History of Richland Township, Sac County, IA
From: History of Sac County, Iowa
By: William H. Hart
B. F. Bowen & Company, Inc.
Indianapolis, Indiana 1914


Richland township is the second from the south and third from the north lines of Sac county, lying on the western border, with Ida county at its west, Cook township at its north, Clinton township at the east and Wheeler township at its south. It is six miles square, being all of congressional township 87, range 38 west. Its only town is Odebolt, in sections 27 and 34. Odebolt creek is the principal stream in this township. It is, strictly speaking, a prairie township, though now dotted here and there and everywhere with artificial groves, planted out by the hand of the thoughtful pioneers. It is a coveted garden spot and agricultural section, with thrift and contentment on every hand. Many of the older settlers have long since either died or retired to some one of the nearby towns, and are now enjoying the fruit of their earlier years of toil and sacrifice. This township was cut off from Clinton township by the board of county supervisors in the autumn of 1876, and was named "Richland" by a Mr. Stewartson, of Illinois, who saw great beauty and promise in this portion off Sac county, from the fact of its exceptional fertility of soil. Among the first township officers may be recalled C. H. Babcock, clerk; N. B. Umbarger and J. B. Caulkins, justices of the peace; Thomas Dorman and P. H. Sanderson, constables; A. L. Miner, S. Buchier and E. A. Bennett, trustees; W. P. Purcell, assessor; road supervisors in districts as follows: No. 1, A. Domenberg; No. 2, J. Miller; No. 3. E. Colvin; No. 4, J. Stickles.

When Hiram Wheeler, the proprietor of the "largest farm in Iowa," came to this townships in the seventies, his nearest neighbors were fully twelve miles distant, but with his improving so many thousand acres of valuable land, came in many to assist him in his great undertaking. By the time this was accomplished others had found their way to the township and purchased lands which proved to be the best kind of an investment possible to make. Every foot of the land has long since been cultivated or used for pasture lands and hay lands by the actual owners. The above list of township officers probably made up nearly all of the first settlers in what is now Richland township.

The population of this township in 1910 was one thousand eight hundred and seventy nine, including the town of Odebolt, which had at that date about one thousand two hundred and eighty three.

The history of the schools and churches will form a part of other chapters in this volume.

What is known by all early settlers in this part of the West as the "Great Wheeler Farm" of Sac county was the most extensive of any in Iowa, and contained more than a township of land. The first mention in the press of the country was the item in the Chicago Inter-Ocean in the month of October, 1871, which read as follows:

"H. C. Wheeler, of Chicago, elevator man, has bought seven thousand acres of land in one tract from the railroad company for the purpose of establishing a dairy farm on a large scale. Mr. Wheeler is known as a man of great wealth and energy, and when he undertakes anything he always carries it out successfully. He lost heavily in the recent Chicago fire, but it will not affect him much. He has now about sixty thousand feet of lumber on the ground out in Sac county, Iowa, and will commence at once to go to work erecting buildings suitable for the purpose intended."

This was said of the late Hon. Hiram C. Wheeler, of Odebolt, who was a candidate for the office of governor of Iowa against Horace Boies (Democrat) in 1891. The temperance issue was then on and many of the Republicans of Iowa left the party and voted with the Democrats at that time, hence this, with other reasons, caused Mr. Wheeler's defeat at the polls. After many years, Mr. Wheeler did not prove that he was possessed of as good business qualities as at first supposed. He lost much in Iowa, and finally sold and went to Texas and there engaged in another large dairy business, in which he signally failed. He lost his only son and became disheartened. He removed to Chicago and there died, September 25, 1909, almost penniless. His farm was sold in 1896 in Sac county, consisting at that date of about six thousand acres, for one hundred and eighty five thousand dollars.

