One of the earliest and most useful industries in West Union was the steam saw mill, erected in 1851-2, by Gabriel
Long and Joshua Wells. Prior to its construction the few boards used for flooring and doors in the pioneer cabins
had to be hauled from Evader, or from McGregor's Landing, on the Mississippi river. But in early days, and down
to the building of the railroad in 1872, the market point for surplus grain was at Evader, Clayton, or McGregor.
Goods were shipped by merchants to river points, and some of the early settlers earned a living by hauling produce
from West Union to these points and returning with loads of merchandise.
The building of the brick flouring mill in 1853 was an innovation. This property was completed with all necessary
equipments of steam power and Machinery of that time. and started on a precarious career in 1857. William Redfield
was the local promoter of this enterprise, his associates being Maxson & Company. It never was a profitable
investment, the water power mills which came into use about that time being formidable rivals much more cheaply
operated. The use of the building as a flouring mill was discontinued many years ago and the machinery sold and
removed. It is located near the site of the first saw mill that erected and operated by Joshua Wells, on block
19. The old building has been used for many purposes aside from its original one. It was substantially constructed,
of large dimensions, and three stories high, and served the purposes of other industries admirably. The Union Creamery
Company once conducted an extensive business there for a number of years. Then a portion of it was utilized as
a cigar factory, and we think it was used, in part, by the brick and tile factory, and the pickling plant.
Crosby & Hubbard once started a foundry and machine shop in the south part of town near the railroad tracks,
but this enterprise was of short duration. There has been a steam saw mill in operation in "Whitneyville"
for several years past. It was first established in the old cooper shop brick building, but was later moved a block
south and a building erected for a feed mill and sawing business, combined. The feed mill feature has been abandoned
and a garage and repair shop substituted. The Clapp Brothers also are engaged in the manufacture of small gasoline
engines, for farm use, in connection with sawing lumber and storing and repairing automobiles. This is a busy establishment.
The railroad history of the county is written up in a special article on that subject and need not be repeated
here further than to state that West Union figured more prominently in the promotion of early railroads than any
other town in the county. From this point radiated through the county much of the "railroad energy,"
and it was largely through West Union's speakers and canvassers that the taxes were voted in other townships, in
aid of railroad construction. This may be stated with equal justice in relation to the county seat contests of
earlier days, and in the adjustment of hotly contested political controversies. The church history of West Union
is exhaustive; but four of the principal churches in the place are written up in special articles by men thoroughly
conversant with their history, and are represented in the chapter on Church History of Fayette county.
The Christian church was one of the first on the ground, the organization dating from the winter of 1853-4,
and the erection of their church building dates from the next year. The first pastor was Rev. E. Griffin. The church
was prosperous for a few years, when by reason of deaths and removals, the membership decreased, and finally services
were discontinued. The old church building was merged into a private school house, where Professor J. P. Wallace
conducted a private school. It was later the home of Ainsworth's Academy, whereat many of the present middle aged
people of the town and surrounding country received their academical instruction. Probably more teachers were turned
out from Ainsworth's Academy in the seventies and eighties than from any other one room school house in Fayette
The Seventh Day Adventists came into existence as a church organization in Fayette county from the ministrations
of Elders D. T. Bordeau and George R. Butler, in August, 1867. The society was never a strong one in West Union;
but they erected a church building at the northern edge of the corporation, and flourished there for a time. Cason
Hoyt and his son. L. B. and F. H. Chapman were among the leaders in this movement. Two of them are dead and the
other removed, hence the church fell into disuse and was finally sold and converted into a residence.
The Wesleyan Methodists had quite a strong organization at one time, and a considerable number of members still
reside in West Union, but they have no regular church services. The church building and parsonage are now located
at the extreme southern end of Vine street, near the southeast corner of the fair ground.
A German Lutheran congregation meets for regular semi monthly services at the Baptist church.
The Universalist church, known as "Burbank Memorial," was built and donated to a small congregation of
that faith, by Mr. and Mrs. L. Burbank, in 1888. It is a handsome structure, built of white brick, and has a nicely
arranged auditorium, well seated, and parlor, kitchen and dining room equipment. No regular pastor is now employed,
but occasional services are held. Because of the convenient arrangement, and near by location, this building is
frequently used for general assemblies of the people, or for the use of societies in serving meals.
The United Brethren in Christ is the name of one of the old and continuing religious organizations in West Union.
Its ministers occupied the field as early as any. Rev. John Brown and Rev. Mr. Davis (father of A. D. Davis, a
one time merchant in West Union) were among the first ministers in Fayette county. The original United Brethren
church in West Union was erected in 1855, on lot 11, block 14. The lot was donated to the church by Llewellyn Piper
and wife. The first minister after the building was erected was Rev. John Dollarhide. Some of his co-laborers of
that day were Revs. Richardson and M. S. Drury, from Winneshiek county. Two sons of the latter also served the
church as pastors in later years. Under the pastorate of Rev. A. W. Drury, a scholarly and talented young man,
the church was rebuilt and modernized in 1878. For many years this church was strong, numerically, and numbered
among its membership many substantial farmers in the surrounding country.
