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   Henry County, Iowa   


Goodbye to the Horse and Buggy Days

 Mt. Pleasant points with pride to its may "FIRSTS" but perhaps few recall the garage near the northwest corner of Monroe and Harrison and now being modernized, was the first structure erected in the town, or county, as a garage and repair shop. It was established by the brothers, S.S. and C.C. Case. In those ancient times, measured in progress, rather than years, there were no auto sales agencies, filling stations and autos were a rarity.

We think the first auto brought to town was by Dr. O.A. Pitcher. To this day we can see the crowd in front of the Brazelton hotel, surrounding the first auto to come to town. Eyes bulged and heads shook with incredulity as the machine was put through its paces; starting, stopping, backing, circling. Two cylinder, chain drive, noisy and smelly, but the confounded contraption certainly could step up and go.

Then there was the horseless buggy which some salesman put over on Fred Williams, our barber. This was a four wheeled buggy body on buggy wheels but where the horse used to get in his work, was an auto engine under a hood. There was no whip, instead a crank to start things going. Instead of reins to guide, there was a handle that worked on the principle of an old fashioned cat boat tiller. 

The early speed gradually put the miles behind faster and faster, and we recall that day when Dr. F.M. Edwards, our dentist, made that  trip from Des Moines in one day, between dawn and dusk, the reckless rascal. There were road accidents, but they were mainly where the car met horse and the horse ditched its cargo and climbed a fence.

Then came the White steamers. We recall two of them, one owned by J.C. McCoid and one by Frank Montgomery. What that little boiler and steam engine could produce in the way of potent horse power, was as fearsome as what we expect of atomic energy when it, too, shall be hitched up as a motor.

Our first car was a Sampson, a stout name, bright with bands of brass, outside right hand drive, a horn with a voice like a ghost agonizing in a nightmare. Our first try out was a round trip to New London. On the way down a dog was too curious and too slow to get out of the way and we ran over it with crushing effect. Lesson one. This sobered us down and on the edge of town we turned back home. Then on the first hill the engine spluttered and the car stopped. Lesson two. Out of gas.

Speaking of roads, we will answer a query. Yes, two national highways known as military roads crossed Henry county in territorial days. These roads were established to move troops rapidly from one point to another. So far as we know Henry county is the only one in the state through which two of these road were built and paid for under congressional appropriations. We have the impression that but two of these national military roads really established. The real urge behind the legislation was the Iowa-Missouri boundary war crisis. One of these military roads started at Dubuque and ran southerly through Anamosa, Iowa City, and from there followed the present highway 218 through Mt. Pleasant, on down to the Missouri border. The other military highway began at Burlington and ran to the Indian Agency, east of Ottumwa, and where the town of Agency now stands. This road crossed the county on the southerly side passing through Lowell and where a marker locates it. 

Mt. Pleasant will soon fail to recognize the entire block on Monroe between Adams and Harrison. Formerly the site of many old frame shops, smithies and barns. By the end of the year not one will remain, both sides refurbished with modern structures, a sort of industrial center. Farewell to the horse and buggy days.

Indeed the whole town is breaking out with a rash of building and rebuilding. Vacant lots are scarce and prices totteringly high. Behind much of this is the urge of returned service men to get into business for themselves. While gone they become competent and skilled in various activities, and now want to make a start on their own. The post war months are certainly changing the complexion of Mt. Pleasant. If you doubt it gridiron the town with your car, and get an eye full of what is going on.


-- “Bystander’s Notes“ by Charles S. Rogers, Publisher-Editor of  The News [weekly newspaper published in Mt. Pleasant, IA] March 6, 1946 p. 2