In 1888 it was written of this large farming enterprise, by a Cedar Rapids newspaper correspondent, as follows: "By mere chance your correspondent and reporter got into conversation with Mr. Wheeler, the greatest farmer of all northwestern Iowa, and learned some items that are worth publishing. Talk about your manufacturing and jobbing in Iowa! There is no institution in the entire state that shows so stupenduous an exhibit of painstaking and good management as this Sac county farm. Seventeen years ago, Mr. Wheeler came to Iowa, and went to Sac county, bought his land, built his houses and barns. When a railway came along he donated liberally for a station and gave the site of Odebolt and today it is one of the most prosperous of northwest Iowa towns, growing commercially fast. The magnitude of Mr. Wheeler's work can be understood when the products of his farm for the last year are given. He raised sixty thousand bushels of corn; twelve thousand five hundred bushels of timothy seed; six thousand bushels of oats; ten thousand bushels of flax seed; three thousand bushels of millet seed; and had seven hundred head of stock on his place, five hundred being breeding animals. In two years he expects to sail for Europe to purchase a stud of English and Scotch horses. He has ordered to have in readiness on his return, a barn, which to build will require seventy five thousand feet of lumber. He will have his stock on exhibition at the Iowa state fair at Des Moines this fall. As a business man and manager of practical affairs, Mr. Wheeler has been a decided success. When he purchased his farm in Sac county, there was not a house within twelve miles of him."

In October, 1888, Mr. Wheeler had at Des Moines much of his fancy stock. On his farm he then kept thirty three head of Norman-Percheron and English shire stallions. These were among the finest animals ever imported to the United States.

This famous farm has long since been in the hands of the Adams family, of Illinois, and has come to be a wonderful farm, especially as a successful sheep ranch, where the heaviest, finest grades of sheep are bred and grown. It is commonly styled the "Adams ranch."

The senior Adams is the one of Adams Express Company fame and the son, a middle aged gentleman, is in company with his father and has sole charge of the great farm, living on the ranch a part of the time and in Chicago the remainder. This is especially a sheep ranch, but raises immense amounts of corn, which is marketed through their own elevator at Odebolt, where for many days in succession five car loads of shelled corn are shipped. The farm now contains twelve sections of land, all fenced off by mile lengths of woven wire, with concrete posts, which, together with the hundreds of beautiful shade trees which have been set out along the roadway and fences, give a charming appearance. This place is within both Richland and Wheeler townships. Oats and timothy are raised to feed the one hundred and twenty teams that are required to run the ranch. Over the long rows of sheep barns has been sentimentally painted in clear, attractive letters, the words "Feed My Lambs." In the plowing season there may be seen, all working at one time, eighteen gang plows and seventeen single stirring plows and eighteen manure spreaders and there are also eighty farm wagons. There are forty five men employed in the slack months and one hundred and fifty men in the busy season. All are boarded in the buildings provided in a village or group and no women are employed, but men do all the work both inside and out of the houses. The superintendents and bosses of barns, of fields and machinery, each have good residences and an office, while the great twenty to fifty thousand bushel corn cribs complete the buildings of the ranch. The machinery, wagons, harness, mules and even the men have numbers and everything is carried on same as it is in railroad shops. The men are checked in morning, noon and night, and even the barn boss sees that each mule is properly watered and fed and bedded. The help may draw their pay each Saturday night if they so wish. There are usually two beefs slaughtered each week for feeding the men. One peculiarity is that not a hen or hog is kept on the place. The food is provided or prepared by two expert cooks and a number of flunkeys who serve and wait on the men at meal time. The buildings are heated by a furnace, the fuel of which is thousands of bushels of corn cobs, which in shelling time are placed in dry cribs and other places for future use. The wagons and machinery are all painted once a year. The place is provided with blacksmith shops, harness shops and repair shops. They put up their own ice and keep a dozen milch cows with which to provide the butter and milk for the tables. All is system and order here, and hundreds of visitors come from the surrounding country to see what a modern, up to date farm consists of. Everyone is welcome at the Adams ranch, a little more than a mile west of Odebolt.


This is the second town in size in Sac county and is full of enterprising business and social factors. It is situated in the western portion of the county, on one of the most important branches of the great Northwestern system of railroads in Iowa. It was laid out by the Blair Town Lot and Land Company in 1877. It was built on the wild prairie, but today looks like a city much older, and has its thousands of beautiful shade trees and parks, with hundreds of modern, thoroughly up to date residences. Among the earliest pioneers of the town was M. H. Hempin, who was the first to engage in business at this point. He it was who sold construction supplies to the railroad gangs while they were constructing the railroad through the county. The first house was erected by W. Van Dusen, this serving both as a residence and store room for himself and family. He was soon followed by George McKibbin and James Ross. The railroad was finished to Odebolt November 19, 1877, the first train arriving at that date. Another very early settler in Odebolt was H. T. Martin, who organized a Sunday school in December, 1877, and was also the first commissioned notary public. When the depot was finished in 1877, Mr. Martin was appointed station agent, and his daughter, Miss Emma Martin, was the first telegraph. operator.

