The News From Dysart – First Two Weeks of February 1914

The News From Dysart - First Two Weeks of February 1914

City News

At a regular monthly meeting the Town Council reviewed a number of applications for the position of Superintendent of the Eclectic Light Plant. W.D Crowl was hired at a salary of $76.00 per month. George Geyer was hired as night man and will continue his position as Marshall. He will draw a salary of $75.00 per month. Mr Crowl has been at work doing electrical work since last November. He is a young man who came here from Chicago. Mr. Geyer has been in the employment of the city for seven years. Mr. Geyer will be performing the task of meter reading and collecting fees which he will deposit with Mr. Irvin Moeller at the Dysart Savings Bank. Residents who pay their fee before the 10th of the month will recieve a 10% discount on their bill. The electrical engineer will be in town next week to test the equipment. The planned date for opening the plant is February 18.


Business News

House Beautiful 1914

House Beautiful 1914

John Mowery is working on a proposal to supply Dysart people with ice at retail during the coming summer. His plan is to deliver by team every day, as Dysart currently has no ice dealer.

Farm News

Shroeder & Goken shipped eleven cars of cattle to the market. Carloads were received from Henry Fischer, E.N Riddlesbarger, August Jansen, Henry Siemens, Dengler and Schreck, Lorenz Lorenzen, Albert Witt, Rudolf Siemens and Ben Lorenzen.

G. J. Monroe purchased a yearling filly from W. H. Bechtold, of Breese, Illinois and had the colt shipped here last week by express. Mr. Monroe believes he has added a fine animal to his bunch of fine horses.

T. B. Grain Co & Marsau shipped nine carloads of hogs from Dysart last week. They received carload lots from H.P. Jensen, John and Ed Powell, Dan Rinker, Peter Untiedt, Frank Bragonier and John Hack.

Dave Reddick shipped a load of fine horses from Dysart to Thomas at Waterloo. There were seventeen and he was paid an average of nearly $20 per head.

Wilson Bros. are advertising a closing out sale to be held Febuary 13th. They will sell 21 horses, 74 head of cattle, 100 hogs and their farm machinery.

Social Happenings

Fred Steaffler and his seven-year-old son of Sheyboygan, Wisc., came last week for a visit with Fred's sisters Mrs. Charles (Emma) Burmeister, Mrs. Henry (Wilhelmina) Kusel and Mrs. John (Caroline) Selk. Mr. Steaffler has sold his farm in Wisconsin, and he expects to spend several months here in Dysart.

Mr. and Mrs. Erwin Moeller of Dysart were in Cedar Rapids yesterday. They came to attend the meeting last night of the White Shrine No. 1 an organization recently formed by members of the Eastern Star. Mr. Moeller is cashier of the Dysart Savings bank

Editor's Note: The Order of the White Shrine of Jerusalem started in 1894 in Illinois. The organization continues today, and their website says they provide funding for medical care.

School News

The Senior Class of 1914 is beginning their preparations for graduation. They had several evening meetings where they decorated the the west end of the assembly room in the school colors of black and orange which included a dinner of oyster stew. Their class motto is "Work and Win" They have agreed to perform a modernized version of the Merchant of Venice as their Senior Class play in April.

Iowa State Gazetteer and Business Directory

Iowa State Gazetteer and Business Directory

Some of the students have been out looking at colleges for post-graduation. Dewey Thiele recently traveled to Waterloo explore the Waterloo College of Commerce where he may go to improve his salesmanship skills. Jane Heinrich has gone on a visit to Iowa Falls where she is considering going after graduation.
Editor's Note: For more information on the Waterloo Business College, you can visit:


In what may have served as inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock, a female teacher in Wales was recently attached by a hawk which flew in through an open window in her classroom. The bird was clinging to her blouse and was only dislodged with difficulty when a male teacher came to her rescue. The bird is now in a cage in one of the classrooms.



John Kavalier formerly employed as a section hand at Chelsea, Vining and Elberon, died at the home of his sister, Mrs. John Ash, in Dysart last week. He had been living with his sister for the past couple of years due to illness and had been seriously sick for several months. He was bedfast for only two weeks. Yellow jaundice was the cause.

John Kavalier was born in Bohemia in 1871. He came to America with his parents when he was six years old and settled with them near Vining, Iowa. He was married in 1895 to Mary Korble who died six years ago on the 8th of February. He was very superstitious about that date and stated to friends that if he could live till then he felt that he would get well. But he had not the strength to live till that date. Born to this union are the sons, George and Albert. When he was first married, he lived at Chelsea where he worked on the section. From there he moved to Vining and then to Elberon, continuing his section work at those places. He was at that work for about thirteen years. After his wife died, he has been making his home around Dysart with his relatives and working for those that needed his help.

Mr. Kavalier was well known among the farmers in this vicinity. He was a willing worker and those that have been used to his help will miss him greatly. Tuesday morning, a short prayer was made at the John Ash home by A. R. Kepple and the body was taken to Elberon where the funeral was held at the Methodist church. The services were conducted by Rev. Powell, of the Evangelical church of Vining, the same minister that conducted the services over the body of the mother of the two orphan boys. Interment was made in the National cemetery, five miles southwest of Elberon.


Neighbors Protecting Neighbors

Neighbors Protecting Neighbors

Fire Protection in The Early Years

"Neighbors noticed that the home of Mrs. Martin Kerner was afire and the fire bell was rung. The company was called out but when the men got there some of the neighbors had nearly extinguished the fire with water buckets. The fire was caused by a faulty flue and had not been noticed by the family until their neighbors sounded the alarm. Not much damage was done. The Reporter states that the fire company was on hand with hose carts and the men were in their places as they had practiced. This was only the second fire since a new system was put in place and in both instances the homes had not sustained much damage. It is reported that there are thirty men in the fire department. The officers are: Chief John Keel, Secretary Iver Shupe (1871-1957), and Treasurer Ed Schmidt. (1887-1981). " Dysart Reporter February 12, 1914

This was not Dysart's first experience with fire, and it would not be the last. In February of 1875 a fire had broken out at the large elevator of Brown, Doty, and Company and destroyed much of the building and contents. This fire was fought by town residents and also several farmers who lived close to town. Although the building had been insured, the contents which belonged to several areas farmers was not. It was estimated at the time to be a loss of between $8,000 and $10,000 to these farmers.

Realizing that a fire on the Main Street would quickly spread and devour all the businesses at once, the city organized a hook and ladder company in 1878. A hook and ladder company tears part of the structure down while it is on fire in order to contain the spread of that fire. They have no other equipment available to them.

Dysart Firemen

In July of 1882, the Traer Star Clipper reported that a massive fire in Dysart that claimed six businesses. "About 3 o'clock in the morning a bright blaze was noticed in Manrid & Haney's Drug Store, by a gentleman who was watching the sick. He quickly gave the alarm and a crowd was soon on the scene working valiantly - women included - but the fire had become too strong a force to be controlled." The drug store burned down. The wind was from the south. The building next to it on the north was made of bricks so between the wind and the bricks, that building was spared. However, on the south side stores caught fire one after another until four had been consumed. The buildings included a saloon belonging to William Seefield; a grocery belonging to Mrs. Horton and occupied by Sult and Company. the Welcome Mowry's Store occupied by Pinkerton Drug Store, and a meat market, A barber shop was pulled down to save other buildings. A livery stable on the west side of the street caught fire and burned. This belonged to Joseph Furrow. The horses were rescued but three sleighs were destroyed. The wooden addition to Federson's store was burned and his good damaged. The total loss was estimated at $20,000. The Star Clipper concluded, "They have no fire protection whatsoever, and it was only by hard work (of the citizens) that the fire was finally checked. Most of the stores will be rebuilt, some of brick." A Remington Fire Engine was purchased in 1883.

Remington Fire Engine

In 1886 bylaws were established and the company was named the "Pioneer Engine Company". At first, the fire engine was pulled to the location of the fire and the water was pumped by hand from cisterns which were located around town. The machine was pumped by three or four men on each side of the machine similar to a hand car on the railroad. There were two cisterns on Main Street, one by the schoolhouse, one by the elevators and at several other places. A prize of $5.00 was given to the first team that got to the engine and got hitched up. The work was so hard that one team could only stand to pump for a few minutes at a time.

