Dexter History

Excerpt from The History of Dallas County, Iowa, published in 1879 by the Union Historical Company of Des Moines, Iowa

This enterprising business town is situated in the southwest corner of Union township, Dallas county, Iowa, near the four corners of sections 29, 30, 31 and 32, the principal part of the town being on the northeast quarter of section 31, and the north half of this last mentioned quarter-section comprised the original town plat of 80 acres, township 78, range 29.

The town was surveyed and platted in June, 1868, by M. J. Marshall and A. Kimball.  The lots were sold at private sale by Messrs. Marshall & Kimball, none being deeded to the railroad company, except, perhaps, a portion for depot purposes.  The first lot in town was sold to Hunter Brothers, for $100, size 40x135 feet, in July, 1868.

 Cheeseman & Ellis sold the first goods in the town very soon after it was laid out. Their store building stood on lot 19, block 9, a frame structure. A number of other store buildings had been started, but were not yet completed when Cheeseman & Ellis opened their store and commenced selling goods in a small, low, one-story plank shanty, which stood a few doors east of where Stanley's drug store now stands. It is supposed that the first birth, as also the first death, in town, was that of a child of John Howard, born in 1869, and lived only a short time. Regarding the early settlement and business affairs of Dexter we present the following portion of an article clipped from the Dexter Herald of January 3, 1879.

"About the first death in town was that of a little boy named Miller, who was thrown from the platform of a car, as he was getting off, one of his limbs being crushed almost off, several wheels passing over him. He lived a few days in great pain, and then died. Some eye-witnesses say it was one of the saddest sights ever witnessed.

   "The town was laid out by M. J. Marshall, in the spring or summer of 1868, the first building being built in June of that year. The second building was built by Mr. Roland, and is the building now owned and occupied by Charles Wolffinger as a business house and dwelling. The next was built by Messrs. Ellis & Cheeseman, who sold the first goods that were sold in Dexter, both dry goods and groceries, and as there was no boarding house they did a good business in sel1ing crackers and cheese, as that was all that could be had to replenish the inner man. Hunter Bros.  soon had their business house up, and brought on a stock of drugs and groceries.

     "Their place of business was where J. G. Stanley now holds forth, though the building is not the same, as it was burned up, together with several others, in the fall of 1870.

      "All the lumber used so far in building was hauled from Des Moines by teams.

     "In the meantime B. B. Campbell built a boarding house 16x24 feet, and was so well patronized that at times some of the boarders would have to wait out of doors while others would eat. In August of this year, 1868, the cars made their first appearance in Dexter, and it wasn't long then till houses were looming up all over town. For awhile it was very difficult to get the railroad company to ship lumber in, as they had so much work of their own to do.

    "About the 25th of August J. C. Allen built the red warehouse, now owned by D. A. Burrows. The lumber in it was the first shipped into Dexter by railroad. This building was used by the railroad company as a depot until the present depot was built, when J. C. Allen used it as a grain warehouse, where he bought and shipped the first car load of grain that was ever shipped from Dexter. There was no grain but wheat to ship then, as corn had to be brought from further east to use here.

    "As there was as yet but little accommodation for man or beast, and there was need for both, J. .J. Young concluded to build a hotel and J. C. Allen a livery stable; so Mr. Young built the building long known as the Dexter House, but now known as the Johnston House."


     The following list of business houses and firms, as they stood at the beginning of the year 1879, is also clipped from the Dexter Herald of the same date:

Physicians.-A. W. Vance, office at residence on State street; E. J. Smith, office corner Dallas and Marshall streets, over Will Young's drug store; E. F. Linton, office corner Polk and Marshall streets, over Stanley's drug store; Robert Evans, office in residence.

Attorneys.-C. A. Berger, office over Pierce's bank; G. W. Seevers, office over Stanley's drug store; S. O. Simonds.

Insurance Agents.-E. Battey, station agent for the C., R. I. & P. R. R., and agent for several insurance companies, office at depot; C. A. Berger, agent for several insurance companies, office over Pierce's bank.

Real Estate and Loan Agents.-J. C. McManima, office at Herald office; B. Battey, office at depot.

Notaries Public.-J. A. Carrothers, office at post-office; C. A. Berger, office over Pierce's bank.

Justice of the Peace.-J. A. Carrothers, postmaster and justice of the peace.
Banks.-G. G. Pierce, brick building, corner Dallas and Marshall streets.

Dry Goods.-Downey & Conger, earner Dallas and Marshall streets; W. M. Isham, corner Polk and Marshall streets; Rimer & Crane, north side of Polk street; L. Frank & Co., north side of Polk street.