Of the town's population, let it be said that in 1885 the state enumeration gave Odebolt 954; the federal census of 1900 gave it 1,222; the state enumeration in 1895 gave it 1,400; the federal census in 1900 gave it 1,432; the state census in 1905 placed it at 1,431 and a careful estimate of the population in January, 1914, gives it a population of 1,300, which is in keeping with many of the towns and cities in Iowa, which, it will be remembered, fell off in population in the decade just, preceding the last United States census enumeration.

Odebolt is on an elevation of one thousand three hundred and sixty five feet above sea level. It is well situated and a healthful location.

Odebolt was incorporated in the month of March, 1879, and the records show that the first officers elected were as follows: James Ross, mayor; J. M. Zane, recorder; John Wright, treasurer; Ward Van Deusen, J. Flanders, E. Geist, C. B. Hatfield, J. Bowles, councilmen. Those who have served as mayors to date include these: James Ross, J. H. Ketterer, William Graham, C. M. Miller, J. R. Reynolds, C. C. Coye, F. P. Motie, William Graham, S. D. Selby. The officers serving in January, 1914, were: Mayor, S. D. Selby; clerk, A. F. P. Schmitz; treasurer, R. W. Sayre; marshal, E. C. Fuller; night watch police, Julius Bingenheimer; council: F. H. Meyer, W. J. Ahlberg, M. W. Smith, J. L. Jones.

A fire company was formed at Odebolt in the early spring of x880, as a hook and ladder company, consisting of forty members, all provided with suitable uniforms. In 1882 the foreman was J. Mattes; E. E. Hamlin, secretary; W. V. Sindt, treasurer; Dave W. Flack, assistant foreman. It is still kept up, and is a volunteer company, cared for by the town, and is furnished with excellent fire fighting apparatus, including hose, hook and ladders, extinguishers, etc., backed by a good system of water works.

Recently a complete sewerage system has been among the improvements of the incorporation. There is no other Iowa town of its size having more cement sidewalks (there are, in fact, no wooden ones) than has Odeholt.

Two public parks adorn and make beautiful the town site, Hamilton park, a small tract named in honor of the well known newspaper man, Will E. Hamilton, now deceased, and the larger tract, known as the City park, comprising a full city block, with its hundreds of beautiful shade trees, its seats and other attractions for the summer months.

The town has the advantage of two excellent telephone systems, the New State Company, with its two hundred and fifty phones connected, and the Sac County Mutual Company, with its five hundred and seventy three phones in operation.

The town is supplied with gas by a private company, which furnishes a good grade of illuminating gas at reasonable rates. It is produced from gasoline.

The town hall is a spacious brick building, on the principal street, and here the council chambers, the fire department and a ladies' rest room are situated. This rest room has now an average of five hundred callers monthly and is greatly appreciated by the people from the surrounding rural districts. The public library is mentioned at length at another place in this chapter. The following religious denominations are represented at Odebolt: The Methodist Episcopal, the Catholic, the Presbyterians, the Swedish Mission, the Swedish Lutheran and Swedish Methodist. The lodges include the Masonic and Odd Fellows fraternities (see lodge chapter). A modern brick school house, costing many thousand dollars, was recently erected as a monument to the excellent educational interest taken at Odebolt.

Regarding the earlier conflagrations in Odebolt, it may be stated that on February 1, 1880, a fire originated in the carpenter shop of Geist & Buehler, at eight o'clock in the evening. It spread rapidly, getting beyond control in a few minutes. That fire destroyed the office and implement house of the best concern in town; also the clothing store of Todd & Company. The latter building was worth eight hundred dollars and the insurance was six hundred dollars. Todd & Company saved most of their stock, fully insured. Geist & Buehler lost two thousand dollars, with only four hundred dollars insurance paid. It has Always been believed that the fire was started by an enemy of one of the firms which lost in the fire.

