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. . . about Preston, Iowa

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1878 Jackson County, Iowa Gazetteer
1879 Jackson County, Iowa History
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From 1878 Jackson County, Iowa Gazetteer


Preston, a lively and go-ahead town, is located on the Sabula, Ackley & Dakota Railroad, fifteen miles west of the Mississippi river. It was laid out by Z. DeGroat, in company with several other gentlemen, in the fall of 1870, and it was on the 3d day of December of that year that the first railroad train arrived in Preston. Such was the impetus given to the place by the inroad of the iron horse, that over seventy-five buildings were erected the following year.

Preston is peopled by a class of men at once vigorous and enterprising, who do not propose to take a back seat in the race for future prosperity and aggrandizement. It stands in the midst of good agricultural land, and has excellent railroad facilities. The dwelling houses of some of the residents are costly and handsome, with great scenic advantages, one of the most noticeable being that of Mr. DeGroat, which was erected in 1870 at a cost of $7,000.

The public school building is very handsome and commodious, occupying a prominent position, and constituting the chief adornment of the town in which it has been built. It was erected in 1873, and cost $10,000.

There are two fine church edifices, one built by a union of two congregations-Methodist and Congregational, and the other by the Christian or Carmelite denomination. These, coupled with the fact that they have a literary association of more than ordinary merit, insures to the new comer these social, religious and intellectual advantages which should ever be an object of the highest interest. The town is remarkably healthy. Lots in choice locations can be bought for from $50 to $200.

Business of all kinds is very active, and there is more shipping done here than at any point between Sabula and Marion.

The town has a well conducted weekly paper, the Preston Advertiser, with Mr. H. V. Hicks, the worthy postmaster, as editor. Improvements mark the yearly growth of the town, and many valuable buildings have been erected for business purposes.
[Owen's Gazetteer and Directory of Jackson County, Iowa, Owen Publishing Company, Davenport, Iowa, 1878. Submitted by Mary Kay Krogman.]

From 1879 History of Jackson County Iowa


We are to look upon Preston as it draws near the close of its first decade. We see a typical Western town. The people are proud of their enterprise, jealous of their rivals, and determined to be second to no competitors. The citizens are what might be termed clever and cordial. Shoddy aristocracy has no foothold here. The friendless man, if he comes to Preston, is in clover, for if he deserves friends he will have them, and without number. The young city owes its existence to the Sabula, Ackley & Dakota Railroad, of which road the first train entered the place December 3, 1870. This was then, for a time, the western terminus of the Iowa Branch, now extended to Marion. The plat of the town was made in the fall of 1870. This consisted of 136 acres, being the east half of the southeast quarter of Section 29, and a part of the west half of the southwest quarter of Section 28, Van Buren Township. The land was purchased by the railroad construction company and Z. De Groat, at an expense of near $7,000, the previous owners of the land being Amos and Gillett and Chris Farley. Mr. De Groat's interest was at first an undivided one-third.

As the plat was made, Main street is on the section line between Sections 28 and 29. When the town was laid out, an old deserted dwelling was the only building on the spot. About seventy-five lots were sold the first year. In 1877, Z. De Groat bought out the interest of the construction company in the unsold lots. About two hundred lots have been sold up to August 1, 1879, and Mr. De Groat holds about two hundred more.

The place was named in honor of Col. I. M. Preston, of Cedar Rapids, who was connected with the road at the time it was built. In 1875, an election was held to decide whether the town should apply for an incorporation. The project of incorporating was defeated by 7 votes. The present population is estimated at four hundred to four hundred and fifty.


There were no settlers in the vicinity of the site of Preston until 1836. During that year, Andrew Farley came here from Galena and made a claim south of, and including a portion of, the present town plat. In the following year, Christ Farley came, and quite a number of others, so that, by the close of 1837, most of the land was claimed. E. P. Weed was the first claimant of most of the land on which Preston is now located.

The first schoolhouse near this point was about three-fourths of a mile west, and known as District No. 8, of Van Buren Township. This building was not erected until some time subsequent to 1850, the pupils from this region, previous to that time, attending a school one and three-fourths miles to the northeast. The first school in No. 8, Mr. C. Farley informs us, was taught by Marcia Weed. A second schoolhouse was erected about 1860, on the same spot as the old one.


was organized August 14, 1872, by a vote of the electors of No. 8 of the township subdistricts, with L. B. White, S. F. Vinton and Alva McLaughlin as Directors.

The old schoolhouse proving inadequate to the needs of the district, Specht's Hall was temporarily rented as a schoolroom, and measures were taken for the erection of a building which should be a credit to the town and accommodate all the children of the district for some months to come.

Bonds to the amount of $4,500, bearing 10 per cent interest, and payable at the option of the district, were authorized May 3, 1873. The building was erected and the first story completed and furnished at an expense of $7,176.87. It is a handsome two-story brick building, containing two rooms on each floor. The building is surmounted with a cupola and bell, which summons the youth of Preston to their task during nine months of the year. The rooms of the second floor have not yet been completed, but will be when the needs of the district demand it. The bonds bearing 10 per cent interest were refunded in March, 1879, at 8 per cent. The old school building was sold to Alva McLaughlin for $200. It has been moved into town and converted into a dwelling-house.