After a citywide water system was created, small hose carts were used which were pulled by teams of men and the races to see which team would arrive at a fire first continued. In 1887, a report to the city indicated the Pioneer Engine Company had the following equipment: One horse, one hand power Remington Engine with two suctions and two horses and six hand levers. Also one axe, two sledges, four iron stakes, two spanners, four braces, two chains, two wrenches, one lamp, one oil can, two sec. whiffletrees (pivoted swinging bar to which the traces of a harness are fastened and by which a vehicle or implement is drawn) and one neck yoke.

Dysart's First Fire Department

In 1889, the fire department was reorganized and became the Dysart Fire Department. Membership was limited to 40 members: 18 assigned to Engine Force, 12 to hose and 10 to hook and ladder. In that same year, they were able to purchase a Running Cart.

In 1890, a second big fire occurred in April. This fire was also reported in the Traer Star Clipper. "Our sister town of Dysart was visited by a disastrous fire early Sunday morning, which laid waste to the greater portion of one side of the main business block. In a reprint from the Dysart Reporter, "Sunday morning between 12:30 and 1:15 o'clock fire was discovered in the restaurant of Mrs. Weigle, a widow lady. The fire had gained such headway that nothing was saved from the building, the occupants having barely time to escape with their lives. From the restaurant the fire spread both north and south. On the south were J. T. Drayton's Jewelry Store and J. T. Kranbuehl's Furniture Store, which were soon enveloped in flames. Much goods were saved from these two buildings, though in a considerably damaged condition. Adjoining the restaurant on the north was Marsau's Meat Market, from which nothing was saved due to close proximity to the origin of the fire. Following the meat market, four more building succumbed to the devouring element - Mrs. Julia Duncan's dressmaking establishment, Joseph Furrow's Meat Market, lately leased to H.W. Lahmon; Stewart & Drayton's Harness Shop, Cody & Wench's Millinery establishment, and J. Kullmer's Clothing House." Most of the goods in these buildings were removed, although much was damaged. By the time the flames reached the Kullmer building the good work of the fire company and bucket brigade had the fire well under control. Had the water supply been sufficient the loss might not have been so great. "The fire department fought the fire heroically and are deserving of much credit....Three hours had wrought a disastrous work, and the Sabbath morning dawned on the smoldering embers of nine business houses and the homes of several families." The loss added up to about $12,000. Most the businesses had no insurance.

In 1918, the use of chemicals was added to the arsenal of tools the Fire Department had available to fight fires and improved their efficiency. This had the capacity to carry 45 gallons, claiming to be equal to 18,000 gallons of water, and could force a stream of chemicals 80 feet into the air.

In 1920, a new fire truck was purchased and a telephone system of alerting firefighters was add. Previous to this the department was dependent on a bell system. The first motorized fire truck was purchased in 1929.

The Dysart Rural Fire Company was organized in 1932 and each member was assessed a fee of $10 so they could purchase a fire engine. Moving forward from 1931 both departments progressed in their methods and purchase of equipment. They joined forces in 1963 when they jointly purchased a Ford Econoline truck. The present day Community Fire Station was opened in 1969.

Dysart Fire Department Shield

As a child growing up in a small town in the 1960s and 1970s, our firefighters were integral to so many area of our lives. They contributed heavily to the sense of safety that we enjoyed as children. They not only protected us from fires, but they guarded us from the weather by spending long hours out in the country watching for tornados. They responded to emergencies of all kinds and manned our ambulance service. They were the first ones out after storms and sounded all clear when it was safe for the rest of us to venture out.
They, with the support of their families, offered important social functions through dances and breakfasts and fire safety demonstrations at our schools. I cannot imagine how much time these men and their families sacrificed for all of us.

They practiced their skills by doing controlled burns on abandoned houses which when you are a ten-year-old straddling your stingray bicycle is a pretty big deal in a small town. Sometimes they sponsored contests with other area firefighters where each could hone their craft while still providing entertainment for the rest of us.

They were the good guys. They were present and provided comfort in people's toughest times and they contributed greatly to our corporate celebrations. They drove their trucks in parades and lit the fireworks on July 4. They were the other adults in your world who you could identify and knew could and would help you if you were in need. Many people have served the town of Dysart over the years as firefighters and first responders. They still do. All of their contributions are noteworthy but to me the term firefighter means Harold, the Dons, Leo, Gordon, the Bobs, Ralph, Terry, Dick, Ray and Steve and many others who added so much to the tapestry of our lives.

The News From Dysart – Last Two Weeks of January 1914

The News From Dysart - Last Two Weeks of January 1914

Top Stories

Electricity Will Soon Start Flowing Throughout Town

The local paper reported that Dysart was soon going to become one of the towns to be favored with electricity, "the force that no man can define, yet which can be used to great advantage." According to "Stepping Stones in Time" in 1901 a hot air engine was placed in the gas plant to manufacture enough gas so all lights could be used at once. In early 1909 the city installed a new boiler for the gas works, to heat the water for mixing with the gas and a notable improvement was realized. The electrical plant construction was approved in 1913 by special election.

In January 1914, the Dysart paper reported that Dysart's citizens has always been "quite energetic" about municipal improvements. The building which was to house the mechanicals needed to generate power was nearing completion at the corner of Tilford and Wilson, just south of the railroad tracks. To the left of the building were the supply tanks which stored the 10,000 gallons of fuel needed to run the engines. The fuel cost the city five and a half centers per gallon and it was believed that two tanks would be needed per year.

The Dysart Reporter gave this account:

In February of 1914 it was reported that Ernest Hix put a concrete floor in the electric power plant. In March, there appears to have been some conflict over the cost of the plant prompting the project manager to write an open letter to the Reporter, clarifying costs. The total cost of the plant was $13,411.44. The plant at first ran 24 hours a day on Tuesday and Wednesday "for the benefit of those using electric irons."

In October the city posted a notice in the Reporter asking that all residents, business and churches turn on all their lights between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. so that the Alamo Engine Works of Omaha could test the engines at the plant.

On December 30, 1915, in a special session of the City Council met to consider the purchase of electric current from the Iowa Railway & Light Company of Cedar Rapids which was approved for the next 20 years. The Council disposed of the local equipment for $3500.

Harold Langbehn

Editor’s Note: When I look at that building, I always think of our old neighbor and longtime city employee, Harold Langbehn. As a child when I passed by, I would always look over to see if I could see him with his signature cap.

Growing Economic Troubles in the Cities Start to Find Their Way to Dysart

"A well-dressed man was put off of a train here Tuesday morning and at noon he was up against the question of something to eat without any money. He started out to get a dinner and was successful after stopping at the fourth place. We talked with the fellow and he said he was on his way from Minneapolis to Kansas City, was a boiler maker by trade and was looking for work. He said that work was harder to get than he had experienced for fifteen years. Men in Minneapolis are being fed through what ar called "soup houses" and stopping at Mason City and a couple of other towns he said everything was shut against outside help and a good bit of the local help. We hpe these hard times in the cities let up soon." Dysart Reporter

Dr. and Mrs. Lames Continue Their Recovery

Dr. and Mrs. G. Lames who were injured in a serious auto accident are recovering. Both are able to be around. Monday, Dr. Lames was taken to Waterloo for x-ray pictures of his fractured arm. The pictures showed a very complicated fracture and dislocation. On Tuesday H.P. Jensen accompanied him to Chicago where Dr. Murphy, one of the greatest surgeons in the world, could fix up the arm.

Business News

Seven car loads of ice were shipped down from Traer this week and the buyers have been unloading it and packing it into their ice houses. Ed Gleim purchased three cars, E.B. White two cars, Charles Santman and John Messer each one car.

Farm News

The train yards have been very busy of late. Several carloads of livestock were shipped recently. Nate Burhenn sent two cars of cattle and a car of hogs, T.B. Grain Co and Marsau a car of hogs, W.C. Heineman a car of cattle, O.J. Smith two cars of cattle. W.C. Heineman and Nate Burhenn accompanied the shipment to Chicago. H.P. Jensen also shipped two cars of cattle to Chicago.

John Hahn, one of the prominent farmers west of Dysart, has rented his farm and sold his stock and machinery to his sons. He and Mrs. Hahn are making plans to travel through the western states this year.

R. B. Allard, who has farmed northeast of town for many years, has decided to sell his farm machinery and household goods and move to Texas. An ad for this sale appears in this paper.

Social Happenings

Bridal Veil - 1914

Benjamin E. Pippert and Marie Schmidt Wed

Dysart's Orphan Train Children

Orphan Train

Copies of Ben and his sibling's story are available by contacting The Dysart Historical Center at

William Struve and Louisa Koepke, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Claus Koepke were married at the German Lutheran parsonage. The bride was born and raised to womanhood here. Mr. Struve is a stock buyer in Elberon. The party came to Dysart in an auto and returned immediately after the ceremony.