A history of the newspapers and lodges and Grand Army post will be seen elsewhere in this volume.


Odebolt is an excellent business point - well thought of by the farming section surrounding it. Among the early enterprises may be recalled the flax mill operated by Winslow & Son in 1880, when a large warehouse, with steam power for driving the necessary machinery, was installed. Two years later the plant was owned by John Dement. Great quantities of flax were then being grown in this section of the country, the crop being both profitable to market, as well as one of the best soil subduing factors possible to employ on the tough, wild prairie soil. This has all passed away and others crops and other methods have long since obtained.

When Odebolt was only five years old (in 1882) a business directory gave the following concerning the local business houses: Seven general stores, three groceries, two harness shops, two hardware stores, three drug stores, two jewelry shops, two furniture stores, three restaurants, two banks, three hotels, three grain elevators, three lumber yards, four agricultural implement dealers, three livery stables, four blacksmith shops, two wagon shops, three millinery stores, three barber shops, two meat markets, one photograph gallery, two printing offices, one ready made clothing store, one exclusive dry goods store, three saloons and the postoffice.

Coming down to January, 1914, the business is in the hands of the following persons and firms:
Attomeys - W. A. Helsell.
Banks - First National, German Savings Bank, Farmers Savings Bank. Barber shops - Martin Lanth, Charles Kellogg, G. J. Freese.
Bakery - G. B. Dolan.
Blacksmith shops - Kistler & Skeppstedt, Carlson & Varner.
Clothing - Brynteson & Reynolds, F. H. Meyer.
Drug stores - Engstrom & Huglin, Selby, Potteriger Drug and Jewelry Company.
Dentists - W. N. Ousler, E. L. White.
Dray lines - James Effinger, Roy Purdy, Fred Haustetter, F. W. Libby.
Elevators - Reuber & Bruce, A. C. Petersmeyer, Dickinson Grain Company.
Furniture - C. J. Kircher.
Feed store - M. W. Smith.
Garages - Odebolt Auto and Supply Co., G. H. Frey and Ecinspaher Auto Company.
General Dealers - William Sampson, Kahn & Gilinsky, Co-operative Co., W. J. Ahlberg & Company.
Harness dealers - Odebolt Harness Company, Thomas McKeever.
Hardwares - Joseph Mattes, Koehler & Hanson.
Hotel - The New Bell, by Mrs. Julia McMartin.
Hospital - The Odebolt.
Jeweler - H. R. Stanzel.
Livery - Horan Brothers. Benjamin McMartin.
Lumber Dealers - Green Bay Lumber Company, Bowman & Co.
Meats - M. H. Paul, P. L. Hedberg.
Millinery - O'Daniel Sisters, Horan & O'Meara.
Newspapers - The Chronicle and the News.
Opera Hall - "The Odebolt," C. J. Kircher, proprietor.
Photographs - A. W. Dahestrom.
Picture Shows - The "Cozy" and the "Princess."
Physicians - Drs. A. Groman, R. C. Sebern, R. C. Shaffer, E. H. Crane.
Pool Hall - J. A. Lampe.
Restaurants - Smith Brothers, Charles Larson, A. H. Shade, J. L. Jones, M. L. Briggs & Son.
Real Estate - Mattes & Selby.
Racket Store - William Sampson.
Stock dealers - Krusenstjerna & Paul.
Shoe repairs - Andrew Brynteson.
Tailors - Richard Horneisel.
Veterinary surgeons - Dr. F. E. Williams, Dr. L. J. Stratton.
Wagon repairs - J. E. Einspahr.


The public library is an institution of which Odebolt is justly proud. Having its beginning in a literary club, it has since 1900 been supported by the city.

Fifteen women of the Woman's Reading Circle started a fund for a library in 1897. When they had accumulated about two hundred dollars they organized the Odebolt Library Association, a corporation with shares at five dollars each. W. W. Field subscribed five hundred dollars and other citizens of the town and county adjacent subscribed seven hundred dollars more. Books were purchased and the library opened in an upstairs room on Main street. This was in July, 1898.

