Town Sign Project: Hamilton County

A couple weeks back I made a trip around Hamilton County to grab a few town signs I was missing in the county. There were a few interesting discoveries.

Hamilton is the 4th county that I’ve knocked off.

4 Counties - Town Signs Project
Purple = Completed

Hopefully when we get through the pandemic, I can open these little trips to other people. Particularly when I come to visit your county.

Also, any tips on some small town treasures could move a county up in the pecking order. In fact, on Saturday I got a good tip on Woolstock, Iowa that moved Wright County up in the pecking order. Maybe passing Marshall and Carroll counties.

It is kind of a well documented fact that people from Webster County are a little bit untrustworthy. There is a reason I can refer to a town as “The Dirty” and everybody instantly knows I’m talking about Fort Dodge. A town known for having a liquor store in its slums that will sell alcohol to 4 year-olds.

I bring this up because there really shouldn’t be a Hamilton County. There should just be one big Webster County, with a County Seat in Homer. Haven’t heard of Homer, Iowa? Yeah, that is because it doesn’t really exist any longer. Why? Because people from Fort Dodge aren’t trustworthy. In fact, at a time when Homer was bigger than Fort Dodge and Webster City (then called Newcastle) combined the thugs from Fort Dodge stole an election from Homer. Legitimately stole an election. Homer didn’t get their butt kicked by Joe Biden and then sat in their office whining about it and spreading disinformation via social media while trying to undermine our democracy. The election was legitimately stolen from them.

Here is the tale from the Hamilton County History website:

Prepared by Martin E. Nass

Granville Burkley was successful in carrying his petition to the legislature in 1851 and they created the new county, Webster County, by taking all of Yell, all of Risley, and the lower half of Humboldt (then called Bancroft) Counties. The new county was assigned to Boone County for administration. Two commissioners, Elisha Anderson and Samuel McCall came to meet with Burkley to locate a county seat. Burkley persuaded them to select his site for the town and to name it Homer, for the epic Greek poet. They selected Secion 6-87-26. The new county obtained title to the land on October 14, 1854. Judge Pierce entered a warrant for $114.00 for the town plat.

Burkley built himself a cabin, then got himself appointed as postmaster. He kept the mail under his bed in a tin box. He constructed the first school in Homer, and then promptly padlocked it until the residents would pay him what he wanted. R. W. Alcon was first school teacher at this school. Burkley then arranged for the new state road, which came from Des Moines through Boonesboro (Montana) in Boone County, then through Mineral Ridge, entering our county and passing through Hook’s Point. The road then went to Homer before turning west through Border Plains, Brushy, and on to Fort Dodge.

Homer grew and prospered until it reached a population of about 600. Fort Dodge had about 200 and Newcastle about 100. It seemed that Homer’s future was secure.

Two men came upon the scene to change things. John F. Duncombe of Fort Dodge got together with Walter C. Willson of Newcastle and plans were made to “get” the county seat. They arranged for an election to be held to divide the huge county into two again, each to have a county seat. Since the population of Homer exceeded the combined population of Fort Dodge and Newcastle, Homer felt secure. Willson had arranged earlier to have the Western Stage Company run its line from Dubuque to Alden, Newcastle, and Fort Dodge. Fort Dodge had secured the federal land office in 1855. To ensure a legal election, Burkley stayed in Newcastle to supervise the balloting. He loved to argue politics and he loved to drink. The Newcastle people kept him busy with both, and he did not detect that stage passengers were alighting to vote and then get on the stage for a run to Fort Dodge and vote again. The results went against Homer. They complained and carried their case to the Iowa Supreme Court who ruled that there was evidence widespead cheating on both sides so the election results were upheld.

Duncombe helped Willson get elected to the state legislature to carry the petition for the split of the county. He rode a mule to Marengo and then took the stagecoach to Iowa City, the state’s capital. He planned to arrange for the west half to retain the name Webster and designate Fort Dodge as the county seat. He also had planned for the east half to take the name Sharon and have as the county seat, Newcastle, which was to be renamed Webster City. When he arrived at the state house he quickly realized that he needed some help to get his bill passed. William W. Hamilton, of Cascade, Iowa, was president of the senate. Willson changed the act to give the name Hamilton County to the east half to honor and recognize Hamilton’s help. This act was passed on December 22, 1856 to take effect on Jan 1, 1857.

