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Walnut, Iowa History


Any references to "today" are accurate up to May 2021.

1846 - Iowa joins the Union as the 29th state.

1847 - Pottawattamie County is established.

1853 - General Grenville Dodge leads the first railroad survey party across Iowa, planning a road from Davenport to Council Bluffs.

1853 - Council Bluffs is incorporated, formerly Kanesville.

1853 - The Mississippi and Missouri Railroad becomes the first chartered railroad in Iowa.

1855 - The M&M begins building its rail at Davenport west.

1855 - U.S. Bounty Land Warrant #13745 is issued to Nancy Devin, widow of Private Robert Devin, Pittsylvania County, Virginia, 14th Virginia Infantry Regiment, 1777-1780.  Bounty covers 160 acres - the SE 1/4 of section 9, Township 77, which covers the east half of the future town of Walnut.

We are not aware of who was granted the western half of the town.

1856 - In an application to the Council Bluffs land office, Daniel H. Noe "locates" Devin's land warrant, applies for and is granted ownership of same.  Local land abstracts state that Devin assigned this warrant to Noe.  Nancy Devin dies in 1858.  Much of eastern Pott County is at this time still uninhabited by "European" settlers .  Council Bluffs population is 2,011 in 1860, and Omaha's is 1,600.

1856 - Iowa receives a grant of land from the federal government for the purpose of building a railroad.  The M&M RR is granted 774,000 acres from this grant, to cover six sections of land on either side of the line.  The land is to be sold to private individuals in order to finance the building of the road.

1866 - The Chicago & Rock Island line merges with the M&M to form the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad (CRIPRR).

1869 - The Walnut Creek Station location is reached by the CRIPRR.  Council Bluffs is reached on May 11th that year, so it is estimated that Walnut's origin is April of 1869.  Walnut Station's first railroad agent is B.F. Bixby.

1870 - Benjamin F. (Frank) Allen purchases 80 acres of the bounty land grant (or half) from Daniel Noe for $500. 

1870 - Dr. Marcellus Cephas Phinney, builds a shack on Pearl Street just west of Central Street.  He is purportedly Walnut's first resident, and acted as physician, minister, druggist and horse trader.  He was appointed in 1870 as our first postmaster.  Conflicting information has him established in the area in 1863, and that he was the one that gave Walnut Station its name. 

1870 - Enoch R. Hinckley arrives at Walnut Station from Atlantic and opens a land agency.  He is our first land agent, banker, marshall, justice of the peace, and cattle buyer.  However, he does not stay long, leaving the territory by 1884.  His first sales of land are to A.H. Bliss, superintendent of the Great Western Telegraph line, and to S.A. Sleeper, 100 acres each.

1871 - Allen surveys and plats the original town.  

1871 - The first child born in Walnut is a boy, to Mr. and Mrs. M.D. Holcomb.

1871 - The first building of consequence is built by Hinckley, which would become the Central House, a restaurant and hotel situated just north of the Exchange Bank (not yet built).  It would burn down in 1887.

1871 - Brothers Oscar and Leander Lodge open a general merchandise store at the NW corner of Pearl and Central streets.  Under several different owners and names, it endures as Walnut's Corner Store for 91 years, until the passing of Raymond Wolf in 1962.

1872 - The first CRIPRR depot is built.

1872 - The first school classes are held in Burmeister Hall, one block west of Central St on Atlantic St.  The location though is not certain.  Burmeister would not build his hotel at that location until 1890.  The first teacher is Miss Jennie Hall.  Conflicting information - the Avoca Delta in 1876 reports that Miss Etta Woodhouse  was the first teacher, and class was held in a small room owned by Oscar Lawrence.  No date is given.

1873 - Layton Township is formed.  It was formerly part of Knox Township (Avoca), and also included what later became Lincoln Township to the south.

1873 - The first election is held in Walnut, to name Township officials.

1873 - Dr. Frank Hanna opens his medical practice in Walnut, which endures for the next 63 years.

1874 - The Avoca Delta reports that Walnut's Strawberry Festival is a fine occasion, held at Snyder Hall (NE corner of Central and Highland), which "echoed to the sound of joyous revelry".

1874 - Our steam flouring mill is erected on west Pearl Street, south of the Pacific Street intersection, by Bernethy & Shinn.  It has many owners and operates under many different names, but eventually becomes the Walnut Milling Company, operated by George Eroe and M. Peatt,and then Charles Spangler, and produces "Fancy Patent Flour", turning out 100 bags a day with customers as far away as England and Scotland.

1874 - The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry opens a branch in Walnut called the Eureka GrangeMilton B. Frisbie is worthy master of the group.  The Grange is a national organization to promote agriculture, and is still in existence today.  Walnut's branch is not mentioned in print after 1876.