Two years later Mr. Field offered to contribute five hundred dollars more on condition that the town accept the library as a gift and agree to levy an additional tax of two mills for its maintenance. The citizens, by vote, accepted the proposition and the stockholders transferred their shares to the town of Odebolt.

For several years thereafter the library trustees repeatedly tried to secure funds for a building from Andrew Carnegie, but without success. Mr. Carnegie had issued instructions to his secretary to ignore all requests from towns of less than five thousand population and consequently letters from Odebolt were never brought to his attention. After repeated failures, through the efforts of W. E. Hamilton, Mr. Carnegie sent a favorable reply. If the town of Odebolt would furnish the site and agree to maintain a library at a cost of not less than four hundred dollars per year, Mr. Carnegie would be pleased to furnish four thousand dollars for a library building.

The proposition was accepted and Mr. Field purchased for five hundred dollars and presented to the town the lot on Second street where the building now stands. The site was a part of the residence property of A. C. Petersmeyer.

The plans were drawn by G. W. Burkhead, of Sioux City, and the contract awarded to Mr. Ketterman, of Ida Grove. The building has a front of fifty one feet four inches and a depth of twenty nine feet. The foundation at grade line is a coursing stone surmounted by Boone blue paving brick, with water table of Bedford stone. The roof is of slate, with a half pitch. On the front is a portico, upheld by pilasters and round columns of Bedford stone. The steps leading up to the portico are of cement. The walls and ceiling are tinted and frescoed, and all the furniture and book stacks are in quarter sawed oak. The building is heated by furnace and lighted by gas.

The library is known as the Field-Carnegie library, in honor of the men who were the principal contributors. At his death, Mr. Field left in the hands of trustees an endowment fund of two thousand five hundred dollars, the interest of which is to be used for the purchase of books alone.

There are now over three thousand volumes in the library. Of these about one thousand are adult fiction, one thousand three hundred general reference, six hundred and fifty juvenile and eighty five volumes of bound magazines.

In the reading room are two large tables surrounded by comfortable chairs where are found twenty seven of the best current periodicals. These are kept on file and prove very valuable for reference work. The children's department occupies the east end of the reading room, with shelves along the wall filled with the best literature for children. A long low table, with small bent willow chairs, for the use of the children alone, is found here, where they can read comfortably their own magazines and picture books.

The library is free to all who reside in Odebolt and a fee of one dollar per year is charged to those outside. It is open three afternoons and evenings during the week and on Sunday afternoons for reading only.

The officers and board of trustees from 1911 to 1915 are as follows: Joseph Mattes, president; W. F. Bay, secretary; Lillian E. Hanson, librarian. The board consists of Mrs. C. K. Hinkley, M. D. Fox, A. C. Petermeyer, Joseph Mattes, W. F. Bay, W. N. Ousler, Mrs. W. A. Helsell, Mrs. W. A. Bennett and Mrs. Charles Coy.

This library was opened up to the public in March, 1905.


Odebolt office was established in 1877 and the following have served as postmasters: Ward Van Deusen, F. R. Bennett, F. P. Motie, Walter E. Mathews, Mrs. Walter E. Mathews, W. W. Shanks, W. N. Ousler, the last named being the present incumbent of the office.

During the last fiscal year this office transacted a business amounting to six thousand dollars outside of all money order business. It is a third class postoffice, and has three rural free delivery routes extending out into the surrounding country. The present office force are: O. W. Larson, deputy postmaster; J. C. Blakley, clerk. The office is kept in the Joseph Mattes brick block, in the heart of the town.


The Odebolt Concert Band was organized January 2, 1914, under the patronage of the Odebolt Boosters Club. The musical director is D. W. Duncan. Its members consist of the following gentlemen: Charles Babcock, Russell Searight, John Kuhl, Jacob Konradi, Dewey Lonberg, Fred Steuckrodt, Paul Dahlnerg, Carl Korneisel, Eugene Reynolds, M. Billings, George Teaquist, Carl Peterson, Herman Godberson, Nicholas Konradi, Walter Searight, Harry Evers, Otto Freese, Lloyd Babcock, Walter Libby, John Erickson, Clifford Fuller, Frank Mattes, Art Anderson, Leslie Kiner, Wilkie Kiner, James Ellis, Vernie Paul, D. Kornsisel, Guy Babcock, Edgar Effinger. Cloyd Levell, Ralph Cunningham, Theo. Erickson, Leslie Hanson, Harold Frevoit, Royce Engberg, Merritt Furrow.