Thus the name of Webster County was replaced by Hamilton County. Due to a mistake in the numbering of sections in the act, not all of Bancroft County was passed back to Humboldt County. The bottom tier of townships were left in Webster County, which accounts for the fact that the two county north lines do not align. Another act of the legislature required that any further adjusting of county lines would require a majority vote of citizens on both sides of the line. Hence, Webster County never gave back their townships, and never will.

The people of Webster County are so terrible they even stole land from Bancroft County. Never heard of Bancroft County? Yeah, cause it doesn’t exist any more either. That isn’t all the fault of the terrible people of Webster County. The terrible people of Kossuth County also had a hand in that. But we’ll get to that at a later date, I’m sure.

Here is a collection of the town signs of Hamilton County. (Population numbers are from 2010 census.)

Webster City, Iowa
Webster City – 8,070

Jewell, Iowa
Jewell – 1,215

Stratford, Iowa
Stratford – 743

Ellsworth, Iowa
Ellsworth – 531

Stanhope, Iowa
Stanhope – 422

Williams, Iowa
Williams – 344

Blairsburg, Iowa
Blairsburg – 215

Kamrar, Iowa
Kamrar – 199

Randall, Iowa
Randall – 173

Homer, Iowa
Homer – Ghost Town

Christytown, Iowa
Christy Town – Ghost Town, but yeah sure 46

If you are wondering about the history of Christy Town, I thought it might be the site of a religious cult, because there is a Lutheran Camp there (apologies to Lutherans) and the word “Christ” in the name, but turns out just a woman named Christy lived there. Not even for that long. Yeah, boring!

In Hamilton County, I would rank Stanhope as having the best sign and give Jewell the second best. Blairsburg and Ellsworth have the worst.

There were a couple towns that could have really upped their town sign game. For example, Stratford is named after the town that Shakespeare was from. Almost all the streets are named after famous English authors, like Milton Street, Shakespeare Avenue, Tennyson Avenue, and Dryden Street.

There is a lot to play with there. For example, this sign advertising their business district is way better than the town sign that greets you when you enter the town on 175:

Stratford Town Sign Auxiliary

Randall’s sign isn’t bad. As far as nice signs go, it is nice. But they have this sign in their park that is better:

Randall Town Sign Auxiliary

Although, as far as I know, Randall has no peach history. No burgeoning peach industry. Maybe there used to be a peach tree where that sign stands. Randall is pretty far north to grow peaches. Even Reliance or Polly peaches.

If you can’t tell what I like in a sign. It is the following. I like something with artwork on it. It should have a good town slogan. Preferably something that relates to the name of the town. I also like signs that look like they weren’t put together by a professional. I also like signs that reference an athletic accomplishment of a local high school from a long time ago or reference to a (minor) celebrity that was born in that town. I also like signs that are somewhat weathered. Brick signs that just say a town name are the worst. The absolute worst.

Although there are a couple signs in Hamilton County that I like. My Top 5 remains unchanged. After the next county, I might open this up to Top 10.

Christopher D. Bennett Iowa Sign Power Rankings

Scranton, Iowa
#5. Scranton, Iowa

Collins, Iowa
#4. Collins, Iowa

Boone, Iowa
#3. Boone, Iowa

Pilot Mound, Iowa
#2. Pilot Mound, Iowa

Moingona, Iowa
#1. Moingona, Iowa

Now, that is how I feel today. I’m sure if asked tomorrow, I would rank a different Top 5. But I think the Top 3 is pretty solid.

The next county I’m going to knock off is Webster County. Visiting The Dirty! No Taco Tico though!

21 thoughts on “Town Sign Project: Hamilton County”

  1. Val-Dad’s mother’s side is from Stratford, and I have always thought it was entirely quaint. I wish they leaned into the Okde English thing a little more.

    I had no idea there was even a town named Homer! For some reason, I thought Randall was in Story Co. I love that you are helping some of us with geography of the state, as well as history.

    That was definitely not the sign for WC when I went to school there/lived in Duncombe. I am also now trying to think if Duncombe had a sign; I think it was maybe just the green DOT sign at that time.