But the organization of the Grand Army of the Republic, whom all religious societies sought to favor, and eliminate
from the realm of "secrecy," if possible, precipitated a discussion in the general conference of the
church, which, in many instances, resulted disastrously. The church was divided on the question of eliminating
the word "secrecy" from the discipline, though the general conference was almost unanimously in favor
of it. The existing churches sought to hold the church property, regardless of the claims of the "Liberal"
branch, that they were the "recognized authority." The result was a radical division of the church from
the highest tribunal down to the most humble, and serious litigation followed in almost every state in the Union.
The disruption also meant the support of two general conferences, the establishment of two church publishing houses,
and the creation of many new officers to be supplied and paid for by practically the same people who had hitherto
supported but one set of high officials, editors, bookmakers, etc.
The West Union church remained with the Liberals, or those favoring the elimination of the secrecy clause from
the discipline, but was crippled and weakened in doing so, some members withdrawing and uniting with other churches,
and some dropping out altogether. While the organization has been kept up, and usually a resident pastor is employed,
the accomplishment of this end is a heavy burden upon those who remain steadfast in the faith and teachings of
The history of the Baptist, Catholic, Methodist Episcopal and Presbyterian churches appears in the special articles
to which reference has been made.
The Masonic history also appears in a special article, by Grand Master Clements.
In presenting the following list of professionals' names, attention is called to the fact that the professional
people of the entire county appear under the title of "Fayette County Lawyers" and the "Medical
Profession in Fayette County," to which articles the reader is referred for further discussion of these subjects.
The legal profession has been ably represented by the following named gentlemen: S. S. Ainsworth, S. B. Zeigler,
Milo McGlathery, C. H. Millar, Henry Rickel, William McClintock, L. L. Ainsworth, J. J. Berkey, J. W. Rogers &
Son (O. W.), Joseph Hobson, William Cole, J. B. Onstine, M. V. Burdick, C. A. Newcomb, L. M. Whitney, D. W. Clements,
William E. Fuller, H. P. Hancock, A. N. Hobson (one of our present judges), W. J. Rogers, L. Adams, L. P. Phillips,
W. B. Clements, E. H. Ester, C. B. Hughes, M. Weed, H. T. Weed, C. W. Dykins, R. G. Anderson, W. C. Lewis.
The medical profession represented by Doctors Elliott, Cruzans, Stafford, Hart, Lake, Fuller, Chase, Armstrong,
Ecker, Bassett, Robinson, Zeigler, G. D. Darnall, Drake, E. A. and F. L. Ainsworth, Crepin, Harback, Zoller, Hadsel,
Cartwright, Wray, Smith, Axiline, C. F. Darnall, Williamson, Rennison, King, White, Bartlett, Whitmore, A. B. Stuart,
E. H. Feige.
Among the lawyers, Hon. J. J. Berkey has been longer in practice than any other attorney now living in West Union.
Hon. W. E. Fuller and Hon. D. W. Clements are close seconds for this honor. They have been in practice in West
Union about thirty six years, Mr. Clements constantly, Mr. Fuller intermittently, as shown in his personal sketch:
Dr. G. D. Darnall has been in constant practice as a successful physician and surgeon since 1874, with the exception
of a brief respite while serving one term in the Legislature. The efforts of but few men, in the profession or
out of it, have been crowned with greater success than Doctor Darnall's. He came to the town a poor man, but with
indomitable energy, a robust constitution and fixed determination. Instead of losing any of these personal characteristics,
he has added to them other desirable features - wealth and prominence. He is the oldest physician now in practice
in West Union, Dr. E. A. Ainsworth being next in order of time.
West Union is not as much of a "lodge town" as some others of similar size and importance. Aside from
the various Masonic bodies there are organizations of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias
and Grand Army of the Republic, these being fraternal organizations, ex-elusively, while there are, or have been,
numerous insurance "lodges," some of which have passed out of existence, to the grief of their patrons.
The Ancient Order of United Workmen, known as West Union Lodge No. 25, was instituted on the 19th of April, 1875,
and is still in existence, and has paid out more than half of the original members.
The Modern Woodmen of America also have a continuing organization. and these two fraternal insurance organizations
have done much good in coming to the aid of beneficiaries when assistance was most needed.
The Grand Army Mutual Benefit Association was brought into existence in the early eighties by local men, but had
an ephemeral existence. Its purpose was to afford insurance to ex-soldiers of the Civil war at cost. Evidently
this feature was not thoroughly investigated, since some of the promoters were obliged to pay out most of the organizing
expenses and large printing bills from their own pockets. Only one death loss was ever paid, and that only in part.
