Abstracted and updated from a town history written by Ivan Arthur in 1962.
| R. T. Jones wrote a letter in 1877 to the president of the Rock Island Railroad Co. saying it would be convenient to the farming community to have a depot halfway between Columbus Junction and Ainsworth. The president arrived on a morning train, June 10, 1877, got off and met with Edward Jones, Joshua Brown, Humphrey Richards, and R. T. Jones. His proposition was that he wanted them to pay half the expense, which was $1,000 to build a depot and switch tracks. The money was raised and the first train stopped Dec. 24, 1877. C. F. Butler was the first depot agent. The new depot was called New Clifton. |
On January 23, 1878, Miss Margaret Cotter laid out the town on the north side of the railroad. Main street was parallel with the track and West Collins, and East Streets at right angles. There is only one way into town. Vehicles must turn around somewhere and come back out the same way they went in.
On Feb. 19, 1878 the first mail bag was thrown from a train with the post office in the depot. Humphrey Richards was the postmaster with C.F. Butler as his deputy.
There were several good stores in New Clifton in the 1880s. A hotel was a convenient place for salesmen to stay overnight while they were trying to sell their wares and for people who brought their livestock in to be shipped out. A telephone office was in one corner of the hotel. Margaret Cotter ran the hotel and the Jim Skubal family later lived in that building. Another hotel was operated by Mr. and Mrs. G. B. Stapp. Later 0. Sherm Willey had it as a residence, then the Jack Herr family lived there. 0. F. Butler had a grain and lumber business. Mr. Maxwell had a grocery and drug business and Mr. McCleery built a large general merchandise store on the west corner of Collins and Main streets. The Odd Fellows had the use of the upstairs. Kirk Brown had an amusement store, containing a billiard table, cards, and a lunch counter. It is said the boys ate the profit up while they had Brown interested in playing.
About 1882, the Methodists organized a church under the leadership of W. W. Willey. The building stood east of town. In 1884, Presbyterians had a church a mile south of town. In June 1906, the church was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. The new church was built nearer to town.
A cream station built in 1881 had a capacity of 2,000 pounds of butter per day. Isaac Black operated this and then was elected sheriff and served from 1888-92. The building was later moved back from the sidewalk and the Richard Nelson family lived there. A century later, another Cotter resident was Louisa County Sheriff. In March 1990, Herb Eutsler was appointed to the position after the the death of Sheriff Ron Gardiner. Eutsler was elected three times after the appointment. He retired about 2000.
In 1877, a blacksmith shop was opened. Some of these early blacksmiths were Dick Henderson, Walter Hartman, Will John Williams, Omrie Peters, and in 1951 Bill Peters took over. The old blacksmith shop was torn down about 1959. Bill Peters built a new garage and kept his tools there and continued operating the business as a welding shop until his death in the late 1990s.
In winter the men would cut sheets of ice, 2 1/4 by 6 feet, from the creek and haul it to the ice house, which was 12 feet high and 24 by 20 feet wide. They would pack the ice in sawdust and snow and it would keep for their use in the summer.
In 1889, it became apparent the name of the town should be changed because another town on the railroad had the same name. This was Clifton (a small settlement between New Clifton and Columbus Junction. Clifton later became a ghost town because business declined when the towns of Columbus Junction and Columbus City grew in size.) Since Margaret Cotter was owner of the land, she was honored by the town's name being changed to Cotterville. Later the "ville" was dropped. The plats in the court house still carry the name Cotterville.
Humphrey Richards went before the county board of supervisors and had them grant to the community a voting precinct, which they still have today. Mr. Richards sold insurance of all kinds.
The bank building was built in 1902 with R. L. Richards as president; J. G. Thomas, vice president; and Alfred Morgan, cashier. The bank was closed in 1931 during the Great Depression. The town bought the building in 1938 to be used as town hall. The post office was moved from the grocery store to the bank/city hall building in 1938. Mrs. Florence Snyder was postmaster in 1927 with Mrs. Bill Hawkins taking over in 1949. Mrs. Hawkins also sold bread, candy, pop, and greeting cards. Mail came in twice a day on the Star Route. The post office closed its doors June 8, 1984.
A group of men formed a shipping association with Bennett Peters as first manager and then Lyle Duncan. A lot of people like to recall when J. K. Duncan had the gene store, especially his big sacks of candy. Mr. and Mrs. Homer James, Harold and Don Oldt and Harry Turner were later owners of the store. This building has been torn down.
The town at one time also had a dress shop operated by the Bell sisters, Carrie and Minnie; a barber shop by Shelly Shoop and Isaac Stone; a stock yard by J. B. Blair; an implement business by Tommy Johns and then the Owens Brothers, Will and Dave. A garage in 192O was operated by Forrest Duncan and then by Ward Buller. A salt house, flour house, and elevator, coal and grain business with the names of Reaney and Eliason, Dave R. Jones and G. B. Stapp names mentioned.
In 1920, the 12-grade school building was opened. The country schools in the community were closed and the children began attending school in the new building in February 1921. The first graduating class at Cotter Consolidated School had five students in 1924. In 1944 the school yearbook "The Blue and Gold" listed local boys serving in the armed forces and dedicated the book to them. In 1957, the Cotter district consolidated with Columbus Community and the high school closed in 1957. Elementary students attended school at the Cotter school building until 1980. The school building remains but was sold in the 1990s.
Sometime in the 1920s there were Mexicans who worked on the section and they lived in shacks along the railroad tracks. Their children attended school in Cotter.
In 1928, Iowa Highway 2, now 92, was constructed south of the railroad tracks. With Columbus Junction growing in size and cars and trucks getting more in number, Cotter's businessmen moved on and some of the buildings were moved or torn down. In 1926, the last train stopped at the depot. There was at one time four passenger trains and several freight trains that stopped. The depot was moved to Ainsworth in 1948.
The population of Cotter has remained around 50 for several years. In 1984, there were eighteen houses and four trailers. The residents receive their mail from a mail box in front of their homes delivered by a rural route carrier from Columbus Junction. Indeed, their addresses are Columbus Junction.
The area around Cotter was settled mostly by Welsh families. A few can still speak the ancient language of their forefathers.
The Cotter Post Office was closed in 1984. Mail service is now provided through the Columbus Junction Post Office.