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Letter to the editor

By Staff | Jun 7, 2008

To the EDN:

The highway signs that have been installed at the entrances to Estherville are very attractive. They are durable, impressive in their bold simplicity, and are a welcome asset to our town.

A date, 1881, was included on the signs. The significance of that date is not explained on the signs. For many people 1881 might imply the date Estherville was first settled. Actually, 1881 was the year that Estherville became incorporated following an election in which 44 votes were cast with 28 in favor and 16 opposed. Apparently the election was not of great interest to the citizens although, as an incorporated town, they would elect a mayor, recorder, and six trustees to govern their town.

Estherville was a viable community long before it became incorporated in 1881.

Would it be more appropriate to attach the date 1858 to the Estherville signs? It was in late 1858 that people living in Emmet County elected their county officers and Estherville was named the county seat soon after.

In 1858 on land that he had acquired, Robert E. Ridley and his wife, Esther, built the first home in what was to become the village of Estherville. In that home their first child, Anna Judea, was born on Dec. 13, 1858. Estherville did not see another white woman for 10 months when Robert’s parents and his siblings from Maine arrived in 1859. Esther was Estherville’s namesake.

In 1860 Estherville had a post office; it was located in the home of the postmaster, Adolphus Jenkins. Also by 1860, Ridley and Jenkins were partners in operating a mill which ground corn and wheat for the settlers from several miles around Estherville. By 1860 Amos Ketchum was owner of a blacksmith shop. In 1860 a schoolhouse was built in the northeast corner of Estherville’s town square.

It was May 1, 1861, that four men, Robert E. Ridley, formerly from Maine; Adolphus Jenkins and Gaylord Graves, both formerly from New York; and Jesse Coverdale, formerly from Delaware, as proprietors, presented to the Emmet County Clerk of Court at Estherville a map of the village of Estherville and deeded to the people of Estherville all of the streets and the public square on the map. (The public square at that time was twice its present size and included the two blocks west of Estherville’s present city park.) A hotel was located in Block 3; barracks in Block 59, Lots 1-3; and McKay’s store in Block 23, Lots 7-8.

Fort Defiance was built inside the town of Estherville in 1862-1863. Estherville had its first newspaper in 1868. When a meteorite fell near Estherville in 1879, newspapers all over the United States headed their stories with “Estherville, Iowa.”

Wouldn’t 1858 be a more appropriate date than 1881 on the signs?

Ruth Hackett,