There is nothing in the wide world that is so instrumental to the development of a new country as the railway; no internal improvement that so abundantly repays the expense of perfecting, and in pioneer life, nothing is so greatly felt as the lack of proper railway connection, and there-fore marketing facilities.  To-day, the railroads are first built, then emigration follows; but Tama county was not so fortunate as to have her railroads first built.  Her agricultural and general resources were first discovered and made known to the world before the iron horse made its appearance to transport the surplus productions.

When Tama county was first settled, and for several years thereafter, the nearest market towns were Dubuque and Muscatine.  These were market towns because they were on the Mississppi river, and thus, means of transportation were had.  The nearest railroad town was Chicago - then a mere village.  Dubuque was usually patronized by the pioneers in the northern part of the county, and was a journey - there and return - of two hundred and fifty miles.  Muscatine was the customary market point for those in the southern part of the county, and was one hundred and twenty-five miles away.  Trips were made as few and far between as possible by the settlers, and when one went he often got provisions for the whole settlement.  This lack of facilities for marketing greatly retarded the growth of the county; for it took a great deal of resolute courage to settle in a country where the fact must be faced that it was a journey of two hudred and fifty miles to market.

After a time stage lines were established and provisions and necessaries of life could be gotten at Iowa City and points nearer than Dubuque and Muscatine.  In August, 1854, the Chicago & Rock Island Railroad reached Rock Island, which was shortly afterwards completed to Davenport, thus bringing railway facilities on hundred and eighty-one miles nearer Tama county.  But this did not effect the trade of this region, and, in fact, they did not know or care about the completion of a railroad to Davenport. Muscatine was a little nearer, and the river was as efficient a means for transportation. However, the road helped those who were coming from the east.

The first advantages of railroad facilities felt by the people of Tama county, was when the Mississippi and Missouri River R. R. was constructed from Davenport to Iowa City, in Johnson county, and the event was hailed as a great blessing. It reached Iowa City on the first day of January, 1856, having built night and day, laying rails by torch light to secure the bonus offered by that city. This made the lot of the pioneer easier, and the trips of seventy miles to market were made oftener and in better spirit, and few complained. Two years later this road was extended to Marengo and that became the market point for the county and stages were run regularly carrying mail and passengers. In 1860, the Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska R. R. was completed from Clinton to Cedar Rapids, and as it was expected that this road would be constructed through Tama county, a jollification was held, and trade left Marengo, and Cedar Rapids was patronized. It was then considered but a little distance to market, and the trip could be made with a load of wheat in four days easily and three when time pressed. Two years later – in 1869 – the Cedar Rapids & Missouri River R. R. began building westward from Cedar Rapids and the market point followed the road. Late in the fall it reached Tama county, and finally passed through just south of the center. The contentment of the people in that region was now almost complete.

About the same time a railroad was completed from Dubuque to Waterloo, and northern Tama contributed thousands of dollars in trade to that enterprising city, it only taking two days to go to market and return.

In 1873, the “Pacific Division of the B.C.R. & N. was constructed from Vinton to Traer, and northern Tama was satisfied. In the years that have flown since that time these roads have been extended westward. The Toledo & Northwestern railroad has been built, crossing the west half of the county diagonally to the northwest. The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railway has been constructed through the southern part of the county and the Wisconsin Iowa & Nebraska R. R. or “Diagonal” as it is called, has been built across the northwestern corner of the county. In addition to these, a net work of iron track almost surrounds the county; north, south, east and west, railroads have been constructed within a few miles of the county lines, so that the marketing and transportation facilities of Tama county are equal to any county in the State.


The first railroad agitation in Tama county was over the Iowa Central Air Line. The company was organized at Lyons in 1843 and secured a land grant upon a survey of line running north of and parallel with the present line of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway. It was the purpose at organization to have the Iowa Central run from Sabula, on the Mississippi river, westward to Marion, Linn county, and on through Toledo and the central part of Tama county to some point on the Missouri river, following the forty-second parallel as near as practicable. S. S. Jones was President of the company, and as early as 1857, work on grading and other matters connected with building was commenced, when dissatisfaction began to be manifested against the management. M. Courtright & Co., in 1857, secured the contract for building, and Sherrill, Bagley & Bro. for grading a portion of the proposed road, the President of the company himself being interested in both of these contracting firms. The affairs of the company were very corruptly managed, and about two hundred and forty-five thousand dollars of fictitious stock and seven hundred and fifty-five thousand dollars of fraudulent bonds were issued. Finally, in 1858, the stockholders commenced legal proceedings against the President and Directors, applying to the courts to have the fictitious and fraudulent stock and bonds cancelled; also, the contracts for building and grading. A notice was served upon the Directors requesting them to try and expel the President for fraud and malfeasance in office. After a good deal of trouble and delay, the stockholders and people in general became disgusted with the way the matter had been carried on, and in the winter of 1858-9 a plan was conceived, whereby the Iowa Central Air Line was to be consolidated with the Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska Railroad. Of this consolidation the Iowa Transcript, then published by N C. Wieting, said:

