The following information was transcribed directly from the 1908 Union County History, sometimes called the Ide History Book.
On the first day of October, 1854, Edward A. Temple, of Chariton, Iowa, and now residing in the city of Des Moines, entered the southwest quarter of section 16, township 72, range 29, and proceeded at once to plat the same into lots, and on the 14th day of November, 1855, caused to be recorded a plat of the town. Prior to the recording of the plat Edward A. Temple and his wife executed to Union County a warranty deed, to all the even number lots of the plat. The name, Afton, was given to the town by Mrs. Temple, wife of the proprietor, having chosen it from one of the songs of the "Bard of Avon, “Flow gently, Sweet Afton.""
The county seat was located here by a commission appointed for that purpose, February, 1855. During the latter year eight dwellings of hewn logs were erected. None of these are in existence today. In 1856, small frame dwellings and business houses were built.
Among some of the first settlers of the town may be mentioned J. W. Alley, Reuben Riggs, Jesse B. Berry, Thomas Tall, J.S. Elliott, J.B. White, T.M. Robinson, David Fife, Charlie Bartlett, W.M. Locke, C.B. Holler, Joseph Norris, J.A. Blanchard, W. B. Davis, John Cantrill, James Lewis and Mrs. Sarah Collings.
The first courthouse and first school house were built in 1857. The first stores were owned by Dr. Blanchard, drugs and medicines; David Fife, J.S. Elliott, J.B. White, Jon Cantrill, general stores. The supplies for those stores were brought across the country by wagons from St. Joseph, Missouri.
In 1856 the population was one hundred and fifty-six. In 1858 it had increased to three hundred. During these early days of Afton there was a community of interests in its social and business affairs, while the omnipresent Methodist preacher in the person of Rev. W. C. Williams, was here to look after the spiritual well-being of the people. November 3, 1855, he organized a church of ten members.A Fight for the County Seat
In 1856-57 the strife for relocating the county seat became very bitter, and every means was adopted to carry out the intentions of parties interested. Highland was better built and a finer looking town than Afton, and John D. Wright, J. F. Ickis, Dr. J. A. Day and some others urged its claims with great vehemence. For a time, the indications were that Afton would come out second best and it was a matter of serious discussion how to avert the impending danger. Judge Blanchard, a resident and very zealous advocate of Afton, concluded to try a piece of strategy which should demoralize the highlanders. Accordingly, taking the Postmaster T.M. Robinson into the plot, he wrote himself a letter purporting to come from the president of the B. & M. R.R. company, and stating that they had come decided to run the road through Afton (the exact location had not been determined upon, and both towns were contestants). Handling it to the Postmaster before the arrival of the weekly mail, he received it with his other mail matter in the regular way. A large crowd being gathered at the time in the post office, he opened with the important document, which he read carefully, and, apparently surprised and greatly elated, he announced to the crowd present (some being the leaders of the Highland faction) the contents of the letter received. Dismay and consternation took hold of the opposition and one of the leaders announced as he left the office, "Boys, we are beat," and at the election the week following, the Highlanders were so disheartened that they did not work with their previous zeal, and so lost the county seat. The railroad was, however, not located for years after that.County Buildings
By order of County Judge Dawson, April 1856, the proceeds from sale of lots in Afton belonging to Union County were to be used to erect public buildings in Afton.