1874 - The Avoca Delta reports that Walnut Station now boasts about 300 inhabitants, up from 5 total in 1871, 50 in 1872, and 100 in 1873.

1874 - Oswald Bruce opens his drug store in Walnut, at first with a partner named Dalrymple.  A civil war veteran, he would go on to be elected to our first city council, and operate his store for the next 40 years.

1874 - St. Patrick's Catholic Church is built at the very east end of Highland Street.  It is Walnut's first church edifice.

1874 - The Exchange State Bank is established by E.R. Hinckley.  He would sell out to J.H. Henry in 1880.

1875 - The curious case of Christianson and Frum is tried in Walnut.  The Christianson married couple, who lived northwest of Walnut, was charged with black-mailing their boarder, Frum, into payments because of accusations of intimacy with Mrs. Christianson.  When he didn't pay up after the second payment demanded, Mr. Christianson attacked Frum with a hatchet, creating nine large cuts on his head and breaking his skull in two places.  Frum did recover, and the Christiansons were acquitted of blackmail in district court in Council Bluffs on lack of evidence.

1875 - Our first school is built at a cost of $5,000.  After one year, it becomes a graded school (as opposed to township schools, which were ungraded and usually one-room), and was known as the Independent School District, City of Walnut, Pottawattamie County, Iowa.  The first teacher is Miss Kate Williams.

1875 - Walnut's cemetery is officially opened, 1/2 mile east of town, named the Layton Township Cemetery.  Burials occurred beginning in 1873 - the first being Mary Elizabeth Scribner Alfred.

1875 - Barney Dunn, a hired hand from north of Avoca, is shot and killed by Walnut's marshall E.R. Hinckley, after an attempted arrest on suspicion of stealing a horse.  He was buried in the Lawton cemetery, in the very southeast corner, in an unmarked grave.

1876 - Frank Allen, the millionaire from Des Moines who owns much of the unsettled part of Walnut, goes bankrupt.  His holdings revert to the public trust, and many in town are negatively impacted by the uncertainty of titles and the calling of mortgages.

1876 - The first game of base ball is played between Walnut and Avoca, with Avoca winning 36 to 18.

1876 - The Presbyterian Church is built on Central Street.  It still stands today.

1876 - Walnut's first patents are granted by the US Patent Office, two for novel grasshopper catcher designs, and one for an improved fence post.  Finley Benson and Elisha Kenworthy are the grasshopper catcher patent owners, and Luke Lightfoot is the fence post patent owner.

1877 - Walnut is incorporated as a city October 12th.  Our first mayor is W.H. Linfor.  The corporate limits are the lots adjoining Pleasant and School Streets on the north, South Street on the south (was south of depot), County Street (now Country St) on the east, and Pacific Street on the west.

1878 - The Walnut News is first published, edited by A.P. Cramer.

1878 - The Walnut Germania Verein, or German Society, is formed.

1878 - Oscar Lodge builds a large house on north Central street.  It still stands today, just south of the Catholic Church.  He sold this house to the Boiler family in 1900.  It stood on 4.5 acres of land at the time.

1879 - Dr. Hanna builds a large house on Central street on the lot just north of the school.  It still stands today.

1879 - The John A. Dix post 13 of the Grand Army of the Republic is formed in Walnut, consisting of honorably discharged soldiers mostly from the Civil War.  Post 13 is the first of three post numbers used by the John A. Dix post.

1879 - The city council orders the building of board sidewalks all along the downtown blocks.

1880 - The official 1880 census shows Walnut with a population of 733, Layton Twp 753, and Lincoln Twp 628.

1880 - Walnut's first water works are completed at a cost of $1,500, to include a well, pump, tank and windmill.  The well, dug at a depth of 50', is located on the NE corner of Walnut and School streets, and the 16' tank placed on the school grounds.  Property owners provide the funding for pipes and hydrants.

1880 - Walnut's Volunteer Fire Department is organized.  The first engine, with hand-operated pumps, is purchased at a total cost of $500.  This company is  disbanded, and reorganized in earnest after the fire of 1881.

1880 - A two-story addition is completed at the city school house.

1881 - Walnut's first downtown fire breaks out, destroying the entire west side of the downtown block.  16 buildings are lost, and $40,000 worth of property.

1881 - James Harrison Henry, using bricks produced in a kiln he built in Walnut, builds the Exchange Bank building on the NE corner of Pearl and Central streets.  The kiln is fired with corn, which was cheaper than coal, and is situated at the very east end of Pearl Street in a field later owned by Jurgen Koos, a dairy farmer.  The building still stands today.  Many of the business buildings on the west side of the downtown block destroyed by the 1881 fire are rebuilt from this local brick.

