UNION TOWNSHIP AND THE CITY OF WEST UNION.
Within comparatively recent years this township has been subdivided, detaching the city boundaries from the
original township and designating it as West Union township, and leaving the balance of the congressional township
as originally organized and designated as Union township. This arrangement was made for political convenience,
and to give the city control of adjacent territory without the necessity of conferring with township authorities.
The city of West Union, with its various additions, is laid out on parts of sections 8, 9, 16 and 17, the principal
part, and the original town plat, being established on the last mentioned section. The school district boundaries
are co-existent with the boundaries of West Union township as now established. Around this territory centers the
general history of the northern part of Fayette county in the formative period, and, specifically, the history
of West Union township as originally formed and maintained for many years.
The town of West Union, as laid out by William Wells, J. W. Rogers and Jacob LyBrand, in 1849, and re-surveyed
in 1850, comprised four blocks north and south and three blocks east and west. Near the center of this original
area is the public square, a plat of ground four hundred feet square, which Mr. Wells donated to the county conditioned
on the county seat being established at West Union. The final disposition of this property, together with a recital
of all transactions regarding the establishment of the county seat and retaining it; the building of the first
court house, its destruction and rebuilding; the construction of the jails, and enlargement and modernizing of
the court house, will be found fully presented in the chapter on County Organization, and need not be repeated
The additions which have been made to the original town plat of West Union are: Fuller's first, second and third
additions on the south; Hoyt's addition east of Fuller's, and Upright's addition north of Hoyt's; Cook's addition
north of the original town plat; Hinkley's first and second additions west of the original town; North Union, a
small addition just south of Hinkley's, and Union addition and Wells' donation south of that; three additions were
made at the northwest corner of the town, known as Smithfield, Uniontown and Rickets' additions. The villages which
sprang up in some of these additions, as Uniontown, Smithfield, etc., were merged into the town proper by action
of those having jurisdiction of such matters.
The township of West Union, as originally established in 1849, was under the jurisdiction of Clayton county; but
after the organization of Fayette county, in 1850, it included portions of Dover and Pleasant Valley townships,
and, for election purposes, the northwest one fourth of Elyria township was attached thereto.
The first settlers in this territory began to arrive and establish homes as soon as the Winnebago Reserve. from
which it was organized, came into market as a part of the public domain. This was in 1848, when the Indians were
removed to a new reservation in Minnesota, and the domination of the Winnebago ceased to be a menace to the progress
of civilization. A favorite camping ground of the Indians was maintained by them, years after their nominal removal
to Fort Atkinson, on the farm later known as the Jacob Cory, W. C. Ashby, D. W. Hall and J. Massingham place, and
later known as the W. E. Fuller place, which is now owned and occupied by the Jacob Yearous family. Small hunting
parties of Indians camped there at times for several years after the township was settled by the white people,
and their lodge poles could be seen there for many years after their last visit in 1858.
The first actual settler in West Union (now Union) township was Lorenzo Dutton, who, with the Jones brothers (Henry
and Charles M.), came in July, 1848.
Thomas J. Smith, who accompanied Samuel Conner to Pleasant Valley, located in West Union township about the same
time as the above mentioned parties, and is credited with building the first cabin in the township, between the
15th and loth of August, 1848. He located on the place later known as the Lippincott farm, and now owned by Gus.
The Dutton party built a temporary cabin in September, using hay, or green grass, for a roof and "banking."
When this became dry, it also became inflammable, and was burned soon after its construction, burning most of their
cooking utensils, clothing, supplies, etc. Mr. Dutton had but recently returned from a trip to Illinois where he
bought a team of oxen, breaking plow and other implements, and on his return through Evader he had filled out his
load with lumber, provisions, etc., hence the loss of this cabin meant a good deal to the owners. But Lorenzo Dutton
is a man who has never yielded to discouragements, of which he had his share in early days, hence the damage was
soon repaired, and his placid, even tempered career resumed. Mr. Dutton's career as a pioneer, and some of his
own sayings relating thereto. will be found in another chapter. But there is one event in his early history which
has been reserved for this article, and that is the discovery of Dutton's cave, and the events leading up to it.
Now Mr. Dutton has always been recognized as a temperate man, and right well has he maintained his record in this
respect, as well as the record of good citizenship. It will not, therefore, be a reflection upon his sobriety to
mention "snakes" in connection with his discovery of "the cave." As he and his neighbor, Mr.
