1882, when the Toledo and Northwestern Railroad company was purchased by
the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, the line was widened from narrow
gauge to standard and bypassed Callanan to head towards Jewell (Jewell
Junction) to junction with the Toledo and Northwestern RR line (the
east/west railroad). The railroad section crews assembled
along the line and changed it to standard gauge in one day, Sunday, May
This bypass of Callanan insured that settlement
would only survive about three years, with most residents moving to either
Ellsworth or Jewell.
|The birth of Callanan
was the death of Lakin's Grove. Most of the businesses and professional
men moved to the railroad town. Callanan, the first platted town
in southeast Hamilton County came into being in the spring of 1878 when
a Narrow Gauge Railroad, the Des Moines and Minneapolis, was built noth
In the early spring of 1878, a depot was built and
the railroad was completed. The town was laid out the same year.
It was first called Lakin, but when a post office was established,
the railroad named it Callanan for the president of the road.
Callanan grew like a mining boom town. It was
built in a great agricultural country and large shipments of grain and
livestock were sent out and needed commodities brought in. It has
been reported that 2 passenger trails - one norh-bound, the other south-bound,
were in full operation daily.
By the fall of 1878, Callanan had everything but law
enforcement and a bank. There were two saloons and all the things
that went with them at the time. It was told they each cleared more
money than any other business.
Callanan lived and grew fast for nearly three years,
and lots of gambling and two murders were reported. One murder was
by a drunken bystander on the Fourth of July, who fired a revolver into
the crowd on the platform of the depot striking one Jacob Heng on the leg.
The doctor amputated the leg using the kitchen table for the operation.
Mr. Heng lived for about 3 weeks.
The other case was that in which Hilga Espe killed
Joe Isley. Espe was a storng, muscular fellow shile Isley was a little
old man. Both were drunk. Espe wanted to fight Isley, but Isley
refused and started to go away. Espe followed and picked up the smaller
man, threw him from the sidewalk upon the frozen ground with great force
and left him there. Someone at a distance saw the act and went to
the old man. Finding him unconscious, people in the crowd took him,
laid him upon a bench where he remained unconscious until the next day
when he died.
(More text from the The Centennial Story of Ellsworth is continued
Scan of a 1958 IDOT image
This 1958 map, an aerial view of the Callanan area,
was secured from the Iowa DOT. North is up. It shows today's
railroad track coming up from Randall, and turning towards Jewell.
The curved line shows how the 1877 track turned towards the East, crossed
the Skunk river, and ended at the intersection of four townships in the
southeast corner of Hamilton County.
When the railroad bypassed Callanan, and Ellsworth
needed a depot, the Callanan depot was pulled (on skids) to the new community
of Ellsworth to become the Ellsworth depot.
While no images are available for the town of Callanan,
several recent photos of that area nearby Callanan, travelled by the narrow
gauge railroad track, are seen below. The area is photograhed below,
and can be spotted in the IDOT map (seen above) directly above the words
Track (1877) just to the left and right of the creek seen in that
This creek was west of the Skunk River in the Callanan
Thriving Boom Town of Callanan
Callanan, the first platted town in southeast Hamilton
County, came into being before the spring of 1878, when a Narrow Gauge
Railroad 3 feet wide, the Des Moines and Minneapolis, was built
north of Ames.
The railroad was being built on the west side of Skunk
River; but in order to get 5 per cent tax is was required to come within
a mile of the four adjoining corners of Lyon, Lincoln, Ellsworth and Scott
Townships. To do this it was necessary to build a spur across the
river. A high grade from the bridge to the top of the hill east with
an incline of five hundred feet to the mile. This made a very steep
long grade. The bridge and grade were supposed to be only temporary
just to get a train across by a given date in order to collect the tax.
The grade was so steep to get into Callanan that trains
would take a long run and sometimes failed to make it, had to back down
and try again. Then the idea of backing up the hill was used as the
engine needed more push than pull. In going out all brakes were set.
This railroad expected to build north through Webster City, but only a
21/2 per cent tax was voted so they stopped at Callanan possibly to go
northeast to Alden.
The town Callanan was being started on the west side
of section one of Ellsworth Township and section 36 of Lyon Township in
the winter of 1877-78. The depot was on the south side. In
early spring, the Narrow Gauge Railroad was completed and the town laid
out on April 19, 1878. It was first called Lakin, but when a post
office was established, the railroad named it Callanan for the president
of the railroad.
