Industrial History of Wapello County, IA
From: History of Wapello County, Iowa
By Harrison L. Waterma, Supervising Editor
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. Chicago 1914


The beginning of the industry of manufacturing in Ottumwa may be said to have been the mill, built at the foot of Market Street in 1845-6, by John Myers, David Armstrong and T. C. Coffin, on a tract of land containing three and one half acres, which was donated for the purpose by the Appanoose Rapids Company. In this old mill was manufactured much of the lumber that entered the early homes and business houses of Ottumwa, and here also was made flour and corn meal for the subsistence of the settlers. In 1845, James Tolman and A. M. Lyon had started a tannery and Thomas ("Tay") Sinnamon a small brick yard. A short time later, "Captain" Davis was running a shop and yard on the river bank, where he made flat boats, many of which found their way to New Orleans, laden with the products of the vicinity for the southern port. By the year 1853, Ottumwa was provided with two steam saw and grist mills, a tannery, three cabinet making shops and a chair shop.

As the city grew, Ottumwa's manufactories increased. The articles made found not only a market at home, but the most of them were sent broadcast over the land and to foreign countries. Of the latter class of products may be mentioned those of the packing houses, farm implements, mining tools and mine equipments. For many years Ottumwa has been a large manufacturing center of cigars, of wood and clay products, of candies and other things of every day use and consumption.

In the year 1866 B. B. Durfee and W. W. Pollard, under the firm name of Durfee & Pollard, began making wagons in a frame building on South Wapello Street, between Main and Second streets. The firm was dissolved in 1879, Mr. Pollard continuing the business alone. In 1885, he formed a partnership with James A. Belmont, and the firm continued its activities until 1894, when Pollard retired; since then James A. Belmont has continued the manufactory. The old building was destroyed by fire soon after its sole acquisition by Mr. Belmont, and was replaced by a one story brick structure, which some time later took on a second story.

The Johnston Ruffler Company and Ottumwa Iron Works were established when Allen Johnston, with J. T. Hackworth, W. T. Major and A. G. Harrow, in 1872, commenced the manufacture of a ruffler and other sewing machine attachments (all inventions of Mr. Johnston), which immediately became necessary parts of every sewing machine wherever made or used. This became one of the chief industries of Ottumwa. After many successful years, the Ruffler Manufacturing Company sold its entire equipment of the ruffier works to the Greist Manufacturing Company, of New Haven, Connecticut. The Ottumwa Iron Works then began the making of machinery on a large scale. Among the concern's products are electric hoists, gasoline locomotives, stationary engines, coal cars, with roller bearing wheels, etc. The company has mammoth shops, consisting of a foundry, forge shops, machine shops, and a huge traveling crane. The Ottumwa Iron Works ranks high among the big industrial concerns of the country and gives employment to a large force of men.

The Johnston & Sharp Manufacturing Company has a large plant just west of the Church Street bridge, in South Ottumwa, where is made ball bearings, ball bearing sheaves, hollow steel balls, hollow brass balls, star furnace pulleys and mouse traps. The concern gives employment to about forty people. In the same building is the Johnston Pressed Gear Company, manufacturers of pressed steel gears.

C. E. McDaniel, owner of the Ottumwa Boiler Works, came here in the '70s, and first worked in a tin shop. In 1887 he began repairing boilers in an old building on South Wapello Street, and then it was but a short time when he was making boilers and kindred articles. In a few years the pioneer building of the factory gave way to a better one, and in recent years another structure, a two story brick, was added to the plant, which is well known for its high grade products throughout this section of the state.

G. Ostdiek began the manufacture of brick in Ottumwa in 1869, and was soon joined by H. B. Ostdiek. They were the pioneers of the business here. Some twenty five years ago G. Ostdiek retired, and H. B. Ostdiek afterwards bought the Swift & Campbell brickyards at Riverview, where he has thirteen acres of land suitable to the article made. There are four large kilns, a huge work room, including the power house, a house for the brick molding machines and a dry house of great capacity. The output is about 15,000 brick a day.

The Morey Clay Products Plant, west of the city, has a large tract of rich clay, well adapted to the making of brick, stoneware and other clay products. Here are numerous kilns of various kinds and sizes, some for burning brick and others for pottery. The plant employs about 125 persons, and has been in operation since 1890, at which time the original company was organized as the Ottumwa Brick and Construction Company, with D. F. Morey, Samuel Mahon, E. J. Smith, W. H. Stevens, C. T. McCarroll and C. O. Taylor among the owners. Some time ago D. F. Morey acquired the interests of Stevens, Taylor and McCarroll and the firm name was changed to the Morey Clay Products Company, with the first named as the managing head of the industry. The products of this plant are common brick, paving, vitrified and hollow brick, to the number of 20,000,000 a year; also make large quantifies of file and fireproof material and vitrified stoneware.

