Under the head of “Early History” is given an account of the location of the county seat, and the laying out of a town to be called Corydon. The growth of the place has always been slow, but it has never retrograded. Though in the past its prosperity has been endangered by the fear of losing the county seat, this question may now be considered settled, and the citizens may be excused for the sanguine hopes they entertain for the future success of the town.
As stated before, George Garman bought the first lot, on which he erected a little store. This is now used for Peter Sallman’s meat market. Joel Phillips was the second to build. He put up the Phillips hotel. This was torn down in 1885, and its site is occupied by the stores of Oscar Rogers and Ben. Miles. Next came one Cade, who kept a grocery and confectionery in a log house on the north side of the square. Richardson & Thornberry put up a grocery on the southwest corners of the square, and operated it four years. Richardson & Hay had the business the next four years, then Samuel Markham took it, and he was succeeded by P. M. Phillips, who moved his stock to Allerton.
John Atkinson built a dry-goods store on the east side of the square. Bonaparte Miller put up a similar store near by, but it was afterward moved to the southwest corners, and Lloyd Selby became a partner in the business. William Drake embarked in the wholesale notion business on the east side. James Carter started a dry-goods store on the southwest corners, where now is Clark & Hamilton’s grocery. Carter was in partnership for many years with a man named Sales, and then they broke up. Another early well-known character was James Baker, who came here with a large family, and built a hotel on the east side of the square, where the American House now stands. Baker was a popular man, and his attractive daughters were a considerable addition to the society of the village. Dr. Purcell’s drug store was another early business house. It stood where Zern’s drug store is now.
These were about all of the early business houses. There were also among the early arrivals other families, some farmers, professional men, county officers, etc. At the close of 1853 the population of Corydon was about 100. For the next fourteen years it grew slowly, and in 1867 it had 300 inhabitants, and was incorporated as a town. The population at different times since has been: 1870, 618; 1875, 672; 1800, 801; 1885, 820.
The building of Allerton, but six miles away, and equally near the geographical center, was a menace to Corydon. In 1874 the people voted upon the merits of the two towns, and while there was a substantial majority for Corydon, the friends of the latter felt it necessary, five years later, to obtain the construction of the Missouri, Iowa & Nebraska Railroad through Corydon, in order to give the latter place advantages equal to those of Allerton. The station is three-fourths of a mile northwest of the square, and the growth of Corydon latterly has been in that direction. The ground is high enough to afford excellent drainage, and is very desirable for residence property. Three very handsome brick residences have gone up in this direction, and more buildings of an equally attractive and permanent character may be expected in the near future.
John Hayes, Jr., was the first postmaster of the county seat. His mail did not usually exceed a handful of letters, and was kept in a box. His successors have been James Carter, Colwell Russell, Randolph Chenoweth, William Hartshorn, William Boyle, I. N. Peck, George Albertson, B. T. Raisor, Al. Smeenk, S. W. Miles, H. H. Lusher and J. S. Whittaker.
The county had constructed, in 1856, a court-house and jail northeast of the square. The court-house was a frame structure, 24 x 36 and cost $600. It was two stories in height. The county offices, three in number, were in the upper story, and the court-room below. This latter was used until about 1870, and the offices remained two or three years longer. The building was sold and moved out of town in 1876. It is now a farm house, and known as the “Selby building.” Court was then held in different churches, afterward in Abel’s Hall, and since 1882 in Hughes’s Hall. The county offices were removed from the old court-house to their present rented quarters n the brick block southwest of the square in 1874.
The jail was built of logs in three tiers, one perpendicular, then one horizontal and then one perpendicular. It was afterward sided up and painted. It has long been considered unsafe, and for three or four years past the county’s boarders have been kept in the Lucas County jail at Chariton.
The officers of Corydon for the year 1886-‘7 are: Mayor, W. M. Littell; Recorder, L. M. Phillips; Assessor, C. G. Neson; Treasurer, W. C. Browning; Street Commissioner, J. M. Young; Marshal, James Todd; Trustees, D. A. J. Sargent, Hartley Bracewell, J. W. Freeland, W. G. Clark, B. T. Miles and C. W. Steele.
The first school building at Corydon was a frame structure erected not far from 1857, to which an addition was made fifteen years later. It contained four schoolrooms after the addition was made. The building has been remodeled for a dwelling, and stands on the second block south of the square. The present brick building is a very handsome edifice, erected in 1880 at a cost of $13,000. It stands about two blocks west of the square, and contains six rooms, besides office and hallways. It is 60 x 90 on the ground, two stories and basement in height. It is ninety-two feet to the summit of the tower. The course of study is very thorough, and the students are prepared for any college in Iowa.