"A merry crowd of Bohemian ladies surprised Mrs. Jim Ulrich at her home Saturday evening and had a feather stripping bee and spent a very happy evening."

Editor's Note: One of our readers has provided a link for you to learn more about feather stripping bees. Although this one is from Poland, one would guess it was very similar for the Czechs. : Thank you, Joan

The young son of Mr. and Mrs. Fred luze was baptized and christened a week ago last Sunday. Rev. Christiansen performed the ceremony in the presence of relatives. The boy was named Carl Henry.



Henderson Stock Co. Performs at Opera House

The Henderson Stock Company played all last week at the opera house and enjoyed good crowds. The plays each night was good. Many people went to the opera house on Saturday expecting to see Dora Thorne (a play) but instead a very funny mistaken identity comedy was staged. The crowd seemed well pleased. Mrs. Holtz held the lucky number on the pig which was given away the last night and Albert Miller went on the stage and caught it with as much ease as he would were he in his barnyard. The audience expected to see a lively chase around the house but was disappointed. R. Henderson stated that it was his intention to come back to Dysart in the Spring. Editor's Note: Were they chasing a live pig around the Opera House?


They don't write obituaries like this one anymore....

Rosetta Mae Heath Smith Stoner 12/18/1888-4/22/1980

Editor's Note: William Smith's widow, Etta, was remarried in 1915 to Sylvan Stoner and lived in Dysart under the name of Etta Stoner until her death in 1980. Etta was my neighbor when I was growing up in Dysart and I have written some of my memories about her in another post on this website entitled "I Think I Finally Understand Etta Stoner".


The Heartbreaking Case of the William Kellerhals

The Heartbreaking Case of the William Kellerhals

In late April of 1917 the Des Moines Register reported the recruitment of William M. Kellerhals, a tall, slender, grey-eyed, light haired young man to the U.S. military. According to various records, William's middle name was Morse although in some places it is listed as Morris or Maurice. Born on April 14, 1896, he was just 21 years old at the time of his recruitment.

Draft Card

William's Draft Card

At the time of his recruitment, he was living near Ainsworth, Iowa, a community located between Iowa City and Mt. Pleasant, where he was working on a farm. His parents were living near Noble where his father was a dairyman. His parents were both born in Switzerland. William was born in this country.

He was sent to Camp Pike in Arkansas on July 22, 1918, and later Camp Merrit in New Jersey where he was a member of the 164th Infantry. One might suppose that prior to that time, he had never been much further from his home than fifty miles.


Passenger Manifesto from William's Ship

He shipped out as a private on September 15, 1918, from Hoboken, N.J., bound for France. Less than a month later he was dead, having died of pneumonia in Brest, Finistere, Bretagne, France. In this heartbreaking account from the Iowa Washington County newspaper of November 12, 1918, we learn that William died with three other young men from the same community.

Ira Schantz

Less than 16 months later, on February 18, 1920, the Waterloo Courier sported the following headline:


Booby Prize Car Is Object of Interest While Owner Tarries

"With no thought of notoriety or being the object of curiosity William H. Kellerhals, a former Navy service man whose home is in Sumner, Iowa, ambled into Waterloo last night with the most unique automobile outfit ever seen on the streets. Driving up to the police station he parked his car for the night in front of the city hall. The car is a Petrel, so old dismantled and changed that it is impossible to gain any idea of it origins. The engine has no signs of a hood and there is no radiator. A big vinegar barrel back of the single seat is filled with water which is piped to the engine by a homemade connection of gas pipes running around the chassis. There are no tires on the front wheels but the rear wheels seem pretty well shod. The top was once "tattered" but is now tattered and torn and the whole is paint-less and covered in mud. The outfit would surely win the booby prize at the Waterloo auto show, but the owner said he must hurry on to his destination."

Kellerhals explained that he bought the car at Dysart, Iowa, for $40 and was planning to take it cross country to his home in Sumner, IA. From there he planned to ship it to Montana, where the government has awarded him a soldier's claim. He planned to convert that car into a tractor.


Petrel cars were manufactured from 1908-1909

On February 24, 1920, the Waterloo Courier followed up reporting that the car which was "sans radiator, sans hood, sans tires and sans most everything else of the usual equipment of a motor car", broke down near Denver, Iowa. Mr. Kellerhals had gone on to Sumner by train. "I got stuck with my car eight miles north of Waterloo", he wrote to Srgt. Ed. Burk on a souvenir postcard. " The friction wheels slipped is the reason. I left the car set alongside the road and came the rest of the way on the train."


1920's Waterloo Iowa East 4th Street

The Waterloo Courier followed up once again on February 28, 1920, with this headline:

"Police Try to Solve Mystery of Owner of Famous Petrel Racer"

The coverage of this story in the Courier and Reporter had been seen by William M. Kellerhals' father, Emil, in Noble, Iowa, who became hopeful that perhaps his son who had been reported dead in France, was actually be alive. Emil traveled to Sumner in search of the boy.


By that time, William H. Kellerhals had returned to Waterloo from Sumner and reported "that he had not seen the elder man who had followed him to that place. "Young Kellerhals says he does not know anything about other Kellerhals. When questioned he seems vague in his knowledge of who or where his own father is."

The Courier reported that another effort was going to be made by the police department to get the men who "really may be father and son to meet." The boy had little money and asked to sleep in the station. He was given quarters in the boys' ward. He had secured a job at a local factory with the determination to remain in Waterloo only until he had sufficient funds to take him to Wyoming where he said a government claim awaited him. He was also planning to have the car towed back as soon as he could find someone to get it into running condition. No other information about this incident could be found by this writer.

Nine month later, in November of 1920, Emil Kellerhals was contacted by Army authorities in New York City that his son's body had arrived there and was ready to be shipped back to Iowa as soon as the address was confirmed. His body was initially buried at St. Amand in France. William Kellerhals was given a full military funeral at the Eicher Church near Noble. The local paper reported that the church could scarcely accommodate the crowd of friends and neighbors who attended. Three ministers conducted the service and were assisted by three different American Legion posts.

Kellerhals' Grave

William and Ira Shanks are both buried in Eicher Cemetery in Washington County, Iowa, near the town of Wayland. William left behind his father, Emil; his mother, Mary; and a sister, Margaret. I like to believe that his return home helped the family recover from that momentary hope that he was still alive.

The News From Dysart – Third Week of January 1914

The News From Dysart - Third Week of January 1914

Top Stories

Harry K. Thaw Nearing Release

Papers around the country are once again reporting "that Harry K. Thaw is nearing his freedom. Men who conducted a recent examination declared him not insane and he is now waiting for the court to grant him bail. Some of his friends say that he expects to go into business in Pittsburg. He ought to make a fine lawyer after all the experience he has had through the courts. "

Editor's Note: True crime enthusiasts will likely recognize Harry Thaw's name. In 1906 he shot noted architect Stanford White at Madison Square Gardens in front of hundreds of witnesses. The story captured the nation's attention during this time of yellow journalism fanned by Thaw's wealth, mental illness and his beautiful wife, Evelyn Nesbitt, a young actress of her day. His trial was considered the "Trial of the Century" at the time. He has been the subject of numerous books, articles and podcasts. Follow this link to hear a favorite.


Public Funding For Tuberculosis

Oakdale Sanitorium in Iowa

Oakdale Sanitorium in Iowa

In a reprint, The Dysart Reporter states that during the previous year, nearly $20,000,000 was spent on efforts to treat and prevent TB in the United States. At the time there were five hundred sanitoriums and hospitals throughout the country for this purpose. In Iowa, the expenditure of money was not as large as the Eastern states but a great deal of work was still being done. It quotes, "the Bureau of Tuberculosis has been successful in securing the cooperation of practically every social force in the state, and a vast amount of volunteer work has been carried on, extending in many instances to the most obscure section of the state."


By this time, the state sanatorium at Oakdale was fully operational. Oakdale eventually was absorbed by the city of Coralville. Dr. J.P. Redmond of Dysart was appointed examining physician for the Oakdale sanitorium in this territory by the state board of control. In an article in 1910 he reported that citizens of Dysart who were being treated there were doing well. In 1918 it was reported that Guy Shugart of Elberon had gone to Oakdale to visit his wife.

