Cushing Iowa History
Woodbury County, Iowa, USA. Click here for the HOME page.
Cushing Iowa Rock Township
The Cushing story was prepared by local residents for the 1983 Cushing Centennial Book, and was reassembled by Lavonne Volkert.
Forming a Town
The early history of Cushing is, of course, similar to the general history of the rest of this part of the section of our state. There were the same hardships and privations and at the same time the joy of hospitality that was always enjoyed by the early settlers, the kind that was genuine and open. These pioneers always found room for one more traveler in their cabins. But in spite of the similarity to other early settlements, we found some very interested and unique stories about the history of Cushing. We will attempt to pass on to you some of the information we have found.
Our town is unique because it is located near the county line and, therefore, we found it necessary to do research in two counties to try to verify as much of our material as possible.
Cushing is located in Section 1 in Township 88 in Woodbury County. It is very interesting that small as our town is, it was formed by several additions. The original part of the town was bought from the Blair Town Lot and Land Company. The sale was signed and sealed on May 10, 1883, by P E Hall, Vice President of the Blair Company, Chas H Clark – Register. It was recorded on June 23, 1883. This part of town was composed of blocks one through nine, or what we would think of today as everything between Old Highway 20 and the north edge of town and as far east as the houses on Valley Street (just the part north of Old Highway 20) and west to the houses on Hill Street, which is the houses on the east side of the Methodist Church to the highway. It appears that originally they may have planned for the town to go north of what is now the town, as part of Earl Whyte’s and Dale Juelfs’ farms are laid out in town lots. The fact that Bacon Creek often flooded this ground in earlier days may have been a determining factor in which direction the town was developed and grew. This part of town was platted. Second and Third streets run east and west. They run parallel with the center line of the Maple River Railroad. Main, Hill and Valley Streets run north and south at right angles with Third. All streets were eighty feet wide. Main Street was one hundred feet wide. All alleys are twenty feet wife.
On September 30, 1889, the sale of the first addition to town was signed and sealed. It was bought from the Iowa Railroad Company. P E Hall was president of the Railroad Company and G A Mitchell was the surveyor. It contained blocks three, nine, and ten. These were the blocks that contain what is now the park the block north of that and also the north side of the street past what is now Al’s station.. this was recorded on October 11, 1889. This new addition was the site of the original school building in the park and also the Methodist Church.
The town continued to grow and on May 9, 1892, J C W Kline surveyed the second addition of the town. Charles Smith and I C Eilers were the notaries. This was recorded on May 23, 1892. This section included blocks twelve and thirteen, or the block where the Steve Droegmillers live and north to the railroad track and also the block that ran parallel with the railroad tracks.
The next addition was the Pierce Coyne addition and included the houses on the west side of the street on the west end of town, beginning with Curt Wiese and includes those south and west to Clarence Daus. This addition was recorded on May 27, 1893.
In 1919, the town purchased another piece of land for the town from Nettie and Ed Ferry. This section was called Ferry’s First Addition and was signed by J H Baumann, mayor, and A L Bertelsen, clerk. It was surveyed by Charles Finely. This section includes everything south of the old highway and east as far as the west side of the street that goes to the school today.
The next addition was called Ferry’s Second Addition and includes the lots along the south side of old highway from the street that goes to school to the east side of town. This addition was purchased in 1920 signed by Ed Ferry, E H Ohme and Wm Buell, Civil Engineer.
By 1920 the town was growing by leaps and bounds and the town decided to buy more property. William and Kate Kurtz were the owners of this land. The purchased was recorded on September 25, 1920. W E Buell was the civil engineer. Ed Ferry, mayor and E H Ohme was clerk. William moved the house that stood in the middle of the street and opened the street to the corner of the street that leads to the school were included in this section.
On September 15, 1976, the town took action to purchase another addition. Leland Fagan was the surveyor for the land purchased from Harold Demarest. It was singed by Mayor pro-tem, Luverne Hintz; Sue Mohr was the clerk. It was recorded on October 15, 1976. It seems hard to believe that it took many additions to make up a small town.