    I was just speaking with my dad today about how the last time I was in Ft Diggity was a week or two shy of seven years ago, when my biological dad passed. He has been almost as long. My grandparents’ old studio closed, I have no family left of the little I did have – we just don’t have any reason to go (save Taco Tico and Tom Thumb). I was technically a resident of Otho for three days when I was first born, we moved shortly after – so I should probably claim that. It is somehow less dirty than Dodge.

  2. Tamara,

    Thanks the researching part has been fun. Now, I probably won’t got to Marshall County for a bit, I just learned a lot about the deadliest train crash in Iowa history. It was pretty awful, killing mostly women and children that were in a wood train car that was sliced through by a Pullman car.


    On the list of things I want to do after this pandemic is over is the Stratford bluegrass festival. I thought Randall was in Story County as well. It is really close to Story City, but that doesn’t matter really. I also, consider Woodward to be partially in Boone County, but using Wiki is my arbitrator on such issues says it is only in Dallas County. Although the State Hospital is definitely in Boone County.

    Yeah, Webster City’s sign sucks. When towns get to about the size of a Webster City or Carroll is when their signs start to be corporate, as you would say. On my upcoming slate I have a bunch of suburbs. Which I’m on the fence about doing. Suburbs aren’t real towns. They are for rich people that want to pretend they live in a city, but don’t want to live next to poor people.

    Duncombe’s sign is interesting. It is nailed to a garage door that they have put up on posts. It looks fairly recent. They have what I would consider to be a better “sign” in the business district. It is a mural on the side of a building. I consider the garage door sign to be the “true” town sign because by the rules I have established, it is the town that greets you as you enter town. I will probably post both when I do Webster County next week.

    Oh. Otho! I badly miss the Otho Pub. Friday, all you can eat fish. Your choice of potato. You pick the loaded hash brown, because you are not a fool. You only eat part of the hash brown and set it aside, because you don’t want to fill up on it and it will make a glorious breakfast in the morning. I think Tamara and her departed husband Glenn introduced me to the Otho Pub. They introduced me to so many great small town restaurants, I can’t keep track of all of them.

    Tom Thumb is solid. When I toured Webster County on Saturday though, I hit the Hardee’s drive-thru breakfast. I love Hardee’s breakfast so much! I don’t even understand why other restaurants e even try. Cause they are failing.

    And Taco Tico is gross, of course.

  3. When Warren County is on your agenda, let me know! Also, I really enjoy guessing which signs will be your favorite and least favorite. Sometimes I even guess right 😉

  4. I’m guessing Warren County might be a January or February county. Depending on a few factors. Actually depending on several factors. I’ll definitely let you know.

  5. I also considered Woodward part of Boone County – most of the teams we played in football were Boone County, and they were one of the main ones. That’s not at all a metric by which anything should be gauged, but it’s my impression. I also thought Lehigh and Dayton were in Webster County, which they apparently are not. But I only thought so because we used to drive through them on my way to Grandma’s/Dad’s, so they seemed Ft. Diggity-adjacent.

    I would not mind doing the Webster County trip with you, if you’re looking for travel buddies! We drove through Duncombe when we went up for either my grandma or dad’s funeral, and it’s the only time I’d been there in decades, and it was just a quick jaunt. I had no idea about either the mural or the garage door. Is that garage door on that shop that’s at the north end of town, off to the West of that sort of curve towards Webster City when you first hit town? Dad and I used to go there to visit a buddy of his, I think he sold RVs from there at the time. But that was many, many years ago; I am sure it is all gone now. Back then, the small restaurant in Duncombe that was fantastic was The Vault. Looks like it may be called Stumpy’s now. It was a delicious, disgusting bar/diner. No clue if it’s still good.

    I don’t think I ever got a chance to eat at the Otho Pub, which is a shame. It looks like it is permanently closed, which makes me sad. We truly only lived there for about four days after I was born – Scott managed to get us evicted in the short time that Mom was in the hospital during delivery, which is a pretty impressive feat. So her first job upon discharge was to pack us up and move us to Ft. Dodge after finding a new rental.

