The history of our community - The Beginning
Our town gets started -  Ellsworth began in 1880.
(images without border may be clicked to enlarge)

Before Ellsworth existed, there were several settlements in the area, 
that later led towards developing Ellsworth. 
Click here ---Click for Callanan to learn about Callanan.
         Click here ---Click for Lakin's Grove to learn about Lakin's Grove.

There have been several theories as the the naming of Ellsworth.  It has been stated in several historical references Ellsworth was named after a railroad official or surveyor who had helped to survey the right of way through this territory.  A son of this man confirmed to Henri Fjetland that his father was a civil engineer who laid out the track from the east.  The plan was to have 7 miles between towns.  Learning that there was a railroad junction three miles west (Jewell Junction), he questioned the location and put his name with a question mark where Ellsworth was located.  Another story is that the town was named Ellsworth to honor the memory of Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth, of the Chicago Zouzves, who was murdered in Virginia in the War of the Rebellion.  One source said that it was named for a railroad official, another stated that it was named for an Iowa Falls banker.  Some think this was the real reason for the name, as it was confirmed in a book published by the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company, which gave the reasons for the names of all of the towns it created.

The town of Ellsworth was platted in October, 1880, by John I. Blair, for the Western Town Lot Company, the real estate division of the Toledo & Northwestern Railroad.  Ellsworth is located in Section 30-87-23 of Lincoln Township and in Section 25-87-23 of Lyon Township.  It has a very close history to two other settlements: Lakin's Grove and Callanan.  This railroad town drew its population from these two early settlement communities.  The Callanan depot was moved to Ellsworth.  The next building to be moved into Ellsworth was the L. R. Bjelde Blacksmith Shop, which came from Lakin's Grove. 

The original plat consisted of eight blocks: four east-west and two north-south.  The streets running east-west were Decora, and Des Moines Avenues. The streets runnng north-south were Delphi, Desota, Dewitt, Dayton, Dearborn Streets.  It is interesting to note that all seven streets names started with the letter D.  This did not happen in any of the other Hamilton County towns. 

A post office was established on Jan. 20, 1881, and is still in service.  It was located in the General Store, owned and operated by John Ringstad and Chris Thoreson.  This business was moved to Ellsworth from Callanan.  Ringstad became the first postmaster.  He also served as the first mayor and the first Justice of the Peace. 

1898 Robbery of the State Bank of Ellsworth

click to enlarge

It was a hot summer night in 1898 that the State Bank of Ellsworth was robbed of $1,500.  The two well-dressed men who robbed the bank had already eaten the evening meal with Mattie's family, the John Ringstad family 3/4 mile south of Ellsworth.  After visiting with the family for a while, the men had rested in a nearby field until total darkness.

After robbing the bank, they caught the eastbound midnight train to Gifford, Iowa.  There they sought lodging at the hotel.  After the men had been apprehended, the $1,500 in a cigar box was found under the bed.

1898 Train Crash

In 1898, two freight trains crashed together opposite the stock yards, just east of the depot, piling up cars and tearing up the track.  One train was a double header and the other was being pulled by one of the six-wheel drive locomotive, completely telescoped the freight car behind it.

Ellsworth is seen on an 1899 Map.
                       here \|/
click for entire map
(Thanks to Ames Historical Society for this map) (Click image to see entire map - 2mb)

This portion of the 1899 Crams Altas showing Iowa railroads shows Ames (start at the bottom) connected North through Gilbert Station, Story City, Randall, Callanan, and Jewell Junction.  Then to the East, one can find Ellsworth, nearly 20 years old at the time of this map. 

This map is not quite completely accurate, as Callanan was bypassed and no longer on the railroad track at the time of this 1899 map.  20 years earlier than the date of this map, the railroad actually turned east a bit to cross the Skunk River and go nearly one quarter mile up the slope to enter Callanan.  Three years later, the railroad curved a bit west and no longer crossed the Skunk River because it headed to Jewell Junction as this map shows.  Perhaps this small error explains why the map's "Callanan dot" looks west of the Skunk River.  Notice the vague colors and eliminated portion of the right side of the Callanan dot and that unseen portion of the Skunk River.

click to enlarge

1900 - This is the first aerial view of Ellsworth, Iowa.

     The consus of 1990 showed a population of 396.  The church building seen at left is the Methodist Church, built in 1883.  The church partially seen at the far right, was the Congregational Church.  Dayton Street visible at the left side, with DeWitt at right. Iowa Highway 175 is visible at the top of the image, and the east-west street seen in the center of this image is Des Moines Avenue.
     The above photo was taken by Peter Holt from the belfry of the Lutheran Church.  The image was scanned in 1980 from an old glass plate negative.

Older homes still standing in Ellsworth: 

1221 Delphi, built in 1900 
1425 Delphi, moved to Fllsworth from Callanan in 1882 
1519 Delphi, built 1881 
1520 Delphi, 1893 from Callanan 
1625 Delphi, built 1887 
1621 DeSoto, built in 1900 
1623 DeSoto, built in 1900 
1519 Dayton, Business moved from Callanan, made into residence
1628 Dearborn, built in 1890 
549 Hwy 175, built in 1880 
546 Des Moines, built in 1900 
436 Decora, built in 1900

     Starting in 1885 a two-story frame school building was built to house the primary grades on the first floor and the grammar grades on the second.  The school was enlarged in 1900 by the addition at the rear.  This part was used to house the upper grades.  This building faced North and was located just east of where Steve Holt's residence is now located.

See another photo of this early school.

History Page (B)

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