the headquarters 28 miles off-center in relation to its service territory. At the September 2, 1947, Annual Meeting, the membership voted to move the headquarters to Wilton.

    Built in 1949, the headquarters complex is ideally situated. Through the years, citizens of Wilton have observed continual expansion of the …

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    This page sponsored by Eastern Iowa Light and Power Cooperative.
     “Remembering the Land Before the Lights.”

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…facilities comprising the Eastern Iowa Light and Power Cooperative headquarters.

    February of 1950 saw the Cooperative’s 200-foot radio tower go skyward. This tower was to serve the Cooperative for 25 years. On November 15, 1975, it was removed by helicopter, and REC now uses a much stronger 180-foot microwave tower erected in 1974. Eastern Iowa old tower served as a beacon to travelers returning to Wilton and its flashing red light was a welcome sight to many.

    In 1953, an addition was constructed on the southwest corner of the existing headquarters building. This was to provide a garage, storage, and work space for the already crowded original building.

    In 1957, office space was added to the east in the Cooperative’s constant effort to efficiently serve its members. The appliance section was added to the building in 1962.

    Warehouse space has always been a problem for the Cooperative. In 1967, land was used in the southwest section of Wilton to erect a 50x150-foot warehouse and additional open air storage. A huge 15,000 sq. ft. warehouse was built at the west edge of the headquarters area in 1968.

    In an effort to update its power and distribution dispatching, the Operations Center was erected in 1974. This structure houses a modern computer-directed supervisory control and data acquisition system, plus the Wilton microwave and two-way radio communications equipment.

    Inside the REC offices is a modern data processing center, featuring an IBM System 3 Model 10 computer. This serves to speed materials handling, payroll, and billing. The modern garage is equipped to handle all needs of the Cooperative’s fleet of 73 vehicles.

    The Wilton complex also houses the engineering department, printing department, information department, consumer service department, administrative and financial service offices, and appliance repair center.

    Presently 128 of the Cooperative’s nearly 200 employees work out of the Wilton office. Most of these employees are Wilton residents. Over the years, the Cooperative has contributed much to the economy and stability of the community of Wilton.

Lauser’s Variety Store

     In October of 1946 Max Lauser purchased the Harry Peterson Shoe Repair Shop. He added new shoes and accessories to his business line. In 1949 he moved to a new location and added a ready-to-wear line. On May 1, 1960 a small fire above the store had caused water and smoke damage to much of his merchandise. The following July Mr. Lauser purchased his present building at 321 Cedar. In 1962 he sold the shoe repair equipment. In 1968 extensive remodeling took place. Additional counters were made, the ceiling lowered, office space added and the shoe department finished. Mr. and Mrs. Lauser both work full time in the store as well as four other employees.

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    This page sponsored in memory of F. E. “Toady” Fair in gratitude of his many friends.

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Wilton Banks
By Harold Nicolaus

    J.L. Reed started the first bank in Wilton, known as Reed Bank; probably opened for business around 1860. This bank later became the Farmers and Citizens Bank. The Farmers and Citizens Bank reorganized on May 29, 1894 into Wilton Savings Bank, whose charter was granted on May 26, 1894. Original capital stock of Wilton Savings Bank was subscribed to by 64 shareholders, said capital stock totaling $ 30,000. Original directors of Wilton Savings Bank were: George Bannick, Henry Brammeier, A.A. Cooling, F.A.J. Gray, W. G. Johnson, Fred Maurer, Thomas Raynor, G. G. Schafnit and J. G. Will. Original officers were A.A. Cooling, Pres., F.A.J. Gray, Vice Pres., and J. L. Rider, Cashier.

     In 1878 Union Bank was chartered and its original officers were: Samuel Wildasin, Pres., L.L. Lane, Vice Pres., and J.L. Giesler, Cashier. Later this bank became known as Union Savings Bank.

     In 1905 the Farmers Savings Bank was chartered and its original officers were: C.C. Kaufmann, Pres., Fred Maurer, Vice Pres., and F.C. Wickes, Cashier.

     By 1930 there were a total of 13 banks in Muscatine County. By 1935 there were 4 banks left operating, which included two banks in Muscatine A/K/A Central State Bank, Muscatine State Bank, West Liberty State Bank, West Liberty and Wilton Savings Bank, Wilton, Iowa.

