The history of Ellsworth - Page A - The Early Days
Ellsworth gets started.  Our town began in 1880.
(images without border may be clicked to enlarge) 

Before Ellsworth existed, there were several settlements in the area.
They led towards developing the town of Ellsworth.

         Click here ---Click for Lakin's Grove to learn about Lakin's Grove.
Click here ---Click for Callanan to learn about Callanan.

To learn about the early history of Hamilton County, Click here ---Hamilton County history

The naming of the town of Ellsworth

      There have been several theories as the the naming of the town of Ellsworth.  One source said that it was named for a railroad official, another stated that it was named for an Iowa Falls banker.   It has been stated in several historical references Ellsworth was named after a railroad official or surveyor who had helped to survey the right of way through this territory.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.   Many scholars think this was the real reason for the name because it was confirmed in a 1908 book distributed by the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company, which gives 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 first 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.

Articles found on page 5 of the "Hamilton Freeman" (Webster City newspaper)
published Wednesday, December 15, 1880


     The new stations along the line of the T. & N. W. R. R.  will be provided with post-offices just as soon as possible after trains run regularly to and from them.

     Mrs. John A. Cooper, a most worthy and excellent woman, has been recommended for postmaster at Jewell Junction.  The office will be established as soon as proper provision can be made for it.

     The people of Callanan and Ellsworth, realizing that it will be impossible to maintain two offices within the distance between the two points, are petitioning the department to establish an office at Ellsworth which it will be pretty sure to do.   We are informed that the citizens of Callanan are very generally in favor of this move, as they are pretty well satisfied that Jewell Junction and Ellsworth together will pretty much absorb their town in the near future.

<----  The Toledo and Northwestern Railway Schedule
printed in the same paper includes this sentence:

 The 8:00 A.M. train south from Webster City connects by transfer at Ellsworth with the Des Moines Division of the T & N W R.R., leaving Callanan at 10:15, reaching Ames at 11:20 A.M., transferring to Ellsworth at 1:29, and arriving in Webster City at 2:00 P.M.

Trains run daily except Sundays.

         This article from the April 21, 1880 Hamilton Freedom newspaper mentions the nearby early settlement called Callanan.

     Callanan seems to be improving some this spring, not withstanding the conflicting "hopes and fears" in relation to the exact location of the Toledo & Northwestern R.R. line through Lyon and Lincoln townships.   The town has a fine country to draw from, and has already built up a good business.   We can only wish our sprightly little neighbor the best of luck in the future.

Some of the early residents of Ellsworth had served in the Civil War.

This full list of Ellsworth's veterans can be seen in the History Room of the Library.


First child born in Ellsworth

    This photo of a 16 year old girl shows the first child born in the Ellsworth area.  Laura Igou was born on February 29, 1880.  She was a grandchild of Luther and Cynthia Lakin.  She was the daughter of Milton and Nancy (Lakin) Igou.  Laura later married John Peterson, and the two were parents of Ruth Peterson (later Mrs. Arnold Sheldahl), and Mildred Peterson (later Mrs. Fred Caudle).

1880 - The Millinery Shop

     The Millinary Shop building was in one of the first structures moved to Ellsworth in 1880.   It was located where the Public Library now stands.  It was operated by Marie Vikingstad (Mrs. George Peterson).   A Photography shop was on the second floor.

Ladies in the Millinery Shop


     The Ellsworth 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.  That General Store business had been moved to Ellsworth from Callanan.  Ringstad became the first postmaster.  He also served as the first mayor and the first Justice of the Peace.

1881 Blacksmith Shop

click to enlarge

After the Callanan depot was moved to Ellsworth, the next building to be moved into the new town of Ellsworth was the L. R. Bjelde Blacksmith Shop, which had come from Lakin's Grove in 1881.

L. R. Bjelde operated this Wagon Shop, and did what the sign suggests, Horse Shoeing.
He was associated with Peter Ryberg for many years.


    The first Declaration Day in Ellsworth was in 1883.   May 30th was called Declaration Day for years.   John A. Logan named and dedicated it to the soldiers of the Civil War.   Mr Logan was the first commander of the G.A.R. soon after the close of the war.   The first Declaration Day in Ellsworth had a story behind it.

    Ellsworth was a couple of years old as was also big brother Jewell, only three miles west.  Somebody suggested that the two little communities have a joint program in a grove in the afternoon.   Each could decorate their own graves in the morning.   Jewell's choice was a grove much closer to them, but the little town of Ellsworth bristled up with "not that far from us.   We can have our own program."   And they have had their own ever since.   It was held in the cemetery as was the custom in early days.   No place in town would be large enough.