    I miss Hardee’s so much – my grandma and I used to hit that for breakfast after my cancer appts each month in high school. The one in Ft. Dodge is where I gathered my impressive collection of Smurfs and Shirt Tails glasses in the early 1980s, as I went to preschool at the Y right next door and Scott was too lazy to feed me first. Why did they ever cancel Shirt Tails? Did the family of Humphrey Bogart sue them for the orangutan rip off? I remember loving that show.

  6. I gaged how big a city is based on how many professional sports teams it has. Why I was surprised to find out places like Detroit aren’t really that large.

    Dayton and Lehigh are in Webster County. And unfortunately I have already made my cruise through Webster County. But maybe you can join for a Webster County adjacent county that will involve driving through Webster County. Like Calhoun or Humboldt.

    I should elaborate about Duncombe. The sign isn’t on a functioning garage door. They took a garage door. Put the garage door on poles. Then put the sign over the garage door. Only you can tell that it is on a garage door because the bottom set of garage door panels are still exposed. But the sign is on the curve that you describe.

    I did get a picture of the sign for Stumpy’s. Added to my list of things to do when this pandemic is over is to eat at a bunch of small town dive bar/restaurants. It is unfortunate that Otho Pub won’t be one of them. Yes, it is sadly closed forever, as the owners closed it because their health was failing. This happened before the pandemic, so it isn’t Covid related.

    There was this good-sized restaurant/bar in Barnum that really intrigued me. I can’t remember the name now. But it was very large looking from the outside. Looks like it is call The Junkyard Bar & Grill.

    You really worked your way around Webster County! But how many counties can you say you were evicted in?

    I believe we also got Smurf glasses from Hardee’s, but my favorite thing we ever got from Hardee’s was the California Raisin figurines. I still have more than a couple of them. Mixed in with a bag of M.U.S.C.L.E. that I think is in the basement somewhere. Possibly the guest bedroom. Lots of rando stuff ends up in the guest bedroom. I barely remember shirt tails, although I think I also got all the stuffed animals from Hardee’s. But now you mention it, I do remember the Humprey Bogart character. It was probably legal though under Fair Use maybe. I wonder if those are on YouTube.

  7. I’ll add that if you click on the link I put out earlier today, you can see the Duncombe sign.

  8. I have some Humboldt and Calhoun county roots, for sure, if you’re looking for a photo assistant/buddy!

    Wow, looking at the map – that is exactly what you are describing. I had pictured it more as someone slapping a “welcome” sign on the front of their garage, and it going up and down as the door was used. That is a level of ingenuity rarely seen outside of trailer parks and the like.

    If you ever hit Stumpy’s, please let me know, as I’d love to accompany. I haven’t been in there since I was about 8 or 9. My memories are really vague – I believe it was a bank once upon a time, so there was a big metal vault door in there, and it was really dark. I remember they played “The New Gidget” on a tiny TV suspended from the ceiling, which I just remembered now as I was typing it that it was ever a thing. I hope Otho Pub had that non-descript, small town pub feeling and smell where you can tell a thousand stories have been told, and a good portion of them have been told a dozen times from the same chair.

    The Storm Cellar in Pilot Mound was similar – you had to go down into the basement of an old, long-closed hardware store to eat one of about fourteen menu items. And some of them were amazing, cooked in the same grease as your last 40 meals there. That is one thing about living in Ames – we don’t hit a lot of dives these days, and it’s a shame. The closest to a “dive” that we frequent is Pammel Grocery over where DiSalvo’s Deli used to be. I know Boone has a few more options for dives, but it’s still a little too large of a town to really have many.

    We were only ever evicted in Webster County, I believe! Scott also lived in Rinard and Rockwell City after they divorced, which are in Calhoun Co – I’m pretty positive he was evicted from those, so could I claim eviction by proxy? “Eviction By Proxy” sounds like a seedy crime novel.

    I LOVED those California Raisin figures! I believe I may have given mine either to my brother, or maybe even one or two to Shannon – if I remember correctly, she had a whole collection of them on her bookshelves in her bedroom circa fifth grade. I loved the one with the sax the best. I definitely didn’t have any M.U.S.C.L.E., but did Hardees maybe do ALF toys for a while? I love that your guest bedroom is just a wealth of surprises.

