History Garner, Hancock County, IA
From: History of Winnebago County and Hancock County, Iowa
A Record of Settlement, Organization,
Progress and Achievement.
The Pioneer Publishing Company
Chicago 1917



In the summer of 1870 John Maben, in conjunction with the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company, laid out a town plat on the southwest quarter of Section 30, in Township 96 North, Range 23 West, and filed the official plat in the county courthouse on August 23d of the same year. This plat gives the information that the land was surveyed and laid out into blocks commencing July 19, 1870, and completed July 30, 1870, by C. F. Vincent, surveyor. F. J. Bush, H. H. Bush, S. H. Jimmerson, S. R. Kelley and Henry Marshall assisted Vincent in this task of platting the town, laying out lots and designating streets. Shortly after the filing of the plat for record interests in the new town were purchased by H. N. Brockway and the firm of Bush & Allen. The early settlers gave the new town the name of Garner, in honor of one of the railroad officials.

Since the original plat there have been many additions surveyed and filed, owing to the increase of population and necessity for more building room. Some of the more important of these additions, with the date of filing in the auditor's office, follow: Tallman's Addition to Garner, September 28, 1875; Park Addition, May 7, 1889; Driving Park Addition to Garner, March 31, 1893; West Side Addition, April 25, 1896; Second Driving Park Addition, July, 3, 1899; Sunset View Addition.

The town owes its existence to the advent of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad in 1870. Like many other small towns along the route, this was intended by the railroad as a shipping point. Some of the towns died and others reached a substantial size. Garner belongs in the latter class and business, building and settlement quickly began after the first locomotive steamed into the town.


The first merchant to open a store in Garner was Royal Lovell. He erected the first store building and, in fact, the first structure of any kind except the depot, in 1870. As soon as he had completed the erection of his building he opened a general merchandise business, carrying about everything which a frontier family would want. He continued without competition for some time, finally moving to more commodious quarters when increased business demanded it. In January, 1881, Mr. Schuler was admitted as a partner and the firm became known as Lovell & Schuler. It is said that they carried fully $8,000 worth of goods, a truly great stock for a cross-roads store in those days. A. B. Elliott & Company, C. Borman and Hubbard Brothers came into the field within ten years after Lovell began.

The first hotel was constructed by John Davidson of Galesburg, Illinois, in the spring of 1871. He operated it about a year and then it passed into the hands of William Finch, who shortly afterwards converted it into a dwelling house. The next hotel was built by Robert Elder during the year 1873. This was opened as the Elder House, under the management of Robert Elder, later deputy treasurer of the county. The house was later known as the Fehly House. The Cassill House was erected by Mr. Cassill in 1876. The New Victoria Hotel is the principal hostelry of Garner at the present time

The first furniture store in Garner was established in 1871 by Kemp & Christie. In 1880 William Yoter purchased the business.

The first jewelry store was opened in 1876 by P. S. Dow. At first, owing to lack of capital, Dow rented a portion of the Borman store and there displayed his meager stock. Business increase later permitted him to occupy larger quarters.

The first boot and shoe store was established by G. A. Haes in 1871. The first drug store was established by Funk & Hawley during the year 1871. William Finch afterwards purchased their business. The first hardware store was started in 1870 by Sweeney & Schell, but after running with intermittent success for two years they disposed of their stock to William Finch. He operated it alone until 1875, when he admitted as a partner his brother, T. F. Finch, who in turn the next year purchased William's share.

The lumber business owes its inception in Garner to J. M. Elder, W. C. Wells and T. Woodford, who started a yard in 1870.

The real estate business at first became very profitable, on account of the large amount of land for sale and the number of incoming settlers who wished to purchase. This business has always been maintained as one of the principal ones in Garner. Brockway & Elder, with offices at Concord, and A. C. Ripley, located in Garner, were the first to engage in real estate transactions for this vicinity.

In the spring of 1880 John Burnside and A. R. Barnes established the B. B. Creamery at Garner. They erected a building twenty-four by thirty-six feet, also an ice house twenty-four feet square. With an eight horsepower engine they equipped a plant worth fully $2,500. They secured the milk from about one thousand cows and reached a daily output of eight hundred pounds of butter. New York City was the marketing place for the butter manufactured here.

The first grain warehouse was erected by Royal Lovell in 1871 and here the first grain was handled in Garner. During the first year of his business in Garner Lovell purchased about 25,000 bushels of grain and in the next year bought fully 45,000. William Finch and Dwight Putnam afterwards constructed elevators.

The first blacksmith in Garner was William Dickson, who opened up in the first year of the town's existence. R. W. Noble and Charles Krouse succeeded him after he forsook the farrier's trade for the plow. Hay-pressing, described in the history of Britt, was also one of the leading occupations of early Garner. H. F. Fiegenbaum, John Burnside and Charles Kluckhohn engaged in this business in the early days.

