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In 1859 with the routing of the Western Stage Coach Company through Ringgold County, not only did Mount Ayr experience a vast improvement in mail delivery, immigration into the county experienced a boost. Prior to the arrival of the stagecoach, mail arrived once a month from Mount Plagan in Union County, Iowa. The stageline delivered mail six days a week to Mount Ayr, located along the route between Ottumwa and Nebraska City, Nebraska.

The teams, consisting of either six or eight horses changed at the John DALE farm near Mount Ayr. It has been said that the fresh horses housed in the barn would prance in excitement and impatience when they heard the an approaching stagecoach.

Coaches of the Western line carried twelve passengers, baggage, and mail sacks. They averaged approximately 3 1/2 miles an hour due to the lack of bridges and rough-hewn roads. From 1866 to 1869, Jim DOWLING of Mount Ayr provided his blacksmithing skills for the Western Stage Coach Company. The line was discontinued in 1870 due to competition from the railroad which paralled part of the route even though the railroad would not arrive in Ringgold County for another decade.

The citizens of Ringgold County were greatly disappointed when the railroad did not proceed further west than Leon in Decatur County. The Granger Law of 1873, legislation which gave the State of Iowa the authority to regulate freight and passenger fares, may have entered into the railroad's decision to not proceed on west. Many box cars stood idle along the tracks and some of the rail equipment began to rust before the Granger Law was repealed in 1878. Then, the problem landed in the Railroad Commissioner's lap to mediate the disputes and grievances betweenthe farmers and the railroad.

Before the Granger Law was repealed, a group from Ringgold County formed to organize and build a narrow gaued railroad between Leon and Mount Ayr. The group published a newsletter, The Headlight in 1877. This newsletter was succeeded by Onward until 1884.

Great In 1879, the Leon, Mount Ayr, and Southwestern Railroad was built from Bethany Junction to Mount Ayr, a slight distance of 23 miles. The line was continued on to Grant City, Missouri, in 1880. Voters of the townships approved a tax of 2 to 5% to help build the line. In return for the tax money and right-of-way, the county and townships received railroad stock, which proved to be worth less than the paper it was printed on. The railroad opened for business in September of 1879 with the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy (CB&Q) Railroad taking over and operating it under lease until the year 1901. Afterwards, the CB&Q operated as the owner of the line.

During the 1880's two more railroads came through Ringgold County. The Humeston and Shenandoah Railroad crossed through the northern tier of townships while the Great Western ran diagonally through the western portion of the county. The Leon, Mount Ayr and Southwestern Railroad completed a line from Mount Ayr to Grant City, Missouri, in 1880.

Franklin SCOTT rode his new "high" bicycle down the streets of Mount Ayr during the spring of 1884. Jack SCOTT and Ben BRILEY, two young blacksmiths, applied their skills to making bicycles which they demonstrated at the county fair. Many believed the two-wheeled fangled things would be merely a passing fad but ten years later, bicycles were numerous around Mount Ayr. They sold for $100 to $150.

high In 1875, the Chicago Great Western Railroad expanded its line which ran diagonally across the western portion of the county. In the early days, the line was called the Maple Leaf Route because the track roughly resembled a maple leaf with Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Chicago as the "points" of the leaf.

In January of 1901, the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad assumed ownership of the Leon, Mount Ayr and Southwestern Railroad. The Burlington also acquired the Humeston and Shenandoah Railroad.

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.

Around 1902, hopes ran high with the talk of a developing an electric railroad between Mount Ayr and Diagonal. Those who had even more ambition and inspiration, talked about developing an electric railroad from Mount Ayr to the state capitol in Des Moines. A group of Mount Ayr citizens formed the Des Moines, Mount Ayr and Southern Railway Company during the fall of 1902 and incorporated at $600,000. The corporation held many meetings throughout the county in stir up interest and inspire Ringgold County residents with the possibilities. Despite interest and enthusiasim, nothing was accomplished beyond a lot of talk for about a half-dozen or so years. In the spring of 1904, several promoters took a carriage ride through Tingley, Macksburg, and Winterset, looking for a potential route and hoping to inspire additional interest in the project. Later, the actual survey routed the line by way of from Alldendale, Missouri to Mount Ayr, on to TIngley, then on to Des Moines. Around this time, they signed a 40-year lease with F. M. HUBBELL for the property located at Southwest 9th and Mulberry Streets in Des Moines where they hoped to erect a terminal freight depot. However, the entire project was later abandoned.


Ringgold County History, Complied 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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