A Callanan Story
told in the 1981 Jewell Centennial Book
The narrow gauge railroad was being built
north from Ames, and Lyon, Lincoln, Scott and Ellsworth townships voted
a 5 per cent tax, but the company had to have a depot built and a train
over the road by a certain date in the winter of 1878.
The road kept on the west side of the river, but the dopot had to
be on the east side to meet the distance called for from the corner of
the four townships. This called for a high grade and a bridge,
but it was winter. So a makeshift bridge of logs and wild hay
held up the rails, so an engine and one car went over. Thus
a new town was born. This was almost three miles south of Lakin's
Grove, so Lakin's Grove was doomed. Some wanted to retain
the name of Lakin for the new postoffice, but the railroad named it Callanan.
In the spring of 1878, the town was platted.
S. G. Johnson moved his general store from
Lakin's Grove to Callanan. Peter Ryberg moved to a southern
state for a year. The stage house quit buisiness and the building
was used for a stock and tool shed. Callanan was platted in
April, 1878. The town was even referred to as North and South
Callanan. After the town was moved away, John Ringstad bought
the land that was northeast and residential sections. This
caused him legal work to secure all of the different deeds.
The narrow gauge railroad grade across the river
can still be seen. Callanan was a boom town and had a fast
and furious life of less than three years. The narrow gauge
railroad terminated there, while endeavoring to secure more taxes to build
northeast to Iowa Falls through Williams. Because Callanan
was born and died between census taking years, it is hardly possible that
any accurate number of residents could be secured. In the Callanan
Herald printed December 14, 1878, it has more local buisness advertisements
than all of the papers in the county now, outside of Webster City.
Here are some of the businesses: blacksmith, brickyard, hardware,
boots and shoes (made to order), city billiard hall, two house and carriage
painters, three hotels (one with a big advertisement) Scandinavian
Hotel with plenty of stable room. The Callanan Hotel had a
ball room and advertised Christmas balls at 10 cents a corner.
Other ads included four coal dealers, music teachers, two land agents,
millinery goods, two general stores, farm machinery and poultry buyer,
able mechanic and carpenters, furniture, J. J. Haight - attorney,
J. T. Livinggood - M.D., G. W. Black - M.D. (who later moved to Ellsworth),
and Dr. Tremaine M.D. (who later moved to Webster City. There
were also a wagon shop, a butcher shop, and two or three saloons and a
schoolhouse. Professor Eldridge conducted a teachers' institute
that winter. Church and Sunday school were held in the
Callanan had no law enforcement of any kind and
drunken brawls were frequent. Some say there were three murders
from this cause, but the History of Hamilton Couny by J. W. Lee gives only
two. The one was when a drunken man stepped off a train and shot
into a July 4th crowd that had gathered to see the train come in.
Jacob Heng died from the wound.
As most all bad things have some good, so it was
with Callanan. It brought many things to the pioneer that they
had been going to Webster City or Nevada for. The doctors were
one big gain, as they had been without one since Dr. Cochran moved away.
While the narrow gauge was trying to secure taxes
to extend, the (Chicago &) Northwestern came from the east, making
two (rail) roads east and west across the county, but none going north
and south. The narrow gauge still planned on building, which
would have made a crossing north and east of Callanan. The
Northwestern railroad got busy and the county voted a tax for a standard
width railroad. The narrow gauge road went into receivership
and the Northwestern company bought it. The Northwestern kept
farther west of the Skunk River, going to Webster City, missing Callanan
more than a mile, and making a junction on the Jewell farm.
Ellsworth had been planned as a junction, but the narrow gauge did not
come, and Callanan died.
Ellsworth and Jewell were born the winter of 1879
and 1880. They are only three miles apart, but both did well.
Callanan was divided between the two towns which makes them the grandchildren
of Lakin's Grove...
The original town of Callanan was platted June
29, 1878 in Ellsworth township. Plattors were R. N. Woodworth, John
W. Mattice, and George M. Everitt. North Callanan was platted
January 21, 1879 by Sarah E. and J. T. Haight in Lyon township.
W. M. Barkhuff received a deed December 26, 1881 for Lot 8, Block 2, Original
Callanan, consideration $20. Lots in North Callanan seemed
to have sold at higher prices being from $25 up to $600 and one $800.
Possibly buildings had been erected. Jane R. King or Mrs. John
R. "Jack" King owned lots 3, 5, and 5 of Block 4, North Callanan.
Varick C. Crosley of Webster City has these recollections:
My father, the late Col. George W. Crosley,
was the sheriff of Hamilton County from 1880 to 1884. He often
told of a hurry trip to Callanan about, I think, in the winter of 1882.