Bailey, were exploring the Dutton domain, they came in contact with more than the usual number of rattlesnakes,
which were plentiful everywhere. In seeking to conceal themselves, the reptiles divulged their hiding place to
be a hitherto unknown cavern, which, when explored, seemed to be of considerable dimensions. This was the discovery
of the cave which has always been known as Dutton's Cave, and for many years a favorite resort for people seeking
a day's outing wherewith they might combine a view of nature's freaks, with a pleasant time. Without entering into
a description of this now famous place, we will say that it is beautifully located, as to environments, and the
grounds have been fitted up with special reference to the accommodation of the large crowds of people who visit
it during the summer seasons, some coming from Fayette, Clermont and other distant towns. Abundance of cold spring
water gushes from the entrance to the cave, while the beautifully shaded grounds, With ample seating, tables, places
for cooking the ever present picnic dinner, and the quiet seclusion of the spot, render it ideally suited to the
wants of those seeking rest and recreation.
Mr. Dutton broke some land in the fall of 1848, and this was probably the first breaking done in West Union township.
He still owns the farm which was his first home in the West, but is now living in West Union, enjoying a well earned
respite from active labors.
Among the earliest settlers of the vicinity of West Union, are found the names of many who located in adjoining
townships, and who are mentioned in the township histories where they settled. It would be a useless repetition
to present the names here, unless they first settled in West Union. It is stated in another chapter that seventy
persons spent the winter of 1849-50 in West Union, and that but three of the number are now living. Among these
are found the names of persons who became thoroughly identified with the early history of the locality, some of
whom were prominent in county and state affairs. We submit the following as a partial list of early settlers' names,
some of whom came to the town or township as late as 1853, but were located in other parts of the county prior
to coming here. For example: Judge Woodle was living at Dunham's Grove when elected to the office of county judge.
David Smith settled on section 17, in the fall of 1848, and Morris B. Earll and Jacob Cory on section 16. Henry
F. Smith located near them, on section 9. Jacob F. and Henry Smith (sons of Henry F. Smith) spent the winter of
1848-9 here. Absalom Butler settled here in April, 1849; George Smith, April 22; William Wells, April 23; William
Redfield, Franklin Bishop and Stephen Bailey in May; Solomon Bishop and Gabriel Long, July 4; Jacob W. Rogers,
with his wife and daughter, Ada, and Jacob LyBrand, September 7; Humphrey Tibbetts, October 25; William Felch and
his two sons, Cephas and Richard, probably in October or November, 1849; Matthew Wells, spring of 1850; Joseph
W. Foster, July 4; John Phillips and Daniel Cook, September, 1850; David Wells, Dr. J. N. B. Elliott, 1850; William
McClintock, Henry C. Lacy Phineas F. Sturgis, Thomas Woodle, Dr. Joseph H. Stafford, David Stafford, Edwin Smith,
Porter L. Hinkley, in the spring of 1851; J. G. Webb, September, 1851; John S. Brewer, Charles McDowell and others
came in 1852; Isaac F. Clark, Myron Peck, John Gharky and others, 1853. Among other early seders, the dates of
whose settlement cannot now be ascertained, were James Carl, William Kilroy, Jonathan Ferrell, Jonathan Cruzan,
Eli Root, William Root (1849 or 1850), Thomas Ritchie, George Stansbury, Elisha Van Dorn, Friend Dayton, Rev. H.
S. Brunson, Joseph Deford, George W. Neff, Nicholas Butler, Willis T. Bunton, William Barnhouse, John Saltsgiver.
David Smith, having established a claim on section 17, covering the later town site of West Union, held the land
and timber until he sold his rights to William Wells prior to the founding of the town. Mr. Wells built a log cabin
near the present location of the brick house now owned by Harry G. Blunt, and which to this day is better known
as the "old Wells property" than by any other description. For years this ancient brick house stood empty,
and was well nigh gone to decay when purchased and repaired by the present owner. Weird tales were told about it
and believed by the school children of earlier days. This house stands just north of the site of the original home
of William Wells and family, and neither it nor the log cabin were located on what subsequently became the town
plat. This Wells cabin also sheltered the family of the late Hon. J. W. Rogers, wife and daughter, when they arrived
in 'West Union, in July, 1849. Accompanying Mr. Rogers and family was Jacob LyBrand, they all coming from Monroe,
Wisconsin. Rogers and LyBrand opened a store in this primitive cabin, and were thus the first merchants in the
township. Mr. Rogers commenced building a house on lot No. 17, now on Pine street, and which he occupied on Christmas
day, 1849. He and Mr. LyBrand moved the remnant of their stock of goods from the Wells cabin soon after, and were
the first to engage in mercantile business on the town plat, as well as on adjacent territory; But Daniel Cook
was the first general merchant in West Union, as he put in a complete stock.
Mr. Rogers and wife joined with William Wells and wife, in laying out the town of West Union, as did also Jacob
LyBrand. They were old acquaintances from Monroe, Wisconsin. Mr. LyBrand removed from the county many years ago,
but the others remained in the town they had established until their days were ended. They purchased an interest
in sixty acres from Mr. Wells upon which the town was laid out. Appearing in the foregoing list of names of fifty
early settlers in West Union are the names of nearly all the county officers elected at the first general election
held in Fayette county. Others of them were pioneer business men who established many of the first industries in
the town, and continued until retired in the fulness of years.
