Jewell Junction really had its beginning as a railroad town.

     The earliest railroad effort in the area was in 1874, when a narrow gauge (3 feet between rails) rail line had been completed from Des Moines to Ames.   First known as the Iowa and Minnesota, and later as the Des Moines and Minnesota, the line came north to meet the standard gauge (4 feet and 8 and one half inches between rails) east-west rail line in Ames.   Under the railroad president James Callanan, a prominent Des Moines banker and real estate agent, the narrow gauge was finally known as the Des Moines and Minneapolis Railroad and was to be constructed for points north.  For any settlement that hoped for access to markets, a railroad became a necessity.  Railroad President Callanan started his railroad construction heading north.   Gilbert Station was started when the railroad arrived in 1878, promoted by Hezakia Gilbert, who gave acres of land for the town.   Early in 1877, an election was held in Lafayette Township of Story County for a five percent tax to pull the Des Moines and Minneapolis Railroad to Story City.   Next in the railroad line going north was Randall, formed as a community west of the South Skunk River, although the Randall Postal location had, since 1869, been located just east of the river.

The Toledo & North Western Railroad


This news article published on December 1, 1880 in the Webster City paper
The Hamilton Freeman contains this headline and the following text:


     The Toledo & North Western expects to commence running regular trains into Webster City next Monday, leaving here in the afternoon and arriving in Chicago next morning.   Connections will be made at Callanan with the Narrow Gauge to Des Moines by transfer -- thus giving us the much desired direct communication with the State Capital.

About the Narrow Gauge Railroad

     By the spring of 1877, it was determined that if the people in four townships in the southeast part Hamilton County (Ellsworth township, Lincoln Township, Lyon and Scott) taxed themselves 5%, they might successfully use that money to invite the railroad company to build north to this area, but the monies would have been made available only if the railroad had actually been constructed and operated to within a mile of those townships by December 1 of 1978.   This settlement was originally planned to have the name Lakin, for an early pioneer of that part of the county.  Since they discovered that a post office with than name already existed, and knew that Mr. Callanan was the primary investor of the railroad, they became convinced if they would adopt "Callanan" to be the name of the community, the railroad might be better tempted to come there.   And the Des Moines & Minnesota Railroad did indeed build their track there and did construct a depot to provide rail service there.   Some early maps like this portion of a 1879 version actually show the town as Lakin.

The town was laid out and was platted as Callanan on April 19, 1878.
That made Callanan the first platted town in Southeast Hamilton County.

About Callanan

     As the railroad building fever reached a frenzy, the companies began to build extensions throughout the state.   The railroads wanted to capitalize on their investments, so about every seven miles, a depot would be erected, a siding laid down, and a town would materialize around that new connection to the outside world.   The railroads also constructed lines solely to claim an area and to discourage incursion by competitors.   The Cedar Rapids and Missouri, now known as the Chicago and North Western Railroad, did just that.   Through a maze of interconnected directorships, new railroad companies came into existance and just as quickly disappeared.

    One new line, the Toledo and North Western Company of Tama, proposed building a line north and west of Tama into the yet unconnected Iowa lands towards Sioux City.   On May 22, 1880, the Toledo and North Western proposed building a line from Tama City to northwest Iowa and on into Minnesota if they, too, could win tax incentives and real estate bargains along the way.   With remarkable fervor, the Toledo and North Western completed an 80.39 mile line from Toledo to Webster City and ran its first passenger train between the two cities on December 6, 1880.  When the line was constructed, as it passed west, there developed new communities of Hubbard, Radcliffe, the nearby town of Ellsworth, and constructed west to David Jewell's enticement of offering land for depots, shops and yards.  The Jewell family household was just north of the coming east-west track, so the new community was formed with the name Jewell Junction.

Jewell Junction can be seen on this portion of the 1881 Iowa Railroad Map seen below.

Click to enlarge.
(You may click to enlarge this map.)

This rapid development in from the east brought a stirring of activity in little towns at the end of the narrow gauge.   It was clear the new railroad missed the existing town located to the southeast, Callanan.   Big money could await those who rose to take advantage of the possiblity of a new town and now two area families would make that effort.   John R. and Jane R. King of Callanan came to this area for the profit.

     With money from his grain and saloon businesses in Callanan from 1878 until 1881, John and his wife Jane bought up what property they believed would be the site of the new town along the Toledo and North Western.   With his money he persuaded the railroad to build a depot on his land south of the tracks and applied for a post office to be in his part of town and offered for sale lots south of the tracks.  To make more money, King platted his lots at 22 feet in width and 120 feet in depth.  King's Main Street shrank to 80 feet wide rather than maintain the 100 foot width in David Jewell's proposed town.  From the Jewell family's account, there never was any animosity between the Jewells and the Kings.  The Kings made the money, but the name of Jewell stuck, as the new entity was labeled Jewell's Junction or Jewell Junction.


