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Shelby County


1889 History Index

Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties
History of Shelby County, Iowa



Portsmouth is situated ten miles from the county seat, Harlan, directly west, and is on sections 16 and 17, township 79, range 40. The plat was filed August 17, 1882, by the Milwaukee Land Company. The land was originally owned by William Williams, who sold to the railroad or land company. The railroad is the Council Bluffs branch of the great Milwaukee system, and is the only road through Portsmouth.

The first general dealer of the place was P. J. Korth, who sold the first goods in September, 1882. About the same time Burtis & Walters put in a general stock, but sold to J. H. Pingerton in 1886, who finally removed with the stock.

The first hardware was sold by O. C. Betterman in the fall of 1882; he continued until 1887, and sold to Jacob Korth, who still remains in trade, carrying a fine line of hardware and stoves.

The first to sell drugs were Kuhl & Dohrmann, in 1882. They sold to A. O. Mudge. The second drug store was opened afterward by Charles Dohrmann, of the above firm.

The first practicing physician was Dr. A. E. Noon, who came in 1882, and who sold his practice or left it with the present physician, Dr. Charles Teske. Other physicians have come and gone.

The only furniture dealer is J. C. Pfeifer, who came in 1882, and still follows the same.

The pioneer agricultural implement dealer was George Battey, who commenced in 1882. He sold to Korth & Wehr. Sims Bros. next engaged in the same line, but the firm is now Sims & Houghton.

Lumber was first sold by Henry Dohrmann, but he was succeeded by Korth & Wehr.

George Battey engaged in grain and livestock business in 1882, and later on Sims & Houghton.

The pioneer harness-maker was George Lafflin, who sold to Hammess Bros., and in 1886 they to L. F. Kellogg & Co., who still carry on the business.

The first blacksmith to wield his hammer in Portsmouth was Charles Miller, who later sold to Charles Peck, and he to Max Stolz, who is still one of the two blacksmiths -- John Hammer, who came in 1887, being the other.

William Strauss, the barber, located in 1884 by D. F. Paul, and is still doing a fine banking business.

The first to engage in the livery business were J. F. Adams, who sold to John Leinen, and he to Frank Hammes. The business now belongs to M. Hammes.

The pioneer millinery store was opened by Misses Flagler & Harler. At present Mrs. W. C. Strauss transacts this branch of business.

A public hall was built in 188, during the skating-rink craze, for rink purposes. It is 36 x 80 feet. It was built by J. L. Birk, but now belongs to C. L. Peek. It is used for all public gatherings and is a fine-looking building, nicely sided and painted.

The village was incorporated in 1883. The first mayor was A. W. Sims. The present mayor is I. E. Houghton.


was established in 1882 with George Walters as first postmaster. In 1886, he was succeeded by P. J. Korth, who is the present incumbent. It became a money order office in 1886, the first order being issued to S. T. Thompson for $60 payable to Lears Jackson of Story City, Iowa. The full number of orders issued up to November 12, 1888, is 694.


The present condition of the public schools at Portsmouth is very good. A two-story fine frame school building was erected in 1886, having two departments. It cost about $2,500, and is of an excellent style and well furnished. The present principal is Y. L. Bailey.

The two churches represented in the town by regular organized societies are the Roman Catholic and Methodist Episcopal, each of which has good church property. The Methodist people, in 1885, erected a neat structure suitable to the size of Portsmouth, costing $500. Its size is 28 x 46 feet. The society is very small, having five members when first organized, and at present it is only double that small number. It certainly speaks well for the "faithful few" who thus seek to uphold the Standard of the Cross.

The Roman Catholic Church at this point began its work about 1876, when three families, named Korth, Herkenraft and Linan, settled about two miles east of Portsmouth. In 1878 they built a church, under direction of Father Weber, of Westphalia. It was situated on the sightly ridge, and the place was for a long time known as "Cologne Settlement." The congregation was a part of a mission belonging to Neola charge, and was at first attended by Father Kempker. In November, 1885, it received a resident pastor -- Father Hummert. In the summer of 1886 their church in the country was blown down in a wind storm, after which they erected one in the town of Portsmouth. It is 30 x 60 feet with an addition. This congregation owns three and a half acres of land and a parsonage with six rooms. The church is valued at $2,200. The congregation now enumerates sixty families.

In 1882 an Odd Fellows' lodge was regularly instituted and carried on for some time. It had a charter membership of ten and reached as high as thirty, but finally they fell out by the way and are now disbanded.

The only destructive conflagration which has ever taken place at Portsmouth was the burning of Mr. Battey's grain elevator in 1887. The same was rebuilt that year.

The only man doing a general merchandising business in the place, who has been identified with the town from its beginning to the present, is P. J. Korth, who has stuck by the old stand, believing in honest dealing; he has built up a fine trade.


P. J. Korth,general dealers.
Burton & Helwig,general dealers.
M. J. McHenry,general dealer.
Jacob Korth,hardware.
Charles Dohrman,hardware.
J. C. Pfeifer,furniture.
Korth & Wehr,farm machinery.
Sims & Houghton,farm machinery.
O. W. Mudge,drugs.
H. F. Kellogg & Co.,harness shop.
W. C. Strams,barber shop.
C. L. Miller,wagon shop.
John Hammerand,blacksmith.
Max Holtz,blacksmith.
Korth & Wehr,lumber dealers.
George Battey,grain dealer.
Sims & Houghton,grain dealer.
James Murtaugh,hotel.

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Transcribed by Cheryl Siebrass, August, 2015 from "Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties", Chicago: W. S. Dunbar & Co., 1889, pg. 285-287.

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