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 Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, July 09, 2015, Page 11

By Mike Avitt

I hope you can read the awnings on the old Firestone building. The nearest one says, "Post Office." The post office moved around quite a bit in the old days and I have a few of its locations.

The post office moved to the site in this week's photo on August 28, 1920 from its old location at 104 S. Taylor. Iowa Southern Utilities would soon occupy the building at 104 S. Taylor and would remain there for decades. I don't know where the post office was before that but the Mount Ayr centennial book shows an early post office at 111 N. Taylor, the site of Northern Propane in the 1960s and 70s. The post office had to have been located there prior to 1912 as I have a list of occupants after that date.

The next move the Mount Ayr Post Office would make would be January 23, 1932 at 111 S. Fillmore or the current location of Cunning Insurance. This was a new building built by Frank Wilson, son of the famous grocer, H. H. Wilson. Leonard Rusk was the lead carpenter and Leonard (Dewey) Kinder and Ollie Guthrie were the masons. The post office would stay here only until August 1940 when the current structure at 200 West Madison was ready for occupancy.

The awning east of the post office reads, "J. B. Currie - Jeweler." Mr. Currie moved to this location in September 1920. Since both the post office and Mr. Currie moved into this double storefront building at about the same time, it's an easy guess the previous occupant held both storefronts. John Byers Currie would remain at this location until 1946 or 1947 when he retired. Guy Todd would be the next occupant of this store with his hardware business.

J. B. Currie had strong ties to two other Mount Ayr businesses. His father, John Currie, once owned the Mount Ayr Hotel and his employee, Harry Gunter, would later operated Gunter Jewelry for 35 years.

In July 1940, Victor and Percy Beasley operated a Western Auto Associate Store where the post office used to be. By now, the newspaper referred to this building as the Bartow building. George Bartow had been Ringgold County Attorney 1915-1917 and Kellerton High School principal beginning about 1910. Mr. Bartow also bought the condemned Mount Ayr Hotel in 1923, restored it, and opened the modernized lodging in 1924. But I don't know how he came to be associated with this building.

The Beasley brothers moved to Clarinda in 1941 and in December 1943 Raymond and Rupert Johnston opened Johnston Home & Auto Supply in the former Western Auto store. In January 1953, a partnership was formed between Keith Cole and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Darrell Johnston, in operation of the Firestone hardware store.

About February 1, 1956, Mr. and Mrs. Cole bought the building they were in from J. B. Currie. In May 1965, Guy Todd, who occupied the east half of the building, retired and sold his remaining stock to Keith Cole. The Coles then expanded their store to occupy both storefronts.

The Cole Firestone store continued in business until the morning of June 2, 1975 when the building inexplicably collapsed into the street. Since this occurred about 4 a.m., no one was hurt.


 NOTE: Mount Ayr Hotel, formerly known as Currie Hotel, was torn down ca. 1997-98. At one time Charles P. Bresse was the proprietor of Mount Ayr Hotel. Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Depot Museum.

Photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News & Mount Ayr Depot Museum
Transcription and note by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, August 27, 2015, Page 15

By Mike Avitt

This week's picture appears on page 69 of the Mount Ayr centennial book. Like most of the photos in this book, little is said about the picture. The chapter in which this photo appears is about utilities and communications. Iowa Southern Utilities office appears in this photo making it relevant.

Iowa Southern Utilities office (120 W. Madison) is the one with the awning on the far left. To the left of Iowa Southern Utilities would be the home the Mount Ayr Post Office in August of 1920. Since the post office isn't there yet, I would say this photo was taken in the winter of 1918-1919 or 1919-1920.

To the right of Iowa Southern Utilities is Fatty Collins' famous Palace of Sweets. He would be located here at 118 West Madison for over forty years. Although he leased the bakery out on several occasions, he always remained the baker. The clothing store of Charles V. Agee is to the right of the Palace of Sweets.

We see the old band stand on the far right. It was built in 1916 and torn down in 1951. The beautiful elm trees that adorned the courtyard for decades wouldn't be planted until April of 1939.

The hitching racks around the square probably prompted motorists to park in the middle of the street, as we see here, saving the curb for horse-drawn vehicles. The hitching racks were removed about 1918. There was two-way traffic around the square at this time. That would end October 16, 1952 when one-way traffic went into effect.

