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


This thriving city of 1,170 people, located on the west bank of Old Man's Creek, in Troy Township, was founded by Richard Williams and laid out by him on May 20, 1856. It is situated near the geographical center of the county, is located in a rich farming community, is a trade center for the surrounding townships and has splendid railroad facilities upon the Kansas City branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. The nationality of the people in Williamsburg and the immediate surrounding country is more varied, perhaps, than any other community of its size in the state. There are representatives of America, Germany, Wales, Scandinavia, Ireland, Scotland and Switzerland, living here together, all of them loyal subjects of the Stars and Stripes. The Welsh and their descendants form the leading nationality group. They take great pride in their intellectual developments. But all nationalities and all classes are highly intelligent, social, and full of patriotic devotion to American institutions. With the exception of a few older people, all speak the English language, and all classes and all nationalities fraternize, do business and associate as one common people.

Richard Williams, the founder of the town, was a sturdy Welshman; in fact, nearly all of the very Hirst settlers to this community were of this blood. The names of Williams. Evans, Jones, Roberts, Davis, Hughes, Powell, Edwards, and Harris are yet familiar in the town.

During the early years of the life of Williamsburg there was very little growth; in the year 1880 there were only 13o people who claimed it as their residence. The presence of the Rock Island Railroad eight miles to the north of the town drew the trade and people away in that direction and it was not until the coming of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul in 1884 that the growth of the town had a fair and sure start. Trade and commerce began to take on new life; outside capital was attracted by the natural advantages and location of the place; and soon the country hamlet shook off her rustic garments and donned her urban robes. Most of the old frame business structures have been superseded by substantial brick buildings; churches built; the town incorporated; a system of waterworks installed; a lighting system established; and with all, many beautiful dwellings; so that today, in some respects, Williamsburg is the foremost town in the county.

Williamsburg is typically a livestock center; the shipments of stock from the town being one of the most prolific sources of revenue. As an agricultural center the town also occupied an enviable position. As a trading point every advantage is offered to the individual; the business houses are arranged around a public square, the latter shaded with a beautiful second growth of trees and made comfortable with numerous seats for the trader. As a residence town Williamsburg bears a good reputation. There is good city water and at present a municipal gas plant; there is just being completed a transmission line from Marengo for the supply of electricity to the town, which will be a decided step in the way of municipal improvement.


In 1885, the Town of Williamsburg having attained sufficient confidence and size, the citizens decided to incorporate and accordingly the necessary steps were taken to this end. The first officers elected by the voters of the city were: W. R. Evans, mayor; E. M. Long, recorder; O. A. Taylor, assessor; Benjamin Harris, J. E. Jones, W. G. Fletcher, P. C. Powers, John Dobbs, David T. Jones, trustees. Following Mr. Evans, the following men have filled the office: John Hughes, Sr., R. W. Pugh, H. E. Leasure, H. E. Blasier, D. E. Evans, H. E. Hull, A. F. Shotts, T. T. Osborne, Benjamin Harris, Walter Harris, R. W. Yoss, J. A. Ogle and Ralph E. Jones. Mr. Ogle died while in office and Mr. Jones is now acting as mayor pro tern.

The civic and commercial spirit of Williamsburg is inspiring. The citizens, as a whole, are ever working for the better things which make a town modern and progressive. This work has had a decided impetus in the last five years and the greatest change had undoubtedly come in this period. A booster club, composed of the townsmen, is the formal way of expressing their cooperative industry and mutual sympathy.

The electricity now being brought into the city by means of a transmission line from Marengo and Cedar Rapids, the power supplied by the Iowa Railway and Light Company, is the most recent municipal improvement. This will supply a great help, as the gasoline gas plant which was established fifteen years ago was not giving the required service. The city water plant was established twenty three years ago. Water is now drawn from three deep wells. The compressed air system is used to force the water to the patrons. A cooperative creamery, built and opened eighteen years ago, is another feature of the town. Also a canning factory is in operation during the season.


The first bank building in Williamsburg was built by O. B. Dutton in January, 1884, on the west side of the square on a lot now occupied by the Farmers Bank. It was later moved to the north end of the lot now occupied by the Williamsburg Savings Bank. Then again it was moved across the street on a lot north of the present Journal-Tribune Building. This building is now located on the Story property in the southwest part of town. It was first occupied by the Farmers and Merchants Bank, was bought February 18, 1884, by John Hughes, Jr., and operated as a private bank until July I, 1884, when the Williamsburg Savings Bank was organized.

