History of Transportation in Audubon County, IA
From: History of Audubon County, Iowa
Its People, Industries and Instutions
H. F. Andrews, Editor
B. F. Bowen & Company, Inc., Indianapolis - 1915



The first traveled highway was the old Mormon trail, coming from the way of Des Moines, Adel, Redfield, etc. It entered the county near the "Divide," not far south of the northeast corner of Audubon township; thence down the divide between the water sheds of Troublesome and Crooked creeks, through Indian Grove (section 14, Audubon township), to Hamlin's Grove; thence down Troublesome to Grove City and Lewis and on to Council Bluffs. It was not a legally laid out highway and ran across the country without following section lines.

It will not be amiss to notice some of the first legally established roads, which were generally laid out across the county without conforming to section lines, but conforming to the divides and highlands.

Old State road No. I was laid out by Dr. Samuel M. Ballard and Thomas Seely, as commissioners, in 18J5. It commenced at the west line of Dallas county, at the terminus of a road laid there in 1849; thence by way of Bear Grove, entering Audubon county at the half mile post on the north line of section 2, Audubon township; thence southwesterly down Troublesome to the township line at the corner of sections 7 and 18, same township; thence to Dayton (section 22, Exira township); thence through sections 28, 29 and 30, same township, to Ballard's bridge in section 36, in Oakfield township; thence by way of the Forks of the West Nishua river, in township 77, range 39, in Shelby county; thence to Council Bluffs. The portion of the road east from the old town of Dayton is practically obsolete.

County road No. 2 was located in December, 1855. The petitioners were: Daniel Crane, David L. Anderson, Hiram Perkins, David Edgerton, William Panghurn, John Sifford, Reuben Kenyon, Nathaniel Wiggin, John Crane, and Bryant Milliman. Nathaniel Hamlin was commissioner and Peoria I. Whetted, surveyor. Beginning on the east line of section I, Audubon township; thence to the upper grove on Troublesome, in section 4, in Audubon township; thence to David's creek (Extra); thence to the Shelby county line, twenty rods north of the northwest corner of Sharon township.

County road No. I was laid out in 1855-6. The petitioners were: Nathaniel Hamlin, John Crane, Thomas S. Lewis, Isaac V. D. Lewis, O. Everett Marsh, Oliver Smith, Alonzo N. Arnold, Jonathan Decker, William Carpenter, Peoria I. Whitted, Richard M. Lewis, Daniel Crane, Robert A. Oliphant, Urbane Herrick and David L. Anderson. David Edgerton was commissioner and Peoria I. Whitted, surveyor. Beginning on the south line of section 31, Exira township; thence east across Troublesome, by Hamlin's Grove, and ending at the Guthrie county line at the corners of sections 12 and 13, Audubon township, the site of the present Lutheran cemetery.

County road No. 7 was located in 1857. Alvin Herrick was commissioner and Peoria I. Whitted, surveyor. Beginning at State road No. 2, in section 28, Exira township; thence north through Big Grove, Exira, Highland Grove, and termination on the Guthrie county line, eighty five rods south of the corner of sections 24 and 25, Viola township.

County road No. 9, was located in 1859, being petitioned for by John E. McConnell, J. E. Ham, William S. Bush, Lyman Bush, William P. Hamlin, Avery Belcher, James Eagan, Charles Wigging, William Nelson, Leonard Earley, Stillman H. Perry and Nathaniel Wiggin. Beginning at the east end of Depot street, Exira; thence east and ending at Judge Harris' breaking, near to county road No. 1, on the Guthrie county line.

These were the most important roads in the county up to 186o. The routes of travel were mostly confined to the high lands, across country, without following section lines in the first instance. Miles of road wound along the ridges, to avoid the streams and low, wet lands, and to avoid the building of bridges as much as possible. They were the natural ways for travel and soon became ideal highways. As the country settled up, they have been changed, mostly to conform to the section lines.


Bridges were then an expensive claim upon the limited resources of our thinly settled county, but the people were equal to the demand. They could not build the costly structures we are erecting today; indeed, a single bridge such as we now build costs more than all the bridges built in the county for the first ten years. The first bridges were constructed by placing long, strong logs across the stream from bank to bank, the ends firmly buried in the ground, and were covered with poles and dirt. The upper side was lowest, in order that the high water would pass over it entirely, and the weight of the water pressed the bridge covering firmly to the stringers, and thus prevented it from being swept away by the current. Such bridges had to answer their purposes, and they were convenient and safe, except in high water. Several accidents have occurred from these defective primitive bridges. About 1873, Hiram Jellison lost a valuable horse in attempting to cross the bridge west of Old Hamlin during high water, and the same year a traveler in attempting to cross Four Mile creek, east of Exira, had a span of horses drowned, where the bridge had been swept away by high water.

The next important change in bridges was by bedding heavy mud sells in the stream, or near the edges, and erecting upon them heavy frame works high above the water, and covering them with plank for a roadway. They were not a success and were constantly swept away by high water, resulting in heavy losses.

