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RINGGOLD COUNTY HISTORY NOTES

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  • 1857 Charles K. GRIMES, one of the first settlers in Tingley Township, established the town of Eugene in 1857. He carried the mail between Mount Ayr on foot through mud and water, rain or shine, through summer heat and humidity, braved many a snow storm and the winter's cold.

  • 1857 Edgar SHELDON started a cheese factory in Middle Fork, Washington Township, the first of its kind in southwestern Iowa.

  • 1857 Jeremiah GUSTIN arrived in Ringgold County in the spring of 1857. He decided to build a frame house, using the native lumber for the framework. The rest of the lumber was hauled from 100 miles away out of Marion County. GUSTIN's home was the only frame building in Jefferson Township, primarily due to the difficulty of hauling in materials.

  • June 8, 1858 A cyclone struck the town of Mount Ayr and destroyed the courthouse which had been constructed out of logs. Over the course of the next few weeks, court house documents and papers were discovered all over town and returned. The courthouse logs were eventually collected from all over the vicinity. Anna MILLER purchased the logs, using them to build a home. The A. G. BEALL house was lifted off its foundation and set it down across the street with the front door facing the opposite direction.

  • 1862 Rose Hill Cemetery at Mount Ayr was established near Rose Hill schoolhouse. A few African-Americans who fled from Missouri lived in the area and those from this community who died were interred in the new cemetery.

  • April, 1865 Just at the close of the Civil War, Ith S. BEALL established a newspaper called The Ringgold Record with W. R. TURK as the publisher. The paper was sold in June of 1866 to Georgy ROBY who assumed double duties as both editor and publisher.

  • 1867 Ringgold County's population had grown to 3,888 residents by 1867 and the county was divided into 16 civil townships. By the mid-1870's, the county's population had increased to 5,029 residents.

  • July 4, 1872 The Mount Ayr community band traveled to Afton where they played for the 4th of July celebration. Each member of the band received $100 for this preformance.

  • 1873 C. C. BARTRUFF of Creston established a Ringgold County newspaper, The Mount Ayr Journal, which he ran for ten years before selling it to George R. STEPHENS who renamed the paper The Ringgold Record.

  • 1873 The village of Clipper was founded with Harvey WAUGH as the postmaster. WAUGH received a salary of $6.00 for his first year of service. The town of Clipper eventually became a ghost town when the post office was abandoned in the 1880's.

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  • June, 1875 Although many Iowa farmers were fighting grasshoppers, crop losses to grasshopper infestations were few in Ringgold County. One day in June of 1875, however, William A. MATTHEWS stopped plowing in his corn field and went to the house for lunch. When he returned to this plowing, he discovered that a swarm of grasshoppers had descended on his field. The next day when he returned to his field, the swarm arose with a rumble similiar to thunder and were so thick that they blocked out the sun for a few minutes. In their wake there wasn't a blade of corn still standing.

  • 1879 The Leon, Mount Ayr and Southwestern Railroad completed a line from Bethany Junction to Mount Ayr, 23 miles of track.

  • 1879 The town of Kellerton was laid out in 1879 with the arrival of the Leon, Mount Ayr and Southwestern Railroad.

  • 1880 The Humeston and Shenandoah Railroad came through the northern tier of townships in Ringgold County while the Great Western Railroad ran diagonally through the western portion of Ringgold County by 1880. The Leon, Mount Ayr and Southwestern Railroad completed a line from Mount Ayr to Grant City, Missouri, in 1880.

  • 1880 With the expansion of the Leon, Mount Ayr and Southwestern Railroad to Grant City, the towns of Delphos (previously known as Borneo) and Redding were laid out.

  • 1881 With the Humeston and Shenandoah Railroad coming through the northern part of Ringgold County in 1881, the towns of Tingley and Beaconsfield were laid out. The town of Wirt was platted and later would be renamed Ellston.