The V. A. S. Society had an organization in the town for a few years, but, like the Iowa Legion of Honor, its contemporary,
both became so expensive that most of the members dropped out, and the local organizations were suffered to lapse.
Round Grove Lodge No. 41, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, has had an existence in West Union since July 26, 1852,
when it was instituted by District Deputy Grand Master Thomas B. Dripps, assisted by H. B. Fox. The charter members
were William McClintock, Clark Cewcomb. Edwin Montgomery, Joseph H. Dripps and A. W. Dripps. The first noble grand
was William McClintock. This was the first fraternal organization in the town and it had a phenomenal growth, enrolling
among its members nearly every prominent man within its jurisdiction. But enlistments in the army during the sixties
depleted its ranks in the interests of a better cause, and the charter was surrendered in 1864 and the organization
was dormant until 1871, when, on petition of William McClintock, D. M. Hoyt. S. B. Zeigler. David Winrott, Mark
Gilbert and L. B. Dersham, the original charter and number were restored. Henry Rickel was the first noble grand
after the restoration of the charter. The society has been prosperous, and after paying all its obligations in
sick benefits, death claims and widows' and orphans' annuities, it accumulated a considerable sum of surplus money
which has been invested in erecting a two story brick building on Elm street. south of the public square, the upper
floor being devoted to the uses of the lodge and the first floor is rented for mercantile business. The membership
has remained about stationary at one hundred contributing members for the last twenty five years. Connected with
this subordinate body, and auxiliary to it, are West Union Encampment No. 57, West Union Rebekah Degree Lodge No.
97, and Colfax Canton, Patriarchs Militant.
There are very few of West Union's reputable male citizens that have not been, at some time, connected with the
Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
The temperance movement has had an existence in West Union for more than fifty years, and yet it must be classed
as a saloon town throughout many years of its career. There have been three organizations of Good Templars, commencing
in 1858, when the first lodge was organized. This existed for ten years and had a strong following of the best
and most influential people of the time. This may be said of the lodge which succeeded the original one, and was
organized in 1874. Some of the first members were concerned in this organization, but as a general thing. the citizenship
had undergone a radical change, but the tendency was constantly towards interesting the best people in the movement.
This lodge survived less than three years, surrendering its charter in March, 1877. Six years later, or in 1883,
another lodge was organized under the labors of Mrs. Tyng, through whose efforts there was a general revival of
Good Templarism throughout the county. Some of the organizations affected through this agency are still in existence,
but the West Union organization went the way of all its predecessors.
The Woman's Christian Temperance Union has had an active organization in West Union for many years, and still maintains
one, but with indifferent results in later years, owing to the death or removal of some of the most active workers.
There have been a few private temperance workers in the town who have accomplished more in bringing offenders to
justice than all of the lodge organizations. Prominent among these are the names of Hon. J. W. Rogers and Thomas
There have been many saloons in West Union, some under color of legal sanction and others in defiance of existing
state laws. But the tendency of the town has always been towards temperance and sobriety, as evidenced in the defeat,
by vote, of every proposition to open a saloon in the place since the mulct law became operative. Bootleggers flourish
for a time, go to jail and serve out heavy fines, and others take their places. As early as 1854 the ladies of
the town put the "Black Warrior" out of business by spilling the stock and advising the proprietor to
quit the business, which he did. But this action precipitated a political fight in the election of a county judge
in that year, and the whisky element won, by first tying Elder John Webb, who "drew lots" with his competitor,
Gabriel Long, and lost the "ermine."
The West Union public library was established some twenty five years ago, and for a number of years a regular
librarian was employed and great interest was manifested in the enterprise. The board of education was asked to
provide a suitable room and combine the public library with that of the high school, which was done. This gives
West Union much the largest school library in the county, while former patrons of the city's institution can be
accommodated at the high school building by compliance with the simple and easy conditions. A recent acquisition
of the historical library of the late Charles H. Talmadge has added materially to the number of volumes, which
was, prior to this, two thousand two hundred and thirty.
West Union has always been a literary town, and some of her people, of both sexes, have evinced much interest in
the progress of literature and art. Coincident with this taste is the formation and maintenance of two literary
societies, the Historical and Literary club, for a select number of men, and the Ladies' Tourist Club. These have
been in existence for many years - the Historical and Literary Club since 1879 - and their regular meetings are
fraught with great interest to the participants in the discussion of men and measures, historical subjects, and
travels and travelers.
A system of rhetorical, literary and oratorical training has been a part of the high school curriculum for many
In presenting the preceding history of West Union, we feel constrained to use an old and familiar phrase, "the
best of the wine at the last of the feast!" The school history of this town is supremely interesting and,
though varied and mediocre in early days, it has had a constantly upward trend. The pioneers were all men of intelligence,
and many of them were liberally educated. It is not strange, therefore, that they took an early interest in the
establishment of a school for their children. Scarcely was the county organized, and the town plat of West Union
recorded, when the first school house was built. It was not a pretentious affair. It was built of logs, and its
dimensions were eighteen by twenty four feet. It was covered with "shakes" and seated with slab benches.
