Nestled in the hills of southeast Warren County, is Lacona, Iowa. Originally founded as White Breast Township in the mid 1800’s, thousands of people lined the border separating the pioneers from the Sac and Fox tribes of the area. After some time of working to have the Sac and Fox move, the town Jefferson was opened for settlement. Willis Clevenger and Samuel Myers, migrated from Indiana and Ohio, respectively, in 1856 and are considered the towns’ founders. For mail purposes, the name was changed to Lacona in September of 1857.
Through the next years, the town greeted the railroad, in an attempt to create a travel connection between Chariton and Indianola. After town leaders touted the idea, votes were cast, approving the connection.
Local businessmen knew that if the railroad bypassed the town, that would be the beginning of the end of the community. However, On Dec 23, 1878, the first train from Chariton, en-route to Indianola, passed through Lacona.
After the arrival of the railroad, growth in Lacona surged. Businesses were coming to town and new homes were being built. Four general stores, two drug stores, one millinery, two shoe shops, three blacksmiths, one wagon shop, one harness store, one barber shop, one mill, one furniture store, one cabinet shop, and a hotel, just to name a few, went up. Stops for the railroad along the Lacona line, livened up the city, and was considered one of the larger towns outside of the County seat of Indianola.
All that thriving nearly came to end November 24, 1887 in the form of a fire. It started when one home caught fire due to a plugged flue. However, the high winds of the day sent embers to other buildings, including a drug store, the barber shop, and many houses. While this event was devastating, the residents of this town worked together, and started to rebuild. As people were rebuilding, another devastating event set its sights on Lacona in the form of a tornado.
With wagons in the streets mashed by removed roofs of buildings, men in the community set out to find those in need of being rescued from the destruction. While some lives were lost, people marched on. The community continued to add homes and businesses. The late 1890’s were times of improvement in the form of a new school and the first phone line being installed. Everybody was looking for opportunity in the form of businesses being created by young entrepreneurs and homes being built by families.
During the early 20th century, the community saw growth and some prosperity, but along with every other community in the nation, Lacona entered The Great Depression. Businesses closed, homes were lost, and banks went broke. Farmers were also affected due to a significant drought that caused the topsoil to blow away and the crops to dry up preventing the ability to feed animals.
To many people in the area, life was tough, but there was sufficient food to feed their families and they weathered through. People planted their own gardens and resourcefulness became a way of life. Nothing was thrown away as there wasn’t any money to buy new.
Lacona has been around for many years, seen and survived many events that would otherwise wipe out a town of its size. The community of citizens are survivors and are dedicated to their community’s growth.
Exerpt from “Lacona, Iowa 1856 – 2006” by the Lacona Heritage Committee.
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