Editor's Note: These types of separate isolated communities were popular at this time and in the same paper it was announced that land had been secured to build an epilepsy colony in Iowa. This opened in 1917 at Woodward, Iowa.


The Cedar Rapids Gazette published a weekly column on the news from Oakdale including the arrival of new patients and visitor information. For most of the patients Oakdale became their long-term home and functioned as a separate community.

William Taylor 1/15/1858-5/27/1915

William Taylor 1/15/1858-5/27/1915

In the April 15, 1915, edition of the Dysart paper it was reported that the superintendent of the state sanitorium was in Dysart to consult with Dr. Redmond regarding the sickness of William Taylor. It seems reasonable to assume this is the same William Taylor who is buried in the Dysart Cemetery and died in May of 1915. He had farmed northwest of Dysart and left a large family.

Editor's Note: There are several resources available on the internet to learn more about the Oakdale Sanitorium including this one:

The photo for William Taylor is from here:

Dysart City News

E.F. Douglas has been appointed the Acting Postmaster.

Dysart Town Hall - Stepping Stones in Time

Dysart Town Hall - Stepping Stones in Time

Notice from the Mayor's Office: "Owning to erroneous reports instigated by dishonest parties regarding the cost of material for inside electrical wiring I desire to inform the citizens of Dysart that all material is furnished the consumers at a basis of 5% over cost price, except Sunbeam Magda Tungston lamps. The invoices are the town property and open for inspection at the mayor’s office. We will be glad to order flat irons, washing machines and any other electrical devise on same basis. John P. Redmond, Mayor.

Editor's Note:

The Town Hall was established in 1878 under the Town Hall Company. Gore and Hallett used the lower level as their agricultural implement warehouse and the second floor was the town hall. It was located at the corner just west of what was once Wieck's Feed Store on Wilson Street. Stepping Stones in Time

"The Town Council has decided to close the gas plant on completion of the electric lighting system which will be about February 4, 1914. Parties desiring residences or business places connected with electric lights should notify the mayor’s office at once. J.H. Lindeman, Town Clerk"


Electric Lights were anticipated to change the whole town! Main Street "The Great White Way"!

Business News

Tile Yard to Run Full Tilt

Stepping Stones in Time

Stepping Stones in Time

The stockholders of the Dysart Brick & Tile Co. met and elected George Hix, M.S. Barnes and Chas. I Creps as officers. Last summer the stockholders made plans to trade the tile yard for real estate, but the deal never closed and at this meeting they decided to open the yards as soon as spring weather allowed and to run a full force of men. The previous summer the yard only ran about one-third of the time and their stock was quickly sold. Recently the manager had been turning down orders. The stockholders voted to improve some of the equipment and kilns. Up until that point, the plant had employed 7 or 8 men, but the number was going to increase to about 15. The Dysart Brick and Tile Co. it was reported was well known across the state.

Stepping Stones in Time

Stepping Stones in Time

Editor's Note: This was located just west of Dysart Fair Grounds. It was organized in 1890 by George and Ernest Hix who were brothers. They shipped bricks all over the country by railroad. The plant burned out twice. In 1902 fire completely destroyed the plant but it was rebuilt. It was destroyed by fire again in 1927. After this the company was completely dissolved by a vote of the shareholders. Many of Dysart's buildings were made of bricks manufactured at the plant including the Dysart Museum.Stepping stones in time

The stockholders of the First National Bank have elected the following directors: C.P. Federson, E. F. Douglass, F.H. Schmidt, C.J. Schmidt, Herman Schroeder, Henry Eckhart, Theo. Heckt, Dan Lally and W. C. Heineman.

B.H.S. Hardware Co. Has Ford Business

The B.H.S. Hardware Co has contracted for the Ford agency for this vicinity and has already sold two cars, one to Emil Barta and one to James McNamee. They received a car load of cars here the first of the week. The building formerly occupied by the millinery store will be fixed up for a garage and they will keep their car and supplies there.

School News

Chief Red Fox

Chief Red Fox

Chief Red Fox

Chief Red Fox

"Chief Red Fox, of the Sioux tribe and graduate of Carlisle College visited the high school Wednesday and gave an interesting talk about the Indians and their customs. He also gave some of their dances which the little people enjoy very much."

Editor's Note: During the early months of 1914 Chief William Red Fox traveled throughout eastern Iowa performing and lecturing. Between January and March of that year he had performances scheduled in Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Davenport, Greene, Nashua, and Allison. Born in 1870 he was the son of Black Eagle and nephew of Crazy Horse. As a child he witnessed the massacre at Wounded Knee on 6/25/1876. He lived at Fort Yates from 1876-1882. He was removed from his tribe and sent to the Carlisle University (Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania) from which he graduated in 1889. He was recruited by Buffalo Bill and spent several years traveling with his Wild West Show. Later he performed by himself and traveled with his wife who had been a trick rider in the Buffalo Bill show and child as a vaudeville performer. He appeared in several silent movies. He lived to be 105 years old and died in 1976. Chief Red Fox is the author of a book entitled The Memoirs of Chief Red Fox. Throughout his life he continued to perform and lecture on his heritage and sought "to dispel many of the erroneous notions in the brains of the American children regarding the Indian & his characteristics. "

"The DHS. pupils are looking forward to a new gym which they feel sure will be erected soon. "


Another Serious Car Accident

Friday evening word came to town that Dr. Lames and wife were in an auto accident about two and a half miles northeast of town, near Jim Wilson's farm. The accident occurred about 3 p.m. and they were not discovered until about 4 p.m. when some children returning from school saw them. The car had flipped, and both had been ejected from the vehicle. The doctor was pinned under the car. Jim Wilson and his hired man, George Kling, soon came to the rescue and lifted the car off the doctor. Mr. and Mrs. Lames were taken to the Jim Wilson home. Dr. Gessner was notified about the accident and soon went out to care for them and brought them to town in his auto. Both were badly hurt. Mrs. Lames had a broken arm and wrist as well as being badly bruised. Dr. Lames had a broken shoulder, several broken bones in his hand and leg injuries. Dr. Gessner sent for two physicians from Waterloo to assist him and between the three physicians it took three hours to tend to the injuries. They were recovering at home with the help of a nurse who had been sent down from Waterloo.

Editor's Note: Stepping Stones in Time includes a biography of Dr. Lames. A summary of that biography is added here. Dr. G. Lames, was one of Dysart's most respected citizens and a pioneer in veterinarian medicine. He was born in Le Claire, Iowa. As a child, he played with Wild Bill Cody in Le Claire. In 1881, he graduated from Davenport Business College. He moved to South Dakota taking up a land claim which he worked for six years. He graduated from Chicago Veterinary School in 1891. After practicing in Le Claire for one year, he moved to Dysart where he stayed for the rest of his life. When he arrived in Dysart, he only had twenty -five cents in his pocket which he spent for a night's lodging. He had an immense field to be covered by walking, horseback or wagon. He and a veterinarian from Vinton were the only veterinarians for this part of the state. He had no office of his own but worked through the drug store. Because there were no telephones, he could be gone for three or four days without coming home. During that time his wife would not know where he was. He passed away in 1937 and was the father of Harry "Doc" Lames who also served as a veterinarian in Dysart. Stepping Stones in Time


Henderson Stock Co. Scheduled to Perform

The Henderson Stock Co was scheduled to perform at the Opera House. They were to present the latest up-to-date comedies and dramas including a grand scenic and electrical performance of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jeky (Dr. Jekell) and Mr. Hyde.

"At Valley Forge"

To be presented at the Dysart Opera House, a play showing the brave deeds and sstartling episodes relating to a patriotic story of the American Revolution promised to "touch the hearts of the people". The ad promises that the military and civilian costumes worn in the drama are exact reproductions of those worn during the revolutionary period.


The Dysart Reporter printed a beautiful resolution regarding Mrs. Arthur ( Mary E. Cary) Sewall who had recently died after falling from her sleeping porch.

Resolutions of Respect

"Whereas, on the evening of Tuesday, January 6th, 1914, the messenger of death invaded our circle and severed a link from our chain, summoning from time to eternity Mrs. A. Sewall (Mary E. Cary Sewall), one of our most beloved members. We shall never again enjoy her genial companionship and wise council. She was always a willing worker in our circle and we mourn her departure, and her memory will ever be kept fresh and bright in our hearts, as she was loved by all, and therefore be it.

