Downtown Dundee

St. John's Lutheran Church

Volunteer Fire Department

Backbone State Park and Beach

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)



How the Town was Named

There are different versions of how Dundee got its name. One is stated in the following Manchester Press article from August 19, 1886....
Early days of Dundee.

"There is to be a new town in Delaware County. A new town, but with an old name. It is to be built about one and three-fourths miles nearly due south of Forestville, on the Maquoketa, and the railroad company has christened it "Dundee." By what authority the company appropriate to their own use the name of that old and well-known place, this deponent is not informed. But the town is already platted or is about to be, and H. D. Wood of this city (Manchester), is putting up the first building in the young metropolis, a store building 22x36 feet and two stories in height. We hear that it is likely the present post offices at Forestville and Campton will be discontinued, and one established at this new town, in place of both."

Some say Hiram Wood named the town after Dundee, Scotland. After some research, Wood's ancestors originated from England, not Scotland. However, Hiram Wood's mother was of Scotch/Irish descent. One source says the town was first called "Wood" until it was named by the railroad company. In 1987 the Dundee postmaster was informed this railroad village was named by Fritz Mchugh, an engineer on the crew that laid the rails through this part of the county. The name is for the town in Scotland.

Hiram D. Wood - The Birth of a Town
Old timers have said Hiram D. Wood, who had extensive land holdings in the northern part of Delaware County, donated land for the railroad to be built in 1886-1887. Because of Wood and the railroad, Dundee came into existence.

Hiram Wood was born April 8, 1828, in Kentucky, the son of Samuel Wood III and Keziah (Dougherty) Wood. Though only a youth, Wood enlisted in a U.S. cavalry company and served during the Mexican War, which ended in 1848. After his discharge, Wood took the land warrant allowed for his service and located in Richland Township. He was then only 20 years old, but he was to become a prominent citizen of Delaware County. In 1853 he married Lydia Luken and they had eight children.

A frame schoolhouse was built at Forestville in 1854 to replace the one made of logs which cost $300. He was named postmaster at Forestville in 1860 and established a creamery near there in 1874. Later the family moved to Manchester but in 1887 Wood was appointed postmaster at Dundee. The post office was located in the first building in the town which had been constructed by Wood. He served as postmaster until 1889 when his daughter, Maggie, became postmistress, from 1891-1894. In 1894 Hiram Wood sold his general merchandise business to A.J. Hazelrigg and moved the family to Oelwein. He died on March 30, 1915 at 87.

The Railroad
In 1894 the management of the Chicago Great Western Railroad had decided to locate machine shops and a roundhouse at Oelwein, employing from 250-500 men. The railroad also brought employment for many Dundee men. The section worked on was three miles out of Dundee each way. There were at least three workers all year and more during the summer.

Before the truck transportation age arrived, all livestock, poultry, and merchandise were shipped out by rail. Groceries, coal, lumber, feed, and many other items were also brought in. The railroad was important to the town and to the farmers. Several passenger trains and many freight trains passed through each day. One local train stopped at every town to pick up or unload freight. Passenger train was the way to travel and mail was also delivered twice a day as the train went through town each way. The last "dinky" consisted of one unit with engine, baggage compartment, and passenger seats. After being replaced by diesel engines, the huge coal-fired engines were taken away for scrap.

Eventually, the Chicago Great Northern bought out the Chicago Great Western Railroad. In 1971 the last carload of coal was delivered and freight service had ended. Then, because of costs, it was decided to terminate this railroad line. Another end of an era resulted. The railroad was abandoned in 1980 and the tracks were removed in 1981. Property owners were allowed to purchase the property adjoining their land.

The Dundee Savings Bank
The bank opened its door for business in July 1904. It received the endorsement of the businessmen of Dundee and the farmers in the vicinity. The bank had purchased a large safe recently removed from the First National Bank of Manchester. In 1906 a disastrous fire on the west side of the business district either damaged or destroyed the building. A new brick bank building was built in 1908.