     This 1881 schedule shows the Toledo & North Western Railroad company operated the narrow gauge railway from Ames north to Callanan.   This rail line was changed to standard gauge width during 1882, so Callanan served as the end of the line from roughly 1878-1882.  After that change to standard gauge, the Chicago & NorthWestern Railway company then operated the line to Jewell.

The Chicago and NorthWestern Line was one of many railroad companies in the late 1800s when Jewell Junction was thriving.

     This news article published April 18, 1895 on the front page of the Record News is the Hamilton County Board of Supervisor's report on both the amount and the value of the railroad extent in each Hamilton County Township and town.


It is said that the first Chicaago and NorthWestern station agent in Jewell was named Hamlin (or Hammerle), followed by Thomas and Stidely.  Other station agents included Herbert Dwight Foval (1894-1911),
Joe Chever (1915), Burt Ford (1916), Joe Kahl (1916- 1938), M. F. Schaferle (1940), Glen Deihl (1940-1963),
Jake Miller (1963-1967), and Roger D. Sogard (1967-1976).

1899 Locomotive Collision in Jewell Junction

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Friday, June 30, 1899:


Two Well-Loaded Freight Trains
Meet in the Yards Thursday Morning.


     About the hour of eight o'clock yesterday morning a head end collision occurred just west of the C. & N. W. depot at this place.   It seems, from what the Record man has observed, the engine No. 52 drawn by engineer Lowery, with a heavy train was standing on the main line of track, evidently waiting for the incoming of the double header from the east.   Soon engines No. 356 and No. 450 with about 50 cars, came in sight, and were running at a high speed.   The men on 52 thought nothing of this, as the supposition was that a slack in speed would be made by the time the water tank was reached.   However, the train kept up its speed, and as a result collided with the train standing on the main line.   The engineers, firemen, and conductors all jumped, and thus succeeded in escaping all injury.   No. 52 which was standing still at the time met, with very little disaster.   Only the cow-catcher being demolished.   It was Nos. 356 and 450 which were completely wrecked.   The back engine telescoped partly over the first one and then took a tumble to the north side.   It was the worst wreck of the engies; their being a good bell left the company will probably build a new engine around it.

     When a Record reporter reached the scene of disaster the engines were piled up as if they intended to "jump their job" and steam was escaping from breaks in the boiler of one of the engines, and the scene was one of ruin and loss.   The wrecking crew at Eagle were immediately telegraphed for, and before an hour and a half had passed, arrived and began clearing away the debris and at the hour of six o'clock in the evening, there was othing visible of the wreck.   No blame has been attached to anyone, as the engineers on the double header claim the air brakes would not work, and hence, the train could not stop.   The train on the main line was entitles to the track, and therefore no blame can be attached to the parties conducting it.   It was a serious wreck for the company and the aggregate loss will be nearly $25,000.   It was a very lucky accident inasmuch as no one was in the least injured.


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The two photos seen above and below show the Jewell Depot in 1908 just before this train station was lost to fire.

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Go to our "Stories" page to learn more about the above photo.

- Click this portion to see the entire news article. -
This news article was published on October 8, 1908:
Click for full article

