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   It has been stated in several historical references Ellsworth was named after a railroad official or surveyor who had helped to survey the right of way through this territory.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

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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.



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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