These were residents of the town during its formative period, but were soon followed by others whose names are
familiar among the early settlers as active business men, mechanics and farmers. We append the following incomplete
list: J. A. Gruver, John, Daniel and James Dorland, brothers. Jeremiah House, George Blunt, Samuel Rickel, Dr.
Levi Fuller, L. L. and S. S. Ainsworth, Hon. S. B. Zeigler, Curtis R. Bent, J. J. Welsh, Thomas Green, Sr., the
Hoyer family, W. D. Parrott. T. D. Reeder. J. S. Sampson, the Cowle family consisting of three brothers, William,
Daniel and James, H. B. Hoyt, William Kent, John Knox, Sr., Myron Stafford, James Holmes, James George, William
Harper, F. J. Carter, the Loftus family, Henry Wonnenhurg, the Saffers, William Houck, Heisermans, Wimbers, Newcombs,
Croshys, Hales, Berkeys, Irvins, McMasters and Gilberts, Coles, Slaters, Coneys, Hoovers, Germans, Topes, Nels.
Spencer, John Boale, Sr. These became residents of West Union or vicinity, between 1850 and 1856, several of them
in the former year. Many of this list are numbered with the dead. but in most instances their children and grandchildren
still represent the pioneer stock in the community.
Judge Thomas Woodle, Revs. John Webb and H. S. Brunson were among the pioneer merchants, establishing "The
Arcade" in 1852, but this firm did not remain long in business. Their chief clerk and accountant was Mr. P.
F. Sturgis, one of the most familiar characters in all of West Union's history, Mr. Sturgis formed a partnership
with Daniel Cook which existed until the death of the latter in 1854, after which the stock was sold out to Charles
A. Cottrell. P. F. Sturgis then established stores at Clear Lake and Mason City, but returned to West Union at
the beginning of the Civil war and re-engaged in business. He was successful in all of his business ventures and
retired in middle life.
Densmore & Company, the "Company" being Charles Chadwick, L. C. Noble and B. T. Reeves, and Henry
C Lacy & Company in the "Crystal Palace," were in mercantile business in 1854 or earlier. But we
must not forget the "Nimble sixpence" store kept by F. D. W. Morse. In this year (1854), William Wells
made a sale of town lots, realizing about forty five dollars each for those sold. Dr. L. Fuller bought two for
ninety dollars and Judge C. A. Newcomb purchased two for eighty five dollars. The next year Friend Dayton sold
sixteen lots at auction at prices ranging from thirty three dollars to sixty seven dollars each.
George H. Thomas and John Owens were early and successful merchants in the town, the former dead and the latter
retired and still living in West Union. Mr. Thomas purchased the remnant of the Fox stock when that firm went out
of business. A. H. and H. B. Fox, and Berkey & Winet, were also among the early merchants whose career in West
Union is long since ended. There was a mercantile firm in the Stone block, erected in 1857 by the firm of Bell
& Close, who were among the early business men, but have long since passed to other fields. W. A. Whitney was
an early merchant, as were H. B. Hoyt and Samuel Holton, partners in hardware business. The latter was county assessor
for a time before the abolition of that office. Dr. L. Fuller was in the hardware business for a brief period soon
after he came to the county in April, 1853. He was also in medical practice for some years, but finally retired
and devoted his time to real estate and brokerage business. He was a public spirited citizen who did as much for
the progress of early West Union as any one in the place. He was especially active in religious and educational
work, and for years was the main pillar of the Methodist Episcopal church.
Hon. Jacob W. Rogers is worthy of more than passing notice in a history of West Union, because of his long residence
and active life among the people who revere his memory. As is stated elsewhere, he brought the first stock of goods
to the town; built and occupied as a residence and store the first house in the town; he was one of the proprietors
of the first town laid out in Fayette county, and manifested as much interest in its future as any man that ever
lived in West Union; he assisted in building the first school house in the town, and examined the first teacher
who taught in it, and he was the first county clerk of Fayette county. In 1854-5 he represented twelve counties
(including Fayette) in the state Legislature, and was twice elected county judge. He resigned from his last election
to this, office to enter the army, raised a company in defense of the Union, and was commissioned captain of Company
F, Thirty eighth Iowa Infantry. Judge Rogers was a man of keen perception and determined will. Whatever he believed
to be right received his unqualified support, even though the whole town be arrayed against hint He was a successful
lawyer and a radical opponent of the liquor traffic, whether legalized( ?) or otherwise. His positive and unequivocal
career made for him many warm friends and some enemies. Judge Rogers died in West Union, which had been his home
for over half a century. His estimable widow still resides there, enjoying the distinction of having spent more
years in West Union than any other living person.
