Walnut, 1870-1875

WALNUT, 1870 – 1875

Taken from the Avoca Delta, Thursday, January 6, 1876


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 agriculture 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, 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. 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. Hughs.  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 one 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 and 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 PUBLIC SCHOOL BUILDING 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.

AVERY, SPANGLER & CO., 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.

NAUGLE BROS. 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.

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

PETER KOLL erected a mammoth boarding house immediately in front of the Central House, two stories high and 40 x 50 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 uncertainty 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. 

IMPROVEMENTS FOR 1875.  The following is a brief synopsis of the improvements for 1875:  J. C. SPANGLER 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.  W. S. PACKARD 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 $3,500.  A. BURNS has also erected a very fine residence on the east side, double L, 14 x 24 and 18 x 20.  It adds much to the appearance of that part of town in which it is located.  Will cost completed about $2,500. DR. W. F. WAIRD has also erected a two story frame, on Main street 15 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.  THE WISCONSIN HOUSE, a hotel on Main street is also 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.  J. H. HENRY’S ELEVATOR situated on the north switch of the Rock Island railway track, fronting on Pearl street is one of the most important and noticeable improvements for the year 1875.  The structure is 81 feet high, main building 24 x 40 in size with engine room attached 12 x 24, and contains 14 bins with a capacity of 20,000 bushels.  The engine is a ten horse power portable.  The whole building is covered with a fire proof metallic coat, and is very compactly built.  This elevator has been in constant operation during the entire fall and winter, and has received and shipped about 100,000 bushels of grain, which may be regarded as very loud and lively for one season’s business in a town the size of Walnut.  It cost $6,000.  In addition to this, Mr. Henry has also erected a neat little residence at a cost of about $1,500.  E. R. HINCKLEY His residence on Main street, is the finest one in the city ‒ an improvement well worthy of a much larger and more pretentious town.  It is two stories high, double L, main building 14 x 36 and 16 x 25, which, in connection with a fine barn – the best we have seen since we came to Iowa, and probably the best in Western Iowa – and other out buildings cost about $7,500.

This constitutes the more important improvements for 1875.  A number of smaller buildings have been erected, and additions made which will bring the expenditure in improvements in Walnut for the year 1875, notwithstanding the draw backs incident to hard times and other causes fully up to, if not more than that of 1874.

The following are the different branches of business conducted in the town.

Avery Spangler & Co., grain buyers, elevator on Pearl street, are doing a large business.  They also have a large trade in lumber.

F. H. & J. D. Green, hardware, carry on business on Highland street.  These gentlemen are fine businessmen, and having the oldest hardware business in the town, are of course doing well.

Jas. Ledwich & Co. land agents, are doing a thriving business.  Lodge Bros., general merchandise.   Dr. W. F. Waird, druggist.  Packard & Spangler, general merchandise ‒ doing a very fine business.  Chas. Geddis, is in the restaurant business and has a nobby [means chic] outfit.  Dalrymple & Bruce, druggists, are both pleasant gentlemen and we do not wonder that they have a large business.  Naugle Bros., are in the hardware business, combined with groceries and are business-in-a-minute.

Lebeck & Johnson, dealers in general merchandise.  Burns & Co., manufacturers of plows and agriculture machinery are doing remarkably well, and are turning out good work.  Our old friend S. Chamberlin is doing a thriving business in groceries.  Charley Merrill, formerly of Avoca, is running a boot and shoe store, and has a fine run of custom[ers].  J. H. Henry, buys grain.  Hardenbrook Bros., are selling groceries, just started.

Exchange Bank of E. R. Hinckley, C. R. Hinckley, Cashier is also a thriving institution, and a decided advantage to the town.  Wm. Motter has just opened a furniture store and proposes to make it red hot in that line.

A steam flouring mill is kept running daily.  Three blacksmith shops sound their anvils in the town.  Henry Ott whoops it up in the furniture business.  Three hotels dispense hash to the weary traveler, and seven saloons furnish the fluids.  The town also has a harness shop and a tonsorial establishment.

Drs. Hanna, Bolter and Whitacker are its complement of physicians.  Dr. Hanna is the oldest physician, and has an extensive practice. The other gentlemen are also doing well.

The town has an extensive trade in dry goods, groceries, hardware and lumber.  The following are the freight receipts and shipments in the town of Walnut for the year 1875:

IN FREIGHT: (Lumber – Rail Cars-358), (Coal – Rail Cars-217), (Stone – Rail Cars-59), (Emigrant’s Mov’b – Rail Cars-74) Total – Over 700 Rail Cars

OUT FREIGHT: (Grain – Rail Cars-936) (Stock – Rail Cars-68) Total – 1004 Rail Cars

There has been received 3,530,000 feet of lumber during the year.  At present there is about 500,000 feet in the yards, consequently there has been consumed in the town and country around it the enormous amount of 3,000,000 feet of lumber in one year.  We defy any town in Iowa, of equal size, to produce as good a showing.  In the matter of coal, there has been received and sold 4,340,000 pounds or 2,170 tons, for which $10,850, has been paid—these figures represent what has been received and sold, and does not take in what their dealers have now on hand.  This with the lumber received and sold, makes the large sum of $727,850 paid out by the citizens of Walnut and that section for coal and lumber alone—which is, perhaps, the strongest and most gratifying evidence of the prosperity of the town and the country that supports it, that could be produced, and makes our assertion that Walnut had become “a place of no mean pretensions as a business point,” a self-evident fact.

One thing Walnut stands sadly in need of, and which has become an indispensable necessity to her business interests, is a telegraph office.  Why they have not one, we are at a loss to understand, since we believe the business would support one well.

Finally, Walnut stands ahead of any town on the line of this road, of equal size, as business point and its business men, for live energy and enterprise, will compare favorably with those of larger towns.  For its present growth and prosperity, it is largely indebted to the indefatigable exertions of Mr. E. R. Hinckley, who has, from the time he stepped upon the bleak prairie in the spring of 1871 left no stone unturned that would in any way conduce to its growth and prosperity.

In closing our brief history of this enterprising village, we tender our thanks to its citizens for their kindness and hospitality to us while engaged in this work.