Up to this time court had been held in the cabins of the settlers. County Order No. 4 shows that Mrs. Elizabeth Peters received five dollars for furnishing room for grand jury at the term of court September 1854, and Benjamin McGaha received a county warrant of two dollars for use of room to hold the district court. Another order reads as follows: July 28 A.D. 1855, allowed to Elizabeth Peters two dollars for the use of a room to hold court in April 1855, term and warrant No. 47 in favor of said Peters or bearer for said amount on the treasurer of Union County issued this day for county court.J.B. Dawson County Judge
The proposition of building a court house was submitted to the county a number of times and voted down, but in 1857 it was decided in the affirmative by a majority vote, and the contract let to Gordon C. Hollars. It was a two-story frame building twenty by forty and was built at a cost of one thousand seven hundred and fifty-six dollars and seventy-five cents. The court room occupied the first floor and the rooms for the county officials were above. This was at that time the important building of the town of Afton as well as of the county, and besides the business of the county it was used for church and school purposes. The first court house was equipped with a bell as shown by the following record of the board of supervisors.September 4, 1865
A committee on public buildings recommend the board to buy for the county the bell now on the courthouse, paying therefore in addition to the ten dollars contributed by the Baptist church, thirty dollars. Report received and account allowed. Soon after a jail was built adjoining the courthouse. This was constructed of heavy lumber and timbers and was in use about twenty years. Stoves were used for heating and wood for fuel.AFTON MAYORS
|1869||T. M. Robinson||1882||W. E. Pridgen|
|1870||S. W. McElderry||1883||W. E. Pridgen|
|1871||S. W. McElderry||1884||J. T. Beebe|
|1872||S. W. McElderry||1885||J. T. Beebe|
|1873||J. M. Milligan||1886||J. T. Beebe|
|1874||J. M. Milligan||1887||D. Davenport|
|1875||N. W. Rowell||1888||J. M. Milligan|
|1876||N. W. Rowell||1889||N. W. Rowell|
|1877||T. M. Robinson||1890||A. I. Groves|
|1878||T. M. Robinson||1891||A. I. Groves|
|1879||J. A. Grant||1892||H. P. Armitage|
|1880||J. E. Cherry||1893||H. P. Armitage|
|1881||J. E. Cherry||1894||J. M. Milligan|
|1895||A. W. Renshaw||1902||O.E. Davis|
|1896||H. P. Armitage||1903||O. E. Davis|
|1897||J. J. Baxter||1904||J. Knox Hall|
|1898||E. A. Lee||1905||F. P. Bolinger|
|1899||E. A. Lee||1906||F. P. Bolinger|
|1900||A. W. Renshaw||1907||F. P. Bolinger|
|1901||A. W. Renshaw||1908||F. P. Bolinger|
The first physicians located here were doctors James Lewis, A. A. Blanchard, W. B. Davis, J. F. Roberts, C. A. Rockwood, J. T. Beebe, Thomas Hays and L. S. Groves. All of these are now dead except Dr. Groves. After these came doctors J. W. Lauder, W. D. Christy, M. B. Coltrain, E. M. Johnson and A I. Groves. The latter commenced his professional career in this town. He is now deceased.LEGAL PROFESSION
Of the legal profession in Afton there was first of all, Reuben Riggs, a man of great natural ability. He was uneducated yet attained a fair measure of success and commanded the confidence and respect of all the people. J. W McDill, who afterwards occupied the district bench, was elected to the United States senate and appointed by the president to the Inter-State Commerce Commission. James G. Day, who volunteered for the army in 1862, was wounded in battle and discharged. He was elected to the district bench and afterwards to the supreme bench. These, with E. F. Sullivan and N. W. Rowell, constituted the bar of Afton and Union County until the close of the war. E. F. Sullivan is now and has been for many years practicing his profession in Creston. N. W. Rowell is living in honorable retirement in Afton. Then came J. M. Milligan, S. W. McElderry, D. Gregory, Geo. P. Wilson, M.S. Robinson, George S. Smith, N. R. Cook, D. Davenport, A. W. Enoch, P. C. Winter, Jerry B. Sullivan, E. A. Lee, H. P. Armitage and F.A. Shute.
Hon. W. W. Morrow is an Afton production. He was twice elected to the legislature, for a number of years was president of the state agricultural society and is now state treasurer.BANKS
The first bank was established in Afton in 1869, by Hays and Shunk. It was called the Citizens Bank of Afton. Since then Afton has had the First National Bank of Afton, the Afton Bank and the Union County Bank. All of these have ceased to do business. The present Citizens Bank of Afton succeeded, by purchase, the Afton Bank; and the Savings Bank of Afton, of more recent date, are doing the banking business of the community.FLOUR MILLS
In 1860, White & Cantrill built a flouring mill a half-mile north of Afton and some years thereafter purchased this mill and greatly improved it. They continued business at this place for a time and then built a mill structure in Afton and removed the machinery of the old concern to the new location. This was the only mill in Union County for many years.HOTELS
Early in 1857, Joseph Norris built the United State hotel, and in 1860, W. M. Lock built a hotel which was destroyed by fire soon after, leaving the United States hotel the only one in the county. In 1866, Wilson and Dealing purchased this property, enlarged the property to more than double its former capacity, and named it the Occidental. This same year work commenced on the Burlington and Missouri Railroad into his county. This hotel for many years was a bee hive of activity and did large and lucrative business, being for a time at the terminal of the railroad. Later on W. D. McDonald purchased what was known as the "“Barracks," cleaned it up, enlarged it and named it the Madison House. During Mr. McDonald’s occupancy of the hostelry and his successors, Lets and Ream, the Madison was a first class western hotel. The Occidental was destroyed by fire and the Madison was torn down and gave place to the Methodist parsonage. In 1908 the Commercial House, was a substantial brick, ample in size for all demands and a well-kept motel.AFTON NEWSPAPERS
The Afton Eagle, published by Morris and Ryan, in 1859, was the first newspaper published in Afton. Between this and the Star-Enterprise, now (1908) published by A. T. Burrows, is a long list of good, bad and indifferent publications, and concerning most of which memory is at fault. In the good column, however, is classed the Independent American, published by Hon. W. H. Robb, in 1877. Mr. Robb then became publisher of the Morning American, of Creston. The Enterprise was first published by J. J. Baxter, who sold the paper and moved to Oklahoma City.
