Page last modified Saturday, 28-Aug-1999 19:16:29 MDT

[Thanks Kay Kirkman!]


       On October 22, 1880, Albert Keep a trustee, plotted a part of the west 1/2 of the N.W. quarter of section 22, Township 80, range 38, to be known as the town of KIRKMAN, IOWA. The term was named after Marshall Monroe Kirkman, who was an official officer of the Chicago and North- Western Railway Co. The north and south streets, beginning on the west
side of the railroad right of way, were named Madison Street and Washington Street. The east and west streets beginning at the south side of the town were named Adams, Lincoln, State, Monroe, VanBuren, and Congress streets. A number of out lots of the town were subsequently subdivided and plotted. The coming of the Chicago North Western Railroad in 1880 laid the foundation for the town.

       Located in a fertile valley of the tributary of the Nishbotna river, business at the town flourished. For several years it was the terminus of the Carroll branch of the North Western Railroad. The seven miles from Harlan to Kirkman were covered by a hack, which carried mail and passengers. Snyder Bros. and C.M. Downey operated it for a greater part of
the time.

      The first mayor was J.M. Merritt, recorder was J.A. Hope, Moses H. Woods was one of the first councilmen. The first house built was the "KIRKMAN HOUSE" erected by Moses Woods and operated as a hotel by James Robins, who bought it in 1888. The first merchant was J.B. Stutsman, a pioneer storekeeper from Council Bluffs, who located in Kirkman in the
fall of 1881. He soon became a member of the firm Kuhl, Muchler and Stutsman: Another early firm in general merchandise was Howland and McEwen, who failed in business. Graham Bros. sold the first hardware in the spring of 1883. D. Jessup embarked in a grocery trade in 1884 and failed. The first drugstore was operated by James French who was also
the first Postmaster. The first Post Office was established March 1, 1881. It was made a money order office in 1884. The first two money orders do not appear in the records, but the third was issued to B.B. Lancaster for the amount of $20.00: By 1888 there had been 2,000 money orders issued from this post office. David Carter succeeded James French as Postmaster in 1888.

      The first blacksmith of Kirkman was Hans Saber who with Will Sharp, came in 1888.  Harmon Peacock followed the wagon making trade from the earliest date of the village. A man named Needles was the first grain buyer, the business then fell to Burke and Graham. The first religious Society of the town was that of the Methodist Episcopal Church which was organized in 1881 with 30 members. A good church building was erected in 1883 at the cost of $1500.00. Services were held every two weeks with Rev. Faucett dividing his time between Kirkman and Irwin. A school building was built in 1883 for $2200.00. It was a two story building divided into two departments, each having a teacher. As with all pioneer towns the lumber yards were a necessary business and Kirkman was no exception, they had theirs from the earliest date of the town.

      In October 1890, when there was much discussion about building a newcourt house for Shelby County, a County seat meeting was held at Kirkman. Committees were appointed in each twp. in the county to secure names to a petition asking the board of supervisors to submit to a vote the question of locating the county seat of Kirkman.

      In October 1899 the Northwestern Railroad extended its tracks from Kirkman to Harlan. The first train to Harlan ran on November 10, 1899 in charge of conductor Freeman. It consisted of 3 freight cars, a combination car and passenger car. There were a good number of passenger on board as well as some traveling men. They made the trip in less than eight


Woods and Marshall, contractors and builders
Bank of Kirkman, Frank DeKlotz
Green Bay Lumber Yard, T.H. Potter local manager
S.B. Slates, Confectionery, Cigars and Tobacco
A.D. Ames, Agriculture implements
J. HCH. Schmid, Livestock exchange
Jenness & Hill, General merchants
Thomas Kilcoin, Hardware store
Nick Miller, Tavern
R.A. Steen, Livery barn
F.O. Oldfield, Tonsorial artist
Millernery shop

       With a good bank meeting the need of local business and two railroads to afford ample shipping facilities, the town flourished. Kirkman had the distinction, rather rare for a town of her size, of owning a good system of water works. In 1902 Harry E. Blair started a newspaper in Kirkman called "THE HERALD". The Farmers Mutual Telephone Company of Shelby County was incorporated in 1903, with its principal office in Kirkman. The first telephone switchboard for the town was
installed in the Rev. E.B. Tucker home.

      The Kirkman Baptist Church, which was organized by F.M. Story and D.D. Ames, was incorporated in 1896. Rev. E.B. Tucker came to Kirkman as pastor in 1898.

       Kirkman was noted for it's Fourth of July celebrations. The town started observing the day as early as 1885. Their programs consisted of parades, races, speeches by old settler, orations, pageants, and band concerts. Often as many as 2,000 people would attend. Everyone brought basket diners, which they ate at noon in the grove of cotton wood trees that stood between the two railroads. In the evening a dance was featured and a display of fireworks at the end of the dance.

       Kirkman was the victim of many fires during the early years but the most destructive fire was on October 26, 1921 when 5 buildings and their contents were destroyed. There was strong suspicion that the fire was set to cover the theft of four valuable guns which had been on display in the window of the Hardware store. The town never did gain back the loss from this fire.

      Lowell Thomas, world traveler and famous news commentator, lived in Kirkman as a small boy. His father was a doctor in the town. June 23, 1933 was the dissolution of the Kirkman Savings Bank.

      In 1937 Henry Greve sold his grocery store to Leo and Bill Farner. In 1938 it was purchased by Harlan Hucksin, who operated it until the final closing in the summer of 1975 when an auction was held to sell the contents and the building. Elmer Swenson purchased the building and in the fall of the same year a Head Start School was holding classes there. It discontinued in 1980.

       In 1955 the school was combined with the Irwin District and was named the Irwin-Kirkman Community School. The last graduating class was in 1955. In the fall of 1955 the high school students were bused to Irwin while classes were continued in Kirkman for grades first through sixth for the years 1955-1956, 1956-1957 and 1957-1958. In 1960 the school building was torn down, and for the first time in the history of Kirkman, the town was left without a school.

       The building that housed the Post Office until 1954 was torn down and the Douglas Fire Station and Town Hall was built there on March 24, 1966 at a cost of $10,030.50. Douglas township has a very active volunteer fire department.

      On May 3, 1971 Kirkman obtained a $17,000 loan to upgrade its water system, which supplied the 35 homes in the town.

       December 8, 1971 a Kirkman group planned a Senior Citizens complex. The building contains four units with 2 bedrooms in each apartment.

      On June 6, 7 and 8, 1980 a Founders Day Celebration was held to honor the platting of the town in 1880.

      In June 1983 Kirkman dedicated its first park, named MILE MARKER PARK. The last of the railroad tracks were torn out in September 1982 after serving the town for 101 years.

      In November 1982, Kirkman placed second in the Community Recognition Day ceremonies at Ames.

       Recent additions to the park have been playground equipment and a shelter house built in 1986, park benches and tables were also installed and restroom facilities built.

       1983 found Kirkman winning first place honors at the Iowa Community Betterment program in Ames, Iowa.

Compiled by Darlene Hanson

[from the Kirkman, Iowa Centennial Cookbook]
[submitted by Kay Kirkman, added to web page 28-Aug-1999]


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