On May 14th, The Waukee Area Historical Society received the 2014 Loren Horton Community History Award. The annual achievement is presented by the State Historical Society of Iowa Board of Trustees, for an outstanding contribution to community history through a local history project, related to a Museium, Library, Archives, Historic Preservation or Education Activity. The award was for the recently dedicated Shuler Coal Mine Museum and History of Waukee project located in the Waukee Library. The award was presented to the Waukee Area Historical Society Governor Terry Brandstad and Lt. Governor, Kim Reynolds.
At the May 19th Waukee City Council meeting, Waukee Mayor Bill Peard presented an official Proclamation declaring June as Waukee History Month! We are excited to have each June as another reason to celebrate our rich history. We hope that area businesses and organizations will use the month of June to display Waukee pictures and memorabilia. This historical society will be hosting events as well. Please stay tuned to our website and the calendar for more updates.
In reading old records of this era, the last 1800’s, this was by far the best growth period for the town of Waukee.
Here is an interesting account of a tour of Waukee written by a reporter, taken from a newspaper of April 15, 1891.
“First, I dropped into J. R. Morrison’s Grain Office. It was full of farmers. J.R. is ready to pay the highest price for grain and livestock.
Next, a peep in the C.R.I.&P. waiting room, J. H. Lord, the agent, was busy selling tickets. Reck Hoeye was out rustling luggage. Jim says business is good.
Next, pass on to Mrs. B. M. Snow’s grocery. Here we find everything in the grocery line at reasonable prices.
Crossing the street to the Waukee House, we find Spencer Smith, always ready to accommodate the traveling public. Spencer also buys grain.
Next, reach the store of Howe & Thrift and find Charlie and Sol both busy. They also buy grain.
Next, a stop at the Blacksmith and Machine Shop, run by James Brier and Mr. Sheets. Both are very busy boys.
Next, drop into Daddy Moore’s Restaurant. Dad, busy feeding and quenching temperate thirsts.
Now, pass into A. L. Fish’s harness shop, find him too busy to talk.
Crossing the street again to I. G. Wallace’s establishment, we find I.G. and his clerks very busy. He carries a full line of dry goods and groceries.
Next, a visit to Gus Smith’s blacksmith shop in the south part of town. He is doing a thriving business.
Next, drop into L. F. Howe’s store, but find him too busy to talk.
Then to Meat Market, run by Garlock & Mills, where they’re repairing their shop.
Rush into C. F. M. Clark’s Drug Store, where is mixing compounds. He also runs the Post Office with six mails a day.
Next to Morris and Carter’s Grain office. Jack wants to buy and pay top price.
Next, a stop to Dr. Aldrich’s office. Not there, will be in at 2.
Last stop at the Barber Shop. Billy Fish too busy – couldn’t wait my turn.”
SIGNS OF FURTHER EXPANSION IN THE LATE 1800’S
In March 1878, Waukee was interested in a new sensation, telephones, having heard someone 45 miles away. The question everywhere was, “Why not connect Adel and Waukee by telephone?”
In June 1878, Thomas Duncan and John Larson bought the store of E. B. Sines and expected to enlarge it.
In 1878, the Waukee Cheese Factory was making about 2,000 pounds of cheese per week.
Oct. 30 1878, Waukee, since becoming a Railroad junction was beginning to “loom up.”
In 1878, C. Middlekauff opened a store in the Blackman building. Ortis Guernsey was to have a flouring mill ready in 30 days. At this time the Waukee citizens were confident that one day their town would be one of the best towns in the county.
In Feb. 1879, Herbert and Duncan, handlers of groceries and livestock, handled more livestock than anyone else between Des Moines and Ft. Dodge.
In March 1879, the Waukee Grist Mills were in full operation.
In May 1880, the Smith & Hamsher Flouring Mill guaranteed satisfaction, with the slogan, “Your flour home the same day!”
In May 1880, a fire destroyed the residence of John Wragg, Esq. of Walnut Township, and the insurance on the house and contents amounted to $1,100.
In Jan. 1883, the partnership of Houston & Wallace was dissolved. A new firm began known as Houston and Frick.
In Sept. 1883, the grain dealers were busy, taking acre of oats which were being brought in at the rate of 1000 bushels a day.
