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from the Atlas of Dubuque County, Iowa. Davenport, Iowa: The Iowa Pub. Co., 1906.

Dyersville, Iowa, is located on the western edge of Dubuque County in New Wine Township. The information presented here appeared in the 1906 Atlas of Dubuque County. The first essay, from pages 144 and 147, gives an early history of Dyersville from the 1830s to the 1870s. The second essay appeared on page 152 and traces St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church from its origins in 1858 to 1907. Lastly appears a table of advertisements, from page 131, for the Leading Business Houses of Dyersville; an attempt has been made to format the individual ads to make them appear as they did in the 1906 Atlas. A brief description and photographs of Dyersville, at right, appeared on page 131 of the Atlas amidst the advertisements. Click to read a description and view photos of Dyersville from page 131 of the 1906 Dubuque County atlas


At a distance of twenty-nine miles and by the wayside of the Iowa division of the Illinois Central Railroad, is the flourishing and beautifully located town of Dyersville, situated on a prominent eminence in the western portion of Dubuque County, commanding an extensive view of the beautiful and undulated prairies rolling away in the distance, dotted here and there with numerous pine groves, forming a combination of beauty and majesty unrivaled by any other country in the West. The surrounding country is well watered; the Maquoketa River, being the principal stream, coursing its way through the town, affords abundant power. The surface, like that of the counties lying west of the Mississippi River and beyond its bluffs, is high rolling prairies, with no hills. Yet in this vicinity, no considerable portion is level. The soil is of a rich loam, with sand enough to retain moisture in dry seasons, while it never, for any length of time, remains so wet as to inconvenience the farmer from attending his crops. Excellent and pure water for domestic uses is easily obtained at nearly all points; and fine qualities of stone for building purposes are readily obtained, while clay in abundance is to be had for the purpose of manufacturing brick.

With a population of 1,500 souls, the citizens of Dyersville are full of a spirit of enterprise which promises at an early day to make her one of the foremost in the ranks of Iowa's live towns.

The first settlements made in this vicinity were during the years 1837-38. About this time William, John, Abraham and Mac Whitesides, with Messrs. Henry Mouncey, Hewitt and others, selected claims. In November, 1838, Thomas Riggs with his family located in the neighborhood. Later came Thomas Finn, John Christoph, Hon. Theophilus Crawford, subsequently a member of the legislature, and still later, the Rev. William Trick, nearly all accompanied by families, and emigrating from the counties of Somersetshire and Devonshire, England, in search of homes on the borders of civilization in the new world. Most of them began the battle of life under different auspices and amid different surroundings than they had been accustomed to across the sea, but all manifested a determination to conquer almost impossibilities, if it should become necessary to the founding of new interests and the cultivation of new associations. Lands were then sold, as will be remembered, at a nominal price per acre, and the new-comers purchased farms for themselves, the improvements on which were confined to a log house, within rail, "staked and ridered'' fences. They were as a rule located at some point contiguous to a spring and "bunch" of timber, without regard to the quality of land settled upon. In consequence of this peculiarity, a major part of the most productive and fertile prairie territory in this portion of the county was for many years unoccupied. And it was only when its superior richness was ascertained by chance investments that it became marketable. Lands previously purchased had been those preëmpted by still earlier pioneers in the wilds of the West. Later vendees had acquired title to their domains by virtue of land warrants obtained from original preëmptors at the rate of from 75 cents to $1 per acre.

The Dyer family, to whom the town is indebted for its origin, and for much of its prosperity and success, came to this vicinity in early days, James Dyer, Jr., reaching his adopted home in the spring of 1848; James Dyer, Sr., and William Dyer coming in the spring of 1849. They opened farms and began improvements at once, but it was not until several years subsequent that these improvements became the nucleus of the present town. Other families already mentioned had made their advent here at an earlier day, but were, as stated, distributed about the township at points remote from future Dyersville.