It goes without saying, that the school "furniture" was of the simplest and most inexpensive kind. Nor
were the rude walls covered with costly maps and charts; but they were extremely fortunate if good blackboards,
with sufficient area, were provided. It is probable that a huge fire place, with burning logs, radiated sufficient
caloric to scorch the face and allow the back to freeze; but of this we are not informed. Possibly a stove may
have been provided, but if so, this was an exception to pioneer schools in Fayette county.
The first teacher in this school was J. S. Pence, who taught during the winter of 1850-1. It is said that he was
examined as to his proficiency by J. W. Rogers, who was Working in his field, and each party to the transaction
stood on opposite sides of a rail fence. The successor of Mr. Pence, for the following summer term, was Miss Anna
Dutcher. James Boale taught the winter term of 1851-2. As time passed there were some improvements made in the
school furniture, by substituting desks and seats made of boards. These were probably upholstered with the jackplane.
In a few years the town outgrew its school accommodations, yet was unable to build larger. In this emergency the
Methodist Episcopal church was utilized, and the pastor, Rev. Joel Davis, was employed as a teacher. In like manner
other rooms were secured as needed, and eventually private schools (for which West Union was noted) began to take
in the pupils in excess of public school accommodations.
Of the pupils in the first log school house, none are known to be living except Hon. William E. Fuller, Newel Johnson,
Thomas D. Reeder, Darius O. Smith and L. C. Phillips. They all live in West Union, where their homes have always
been, except that the three last named served in the army during the Civil war, and Mr. Fuller served in the Legislature,
went to Congress, and was assistant United States district attorney. It is understood that public schools were
taught in the Baptist and United Brethren churches during the year 1859. D. W. Hammond and wife and Miss M. E.
Hackett were the instructors. These and kindred accommodations, with an occasional select school, supplied the
educational needs of the town until after the organization of the independent district of West Union, about 1860,
and the building of the first section of the school house near the entrance to the cemetery. This was occupied
by a three department school in 1864. The teachers were E. B. Wakeman, principal, with Mrs. Jennie E. (Hines) Lacy
and Miss Addie M. Close in charge of the other departments. It may be remarked here, incidentally, that Mrs Lacy
was a teacher in the public schools of the county, and mostly employed in the West Union schools, for thirty five
years. Miss Jessie Sherman commenced teaching in the "old school house" and continued in the employ of
the city schools for twenty six consecutive years.
In 1869 it became necessary to again increase the school accommodations, and an addition was built about the
same size as the original. It was then a two story frame building, on a high basement wall, and had accommodations
for six grades, which were then established. Some splendid educators have been employed in the West Union schools,
both in the old building and in the present one. Men have gone out from the principalship of this school into much
more profitable positions in educational work, leaving an odor of efficiency and adaptability behind them, which
stimulated their students to strive for equal attainments. One of these was Prof. J. B. Knoepfler, who succeeded
to the state superintendency soon after leaving West Union to enter upon a similar but better paying position,
at Lansing, Iowa. He is now an instructor in the Iowa State Normal School. Nearly all of the former principals
and superintendents here have gone upward in their professional career. In 1879 the question of building a new
and modern school house came before the board of education, who also favored a change of school house site. Parties
desirous of beautifying and enhancing the value of their surroundings, offered sites for sale in several different
localities. The board had decided to change the location in order to locate nearer the geographical center of the
district, and at the same time get the school house away from the environments of the cemetery, which had been
enlarged and brought nearer. But it was not so easy a matter to locate as it was to decide upon making a change.
After much discussion in which some bad blood was engendered, the board selected the site as now occupied, at the
northeast corner of the public square. An appeal was promptly filed with the county superintendent, by the opponents
to this location, and after a patient hearing, lasting two or three days, that official approved the action of
the board in the matter of selecting a school house site. An appeal was then taken to the state superintendent,
who reviewed the testimony, maps, diagrams, etc. and modified, but approved, the decision of the county superintendent.
The district commenced building at once, and by the beginning of the school year, 1881, the east half of the building
was ready for occupancy, and the "old school house on the hill" was abandoned. The new building is architecturally
very beautiful. There is a large stone basement under the entire building, wherein is the heating apparatus, fuel,
etc., with ample room for storing broken furniture and other commodities which accumulate around a public place.
The building, proper, is constructed of red brick, with handsome colorings about the windows, doors and archways.
Artificial stoned is used for window sills, thresholds, etc., the whole presenting a striking and artistic appearance.