The largest employer of labor in Ottumwa is the Morrell Packing Company, which started in business here in 1878. This is the greatest enterprise in the city and is constantly growing. Its many buildings stand on a tract of land in the east end, covering ninety one acres. Branches of the concern are in New York, Boston, Memphis, Mobile, Oakland, Seattle, Spokane, Syracuse, Philadelphia and Des Moines. For many years an office has been maintained at Chicago.

The company is a community within itself, making its own packing boxes, operating its own machine shops, and it makes electricity for its power and lighting purposes, owns and maintains a locomotive and numerous cars of the refrigerator and tank varieties, keeps constantly employed a force of coopers, making barrels, tierces, kegs, etc. There is also a saw mill to supply the material for boxes, an establishment for bailing hair and bristles, a no inconsiderable byproduct, car shops, fire department fully equipped, carpenter shop, electric tramway, and every known modern device for treating hogs and cattle, from the abattoir to the curing, smoking, packing and shipping rooms. Hundreds of men and women are engaged in keeping this stupendous establishment moving, and the dollars distributed by John Morrell & Company go up into the hundreds of thousands yearly.

The house of John Morrell & Company commenced business in Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1856, exporting bacon to England and importing a like product from the United States. The firm had a packing house in Ontario, Canada, from 1868 to 1874, and for a few years operated in Chicago. The initiative was taken in Ottumwa in 1878, the company having bought a small plant belonging to James D. Ladd, and enlarged it the following year to a capacity of 1,500 hogs per day. Now the capacity is 5,000 hogs and 250 cattle per day. The plant stands at the foot of Iowa Avenue and covers a large body of land east of that thoroughfare and south of the Burlington Railroad tracks, with buildings of an improved type for the purpose for which they were designed. (See sketch of T. D. Foster, John H. Morrell and others in second volume.)

Henry Phillips, like his father, Ira Phillips, is a pioneer in the coal business, and early conceived the importance of a device that would save labor and time in loading box cars with coal. W. E. Hunt had invented such a device, and, purchasing a half interest therein, in 1881, organized a company for the manufacture of the box car loader. The loader is manufactured in a large plant built by the Ottumwa Box Car Loader Company, on West Second Street, near the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad crossing. The product has come into universal demand at mines and large coal docks at seaports. This company is also co-extensive with the Ottumwa Bridge Company, which manufactures, at the same plant, bridges and structural iron to be used in buildings and other work, and has, during the past five or six years it has been in operation, put up a great many bridges and other iron structures in Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, Texas and other states. The plant covers several acres on West Second Street, near the Milwaukee railroad crossing, and employs from too to 250 men in both departments.

The American Mining Tool Company has its factory and offices in a building between the Burlington and Rock Island tracks, between Ash and Elm streets, in East Ottumwa. It includes half a dozen buildings, where mining tools and supplies are made. The main factory building is several hundred feet in length and two stories in height. Here miners' clothing is also made; the shipping rooms and warehouse are also under this roof. There are other buildings devoted to smithing, forging, a machine shop, large foundry and the like.

Martin Hardsocg, inventor of various mining tools, commenced the manufacture of them at Avery. The place, however, was too small and lacking in facilities for his purpose, which led him to remove to Ottumwa, where the Hardsocg Manufacturing Company was formed and a factory covering considerable ground, lying alongside the Burlington tracks, between McLean and Benton streets, was constructed. At the head of the company always has been Martin Hardsocg, the inventor of many of the devices which it manufactures. Unfortunately the factory had not long been standing before it was leveled to the ground by fire. With no lack of courage, the plant was replaced by a larger and better one, and here about sixty persons are employed in making coal picks, wedges, drills of special design, hand tools, coal shovels, and, in a separate department, overalls and other garments for the use of men who work under the ground.

In a separate structure in connection with this plant are made the "Wonder drill" for mining and quarrying, also pneumatic riveting machines and hammers. The officials of the corporation are: Martin Hardsocg, president the Hardsocg Wonder Drill Company, Hardsocg Manufacturing Company and Nicholls Manufacturing Company; W. M. Edwards is vice president and L. C. Hardsocg secretary and treasurer of the Hardsocg Manufacturing Company. Frank McIntire is vice president; M. P. Duffield, secretary; and J. T. Hackwork, treasurer, of the Hardsocg Wonder Drill Company.