On June 16, 1922, the bank was robbed. Here is a newspaper article about it:

The bank in 1912.

The safe after the bank robbery.

Dundee, Ia., June 16, 1922 - Special: Four robbers early this morning dynamited a safe in the Dundee Savings Bank and escaped with $1,200 in cash and $4,500 in bonds.

Plans for the robbery were carefully laid. The men drove into Dundee about 2 a.m., after cutting all telegraph and telephone wires. Chicago Great Western passenger train number 2 was due at that hour and it is supposed that the robbers waited until the arrival of the train, working in the bank under cover of its noise. Six charges of high explosives were fired in the safe, completely wrecking it. The bank vault was untouched, however. Two persons heard the explosions but the telephone lines were "dead" and they were unable to sound a warning until the robbers had completed their work.

Pursuers Outdistanced

"Earl Watt, a Dundee merchant, gave the alarm about half an hour later. The sheriff, accompanied by several deputies, immediately started in pursuit of the yeggs, who were driving a new Buick Six touring car, bearing a Minnesota license. The pursuing party was outdistanced near Clermont and it is believed that the robbers have crossed into Minnesota."

"The bank's loss is covered by insurance. The bank building is a one-story structure. Several business houses stand to the north of it with a vacant space to the south. The bank's officers are: President - W.H. Norris; Vice President - F.G. Larrabee; and Cashier - J.L. Gilbert."

The bank closed during the Depression. The brick building has been purchased by different individuals over the years. The first bank, a wooden structure, was the one converted into shops, etc. after the new brick bank was built. An addition was made on the back by Dean Preussner for a garage business and gas pumps were installed in front. Later Royce Murphy had his first garage there. Others have used the building as a tavern. It was the Corner Tap for years, which was owned and operated by Faye Grimm. Every Friday night they prepared fish suppers in the old bank vault which served as the kitchen. Now the old bank has been renovated and turned into the Dundee Bar and Grill. They still have the famous fish fry on Friday every week.

Schroeder Brothers Store
This was the first building constructed in Dundee by Hiram D. Wood in 1887. He was Dundee's first postmaster and operated the post office in his merchandise store. There had been several owners before Ernest and Art Schroeder bought the building. They were partners until 1925 when they sold out to Nick Burlage. Ernest Schroeder moved his jewelry business into the small building to the north which is the present post office.
Shroeder Brothers Store.

In 1931 Earl and Ernest Schroeder opened the store again. Cans of corn, peas, beans, etc. sold for 5 cents which cost 4 cents each. A pound loaf of bread sold for 5 cents. Ground hamburger and pork sausage sold for 25 cents for 3 pounds. One could hardly carry a $2.00 box of groceries. They also bought eggs from local farmers for 8 cents a dozen. For quite a few years they put up ice. The ice was packed on the outside with sawdust, so that it wouldn't melt, and cut by hand in blocks, generally weighing 200 pounds or more. When the ice houses were filled, it took at least 20-25 men to help and it was delivered two times a week.

The hall above the store was used for many years as an entertainment center. Dances and school activities, including graduations, high school plays, declamatory contests, and other programs were held there. After the new school addition (1936) was finished and the hall was no longer needed for school activities Earl Schroeder started showing weekly movies for 10 cents. There was also a drawing for a free box of groceries.

Today the building has been remodeled and there are two apartments upstairs. The building still remains in the Schroeder family.

The Dundee Hotel
It is not known when the Dundee hotel was built. Being near the railroad depot, it was convenient for travelers. Many salesmen, arriving by train, stayed here. They could rent a horse and buggy from the nearby livery stable for peddling their wares. A guest register book, from October 31, 1909 through March 12, 1915, included 88 Iowans, 22 from other states and one from Scotland.
The Dundee Hotel.
Traveling theater groups and dance bands, which performed at Schroeder's hall, were among those staying at the hotel at this time. Groups named in the book were - The Congo King Co., Original Uncle Tom's Cabin, New Orleans Students, Reese Big Comedy Co., Two Americans Aboard Co., and Old Kentucky Quartette.

