THE FIRST GLIMPSE
Prior to the year 1870 the site of Britt was nothing but a blank space of prairie and mire, inhabited by various
animals of this territory and crossed occasionally by travelers. E. N. Bailey wrote a paragraph in the Tribune
at one time, in which he says: "The first time the writer was ever on the ground where Britt now stands was
in June, 1874, when hunting curlews. There was a little grocery store just opened up by someone and we succeeded
in getting in from the prairie south by dismounting from our horse and wading through water that was 'boot top'
deep right on ground that now contains some of the finest gardens and residences in Britt." This experience
of "wading" into Britt actively describes the appearance of the village then. However, from this humble
and discouraging start Britt has grown to be the largest town in the county and the center of a large trading and
farming district, a town of prosperous and modern stores, strong financial institutions and civic excellence.
The plat of the village of Britt was filed for record at the county seat on June 20, 1878, by John T. Stoneman
and William H. Lorimier, proprietors. John T. Stoneman surveyed the ground and named the site of the village as:
the south fifty five acres of the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter and the south half of the southwest
quarter of Section 28, Township 96 North, Range 25 West, all of the said tracts lying south of the Calmer branch
of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway. Several additions have been filed since, which have added territory
to the original plat. The more important of these follow: Anderson's second addition, January 14, 1879; Lattimore's
addition, June 10, 1880; Stubbin's addition, January 3, 1881; Maple Hill addition, December 8, 1885; McGraw &
Fish addition, December 25, 1886; Stubbin's second addition, March 13, 1886; Brown & Treganza addition, January
6, 1892; Brown & Hill addition, February 18, 1892; Stubbin's third addition, September 24, 1892; Stubbin's
fourth addition, same date; Castle's addition, August 31, 1895; Grace Fisk addition, January 27, 1897; Way's westside
addition, November 17, 1897; Brown's addition, May 8, 1902.
It is said that the first building erected upon the site of Britt was the depot of the Chicago, Milwaukee &
St. Paul Railway, which was put up in 1870. The second was a section house, or shack, about sixty rods east of
The first residence erected was that of J. H. Burdick. This stood on the south side of the railroad track, opposite
the above mentioned section house. Burdick came to this place in 1876.
From the first paper ever published in Britt, December 19, 1879, there is taken the following list of business
men: D. R. Putnam, William Finch, grain; Thomas Hymer, K. K. Liquin, lumber; Andrews & Young, hotel proprietors;
S. F. Benson, postmaster; E. S. Ross, Ira Fay, coal dealers; Thomas Daylor, G. B Martin, merchants; F. B. Rogers,
hardware; E. Hales, groceries; Doctor Fort, physician; Young Brothers, meat market; J. E. Anderson, Brockway &
Elder, C. C. Way, real estate; Farley & McKinney, billiards; William Breeze, blacksmith; Treganza Brothers,
wagonmakers; L. N. Miller, shoemaker; A. Moir, druggist; Genie Couper, milliner; Young & Yawney, livery.
The postoffice at Britt was established in 1870 and Robert Lattimore was commissioned postmaster. He was succeeded
by S. F. Benson and then came E. E. Adams.
The town of Britt was incorporated June 23, 1881. The petition to the district court judge for incorporation
was duly drawn and signed by the following legal voters of the town: W. E. Bradford, C. C. Way, Jesse Wooliscroft,
S. F. Benson, H. F. Fort, K. K. Liquin, A. D. White, W. H. Breese, A. C. Breese, Alex Moir, F. B. Rogers, William
Dunaway, E. E. Adams, J. R. Grover, Benjamin Hudson, I. W. Sprague, E. S. Ross, J. E. Young, A. M. Tuttle, John
Johnson, Rodney Hill, John Anderson, G. M. Byerly, J. H. Burns, C. W. Young, J. F. Edwards, B. MeArdle, S. A. Healy,
M. M. Johnson, R. B. Pope, T. H. Treganza, J. G. Strong, L. J. Miller, J. D. Smith, L. D. Andrews, E. W. Deyoe,
Nels Holmberg, E. Hales, G. B. Martin, C. McQuaick, H. E. Hill, E. Blick, H. F. Arnett, William Wright, M. Nugent,
C. B. Howe. The petition was acted upon according to the state law and the incorporation granted. J. G. Strong
and W. E. Bradford drafted the ordinances first used by the city officials. The first officers chosen for Britt
were: George Stubbins, mayor; H. H. Ellsworth, recorder; S. F. Benson, assessor; J. D. Smith, marshal; B. Hudson,
street commissioner; Thomas Daylor, John J. Clemmens, H. E. R. Hill, Joseph Treganza, P. S. Ellsworth and D. W.