Groceries.-S. D. Clark. Marshall street, west side; S. Swihart, west side Marshal street, opposite post-office; P. Brower, north side Polk street.

Hardware.-Meisker & Conger, brick block, west side Marshall street; J. H. Aten & Bro., east side Marshall street, one door north of post-office.

Furniture.-J. F. Watts, east side Marshall street, three doors north of post-office.

Drugs. -J. G. Stanley, corner Polk and Marshall streets; W. G. Young. successor to E. J. Smith, corner Dallas and Marshall streets.

Jewelry.-Ed Gittins, in W. G. Young's drug store, jeweler and dealer in clocks, watches, etc.; J. G. Stanley, in drug store. .

Clocks.-Ed Gittens, in W. G. Young's drug store; S. O. Davis, south side Dallas street.

Bakery.-E. A. Small, Marshall street, opposite Pierce's bank.

Restaurants.-E. A. Small, city bakery; Mrs. M. Connolly, Marshall street, Green Front; John Charles, Oriental Restaurant, south side Polk street.

Agricultural Implements.-J. B. Vorse, near depot; F. A. Small, near depot; Meisker & Conger, in bank block.

Coal Dealers.-Burke & Vorse, implement warehouse, near depot; J. H. Aten & Bro., in hardware store, north of post-office; M. Percy, at grange elevator; W. R. Maulsby, at Dexter mill

Lumber.-J. T. Van Orman, opposite grange elevator.

Grain.-F. A. Small, at steam elevator; M. Percy, at grange elevator; J. M. Burke, at implement warehouse; W. R. Maulsby, at Dexter steam mill.

Dexter Steam Mill.- W. R. Maulsby, proprietor.

Livery.-O. R. Spencer, opposite mill.

Feed Stables.-O. R. Spencer, opposite mill; C. G. White, in red livery stable.

Hotels.-Johnston House, near depot, O. P. Johnston, proprietor; Gilpatrick House, Dallas street, O. Hemenway, landlord.

Butter-packing.-L. B. Libley, north side Polk street.

Newspaper.-The Dexter Herald, opposite post-office, J. C. McManima, proprietor.

Millinery.-Miss I. M. Work, Marshall street, four doors north of postoffice; Mrs. Cherry, Marshall street, two doors north of post-office; Mrs. C. L. Holmes, Polk street.

Shoe-making.-A. Cowan, Dallas street; H. Pohle, dealer in boots and shoes, Dallas street; Wm. Cooney, Dallas street. Backsmithing.-A. S. Welch, shop north side of Polk street; Purdon & Wilson, shop south side of Polk street.

Tailoring.- Wm. Dona, Dallas street.

Coffins.-D. Hammond, Dallas street

Photograph Gallery.-Clifford & Bailey, over Small's bakery.

Meat-markets.-Homan & Ritcher, Polk street; F. P. Wood, Dallas street.
Saloons.-C. Wolffinger, Polk street; P. Hendeiff, Marshall street.

Barber Shop.-O. W. Henry, Polk street, opposite implement warehouse.

Harness Shops.-F. P. Young corner Marshall and Polk streets; Larkin Maulsby, Polk street.

Carpenters and Builders.- W H. Stevens, F. A. Bisbee, Ed Rugg, L. M. Grant.

     Dexter was incorporated December 13, 1870. The petition for incorporation was heard by Judge Mitchell, of the Circuit Court, and granted, and C. T. P. Bass, J. G. Mark, O. P. Williams, S. N. Stevens and Sol. Rimer were duly appointed as commissioners on corporation and corporation elections. In the following spring the first town election was held in Dexter, and G. K. Rockwood was duly elected as the first mayor of the town. All the commissioners except Charles Bass are now residents of Dexter. At the time of incorporation it is said "the town had a little over five hundred inhabitants, and was growing rapidly." It now claims a population of about 1,000.

Present town officers are:

Mayor-J. S. Downing.
Treasurer-Sol. Rimer.
Recorder-Charles W right.
Marshal- W. H. Stevens.
F. S. Small,
Conrad Homan,
J. F. Watts,
A. N. Tate,
J. T. Thrasher.
Justice-J. A. Carrothers.
Constable- W, H. Stevens.


During the past year the following shipments were made from the depot at Dexter:

(400 bushels to the car.)

143 cars

Corn 650 cars
Oats 29 cars
Barley 3 cars
Potatoes 5 cars
Broom Corn 2 cars
Horses 1 car
Hogs 1 car
Cattle 17 cars
Butter 98,500 pounds

The above statistics were kindly furnished by the station agent, Mr. B. Battey.


