Snapshot of History
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These buildings have interesting histories and so do the people who built them and occupied them.
A fire in November 1889 destroyed most of the buildings from the alley by Lefty’s Club Tavern to the alley by Lucky Lanes. Lost in that fire was the first frame Ringgold County Courthouse building. The brick courthouse was finished in 1884 and the old courthouse was used for meetings and as office space.
The corner building in this week’s picture was erected for Day Dunning as Citizens Bank in 1892. Day was the third of four sons born to Barton and Laura Dunning, Mount Ayr’s founders. Day married Paroda Keller, the daughter of Judge Isaac Keller for whom the town of Kellerton is named.
Citizens Bank failed in January 1904 and Day was convicted of faulty bank practices. A higher court overturned the conviction but Day Dunning’s life was never the same. He died of an infection in his hand.
The next building south was built in 1892 for Andrew Ingram. I don’t know the first occupant but O. S. Martin was located here by 1895 with his jewelry business. In 1912 it was J. A. Williams clothing and shoe store.
The next two buildings, 104 and 106 South Taylor Street, were constructed for J. R. Henderson in 1892. Mr. Henderson had just dissolved his partnership in the clothing business with M. E. Freeland in May of 1892 and now had the capital to put up a couple of brick buildings. Henderson had also been in the grocery trade.
W. A. DeLashmutt opened at 104 S. Taylor with his grocery and dinnerware store in December 1892. When DeLashmutt was appointed postmaster in 1898, the Mount Ayr Post Office was moved to his store. He retired as postmaster in 1902 but the post office remained at this location until 1920. Iowa Southern Utilities moved their office here in November 1920 and would stay until 1975.
106 S. Taylor was occupied by Martha Merrill in 1892 with her millinery (women’s clothing) store. Mrs. Merrill came to Mount Ayr in 1866 and was always in the clothing business. Her husband was Dr. John T. Merrill and his last drug store was built in 1894 at 104 W. Madison, the current location of Still Smokin’. Dr. Merrill died in 1904 but Martha Merrill remained active in the business community and financed the construction of the brick building (still standing) at 110 E. Madison in 1912.
The next building at 108-110 S. Taylor was originally built as a two-story brick in 1892 but a fire in 1897 reduced it to rubble. William Timby rebuilt it as a one-story brick later in 1897 and an addition was constructed to the rear in 1903. That is the same year George A. Slentz moved his clothing and dry goods business here.
William Timby built eight commercial buildings to my knowledge and three are still standing. The Lucky Lanes building is one; the Princess Theatre building is another.
The two-story brick building on the other side of the alley in this week’s photo was built for W. A. Simpson in 1899-1900. Mr. Simpson was located in the Princess Theatre building before erecting his own building. Simpson died in 1930 and the building became a cafe for many years. It was torn down about 1976.