  • 1881 Walter MERRIAGE moved a three-story roller mill to Mount Ayr, a welcomed business in Ringgold County. Previously, farmers had to haul their grain as far away as Afton in Union County or Davis City in Decatur County. MERRIAGE's roller mill had one set of burrs for grinding corn, rye, and buckwheat. Another set of burrs were set for chopping. D. JORDON purchased the mill in 1885 and later sold it in 1887 to D. D. BALLOU who managed the mill until 1908. Poe JOHNSON managed the mill until it burned to the ground. A grain elevator was later built on the site.

  • 1882 The town of Redding with a population of 300 was incorporated in 1882.

  • 1883 In 1883, Ringgold County's Home opened and the county's indigent citizens moved into the newly constructed facility. The County Home was constructed at the cost of $3,000 and was located on 240 acres the county officials had purchased from John UNDERHILL in the Fall of 1882. Here, the county's poor were cared for until 1932. Previously, the county's poor were cared for in either their own homes or in the homes of others with support supplied by the county.

  • 1883 Having outgrown the courthouse, construction began on Ringgold County's third courthouse. The new courthouse was completed in 1884.

  • 1884 C. B. MORRIS, H. A. WHITE, and J. C. ASKREN sank a shaft that was 326 feet deep into the ground about 2 1/2 miles east of the Mount Ayr depot in an attempt to find coal. They did find coal but it was not of adequate quality to make mining it profitable so they abandoned the shaft.

  • 1885 The Chicago Great Western ran a line through the western part of Ringgold County in 1875, known as the "Maple Leaf" Route. With the arrival of the railroad, the towns of Benton, Knowlton, and Maloy were established along the line.

  • 1885 There were several newspapers being published in Ringgold County by 1885. These newspapers were The Redding Independent, The Redding Reporter, The Tingley Times, The Battle Axe, The Independent, The Wirt Wasp, and The Wirt News which were short-lived; and The Ringgold County Republican founded in 1885 by F. M. WISDOM and Robert WILLIAMS in Mount Ayr. WISDOM sold his share in 1886 to Rev. J. H. TEDFORD. Rev. TEDFORD and Robert WILLIAMS purchased The Ringgold Record in 1887 and combined the two newspapers into one publication. After a few years, Rev. TEDFORD bought out WILLIAM's share and ran the paper until selling 1/2 interest to Sam SPURRIER in 1907. They bought out the rival newspaper, The Twice-A-Week News, and upon combining the two papers, renamed the publication The Mount Ayr Record-News. Sam SPURRIER bought out Rev. TEDFORD's interest in 1910 and continued to run the paper, the only weekly newspaper in the county seat of Mount Ayr.

  • 1885 County officials felt that Ringgold County was doing well in 1885. The County Fair, held from October 14 to October 16, thrilled the crowds with hot-air balloon assensions, high aerial tight-rope acts, and trotting, pacing, and running horse races. Ringgold County, in 1885, had 20 post offices, 2,524 homes which housed 2,550 families, and a population of 12,530 residents with 523 people who were foreign-born. An average Ringgold County farm was valued at $4,135 and more than 1,800 farms were in full operation, averaging 125 acres each.

  • 1886 Mr. McCREARY established a brick and tile works factory at Mount Ayr in 1886. The factory had a capacity for producing 12,000 bricks a day.

  • 1887 Lesanville, platted before the railroad came through Ringgold County, never developed beyond a rail station. In 1887, Leasonville consisted of a store, a post office, a Methodist Church, and a cemetery (Sweet Home Cemetery). By 1942, Lesanville was a ghost town.