Let it be known that Odebolt is situated within the most famous popcorn center of the entire world. But few persons who purchase a sack of popcorn at a street corner or of an urchin at the train, ever stop to think where all this product comes from. It does not thrive in many sections of the world, and it is mostly grown in the Western states, with the largest acreage growing on Iowa soil, with Sac county as its center, and Odebolt the shipping point from which the major portion of it comes. Field and garden seeds and popcorn are the two greatest industries of the town. of Odebolt. This county has just the right soil and climate to give the best results in popcorn production. Others nearby may be as good, but here the business has been successfully carried on for a number of years so satisfactorily that dealers and buyers seek no further in making their selection of corn. There is a great difference in popcorn, some being unfit for market and unfit for use. The dealers who handle this commodity at Odebolt have come to know just how to cure or keep this corn in a suitable condition to have the "best popping results," as they term it.

Recent writers who have looked into this industry state that nowhere in all the world is there as much popcorn bought, housed and shipped as from the town of Odebolt, Sac county, Iowa. It goes onto the world's market by the hundredweight and not, as other corn, by the bushel. An average yield per acre is two thousand five hundred pounds and the price per hundred pounds is about one dollar and twenty five cents. While the expense of cultivating it is about the same as field corn, the cost of harvesting is fully three times as much. Many farmers have separate cribs and keep their corn over until the following season. Much money has been made from this simple crop. Some seasons, when the supply has been short and the demand large, the prices have reached as high as four dollars per hundred pounds, while at other seasons it has sold for much less than half that amount. The loss in cobs and shrinkage is about twenty eight per cent. At two dollars and fifty cents per hundred, an acre of land will produce popcorn to the value of forty three dollars and seventy five cents. The corn is either grown in drills or check rows. Planters are the same as for field corn and from five to eight grains are used for seed. In 1912 the Trans-Mississippi Grain Company bought popcorn at Odebolt, Arthur, Early and Battle Creek. The Odebolt crop averaged about three hundred and fifty pounds per acre, more than at any other of these points. It is said by experts that the most successful locality to produce this crop in all the corn growing belt is within a radius of about fifteen miles of Odebolt.

Among the earliest dealers and growers of this crop was the firm of Reuber & Bruce. Mr. Reuber commenced it about 1893. This firm now ships popcorn from coast to coast and from Canada to the far off Gulf of Mexico. Shipments are made in car load lots and in packages of a few pounds sent through the mails. All corn is graded and tested before it is sent out to customers. Three other firms also handle popcorn in Odebolt. The Dickerson Company, of Minneapolis, are exclusively engaged in this line of business, except that they usually carry a side line of general garden and field seeds. Then there is the "Cracker-jack" and the "Checker package" people, who come to Odeholt to purchase their supply of popcorn. At Arthur, near here, these companies recently erected popcorn elevators of their own. So great a demand is there for good corn that competition is sharp among the dealers at Odebolt, and therefore the farmer who raises it gets best possible prices. Not only do these firms secure the crop grown here, but also much from Nebraska, South Dakota and even up in Minnesota.

A use recently discovered for popcorn is that of making soft chocolate candies. It is used as a flour, which, as a mixture in this class of candy, causes it to stand up as no other ingredient will make it. Before ground, the corn is nicely popped. Candy firms are now buying this in carload lots. For this, and other reasons, the popcorn trade is annually increasing with immense possibilities for the near future.

Farmers have made good money at raising popcorn. One man, a few years ago, in this section, cleared ninety dollars an acre on a forty acre tract. One industrious young man leased a farm of one hundred and sixty acres, agreeing to pay one thousand eight hundred dollars rental in cash. He commenced without tool or teams, bought all on time, and the first year planted forty five acres of popcorn; the second increased his field to sixty five acres, making a total of three thousand five hundred dollars in the two years.

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