William Wells, like Judge Rogers, his early partner in the "real estate" business, should be memorialized
in the annals of West Union and Fayette county. He was elected one of the three county commissioners at the first
election of county officers, and had much to do in shaping the early affairs of the county. He transplanted to
"Knob Prairie" the name of the county seat town in his native county (Claremont), in Ohio. He assisted
in building the first house erected in West Union township - that of Thomas J. Smith. previously mentioned, and
spent a long and active lifetime in furthering the interests of the town and community to which he had transferred
the endearing title of "home." Mr. Wells was liberal in donating to public enterprises calculated to
enhance the interests of the town and county. For many years the Wells family was a prominent one in the social
and business affairs of West Union; but the older members are nearly all dead and the younger generations have
mostly transferred their allegiance to other localities. We believe it was due to Mr. Wells patriotism that the
first Fourth of July celebration was held on his land, now in the business center of West Union. This was not the
first celebration in the county, but it was the first that brought together the people from remote districts. There
is good authority for the statement that a celebration was held at the house of Daniel Finney, north of Arlington,
in 1846, and another was held at the home of James Crawford, in the southern part of the county, on the same day
of West Union's big celebration, on July 4, 1849. It will thus be seen that at least three celebrations of Independence
day were held before the county was organized. The event engineered by Mr. Wells was presided over by Stephen Bailey;
Simeon B. Forbes, a recent arrival in Pleasant Valley, read the Declaration of Independence, and Samuel Wilson
and Rev. Joseph Forbes were the orators of the day. A fine hickory elm liberty pole was erected on the public square,
and from the top of this, "Old Glory," as popular then as now, displayed her folds to the view of those
who approached from far and near, and in every conceivable conveyance then known. But the ox team was the principal
An unusual rate of mortality has existed in West Union among elderly people within comparatively recent years;
and it seems that but few of the early business men and professionals now survive. Ignoring the order in which
deaths occurred, we here present the names of some of the prominent and useful citizens of the town whose book
of life has closed within the last fifteen or twenty years: Paul A. Nandall, John Scrivner, W. E. Talmadge, Dr.
J. H. Stafford, John S. Brewer, Myron Peck, S. S. Ainsworth, L. L. Ainsworth, William Wade, Willard Wade, Henderson
Clements, C. A. Dorland, C. M. Dorland, J. D. Neff, H. M. Neff, G. T. Descent, L. L. Farr, Johnson Dickey, O. E.
Taylor, O. C. Taylor, J. W. Rogers, O. W. Rogers, Henry Wonnenherg, F. J. Carter, C. R. Bent, J. W. Gardner, Charles
Woodward, John Rapp, William McClintock, James Graham, E. H. Berkey, John Detrich, Thomas Green, Sr., the Cowles
brothers (William, Daniel and James), William Kent, H. B. Hoyt, Samuel Holton, Charles H. Talmadge, Ephraim B.
Shaw, Samuel B. Zeigler, A. C. Gunsalus, Dr. S. E. Robinson, Dr. Alvaro Zoller, F. H. Chapman, Andrew Doty, Henry
Rush, Edward C. Dorland, Benoni W. Finch, Bruce W. Branch, Aldrick R. Burrett, David Winrott, A. E. Rich, Andrew
Dye, I. M. Weed, David Merritt, D. M. Hoyt, John Bower, Nason Hoyt, William Redfield, George Thompson, Alfred Crosby,
William Oberdorf, Lookings Clark, James George, George James, Henry W. Ash, William Ash, George M. Gilson, George
H. Thomas, Edward Thomas, John Kuehens, William Gruver, A. J. Archer. It is not assumed that the foregoing list
is complete, since memory is treacherous; but it represents, almost without exception, the men who were carrying
forward the business enterprises of the town when called to their reward. In most instances the wives are living.
EARLY GROWTH OF WEST UNION.