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     This page sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Harold Nicolaus in honor and memory of their loved ones both living and deceased.

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White Pigeon Mutual Insurance Association

    In the pioneer days of the Wilton community, people faced with financial loss from the ravages of fire and lightning sought ways of protecting themselves from such loss. A group of farmers met at the White Pigeon schoolhouse 5 ½ miles north of Wilton. The outgrowth of their meetings to discuss means of providing insurance protection at a cost they could afford was the organization of the Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company of White Pigeon. It was organized on March 7, 1872 and commenced business Dec. 7, 1872.

     The original territory included townships Farmington, Inland, Sugar Creek, Rochester and the east half of Center in Cedar county and Fulton, Moscow and Wilton townships, excluding the town of Wilton, in Muscatine county. Extra territory was added through the years. In 1948 the association was reincorporated with the territory expanded to include the counties permitted by law, namely Muscatine, Cedar, Scott, Louisa and Johnson.

     Some years prior to 1932 the association’s office was located in the back room of the old Union Savings Bank building at 204 W. 4th St. From 1932 to 1940 the office was housed in the former Farmers Savings Bank building at 101 W. 4th St. The first building constructed and owned by the association was located at 108 E. 4th St. and was occupied from 1940 to 1960. In 1960 the association traded locations with Attorney E.W. Mead. His old office was torn down and the present White Pigeon Mutual Insurance Association was built on that spot at 105 W. 4th St.

     In 1949 it was voted that windstorm and hail insurance could be added to the fire insurance policy.

     White Pigeon Mutual Insurance Association carries re-insurance with the Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Co.

The Griffith Furniture Store

    E.A. Whitmer and William G. Griffith started their business known as Whitmer and Griffith Furniture Store and Funeral Director in 1896 in a building which formerly stood on Cedar Street by the alley across from what is the Corner Tap now. Then they moved across the street into the old Ross building. Then they purchased the Downer and Derby building in 1910, its present location on 109 W. 4th Street.

     William G. Griffith bought out his partner, E. A. Whitmer, in 1914 and it was known as Griffith Furniture Store.

     Harry J. Griffith became a partner with his father, William G. Griffith in 1914 and it then became known as William G. Griffith & Son Furniture Store.

     Harry J. Griffith joined his father as a professional embalmer and funeral director in 1925. After the death of William G. Griffith in 1946 the store became known as the Griffith Furniture Store.

     Harry J. Griffith purchased the Fred Maurer residence on 803 Maurer Street in 1941, and made the residence into a modern funeral home, known as the Griffith Funeral Home. William G. Griffith & Soon had the first factory-made auto hearse in Muscatine County. Harry J. Griffith is a veteran of World War I, and served in France.

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The Candy Kitchen –Three Generations of Greeks
by Thelma Soteros Nopoulos

    In 1907, Gus George Nopoulos, St., immigrated to America from his homeland of Greece with worldly possessions, $ 10, sewed into the lining of his coat by his mother.

     He arrived in Davenport, Iowa to find work with his Uncle John in a downtown Candy Kitchen.

     Taking advantage of the capitalistic system in the new world Gus started his own business venture in Wilton Jct., Iowa in 1910. It was a partnership with another native of Greece.

     Thrift and pinching the pennies had been well engrained into Gus’s philosophy. It was not long until Gus’s profit permitted him to buy his own business.

     His home-made candy and ice cream, his pleasant smile and efficient service attracted customers from far and near who would stop for lunch or enjoy an ice cream treat with a prospective customer to close a deal.

     For nearly 40 years Gus was the “Iron Man” of the Candy Kitchen. He was assisted by his wife, Mildred, who is now deceased.

     In 1946 his son George Gus became the new manager-owner. He has continued in the family tradition of making and serving home made ice cream and light lunches.

     In recent summers the 3rd generation of the family can be seen waiting on tables, taking orders and cleaning up as the four Nopoulos children, Gus, George II, Peter George, Nicholas George and Peggy Mildred work for spending money to help finance their education as all four are currently attending the University of Iowa.

     Thelma, George’s wife, spends untold hours assisting her husband…

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     This page sponsored by the Wilton Candy Kitchen – the Nopoulos family since 1910.