Some of the noted characters connectedwith the press was James I. Morris who enlisted in the Fourth Iowa Infantry, was transfered to Missouri Cavalry February 1, 1862. He was numbered among the missing of Rolls, Missouri, soon after the transfer. He afterward was the hero of the ":“Lost Lieutenant," a story written and published by J. F. Bishop in the Afton News. L. Raguet, of the ":Reveilled,": the irrepressible joker, now of Marysville, Kansas. Also J. F. Bishop, now publisher of the Grand Army Tribune, of Des Moines, Captain Bishop was mustered in third sergeant, and mustered out as Captain of Company H., Fourth Iowa Infantry.
His regiment served three years, in 1864 and served until close of the war. He went with Sherman&rsquo:s army to the sea and participated in the grand review of Washington city.
The fraternal societies---Masons and Odd Fellows----were organized here in an early day, and through them were shaped largely the social life of our people. And the influence of the church, then as now, was combating the evils of the day.
In 1902, the Union County Veterans Association purchased ten acres of wooded land a quarter of a mile west of Afton, and named it Garfield Park. They at once put this ground into attractive condition, built a large pavilion and other conveniences, and to this the Woman&rsquo:s Relief Corps built an additional structure. Garfield Park is a most beautiful outing place, high and slightly well set with native oaks, hickories and blue grass. Here the Veterans&rsquo:s Association has held its annual reunion each year since its purchase, with the exception of one.AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY
The Union county Agricultural Society was organized in 1858 and the fair was held in the town for several years. The society grew in interest, first occupying leased grounds on "“Twelve Mile Bottom," south of town and afterwards grounds were purchased by the society a mile southeast of town. Here the society held exhibitions annually until 1902, when like most of our county fair societies went into dissolution and sold the grounds.CREAMERY
In 1887, Curtis Brothers established a creamery in Afton, and in 1889, G.W. Kelley purchased the establishment and continued the business for himself until 1895, when the Afton Cooperative Creamery Company incorporated and took over the property. The company continued to operate the concern under the management of Mr. Kelley for several years, when it was leased to the Elgin Creamery Company. Soon thereafter the Elgin Company went into bankruptcy and the institution stood idle for a time. The newly organized Farmer"s Cooperative Creamery Company then took over.BRICK
In 1867, D. J. Spencer undertook the manufacture of brick at Afton, first moulding by hand, then in 1887 by machinery and large kilns for burning. These kilns were still operating in 1908. During 1890 and early into the 1900s the output was two hundred fifty thousand bricks annually. Many of these bricks were used to build in Afton, Creston and surrounding towns. In 1887, Mr. Spencer added to his plant machinery for the manufacture of tile.AFTON CEMETERY ASSOCIATION
The first cemetery of Afton was located directly north of the village, but in the early 1860s it was moved to its present located 3/4 mile northeast of the town. Among the first buried there were two soldiers of the Twenty-ninth Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry, M.A.. Day and J. H. Dual.
In May, 1901, the ladies of Afton formed a cemetery association, the object being to care for and beautifully the cemetery. The officers for the first year were: President, Mrs. D. R. Wright; vice president, Mrs. Fred Fleming; treasurer, Mrs. Anna Rowell, recording secretary, Mrs. Effie Bollinger; corresponding secretary, Mrs. Carried B. Williams; executive committee, Mrs. Glattly, Mrs. Lauder, Mrs. Dietrick, Mrs. Pollock, Mrs. House, Mrs. Huff, Mrs. Scott.
The cemetery was named Greenlawn, and after a few years of anxiety and hard work they have succeeded in making it a beautiful place.
Afton was the county seat of Union County from 1855 until 1890, when the county seat was moved to Creston. For fifteen years the contest was waged between Afton and Creston, and during these years Afton was at a standstill as to building and population. The contest was long and bitter, but a final test came and Afton went down. Her people wiped away their tears, tried to forget the wrongs perpetrated against them, took on new life and courage and from that date the town has grown in size and beauty and is today clean, well kept, displaying more determination to be something and do something than any other town in the state that has had and lost the county seat.