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EARLY HISTORY OF PRIMGHAR

In a general election in 1872 it was voted to locate the county seat in the exact geographical center of O'Brien County. A forty acre plot given by James Roberts and W. C. Green in the exact center became the site of Primghar. Persons present at the surveying of the town plot were Messrs Pumphrey, Roberts, Inman, McCormack, Green, Hayes, Albright, and Rerick. The initials of these men's names in the order given form the word Primghar, and it was agreed that this should be the name of the new town. The following year considerable building was done, and there were about 60 people living in Primghar. First Building

In 1873 William Green built the first store on site of the Bell block. That same year A. F. Albright built the first hotel, and Paine's store in Highland Township was moved to Primghar and used as a Courthouse until a new one was built in 1874. In 1877 a third court house, a wooden structure, was built by the Green brothers and served the county until 1914 when the present structure was built. During these years Primghar engaged in four full fledged county seat fights. For fifteen years Primghar was uncertain as to its being the county seat or if the railroad would ever arrive. In 1873 the first school house was built.

On Sunday, November 1, 1887, the construction train of the Illinois Central laid the rails as it moved into Primghar. This brought new life, new buildings, and new people into town. A petition was filed on December 30, 1887, for an order of court to incorporate the town to include 360 acres of land. An election was held on February 14,1888, with 57 for incorporation and 47 against. Thereafter the town became a municipality. The first election of town officials was held and Chas. Albright was chosen mayor with E. W. Shuck, J. L. E. Beck, Geo. Slocum, Geo. Doyle, F. L. Ballou, and W. A. Rosecrans as councilmen and J. A. Smith was chosen recorder.

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CHURCHES

At this time (1988) the churches in Primghar are: the American Reformed, the Church of Christ, Grace Lutheran, St. Anthony's Catholic, and the United Church of Primghar. In the earliest days of the town, the Congregational and Methodist were the only denominations that had buildings here, with the Catholic, Church of Christ, Grace Lutheran and German Evangelical organizing to build later.

The American Reformed is one of the newer groups, having celebrated their fiftieth Anniversary in 1987. When the church was organized in 1937, it was housed in a frame building they had bought from the former Church of Christ. A modern educational building was added in 1965, arid a few years later, in 1971, the old frame church was replaced by a beautiful brick building which adjoins the addition.

The Church of Christ, as it exists today, was established in 1950, but it is the second of that faith to have been a part of the town's history. The earlier one dates back to the 1890's, but it disbanded in the early 1930's. At first the new group met in the homes of the members, since the old building had been sold to the American Reformed Church. Later the place of meeting was the basement of the Hub Hotel. Then in 1956 the new building was constructed, and an addition in 1987 has provided further space for the growing congregation's needs.

The families who founded Grace Lutheran Church first met in the Legion Hall in 1937, but in the following year, the church established its own home when it purchased a Lutheran Church building located in Center Township, bought lots, and moved it into town. This served the congregation until 1961, when the present building complete with educational rooms was dedicated and put into use.

The members of St. Anthony's Catholic church first met to hear mass in the Court House in Primghar in 1887. It was given by priests from other towns. Their first building was a frame one bought from the Methodists in 1900. This was replaced in 1928 by a basement church located on a block of property in the southwest part of town. For twenty-five years this served the congregation until the present spacious building was added. It has been in use since 1954.

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The Congregational Church was one of the two earliest churches here, having been organized in 1888; thus its hundredth anniversary corresponds to that of Primghar. 1890 saw the dedication of their building, and it remained in use up to the time of the uniting of the Congregational and Methodist denominations. Twice it was expanded by adding wings and an improved entrance hall and spire. Then in 1960 and 61 an attractive and functional educational building was constructed in connection with it. This was sold when the main part of the church was abandoned for the move to the new united church.

Primghar became a charge for circuit riders of the Methodist Church in 1878, with the first building being constructed in the two years following. This was the town's first church building; however, it was destined not to endure, for it was destroyed by a cyclone in 1882. A second building took its place in 1886 and 87, and was used until 1900, when it was sold to the Catholics and a larger new structure was erected and dedicated by the Methodists. It served for many years, being twice remodeled to meet the needs of the times, and was in use until the present United Church Building was ready for services.

It was in 1974 that the Congregational and Methodist Churches voted to unite to form the United Church of Primghar. The various organizations of the two were gradually combined, and the two buildings were used alternately for a month at a time. But in 1978 they were abandoned when the new spacious structure was ready for use, and it serves the united congregations at the present time.