In Sept. 1883, a new barber shop was started in town.
In Jan. 1884, a number of the business men were filling their ice houses with choice ice from the river at Adel.
In Jan. 1884, Mr. J. Wragg wrote a long and interesting article on ornamental hedge and recommended the barberry first and further suggested planting a purple one every 12 or 15 ft. for a good hedge. He stated that the two best evergreens for hedges were the Red Cedar and the Ann Arborvitae.
On the morning of Feb. 27, 1884, one of the highly esteemed merchants, H. M. Whinery began his stock inventory, having sold to A. M. Horton, of Boone township. The Horton family moved into the Fagan property east of the railroad, and by March, Mr. Horton was slinging calico and sugar across the counter at a lively rate.
In April 1891, Fagan Bros. were building a dwelling house on Water St. between the C.R.L.&P. and D.M.&N. Railroads. Johnny Manders was to the first occupant.
In the spring of 1891, J. R. Morrison, grain and stock buyer was doing quite a business.
In March 1894, the Waukee Creamery Association held their first meeting and organized temporarily by appointing J. Lane, Lori Hall and A. J. Bassler as building committee. The creamery was the first building erected that spring. In that same year, Spencer Smith erected a town hall.
In Oct. 1885, Clark Smith moved to town and was busy building his feed mill.
In Oct. 1895, Howe & Brumfield hung a new storm door on their store building. (As you can see even storm doors made the news in those days.)
In Jan. 1895, Mr. Robinson bought the butcher shop from the Blake Bros.
In March 1895, A.J. Bassler was doing a rolling business in furniture. J. R. Elliot handling the goods in the back room, A. J. giving them a good dusting, and then sliding them out of the front door into the farmers wagon. (The Bassler store was located where the Co-op now stands.)
In April 1895, M. J. Wragg reported that the nursery business was flourishing more than ever with about 50 carloads of shipments, and that the Central Nurseries were becoming very widely known.
In June 1895, the Co-op Creamery was a success receiving as much milk as they could properly care for. They contracted their butter to a Des Moines firm.
In the summer of 1895, the new City Restaurant was having a good trade.
In Sept. 1895, Waukee and vicinity was visited by several land buyers. (The newspaper noted that buyers congregate where crops were good.)
In 1895, J. R. Morrison sold his fine new elevator, bins and corn crib to R. R. Blake.
In 1896, Mr. M. J. Wragg of the Central Nurseries, and a member of the State Board of Agriculture visited the office of the Winterset Madisonian. (Mr. Wragg was formerly a teacher in the Madison County Schools.)
Aug. 1886, Waukee was in the struggle for the Dallas County Mint. It was expected that there would be a vast amount of silver (from Dallas County Mines) coined by farmers of Dallas Count. Waukee wanted the mint because of its railroad facilities. The mint was to have been ready upon the election of William Jennings Bryan in Nov. There was a sound Money club in Waukee at this time. (Mr. Bryan was defeated.)
On Dec 15, 1897, a new restaurant was dedicated, the “The Klondike.”
On Dec. 29, 1897, a new meat market opened under the names of Blake, Blake & Blake proprietors.
In Nov. 1898, the barber shop moved to the south side of the triangle, and a restaurant opened in the vacant building.
The J. A. Bundy store carried a complete line of wall paper, paints, oils, varnishes, brushes, turpentine, lamps, chinaware, books, school books, school supplies, perfumes, toilet articles, combs, and brushes. Their ads boasted a line of mixed paint of 50 colors, and everything usually found in a first class pharmacy.
Along with success from some, many had serious set-backs such as the fires that plagues the business houses from time to time. Also, it was recorded in 1891, that there was more mud on the streets than in 4 years.
Regarding entertainment and culture, these were very evident in those days.
In June 1877, Mr. and Mrs. John Wagg celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary at their residence near Waukee. No preparations had been made for a formal party, but 60 persons dropped in to offer congratulations and left a handsome china tea set.
For entertainment, there was an Opera House located south of the old hotel, and in March of 1895, Spencer Smith had opened a skating rink being open 2 nights a week.
There was an active gun club in 1896, called the Waukee Gun Club.