1883 - New editor F.T. Shepherd changes the name of the Walnut News to the Walnut Bureau.

1883 - Seiffert and Wiese, a Davenport-based company, purchases the lumber yard on Highland Street from B. Lamson.  Their new dry shed is built in 1894.  Wiese sells out his interest to Seiffert in 1903.  Seiffert is in business in Walnut until 1959, when its local yard is purchased by the Fullerton Lumber Company of Minneapolis.  The building still stands today as an antique mall.

1884 - German Halle is built south of the school by the local German Club.  It was an Opera House, and later became the home to American Legion Post #422.  It was razed in 1959.

1884 - Ring Ride Day is first referenced in the Walnut Bureau.  This was a German festival, and was the forerunner of Sauerkraut Days / Fall Festival / Fun Days in Walnut.

1884 - A large brick two-story building is built on the NW corner of Highland and Central streets by J.B. Johannsen and the Carstensen brothers Peter and Ingwer.  It would later house the German Bank, and still stands today as the home of Marne-Elk Horn Telecommunications Co. and Rolling Hills Bank.  It is the only building in Walnut on the National Register of Historic Places.

1886 - Carstensen's Reversible Steel Tooth Harrow is granted a patent, and is manufactured in Walnut for many years.

1887 - Walnut experiences two large fires, one in August which was south of the downtown block and took out an elevator, several other buildings, and the CRIPRR depot, and another in November which destroyed eight buildings on the east side of Central downtown.

1887 - A new depot is constructed in December to replace the previous one, a victim of fire.  It is similar in size to the old one, but placed 200 feet to the west as was requested by the town's citizens, so that Central street may eventually be extended south out of town.

1887 - The bicycle craze catches on in Walnut.  W.E. Fraser becomes the first to own a bicycle in town.

1887 - N.H. "Harvey" Lewis opens a harness shop in Walnut.  He would go on to operate this business until selling out in 1944.

1888 - Elizabeth Corey is born on a farm 7 1/2 miles northeast of Walnut.  She would go on to fame as her thousands of letters sent back to her Shelby County family wrote of her life as a homesteader and teacher in rural South Dakota, using the pen name Bachelor Bess.  These letters would be compiled by the University of Iowa Press, and produced two books.  Her younger brother Paul became a noted author.  Her books are still in print today.

1888 - The Methodist Church is built at the NE corner of Central and Summit streets.  It is now an apartment building, after being renovated in 1955.

1889 - Commencement exercises are held for the city high school's first graduating class.

1891 - A second addition is made to the city school house, adding an east wing.

1891 - Herman Moritz begins his meat market business in town, operating it continuously for the next 53 years.  It was located where the Legion Hall sits today.

1892 - Walnut's fourth major fire takes out an elevator on the south side of the downtown block.

1892 - Arnold Jacobsen is born in Walnut.  He would go on to reach the rank of Major General in the U.S. Marines, and become commanding officer of all Marine Corps supply units during World War II.  His family moves away from Walnut by 1900.

1893 - The German Bank is organized, and would later change its name to American Bank, and then American State Bank.  Today the Rolling Hills Bank occupies this same location.

1895 - The Citizens Bank is organized as a new bank in Walnut by the Burke brothers (Edward and William).  It was located where the current city hall stands, and went out of business in 1918.

1896 - Another fire destroys 16 buildings on the east side of the downtown block, north from the post office and east on Highland Street to the alley.

1896 - Walnut's new waterworks system is completed, to include a 100' standpipe located east of the schoolhouse.  The cost of the work exceeds $11,000.

1897 - New gasoline-fueled street lamps are installed, 24 in all, throughout town.  The cost to burn them each night is 30 cents total.

1897 - The first mention of Walnut's high school football team appears in the Walnut Bureau, a 6-0 win over Avoca.

1898 - The first Pottawattamie County Fair is held at Avoca, the last county in the region to hold a fair.  It changes to the East Pottawattamie County Fair in 1938, when Council Bluffs hosts the West Fair.

1898 - The German Evangelical Lutheran Church is built at the SE corner of Walnut and School streets.  It later becomes the Peace United Church of Christ.

1899 - The Opera House is built just north of the Exchange Bank building, spearheaded by the local post of the International Order of Odd Fellows.  It still stands today. 

1899 - Christian Kaus of Walnut becomes the first Walnut son killed during war time, while serving in the Filipino Insurrection following the Spanish-American War.  His death is caused by malaria while aboard a ship in the harbor at Yokohama, Japan.

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