  • 1893 At the suggestion of H. BAUM and D. N. SMITH, the first telephone line was connected between Clearfield, Lenox, and Mount Ayr. The central office of Mount Ayr was located in Bart WARREN's drug store. From there, connection was made to ALLYN's bank, the county treasurer's vault, and BEVIS' real estate office. Mount Ayr's central office was connected to Des Moines. Another "central office" was located at D. N. SMITH's farmhouse where rural residents could make connection to Mount Ayr, Lenox, and Clearfield. A line from Mount Ayr to Tingley was completed in the fall with this central office located in Dr. BRENT's office. The drug store central office was destroyed by fire in 1897. Jim BEARD, the telephone messenger boy, gathered up some copper wire, climbed a telephone pole, and connected the telephone located in the treasurer's vault with D. N. SMITH's switches. Thus, telephone service was not interupted because of the fire. The Mount Ayr central office was moved to the TIMBLY building. In August, a local telephone exchange was established with connections between approximately 21 businesses and a few residences.

  • 1894 A. MORGAN opened a cigar factory at Mount Ayr in 1894. A. H. TEALE and W. W. PEASLEY constructed a $6,000 brick and tile factory located at Kellerton.

  • 1895 The Odd Fellows of Delphos erected a two-story hall in 1895.

  • 1895 Ringgold County erected a two-story jail which had an exercise room for the prisoners and several cells for female prisoners on the second story.

  • 1897 Several of the old-time frontiersmen and pioneers formed the Old Settlers Association on July 20, 1897. Those who had lived in Ringgold County for 20 years or more could apply for membership with the association. Isaac W. KELLER was named chairman and he set the date of September 30th as the first annual reunion. Anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 people gathered at the courthouse yard for the celebration which featured prominent pioneers telling their stories of the "old days."

  • 1900 Ringgold County's population peaked at 15,325 residents in 1900. Shortly afterward, there was a rapid decrease in population, dropping to 12,904 by 1910.

  • 1900 In 1900, Mount Ayr's city council voted to supply water to the town with a "dip" well tank. The new well was 257 1/2 feet deep with a rise of 30 feet and capable of producing 100 barrels of water a day. It would be a number of years before water was piped into the homes and businesses.

  • 1900 Ellston dedicated its public library, a $200 collection of books, on May 13, 1900. This was the first public library in Ringgold County.

  • 1900 The Des Moines Register gave credit to Mount Ayr with organizing the first McKINLEY and ROOSEVELT Rough Riders Club in Iowa during June of 1900. The article stated that Mount Ayr was"situated in the fighting congressional district of the state, and one of the strongest Republican counties in the district proportionally. The Republicans of that county work and vote, and the working and voting win the victories."

  • 1901 The Leon, Mount Ayr and Southwestern Railroad was turned over to the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy (CB&Q) Railroad in January of 1901.

  • 1901 The Mount Ayr Mutual Telephone Corporation was organized in May of 1901 and was connected with all lines operating with in Ringgold County. The second largest town in Ringgold County, Caledonia, organized a local telephone line in 1901 with fourteen instruments. The Redding Telephone Exchange began service in January of 1901 with a total of 50 telephones. The Business Men's Mutual Telphone Exchange was formed in November of 1901 with connections established between businesses and some residents. Carl LUNNEY managed the Mount Ayr central switchboard, located in his implement store. The following year he installed a Western Telephone switchboard with 200 town and 30 farm connections. Many local men found work installing telelphone poles and lines.

  • 1901 A mass convention met in Mount Ayr on June 27, 1901 and sent a solid delegation to Cedar Rapids with the goal of helping Albert B. CUMMINS win his first nomination as Governor of Iowa. This was considered to be exceptional in the annals of political history for no other county in Iowa before or ever since has agreed with such unanimity of purpose. According to Walter H. BEALL who wrote in The Mount Ayr Record-News on July 25, 1928, "Every livery team in Mount Ayr was worn down to skin and bones as the opposing campaigners drove over the county by day and night carrying on the campaign." On convention day, voters crowded the courthouse with 1,021 voters out of the eligible 2,000 Republicans casting their votes. Ringgold County was the only one county in the 8th District which stood solidly behind CUMMINS.