    I’m trying to remember what were the other cartoons at that time – KIssyfur, Snorks, the Dungeons and Dragons one? I bet you were maybe not Shirt Tails’ target demographic, as you WERE four years older than me – it would have been a little bit childish for you at the time, I bet. But you’re right, I bet it would have been Fair Use by that time. I tried to find them a few years back for Alice, and they are just terrible. I don’t know why they were ever popular.

  9. I definitely have you penciled in. I’m sure if this happens post pandemic, a trip to Stumpy’s could be incorporated.

    The Otho Pub actually had more of an old-timey supper club feel to it. At least I think. There was a small bar, but you couldn’t even really sit there, I think. It had two rooms. One was insanely dark and cramped. I believe wood paneling and booths that probably had never been replaced.

    The other room wasn’t very big, but was more like a traditional dining room. Wood paneling I think as well. I think I have some phone pictures of it somewhere. I’ll see if I can dig them up.

    “Eviction by Proxy” could be a Mack Bolan novel. You probably don’t know Mack Bolan, but it was kind of a serialized hitman series of books. I read a few of them when I was in high school. They were pretty terrible. I’d like to tell you some of the names of the books, but I don’t remember any of them.

    Holy crap! Looking it up, there are over 600 of those books. That is insane!

    I think probably all cartoons of that era are trash, if you look at them now.

  10. Old-timey supper clubs are definitely becoming a thing of the past at this point. I remember Ft. Dodge had the Starlight Lounge that feel to it, but I bet it’s been updated. Tic Toc closed again, correct?

    I am not familiar with Mack Bolan, but I should try and find one of his 600 stories. It shouldn’t be hard to find them, from the sounds of it! They sort of remind me of the sort of stuff Kilgore Trout wrote in the Vonnegut novels – but with hitmen. That’s amazing. “Eviction by Proxy” DOES sound like a hitman novel.

    Yeah, I always have way fonder memories of those cartoons when I don’t revisit them. When Alice was about 4, I tried to introduce her to JEM, which figured fairly large in my mornings before school at the babysitter’s house. They are… not good, upon review. At all.

  11. There is a place called Skip’s near the airport in Des Moines that is the last “supper club” type restaurant I think I’ve been to. Tic Toc is gone. Some high end chef opened it up and was charging like $25 a meal. Umm…. yeah. I’m not paying that for 85 cents worth of pasta. I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did.

    The one restaurant in Boone that had the “supper club” feel to it back in the day was the Black Knight. BTW, the black knight from The Black Knight is in the entry way of a house in Logansport. I went out there for something, I can’t remember and it was in the back of this person’s truck. They told me they were going to put it back together and put it in the entry way to their house. Kind of an interesting house. The entry way is pretty much the entire front of the house and about 20 foot tall, so there is room for it there.

    I Googled Supper Club to see if there is a firm definition of “supper club” and there really isn’t, but now apparently it is used as a name to describe an underground restaurants. From the wiki:

    A supper club is a traditional dining establishment that also functions as a social club. The term may describe different establishments depending on the region, but in general, supper clubs tend to present themselves as having a high-class image, even if the price is affordable to all. A newer usage of the term supper club has emerged, referring to underground restaurants.

    I don’t know how I feel about hipsters stealing supper clubs! Maybe supper clubs were always hipster, at least in their day.

    Unfortunately, I think anything that was created to promote a toyline, doesn’t hold up. With the possible exception of TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE. But maybe I’m in denial on that.

    I wouldn’t look into Mack Bolan. It is time in your life you won’t get back.

  12. I’ve seen the sign for Skip’s and wanted to go there dozens of times! Mostly because it reminds us of Skip Church’s in Arrested Development, so obviously I’m going to go and order something and say “I don’t understand the question, and I won’t respond to it.” Now I’ll have to go because it sounds legitimately interesting.

    I don’t remember going into the Black Knight in Boone (although I loved that knight out front – I love that someone took it in and has big plans for it). I went to the Black Knight in Ft Dodge when I was young, That was definitely a supper club, for sure – I honestly forgot about Black Knights. Although, I do still look for the tall knight in Boone every time we go out via the eastern route. That is a piece of Boone forever. I also think it’s awesome that you met the family in Logansport – that is an incredibly Chris Bennett thing to do.