In Nov. 1897, the graphophone in Fry Copeland’s store caused quite a stir, as it was to be given away to the person having the most coupons when the thousand cigars were sold.
That ends a brief resume of the late 1800’s when Waukee was in it infancy, now on to the 1900’s.
The following is a list of the businesses in Waukee in the late 1800’s (1870’s, 1880’s and 1890’s). As you will observe from the large number of business houses, it was considered a “boom town” exhibiting great promise for further growth and expansion.
General Stores: A.T. Blackman; C. Middlehauff; M.R. Blackman; A.M. Horton; W. M. Cribs; Fry Copeland; L.G. Wallace; Howe & Brumfield.
Groceries: Albert Bullock; Mrs. B.M.Snow; Howe & Duncan; W. J. Johnson.
Drug Stores: C.F.M. Clarke; J.A. Bundy
Lumber Dealers: Tyler & Huston; Grant, Lewis & Co.; Charles D. Cramer
Coal: C.C. Tyler
Real Estate: Miles Sines; L.A.Grant
Grain Dealers: Herbert & Carrell; C.C.Tyler; A.D.Bullock;Morris & Carters
Blacksmiths: Charles W. Robinson; John Olke; James Brier & Sheets; Gus Smith
Hotels: Thomas J. Sloan (Prop. Of the Valley House); James Parker; Spencer Smith
Livery Stables & Hack Lines: Thomas J. Sloan; Thomas Ashton; Milton Scott
Physicians: J.K.L. Duncan; George L. Piper; S.W. Aldrich; William McClure; George McMahon; F.W. McManus; William A. Carter
Lawyers: B.T. Halstead; George A. Smith; M.H. Baugh; James Jennings, (Mr. Jennings was also a Notary Public & R.R. & Ex.Agt. Tel Opr.)
Flouring Mill: Gurnsey & Treefry; Smith & Hamsher
Creamery: Miller Crispin
Harness Maker: George S. Warton; A.L. Fish
Restaurant: R. McDougal; Moores Restaurant; Robert R. Blake; Wooleys
Carpenter: Z.T. Bates; Daniel Bates
Wagon Maker & Builder: William H. Wood
Grain & Stock Buyer: J.R. Morrison; Spencer Smith; Tyler & Huston
Meat Markets: Garlock & Mills; Blake Bros.; William Overmire
Barber Shop: Billy Fish
Furniture & Undertaking Goods: A.J. Bassler (the Bassler store housed the long distance telephone office and also provided a Notary Public)
General Merchant, Grain & Stock Dealer including agricultural implements: J. W. Youngerman.
It is interesting to note that Waukee was really a complete business town with a flourishing trade. Of course, there was a lot of land speculation in those early days, which brought many land buyers to town. There also seemed to be a rather rapid turn-over in business places, many men starting a business and becoming successful for a few years, then selling and buying farm land and moving to the county.
There was rather a large number of lawyers, blacksmiths, general stores, lumber and grain dealers. Of course, all of these professions were needed in those times, due to the many needs of this period such as lumber, not only for the building of residences and businesses in town, but houses, barns and other buildings out on the farmsteads. The blacksmith who is certainly a rarity now, was a mighty important figure in those early days, as he shod the horses. Since this was before the advent of tractors and any kind of mechanized machinery, this meant that there were a great many horses used for work on farms as well as for transportation.
The old general store must have been an exciting place to visit, as it carried everything from frying pans to farm machinery. Super markets really are not a new innovation as compared to the old general store, and every item wasn’t wrapped with that fingernail breaking plastic as it is today. If they didn’t have an article in the store, all one had to do was tell the merchant (whom you knew personally and called him by his given name) and he would go to this wonderful catalogue and order it for you. That same merchant would buy the farmers’ eggs, poultry, cream and home-made butter.
The Des Moines Valley Railroad completed building into Des Moines on Aug. 29, 1866. The railroad started from Keokuk in 1856 but because of the Civil War, progress was slowed. Headquarters were in Keokuk with D.W. Kilbourne serving as president, and General Reid and Colonel Leighton listed as lessees.
These men visited Des Moines often to take care of the railroads interests. On April 13, 1869 a proposed route was announced in the Iowa Daily State Register. Leaving Des Moines, it was to enter Dallas County section 12, 78, 26 through section 2 and 3 of that township and enter Walnut township, section 34 and on into Green County. New towns would be laid out.
