Thriving Boom Town of Callanan
The birth of Callanan was the death of Lakin's Grove. Most of the businesses and professional men moved to the railroad town. Callanan, the first platted town in southeast Hamilton County came into being in the spring of 1878 when a Narrow Gauge Railroad three feet wide, the Des Moines and Minneapolis, was built north of Ames.
The railroad was being built on the west side of Skunk River; but in order to get 5 per cent tax is was required to come within a mile of the four adjoining corners of Lyon, Lincoln, Ellsworth and Scott Townships. To do this it was necessary to build a spur across the river. A high grade from the bridge to the top of the hill east with an incline of five hundred feet to the mile. This made a very steep long grade. The bridge and grade were supposed to be only temporary just to get a train across by a given date in order to collect the tax.
The grade was so steep to get into Callanan that if trains would take a run and then fail to make it, it was necessary to back down and try again. Then the idea of backing up the hill was used as the engine needed more push than pull. In going out, all brakes were set. The railroad expected to build north through Webster City, but only a 2 1/2 per cent tax was voted, so it stopped at Callanan.
The town Callanan was being started on the west side of section one of Ellsworth Township and section 36 of Lyon Township in the winter of 1877-78. In the early spring of 1878, a depot was built and the railroad was completed. The town was laid out the same year. It was first called Lakin, but when a post office was established, the railroad named it Callanan for the president of the road. It was first called Lakin, but when a post office was established, the railroad named it Callanan for the president of the railroad. (This account of the town's name derivation differs from the account in the Jewell Centennial Book.)
In November 1878, the south half of the southwest one fourth of section 36 of Lyon Township was laid out in town lots and called North Callanan. Streets were laid out, the business district evidently ran north and south with River, Main, Everett, Willow, Scott, Lyon, Cherry and Vine; east and west streets were Lincoln and Ellsworth. Later, there was made an addition to North Callanan with River, Main and Vine Streets. Big things were planned for Callanan.
Callanan grew like a mining boom town. It was built in great agricultural country and large shipments of grain and livestock were sent out and needed commodities brought in.
In the fall of 1878, the paper William Standard suspended, so Mr. Sherpy moved the press to Callanan and started the Herald. In a copy of the Herald dated December 14, 1878, it was noted that the subscription was $1.00 per year if sent in clubs of five or more and before January 1st. "If you haven't any money, we won't object to several tons of potatoes, cabbage or anything that can be eaten. Patronize your home paper and save your country." The Herald had a hard time, and Frank Bell was the editor after a few weeks. Bell printed it occasionally and suspended. It was revived again and the name changed to Register. In January 1880 the County Board named it the second official paper on the condition that it be issued regularly. It struggled along another few weeks and ended.
A school house was built and a County Teacher's Institute was held in it. Professor Eldridge, one of Iowa's noblest men and one of the best educators in the United States conducted the classes. Louise Anderson, who later married Wig Bonner, taught one of the first terms of school. Church and Sunday School were held in the school house.
The people of Callanan probably used the Rinker Cemetery, as some know that people from Callanan had been buried there earlier. It would be only about one and one half miles north. This could account for the large number of unmarked graves.
By the fall of 1878, Callanan had everything but law enforcement and a bank. There were two saloons and all the things that went with them at the time. It was told they each cleared more money than any other business.
(More of this story is continued below.)
This 1958 aerial view of the Callanan area was secured from the Iowa DOT. North is towards the top. It shows today's railroad track coming up from Randall, and turning towards Jewell. The curved line shows how the 1877 track turned towards the East, crossed the Skunk river, and ended at the intersection of four townships in the southeast corner of Hamilton County.