The Ottumwa Mill & Construction Company does a large business in mill work and building material. This concern began its existence about a dozen years ago, and has one of the largest planing mills in this section of the state. Its president, Robert McMasters, and treasurer, W. E. Cook, give their entire time to the operation of the plant, which is located on West Main Street, between Marion and Wapello streets. The company employs about' fifty men and boys in the mill, and during the building season the number of the force runs up tb about one hundred and twenty five.

One of the important industries located in Ottumwa, on the south side, is the Bain Manufacturing Company, which came to Ottumwa in 1899 and broke ground for its large plant in South Ottumwa. In the spring of 1900 men and machinery were busily engaged in turning out the products of the concern, which consists mainly of farm. implements. Principal among these is the "Great Dain Line" of hay tools. During the season when these tools are being shipped heavily, the average daily output from Ottumwa is from ten to twelve carloads. These hay tools find a market in every part of the United States, in Canada, Mexico, South and Central America, Europe, Australia and even South Africa. Joseph Dain, the inventor of the hay tools, began their manufacture in Carrollton, Missouri, about the year 1882, in which year the Dain Mower Company was organized. It later became affiliated with the Deere & Company manufacturing concern of Moline, Illinois, and the Dain Works not only turns out hay tools, but other farm implements, giving employment in its large factory to from four hundred and fifty to five hundred employes, which means a payroll of about a quarter of a million dollars a year.

The L. T. Crisman Company, whose planing mill is on the south side, first began business where Cal Hartman, a once well known blacksmith and wagon maker had his shop. On this site the Crisman plant was erected some years ago. It covers a space 100x200 feet, upon which are a planing mill, boiler house, power plant, stock drying kilns and lumber sheds. August Dean is president of the company and Lee T. Crisman, secretary and treasurer. This concern manufactures building material and employs about one hundred people.

About the year 1880 Joseph Ainley built and established a roller mill in South Ottumwa, a few blocks from the south end of the Market Street Bridge, on Church Street, and all these years the old mill has been busy grinding grain of the farmers and for commercial uses. In 1889 S. C. Ainley, a son, and J. N. Weidenf eller, a son in law of Joseph Ainley, took charge of the utility and operated it until about ten years ago, when the mill was sold to W. Ferguson & Son, who still keep its doors open to patrons.

While speaking of mills, it might be well to mention that the Home Milling Company was established a few years ago by W. Clifford and others. The plant is located at 611 Church Street, where all kinds of grinding is done. The mill has a capacity of twenty five barrels of flour per day.

For the past twenty one years the John Renz Wagon Shops have been in operation on the corner of Church and Myrtle streets. Renz is a pioneer in the industries at his place, having come to Ottumwa in 1868. He became one of the large force of men employed by W. C. Grimes, whose wagon shop and carriage factory stood on the corner of Third and Market streets, and part of which was the old courthouse, which burned down with the rest of the factory in 1872.

The Ottumwa Cigar Box Factory, August Diehn proprietor, gives employment to about fifteen persons of both sexes. The factory is located in a building on Church Street and has been in operation since 1892. The boxes are made by machinery, about 20,000 per month, and the work of labeling and finishing is skilfully accomplished by girl employes.

The making of paper boxes has been a thriving industry here for the past several years. In 1901 L. H. and Frank Niemeyer, under the firm name of Niemeyer Brothers, began the business in a small way in the lower room of a building at 222 South Market Street. They first began manufacturing paper bags and kindred articles, after which they branched out and added to the stock, tissue papers, cardboard, strawboard, paper bags of all kinds and other articles which they carried to supply the school trade. In the year 1910 this firm decided upon embarking in the manufacture of paper boxes. To this end, a small shop was fitted up in a building at 228 South Market Street. Here a few machines were installed and an expert box maker from Chicago was employed to start the business. The little shop soon became entirely too small for the growing trade and more commodious quarters became imperative. One of the rooms originally used at 224 South Market Street, was then converted into a box factory, in which several machines of modern type were placed, and about ten persons employed to operate them and attend to other duties in the factory. The product consists of boxes for cigars, dry goods, suits and kindred articles, and the output of this busy factory finds an extensive market in the states of Iowa and Missouri. A small shop fitted up with machinery and types, where labels and other matter for the boxes are printed, is one of the departments of the paper box factory.