There are now three excellent banks in Williamsburg, all doing a splendid business. The Citizens Savings Bank has a capital of $25,000, a surplus of $4,000, and deposits of $75,000. James Nicholas is president of this institution; M. Harrington is vice president; C. A. Mains, cashier; and Harry Nicholas, assistant cashier. The Farmers Savings Bank has a capital of $75,000 and a surplus of $78,000. The deposits average $507,000. A. C. Moon is president; J. G. Lortz, vice president; C. J. Simmons, cashier; and O. E. Jones, assistant cashier. The Williamsburg Savings Bank has a capital stock of $100,000 and a surplus of $90,000, with deposits amounting to $600,000. The officers of the institution at the present time are: J. Hughes, Jr., president; B. Harris, vice president; A. H. Evans, cashier; and H. W. Hild, assistant cashier.


Stellapolis Lodge No. 391, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons was established first in Williamsburg on January 9, 1879. The charter members were: J. A. Wilson, A. J. Myers, Joseph E. Jones, D. E. Evans, Charles Fletcher, Francis McDermott, H. T. Ogden, Robert McEachran, A. P. McCallister, J. A. Cushman, I. F. Cushman, J. B. Myers, Nelson Bruner, Thomas Ellis, G. W. McCallister and T. McPatton. The lodge built and occupied their own halal over the frame building which stood on the site of their present property. The present hall was constructed in 1890.

Troy Chapter No. 117, Royal Arch Masons, was organized August 7, 1891, with D. E Evans as first high priest and the following as charter members: M. J. Kelly, T. C. McFarland, W. G. Fletcher, Ed Blasier, W. E. Evans, J. J. Jones, and M. S Anderson.

Williamsburg Chapter, Order of Eastern Star, was organized February 22, 1898.

Williamsburg Lodge No. 172, Knights of Pythias, was organized May 11, 1887. The charter members were: W. M. Beck, H. H. Bartholomew, H. C. Beck, J. B. Vernon, Harry Choat, John Dobbs, Ed W. Evans, W. A. Gale, Joor Harris, W. F. Harris, G. H. Hughes, H. E. Hull, J. E. Jones, Dixon Jones, Ed W. Jones, George Klein, E. E. Lloyd, H. E. Leasure, A. C. Moon, L. J. McFann, A. C. Osborne, T. T. Osborne, A. W. Perry, G. E. Poyneer and William Vandenburg. During 1911 the lodge constructed a building on the west side of the square at a cost of $6,000.

Williamsburg Temple No. 129, Pythian Sisters, was organized on December 17, 1899.

Williamsburg Lodge No. 388, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was organized November 28, 1889, with sixty seven charter members.

Rebekah Lodge, No. 367, was organized in October, 1896.

Mystic Workers of the World were organized November 20, 1908.

Rees Lloyd Post, No. 403, Grand Army of the Republic, was organized September 28, 1885. Comrade H. F. Garrittson, commander of I. M. Huston Post, 394, of Victor, Ia., was the mustering officer. The charter members were: James A. Wilson, D. D. Boyd, I. N. Schooley, Henry A. Standish, A. C. Lewis, M. A. Sheitz, D. F. Moffit, R. C. Butler, W. R. Stewart, J. E. Jones, P. Crinnigan, A. J. McDonald, Thomas Ellis, D. H. Phillips, John W. Carmichael and M. W. Lyon. The list of members since the organization have been: John Springer, M. Fitzpatrick, James M. Woods, James Laing, Thomas E. Hughes, C. S. Harris, John G. Evans, John Nash, J. M. McDougal, John Hughes, Jr., H. W. Evans, E. L. Edwards, Peter McKenna, C. D. Popham, C. E. Ray, Hiram Dinamick, John Quinn, Ed Blasier, Peter Mumm, B. F. Richmond, Ellis Hakes, Robert McEachran, Andrew Gallup, William Grace, Henry Soidt, Wilson T. Houghan, Ed Roberts, Owen Slater, Rev. W. B. Smith, E. J. Pike, J. A. Story, John Mulherin, Jacob S. Funk.