The first hotel built in the town of Britt was the Star Hotel, which was erected by S. F. Benson in October, 1876.
A. D. White, J. W. Ball and F. B. Rogers were later proprietors. Edwin Hales started a hotel known as the Hales
House in the spring of 1880.
In May, 1878, Thomas Daylor erected the first building in the town for the purpose of transacting a mercantile
business. He completed the building in August of that year, placed a stock of goods upon his shelves and opened
up for business. He was the first merchant. It is said that his first sale was to J. H. Burdick, the sale consisting
of twenty five cents worth of Japan tea. Daylor continued as sole owner of the business until February, 1883, when
he admitted Mr. Ennor as partner. For a time after his start Mr. Daylor conducted a grain business on the side,
but did not keep this business for over a year. William F. Ennor had been a clerk in Daylor's employ since 1878.
K. K. Liquin was the second merchant in Britt. In August, 1878, he erected his store room and in October opened
up for business. He continued to operate his store until March, 1879, when he disposed of it to Henry Lucas, who
sold out shortly afterward to G. Stubbins. After he had sold out he went into the lumber trade in partnership with
T. Woodford, and later invested in the grain business also. Liquin was a native Iowan and came to Britt from Winneshiek
County in 1878.
Dr. H. F. Fort opened the pioneer drug store in Britt on the 17th of August, 1878. He continued until October,
1879, when he sold out to Alexander Moir. J. L. Kinyon was admitted to partnership in 1883. James Temple also opened
up a drug store in Britt July 19, 1882.
The first hardware store was established by F. B. Rogers, who came here from New Hampton, Chickasaw County, in
1878. He sold out his stock in 1882 to H. B. Morrison. The hardware firm of E. I. McGraw & Company was started
in October, 1882.
A lumber yard was opened in March, 1880, by I. W. Jamison, with S. A. Healy as manager. This company did not continue
in the business for any length of time. Joseph F. Bullis started in the coal business in 1881 and added a line
of lumber in the next year.
The first exclusive grocery store was started by H. E. R. Hill in April, 1880.
Before the building of the town L. O. Huntley erected a warehouse for purchasing and shipping from this station.
The building was constructed in September, 1875, and used for about five years. In July, 1878, two grain elevators,
to accommodate the wheat and grain trade, were erected. One was constructed by W. Finch and the other by D. R.
Putnam. These were at that time operated by E. P. Finch and were located opposite the Milwaukee depot.
The first man in Britt to deal in agricultural implements was Eugene S. Ross in February, 1879. One of the principal
business occupations of the early days in Britt was the pressing and baling of hay for foreign markets. The first
press was started by L. Tuttle in the fall of 1881 and he was afterwards succeeded by Charles Walton. Baker &
Brown, J. E. O. Bennett, M. Brown & Son were later firms doing this work.
Although many years have passed since Britt has maintained licensed saloons, they existed freely here at one time.
The first saloon was opened in October, 1876, by A. J. Coyle. This one held sway until 1880, when J. W. Farley
built a structure to be used as a groghouse.
The meat market business was started at Britt by J. D. Smith in June, 1879. Young Brothers later came into possession
of this shop, then the firms of Pope & Hild and Clemons & Smith. The pioneer livery stable was instituted
in the spring of 1878 by John Young. After about eighteen months he sold out to G. It. Wolfe. The dray and transfer
business was begun by Ira Fay in April, 1880, but three months later it passed into the hands of S. A. Healy.
The first restaurant was opened in 1880 by J. D. Smith. The pioneer blacksmith of Britt was William S. Breeze,
who located here and opened up for business in the spring of 1879. I. W. Sprague was the first carpenter and builder
in the town, arriving here from Chicago, July 24, 1878. Joseph A. Treganza and Thomas Treganza started a furniture
and contracting business in 1879.
It is very seldom that a town equal in size to Britt may boast of the excellent banking facilities which now
exist in that city. Two banks do an immense business here, a fact which well proves the prosperity of the vicinity
and the trade spirit of the community.