On April 30, Grant, Ragan and Co. bought the land around the railroad bed in Walnut Township, section 33, from Cyrus W. Fisher, the land on which the town of Waukee was built. At the rate of “one mile a day,” the people of this abundant land would soon be able to ship their farm products by rail to Des Moines and eastward.
In May 1869, the roadbed was laid and the men working for Des Moines Valley Railroad were laying the rails. A coach car housed these men and moved up the track with them. As they moved into Dallas County, Waukee was just a dream in the heart of General L. A. Grant. He and Major W.M. Ragan had gone into the speculative real estate business only a month earlier in Des Moines.
By June 2 it was reported that all the stations from Des Moines to the Northwestern Railroad line had been fixed and christened. First was Valley Junction, the second was Shirley, nine miles from the Junction. The others in order are Dallas Center, Pierce’s Point, Perry, Rippe and Grand Junction at the Northwestern Road. Depots were to be erected as soon as a carpenter corps could do the work.
Twenty-five miles of track had been laid by June 13and the first regular train went out on the tracks June 15. Shirley had been laid off in lots, one house already erected with more to go up soon. General Grant and Major Ragan had named our fair town Shirley but it didn’t keep that name very long. When General Reid of the Des Moines Valley Road heard about it he said it should be changed. As reported in the Daily Register: “The proprietors named it Shirley in the first place, but the “powers that be” in the railroad office down in Keokuk insisted that it should have an Indian appellation, and hence Waukee it had to be. What Waukee means, we don’t know. For that, you must ask Gen. Reid.”
Progress of Waukee was moving quickly, for a month later finds the depot built, and 320 acres laid off in lots and outlots with eight or 10 residences already built. General Grant did not live here, but he and Major Ragan had some houses built for speculation to promote sales in the town. General Grant and Major Ragan had great faith that Waukee would become a big town.
General Stores: E. G. Crispin & Duncan (1900-1928), S. C. Brumfields; (G. E. Little had a jewelry store inside the Brumfield General Store)
Garages: Kinney & Grosscup Auto Co. (Dodge Cars)
Groceries: I. A. Kenyon
Physicians: George T. McMahon; Dr. Alfred Price
Blacksmith: A. D. Holroyd; D. B. Luke
Hardware & Implements, Coal & Grain: J. H. Carter
Banks: Waukee Savings Bank – H. M. & James Whinery & A. A. Leachy; Brenton Bank, S. R. Foft, Cashier
Furniture & Undertaker: Clarence Wooley; Luther & Son
Flouring Mill: Clark Smith
Hotel: Spence Smith; J. M. Nuzum, Homer Harris; B. F. Jones
Harness Shop & Shoe Repair: S. M. Doty; John Shaw
Barber Shops: Riley Hoeye; Clarence Huston
Drayman: Charles Carl; Harry Henderson
Lumber Yards: Brenton Bros. Lumber Co – Fred S. Whiting, Mgr.
Candy Shop: Mrs. Tina A. Procise
Elevators: Wright & McWhinery – (Walter Ulery, Mgr.) Farmers Elevator Co.
Nurseries: Central Nurseries, John Wragg & Sons
Drug Stores: R. K. Thompson; B. F. Jones; R. E. Morrill
Skating Rink: Harold H. Sansbury
Newspapers: Waukee Advocate, (Theo Troup, publisher); C. Durant Jones – Waukee Ledger, McManus & McManus – The Waukee Bee
Meat Markets: Levi Staver; James Garlock; Theodore Myers; George Huston & F. Slater; Marshall Shearer; F. Schrader & Son
Restaurants: L. F. Staver
Millinery Shop: Mrs. Laura Kent
Carpenters: Jake Harvey
Car Dealers: W. P .Kent; Harold H. Sansbury; Nichell Auto Co. (Essex & Hudson Cars) W. P. Kent sold the Marathon car. Harold Sansbury sold Paiges, Fords and Saxons. He sold 6 Saxons in one week. (The Saxon was a little run-about-car.)
