Before Dysart Was Zip Code 52224 – It Was A Place Called Ettie

In 2023  the small community of Dysart, Iowa, celebrated their sesquicentennial based on the date that the town was established and named for a founding pioneer, Joseph Dysart. Becoming a named town helped the community establish itself. Of course, it was not the first step in the process of transforming this part of the midwest from the home of the native tribes  to a settler’s town and thus changing the landscape of Iowa forever. Sources, including the Dysart Sesquicentennial  publication and others, inform us that Tama County in which Dysart is located was established by the legislature in 1848 and that soon after settlers began to move into the county.  In 1850, the population in the county was less than 20 white settlers. By 1853 the process of establishing townships was begun and growth continued.  Between the years of 1850 and 1870 the population continued to grow steadily. After the Civil War, interest in railroads provided the structure and resources which led to a town being laid out and the building of an infrastructure which is the present day town of Dysart.

One of the first priorities of settlers was to establish ways to communicate with others for the purposes of social interaction and commerce. According to records, the first post office was located in Monroe township in Benton County and was named in honor of Squire James Wood. This served the surrounding area until 1863 when it was disbanded. Starting in 1864 all the mail was held in Vinton and settlers were required to travel to that location to collect their mail or have someone bring it to them when they traveled to Vinton.


And Then There Was Ettie, Iowa

Finally, in 1869, a post office was established at the home of John Tyler Converse in section 11 where it remained until it was moved into the newly established town of Dysart on January 3, 1873. This post office was called “Ettie” and was primarily operated by John’s wife. Marcia. According to the obituary of their son, Palmer, “the family came to Iowa and located in Tama county, near Dysart in 1867. They lived there for thirty-six years. Mr. and Mrs. Converse disposed of their property at and near Dysart and came to Estherville in 1903.” The were eventually buried in the Dysart Cemetery. The Ettie Post Office was located on their farm. Today, if you drive north out of Dysart on the road which lies on the west end of the town and turn west, this farm is the first one on the right side of the road. Long-time Dysart citizens will recognize this location as the Seebach farm. Why the post office was named Ettie is not clear.

John Converse Original Application for Post Office to be called Ettie with move to Dysart noted

The New Post Office Is Announced


Thus, the area in and around Dysart was known as Ettie for about 4 years before the town was established. In those early days mail routes were bid on by local residents who were paid to run the routes. On March 10, 1870,  the Post Office Department put out a bid for Route 11211 which ran from Belle Plaine to Waterloo twice a week and included stops at the Ettie Post Office.

Waterloo Courier March 10, 1870

In Iowa newspapers between 1869 and 1873 the name of Ettie was a location in stories, announcements and letters to the editor including this one from December of 1870.

The Toledo Chronicle December 15, 1870

As stated, the post office was moved in 1873 and the name was changed to Dysart where it has remains to this day. After the office was moved to Dysart, the name Ettie pretty much disappeared from the records.

Document from the National Archives showing change from Ettie to Dysart Post Office 1873.

Happy Zip Code Day to the Residents of Dysart! 5-22-24!




Iowa’s Celebrated Mad Stone – Rabies in the 1880’s – Tragedy in Mooreville Iowa

Iowa is dotted with numerous towns which were started and later abandoned. Many of these have a lone marker but many are just memory to the locals. The Iowa Ghost Towns website lists almost 50 such places in Tama County alone. One such town is Mooreville which was  located between Dysart and Waterloo on what is now County Road V37. The last house of the settlement which was occupied into the 1970s has since been torn down. All that remains is a marker and some small cemeteries which are home to the remains of its founding citizens.  Located in section 24 of Geneseo Township in Tama County, Mooreville had a post office from 1871 until 1900.

Mooreville Postmark 1896

Before the settlement at Mooreville was established the area had a different name, Six Mile Grove. The town’s hopes of a prosperous future were dashed when the railroad was established in Dysart instead of Mooreville. It’s too bad. It’s a beautiful part of Tama County and would  have made a nice setting for a town with the Wolf Creek running through it and the lovely trees that fill the hills in this area.