    So, I’ve sort of heard of those hipster supper clubs? I have heard them called “pop-up restaurant clubs” or something similar, I think they’re a bigger thing out on the west coast. But it’s definitely got a long way to go before they are the same as the old school ones. You’re right, I guess those were also sort of hipster, in that most people who went to them probably listened to lounge music?

    I have not seen any of the new Transformers movies at all, which I know is a shame.

  13. Skip’s has the best restaurant nachos I’ve ever had in my life. I think the key is the garlic aioli. But the rest of their food I’ve found to be pretty pedestrian.

    I don’t honestly have any memories of being inside the Black Knight, but I do have memories of horror stories of how filthy the kitchen was supposed to be and the basement allegedly flooded, so it definitely shouldn’t have passed health inspection. But our health inspector back in the day probably wasn’t above a bribe. I don’t know this personally. Just coached Little League against him and he was a flaming dog turd of human being. At least on the ball diamond.

    The Black Knight statue discovery was kind of random. I was out at the person’s house with my friend Kio for something Humane Society related. But not I don’t have any recollection of why. Might have been related to the dog costume and the parade. Don’t know.

    I’ve only left a movie theater twice in my life completely livid. Once was the crystal skull Indiana Jones. The other was the first Transformers movie. I haven’t watched a single Transformers movie since then.

    I was referring to the greatness of the 1980s TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE cartoon, that was ultimately the last movie role for Orson Welles. Came in with the most influential movie of all-time in CITIZEN KANE. Went out voicing the planet eating Transformer in a movie that would also feature at least one song from a famous (I guess) porn star. Come in on top. Go out on top.

  14. Garlic aioli was also what made Fuzzy’s tacos and such unique – just a little zip. We may have to go down for some nachos sometime when the pandemic is over.

    I think I’ve only seen the Transformers cartoon movie once, and I’m pretty sure I was far too young to know who Orson Welles was at the time. I don’t think I can google “Transformer cartoon soundtrack porn star” at work and not get in some sort of trouble.

  15. I’m having a hard time nailing down that porn star story. It might be just an urban legend. But it was supposed to be part of the inspiration for why Dirk Diggler sings the song from TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE in BOOGIE NIGHTS.

    Even though “The Touch” wasn’t written or performed by a porn star, it does still have a fascinating history. Including the fact that it was inspired by “Iron Eagle” and the guy who wrote it was trying to get it into the movie COBRA.

    TRANSFROMERS: THE MOVIE was also the last movie of Scatman Crothers.

    Deal on the nachos though.

  16. I did see that Dirk sang “The Touch” when I was googling the soundtrack, and not using specific key words that would have narrowed it down! That makes a lot of sense. Man, Boogie Nights was an odd movie. I just realized it’s been several years since the most recent Paul Thomas Anderson movie – and I never saw Phantom Thread. I meant to, and just haven’t seen it on most of the streaming platforms. I’ll have to go do that soon.

    That is a crazy history for a song that eventually be sung by a guy wearing a prosthetic penis. Man, “Scatman Crothers” is a name I haven’t heard in about 30 years. That’s amazing.

  17. It makes me sad that you haven’t watched THE SHINING in 30 years!

    “The Touch” is the greatest piece of 80s soundtrack history ever recorded. The only thing in its league is “Thunder in Your Heart” from RAD. “You’re the Best Around” from THE KARATE KID.

    Also the song Lambda Lambda Lambda performs in REVENGE OF THE NERDS.

  18. I have definitely watched The Shining in that time – I sadly just always skip forward through the credits! I want to get a rug with that trippy wallpaper.

    Those are all solid, solid work – and now I’m going to listen to “The Touch” just so I’m in-the-know. I also have a soft spot for “(The Goonies R) Good Enough.” From The Goonies. As fine a song as you’ve ever heard.

  19. I want to get the paintings that Scatman has in his Florida apartment and decorate the guest bedroom exclusively with them. And refuse to discuss it with anybody that asks. Just act like they are perfectly normal.

    “(The Goonies) R Good Enough” is another classic of the 80s. Does remind me that “Ghostbusters” really is the king of 80s soundtrack songs.

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