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Muscatine North & South Railroad Company

Building the Road

It was February of 1839 that the town of Bloomington was incorporated in the newly formed Iowa Territory. Ten years later, the name would be changed in district court to Muscatine, taken from the original name of the county, Mosquitine. It was not until the 20th day of November 1857 that the first railroad tracks reached the city, those of the Mississippi & Missouri Railroad.


Muscatine has always been comprised of progressive and enterprising people that have kept a steady pace with the growth of the State of Iowa. Among the manufacturing enterprises located at this fine city in the 1890's are an oat meal mill, sash door and blind factories, and perhaps the most important of all, pearl button factories. Muscatine is the undisputed leader in the number of factories and employed laborers in the pearl button industry. Muscatine's pearl buttons are shipped world-wide.


In addition to the manufacturing enterprises, and sharing equally as a source of Muscatine's great fame, are it's overwhelming quantities melons, cabbage and sweet potatoes raised on the Muscatine Island, hauled away in hundreds of boxcar loads each year. It is easy to see why Muscatine is served by several railroads with such a diverse group of local shippers. It is also easy to see the window of opportunity open in such a rich and diverse area, for yet another railroad enterprise. In 1892, when the Muscatine North and South Railroad Company was incorporated, the city of Muscatine was already being served by the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad and it's branch lines; the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad and it's branch lines; and many steamboat lines on the Mississippi River.


In 1893, however, it proved to be a difficult economic period of time due to a depression largely caused by railroad companies.


Between 1893 and 1899, the Santa Fe, Northern Pacific, Union Pacific and many other railroad companies filed bankruptcy, mainly due to over expansion. During the same period of time, the incorporators of the M.N.& S. were actively seeking investors, both locally, and on the East coast. Building a railroad was risky business, so it is not difficult to understand why it took six years before the first train rolled down the tracks.


Public transportation in the 1890's was limited in the cities, to horse drawn, steam powered, electric, or cable driven street cars, and in the rural areas to the train.


Wagon roads, as they were called in that day, where little more than dirt paths, some of which had been used by the Indians of the area. During the spring thaw and times of hard rain these paths were virtually impassable. If you lived on a farm, a trip to town could prove to be a very large chore. It usually required hitching one or two horses up to a buggy, and then clogging the countless miles to town at a speed equivalent to that of a brisk walk. If you don't want to be labeled as unsociable, you would have to stop and talk to any neighbor you might encounter along the way, sometimes turning the round trip into an adventure which could consume most of your Saturday.


As difficult as travel was, it was not nearly as difficult as paying tax, especially to a railroad. At Wapello, on Saturday, January 7, 1899, W.E. Blake held a meeting at the court house to propose resisting the collection of the tax voted by the township to the M.N.& S.  Mr. Blake's proposition was accepted and a committee of thirteen was named, one from each school district and three from town to canvass for funds with which to contest the tax. The committee was:

            Benj. Brown, P.O. Shipman, A.J. Miller, D.W.V. Herrick, Ed. Jameson, Ed. Garrett, W.C. Herrick, J.F. Heins,                Thos. Rogers, Sam Dotson, I.N. Jamison, W. Bumgardner, and Merritt Deihl.
           J.F. Heins was chairman of the meeting and C.E. Stone secretary.


One week later, the following appeared in the Wapello Tribune,
           J.F. Heins was quite badly injured last Saturday by being struck in the left wrist by the tusk of a vicious boar. He bled profusely and a physician was called from town. Tuesday he came into town to have a wound dressed and he looked like he had passed through a severe spell of sickness.


Perhaps the vicious boar had a connection with the M.N.& S. Connection of not, it did not slow the opposition one bit. In an early example of an attempted hostile take-over (made famous in the 1980's), a Grandview man had other intentions when it came to how his tax dollars where spent. (See next page; MN&S: Cost of the New Road).

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