In 1902 an addition, or practically the other half of the building, was erected, thus completing the symmetrical
appearance. and doubling the capacity of the building. At that time a handsome tower was added, the interior of
the old rooms remodeled, decorated and partially refurnished. The building is two stories high, with entrance off
Main street, and faces the handsome court house park. All modern conveniences and appliances are supplied in this
school, which is an "accredited" high school, its graduates being eligible to the freshman class in the
Iowa State University without examination. The teaching force as at present constituted consists of one superintendent
(male), one principal of the high school (female), and thirteen teachers in the grades, or in special work. Ten
rooms are occupied. The salary of the superintendent is one hundred and thirty three dollars and thirty three cents
per month; the other teachers receive an average of forty five dollars and seventy two cents per month. The duration
of the school year is nine months. The total number of persons in the school district between the ages of five
and twenty one years is five hundred and seventy two. Probably five per cent of these are away attending higher
schools. Of those remaining, four hundred fifty five were enrolled in the school during the year 1909. The average
daily attendance for that year was three hundred sixty seven, at an average cost for tuition in all departments
of one dollar ands ninety eight cents per month for each pupil.
There were fourteen non resident pupils enrolled below the ninth grade from whom was received in tuition fees one
hundred and seventy eight dollars and sixty cents; and twenty five students were enrolled above the ninth grade,
who contributed five hundred and five dollars and eighty cents in tuition fees. The estimated valuation of the
school house property is thirty thousand dollars, and the school apparatus is valued at one thousand two hundred
dollars. As previously stated in this article, the school library contains two thousand two hundred and thirty
volumes. In connection with the school, and under jurisdiction of the superintendent, a manual training department
is conducted for the benefit of the young men in the high school department. This mechanical work, in connection
with the regular gymnastic exercises, affords a pleasant diversion and profitable hour to those availing themselves
of the opportunities.
West Union is justly proud of her schools, and every citizen, whether rich or poor, takes a personal interest in
their welfare. With hardly an exception during the history of the schools, the rich, but childless man. has vied
with 'his prolific neighbor to determine which could do most to increase the efficiency and popularity of the public
Under the regime of Professor Knoepfler, above mentioned, the schools were moved from the old to the new building,
the first thorough gradation effected, and an approved course of study adopted; and it was under his jurisdiction
that the first class was graduated. Since that time the annual graduation exercises are looked upon as one of the
most interesting of all literary proceedings in the town.
Referring again to the later history of West Union to record its progress since it became a city of the second
class: The fire department was established in 1876, when Engine Company No. I and West Union Hook and Ladder Company
were organized. Previously, the fire fighting had been done by the "bucket brigades" and a few bottles
of chemical fire extinguishers placed about town in stores, hotels and other public places. The establishment of
the waterworks plant by vote of the people in 1891, necessitated some changes in the fire equipment and the purchase
of a hose cart and several thousand feet of hose. The department moved from the old rookery east of the Commercial
House on the completion of the elegant city hall, which building provides for their accommodation. Members of the
department are paid by the city for actual services, but there are no salaried men on the force.
The electric lighting plant was built as a private enterprise in 1897. After two or three changes in ownership,
it became the property of the Neff Brothers (J. H. and C. G.), and so continues. The town and streets are well
lighted, and the service seems to be entirely satisfactory.
Some very substantial street improvements have been made within recent years, and each year sees an addition to
the preceding one in the amount of macadamized street opened to traffic. Under the skillful manipulations of "Billie"
Loftus (a long time street commissioner), this department of the city's improvements has kept abreast of all others.
Cement walks and crossings have taken the place of the perishable planks of former days and add greatly to the
appearance of the city as well as to the comfort of the pedestrian. West Union has as many miles of cement walks
as any town of its size in the country.
The board of supervisors have had constructed, at county expense, a splendid cement bridge across Otter creek,
at the Rock Island depot. This was a greatly needed improvement to lower Vine street. in that the old wooden structure
which it supplanted was not suitable for the heavy traffic to and from the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul depot.
the fair grounds. etc. or even the ordinary travel between West Union and Fayette, and the intermediate country
districts. This and the other railroad and city improvements in that section, have given lower Vine street a decided
As supplementary to the ever present sprinkling cart, the council decided to test the merits of oil instead of
water, and the summer of 1910 was their first experience in that line.
The Board of Trade, organized by the active business men of the town for the promotion of new enterprises, has
been in existence for several years. and through their efforts the idea of oiling the streets instead of sprinkling
with water was brought to the attention of the city council. This body also had much to do with introducing an
annual Chautauqua entertainment which has proven so satisfactory as to encourage the incorporation of a company
during the present year (1910), to promote a continuance of this literary festival.
The citizens of the town have always aided and encouraged the county reunions of the veterans of the Civil war,
and, whether regimental or general, these annual meetings of the veterans have been as great a source of pleasure
to the general public as to the old soldiers themselves. These demonstrations have been held annually, and mostly
at West Union, for the last thirty four years. It seems to be the policy of the intelligent citizenship to vie
with each other in the matter of general entertainment, supplying music and speakers, and in paying the legitimate
expenses of the meetings.