Callanan lived and grew fast for nearly three years, and lots of gambling and two murders were reported there. This is the story as reported: As will be seen further on, the town of Callanan only grew for a little over two years, and then began to fall to pieces, but during its short life it claimed the distinction of having two murders committed within its precincts. One was by a drunken bystander on the Fourth of July, who fired a revolver into the crowd of the platform of the depot, striking one Jacob Heng on the leg. Selma Shade shared this incident that Mr. J. Heng was taken to her Grandfather Larson's home which was the first house south of Ellsworth on I 35. My Grandfather Larson had a doctor come from Story City. This doctor amputated one of Mr. Heng's legs using the kitchen table for the operation. Mr. Heng lived for about 3 weeks.
The other case was that in which Hilga Espe killed Joe Isley. Espe was a strong, muscular fellow while Isley was a little old man. Both were drunk. Espe wanted to fight Isley, but Isley refused and started to go away. Espe followed and picking up the smaller man, threw him from the sidewalk upon the frozen ground with great force and left him there. Someone at a distance saw the act and went to the old man. Finding him unconscious, called the crowd from the saloon and he was taken in and laid upon a bench where he remained unconscious until the next day when he died.
A year passed by and the Narrow Gauge Railroad remained in operation from Ames to Callanan. It has been reported that 2 passenger trains, one north bound the other south bound, were in full operation daily. The railway company refused to go north through Webster City unless they received the full 5 per cent tax. However, they threatened to go north by way of Blairsburg or Williams unless the 5 percent tax was conceded.
Thus it was that the Toledo and Northwestern Railroad proposed to run a standard railroad from Tama City to the northwest of Iowa and to Minnesota. Several routes were proposed, one of which was across Hamilton County. Immediately the citizens of Boone Township (Webster City) began to work to encourage the company to run the road through Webster City. This began in 1879; but the project took no difinite shape until the spring of 1880 when Webster City voted a 5 percent tax to aid the construction of the railroad, as well as donate right of way and depot grounds so the railroad would build through Webster City. By this time it was realized that the Chicago Northwestern was back of the Toledo and Northwestern Railroad (east and west). So it was that on December 6, 1880 that a regular passenger train made its first run on this line through Hamilton County. Then, too, a transfer stage was put into operation between Ellsworth and Callanan, a distance of a little over a mile. So now the people had railroad facilities both south to Des Moines and east to Chicago.
The market price for livestock and farm produce as listed in the Callanan Herald from the year 1880 is as follows:
Corn 12 cents to 14 cents
Oats 8 cents to 10 cents
Wheat 25 cents to 55 cents
Flax 90 cents to 95 cents
Barley 20 cents to 60 cents
Cattle $1.90 to $2.25
Eggs 12 cents to 14 cents
Butter 10 cents to 12 cents
Feathers 25 cents to 45 cents
Potatoes 20 cents to 30 cents
Lard 5 cents to 6 cents
Tallow 2 cents to 4 cents
Hides 4 cents to 5 cents
Turkeys 4 cents
Chickens 2 1/2 cents
In an old issue of the Callanan Herald, the following 24 businesses and advertisers where listed in Callanan:
J.T. Livergood, homeopathic physician
G.W. Black, physician and surgeon
Charles Lakin, barber and hair dresser
J.D. Thompson, contractor and builder
S.J. Palmer, dealer in shelf and heavy hardware, Callanan Brick Company
J.C.Clouse, house and carriage painter
J. Delorme, manuafacturer of boots and shoes.
Callanan House - good beds and tables
City Billiard Hall, J.R. Dink, proprietor, fresh bottled beer, ales and pop
W.G. Ridhard and brother, selling goods at bedrock prices for cash or produce
The Eagle Boarding House, H. Hoy, proprieter
J.G. Wheat, drugs, buggy and wagon grease
J.O. Ringstad and Chris Thoreson, general store
Allen and Ruddle, house painters
Swain G. Johnson & Co., dealers in dry goods, groceries, ready made clothing, boots, shoes, paints, oils and general merchandise
Charles Lakin, dealer in farm machinery of all kinds, coal, hair, lime
P.T. Stein, proprietor, blacksmith, carriage and wagon shop
Mr. Winter, constructing a large building
G.M. Barkhuff, meat market
W.C. Barkhuff, wagon shop
Scandinavian Hotel, A. Anderson, proprietor.