One of the best managed and edited papers in the county at the present time is the Williamsburg Journal-Tribune. T. T. Osborne has charge of the business end of the publication, while J. P. Gallagher, well known as a writer of prose and verse, manages very successfully the editorial end. The paper is the result of the consolidation of the old Journal and the Tribune in February, 1901.

The Williamsburg Journal was started by A. C. and T. T. Osborn in the year 1884. The Iowa County Democrat was started by Art Dunne, but owing to the death of the editor and the paper as well, the plant was left standing without anyone to operate it. Leo Kinney, and Harvey Jones finally bought up the publication and started the Williamsburg Tribune in 1889. Then, in February, 1901, these two papers were consolidated and the Williamsburg Journal-Tribune established. The firm name was Osborn, Jones & Kinney. In March, 1901, J. P. Gallagher bought the Kinney and Jones half of the firm, and now the paper is issued under the management of Osborn & Gallagher. The sheet is independent in politics and is a six column quarto, with over two thousand subscribers. When the consolidation occurred the paper was moved into a building formerly used by the Williamsburg Savings Bank and is using this at the present time, during the construction of a new building. This new building is to cost $6,500, to be of brick and concrete, with flexotile front and plate glass windows. The foundations of the structure are of solid concrete, so as to insure a minimum of vibration. The latest newspaper machinery is to be installed and the plant in every way, both mechanically and editorially, will be one of the best of its size in the state.


The first school in Williamsburg was taught in the '5os by Minerva Long, who is still living. This old school was taught near the present site of the Congregational Church. Another authority claims that the first teacher was Mrs. Hannah Long. Later a two story frame building, located where the high school now stands, was used for school purposes. Reference to this particular school building would hardly seem complete without mentioning the name of Prof. James Root, Jr., a New Yorker who afterward taught as principal of the Marengo public schools. Perhaps Mr. Root was not up to the full requirements of present day professors, but he was a fine man and a good instructor, and it is safe to say that more successful present day men of affairs, who have gone out into the world from this county, came under the tutelage of James Root, Jr., and his good wife, than any other teachers who have ever taught in Iowa County. The first high school building was constructed east of the square on land which had been donated by the town. The funds to construct this school were subscribed by the good citizens. The first class was graduated from here in the year 1891.

In the spring of 1908 the need for a larger building "became imperative. The number of people in the town had materially increased and consequently there were more children to go to school. The quarters then used were too cramped for comfort and the best efficiency could not be maintained. Accordingly a bond issue of $20,000 was subscribed; the election for the plan of raising the money was carried in favor by a large majority. The plans for the new structure were drawn by George M. Kern, architect, of Ottumwa and the contract for the building was let to the L. J. Crissman Company, also of Ottumwa. The building is of brick, with stone trimmings, and is three stories in height. It combines with its architectural beauty, all of the latest ideas in school construction, aimed for the best care of scholars. The equipment of the school is modern and adequate.


The Welsh Congregational Church was organized in the year 1856 at the home of William Evans. This is the oldest church society in Iowa County. The first building was constructed in 1859 and the new brick house of worship was put up several years ago. The original congregation consisted of Evan J. Evans and wife, Levi H. Evans and wife, Mrs. John Watkins, Hugh C. Evans and David H. Williams, William Evans and wife, William Rowlands and wife. Evan J. Evans was the first pastor of the church. The first Welsh pastor who visited them was Rev. David Knowles of Long Creek, and then came Rev. George Lewis of Old Man's Creek and Rev. Morris Jones. The church at present is prosperous and has a strong 'membership.

The American Congregational Church of Williamsburg was organized in 1857 with seventeen members by Rev. W. P. Gale. He was the first pastor. The church building was constructed at Williamsburg in 1871 at a cost of $1,200.

The Presbyterian Church was organized in September, 1882, and since this time has had a steady growth. There are now about three hundred members of this church in Williamsburg. This is the legitimate successor of the American Congregational Church organized here in 1857 as mentioned above. Reverend Gale was succeeded by the following after the close of his work here in 1862: Reverends Hill, Jones, Patten, Clarke, Archer and Ritchie. In 1880 Rev. W. R. Stewart of the Presbyterian Church at Marengo was invited to supply the church and on October I, 1882, the church was reorganized as a Presbyterian Church. The present church building was constructed in 1890 at a cost of S5,oo0. There have been several additions and improvements made in the church property since this time.

