Walnut Items From The Avoca Delta, 1875




Improvements for 1875.

Its History from its First Settlement!

Its Various Business Interests!

Statistics of Freight Receipts and Shipments for 1875!

Is Situated in the Lap of the Finest Agricultural District in the World!

Phoenix-like it rises from the Ashes of the Prairie Grass in only Three Years!

And Becomes a “Place of no Mean Pretensions as a Business Point!”

A Remarkable Growth!

Read, and Wonder!


Walnut is one of the live towns of Western Iowa, and lies on the line of the Rock Island Railway about six miles east of Avoca, in the very lap of as fine an agricultural district as there is in the world.  The town was first platted in April 1871, and the first building was erected in September 1870, by Dr. Finney [Phinney], where the Walnut Hotel now stands, which he afterwards tore down and removed to Harlan.  Dr. Finney, W. M. Dighton, and      H. D. Holcomb first pressed the virgin soil where Walnut now stands.  In the following November, 1871, after their arrival, the first building of any consequence was    erected by Mr. E. R. Hinckley at a cost of about three thousand dollars, which is now known as the Central House.  During that fall and winter five persons constituted the entire population of the town, not a single house anywhere within twenty-five miles south and fifteen miles north of it, and but 300 acres of land broken in all that distance.  What a contrast!  Today farm after farm stretches away in the distance as far as the eye can reach and a scene of rural beauty, peace and plenty has taken the place where a solitary wilderness reigned in 1871.  The first regular dry goods, notion and grocery store was opened by Lodge Bros., in December 1871, with five regular customers and a prospect.  The first child born in the town was a boy to Mr. and Mrs. M. D. Holcomb, to whom John P. Cook deeded a lot, which the boy yet holds.  Henry Orcutt imported the first Irish buggy, NE, wheel-barrow into the town, who with Lodge Bros., S. A. Slaper [Sleeper], R. C. Craig, A. H. Brown, A. A. Calkins and Wm. Walker, opened out farms all about the same time.  The first sermon preached in the town was in the Depot building, by Rev. Hughes.  The first school was taught by Miss. Etta Woodhouse, in a little room 14 x 16, at present owned by Oscar Lawrence.  The first pieces of land were sold by E. R. Hinckley to A. H. Bliss, Supt, Great Western Telegraph line, and to S. A. Sleeper—160 acres each—since which time there has been sold and put under cultivation in the immediate vicinity of Walnut over sone hundred thousand acres of land, forming the network of farms around it of today.

During the entire year 1872, in fact we may say the first two years of its existence it grew but little, there being only three or four buildings in the town until the spring of 1873, in which year she began her growth in earnest.  In that year there was erected Avery & Spangler’s elevator, which was a big thing for the town, as it afforded a market for grain, and drew trade to the town.  F. H. & J. D. Green, also put up their hardware store and supplied another pressing necessity.  Of course folks got sick, had to have medicine, and Dalrymple & Bruce erected a drug store which they still occupy.  The improvements of that year were closed by Mr. Packard in the erection of a dry goods and grocery store, and the older citizens who had faced solitude for long weary days and months, rubbed their hands gleefully and began to feel that they were again nearing the civilization and its comforts, they had left behind them in the eastern States.

In 1874 the town made rapid strides in the march of improvement, and began to show its real metal.  A fine steam flouring mill was erected, two stories high, 30 x 42 in size with engine room attached 16 x 42, and a full complement of machinery, by Bernethy & Shinn, which constituted a fine send off for the year.  From the first the mill did good work and created quite a lively trade by bringing people from north and south of Walnut, who had been in the habit of going to Atlantic, and other points with their grists.  Immediately following the erection of this mill, an enterprising spirit took possession of the citizens of the town and the


was the next prominent improvement of the year.  It is a two story frame, situated on an eminence in the north part of town, twenty-eight feet high, standing 32 x 48 on the ground—making it at once a roomy and commodious institution, an honor to the town and an improvement in which its citizens might well feel a commendable degree of pride.


also erected in that year an agricultural warehouse, two stories, 24 x 48 on the ground, which is a commodious building well calculated for that business.


followed, in the erection of a building on Main street.  It stands 20 x 50 on the ground, is two stories high.  The ground floor is used for shelf, heavy hardware, and groceries, and the second floor is occupied as a residence.  This firm is doing a thriving business, are courteous and obliging gentlemen, and deserve success.


also erected a building 20 x 40, two stories, which they occupy with a stock of general merchandise.


erected a mammoth boarding house immediately in front of the Central House, two stories high, and 40 x 60 on the ground, which put the cap sheaf on the improvements for 1874 and closed the year.

Numbers of dwelling houses were erected during this year and the town began to put on metropolitan airs—the people began to see especially those who had weathered the hardships of early settlers the flattering prospect for the fruition of all their hopes, saw, with pride and satisfaction that all their labor had not been in vain.  The village at the close of 1874 had a population of about three hundred souls, against five in 1871, fifty in 1872, and one hundred in 1873.  The surrounding country had become thickly studded with farms, and Walnut had taken rank as a place of no mean pretensions as a business point—all accomplished in the short space of three years—a town had grown up, a country had been settled, and the visitor rubbed his eyes with astonishment inquiring, “what magic is this—is it a second Aladdin?”

The year 1875 opened out in lively style.  Almost every citizen contemplated some improvement, and had it not been for Allen’s failure and the consequent uncertainly of titles, Walnut would have been twice as large today as it was at the close of 1874.  However, it had the advantage of most towns in which Allen was interested, as a great deal of the town property was owned by citizens—consequently, the improvements of 1875 will compare very favorably with those of 1874—which were not very far short of seventy-five thousand dollars.


The following is a brief synopsis of the improvements for 1875:


has erected a very neat residence two stories, double L. 24 x 28 and 14 x 18 in size.  It is nicely located near the business part of town—cost about $2,500.


sports a two story building, well-constructed—presenting a very fine external appearance—20 x 26 on the ground, which, when entirely completed will cost $2,500.


has also erected a very fine residence on the east side, double L. 14 x 24 and 12 x 20.  It adds much to the appearance of that part of town in which it is located.  Will cost completed about $2,500.


has also erected a two story frame, on Main street, 16 x 30.  The ground floor is now occupied — by the doctor, who, by the way is an urbane and courteous gentleman, and we are glad to see is doing a flourishing business.  His building cost $1,000.


A hotel, on Main street is nice–one of the noticeable improvements of the year.  It is two stories high, and 34 x 40 in size.  C. N. Wilmarth, the proprietor, is one of those men got up with express reference to the business, and as “mine host” makes his patrons feel at home.  The building cost $3,500.  (The Avoca Delta, January 6, 1876, pp. 1 & 4)

[Ed Note: This historical article will be continued in a future Antique City Roots.]