Resolved, that it is with sorrow that we thus part with Mrs. Sewall. We would emulate her virtues and bow in humble submission to the power of one who "Doeth all things well," hoping for a meeting in the great circle of a never-ending eternity, where with hands clasped in hers, we shall take up the link of the chain now severed.

Be it resolved that the sympathy of The Hearthstone Circles go out to the bereaved relatives, and while we fondly cherish the memory of the departed one, we will never forgot those whom she loved.

Be it resolved that we, the members of the Hearthstone Circle so conduct ourselves that when the summons comes our circle will be unbroken in our home on high.

Resolved that these resolutions be spread upon the minutes of our circle and that they be published in the Dysart Reporter and that copies of same be sent to the near relatives of the deceased.

The Hearthstone Circle

Editor's Note: Although no information could be found about The Hearthstone Circle, it seems logical that it may a group from the Catholic Church of which Mrs. Sewall was a member.




Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

The News From Dysart – Second Week of January 1914

The News From Dysart - Second Week of January 1914

Top Stories

A New Vaccine Appears to be Working!

"Vaccination for typhoid fever has been demonstrated successful in both the army and navy of the United States. In the whole army, with 50,000 men, there are only two cases of typhoid fever during the past year. One of these cases is a man not immunized and the other was vaccinated, but it is thought that his vaccination was for some reason or other not effective. In the army, vaccination against typhoid is compulsory. In the navy there were seven cases of typhoid fever during the entire year, but vaccination in the navy was not made compulsory as early as in the army. It is now compulsory. The vaccination for typhoid seems to have removed one more dread of army and navy life. Armies especially have been devastated by this disease. If this vaccination had been known before the Spanish-American War, it would have saved many lives. Vaccination for typhoid has exceeded all records for vaccination against smallpox. The time is coming when other diseases will be obliterated by vaccination. The world is coming to the idea of disease prevention. The success that has been achieved and demonstrated in typhoid fever will make such progress more rapid and certain. "

Local News

Family Fights Back Against Implication of Theft

The Traer Star Clipper reported this week that "Will Aschenbrenner of Dysart was in Traer this week consulting with attorneys relative to a peculiar happening in his town. The other night $25 worth of feathers were stolen from the produce dealer, H.W. Beilke. Bloodhounds from Waterloo were employed and put upon the scent, some of the businessmen aiding in the cost. The hounds followed the railroad track most of the time two miles east, then went a mile north and west, returning to town from the north and passing through town, bringing up at Will Ashenbrenner's residence, and refused to go further. The house was searched, and no feathers were found and there the matter stands. Mrs. Aschenbrenner had been working in the produce store a week before. Mr. A feels much wrought up and was inclined to prosecute but the attorneys did not take the case. Of course, the public opinion is divided but we understand the Aschenbrenners are generally thought to be innocent, despite the verdict of the blood hounds. Later developments may shed more light."

Farm Report

The Des Moines Homestead paper reports that R. W. Waller sold a cow named Lassie, born in 1910 for $140.00.

The Zoebel Bros are offering for sale an April yearling white Short-horn bull sired by Rosie's Prince by Scottish Prince and out of Imp. Rosie. The bull they are offering is out of Butterfly's Golden 2d, a Cruickshank Butterfly cow, sired by Golden Lad, he by the noted show bull, The Lad for Me. This bull is of the right type and in excellent breeding condition, and any breeder in need of a good white Shorthorn bull should visit this firm and look over this animal. They also have three ten-month bulls sired by King Archer...Zoebel's also have a few good Percheron stallions and mares for sale.


Business News

Stores to Close at Seven O'Clock

"Finally, the Dysart merchants have decided to close their stores at seven o'clock in the evening instead of staying open till everybody had their visit out. Most of the towns throughout the country have been doing this for some time. Dysart has started the habit several times but never held to it but for a few months at a time. There is nothing to the old reason of waiting for the farmers. Farmers are not coming to town at nine and ten o'clock in the evenings nowadays as they used to years ago. Times have changed and the old habit of the stores staying open fifteen and sixteen hours a day should change accordingly. When the closing time is seven o'clock there is a little more pleasure to the clerk's life."

"We the undersigned proprietors of Dysart stores, will close our respective places of business from Monday, January 5 to April 1st, at 7 o'clock in the evening except Saturday."

Keidel Brothers
Henry Pippert
J.M Tupper
J.H. Lindeman
R. Cold and Son

Isaac Dicken Buys Dray Line

This is an unknown Dray Line Driver and Rig inserted in the story to help the reader understand the term. It is not a Dysart resident to the best of the Editor's knowledge.

"Isaac Dicken purchased John Ackerman's dray line. The deal includes horses, wagons and street sprinkler. Possession to be given on January 15. Mr. Dicken has been running Will Rueppel's dray business for the past several years and proven himself a very accommodating drayman. Ackerman has operated the third draw line for Dysart for several years and has worked up a good business. The Dysart draymen have always been busy. Now that Mr. Ackerman has sold his dray, he will focus on his butcher and egg business. However, he is thinking seriously of moving to California. He is offering his property south of Dysart for sale and if he finds a buyer, the town will lose the Ackerman family. "

This image is from the Cobblestone Museum in Albion, New York and is entered as an example of what a harness shop might have looked like in 1914. This is not Mr. Schmidt's shop in Dysart.

"One of the oldest businessmen in Dysart, one that has been in the same business in the same building for thirty years, is C.J. Schmidt. He started in business in the building he now occupies thirty years ago this spring, when Dysart was just a promising young town and probably before the boom tide had left. When Mr. Schmidt first came here the beginning of the town was still fresh in the people's minds and he can tell the history of Dysart from the beginning down to the present day. Last week, C.J. Schmidt sold a half interest in his business to his son, Ed Schmidt. Ed was brought up in the harness business and is a practical harness maker, having worked for his father for the past 7 or 8 years. The business will no doubt be strengthened by the partnership."

Editor's Note: A biography of C. J. Schmidt which originally appeared in the History of Tama County has been placed on the Tidbit's page.

Ben Pippert has also sold his dray business. He has sold to John Sorrell. Ben has rented the Fuoss farm west of Dysart where he will move March 1.

School News

Social News

Last week we learned that Dr. Forward was considering a move to Dysart for his Naprapathic  practice and this week it is announced that he has indeed made the move.

1914 Oakland Automobile

Fred Bower has a new Oakland auto, Emil Barta a Ford, and Albert Ames a second hand Ford.

A ten-dollar reward is being offered for the return of a Violin outfit lost Friday, January 2, 1914, between Creps' livery barn at Dysart and Elberon, on the first road west of Dysart. The outfit consisted of a fine violin, a snakewood bow, black leather case, and a few violin supplies. Finder, please call Elberon Orchestra and receive your reward. E. J. Kucera.


Editor's Note: At a later date, I am hoping to write more about the fraternal organizations which were popular in early 1900 society in Dysart. To clarify for today's reader the First National Bank is not the brick building which currently stands at the corner of Main and Wilson. That building did not open until 1917. According to "Stepping Stones in Time" the First National Bank was located on the east side of Main Street. It as three stories tall and made of brick. The bank occupied the first floor, the second floor was rented to medical Doctors and Dentists, while the third floor was used as a lodge hall. The Editor believes this building was still standing in the 1960s but defers to more knowledgeable readers.



Area Churches

The Luther League will meet at the home of Ervin Moeller on Friday evening, Jan. 6th, instead of Tuesday, Jan. 13th. A German play, "Many Cooks Spoil the Broth" will be the main entertainment of the evening and all members are requested to be present and witness the program. Annual dues should be paid at that time.

Editor's Note: The January 8, 1914, edition of the Dysart Reporter contained an ad for the Church of Christ which I have opted to exclude from my post. The ad is decidedly anti-Catholic and doesn't bear repeating. According to "Stepping Stones in Time" the church was established in May of 1913 by two evangelists and met in a home and a hall before a church building was erected north of the railroad tracks. This building opened in December of 1913. The church was discontinued in 1918 due to a lack of membership. The building was moved and became a residence which sat at the end of my small neighborhood. I remember playing in that house as a child. Looking back on it now, I can see how it could of at one time been a church.



Mr. R.C. McElhiney has placed ads in several local papers trying to sell his Rambler 5 passenger automobile. States he will sell it cheap or trade for horses.

Abe Lincoln has placed an ad looking for two of his two-year-old steers who have strayed from the farm. Each weigh about 700 pounds. He asks that "anyone knowing anything about these animals kindly notify him."

