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Copyright (C) 2001-2003 by Sandra Sanchez
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The 1860's saw the end of the pioneer era and ushered in a boom period common to the settlements that were becoming of age along America's western frontier.
The arrival of the Chicago and North Western Railway in 1859 was welcome. The trains rolling in brought new settlers, new ideas, and products. In the next few years they were to take back corn, wheat, horses, and men for a nation engaged in war.
Veterans returning in 1865 gave impetus to the mushrooming growth of the young village. They brought back with them new skills, vitality, and a firm belief in their own future and that of their country.
Mount Vernon teamed with industry at this time. There was a lime kiln, lumber for builders turned out by the Torrance sawmill and by William Platner at Ivanhoe. A Large stone quarry, stone was being cut to be used in construction.
The Camp Brothers opened a carriage and wagon factory south of Main Street. Eventually they turned out about two hundred prize-winning wagons and surreys per year, which sold for $175.00 each. Mike Gutzler had a wagon shop. There was a tile factory owned by Rudolph Vodicka. On North Washington Street were wool, flour, and sorghum mills. J.T. Oldham opened a furniture factory. His wife Mattie used a room in the factory for manufacturing hoop-skirts, Mrs. William Warren did dressmaking in a corner of the same room. N. Spangler had a pottery works . Here were turned out dishes of utility and beauty. North on Third Avenue was a flour mill run by Jerry and Sam Smyth. There was also a creamery and laundry.
Such was the prosperous condition of the village in 1869. This was a momentous date in its history, for during that year the city fathers met and after much discussion decided that the growth of their community demanded a civic organization with municipal officers.
In June 1869 a vote was taken at the school house resulting in 125 votes for incorporation and 18 against. On August 20th. the following men were elected on a full ticket of prohibition temperance: Mayor, L.L. Pease;trustees, W.J. Goudy, W.B. Armstrong, Dr. J. Doron, D.C. Sawyer, Isaac Wilcox; Recorder, S.H. Bauman.
The new council kept busy. People were clamoring for sidewalks, water courses and crossings. The council requested at once that Board sidewalks be constructed on Main Street. There was petitions for sidewalks on Jefferson and Washington Streets leading to the depot.
Mount Vernon Hawkeye was founded in 1869 by Thomas J. Rice
By 1872 sidewalks were mandatory. They had to be laid of one inch oak or pine timber, laid crosswise on three white pine stringers of 2 by 4 inches and said planks to be firmly nailed at each end and in the center to said stringer.
On March 7, 1877 the county established a fire district to include property in the original town of Mount Vernon.
The Miller Family established the first street lamp . It was on the corner of the old "Gigantic" Lot and the Millers kept it lighted at their own expense.
A Mystery in the 1870's

Mr. Herbert Hogle has a letter containing a mystery in our town in the 1870's. It belonged to Mabel Gough Hogle and probably came into the possession of the Gough family when they were merchants here.
Dated at Palermo, California May 1, 1871/6 a Spanish Priest one Gonzales Montmorencie, advised a Spanish bishop, Montalvena, a descendant of one of the oldest and wealthiest families in Spain, that there was a large sum of money and diamonds buried in a village of the state of Iowa. The money had been collected for the Church of Rome. Brother Montalvena was entrusted to find , dig up and dispose of this vast treasure. The following directions are quoted: You will stop at a Hotel called Mt. Vernon House. Kept by a Mr. Guild-nearly opposite this House is a vacant lot-where the treasure is buried in a iron box, to find it you will go the right hand corner of this Lot from the street feel at the foot of the fence post and you will find a piece of wire. Leave it where it is now proceed down the side of the fence , facing towards the depot until you get to the second post from the corner of the fence, feel down at its foot you will find another wire with its end stuck in the earth with your knife dig a little and you will the key to the box and two coppers. One with the date on it of 1769 the other 1732. You will follow the instructions as given- above in the daytime, on the night of the same day you will proceed to the first wire where you will after taking off of your person all Jewelry and Money put them in your coat and leave them near the spot and proceed to the second wire and precisely one yard westward you will- by digging find the box it will not take you 20 minutes to dig it after finding the spot.
Mount Vernon Bank

William Smith and Dr. James Carson organized the Mount Vernon Bank in 1884. In 1893 Mr. Rood bought a 1/3 interest. In 1898 Willard Stuckslager of Lisbon purchased the interest if Dr. James Carson. Mr. Stuckslager remained president of the bank until his death in 1931. After his death the bank was reorganized as a state bank, and the name was changed to Mount Vernon Bank and Trust Company.
In 1890 a serious fire destroyed two buildings on Main Street in December, 1893 and dispossessed a number of firms and tenants. Rood and Youngs store was among them. A beneficial result of this fire was a movement to secure town water facilities. Almost everyone had his private well and pump, and few were the houses with running water. A board of water commissioners was formed. Pipes were laid wells were sunk in low ground behind the high school knoll, and a water tower was erected on the east end of the college hill.
Mount Vernon reached it's zenith in building expansion in the 1890's, In 1890 the population was 1259; in 1900 it was 1629. Twenty new houses went up in one season at a cost of $50,000.00. Marsden Keyes and Charles Davis made the sound of saw and hammer familiar at this period.

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