Brief History of Winneshiek County Communities
Burr Oak was settled in 1851. The first post office was established in 1853 with Burr Oak platted in 1855.
Burr Oak House, Masters Hotel (State Street) (NR) (Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum)
This simple settlement-era vernacular structure is one of the few surviving pre-1860 hotels in Iowa. It is also significant as the home of author Laura Ingalls Wilder during part of her family's one-year stay in Burr Oak. Wilder's father, Charles Ingalls, arrived in the town in 1876 after being invited to help hotel owner William Steadman with his operation. The family stayed in the hotel only a few months, however, as the flow of settlers through northeast Iowa declined significantly, affecting business for the Master's Hotel. The origin of the one and one-half story, 11 room building can be traced to 1851, when Samuel Belding and his half brother, Daniel Wheeler, erected a log hotel north of the present site. John Waggoner purchased the building a few years later and operated it as the Waggoner House. Much of the original log structure was gone by 1857 and several frame additions had been built to accommodate travelers, since Burr Oak was a major stopping point for emigrant trains from Minnesota and Wisconsin. By the time Ingalls brought his young family to Burr Oak, however, the town had begun its decline, and in 1878 Steadman sold the hot'el to William McLaughlin, who converted it into a general store. The property changed hands and uses several times during the past century, but in 1973 Laura Ingalls Wilder Park, Ine., purchased the old hotel and restored it for museum use. The museum is open daily from May through September, with an abbreviated schedule the rest of the year. Visitors may call 563-735-5916 to confirm hours. There is a fee for admission to the museum.
Burr Oak Bank Building (Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum Visitor Center)
The Burr Oak Bank building was built in 1910 to serve the financial needs of the ever-growing farm population of the community. It closed in the mid-1930s due to the Great Depression. The Burr Oak Bank has the distinction of being the site of the first bank robbery in Winneshiek County, and that history is part of an exhibit in the bank vault. From the 1930s until the mid-1970s, the building housed a barbershop and later the U.S. Post Office. Vacant and in disrepair, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum purchased the building in 1999 to house a visitor center. Extensive renovation was done including a small addition, public restrooms and a museum gift shop. The bank building is open during museum hours.
The village of Hesper was surveyed and platted December 27, 1857. It was predominantly a settlement of Quakers. In the late 1870s, Hesper had two dry-goods stores, a general variety store, drug store, steam sawmill, general woodworking establishment, small foundry and machine shop, three blacksmith shops, three boot and shoe shops, a tailor shop, millinery, photography shop and creamery. Having no railroads or other means of public transportation, Hesper never developed as a large commercial trading site.
5The Friends' Meeting House (Center and Main Streets) The Friends' Meeting House is one of three Quaker meetinghouses in Winneshiek County still used by the Society of Friends. The frame building is a significant representation of the early migration and settlement pattern of Quakers in the 1850s. Their combined efforts established a thriving community, and their presence and participation are still prominent in Hesper.
6Locust School-N R
This simple, one room schoolhouse was built in 1854 of locally quarried limestone. Among the oldest school buildings in the state, this structure is typical of smallscale school and church architecture during the early settlement periods of Iowa history. It served 106 consecutive years as a rural school. A Winneshiek County Historical site, the school has been restored and is occasionally open to the public. Contact the Historical Society for viewing.
The frame board and batten barn has a dressed stone foundation/basement with an enclosed ramp on the north elevation. The ramp is made of wood planks and is open underneath by way of a retaining wall. Hay is stored on either side of the ramp, with the area beneath serving as grain storage. There are two races to the east and one to the west of the ramp drive. The east section of the barn sheltered cows, while the west section served as horse stalls. The barn has never had a cupola. The first owner of the barn's site was Joren Brunsvold from Nesbyen in Hallingdal, Norway, believed to have come to Winneshiek County in 1848. The Kittleson Barn is located on prIvate property.
Apparently, Highlandville was never surveyed and platted. In the early days, the closest mills were in Decorah and Freeport, about 20 miles away. In 1860 Peter Olson built a mill in what is now known as Highlandville, but it closed a short time later because the waterpower failed. Today a general store operates in Highlandville. The creamery building still stands, as does the schoolhouse where "old time" public dances are held in the summer. The former bank was converted into a private home and the hospital has become a lodging establishment for hunters and fishermen.
8Bear Creek Park
The 260-acre area about 16 miles northeast of Decorah is a popular site hosting a trout stream, bird sanctuary and picnic area. It is an Iowa stateowned and state-leased park providing public hunting and fishing.
The Sattre Store has been in operation since the 1870s, and is the last surviving general store located in the rural setting ofWinneshiek County. The log house likely dates back to the 1860s, and a one-room store was later added to the original structure. Later a single-story addition was built on the north. Many of these changes occurred after 1900. The store has second-story living quarters with windows facing west. Later additions were
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