By Helen Fullard

If you blink as your are driving along you might miss Chickasaw, but once upon a time it was a thriving community. Then "due to politics," said Neil Hughes of Ionia, "the railroad was laid through Ionia and Bassett bypassing Chickasaw."

That was in 1868 when Chickasaw had a church, three stores, two saloons, a coopershop, two hotels, two mills, the quarry, a postoffice in one of the stores, and one of the two -- 2-room rural schools in the county. The train whistle blowing just one mile north of town blew the death toll for Chickasaw, locatged just southeast of Bassett.

Three of the buildings were moved from Chickasaw and are now the shoe shop, Dick's store and the tavern at Ionia. The school house is now used by the Chickasaw County Fish and Game Club. The mills are gone. The church is still standing, well preserved by the Chickasaw Historical Society, but the store that housed the postoffice is just a shabby skeleton of its former self and springs have filled the quarry making it a swimming hole.


Chickasaw was settled in 1850 by Jerome Watson and James and Joseph Lee who built the first houses. During 1851 and 1852 James Frazee and John Campbell came to this section of northeast Iowa, and then Abram Cagley, Russell Baldwin, Hines, Keesley, Hoffman, Bishop, and Hammond, and G.W. Rowley moved to the new settlement.

In 1854 Chickasaw was platted and William Tucker opened the first store and became the town's first notary public in 1855. It was a time of expanding for Chicakasaw with Gaddes as the carpenter and Cal Goddard, the town's first regular shingle maker. To preserve law and order there was A. E. Bigelow who had arrived in 1853 and became the country sheriff in 1857-58. He owned the inn at Chickasaw.

Brink, the first postmaster, had to go to Cedar Falls for the mail, but on April 4, 1854, Chickasaw acquired its own postoffice with George W. Rowley as postmaster.

Then Mrs. C.A. Hayden became postmistress at Chickasaw and served until the postoffice was discontinued on January 14, 1904. Left a widow when she was 21 years old, Mrs. Hayden supported her three children from the proceeds from the store.


Hughes talks about the days when this store was a busy spot with a gasoline pump out front. He remembers when five carloads of pancake flour a week were ground at the mill.

Horace Hulich, 63, who lives in one of the old houses of Chickasaw worked in the mill. He remembers the time there was a flood and the men were marooned for seven days in the mill. They sent one fellow out -- not as a dove in search of an olive branch -- but to get a spider and eggs to fry.

As a boy, Hughes lived in the octagon-shaped house that is a stone's throw from the Chickasaw Conservation Park.. Built of native stone the lower part of the house was built a hundred years ago by Johnnie Stocks, an Englishman, the upper part was started in 1870 and finished in 1873. No one seems to know just why he chose this particular shape for his dwelling.

A kitchen and summer kitchen were added much later. The four rooms downstairs are irregular in shape with the stairway in the center of the building. There are four rooms upstairs. The windowsills throughout the house are two feet wide. "It was an easy house to heat," said Hughes who lived there for 37 years.


The house is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Louis Link. The stones on the outside walls have fossil imprints and it seems that everyone who lived there has carved his name and the year on one of the stones.

The church was built in 1884 for less than $400. Now the property of the Chickasaw Historical Society, it is the scene of the Old Settlers picnic every year. The upstairs is preserved "in fine shape," said Hughes, and several of the old settlers have requested burial from this church they knew so well in their youth.

The old store has been recently bought by Leland Averitt, who came from Chicago with his family. A retired construction foreman, he has lived in a trailer-house wherever his work had taken him, and was anxious to settle in a permanent home, and came to Iowa in February 1966. He wanted his daughters, age 16 and nine, to live where they could see grass and trees, and have the advantage of country living.

He has plans to remodel the store. "I'm going to take off the porch," he said, "and make a patio out front."

When he bought the store he found the abstract was not in proper legal form and while he has been waiting for the lawyers to get it untangled he has planted a garden.

"I told them at the bank, I'll be doing the remodeling a few dollars' worth at a time."


The oldest resident living in Chickasaw is Mrs. O. Pratt Hammond, the former Iva Hayden, who was born there 81 years ago.

The chances are you won't blink when you go through Chickasaw because the rolling countryside is so beautiful. When you get to the bridge you'll probably stop at the Chickasaw Conservation Park where the river sparkles as it splashes around the rocks of the old dam and the remains of the mill spillway. At the park too, you'll see the lake formed by the springs in the old quarry, a silent reminder of the says when Chickasaw was thriving.

Source: Clipping from unknown, undated newspaper submitted to IAGenWeb/Chickasaw by Kathy Christensen. Iva Hayden was born in 1885, so the estimated year of the newspaper clipping is 1966.

HTMLization by Kermit Kittleson, Oct. 20, 2016