The first death to occur in the townshlp was that of Theophilus Crawford, a nephew of the Hon. Theophilus Crawford, which took place some time in May, 1851, at the residence of his uncle, west of the town. The event cast a gloom over the settlement, but it brought the inhabitants into close communion with the man on the pale horse, and the liveliest sympathy was manifested for the relatives and mourners. He was buried in the grounds set apart for cemetery purposes, about two miles east of town, which have since been used for the interment of all who have come, and, after a brief sojourn in this vale of tears, have gone hence to be known no more forever, and was the first burial of record in this vicinity.

In December following, John Fowels came into this breathing world in a log cabin on Victoria, east of Willow street, which is still standing, and the first birth in the town of Dyersville is remembered in that connection.

Weddings were of unfrequent occurrence. Those who came here at first were accompanied by their families. Young marriageable women were luxuries; the settlers were too busy in devising ways and means to keep the gaunt forms of starvation and poverty from their households to indulge in those social amenities, out of which creep courtship and matrimony, and it was not until the merry month of May, 1852, dawned upon the community that Cupid winged victims by his unerring dart, and two souls with but a single thought combined or two hearts that beat as one found opportunity to effect a partnership for life.

The bride was Miss Annie Trick, daughter of the Rev. William Trick, and Malcom Baxter responded, according to the Methodist code, to love, honor and obey the trusting Annie. The ceremony took place at the residence of R. W. Gadsden, on Victoria, between Chestnut and Willow streets, and was witnessed by many, doubtless envious, spectators, who united in supplementing the ministerial benediction with the stereotyped wish that long life and prosperity would be the handmaidens of the couple who had launched their bark on the troublesome tide of matrimony.

In 1850 the settlers held a meeting and decided to locate a town about two miles down the North Fork of the Big Maquoketa. James Dyer presided, it is believed, and earnestly advocated the plan. This was, however, abandoned upon future consideration, and the scheme for a time lay dormant.

Meanwhile, John Bailey, John Gould, James Plaister, Henry Popham, Robert Whiting, and others, with their families, had come into the township. They settled first in Dubuque, and were members of the colony of emigrants who made that point their first resting-place from England, whence they started forth prospecting. During the fall of 1849-50 they decided to settle in Dyersville, and employed their efforts in erecting log cabins for their household wares. This was accomplished in the spring following, when they were all included in the bills of mortality of Dyersville.

In the winter of 1851 another meeting was convened, whereat it was concluded to lay out the present town, which was accordingly surveyed for the purpose, and residents contemplated a time in the future when their municipality would grow into a city. Events came and passed with surprising rapidity; houses were erected, the first by George Hyler, on the present site of the Pennsylvania Hotel, near the depot. It was of frame, a story and one-half high, 16x24 feet, and contained three rooms. James Plaister followed suit, putting up a house on the square now bounded by Main, Chestnut, Victoria and Union streets, similar in all respects to the Hyler homestead. The next house was the present residence of A. Limback, on the Dyer estate, which was of a more pretentious character, and remained unfinished until 1853.

By 1853 considerable accessions had been made to the settlement. Houses stood far apart on what have since become Victoria, Willow, Main and Walnut streets. Judge Dyer resided at the corner of Main and Chestnut streets, with his store further west on the former thoroughfare. The Dyers had partially erected a saw-mill, and were concluding arrangements for the building of a grist-mill. Both were completed, the latter alone surviving, and now known as the Pacific Mills. A man named Collings resided in a yellow shanty across the river, and other settlers had pitched their tents in the same territory. The business portion of the town was on Main street, to which access was had by those across the river, until late in the season, by boats and wading. In the fall, however, Judge Dyer built a bridge across the Maquoketa, the first in the township. Though a rough affair, being constructed of logs and puncheons, it cost $4,000, and remained the conecting link between East and West Dyersville until 1869.

Early in the spring of 1853 Orsemus L. Foote came to Dyersville with his family, from the East, and became identified with the most active phase of an enterprising life, then beginning in the town. He purchased one-half the grist-mill in progress of building, and, procuring materials from a distance with which to begin operations, commenced the erection of the first hotel in the village. The same was completed in the fall, and has for many years answered the demands of the traveling public. Then, as now, it was a two-story brick, finished in a manner designed to attract the patronage of the thousand and one prospective residents, whom it was thought would direct their footsteps to Dyersville as soon as they came to a knowledge of the many evidences of growth and importance therein existing. The house was built under the supervision of Malcom Simpson, a contractor from Galena, imported especially for the purpose, and cost a round sum for those times.