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Picture – The Nopoulos Family of the Candy Kitchen – Courtesy of Thelma Nopoulos
Left to right – Gus Nopoulos, founder of the Candy Kitchen, Thelma Soteros Nopoulos and George Nopoulos.

…and father-in-law, Gus Sr., in the management of the Candy Kitchen.

     The Candy Kitchen has been a social center for the town. Gus has served six generations of some Wilton families. For 66 years teenagers have found the Candy Kitchen especially attractive.

     When former Wiltonites return to their hometown they invariably head for “Gussie’s.” Perhaps Gus’s specialties, which he created, may have something to do with this attraction. There are such sundaes as Happy Thought, Wilton Special, Chocolate Jersey, High School Special and Black cow. His customers drink Green Rivers, Chocolate Cokes, Red Rivers, Pink Lady, Odd Ball, Hadocal, Vanilla Phosphate, Orange Water, Root Beer and Coke. Erna Beinke Hansen will be remembered as one who spent many years giving service at the Candy Kitchen. Others who have worked there are Edna Schroeder Maurer, her sister the late Esther Schroeder Bestman, Elmer and Reuben Koening, Paul and Cecil Duncan, Dorothy Templeman Dickinson and her brothers Milo and Harold Templeman. Among the girls who worked there as teenagers are Mary Soteros Ford, Carolyn Ford Thomas, Beverly Oveson Rabedeaux, Renee Rabedeaux Lockridge, Janet Schneekloth Carstens, Beverly Baker and Karen Soteros.

     If you stop in at the Candy Kitchen for some of George’s home made ice cream you may meet the Nopoulos family who have been in business in Wilton seven days a week i(including holidays) from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. since 1919.

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     “Fifteen loaves of bread for $ 1 at City Bakery.” ~ Wilton Exponent, Jan. 21, 1876.

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Putting Up Ice for the Candy Kitchen
by Lydia Nagel

    The ice house behind the Candy Kitchen was about 20’X20’. The ice was cut at Mud Creek by hand and a horse pulled it up on a platform. Rudy Walters caught it quickly and put it on a wagon. It would freeze to the platform if it were not moved quickly. Another platform was at the storage place. Another platform was at the storage place. A horse was used here, too, for pulling up the ice much as farmers pulled up their hay. George and Leo Nopoulos helped by filling baskets of sawdust for packing. Layers of sawdust were put around every cake of ice. These cakes weighed up to a couple of hundred pounds each. When ice was needed for use, it was dumped from above. Gus packed the cabinets in the Candy Kitchen with ice and drained the water twice a day. Sometimes someone would come in the night and want a little ice-5 or 10 cents worth-maybe for a sick person. Usually Gus did not charge for it, even though he had been called out of bed. “That was one of the disadvantages of living close to your business.”

The S-R Advocate News

     Today the Advocate-News is Wilton’s only paper but in 1870 this town had two, the True Republican and the Wilton Chronicle.

    Wilton’s first paper began publication in October, 1867 when Charles Baker and M.H. Thompson created the Wilton Chronicle. Later, in 1868, they were joined by C.D. Eaton. Eaton then began his own paper, the True Republican, in 1870.

    The Wilton Herald was formed in July 1874. One month later the Wilton Exponent also came into existence. A merger of these two papers was called The Wilton Review.

    The Review continued publication until 1895 when it was merged with the Wilton Advocate which had been founded a year earlier by E.W. Clark. Mr. Clark published the Advocate until his death in 1909. Later owners and editors were Pierrot, Parsons, George Mockmore, Hamilton, Herman Thurston 1923-’42, Lorenze, Robert Hansen, M.J. Hauck, John Steffens, Mr. and Mrs. W.L. Arrowsmith, W. R. Rabedeaux and Harold E. Saylor 1960-1972 and W. R. Rabedeaux 1972 to the present time.

    The present Advocate-News is a merger of the Wilton Advocate and Durant News. The combination took place March 5, 1970. The paper has a current subscription list of approximately 2500 and covers the Wilton, Moscow, Durant, Stockton and Walcott areas.

    A brother firm, Trico publishers, was formed June 28, 1965 and is located at 1315 West 5th St.

