All ABOUT MARBLE ROCK

 

By Max Handley, Marble Rock Historical Society                  

 

HISTORICAL SITES

 

  1. Jacob Beelar Log House - Jacob Beelar took up the land where the present town of Marble Rock now stands. Initially he built a 16 x 16-foot log house in 1851 when he was the only settler in the township, and remained about one year without a single neighbor or his family.

 

In 1852, Beelar build a 20 x 30 two-story log house for his family of nine. This he located on the east bank of the Shell Rock River near a large spring. It is though the original 16 x 16-foot log house is fasten to the rear of this structure.

 

The Beelar log house was moved from its original site to the Historical Society’s property on June 2, 2009.

 

The log house was preserved because siding was added and it looked to be a conventional house. Most residents of Marble Rock were not aware the house was constructed of logs. John Jesmore, longtime Mayor and businessman, was born in this house and made this his home all his life.

 

  1. BALTIMORE TAVERN – Built in 1853, the Baltimore Tavern has stood near the banks of the Shell Rock River three miles north of Marble Rock. The Tavern was the “stopping place” for those going to the grist mill 40 miles away at Cedar Falls, and the post office 30 miles away at Waverly. The Tavern was a stage coach stop for those going west and for young married couples traveling into unsettled areas to make their home.

 

The house has always been well maintained and is now the home of Harley and Carol Lines.

 

  1. STONE BANK BUILDINGThe “Marble Rock Bank” was established in 1873 and was the first attempt at a regular banking business. In 1885 the stone bank building was constructed for their place of business. The vault features railroad rails to support the ceiling. The building is now owned by the Historical Society and contains many exhibits.

 

  1. OLD CITY HALLThe City Hall was built in 1924 to provide a City Council room, Fire Station and community gathering place. The building is of colonial-type architecture with French windows and doors, and was constructed on the site of the old firehouse. M. B. Cleveland, a prominent Waterloo architect, designed the building. Mr. Cleveland was also responsible for designing many schools, homes and commercial structures.

 

Since purchasing the Old Town Hall from the city of Marble Rock in 2006, the Marble Rock Historical Society has done much to refurbish and bring this classic old structure back to its original beauty. Renamed “Museum Hall”, the building is packed with historic documents and objects.

 

BRIEF HISTORY OF MARBLE ROCK

 

In 1852, Jacob Beelar took up land where the present town of Marble Rock is located and was the first resident of the township. Due to five sections of good timber, the area was named “Beelar’s Grove”. The village was platted in 1856 with the name Marble Rock since the entire town rests on a bed of rock with white limestone cropping out along the river bank resembling marble.

 

In 1860, the twin city of Aureola was platted on the west side of the Shell Rock River and grew sporadically. Robert Frost, the founder, built a rock and crib dam across the Shell Rock River to power a saw mill which was the main source of activity for many years. Originally the area was called Grand Bend due to the shape of the river. There is no known documentation why the name was changed to Aureola. There are five houses now in Aureola.

 

In 1871, the railroad came through on the east side of the Shell Rock River which ensured all development would be in Marble Rock. In 1917 the growth boasted 56 businesses including two banks, two Doctors, a Dentist, locally owned electricity power plant and telephone system, Opera House, hotel and newspaper.

 

The entire west side of the 100 block of Main Street burned on February 12, 1899.with the temperature at sixteen degrees below zero. On September 6, 1899, the entire east side of the 100 block burned.

 

Marble Rock population is now 307. In 1940, the population was 660 and there were dozens of businesses, four churches and a school. The school merged with Rockford, Rudd and Marble Rock and closed in the spring of 1991.

 

Today the Marble Rock Community includes the following: Churches (St. Mary’s Catholic, St. Paul’s Lutheran, Untied Methodist), First Security Bank, Hillman StopNShop, Hillman Trucking, Historical Society, J. R. Ackley Insurance, Lines Tree Farm, Neil Wedeking Electric, Public Library, Retz Funeral Home, Scavenger Backwater Motors (manufactures shallow water boat motors), Staudt Insurace, Swift Hog Buying Station, U.S. Post Office, Viafield Cooperative (grain and fertilizer), Walter F. Bohl Community Center plus several home-based business.

 

FAMOUS CITIZENS

 

Jacob Beelar – First resident of area, first marriage in area (3rd wife), first to break ground to farm.

 

John Jesmore – “Mr. Marble Rock”. Long-time Mayor, homesteader, early Ford Automobile Dealer, tinker, prankster

 

Loren Inman – Minister, educator, farmer, businessman and member Iowa House of Representatives (2-18-1914 thru 2-8-1919)

 

Jasper (Jap) Thornton – Brilliant, eccentric, barefoot

 

C. L. Bopp – Druggist, Mayor, author, poet, inventor (railway signaling device), President Teletopograph Signal Co. (1911)

 

James McNeilus – Stone/brick mason, builder of local stone houses, author, poet

 

Arnold Staudt – Farmer, long-time Scouter and responsible for establishing the Winnebago Scout Reservation (Camp) three miles north of Marble Rock, founding member and President Marble Rock Historical Society

 

Arlene Carney – School teacher; Founding member, Curator, President Marble Rock Historical Society; Certified UMC Lay Preacher; leadership roll in many community organizations

 

INFAMOUS EVENTS

 

  1. On March 7, 1928, a school bus was hit by a south bound Rock Island passenger train two and one-half miles southeast of Marble Rock. The bus driver was blinded by a swirling snow storm. Killed were two children and the bus driver. Fifteen other children were injured.