Listed below are some items obtained from newspapers printed in the early 1900’s:
* Fry Copeland exchanged his grocery store for a farm near town and went out of business. Mr. E. G. Crispin took possession of the store, and Mr. Freet Snow was to work for Mr. Crispin.
* On Jan. 23, 1901, Mr. Staver had his new meat market filled with choice meats, then in April, he disposed of this stock of meat and purchased the restaurant from Clarence Wooley.
* On August 7, 1901 Spence Smith’s new hotel had then reached 3 stories and was soon to be completed. (This is the present building on the southeast side of the triangle.)
* In 1901, the Central Nurseries built a commodious store room on their lots near the Milwaukee Depot, and they were to move their fixtures there where they would have the best shipping facilities in Iowa.
* On Sept. 11, 1901, the newspaper, the Waukee Advocate changed hands. Theo. Troup was the new publisher, and the plant was moved to the former restaurant building, which Mr. Troop purchased.
* On Sept. 25, 1901, the office of the Central Nurseries of Wragg & Sons moved from the farm 2 miles southeast of Waukee to the commodious suite of rooms in the Brumfield Block, where all the business was to be conducted.
* In the fall of 1901, Clark Smith moved his feed mill to the last half of the block on Laural Street.
* On Oct. 9, 1901, Mr. J. H. Carter finished construction of a fine implement shed attached to the east side of his store room.
* In Feb. 1903, the Hawkeye Telephone Co. had a force of men installing farm lines south of Waukee.
* On Jan. 27, 1904, the businessmen of Waukee met together to make an earnest effort to secure some kind of manufacturers. The feeling of the group was that Waukee has the best railroad facilities of any town in the county and could offer inducements to people to come and settle.
This item was taken from the Waukee Ledger of 1909. The Farmers Elevator Co. rented the elevator previously run by Jesse Copeland and they will manage both elevators now.
(Note by writer: As you see, the Waukee newspaper apparently changed its name from the Advocate to the Ledger.)
* In 1909, there seemed to be some controversy between some of the Waukee ladies and some of the men in the town. Apparently a group of ladies offered to donate some street lights to the town, but were rejected by the city fathers. The south side merchants came to the rescue and took one and located it on the corner in front of the Bank of Waukee.
* On April 14, 1909, the Farmers Elevator was hard at work on a large new elevator which would have a storage capacity of over 20,000 bushels at a cost of around $5,000.
* On April 10, 1912, the Waukee Furniture Co. had a closing out sale for 2 weeks. The manager, Mr. Rollin Luther planned to go to Adel into business with his father.
* On April 17, 1912, the new members of the Waukee Auto & Garage Co. were W. F. Kent, Pres. & Gen. Mgr., A. E. Curtis, Shop Foreman and C. S. Oswalt, Salesman. The Marathon Car was featured.
* On May 8, 1912, the Anderson Bros. sold their restaurant property to Mrs. Clarence Huston for $825.00.
* The Hotel building was vacated by Mr. Huston and was to be occupied by J. M. Nuzman, who was to start a hotel.
* May 1912, the Waukee Auto & Garage Co. was being rushed with repair work. They sold 2 new Marathons in one week to customers near Dallas Center.
* Feb. 1915, Harold H. Sansbury had his skating rink ready for use, also a new player piano was installed. (This is the red tile block building, home of the Jaycees in 1969). Mr. Sansbury built it around 1915.
* Sept. 16, B. F. Jones had purchased the drug store and post office building from Dr. C. W. Burt.
* Walter Ulery had charge of the Wright and McWhinery elevator, taking the place of Lester Smith who had charge from several years.
* On Dec. 9, 1915, A. D. Holroyd was starting to build a new blacksmith shop on the old Strowbridge property.
* J. M. Nuzum, owner of the hotel in Waukee moved to Des Moines.
* Oct 1918, the building occupied by the Plaza Theatre was being converted into a garage.
* Sept. 1919, farms were selling at boom prices of $250 to $325 an acre.
The following squibs were taken from a newspaper of 1916 and 1917.
* Jones Brothers filled their new ice house last week as seven carloads of ice shipped from Des Moines.
* Mr. R. E. Morrill purchased the building in which his Drug Store is located on the west side of the triangle. He will deliver ice to his patrons this summer.
* Brenton Bros. Lumber Co. is building a new house of cement.