Another thing I noticed about this photo was the location of the photographer. It appears to be the second story of the Bowlby building at 107 S. Fillmore. The upstairs of that structure had at least one photographer set up there and that was M. G. Maxwell. Mr. Maxwell was in operation well before this week's picture was taken so it was taken by someone other than him but does appear to be a professionally done photograph.

OK, let's talk about something else. I've been asked about some homes in Mount Ayr and I'm working on an article about interesting or historical homes. I'm also working on information about Sheldon Heights which will contain some history on stately houses.

Another article I feel obligated to write is on the subject of Goshen. Goshen picked up her buildings and moved to the new town of Diagonal in 1889. Goshen was a genuine town, with a newspaper, town doctor, businesses, and church. I've never written on Goshen so that's coming in the future. But, first, I have some new photos to share.

As you may have read in the Mount Ayr Record-News, the Mount Ayr Depot Museum was given some artifacts from the estate of Orr Fisher, Ringgold County's most renowned artist. The amount of paper and negatives (much more negatives than prints) will require quite some time to digest but I've picked out a few photos to run in the coming weeks. I'll even give you a hint about the next photo to appear in Snapshots of History. The picture contains a half-naked man in the woods [Willis R. "Willie" Willey]. You don't want to miss this picture!

Photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News & Mount Ayr Depot Museum
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, November 26, 2015, Page 13

By Mike Avitt

I've talked about our Sanborn city plats on several occasions so now I'll show you one. This scan shows the north side of the Mount Ayr Square from the 1919 plat. Our other plats are dated 1907, 1898, and 1893. The other ones are hard to read as the ink has leeched and the letters tend to run together.

I believe these copies of the Sanborn plats were obtained by Shirley Hickman when she was a member of the Mount Ayr Preservation Partnership (which later became the Mount Ayr Depot Preservation Corp.). The original purposed of the plat maps was to assist fire fighters with information about the size and composition of the buildings they might be trying to save. Exterior and interior staircases are shown as well as the nature of the business.

In the alley you can see H. H. Wilson's scale for weighing bulk commodities. His building, to the left of the alley, was built in 1891 and housed a grocery business until 1965. The basement was occupied by barber shops and the upstairs was usually leased/rented out to doctors, lawyers, and photographers.

To the right of the alley was the meat market of John McMaster in 1919. I believe this butcher shop was built before 1891 by Seevers and Rabb. By 1892, Fred and J. E. Wilkinson had started a meat market here and by 1896 John McMaster had bought an interest in the business. About 1922, McMaster sold the business to E. A. Saltzman and he sold it to Whitson & Siple in 1926. I believe that building became a restaurant after that.

The next building to the right (east) says, "DRUGS." In 1919, this was the Red Cross Pharmacy of Dey Middlesworth. Notice the dotted line between Dey's drug store and the business to the right. This indicates one building with two store fronts separated by a partition (wall). We'll talk more about Dey later in the article.

The next business east was Keating's Hardware Store and hopefully you can read the words "TIN SHOP" in the rear of the building outline. Keating moved to this location in 1901 and moved to 106 S. Taylor in December 1922. One month later, Charles V. Agee moved to this site relocating from 116 W. Madison, which appears on this map third door west of the alley.

The next building to the right was Luce's Drug Store. J. W. Luce bought the business, but not the building, from the M. H. Merrill & Co. in 1907. In 1920, Dey Middlesworth bought the building from the Merrill Estate and Luce moved to the rear of Freeland's store at 100 W. Madison. Middlesworth remodeled the old Luce Drug Store and moved in late in 1920. By 1935, the drug store had become a Rexall Drug Store and Dey sold out to Harry Cook. Mr. Cook sold the business to John Earl "Barney" Horne in 1938.

The next building is the famous Timby building and housed M. E. Freeland's Department Store beginning in 1891. Mr. Freeland would remain here until 1933 when he moved his business to 114 W. Madison. Freeland had occupied both downstairs store fronts but the building would return to housing separate businesses and the corner store would host numerous grocery stores in the coming years. Barton's Food Market, Baldner's Cash Market, (C.E.) Price's Food Market, and Bisbey's Food Store were a few of those grocery businesses.