Cushing was first a town called Penrose, but later named Cushing in honor of L Cushing Kimball of Boston, Massachusetts. It is believed that L Cushing Kimball was a brother of David Kimball, who was president of Nashua and Lowell Railroad Company and was director of Chicago and North West Railroad Company. In 1889, Kimball and McNamara organized a railroad contractor and builders in Sioux City. It is also believed that L Cushing Kimball may have been named after his mother, whose maiden name was Cushing. We’ve been trying to find a connection between L Cushing Kimball and the Cushing families in the east, but as we go to press we have not been successful in doing this. The Cushing family was an old and wealthy family in Norfolk, Virginia, and had land possessions there. Their history is well known far back as the 15th century. They were men of education and influence and wealth. The descendants of the Cushing family had, previous to the year 1899, furnished more than thirty graduates to Harvard College and also a considerable number of very eminent clergy, lawyers, judges and leaders with various railroads. We will continue our research any maybe some day we can find a connection between the prominent Cushing family and our town. Wouldn’t it be nice!
In 1883 a branch of the Maple River Railroad headed for Sioux City. It was successful in linking Wall Lake with Kingsley about twenty-five miles from its planned destination. The ubiquitous John L Blair had a hand in building the road and his associate, Horace Williams headed the company. Like other Blair roads, the Maple River had its headquarters in Cedar Rapids. The Blair Railroad Company came into the picture stronger in Sioux City because John I Blair was its president and he seemed to have a particular fondness for the Sioux City area. Usually he had only about fifteen per cent interest in most so-called ‘Blair roads’, but the Sioux City area was dominated almost completely by this company.
Apparently when the railroad went through this area the town sprang up immediately. According to an article written in 1920-21 by Claire Milne, ‘the name of the town was Penrose before the railroad came through. C W Austrander, the first citizen of Cushing, who was postmaster at Battle Center, moved his office from there and since the post office there was known as Penrose the new town now took that name. (We were able to confirm the fact that a post office was established at Cushing, Woodbury County, as Penrose on July 2, 1883, with Cornelius W Ostrander appointed as the first postmaster. The name was changed to Cushing on August 29, 1883. The postal records in the custody of the National Archives and Record Services provided this information. However, they were unable to provide us with any information about a post office named Penrose located at Battle Center, but we know that often records are very poorly kept.)
‘Cushing’ as a town started in 1883. Mr Austrander was Cushing’s first citizen; A L Brockway was the next man to follow. He erected a livery stable on the site where Al Groth’s house now stands. Some of the other early occupants of the town were: Tony Turaecheck, who had our first hotel; Clarence Ruggles, who had the first hardware; Mr Cleansy, who erected a restaurant; George Korabe had an elevator; and Kamrar and Law had an elevator across the street from the present elevator.
‘Cushing was growing rapidly. Mr Kamrar, the grain buyer, built a shack to live in. it was on the lot where Dorothy Starbuck and Ruth Taylor now live.
‘Mr Law built a home on the site where Russ and Lorraine Pruehs now live. Mr Brockway built a home where Harold and Alice Albers now live.
‘George Korabe followed their example and built a home where Rick and Dawn Jacoby now live. At this time there were no churches, schools, nor sidewalks; only paths leading here and there. All of this building had taken place during the summer.
‘During the fall of 1883, Sam McCarl built a store where the Legion Hall stands today. He lived in the back part of the store with his wife and children. Dr George Smith, Cushing’s first doctor, had his headquarters at Cleansy’s restaurant.
‘R S Milne started his harness shop in half of Korabe’s grain office. By this time there were about twenty children and twelve women with a town of some forty men.