     Ellsworth has been blessed with citizens who have worked to keep this custom alive.   The activities of the Memorial Day celebration have changed over the years but the reason to celebrate is still much the same.


1885 - Building a School

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(image may be clicked to enlarge)

    After the building of homes and the churches, the pioneers were eager to build a school in the community.  Ellsworth Public School was soon established and in full operation.   The frst public school had two parts to the two-story frame school house building; the front part of the school house was built during the period 1885 to 1890 with the first floor room used for primary grades while the second floor had the grammar grades.   The back part of the schoolhouse was built in 1900, and was used by the upper grades.   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 (along Dephi St. where the homes now located at 1724 Delphi Street and 1728 Delphi Street stand).

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Students standing in front of Ellsworth's first school

See other photos of this early school and a map showing where in Ellsworth it was located.



     In 1931, an older newspaper was brought into the Ellworth newspaper office.  The text below was published as an article in The Ellsworth News on December 16, 1931, and is a wonderful glimpse back at Ellsworth in 1897.

     You may click to view that article, complete with the newspaper heading which shows the name of the publisher and the rate of subscription and more.  You may need to click the image to see it full size for easy reading.

Or you may just read the text seen below this sentence.

Thirty-Four Years Ago

     The Ellsworth News is indebted to Mrs. Scott M. Brinton for a copy of The Ellsworth Chronicle dated June 3, 1897 - over 34 years old.  We cannot think of anything better to give our readers this week that to reprint some of the articles from this old newspaper.   The Chronicle was published by A. J. Digerness, who later moved the Chronicle equipment to Thor, Iowa.   The News then took its place as the local newspaper in Ellsworth.

There are some very interesting items from the old Chronicle (remember the date is June 3, 1897):

     The political season was on in full swing.   Those announcing for office were J. O. Lenning for representative, M. H. Brinton for state senator, O. J. Miracle for county treasurer, E. I. Johnson of Williams for county treasurer.

     They had a state fair that year.  Here is what The Chronicle says: "There will be no railroad collision at the state fair this year; but, instead, the managers are endeavoring to get the airship which is now the attraction at the Tennessee Exposition and is a decided success.   If the airship don't bring the crowd to Des Moines, what will?"

     The Chicago & Northwestern Railway through here was a regular railroad in those days.   They had two passenger trains and three scheduled freights each way each day -- including Sunday.   Some different from now days when the lone toonerville bawls her way through the city in the quiet hours of the morning.

Here are a few of the advertisers of the year of 1897:

J. O. Ringstad, Justice of the Peace.
W. Williams, Carpenter and Builder.
B. H. Thompson, Jewell, Attorney at law.
A. N. Boeye, Attorney at law, Webster City.
Wamback & Richard, Attorneys, Webster City.
Dodge & Baker, Granite and marble monuments, Webster City.
Hyatt & Hyatt, Attorneys at law, Webster City.
W. J. Biernatzki, exchanges of all kinds of property, Webster City.
R. L. M. Thomas, physician and surgeon, Ellsworth.
N. H. Lakin, auctioneer, Ellsworth.
Erick Christian, auctioneer, Ellsworth.
G. W. Miller, dry goods and groceries, Ellsworth.
S. G. Johnson & Co., shoes and hosiery, Ellsworth.
Price & Palmer, hardware, Ellsworth.
B. L. Willis Lumber Co., all kinds of building material, Ellsworth.
Wm. M. Hoffman, windmills, Ellsworth.
C. D. Knapp & Co., drugs and sundries, Ellsworth.
S. G. Johnson, furniture and undertaking; W. S. Keyser, salesman; Ellsworth.
Olaus Hanson, carpenter and builder, Ellsworth.

Following are news items taken from the Chronicle:

     Erick Christian has had a booming business selling lamp black by aid of the newly invented lung tester.   An innocent looking tinbox with a tube through it and a small windwill on top is handed to the unsuspicious victim and he is told to simply blow in the tube and to make the mill run.   But that infernal box is provided with aa good supply of lamp black which is thrown quickly and surely into the face of the victim and the stronger his lungs, the blacker his face will be.   It follows that the box is more correctly a temper tester as any victim is very apt to display some of his good or bad tember after being victimized.

Wm. Hoffman has a new ad in this issue.  He, too, sells windmills, but they are minus the lamp black attachment.

Joe Olson took in the sights at Finn's Opera house Monday eve, at Radcliffe.

Lewis Lyders spent Sunday at home and returned to the college the next day.

     Luther Lakin informs us that there will be a Grand Celebration at Lakin's Grove on July 5th.
Born to Mr. and Mrs. O. M. Lyders last Friday, a girl of standard weight and fineness.  All well.
Mrs. Emma Bordahl of Marshalltown is spending a few days with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. Thoreson.

Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Keyser came down from Alden Monday and visited with Mr. and Mrs. S. G. Johnson.   Their daughter Daisy accompanied them home the next day.

     Frank Fetter has accepted a position with the Inter State Elevator Co., as their agent at Radcliffe and has already commenced work.   Frank is a genuine hustler for business and will surely make it interesting for the other grain dealers.

     Miss Cena Valure is home from Webster City for a two weeks rest.   Cena was lucky enough to obtain a fine new ladies bicycle for only 50 cents and is with the other ladies of our town enjoying the healthy and delightful exercies of bicycle riding whenever the condition of the street and roads permit.

     Henry Ringler had a novel experience Saturday eve when out driving.   He suddenly discovered a hot box in the buggy and he stepped out to cool it.   In this he made a serious blulnder by not obtaining the teams consent to the stoppage and they concluded to try and bring the rig home without a driver, and they did, but there was not much left of the buggy, as top, cushions, etc., were gone and even the running gear was badly bruised.   Iver Spilde is endeavoring to set things aright in the repair shop.

O. O. Lenning has a fine new picket fence in front of his residence which is a decided improvement.
W. S. Samis has sold his residence to Mrs. Anna Severson and moved to Ira H. Olson's place, 2 miles east of town.

K. Linseth has erected a fine new picket fence on the south side of his fine residence and it improves the appearance of that street greatly.

L. G. Waggoner, our genial station agent, reports a new time card on the Northwestern which took effect last Sunday.

     Prof. E. E. Farnsworth and Miss Belle Cole closed a very successful term of school last Friday and are now enjoying their summer vacation.   The Prof. is staying with his brother George while Miss Cole is visiting her brother, our Co. Sup., at Webster City.

A new sidewalk is being laid on main street south of the Congregational Church in Jewell.

The market prices for farm produce this week are: Corn, 12 to 13 cents; oats, 12 and 13 cents; eggs, 7 cents; butter, 8 to 14 cents; hogs, $3.00 to $3.20; cattle, $2.00 to $4.50.

News item: "Basket leaves for laundry, June 15th and 29th."  In those days one laundry basket every two weeks was sufficient for this town, and nowadays there are from two to twenty laundry wagons in town every day.   Gee, we must be clean!

Y. L. C. program at the Lutheran Church, in Norwegian, for June 6, 1897, was as follows: 

Song, audience
devotion, O. O. Lenning
song, choir
reading, Tom Lenning
recitation, G. O. Prescott
reading, Sam Knudson
reading, Minnie Olson
speech, A. A. Haarklau
song, choir
recitation, Martin Lyders
instrumental music, Mrs. B. P. Holt
reading, Paul Kalvig
address, Rev. Satherlie
song, audience.

     The Ellsworth News is sure that its readers have enjoyed this glimpse into the past, and if there are any other old papers in the vicinity, the publisher will be pleased to reprint items from them.


1898 ROBBERY of the STATE BANK of Ellsworth

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     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

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     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.   There were no lives lost, but a great deal of damage to railroad property was done.

Ellsworth is seen on a 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 (look at the bottom) connected North through Gilbert Station, Story City, Randall, Callanan, and Jewell Junction as you go north.   (Ignore the name Lake Cen., and ignore the dot to the left of the word Callanan.   Realize that the dot to the right of the name Callanan indicates its location back in 1878.)   Then look to the East of Jewell Jc., where you can find Ellsworth.   Ellsworth was nearly 20 years old at the time of this map. 

So this map is not quite accurate for the year 1899, for Callanan was gone, and was no longer on the railroad track at the time of this 1899 map.   During the time Callanan existed, the railroad actually turned east a bit to cross the Skunk River and go nearly one quarter mile up the slope to enter Callanan.   That's where the railroad from Ames ended.  Three years later, the railroad converted from narrow gauge to standard gauge and curved a bit west to head for Jewell Junction as the map shows.   The railroad no longer crossed the Skunk River.

     Perhaps this small error explains why the map's broken "Callanan dot" looks west of the Skunk River.   Notice the vague colors and eliminated portion of the right side of theCallanan dot and that unseen portion of the Skunk River.   The map-maker must have blurred the portions that were no longer accurate.


 - 1899 issue of the ELLSWORTH CHRONICLE - 

Click to see advertisements

Click the above image to see advertisements in the October 26, 1899 issue of the Ellsworth Chronicle.

Older homes still standing in Ellsworth:

1221 Delphi, built in 1900 

1425 Delphi, moved to Ellsworth 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

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