Chelsea600 Station St. • P.O. Box 125
Chelsea, IA 52215
MeetingsThe City Council meets on the 2nd Monday of each month at 7:00 p.m. in City Hall.
Less than a mile east of where the present Chelsea is located, Otter Creek Station once existed. By the end of 1861 the Chicago, Iowa, and Nebraska Railroad, later known as the Chicago and Northwestern, had extended westward that far into Iowa. When Otter Creek Station was moved about three-quarters of a mile west to the present location of Chelsea, and the railroad extended westward, the name was changed. One story has it that S.G. Breese, one of the original owners of land near the site, named it for Chelsea, MA, from where he had emigrated. Another is that John I. Blair named it for Chelsea, England.
In the history of Chelsea, floods have often played havoc with the town and its environs but its citizens return and carry on the tradition of hardiness.
Chelsea lies along the original Lincoln Highway route which was America’s first “coast-to-coast” highway. The original steel bridge on the Lincoln Highway in Chelsea was replaced in 1928-29 with the Otter Creek Bridge, which in turn had to be replaced in 2007. Citizens of Chelsea encouraged the preservation of the lamp posts which graced the old bridge railings. That action brought high accolades from the National Lincoln Highway Association.
Clutier214 Main St.
Clutier, IA 52217
MeetingsThe City Council meets the 1st Monday of each month at 7:00 p.m.
The town of Clutier, situated on a gently sloping tract of land in the Salt Creek Valley of Oneida Township in Tama County, was founded in 1900 by Wm. E. Brice, the principal capitalist and promoter of the railroad project known as the Iowa, Minnesota, and Northern. Mr. Brice named the town for his sister, Maude, and brother-in-law, Bertram L. Clutier.
Clutier, the youngest incorporated town in Tama County, soon became a Czech settlement. Today, more than a century later, Clutier retains its small town hospitality and is still well-known for the high concentration of catering services in the area. Many of these caterers specialize in Czech cuisine, among which the kolaches and rohlicky are the long time favorites. Clutier Bohemian Plum Festival, an annual celebration, is held the first weekend in August, and several old-fashioned polka band concerts are also held during the summer months.
Clutier is also home to the charging Czechs, the girls state basketball champions of 1942. It’s ZCBJ Hall (chartered February 16, 1901) also the home of the only lodge building in Iowa still tied to its original Western Bohemian Fraternal Association (Zapadni Cesko-Bratrske Jednoty), now known as Western Fraternal Life Association (WFLA). The lodge hall has always served as a place for Czech dances and community service activities; it is still in use today for meetings, dances, weddings, anniversaries, and includes a Czech museum.
Dysart601 Wilson St. • P.O. Box 686
Dysart, IA 52224
John Crisman laid out the town in 1872 and named it for Joseph Dysart. Dysart grew rapidly and by 1879 the population had reached 600. In 1881 the town was incorporated. The first school was built in March of 1878. Even back then there was a vision for growth, with the extra wide Main Street going to the park entrance.
There are five known Dysarts in the world: Scotland, Pennsylvania, Canada, Australia, and Iowa. Of them, ours is the second largest. The continued efforts of volunteers, organizations, city administration and business people that have the desire to make a difference in the community ensure that “Dysart is a City on the Grow”. Dysart once accepted children from “The Orphan Train”. The Orphan Train was a social experiment that transported orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children from crowded coastal cities of the United States to the country’s Midwest for adoption. More information about the Orphan Train is available at the Dysart Historical Museum.
Dysart’s annual celebrations include Spring on Main, Independence Day Celebration, Old Iron Days, Wine Tasting & Fall Festival, and Christmas on Main. Dysart also hosts a Farmers Market at the park on Tuesdays from the end of May to the beginning of October.
Elberon106 Main St. • P.O. Box 144
Elberon, IA 52225
MeetingsThe City Council meets the 1st Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the Elberon Community Center at 106 Main St.
A temporary name for the town was Halifax. However, patriotic fervor was high at the time because of the assassination of the nation’s president, James Abram Garfield, who died September 19, 1881, at Elberon, NJ. Elberon, Iowa was named in honor of that eastern suburb. The name is not Indian, as some suppose, but is an elision of the name of L.B. Brown, who was one of the founders of the original Elberon. (An elision is leaving out or slurring over letters in a pronunciation.)
As with many Tama County communities, the city of Elberon owes its existence to the coming of the railroad. A town was surveyed in September of 1881 just south of the proposed Chicago Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad line. Land was purchased from Mr. T. Prindle, and the plat for the town was filed in February of 1882. Elberon was incorporated in October of 1883, with the first town officials elected five months later.