The News From Dysart – First Week of January 1914

The News From Dysart - First Week of January 1914

Top Stories

News was received from the Burlington Hawkeye that a dangerous forger had been placed under arrest in Kansas City and taken to Pawnee City, Nebraska, for trial. The accused, named H.C. Burwell, had several aliases and had been very active in different towns throughout Iowa. The Iowa Banker’s Association had hired the Burns Detective Agency to track him down and bring him to justice. Working with a known accomplice, Mr. Burwell, had forged the name of a Dysart man to secure a deed on a property in Mitchell, S.D. Reports indicate that the forger had previously spent 10 years in the Iowa State Penitentiary.

Local News

Due to the death of Edward Z. Dempsey, the position of postmaster for the town of Dysart must now be filled. Several people have already stated their intention to run for this position including Dr. Redmond, E.F. Douglas, and Frank Sewell.

Construction Continues on Dysart's first electric light plant which will bring electricity to all of the homes and businesses in town.

Farm Report

Eli Messer made the news twice this week. First, he purchased a farm in Black Hawk County for $500 per acre and then he filed papers with the Black Hawk Co. recorder to form a corporation. Capital stock of $40,000 was sited and the corporation was established to promote his dairy farming operation. J. G. Brinkerhoff was the second incorporator.

Schroeder & Goken were busy shipping carloads of hogs from Dysart to markets in Cedar Rapids and Chicago. Hogs were brought to town by several farmers including John Jacobs, Ed Heck, Abe Lincoln, Henry Jansen, Charles Vaupel and Will Christian; as well as Hans Schmidt and Theo Heckt.

T.B. Grain Co. & Marsau shipped hogs to Cedar Rapids brought in by Joe Kosnar, Laurens Ohlsen and Charles Arp.

Kressley & Campbell were busy using a tiling machine throughout the fall and winter. They were laying at least 50 rods every day through 10 inches of frost.


A lengthy article appears regarding the theft of several feathers from a local businessman. This is posted here as it was reported by a Waterloo paper.

Bloodhounds Work In Dysart Brought Down from Waterloo to Trail Man Who Stole Feathers

Last Thursday afternoon Dysart was in a great state of excitement. The sheriff of Blackhawk County had been called to bring his bloodhounds and trail the person or persons who had stolen some feathers from the yard of H.W. Beilke’s place. Mr. Beilke is a produce man here and he has been dressing a large amount of poultry this season. He had about twelve or fifteen dollars’ worth of feathers drying in the yard. Thursday morning when he went to look at his feathers they were nowhere to be seen. There has been a good bit of talk around town about petty thievery that had been going on and when this act became known, some of the businessmen thought it was about time to dig into the matter. A paper was circulated among the businessmen and money raised to hire the man with the bloodhounds.

The dogs were brought here and taken to the Bielke property about three o’clock Thursday afternoon. They picked up a scent very quickly and started east down the railroad track and went two miles east and then north to the road and back to town. They went right through town and south to the Will Ashenbrenner place and circled around the pasture then to the woodshed and then to the house. The house was searched but no feathers were found.

Of course, when this happened, and the hounds ended their search at the Ashenbrenner home it was thought that some of the family was the guilty party. But no feathers were found and nothing to prove any of them guilty only that the dogs had followed the trail down there. The Ashenbrenners, of course, were very indignant about the matter and insisted that the search should go on till the feathers were found to either prove the Ashenbreeners guilty or innocent. If they have had nothing to do with the feathers which they declare strongly, they have been done a great wrong, for public opinion has been bought against them. The opinion will hang to them till something is brought up to provide their innocence. We are in hopes that the instigators of this matter will still keep up the search for the feathers. It is not now a matter of feathers only but a matter of right or wrong to the Ashenbrenner family toward whom the crime has been directed. It is very probable that the party that perpetrated this act is the same that has been doing similar acts around town for some time and if this party is not found and proven guilty the town of Dysart will not gain its full profit by the bloodhound search.

Editor’s Note: Herman Bielke was born in Germany in 1865. He immigrated to the United States in 1870 with his parents. In 1920, he and his wife Mary (also born in Germany) were living in Dysart along with their son, Clarence and daughters Edith and Mary (who married Rudy Havran) and Frances. He died in 1949 at the age of 84 of an apparent heart attack. His obituary notes that he had operated a produce stand in the town of Dysart for 40 years which was located “on the other side of the railroad tracks”. His wife, Mary, predeceased him in 1946. Both are buried in the Dysart Cemetery.

Business News

Farmer’s Lumber Company Declares 15% Dividend for members and elects news officers. At it’s annual meeting members voted to decrease the size of the board from 11 to 7. Those elected to the new board were W.W. McElhiney, Ed Minkel, Fred Leo, W.D. Brandt, E.A. Huppert, H.P. Jensen and Dan Lally.


A basketball game with Dysart at Shellsburg was played on New Year’s night. The score was 44 to 13 in favor of Shellsburg.

There was a wrestling match in Traer on Christmas night. It was reported in the Dysart Reporter that one of the Traer sportsmen got some outside talent in and the event was attended by 11 men.

Social News

The Dysart Reporter was full of social news. With the holidays just passed, there were several notations of Dysart residents traveling out of town to spend time with relatives, people traveling into Dysart to visit and former residents returning home to see their parents and loved ones. Presumably many of these came and left by train as Dysart had an active depot at the time. There were two passengers trains arriving and leaving daily.

Of interest, Dr. Forward and wife of Oakland, Iowa, were at the home of Mrs. N.A. Lawyer visiting. Dr. Forward was noted to be a Napraptic physician who was considering a move to Dysart if the business looked promising.

Editor's Note: A napraptic physician focuses on connective tissue as opposed to a chiropractor who focuses on the alignment of bones.

Dr. H.L. Zimmer came up from his home in South English, Ia., last Wednesday and has been spending the holidays at his home here and with his friends. He is getting along very well with his practice there.

Editor's Note: According to "Stepping Stones in Time" Dr. Zimmer grew up in Dysart and graduated with the class of 1909. He went to the State University of Iowa and graduated in 1913. After graduation, he worked for a dentist in South English. He then went to the Black Hills and played baseball. He returned to Dysart in 1915 and started his dental practice. "


The young people in town presented a stage show at the Dysart Opera House.

Editor's Note: According to "Stepping Stones in Time" the opera house was located where on Main Street between the current fire station and Community Building. It was used by the school for events and sports until 1914 when the school built a gymnasium. The building was dismantled in 1969.

Moving pictures were being offered at the Gem Picture Theater on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday nights.

Notable Deaths

Edward Z. Dempsey former postmaster of Dysart died at age 58 after being ill for some time with typhoid fever.

Mrs. Arthur Sewall, a women in her 60's, died after falling from her second floor balcony. It was reported that she was cleaning rugs over the railing of her sleeping porch when she lost her balance and fell to the ground. She was hospitalized in Cedar Rapids for several days before succumbing to her injuries. (Editor’s note: Mr. Arthur Sewall was an prominent member of the Dysart community having arrived there in 1873. He was a builder and built several homes in the community. He was also the builder of the Opera House. A copy of his biography as it appeared in the History of Tama County can be found on the Dysart Tidbit’s page for those who are interested.

Area Churches

The Ladies Aid Society of the Evangelical Church had a meeting coming up at the home of Mrs. Anna Jessen. Meanwhile the Ladies Aid Society of the Methodist Church was set to meet on Wednesday with Mrs. M. J. McNamee.

German School and Confirmation Classes were set to start on Monday evening, January 4 at 7 p.m. with Rev. H. Christiansen.

Revival Meetings are being held at the Evangelical Church featuring the Gospel Team from the state university at Iowa City. The meeting were being sponsored jointly by the Evangelical Church and the Methodist Church. The meetings have been nightly and according to the paper, the churches were "packed to the rafters". It was reported that Wednesday night, after the meeting was completed, a large crowd relocated to the Opera House where a number of stunts were performed.


Dysart – The Golden Buckle of the Cornbelt

Dysart - The Golden Buckle of the Cornbelt

When I look back on growing up in small town Iowa during the 1960s and 1970s, I realize that for the first 18 years my world consisted of a 20-mile radius from my house.  My town had enough businesses and services that we could get most everything we needed from one of the hardware stores, one of the grocery stores or Dawson’s Variety Store. Occasionally we would make the 20-mile trip to Waterloo for school clothes or on incredibly special days a movie at the Paramount or lunch at King’s featuring a Frenchie and onion rings. Those trips to the city were rare.