German Lutheran, now LibraryAlthough the German Evangelical Church was active in the early 1900's and continued to be so for a good many years, it eventually disbanded, and the members became a part of the Congregational Church. Their building was later remodeled to become the Primghar Public Library.

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SCHOOLS

Primghar's first school house was a 26' x 40' two-story building built in 1873. A two acre block was donated for this building by W. Green and J. Roberts. In 1890 a second building, 45' x 60', was erected. This contained four school rooms and a superintendent's office. In 1896 four more classrooms and a library were added. On March 24, 1913, the school moved into a new two story brick building with a full basement. The top story was used by high school, lower story for grades, with gym, domestic science room, shop room, and restrooms in the basement. The present high school building was constructed in 1936. In 1953 an industrial arts building was added, and in 1958 vocal and band rooms were added to the north with showers and dressing rooms in the basement. Primghar school

In 1965 the 1913 building was torn down and a new elementary building was constructed on the site and joined to the high school building. First commencement was June 2, 1893, with six girls graduating.

Baseball was played very early in the school. Football was. played about 1904, and basketball was played earlier than 1909, with track in 1913. Vocal music has been taught from the beginning, instrumental since 1930. Bus service started in 1945, rural students paid to ride. In 1960 organization took place and it became Primghar Community School.

In 1887 there were two teachers; by 1962 the teaching staff included 30. At present there are 27 teachers and administrators, five secretaries and instructional aids, 3 custodians, 4 in food service, 3 bus drivers, 195 grade students and.69 high school students.

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BANKS OF PRIMGHAR

The First National Bank was charted November 11, 1889, making it the oldest bank in Primghar. It had purchased the assets and building of the Primghar Exchange Bank from the "Slocums", who had previously taken over the original "Pumphrey" Bank, all being located on the site where the Chiropractic Clinic now stands.1st National Bank

This building was built by John R. Pumphrey in 1873. It was 20' x 30' and had an iron safe. In 1902 it was destroyed by fire, and in the same year the First National built a two-story building on the southeast corner of the square, where it operated until 1959. At that time it moved into a newly remodeled building across the intersection from its former site, where it is still located.

The Primghar Savings Bank received its Banking Charter on November 15, 1894, from the Auditor of the State of Iowa. Since that time the Primghar Savings Bank has served the town and surrounding area from the same location with totally uninterrupted service.

Primghar has never had a bank failure in its entire history, a credit to the several banks that have located here.

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NEWSPAPERS

Previously published in Old O'Brien in 1873, the O'Brien Pioneer was Primghar's first newspaper. Judge Willits had a small printing office attached to his home. From 1879-82 Cleveland Reynolds published the Primghar Tribune, a seven column folio. The first issue of the Primghar Times was January 12, 1882. Schee and Achorn were the proprietors, and it had a circulation of 600. Mr. Bundy was the editor, but because of lack of support it moved to Paullina.

In 1884 B. F. McCormack began publishing the O'Brien County Bell in a small building near the southeast corner of the Court House. In 1894 it was sold to 1. H. Wolf and Gravenor. The latter soon disposed of his share to H. E. Wolf. Later 1. H. Wolf was sole owner and was assisted by his sons Fred and Bert. In 1893 M. H. Galer attempted to publish the Primghar Republican but gave up by the end of the year. In 1896 the Democrat had a brief existence, too.

Shirley OmerThe O'Brien County Bell is now owned by Ms. Shirley Orner and Mrs. Harold Grafton. Since 1955 Ms. Shirley Omer has been editor and publisher, and it has been an all girl operation since 1967. Remberance

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PRIMGHAR WATER WORKS

On March 10, 1902, an ordinance was passed by the Council, providing for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of a water works system. A contract was signed in the amount of $7,000.00 to construct the water works system. This plant was built where the fire station is now located. At that time the water was pumped from the wells at the corners of the business square.

Due to the increase in water usage, this supply soon became inadequate, so on September 6, 1928, the town council obtained an easement on ten acres of land east of town from Matthew and Thomas Metcalf, for the purpose of digging additional wells. Four wells were dug on this ten acres which are still in use today. The reservoir to store the water was also inadequate, so a tower was constructed with the capacity of 100,000 gallons of water, for the price of $11,000.Waterworks -early

Again, in 1931, the town needed additional water, and on November 5, a contract was signed with a Sioux City firm to dig a deep well where the fire station is now located. This well is 438 feet deep, and has a capacity of 100 gallons per minute, and is still in operation. This well furnished sufficient water until 1956.