The development of the town of West Union seemed assured from the first. Men of business push and energy were
at the head of affairs; and when the county seat question was settled (even temporarily) it soon became the largest
town in the county and so remained for many years. In very early days Auburn was its principal competitor for trade,
as appears more fully in the history of Auburn township. "Lightville," now Lima, in Westfield township,
was a close competitor for county seat honors, tying West Union at one time, when a deciding vote had to be taken
between the two places, the other competitors being thrown out. (See article on county organizazation.) Daniel
Cook, father of John Cook, a present day resident, built a store building and stocked it with goods in the summer
of 1850. This was practically the first store in the place. Mr. Cook was a public spirited and useful citizen among
the pioneers. He died suddenly in 1854. He also commenced work on a hotel building, on the corner of Vine and Elm
streets in the same year, but sold out to J. H. and D. Stafford, who completed it the next year, and the Stafford
Hotel was opened to the public. In later years this was known as the West Union House, and as such was operated
for years by S. W. Cole, J. J. Welsh, Hiram Ingersoll and others. In this building, as originally constructed,
was established, by Doctor Stafford, the first drug store; by Henry Wonnenberg, the first tailor shop, and it is
said that Eli Sherman opened the first harness shop in West Union, all of these various industries being carried
on in the office of the old hotel, which was not as large then as in later years. Chauncey Leverich is credited
with building the first hotel in West Union, completing it in 1850 There was considerable rivalry between his workmen
and those employed on the Stafford house, as to which should be first completed. This was known as the Irvin house,
which stood on the site of the Descent house, as constructed in 1875. But at the time of its removal by G. T. Descent,
to make way for the new building, it was known, and operated by Descent, as the Farmers Exchange. The United States
House was erected in 1854 by Samuel Hale, and by him conducted in early days. This building stood on the site of
the brick block erected in 1883-4, by James Riley, and which is now owned by C. B. Minchin. The hotel was burned
in 1882. The old Stewart House came into existence as the Dayton House, and was so known for a number of years.
We believe that all of these early hotels had saloon attachments, and some of them were the scene of "high
carnival" at times during their existence: but all have been burned or removed, to give place to more modern,
and perhaps more useful, structures. The Descent House, spoken of above, was the most modern of them all, and was
considered a good hotel during the earlier years of its existence. It was the first steam heated house in West
Union, and its proprietor and owner tried to keep it fully abreast of the times. After Mr. Descent's retirement
the house was leased for a few years, during which time the name was changed to The Arlington. It was the property
of Charles Woodward when burned a few years ago, and a feed yard and stabling now occupy the site.
James M. Lisher, who now owns and conducts the Commercial House, occupied the Arlington for several years under
lease, but was rebuilding and enlarging his present property at the same time. The Commercial is the principal
hotel in the place. and under the management of Mr. Lisher and wife it is very popular with the traveling public.
It is a two story and basement brick structure just east of the stone block, and in fact the east half of the stone
block, as erected, is now included as a part of the hotel. There is a small brick hotel just south of the Bank
block which is known as the Union House, and which has been in successful operation for several years. The Loftus
restaurant is a popular resort for the hungry, and nobody goes away dissatisfied. The proprietor keeps a stock
of groceries, fruits, bread, etc., for sale.
Philip Herzog was the first furniture dealer and manufacturer in West Union, his "old red shop" being
located on lots now occupied by the residence of the late Charles Woodward. This business was established in 1852,
but the proprietor had entered land in Center township in 1850. Blinn & White established the first hardware
store; but in 1854 the Pioneer hardware store was established by Dr. Levi Fuller and H. Chandler. This was soon
after sold to Doctor Hart & Company.
John A. Gruver was a close rival to Eli Sherman in establishing the first harness shop. William Gruver followed
in the same line and continued until his death a few years ago. This was also true of A. J. Archer, this name being
perpetuated by G. G. Archer, a nephew of A. J., who conducts a large business in harness and horse supplies at
present. Among the early manufacturers, aside from those mentioned, were the Peck and Heiserman wagon shops, whereat
the vehicles that largely supplied the county in early days were turned out. John S. Sampson was the pioneer boot
and shoe manufacturer, and for many years conducted a large business, giving employment to twelve or more men.
In later years his business in manufacturing dropped off because of the introduction of machine made stock, and
he then merged it into the first exclusive shoe store in the place. This was sold out, and after a few years, discontinued;
but the room is again occupied with another stock of foot wear. Mr. Sampson's first location was in a building
just south of the present "Sampson Block," a handsome store and office building on the corner of Vine
and Elm streets. Other early wagon makers were D. O. Smith, Thomas Wright, Henry Wimber, Sr., T. L. and J. S. Green,
the three first mentioned still continuing in business.
The early blacksmiths were Humphrey Tibbitts, Thomas Greens, Sr., L. B. Dersham, Lew Tyrrell, John Rapp, and the
smiths employed in the wagon manufacturing business, Alfred Crosby and his father, Frank Crosby - the latter being
the first and only gunsmith in the place. We believe all these parties are dead, with the possible exception of
Lew Tyrrell. William A. Crosby is continuing the business and shop left by his father; Charles McDougal and Henry
T. Wimber have established new places of business, and these comprise the present mechanics in this line.
Some of the first carpenters were David Winrott, William Houck, Evans Camp, Norman Pierce, Henry Rush A. R. Burrett,
Benjamin Morse, J. S. Wright, John and Charles Detrich. None of these except Pierce are in West Union at present,
and all are dead except three. This branch of mechanical science is ably represented in the town by a class of
young men schooled in their profession. This also applies to painters and decorators, in which trade there are
some skilled artists.