King's Food Host

Our shoes were purchased nine miles away in Traer at Frank’s Shoe Store where you could get a pair of patent leather shoes and a toy in a golden egg laid by the big red goose. Those trips always included a stop at the bakery for a treat like a cinnamon swirl cookie to eat now and a bag of treats in a white wax covered bag to take home for later. I can still smell that bakery today and when I am in Traer and walk by the building the olfactory memory hits me hard and I crave something sweet.

Red Goose Shoe Store

My mom’s family lived 20 miles to the south of Dysart in Belle Plaine where we went to visit them and later attended to their graves in the cemetery. These trips usually included a coveted trip to the Maid Rite for a sandwich with a little bit of extra salt, ketchup, mustard and pickles. Add in fries and a malted milk served with the extra milkshake in the metal mixing container and a long spoon and I was in heaven.  I loved to look at the circus train display that adorned the top of their cupboards while I ate a slice of pie.



My dad grew up near Elberon where we would go to see family friends the Homires: Cletis, Cody, Curtie and Evelyn whose names all seemed magical to me somehow. Elberon, with its sidewalk which was higher than the street and looked like something out of an old western to me. A trip to Elberon meant a cold pop from the Coca-Cola cooler in front of the gas station and maybe a bag of Lay’s potato chips.

Water Tower

My dad loved to drive around so we took a lot of rides out into the country. Since my grandparents owned a farm, he had the opportunity to be a farmer but did not appear to want that life. He preferred to farm by observation and conversation, I guess. After leaving the farm, he drove truck for the local feed and seed company and as a result, knew the name of every farmer in our part of the world. It was not at all unusual for him to suddenly turn down a long gravel driveway to someone’s house just to visit. He and the farmer would stand in the yard, smoke cigarettes, and talk about the latest news. I would usually find a kitten to play with or if I were lucky there would be a kid who wanted to show me their barn which was a real treat. I loved the smell of hay in a barn and the adventure of exploring this unfamiliar and to me, dangerous world.

A few miles out past the cemetery which lay on the edge of town, we purchased eggs at Olga Finzen’s. Her son, John, was the best man at my parent’s wedding. Olga was a fascination for me. Dressed in a flowered dress, with a full body apron covering her clothing she would slip on her large men’s rubber boots to go out and retrieve eggs. She seemed tough as nails and sweet as sugar to me. Their house held a hundred smells of cooking and baking and farm life. She spoke with a heavy accent which I found mesmerizing.

Blazeks Park

My parents owned a business in Dysart but every Thursday night, we would leave town and go out to eat as a family. These trips took me to the Washburn Truck Stop, the Lincoln Café in Belle Plaine, Vesley’s Drive-In in Traer for broasted chicken, The 218 Café in Vinton, and The King Tower in Tama. Sometimes we would go to Blazek’s Park on the Old Lincoln Highway in Chelsea. Mom would tell me about its heyday when it was a dance club drawing a large crowd on weekend nights with a lighted outdoor dining area and live music. I so wanted to see that in person.

My dad knew every farm pond and creek in the area and somehow had permission to fish at all of them. At least that was what we were told. Afternoons would find us fishing in a pond behind a cemetery in Geneseo or along the banks of the Wolf Creek near the Brandt’s house outside of La Porte. Those trips usually included a stop at the quarry on the dirt road that that led to the creek. Sometimes we would go to Dudgeon Lake by Vinton and hunt for trilobites along the banks of the Cedar River. My parent’s friends had cottages over by Mt. Auburn where we would spend the day with the Hixes, the McAndrews and the Thorens.


It seems to me now in retrospect that my dad was a bit of a rolling stone. I do not remember spending much time just sitting at home when he was not working. In my memory we were always out driving, fishing, or exploring. I should not tell on my mom but she enjoyed exploring abandoned houses. She was not afraid to go peek in their windows. She never took anything from these lonesome dwellings, but her sense of adventure included having to have a "look see". She also liked to collect wildflowers and many rides included her telling my dad to “pull over Alvin” so she could retrieve the shovel that she had brought along in the trunk and dig up a plant from the roadside or ditch.

Most of the kids I knew growing up experienced “the family ride” and I suppose that many did not enjoy these, but I did. I like to think that growing up in a time without cell phones and electronic distractions allowed me the luxury of developing observational skills. Our rides seemed like mini adventures to me. I spent a good part of my early life either fighting with my brother over the window ledge in the back seat of a car or the bench seat of whatever pickup my dad was driving at the time wedged between my parents, both with their arms resting comfortably out of the window with the wing windows blowing cooler air into their faces. We did not have air conditioning in our home so these drives offered moving air instead of the oppressing humidity that is an Iowa summer day.


My dad also seemed to know where all the best free fruit and nuts were in the county, and I can remember tromping through some woods that were located in the Bohemian Alps along the Duponda Blacktop near Toledo searching for hickory nuts or walking through the woods that would later become Hickory Hills Park hunting for morel mushrooms. I was terrible at finding them. My dad would walk behind me and pick up the ones that I had not already crushed. We picked raspberries along train tracks and pears from my grandparent's orchard.


We went to other places near our home like Clutier, Gladbrook for the Corn Carnival, Vining, and Keystone to attend family reunions at the Turner Hall. We drove out north of town to see the pampas grass by Milne’s farm which still takes my breath away. We went to Vaubel’s pond and the Seven Hills Road where we marched as boy scouts and girl scouts. We drove my brother back and forth to the Boy Scout Camp near that sign for Mooreville, a town which no longer exists.

Further north were the remnants of the wagon tracks that brought settlers west in the late 1800’s and the big round barn. If you look at a map you will see that all of these are within about a 20-mile radius of my house at the corner of Wilson and Grant.


As a child, I knew my town well because it was the center of my life. It was the place where I rode my bike and went to school and swam in the pool and played at my friend’s houses. For a large part of that childhood, I stayed in my neighborhood, a short one block street running north and south connected to two streets that ran the whole distance of my one-mile square world. A collection of nine houses with fifteen kids, give or take a few, depending on who was living next to the Goodwin’s at the time. I was a truly fortunate child. I grew up in a peaceful place full of happy memories and good people.


When we returned from our short trips out of town, we were greeted at three corners by a sign that read, “Dysart, The Golden Buckle of the Cornbelt” and, it really was. I have not lived there in many years, but it stays in my heart as one of the finest places I have ever been.

Dysart came into being because of the westward expansion of the railroad. It was incorporated in 1872 which means this year, 2022, she turns 150 years old. Over the years, I have collected a number of stories about Dysart and surrounding area. In honor of that anniversary, I have set a goal to bring to life some of stories that I have garnered from the past. I am taking it easy on myself and shooting for a goal of one story per month but hoping for more. If you are reading this and want to join the adventure, I say “Welcome aboard!”. I'd love to have you along.


I’m All About Me When I’m on the Motorcycle

I'm All About Me When I'm on the Motorcycle


My husband and I just got home from our first motorcycle ride for this summer of 2020. Like a lot of things this year, our ride had to wait. Knee replacement surgery for him in mid-May meant several weeks of rehabilitation before attempting the bike. I confess we were back on it much sooner than I ever anticipated, and I am very thankful for that.  It was a short ride by our standards but a ride non-the-less and not less enjoyed due to its brevity.

While we were out the reason that I love the bike so much became clear (or perhaps it is fairer to say clearer) to me.  It is the singularity of thought that I experience. I imagine that this experience is not unlike that of people who enjoy riding a bicycle, kayaking, fishing or any other activity in which you are fully engaged. When I am on the bike, I have a million thoughts the vast majority of which I will never remember once I am home. I have written great stories, composed songs, envisioned businesses, resolved conflicts, implored God for his advice and made plans to be a better me on the back of that bike. It's daydreaming at its finest and the luxury of it is that you cannot actually do anything in response to your thoughts. There are no notepads to write down your ideas. There is non "to do list" to add to. There are also no chores or responsibilities to distract me from thinking about well, let’s face it, me and what interests me.


In our early years of riding, I use to try to do more on the back of the bike. I took a lot of pictures. There are not too many barns in Michigan that lie along our usual routes that I do not have a photo of stored on my computer. I do not do that as much anymore. Taking pictures takes times away from enjoying the view and interrupts my thoughts. It is distracting to keep track of the camera and not drop it on the pavement (did that last year….) and when your phone is your hand so are your social media and communication options like email and instant messaging. So now, my phone is generally in the saddlebag. I also use to keep a small notebook with me where I jotted down thoughts and memories of the journey to add to my ride journal. I am glad that I did that. We have several old ride journals and sometimes in the winter, my husband lets me read them to him and we remember together the journeys we have taken. I don’t do that anymore either. I am content now to let it all fly by me. I am content with the thoughts that ramble through my brain and the scenery that I am most immediately seeing.