  • 1901 Rural free delivery of the mail in 1901 was started with the first route from Mount Ayr covering 26 1/2 miles. Ed B. WHITE was the mail carrier, delivering mail to 100 families and receiving and annual salary of $50 for his services. A few weeks later, two other routes were mapped out of Diagonal. At first, the carrier blew a whistle if he had mail for the family. Later postal boxes took the place of the whistle.

  • 1901 By July of 1902, ten rural mail routes had been mapped in Ringgold County. Two were out of Mount Ayr; two out of Diagonal; three out of Kellerton; one each out of Redding, Beaconsfield, and Benton. The routes covered more than 71 miles and reached 1,398 rural homes. In a December 19, 1902 article appearing in The Twice-A-Week News the Federal government had requested that Ringgold County improve the roads if free rural mail service were to continue. The follow spring, however, the rural roads of Ringgold County were so muddy that the rural carriers were forced to deliver the mail on horseback for three weeks. In some areas, even the horses couldn't get through, forcing the mailmen to deliver the mail on foot. Consequently, some small isolated post offices in the county were abandoned.

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  • 1902 C. C. ANDERSON, an automobile agent from Creston, drove his Olds automobile into Mount Ayr on August 19, 1902. Burt WILLIAMS became the first automobile owner of Ringgold County when he won a vehicle in a contest. However, he sold it at once. Soon, John ALLYN and Dr. BEMENT were driving "horseless carriages" up and down the streets of Mount Ayr. Dr. SMITH, Dr. DUDLEY, and Bert TEALE soon purchased automobiles. A. I. SMITH purchased a Buick in 1907. Asa RAINS bouth a Hupmobile in 1911, which he was still driving in 1942. RAINS had registered his Huppmobile 32 times and refused many offers from the Hupmobile company who wanted to buy back the car.

  • 1903 The Tingley Coal Company was organized in 1903 with a capital of $10,000. Although the company prospected for coal, none was found.

  • 1903 H. M. "Bid" LEONARD moved a brick plant from Grant City, Missouri to Redding due to the better clay supply in Ringgold County.

  • 1903 A second Farmers' Institute was held in Redding in 1903. It was said that this was the one of the best of southern Iowa.

  • 1903 Three of the largest stores in Mount Ayr consolidated, creating the Ringgold Mercantile Company which had a capital of $50,000.

  • 1903 The Roman Catholic Parish of St. Mary's erected a new church with a 68-foot spire.

  • circa 1903 Marion A. COVERDELL and J. Lawrence PARKER founded The Rural Messenger which enjoyed a brief run out of Redding.

  • 1904 By 1904, 555 telephone miles had been completed in Ringgold County.

  • December, 1904 An infestation of rats became so rampant in Rice and Middle Fork Townships that the residents devised a rat-killing competition during the week of December 19th. Sixteen men from the "Southsiders" raced against the clock against sixteen men from the "Northsiders" in an attempt to collect the most rat tails. Under the direction of Elmer DEFENBAUGH, the "Southsiders" won, bringing in 2,000 tails. The "Northsiders" under the leadership of N. V. TYRRELL brought in 1,250 tails. The losers treated the winners to an oyster supper at A. J. KASTER's home. (Who counted the tails?)

  • 1905 The Mortgage Security Bank opened in Mount Ayr in January of 1905. The bank was one of the first in the State of Iowa which used the mortgage security plan. Bank deposits were secured by giving mortgage notes on real estate as a guarantee of deposits. Additionally, the bank provided all the services of a commercial bank.

  • 1905 Waubonsie Township was created in 1905.

  • 1905 The Mount Ayr Gas Company was granted a franchise in 1905 to install 24,550 feet of pipe and begin operation on January 15, 1906. For some unknown reason the pipe was never installed.

  • 1905 In March of 1905, John SALTZMAN spotted a wolf that was attempting to raid his chicken house. SALTZMAN took a shot at the wolf but missed. Rallying to the sound of gunfire, SALTZMAN's neighbor Raleigh SHROYER, took a couple of shots at the wolf but missed. By this time around a half-dozen armed men came running out of their houses and joined in pursuit of the fleeing wolf. They chased the wolf down the backstreets of Mount Ayr, firing along the way. Fortunately for the wolf none of the men were good sharpshooters. The animal fled to a creek outside of the southern edge of town and got away unscathed.

