Callanan was an early Hamilton County settlement
which was actually platted.
This settlement was established before any railroads
came to the area, but did not at first have a formal name. This settlement
soon grew enough to extend north accross the Ellworth township and Lincoln
When the Des Moines and Minneapolis Railroad
finally came north from Des Moines to Ames in the 1870s, the people settled
here wished to be included on this new transporation roadway.
It was determinded that if the people in four townships in Hamilton County
taxed themselves 5%, they might successfully invite the railroad company
to build north to this area. Although this settlement did not
yet have a name or title, they had discovered that a Mr. Callanan was the
primary investor of the railroad. This discovery convinced
them to adopt "Callanan" to be their community's name, so that the railroad
would come there. The newer portion of the settlement became
known as "North Callanan."
The Des Moines and Minneapolis Railroad worked to finish
their construction north of Ames and through Gilbert, Story City, and Randall.
And because 5% of the income of the settlers in this area would be awarded
to the railroad, they decided to follow the restriction for the money
(construct the railroad to the corner of these four townships in southeast
Hamilton County). The railroad needed to turn a bit East and
cross the Skunk River. The track needed to go up a hill into "town".
|Typical of many road signs in Hamilton
County, this sign on Highway 69 doesn't really indicate the way to Hamilton
County's early settlement called Callanan. But it does indicate the
Callanan existed, and is important to the history of Hamilton County.
This sign is located four
miles south of Jewell on Highway 69. It points west. To really
point towards Callanan, this sign would need to be relocated four miles
north and two miles east. At that point, one mile directly south
of Ellsworth, the sign would point towards Callanan, formerly located one
mile in the direction (west) of the sign.
Lakine's Grove, Ellsworth, Callanan and North Callanan can be seen on the
This settlement was actually platted. (View the
map at the bottom of this page.) The part lying in Ellsworth Township
platted in 1878. The addition known as "North Callanan" was laid
out in January, 1879. The town started with a great flourish and
stores were doing a good business and a newspaper was being printed.
The settlement grew and prospered until almost 1880. Callanan became
the "town" that was known as the northern terminus of the narrow gauge
line up from Ames and Des Moines.
Lincoln Township of Hamilton County
Some six miles from the southern boundary, a branch
of the Chicago and Northwestern railroad crosses the township from east
to west; the building of this road caused a great change in the history
of the community, since it caused the decay of the already established
town of "Callanan."
A narrow guage railroad had been built from Ames
up to the north line of Ellsworth township, and a station was necessary,
so Callanan was started; it was platten in two sections. The part
lying in Ellsworth township was platted in 1878, and the addition known
as "North Callanan" was within the bounds of Lyon township, and was laid
out in January, 1879. The town started with a great flourish and
stores were doing a good business and a newspaper was being printed, and
all bade fair to growth and prosperity until 1880.
At that time the Northwestern road came through
and the narrow gauge road lost out, the startion was started at Ellsworth
and another at Jewell, and the business people and inhabitants of Callanan
moved their goods and houses either to Ellsworth or to Jewell. So
Callanan became one of our "Ghost Towns."
Callanan was located in NW Sec 2-86-24 of Ellsworth
Township. An addition, called North Callanan, was located just north across
the township line in SE Sec 35-87-24 in Lyon Township. The two towns were
considered as one for its brief, but violent, history. The people who lived
here in four townships in the southeast corner of our county wanted a railroad,
so they voted themselves a 5% tax to secure one. James Callanan, a Des
Moines investor, was president of the Des Moines and Minnesota Railroad.
His railroad was a narrow gauge line that connected Ames with Des Moines.
He planned to expand it north to Minneapolis. The town of Callanan became
the northern terminus of this expansion.
The town was originally planned to have the name
Lakin, for an early pioneer, but to secure the railroad, the settlers instead
named it Callanan. A post office was secured on April 10, 1878, with David
Schoonmaker as the first postmaster. The town plat was not recorded until
June, with North Callanan being recorded in January, 1879. The postmaster
held up the mail, designated for Lakin's Grove, to increase the count for
The town's violent history came about because it
became a popular spot for rowdy folk from Des Moines to go for a happy
weekend trip. The Callanan Hotel was busy; the many taverns made the liquor
flow freely at all times. When sober residents objected, they were told
that the business was good for Callanan. The town grew to have a population
of about 200.
The railroad went bankrupt and the roadbed was taken
over by the Toledo & Northwestern Railroad. The tracks were then converted
to standard gauge, and the line was relocated to run to Jewell Junction,
connecting with Ellsworth. Most of the town businesses moved to either
Ellsworth or Jewell Junction. The Callanan town depot became the Ellsworth
depot. The Callanan post office was closed on October 12, 1881.
The text above is from: https://sites.google.com/site/hamiltoncountyhistory/home/ghost-towns/callanan
At about 1880, the narrow gauge railroad, the Des
Moines and Minneapolis, was bought out by the Chicago and Northwestrn
Railroad and converted the rails to standard gauge. At that time
it no longer crossed the Skunk River, passed by Callanan and went instead
to Jewell. In about 1880, stations were started at Ellsworth and
Jewell, so Callanan was abandoned. The businesses and inhabitants
of Callanan moved their goods and houses either to Ellsworth or Jewell.
Callanan was then lost.
Here are the plat maps showing Callanan and North Callanan.
G. H. Carroll, County Surveyor in and for the Hamilton County Iowa, do
hereby certify that the foregoing is a correct plat and description of
the Survey made by me of the north-west quarter of the Northwest quarter
of Section one, Township eighty-six, Range twenty four west of the fifth
P.M., Iowa on the sexteenth day of April 1878, at the personal request
of R. N. Woodworth, J.W. Mattice and George M. Everitt.
G. H. Carroll, County Surveyor of Hamilton County,
A two-story railroad depot was constructed
Below, see the enlarged portion of the above plat
map of Callanan, showing where the depot was located.
(Read more about this Callanan story on the following three
pages exploring the settlement of Callanan.)
It is said that Callanan, the northern terminus of
the narrow gauge railroad, was a boom town that had a fast and furious
life of less than three years. It was built on a high bluff in a
beautiful wooded area, east of the Skunk River. It numbered about
200 residents, and they included physicians, surgeons, contractors, builders,
attorneys, three painters, and a notary public. There was a boarding
house, a hardware store, a drug store, a dry goods store, a pool hall,
and barber shop. There was a Callanan Brick Company, a blacksmith,
a carriage shop, a wagon shop, a meat market, and a boot and shoe maker.
The settlement became the scene of many wold parties
with liquor available both day and night. Law enforcement was ineffective
and drunken brawls were frequent. Two murders were committed
on the streets of Callanan during its short existence.
Callanan survived for about three years following the
arrival of the railroad, but after the narrow guage was converted to standard
guage, it no longer crossed the Skunk River to get into Callanan, but instead
turned a bit west and headed northward to Jewell Junction. The railroad
then constructed an east-west track which became instrumental in a brand
new (1880) community known as Ellsworth. When the railroad
left the community of Callanan, the depot was then moved (during the winter
season) to Ellsworth. In that way, the Callanan depot became the
only depot for the community of Ellsworth.
After the railroad left Callanan, the settlement died
off as residents moved to either the nearby Ellsworth or to Jewell.
Three houses today in Ellsworth were also moved from Callanan.
Next Callanan Page (2)