1875 Plat Map Tama County – Geneseo Township


The first white settlers in the Mooreville area were the Hills and the Riley’s. The two families arrived in the Spring of 1853 with Joseph Hill being the patriarch of the family and John Riley his son-in-law. John was married to Joseph and Sarah Hill’s daughter, Charity.   Joseph and his wife, Sarah, had eight children who settled the area with him and continued his legacy after his death in 1855. Their journey to Geneseo Township and subsequent settlement in that area are chronicled in the “History of Tama County Iowa” which is available online here. A section of the Traer Historical Museum is dedicated to the Geneseo area.

Joseph Hill

Sarah Hill

John and Charity Riley

In the summer of 1882, the Hill farm was being operated by Joseph and Sarah’s son, George and his wife Cornelia. Their daughter, Mary had married Alpheus Goodpasture and relocated to Fort Scott, Kansas. According to the Courier (Waterloo), Arthur Goodpasture, their grandson, had come for  a visit with George and his mother, Sarah. Sometime in May, Arthur heard a noise in the barn and went out to check for the source of that noise. On his return trip to the house a strange dog jumped upon his back. When he turned to grapple with the dog, he was bitten on the wrist and forefinger of the right hand. He was unable to free himself from the dog’s bite and the hired man was forced to pry open the jaws of the dog before the hand was released. The dog was shot but not before it had  bitten two horses and two calves. The horses and one of the calves died of rabies.  The other calf went mad and had to be shot.

Mr. Goodpasture showed no symptoms of his bite for about six weeks but then started complaining of hydrophobia on a Sunday night in July. He was unable to  swallow water placed in his mouth. By Monday evening he had chills and was given a dose of quinine. He continued to get worse. Dr. Griffin of Vinton, Dr. Evarts of Waterloo and Dr. Knott of Mooreville were all called and concurred that the patient was suffering from hydrophobia caused by rabies. The physicians called for the “celebrated mad stone” from forty miles away but this was of no effect. Arthur remained conscious until the end. Pain relieving medications were given but he continued to have severe spasms. He died on Wednesday of that week.  He was about 25 years old and left behind a wife and an eighteen month old son.

What is a Mad Stone?

Before a cure for rabies was developed by Louis Pateur in the late 1800’s Mad Stones (also known as bezoar stones) were used to treat rabies and snake bites. The practice goes back several centuries. A mad stone is formed in the stomach or intestines of cud-chewing animals. In American folklore, the most powerful of these come from albino deer with pink eyes. In essence it is a hair ball composed of  mineral salts, hair and fiber ingested by the animal. They form from calcium deposits similar to how an oyster forms a pearl. The calcium clings to some foreign material such as hair and slowly adds more layers. If you cut through one you would find rings, similar to a trees growth rings.

Before using, the stones were boiled in sweet milk. The wound to be treated needed to be bleeding and if it was not the skin had to be scraped until it did bleed. If it did not adhere, it was assumed the person did not have rabies. However if rabies was present, the stone would attach itself to the flesh for a long time, drawing the poison out and absorbing it into the stone. When it fell off the wound it would be boiled in milk again to release the toxins. The stone would then be applied to the wound again. If it did not stick, the person was considered cured. If it stuck it would be left to draw the remainder of the toxin out of the body. According to lore, a mad stone can neither be bought or sold to remain effective. They were generally passed down from father to son but their presence in a home was known by those who lived nearby and their owners were frequently called upon to help. The stone’s shape could not be changed or it would lose it’s effectiveness.  Additionally, using the stone was not intended to  involve any kind of payment. The location of “Iowa’s Celebrated Mad Stone” is unclear. A search of produces over 350 results for the use of mad stones in Iowa between 1854 and 1940. Several references are made to one in Paris, Iowa.

Did they work?

Likely not. Rabies can take up to a year to develop after a bite occurs. Someone treated with a Mad Stone immediately after a bite could still develop the virus months down the line. Rabies is also not as easy to catch as one may think. Depending on where a person is bitten the chance of developing the disease are between 10 -90%, with face and head bites being the most dangerous. Like all folklore however, its effectiveness may have been more in the belief than the actual stone but either way, they provided hope to people in what seemed like very hopeless circumstances.

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