"One of the results of the consolidation will be to insure the passage of the road through Cedar Rapids; this our citizens have anxiously desired, from the fact that the road will eventually pass through our town, a favor but little expected from the old Air Line company."

The Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska Railroad Company were at this time constructing a line from Clinton, on the Mississippi river, to Cedar Rapids, and completed the line in 1860 to that place. Soon after the plan mentioned was conceived, it was dropped and another scheme was set on foot. A new company was organized, under the name of Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad Company, for the purpose of extending a road from Cedar Rapids westward through the State to the Missouri River. This company was largely composed of members of the Nebraska Railroad Company, and the interests of the two roads were identical. As soon as this company was organized they asked that the Legislature transfer the land grant which had been given to the Iowa Central Air Line Company to them. Nothing as yet had been done toward building the Air Line road, and the transfer met with approval all along the proposed line of the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Road. It was also hotly contested and bitterly opposed by those living on the proposed line of the Iowa Central.

Now, in this connection, comes a matter upon which the early settlers are divided. To be impartial and fair to both sides, the historian gives both versions of the affair.

Many claim that the question as to the transfer of the land grant from the Iowa Central Air Line to the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad Company was made the issue upon which the members of the General Assembly were elected in 1859. The Transfer could only be made by an act of the Legislature. For Tama county the matter stood in this shape: If the transfer was made it was certain that the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Road would pass through Tama county, south of the center, and no doubt was entertained but that Toledo would be made one of the points. In case the transfer was not made the Air Line company would build to Marion, and as the citizens of Vinton insisted it should go through their place, it would pass through the northern part of Tama county, and Toledo would be left to one side. This endangered the county seat's remaining at Toledo, and as the southern part of the county was much more thickly settled than the northern, Tama county favored the transfer of the land grant. From this issue grew the hotly contested campaign for State Senator from this district in 1859. The district embraced Benton and Tama counties and the Republicans nominated Thomas Drummond, of Vinton, for the office. This was bitterly denounced in Tama county, as it was known that he would vote against the transfer in the interest of Vinton, his home. A bolt was instigated and a convention was held at which John Doe, of Indiantown, was nominated. Doe carried Tama county, but Drummond received a sufficent majority in Benton county to overpoweer Tama county, and was elected. In the General Assembly Drummond voted against the transfer of the grant, but it carried nevertheless, and thus the land grant was turned over to the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River R.R. Company.

The above is the version of a portion of the old settlers. Others claim that the railroad issue did not enter into the campaign at all, but that Drummond was opposed on account of his morals, and this finally occasioned the bolt and nomination of Doe.  However this may be, the Cedar Rapids & Missouri River R.R. Company at once commenced pushing the line westward, through Tama county and finally to the Missouri river. Soon after its completion, the track was leased for ninety-nine years to the CHICAGO & NORTHWESTERN R. R. COMPANY, and the track is still under this company's management.

The graders reached Tama county in 1861, and by the following summer had the track laid as far west as where Chelsea now is. Early in November, 1862, the first engine made its way into Tama county as far as where Tama City now is. At this time there was a station there which was called Toledo, and farmers began hauling grain to points on that road instead of to Cedar Falls and Iowa City. The Iowa Transcript notified the community of the fact that trains were running this far, in the issue of November 20, 1862, saying: "The railroad is now completed to the station opposite this place, and the cars are running regularly, starting from Toledo at 10 a.m., and arriving at 4 p.m. We are now directly in communication by railroad with all parts of the east."

In due time the railroad pushed on westward, through Marshalltown Ames, Boone and to Council Bluffs, crossing the entire State, and making a direct line to Chicago. It at once became the leading road of Iowa. Tama county subscribed liberally to the building of this road and it has proved a good investment. The road enters the county by way of section 24, in Salt Creek township, bearing northward, follows the valley of the Iowa river through the townships of Salt Creek, Richland, the southwest corner of Otter Creek, Tama and Indian Village, leaving through section 18, in the latter named township. The towns on the line in Tama county are Chelsea, Tama City, Montour, and Le Grand.

