IAGenWeb Project

Shelby County


1889 History Index

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



Elkhorn postoffice is situated in the northern part of Clay Township. It was established about 1882. It is in the midst of the heavy Danish settlement of Audubon, Shelby and Cass counties, and about three miles southeast of Kimballton. January 1, 1889, there was a general store conducted by George James; a blacksmith named Niels Hepenson; Martin Learson, harness-maker; John Darffler and Jacob Hansen, carpenters.

The principal feature of this point is the fact that it is the location of the Danish Lutheran Evangelical College. This institution of learning was founded by the influences of the church in 1878, when a building was erected at a cost of $2,000, to which was soon added another department, costing $1,500. This structure was all destroyed by fire April 21, 1886, the loss being only $1,000, as it had been insured. New buildings were at once constructed. The main building is 26 x 94 feet, two and one-half stories high. The present value of the college property amounts to about $6,000.

The highest number of pupils at any one time has been fifty, the present membership being forty-four, each of whom pay $6 per month tuition and $10 per month for board. Among the branches taught are general history, church history, United States higtory, history of Denmark, Bible studies, physics, Danish composition, English, composition and grammar, book-keeping, and Greek as a special branch for those who may desire it. Also the ordinary branches, such as geography, arithmetic, etc.

The object and aim of this college is to give the Danish people a chance to master both their own and the English tongue, and to gain a general secular as well as religious education, under the influence of the Danish Lutheran Church.

The presidents have been as follows: Rev. O. Kirreberg, from 1878 to 1880; Rev. H. J. Pederson, from 1880 to 1882; Rev. Kristian Anker, at present.

Four teachers are now employed. Two hours each day are spent in teaching the English branches. The total number of pupils who have from time to time attended here is 600.

Near the college building stands a neat and tasty edifice, which was erected in 1882, at a cost of $3,000; it is 32 x 70 feet. The church was organized in 1872, and there are now 160 heads of families belonging to the congregation. The pastors are the same as before named as presidents of the school.

Branches from this church are located at Bowman Grove, Shelby County, with a membership of fifty, and also one at Oakhill, Audubon County, of forty members. Rev. Kristian Anker has charge of these two branches, as well as the work at Elkhorn. This church and educational institution one of great moral and educational value to the Danish people of these western Iowa counties.


Great has been the change since Abraham Galland first built log cabin No. 1, in what is known, now, as Grove Township, of Shelby County, and the present time -- 1888. Then all was just as nature had left it. The deer and elk roamed at will; the wolves made the wintry night hideous by a noise which disturbed no one of a civilized type. The same fertile valleys, now productive of immense corn crops, were the hunting and camping grounds of the red man, who was indeed "monarch of all be surveyed."

The change has been gradual, but positive. At first there were a few "Mormons," who sought here, amid the native groves, a place of refuge, with the liberty of worshiping as they pleased. The nearest market place at which household supplies could be procured was Council Bluffs, and the real home comforts were very few. With no saw-mills, the first buildings were of necessity very rough and unattractive, yet served the purpose until better could be afforded. Step by step advancement was made until the Rock Island and Northwestern railroads were constructed across the State to the Missouri River, centering at Council Bluffs; from this time on many of the obstacles were removed and life went somewhat easier, as towns rapidly sprang up, affording much needed in improving the half developed farms.

To-day things have changed; the whole county is well cultivated and developed, with towns and postoffices on every hand. In 1882 the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Company constructed its Council Bluffs line through the county, traversing the northwestern part. Upon this line there are four good-sized stations -- Defiance, Earling, Panama and Portsmouth. The Kirkman branch of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad was built through the northeastern part of the county in 1881, to a point seven miles north and east of Harlan, and the village of Kirkman established. This place, with Irwin in the northeastern township of the county, gives excellent trading places and markets for all that section of country. The present towns and postoffices are as follows as:

Harlan, with a population of ...2,000
Shelby, " " " ...600
Defiance, " " " ...500
Irwin, " " " ...300
Earling, " " " ...460
Panama, " " " ...250
Portsmouth, " " " ...250
Westphalia, " " " ...60
Kirkman, " " " ...250
Corley (a sliding station) ...50
Manteno (postoffice and store) ... 
Botna ...20
Elkhorn (postofficein southeastern part of county, 

According to the State census reports of 1885, Shelby County, June 1 of that year, had a population of 16, 306, which in 1888 had increased to nearly 18,000, at which time there were 3,291 dwellings.

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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. 257-259.

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