* The Central Nursery Company’s force of nine traveling salesmen was in town looking over the stock and making plans for the coming season.
* The Farmers Elevator Co. sold a carload of potatoes at $1.81 per bushel.
* There was a fire at the R. E. Morrill Drug Store, no damage except a hole in the roof.
* Picture shows were to start again under the management of the Brotherhood.
* The farmers were anxious to sell corn.
* A new coal house was built at the Wright & McWhinery Elevator and an addition to the office was under way.
* On Jan. 17, 1923, the Waukee Shipping Assoc. banquet was held at the school house and had a large crowd.
* On Jan. 30, 1924, the Waukee Shipping Assoc. held their annual banquet and election of officers, at the school house. There were about 100 present and the Ladies of the Christian Aid served the banquet and made $17.00.
* In 1925 E. G. Crispin & Son were remodeling their store and were expected to start a self-serve store.
In the Waukee Ledger of Friday, April 12, 1907, owned by MacManus & MacManus, published every Friday in Waukee, costing it subscribers $1.00 a year. There were some interesting news items, for sale notices, ads, etc. The caption at the top of the paper reads, “This paper is published in the interests of the town its name bears, and no other. Please paste this in your bonnet.”
Get your Plymoth Rock setting eggs at MacManus, 15 eggs for 50 cents.
Farmers – Get wise to the fact that I not only carry in stock, Single Harness, but sell the to those in need of same. If your harness needs oiling, I handle the Oil. If you are in need of anything in this line, see me., S. L. Doty.
English Breakfast Bacon, 14 cents per lb. at the Meat Market.
Ladies – if wanting anything in the line of suiting, remember I have the best to be had for the money. Mrs. I. A. Kenyon.
Mr. C. Woolley has just received a fresh stock of Campbell’s Varnish Stains. These Stains are easy to apply and are very useful for staining and varnishing furniture, floors and interior woodwork. Better ask for color chart.
Sweet pickles, per doz. `5 cents. Dill pickles, per doz. 10 cents. Meat Market.
SEE HERE!!!! If you figuring on Papering or Painting this year, remember I am still in the ring. You know me, and know that my prices are right. I can make that old wall paper look like new with my special preparation. My work is My Recommend. Joseph Huston.
Let us print your Horse Bills, Satisfaction Guaranteed. Waukee Ledger.
Good family White Fish at 10 cents per lb. Meat Market.
REMEMBER!! I am at home every Saturday p.m., with a full line of Coffees, Teas, Soaps and Medicines. Call and see them. Mrs. M. Strobridge.
JESSE COPELAND Dealer in Coal & Grain Both Phones Waukee.
NOTICE TO GARDEN OWNERS. We are ready to do any and all kind of Garden plowing and will Guarantee you a good job. Prices Right Henderson Brothers – Dray Line.
ANNOUNCEMENT Boll Bros. wishes to announce that they now have their SODA FOUNTAIN in good running order and will serve Ice Cream Sodas throughout the season, together with POP and ICE, so don’t fail to stop at the CITY RESTAURANT.
Have the Ledger have a $1,000 accident insurance policy written fro you payable to your wife, in case you shuffle off by accident.
WAUKE SAVINGS BANK Capital, $10,000 H. E. Teachout, Pres. J. L. Leonard, Vice-Pres., H. M. Whinery, Cashier, Jas. R. Whinery, Asst. Cashier. Directors: H. E. Teachout, H. L. Leonard, W. J. Harvis, G. T. McMahon, B. F. Jones, H. M. Whinery & S. C. Brumfield.
Over the years, Dallas Center, Waukee and Perry tried to promote their towns as the most logical place for the county seat.
In February 1893, Waukee made a very serious effort to get the county seat away from Adel. M. J. Wragg visited around the county to promote Waukee. It was reported in the Dallas Center paper that the entire town was enthusiastic in regard to the removal of the county seat. Waukee had the grounds ready to donate, “a handsome park well set with hard and soft maples and evergreens, all grown trees.”
In May 1893, a newspaper was started called the Waukee Advocate, under the name of M. F. Danford, who had it published in Des Moines. It appeared that it was started to help in the removal of the county seat to Waukee. The other papers in the county took up the fight against Waukee, except for a Perry paper. It was reported later that Perry felt it they could help Waukee win their fight, they would have an easy time in getting it later for themselves.