According to the statement and report of the Secretary of State for the year 1883, the length and assessed value of the Chicgo & Northwestern railway amounted to 24.34 miles, assessed value $10,220; total assessed value $258,974. This was divided among the townships as follows: Salt Creek 6.2 miles; Richland 5 miles; Otter Creek, 1.34 miles; Tama and Tama City, 6.37 miles; Indian Village 6.2 miles.

The Chicago & Northwestern is one of the most important and powerful railway corporations on the globe. Controlling, as it does, about 4,000 miles of track, it wields a powerful influence over the commerce and agriculture of the northwest. The division which passes through Tama county is the greatest east and west thoroughfare of Iowa. It is usually called the Chicago and Council Bluffs line, but in railway publications it is treated under the head of "Council Bluffs, Denver and California line."


When the Cedar Rapids & Missouri river railroad, now the Chicago & Northwestern railway line, was constructed through Iowa, it was at first the design, as is stated elsewhere in this chapter, to make Toledo one of the points. As the work progressed, however, this was somewhat changed, and it was decided to have the road pass up the valley of the Iowa river, a natural road bed, and leave Toledo two miles north of the proposed line. When this conclusion was arrived at, some of the officials of the railroad came to Toledo to make arrangements whereby the people of the county seat could have immediate railway connection. Their idea was that iron could be got cheap and on long time, and the people of Toledo should go ahead and lay the track, and the company would run it as best they could. The company would erect a depot on the main line, near the Iowa river, and it was thought no other town would be laid out. This proposition was not accepted; some thinking that the railroad company would alter their determination to follow the valley and finally build to Toledo; others thinking that even did the railroad pass within two miles it would be well enough, as no one thought of laying out a town; and still others were of the opinion that it was asking too much of Toledo to build the branch road. This furnished a number of enemies to the scheme, who worked hard against it. There were also some who earnestly worked for the railroad and endeavored to have a branch built, but to no avail. Time went by and in Toledo the matter rested. The road was constructed, running through Tama county within two miles and a half of Toledo; a station was built, and the town Iuka, now Tama City--was started. The station was called Toledo Station at first, and finally, Tama City. During the years immediately following the completion of the main line of the Northwestern, nothing was said of railroad matters at Toledo. In 1865, however, it became apparent that something must be done to build up the town, or the county seat would be wrested from it. Accordingly, during this year, the Court House Association was organized, and the Court House built and donated to the county, which it was hoped, would make the location of the county seat permanent. This served the purpose and quieted the matter for a time. but Toledo began to lose its trade; farmers would pass it and go to the railroad towns with their grain, and something further must be done. Therefore, in 1867, the branch project was again started and a splendid effort was made toward its success; but just at this time the Iowa Central came up, the people turned their attention toward that, and again the branch sunk to make room for the visionary scheme of that road.

Meanwhile, matters were growing worse. Toledo, two miles and a half from a railroad, could not hope to retain the county seat of Tama county. In 1868 and 1869, meetings were held in Toledo, at which the question of a branch road was extensively discussed, and in 1870, the agitation culminated in the organization of the Toledo & Northwestern Railroad Company. The first officers elected were as follows:

President, William H. Harrison.

Vice-President, W. F. Johnston.

Secretary, John G. Safely.

Treasurer: H. Galley.

General Superintendent: C.C. Whitten.

Directors: W.F. Johnston, Leander Clark, W.H. Harrison, H. Galley, Stephen Foster, W. H. Stivers, and L.B. Nelson.

Work was commenced to secure funds to carry on the enterprise. Toledo township voted a tax of nearly $20,000; donations were made amounting to about ten thousand dollars and stock was issued to the amount of about five thousand dollars. Those who subscribed donations could wait until the road was completed before paying; while those who took stock were obliged to pay in their money at once.

However, after the road was nearly finished the books of the company were opened and all who had subscribed donations were permitted to take stock to the amount of their donation. Many did so, and the stock was thereby raised to about eleven thousand dollars. The sums all fell a little short upon collection. Contracts weere let, the very best of iron was procured at a cost of eighteen thousand dollars, and laid upon a finely graded bed. On the first day of January, 1872, the first iron horse steamed into Toledo, the county seat of Tama county. During the whole of that day an excursion train was run carrying everybody free of charge. The depot and stock yards were soon built, and in completing these the company ran a little in debt, having expended all the money that had been raised in preparing the roadbed and laying iron. C.C.Whitten was appointed General Superintendent. The company rented an engine of the Chicago & Northwestern R.R., and got the use of a coach by keeping it in repair. The Toledo company paid for fuel, hands and all other expenses.