Williamsburg was formerly the headquarters of a Methodist Episcopal circuit embracing Zion Chapel, Champion Hills, Pilot Grove, South Ridge and Hickory Grove. The Williamsburg Methodists withdrew from the circuit and organized for themselves on October 26, 1892. The church has a membership of 200 people at the present time and is one of the strongest and most influential in the city.

The Welsh Presbyterian Church was organized in 187o by Rev. Thomas E. Hughes, who had charge for fourteen years. The church is still active in the work of the town.

St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized in the year 1904 in Williamsburg and a building was constructed the same year. The first pastor was Reverend Zoliman and there were ten voting members. The membership has substantially increased. Rev. Herman Greif is the present pastor. There is also a fine parsonage connected with this church.

St. Mary's Catholic Church was organized in 1889 by Rev, J. C. White, of Marengo, and was composed of people living at or near Williamsburg, who were members of the Old Man's Creek congregation at Holbrook. The church was built in 189o. Succeeding Father White have been: Revs. Mulvihill, Cassidy and Kissane. The history of the Old Man's Creek congregation, out of which this congregation grew, dates back to about 1860 when it was served as a mission by the well known Father Emmons of Iowa City. The present church edifice at Williamsburg is a large and well constructed frame building with a seating capacity of about four hundred.


Noted for its splendid exhibits of live stock, agriculture, culinary and artistic handiwork; for its racing and entertainments; and lastly for its crowds and popularity, is the Williamsburg annual fair. This is without doubt the superior of all fairs in the county in the lines of competitive exhibits and the equal of any in the sporting phase.

The fair association was established June 3o, 1897, with twenty original stockholders. George Poineer was the organizer and chief worker for this association. The organization continued for five years and then was disbanded. It was taken over and merged with the interests of those who owned the fair grounds. The first name to be given to the association was that of Williamsburg Pavilion Company. The fair grounds are in good shape, with a good track, which is used for horse and automobile racing, and adequate halls where the various exhibits are housed.


There was an old Indian burying ground near Williamsburg, in section 15. It was used at a very early day and is now obliterated.

A postoffice was once kept by Ed Dill at his house in section 19, near the Pilot Township line.

In an early day there was a sawmill in Williams' Grove, on section to, run by Richard Williams and William Rowlands.

Williamsburg was at first called Stellapolis, and the postoffice was known by that name. John Hughes was the first postmaster.

The Williamsburg Brick and Tile Works were established about 1898 and incorporated in 1901 with H. E. Hull, president, and W. W. Lewis, manager

The Williamsburg Telephone Company was organized in 1899 and began by putting in a system confined wholly to the town. Now the town is connected with the whole world.

The following quotation from a letter from John M. Williams, of Paso Robles, Cal., dated April 21, 1915, is interesting: "I believe I am the oldest living man born within the Town of Williamsburg, though I have a full sister, Mrs. E. H. Jones, and a half sister, Mrs. T. E. Gittins, still living and who were there before I was. I am the only son of Richard Williams, the founder of the town and who died in 186o. He had also three daughters, Mrs. Lizzie Baxter, now of What Cheer, Ia.; Mrs. Ed H. Jones, of Williamsburg, and Mrs. Jennie Jones. All are living except the latter, who died in California several years ago. My mother, Mrs. Ann Williams, also had three children by her former marriage, namely: Richard Pugh, David Pugh and Mary Pugh, now Mrs. T. E. Gittins. I can well remember some incidents in regard to the early mail service, when John Hughes, Sr., was postmaster at Williamsburg. There was no regular carrier at that time, so the boys would stand on the corner waiting for some one to come along on their way to Marengo. Whoever this happened to be, he was created mail carrier immediately. The same one or someone else would bring the mail back that night, provided that he did not forget, which often happened. Although only four years of age at the time, I remember when the `Wide Awakes' were formed by the local boys and drilled in the old schoolhouse lot or on the square. The regular infantry boys were encamped at Iowa City in 1861, but these Wide Awakes were intended only as home guards."

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