To the north of Freeland's was the building I call the Northern Propane building. It was built about 1896 by William Timby and once was home to Mount Ayr's post office. In 1919, Erle Middlesworth operated a bakery in the north part of this brick building and I believe Frank Mowry ran a barber shop in the south half. Frank would sell out to Lee Frost in 1920 and William Buell starting cutting hair here in 1921.

The north half remained a bakery after Erle Middlesworth sold it to E. Ogden and John McNerey in 1924. Peter McGrath bought into the business in 1926 and the business was known as the Snow White Bakery.

These maps have been a tremendous help to me in locating different businesses and enterprises. I have spent years piecing together clues such as "three doors east of the bank," and "across the street from the News Office." Remember, street addresses weren't used until 1959. So, now I have about 50 percent of the known occupants of every business location in Mount Ayr from 1895 to 1978. And that's a lot!

North Side of the Square, Facing East, 1914

Photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News, Mount Ayr Depot Museum & Sharon R. Becker
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, December of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, October 27, 2016, Page 21

By Mike Avitt

Another great picture from Florence Lawhead. This one is in the form of a picture postcard showing the north side of the Mount Ayr square looking west. I would say this photo was taken in 1914 because I see water pipe laying on the dirt street. The square was paved with brick in 1915.

Although there is no cancellation on this postcard, another reason to believe in the 1914 date is the writing at the bottom of our picture. It says, "My office will take in the 4 west windows, when the other room is added." These words are from the pen of Dr. Carlton C. Lawhead, father-in-law of Florence Lawhead and grandfather of Dr. Collus Lawhead of Mount Ayr.

Dr. C. C. Lawhead's office was in the rooms over Freeland's Department Store at 102 W. Madison. I hope you can see the "DENTIST" sign on the west side of the Timby building, Above the word "DENTIST" are smaller letters that say, Dr. F. C. Clark."

Dr. F. C. Clark, a dentist, came to Mount Ayr in 1905 and by 1910 was using a battery to operate electrical equipment. Dr. C. C. Lawhead joined this dental practice in July 1914. In November 1914, Dr. F. C. Clark sold his business and residence to his partner. Dr. Lawhead updated his dental equipment in April of 1915. There's more to this story, but I'll cover it next week because of the photo that will accompany the article.

There's a great deal of detail in this photo so I'll tell you about some of it. You an see part of the "Gold Medal Flour" advertisement on the east side of H. H. Wilson's building at 112 W. Madison. It is huge and I wish it was still there.

Freeland's store is in the old Timby building on the immediate right. It is a winter day so the awnings are all pulled up except one. The next store west is Luce's Drug Store, the current location of Still Smokin' BBQ. J. W. Luce bought this business from M. H. Merrill & Co. in 1907.

The next store west is Keating's Hardware. Curtis R. Keating located his business here in 1901 and was a merchant in Mount Ayr for more that forty years. He would occupy this site until 1922.

Next door west of Keating was Dey Middlesworth's Red Cross Pharmacy. I believe Mr. Middlesworth moved here in 1911 and stayed until 1920. Horne Hardware was located here from 1960 to the mid-1990s. Country Blossoms calls this building home today.

The next building west, and next to the alley, was John McMaster's Meat Market in 1914. Mr. McMaster bought half interest in this business in 1896 and bought out his partner, Fred Wilkinson, in 1901. E. A. Saltzman would buy this enterprise from John McMaster in 1922. The last occupant of this structure was Page County State Bank. It is currently for sale and unoccupied.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, June of 2017

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, November 03, 2016, Page 11

By Mike Avitt

Thanks again to Florence Lawhead for this week's picture. This photo was taken from about the same angle as last week's picture and about ten years later. I'll tell you how I arrived at this time period.

I always zoom in on sharp photographs to see what I might be missing. I saw a sign I've never seen before about the H. H. Wilson grocery store at 112 W. Madison. It said, "J. H. Davis - Real Estate & Exchange." I looked up the obituary of Mr. Davis and discovered he was located in Mount Ayr from 1924 to 1926. It is a rare occasion that I get such specific information from an obituary, so I got lucky there.