The road was about three miles in length and the trains ran to the depot in Tama City upon the main line track.

For nearly nine years the branch continued under the management of the Toledo company.  It was a great accommodation to the citizens, much greater than the through trains of the present day.  Six daily trains were usually run, and an extra could be put on the road when occasion demanded, without fear of collision.

In the fall of 1879, the Toledo & Northwestern Railroad was sld to the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company.  As soon as the sale was completed, the latter company began pushing the line northwest, and by the fall of 1880, it had reached Hubbard, in Hardin county.  In 1881, it was pushed still farther northwest and the "end is not yet."  In Tama county there are four stations on this line, tama City, Toledo, Garwin and Gladbrook.  The road bears slmost directly north after leaving Tama City for about five miles and then bears northwest.

William H. Harrison only acted as President of the Toledo & Northwestern Company for one year.  Succeeding him, W.F. Johnston was elected and served as President of the company until the road was sold.  The principal stockholders in the company at the time of sale were:  W.F. Johnston, Leander Clark, C.C. Whitten, Colonel John Connell, David D. Appelgae and L.B. Nelson.


The first President of the Toledo and Northwestern R. R. Company, was W.H. Harrison, who served for about one year.

William Henry Harrison was born near Caldwell, Essex county, New Jersey, February 5, 1819.  His father, Joseph Harrison, was born near the same place, February 8, 1793, and his mother, Mary B. Crane, daughter of William Henry Crane, was born at Mont Clair, Essex county, New Jersey, November 5 1790.  Joseph Harrison, grandfather of the subject of this sketch, was born near Caldwell, same county and State as mentioned above.  December 19, 1747, he being a descendant of Richard Harrison, senior, who died at Branford, Connecticut, October 25, 1653, and whose son, Richard, established the New Jersey branch of the Harrison family.  The reasons for their removal to New Jersey are set forth in the following paragraph quoted from the family records:

"Having become dissatisfied because the Connecticut people had become so lax as to permit other than professing christians to vote at elections."

When the Harrison's came from England and settled in Connecticut, they adopted the following resolutions:  Resolved, That we are his Saints.  Resolved,That we take possession of the earth."  Both grandfathers fought in the Revolutionary war and belonged to the militia.  All of Mr. Harrison's ancestors on both sides of the house were members of the Presbyterian church of Caldwell, New Jersey, and at this church where the family had worshiped for generations, Mr. Harrison was baptized in infancy.  The father of the subject of this sketch was married on the 10th of February 1813, to Charlotte Gould, who died in June 1814, leaving a daughter, Charlotte, seven months old, now the 'widow Alden,' a resident of Toledo, Iowa, since August 20, 1855.  June 15, he was again married to Mary B. Crane, by whom he had five children.  The eldest, Abbie Louisa, wife of L.D. Mozier, of Edison, Morrow county, Ohio, was born May 7, 1816, and with her husband recently celebrated their golden wedding.  The subject of this sketch was the second child.  Harvey Durand, the third child, was born December 14, 1820; died February 11, 1860, in Missouri.  sarah Jane, wife of Enoch Peasley, a minister of the Friend's denomination, was born December 29, 1822; died near Muscatine, Iowa in February, 1861.  The four children just mentioned were born in New Jersey; Lydia Maria, the youngest, was born in Ohio, July 11, 1825; died in June' 1836.  The mother of these children, died in Ohio, August 5, 1826, and May 8, 1828, the father was again married, choosing for a help-mate the widow Blinn nee Beard, of Knox county.  By this union there were four children, Joseph, Aaron D., Rhoda, and Lydia; all married and living save the eldest.  In 1825, the father moved with his family to Ohio, making that State his home for fifty-three years until his death, which occurred August 25, 1878, being eighty-five years old.  He was engaged in the mercantile business for over twenty years, and for a number of years was a Justice of the Peace.  The subject of this sketch was reared on a farm receiving a common education.  At the age of eighteen years he was converted and joined the M. E. Church.  At twenty, he and his brother Durand engaged in running a sawmill and clearing a farm of one hundred acres.  After working together for three years, William Harrison took the farm, and his brother the saw-mill.

