History of Ash Creek

Transcribed from "The History of Rock county"
By A. P. Rose
Published in 1911

The book in its entirety is available on googlebooks


The little village of Ash Creek, the first south of Luverne on the Doon extension of the Omaha railway, is one of the two Rock county hamlets in Clinton Township . The platted town is on section 23 of that precinct. Though it has never assumed proportions that would warrant its being set off as an independent municipality. Ash Creek has for many years justified its existence as a trading point and grain market for a rich farming community.

The building of the Doon branch and the subsequent location of a station on section 23, Clinton township were conditions undreamed of when Ash Creek was first plotted on the map as a country post office, the second post office established in the county. The southern part of Rock county, especially Clinton and Martin townships, were an early field for settlement. By the summer of 1871 the population of these two precincts exceeded that of all of the rest of the county, and a demand was made for better post office facilities. The only office in the county at that time was located at Luverne, and a trip to that point was much of an undertaking for a majority of the settlers living in southern Rock county in the day when ox teams were practically the only mode of conveyance.

The agitation for a second post office bore immediate fruit.  Out of several applications for the office of postmaster, Mrs. L.B. Kniss was chosen and the office was established on the George W. Kniss homestead one half mile distant from the future Ash Creek station. The office was named for the creek flowing nearby. To members of the pioneer Estey family was given the naming of this stream. The incident of the christening, which occurred on Christmas day 1867, has been told in Colin Estey’s own words:


“In the forenoon Byron and I went to tend our traps. He had one set for a fox near where Saints Rest now stands and on that day he caught a coyote.  Byron was about 8 years old then. As we went out to look at the traps we crossed (the) Rock River at a point about where M.C. Smiths ford was eventually located and followed up what is now known as Ash Creek.  Byron, boy-fashion, asked the name of the creek and I told him it had no name and that he might name it. He looked the surroundings over carefully and said “Well, there is a lot of small Ash growing at the mouth , so I guess we will have to call it Ash Creek.” Next summer when the government surveyors were sectioninzing Rock county we gave the name into them and the stream has been so called ever since.”


The Ash Creek post office was located on the mail route connecting Luverne with Doon and LeMars Iowa which was first operated by Sam Bellesfield.  Mrs. Kniss continued in charge of the office until 1873 when she removed from the locality and was succeeded as postmistress by Mrs. Susan M Brown who held the office for seven years.

So, Ash Creek, which nominally came into being in the early seventies, advanced no further than the country post office stage until about a dozen years later.  Then it was thought the agency of the railroad that it was able to assume a more pretentious air.

 The branch road from Luverne to Doon was built in 1879 , the first trains being operated in November. The rudiment of a station was established on what then was the Kniss and Brown farm on section 23, Clinton which was to develop gradually, but whith a certainty into the village of Ash Creek. The initial improvement in the town to be and the only one recorded for the year 1879, was a small grain warehouse erected by Truax and Co. This firm had extensive farming interests in the immediate vicinity and the warehouse was erected solely for the purpose of taking care of the products of its own farms.  In the fall of 1880 a side track was constructed and a correspondent predicted                                   


“ Mrs. Kniss has given some interesting statistics related to this early day post office: “Our local paper was then the Jackson Republic , as those who wished to prove up on their claims had to go to Jackson , the nearest land office, and so their names and their witnesses were published in the paper. A paper was also printed at Rock Rapids. There were six subscribers to the paper and nine to the Jackson Republic . The total number of regular subscription papers was twenty three and one magazine was taken by a patron of the office, although a great many were sent by friends in the east.”


That Ash Creek was about to shape itself into a metropolis.  The extent of the subsequent building operations however was the erection of a second grain warehouse, 16 X 30 feet in size, put by E.A. Brown who at that time commence his successful career as a Rock county grain merchant. A box car was placed at the new station to answer the purposes of a depot building.

 An event of the year 1882 promised great things for the embryo town. This was the sale of the Kniss and Brown farm upon which the station was located to Col. Alfred Grey, an English capitalist and a large owner of real estate in this section of the state and in Iowa .

Col Grey proposed to build a flourishing town at Ash Creek, to be the headquarters for his various interests, much after the English baronial system. A year elapsed before the promoter commenced the execution of his plan. A survey of a townsite was completed in August of 1883 by James P. Gilman and the dedication of the site was made September 6, 1883 by James B Close, Col. Grey’s agent.  The plat included eight blocks. The owner was fully honored in the names bestowed upon the streets running east and west, which were Col Grey and Alfred. The intersecting streets were designated as First, Second, and Third.

Coincident with the platting, three dwellings, each a two story structure covering a ground space of 24 X 36 feet and three barns were built by col. Grey for the accommodation of the employees on his nearby farms. There was persistent talk of a store on the site but it remained for other than Grey interests to supply the want. J.T. Woodrow, whose store was completed in October 1884, was the first merchant and for a number of years the only one in Ash Creek. The Ash Creek post office was moved to the new store and Mr. Woodrow commissioned postmaster.

 There was some progress during the half dozen years following the opening of the pioneer store. In 1885 the railroad company established stock yards at Ash Creek, and one year later erected a serviceable depot. Early in 1886 the believers in Ash Creeks future greatness became convinced that the dawn of a new era was at hand because of the proposed building of the Burlington Railroad from to Sioux Falls from Ellsworth. At an enthusiastic meeting held February 20, plans to induce the new railroad to change its route so as to pass through Ash Creek were considered.  It was proposed to offer $15,000 as a bonus to secure this change of route, but the attempt to make of Ash Creek, a railroad center came to naught.

 The Congregational Church Society, organized in the spring of 1889, erected a neat church edifice in the village the same year. The church, built at a cost of $1100 was dedicated Sunday February 9, 1890. Rev. William Fitch was the pastor at the time.

L.S. Walker succeeded to the business of J.T. Woodrow in the summer of 1888, a grist mill was established by C.A. Delamater in January 1890, but it continued in operation only a few months. The Ash Creek farm of 891 acres was sold by Col. Grey in 1891 to Ezra Rice and James H. Grey and this transfer was the commencement of better days for the humble village. The new owners were men intensely interested in the advancement of Rock county. Progress commenced at once.  In September 1891, J.T. Fort, a blacksmith located in the town and E.A. Brown erected a second elevator. The year following, E.C. Palmer came from Sioux City and established a new store and lumber yard.

 Ash Creek in more recent years has been added to gradually and at no particular period has experienced a boom or unnatural condition to force the extension of its limits. A creditable school building was erected in 1903. A public hall is maintained, and in the village are to be found residences that would do credit to a more pretentious community.

transcribed by G. Boomgaarden 2009