In the same year, the Methodist Church was commenced, and finished early in 1854. As early as 1849 this sect had been provided with a place of worship by Judge Dyer, who fitted up a room in one of his houses for that purpose, but it was not until the time mentioned that a house of worship was prepared. The building was of frame, quite commodious for the times, and, when finished, was the first church edifice in the township. The Rev. William Trick officiated as pastor.

During this year (1854), Judge Dyer built among the first brick houses in the town. It was an addition to his store at the corner of Main and Union streets. After standing through the summer it was leveled by a hurricane and ruined. But before another year rolled past Judge Dyer rebuilt the premises which are now standing, a portion of the store of A. Limback, on the very spot of its origin. The postoffice was established in Dyersville in 1854.

Brick structures began from this date to be the rule. In the succeeding year Henry Popham erected one on Water, between Union and Chestnut streets. The ground floor was used for commercial purposes, the upper story being devoted to the occupation of a Masonic lodge. Others followed in its wake, and the town by this and other means began to assume the appearance of a miniature city. It was during the year 1855 that the cholera swept over the township, and, for many years, left the impress of its visitation in the memories of the inhabitants, if not upon the town itself. It first made its appearance in the hotel, where a guest named Buck, a physician from La Crosse, was attacked. This was early in July. He had registered at the house in company with his wife and child. Nothing was thought of his remaining secluded in his room, from which he emerged after two or three days, evidently having been seriously ill. Soon after the cholera attacked one more of the guests, also a boarder, who was employed in Judge Dyer's mill. With these cases the existence of the disease was publicly announced, and its origin traced directly to Buck, who had left for the West in the meantime. A panic followed the promulgation of the news, the like of which had never before been witnessed by the people, nor equaled since Dyersville was settled. Those who were able to do so left the vicinity, while the bulk of those who remained, nearly paralyzed with terror, were scarcely able to care for themselves and became easy victims to the scourge. Six deaths occurred in one day, among them the wife and child of the absent Buck, to whose immediate agency the cause of this dire calamity was due. Those who remained exempt from disease or fear cared for the sick and buried the dead, and no sooner had one corpse been consigned to mother earth than the turf was turned to receive additions. Among those who remained, and, by their efforts and office, mitigated the horrors of the plague, were Judge Dyer and the Rev. William Trick, who, at all hours and under all circumstances, responded to the calls of the afflicted, and sought, in kindly endeavors, to nurse the sick ones back to life, or console the last moments of the hopeless. The dead were buried in the cemetery already referred to, and those who survived, through chance, the dispensation of Providence, or the treatment administered by Drs. Jones, Cainer and Warmoth, and some still live, recur to the scenes of gloom with which the summer of 1855 was shadowed as among the most wretched experiences of their lives.

This had the effect of depressing business, retarding improvements, and discouraging the settlers from all effort designed to the accomplishment of definite objects. The epidemic raged three weeks, and during that period a liberal percentage of the inhabitants had gone the way of all flesh, or betaken themselves to more congenial parts.

When the Illinois Central road was completed to Dunleith, and the Iowa Pacific was well under way in the direction of Sioux City, the residents of Dyersville thought they saw in these enterprises an assured way to the promised land of prosperity and happiness. But the cholera placed an embargo upon their hopes, which ceased to be a part of their daily life, and they were resolved into a condition of despondency equaling that which Moses suffered on the summit of Pisgah. But little was done in 1850, either of a public or private character. New farms were opened in the township, but the town itself remained almost without any tangible evidence of active coöperation, in carrying forward the work of improvement. The Methodist congregation, however, began the building of their present church edifice, and continued thereat until winter put a stop to the work, which was resumed the following spring, and completed at a cost of from $12,000 to $15,000. The Catholics also prepared a church for occupation, which was about all that was undertaken. These, however, gave an impetus to building which manifested itself in 1857, when the boom which had been gathering for two years previous to the epidemic materialized with great benefit to the town and township. The Iowa Pacific was completed to Dyersville in April, and, on May 5, the first train of cars halted at the depot, then the terminus of the road. It produced wonderful results. New residents made their appearance and became objects of interest and speculation to those who had come before. They came by cars, by stage coaches which connected with all points in the West, by carryalls, wagons and on foot. The hotels were crowded, and the merchants enjoyed a run of patronage that enabled them to put money in their purses. Property rose in value, and lots were sold in eligible portions of the town for $10 per foot. At the end of the first five months after the road was completed the merchants are reported to have carried the heaviest stocks of goods west of the Mississippi River, some of them invoicing as high as $40,000.