May 17, 1843, Mr Harrison was married to Sallie Ballard, of Sparta, Knox county, Ohio, born October 19, 1818, in Wilmont, Hillsboro county, New Hampshire.  Her parents were Frederick and Achsah (Everett) Ballard, both natives of New Hampshire.  Her father died in Sparta, Ohio, in October, 1868, aged eighty-eight years; the mother died at the same place, November 2, 1857, at about seventy-three years of age.  Mrs. Harrison's grandfather, Pennell Everett, was a soldier of the revolutionary war, serving for seven years.  He was born in Massachusetts, September 3, 1758, died in New London, New Hampshire, February 5, 1813.  His father Jeremy Everett, was born in Dedham, Massachusetts, in February, 1714.  After their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Harrison, lived on the farm and in January, 1848, sold and moved to Pagetown, Morrow county, Ohio, where Mr. Morrison engaged in the mercantile business.  In October of the same year, he removed to Mt. Gilead, county seat of Morrow county, and engaged in the same business.  In April, 1852, he sold and moved to Mt. Vernon, same State; six weeks later went to Washington county where he owned some property, and engaged in the mercantile business.  He remained there until March, 1855, when he sold and came west by way of the Ohio and Mississippi river steamers, landing at Muscatine, Iowa, April 16, 1855.  After visiting with relatives and looking about the country for a time, he came with his family and effects, to Toledo, Tama county, Iowa, arriving May 13, 1855.  Soon after his arrival he purchased a saw-mill, containing a lath mill and one run of stone for grinding corn, being then the only place for doing such work nearer than Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.  In the following June the mill was destroyed by fire.  This was a serious loss to the country and to Mr. Harrison, financially; however, he did not lose courage but went to work to rebuild.  He refused proffered aid, and forming a partnership, soon had his mill in running order, and also erected a store building in the south part of town, where he had purchased land and laid out Harrison's addition.  In August he went to New York City, bought a stock of goods, and returning, engaged in the general mercantile business.  After a few months he took in Ira Taylor, as a partner; they erected a store building east of the present site of the court house, moved their goods into it and continued in business until 1870.  In 1871, Mr. Harrison, who was a large stock holder in the First National Bank of Tama City, engaged in the banking business in Toledo, under the firm name of Harrison, Hall & Warren, their institution being known as the Tama County Bank.  This partnership was continued until January 1, 1876, when Messrs. Yeiser & Sterrett, land and loan agents, became his partners, under firm name of Harrison, Yieser & Company.  During that year they built the Toledo House and moved their business into the rooms now occupied by the Toledo city bank, where they continued until the death of Mr. Yeiser, in December, 1877.  The remaining partners closed up the business, paying off all the depositors, and the following spring sold the building to A. Phillips, and the banking business to Messrs. Wilder & Wieting.  Since 1866, Mr Harrison has devoted more or less of his time to fire and life insurance, and since quitting the banking business, has given his attention wholly to insurance, having worked various companies, and originated the Iowa Mutual Benefit Association which has its home office in Toledo, Iowa, and is working very successfully.  He is also the originator of the Mutual Endowment Association of Toledo, Iowa and is its Actury and one of the Trustees.

This association is based upon the plan differing entirely from anything heretofore known.  It is now in its infancy, but bids fair to become one of the most successful companies of its kind in the State.  Mr. and Mrs. Harrison have been blessed with four children:  Elvira, born in Delaware county, Ohio, February 14, 1844; married at Toledo, Iowa, October 19, 1876, to James A. Harrigan, born in Kingston, Canada, June 6, 1848, and who died of typhoid pneumonia, at Toledo, Iowa, February 15, 1879, leaving a son, James Corneal, born July 19, 1878; Louisa and Leander, twins, born December 14, 1848; the latter dying February 15, 1849; and William Henry, jr., born March 15, 1854, now engaged in business, at Toledo, Iowa.  Mr. and Mrs. Harrison are members of the United Brethren church, having joined that denomination in 1874, by letter, from the M. E. church, of which they had long been members.  He has been deeply interested in all things of a religious character, and has given most liberally of his means for the furtherance of the cause, and was for a number of years trustee and class leader of the M.E. church.  He gave largely toward the building of that church, probably in all about $1,200.  He gave largely toward the court house, which was built mostly by the citizens of the town.  His connection with the Toledo & Northwestern railroad shows marked perseverance, he having advocated the project when other substantial citizens of Toledo help back.  Mr Harrison was for several years Deputy United States Revenue Collector for Tama and Benton counties, serving with full satisfaction to all present concerned.  He has always been a temperate man and a warm advocate of temperance principles.  he was formerly a Whig; has voted with the Republican party since its organization.  Mr. Harrison's life has not been the smoothest, by far; often has he met with severe financial reverses that would have palled most men; friends have deceived him and those in whom he trusted have shown themselves unworthy of confidence; but through it all, Mr. Harrison has remained true to his manhood, has forgiven where injustice was done, and has pursued the tenor of his way determined to make the best of whatever came.