In 1872 Mark Frary, of Atlantic, introduced the system of pile bridges, which was adopted by the county and used extensively to the present time. In recent years corrugated metalic tubes are being successfully used for culverts, instead of the small wooden bridges. The county has already replaced many wooden structures with concrete and iron bridges and culverts, and these improvements bid fair to be continued and increased.


For many years roadbeds have been graded, the hilltops cut down and hollows filled. Since the advent of automobiles, roads have been vastly improved and made better and smoother by a uniform system of road dragging. Under recent laws, the prospects are that in the near future defective highways in Audubon county will be a thing of the past. The River to River road, through the county east and west, passes through Exira. It would require a volume to enumerate the roads and bridges in the county, a very complete record of which is found in the county auditor's office, showing four hundred and seventy five roads, ramifying all parts of the county, aggregating eight hundred and thirteen miles of roads.

There are now in the county five hundred wooden bridges, each over thirty two feet in length; five hundred wooden bridges and culverts less than thirty two feet in length; ten concrete and steel bridges, and three thou sane: corrugated metallic tube culverts.


There was not a railroad in Iowa when Audubon county was first settled. In 1865 the Rock Island railroad reached the town of Kellogg, and the Northwestern railroad reached the town of Boone the same year. In 1866 the Northwestern reached Council Bluffs, and one railroad got through to Des Moines the same year. At that period the people of Audubon county first began to realize that they were in touch with railroad facilities.

The first pine lumber for building purposes was brought to Audubon county in 1866 for erection of the school house near Bradley Beers (Old Hamlin). In December, 1868, the Rock Island railroad was continued from Des Moines to Council Bluffs. In December, 1878, the branch railroad came from Atlantic to Brayton, Exira and Audubon. In 1882 the Northwestern railroad came from Carroll, by way of Manning, to Gray and Audubon. The Atlantic Northern railroad was built from Atlantic to Elk Horn and Kimballton in 1907.


John M. Donnel, called "Milt," came to Audubon county with Nathaniel Hamlin in September, 1851, and at first lived about Hamlin's Grove. Soon afterward, at least as early as 1853, he carried the mail from Adel to Hamlin's Grove, using some kind of wheeled conveyance. We are unable to learn how long it continued. At an early day the Western Stage Company established a line of coaches through Iowa by way of Des Moines to Council Bluffs. As early as 1857 the route was from Des Moines, by way of Adel, Redfield, Dalmanutha, Morrisons (Anita), Grove City and Lewis, to Council Bluffs. The exact date when the route was first changed from Morrison's to Hamlin's is uncertain. In June, 1865, it was running by way of Morrison's. Charles How, who now lives at Exira, drove the first coach from Bear Grove to Hamlin's Grove, July 18, 1865, when that change was made. It is not certain if the route had previously run to Hamlin's.

In October, 1865, the writer was a passenger in the Western Stage Company's coaches from Kellogg to Hamlin's Grove. The route then ran from Des Moines, by way of Adel, Panora, Guthrie Center, Bear Grove, to Hamlin's Grove; thence to Grove City, etc. Those coaches were the old fashioned Concord, closed stages, with leather thorough braces (for springs), and were drawn by four powerful horses. The drivers were veterans in their business and expert whips. With their long, graceful lashes, they could fleck a fly from the ears of their lead horses without touching the horse, and could perform all other expert stunts peculiar to their calling. The coaches went out of use when the railroad reached Atlantic in 1868-9. While the stages went by way of Morrison's, mail was carried from that point to Hamlin's on horseback.

Before the town of Exira was founded, and as early as 1856, a man named Adams carried the mail, some times horseback and at other times with a buckboard, from Adel, by way of Exira, to Magnolia, giving service once a week each way. About 1860, E. B. Newton, of Guthrie Center, carried the mail by hackline, from Adel to Magnolia; but he changed the route by going from Bear Grove to Bradley Beers' (Old Hamlin); thence to Bowman's Grove, leaving Exira six miles to the south, and the mail was supplied to Exira from Beers. In 1864, Newton was succeeded by John Crane, who carried the mail from Bear Grove, by way of Exira, to Magnolia, twice a week. This line was discontinued when the railroad reached Atlantic in 1868-9. In 1868 a hackline was established by David L. Anderson from Exira to Atlantic, with service twice a week. In 1875, he was succeeded by William P. Hamlin, who conducted a hack line over the same route until the railroad reached Exira in 1878.

About 1868 another mail line was established by William Thompson from Anita, by way of Hamlin's, to Exira, which was discontinued in 1878. A line was established in 1871, by John McFadden from Exira, by way of Leroyville, Irwin, Thompson and Elba, to Carroll. He was succeeded by William Thompson, he by John Robinson, and he by Sylvester K. Landis. This line was discontinued about 1880-2. Another line was established by William Gransberry, from Exira, by way of Leroyville, Irwin and Viola Center, to Coon Rapids, during the period last above named.

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