History of Center Township, Fayette County,
From: Past and Present of Fayette County, Iowa
B. F. Bowen & Company
Indianapolis, Indiana 1910
This township was organized on the 13th day of February, 1858, by proclamation of the county judge, Hon. J.
W. Rogers. The organizing election was announced at the same time and by the same authority, to occur on the first
Monday in April, following. The officers elected at that time held only until the next succeeding general election,
which occurred in October. There were seventeen voters at the organizing election, and Elijah Hartsough, David
Baer and John M. Proctor were chosen judges and James Orr and John Dunham, clerks of the election. They were sworn
by C. A. Haywood, deputy sheriff of the county. Elijah Hartsough, David Baer and Thomas J. Llewellyn were elected
trustees; James Orr, clerk; Harvey S. Brunson, justice of the peace, and J. F. Lyman and S. Snyder, constables.
These were the organizing officers, some of whom were re-elected at the general election in October. Eli Mulnix
succeeded H. S. Brunson as justice of the peace, and was also elected township clerk, vice James Orr. A second
justice of the peace was also chosen in the person of Harrison Augir. Elijah Hartsough, J. M. Proctor and David
E. Snyder were elected township trustees. These were really the first officers of the township who served the full
term of one year.
In early times there was much controversy over the location of the county seat, West Union being always successful in the contests with other towns. But the defeated candidates, after giving up their ow n contests, decided that in fairness to all, the seat of justice should be located at the geographical center of the county. This point being in Center township, or to be exact, on the line between Center and Westfield townships, an effort was made in 1852 to locate the county seat at "the geographical center," and legislative assistance was sought to bring the matter to a focus. But owing to the very strong opposition to this procedure, the original purpose had to be abandoned, and the General Assembly appointed three commissioners from as many different adjoining counties, who located the county seat on the southwest quarter of section 17, Westfield township, subject to the approval of the voters at the next general election. The proposition was rejected by a majority of ninety five, hence the aspirations of the "Center" were not realized.
The schools of Center township are organized on the rural independent district plan, that is, each school is a corporate body and the board of three directors has entire control of all school matters within their districts. There are eight schools thus organized in the township, and one independent town district at Randalia. Of the eight districts, four had nine months' school during the last year, two had eight and a half months and one had eight. Teachers' wages ranged from thirty two dollars and twenty two cents (the lowest) to forty dollars per month. One male teacher was employed at thirty five dollars per month, the balance of the teaching force being females. Of two hundred twenty four pupils of school age in the eight districts, one hundred fifty four were enrolled in the schools, with an average attendance of nearly thirteen in each district. The smallest school in the township is No. 4, with eight pupils between the ages of five and twenty one years. No. 2 is the largest, with a school population of forty six, and an averaged daily attendance of twenty four. The school houses in these districts are valued at four thousand six hundred ninety dollars, with school apparatus valued at four hundred fifty eight dollars, and five hundred twenty two volumes in the district libraries.
RANDALIA AND DONNAN.
These prosperous villages are the outgrowth of the coming of the railroads, the former being situated on the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, and the latter at the junction of this road with the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul.
Randalia is located on the east half of the southeast quarter of section 15, which was entered by Frederick
Boyes April 12, 1855. It became the property of J. N. B. Elliott in 1868, and on the 6th of June, 1872, he deeded
the right of way to the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Minnesota Railroad Company, and sold the remainder to Randall
Brothers in the fall of 1873. The village plat was surveyed by P. F. Randall, and was filed for record December
9, 1874. A. J. F. Randall commenced the erection of a two story building in July, 1874, this being designed as
a business place and dwelling on second floor. This was the first building erected on the town plat, and it has
been continuously occupied as a store building and postoffice since the latter was established. The first stock
of goods placed in this building was owned by C. Hurlbut of Fayette, opened in the spring of 1875. But the name
of Randall is inseparably connected with the town, and A. J. F. Randall has been a continuous business man there
longer than any other person. The second building was the Randalia Hotel, erected by N. B. Underwood, who was also
a merchant in the town. This was opened as a hotel in the late fall of 1874. It has had a continuous existence
as such, under several different proprietors.
The first religious services in the new town were conducted at the school house, by Rev. Moulton, in 1876, the
school house having just been completed. This building served for a public meeting house for some years. The Methodist
Episcopal church, which had been dormant for some time, was reorganized in the autumn of 1877, with seventeen members,
and services were conducted for a number of years by Rev. Lyman Hull, who met the people once in two weeks at the
school house. This organization has been maintained and quite regular services are held, often under the preaching
of students from the Upper Iowa University, but in later years by regular pastors appointed to the circuit. The
history of this church and its membership appears more fully in the history of the Methodist Episcopal church of
Fayette county, by Hon. C. B. Hughes, elsewhere in this work.
When the town was incorporated the limits of its school district coincided with the corporate limits, thus creating
a small independent town district upon which the burdens of proper school facilities were liable to exceed the
limit of taxation established by law. But the adjacent territory belonged in rural independent districts, the taxpayers
in which guarded their territory with jealous eyes. The patrons of these adjacent schools also objected to distorting
their districts into irregular shapes to accommodate the town, and considerable controversy arose, the matter being
finally settled in the courts, and the boundaries of the Randall district enlarged and established as at present.
The record of the final proceedings in this matter, and the final establishment of the school district, was filed
with the county auditor on the 18th of December, 1897. A school of ten grades was established, and an additional
room provided for the teaching of the sixty three children in the district. The school house is valued at one thousand
five hundred dollars; the average compensation of the two female teachers during the last year was forty seven
dollars and fifty cents, and the duration of the school, nine months. A regular system of graduation is installed,
and the school is fully on a par with other schools of like conditions.
With the building of the Davenport and St. Paul branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad to the crossing of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern at this point, a depot and transfer switch was established, and a man placed in charge. This was in 1878, and the depot was the only house in "Donnan" for several years, if we except one or two nearby farm houses. But within comparatively recent years there has been quite a building boom at this ideal location, and several residences, stores and a hotel are the outgrowth, and the little hamlet has found a prominent place on the map of Fayette county. Some well to do retired farmers have taken an interest in the development of the town, with gratifying results. The future of Donnan, at the crossing of the two railroads which traverse the county from southeast to northwest, and from southwest to northeast, may easily be predicted; and it is not too much to say that it will eventually outstrip its near by rivals in the race for trade and transportation. The village is situated in a splendid farming community, with no rival town, except Randalia, nearer than six or seven miles.