Saturday, December 20, 2008

Town of Jerome - 2003 by Bill Heusinkveld

  Jerome is a small incorporated town with a present day population of about 70.  It is located in the center of Secion 3 of Lincoln Twp.  It is at the intersection of 524th St. and 135th Ave.  This is about 8 miles due west of Centerville.  It is almost 2 miles south of Hwy. No. 2.  Some of the early settlers who came in the late 1840s and early 1850s to settle in the Jerome area were John Moore, William Becknel, Noah Stoner, C. R. Jackson, Henry Wilson, Peter Sidles and James
Hagan.  The original town of Jerome was surveyed and platted in 1855.  East-west streets were Main, Grand, and Harrison.  The 1896 map [shown below] shows the Gladstone Mine, the cemetery and the school, all on the west side of town.    

  Horace W. Lyon, the first postmaster of Jerome in 1856, was not too popular in the new community because he sold liquor.  Howver, his son, Jerome, was blind and so, the town was named for him.  A Methodist Church was organized in 1857 and services were held in homes until the construction of a school house.  The first church was finished in 1871.  The first school was known as School District No. 5. The site was purchased from Jacob Stoner in 1857.  A burial ground was set aside on the Stoner property at the same time.  The school served until 1871, when a new school was built.  One of the early teachers in this second school, Theodore P. Shontz, became famous later in the railroad industry and also as chairman of the Panama Canal Commission in 1905-1907. 
  The Chicago and Southwestern Railroad was built through the Jerome area in 1887. Later it became the Rock Island. The Railroad added a depot and called the town Rowley, but the townspeople insisted that the name should remain Jerome.  

A lumberyard, hotel, two-story Big-4 store, livery barn, and blacksmith shop were all built in the 1890s.

They flourished for many years.   In its heyday, Jerome boasted a population of over 600 residents.  There were two hotels, two boarding houses, a bank, a post office, two groceries, white elephant store, hardware store, clothing store, blacksmith shop, barber shop, shoe repair shop, a pool hall, a miners' hall, livery stable, lumber yard and stockyards. There was a public square with hitching posts and bandstand just north of Grant Street.  There were several medical doctors.   

  The Big-4 Mine shaft was sunk along the railroad 1/2 mile N.E. of Jerome in the fall of 1892.  It was sold to the Consumers Coal Co. of Cedar Rapids and operated until 1906.

  The Gladstone Mine No. 2, on the west edge of Jerome, operated from 1893 to 1895 and undermined 21 acres.  This mine struck a fault and had to be abandoned. 
  Harkes Coal Co. No. 2 Mine had their shaft on the north side of the tracks in the N.E. part of Jerome.  This operated from 1914 to 1923 with a peak production of 250 tons per day and undermined a total of 230 acres. 
  A miner's work was hazardous and unpleasant.  Often he went for days without seeing the sunlight.  The coal seam was about 2 1/2 feet in height, so a miner would have to lie on his side to mine the coal.  Many workers had broken arms or legs and slate scars on their faces from falls of coal or slate. Often they had stooped shoulders or hunched backs.  Ofter the men worked only in the winter and were laid off in the summer.  They had to depend on the Company Store for credit.  Unions were organized in the Appanoose County in 1891 to improve these conditions and get better pay.  Two Jerome unions were organized into the United Mine Workers of America in Jerome 1894.
  The third school building was built in 1894 due to the need for a larger school.  Jerome's population had increased because of all the coal mining activity.  It burned in 1920. The fourth school was a new brick building.  It was also destroyed by fire in 1931.  A fifth building was built. It was a large two-story building just east of the cemetery.  A modern water system was installed and it was wired for electricity in 1936. 
  The coal mining era ended in Jerome in about 1923 and the town's commercial life gradually deteriorated until all stores are now gone.  The high school was closed about 1943 and the elementary grades soon after.  The building still stands, neglected and lonely, but with fond memories.  Only the Church and a small number of houses maintain the semblance of a town.
  The Jerome Methodist Church, which had been organized in 1855, carried on for over 100 years and held periodic reunions through the years so that former members could revisit their home town. 
 [Source: A Pictorial History of Towns of Appanoose County Past and Present by W. M. Heusinkveld (2003).  Transcribed here with permission of the author.]

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