Within a few years after 1880, most of the businesses of Callanan moved to Ellsworth, and some to Jewell. Peter Ryberg, the Lakin's Grove blacksmith did not go to Callanan, but to Missouri. Then to Ellsworth where he had a shop and lived into his elder years. Together with Swain G. Johnson who had pioneered in the three towns in the general store trade. Dr. Black also served the three communities. After the town of Callanan was gone, John Ringstad bought the land.
(adapted from The Centennial Story of Ellsworth)
The Callanan Shooting Affair
So far as we are able to learn at this time the particulars of the shooting affair at Callanan on the 4th are about as follows:
While the train was moving out of the depot, a man by the name of John Anderson thrust his hand out of the car window and fired two shorts from a revolver into the crowd upon the depot platform. Both balls struck an old gentleman by the name of Jacob Hank, who was standing in the crowd, one of them taking effect in the groin and the other in the leg below the knee. Anderson was at once arrested and hearing had before justice Black of Callanan, and held to appear before the Grand Jury in the sum of $2,000, and is at present confined in the county jail at this place. The wounds received by Mr. Hank, who is 65 years of age, were immediately dressed by Dr. Black, and we learn he is now doing as well as could be expected, and hopes are entertained that he will recover.
We believe the general opinion is that Anderson had been drinking rather freely during the day, and becoming a little too patriotic, drew his revolver and fired it off without stopping to see where it was pointed. However, we are not prepared to say just what the cause was, and can only hope that the old gentleman may entirely and speedily recover from his injuries.
Notice this locomotive is labelled "James Callanan".
Moines & Minnesota No. 3, an ungainly Danforth 2-6-0 of 1875, bore
the name of the railroad's president, James Callanan.
In addition to his business interests, Callanan was interested in education. He was a liberal giver to The Home for the Aged, Penn College in Oskaloosa, and was president of the Iowa Humane Society. He donated land to Mercy Hospital which was later sold to the Des Moines Schools. Callanan Junior High was named for him. It is now called Callanan Middle School. He also founded a normal College, then Callanan Normal College. After a fire destroyed part of the building, the college was moved to Drake University, to which he was also a donor. Eventually, Callanan Normal College became the College of Education of Drake. James Callanan also was important for his donations for the start of Iowa Methodist Hospital. Mr. Callanan died in Des Moines in 1904. Read news articles about James Callanan, the man whose name was used for the first platted town in southeast Hamilton County.
(Click to enlarge this image, or read the same following text from the Webster City Freeman Jounal article.)
Callanan - A Town Forgotten
In early 1878, the four townships in the southeast part of Hamilton County, Lyon, Lincoln, Ellsworth and Scott, voted themselves a 5% tax to induce a railroad to come to their area. The stipulation they made was that any railroad must pass within a mile of the intersection of the four townships.
About this time, a Des Moines businessman, investor, and banker James Callanan, was building a narrow gauge railroad north from Des Moines. He was the president of the Des Moines and Minneapolis Railroad. His railroad had already entered Ames, so he was persuaded to extend his line to the area. He selected a site for the depot which was only one-half mile west of the intersection. The town was to be named Lakin, for Luther Lakin, but the townspeople chose to name the town Callanan to honor the president of the railroad. Callanan was located exactly three miles south of Lakin's Grove.
James Callanan was an important person in Des Moines. He was born in Albany Co., New York, in 1820. He was admitted to the bar in 1847 and practiced law in Albany. In 1857 he came to Des Moines and founded a co-partnership with Col. Ingham and opened a banking house called Callanan and Ingham.
