Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday at My Hometown - Week 1

My Hometown is Coon Rapids, in West Central Iowa, in Carroll County but near the corner with Audubon, Guthrie and Greene Counties. I would like to one day to have a place-based blog of social history and genealogy on Coon Rapids, but in the meantime I am going to post some of my existing information on Mondays each week in 2010.

Coon Rapids, Iowa, in Wikipedia, is a good place to start in getting a feel for the current status of the community. The Coon Rapids Enterprise is the local newspaper has been 'the weekly newspaper' for over 100 year - established in 1881. The Coon Rapids Development Group has a newly designed website. The Coon Rapids-Bayard Community Schools serve both Coon Rapids and Bayard (about 7 miles to the east on Highway 141) as well as the neighboring areas in all four counties. The Coon Rapids Bayard Alumni wikipages provide a useful service to the community, as well. The local Coon Rapids Municipal Utilities is a model for small rural communities utility services.

I first published the following on a Geocities-hosted website (closed in late 2009) in July 1997:

This is a brief account of the origins of Coon Rapids, Union township, Carroll county, Iowa [Sources cited are listed at the end. Please go to the source document for more complete information.]:

The original town of Coon Rapids was, next to Carrollton, the first town in the county. It was not known by that name, but there was a sort of frontier outpost at that point, on the route from Des Moines, Panora, Sioux City and points farther northwest [1].
The land was first taken up by one O.J. Niles, a peculiar character, who attracted the attention of the early pioneers. He was elected justice of the peace and was an important individual in the transaction of business for his neighbors [1]. It is related that a man named Tuttle, of Tuttle's Grove, felt a grievance over a horse trade he had made with Samuel Wilson, and stated the details of the transaction to 'Squire Niles.' The 'squire' listened patiently, and at the close advised Mr. Tuttle that the law in the case was so complicated that he couldn't obtain justice. Some suspicious persons, always inquiring as to the relations of cause to effect, remarked that Wilson was a splendid shot, and Niles was very fond of venison [2].
O.J. Niles entered the land on which Coon Rapids stands, in Union Township, in 1855. Mr. Niles was from Western Michigan, and probably of Yankee birth[2]. He lived in a 16 x 36 log house [2], the site of the present funeral home [3]. (The centennial report says: The earliest record of any settlement is in 1854; one of the earliest in Carroll County. In 1853, Obediah Niles, a Yankee by birth, came from Michigan. He purchased 200 acres of land from the government and the tract included almost all of the present town site [3].) His (Obedian Niles) nearest neighbors were at Tuttle's Grove where Mr. Charles Cretsinger now lives [3].
The nearest railroad was at Des Moines [3]. A mail route was established in 1858 between Panora and Sioux City, with intermediate offices at Carrollton and Denison [2].
The earliest record of a 4th of July gathering was in 1859 at Tuttle's Grove. Lawson Mingus stood barefooted at the foot of a huge oak and read the Declaration of Independence. That evening, a dance was held at Sammy Wilson's on Brushy Creek and many danced barefooted. It is recorded that people from the little hamlet of Coon Rapids attended the event [3].
In 1861, he (O.J. Niles) sold a few acres of his land to a man by the name of Winfred who started to improve the mill site, on Middle Coon [1]. The settlers were so enthusiastic over the prospect of a mill in their vicinity that they held their Fourth of July celebration that year on the proposed mill-site [2].
In 1863 Crockett Ribble, County Treasurer, bought the site and commenced to improve it, with financial assistance from the county. A Mr. Frizzell set up a store to supply the men with tobacco and other "necessaries," and John J. McCollum started a blacksmith shop [2].
Jacob Cretsinger lived on Wilson Hill, east of the mill. He carried mail from Panora to Sioux City on horseback. Anxious to have a mail station nearer his home, he petitioned the government for a post office for Coon Rapids and suggested the name [3].
William Minnich bought the land in 1865 and laid out a town, and built the house (where William Schnepps now lives - in 1887), to rent as a store [2]. The first occupant was Shoemaker & Endicott [2].
But the old town did not prosper, and when the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad built through, in 1882, there were but few families there. The Western Town Lot Company then laid out the new town, along side the
railroad, a mile or so west from the old site, and newcomers were numerous and the town grew rapidly [1].
The Coon Rapids Bank was opened in June, 1882, by Lyons & Cooney [2]. The City Bank was established in the autumn of 1882, by H.L. Miller & Co., the present proprietors (1887) [2].
The first graded school building was put up in 1883 [2].
In the Enterprise of 1883 is the earliest printed record of a 4th of July celebration. A brass band of 12 instruments was organized for the event. The program was as follows: National salute of 107 guns at sunrise. Prayer by the Chaplain. Reading of the Declaration of Independence. Address of State Senator from Panora. Music by the brass band. Vocal Selection. Basket dinner followed by toasts and responses. There were races, baseball and other amusements. In the evening following supper, the program consisted of music by the band, fireworks and dancing [3].
Coon Rapids was incorporated in 1884, the result of an election held December 19, 1882 [2]. Officers were elected in January following, and J.H. Louthan was the first mayor. The officers for 1886-1887 were: Mayor, T.C. Reid; Recorder, D.M. Grove; Councilmen, A.R. Harfield, C.E. Morris, B.H. Shute; H.L. Miller, Henry Wallace and I.L. Dermond; Treasurer, J.H. Louthan; Assessor, Theophilus George; Marshal, James Mulford; Street Commissioner, Geroge Miller [2].
In 1885, the population of the town was 729 [1].
The first class was graduated from Coon Rapids High School in 1888. The class contained eight seniors [3].


[1] From History of Carroll County, Iowa: A Record of Settlement, Organization,
Progress and Achievement, by Paul Maclean, Volume I, Chicago: The S.J.
Clarke Publishing Company (1912).

[2] Biographical and Historical Record of Greene and Carroll Counties,
Iowa. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company (1887).

[3] Coon Rapids Centenial Page

I hope you enjoyed a few words about My Hometown. ;-)


  1. Who wouldn't enjoy a few words about a place named "Coon Rapids." Plus I'm always pleased when there's a Michigan connection.


  2. Cathy,
    I enjoyed visiting your blogs. My daughter and her husband were full time RVers for more than 10 years... last year built a new house on Boulder Mtn in Utah, and seem to have settled in! I'm following your Detour through History. ;-)

  3. Kathleen,
    Thanks for stopping by. I enjoyed visiting your blog, as well. Stop by often.