IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co. Misc. Historical Items

Early History of Postville
by Mrs. Hall Roberts, 1916


The settlement of Post township by white people was begun when Joel Post and his wife came to occupy the house (or shanty) at the half-way station between Ft. Crawford, Wisconsin , and Fort Atkinson, Iowa, which had been built by U.S. troops. The records tell us that Mr. Post had a permit from the commanding officer at Fort Crawford, with certain restrictions. One was, he was not to keep spiritous liquors in his house on any pretense whatever. Neither must he sell liquors, either directly or indirectly to Indians, or to U.S. soldiers, under the penalty of being immediately removed. His acceptance is recorded as having taken place Jan. 12, 1841 --- just seventy-five years ago.

The first building was out near Darious Orr's. Later a larger log house was built on the site of Mrs. James McEwen's house, also a large frame barn where Mrs. James Fay's house stands. The old flat stone doorstep of the house still lies in Mrs. McEwen's yard. They still use water from the old well that Mrs. Post told me her husband dug and walled up himself. This house proved to be a nucleus around which settlements were made. A number of men who have since became famous in the civil and military history of the country were accustomed to visit this house and partake of its cheer. Among them Colonel Nathaniel Lyon, General Pleasanton, and others who were prominent in the Civil War.

A treaty for the relinquishment of the neutral ground was made in 1847, although the Indians were not actually removed until the following year. Very soon after this other settlers came in. Among them several families by the name of Reed, who settled near Springfield, or Whiskey Hollow, as it was called in an early day. The next year Elias Topliff, Jr. and Anna Reed were the first couple married in Postville, or even in the county, on Dec. 16, 1849. They were married by Grove Warner, Justice of the Peace.

A postoffice was established in January 1849. It was called Postville, and Joel Post was postmaster. He died on the 24th of January and never knew of the appointment as it did not arrive until several days after his death. In 1850 several new settlers arrived in the town, among them are a few names familiar to many of us. James Stevenson, a brother of Mrs. Post; Reuben Smith, builder of the old stone house; Mr. Carithers; the Prescott family, including A.R. Prescott, then a young man, and many others following on in close succession.

In 1855 Mr. and Mrs. S.J. Russell came from Rockford, Illinois; later he built the home where Charley Radloff now lives. The Russells were exceedingly hospitable people and very few persons coming to the town but what were invited to their home and made welcome there. The Congregational church was organized in their house, and ministers and missionaries of all donominations and creeds always found a harbor at this home. Like one of old; they kept a prophet's chamber. About this time a siege of cholera visited the settlement, bro't by people who contracted the disease on a Mississippi river steamboat. There were six or seven deaths and all were laid in the new burying ground. the Higbys and Mr. Stiles and family arrived at just this time.

In 1857 Mrs. Post built the National Hotel, the house which W.C. Thoma now occupies. At that time it was considered a very fine up-to-date hotel, surpassing any in the surrounding country. I remember hearing people say that Mrs. Post herself hauled -- from McGregor -- much of the lumber used in its construction. She ran the house for a few years after which there were a number of different proprietors -- Rob Barclay, Mr. Noble, Mrs. Post's son-in-law. Later Mr. VanHooser bought the property and kept the hotel several years.

Mrs. Post was a woman of strong temperance principles. She could never be induced to deal in liquor even though public sentiment was not against the business as it is today, and there was great opportunity for profit. I remember hearing her once tell the story of a man coming along who had a barrel of whiskey, or some kind of strong drink, which he urged her to buy and sell to patrons. She would not be persuaded to do so. He left the barrel on the wagon for the night, and when he found it empty in the morning, no one could explain the leakage. mrs. Post said she thought the liquor was less harmful on the ground than in men's stomachs. I dare say that when the man came that way again he was more watchful of his wet goods.

Mr. Hazelton, after Mr. Russell, was another early store keeper; also Webster and Stevenson. A little store on the corner of the Pearl Ellis lot was managed by George Hunt, a young man from New York; Mr. Loveland was proprietor; this was in '62 or '63. By this time several dwellings and shops had been built on the main street (the old Military Road) and stores had been enlarged and rebuilt. A frame school house was built in which all religious services and public meetings were held. I remember attending many war meetings, funeral services for soldiers who died or were killed in the war. One that was very impressive was the service after Lincoln was killed. Geo. Henderson, Judge Edmonds and others I cannot recall gave talks. It was a very sad occasion. People wept as it were for their own personal friends.

In 1864 the railroad was built, the first train arriving on the 8th day of August. I recall the day we came down to see what we had so long been waiting for -- the sight of a railroad train in Postville. First a box car, then a little board shanty for a depot. Business had received an impetus. The elevator was being built by the wealthiest men of the country -- General Lawler of Prairie du Chien and Diamond Joe Reynolds. When it was completed in 1864, it did a very large business, the payrool of its employees amounting to $500 per month; Mr. Purigo was superintendent and Hannibal Stone was secretary. Business continued to thrive so long as this was the terminus of the road; after that it was not so good. General Lawler once said to a man on the train as they were coming in sight of the elevator, that it was the monument of two -- fools. It has stood the wear and tear of business for over fifty years. Once it was set afire by an incondiary, but discovered in time to prevent its destruction. There have been many changes in methods of operation. First the huge boiler with wood as fuel; later coal was used; then the gasoline engine and now the electric power. We wonder what will be the changes in the next decade.

The first saloon was kept by a man named Pete Bowen -- that was after the railroad came. In early days there had been a saloon and brewery at Springfield, or Whiskey Hollow. In time they all came to Postville. Dr. Green came from Hardin; Mr. Glines also with his jewelry and repair shop. Mr. Peasley was a furniture dealer and his wife was a dressmaker. The first millinery store was started by Mrs. Schmitz, her husband having a harness shop in the same building, located where Frank Sebastian now lives. The first furniture store was run by Mr. Ingalls; Mr. Prescott later becoming his partner. N.W. Stiles was the first druggist, occupying the building now used as a poultry house. It was also a postoffice for a time. The Postville Review was established in 1873; the first issue being for March 19th. I well remember the interest taken in it by everyone. At a meeting of citizens the name for the new paper was discussed and decided on. Mr. McCormick was editor. Two years afterward he sold to Mr. Burdick. The first bank was established by Roberts Brothers in a corner of their store. It was known as the Roberts Bank. This was in 1877. It later became the Postville State Bank.

The town was incorporated March 11, 1873.


- notes: Mrs. Robert's history likely appeared in a local Postville newspaper, but no source was given on the microfilmed article
- source: microfilm # 985414, Salt Lake City--Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1976
- submitted by Roseanna Zehner
- transcribed by S. Ferrall

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