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At that time, because of dry years and increased water usage it was necessary to dig another well. This well is 625 feet deep and the pump for it has a capacity of 200 gallons per minute. A filter station and a 30,000 gallon reservoir was also built. This well and filter is located by the water tower.

Today, the capacity of the two deep wells will produce more water in one day than the town estimated needs for the entire year of 1902.

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PRIMGHAR VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT

In 1902, the only water for fire fighting in Primghar was from wells located on the four corners of the court house square. The only way to build pressure was by a hand-operated pump and the hose was carried on a two-wheeled cart pulled manually.

The city purchased the first fire truck in 1928. This gave them a pump capable of giving 500 gallons of water per minute at 300 lbs. pressure. This truck was in use until the year of 1951.Primghar Fire Stations, now with ambulance.

In 1932 an ordinance was passed establishing a city fire department regulating memberships, and the use of the equipment.

In 1941, the O'Brien County Mutual Insurance Company and the city councils of all the towns of the county entered into an agreement whereby the Insurance Company would furnish a truck for each town, which would be operated by the firemen in each city. This truck is still available for farm protection and also for the city calls,if necessary. It was equipped with 1000 feet of hose and carried400 gallons of water.

In 1951 the city purchased a new high pressure fire truck. This unit produces 850 lbs. of pressure, 500 gallons of water and 1200 feet of

hose. An emergency unit was purchased in 1961.

The fire department now needed room to store these vehicles, so in the year 1961, the old pump house was replaced with a four-stall building. Recently the department has acquired new equipment; namely the "Jaws of Life" rescue unit, and a new rural truck having a tank with the capacity of 1500 gallons and a pump furnishing 750 gallons of water per minute.

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THE TELEPHONE IN PRIMGHAR

The first telephone was invented in 1876. The first telephone was placed in Primghar in 1888.

Mr. and Mrs. D. C. Peck bought the Primghar Telephone Exchange from Messrs. Smith and Locke, on March 27,1913, and the Peck family operated it for fifty years. The local exchange was changed to a dial system in 1956.

The General Telephone Company acquired the Primghar Telephone Exchange on January 1, 1963. Direct distance dialing service began in 1972.

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POST OFFICE

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The first post office which received its mail by stage coach from Sheldon was in Green's Store. In 1873 Mr. Green served as the first postmaster. Later the office was located in the former Jansen Shoe Repair building and then in the building now occupied by the senior citizens. It was moved to its present quarters on September 26. 1960. Presently the office is served by morning and afternoon star route.

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ELECTRICITY IN PRIMGHAR

The first electricity in Primghar was provided by Henry Williams and John Klink. Each had a gasoline engine and generator, and each generated enough electricity for seven buildings. At times, they would have to start up the engines before the Klink Theater could start the show. This was before 1914.

The first electric line came to Primghar in 1914 when the city of Primghar gave a franchise to George Healy of Sanborn, to furnish electricity for Primghar. Mr. Healy's power was generated by steam, using coke which was a by-product of the Round House at Sanborn. A transmission line was built to Primghar in the fall of 1914.

In the summer of 1915, A. P. Anderson purchased the franchise and the electric system in Primghar, and the line to Sanborn, all of which he operated until 1925, when he sold it to Iowa Heat, Light and Power Company, later the Iowa Public Service Company. They operated it until 1938 when Primghar built its own plant.

Then, in 1955, Missouri River Power became available, and a contract was let to receive power from them. A three mile transmission line was built to a substation. The electric plant is now used for standby power.

Recently, the town has installed a load management system to control the peak loads of electricity used. The town has also purchased a new boom truck to be used in line construction and repair.

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LONG-TIME PRIMGHAR DOCTORS

Dr. Milo Avery commenced practice at Springdale, Iowa, and later moved to Aurelia, where he practiced 21 years. He located in Primghar in 1907, where, with his son, he practiced medicine until his death in 1920.

Dr. Harold Leroy Avery went into the practice of medicine with his father in Aurelia, Iowa, and came to Primghar in 1907. Because of failing health he sold his practice to Dr. Getty in 1935.

Dr. James A. Wagner started his practice in Granville, where he practiced for ten years. He then took a graduate course in Chicago, and settled in Sutherland. He moved to Primghar in 1922 where he practiced until his retirement in 1954. In 1954 he was presented a watch, by the mayor, in appreciation of his faithful service to the community.

Dr. E. B. Getty came to Primghar in 1935, and practiced alone until 1956, when he formed a partnership with Dr. A. D. Smith. Together they served the community until their retirements; Dr. Getty in 1982, and Dr. Smith in 1984. In 1959, Dr. Getty was honored by the Chamber of Commerce by being chosen "Man of the Year", and was presented with a plaque in appreciation of his service to the community.