During these times, the Clarendon Hotel, begun a year or more previous, and designed as one of the most complete and elaborate establishments of the kind in the West, was completed. Judge Dyer began its erection under an impression that when finished it would hardly be sufficiently extensive for the rush of travel that would storm its outer walls. As time progressed this impression was somewhat dissipated by the facts; these hopes were revived, however, when Dyersville became a railroad center, only to lapse and disappear entirely when the terminus of the road was changed to points further west. It was a monster frame building, on the southeast corner of Water and Union streets, in its day one of the most elegantly furnished and appointed in Iowa. But diminished patronage finally caused its suspension, and it drifted into the realm of oblivion, but is yet remembered for its architectural excellence, and the promise of long life, usefulness and wealth it held out to the owner, as also to Dyersville.

The condition of affairs quoted as the results of railroad enterprise lasted, according to the statements of those who were on the ground, about five months. At the expiration of that period the road was completed further west, and business began to drift thither. This, supplemented by the memorable panic of 1857, destroyed the hopes that had been elevated, dashed bright dreams and substituted realities as bitter as they were undeniable. Property which went up like a rocket came down like a stick; business, which had been "rushing," fell flat; improvements, which had been contemplated or contracted for, were left to the future. As one of the present residents says: "When the railroad quit, and the panic struck us, it floored the citizens completely. There was no business, no building, no nothing, but the weeping and swearing and gnashing of teeth."

In the midst of this depression, three notable persons settled in the town, whose coming at that particular time was a source of wonder only equaled by the admiration they have inspired during subsequent years. Two of these were Henry and Barney Holscher, brothers, who presented bone and sinew as recommendations, with industry, thrift and integrity as their future sponsors. After years of diligence, application and enterprise, they are today among the wealthiest residents of Dubuque County, universally respected and esteemed not less for their wealth and influence than for their probity and enterprise.

The third representative was the Rev. W. H. Heu di Bourgh, a French Huguenot, who came to Dyersville and enlisted in promoting the cause of religion. He secured subscriptions toward the erection of the Congregational Church, which was completed, furnished and consecrated under his administration, when he remained in charge of the society thus attracted for seven years. He also purchased a tract of land of 400 acres, two miles south of town, on which he built him a parsonage of large dimensions and palatial appointments, expending therefor a sum estimated at $25,000. Here, surrounded by a family consisting of his wife, one son and five daughters of surpassing loveliness, as is said by one conversant with the situation, he led the life of an elegant follower of the meek and lowly Savior, dispensing a lavish hospitality, and receiving the admiration of the public, tinctured with the envy of brethren less fortunate in their possessions. He returned to Canada about 1875, and the estate he cultivated so assiduously and carefully passed into the hands of a Chicago operator named Fanning.

The town did not recover from the effects of the panic as rapidly as cities more materially injured, and it was not until after the breaking out of the war that times became at all similar to those of 1856-57. During the war, Dyersville took an active part in contributing men and money to the cause. Large meetings were held, at which the greatest enthusiasm was manifested, finding expression in volunteers and subscriptions.

The larger portion of the Twenty-first Iowa Infantry was enlisted in New Wine Township, and the services rendered by those who faced the guns of Lee and Hood reflected no discredit upon those who remained at home and read the papers.

The enforcement of the draft created more than a ripple of excitement among the residents, and caused a well-defined anxiety to become visible, lending to the front many a substitute, in consideration of sums varying from $600 to $800, in hand paid, the receipt of which was afterward acknowledged by active service.