William D. Parrott was the first jeweler in West Union, having established his business here in 1854. At his death,
a quarter of a century ago, the business descended to his son, James P., and to his daughter, Ella. James Parrott
died, and Miss Ella has since owned and conducted the business. She has added a splendid stock of china ware and
novelties, and conducts an exclusive store in this respect: Oscar W. Heiserman, son of the pioneer wagon maker,
William Heiserman, graduated in a horological institute, and is recognized as an expert in anything pertaining
to his profession. His fine stock of jewelry and optical goods, silver ware, etc., is one of the comparatively
recent acquisitions to West Union trade.
Mention has been made of the first cabinet shop in West Union, but this was not of long duration. W. A. Whitney
was early engaged in the furniture business, and the Haines brothers, Samuel and Joseph, were in business together
in the stone block for several years in the early seventies and later. They dissolved partnership, Joseph going
to Vaukon in the grocery business and Samuel R. erected a small building on the site now occupied by the Baptist
church parsonage, and carried on the business of repairing, and at the same time kept a stock of furniture. Mr.
Haines has removed to California, and that particular feature of the furniture business has ceased to exist in
West Union. The firm of Roberts & Glass succeeded to the Haines location and stock in the stone block, but
remained only a few years when the business went into the hands of Burnham & Son, and is now owned and operated
by L. W. Burnham. A new location and stock was opened by the Phillips Brothers, on the west side of the public
square and conducted by them for a few years when it was purchased by the Loomis Brothers, a large and complete
stock put in, and one of West Union's most popular enterprises there launched.
The drug business in West Union has been in full sway since the establishment of the pioneer drug store in the
first hotel, by Dr. J. H. Stafford. It is difficult to mention the names of all who have been in the business in
West Union, as some were transitory; but among the earliest and most prominent were the Waterbury, Waterbury &
White, C. R. Bent, Bent & Robinson, Bent & Scofield. Scofield & Merritt. The location of all these
various firms was in the building now used as the postoffice. F. D. Merritt was the last to conduct a drug business
there. A one story brick building was constructed a few doors north of the old stand, and A. K. White opened a
business there in the seventies. He had as a partner for a time Dr. S. H. Drake, who removed from the county in
the early eighties, and F. W. White became a partner with his brother, the firm continuing business until the death
of the senior member, when the business was closed out and F. W. White removed to the Pacific coast. After various
changes in ownership, the present proprietor, Fred W. Schneider, opened a large and complete stock at this location
and so continues in business.
A peculiar coincidence in the early history of West Union is the fact that almost invariably when the removal of
an unsightly building was desired, Vulcan, the god of fire, came to the rescue. At least three mysterious fires
have occurred in the business districts among the dilapidated old buildings, and new and modern buildings succeeded
In the case of the West Union House, we believe, it was necessary to remove the building before erecting a modern
one, but this was the exception rather than the rule.
From early days until 1875 a dilapidated frame building stood on the corner directly south of the postoffice. This
was occupied by C. T. Nefzgar and others as a store building. But it went up in smoke with all the buildings on
that side of the street for half a block, the Fayette County National Bank building furnishing a barrier to the
further progress of the flames. From the ruins of this Nefzgar building arose, Phoenix like, the handsomest building,
then in West Union, and one of the best today. Dr. G. D. Darnall was the promoter, and has always been the owner
since the building was erected. This is a two story and basement brick, fronting on Vine street, with basement
entrance from Elm street. It is handsomely trimmed in artificial stone, with large plate glass front and high side
windows for better lighting the interior. The first floor has always been the location of a drug store, and in
fact it was built and arranged for that purpose. P. D. Scofield was proprietor of the first store in this room.
Darnalls & Fisher succeeded him, the firm being Dr. G. D. Darnall, his cousin, Dr. C. F. Darnall, and Lewis
A. Fisher, a present day grocer in the town. Dr. G. D.'s connection with the drug business did not end with the
dissolution of this copartnership, which continued but a short time.
The basement of this building was the home of the Fayette County Union for a few years, but is now used for storage
of goods connected with the extensive drug business of Tisdale & Barnes, under the title of the Union Drug
Store. The entire upper floor, we believe, is now occupied by the commodious offices, library, apparatus, reception
room, etc., connected with Dr. G. D. Darnall's extensive medical practice. Mention has been made of the early merchants
in West Union, and it remains but to mention the present day establishments in that line. It will be remembered
that the early dealers in merchandise were obliged to keep general stocks, and no one pretended to sell dry goods
who did not also have a stock of groceries. This may account for the absence of early grocers from the list of
business enterprises. But in recent years the tendency has been to specialize, and dry goods, shoes, and manufactured
clothing for ladies comprise the stock of one of the principal establishments in the town. Reference is here made
to the W. A. Magner store - the old G. H. Thomas location. For more than fifty years there has been a stock of
goods in this building.