  • 1905 Several Tingley men organized the Great Western Lumber and Mining Company with the purpose to deal in Oregon lands.

  • 1905 M. J. BRADLEY bought supplies and machinery to found a broom factory at Diagonal in 1905.

  • 1905 In the fall of 1905 the town of Redding organized the first Commercial Club in Ringgold County.

  • 1906 F. C. SHELDON & Sons sold a hog to a buyer for the record price of $1,060 on the last day of February, 1906.

  • 1906 During a two-week period in December of 1906, the J. C. CRECELIOUS Poultry Yard of Mount Ayr shipped out more than 40,000 of fowl to markest in the East. The poultry business in Redding was doing well at this time, too. Nine wagonloads of turkeys, three of them double-deckers, were shipped out from Redding. The poultry business brought in an average of $3,000 a week to Ringgold County producers.

  • 1910-1911 The Mount Ayr Commercial Club became ardent supporters of securing good roads in Ringgold County. The invited 500 famers to meet at a "good-will road improvement banquet" on June 28, 1910. The meeting was most timely since the United States Post Office promised that the county only had a few scant years to do something about the roads prior to discontinuing free rural postal service. Everyone in the county had experienced at least one "stuck and cussed" episode with the county's roads. Everyone in attendance agreed to meet the challenge. Good Roads clubs sprung up all over the county, entering into lively constest to complete assigned sections of roads before others. Rice Township won first prize and $100 by finishing first. Liberty Township won second prize with Township Line coming in third. When they were finished, many miles of Ringgold County's county roads were graveled and 12 miles of road had been paved.

  • 1911 In January of 1911, a bond issue calling for the paving of Mount Ayr's streets was defeated by 93 votes.

  • 1911 The Waubonsie Trail entered Ringgold County at Clearfield, crossing through Mount Ayr and Kellerton.

  • 1911 In May of 1911, a route was established to follow the shortest distance between St. Joseph, Missouri and Des Moines, Iowa. Mount Ayr was selected as the half-way station. The entire route was marked by identifying poles.

  • 1913 A larger telephone switchboard was installed in Mount Ayr with 400 town and 42 farm connections in 1913.

  • 1914 A cooperative creamery was established in Mount Ayr during the spring of 1914. The creamery paid 24-cents a pound for butter fat, 2-cents over the accepted price. The creamery enjoyed a healthy business from the dairymen of Ringgold County and provided dairy products to the local stores and townspeople.

  • 1915-1916 The streets of Mount Ayr were finally paved at a cost of $113,622 with three miles of paving completed.

  • 1917 Iowa Southern Utility Company bought out the Mount Ayr electrical plant.

  • 1918 The Ringgold County Farm Bureau was organized on May 4, 1918, beginning the work of coordinating the efforts of the farmers. In time, the Farm Bureau superseded the Granges and the Farmers' Institutes. W. B. BUCK was named the first Farm Bureau agent for Ringgold County.

  • 1919 Ringgold County's home was condemned in 1919 however the people voted against replacing the building. Nothing was done until 1921 when a new building was erected at the cost of $27,200. The indigent residents of the county moved into the new attractive two-story, fireproof and modern home in 1922.

  • 1920 Mount Ayr issued the first permit for a gasoline filling station.

  • 1921 The Mount Ayr city council approved to raise the firemen's fee to a dollar.

  • 1922 In 1922 a tourist park was established at Mount Ayr.

  • 1922 The Mount Ayr Golf and Country Club house was constructed in 1922.

  • 1923 The Ringgold County Courthouse was condemned.

  • 1924 The Prentis Hatchery opened in Mount Ayr during 1924. The hatchery had an original capacity of 2,400 which was increased to 100,00 by 1936. The Prentis Hatchery was the only state-inspected hatchery in Ringgold County. A major portion of the hatchery's business was "custom" hatching for area farmers and poultry producers.

