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  Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, October 4, 1916

Mount Ayr is to have a new depot. Plans provide for reconstruction of the old building and the building of an addition immediately west of where the old building stands. The building will be stuccoed and will have a tile floor, ladies' waiting room and all the modern conveniences which the town now affords, such as water, electric lights, etc.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2016

Mount Ayr Depot Musuem

Ringgold County's Historical Society was established in 1939, primarily through the efforts of Randolph Sry BEALL. The first museum was housed on the second floor of the courthouse.

The Historical Society with Roy LEPLEY as the chairman of Ringgold County's Centennial Celebration, July 2nd through the 5th of 1955, the Historical Society played a big role in the festivities. The celebration was held at Ringgold County's fairgrounds with an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 standing witness to the July 4th Centennial Parade.

Carol LUNGREN of Redding won the Miss Ringgold County pageant over 130 contestants.

H. E. TODD, master of ceremonies, concluded his speech, stating:

And as we place the record [time capsule] of Ringgold County's first span of life in its rich soil, let us hope that those who break the seal will be able to read and learn that their predecessors and ancestors feared God, loved their neighbors and always labored for the common good.

Mount Ayr Record-News, Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa. December 9, 2004.

AVITT, Mike. Pages and Pictures from the Past . . . Ringgold County, Iowa: 1885-2005 p. 8. Paragon Publications, Inc. Mount Ayr, Iowa. 2009.

Photograph by Sharon R. Becker, May of 2009

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, December 22, 2005

Festival of trees


 The annual Festival of Trees will be open to the public during the month of December at the Mount Ayr Restored Depot Museum. Christmas trees will be on display again during the Saturday evening Christmas activities.




Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, August 05, 2010

Mount Ayr Depot Museum
Celebrated 10th Anniversary on July 24

The Mount Ayr Depot Museum's 10 anniversary open house was a great success.

Bob SICKELS had the unique train display, donated by Brad HOLDEN, up and running. Mike AVIT had a historic video going all day showing places, things and events of Mount Ayr and the area. Many enjoyed seeing them plus the many band pictures he had out for the class of 1965 to see. Several of this class who were having a weekend full of activities to celebrate their 56th class reunion came to the open house.

Kay SICKELS' dolls and teddy bears and Doris RULES'S Betty Boop display and her wall hanging made of bowling shirts of teams who bowled the original Lucky Lanes bowling alley over the years were displayed. There was much interest and comments on these items.

Thelma RUSK'S vintage clothing and hat display and the many pictures of buildings, classes, events and celebrations that are framed and on the wall were studied by many trying to remember where some of these were located. Close to 90 people registered and more came who slipped through without signing in.

All in all the Mount Ayr Preservation, Inc. members who sponsored the Depot were happy with all those who supported the open house.

If you are interested in joining this group or support it with donations, contact Bob or Kay SICKELS, vice-president and secretary, Jake DAILEY, treasurer, Doris RULE, board member, or Thelma RUSK, president.

The Depot is open on special occasions or by calling any of the above at anytime if you would like to stop by.

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, August 29, 2013

Standing vigil at the depot

The original railroad water tank that serviced countless locomotives passing through Mount Ayr still stands vigil near the train depot. Note, the sign that says "structure will not clear man on side of car."

Mount Ayr Record-News, Thursday August 07, 2003

A newly water tank like that used for steam engines when they plied the tracks through Mount Ayr years ago is a new feature of the Restored Depot Park in Mount Ayr. Bob SICKELS headed up an effort to add another authentic aspect to the park area.

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, February 12, 2015

I was re-reading one of my railroad books, "The Burlington's Iowa Branch Lines," by Robert Brown and found something I had missed before. On page 36 is a photocopied newspaper clipping dated December 19, 1950. The article is about the disappearing Burlington branch lines, in this case the Pea Vine branch which ran from Fort Madison to Birmingham, Iowa. The picture accompanying this article is that of Mrs. M. D. Dingus, station agent at Birmingham. She is seated at her desk in the depot working by kerosene lamp.

The last station agent at Mount Ayr was Zelta I. Dingus, yes, Mrs. Malcolm D. Dingus, Sr. and she was relieved of her duties at Mount Ayr by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad around May of 1968. She was from the Birmingham area and died there in 1993. At least in Mount Ayr, Mrs. Dingus had electricity.

Preceding her as station agents were Don Bacon, E. F. Pettit, G. M. Squire, H. J. Early, A. A. Chapman, J. E. Wood, W. C. Harrell, H. R. Goodwin and R. T. Cooper. J. E. (Johnny) Wood served from 1904 until 1936 except for a three-week stint in Hamburg, Iowa. One hundred years ago, it was common for depot agents to have an assistant, and this must have been a low-paying, labor-intensive position because assistants didn't stay on the job very long.

There was a great deal of activity in the early days of the railroad in Mount Ayr. The turn-table, which many locals still remember, was built in the fall of 1908. This would come into much use after 1945 when the rail line south to Grant City, Missouri was discontinued. The park on the south side of the depot was built in 1913. The letters, "MOUNT AYR" were embedded in the north bank of the park in 1914.

