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.

The Methodists dedicated their church in April, having purchased it from the Episcopalians in 1876.

The Episcopal Church was maintained here for very few years. Due to emigration and death it was disbanded.

The Waukee Cheese Factory as initiated in May, 1878 under the management of a Mr. Denman of Des Moines. A notation is made in the August 15th, Dallas Center Globe that the cheese factory was closing for the season and there was quite a stock of the article on hand for sale. It is not known where this chees making took place or if they ever opened for another season, but it was reported to be very superior in quality.

This was the year the Des Moines-Adel and Western Railroad, a narrow gauge, was built from Waukee to Adel. The laying of the iron was to start about the middle of June at the west edge of Waukee. It was announced from Adel that Thos. Ashton was chosen as a general superintendent of the new railroad with S. L. Ward to be engineer and Wm. Hadden fireman. It is not know if these men kept these jobs very long.

The narrow gauge engine “Adel” arrived in Waukee in August, “a homely, ungodly looking sort of a creature.” The first run of the ‘Adel” occurred in October, carrying all who would come along for the ride to Waukee and back, This little engine was later dubbed “The Teakettle”. Ora Williams curator of the state historical society, from 1939 to 1946, was one of the boys of that first run. From his article written for the Annals of Iowa, we quote “The locomotive was much like a mine engine, with the water tank slung saddle fashion over the boiler. There were one or two freight boxcars in which wood benches had been set up for the guests. The two or three flatcars had boards across for seats for the youngsters. All were, of course, of narrow gauge.”

Some of the businessmen listed during this year were:

B.T. Halstead – set up a law office and permanently retired from teaching
E.B. Smith, Eaq., – located his law office in Waukee
Wm Overmier sold his meat market to Mr. Meracle
Dr. Duncan moved his office to the Johnson building
G.S Wharton moved his butcher shop to his farm just west of town.
Wm. A. Carter and Son opened a drug store in the building previously occupied by
Dr. Graham

A Library Association or reading club was formed by some of the citizens and they purchased about $30 worth of good books.

Before Waukee was incorporated the people had succeeded in ridding the town of its saloon. We copy this report from the paper:

“Waukee breathes clear once more on account of the complete removal of the late saloon. After much protest from the residents the saloon keeper agreed to sell his stock and quite business. The amount was raised and the people emptied the contents of beer kegs and ale bottles in the streets. All parties seemed satisfied – the one on leaving an uncongenial business place and the other on ridding the town of a nuisance. All opposition, however, was to the business and not to the man for many would have liked so clever a fellow to remain.”

Before continuing with more history, it must be noted that General L. A. Grant sold all his holdings in and around Waukee in July of 1880 to O. W. Mead. His town was on its own.

From the Dallas Center Globe, we found that in June, 1878, Judge Callvert appointed M. Sines, B.T. Halstead, C.C. Tyler, C.F.M. Clarke and G.S. Wharton as commissioners to hold an election for incorporation. They designated July 2nd as the big day. The election was a success with 35 votes for and 15 against. The first election of officers for the incorporated town of Waukee was held the 24th of July. The flowing were elected to office:

Mayor – T.F. Howe
Recorded – W.E. Humphrey
Trustees: (or town council) – A.T.Blackman, C.C. Tyler, Pat Hogan, C.F.M. Clarke, W.H. Wood, Taylor Bates
Assessor – John A. Houston.

The council held their first meeting after qualifying and passed their first ordinance by unanimous vote.

“Ordinance No. 1” – The sale of spirituous or vinous liquors is prohibited within two miles of the corporate limits of Waukee.

After that time, records were lost, but there is reference to E.B. Sines as a former mayor in 1880.

The new towns springing up along the railroads all wrote letters to the editor of the Iowa Daily State Register and Waukee was not exception. All of these towns needed people to come and settle, so their letters were very flowery and enticing. This paper probably sent their dailies far and wide to promote our state. They urged their patrons to send copies to relatives and friends to promote the settling of out fair land.

In Waukee’s first letter to the editor of September 18, 1869, we find glowing accounts of growth and prosperity. Only a few weeks ago it was all flowers, grass and views, now there were dwellings, stores and business:

C. D. Cramer had a first class lumber yard
W. J. Johnson kept the pioneer store
C. B. Snow and Bro. were erecting a substantial building for another grocery store
D. M. Calvert is opening a dry goods store, while waiting for his building to be
erected, he was to occupy Mr. Parker’s new store.

