Charlotte, IA 


The Gilmore family arrived in 1852. Albert Gilmore was a native of Massachusetts and had emigrated to Illinois in 1848 where he married Charlotte Demaris. They had 4 children. On July 26, 1853, a post office was established and Albert Gilmore was named first postmaster. A name was needed and he chose the name of his 22 year old wife, Charlotte.

Albert Gilmore built the Charlotte Flour Mill in 1856, the first and most successful in the area. He ran the flour mill with the help of his son Charles. When Albert died in 1877, Charles Gilmore continued to operate the mill until 1890. Charles Gilmore had married Clara Dickey in 1882 and in 1891 he moved to Clay county, Iowa and was president of the Rossie Savings Bank and served as a supervisor of that county for 17 years. In 1914 he was elected to the House of Representatives from Clay county and served four terms, he died in 1936. This mill was located just west of town, but east of the highway 136 bridge. Traces of its foundation can still be seen. This mill operated quite successfully until 1890.

In that year when the Gilmore Mill was built, the area was a "boom town". A post office, a mill, and the Dixon Air line-  a railroad was building a line to Charlotte. Some overly enthusiastic people borrowed money on real estate and were paying as high as .30  cent interest. The railroad of course would help the town and give it a tremendous boost. But that was not to be, in 1857 a financial depression termed as panic bankrupted the Dixon railroad and only stage coach service was available. The stage ran from the Clinton House in Lyons to the Decker house in Maquoketa with Markham's in Charlotte being the midway point where the travelers dined. ( This Hotel would be the empty house across from the C.A.A.C.). The Stage coach service was interrupted by the Civil War and service never resumed.


It can be said that the early 1850's were Charlotte's pioneer period. The oldest buildings in town date from this era and are mostly in the school hill area. The first school in the area was taught by Celeste Jenne in 1849 and was built of logs and is believed to have been located near what is known as the McClure Cemetery. Charlotte's first school was at the corner of Highway 136 and the County Care Facility road. It was there in 1865 but it is not known when it was built. The present school site has had a school on it since 1875. The previous building was a framed two story structure.

It seems that the Gilmore mill was a center of activity and no doubt the first post office was in the Gilmore home. Mail service was erratic and mail from Davenport might be delayed by high water on the Wapsi or in early spring thin ice could be a cause of delay. History records that at one time trained dogs were used to transport mail across the ice when it was considered too dangerous to cross on foot.

In the mid 1850's the people arriving in the area were of different ethnic origins, immigrants from Ireland, German, Austria and also many from our eastern states. These immigrants came as strangers, they had much to learn and they were not always accepted and when they were accepted there still was the problem of customs, habits and language that caused errors and misunderstandings. In the depression year of 1857 the Clinton County Home or "Poor Farm", as it was then known was purchased, 200 acres at $20 per acre from O. W. Denham. Located in Washington and Waterford townships. John McElhatton who lived just south and east of the home was appointed superintendent. At first there were only a few residents but after the Civil War the number increased. In 1878-79 the supervisors built the south addition, termed an insane asylum by an early history, 3 stories high for $5,000. In 1976 the Clinton County Care Facility was enlarged and modernized to better serve the occupants and meet state standards. And in 2009 the facility was closed and parts torn down.

The years following the depression of 1857 were years of slow growth for Charlotte. Without a railroad the village was a self-contained unit and was to remain so through out the Civil War and until the coming of the Midland railroad.

The Civil war was a disaster for the nation and created a terrible drain on manpower for the area. In terms of percentage of the population, no war has ever  engaged so many of the men of this nation or this area. Clinton county had over 2,000 men involved and a high percentage of casualties. One of Charlotte's best remembered Civil War veterans, the last local survivor of that conflict was Theo Kleppien who was born in Holstein, Germany on Sept. 7, 1847 and came to America with his parents at the age of 10. At 15 in 1862 he enlisted in Co. E 26 Iowa infantry and participated in 21 battles including Arkansas post, Vicksburg, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, he was honorably discharged June 6, 1865 and died Nov. 1, 1933 and is buried in the Rossiter cemetery.

Following the war the area farms were developed further. Fences were built some of rails, Osage orange "hedge" was introduced, some farms had a hedge fence around every 40 acres. This hedge was intended to be cut back semi-annually to five feet, but with the invention of barbed wire in the 1880's their chore was neglected and remnants of these hedges are still to be seen on area farms.

In the late 1860's the railroad interests were again alive and by Nov. 1870 the first train pulled into Charlotte. The Midland utilized the grading of the railroad that went bankrupt in 1857. Until this time Charlotte's businesses had been south of the creak. Now a new area was platted north of the creek centered on the railroad depot. The street where the lumber yard was called Main St. and was laid parallel to the tracks.