‘The first child born here was Cushing Kamrar, who was the fifth child born to David and Sue Kamrar. David J Kamrar, age 34, came from Union County, Pennsylvania. He was a grain dealer here. Sue Montz Kamrar, age 32, came from Ohio. Some other early births recorded at the court house were twins born on December 26, 1883, to Henry and Florentine Kurtz. They were number twelve and thirteen for the Kurtzs. Albert Louis Burow was born on May 19, 185. A son was born to George and Agenes Fernell Dewell. A girl was born August 10, 1886, to Cyrus Hungerferd, a blacksmith, and his wife, Jannie (Patee). A child was born to Christopher and Lillie Juelfs on April 26, 1892. Christopher was a butcher in Cushing.
‘Our first church was the railroad depot. We had no regular minister but were supplied with traveling ministers who arrived upon the scene not any too often in the first days. A little later on, one of the saloons was turned into a church and Cushing’s first minister, Rev Kar preached here. Later our Methodist Church was put up and has been remodeled into the present structured.
‘In June 1879, Alice Hobb, who then lived on John Hummel’s farm, counted 260 immigrant wagons going northwest. This was the beginning of our present Hawkeye Trail.
‘Pete Peterson used to haul four from Battle Creek to Correctionville and other inland towns in 1875. The trail that was used wound from Ida Grove to Correctionville. One day as Pete was driving along, a dense cloud appeared in the sky. This frightened him and he crawled under this wagon. By and by, when he courage came back. Pete looked around and to his surprise he saw the ground was literally covered with grasshoppers. After he arrived at Correctionville and went to his hotel he saw that the grasshoppers had taken possession of the table and almost everything on it.
‘R S Milne was caught in a blizzard on January 12, 1888, but managed to reach Correctionville. Two days later, he and Harry Barto started back to Cushing – in a cutter. No traveling had bee done on the road and, as they approached the Korabe schoolhouse, they saw a man on horseback plowing through the drifts from the east, followed by a team hitched to a sleigh. As the team crossed the yard in front of the schoolhouse, one of horses suddenly sank from sight and was followed moments later by his teammate. When R S Milne and his driver got up to the scene of the mysterious occurrence, they found that Pete had accidently led his horses into the open doorway of the cyclone cellar of the schoolhouse. It took several hours’ work to get the horses out of the cellar.
‘Another man, John Sparks, pioneer who lived two and one-half miles west of town, was cutting wood when caught in a blizzard. They lost their direction and were found two days later, a mile west of Battle Center, frozen to death. This was one of the early sad affairs that for a time threw the little community into sorrow.
‘Cushing has had two large floods which took two lumberyards away, and has also had two big fires. In 1900, Forbes’ pool room and hardware store were burned. The next fire burned Charlie Daniels’ store, Sam McCabil’s store, Orb Forbes’ Store and McCoy’s Restaurant. This was about 1905.’
According to an article received from the Iowa Historical Society. ‘The village of Cushing was the only post office in the township. It was a station on the Chicago and Northwestern Railway, and is an enterprising, growing little town and considerable business is transacted there. A great deal of grain is shipped, there being an elevator and accommodations for handling stock and grain. Considerable building material is sold to all sections of the township, as well as to the adjoining county of Ida.’
After the town was started here, some of the people from two settlements near Cushing soon found their way into town. One of these settlements was located fully fifteen miles from Ida Grove, southeast of Cushing. Some of the families of those who lived in this settlement were: Benjamin Budge, Fritz Michaelson, Preston Stoneking, Milo Beers, Matt Lorenzen, Henry Brownlee, and Frank Dewell. The other settlement was the one located north of town and was known as the ‘Illinois’ settlement. Families who lived in this one included those of Garrett Lake, Tom Lake, Dan Bullock, and George Baxter. Several descendants of both of these families still live in Cushing.
‘ALL THAT COULD BE DESIRED’
By 1898, in a special edition of the Cushing Mirror, we found the following that describes Cushing then:
‘The lands here improved, that can be today purchased from $25 to $40 per acre, are just as , valuable so far as their producing qualities are concern and just as near to churches, markets and schools, as those lands in eastern Iowa and Illinois that are today selling from $75 to $100 per acre. Why not make the change?
‘It is the extreme western part of the state and it is fourth from the Minnesota line. It comprises a territory of 864 square miles and is divided into twenty-four townships.
