Snapshot of History
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I took three pictures of this building in Caledonia before it was burned by the owner in 2007. It was once used by Dr. Allen W. Reynolds. Dr. Reynolds retired about 1940.
Caledonia was established in 1855 by the Swigart, Stuck, and Walter families. The new village was located near the Dragoon Trace, a military foot trail from Des Moines to Kansas, and showed great promise. In 1856, Caledonia was awarded a post office.
Not much is known of Caledonia in the years 1856 to 1870. Holland Foster, grandson of Arlington Foster, published a book in 1978 about Caledonia’s history and surviving issues of the Ringgold Record newspaper capture some history beginning in 1872.
Arlington Foster came to Caledonia in 1870 and his brother, Lexington, arrived in 1872. By 1972, Caledonia had an Independent Order of Odd Fellows chapter, a dry goods store (G. S. Moore), grocery store (Arlington Foster), a harness shop (Lexington Foster), a doctor (J. H. Thompson), and fourteen houses. There was also a saw mill one mile west of town that provided building material. An 1873 newspaper says G. S. Moore had been in Caledonia since 1866.
In 1874, the Methodist Episcopal Church was under construction (the book says 1872) and the Odd Fellows had their own meeting room.
The population was nearly 100 in 1877. Caledonia had become a trading center with numerous stores, service shops, a school, and a church. Caledonia’s location was about eight miles south-southeast of Mount Ayr. The small hamlet of Ringgold City was to the south and Watterson was to the west-southwest.
While this location helped Caledonia’s status as a trade center, it ultimately spelled death as Caledonia failed to get a railroad. Even in the 1870s, people knew a railroad would be built from Des Moines to St. Joseph, Missouri. And in 1888 that railroad was opened but it didn’t go through Caledonia.
Caledonia lost its post office in 1908 due to Rural Free Delivery. Still, Caledonia remained a business center.
Arlington Foster had a son named Homer (Holland Foster’s father) and Homer operated his father’s store about 1910. Homer traded his Caledonia property in 1918 for the Princess Theater in Mount Ayr. Foster sold it in 1919 and bought Spurrier’s Grocery Store in Mount Ayr in 1920.
Caledonia suffered another setback in the late 1930s when the roads got graveled. Consumers could now easily shop in Mount Ayr, Kellerton, or Hatfield. Caledonia held onto its school until 1959 and the Methodist Church until 1972.
On June 7, 1969, Orval Van Winkle had a closing out sale at the Caledonia Store. The items listed on the sale bill were not items you would find in a general store but rather tools, equipment, and antiques. I believe the store closed years earlier.
As far as I know, Caledonia was never incorporated. There was a Baptist Church for a time but I have almost no information on the lifespan. There was also a Free Methodist congregation in the Caledonia vicinity as early as 1895, but I can find no evidence of them having their own building.