W.F. Johnston was the second President of the Toledo & Northwestern Railroad Company, and acted in that capacity during the time the company was in active operation.  A great deal of the success of the company was due to his management and efforts.  He was born on the 20th day of April, 1883, in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania.  His father is U.S. Johnston, an honored citizen of Toledo; his mother, Mary Keister, was a woman of most sterling qualities and a devoted Christian.  She died in Toledo, March 5, 1878.  U.S. Johnston and wife were the parents of three sons and six daughters.  W.F. Johnston, subject of this sketch, when fourteen yars of age, engaged to work as a laborer on a farm through the summer and attending school in the winter.  He worked in this way to assist his parents, who were in limited circumstances, for three years, when he apprenticed out to learn the trade of carpenter and joiner, following the same for five years.  In 1852, in company with his father, he came west and spent the summer in viewing the country, stopping at different points and working at his trade to defray expenses.  The following fall he returned to Pennsylvania, where he got employment as clerk in his uncle's store with no understanding as to what his wages should be.  Upon quitting this position some time afterward, his uncle offered to furnish him money with which to come west and purchase land, the land or the proceeds to be divided equally; but the offer was not accepted.  In the summer of 1856, in company with J.A. Keister, now Probate Judge of Blue Earth County, MInnesota, and G.R. Kemp, he went to Portage City, Wisconsin, where he remained until the following October, then went to Iowa City, working for a time at his trade and afterwards as clerk in a store.  In March, 1858, he came to Toledo and purchased a stock of goods in company with H. Galley.  They continued in partnership until the spring of 1868, when Mr. Galley sold his interest and the company of W.F. Johnston & Co. was formed, consisting of W.F. Johnston, Wesley Johnston and C.C. Guilford.  The firm continued in business until 1879, when W. F. Johnston purchased the entire stock and immediately sold out to W.S. Johnston and John A. Owens.  Mr. Johnston has a wife and one child, his marriage occurring on the 21st day of September, 1858,  His wife was Miss Maria J. Newcomber, of Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania.  She is a member of the Methodist Church where all of the family worship.  Mr. Johnston came to the county in limited circumstances, but by close attention to business and skillful management has accumulated a large estate, and is to-day the largest land owner in the county, his accumulated land property in the county amounting to over seven thousand acres.  In 1881, he built a fine residence in the suburbs of Toledo at a cost of $12,000; his barn is twenty-nine by thirty-four feet and cost $2,000.  Mr Johnston was originally a Whig, but since the organization of the Republican party he has been one of its warm supporters.  In 1862 he was elected to the State Legislature to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Major L. Clark, who desired to enter the U. S. service.  Mr Johnston was one of the incorporators of the Toledo Savings Bank and owner of the largest amount of stock until the fall of 1881.  At the organization of the above institution he was elected Vice-President and has held the same ever since, being the present incumbent.  He was also one of the incorporators and stock holders, and one of the board of directors of the First National Bank of Tama City.  Mr. Johnston was elected president of the Toledo and Northwestern rail road at the regular annual election in 1872, and held the position until 1879, at which time Mr. Albert Keep, of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway, was elected to take his place, Mr. Johnston being retained on the Board of Directors one year longer.  Soon after the organization of the T. & N. W. Railway, he was elected by the board as a special committee to negotiate and purchase the iron and other supplies for building the road, and also, to make rates for the rolling stock, and later, to contract with the Chicago & Northwestern Company for connection, and such other operating or running arrangements as he might deem wise or advantageous to his own company.  Mr. Johnston was very successful in these negotiations, and so skillful was the management of the road, that from the day it commenced running until the change of proprietors in the fall of 1879, it paid a ten per cent annual dividend, and never incurred any indebtedness but that it could readily pay, and did pay.  Mr. Johnston was very active in his connection with the road, and probaby no one is entitled to more credit for working up the extension of the Toledo & Northwestern Railway than Mr. Johnston, he having persistently pushed the matter for several years, making trip after trip to Chicago to talk the matter up with prominent railroad officials.  And possibly, through his and Major Clark's efforts alone, the public now receives the benefit of this great railroad; not that they built it, but that they  they were the means of getting those interested who did.  Another fact noticeable in this connecion is, that the millions at present invested in the Toledo & Northwestern Railway are under the same constitution and regulations that were adopted by the original company, with the exception that now the proprietors have the right to build, operate and maintain branches running east and west, as well as north and south.  In educational enterprises no one in the county has taken more interest, nor given more of time and money than W.F. Johnston.  In 1871, he was elected a member of the board of Trustees of Cornell College, Mt. Vernon, Iowa, now one of the best, if not the leading college in the State.  In 1877, he was elected one of the executive committee of the same college, and in 1880, VicePresident of the Board of Trustees, all of which positions he now holds.  Since his election to a position on the executive committee, Mr. Johnston has been closely identified with the management and interests of the college, and has donated over five thousand dollars to the institution, and also owns a five hundred dollar scholarship for the benefit of worthy indigent students.  Mr. Johnston is also deeply interested in the success of Western College, Toledo, Iowa, being a member of the building and executive committees of that institution.  Mr. Johnston has also given largely to the support of this college, being anxious to assist in making it one of the best and strongest institutions of learning in the State.  He was, and is still, President of the Toledo Court-House Association, which built a good substantial court-house, at a cost of thirty thousand dollars, and donated it to the county.  Mr. Johnston was the first Mayor of Toledo, Iowa; was for several years one of the County Supervisors, and for many years was connected with the School Board of Toledo.  During the late war, he was appointed Draft Commissioner for Tama county.  The enrollment and examinations were made, but the delinquent townships make their quota by furnishing men and the draft was unnecessary.  At the Upper Iowa Conference of the M.E. Church held at Davenport, this State, in 1879, Mr. Johnston was elected one of the lay delegates to attend the General Conference of that church, held at Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1880.  During the session of that conference, Mr. Johnston was a member of two standing committees--Educational and State of the Church, and was also a member of the special committee on the centennial of the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which he has been a member since the fall of 1856.  Mr. Johnston is kind and considerate to all classes, is indulgent to a fault, and has sustained thereby many heavy financial losses.  He is generous, giving freely and liberally to educational, benevolent, Christian and public enterprises.  Mr. Johnston owns the farmer's elevator and was one of the builders of the Toledo elevator, being part owner of the last named.  He was also one of the original owners of the town sites of Garwin and Gladbrook.