Waukee argues that because of their two railroads they were the most accessible place in Dallas County. Of course, the Adel editors felt this was not a valid argument. The people were urged to look at a map of Iowa and see that the majority of our counties had a central location for their county seat. The editor also felt that the railroad argument proved nothing. He reminded the farmers if they took the rails to the county seat they would also have a livery bill to pay. We quote, “It don’t pay to keep a horse and then do one’s riding on the cars.” He also argued that it would be more expensive for the county seat to be in Walnut township. Legal officers received 5 cents per travel mile and Adel was only five miles from the center of population, whereas Waukee was twelve miles from that point. Besides, in 15 years it would amount to enough to build a good courthouse.
On June 7, 1892, Waukee filed a petition for a vote on relocation of the county seat. The board ordered an election to be held. The editorials got hot and heavy, the fight was on. In July, the Waukee Advocate advertised that it wanted a bank, creamery, a butter and egg house, a millinery store and a hardware store. The editors for the opposition took this up immediately with the comment, “A town that enjoys a location in the midst of a ‘rich farming country’ and that has enjoyed the superior advantages of one railroad since 1869 and two railroads for the past fifteen years and yet lacks the common essentials to prosperity can hardly be said to present any great inducements to the people as a suitable location for the county seat of so good a county as Dallas.” Then, a couple of weeks later, we find this comment, “The best argument Waukee has yet advanced why she should have the county seat is that if the county would spend 60 or 70 thousand dollars in improvements it would help the town. But the good that the county would get out of it has not yet become apparent.”
From the Dallas County Record of Nov. 10, 1893, we copy this report: “The county seat contest ended as it began and was conducted throughout on both sides in a good natured honorable way in which no man lost his good name as an honest, upright fighter for that which his heart yearns and has a right to have if he can get it.
There were a little less than 4,000 votes on both sides of which less than 1,000 were in favor of moving the county seat to Waukee. Waukee made an honest, upright, energetic fight for that which she has a right to seek and obtain if the people grant it. She failed, going down good-naturedly, her colors flying as did Democracy throughout the north on the same day. J. H. Carter was in Adel Wednesday and acknowledged their defeat in a good-natured way without spleen as did also Isaac Yetter.
The Democrat believes this will be true of all Waukee’s advocates with very few exceptions. They made a fight of which they need not feel ashamed and that made Adel feel feverish and chilly by turns but the contest ended last Tuesday and it seems that all will be serene hereafter as between Waukee and Adel. It also seems clear that the people of Dallas County would have the county seat remain permanently at Adel.
It must be noted here that not long after the election for Waukee as the county seat was voted down, Dallas County held a special election to vote for building a new courthouse in Adel. This was also defeated.
In March, 1880 it was reported the narrow gauge railroad has built an elevated track to improve handling of grain transfers. In November, 1880 it was reported that work on an engine house was progressing nicely. The bricks coming from Adel, the lumber from Minneapolis. Mr. McKissick was doing the mason work and the old turn table was to be moved and put in just west of the engine house. (The engine house and turn table were located just north of the highway in the triangle formed by the two railroads.) The engine house had four pits. Engines were run onto the pits to shake down the ashes and hot coals.
From the Dallas County News of January 21, 1880,the railroad fare from Waukee was:
To Ortonville – 16 cents
To Adel – 28 cents
To Kennedy – 51 cents
To Redfield – 67 cents
To Linn – 89 cents
To Panora – $1.14
From the same paper of August, “The two railroad make Waukee a very lively place. Everybody busy. No vacant houses.”
It was reported that the depot, which once stood at the north end of 6th Street , was built in 1880, so it must be surmised that the tracks were laid into Des Moines at this time. It is not known how long this railroad operated under the name of Des Moines, Adel and Western but in 1882 the road was called Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific. In 1891 the road was changed from a narrow gauge to a full size track to meet current needs.
The road has been under the management of Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific for a good many years.