Dr. Wilbur C. Bolender took up his practice of dentistry in 1926. In 1958, the Chamber of Commerce voted unanimously to honor Dr. Bolender as the first "Man of the Year" and he was presented a plaque for outstanding community service. He retired in 1966.

At the present time Primghar is being served by one Dr. of Medicine, Dr. Vadavyasa BiIiyar; one Dr. of Chiropractics, Dr. James Durlacher; and one Dr. of Dentistry, Dr. Jean Irwin.

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THE PRIMGHAR HOSPITAlS

George and Amy Ward gave to O'Brien County in 1914 a hospital located in Primghar, that was to be open to the use of any country Doctor. It was operated by the county for 'a number of years, until it was sold to Kenneth Rerick, who, in turn sold it to Knut Fjeld in 1933. The building then was leased to be used as a hospital until 1945, when it was sold to the city of Primghar. It was then named "The Ward Memorial Hospital" and the operation was taken over by the city.

In 1968 a new hospital was planned, with Mrs. Ellen Baum, along with her brother's estate, that of the late Charles Harmon, as the benefactress. The original cost of the hospital planned was $515,000. Mrs. Baum gave $225,000, as a living bequest and the community pledged $225,000 to be paid over a three-year period. The Primghar Light Plant was able to help with $125,000.

In September of 1968, the Ward Memorial Hospital was closed and in September of 1970, the Baum-Harmon Hospital was opened. During the next three years, the Primghar Light Plant gave $87,000 to the hospital for equipment and operating expenses. The Hospital Auxiliary also donated $10,000 for hospital equipment. Later Mrs. Baum established a trust of 500 acres of land, the income to be used for the continued operation of the hospital.

The hospital has expanded its services to include by appointment the following: Cardiologists, Gasteroenterologists, Urologists, Orthopedists, Physical Therapist, Speech Therapist, C-T Scanning, Well Elderly Clinics, Health and Diet Counseling, Mamography, Ambulatory Surgery, Homemaker/Home Health Aide, Chore, skilled Nursing Home Health, Lifeline, Home Respite Care, Sibling Classes, Stress Counseling, Prenatal Classes, Stop Smoking Classes, Slim-Weights Classes, Tanning Bed.

Inpatient services available are: Inpatient Acute Care, Skilled nursing Swing Bed Care, and Respite Care.

On May 1, 1987, Primghar also obtained helicopter ambulance service to Sioux City.

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THE OHME MEDICAL CLINIC

The Ohme Medical Clinic, owned by the city, was spear-headed by a generous donation from Mrs. Edna Ohme. The Clinic is located next to the Hospital and is connected to the hospital by a walkway. The building is a square structure with Doctor's offices and exam rooms along its outer perimeter of the square. The business office, laboratory and restrooms are located in the center. Also featured are spacious waiting rooms, seven exam rooms, three Dr's offices and an employees' lounge.

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PUBLIC LIBRARY

The Primghar Library was established by the Thursday Club in 1916 with books donated by residents of the town and with volunteer librarians. A library board was appointed by the mayor in 1920, and a tax levy was made. By 1940, as funds accumulated, the temporary locations the library had had were replaced by a permanent one, when the former German Evangelical Church was purchased and remodeled.

Attorney L. O. Lampman was board president at that time, and he deserves much credit for the attractive, and out-of-the-ordinary library building,

Now in 1988, in addition to its adequate supply of books, the library houses numerous periodicals, several encyclopedias, visual aids, and a micro-film reader-printer. It also serves as a base for a children's story hour.

Several women in turn have served as librarians, the longest term having been that of Mrs. I. L. Farnsworth, who capably worked there for thirty-six years. At present she is president of the board.

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PRIMGHAR SANITARY SEWER

The town council recognized the need for a sanitary sewer and passed a sewer ordinance on September 5, 1916. On October 18, 1916 a contract was signed for the construction of sewer mains, laterals, and a disposal plant for the total of $26,812.00. The plant was located one half mile east of town. It had sufficient capacity to take care of the town's needs until the 1950's. When the plant needed to be replaced, the council learned that a lagoon-type plant would cost less money than a conventional type, so, after investigation, they purchased forty one acres of land from George Smith and Harris Medhus, and a lagoon type disposal plant was constructed. The total cost of land and construction was $74,000. However, the town received $14,600 from the government to help defray the cost of the project. In February of 1985, the city received a grant of $200,000 from the State of Iowa for needed improvements, which recently have been completed.