     Was established at Dexter in the fall of 1868: Mr. Carrothers was deputized to take charge of the office September 24, 1869, and continued in that capacity until May 16, 1870, when he was duly appointed postmaster, and has held that office ever since.


     Situated one-half mile south of town, was laid off about 1870. The lot is owned and controlled by the corporation, and is a beautiful location for a cemetery.


     This building is located at the north end of Marshall street, Allen's addition. It was built in 1870, at a cost of about $5,500. It is a frame two-story building, well finished and furnished, having two wings and five rooms, and over 200 pupils are in attendance. Five teachers are employed, two male and three female. Principal, Ira Doling; Grammer [Grammar] department, A. C. Holderbaum; Intermediate, Clara C. Lacey; Primary, Miss Julia K. Raycraft; Assistant, Miss Hannah Neal.

     The school is in a flourishing condition, and well sustained by the citizens.


M. C. Marshall, President; A. N. Tate; Charles Crane; J. C. McManima; N. Angle.

     It is an independent school district, and affairs are well managed, so that the district is out of debt, and has a small surplus on hand, which doubtless will soon be increased and expended in the erection of a new and more commodious public school-building, in keeping with the growth and development of the live enterprising town. Good salaries are paid, and the best teachers are employed by the board, thus warranting a thorough and satisfactory school, in which the citizens take a deep interest, and spare no efforts or means to make it a success.


     Was started in 1875, and they now have an average attendance of twenty-five to twenty-eight pupils.

Rev. J. Horn, teacher.

     The school-building was erected in 1875, at a cost of $800, furniture included. It is a one-story frame structure, 22x32 feet, and 12 feet high; capable of seating about 200 persons. This building is also used for their church services.


     This building is now under process of erection, the work on it having been commenced in October, 1878. The foundation is now laid, and it is expected the structure will be completed, finished and furnished during the coming summer, and ready for use in the fall or winter. It is to be a large brick building, 57x67 feet, three stories high, with half-mansard roof, tower, and all the modern improvements in like structures. The entire building will be heated by hot air pipes, and, as nearly as now can be estimated the cost will be about $6,000. The architect (is Benjamin J. Bartlett, of Des Moines, and the building is being erected by a stock company, comprising the business men of Dexter and farmers from Dallas, Guthrie, Madison, and Adair counties.

     The officers of the company are: President - J. C. Allen, Dexter; Vice-President - M. Percy, Dexter; Treasurer - A. N. Tate, Dexter; Secretary - E. J. Smith, Dexter.

     The board of directors are: J. C. Allen, M. Percy, A. N. Tate, E. J. Smith, James Simonds, Leverett Brown and A. C. Holderbaum.

     The building is located at the north end of Marshall street, Allen's addition, near the public school-building, and the company own about three acres of ground in connection with the building.

     The intention of the company is to lease the building when finished to teachers of known ability in their profession and stability of character, who will make of it a most valuable institution of learning for the entire western portion of Iowa.


     Dexter Lodge, No. 215, I. O. O. F.-This Lodge was organized at an early day under Charter, with the following as Charter members: M. C. Marshall, M. Macy, A. J. Welker, J. E. Roper, E. S. Fry, and J. J. Davies, making six in all, four of whom received office at the first election.

     The following are the names of the Charter officers: James E. Roper. N. G.: M. C. Marshall, V. G.; J. J. Davies, Secretary; A. J. Welker, Treasure.

     The present officers are: M. Macey, N. G.; Edward Giddings, V. G.; M. C. Marshall, R. S.; W. H. Stevens, P. S.; C. Homan, Treasurer.

     The present membership is forty-two. The Lodge meets each Wednesday evening. The hall is located on the corner of Marshall and Polk streets.

     Mount Tabor Lodge, No. 293, A. F. & A. H.-This Lodge was organized under Charter June 7, 1871. The following are the names of the Charter officers: C. T. Bass, W. M.; Sol. Rimer, S. W.; J. E. Roper, J. W.

     There were several other Charter members whose names are not recorded and cannot now be obtained. The present membership is thirty-six, and they hold their regular meetings in their hall, corner of Polk and Marshall streets, on or before the full moon of each month.

     The present officers are: J. A. McBride, W. M.; E. J. Smith, S. W.; A. N. Tate, J. W.; J. F. Watts, Treasurer; J. H. Aten, Secretary; J. N. Main, S. D.; W. J. Nolan, J. D.; C. Vermillion, Tyler.

