History Parnell, IA
From: History of Iowa County, Iowa And its People
By: James C. Dinwiddie
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. Chiago 1915


This is an example of another village created by the arrival of the Milwaukee Railroad in 1884, although this village has now taken on the dignity of an incorporated town. The community of people composing the early Town of Parnell were practically all from Lytle City three miles northeastward from Parnell. When the trains began to run the residences and frame business blocks were moved to a point on the road and the new town started. There has been a slow, but steady growth since this time; the people are prosperous; there is one of the largest Catholic churches in the county here; and the single bank is one of the most popular institutions in the southeastern part of the county.

The Parnell Savings Bank was organized in June, 1891, by T. J. Mullin, F. V. Mullin, E. C. Mullin, James Furlong, B. Sheridan and M. J. Kelly. The first capital stock was $13,000; this has since been raised to $25,000. The capital of the bank is a good index to the general increase in the business and trade of the community. The deposits average about $130,000, and a surplus of $6,000 is carried. M. Dwyer is the president; John Naughton, vice president; Charles Moore, cashier; and John Carwell, assistant cashier.

The Town of Parnell was incorporated under the laws of the state in conformity to section 569 of McClain's Code on March 24, 1891, and on the 21st of April the town government went into operation. The first officers were: C. J. Newcomb, mayor; J. G. Grady, recorder; F. V. Mullin, treasurer; M. Hannon, assessor; George Woods, street commissioner and marshal; J. A. Black, J. B. Butler, J. A. Ogle, Thomas Raher, E. M. Long, T. J. Mullin, councilmen. The following men have served as mayor since this time: M. McGurk, M. Callan, E. F. Flanagan, E. C. Mullin, John M. Tiernan, M. Hannon, Mark Mullin and M. P. Lauler.


Originally St. Joseph Parish was the west end of St. Michael's or the Old Man's Creek. With the beginning of the Town of Parnell caused many changes, but not immediately.

The origin of the parish at Parnell was something like an accommodation, for in the fall of 1888, Rev. James Davis then the pastor of St. Michael's Holbrook made appointments to say Mass in Parnell on certain Sundays. The services were held in the old Hatter Hall during that fall and winter. By the next spring, 1889, a movement went into effect by which St. Joseph's Parish was established by Father Davis (now Rt. Rev. Bishop Davis, of Davenport), and by fall a church was erected. That same fall Father Davis was appointed V. C. at Davenport, and Father T. J. King was given charge of Holbrook and Parnell. In 1892 the cemetery was established.

During the winter of 1893 St. Joseph's Parish and St. Mary's of Williamsburg were thrown into the one mission, and Rev. J. C. White was given charge of the mission. In 1895 the Parnell Parish was left to stand alone and Father Kelly, of Marengo, was appointed to the charge. When Father Kelly was appointed to the rectory at Ottumwa, October, 1899, Rev. Jas. F. Mahoney was transferred to the charge, and who is now over fifteen years in this commission.


The Parnell school district was originally the old Locust Grove Independent district. The schoolhouse, when Parnell was established, was one mile east of town, and remained there for two years afterwards. In order to accommodate the pupils of the town and the western part of the district, school was first in Parnell in the winter of 1888-89, and was held in a store building where the pupils were crowded in their seats like sardines in a can. Iii the summer of 1889 a new one room school building was built, which only accommodated the pupils for two years when it was raised a story and another room added. This did fairly well for several years. In 1899 a new four room brick was erected and when first occupied, furnished plenty of school facilities for the attendance with three rooms and three teachers. The community being mostly Catholic, and there being such a strife in hiring teachers every year, especially the primary teachers, a plan was hit on to secure Sisters to teach the primary. At first there was one Sister in the school and one to teach music outside the school. The plan worked so well that more Sisters were added, but the principals usually were men. It was not a parochial school, but a public school in which Sisters were hired to teach the branches prescribed by the board of education. The strife of securing positions in the school, the worry that usually befalls the board of getting the right teacher for the right place and to keep a watch over the teachers were abated in the securing of the Sisters.

The school became a high school in 1899 by the adoption of a ten grade course. In 1907 it was raised to an eleventh course and in 1915, this year, it is now a twelve grade school approved by the state board of education, carry the full prescribed faculty of teachers, and fully equipped with apparatus to teach the twelve grades. It has gone from the one room with one teacher to a six room school with seven teachers and a superintendent.

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