‘Corn is king and the average yield is 39 bushels per acre and of a very good quality. It never fails and planting is often done two weeks earlier than in Illinois and Wisconsin. Oats are superior to any grown in Illinois, Wisconsin, and southern Iowa, and yields from 50 to 80 bushes per acre, and are a sure crop and pay well. Flax, wheat barley, rye and buckwheat are sure crops and are gown largely. The crops this season are immense. In fact, the older settlers here have never seen a failure of crops. Wheat yields twenty-four bushels per acre; oats seventy-eight; corn thirty-five; flax fifteen, and potatoes three hundred.
‘Stock is the thing for the northwest Iowa farmers. The quality of the land, the climate and the water supply makes northern Iowa a paradise for the stock raiser. Cattle pastured on the rich and abundant grasses of Woodbury County during the summer are in prime condition for market and come through the winter in good shape when fed on prairie hay, which will cost to cut and cure and stack, 75 cents per ton on the outside. Whoever has been in western Iowa or Woodbury County will tell you that there is no better or healthier county for stock. Hogs are generally raised and diseases are seldom amongst them. Sheep are not common but those who devote themselves to raising them declare it pays well.
‘The climate is all that could be desired. The peculiar dryness of the air makes this section of Iowa one of the healthiest localities to be found in the United States. Spring and fall are mild and pleasant. The changes in the temperature are not so sudden as in the case in the east. The summers are warm but not sultry as there is generally a light breeze.
‘Native timber is scarce and found only along the streams. Farmers who had foresight enough to set out trees now have a fine grove.
‘The soil is one peculiar to the belt through which runs the Sioux River. It differs from the soil usually found in the eastern part of the state, east of the watershed. In the east it belongs to what in geology is known as drift deposits. In the latter, it closely resembles the loamy deposits in the valley of the Rhine, famous the world over for its richness.
‘The grasses covering the lands in their usual condition are fine, juicy, blue joint. An acre will yield from two to five tons. The prairie hay of Woodbury County is famous for its meritorious qualities, and is shipped to Chicago and eastern states in large quantities where it brings from $13 to $15 per tone. Timothy and clover are sure crops in this county.
‘The principal stream that courses its way through Woodbury County is the Little Sioux River and with its numerous tributaries. Affords a most excellent water and drainage system. In fact, there is hardly a section of land without a good creek in the whole county. Clear, cool and sparkling water can be obtained anywhere by digging to a depth of 15 to 30 feet. Our own Bacon Creek is one of the tributaries of the Little Sioux River. It was named for the Bacon family who lived here.’
Another interesting fact found about Cushing is that there are nine other towns in the United States named Cushing. They are located in Payne County, Oklahoma, population 7,529; Nacogdoches County, Texas, population 396; Salt Lake County, Utah (part of Midvale); Polk County, Wisconsin population 150; Knox County, Maine (part of Portland); Morrison County, Minnesota, population 50; Howard County, Nebraska, population 43; and Essex County, Massachusetts. The interesting thing about these towns is that with the exception of those that were part of a city, and one another one, the rest had a population under 600.
Cushing at one time had a paper of its own. It was called the Cushing Paralyzer and later the Cushing Mirror. After these papers were discontinued, the town news was found in a special section of the Holstein or Correctionville papers. The town has also been served by other papers, The Sioux City Journal and Des Moines Register have been distributed door to door since about 1920. The door to door delivery of the daily Des Moines Register was discontinued in about 1980.
Another interesting bit of information was found in the Cushing Sun dated April 1921. ‘The town of Cushing has purchased the grounds where the old school house stood and after removal of the building we may soon have a beautiful park. This is something Cushing has needed for years, and now that we have one in sight, there is no doubt that everyone will enjoy its pleasures in the near future.’
