A store was built in an early day one mile west of the present village, in Union Township, and a postoffice established. A village was platted and its owners aspired to have it selected as the county seat. This was the first postoffice in the county and dates about 1849 at the time of the Mormon migration. The old “Mormon trace” passed by Cambria and is spoken of by all old settlers. Two or three years later the office was moved a mile south, and several years after it was moved to a point a mile and a quarter east of the present village. Here A. Nelson, a farmer, laid out a village and recorded it as Cambria, in 1855. Everett & Reynolds started a general store, which they subsequently sold to Nelson & Hart, who failed. A. Bridges started a blacksmith shop and ran the same several years and is now in the county infirmary. George Mills had a carpenter shop which was burned. There were also on this site two dwellings and two churches—Baptist and Methodist.
With the building of the railroad through Union Township, in 1879, the present village site was platted by S. K. Rinard. Benjamin Killenbarger built the first hotel and operated it for a year. Leroy McMahon put up the first store. He sold to D. D. Winick, of Chariton, and after the latter’s death the store was leased to Dent Brothers, who now conduct the business. Killenbarger sold his hotel to J. Bowles, and he to Mr. Winick. It is now used as a dwelling by Mr. Dent. Bond & Binford erected the second store. They sold to J. J. Springer, who failed. The building was burned in the fire of 1885. P. R. Miner put up the third store, the upper story of which was designed for a town hall, though it was generally used as a dwelling. For two years this store was used for hardware by E. A. Rea, of Corydon, with Mr. Miner as manager. The latter then bought of Mr. Rea, and put in a general stock of goods. He subsequently failed and Mr. Ray again became owner. The building burned in the fire of 1885. Dicks & Ratcliffe had a grocery and drug store which was burned in the fire. J. N. Dicks has rebuilt and deals in drugs, leasing space to Andrew Tedrick, who has a general stock. M. G. Ratcliffe also has a grocery. Miss Jennie Woollis has a millinery shop. William F. Wilkie keeps the Cambria House, and George Gassett has a hotel. James Helmick was the first blacksmith and sold his shop to Charles Buchanan. David Clark also has a shop.
Leroy McMahon was the first postmaster at the present village. Succeeding him have been Albert E. Dent, P. R. Miner and M. G. Ratcliffe.
The fire before mentioned occurred in the fall of 1885 and started, perhaps accidentally, while burglars were robbing the safe in P. R. Miner’s store. In a short time the devouring element laid low that store, Dicks & Ratcliffe’s store, the barber shop and W. B. Bond’s building (then used only for storing timothy seed). These buildings were partially rebuilt the same autumn.
Dr. J. N. Dicks, the only physician who has resided at Cambria, fixed his residence here about 1877 and is yet in practice.
John Armstrong started his saw-mill and “corn-cracker” in the spring of 1885.
The population of Cambria is about 100 at present.
The Methodists and Baptists moved their churches to town after the new village was well started, and hold services on alternate Sundays. The pastors of the Methodist church for the past few years have been Revs. Wortz, Harris, Shinn, Farlow and Wood. The membership is about 100. Rosie McMahon is superintendent of the Sunday-school, which has an attendance of about thirty. Rev. Edwards preached for the Baptists for about seven years, leaving in 1885. Rev. John Nelson is the present supply. The membership is nearly 100.
Transcribed from the Biographical and Historical Record of Wayne and Appanoose Counties, Iowa – Originally published 1886, Inter-State Pub. Co., Chicago, IL