     Friday afternoon, October 2nd, is a date that will be remembered in Jewell.   On that date the depot that was erected when the C. &. N. W. Ry. first built into Jewell some twenty-seven or eight years ago, burned to the ground.   The fire had gained great headway four o'clock and there was no chance to save even a part of the building from the flames.   Everything was dry as kindle and but for the gale that blowed from the south it is only probable that the fire loss would have extended south along the business street indefinitely.   As it was even against the wind the men fighting the flames had hard work to prevent the Kleaveland lumber yard from igniting.   A barn owned by Peter Mortenson and located 60 or 70 rods north of the depot was ignited by flying brands and with its contents burned to the ground.
     The fire originated doubtless from a spark from a passing engine and began burning beneath the high wooden platform used in unloading freight from cars.   The fire burned along beneath the platform the full length of the long platform and was not discovered until the whole was in flames.   When it broke out and was discovered it was merely a matter of minutes until the entire wooden structure was a mass of flames.   The depot men succeeded in saving the tickets and bills and records of the freight, passenger and express departments and a few telegraph instruments from the office, the end of the depot furtherest removed from the place where the blaze originated.   Not a thing was saved from the baggage and freight and express rooms and even a truck load of seven sample trunks belonging to a representative of Marshall Field & Co. and standing near the depot was burned to the ground.   The fire burned rapidly and it was not long until the depot was burned to the ground, including most of the platforms about it.
     Without the loss of any time the railroad men cut three dispatchers lines into the pump house and established the instruments there and business along the line was interrupted for but a marvelously short time.   Freight cars were pulled up to use for freight and baggage rooms, a passenger car was used for a passenger waiting room, and the room south of Kleaveland's lumber office was secured for a ticket office.   Men were early on the ground clearing away the ruins.   The thing seemed almost impossible, but within forty-eight hours after the fire broke out the ruins were cleared away, a platform of cinders and cruched stone was put in, and work was nearly completed upon a temporary depot.   Everything was moving in formal fashion by Monday noon and the depot men were occupying their new quarters.
     The thing that is now occupying the minds of everyone is what will the railroad company do about a new depot.   Everyone thinks Jewell should have a fine new structure of brick with brick or cement walks and platforms, and the general opinion is that if built on the old site, the freight depot should be a separate building located somewhere else, perhaps farther west.   What will be done nobody knows.   But conversation with those in authority appears to give a good deal of satisfaction to everyone concerned.
     The Northwestern is not in the habit of being niggardly in its building operations and works with an eye upon the future.   As long as the old building stood it served for present needs after a fashion.   But confronted with the necessity for rebuilding, the chances are that Jewell will be given a splendid and modern structure.   Supt. Smith of this division speaks very encouragingly along this line.   He can give no positive information for he is not possessed of any.   But he seems to favor giving Jewell an up-to-date structure and the wishes of the men on the ground will of course have its share of effect.   From the Chicago offices will come definite information when the matter is disposed of.   And there is not apt to be much delay in the matter, only long enough to make a careful study of the situation.   What really will be done here will be significant of the road's future policy regarding the town.   It might be within the possibilities to build with the idea of making Jewell a more important junction point than it new is.   Whatever is done will be done with no greater delay than necessary and Jewell will undoubtedly ..see work under way on a new and permanent depot early this fall.

This following news article was published in the Freeman-Tribune on October 15, 1908:
     The people of Jewell are not mourning the loss of the Chicago & Northwestern depot to any very great extent.  They now expect the railroad company to erect a station that will be a credit, rather than a disgrace, to the town.   And Jewell is one of the most important points on the Northwestern line in this state, so far as passenger service is concerned, and the company ought to build a depot in keeping with this fact.
This news article was published in The Jewell Record on October 22, 1908:
     Mr. Peter Mortenson has requested the Record to express through its columns his most hearty and sincere thanks to the kind people of Jewell for their neighborly and friendly action in raising a purse to aid him in erecting a new barn recently to take the place of the one burned in the depot fire.   Mr. Mortenson was not aware that the purse was being raised until Mr. Ole Hanson, who circulated the paper, brought him the money $43.75.   Such courtesy and kindness is certainly greatly appreciated by Mr. Mortenson.
This news article was published in The Jewell Record on October 29, 1908;

     There really are no new developments in the situation regarding the new depot to be built at Jewell  by the Northwestern road.   There have been rumors and reports in plenty along the line of the probability of work beginning at once, and there have been stories about $25,000 plans that have been drawn up and later changed.   So far as this paper has been able to ascertain to date from the officials, there is really nothing that has as yet been definitely decided upon.

     There is one thing that is very certain.   There will be no work done on a new depot until next spring.   If final plans are determined upon soon opening work in the way of excavating putting in foundations may be started, but that even is very unlikely.   Arrangements have already been made for putting the temporary depot in shape for use during the winter.   The building is to be doubled and ceiled up inside so as to be warmer for use throughout the winter.   It can be confidently predicted that the present temporary structure will serve this winter and that in the spring the work will be started upon a permanent depot that will be a credit alike to the town and to the road.

This news article was published in The Jewell Record on December 30, 1908:
     The C. & N. W. Ry. is building an addition to the depot in the way of a baggage room to the east of the waiting room in the temporary structure that is doing service this winter.
This news article was published in The Jewell Record on April 1, 1909:
     The first signs of work towards Jewell's new depot began Monday when a force of men started erecting a temporary platform for unloading freight.   The temporary platform is just west of main street along the main line Sioux City track.
This news article was published in The Jewell Record on April 15, 1909:
     S. A. Hoon has a big force of men at work excavating for the new depot.
This news article was published in The Jewell Record on March 18, 1909:

     The contract has been given by the C. & N. W. Ry. for the promised new depot at Jewell, and the certainty of a new depot is now a real and tangible thing.   J. J. Jobat, of Peoria, Ill. has the contract for the structure and was on the ground the first of this week looking over the local situation.   Jewell will have the pleasure of seeing actual construction work under way the first of April.

