Category Archives: Town Signs

Welcome Sign (Grand River, Iowa)

Welcome Sign (Grand River, Iowa)

The Decatur County town of Grand River made national headlines in 1980 for being the next-to-last town in the United States to exchange their crank telephones in favor of “new-fangled dial sets or push-button models.” The switch was officially made on Saturday, December 6, 1980, more than 20 months after residents voted 121-73 to replace their phone system, which was operated by switchboard.

The Burlington Hawk Eye was one of many papers to run the story. An excerpt follows:

Out-of-town callers often had to deal with confused long-distance operators to complete their calls. Directory information, for example, lists the Grand River switchboard number as only “0006.”

“The biggest reason for the change was the people away from here having trouble getting their calls in here,” said Ruth Bowles, 77, who with her husband, Royal, 78, managed the phone system for 39 years until Royal retired in 1977.

Mrs. Bowles will place the last call on the crank system at 1 p.m. Saturday when the Mutual Telephone Corp. of Princeton, Missouri, takes over.

The system cost around $800,000 to install; residents saw their monthly rate go from $6.04 to $10.50 for a basic dial phone or $12 for a push-button phone. Operators from the old switch-board system gathered for a final time the night before the change, in “a smoke-filled frame house down the street from the new automated switching center.”

“When it was first in the news that we were going out, we had calls from everywhere,” said Sue Barton, operator and bookkeeper for the company.

Ms. Barton said she and the other operators, Margaret Crees, Minerva Logan, Helen Camden and Virginia Thomas, are resigned to their pending layoffs.

Russell Vanderflught, a lineman for 17 years and manager for the last three years, said the old cracnk phones and other equipment from the system will probably be auctioned [the following spring], with proceeds divided among company employees.

The operators ran the switchboard 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Bryant Pond, Maine, was the last community in the united states to go to dial phones. The change was made on October 11, 1983.

Welcome Sign (Greeley, Iowa)

Welcome Sign (Greeley, Iowa)

In 1878, Holbert Horse Importing Company was established in the Delaware County town of Greeley and quickly garnered an international reputation for horse selling and breeding. The last man to work for the company was R.M. “Bob” Brady, whose sons are honored on the community’s welcome sign. Walt and Don became famous as horse handlers and drivers for the Budweiser Clydesdale Hitch. In addition to the sign, the Brady brothers are honored with a life-size replica of a Clydesdale horse.

Cemetery (Paris/Bunch, Iowa)

This cemetery sign may be the only marker in the once-thriving Davis County hamlet of Paris. Founded in 1870, the town was named for settler Jackson Paris who offered land to the Chicago and Southwestern Railroad for both tracks and a depot. When population was sufficient to merit a Post Office, the name Paris was already in use for a town in Linn County. The alternate name Bunch was chosen, in honor of a prominent Doctor in nearby Drakesville.

The railroad refused to change its timetables, tickets, and signs to match the Post Office, so from the beginning, the town has been known by two names. Few buildings or signs remain in the rural Davis County town; postal service was discontinued in 1954 and the railroad ceased operations in 1965.

Cemetery (Greencastle, Iowa)

This simple cemetery monument may be the only sign to mark the once-thriving hamlet of Greencastle in rural Jasper County. The village was platted in August 1855, one of the earliest established in the county. Grandeur visions were evident in the town plat, which featured a spacious public square surround by numerous rows of lots. Within two years, a two-story school building was built and the business district flourished with multiple general stores, a blacksmith shop, and a vineyard.

When the railroad was built two miles to the north in 1885, an exodus began. Merchants packed their inventories and moved to the new town of Mingo. A town with fifteen businesses, two churches, five doctors and a large school, Greencastle shrunk as quickly as it grew. By 1895, only a handful of businesses remained, while the post office closed on December 31, 1901. The pictured cemetery monument sits near the entrance of the well-maintained Greencastle Cemetery, which lies in the southwest corner of the area where the village once stood.

Town Sign (Valeria, Iowa)

This modest metal sign welcomes visitors to the Jasper County community of Valeria, highlighting the railroad romance that led to its establishment. In the early 1860s, the William H. Johnson family left the South to escape the atmosphere and attitudes of the Civil War, and settled at the present-day site of Valeria. William’s son Nicholas and his sister Edna Valeria would play key roles in the birth of the village.

Edna fell in love with a young civil engineer named McBride, who worked for the Chicago and Great Western Railroad. She and her beau convinced her father to allow the tracks to cross the Johnson land. An agreement was reached based on the condition that the community’s depot would be known as Valeria. The couple ultimately married, though McBride left the railroad to become a dentist.

Brother Nicholas entered into a real estate venture, and his signature appears on the papers that officially platted the town in 1883 and on abstracts of present property owners in Valeria. Its population peaked at 96 in 1970; the community is now home to 57 residents.