Daut’s Jewelry

    Guyford Daut came to Wilton in April, 1956 and opened a jewelry store in the Jacobson building (the old cigar factory) in the 400 block on Cedar Street. In October 1968 the store was moved to the old Union Bank building on the corner of Cedar and 4th. It is now known as Daut’s Jewelry and Gift Store.

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The Potter, Karl J. Christiansen
By Mary Lee Stoll

    Pottery making is one of the oldest arts known to man. No one knows what people first learned to make vessels of clay. In some of our great museums we find well shaped bowls and vases which were buried in the Egyptians graves perhaps six thousand years ago and which have taught us something about the state of civilization in Egypt long before the time of Moses. Cups and saucers, dinner plates and all other useful and beautiful articles of chinaware which we use in our homes today are so familiar to us that we fail to realize the knowledge, art and skill that have gone into their making.

     We are proud of Karl Christiansen, the potter, who chose to make Wilton his home 10 years ago. His small shop, located at 302 Jackson Street in south Wilton, is adjacent to his home. Christiansen’s tools consist of two capable hands, a manually powered wheel and an electrically operated one. The clay is imported mainly from the states of Missouri and Kentucky. Potter making falls into 5 main stages: preparing the clay, shaping the pot, drying and firing it, decorating it and glazing it.

     Christiansen, a talented artist and idealist was born in Forest City, Iowa. He spent his early childhood at Valparaiso, Indiana. Later he moved to Minnesota where he attended Concordia College, Moorhead and St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota. For 2 years he was an art instructor in a public school in Minnesota. Realizing he was ill-prepared for teaching he returned to school, the University of Minnesota where he received a Master’s Degree. He returned to Iowa and accepted a teaching position at Luther College, Decorah for three years. The yen for more background and knowledge brought him to the University of Iowa where he earned a Master of Fine Arts Degree. It was at this point in Christiansen’s life that he was forced to make a decision—whether to stay in the teaching field with its demands and responsibilities or take a chance “on his own” in the field of “creating” with clay and making it a profitable way of living. He chose the latter and Wilton and surrounding communities have been enriched by his endeavors.

     Much of Christiansen’s pottery is marketed in cities and states outside of Iowa. At intervals during the year he packs his wares and travels to the Chicago area where his products are displayed at various art fairs and find a ready market.

     Karl Christiansen appreciates and enjoys the quiet country town of Wilton and depends much on its resources. Pottery is his life. Pottery created with pride from Mother-earth, useful, warm and enduring.

Peeks’ Electric

    In December 1945 Norman Peeks started his business at his home on Wate Street. In March 1948 he added an appliance business to his electric business. At this time he rented a building from Guy Leith where the Western Auto used to be located. In 1954 Norm bought his present building from Herb Moeller. Norm deals in all types of electrical, heating and air condition and has two full time employees.

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Kenneth R. Grunder, Contractor & Specialties

    This contractor business has a long established background of over 50 years, by Kirk G. Grunder, Ken’s father. Ken is the third generation of builders, his grandfather, Albert Grunder, having taught Kirk the trade.

     Kirk started his own business in 1932. His first shop was in the Robert Wilkerson building. Later he purchased the John Luethye building (now the White Pigeon parking lot) and in 1947 built a shop and home at 109 E. 5th Street (Marian Heinrich home.)

     In 1961 the contractor business was transferred to Kenneth, and he also started a new enterprise, the “Ken Grunder Specialties” shop at 310 E. 4th – a retail store containing paints, floor coverings, cabinets, all things necessary for a home.

     Ken now employs the 4th generation of Grunders, his sons, Steve, Fred, Joe and John and daughter-in-law, Carol Rhude Grunder along with a crew of 6 to 8 others.

A History of Wilton Milk Products Company
1934 – 1976

    This cheese producing factory was started February 12, 1934 by eighteen local businessmen and farmers. It was located on Railroad Street in the old hotel building.

     John F. Burkle came to Wilton in 1935 from Walnut, Illinois, at the request of Kraft Foods to manage the factory. In 1938 John and Marie Burkle purchased the plant and in 1954 they built the present factory and adjacent whey dryer room.