The two road had many busy years, with all the coal that was mined in Walnut Township and the grain and stock that has been shipped from this point. For many years a stock yard was maintained near the Milwaukee station. This was a great hangout for tramps who rode the rails. A creamery was also maintained north of the tracks with a spur line running past it. Maybe this was where the Waukee cheese factory was located.
In 1956, the old Milwaukee depot was torn down by Baer and Myer and some of the lumber was salvaged and used by them to build an addition to their warehouse.
For those too young to remember what the inside of the railroad depot looked like, there was a large pot-bellied stove in the center of the waiting room, with benches all around to rest on. Many a travel weary passenger warmed himself around the stove, circus people, cattle shippers, coal miners and fine ladies and gentlemen, to name a few.
Mr. A. C. Jacobs who retired here in 1954, had been one of the most beloved of all agents for the Milwaukee road. He spent 32 of his 50 years of service here in Waukee. Ted Finnane was our section foreman for 54 years.
In 1969, it seems a shame that we don’t have passenger service to Des Moines. Sure would save a lot of money spent on gas, parking and wear and tear on our cars. Wouldn’t it be fun to have our narrow gauge back again? Even now in 2011, we could use a passenger rail system with stops at Valley Junction, Downtown Des Moines, etc.
It would not be a complete history of Waukee without relating more history of the two railroads that cross in our fair city.
From September, 1963, “Palimpset” a monthly publication of The State Historical Society of Iowa, a story was found about the Rock Island in Iowa. Since the Rock Island took over so many of the smaller railroads in Iowa, the story of the Des Moines Valley Railroad appears here.
The Des Moines Valley Railroad was the first road to enter Des Moines, coming in August of 1866. It was greeted by great exuberance because Polk County had subscribed $100,000 to get a railroad. Polk Count made an agreement with Lee County to back the Constitution of 1857 which transferred the capitol from Iowa City to Des Moines. The voters of Lee County succeed in swinging the election so the capitol could be moved. Des Moines rejoiced not only in getting the capitol, but also in the prospects of a railroad.
The line started its corporate existence as the Keokuk, Fort Des Moines and Minnesota Railroad in September, 1853. Grading did not begin until 1855 and in 1856 when 4,000 tons of rails were delivered from New Orleans, the track laying commenced. Under the supervision of Chief Engineer Col. J. W. Otley, the line made moderate progress. The Civil War halted progress at Eddyville until 1864. At this time the name of the road was changed to the Des Moines Valley Railroad and track laying continued. It 1866 it reached Des Moines “where it was accorded one of the most elaborate and enthusiastic receptions of any railroad in Iowa”.
In 1873 the Des Moines Valley became bankrupt and in early 1874 it was officially cut into two roads at Des Moines. The southern section was reorganized as the Keokuk and Des Moines Railway and the northern section as the Des Moines and Fort Dodge Railroad.
The southern section, called the K & D was a valuable connection between central Iowa with direct lines to St. Louis, so in 1878 the expanding Rock Island leased it rather than let it fall into the hands of their competitor. The D. M. and Ft. D. line continued on as an independent railroad until 1887 when the Rock Island decided they wanted to run a line to the northwest corner of Iowa. They then leased the road and started new construction from Gowrie to Sibley.
By November, 1900 the entire line was in operation under the Rock Island. Their lease was to expire in 1904 and they thought there would be a routine extension but unknown to them, Edwin Hawley, a New York financier who headed the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad, had his associates quietly buying stock in the Des Moines and Ft. Dodge. “By 1905 they had control and Minnesota & St. Louis forthwith leased the Des Moines and Fort Dodge. A decade later it was purchased.”
The Rock Island line eventually tried to absorb the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad, (M & SL.) but this was never accomplished. The M & St. L. went bankrupt and the Chicago, Northwestern Railroad took over the line in 1962.
As was written previously, The Des Moines Adel and Western Railway was built from Waukee to Adel in 1878. For a time, the engine and cars were obliged to run backward to Adel. Then a turn-table was built here in Waukee. The railroad bridge was not built across the Raccoon at Adel until sometime in 1879. As soon as the money was raised the road progressed and was built on to the north through Redfield and Panora. Ora Williams reported in his story of the railroads that at one time there was a third rail laid down the Des Moines and Ft. Dodge track to Des Moines, to handle the little narrow gauge.
More to come next time on the Railroads.