Promise City is situated in South Fork Township, on the Missouri, Iowa & Nebraska Railroad, and to this owes its present size and prosperity, though the point was known as “Promise City” many years before the construction of the railroad. The name was thus applied as early as 1852, because several farm residences happened to be quite near each other. This led to the building of a store and the establishment of a postoffice. Among those who were identified with the place before the coming of the iron horse were Jacob Babbitt, yet a resident; “Hi” Evans, who went to Missouri and sold his place to Thomas Anderson; Alvin Martin, who carried on a general store and afterward sold to Thomas Howland, who is yet in business; Michael J. Kinser, a farmer living on the edge of the village, and Dr. Simmons, now of Chariton, who kept a drug store and practiced medicine.
Of course the building of the railroad gave an unusual impetus to Promise City. J. W. Rankins came from Bethlehem with a general stock of goods and opened a store. Tharp & Keller started a drug store, which they have since sold to Charles Manaso. Dr. W. H. Ernest, of Seymour, started a drug store which is now owned by C. A. Sager. A Mr. Stripler started a hardware store which he sold to Duer & Son, and they in turn to Corbin & Co. L. Anderson opened his furniture establishment, still under his management. Sylvester Greenlee started a grocery and still holds forth. Mrs. Wilcox opened a millinery shop and is still here. Noah Scott opened a general store, but afterward sold out and left. Isaac Bowers opened a restaurant and ran it a year or more. Dr. Greenlee started a drug store and ran it a short time. Jack Sharp started a lumber business and yet follows it. Stanton & Robinson built a grain elevator. Willis Carr built the Western Hotel, which is conducted by R. N. Barker.
The village was platted by Burris Moore and Richard Givens in the spring of 1881. It has had few backsets and now has a population of 300, though not yet incorporated.
T. F. Anthony, the present postmaster, was appointed March 1, 1886. His predecessor, T. S. Howland, held the office about fifteen years.
The Promise City Press was started in February, 1884. It is a “special edition” of the Lone Tree Press, of Seymour, and contains about four columns of matter a week pertaining to Promise City.
The first physician was Dr. Simmons, now of Chariton. He came shortly after the war and practiced until 1879, when he sold to Dr. Greenlee. The latter removed to Weldon in 1882. Dr. King Trainer studied with Dr. Simmons, and after two years’ practice went to Kansas. Dr. J. H. Graham came here from Cedar Rapids about 1881, and in 1884 left for Burlington, Kansas. Dr. J. W. Ferguson came in 1881 and Dr. W. H. Everson in 1884, and both are in practice now.
The Presbyterians have held services for some twenty years, Rev. Bringle, of Corydon, officiating. In 1882 they built a church at a cost of $1,200, the Methodists contributing to some extent. Revs. D. R. Hineman and Nugent were the last Presbyterian ministers. The membership of the society is about thirty-five. The Methodists have held services for many years and now use the Presbyterian church. Rev. John Harnard is the present pastor. The membership is about thirty-five. The Disciples church was organized in the spring of 1885, and had services once a month, Rev. Mr. Hickman preaching in the Presbyterian church. At present no services are held. The membership is thirty-two.
An union Sunday-school is maintained, under the charge of Samuel Sharp, the attendance at which is about 100.
The school-house now used was built in 1882, at a cost of $1,700. J. W. Frame is now Principal and Miss Belle Holstein, Assistant. For the year 1885-‘6, 130 pupils were enrolled. The school expenditures amount to $1,000 annually.
Transcribed from the Biographical and Historical Record of Wayne and Appanoose Counties, Iowa – Originally published 1886, Inter-State Pub. Co., Chicago, IL