The prosperous and progressive town of Onawa, the county seat of Monona County, is located near the middle line of the county, north and south, and abut eight miles east of the Missouri River, but only about fur miles from the nearest point on the river to the southwest. The Monona Land Company laid out Onawa in 1857, including in its area abut six hundred acres, with about six hundred additional acres of out-lots. The principal streets run east and west, and are one hundred and fifty feet in width, the other streets being eighty feet wide, with alleys sixteen feet wide. Two blocks were reserved in the northern part of the town for public parks.

S.S. Pearse built the first house in Onawa July 2d, 1857; the Onawa House was raised on the 4th of the same month, by J.E. Morrison. Among the first settlers were Judge C.E. Whiting, J.E. Morrison, timothy Elliott, R.G. Fairchild and S.S. Pearse.

Surrounded by an excellent farming country, with plenty of timber within two or three miles, Onawa is certain to develop into a point of considerable importance. Since its incorporation, and the completion of the railroad, the population of the town has steadily increased. Onawa is thirty-seven miles from Sioux City, about sixty-five miles from Council Bluffs, and thirty-eight miles from Missouri Valley Junction.

Up to 1868, Onawa remained a sub-district of Franklin township district. A petition was presented in that year, praying for a special election to vote upon the question of the organization of an independent school district. This petition was granted, and the organization was effected February 22d, 1868. The members of the Board, for the first year, were: Charles Atkins, President; James Armstrong, Vice-President; F. M. Snow, Secretary; N. A. Whiting, Treasurer; R. G. Fairchild, L. D. Sittle and J. E. Selleck, Directors. The first school taught in the town was taught by A. R. Wright, now of Sioux City, in a little log school house, now on Main street, about the year 1857. There was a brick schoolhouse-28×50 feet in dimensions, and one-story high, erected subsequently, which was successfully utilized until the building of the present edifice in 1874. The present public school building is a fine brick structure, 48×85 feet, and three-stories high. It contains six rooms. The building cost in the neighborhood of $20,000. The present school officers are: Board of Education, J. K. McCaskey, President; S.B. Martin, Secretary; C. H. Holbrook, Treasurer; N.A. Whiting, B. D. Holbrook, G. E. Warner, J. E. Selleck, M. Vincent, members of the board. The corps of teachers as composed at this writing, is as follows: W. H. Dempster, Principal; Belle M. Gilcrest, Assistant Principal; W. J. Maughlin, Annie C. Gillete, D. E. Smith, Flora J. Maughlin, Bessie Gray, teachers. Present enrollment, about 300. The school building is a model of architectural beauty and finish, the rooms are large, heated by means of furnaces, ventilated in accordance with the Ruttan system, and furnished with single and combination desks.

The Courthouse at Onawa was built by the Monona Land Company in 1858, and donated to the county. The building cost about $7,000.

A summarized history of Monona County’s newspapers has been given hitherto. Room – or rather want of room – only suffices here to say that the Monona County Gazette was taken charge of in 1879 by W.A. Green alone, who ran the paper until 1870, when it subsequently passed into the ownership of the Gazette Publishing Company, with Mr. J. D. Ainsworth as the editor. In 1875, Ainsworth became sole proprietor, and has continued to hold the fort in a most commendable way. The Gazette is an eight-column folio, and ha a circulation in excess of 800 copies.

The first railroad was completed to Onawa in November 1867. The town gave the company the right of way, and lots, and cash to the amount of $8,000, besides donating twenty acres of land for depot grounds. Onawa has a reasonable prospect for a railroad from Mapleton during the present year.

The date of the platting of Onawa was the year 1857. The following persons composed the Monona Land Company: T. Elliott, J. E. Morrison, J. L. Merritt, C. E. Whiting, R. G. Fairchild, S. S. Pearse, A. B. Gard, W. S. Phillips, A. Dimmick; Judge Whiting being President; T. Elliott, Treasurer; S. S. Pearse, Secretary.

The first Mayor of Onawa was Dr. R. Stebbins. Present municipal officers: H. E. Morrison, Mayor; T. P. Noble, Recorder; J. C. Pike, D. B. Kenyon, John Cleghorn, J. R. Thruston, T. C. Walton, Council.

The business interests of Onawa may be classified, with reasonable accuracy, as follows:

General stores, four; groceries, three; drug stores, two; millinery, three; harness, two; hardware, two; meat markets two; clothing; one; Jewelry, one; agricultural implements, two; flour and feed, one; bank, one; barber shop, one; hotels, three; blacksmith shops, three; furniture, one; boots and shoes, two; livery, two; lumber, one; flouring mill, one; fancy goods, one; saloons, two.

Onawa Churches And Societies

Congregational Church Society

The Congregational Society was organized June 27th, 1858, Rev. G. G. Rice, of Council Bluffs, and Rev. Reuben Gaylord, of Omaha. The first-named gentleman was the society’s first pastor, and he was succeeded by the Rev. George L. Woodhull, who died October 1st. 1870, aged 28 years. Mr. Woodhull’s successor was the present pastor, Rev. Charles N. Lyman, who assumed the charge January 1, 1871. The church edifice was erected in 1870, and was dedicated in December of that year. The cost was $6,000. Prior to the erection of this building, the society held its services in the Court House. The present membership of the society is fifty-five. A Sabbath School, with an average attendance of seventy-five pupils, is connected with the church. The superintendent of the school is the Rev. Charles N. Lyman.