 

  1. $1800.00 tree falls (December 12, 1967) – The price of the 100-foot giant, estimated to be 200 years old, apparently was the highest ever paid for a tree in the state. The buyer along with a German wood expert felt the tree would yield a large amount of veneer. After the giant had been cut down, it was discovered the first eight feet of the tree was hollow making it worth $800.00.

 

  1. Marble Rock Bank Robbed (January 11, 1974) – Two armed men took about $3800.00 from the First Security Bank about 6:45 p.m. Friday. One had a pistol and the other a shotgun. The bank employees were shut in a back room of the building with a phone. They dialed the sheriff’s office. Roadblocks were set up, but removed after several hours. The criminals were never caught. It was an extremely cold night and there was no one on the streets to identify the car.

 

STRANGE HAPPENINGS

 

  1. In the spring when the ice would “go out” of the Shell Rock River, flooding would often occur and some of the rising water would flow through a pasture west of the main street bridge and bypass the main channel and dam. This flooding was a common occurrence since the bridge was built in 1913-14. The road would be impassable for a few days and alternate bridges would be used. In the spring of 1951, the high water washed a new large channel west of the bridge. During this period, no water flowed through the main channel and kids found it exciting to walk across the top of the dam. The county rented a steel bridge to span the new channel until they could haul fill to bring the road up to the level of the bridge floor.

 

  1. DeGraw (Outhouse) Bear had a powerful formula for disposing of the contents of outhouses. He would hire a local Marble Rock young man to drive him around Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota. For a fee, Bear would go to the outhouse and pour in his chemical, and the owner could not use the facility for a few days. Every town they were in, Bear would buy chemicals in the drugstore, but whether he used them is anybody’s guess. They beat him up, got him drunk, tired everything to get his formula, but never did. He took the secret to his grave.

 

INTERESTING BUILDINGS

 

  1. The five buildings owned by the Marble Rock Historical Society located on Bradford Street all have a long history. The first building purchased was the 1885 Stone Bank Building which also was formerly used as the Post Office and Laundromat. The Pioneer Kitchen Building has housed the telephone office, music studio, barber shop, cobbler shop, radio shop and was Genevieve Schrader’s home when she worked for C. L. Bopp Druggist. The Town & Country Building was used as the Marble Rock Journal print shop and contains a skylight to provide light for the printer to set the type. The log house was built by the first area settler for his family home. Museum Hall was the former City Hall and Fire Station. All buildings are used for exhibits.

 

  1. At the southwest corner of Main & Bradford, is the Gates Building. At the top of the second story is the letter “G”. On the second story at the front were Doctor and Dentist offices. The climb up the stairs was long and difficult. The joke was if you were sick or pregnant how could you ever make it up the stairs? Across the back of the second floor was a large dance hall. On the first floor there was a general merchandise store.

 

  1. First Security Bank & Trust of Charles City purchased the north one-half of the Gates Building in 1935. The building had been a general merchandise store and the north half walled off and remodeled into a bank in 1916. This bank was forced to close during the great depression in 1932. The tile floor, teller stations, fountain, vaults and furniture are original to the 1916 remodeling, and are still being used nearly 100 years later.

 

  1. The Marble Rock Public Library was constructed in 2005 with bequests from the Iva Boom and H. Dean Staudt estates.

 

AMAZING LANDSCAPE

 

The Shell Rock River called by the Indians “Dashonaugh” or “Neshonagatan” signifying “Otter River” flows through the west side of Marble Rock. The beauty of the river is enhanced by the dam and power house constructed in 1912. The river provides year around recreation including fishing, boating, canoeing, snowmobiling and bald eagle watching. On hot summer days, many “put in” tubes below the dam to float downstream.

 

Interesting community feature/topic for The Des Moines River and other media:

 

1.    The Marble Rock Historical Society with its five buildings and exhibits is an unusually large resource for a small town.

 

2.    Tosanak Recreational Area – The Winnebago Council BSA owned two camps, one at Marble Rock and the other at Waverly. The cost of operating these two facilities was more than the Council could handle and voted to sell the Marble Rock Camp in April 2012. Floyd County Conservation purchased the 320 acre facility with the help of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for $750,000.

 

Many individuals, foundations, businesses, charities and civic organizations inside and outside of Floyd County contributed money toward the acquisition and in October of 2013 the Tosanak Recreational Area became fully owned by Floyd County.

 

Floyd County Conservation now has the task to redevelop the camp facilities into a first-class public recreational area.

 

3.    The Charles City Western Railroad was founded in 1910 to connect Marble Rock to Charles City and Colwell. Regular interurban and street car passenger service was established. The Charles City east-west Illinois Central and Milwaukee mail and freight service was enhanced by using the north-south Rock Island Railroad at Marble Rock. In 1914 service began with a gasoline power locomotive, but in 1915 the line was electrified. Service was discontinued by new owners in the mid-1960.