Sunday, December 21, 2008

Town of Plano - 2003 by Bill Heusinkveld

  The town of Plano is located in Sections 21 and 28 of Johns Twp.  It is on Hwy. 142, 1/2 mile north of Hwy. No. 2, 9 miles west of Centerville.  The first post office in the area was called Tranquility, an inland post office one mile north of Plano in the S.E. corner of Section 16 in 1870. The name was suggested by the tranquil nature of the area and the people in Johns Twp.
  The Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska Railroad was extended westward from Centerville through Plano in 1876.  Later it became the Keokuk and Western Railroad and then in 1901 it became the C. B. & Q.
  The original plat of the town of Steele was done in 1879.  It was named for a local landowner.  The name was changed to Camden in 1880 when the post office was moved there from Tranquility.  The name was changed to Polo in 1881 and to Plano in 1882.  The name Plano is from the Spanish "plano" meaning a plane of level surface, referring to the level nature of the surrounding prairie country in Johns Twp.
  By late 1881, there were a hotel, a store, two saloons, a billard hall, a hardware store, lumberyard, and the new M. E. Church.  More homes were being built.  Sidewalks were poured on the main streets in 1882.  There was soon a barber shop, a drug store, and a good blacksmith shop.  There was a doctor and a justice of the peace.
  A later plot of Plano, done in 1914 is shown above.  The streets were named 1st, 2nd, 3rd (Main), 4th, and 5th starting from the east side.  Going north the streets were School, Wells and Front Streets south of the tracks and Wakefield, Kennel and Hibbs north of the tracks.  The Scandinavian mine, depot, lumber yard and church are all shown on the plat map above.

  The Scandinavian Coal Mine No. 2 was about 1/4 mile to the west, along the railroad and Front St.  It was in operation from 1905 through 1914 and its slag pile remains today.  It had a vertical shaft of 200 feet, likely the deepest in Iowa, and it undermined an area of 25 acres.  Claus Johnson of Centerville was Superintendent.  The Company had about 14 houses for the miners. They employed about 35 men during the coal season, averaging 75 tons per day.
  In August 1915, the west side of  the business street was destroyed by fire which broke out in a restaurant.  A bucket brigade failed to save the Davisons hardware store, the big general merchandise store, the miners hall, and the barber shop.


  Lincoln Harbold was one of the biggest and best known stockmen in Iowa.  He grew up in Johns Twp. and had his center of operations in Plano, with a beautiful, spacious home in the north part of town.  He had a number of farms including a large operation at Sedan.  In 1913 he shipped out 204 cars of live stock, grain and seed.  He has specialized in cholera immune hogs for serum making purposes and supplied 1400 such hogs per month.  He has also been a benefactor to the town of Plano.

Link Harold Farm - White with Green Roofs

  In 1921, the Harbold farms became the setting for many of the scenes for a new movie picture "The Wonderful Thing" starring the famous movie actress, Norma Talmadge.*  She played a typical American wife and was supported by Harrison Ford.  The farms, with their background scenic rolling hills, made a nice backdrop for the movie.  The famous Duroc Jersey hogs raised on the farm helped to provide atmosphere. 
  There was a tragic accident in 1922 when Fred Green, proprietor of the Plano Garage lost his life in an accident with a tractor.  He was demonstrating a new tractor in a field when the tractor stalled with its wheels spinning in soft ground.  Small poles were placed in front of the wheels to give traction.  This caused the front end of the tractor to leap into the air throwing the weight of the tractor onto the driver.
Ford Garage on east side of 3rd St. ca. 1915

  There was another bad fire in downtown Plano on Dec., 1923.  It wa in a brick building on the west side of Main St. It was started by an employee in lighting the lamps of the gasoline lighting system in the store.  As the match was lighted there was an explosion, gas apparently having filled the room.  Only the blackened brick walls remained standing.
  The first public school was on the south side of School St.  In 1914, a high school was built at 2nd and Wakefield.  A new gym was added in 1939 but the school burned down the following spring. That was the end of a high school in Plano. It was replaced with an elementary school which was later used as a community center. 

1941 Methodist Church --------------- Christian Church

  A new Christian Church was built on the N.E. corner of 2nd St. and Wakefield in 1917.  This church burned down in 1963. In the meantime the Methodists had replaced their 1881 church with a new building in 1921, but this had gone defunct in 1941 due to a shrinking congregation. In 1946 it was remodeled and reopened but eventually closed again.  So in 1963 the Christian Church bought the building for $1.00 and remodeled it and brought it back to life.  It is still in operation today.
  The railroad service was discontinued as there was a simulated train robbery on its last run made in March, 1958. Commercial establishments gradually disappeared as the automobile favored the growth of the larger towns on the direct routes of the main highways.  The population has declined to about 75.
  However an active community spirit still exists as Richard Gorden and other townspeople have created a fine little museum with the aid of creative exhibits made by Emmett Philby.  In 2002 the community hosted a block party that attracted in excess of 300 friends from far and wide.

Plano Museum

  [Source: A Pictorial History of Towns of Appanoose County Past and Present by W. M. Heusinkveld [2003], pages 64-65, transcribed on The Jerome Journal with the permission of the author.]  For more information on the Plano area see: Gorden, Willis, and Richard Gorden. A Step Back in Time: Plano, Iowa.  [Plano, Iowa: W. & R. Gorden, 1998].
  See the Norma Talmadge website for more information on her and the film, Its a Wonderful Thing

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