In November 1878, the south half of the southwest one
fouth of section 36 of Lyon Township was laid out in town lots and called
North Callanan. Streets were laid out, the business district evidently
ran north and south with River, Main, Everett, Willow, Scott, Lyon, Cherry
and Vine; east and west streets were Lincoln and Ellsworth. Later,
there was made an addition to North Callanan with River, Main and Vine
This settlement was built in a great agricultural country
and large shipments of grain and livestock were sent out and needed commodities
were brought in. In the fall of 1878, Mr. Sherpy started the
Herald. In a copy of the Herald dated December 14,
1878, it was noted that the subscription was $1.00 per year if sent in
clubs of five or more and before January 1st. "If you haven't
any money, we won't object to several tons of potatoes, cabbage or anything
that can be eaten. Patronize your home paper and save your country."
The Herald had a hard time to live, and Frank Bell was the editor
after a few weeks. It was revived again and the name cas changed
A school house was built and a County Teacher's Institute
was held in it. Professor Eldridge, one of Iowa's noblest men and
one of the best educators in the United States conducted the classes.
Louise Anderson, who later married Wig Bonner, taught one of the first
terms of school. Church and Sunday School were held in the school
The Callanan people probably used the Ringer Semetery
as some know people from Callanan had been buried there earlier.
It would be only about one and one half miles north. This could account
for the larger number of unmarked graves.
Although no bank had been organized, by the fall of
1878, Callanan had everything but law enforcement and a bank. There
were two saloons and all the things that went with them at the time.
It was told that they each cleared more money than any other buisiness.
Callanan lived and grew fast for nearly three years.
Lots of gambling and two murders were reported there. One ws by a
drunken bystander on the Fourth of July, who fired a revolver into the
crowd on the platform of the depot. The other case was that in in
which Hilga Espe killed Joe Isley. Espe was a strong, muscular fellow
while Isley was a little old man. Both were drunk. Espe wanted
to fight Isley, but Isley refused and started to go away. Espe followed
and picking up the smaller man, threw him from the sidewalk upon the frozen
ground with great force, and left him there. Someone at a distance
saw the act and called the crowd from the saloon and he was taken in and
laid upon a bench where he remaind unconscious until the next day, when
(the above text is adapted from The Centennial Story of Ellsworth)
Dick Steffen and Dale Hughes are seen investigating
the narrow gauge roadbed to Callanan
while they accompany Alan Spohnheimer. The Callanan
narrow gauge track bed was on the
raised area on the other side of this fence.
The narrow gauge railroad bed is seen just above, where
no grass is seen.
A year passed by and the Narrow Gauge Railroad remained
in operation from Ames to Callanan. It has been reported that 2 passenger
trains - one north-bound, the other south-bound - were in full operation
daily. The railway company refused to go north through Webster City
unliess they received the full 5 per cent tax. However, they threatened
to go north by way of Blairsburg or Williams unless the 5 percent tax was
By 1880 it was realized that the Chicago Northwestern
was back of the Toledo and Northwestern Railroad (east and west).
So it was that on December 6, 1880 that a regular passenger train made
its first run on this line through Hamilton County. Then, too, a
transfer stage was put inot operation between Ellsworth and Callanan, a
distance of a little over a mile. So now the people had railroad
facilities both south to Des Moines and east to Chicago.
In an old issue of the Callanan Herald, the following 24 businesses
and advertisers where listed in Callanan:
J.T. Haight, Attorney at Law and Notary Public
J.T. Livergood, homeopathic physician
G.W. Black, physician and surgeon
Charles Lakin, barber and hair dresser
J.D. Thompson, contractor and builder
S.J. Palmer, dealer in shelf and heavy hardware, Callanan Brick
J.C.Clouse, house and carriage painter
J. Delorme, manuafacturer of boots and shoes.
Callanan House - good beds and tables
City Billiard Hall, J.R. Dink, proprietor, fresh bottled beer, ales
W.G. Ridhard and brother, selling goods at bedrock prices for cash
The Eagle Boarding House, H. Hoy, proprieter
J.G. Wheat, drugs, buggy and wagon grease
J.O. Ringstad and Chris Thoreson, general store
Allen and Ruddle, house painters
Swain G. Johnson & Co., dealers in dry goods, groceries, ready
made clothing, boots, shoes, paints, oils and general merchandise
Charles Lakin, dealer in farm machinery of all kinds, coal, hair,
P.T. Stein, proprietor, blacksmith, carriage and wagon shop
Mr. Winter, constructing a large building
G.M. Barkhuff, meat market
W.C. Barkhuff, wagon shop
Scandinavian Hotel, A. Anderson, proprietor.
Within a few years, most of the businesses of Callanan
moved to Ellsworth, and some to Jewell. After the town of Callanan
was gone, John Ringstad bought the land.
(this text has also adapted from The Centennial Story of Ellsworth)
Dick Steffen is facing east and can see where the railroad
headed towards the Skunk River and climb the hill
to enter Callanan.
Callanan Page (3)