Eventually, the building was converted into apartments, and later, into a single-family residence.

The 1906 Fire
The following newspaper article appeared in The Manchester Press, November 1906:

"The Dundee correspondent of this paper gives the particulars of the disastrous fire by which that enterprising little town was ravaged last Sunday night. This is one of the worst calamities which has ever visited any portion of this county. Dundee is a wide-awake town, and its business men are singularly alive, energetic and progressive. This is true because so many of them are young men, and on that account, too, the blow is especially severe, for not all of those affected by the fire are able to endure the loss with equanimity. That community is entitled to and is assured the hearty sympathy of the county in general. It is likely that most of the buildings destroyed will be replaced in the spring, although the process will necessarily be slow. The disaster is a most serious and regrettable one, from any point of view.

The established loss is between $13,000 and $15,000 and is divided as follows: Dundee Savings Bank has a loss of $800 on the bank building and harness shop which belonged to the bank. The Post Office building, owned by J.L. Gilbert, was a total loss, although the mail and office fixtures were saved ... loss, $600. Fuehr Brothers Hardware Store proprietors report a loss of $5,000. Dr. Deckow's office, owned by Kleinsorge and Fuehr, was a loss of $300. Dr. Deckow lost all of his instruments and office fixtures, with no insurance. The drug store building, owned by Gregg and Ward, formerly of Manchester, entailed a loss of $1,000. The drug stock owned by O.D. Wheeler was a loss of $1,800. The butcher shop, owned by Henry Becker of Lamont, had a loss of $500. The stock and fixtures were owned by John Hense of Lamont and represented a loss of $800. The building used as a pool and billiard hall and owned by Fred Schure entailed a loss of $950. The proprietor of the hall lost $400."

July 4th and Harvest Home Celebrations
Dundee was known for its big Fourth of July celebrations. Everyone would get dressed up and come to town to participate in the festivities. There would be a parade, music from the local band, and activities for the kids and adults to do.
Early Dundee July 4th celebration.

The first annual Harvest Home was held on October 3, 1908. There were such events like the Boys' Potato Race, Men's Horseshoe Throwing, Ladies Tape Cutting Contest, Girls' Pumpkin Rolling, Boys' Cracker Eating Contest, Men's Sack Race, Girls' Apple Paring Contest, Ladies Base Ball Throwing, and Boys' Running Race. A dance was held at Schroeder's Hall after the day's celebrations.

The Telephone
In 1907 a telephone switchboard was installed in the home of the druggist, Mr. Nixon. Mrs. Nixon and her mother, Mrs. Blythe operated the switchboard. It was a long board hanging on the wall and it reached from the ceiling to about three feet above the floor. One had to stand to operate it. It had six jacks with six sets of plugs connected to 12 sets of batteries and the line ran to an outside pole. A hand crank on the front of the switchboard was used to ring the party being called. There was one toll line to Manchester, one to Lamont, and the rest were local.

Later Myrtle Seward and a Miss Heiden took over the office. When they left in 1911 the Aimers family moved into the telephone office/house. Jennie Aimers and daughters were the new operators. In January 1914, a new, larger switchboard was installed in the upstairs of the Goldsborough store building and the Aimers family moved there. The board was still run by batteries, but one could sit to operate it.

The Delaware County Telephone Company built a new house in 1914 to be used as a telephone office and home for the Aimers. The new switchboard had 50 local lines and 12 toll lines. The party lines in the country had several people on them but the rest in town were local one-party lines. These phones were still operated by a crank and batteries until electricity was installed. The Aimers girls helped at the switchboard as they were growing up and until they got married and left home. They also received fire calls and blew the fire siren. She also blew the town whistle at 7 a.m., 12 noon, 1 p.m., and 6 p.m. Her salary was $45 a month.