     Dexter Grange, No. 185, was organized in the spring of 1872, with 26, members. The present officers are: J. R. Chandler, Master; M. Macy.

     Overseer; M. Perry, Lecturer and Treasurer; John Watts, Steward; A. C. Macy, Assistant Steward; F. M. McPherson, Chaplain; Nicholas Ogle, Secretary; E. M. Lindsey, Gate Keeper.

     The Association meet every second Saturday of each month.


     Is a German Lutheran Church, organized in 1871, by Rev. F. Doescher, with nine members, whose names were as follows: Ed. Meisker, Nicholas Schlarb, Peter Schlarb, H. D. Holderbaum, Michael Holderbaum, Michael S. Holderbaum, Ferdinand Rohde, Charles Wolffinger and Philip Guthei1. The membership now numbers twenty-four, and the church is in a flourishing condition, under the leadership of their present Pastor, Rev. J. Horn, who is also the teacher of their school. They hold services in their school-building every other Sabbath, with good attendance.

     This church belongs to the Synod of Missouri, Ohio and other States.

     They also have a good parsonage in connection with their association, which is located just north of the school-building, at the south end of Marshall street.


     Is a neat little edifice, but there is now no organization or preaching by that denomination in town.


     The following sketch regarding this church was furnished through the kindness of the Pastor, Rev. T. N. Buchanan:

     "The Presbyterian Church of Dexter was organized November 8, 1868, by Rev. P. H. Jacob, of Knoxville, Iowa. The original members were six in number, and their names are as follows: Mr. Joseph Hunter, Mrs. Annie Hunter, Miss Fannie O. Hunter, Mr. Jonathan Hunter, Mr. David B. Hunter and Mr. Jerry Carrothers.

     "Rev. D. L. Hughes was their first minister. Be began his labors on the first of September, 1869, and continued until March, 1870. Rev. B. O. Junkin succeeded Hughes, beginning his labors in May, 1870, and continued to minister to that people until May, 1871. In September, 1871, Rev. H. H. Kellogg was called to the pastorate and continued in that relation until March 5, 1876. Rev. W. F. Frackelton succeeded Kellogg, and began to minister to the Dexter Presbyterian Church, as stated supply, in April, 1876, and continued his labors for six months.

     "Rev. T. N. Buchanan became stated supply to this church in June, 1877, and was ordained and installed pastor, November 7, 1877.

     "During the ten years since its organization, it has had five ministers, two of whom were pastors, the latter still continuing his pastoral relations to that people.

     "At the organization, David Hunter and Jerry Carrothers were chosen to the office of Elders. The present incumbents of that office are Charles Crane and Robert Williams. The present membership is thirty-four. The present condition of the church is good, and it is making fair progress. The church building, located on the corner of State and Lyon streets, was built in the fall of 1870. The building is 32x46, and cost $2,300."


     Was organized in August, 1869, with the following members:

     John R. Chandler, Charlotte Chandler, Albert Macy, Susan Macy, Will. J. Haines, Elizabeth A. Haines; Hannah Couch, B. F. Tate, Louisa Tate, Elizabeth Jameson, E. J. Farholm, E. A. Roland, J. F. Watts, Mary Watts, Charles Russell, Sarah A. Russell, Margaret Stephens, Robert Dwigans, Margaret Dwigans, Joanna Dwigans, Ann E. Dwigans, Robert J. Watts, Margaret Watts, Mary Price, Silas Lightner, Helen Lightner, R. A. Sire, Rachael Barnett, James Simonds, Eliza Simonds, Francis Jones, Barbara. Jones, James Thrasher, Elizabeth Thrasher, Susan Davis, Ruth May, A. .Johnson, Elizabeth Stephens, Peter Brower and Martha Brower-40.

     The names of the pastors who have been over this church from its organization until the present, are as follows:

Rev. James Lisle Appointed August, 1869.
Rev. D. Lamonte Appointed September, 1870.
Rev. James Lisle Appointed 1871 -1872.
Rev. Charles Ashton Appointed September, 1873-1874
Rev.T.Burk October, 1875- September, 1876.
Rev.L. Jean 1877 -October, 1878.

     "The last mentioned is the present incumbent, and to him we are indebted for the statistics herein set forth regarding this church.

     The present membership of the church is 140.

     They have a good church building well finished and furnished, which was built about 1872, at a cost of $3,500, and was dedicated January 25, 1873, by P. P. Ingalls.


     The town has one good newspaper, The Dexter-Herald, the history of which is found in the article of "The Press," in the general history.

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