  • 1926 During the hot summer of 1926, the foundation for Ringgold County's 4th courthouse was built with the cornerstone laid on November 11. The new courthouse was completed with the building and equipment costing $132,533. With a jail included in the new courthouse, the old county jail was sold to the Ringgold American Legion Post 172 for a dollar with the property to be used as a memorial to the World War I soldiers.

  • 1928 In 1928, Mount Ayr purchased a $5,800 fire engine to replace the smaller engine purchased eight years prior.

  • 1930 Ringgold County enters into the Great Depression with the rest of the country.

  • 1933 The Jacobs Fur House of Mount Ayr expanded its business and rebuilt the store in 1933. The business began in 1906 when the JACOBS family began trapping in Lotts Creek Township, expanding operations until their business reached $150,000. By 1933, the business employed ten to twelve men and one bookkeeper.

  • 1933 The old limestone quarry near Waterson expanded its operations in 1933.

  • 1936 Under the Soil Conservation Service of the Work Projects Administration, the Waterson quarry expanded operations again in 1936. A crew of 50 men joined the 50 regular employees, creating two shifts.

  • 1936 John C. ABARR, the last surviving Ringgold County Civil War veteran passed away on June 19, 1936 at Redding. The previous September, the people of Redding had gathered at his residence in celebration of his 90th birthday. ABARR had come to Ringgold County with his parents when he was a small boy. He enlisted for service at Savannah, Missouri at the age of eighteen. ABARR was taken prisoner on October 14, 1864 and was incarcerated at Jefferson City, Missouri. Upon his release, ABARR returned to Ringgold County and operated a sawmill until he was named postmaster at Redding. After holding this post for eleven years, ABARR returned to work at the sawmill when he was 84-years-old.

  • 1936 With help from WPA aid, many of the roads and bridges of Ringgold County were improved at an expense of $51,000 of which $22,960 from federal funds. The county, however, was the only county in Iowa without cement highways.

  • 1936 Everett EURITT leased the former Ringgold County fairgrounds and remodeled the former old Floral Hall into a sales paviliion, holding sales every Wednesday. EURITT moved from his home in Riley Township to assume management of the pavilion which had become quite popular.

  • 1936 The Ringgold County 4-H Club toured the county in August of 1936. The caravan filled 20 cars and visited other 4-H members residing on seven farms in the county. They stopped at the tourist park at Kellerton where the Kellerton 4-H girls greeted them and treated them with 17 gallons of lemonade.

  • 1937 Residents of Ringgold County voted in a $425,000 bond issue to pave State Highway 3 which crossed the county from east to west through Kellerton and Mount Ayr. This was Ringgold County's first cement highway.

  • 1937 In 1937, Dog Days of Mount Ayr was initiated. Every child in the county could enter his or her pet in the parade which was led by the Mount Ayr marching band from the Legion Hall to the courthouse, around the courthouse square, and to the band stand. 250 dogs of every size, breed, color, and shape were paraded before the judges. Prizes were awarded for the best decorated dog, the biggest dog, the smallest dog, and the homeliest dog.

  • 1938 The Diagonal High School Basketball team won the state championship at the Iowa State High School Boys' Basketball Tournament in Des Moines.

  • 1939 The Diagonal High School Basketball team won the runner-up spot at the Iowa State High School Boys' Basketball Tournament, Des Moines.

  • 1938 In conjunction with the Iowa State centennial celebration, the first Old-Timers' Reunion was held in Mount Ayr. The Ringgold County Historical Society organized the Old-Timers' Reunion the following year.

    Sources:

    Ringgold County History, Compiled and written by the Iowa Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Iowa, Sponsored by Ringgold County Superintendent of Schools, Mount Ayr, Iowa. 1942.

    Written & Submitted by Sharon R. Becker, 2008

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