In 1875 John Burnside started a meat market in Garner, which was the first in Hancock County. Charles Valliket was the first to start in the livery business. Kemp & Christie had the first wagon shop, which was opened at the same time they began in the furniture business. The first hall for entertainments was erected in the autumn of 1883 by James and W. C. Moak. It was opened on the evening of November 29, 1883, which was Thanksgiving Day, with an exhibition by the Garner Dramatic Club, entitled "The Hidden Hand."


Garner was incorporated as a town of the fourth class in 1881 and C. S. Terwilliger was chosen mayor. Since this time the town has gained slowly in municipal improvements, but has added features of benefit to the city as fast as finances would permit. The Enterprise Electric Light, Heating and Power Company was incorporated February 5, 1901. The Garner Commercial Club, an organization for the promotion of everything tending to benefit the city, was incorporated October 23, 1911, and the articles of incorporation were signed by the following citizens: F. E. Blackstone, president; Isaac Sweigard, vice president; J. F. W. Vrba, secretary; C. R. Sweigard, treasurer; F. M. Hanson, H. M Hoag, C. J. Schneider, C. J. Bracher and J. C. Grobatz, directors.


In 1898 a railroad company-was promoted by Garner citizens, partly to boost the cause of the town in the fight for the county seat. This road was named the Cedar Rapids, Garner & Northwestern Railway Company and articles of incorporation were filed April 25, 1898, and signed by A. C. Ripley, J. N. Sprole, H. N. Brockway, C. S. Terwilliger, J. E. Wichman, E. P. Fox, M. A. Fell, William Shattuck, E. C. Abbey, H. H. Bush, J. J. Upton, William Schneider, H. M. Hoag, W. C. Schuler, Fred Katler, L. D. Byers, S. Sturgeon, and others. As stated in the articles of incorporation "the object of this road shall be to locate, construct, maintain and operate a railway, with all necessary branches, warehouses, elevators and such other appendages as may be deemed necessary for the convenient use and profitable management of the same from a connection with the Cedar Rapids, Iowa Falls & Northwestern Railway near the village of Hayfield by way of Crystal Lake to some point in the state of Iowa not yet determined."


The Hancock County Bank was organized in December, 1874, by J. M. Elder and H. N. Brockway and was the first institution of the kind in Hancock County. At the first meeting J. M. Elder was elected president; H. N. Brockway, vice president; and William McBride, cashier. A. R. Barnes later became the cashier. The First National Bank of Garner is the outgrowth of this institution. This latter institution is now officered by the following: F. M Hanson, president; J. E. Wichman, vice president; J. F. W. Vrba, cashier. The capital stock of the First National Bank is $50,000; the surplus and undivided profits $15,000; and the deposits amount to about a half million dollars.

The Farmers National Bank was established in 1891 as the Farmers Savings Bank and the articles of incorporation filed June 26, 1891, and signed by G. R. Maben, E. C. Abbey, William C. Wells, John Burnside, Joseph Barth, with a capital stock of $15,000. The bank was conducted under state laws until 1906, then was organized as a national bank, with C. K. Moe as president. The present officers of this institution are: Isaac Sweigard, president; F. E. Blackstone, vice president; C. R. Sweigard, cashier; E. C. Ford, assistant cashier. The capital stock is $25,000; the surplus and undivided profits $32,000; and the deposits about $400,000. The bank has just completed a new $20,000 building for its own use. The building is modern and equipped with the latest in bank fixtures and conveniences.


The post office at Garner was established in 1870 and Royal Lovell was commissioned the first postmaster. He continued to hold his position for about a year and a half, when he was succeeded by George Lanning. W. C. Haywood and H. H. Bush succeeded Lanning.


The Gamer Ladies' Library Association was organized in 1873 by thirteen of the women of the town. These were Mesdames: Robert Elder, Royal Lovell, H. H. Bush, William Finch, W. C. Wells, A Haes, S. A. Howe, H. C. Knappen, C. E. Holland, N. Mitchell, Walter Dickson, A. B. Cassill, J. F. Veits, A. B. Elliott and D. Gould. The first money procured by this association was earned by socials and entertainments promoted by the ladies named. Their initial fund amounted to only $60, but from this meager beginning quite a large library was accumulated. In 1882 a $500 building was erected for the accommodation of the library. The first board of directors consisted of Mesdames: R. Lovell, A. Haes and Walter Dickson. Mrs. H. H. Bush was the first secretary and Mrs. Robert Elder the first treasurer.

In 1915 there was erected in Garner a Carnegie library, costing about $10,000, the culmination of months of effort upon the part of the library board and the citizens of the town. The finished building is a handsome piece of work and contains all the conveniences of the modern library, as well as a choice collection of books.


The first lodge to be organized in Garner was the Masonic. Bethel Lodge, No. 319, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, was instituted by dispensation July 27, 1872, by O. P. Waters, of Burlington, Iowa, grand master of the order. There were only eight or ten members at first and the first officers were: J. M. Elder, worshipful master; C. C. Doolittle, senior warden; C. C. Howland, junior warden; J. W. Elder, treasurer; Albert Howe, secretary; L. B. Bailey, senior deacon; Robert Elder, junior deacon; and John Veits, tyler.

Garner Lodge, No. 692, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was incorporated March 23, 1908.

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