Abernathy Post No. 48, Grand Army of the Republic, is the nucleus around which centers the executive features of
the annual reunions; and though the ranks are rapidly thinning and many of the most active members are gone, the
remnant is still active and zealous in the promotion of anything calculated to enhance the interests and pleasures
of the survivors. This post was organized in 1879, and named in honor of Col. Jacob Abernathy, a Fayette county
soldier who lost his life in the Atlanta campaign. Dr. S. E. Robinson was the first commander and G. W. Fitch was
the first adjutant and second commander. For many years this organization was the most popular and prosperous of
any of the fraternities in West Union. It enrolled nearly every ex-soldier within a radius of ten miles of West
Union. and seldom did any member fail to attend its meetings. It mustered in its balmiest days considerably more
than a hundred members, and its meetings were always enthusiastic. enlivened with speeches and old time war songs.
and frequently public entertainments and open meetings were held. But many deaths and some removals have depleted
the ranks, while the decrepitude of old age has shorn the survivors of much of their former energy and activity.
The trustees of the Universalist church have allowed the use of the parlor and dining room in the church basement
for the general meetings of the post and Woman's Relief Corps, the latter being an enthusiastic body of loyal women
(1oyal to the old soldiers as well as to their country) whose helpful co-operation could not be ignored. The regular
meetings of both bodies are now held on Saturday afternoon, on or before the full moon in each month. But this
auxiliary to the "Grand Army of the Republic" is entitled to more than a passing notice. Their benefactions
have reached nearly every poor family in the place, regardless of soldier connections, and many a poor sufferer
has had occasion to bless the existence of the Woman's Relief Corps.
BANKS AND BANKERS.
West Union was the first banking point in Fayette county. For a number of years prior to the organization of
the Fayette County National Bank, in 1872, S. B. Zeigler (lately deceased) was the proprietor of the Fayette County
Bank, the assets of which were transferred to the National Bank on the sth of August, 1872, that being the date
of formal organization. The subscribers to the capital stock, of fifty thousand dollars, were David Bell, of Dover
township; C. R. Bent. Lewis Berkey, George Blunt, Joseph Hobson, H. B. Hoyt. Myron Peck, William Redfield, L. W.
Waterbury, E. A. Whitney and S. B. Zeigler, of West Union: William Larrabee and B. H. Hinkley, of Clermont D. B.
Herriman. Vadena, and J. K. Rosier of Dover township. (Of these original stockholders, but three are now living.)
It was found that the stock subscribed for was nine thousand five hundred dollars in excess of the capital stock
intended. and a readjustment was made in conformity with the original purpose.
The first board of directors was David Bell, George Blunt. D. B. Herriman, Joseph Hobson, H. B. Hoyt. William Larrabee.
Myron Peck, E. A. Whitney and S. B. Zeigler. Joseph Hobson was elected president, S. B. Zeigler, vice president,
E. A. Whitney, cashier, and E. B. Shaw. teller. These officers held the positions to which elected for about ten
years. when Mr. Whitney resigned and Mr. Shaw became the cashier, with C. W. Lathrop as teller. Two or three years
later, Mr. Hobson was compelled to resign the presidency by reason of failing health, and did not survive but a
few years. Mr. Zeigler was elected president and held the office until his death in 1909, when Dr. G. D. Darnall
(who had become a stockholder and director) was elected president. and so continues. In the meantime Mr. Shaw was
elected United States bank examiner, and resigned his office as cashier to accept the higher and better paying
position. (While engaged in this work he died suddenly when away from home.) Frank Camp, who was serving in the
office of county treasurer, was called to the place made vacant by the resignation of Mr. Shaw, and is the present
cashier. The capital stock of this institution has been increased to eighty thousand dollars. In 1874 the Bank
block was completed and the bank was moved into its present commodious and handsome quarters, where it has installed
all the paraphernalia for the protection of itself and its patrons, and prosecutes a general banking and exchange
business on the conservative basis which has always characterized its business transactions. Connected with it.
yet apart from it, is the Fayette County Savings Bank whose nine directors, aside from John Owens, were chosen
from the stockholders of the National Bank. The business of this institution is mostly transacted through the National
Bank, where its deposits and securities are held.
These have been very helpful institutions in the community, and the wreck of many a business man has been averted
by the timely aid of the Fayette County National Bank and the co-operation of the Savings Bank. The deposits in
these banks are as great as that of any monetary institution in the county, and their careful and conservative
management has inspired the people with confidence in their stability and business capacity.
The Bank block, to which reference has been made, is the location of the only opera house in the town, and the
home of the Hoyt hardware business since the completion of the building in 1874. Several other store and offices
are located in this building. which for many years was the best building in the town and compares favorably with
the hest at present. It is located on the west side of Vine street, between Elm and Plum streets.