In 1948 the telephone company switched to dial phones and eliminated all of the small offices. On February 28, 1948 the Dundee office was closed. It was Jennie's 75th birthday. Her last two calls were to her two daughters in Chicago and Kansas City.

Incorporation - 1917
A petition, signed by 26 men of Dundee, was presented at the May 1917 term of the District Court of Iowa, in and for Delaware County. It proposed the incorporation of the town of Dundee. On June 9, 1917 the prayer of the petitioners was granted. Voting took place in Dundee on July 17, 1917, to decide on incorporation. Twenty-five ballots were voted "yes"; nineteen ballots were voted "no".

A town council was chosen at a special election held on August 20, 1917. The following were elected: J.L. Gilbert, mayor; E.R. Leedham, clerk; W.B. Robinson, treasurer; F.G. Larrabee,, George Martin, George Pound, E.R. Schroeder, and Joseph Zemanek, councilmen. Appointed were J.A. Burroughs, marshal; I. Chamberlain, street commissioner; and H.R. Theel, town assessor.

The council rented a room at various business places in town to hold monthly meetings. In 1920 a committee was chosen to get estimates on the cost of erecting a public office and fire department building. However, it was ten years later, in 1930, before a building was built. The cost was $738 to the Dundee Lumber Co. for materials and $283 to W.J. Pelley for construction.

Women were allowed to vote for the first time at the March 1922 town election. Seventeen women voted.

The following newspaper article appeared in The Manchester Press, October 1916:

"Dundee housewives were reveling in the convenience of electric lights for the first time in the history of that village. Electricity was furnished by Central States Power and Light Corporation. Interstate Power Company presently serves Dundee residents."

Sanitary Sewer
After preliminary planning was completed, the first digging for the sewer in Dundee was begun in April 1979. A lagoon was built west of town. Dundee received a grant of $325,000 from HUD for the project and borrowed $75,000 through FHA.

J. L. "Louis" Gilbert - Dundee's First Mayor
Louis was born in Illinois in 1864 to Nelson and Nancy Gilbert. In 1868 they moved to a farm one-half mile east of Dundee. In the spring of 1869 the family went by covered wagon to the state of Nebraska to homestead land. They returned to Delaware County in 1872 and to Dundee in 1888 to operate a store and hotel. In March 1891 the general store of Nelson Gilbert & Son was destroyed by fire, entailing a loss of $2,000. The one-story hotel adjoining it also went up in smoke.

Besides farming, Louis supplemented his public school training by a business course and subsequently followed the profession of teaching for several years. In 1896 he erected a new store building and opened an agricultural implement warehouse in 1892. From 1897-1900 he was Dundee's postmaster. In 1907 he owned one of the first automobiles in town. Louis helped organize the Dundee Savings Bank in 1904 and was cashier for many years. He held this position at the time of his death in 1926.

Louis was a civic-minded person. Besides being mayor, he served on the town council as clerk and treasurer. He held township offices and belonged to several organizations. He donated land on which the original brick schoolhouse was built in 1915.

The Plaza Theater
The Plaza Theater, built by Clyde Lawrence, opened in November 1922. Silent movies were shown every night with three different features each week. Piano music was furnished by Elsie Meyen or Marian Schroeder. There were about 150 theater seats on the sloping floor. Lamont and Strawberry Point did not have movie theaters at the time so attendance was good. There were many continued films with such actors as Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson, and Ruth Roland. One could hardly wait until the following week to see more of the story.
Old Plaza Theater tickets.
The building with its stage was the setting for plays, declamatory contests, graduations, and other events. The Plaza, which was on the northwest side of the business district, closed in a few years upon the arrival of the "talkies". This brick building was later used as a grocery store, tavern, appliance store, and plumbing business. At the last it was used for storage. It was torn down in 1986 to make room for the new fire station/community building.

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This page created by Dundee's own
Lisa Guenther-Rhoades

Last Modified: 07/04/21