My sister-in-law and I have a saying “helmet on, world out” and that’s never been more true for me. Sometimes on rides with other people I will try to make a note of something I want to bring up at our next stop about a cow or a car or a building but then we get to the stop and I find it has all mysteriously gone. I saw stuff. I know I saw stuff. I know I was impressed by some stuff, but it’s gone and all that is left is this satisfied feeling that it was a nice road, I had a nice ride and I am happy.


In his book, Lake Wobegon Days, Garrison Keillor relates a story about his early days as a writer. According to his retelling of events he wrote two great stories which he was planning to sell to the New Yorker Magazine. On an ill-fated train trip from Minnesota to the west coast he left the briefcase containing the stories in a bathroom and never saw them again. He said of one of them, “the lost story shone so brilliantly in dim memory that every new attempt at it looked pale and impoverished….”. I have felt that way. I know some of the greatest thoughts I have ever thought in my life have been lost to me during these wind therapy sessions. That doesn’t bother me anymore either. I’m at peace thinking thoughts that will never again resurface. At this point in life, it’s all about the present moment and I am okay with that.

I Think I Finally Understand Etta Stoner

I Think I Finally Understand Etta Stoner


I grew up in a small town in Iowa in the 1960s and 1970s. My little town was one-mile square, planted firmly in the middle of farm country. I was a town kid which was different from a farm kid in those days before the Internet made us all more homogeneous in terms of our experiences and exposure to the world.  As a town kid, my contemporaries and I pretty much had free reign to explore our one-mile square. We were transported beyond the borders of our yards on foot and by bicycle. I do not actually remember spending much time in a car growing up. We went places like “the city” (pop. 75,000) for shopping or to my grandparent’s and aunt’s homes one or two counties away but by and large, we were not taken places within town in the car.


The Neighborhood and Beyond


I lived in a house on a corner lot and my neighborhood consisted of the one street that ran south from that house. This is not to say that I did not have friends in other parts of town but from an early age my playgroup was the kids on that street. You might go to a friend’s house in another neighborhood during the day, but after supper and until the lights came on which was the universal signal for “it’s time to go home now”, we played within that street. Eight houses and one tar shack which housed an elderly man we did not know much about and all of us avoided. Eight houses with a total of about six "playable" kids, by that I mean within my age group. There were other kids in the neighborhood, of course, by some were too old or too young to be considered acceptable playmates. When I type that all out, it seems like a ridiculously small world and I guess it was but at the time it did not feel that way to me. People from my generation like to say that we were raised before bored existed and although it sounds cliche’ there is a lot of truth to that. I do not remember ever feeling bored unless it was raining or snowing so hard that we could not go out.


Directly across the street from our house was the home of Etta Stoner, a woman who my entire life I considered an old widow lady.  I recently wondered about that perception and found that Etta was born in 1888 so by the time I was aware of her in about 1963 she would have been 75 and had been widowed for about 9 years so my perception was not completely unfounded. What may not have been accurate was our perception that Etta did not like children. True or not, it is what we all believed. This perception was reinforced by the fact that our parents encouraged us to “leave her alone” which likely meant give the poor woman a break from your energy and noise, but was received as a more ominous statement of what she would do to children found lurking in her yard.


Her yard did not hold much fascination for the kids in the neighborhood except to say when you are trying to play hide and seek in a one street area, hiding places can be few and far between. Etta had a row of evergreens right up next to the house which were ideal places to hide from detection. Attempts to do so however, would be met by a rap on the window signaling that although you had not been caught but another kid, you had been caught by her and asked to move on. Additionally, she had an apple tree which produced the largest apples I have ever seen in my life and I believe this is where most of the kids in the neighborhood had an issue with her. Etta did not allow us to pick apples off that tree or even pick up the ones that had fallen.

Confessions of a Fruit Thief

Here I will confess to one unattractive facet of my growing up years which is that I was a Class A fruit thief. I think I knew every raspberry patch, grape arbor, and apple tree in every alley in that town and I unashamedly partook of every free bite I could get. As an adult, I understand now what an affront to the home gardener this was but at the time, I did not see it that way. I think I believed that the stuff just grew naturally and was therefore, available for the taking. I should have known better and perhaps I did. Time and memory can allow us to believe a lot of things about ourselves that are less than accurate. Surely my parents told me that taking other people’s fruit was stealing. I know for sure Nancy Thiele our neighbor who caught me in her grapevines more than once tried to impress the error of my ways upon me.

Etta's Great Offense


Over the years, as our childhood passed, we ignored Etta for the most part. Our late grade school and middle school years took us further away from the neighborhood we shared. However, when I became a teenager our worlds collided, and she became the object of my frustration and sometimes downright anger. You see, Etta had a habit of getting up at the crack of dawn to work in her yard. One of the tasks at that hour was to clean the cracks in her sidewalks. To accomplish this task, she would get down on her hands and knees (just a reminder here she was in her 80s by this time) with a metal bucket and a digging tool of some kind. She would clean each crack, place the weeds and dirt into the bucket and then crawl up to the next section, scaping that metal bucket on the sidewalk behind her as she progressed. My bedroom window faced Etta’s sidewalk and so even with my window closed I would be awoken by the sound of her work. Teenagers love sleep and I took her actions very personally. When you are sixteen the thought that anyone at any time of the day would need to clean out the cracks in a sidewalk is plain ludicrous. I remember that I would get up and yell at the first available person which was generally my mother about Etta and her “stupidity”.

I do not recall the last time I saw Etta. I left home in 1976 to go to college and although I returned home during the summers, I cannot tell you if she continued to be able to do yard work during those years. I did a little research on her for this piece and I found that she eventually went to live at the nursing home and died in 1980.

It All Comes Around At Last


During the Covid-19 pandemic and even before, I have been experiencing a lot of challenges with sleep. I am part of the “up during the middle night set” and the “lay awake in bed and wait for daytime crew”. By talking with others and seeing what is happening online during these hours, I know there are a lot of people who are sharing this experience.  I also know that scientifically time moves at the same rate during the day as it does overnight but when you are awake during those hours it seems to move exceedingly slowly. To manage this situation, you find yourself doing things at strange times like scanning old photographs at 2 a.m. or re-potting your houseplants at 4 a.m. The other morning while doing the later, I thought about Etta and realized this may have been why she was doing something as mindless as digging weeds out of the sidewalk at 5:30 a.m. Perhaps, like me, she had been up all night restless and searching for something to do to distract her mind from the frustration that insomnia brings or maybe she was lonely having lived so many years alone. Even though I never yelled at Etta for waking me up as a teen, I apologized to her in my mind and let her know that I think I understand her now. She, like me, was just doing what she could to keep herself healthy in body and spirit. I don’t plan to start digging weeds out of the cracks in our driveway but I am aware that as my unemployment starts and age continues to keep me from a good night’s sleep most nights, I too will be looking for ways to stay productive and that others may find my choices annoying. I will be praying for more grace than I was able to show to Etta at that age.


Notes for my Dysart Friends: Etta Stoner was born Rosetta May Heath in 1888. According to “Stepping Stones of Time” published in 1973 she was the daughter of Benjamin and Clara Heath. “Benjamin Ross Heath, born at Sherman, New York, January 16, 1946, came to the Dysart area in the early 1860’s. Mr. Heath a carpenter, by trade, died November 8, 1917. In 1875 he married Clara Armstrong. Their children were: Mrs. Viola Ludwig Dial (foster daughter), Mrs. Ellen Seeley, Mrs. Etta Stoner, Mrs. Olive Kavalier, John Health and Mrs. Fern Barrett. There were 11 grandchildren and 29 great-grandchildren. The Heath family lived most of their years in Dysart on West Wilson Street.” 

Etta was an early telephone operator in Dysart. She is shown on the left in the photo above along with Ella Schroeder at the switchboard.

Etta married Sylvan Stoner and they had one daughter names Helen Edwards (Wendall). Etta was widowed in 1854 when Sylvan passed away. He was 12 years her senior. She was a member of the Methodist Church in Dysart. Etta, her husband, daughter and sister, Olive, are all buried in the Dysart Cemetery.