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 Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
January 07, 2016, Page 10

By Mike Avitt

This picture postcard shows the beautiful Foley Hotel in Kellerton in the early 1910s. In this week's article we'll follow some of the owners and the rise and fall of the hotel itself.

This lodging went by four different names: Kellerton House, McDonald Hotel, St. Joe Hotel, and Foley Hotel. The hotel sat where the post office is today. One of the early owners was W. M. Haught who would also own the Commercial House in Mount Ayr. It was probably Haught who sold it to E. W. McDonald in the winter of 1895-96.

Mr. McDonald was so well respected that he was featured in the famous June 12, 1896 edition of the Twice-A-Week News. He grew up in Tuskeego and moved to Kellerton about the time the railroad came through (1879). He, too, would later own a hotel in Mount Ayr, the Mount Ayr House. In September 1896 an addition was constructed onto the hotel. Mr. McDonald then leased the hotel to Odd Fellows, who put Mr. E. L. Brown in charge. A year later, constables confiscated liquor from the hotel and McDonald got his hotel back. He then traded the lodging to McCandless & Woollums.

On March 3, 1900, the Kellerton Post Office was movd to the front room of the hotel. It was a common practice for hotels to rent spaces to businesses.

In December 1903, T. W. Foley bought the Kellerton House and would own it until 1914. Mr. Foley bought a hotel in Garner, Iowa, in 1914 and moved to Garner. We have a postcard at the Mount Ayr Depot Museum showing Mr. and Mrs. Foley in their Maxwell automobile parked in front of the hotel about 1912.

In the meantime, a Mr. W. C. Allen built a brick hotel called the Grand Hotel one block north of the Foley Hotel. Mr. Allen opened in December 1913 and sold it to R. M. Bowlby in December 1914. Like the Kellerton House, this hotel would pass through many hands including Mr. and Mrs. Frank Jackson.

So the old Kellerton House struggled, renting rooms out as a harness shop and tire vulcanizing repair shop. Finally, in October 1924, Ralph Dorn bought the hotel from F. D. Burns and Artie Allen. Dorn had the hotel torn down that winter and a filling station was constructed on the old hotel site.

In the early 1960s, the Dorn filling station was torn down to make way for the new post office, which was dedicated December 2, 1961.

I've got some space left so I'll list some of the early owners of the Grand Hotel: W. C. Allen, 1914; R. M. Bowlby, 1915; Rich Frisby, 1916; Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Logan, 1916 - 1918; Mrs. Frank Garton, 1919; Mr. and Mrs. Frank Jackson, 1919; George Campbell, 1920; J. A. Eaton, 1920; and Will Jackson, 1922. Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Logan also owned the Commercial House in Mount Ayr from 1910 to 1916.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News & Mount Ayr Depot Museum
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, May of 2016

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