The railroad produced a time-table which announced two trains daily, one arriving and one departing from Callanan. Tracks forming a Y west of town (atop the hill on the west side of the Skunk River) allowed the train to turn around. The 1880 map with shows the four townships and the location of Callanan, the Y, and Lakins' Grove. Jewell Junction and Ellsworth did not exist at this time, but the Randall Post Office did exist. The "Freeman" of May 29, 1878 announced Callanan, the station on the DM & M RR at the Four Corners, is improving quite rapidly at present. The town had been platted just a month earlier in April, 1878. The plat consisted of four blocks with north-south streets named River, Main, Everitt, Scott, and Lyon. The only east-west street was named Lincoln. (The Callanan plat map shows five streets going east-west.)
The Callanan post office was opened on April 10, 1878 with David W. Schoonmaker as the postmaster. He was also the depot agent, and the mail was kept in the depot. A dispute about the post office was written in the "Herald", the Callanan newspaper of Dec. 14, 1878. The editor, Frank H. Bell, complained that Lakin's Grove lost its post office because Schoonmaker held up all mail from Lakin's Grove to increase the count mailed from Callanan. This dispute continued between Bell and Schoonmaker. The Herald reported that when a subscriber asked Schoonmaker if the Herald was played out. He replied, "No, but it ought to be."
The "Freeman" of May 29, 1878, continued describing this new town, "It already has a hardware store with S. J Palmer, proprietor, two dry goods stores operated by W. A. Richards and Bros., and S. G. Johnson, a shoe store, a hotel under construction, and that sure follower of the track of civilization, a saloon."
(The Martin Nass article published in the Webster City Freeman Jounal continues:)
It also reported that 16 carloads of grain and stock were shipped from Callanan, and five carloads of merchandise were shipped in during one week. The trains came north on the west side of the Skunk River, then crossed the river, and ran up a slope to the town. Sometimes the engineer did not have enough speed, and the loaded train could not make the grade. Then the engineer backed down a long way and made another run at higher speed.
At its highest point, Callanan numbered about 200 people. The business register showed two surgeons, several contractors, a hotel, a boarding house, three painters, a hardware store, a drug store, two dry goods stores, a pool hall, a barber shop, a brickyard, a blacksmith shop, a carriage and wagon shop, and a meat market. Charles Lakin was the town barber. He ran the pool hall in the same location and also sold coal, hair, lime, and farm machinery.
On June 26, 1878, "Freeman" reported on the planned celebration of a "Regular Seventy-Six time in this little city of the 4th of July." The "Freeman" turned out the flyers which announced "the program of the occasion - which will be made up of cannon firing at daybreak, orations by speakers from abroad, balloon ascension at 3 in the afternoon, and a display of fire works in the evening. A Des Moines brass band will furnish the music. A basket dinner, toasts, responese, ball playing, foot racing, callathumpian displays, concluding with dancing in the evening."
This same paper announced that Callanan had erected fully a dozen buildings and has cellars and foundations laid for a hotel and three more residences. The article ended with the editor stating, "Callanan will be one of the most important little towns in the county."
The little narrow gauge line was the means of bringing many excursion parties from Ames and Des Moines for a weekend of partying and drinking in the beautiful wooded area. Every mention of the town gives an indication that liquor flowed freely at all times, and when some sober citizens expressed concern for the future of their town, the residents were quickly told that this was good for business and the future prosperity of the town. This atmosphere contributed to two murders being committed during the very short life of the town.
A shooting was reported in the "Freemen" on July 8, 1879. The shooting took place at the 4th of July celebrations. As the train was pulling out of the depot, John Anderson thrust his hand out of the car window and fired two shots into the crowd on the platform. Both balls struck Jacob Hank, who was standing in the crowd, one hitting him in the groin and the other in his leg. Justice Black, of Callanan, conducted a hearing, and Anderson was held on bond of $2,000 for the Grand Jury. The general belief was that Anderson had been drinking freely during the day, drew his revolver and fired it without stopping to see where it was pointed.
