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  • Melody Lager

ROWAN - THE EARLY DAYS


“Echos From Rowan” written by Alice Hammond Brook (published 2000) resides in our library. Ms. Brook did extensive research into the history and people of Rowan. Rowan started as a small settlement named Horse Grove, a little bit south and west of the current town. Named after a lone horse found wandering in the grove, it was first settled about 1854 by Adam Ford and Bill Murdock. When the Robert Rowen, Edwin Ballou and Horace Riley families arrived to settle, Mr. Ford sold his cabin to them. Horace Riley was married to Fanny Duffy, sister to Robert Duffy, who arrived in1857. Horace decided to go west to seek his fortune in gold, and was never heard from again. The Rowen family is thought to have originated in Scotland. Robert Rowen Sr. and his wife Elizabeth were born in Ireland and settled in Horse Grove in 1855. The town of Rowan got it’s name from the Rowen’s, but due to post office conflict with the name, the “E” was switched to “A”. The Rowen’s had successes and heartbreak. Robert Sr.’s son, John English was an ordained minister was politically active. At one time, he was Consul General to the Faulkland Islands. Robert’s Sr.’s son William was one of four young men who died by drowning in the Iowa River at Belmond, 1870.


1856 – the first post office in Wright Co. was established in Horse Grove, with the name of Fryeburg. By 1886 the post office was moved to Rowan, and Fryeburg was no longer in existence. Rowan soon boasted a grain and coal business, a general store, a hotel and a railroad stop. Before the turn of the century two churches were built – a Methodist and a Congregational. In 1857 Robert Duffy Jr and James Riley arrived. Robert’s wife, Nancy, was Robert Rowen Sr’s. sister. Also that year, A.D. and Mortimer Hiams, along with their father, N.N. Hiams, arrived and immediately put up a saw mill. This allowed frame houses to be built in the area, but one of the first things built was a schoolhouse! Ms. Brooks indicates that several of the early houses are still standing. Of interest is that four young men from Rowan enlisted and served in the Civil War. Robert and Nancy’s son, James Duffy, was so traumatized by the war that he lived the rest of his life in an asylum. Robert Rowen Sr’s. son Robert, died in1863 in the Union Army, Little Rock, Arkansas. Mortimer Hiams served in the 32nd Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and did not return from the war.


Rowan was a growing town for many years, having a brick consolidated schoolhouse and a thriving downtown. As time has passed, so have the businesses. The schoolhouse is being used as a community center and a playhouse for the Iowa River Players. As a child, I would walk from my grandmother’s to “downtown” and visit the old grocery store. With it’s creaky front screen door, wooden floors, and only a couple of aisles, it was truly a step into the past!




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