     Wilton Milk Products has patrons from whom they purchase milk within a radius of 25 miles from Wilton. They employ 15-25 people and the average annual production is two million pounds of cheddar cheese, which is sold to Kraft Foods.

Duffe Oil Company

    The Duffe Oil Co. had its beginning in 1922 with Ed Duffe as owner. He had a truck with a four cylinder Chevrolet engine mounted on an Oldsmobile chassis with which he delivered gasoline and kerosene to farmers. He filled the purchaser’s 30 or 50 gallon barrels with a 5 gallon can. The farmers used the gas for their cars as very few had tractors at that time. Lots of kerosene was used for lamps and lanterns as R.E.C. had not yet come into existence. In 1925 Ed bought their present building on the south side of 4th Street and added a line of paints. In 1949 his son Clarence took over, discontinuing the paint business. Clarence has his office and dwelling in the building on 4th Street which in early times once housed a hotel and restaurant and later a baker.

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    This page sponsored by the Duffe Oil Co.

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The Star Drug Store
by Lee Dawson

    A partial history of the west 23 feet, of the south 93 feet of Lot 6, in Block 56, of Butterfield’s Addition to the town of Wilton, Muscatine County Iowa. Better known as the Star Drug Store property, located at the corner of 4th and Cedar Streets.

     This property entered by Benjamin Kaufmann, was sold to Franklin Butterfield in 1853.

     In the year 1856 a building was erected on this property by Mr. DeGear, and was known as the DeGear house.

     In the spring of 1858, Mr. D. Burk came to Wilton and purchased this property and opened a store known as “Burk’s Dry Goods Store.” The original building was moved back to the alley between 4th and 5th streets and housed the Wilton Telephone Company Office.

     Dr. A. A. Cooling purchased the property and erected the present brick building in 1876. The front of the new brick building was used as the Star Drug Store and the back part as a doctor’s office, with apartments on the second floor.

     The first pharmacist of the Star Drug Store was Mr. Kirk. Later Jacob Pentzen, Jr was employed. Mr. Rudolph Farm was employed as a pharmacist from 1880 until 1900, at which time he became owner-operator until his death in 1927.

     Mr. Hollis T. Birchard was then the owner-operator until he sold the Star Drug Store to Mr. Lisle L. Dawson in 1942. Mr. Dawson served his pre-pharmacy training under Mr. Rudolph Farmer in the Star Drug Store, while attending high school in Wilton. Mr. Lisle Dawson purchased the building in September 1947.

     L. Lee Dawson, son of Lisle Dawson, joined his father in a partnership May 31, 1951. January 1, 1967 L. Lee Dawson purchased his father’s half of the partnership, becoming sole owner of the business. Lee, now also owns the building in addition to the Star Drug Store.

     (Editor’s Note: A burglar alarm was installed in the Star Drug…

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…Store in 1882 as reported in the Wilton Review for August 31 of that year—“Mr. S. C. Dickinson has recently constructed and put into operation in the Star Drug Store a new and perfect working electrical burglar alarm. The model is of Mr. Dickinson’s own devising. There is not a door or window opening into the store or any room connected with the store, when once all are closed and the proper connections are made,, which can be opened without the ringing of the alarm bell will instantly begin and continue without the ringing of the alarm bell will instantly begin and continue till someone who knows how shuts it off This bell may be in the store or at Dr. Cooling’s house 5 blocks away, when the desired disturbance takes place. So if Mr. Burglar succeeds in breaking in through window or door and all is quiet within he may feel perfectly secure for the brave Doctor will soon be there with the implements of his profession and amputate a limb or a head probably no fee would be charged.”)

Economy Lumber Co.
by Wayne Einfeldt

    The Economy Lumber Co. was organized in 1905 with J. E. Burrows and his son Dave in charge. When the senior Burrows passed away in 1913 Dave Burrows assumed full responsibility for the firm.

    In 1925 the lumber yard was destroyed by fire of unknown origin. Luckily most of the loss was covered by insurance. The following year the present structure, 72x120 ft. and 12 ft. high, was completed. It was built by two local men, George Wagner and B. J. Nangle.