A one-stall engine house was built in 1912 and was used for many years. It was located about where Sickels Automotive is located today. Also, repairs to the stockyards were constant and a cistern had to be dug so water would always be on hand. At some point, the wooden sidewalk around the depot was replaced with paving brick.

There is one thing I've tried to find for years and that's the construction of the water tank near the depot. We have a 1914 photo of the depot grounds taken from the newly constructed water tower and the water tank is not in the photo. But it does appear in a mid-1930s photo. I found in a 1909 Record-News newspaper that the first water tank was built in 1879 when the railroad first came to Mount Ayr. That water tank was located east of town and burned in January 1909. It was rebuilt at the same location a month later. The replica water tank at the depot today sits on the same concrete foundation as the water tank in the mid-1930s photo.

Passenger service ended in 1939, and a bus route was established as the same time. Rail service to Mount Ayr ended for good in May of 1977. Other branch lines followed such as the Creston to St. Joseph branch, which ceased operation in 1980. The towns of Kent, Lenox, Conway and Bedford were on that line. Soon after that the rest of the Chariton to St. Joseph branch was eliminated costing the towns of Leon, Davis City and Lamoni their rail service.

There is only one Burlington branch line still in operation in southwest Iowa and that is the Red Oak to Shenandoah line. The ethanol plant in Shenandoah is serviced by this line, which has a maximum speed limit of ten miles per hour. There are many rural crossings on this line that are not protected by gates and lights, thus the ten mile an hour speed limit. Also, the track is not in very good condition, but don't tell the BNSF I said that.

Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, September of 2013; updated April of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, June 11, 2015, Page 18

By Mike Avitt

I took this photo in January 2002 and the exterior lights were put in place in the spring of the same year. The replica water tank out back was erected in the spring or summer of 2003.

We have had many items donated to the Mount Ayr Depot Museum over the years. The members of the museum committee regularly donate items, too. I recently picked up a 1960 Small Fry Shop calendar at Jim's Antique Mall in Bethany, Mo. The owner, Jim Newman, was my 7th grade physical education teacher at Albany, Mo.

The Small Fry Shop opened March 6, 1959 and was owned by Keith McNutt and Roberta Farmer. The location was 1/2 block north of the northeast corner of the square. I don't have the exact address but I think it was 111 N. Taylor. Northern Propane was here when I was a kid. This is about the time that Lamb's Tavern moved from 111 N. Taylor to 115 N. Taylor. The Small Fry Shop had a closing out sale in April 1960 and Northern Propane took over this location in February 1963. Buell Barber Shop was in the south half of this building during this time.

There was a lot of activity in this vicinity in the late 1950s. Bob's Barber Shop opened at 110 N. Taylor in December 1959 and the Junior Shop opened in the Hacker building at 113 N. Taylor in February 1959. The Junior Shop was owned by Pearl Johnson and Iola Rice.

Many years ago I bought a Drake's Grocery calendar at the Berry Tree Antique Mall in Osceola, Ia. Drake's Grocery was in Kellerton and ran from about 1960 to 1969. We have two Drake's Grocery calendars (1962 and 1964) at the Depot Museum and I forget which one I bought.

I have a couple of people who help me watch for Ringgold County related items and one of those folks recently came through with a 1975 McNeiley Drug calendar. I paid one dollar for that piece of local history.

Theola Weeda recently donated a 1970 Reynolds Tire Shop calendar. "Junior" Reynolds operated his tire shop from his home at 500 N. Hayes. Orrin Wheeler had a bicycle shop at his home at 116 Dunning Avenue. We have a key tag from his business.

We have a 1954 calendar from Bess Guthrie's business, B. I. G. Hat & Gift Shop. She opened her shop in July 1952 at 110 N. Taylor and had her closing out sale in August 1955. My notes say Bess Guthrie operated the Coffee Shop in Mount Ayr beginning in June 1954. Mrs. Lloyd Denhart ran the gift shop for Mrs. Guthrie.

John Morrison donated a stack of Ringgold County plat books to the museum but I haven't had time to look at them yet. There's a lot of information and history in those old advertisements.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News & Mike Avitt
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, October 29, 2015, Page 20

By Mike Avitt

A Mount Ayr Record-News [article] from September 4, 1908 says the material for Mount Ayr's new turntable has arrived and a force of men is busy with the construction. I believe the location is about where Sickels Automotive is today. Thanks to James Rueber for this week's photo. James is a railroad historian and has supplied pictures for many historical publications.

The railroad came to Mount Ayr in 1879 and Mount Ayr was teh terminus for one year. In 1880, the line was extended to Grant City, Mo., and that remained the terminus until 1899 when the line was extended to Albany, Mo., reconnecting with the Chariton-St.Joe branch line. I assume the turntable was to turn around the engine on what was called the "Des Moines train," a passenger train that went from Mount Ayr to Des Moines once a day. Otherwise, I would think freight traffic would go on through to St. Joseph, Mo. or Chicago, Ill., depending on the direction of the train.