     In round figures about $20,000 will be spent in Jewell.   This will include the new depot, freight depot, and rearrangement of the yard tracks.   The new depot will be a standard frame structure with a slate roof, 104 feet long and 20 feet wide for the main structure, with a 5 foot extension south for the length of the office a a longer wing north from the office to accomodate toilet and rest rooms for men and women.   There will be a ladies' waiting room east of the office and men's waiting room west of the office, with connecting passage north of the office, and toilet rooms opening from this passage to the north.   Baggage and express rooms will be in the west end of the building.   On the north of the structure will be the platform built of brick, and the tracks will be rearranged so that all passenger trains will come in north of the new depot.  The building, extending east and west, will be located about on the site of the burned depot, just south and closely adjacent to the present temporary structure.  The west bound passenger tracks will run in north of the depot and further west will swing back south to the main line Sioux City tracks.   The only trackage south of the depot will be the main line Sioux City tracks, all freight yard tracks for switching south of the depot being west of Main street and the freight depot west of Main street.

     By the new arrangement passengers at the depot will not have to cross freight switch tracks to reach the depot, nor to go from one train to another when transferring.   Nor will freight and passenger train service interfere with each other.   The new arrangement will therefore not only be more convenient for the rail road, but will be by far more convenient and safer for the traveling public.   The building while not of brick as had been hoped, will be, it is promised, not a plain barn-like affair, but will be a tasty and handsome structure.   With the new track arrangement, double tracks east to the switch, new well and a new stand pipe, brick platform and the new depot, the local officials are all sanguine that the people of Jewell and the traveling public will be well satisfied with what the company will do at Jewell.

     Work will begin promptly.   April first will mark the beginning of operations when excavation and building will be begun.   The contractors are giving local dealers and workmen their chance on the building.   So far as possible cement and lumber, etc. will be bought of local dealers.   Local contractors may have an opportunity to do the excavating.   In this regard the contractor, Mr. Jobst, appears to be emiently fair and generous in dealing with the local people.

This news article was published in The Jewell Record on May 6, 1909:
     The workmen on the new depot are pushing the work rapidly and the building is now entirely enclosed.   The interior work and plumbing and putting on the tile roof will probably require most of this month and it is anticipated that the building will be ready for occupancy by June 1st.   The men who are grading for the new arrangement of tracks and those who are digging drain ditches are pushing their work rapidly and will probably have the yards in readiness in a month.   It is expected that arrangements will be made to continue the well that is being dug six or eight hundred feet further if necessary to get sufficient water.   The work is now stopped temorarily at about a depth of 375 feet.
This news article was published in The Jewell Record on May 20, 1909:

     Last Saturday this town of Jewell was a great railroad center so far as the number of passenger trains run through here by the Northwestern was concerned.   In addition to the usual good passenger service Jewell had nineteen extra trains between midnight Friday night and midnight Saturday night.   The speculation as to the cause of it all was various, running all the way from a guess that the Northwestern was running specials here to show the public our new depot, to guesses to the effect that a mistaken idea was abroad that the Jewell-Ellsworth baseball game was to be played Saturday instead of Monday, the the specials were run to accommodate the fans from all over the universe and Missouri that wanted to see the game.

     The cause of the extra trains was the fact that a bridge at a Quarry just east of Marshalltown was washed out by the heavy floods of Friday southeast of here.   While the bridge was being rebuilt all main line passenger trains of the Northwestern line were run through Jewell.   West bound trains left the main line at Tama coming to Jewell and down to Ames, east bound main line trains came up from Ames and east from Jewell to Tama.  The result as that Jewell for a day had an average of about one passenger train an hour, counting the regular train.   The main line through fast trins made quite a big play for Jewell.

This news article was published in The Jewell Record on June 10, 1909:
     Friday the folks down at the depot moved into their new headquarters and now traveling public and railroad employees alike have most excellent accomodations.   Work is not completed by any means in the
rearrangement of tracks and freight depot, but enough is done so the public now appreciates the excellence of the new deal here.


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The steam locomotive seen at left is taking water and having baggage loaded - 1912

Published in the Jewell Record
on November 7, 1912.


     Once the railroad had arrived and buisinesses began to build on King's land, the original town began to move to the new Main Street, today's north-south street through Jewell.   David Jewell and his wife were eventually buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Jewell.   The King family legacy remains through a scholarship fund for local students known as the Jane R. King fund.

Early map showing railroads in Hamilton County

Don't be confused by the names (all caps) of Hamilton County townships on this map.
(Learn more . . . . about townships.)

Some places like Randall and Kamrar (and Gilbert Station) are not located on a state highway,
but those towns prospered because they were on the railway line.

This image of the Jewell Depot looks southeast from Main Street.

is found on Page 2 of Railroads in Jewell.