Mr. Parker was one of the many carpenters who came to settle here. His daughter, Minnie, has the honor of being the first child born in Waukee.

Mr. Ashton has commenced his livery stable, already owning the freighting business that ran between Waukee and Adel.

Mr. Whitmore, brother of the station agent was ready to open a coal yard.
C.C. Tyler had proposed to open an elevator and grain warehouse.

At this time Waukee was looking forward to becoming a junction and had hopes of a round house and railroad work shop.

An important note of progress was a daily mail route established between Waukee and Adel in November of 1869. This new route would allow Adel to get their morning mail and papers six hours earlier than ever before. Their mail had previously come through DeSoto.

Our next letter from Waukee appears in July, 1870. An inviting, wordy letter which promises good living and prosperity to those who would settle in the area. The business houses listed were: lumber, Cramer Bros.; dry goods, D.M. Calvert; drug store, C.F.M. Clarke; hardware, Ames and Bullock; grocery and queensware, G.A. Curtis; grocery and grain, A.J. Snow.

T.D. Fuller had opened a new hotel to be called “Waukee House” and Tyler and Son were erecting an elevator which would have a capacity of 10,000 bushels of grain to be ready for the year’s harvest. (This was erected east of the depot and south of the spur line.) Besides these, there was a blacksmith shop, harness shop and livery stable. James Jennings was the station agent and William Campbell the telegrapher.
Here also we find reference to several hundred dollars expended to drain the ponds or “dimples” of the town, one was left however to supply the water tank. This pond was just east f Fourth Street and north of the railroad tracks. (over the years the young people spent many enjoyable hours ice skating here during the winter time.)

Among the buildings going up at this time was the Presbyterian Church, the limestone used for the foundation coming from a quarry along Sugar Creek south of town. This limestone was also used for the foundations of the elevator and Mr. Jennings’ home.

From the letter, we get the feeling that Waukee was to be an important shipping point for grain and would have a bright future.

From the recorders office at the Dallas County Court House, the first lots sold were to Irwin W. Cramer on July 9, 1869. G. B. Brown bought next in August. In September lots were sold to Wm. Overmire, Wm. Cribbs, G. A. Atwood, E. J. Noel, P. K. York and T. D. Fuller. Abigal Pierce bought in October and C. D. Cramer in November.

There is no history of how long Major Ragan stayed in the venture, Grant, Ragan and Co., but on March 18, 1871 a quit claim from Wm .Ragan was recorded for all lots in the town of Waukee and its additions.

In August, 1869 the telegraph came out along the railroad. Two carloads of wheat were shipped on the 9th, the first of many carloads of grain to leave this point.

Mr. C. D. Cramer had opened a lumber yard, probably Waukee’s first business venture. The lumber business was a big business in this area. Walnut township had no trees except along Walnut Creek. The glaciers of the past had smoothed out this part of Dallas County.

Daily mail service on the Des Moines Valley Rail Road (D.M.V.R.R.) was secured from Washington and was to start September 10th.

A new railroad company was organized in Adel in September, 1869 to be called Waukee Branch Railroad Company. This road was to run from Waukee through Adel, Redfield and on to Panora. A meeting was held at the Banking house of F. S. Graham with the following directors being chosen: F. S. Graham – President, J. W. Redfield – Vice President, E. Goughnour – Treasurer, E. Willard- Secretary, J. M. Shackelford, L. A. Grant, Isaac Bates, William Maxell, and Thomas Scott. F. S. Graham, J. W. Redfield, and L. A. Grant would serve as the Executive Committee.

There was hope for the Waukee Branch Railroad up to December of 1869. Colonel Leighton and Colonel Otley, Chief Engineer of the D.M.V.R.R., went over the purposed route twice in November, 1869, but they must not have found enough money along the way for on December 2nd this little note was found, “Mr. F. S. Graham, Banker of Adel went bankrupt. Cause – present hard times and failure of Adel in getting a railroad.” Adel was not able to get a railroad until nine years later.