In 1863 times began to improve, and from then to 1870, money was plenty. As a result, improvements took another start; a new bridge was substituted for the one erected by Judge Dyer, nearly thirty years previous, and other alterations, additions and reconstructions were perfected. It was during this decade that the farmers amassed wealth, and it might be here parenthetically observed that the farmers of the township of which Dyersville is the chief town are among the wealthiest in the State, nearly all of them living upon the interest of money made at this period. There may be isolated cases of penury or impoverishment, but if such exist among this class, they are beyond the ken of those who should keep themselves informed as to the responsibility of their patrons. At that time, pork sold for $15 a hundred; wheat, for $2.65; oats, $1, and corn for 75 cents per bushel; and, from the proceeds of repeatedly abundant crops, the agricultural branch of the community laid by sufficient to tide them over the rainy days that came thereafter.

In 1870 times began to weaken. Prices became low, scarcely worth the cost of placing commodities upon the market. Crops failed, and all the evil influences that stay progress, prevent success and promote failure seemed to work together for evil. They succeeded in this attempt, and continued until 1873, when Dyersville experienced the "tightest times" ever known in the vicinity. It was then that the treasure laid up by farmers, merchants and trailers fulfilled its mission in relieving the strain that would otherwise have been imposed, and prevented the contracting of debts either on private account or for public uses. One of the results is that Dyersville, as a corporation, has yet to know the nature of an obligation, and the same may be said of many who have been instrumental in procuring this independence.

In 1873 the village was organized as a town, and, at an election held in March of that year, the following gentlemen were named as officials: William Trick, Mayor; J. A. Limback, Treasurer; John Morley, Recorder; A. Limback, C. C. Chesterman, D. S. Smith, A. Krapfl and A. Muehe, members of the Common Council.

Previous to this the village had been governed by statutory laws applicable to villages, and were without other than the forms of law. No tax was levied for its support, the same being contributed from revenue derived from saloon and other licenses. There was no Assessor or Tithing Master; William Trick acted as Justice of the Peace, and expounded the law when called upon, which was rarely.

Since that day improvements have been gradual but substantial. A Howe truss-bridge spans the river, erected in 1874 at a cost of $4,300, and numerous brick buildings have been added since 1870.


St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church is located at the corner of Victoria and Vine streets, on the west side of the river, and was organized in 1858. At that date the congregation worshiped in a frame house on Main street, near the bridge, under the care of Rev. Father Langfelz, who remained for five months. During the three succeeding years the church was without a pastor, the congregation being attached to the parish of New Vienna. Meantime a portion of the brick church now occupied was built and in February, 1862, the Rev. Father A. Kortenkamp was assigned as rector, and the congregation again formed a separate parish. The church was completed in 1862, but in 1870 enlarged at a cost of $5,000, to supply accommodations for the increased number of worshipers. In 1872, a parsonage was built on a lot west of the church, and in 1876 a schoolhouse on the opposite corner, both costing over $10,000.

The first trustees were Joseph Stoeckel, Sr., George Schindler, Sr., Theodore Goerdt, Sr., and Francis Schultz. Besides the trustees the first members of the society were: Carl Goerdt, Bernard Holscher, Henry Holsher, John Christoph, George Steger, Sr., Anton Reittinger, Joseph Henry, Ralph Burkle, Mike Stockerl, H. H. Kramer, Adam Stoeckl and others.

The first marriage performed in this society was Mr. Bernard Holscher and Elizabeth Stoeckl, on February 1, 1859, by Rev. Langfelz.

The first pastor was Rev. Anthony Kortenkamp, from February 2, 1862, to the time of his death, September 14, 1889.

Very Rev. George W. Heer was in charge from October, 1889, to October 12, 1905. He was then transferred to St. Mary's at Dubuque and was succeeded at Dyersville by Very Rev. Theo. Warning, on October 20, 1905.

The present St. Francis Church was begun by the Rev. A. Kortenkamp. The corner-stone was laid by Archbishop Hennessy, June 3, 1888. After Father Kortenkamp's death, Rev. J. H. Brinkmann, the assistant priest, who had charge during the sickness of Rev. A. Kortenkamp, completed the church. The church was dedicated on December 3, 1889, when the Very Rev. G. W. Heer had taken charge. The church cost over $100,000 as it now stands, the largest and most magnificent structure of its kind west of the Mississippi.