C.C. Whitten, who was General Superintendant of the T. & N. W. R., was born in Huron county, Ohio, on the 28th day of November, 1833.  His parents were Alvin Whitten and Loa (Snow) Whitten, who emigrated to Huron county, Ohio, in about 1830.  When C. C. was eighteen years of age he went to New York, where he was engaged in various occupations.  In 1868, he came to Tama county, and at the time of the construction of the Toledo and Northwestern R. R., he took an active part, and was elected by the stockholders as agent and superintendent, which position he filled until the road was purchased by the Northwestern company.  He was immediately appointed by that company as right-of-way agent, which office he has filled with complete satisfaction to the company and credit to himself.  Mr. Whitten since coming to the county has accumulated a competency, now owning one thousand acres of valuable land in Spring Creek township, besides considerable town property along the Toledo & Northwestern line of railroad.  He was married, December 25, 1860, to Miss Elizabeth Stacy.  Mr. and Mrs. Whitten have been blessed with three children--Emma, Minnie and Loa. 


The Pacifc division of this railroad, or as it is usually called, "the Vinton Branch" was constructed from Vinton to Traer, in Tama county, in 1873.  Traer remained the terminus of the road until 1881, when it was built westward through Hardin county and Northwestern Iowa.  The road enters Tama county by way of section 13, of Clark township, bears to the north of west, crosses the townships of Clark, Perry, Buckingham, Grant, and enters Grundy county.

According to the statement of the Secretary of State for the year 1883, the length and assessed value of the Pacific division of the B. C. R. &  N. R. R. in Tama county, showed 18.05 miles, valued at $57,360.  This is divided among the townships as follows: 

In Clark township, outside of the incorporated town of Dysart, there are five miles assessed at $16,000.

Town of Dysart, 1 mile, assessed at $3200.

Perry township, exclusive of Traer, 3.8 miles, assessed at $12,160.

Town of Traer, 1.15 miles, assessed at $3,680.

Buckingham township, 2.5 miles, assessed at $8,000.