The Bank of West Union was incorporated March 12, 1883, and the certificate of the auditor of state issued on
the Kith of July following. It continued to do business under this name until February 7, 1898, when its articles
of incorporation were amended to comply with a change in the law and the word "State" was prefixed to
its name and it has since been known as State Bank of West Union. Its original incorporators were A. Rawson, John
Jamison. G. H. Thomas, J. H. Lakin, J. B. Green. William A. Hoyt, William Larrabee. F. Y. Whitmore and O. B. Dodd,
and these gentlemen constituted the first board of directors. John Jamison, William Larrabee and F. Y. Whitmore
have continuously served upon the board until the present time and O. B. Dodd with the exception of one year. The
present board consists of William Colby, O. B. Dodd, Mark Gilbert, H. P. Hancock, John Jamison, William Larrabee,
J. K. Montgomery, W. B. Thomas and F. Y. Whitmore. Others who have served upon the board being Jay M. Stevenson,
W. B. Stevenson, James Graham and George Blunt.
The first officers were: President. John Jamison; vice president. J. H. Lakin; cashier, F. V. Whitmore, and there
have been no changes in the offices of president and cashier. Mr. Lakin sold his interest in the bank in 1890 and
G. H. Thomas was elected to succeed him and filled such position until his death in 1902, when W. B. Thomas was
chosen, who has served until the present time. The management has always been in strong hands, who have conducted
its business along conservative lines, and has had the entire confidence of the community. Its second certificate
for doing business extended the life of the organization until January 1, 1923. Its present capital is ninety thousand
dollars fully paid, its surplus fifteen thousand dollars and its deposits nearly three hundred thousand dollars.
The present working force of the bank consists of F. Y. Whitmore, cashier, A. J. Gurney, assistant cashier, and
F. W. Kingsbury, teller.
Mr. Gurney has been with the bank since early in 1885 and has done much for the prosperity of the institution.
Mr. Kingsbury is now serving his fourth year, and, like other members of the force, is deservedly popular with
the community. The bank owns its own building which is one of the best business locations in the city, and has
never passed but one semi annual dividend to its stockholders, which was during the panic of 1893 when it was considered
that the protection of its depositors was paramount to dividend payments to its stockholders. and after the money
stress was over resumed its usual payments.
Like Rome, West Union was not built in a day. The pioneers had to deny themselves some of the luxuries which today
might appear as necessities; nevertheless, they were just as ambitious, contented and happy under the circumstances
then existing as we of today. And the few old pioneers who remain enjoy living over again in their vivid imaginations
the never to be forgotten past; and as the memories of thrilling incidents and loved ones long departed pass in
a grand procession before their vision, their eyes, now dimmed with years, kindle anew and sparkle with old time
brilliancy. Then it was that brain, muscle and courage were in the ascendency, and by these powerful elements homes,
secure and blessed, were founded for their loving families. The same deeds and requirements did not characterize
a hero then, but every human being who gave up the friends and home of his youth, braved the western wilds, and
endured the privations of that early period, to carve out a home and future, well deserves the name of hero.
There may be some of our readers who exhibit a careless indifference regarding the history of their forefathers,
counting as naught the privileges they have gained at the sacrifice of others. As it were, they almost scorn the
round on which they stand, when the next seems within their easy grasp. To them stepping stones are useless, when
once they are passed. But to the intelligent and more thoughtful, we feel that this brief history may be followed
with interest, appreciating the fact that the joys and luxuries they are permitted to enjoy in the present, have
been bought with the life blood of humanity; and that the least we can offer in return is to perpetuate the memory
of their honest lives, and that their great and heroic deeds may be incentives to the rising generations, and their
names be enrolled in the hearts of the people.
Reference is made to the origin of Union township in the beginning of this chapter, and it now remains to complete
its history. But West Union township, from which this was organized in recent years, contains most of the story
pertaining to Union township. The topography of the territory, its present state of development, schools, etc.,
will constitute the subject matter of this article.
The land in this township is mostly rolling - in a few places quite rough and broken, while in other localities
are comparatively level farms. The soil is universally fertile where arable, and the amount of waste land is small.
Otter creek passes through the township from west to east, and along this stream are the bluffs and hilly land,
which were originally covered with heavy timber, much of which still remains. The varieties of timber which prevailed
were the various species of oak, hickory, alder, black walnut, ash, cherry and large groves of sugar maple. The
latter were utilized by the pioneers, and to some extent at present, in the making of large quantities of maple
sugar and syrup, the equal of which in palatableness has never been approximated by the ingenuity of man. But the
maple groves, because of the value of the timber for various purposes, have mostly disappeared under the inspiration
of the woodman's axe.
Along the course of Otter creek were erected in early times, several mills, some for sawing and others for grinding
grain. The Otter was admirably adapted to these purposes, the fall in some places between West Union and Elgin
being one hundred feet to the mile. Cyrus Gurdy, an early pioneer, owned and operated a flouring mill on the Otter
for a great many years. William Alveny's and the Higgins mills were also early industries along this stream. Cyrus
Curdy was a familiar figure about West Union for many years after his retirement, and died in that city. His son,
Seth, who still resides in West Union, operated the mill and farm after his father discontinued active business.