On West Second Street, along the Milwaukee tracks, is located the McCarroll Manufacturing Company, whose principal product is stoves of various types and sizes for both coal and wood. Here also is made metal tanks for stock, with a device for heating the water. This concern has been in operation for several years.

The Midland Metal Company's plant is located on the Burlington tracks near the Milwaukee crossing in cement block buildings. This concern manufactures corrugated iron culverts for roads, and other metal devices. This is a branch concern under the charge of E. W. Phillippe and W. A. Heinzman.

The manufacture of rugs here has become an industry which is growing in importance. Several years ago the Ottumwa Rug Works was established by C. Sigmund. A good local trade has been established and the Ottumwa rugs are becoming known throughout this section of the state.

The uses of cement have become so multifarious that it would be superfluous to attempt to mention them in detail. The material enters into many classes of buildings and the demand for cement blocks is becoming more and more frequent and urgent. The Cement Structural Works of G. W. Caster is located on South McLean Street, between the Rock Island and Burlington tracks, in which are manufactured of the material, blocks, porch pillars, chimney caps, and kindred things. The plant has been in operation for eight years and extends its energies toward the building of houses in connection with its block work.

Ottumwa has long been a manufacturing center for cigars, which is one of the oldest lines of industrial endeavor in this locality. It would be a difficult task to mention the many different firms who have engaged in making cigars in Ottumwa, but Julius Fecht may be classed as the leader and pioneer, beginning the business here in 1884. He is an importer of foreign and native tobaccos and has long operated a large factory on South Jefferson Street.

Another cigar manufacturing firm is that of the Pallister Brothers, Thomas A. and William H., who began making cigars many years ago. The factory is one of the largest in this section of the state and is located on Market Street, a short distance above Second, where about fifty persons of both sexes are employed.

The Union Cigar Company, of which F. H. Ehrmann, a veteran cigar maker, is the head, has been in operation for the past several years in its factory on East Second Street. P. D. Queeney and A. P. Canny have for years been engaged in the industry.

Mention should also be made of the firms of F. J. Graves & Son, the senior member having been in the business here over thirty years; McKaig & Potter; Stentz & Bohe - R. L. Stentz and J. T. Bohe; and McKee & Potter, the largest cigar manufacturers in the city.

Among the pioneers in the manufacture of concrete and cement products were the Keefe Brothers and John Fullmer & Sons, the first a building firm and the other a supply concern, which merged in the formation of the Ottumwa Concrete Block Company. The plant is situated on the Rock Island track, near the foot of Union Street.

The Ottumwa Supply & Construction Company has its factory and warehouses in the old Bridge Works at the foot of Vine Street, where employment is given to about seventy five men. The original company was organized by George A. Zika, E. D. Fair and J. F. Colson, the latter two well known bridge men. Mr. Colson died December, 1911, and E. D. Fair had previously withdrawn from the concern. The present officials are: John Wormhoudt, president; William La Point, vice president; G. A. Zika, secretary and treasurer. The company was organized in 1907.

The Ottumwa Mercantile Company, manufacturers of overalls, jackets, etc., began business in 1910, at 119-125 West Main Street. The officials were: C. L. Graham, president; M. D. Grouchy, secretary.

In 1908 the Tower Majors Candy Company commenced manufacturing candy in its factory on South Jefferson Street. The management of the enterprise consists of two well known business men - Charles R. Tower and James M. Majors. The business has become one of the large employing concerns of Ottumwa.

One of the most complete candy manufactories in this portion of Iowa is that of Walter T. Hall & company, which was established over a quarter of a century ago. The factory was on East Third Street and in 1911 they acquired title to the building and that of the Edgerly Building, on the corner of Third and Market, all of which is now occupied by the Walter T. Hall & Company, candy manufacturers. The plant is a big one and is conducted on modern lines which means a high degree of cleanliness in making the product and purity in selection of the ingredients. The employes number about one hundred and fifty persons, among whom is a number of men on the road introducing its goods and selling large quantities of candies in various parts of the country. The members of the company are Walter T. Hall and William S. Vinson.

At the Ottumwa Stamp Works, A. G. Wallace, proprietor, are made several useful articles, among which are rubber and metal stamps; the Linsay Manufacturing Company makes a variety of wooden handles and the like; Ottumwa-Moline Pump Manufacturing Company, engines and pumps; Snook & Sons, sashes and doors; W. W. Cummings, artificial ice; and the Ottumwa Pure Ice Company.

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