The sign above Freeland's Department Store at 102 W. Madison now says, "Dr. C. C. Lawhead - Dentist." Dr. Lawhead located here in 1914 when he partnered with Dr. F. C. Clark. Four months later Dr. Clark sold his business to Dr. Lawhead.

In late May of 1927, Dr. C. C. Lawhead bought the J. A. Williams building at 102 S. Taylor. In July of that year he moved his dental equipment into the upstairs of his new building to continue in his dental practice.

In October 1934, Dr. Lawhead opened the Lawhead Drug Company in the downstairs of his building. Dick Johnston was the pharmacist and Ed Richey was the manager. On January 20, 1941, the drug company was sold to Finis E. McNeiley who changed the name to McNeiley Drug. Dr. Lawhead retained ownership of the building.

Dr. Carlton C. Lawhead's son, Dr. Charles W. Lawhead, was discharged from Camp Swift, Texas in March 1946 and joined his father in practice following his release.

Dr. Collus Lawhead, son of Dr. C. W. Lawhead, began dental practice in Mount Ayr in the early 1970s. Another son, Dr. Carlin Lawhead, practices dentistry in eastern Iowa. How's that for a family tradition?

Looking back at this week's picture we see Luce's Drug Store has moved from 104 W. Madison to 100 W. Madison. This happened in 1920 when Dey Middlesworth bought the building Luce formerly occupied. Mr. Middlesworth then moved his Red Cross Pharmacy to Mr. Luce's old location. Dey had previously been located at 108 W. Madison.

By 1935, Dey Middlesworth was calling his drug store Rexall and he sold the business to Harry Cook the same year. Mr. Cook sold the drug store to John Earl "Barney" Horne in 1938. Horne sold half interest in the business to Bill Harover in 1956. Harover bought the rest of it in 1963.

Dey Middlesworth's old location at 108 W. Madison was taken up by John Wall & Son with their grocery store. John Wall died in 1924 and his son E. B. sold the business to the General Supply Company in 1925. The General Supply Co., before locating to 108 W. Madison, had been managed by Charles Hyde of Hy-Vee fame.

Thanks again to Florence (Abarr) Lawhead for the great pictures.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, June of 2017

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, December 01, 2016, Page 4

By Mike Avitt

This picture postcard is part of a set that came out in 1949, give or take a year. This view, looking west, is the most popular view for postcards. I've seen at least six different postcards showing this view. Thanks to Theola Weeda for donating this postcard to the Mount Ayr Depot Museum.

The first business on the right is Price's Meat Market owned by C. Eldon Price. Mr. Price bought the business from George Baldner in February 1948 and sold it to Harry and E. F. Bisbey in January 1951.

The next business west, at 102 W. Madison, is P.M. Place Company. Mr. Place bought the old variety store of R. E. Mayland in April 1947. Place's expanded into a double-store in 1952. The expansion took in the former Bisbey Food Market store.

Moving west we come to Horne's Rexall, located where Still Smokin' BBQ is today. Earl "Barney" Horne bought the drug store from Harry Cook in 1938 and sold half interest in the business to Bill Harover in 1956. Mr. Harover bought the other half in 1963, the same year pharmacist Les Hickman became associated with Horne's Rexall.

The next storefront west is unknown to me in 1949, but I feel brave enough to take a guess. Neville Dickson had a clothing store about this time and I never figured out where it was. Also, George Baldner and Curtis Roe bought the stock of clothing of the late Neville Dickson in December 1949 and opened their own clothing store in April 1950. I don't know where this clothing store was either, so it may have been in this location at 106 W. Madison. Sheil's New and Used Furniture occupied this site in the early 1960s before the Real Style Shop opened here in 1962.

The next business west, at 108 W. Madison, was purchased by John Lane in January 1945. This was the Supply Store, a grocery business, and Mr. Lane sold it to Glen and Doris Hutchinson in 1959. The Hutchinsons had it only one year and it became Horne Hardware after that.

The last building before the alley was opened as Bev's Pantry, a cafe, in January 1963. Zink's Bakery occupied this location from 1939 to 1941. Before Zink's Bakery it was Dorn's Cafe. I don't know what it is in the late 1940s, but I'll find out some day

Thanks again to Theola Weeda for this week's photo and I'm always looking for more!

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, June of 2017

Circa 1912

Photos courtesy of Mike Avitt


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