IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.

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Clayton county Album

National, Farmersburg twp.

Includes some history of the village of National

National, Iowa

~contributed by Kyle J. Cox
~original source of photo: Historic Iowa Postcard Collection, Special Collections and Archives, Grinnell College Libraries (digital.grinnell.edu)

Morgan Hotel, National, Iowa
(aka National Hotel)

~contributed by Kyle J. Cox
~original source of photo: Historic Iowa Postcard Collection, Special Collections and Archives, Grinnell College Libraries (digital.grinnell.edu)

Kyle's comments:

"My great great grandfather, Cornelius Morgan III, owned the Morgan Hotel in National, Iowa.  He is said to have also built the school in town. One of Cornelius' sons, James Garfield Morgan, also ran the hotel with his father. His other son, Hugh, was my grandmother's father." 

"My paternal grandfather was salesman all his life. My mother told me when grandpa was young he sold sewing machines town to town on a wagon. He was in National when he stayed at a hotel. My grandmother was there, maybe working there (it would have been her grandfather’s hotel). That is how they met. Mom never said Morgan Hotel but from what I can find it was the only hotel in town, at least according the three plat maps I looked at. So I assume they met at the Morgan Hotel."


From the research by Marian H. Beimfohr, printed in the Clayton County Register, 7/27/1983, as part of an advertisement by Central State Bank ....

National, in 1854, was known as Farmersburg. The site was surveyed in 1858 by Norman Hamilton. The first building was a log house which later served as a school building. In 1853 P.R. Moore operated the first store. The Morgan Hotel, two blacksmiths, a shoemaker and steam sawmill made up National's businesses.

National is known as the home of Althea Sherman and E. Amelia Sherman, daughters of the pioneer Edwin Sherman. Althea was world famous for her work in ornithology and E. Amelia studied medicine and received her doctor of medicine degree in 1879 from the University of Michigan. Both sisters retired to National and were buried in the National Cemetery.

An agricultural society was formed in 1853. In 1861 a reorganization meeting of this group was held and it was decided to purchase 10 acres of land at National for the purpose of the Clayton County Fair. the famous old octagonal "Floral Hall" was erected, which served as an exhibition building until 1941.

Note: a picture of the Morgan Hotel appeared in the advertisement, but did not reproduce well on the microfilm image of the original newspaper.

Early History of National
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 Germans.

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 were filled.

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 generation.

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 proud.

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 National.

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 places.

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 supported.

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.



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