Youth and adults alike worked together in fundraising efforts to improve the city park in 2001. A hand-crafted wooden train sits at the eastern edge of town for youngsters to enjoy.
In 2005/06, the city constructed a library addition to the community building.
Garwin205 Main St.
Garwin, IA 50632
Garwin owes its existence to the fact that in 1879, at the county seat in Toledo, which is southeast of Garwin’s location, the Toledo and Northwestern Railroad was sold to the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. After the sale, the line was extended northwestward from Toledo. Other towns sprang up along the tracks, but Garwin was the first station beyond Toledo.
There was difficulty in giving the townsite a name. The first name chosen was Maple, or some say, Myrcle. Neither was an overwhelming favorite. The next choice was Marvin in honor of Marvin Hewitt, an official of the Northwestern railroad, but another town already bore that name. When the site was being considered, several landowners were interested in selling their land for that purpose, among them being George Rider and John Galvizer. After much controversy, these two men won out and a message was sent to Toledo: “G (for Glavizer) and R (for Rider) win”. This was construed to be Garwin and the town had its name.
Gladbrook319 2nd St. • P.O. Box 309
Gladbrook, IA 50635
When two of the founders of Gladbrook went to Chicago to complete the paperwork for the location, they were given the privilege of naming the town to be located on their land. After much discussion, a gentleman asked what was worthwhile in Iowa? The men answered they had a nice brook and were glad they had it! “There you have it—GLADBROOK”, and thus the name.
In the early days, as with today, Gladbrook is an agriculture-rich community. Some of the finest soil is located around Gladbrook, making it very favorable for farming and many agriculture-based businesses in the community. It also boasts of a school system with graduation rates significantly above state and national averages. The Gladbrook Corn Carnival is an annual festival with a rich tradition of drawing crowds as much as 10 times the size of the town’s population.
The community is also very civic-minded as is evidenced by the active veterans community, which recently completed a Veteran’s Memorial Park on the eastern edge of town. A large community volunteer base is also gathering daily at The City Center which houses the Gladbrook Museum, City Hall, the movie theater, and the Matchstick Marvels Tourist Center.
Matchstick Marvels, the creations of local artist Pat Acton, is a popular family friendly tourist attraction garnering international attention for creations featured by pop sensationalists like Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not. Gladbrook is the only place where these exhibits can be seen before many of them gets shipped to different collectors and museums all over the world.
Le Grand104 W. Main St. • P.O. Box 430
Le Grand, IA 50142
Lincoln101 North St.
Lincoln, IA 50652
MeetingsThe City Council meets the 1st Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m.
With the coming of the railroad, a new town was born. Mr. Charles Spencer was the first to locate in the town as he owned most of the land. The town was in need of a name and Mr. Spencer decided to name the new town for himself, but a short time later found out there was already a Spencer so he picked the name “Augusta” in honor of his wife. Again he learned that his choice had been used for another town. Finally it was decided to call the new town “Bellin” for a town in Scotland which his wife loved. The word was misinterpreted and appeared as “Berlin” on the official maps and document. Because it was a German community, the name Berlin was accepted and became official. In 1913 Berlin was incorporated.
Life continued smoothly for people in this little town until the outbreak of World War I. Soon those of German birth or descent were subject to verbal and physical abuse by those who questioned their loyalties. To demonstrate their support of the United States and to indicate that the majority of the people were loyal to her, the council decided to select another name for the town. It was suggested that “Lincoln” be chosen and on June 12, 1918, the name was approved.
The city council strives to keep Lincoln a clean city. A new water and sewer system have recently been installed.
Montour102 E. Elm St. • P.O. Box 120
Montour, IA 50173
MeetingsThe City Council meets the 1st Tuesday of each month at 6:00 p.m.
Montour was founded near the villages of Indian Village, Butlerville, and Pleasant Hill on the east side of Indian Creek and the south side of the Iowa River in 1863. When the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad, later called the Chicago and Northwestern, reached Tama County in 1861, the rails extended rather rapidly westward. The railroad neatly intersected the Montour site almost in halves. The original name for Montour was Orford, probably named after the town of the same name in New Hampshire, from whence some early settler had come. When the Orford post office was established in 1865, it was found that mail, poorly addressed, was often sent to Oxford, which happened to be the name of several post offices in the country. Because of the confusion, it was voted in 1873 to change the name to Montour. Miss Lucie Stevens, long-time teacher in the Tama Schools, and a former resident of Montour, wrote in 1962 that her father had recommended naming the town Montour. She stated it was for a place he knew in New York, from where he had emigrated in 1865 at the age of 21.
The residents of Montour take pride in their town located west of the Meskwaki Indian Settlement and work hard to make it a wonderful place to live. One former organization which worked for the welfare of the town also seemed to have a good sense of humor as they named their organization EGAD (Everybody Give A Damn).