The Des Moines & Minneapolis Railroad when into bankruptcy, and all efforts to continue the line north ceased. The Toledo and North Western Railroad took over the bankrupt line and on May 28, 1879 it was reported that C. C. Whitten, Esq., of Toledo, Iowa was in Webster city. He was the right-of-way agent of the Toledo & North Western. He reported that everything was favorable for an extension of the line to Webster City. By May of 1880, the line was opened to Ellsworth and Jewell Junction. The narrow gauge track was replaced with standard gauge track for the entire way. (Tracks for the narrow gauge were set 3 foot apart and was a cheaper way to lay out a railroad.) The engine and cars were smaller. Standard gauge had tracks that were 4 foot, 8 and one-half inches wide. It was later learned that the Toledo & North Western Railroad was really a front for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. This line bypassed Callanan, which rapidly declined in importance. Most of the residents moved to Ellsworth or Jewell Junction. The town of Kamrar was laid out and the train came into Webster City of December 6, 1880.
In addition to
his business interests, James Callanan was interested in education.
He was a liberal giver to The Home for the Aged, Penn College
in Oskaloosa, and was president of the Iowa Humane Society.
He donated land to Methodist Hospital, which was later sold to the
Des Moines Schools. Callanan Junior High was named for
him. It is now called Callanan Middle School.
He also founded a normal college where teachers were trained. It
was first called Callanan College, then Callanan Normal College.
After a fire detroyed part of the building, the collge was moved to Drake
University, to which he was also a donor. Eventually, the Callanan
Normal College became the College of Education of Drake.
Mr. James Callanan died in Des Moines in 1904.
New towns emerge in the county
The community of Callanan was first named Lakin and was located on the east bank of the Skunk River, lying near the common corner of Scott, Ellsworth, Lyon and Lincoln Townships. The four townships had voted a five percent tax to assist in the extension of the narrow gauge railroad, the Des Moines & Minneapolis line.
A post office was established with the name of Callanan, called that since the president of the rail line was a gentleman of that name. So there would be no mixup, the name of Lakin was changed to Callanan and the community looked forward to a good future.
The town was laid out in April, 1878, and it quickly became a boom town, with several saloons adding the atmosphere of the Wild West. A newspaper was even established there, but it was suspended after a tough struggle for life.
Callanan grew for about two years, then began to go to pieces. Two murders occured there within a short space of time, one happening during a Fourth of July celebration.
What doomed the town was the fact that the narrow gauge railroad progressed no farther north as the rail company tried to obtain the benefit of a five percent tax from Webster City for the extension north.
an election was held in Webster City and the tax approved by a slim majority,
but the railroad company delayed for a year before asking that a new vote
be taken and the community donate the right of way and depots grounds.
Again the election carried, but a short time later the railroad mortgage
was foreclosed on the line and hope vanished.
In 1882, when the Toledo and Northwestern Railroad company was purchased by the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, the line was widened from narrow gauge to standard and bypassed Callanan to head towards Jewell (Jewell Junction) to junction with the Toledo and Northwestern RR line (the east/west railroad). The railroad section crews assembled along the line and changed it to standard gauge in one day, Sunday, May 28, 1882.
This bypass of Callanan insured that settlement would only survive about three years, with most residents moving to either Ellsworth or Jewell because it was important to live in a town served by a railroad.
The settlement of Callanan was located near today's intersection of Tollman Avenue and 340th Street. Today, there are two signs mark that corner where Callanan once existed. Directly north across the Township line (340th) is where North Callanan would have been.
Today, the Skunk River in the Callanan area has a bridge across the Skunk River. This Skunk River bridge, however, was not the railroad bridge crossing the river so that trains could go up the hill, cross Tollman Avenue, and pull up to the Callanan depot.
The grade up the hill was steep enough when leaving Callanan that to cross the river make the turn and head south, the engineer needed to head around the short turn and go up the hill at full throttle. If the attempt was not successful, the train would have to back down and try again.