The present First National Bank had its origin in the year 1879. In this year the Way brothers and E. P. Healy
started the Farmers Savings Bank. Later George Beadle came into possession of the property and then Lewis Larson
took charge of the institution. The latter gentleman made it into a state bank. This bank became a national bank
in 1885 and has since done business under the title of the First National Bank. The present officers of the bank
are as follows: C. P. Lewis, president; H. C. Armstrong, vice president; J. P. Spalla, cashier. The capital stock
is now $50,000; the surplus and undivided profits, $30,000; and the deposits about $300,000. Articles of incorporation
of the Farmers Savings Bank, mentioned above, were filed in the office of the county auditor, November 12, 1889,
showing that a bank under this name was then doing business. The incorporators were: J. D. Maben, L. B. Farrar,
G. R. Maben, John Paulson and L. B. Sylvester. The capital stock named in the articles was $10,000. Articles of
incorporation for the First State Bank of Britt were filed in the county court house May 8, 1894, with the following
incorporators: C. P. Lewis, A. J. Robinson, G. W. Beadle, Lewis Larson, E. P. Hudson, W. H. Steele, H. Thompson,
J. M. Clark, J. D. Bailey, Hans Schroeder, R. F. Cooper, A. F. Horstman, John Paulson, F. L. Wacholz, William Shattuck,
J. C. Fulkerson, B. A. Plummer, M. Barton, M. J. Pihl, H. M. Hanson, J. J. Sharp and Mrs. Matilda Sharp. The capital
stock was named as $25,000 and the following specified as the first officers: G. W. Beadle, president; C. P. Lewis,
vice president; R. F. Cooper, cashier.
The Commercial State Bank of Britt was started in 1889 as a private bank. K P. Healy and Thomas A. Way were the
originators of this institution. The institution was conducted until 1910 as the Commercial Bank, then in 1911
was incorporated as a state bank. Articles of incorporation were filed in the county auditor's office at Garner,
March 26, 1913, as required by law. The capital stock is given as $60,000 and the officers as follows: C. W. Irwin,
president; E. P. Healy, vice president; F. B. Irwin, vice president; D. J. Miller, cashier. These same officers
manage the business of the bank in 1917. The bank has a capital stock of $60,000; surplus and undivided profits
amounting to $115,000; and deposits of about $700,000.
The firm of Taylor & Osborne began a general banking and real estate business in Britt in June, 1881, with
a capital stock of about $30,000. The banking house of C. C. Way & Company was organized in July, 1881, J.
E. Anderson and C. C. Way being the partners in the concern. Shortly after its establishment, however, Mr. Anderson
retired from the firm, leaving it in sole charge of C. C. Way. Besides general banking some real estate business
was transacted by this concern.
In the way of municipal improvements Britt has really just started. Although the city has bonded itself to the
limit and assumed obligations which will take years to fulfill, the improvements are worth the cost and add to
the attractiveness and efficiency of the community. The first water plant in the city was started in 1894, and
at first was a decided failure, going through the hands of many managements. Now the city is well supplied with
artesian water, sufficient for private consumption as well as fire protection.
The Britt Light & Power Company was organized October 15, 1914, thus adding another municipal feature to the
city. Articles of incorporation, however, were filed July 21, 1900, and signed by R. H. Walker of Hancock, A. J.
Ashby of Humboldt County and L. M. Goodman of Decatur County.
Another factor which has assisted greatly in the betterment of Britt in the Business Men's Association. This organization
for the exploitation of the city was founded in March, 1900.
Adequate sewerage has been laid in the principal streets of Britt and in the summer of 1916 extensive paving was
Darius Lodge, No. 431, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, was organized at Britt on June 27, 1883, with the following
list of charter members: J. A. Treganza, Thomas Daylor, H. E. R. Hill, J. D. Maben, George Stubbins, Joseph Osborne,
Moses Brown, J. M. Dunaway, J. F. Bullis, James Dickerson, Thomas Duff, John M. Orthel, S. A. Healy and Mat Johnson.
J. A. Treganza was the first worshipful master of this lodge.
Howe Post, No. 179, Grand Army of the Republic, located at Britt, was instituted on May 23, 1883. Gen. Milo L.
Sherman of Fredericksburg, Iowa, was the mustering officer. The charter members of Howe Post were: J. G. Strong,
M. Nugent, Levi Huntly, H. D. Woodard, Levi Chandler, P. P. Griffin, J. G. Bingham, O. N. Wilcox, Eli Blickensdefer,
Jerome Bailey, J. R. Wolf, C. B. Howe, J. F. Bullis, M. McGruder, C. S. Rockwood and Thomas Graham. Capt. J. G.
Strong was elected the first commander of the post and H. D. Woodard adjutant. Nearly all of these first members
have passed away and the Post, as an active organization has disappeared.
Protection Lodge, No. 611, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was incorporated and the articles filed at the county
auditor's office on September 9, 1899. Present Lodges include the W. R. C., also Modern Woodmen.
Although the city of Britt has never had library facilities except the reference works at the school house,
plans are made and an endowment secured from Andrew Carnegie for the erection of a $10,000 library building in
the summer of 1917. This building, together with the new school building to be constructed at the same time, will
add much to the appearance of the town.
One of the most pretentious bank buildings in Iowa has just been completed in Britt by the Commercial State Bank.
Built of brick and stone, finished upon the interior with marble, tile and brass, it is equal to any building of
its kind in the state in fixtures and decoration. The cost of the building was $50,000.