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
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 driver.
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
J. T. Haight, attorney at law and notary public,
I. H. Brown, notary public, real estate and
collection agent, Williams, Iowa
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
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
Memories of Callanan by Mathilda 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 their 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.