THE IRISH IN IOWA
Straddles Two Counties
By Robert Kenyon
Ft. Dodge Messenger; Date Unknown
Submitted by Pat Martin
Residents Don't Mind
Handicaps of Odd Location
Gilmore City, March 26-Living in a town which straddles a county line has its minor disadvantages, but Gilmore City residents take them with a smile. Except for general elections and a few other reminders, residents are even prone to forget that the Humboldt-Pocahontas county line runs right smack down the center of Gilmore street, the main business thoroughfare.
Any number of men in this northwest Iowa community live in Humboldt county and operate places of business in Pocahontas county, and vice versa.
Young couples planning to be married in the First Lutheran or St. John's Catholic churches must go to Pocahontas to get their licenses, because these two churches are west of Gilmore street. Weddings slated for either of the town's other two churches, the First Baptist or First Methodist, require licenses issued at Dakota City, Humboldt county seat.
The Gilmore City bank, a branch of the Humboldt Trust & Savings bank, contradictorily is located on the west side of Gilmore street, placing it in Pocahontas county.
With a population of approximately 1,000, Gilmore City is pretty evenly divided between the two counties, a slight majority living in the Humboldt half of the town.
The number of business firms in each county is likewise fairly even. The main business street runs north and south, and while its legal name is Gilmore street, it is commonly called "Main" street. The real Main street runs east and west, crossing Gilmore street and is the second most important business street of the community.
Humboldt county boasts the Gilmore theater, the Legion hall and the post office, while across the line in Pocahontas county are the railroad station, the Masonic hall, the town hall and library.
A Gilmore City housewife, spending a morning or afternoon on a normal shopping tour of the town's business firms, probably crosses the line half a dozen times without giving the matter a thought.
License Plates Differ
Unlike most Iowa communities where all autos have license plates bearing the same county number, one can always spot two county license numbers in Gilmore City even when no out of town shoppers' cars are parked on the streets. Half the town's motorists purchase Pocahontas county plates with No. 76, while the other half of the autos carry tags with 46, designating Humboldt county.
When election time rolls around, Gilmore Cityans living west of Gilmore street go to the town hall to vote for their choice of Pocahontas county candidates. Their neighbors east of the street cast their votes for the Humboldt county slate of officers in a polling place just across the street from the town hall. The theater building or the school office are used for Humboldt county balloting.
The town's schools have always been listed in Humboldt county, the public school building having been east of the line. Since the building was destroyed by fire, much of the school activity was carried on in business buildings in Pocahontas county. At one time only a couple of high school classes out of the whole school system were being held in Humboldt county.
Now, however, the grades have all been moved into the recently completed building near the former school site. High school classes are still held for the most part in Pocahontas county.
Change Post Office
For years Gilmore City was commonly spoken of as belonging to Pocahontas county, because the original post office was west of the line and continued there until about four years ago. That meant that U.S. postal guides listed the town in Pocahontas county.
Now the post office is on Main street, east of the county line and the official postal listing for Gilmore City is therefore Humboldt county.
The first post office was located in the farm home of Mr. and Mrs. Sewell Van Alstine, parents of the late Senator H.S. Van Alstine. The family came from Illinois in 1870 and settled on a farm a mile west and a mile north of the present site of Gilmore City.
In 1878 the post office, then called Prairie View office, was established at the Van Alstine home and Mrs. Van Alstine was appointed postmaster, a position she held until 1881. At that time the office was moved to the newly settled town which Mr. Van Alstine was asked to name.
The well known farmed selected Gilmore, after the construction superintendent, Clare Gilmore, who was in charge of the Rock Island crew which laid the first railroad track through the town. Incidentally, the Webster county town of Clare was named after the same man.
Since Gilmore was considered too much like the name of the town Gilman, the postal department added City, giving the community its present name.
The original settlement was in Pocahontas county, but during the years of growth Gilmore City gradually appeared over into Humboldt county until today the latter county boasts slightly more than half the population.
In addition to the two-county location, Gilmore City also has the distinction of being in four townships. It lies in Garfield and Lake townships of Pocahontas county as well as a pair of Humboldt county townships, Weaver and Avery.
The town council is evenly split when it comes to residence of its members, but the members do not let this fact disrupt official meetings. Mayor Earl Cox and two councilmen, Wilmer Neel and Alfred Mess, live in Pocahontas county. The other three councilmen, Fred Fisher, Theodore Gleason and Dr. T. G. Herrick, hang their hats in Humboldt county whenever they are at home.
The unique situation makes a little extra work for the council. The annual city budget has to go to the auditors of both counties, and the city receives taxes from two county treasurers.
Residents tell of an incident which occurred a number of years ago. The Humboldt county sheriff was bent on confiscating a certain auto. As the official bore down on the vehicle, parked on the east side of Gilmore street, a group of men pushed it across the street into Pocahontas county. It was necessary to get the Pocahontas county sheriff there before the car could be taken into custody.
Humboldt county shares one other town with a neighboring county. Luverne, located on the northern boundary of Humboldt county, ahs most of its area in Kossuth county.
Return to Iowa Irish
Comments, Suggestions, Contributions, Criticism or Praise?
© 2001 Cathy Joynt Labath