Montour is mostly a residential and farming community. Rube’s Steakhouse, with it’s “grill your own” concept and large cuts of meat, is the anchor of the town.
Tama305 Siegel St.
Tama, IA 52339
Tama was platted in the year 1862 and was first called Iuka in honor of the men from Tama County who had participated in the battle of Iuka, MS. Later the name was changed to Tama City and then to Tama, its present name. Tama is an Indian word “te-i-o-ma-ha’s” which means “the thunder that make the earth tremble”. He was a fox or Meskwaki brave who led the most powerful secret society called Midewiwin, and was known to lead chiefs and warriors into battle. His name is preserved in the names Tama County and the city of Tama.
The only original Lincoln Highway Bridge still in existence is located in Tama and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Another landmark is the Cherry Mansion, built-in 1903 and valued at more than $1M in 1949, its grounds once included a six-hole golf course and a private landing strip, it is now a private residence. Tama is also the home of Iowa’s oldest recycle paper mill. Tama’s annual Lincoln Highway Bridge Festival is celebrated in May of each year.
Toledo1007 S. Prospect Dr.
Toledo, IA 52342
Toledo was chosen the county seat of Tama County in 1853 and its downtown area is full of landmarks on the National Register of Historic Places including the Tama County Courthouse which was built in 1866 at a cost of $25,000. The Wieting Theater was built in 1912 and given to the people of Toledo by Mrs. Philip Wieting in memory of her husband. The former Toledo fire station was built in 1875 and has been completely renovated into a private residence and features a swimming pool and elevator. Hotel Toledo was built in 1901 and still serves travelers and permanent guests; its lobby has a marble floor, elegant beamed ceiling and grand fireplace. The Tama County Historical Museum and Genealogical Library is housed in the former county jail which was built in 1870; a restored log cabin is on site.
Toledo is home to the original “Butter Cow Lady”, Norma (Duffy) Lyon. A bronze cow/calf sculpture was erected on the hilltop at the intersection of Highways 30 & 63 in her honor and the Toledo Library has a display case dedicated to her achievements.
The Annual Stoplight Festival is the Friday after the 4th of July. Toledo celebrates Independence Day with a 5K run and fireworks and Christmas with lots of holiday activities. A farmers market sets up shop every Friday afternoon on the courthouse square between May and October.
Traer649 2nd St.
Traer, IA 50675
John W. Traer, of Cedar Rapids, known among his friends as “Skinny”, platted the site of the town when the Pacific branch of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railroad came to the region in July 1873. The selected site was on land owned by Giles Taylor and J.L. Bull. Traer himself had owned a saloon in the new town, but although it had been named for him, he did nothing to further its development. An earlier Traer, J.C., was the clerk of court who signed orders for forming the three townships that made up Tama County in 1853: Buckingham, Indian Village, and Howard.
In 1894, an iron worker in Burlington was commissioned by E.E. Taylor to construct the winding spiral stairway at 534 2nd Street as an access to the Traer Star Clipper office. Its design was constrained by the narrow proportions of the building to which it was attached, and showed imaginative use of limited space. During the bicentennial, this landmark was declared a National Historic Site, and Traer has adopted it as its symbol, along with the slogan, “Wind Up in Traer”. Such stairways are no longer uncommon, and those in Traer no longer lead to the newspaper office, which has been housed in a ground floor location since 1953.
Among the many historic exhibits in the Traer Museum is the section honoring “Tama Jim” Wilson, who was the United States’ secretary of agriculture for 16 years.
Traer hosts an annual Winding Stairs Festival every August as well as holiday activities in December.
Vining407 1st St. • P.O. Box 12
Vining, IA 52348
Vining is Tama County’s smallest incorporated town. Vining first appeared on the map in 1881 with the building of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, which crossed Tama County from east to west. Vining became known as “The biggest little town in Tama County” because of the large area within its incorporation. It is also known as “The Little Town in the Bohemian Alps”.
Like many other areas in the rural Midwest, the Vining community was first settled almost exclusively by emigrants from Europe – in this case all or nearly all from Bohemia. They and their families quickly became loyal Americans, and many members of the older generation took out United States citizenship papers at the first opportunity. The York Township news correspondent of the Toledo Chronicle wrote this in one of the issues of April 1880: “This neighborhood is gradually giving away to the foreign element. There have been several farms sold here in the past ten years and everyone of them with a single exception has been bought by a Bohemian. There are yet two or three farms to be absorbed in this same way, and then there will be a stretch of country covering seven miles or more occupied entirely by foreigners.”
Vining commemorated its 125th anniversary in 2006 and hosts an annual flea market and auction the first Sunday of April.