From Otisville to Dows
In the late 1800’s, a post office named “Otisville” was changed to Dows. September 28,
1880 the town was platted, from land owned by Cedar Rapids, Iowa Falls and
Northwestern Railroad. The new name was to honor of two prominent officials of the
CR,IF. And Northwestern Railroad, Colonel W. G Dows and Captain S. L. Dows. The
first settler was A. S. Eskridge, who came to the area at the close of the Civil War. Other
settlers included William Tutin, and N.N. Hiams.
Dows is the only town in Wright County that straddles the county line, into Franklin
County. The first businessmen in the area were H.W. Wilson, William Weldon, and John
Jenkins. A. I. Troth opened the first hotel, most businesses operating on the Wright
County side of the line.
At one time, Dows enjoyed several hotels, an opera house, two tile factories and a
harness racing track. A newspaper, lumber store, general stores, grist and grain mills
were among the first stores in town. Soon, a shoe store, millinary shop, blacksmith and
harness makers were established; along with physicians, drug store, and a creamery. At
one time, the creamery was taking in the milk of 600 cows!
Dows had a huge fire on New Year’s night in 1883, which started at the grocery stores
and took several other business out. On September 4, 1894 a huge fire destroyed most
of the town. Clarion and Iowa Falls fire departments were called in to help. The Clarion
fire department made the run by a special train, making the 15 mile trip in 17 minutes!
Thirty-five individuals and firms had losses.
Formed in 1905, the Dows Tile and Cement company operated around gravel pits just
outside of Dows. Some abandoned pits are still around the Iowa River to the east of
Dows. These water filled lands are home to birds and other wildlife. Eagles can
routinely be spotted searching for prey.
Electric lights were turned on in Dows on Christmas eve, 1914. Certainly this was a
Christmas to remember! Downtown Dows still boasts several older buildings, one
houses the “Mercantile” antique and vintage shop. Interstate 35 is only two miles east of
Dows, making it an ideal location for businesses interested in small town living close to
the interstate! Several buildings from the late 1800’s-early 1900’s still stand.
Wright County Monitor reports: December, 1880: it was not uncommon for the hotel to
have 100 dinner guests. 1895: An unnamed gentleman attended a celebration in Dows
on a Friday evening. He was late getting home, but got up early the next morning to get
a cow from the pasture to milk. Only problem was that he got the neighbors cow instead
of his own……..1906: Dows passed a law that no spitting was allowed on public
sidewalks or floors. 1909: Dows has a shooting gallery. 1925: Dows bank was robbed
of approximately $60,000 cash and bonds.