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PARKS

In the early 1920's the small park by the Water Tower was found to be inadequate. In 1924 a group of businessmen purchased a tract of land just west of the depot to be used as a softball and football field. In 1946 the town again found facilities inadequate and considered a park as an appropriate memorial to veterans of the two World Wars. The town purchased 8.6 acres of land from A. E. Ohme at the south-east edge of town for $375 an acre. A lighted football field, baseball diamond, score boards, and shelter house were built. In 1951 it became the home of the O'Brien County Fair and many new buildings that house the stock and other exhibits have been erected. In 1960 the bandshell was moved from its location by the water tower to make room for the new post office and other buildings.

The Betterment Council's survey revealed a willingness on the part of citizens to donate toward the construction of a swimming pool. In June 1978 an outdoor pool was dedicated. Completing the recreational facilities was the construction of two lighted tennis courts. Jaycees, contributors, along with the Iowa Rural Community Development Act, provided portable bleachers to be used for football, baseball, and figure 8 races. The Betterment Council headed the drive for the construction of a redwood deck for the shelter house. O'Brien County Farm Bureau has added an all metal park shelter with a kitchen area. The Boy Scout building has been added. The park also has free camping areas, electricity and water hook ups in addition to a horseshoe court, and an equipped playground area.

A mini park on the west side of the square was given in memory of Mrs. E. T. Peterson by the family .

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HERITAGE PARK

In 1970 an O'Brien County Museum was begun in the building that was once the Old Grand Hotel built in the 1880's. Later Harold Metcalf gave a tract of land on the east side of Primghar and funds for a heritage park. This museum building was moved to this site and an early church, early rural school building, an old farm house, a log cabin, an old bank building, and three large metal buildings were constructed to hold antiques, old machinery, and an office. This park is open for visitors.

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PRIMGHAR AIRPORT

At the request of some of the businessmen, the matter of an airport was taken up by the town council. They were informed that if the town would raise one half of the money needed for the project, the state would pay the balance. The project was to cost $10,000. Accordingly, the businessmen raised their share, and with the aid of $5,000 from the state, the airport was built on part of the forty acres the town had purchased for the sewer project.

In November of 1962 the Council signed a contract in the amount of $4,900 for the construction of a hanger to house the planes.

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PRIMGHAR COMMUNITY BUILDING

Primghar's Community Building at the corner of Hayes and First Street, SE was opened March 1985. It was built by donations and fund raisers. It is used for dinner date meals, bingo, dances, plays, community affairs and meetings and private parties. It has a large dining and community room, a kitchen, stage, and restrooms.

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GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB

The Primghar Golf and Country Club came to be as a result of a gift by ninety-year old H. C. Metcalf, a native son and former resident of the town. In 1984 he gave 150 acres of land for this purpose, and added $400,000 to build the course. Seventy acres were used for the nine-hole golf course, and the rest provides yearly cash rent for maintenance. An added feature of the course is that it is open without charge to any eligible youth who want to play, and clubs have been purchased for their use. The clubhouse is open to the public, serving meals regularly in delightful surroundings and a pleasant atmosphere.

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SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS

American Legion, Boy Scouts, Church Groups, 4-H Club, G.F.W.C. Primghar Woman's Club, W. C. Progress Club, Girl Scouts, Hospital Auxiliary, Legion Auxiliary, Masons Ministerial Association, Music Boosters, O'Brien County Historical Society, Peace Links, Primghar Ambulance EMT's, Primghar Athletic Boosters, Primghar Betterment Council, Primghar Chamber of Commerce, Primghar City Council, Primghar Community Action, Primghar Community Playhouse, Primghar Education Association, Primghar Fire Department, Primghar Housing Inc., Primghar Jaycees, Primghar Junior Woman's Club, Senior Citizens, V.F.W., V.F.W. Auxiliary.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

O'Brien County Bells
75th Anniversary of Primghar Community; O'Brien County Bell, 1963
Past and Present of O'Brien and Osceola Counties, Vol. I and II
J. L. E. Peck and O. H. Montzheimer
B. F. Bowena Co., Indianapolis, Indiana, 1914
History of O'Brien County, Iowa, 1979
Lithoprinted U.SA., Unigraphic, Inc.
Evansville, Indiana 47711
Logo - Kurt Brown
Compiled by Primghar Progress Club

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Assembled by ovk. Last updated 6/17/2017.
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1988-2017

An update committee (?) could add the 50 years since.