by Mrs. Etta Matt, formerly of National
The earliest history of National that I have been able
to gather from some of our residents (older) dates back
to the year of 1876 or thereabouts. National at that time
had a population of nearly two hundred souls; some good,
some not so good, a small two story school building of
two rooms, one church, used by the Methodists and
Congregationals, two blacksmith shops, two stores, a shoe
repair shop and last but not least, a good saloon.
Farmers, mostly Americans, were later replaced by
The old school house had a winding staircase which from
long use got weak in the knees and the building too small
to hold the growing families. It was sold to Edwin
Sherman and used for a barn across the street from the
Wally Matt home.
The present school house was built on the site of the old
one. The two lower rooms were filled to over-flowing, for
at this time it was very popular for parents to have
large families, very often six or seven pupils from one
home; one or two pupils from a home was considered
somewhat of a disgrace. Teachers were generally good,
pupils not so good. One teacher laid a young man on the
floor and held im there until he cried
"enough". At this time ever seat in both rooms
One of the stores kept both groceries and dry goods. C.C.
Lang was the owner. In the basement was a saloon and a
real one. It is history that one day when the place was
well filled, the crowd dared one of their number to run
from the saloon up the street to the church and back
without any clothing on. This he did and when he had run
his naked race some one entered a complaint; he was fined
$25.00 for his immodest exposure.
In the early days the Fair Grounds at National was bought
and built up and an organization started. This was
largely due to the efforts of Norman Hamilton and a few
of his pioneers and is still a source of interest to this
Another society of the early days was the Horse Thief
Association to protect owners of horses. One farmer who
owned a valuable team awoke one morning to find them
gone. Members of the society started in different
directions to over-take the guilty party. Three started
on the road to Postville and when they inquired near to
the town, they found the team in the barn. The man who
went in the house to capture the thief found his own
brother-in-law. The thief was Henry Clark captured by Tom
White. A good joke but real story.
The well-chosen site of the National Cemetery by the
early settlers and the good care given it at the present
time make it a place of beauty of which we should all be
About 1880 trouble came to the union church. The
Methodists could no longer live with the Congregational's
forgetting when they got to Heaven they would both be in
the same place. Things go so hot the Congregationals
finally left and built the present church, mostly through
the efforts of Edwin Sherman, a fine Christian gentleman.
The school board, initally, one happy day, gave their
consent to allow the young people to use the "Upper
Room" of the school house for dances. Oh what a joy!
The first dance, I believe, was given by Charles Kreuther
and Ben Ballon. One fine night in June they danced until
the first rays of the rising sun shone in the East. The
beautiful belles and gallant beaus of National in the
early 1890's could no doubt keep up if not run ahead of
the present generation as they danced and flirted away
the happy hours. This was real society in the early
James Jack sold fanning mills and lived on the present
Theo Matt place. He had a building on the east side where
he kept the fanning mills which were manufactured by N.K.
Nilliver at McGregor.
The old school house was built right in front of the
present one. Must be all of 85 or 90 years ago. Later it
was moved to the Ed Sherman lots and made into a barn,
which would be across from Wally Matt's home. the barn
opened up right on the roadway. The present school was
first built as a township school but never became
illustrious. There were the Sherman family, Renshaw
family, Dr. Gen. White, Dr. Elmer Buck, Dr. J.D.
Brownson, George Hamilton (who was the author of the
"Iowa Corn Song"), and Martin Daulton who as an
orphan had lived at the Brownson home and became a noted
engineer and was a pupil of Althea Sherman when she was a
teacher at National.
Dr. Hollingsworth was the only Doctor. His home was
across from the Sherman home. His daughter Gusta taught
the Equity school and walked back and forth to teach.
Minnie, another daughter also taught at National.
Also Inez Woodward was a teacher, my first. Her home was
on a street going east from the Morgan Hotel where there
were several houses - the Wallace Demo house and Lyman
Wallace home. Mrs. Lyman Wallace took care of the mothers
and babies and went to many homes (she took care of me)
with Dr. Hollingsorth for the doctor. She was also at the
Crary home caring for the little folks and many other
National had board sidewalks from north of the Hotel
Morgan where the home of a Mr. Collar and wife lived, to
the Sherman girls' home. Part of the walks were just a
plank laid down. Board walks were laid on the street ging
east from the Kreutter wagon shop.
At one time years ago some people thought the world would
come to an end and many would prepare for this. Mr.
Gooding did, and the day was announced through the
newspapers that a certain time had arrived. So Mr.
Gooding put the blacksmith shop in order one evening and
got ready for the end to come. Next morning he had to get
his tools out and start working so the family would be
The store that the Kreutter's owned, and later Guy Morgan
was owner, was built by David Smith, grandfather of the
Wright boys. They owned 500 acres of land in Center
Grove, now part of the Wahls farm. They sold out and came
to National, built a big home across from the Sherman
home and also the sotre down on the crossing. The store
was run by the Smiths, Kreutters and later Guy Morgan
until it burnt down.
The Methodist and Congregational church were well
attended, always a big Sunday School, and fine singing.
There were many good singers and musicians among the
young people. At one time National had the reputation of
having the best looking girls anywhere around.
A small blacksmith shop and the home of Mr. Hudson was on
a small lot west of the school house, where the boys
played ball. It went over the fence and into their
garden. There were many rose bushes growing next to the
entrance gate and sidewalks. Mrs. Hudson used to call our
dresses "frocks" which we thought very old
fashioned. The Hudson's were Mrs. Morgan's parents. Mr.
Hudson lost an arm in early life.
~Clayton County Register, Wednesday, February
10, 1988; pg 5
~transcribed by S. Ferrall
Transcriber's note: Etta (Gossman) Matt was the wife of
Theodore 'Theo' Matt. She died in 1971 and is buried in
the National cemetery with her husband. The date when she
wrote this history of National appearing here is unknown.