"The History of Decatur County, Iowa: 1839 - 1970"

by Himena V. Hoffman
Published by Decatur County Historical Society, Leon IA, 1970
Decatur County Businesses Late 1880's, Pages 79 - 80
Transcription by Carmelita
A. B. and Dan Stearns of Garden Grove recall Marshall Field in their boast that if you want anything, Stearns have it or will get it for you. While in their earlier days they had been aided by Sylvanus Arnold, by 1885 they were in a position to help others if they wished.

They owned three thousand acres of land in the county, much of it gazing land for their cattle. With L. P. Sigler they had banks at Davis City, Garden Grove, and Leon. They owned a small cheese factory and their store in Garden Grove did an amazing business in general merchandise and groceries. Both A. B. and Dan had fine homes but A. B.'s new home, built at the cost of $8,000, was the show place of the county.

There is little left to recall the glory of the Stearns. the once beautiful Squire Stearns mansion needs much restoration. The P.E.O. Sisterhood do however meet at what was once Lady Amber Inn, the fine hotel built by Squire Stearns and named for a horse of which he was most proud.

There were of course many other businessmen in the county. In fact their number seems quite out of proportion to the population of a county where agriculture was the chief industry.

In Leon in 1870, a town with a population of about one thousand, there were six general stores, two grocery stores, two drug stores, two jewelers, two stove and tinware shops, three blacksmiths, three milliners, three hotels, two printing offices, three wagon makers, one cabinet maker, and one livery stable.

Up at Garden Grove there were two general stores, a drugstore, two hotels, two blacksmiths, and a flour mill. At an earlier period Mallette had a broom factory. At Pleasanton there were four general stores, two hotels, a drug store, a wagonshop, and a shoemaker.

At Decatur there were three, or possible four, general stores, a drug store, a harneshop, a tinware store, and a hotel.

At Davis City, as already mentioned, the activities of John Clark developed business there and its businessmen there grew in number. By 1885 the number of business places had been increased.

Van Wert was established in 1881 after the Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska extended its line to that point. Before that time it had been a small settlement first called Florence, then Prairie City, then Prairieville. Before the railroad reached this settlement there had been a store there owned by John Gammill and a mill which had attracted much attention because its owner attempted to operate it by wind, though in 1881 it was like others in the county, a steam engine mill. Now Gammill's store had competition as W. E. Stone, D. Tharp, and Mark Sanger went into business in newly built stores. Ass time passed more business men came to Van Wert. There was a bank, a newspaper, and even an opera house which was in use until it burned in 1915, as well as other stores and shops. Van Wert was a railroad center for when the Narrow Gauge was built it was a station on that line as well as on the Humeston and Shenandoah, which took over the Missouri-Iowa and Nebraska at this point.

Also on the Humeston and Shenandoah line by 1885 were the new towns of LeRoy, Weldon, and Grand River, each with its quota of businessmen.

LeRoy was built on land that was purchased from E. S. Buffum with the provision that no alcoholic beverages should be sold in the town. Major John Young, Leon attorney and L. P. Sigler, Leon banker, owned the town lots whhich were at once put up for sale. The first building was a general store owned and operated by Flannigan and Ferris.

In 1893 a cheese and butter factory was established. There were twenty-seven names on the articles of incorporation, including E. S. Buffum, H. L. Lillard, John Wylie, Ed Biggs, H. W. Shaw, and A. J. Metier.

In 1880 L. P. Sigler and Major Young, with the financial banking of Drake and Hill of Centerville, purchased land from J. P. Kline for the town site of Weldon. L. C. and F. M. Jamison had the first store. Ledgerwood and Hodges opened the second store. The Bank of Weldon was opened in 1881. To chronicle local happenings the Weldon Witness was started in 1881. A. L. Dilsaver opened a store, Wall and Fippin sold drugs. John Barnard was a blacksmith.

Grand River, too, had its businessmen, for that town built up rather rapidly, after a station on the railroad was established there in 1881. It's first business house was known as the Blue Front. Early settlers were C. H. Chapman, W. J. Beck, and H. C. Jennings, H. P. Brothers was later a businessman. He was a "music man" as well as a businessman as he not only taught music but wrote it. Grand River, too, had its band and its newspaper.
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