EARLY DAY CITIZENS.
One of the pioneer home makers in Union township was James Holmes, not previously mentioned in this chapter,
though he is elsewhere. He came to the township in 1850, and is credited with doing the first extensive job of
breaking land in the township. He first settled in what is now Dover township. but soon moved to West Union township,
where he opened up an extensive farm, and lived upon and cultivated it until a few years before his death, when
he retired to West Union, and died there. The farm, a mile south of the county seat, is still in possession of
his widow and other heirs.
Franklin Bishop was a well known character among the early pioneers of this township, and lived to a ripe old age.
One of his sons still lives in the community where the family first settled. N. C. Spencer, familiarly known as
"Nels," was another early settler in Union township, and still lives there on his splendid farm. He married
Cassie Brewer, daughter of J. S. Brewer, who, in company with Henry Wimber, was running a blacksmith and wagon
shop in "Mechanics' Row," West Union, in very early times. James B. Green, who was a pioneer thresher,
owned a large and valuable farm in this township, and was one of the progressive men of his day. Being a bachelor,
his land descended to his heirs of the second generation, and is now the property of M. W. Grimes, who came from
Indiana to occupy it about twenty five years ago. This is a splendidly equipped farm, and Mr. Grimes is a thoroughgoing
business man and prominent citizen in his adopted locality. The Crowe family, and the Frisbies, were also early
pioneers in Union, and whose posterity are numbered among the successful people of today. In this list are also
included the Vilburs, Garrisons, Dullards, Meskels, T. D. Babb, William Kinsey (who was reared in Illyria township),
George W. Gilbert, S. D. Rowland, T. D. Reeder, William Alcorn, William Wade, Matthew Wells, John Shroyer T. C.
Barclay, Philip Barnhart, R. M. and D. M. Hoyt, Rev. Enoch Fothergill, George Blunt, W. C. Montgomery, William
McClintock, the numerous families of Smiths, the Butlers, Saltsgivers, William Barnhouse, Glovers, D. W. Hall family,
Buntons, Mouths, the House family, the Hoyers, J. A., C. C. and George. All these, and many others, owned farms
in Union township in early days, and became identified with the early history of this locality. See West Union
township for additional names and history. It is not assumed that the list is a complete representation of early
day citizens, and we are sorry that such is the case. But it is hoped that the generous reader will realize that
we are now far removed from the pioneer period, and that memory is treacherous, even when stimulated by nearly
half a century of association and observation.
The taxable valuation of property in Union township exceeds that of any other rural township in the county,
when it is remembered that it has several sections less than a full congressional township, these sections being
detached in the formation of West Union township. The total assessment valuation for 1909 was three hundred and
eleven thousand and fifty four dollars. This includes thirty seven thousand four hundred and thirty six dollars,
evaluation of nine and one half miles of railroad; seven hundred and sixty dollars valuation of telegraph lines,
and one thousand eight hundred and eighty four dollars assessed valuation of the forty three and one fourth miles
of telephone lines traversing the township.
The early school history is coincident with that of early West Union, where the first school was opened in 1850.
As settlements were formed outside of the village. schools were provided until there are now eight sub-districts
in the district township, and schools were taught seven and nine tenths months during the school year of 1909.
One male teacher was employed, and seven females, the salary of the former being thirty eight dollars per month.
The female teachers received an average compensation of thirty six dollars and two cents per month. The school
enumeration for the district township shows one hundred and eighty eight persons of school age, whose total average
dairy attendance was one hundred and seventeen. The average cost of tuition per month for each pupil was one dollar
and ninety six cents. The estimated value of the eight school houses is two thousand four hundred and thirty five
dollars, and of school apparatus. two hundred dollars. There are four hundred volumes in the school district libraries.
Since the sub-division of the township, elections are held in a country school house, and as West Union is located
interiorly. it necessarily follows that some inconvenience is met in passing through the town to reach the voting
place. This is more keenly felt bye those whose habit has been to spend election clay around the polling place.
There are no churches in Union township, convenience to the city of West Union rendering their existence in the
adjacent country impracticable. In cases of necessity, as for instance the holding of funeral services at Pleasant
Grove cemetery, in the east part of this township, the school houses are utilized, as in the olden time.
The farmers of this township are rich and prosperous, and are generally well equipped for the diversified farming
and stock raising which is their principal employment. A few of them deal quite extensively in buying, fitting
and shipping stock, particularly cattle. The Blunt brothers ( Jesse, John and James) have been quite extensive
stock dealers, besides operating their large farms; but Jesse is dead, John has retired, and lives in West Union.
and James H. is operating in the Hawkeye country, to which he has transferred his residence and a large share of
his farm interests.
[Return to Union Township and West Union History part 1.]