Gilbert & McMasters (Mark Gilbert and W. C. McMasters) were once engaged in general merchandising, and later
in the grocery and provision business. McMasters is dead and Gilbert is retired.
But the second dry goods store - and this completes the list - is owned by M. O. Musser. His predecessors at this
location (three doors north of the postoffice) were: Munching & Buell, Minchin alone, F. A. Sheldon, C. B.
Minchin, Stam Brothers, T. R. Stain. Both Minchin and Stam are retired with a competence, and Mr. Musser, a brother
in law of Stam's, carries a large and well selected stock of dry goods, clothing, shoes, etc., and is doing a fine
The oldest grocery store now in the town is that owned by L. A. Fisher, in one of Doctor Darnall's buildings. It
was opened by Armstrong & Buchanan who operated it a few years, when they sold to A. C. Gunsalus, Mr. Fisher's
father in law, and he conducted a large and profitable business for nearly thirty years. Mr. Gunsalus was a man
universally esteemed by all who knew him. and a business man of far more than average ability. He died at his post
a couple of years ago, and was succeeded by Mr. Fisher, who was then in the drug business at Hawkeye.
Other grocers have been A. C. Jones, William Cox, Samuel Holton, R. A. Barr, Joseph Butler, B. W. Finch, J. H.
Schricker, John Owens' general store, Christ Xefzgar, Butler & Dorland. The present business is represented
by Mr. Fisher, as previously mentioned, George A. Wood, E. C. Chandler, E. G. Herrick and Harvey Smith, these having
large and complete stocks of goods. while restaurants and lunch counters also sell some goods in this line. The
present day hardware business is represented by F. E. Hoyt, who is the successor of his father, the late H. B.
Hoyt, who was identified with that line of mercantile life in West Union for forty years. H. B. Hoyt was a man
of conservative ideas, but withal a successful business man who accumulated a large property. For many years he
was a member of the city council, board of education, board of directors of the Fayette County National Bank and
the county agricultural society. F. E. Hoyt succeeded to a well established business, to which he has added the
impetus of youth coupled with business energy and superior knowledge of all details. Practically he grew up in
the store and early evinced an interest and business sagacity seldom found in the youth of the present generation.
The Smith Brothers are the successors of another long established house. though its existence in the present
building dates only from the construction of the Riley block in 1883-4. Previously it was located in the brick
store room now occupied by Rev. T. P. Griffith and daughters as a musical instrument repository and millinery store.
There the first hardware store in West Union was established by Blinn & White in 1853. Hoyt & Holton started
in the hardware business some years later in this room, and W. A. Whitney and a Wisconsin man whose name is not
recalled were the immediate predecessors of Nandahl & Nye, who removed their goods to the Riley block when
that was ready for occupancy. J. E. Nye continued the business for some years after the death of Paul A. Nandall,
and this is the store now occupied by the Smith Brothers. Both the hardware stores carry full lines of goods, do
plumbing and spouting work, and put in heating apparatus. Carl A. Johnson, a skilled mechanic, also does work in
these lines, and carries a small line of goods. He is located in one of Doctor Darnall's buildings in rear of the
Union drug store.
W. W. Wright, once a partner with F. E. Hoyt before the death of the senior Hoyt, is a son of James S. Wright,
an early pioneer and member of the first town council. J. S. Wright served four years as county treasurer, was
mayor of West Union two terms, served two years as secretary of the Fayette County Agricultural Society and was
otherwise prominently connected with West Union affairs from his coming in 1861 until hips death. His son, and
only child, W. W., is principal salesman in the Hoyt hardware store.
The livery business is one of the transitory enterprises of every town, and it is difficult to trace the various
changes. It is probable that J. J. Welsh was among the first to engage in this line, in connection with hotel keeping.
Taylor Brothers, and Taylor & Farr, C. E. Chapman, Mr. Jacklin, Shiek Brothers, E. F. Seiberts, D. L. Dorland,
Finch & Chandler, Finch & Ward, and later, Frank Ward, the Weatherbee Brothers - now James Weatherbee,
Jr. - have been, or are now, in the business.
Taylor & Farr were probably the first to engage in the buying and shipping of horses as an exclusive business
enterprise. After each had served six years in the sheriff's office, one being the deputy of the other, thus making
a period of twelve years in constant daily contact with the people of the county, they were thoroughly acquainted
and this acquaintance sometimes enabled them to make purchases which a stranger could not. But both are now dead,
Mr. Taylor dying first, alter which Mr. Farr was not in active business.
Finch & Chandler, younger men, and Mr. Finch, an ex-sheriff, are now the principal local dealers in horses.
They have bought and shipped large numbers of horses to eastern and northern markets, their shipments often going
as far as Boston, or Fitchburg, Massachusetts.