Some of the earliest businesses listed in The History of Woodbury County were
‘General store, Meek & Seitz;
general stock and furniture, S H McCarl;
grocery, C B Daniels;
drugs, R R Rogers;
hardware, C Ruggles;
harness and saddler, Robert Milne;
grocer and butcher, T D Lake;
C D Sanborn deals in farm machines and runs and elevator;
lumber, etc, D Joyce;
Mr Vorhes runs an elevator;
stock dealer, W H Gilman;
physician, Dr Smith;
postmaster, C B Daniels.
‘There is also here a good hotel, livery stable, barber shop, blacksmith shop, wagon repairing shop, a fine uniformed band, with Dr Smith as leader, and a newspaper called the Cushing Paralyzer, with C D Sanborn as editor and proprietor.’
The following people were listed in the book as from Cushing: ‘Cyrus Wellington Sawyer, banker, Cushing, was born Lee Center , Illinois, October 1, 1843, and came to Ida County, Iowa and settled on a farm of 320 acres in Douglas Township. In July 1889 in connection with the Union Trust Company of Sioux City, he established the Bank of Cushing, which has been succeeded (1890) the Cushing Savings Bank with a capital of $25,000, of which he is a manager, and two-months later he moved to Cushing.
Matthew Flood, farmer and stock dealer, Battle Creek, was born in Ireland in 1846. He came to America in 1868, to Illinois, and later in Woodbury County, in 1883, always engaged as a farmer. He married Bridget Deshin; they had five children, Mary Ellen, Katie, Maggie, Mattie, and John. All are members of the Catholic Church. He has a farm of 320 acres, mostly corn. At the present (1890) he has 100 head cattle, and 200 head of hogs.
‘Christopher Camarrigg, farmer, is a native of Switzerland, where he was born June 27, 1837. He came to American in 1847, to Burlington, Wisconsin. In 1884 he moved to Cushing, Iowa. He married Katherine Geiger, also a native of Switzerland. Mr Camarigg is a Republican and a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. They have six children (1890): Lydia, Walter, Maggie, Katie, Della and Henry.
‘Thomas D Lake, Cushing, was born in New York, December 17, 1825, a son of Garrett and Phoebe Lake. He married Sarah Skinner; they have three children: Emily A, Garrett R, and Phoebe J. Mr Lake settled in Woodbury County in 1881. He is a member of the Methodist Church and has been a successful worker in the ministry for about 30 years.
‘Reuben R Rodgers, druggist, Cushing was born in Ohio, September 14, 1864. Mr. Rodgers graduated from the Chicago College of Pharmacy in 1889, locating in Cushing. He married Miss Fannie Williams of Indiana; she is a public school teacher in Cushing.
‘George A Dewell, farmer, Cushing, was born in Cedar County, Iowa, August 17, 1859. He is of French descent. George was reared on a farm and made farming his permanent business and financially has been successful. The farm on which he resides in 120 acres. He married Agnes Moore; they have six children, Maud, Blanch, Edith, Cora, George, and Wilbur.
‘Alfred Holcomb, farmer and stock-dealer (Bernice Wright’s father), Correctionville, was born in Mendota, Illinois, August 6, 1865. His parents moved to Grand Mound, Iowa, March 1879, when he was fourteen, and he came to Woodbury County in 1883 and bought 320 acres in section 25, Rock Township, which he still occupies as a farm and for the raising of fine stock. He married Elizabeth Alleson in 1880 and they have two children (1890), Robert and Alma.’ (Bernice (Wright) was born in 1891.
Cushing was wild and wooly in those early days and saloon brawls were not infrequent. One nigh the justice of peace, a Bohemian grain buyer, was awakened from an alcoholic nap to quell a disturbance in the saloon. Rushing half-clad into the building, the justice took a drink at the bar and then addressed himself solemnly to the crowd, ‘Here, you fellows, stop that noise. The state of Iowa is now here and I am a peace of the justice’.
One dark night before sidewalks were in existence, a traveling man got off the evening train and was plowing his way up town through the slush and mud when he ran into a pioneer citizen. ‘This is Hell, isn’t it?’ ‘No,’ said the pioneer citizen. ‘This is Cushing’. ‘Same thing, I guess’, the man retorted.
If you know of any corrections or missing information please contact me.
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