Grant township, 4.0 miles, assessed at $4,720.

There are two stations on the line in Tama county, Dysart, and Traer.


This is one of the leading railway thoroughfares of the United States, and its lines reach back and forth over the whole Northwest in a network of iron, having the greatest number of miles owned by any one corporation in the world.  The "Council Bluffs LIne" of this road was constructed through Tama county in 1881.  It was speedily pushed on southwest, through Tama City, Manning and to Council Bluffs.

This road enters Tama county by way of section 13, in York township, crosses York, Otter Creek, Tama, the southeastern part of Indian Village, the northeastern part of Highland and enters Marshall county.  There are five stations on the line in Tama county--Elberon, Vining, Gladstone, Tama City and Potter.

The number of miles and assessed value of this road for the year 1883, in the various townships was as follows:

In York township, 6.86 miles, assessed at $14, 543.

In Otter Creek, 7.08 miles, assessed at $15, 009.

In Tama township, outside of Tama City, 5.03 miles, asessed at $10,663.

Tama City, 1.03 miles, assessed at $2,183.

Indian Village township, 3.42 miles, assessed at $7, 250.

Highland township, 2.9 miles, assessed at $6,148.

This makes a total of twenty-six and thirty-two one-hundredths miles in the county, on which the assessed value is $55,798.


The company organized for the purpose of building this road was the Iowa Improvement Company, and came into existence in 1880, with C. C. Gilman as President.  The intention was to construct a railway line from Kansas City to McGregor, diagonally across the State.  Work was commenced in 1881, and up to May, 1883, the company had completed and in operation forty-five miles of road, extending from Marshalltown to Hudson.  It passes through the northwestern part of Tama county, crossing the Toledo & Northwestern railroad at Gladbrook.  The only town of importance on the line in Tama county is Gladbrook.

This road is usually known under the name of "The Diagonal."


The first railroad which was projected to run through Tama county was the Iowa Central Air Line.  It has already received due attention.

The Iowa Central Railroad was the next scheme for a railroad that failed.  The company was organized in 1864 at Oskaloosa, which place was to be headquarters.  The object was to construct a road from Albia to Cedar Falls, by way of Oskaloosa and Toledo.  The project met with decided favor.  A good deal of private subscription was secured in Tama and the county voted an appropriation of $40,000 to aid in the construction of the road through the county.  The company commenced collecting private subscriptions at once and began grading.  From Toledo to the north line of the county a grade was almost finished, costing about $35,000.  At the January session of the Board of Supervisors of the county, in 1866 it was decided that the appropriation which had been voted the company should be paid in three equal yearly installments.  It had been anticipated that an injunction would be asked to restrain the collection of the taxes or payment of the bonus, and the bonds and orders had barely been issued by the county, the railroad company began disposing of them.  As an inducement for the citizens to purchase, it was offered that every one who would purchase a county order or warrant should have, in addition to such warrant or order, a like amount of railroad stock.  This took like wild fire and the warrants were mostly taken up by citizens.  Those who at once went to the county treasury and had them cashed were lucky, for it was but a short time until the injunction restrained the redemption of them as stated.  The injunction was granted upon the grounds that the county had no right to levy such tax.  After this the company was somewhat crippled and struggled to get along, but failed.  Finally in about 1867, President Gilman, of the Central Iowa Railroad Company began negotiations with this company and purchased the road bed and right of way of this line in Poweshiek county and south to Oskaloosa and Albia.  This cut the line in two, and the Central Iowa Railroad laid their track on the old line as far north as Grinnell, when it turned westward and passed north, through Marshall county.  Thus ended Tama county's hope for the Iowa Central.

A few years later a company was organized at Grinnell, as the Grinnell, Cedar Falls and Winona, MInnesota.  A good deal of work was done to get taxes voted, and with some success; but the aid and backing which they expected from the Central of Iowa Company was not forthcoming, and the project died a natural death.  In Tama county the townships of Howard, Crystal and Perry voted aid to the company, and when the scheme fell through Perry township transferred her bounty to the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad, while the others allowed their proposed bonus to "outlaw."

In 1873 a corporation was formed for building the Peoples' Narrow Gauge Railroad of Iowa. The survey commenced in May, of the year named.  In Tama county the proposed line was to run from near the centre on the west line of Spring Creek township, to, or near Union Grove, from there east along or near the south line of Crystal, Perry and Clark townships.  The project soon fell through.

Tama Co. Home Page Table of Contents Biography List Portrait List Certificates Chapter XX