Broadway as the main north-south thoroughfare is now known, was nonexistent in 1865 so we can assume it was probably installed at about the time of the coming of the railroad. An 1865 map shows only six houses and a school in Charlotte.

By 1874, four years after the arrival of the railroad Charlotte had grown to a village of over 50 dwellings and businesses.  Charlotte business directory of 1874 includes: Gohlmann & Smith- dealers in dry goods, groceries, boots and shoes, drugs, glassware, crockery and general merchandise. H.Junger - dealer in drugs, medicine, groceries & fancy goods. H.J lunc-  dealers in wagon, carriage and blacksmith shop. Peter Jessen- owner of the Sherman Hotel ( where Stoeckers gas station was). P.H Schmidt - manufacturer and dealer of boots and shoes. Chas. Boldt - manufacturer of lemon beer. A Jensen - billiard hall and saloon.

 Charlotte has been a good place to live for many people over the years. However we cannot overlook the many tragedies that have plagued the town. Starting in 1865, when Patrick Clary and his wife drowned in Deep Creek west of Charlotte. Also in 1873 when an ice gorge formed below the ford, used while the bridge was under repair and a wagon and team were swept under the ice and Johann Jochimsen his wife Martin Paulsen and a stranger from Chicago drowned.

The period following 1875 saw many immigrants arrive in the area and the agriculture based economy with its high labor, low mechanization and low capital investment could absorb all of them. Life at that period of time was a hard physical life. 

On May 18, 1898 a tornado did a great deal of damage in the northern part of Waterford township. Later in 1898 Charlotte was the scene of a fire that destroyed the Savings bank, Gohlman Store, Langheim and Manion drug stores and several residences. These buildings were built of wood and only a few feet apart. The area next to Dean Grimms home to Center St. was destroyed. This was replaced with Richard Grimms home, the Thola Building and Adrian Building (which is now Dads place and parking lot) and the Claussen Cream Station. The Claussen Building was removed around 1946.

In 1910 the following were businessmen in Charlotte, 4 doctors - Dr. Manion, Dr. Schwarts, Dr. O'Doherty and Dr. Schmitt. Agriculture implements - Art Monahan; Buggies and wagons - T. E Spellman. There were 2  banks - Charlotte Savings and Farmers /Merchants; General dealers were W.F Hanrahan, William Fullan, M.H. Illeman; Drug stores - Manion Drug Co. and J.M Langheim; Furniture and Undertaking - Gus Mattke; Hardware and Furniture - M.C Petersen; Hardware - J.C Paulsen; Clothing- A.H Dohrmann; Charlotte Concert Band and Gaults Orchestra, Hotel Johnson; grain & coal - W.F Hanrahan; Grain - Petersen and Beeby; Lumber and garage- P.F Schroeder; Stock buyers - Petersen and Beebe, Millinery - Katherine Burke and Mrs. M.E Stenzel; Meat market - M.Hansen; Newspaper - Charlotte Record, A.W. Gault prop.; Livery - M Lanaghan; Photographer - L.O. Petersen; Cream stations - Claussen & Boysen, A. Monahan & Gus Mattke; Jeweler - Jacob Thiessen; 5 & 10 store - W.B. Wheeler; and Harness shop - H. Rasmussen.

By 1910 there were a few automobiles in Charlotte and the problems of unsurfaced streets plagued the town. Certain spots became so muddy that they were impassable even with horses.

Immediately after World war 1 the price of farm land in the area rose to  a new high and mechanization of the farms had begun. Tractors became common and farms were expanded because more land could be worked. However  a few years later when the price of live stock and grain fell, many farmers who had one farm paid for and had borrowed money to finance the second farm lost both. This happened time and time again in this area. The population began its struggle for its daily bread. Many stories were told of frustration about  those dreary days of 5 cent bread and 10 cent a bushel corn hogs at 3.5 cents a pound.

Charlotte through the years since the establishment of the post office has seen many changes. Many people have called it home and many have lived there entire lives here. When the post office was first established the population was in excess of 80% agricultural and this has changed to possibly less than 5%. In 1976 Charlotte had 26 businesses and now is down to 21.

Many stories could be told of the pranksters of Charlotte.  One story concerns our Civil war cannon which was scrapped to help supply iron for World War ll. It seems some locals decided to load 'er up and see what would happen, and as long as they had put in some powder why not a nice round rock for a cannon ball!  Well the fuse was lit and the participants departed and when the dust settled and the rocks landed the depot had acquired a new hole in the roof!

One more cannon story is that Mr. Theo Klippein always prepared the cannon on the 3rd of July for an early firing on the 4th to start the day. It seems on one 4th of July he found that someone had removed the fuse, pounded in a wooden plug and sawed it off short. In order to fire the cannon, he first had to drill out the wood and replace the fuse.