A lot was happening with the Burlington Railroad in Mount Ayr during a ten year stretch from 1908 to 1917. Shortly after the turntable was completed, the water tank east of town was destroyed by fire. A month later, in February of 1909, a new water tank was built by the railroad. Then, in the spring of 1913, work began on the Depot Park on the south side of the train station. A year later, the job was completed with the words, "Mount Ayr" embedded in the north bank of the park as was common for depot parks.

The biggest improvement came in 1916 when the depot was completely remodeled inside and out. The exterior got metal shingles, a stucco coating, and the building was extended twenty feet to the east. The interior got tile floors, steam heat, and indoor plumbing. The freight room and the lobby were switched so that now the entrance faced the street to the west. The work was finished in January 1917.

Harry Bisbey came to the train station in 1915 to fill the depot helper position an dhe would stay many years. We have some photos he took at the depot in the 1930s at the Mount Ayr Depot Museum. He wrote his name on the freight room walls with lamp black (finely powdered black soot) and it's still there.

I have a partial list of depot agents beginning in 1891 and ending in 1968. They are:

L. W. Laughlin (1891)   M. O. Shamblin (1891)   T. J. Cadagon (1891)
R. T. Cooper (1896)   H. R. Goodwin (1902-04)   W. C. Harrell (1904)
J. E. Wood (1904-36)   A. A. Chapman (1936-45)   H. J. Early (1945-48)
E. F. Pettit (1958-59)   Don Bacon (1959-62)   Mrs. Zelta I. Dingus (1965-68)

The depot closed in 1968. The last train to Mount Ayr was in 1977.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News & Mike Avitt
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, February 11, 2016, Page 9

By Mike Avitt

This week's picture was taken from the water tower looking west-northwest around 1914. It gives a great view of the rail yards and I'll point out some things I've learned over the years.

The grain elevator is to the lower left and you can see one sidetrack to the right of it. Rail cars were loaded with grain at the elevator and sometimes boxcars were set out on this sidetrack for the unloading of products, such as potatoes.

To the left of the depot, you can see a white ring around the base of the tree in the depot park. This is a wrap-around park bench. Construction of the depot park began in May 1913 and was completed by summer 1914.

Above the tree there ppears great billows of black smoke pouring from the stack of a passenger train heading west out of the Mount Ayr Burlington Depot. Heading west and then turning south, the train would pass through Delphos and Redding in Iowa, and Irena, Grant City, Worth and Gentry, in Missouri before reaching the junction at Albany.

Across the tracks north of the depot is the light and power building. This building burned in 1920. If you look close, you may be able to make out a small building attached to the south side of the power plant. This was the ice house the railroad used to cool cream and other perishables.

The stock pens are in the lower right of the photo and this location is occupied by the concrete plant today. The railroad owned the stockyards and the pens were in need of constant repair. You can see two boxcars sitting on the siding in front of the loading chute.

The reservoir across the street west of the stockyards puzzled me for awhile. At this time, the water tank for the railroad was in the east end of town. So, why the need for a pond on the right-of-way near the depot? I found out later this reservoir was to supply water for the livestock at the stockyards.

Speaking of water, look what is missing from our picture - the water tank. We have a 1931 photo showing the water tank where the Mount Ayr Depot replica water tank stands today. So sometime between 1914 and 1931 the water tank was built east of the depot.

The front of the depot faced east in 1914. This would change in 1916 when the depot was re-constructed and added onto. Also, in 1916, the wooden sidewalks would be replaced with brick.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News & Mike Avitt
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2016

~ ~ ~ ~

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
March 03, 2016, Pages 2 & 4

Letter To The Editor

To the editor:

A mystery has been solved by the "Snapshots of History" photo in the February 11 Record-News.

A story from my husband, Clifford Mosier's, grandfather, Issac (Ike) Mosier, has been handed down now for five generations. Ike was born in 1875 three miles north of Caledonia in Ringgold County. Ike's grandsons, Bob and Bill Sickels, still live in Mount Ayr. Theif mother, Edna Sickels, was Ike's daughter, so they also know this story.

The story: Ike was in the Mount Ayr Depot in about 1914-15 when a fast talking man came in and asked the depot agent, without pausing between sentences, this question: "What time does the train come in, what time does it go out, how deep is that pond and how much are your bananas?"

The agent replied, equally as fast: "In at eight, out at nine, up to your a**, and three for a dime."

Every person in the Mosier family can repeat this story and it usually is repeated during family gatherings.

I, being born and raised in Ringgold County from 1940-1958, just knew there was no pond at the depot and could not place what pond the man was speaking of. So, now the mystery is solved, thanks to Mike Avitt's column of "Snapshots of History." I [Page 4] have learned so much about my hometown from this column and I hope it continues for many years to come.

....Thanks for all you do.

Kay Sickels Mosier
Littleton, CO

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, February 23, 2016, Page 9

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