There had been a very heavy snow, 4 or more feet, followed by a rain, then
turned cold and froze, frozen so hard to hold a team and sleigh.
The crew building the Northwestern line from Ellsworth to Jewell could
not work. They, and mostly all Irish including their foreman,
had walked from Ellsworth where they were quarted in a building or in box
cars, to Callanan and had taken over Jack King's saloon. He
had the station agent there wire the sheriff, my father. "The Irish
have taken the town," (Telegraph was via Des Moines, Tata, Fort Dodge
to Webster City) "to come at once." Father hitched up his team to
a cutter, accompanied by his deputy, George Wyckoff, and drove across country
about 22 miles in two hours, stopped the fight, ordered the men out of
town to their quarters, which the proceeded to obey, and drove home the
same route following their tracks going there, but going back slower.
I remember later in my life hearing Jack King tell about it.
As a small boy 6 or 7 years old, I accompanied by father on trips to Des
Moines, the Chicago and Northwestern to Jewell, thence by hack to Callanan
about 3 miles (before the Chicago and Northwestern was built into Jewll)
and thence to Des Moines. The Des Moines to Callanan was a
narrow gauge track. I recall that "Bill" Loder was the hack
The Chicago and Northwestern built
a line from Jewell to meet the "Callanan road" at a point about on the
north side of Section 14, Ellsworth township, where the road turned toward
Callanan. When this regular gauge track was completed, about
1884, the Northwestern officials arranged to have all of their section
crews assemble along the line and change it (on a Sunday, from daylight
to dark), the rails from narrow gauge to standard gauge. It
was completed in one day. Working on Sundays was not in keeping
with the majority of the people.
The time table shows that the Des Moines & Minniapolis Railroad
served Callanan with two passenger trains each day, one going north and
the other south. And after fifty years, the passenger service
is no better than it was in Callanan during the pioneer days.
Here are some of the advertisers in The Callanan Herald of
fifty years ago:
F. I. Cash, merchant tailor, Second Street, Webster City
J. T. Haight, attorney at law and notary public, Callanan
I. H. Brown, notary public, real estate and collection agent,
A. Hutchin, attorney at law and notary public, Webster City,
Iowa, first door north of the Hamilton County Bank
G. W. Black, physician and surgeon, Callanan
Martin & Hall, attorneys at law, Webster City
F. G. Lewis, Dentist, Webster City
Central House, Alden Iowa, M. J. Davis, Proprietor, one of
the most commodious and best regulated hotels
Duncombe House, E. S. Cole, proprietor, Fort Dodge
Memories of Callana my Mthilda Ringstad Johnson:
Since my father purchased the land where Callanan
was located in the late 1870s, he told us many stories about this town.
Since the railroad ran through part of this land, this town was started
here along the Skunk River. Father said it was a pretty little
town nestled in the valley along the river, with rolling land on both sides.
It had many business places.
At the store in Callanan where Father J. O.
Ringstad and Chris Thoreson operated a store, the beans, sugar, dried peas
and even coffee were kept in bins that were pulled out from under the counter.
So they were put in sacks when sold. They had a large coffeee
grinder to use for customers who liked it ground. Most people
owned coffee grinders, so their cofee was fresher. Prunes,
raisins, currants and dried peaches were kept in boxes with see-through
tops and sold by the pound. Crackers were sold by the pound
or by the large wooden boxes where they were kept. They had
very little canned goods on the shelf like we have. I've also
been told that brown sugar was sold mostly since refined white sugar was
very scarce. Molasses was plentiful and sold from a barrel
as was vinegar. Apples were sold by the pound or by the barrel.
Most people bought apples by the barrel to have for winter in the cellar
where they kept well. The grocery department occupied only a corner
of the store. Customers brought containers, one or two gallon
cans, to purchase kerosene for the lamps. A lot of the lamps
were kept for sale. One or two spittoons were always kept for
the sustomers to use who like to stay and visit. Benches were
provided to sit on. To me it seems like people just didn't
rush with eheir work like they do now. Their store was filled
with a lot of dry goods, ready to wear work clothes, coats for winter,
a lot of material to use for making clothes. They even sold
denim by the yard. Mother said she made a dress of denim one
and wore it when she went to Nevada in a wagon. As she walked
up town, some girls laughed at her dress; then Mother was ashamed of it
and went back to the wagon and waited for her folks. She didn't
get her shopping done. So, it must have been motly people in the
country who used denim for clothes. Sheep lines coats and fur
coats were sold to men, since they needed them when they drove to town
in the winter. No cars, of course.