In 1894, the old church was changed into a schoolhouse and entertainment hall with additions, making eight large schoolrooms. Eight Reverend Sisters of St. Francis were employed to teach. But the increase of pupils continued, and in 1902 a special·school for boys was organized, which is being taught by four Reverend Brothers. Beside the common school branches, there are scientific, commercial and normal departments for boys and girls. Over 600 pupils attended in 1905. The schoolhouse being again too small, another school building is now to be erected at a cost of $15,000 or $20,000 and will be completed early in 1907. The new school structure will be used for boys and the old for girls.

Nearly 500 families now belong to St. Francis parish.


Farmers State Bank

Capital,     -     $30,000

  J.B. UTT, Vice-President

Is the acknowledged Mecca of Bargain Hunters.
The extremely Low Prices daily offered on fresh
new goods have made the Emporium the greatest
name of any store in Dubuque, Delaware or
Clayton counties



Real Estate, Insurance
... LOANS ...
Veterinary Surgeon

Druggist and Bookseller
Drugs, Paints, Oil, Wall Paper
Books, Stationery, Musical Merchandise
Schemmel & Armstrong
Land and Immigration Agents
Thorn Hedge Stock Farm
LOUIS H. PAPE, Proprietor

Prescription Druggist
Pure Drugs, Medicines and Chemicals
Physician Prescriptions Carefully Compounded
Fancy Stationery and Druggist Sundries
Perfumes, Soap, Toilet and Fancy Articles
Buggies, Wagons, Windmills
Pumps, Sewing Machines, Cream
Separators and Gasoline Engines



Commercial Hotel

... Proprietor ...

Retail Lumber Dealers
White Pine Lumber, Yellow Pine Lumber, Red Cedar Shingles,
White Pine Shingles, Sash, Doors, Blinds, Building Paper,
Moulding, Screens, Lime, Cement Coal

May Bros. & Forkenbrock Co.
Dealers in
Furniture, Hardware, Tinware
Upholstering, Repairing and Picture Framing

JOHN FORKENBROCK, Funeral Director and Embalmer
D.D MYERS, Vice-President
D.A. GEHRIG, Cashier
The German State Bank
Paid up Capital,  -  $25,000
Surplus,  -   -   -   -   $7,000
Jacob Kerper   D.D. Myers   J.H. Limback   Henry Goerdt
Peter Freymann   Will Baker   C.J. Ungs
Frank Stieber   C.C. Chesterman
Geo. W. Myers   W.G. Cox   H.F. Kremer   D.A. Gehrig
Efficient Collection Department
References--All Banks and Wholesaele Houses in this City
Old Phone No. 1241 J     New Phone No. 403
Suite 606-612 Bank and Insurance Building
Physician and Surgeon

Office Hours--9 to 12 A.M. and 7 to 8 P.M.
Attorney and Counselor
... At Law ...

Collections.....DYERSVILLE, IOWA
Rates $1.00 per daySample Room in Connection
J.B. GEBHARD, Proprietor
Located Near Depot and Business Portion
John Forkenbrock



Manufacturer of
Repairing a Specialty
Jeweler and Optician


Dubuque Brewing and Malting Co's
Keg and Bottled Beers

Both Phones No. 4   DYERSVILLE, IOWA

Dr. W.A. Meis

All Gold Work Strictly Cash


     F.P. KERN
     Dyersville Canning Co.
     Golden Star Creamery Co.
     Hard and Soft Coal
Successors to N. BURLAGE & CO.
Dealers in All Kinds of
Farm Machinery, Buggies, Carriages and Wagons
Cream Separators a Specialty...   DYERSVILLE, IOWA

Dyersville Commercial
C.A. SMITH, Publisher

A Large Circulation in Iowa
and the Northwest
Fancy Commercial Job and
Book Printing

New Wine Township, Dubuque County, Iowa

Dyersville, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, and Leading Business Houses
© 2003, 2004 Tom Larson

Last revised January 4, 2004.