Six teachers are employed, besides the principal. The roll for 1885-‘6 includes C. W. Martindale, Principal; George O. McBroom, Assistant; Maggie Jeffries, Grammar grade; Mrs. George Hammack, Intermediate grade; Sarah Martin, Second Primary; Mary Pritchard, First Primary. The enrollment is about 300. Eight months school is held in each year. The annual expenditures for school purposes amount to $4,000. The present School Board includes W. F. Howell, James Harper, E. A. Ray, F. M. Everett, Uriah Welch and Alexander Mardis, the last named being president; C. W. Steele is secretary.
The first sermon preached in Corydon was by Morgan Parr, one of the pioneers in Wayne County, in 1852.
The Baptist Church, the oldest in Corydon, was organized in 1854. Among the first members were J. W. Lancaster, John Ritchie, John Atkinson and Anna Miles. Rev. Mr. Sea was the first Pastor, remaining but a short time. His successors have been Revs. Andrew Green, J. L. Cole, Martin, Swallow, Martin, Newell, Archey, Spring and Carpenter. The last named commenced his labors here in 1885. The church was erected in 1868, at a cost of nearly $2,000. The society has now about forty members. The attendance at Sunday-school is from fifty to sixty. Miss Theodosia Beal is now superintendent. This position was for many years held by C. G. Nelson.
The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized as a mission in 1856, and the following year purchased a church which has been begun by the United Brethren in 1855. The pastors have been in succession, Revs. B. F. Williams, Spooner, T. D. Sweem, Z. R. Piercy, B. Shinn, Jacob Delay, J. M. Baker, W. F. Hestwood (1867-‘9), E. H. King (1869-’72), W. F. Bartholomew (1873-‘6), Fred Harris (1876-‘8), C. C. Mabee (1878-‘9), D. Austin (1879-’81), H. C. Langley (1881-‘2), J. D. Moore (1882-‘3), W. F. Bartholomew (1883-‘6). The house of worship now in use is the handsomest in Corydon, and the only brick church. It was commenced in the autumn of 1882, and dedicated in July, 1883. Its cost was $7,000. The membership of the society is about 150. J. S. Harlan has been for eighteen years past the efficient superintendent of the Sunday-school, which has an attendance of 125.
The Presbyterian Church was organized in 1857. In 1860 T. W. Riley purchased an unfinished church from the Disciples’ society, and presented it to the Presbyterians. Rev. J. P. Bringle, formerly of Decatur County, served the society from its organization until 1882, when he resigned. Since then W. P. Braddock preached in the summer of 1884, and W. M. Devoe in the summer of 1885. No services are held at present. W. P. McClanahan was the last superintendent of the Sunday-school.
The United Presbyterian Church was organized about 1857, and held occasional services in the old court-house until the following year, when it built a frame church in the northern part of the village, at the cost of $2,200. Rev. Leonard Proudfit ministered to the congregation from 1867 to 1884, since when no services have been held. The society is now much reduced in numerical strength, and there is little prospect for better times.
The following are now active: Corydon Lodge, No. 91, A. F. & A. M.; Corydon Lodge, No. 103, I. O. O. F.; Hawkeye Lodge, No. 81, K. P.; Corydon Lodge, No. 83, G. T.; and Robert Jackson Post, No. 192, G. A. R.
Following are the business firms of 1886:
J. S. Hardin, general store; L. C. Jordan, dry goods; B. T. Mills, general store; W. G. Clark, grocery; Clark & Hamilton, grocery; C. A. Booth, grocery; E. A. Ray, hardware; S. D. Zerns, drug store; W. S. Sproatt, drug store; O. K. Rogers, drug store; H. M. Belvel, restaurant; I. H. Harris, restaurant; J. P. Horton, boots and shoes; Mrs. E. J. Dickinson, millinery; Mrs. J. W. Frame, millinery; W. W. Holstein, furniture; J. W. Law, furniture; Broadbent & Roof, blacksmiths; A. Trinkhaus, blacksmith; John Ripper, blacksmith; James Ray, wagon shop; John Tommy, Barber; Peter Sallman, meat market; W. G. Riley, harness; E. S. Riley, harness; W. P. McClanahan, dentist; J. W. Whitaker, postmaster; J. M. Bullard, elevator and feed mill; I. H. Meekings, Meekings Hotel; S. S. & J. E. Wright, Palace Hotel; Moore & Lazer, livery; Hand & Richardson, livery; Wayne County Bank; Farmers and Merchants’ Bank; J. A. White & Co.’s Bank.
Transcribed from the Biographical and Historical Record of Wayne and Appanoose Counties, Iowa – Originally published 1886, Inter-State Pub. Co., Chicago, IL