Aside from the two local meat markets, Fennell & O'Halleran are the general stock dealers, though the Blunt
Brothers buy and sell largely in excess of the stock raised on their large farms.
For many years Owens & Cook Were engaged very extensively in this line of business, and several others have
been engaged in it temporarily.
The West Union Grain Company and Dan O'Halleran are the local grain buyers, the former having an elevator, while
the latter uses a large warehouse for storage of grain, baled hay, straw, etc.
There are two tailor shops in West Union, conducted by first class workmen, namely Frank Schwestka and J. O. Helwing.
Henry Wonnenberg, the pioneer in this line, survived and continued in business for a longer period than any other
man among the pioneers.
The barbers are another class of transients, except as they establish a good paying business before the beginning
"nest egg" is absorbed. It is not possible to give the name of the first barber in West Union - he may
have been early established or a later corner - probably the latter, for the early pioneers had but little use
for the "tonsorial art." George H. Phillips and his father were early engaged in this business, and George
Thompson came to West Union in 1857, probably to engage in the barber business, which was his life profession.
Mr. Thompson occupied one shop (that recently owned by the late E. C. Dorland) for more than a quarter of a century,
walking back and forth from his farm nearly a mile north of town. Being seriously crippled, this was quite an achievement
during the many years that he was never missing when due at either end of the line. Ed. C. Dorland, lately deceased,
stood at a chair as foreman and proprietor in this shop for over thirty years.
Collins H. Foster was early in the business here, as was Frank Schwestka, A. J. Bernau, Jay Wilson and others.
The present day business is represented by the old Thompson-Dorland shop, west of the public square, a shop in
the basement of the Sampson block and one on Elm street, south of the square.
West Union has seldom had more than two meat markets, and that is the present number. Thomas Theobald has been
the longest in business here, and he is the successor to such old timers as James Riley and Julius Schwierzke.
O. G. Meyer succeeded to the old Conrad Froehlich stand, after many changes in ownership and modernizing appliances.
Both shops are thoroughly equipped and modern in all important details. These furnish a reliable market for high
class butchers' stock at all times, and therein are formidable rivals to the local stock buyers.
There have been two creameries and a cheese factory within the corporate limits of West Union, but there is only
one of these industries now in operation. The Farmers' Creamery, near the Rock Island depot, is owned and operated
by Edwin O. Moore, and is turning out a large volume of business. Cream gatherers are hired to canvass the country
within a radius of ten miles, and solicit patronage from the farming community, usually with satisfactory results.
The product is sold to local dealers for retail 'trade, or shipped away when there is an excess over local demand.
The photograph business Was established in West Union by David Wells (probably), and has passed through varying
experiences. It is doubtful if any man ever made money in this business, though there was seldom more than one
gallery. Of early workmen in this line, D. B. Hanna, Pfleger & Maxon, Hawkes & Maxon, M. E. Hawkes, E.
B. Branch, B. M. Baumwart and one or two others whose names are not recalled, together with an occasional traveling
car, have been the representatives of this art. The present operative is Mr. Ballard, who has inaugurated a system
of view taking and post card work which promises good results. His work is praiseworthy.
One of the modern industries in the city was the establishment of a brick and tile factory and pickling establishment
by E. A. Whitney, who was one of the founders of the Fayette County National Bank and its first cashier. Mr. Whitney
was a good banker, a progressive, public spirited citizen, and possessed considerable means; but this venture in
the manufacturing business proved abortive, and a source of considerable loss to him, but, in the end, benefited
the town. The venture increased the population at the time, and was the means of establishing the little village
around the old mill, locally known as "Whitneyville." Many houses were added to the town, some of which
were hauled in from distant points, rebuilt and opened to tenants. Mr. Whitney left the county soon after this
business disappointment, and gradually disposed of his property here. The plant was located at the old brick mill
in the late seventies. The material used, especially in the brick and tile business, had to be hauled to the railroad,
unloaded and hauled to the plant, and the finished product returned to the shipping point in the same way; hence
it could not compete, successfully, with the similar enterprises located on the railroad.
In this connection it may not be inappropriate to mention another benefactor to West Union whose investments have
beautified the town with profit to himself. Reference is here made to Col. J. W. Bopp, who has built or rebuilt
and modernized some eight or more houses in the north part of town which command high rentals from the best of
the class who rent their homes. He has also built the Bopp block, a handsome brick and stone structure, nearly
opposite the National Bank, on South Vine street. This is used for an office building, in which is located Mr.
Bopp's finely equipped offices, besides others.
The town of West Union was incorporated as a city of the second class in 1866, and since that time, with scarcely
an exception, has had a conservative, yet progressive; municipal government. Judge H. N. Hawkins was the first
mayor and it seems to have been the policy since to elect the best men in the place to that office regardless of
their political affiliations, and a co-operative city council has usually followed.
[Continued in Union Township and West Union History part 2.]