    Miss Edith Burrows was bookkeeper at the lumber yard from 1913 until her death in 1944. Miss Olive Burrows occasionally assisted her. The Burrows family moved to Wilton in 1905 from Lime City where Mr. Burrows had been superintendent of the Sugar Creek Lime Co. for many years.

    Rhinehardt Giese joined the staff as yardman and truck driver in 1945. Alexander Leith was hired to assist in the yard in 1946 to 47. He also did the bookkeeping. He took over the management when Dave Burrows had a stroke in Nov. 1949. Wayne Einfeldt was hired as bookkeeper in Jan. 1950. The following year Alexander Leith left to buy his own lumber yard in another town. In 1951 Dave Burrows sold a part interest in the lumber yard to Waldo Elder. Wayne Einfeldt served his country in the Korean conflict from Nov. 1950 to 1953 and when he returned home he became manager and bookkeeper of the Economy Lumber Co.

    In 1955 a horse drawn lumber wagon with Charles Hart, a former employee, at the reins was entered in the Wilton Day parade. It depicted how Dave Burrows had delivered his first order of lumber.

    Dave Burrows passed away in 1956 and the Economy Lumber Co. became the property of Olive Burrows, Ella Burrows Brown and Waldo Elder.

    Extensive remodeling was done in 1959 and building supplies and tolls were added to the products already carried which included lumber, coal and cement. A ready mix plant was installed to furnish cement for the construction of Interstate 80, as well as local…

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    This page sponsored by the Economy Lumber Co.

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…construction projects.

     In 1959 Marvel Riggenberg DeMuth was hired as bookkeeper, which job she still holds. In 1963 a new storage shed and warehouse were added to take care of the ever increasing amount of material needed to supply construction projects.

     Miss Olive Burrows passed away in 1964. In 1968 Waldo Elder bought out the remaining partner, Mrs. Ella Burrows Brown. The following year, with her death, the Burrows family came to an end, as there were no descendants.

     In 1970 Economy Lumber Co. was made into a corporation and Wayne Einfeldt bought into the firm with Waldo Elder. The business has expanded tremendously during its 71 years of existence.

Grunder Hi-Way Furniture

    In 1956 Harland Grunder returned to Wilton from Washington, Iowa where he had been in the furniture business with Ralph Marshall. Harland constructed a building in the 600 block on West 5th Street and opened a furniture store, choosing the name Grunder Hi-Way Furniture because it was located on Highway 6. Two years later he built an addition onto the store. On Jan. 1, 1966 Harland Jr. became part owner. In the spring of 1978 another addition was made to the building.

Caffery Electrical Contracting

    Gene and Bernie Caffery came to Wilton August 15, 1955 from Davenport to open an Electrical Contracting business.

    Gene had worked ten years at Riverside Power Plant before coming to Wilton. In 1955 they purchased a building at 202 E. 4th St. from henry Fitzgerald. In 1958 this building was enlarged to make more office space, accommodate four vehicles, plus additions to the apartment upstairs which was their home until 1963. At present there are three employees.

Wilton Locker Plant

The Wilton Locker Plant was built by Alvin Roberts in 1941. It was purchased by Beryl Grings in 1946 with Charles (Ted) Taylor as manager. Mr. Taylor bought the business in 1962 and is the present owner.

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     Remember when Rudolph Schroeder, the baker, shipped bread and rolls to Atalissa by train in the huge wicker baskets?

     The freight charges on pure white lime shipped from Lime City in 1884 was $ 13,000.

    The page sponsored by Wilton Ready Mix.

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Harold (Bill) Grunder and Sons, Inc.

    The Harold (Bill) Grunder and Sons, Inc. is truly a family firm having existed through three generations. Originally it was W.A. Grunder, contractor and builder, and was started about 1908. Mr. (Bill) Grunder’s son, Harold, also known as Bill, started working for his father in 1925. In 1943 he became a partner. Upon the death of the senior Grunder, his second son, Harland, was a partner, but he soon left the firm. In 1959 Harold two older sons, Paul and Bob, were taken into the firm, which became Harold (Bill) Grunder and sons. Later they were joined by the two younger boys, Jim and Roger. The contracting business in Wilton, three Ready-Mix business in Wilton, West Liberty and Durant and a lumber yard in Durant now all operate under the name of Harold (Bill) Grunder and Sons, In.

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