of Jefferson County
"PERLEE. (See ACHESON) Sec. 33, Penn Township, on the Rock Island RR. P.O. Est. 3 May 1872; Frank J. Demarsh, first postmaster; discontinued 15 Jun 1928; re-est. 7 Nov 1928. James K. Fates was p.m. about 1887, and Douglas E. Coop was p. m. in 1909. Plat, p.23, 1909 Atlas. In 1879 Perlee had a population of 500, three dry goods stores, one grocery, a drug store, a saw-mill, a hotel, blacksmith shops, Presbyterian church, school with two teachers, IOOF and K. P. lodges. Perlee was a "boom and bust" town whose rise and fall followed that of the coal mines in the vicinity. Now only the IOOF Hall and a few dwellings remain. ("A Phantom Town," Ledger, Oct. 25, 1930.)"
"ACHESON. A station of the C. & S. W. RR about six miles
northeast of Fairfield named for Geo. Acheson of Fairfield. P.O.
Est. 13 Dec 1870; Wm. S. P. Pinney, postmaster; discontinued 3 May 1872
when the name was changed to Perlee because of confusion between Atchison,
Kansas, and Acheson, Iowa, by the railroad company."
The above information was compiled by Mary Prill and published in the Hawkeye Heritage, July 1967.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The following story was originally one of a number of articles in the Fairfield Ledger which was later included in the book Villages and Towns of Yester-year in Jefferson County by William R. Baker. We hereby include it on this page with the permission of the Fairfield Ledger.
Names mentioned in this article are as follows:
Russell Simmons; Sam Simmons; Phil Sauer; B. E. Dobras; F. J. Demarsh; Isreal Snook; George Acheson, Esq.; James F. Wilson.
Simmons native of Jefferson County and former
chief of police in Fairfield, can remember when there were a number of
houses in Perlee, also a lodge hall and store, a depot and when the community
was served by two passenger trains daily.
That was well after the period during which the town boasted of a population of over 500 people, had two large coal mines and a number of business establishments.
The Perlee community is located six miles northeast of Fairfield in Penn Township just east of the county paved road from Fairfield to Pleasant Plain.
Simmons was born on a farm 2 1/2 miles northwest of Perlee and lived in that community until he moved to Fairfield in 1956.
He said his father, the late Sam Simmons, and sometimes other members of the family, would board the local train No. 29 in the morning and come to Fairfield to shop, go to the bank or conduct other business. They would have lunch at the Phil Sauer Restaurant for a quarter, and return home in the evening on No. 30. Train fare was 21 cents for adults.
Back in those days it was a long trip to Fairfield and back if the trip wasn't made by train. Major transportation was horse drawn vehicles. Simmons said he had made the trip to Fairfield on a number of occasions by horses and surrey.
Now there is little or no evidence of the once bustling town of Perlee and its coal mines. Only a few houses occupy the area. The store building, depot and a number of homes remembered by Simmons no longer exist.
Even the railroad crossing signal has a sign on it "exempt". The rails are covered over by gravel at the crossing and there have been no trains through the area since the Rock Island Railroad ceased operating in 1979.
Standing at the crossing Simmons could point out locations where his family home once stood, where the store was located and the locations of a number of other homes.
Mr. and Mrs. Simmons operated the store at Perlee for over two years. They took possession in 1930 and during the spring of 1933 the building was destroyed by fire. The building was owned by the Odd Fellows Lodge which occupied the second floor.
The lodge built a new building and the store reopened some time later under new management. The last store operator was B. E. Dobras. It closed for the last time in 1942.
History states that F. J. Demarsh erected a small saw mill in the area as early as 1860. The first house was a log cabin erected by Isreal Snook to accommodate the workmen at the mill.
Prior to that some coal mines had operated on a small scale in the vicinity. The coal was hauled to Washington by team and wagon.
The railroad reached Perlee in 1870 and at once the village began to grow. The Jefferson County Coal Co. was organized that same year and the town was laid out.
A post office was established soon after. The village was named Perlee by the Postal Department in Washington, D.C. Prior to the new name the town had been known as Acheson, named by Demarsh in honor of George Acheson, Esq. of Fairfield.
The Jefferson County Coal Co. owned 300 acres of land and employed 60 men in 1879. James F. Wilson was president of the company.
The Washington Coal Co. was organized in 1876. It owned 200 acres of land and held leases on considerable more. It employed 75 men at one time.
In 1879 Perlee had a population of over 500 inhabitants, it had three dry goods stores, a grocery store, a drug store, saw mill, blacksmith shop and other business establishments.
There was a Presbyterian Church, an Odd Fellows Lodge and Knights of Pythias Lodge. The town supported a school with two teachers and an attendance of 130 scholars. These figures were taken from a history of Jefferson County published in 1879 by the Western Historical Co., of Chicago.
As the years passed the mines played out. The community began to deteriorate. It dwindled to a few homes, a store and a depot. Now they have all disappeared, but a few homes.
Perlee was a community that "lived and died" with its coal mines.
* * * * * * * * * *
Fairfield Ledger, Feb. 16, 1881. p. 3.
PERLEE NOTES. Thursday last was a pleasant day and a LEDGER reporter visited Perlee. The people of that bailiwick were in good health, and some of them were relieved when we gave the assurance that there was no small-pox in this city. Some one in Perlee said there was a case in the Sackett neighborhood, but we had positive information that the small-pox case alluded to was brain fever. William Hupp met with a serious accident in the Jefferson mine on the 10th inst. He was getting one of the small cars in the mine on the track. He succeeded, but was unable to get out of the way. The car caught him against one of the "ribs" or coal pillars in the mine, and broke his right thigh bone a few inches below the joint. He also received some bruises about the head. The sufferer was taken to the Neal House, and Dr. Deardorff called, who telegraphed for Dr. Mohr. The two physicians did all that surgical skill could do for him. Mr. Hupp is about 32 years old, unmarried, and a stout, hearty man. The injury is a bad one, and will compel him to remain idle for some weeks. His healthy physical condition will facilitate his recovery.
It was Jefferson coal company payday, but when we left the place the miners had not come from the mines. The black diamonds scatter much wealth in Perlee. Agent Shearer, of the C., R. I. & P. R. kindly furnished us with the number of cars and their contents shipped from Perlee during 1880. Of coal there were 1472 cars, or 411,150 bushels, making 32,892,000 pounds. The value of this coal at the mines is 7 cents per bushel, making a total of $28,780.50 produced from the Perlee mines. In addition there is a large amount hauled in wagons, of which no record can be readily obtained. These figures are for the Jefferson and Washington mines. There were also shipped from Perlee three cars of sawdust, one of grain and one of apples. Saturday last was payday with the Washington company. The heavy snow drifts prevented Manager Thompson from leaving Fairfield, but he went out on Monday.
Mart Miller has been confined to the house with rheumatism since last September. We found him cheerful and improving slowly. McLaughlin, who was reported last week as having escaped by jumping through a window, walked out of the door and "hied himself away." The stores of Mrs. S. S. Walkup, F. J. Demarsh and the Jefferson company, together with the drug store of Dr. Deardorff, report a good trade.
Return to the Towns Page
Return to the Jefferson County Main Page