Methodist Episcopal Church Society

The Methodist Episcopal Society was organized October 9th, 1870, by Rev. J. F. Walker, who was the first pastor. The successive pastors were: Revs. L. H. Woodworth, A. L. Mattison, O. S. Bryan, J. B. Starkey, J. Warner, H. W. Jones, S. W. Owen, C. E. Chase, F. A. Burdick and A. J. Beebe, the latter being the present pastor. The edifice now in use was built in 1873, at a cost of $2,000. The society had previously held services in the public school house. The present membership is forty-three. The society has a parsonage, which was built in 1873, during Rev. Starkey’s pastoral term. There is also a Sabbath School with about seventy-five pupils, the superintendent of which is Miss D.E. Smith. The present Trustees of the society are: M. W. Bacon, S. W. Grow, L. D. Sittle, W. C. Marr and T. C. Walton.

Roman Catholic Church Society

The Catholic Church Society at Onawa may be considered to date its existence from the building of its church edifice in the later part of 1872. Mass had been celebrated there occasionally, as far back as 1866, and in 1867, when Bishop Hennessy assumed charge of the western part of the State, which, during the government of his predecessor, Bishop Smythe, had been administered by the late Bishop O’Gorman, of Omaha. Mass was celebrated prior to 1866, by priests of the Dioces of Nebraska, and particularly by Father Tracy, of old St. John’s, who had charge from the Yellowstone to the Platte. Rev. B. C. Lenehan is the present pastor.

Monona Lodge No. 380, I.O.O.F.

This Lodge was organized June 7th, 1878, by Grand Master A. J. Morrison. The charter members were: E.W. Holbrook, H.W. Cady, L.H. Belknap, John Douglas, C.M. Ross, J.S. Baggs, D.L. Utterback, James Carmody, R. Horning and J.K. MeCaaskey. The first officers were: J.K. McCaskey, N.G.; J. Carmody, V.G.; Geo. W. Penn, V.G.; L.D. Sittle, S.; W.M. Bacon, T.; The membership of the Lodge is twenty-eight. Present officers: P.T. Noble, N.G.; Geo. W. Penn, V.G.; L.D. Sittle, S.; W.M. Bacon, T. The meetings of the Lodge are held on every Saturday night of each week in the hall of the society over the bank.

Vesper Lodge No. 223, .F. and A.M.

A dispensation was granted to this Lodge August 28th, 1867. The first officers were: F.W. Snow, W.M.; James Butts, S.W..; Truman Pierce, J.W.; Charles Atkins,S.; Fred McCouslan, T.; W.A. Grow S.D.; M.A. Treeland, J.D.; John Baggs, Tyler. A charter was granted the Lodge June 3d, 1868. The charter members were F.W. Snow, James Butts, Truman Pierce and other worthy gentlemen. The present officers are: James Walker, W.M.; H. Douglas, S.W.; G.E. Warner, J.W.; J.D. Ainsworth, S.; R. Stebbins, F.S.; B.D. Holbrook, S.D.; D. Handle, J.D.; J. D. Giddings, S.S.; O.D. Bishop, J.S.; F. W. Snow, Tyler. The lodge meets every Wednesday, on or after each full moon, in the hall over the bank. The membership of this society is thirty-eight, and it is in a flourishing condition.

Monona County Agricultural Association

This association was organized in the spring of 1871, as a stock company. The first official board of directors was composed of the following-named gentlemen: C.E. Whiting, Fred McCausland, J.E. Morrison, M.A. Freeland, W.G. Kennedy, A. Dimmick and E. Peak. The first officers were: C.E. Whiting, President; M.A. Freeland, Vice-President; James Walker, Secretary; B.D. Holbrook, Treasurer. The association owns thirty-five acres of land situated about one mile north of Onawa, which land is enclosed with a good, substantial fence. Inside the enclosure is Floral Hall, an excellent building, with dimensions of 20×40 feet, as well as an additional “L,” of 24×60 feet. There are also a fine Amphitheatre and good stables and cattle-shed. A half-mile racetrack is another improvement. All these are in good condition. The present board of directors is composed of W.T. Boyd, A. Oliver, J.D. Woodward, J.B.P. Day, R.G. Fairchild, C.E. Whiting and G.E. Warner. The present officers are: A. Oliver, President; J.B.P. Day, Vice-President; J.D. Ainsworth, Secretary; B.D. Holbrook, Treasurer. The society is in a very prosperous condition. Its last annual fair, the ninth, was held in September 1881.

Monona County Old Settlers’ Association

This association was organized in August, 1879, by C.E. Whiting, R. Stebbins, R.T. Carratt, J.E. Morrison, Judge Oliver, F.H. Day and others. The first officers were: F.H. Day, President; C.E. Whiting, C. M. Scott, W.L. Ring, Vice-Presidents; James Walker, Secretary; R. Stebbens, T.R. Carratt, John Heisler, James Robinson, J.D. Woodward, Executive Committee. Present officers: W.L. Ring, President; F.F. Roe, T. Elliott, G.M. Scott, Vice-Presidents; James Walker, Secretary and Tresurer; J.B.P. Day, C. E. Whiting, Judge Oliver, J. Cleghorn, Executive Committee. The present membership of the association is about 275.