During the winter session, as high as one hundred and fifty pupils have been in attendance. The summer term shows a much smaller roll, and requires but two apartments. Miss Mary Galloway is Principal, and Miss Beppie Reid is Assistant. The salaries paid last winter were: Principal, $60 per month; Intermediate, $40; Primary, $30.

The present Board of Directors are: L. B. White, President; Levi Halroyd, Z. De Groat. Asher Riley is Treasurer, and Z. De Groat, Secretary.


The post office was established in the spring of 1871, at which time J. F. H. Sugg was appointed. He was succeeded, in 1875, by Z. De Groat, who resigned two years later, and the present occupant, H. V. Hicks, received his appointment at that date.

The money-order business at this office approximates to $300 per month in orders issued, and $750 in orders paid. The railroad supplies a daily mail east and west.


Preston is a shipping-point for a considerable territory. The country to the north as far as Andrew, and for a number of miles to the west find in Preston an excellent market and a good point to trade.

From the books of the railroad company, we glean the following as the principal shipments from this station, from July 1, 1878, to July 1, 1879: 151 cars hogs; 8 cars cattle; 67,490 pounds butter; 49,363 bushels oats; 11,586 bushels wheat. It should be added that the wheat crop for the year 1878 in this vicinity was almost a failure, and that the shipments were not to exceed one-fourth the usual amount.

The principal business interests in Preston are as follows: General stores, Elliott & Reid, Alva McLaughlin, Frederick Rhodevolt; hardware, R. M. Essick, D. S. Swaney; drugs, H. V. Hicks & Co.; agricultural, De Groat, Specht & Thill; lumber dealer, Henry Thill; grain and stock dealers, Z. De Groat and Henry Specht; bankers, Bartholomew & Riley (established in 1871; correspondents in Chicago, Preston, Kean & Co.; in New York, National Park Bank); boots and shoes, C. H. Hollywood, H. Ehrensberger; job printing, H. V. Hicks & Co.; wagon-making, Frank McGuire, Day, Hobart & Sullivan; harness-making, Frank McManigal; butter and egg depot, I. N. Pollans; hotels, De Soto House by J. S. Pryor, and Specht Hotel by H. Specht; physicians, T. W. Mitchell, J. F. H. Sugg, H. V. Hicks, J. S. Caswell, F. W. Schule; attorney, A. L. Bartholomew.

[The History of Jackson County Iowa, Published November 1879. Transcribed by Mary Kay Krogman]


Preston Grew Rapidly in 1870-71; Now Boasts Municipal Light Plant

Unlike the older towns in Jackson county, which started with one or two pioneer cabins and Topsy like, just grew, the town of Preston was named and platted before a single building was, erected.

Foundation of the first structure was begun Dec. 27, 1870; before the next Christmas the town boasted a dozen business firms, including bank and hotel, a depot, numerous fine homes, and two fraternal orders.

The story of Preston's founding might be diagnosed as a case of railroad fever that turned out well numerous cases in that era resulted disastrously.

Moved from Buckeye

During the winter of 1869-70 there was much interest in southeastern Jackson county concerning the proposed construction of the Sabula, Ackley and Dakota railroad. Enthusiasm ran high. Sabulans pledged $25,000, and Van Buren township voted a five percent tax to raise $15,000.

Although the new railroad would leave them almost four miles to the north, residents of the village of Buckeye, too, were interested. Finally convinced that the railroad would cnot come to them, a few decided to move south to it. This group included Z. DeGroat and A. L. Bartholomew.

Site for a new town was chosen on land owned by William J. Gillett, Dr. Coleman Amos and Christopher Farley. Survey and plat were made, the streets and park named, and the three land-owners recorded the plat. The town was named for Col. I. M. Preston, an officer of the Sabula, Ackley and Dakota.

Meantime, tracks were being laid, and on Sunday, Dec. 26, 1870, the engine stood on the track at what was to be Preston's Main street; The next day work began on Bartholomew's home.

Wanted Township School

The far-sighted founders of the town soon inaugurated a movement for a township high school, then an innovation in the state. Thwarted when, the rural objectors succeeded in changing the township district to rural independent districts, Preston started construction of its own high school in 1873.

It is interesting to note that,75 years later, in 1946, those independent districts voted to consolidate with Preston.

The spirit of cooperation among the townspeople resulted in an interesting method of fund-raising for the first church structure. Although it seems unusual to moderns, it was not unique in those days.

Union Church

Both Methodists and Congregationalists had been holding preaching services in various buildings, but desired a church structure. Therefore at a community meeting a fund campaign was launched, with the denomination which raised the most money to have the privilege of naming the church.

But when the reports were in, it was discovered that the majority of the money had come from those who were neither Congregationalists nor Methodists. Thus a Union church evolved with members of both denominations having equal representation, on the executive board.

Later, the inevitable occurred. Dissention arose, and separate congregations were formed.

Preston Today

Listed in the 1950 census with population of 684, Preston is a busy, civic minded town. It boasts one of the ten largest creameries in Iowa, and is the home of the Farmers Mutual Aid Insurance association, which claims over forty million dollars insurance in force.

The school, built in 1929, was enlarged following the 1946 consolidation and has 310 pupils. The four churches are Lutheran, Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian. The home-owned telephone company has 650 patrons.

Active organizations include the American Legion and auxiliary, Woman's club, and newly-formed Lions club with 49 members.

[Jackson Sentinel, Maquoketa, Iowa, May 18, 1954. Transcribed by Mary Kay Krogman]

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