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  • Writer's pictureMelody Lager

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.

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