Moulton: The Story of Us
by Austin Harris
Moulton, Iowa – The town of Moulton is a quiet town, and if you would look around you would have no idea what some of the vacant buildings once produced or what the town once accomplished. Below is a little bit of history the Moulton Tribune discovered, and it shows and highlights a few parts of history that helped shape the town. This is the story of Moulton:
The North Missouri Railroad was looking to build a northern branch connecting Macon, Missouri to Ottumwa, Iowa. John B. Moulton was the engineer at the time, and while looking for land to lay this railroad he stumbled upon a town called “Elizabeth Town.” This village was founded in 1854 by a man named Ira Tucker, named after his wife Elizabeth. The town was a farmer’s village filled with general stores, blacksmith shops, and mills. The local Native Americans were a part of the town, and rumored to have shopped at the stores also. Ira Tucker wanted to leave Elizabeth Town and head west to California. Tucker made a deal with North Missouri Railroad and sold his holdings. S.S. Carruthers, who was part of the North Missouri Railroad, purchased 160 acres of land around Elizabeth Town and John Moulton surveyed the land as well. Carruthers started deeding the land for a railroad and a station to be built on the land which is now called Moulton, named after John B. Moulton.
North Missouri Railroad, also called Wabash, finally came to Moulton in 1868. The railroad built a station, and a roundhouse which created many jobs in the community. Moulton was becoming a hotspot for the railroad companies. Moulton had become the division point between Des Moines, Iowa, and Moberly, Missouri for North Missouri Railroad. Later on, Wabash and Norfolk & Western Railroad merged together. The railroad kept Moulton as the division point between Des Moines and Moberly. This railroad would haul Ford cars and trucks along with John Deere equipment. Elmer Wood would also use this railroad to ship large amounts of soybeans and corn. In the 1870’s the town of Moulton donated $25,000 to Burlington Railroad to extend a railroad through Moulton. The Burlington usually shipped livestock and crops through the railroad and many people started to come to Moulton through this railroad. By 1892 Moulton had become headquarters for The Burlington for managing freight traffic but in 1950, The Burlington left Moulton.
The railroad had made Moulton a boom town. This brought with it many entrepreneurs. There were factories, lumber yards, grocery stores, beauty salons, drug stores, and gas stations set up in town. Probably one of the most successful ones was the company called Elmer Wood. The huge brick building that Elmer Wood once occupied still stands today on Main Street in between MTI, and the Moulton Locker. The building was established in 1896 where Elmer had put a clothes and shoe store on the north end, and a hardware and grocery store on the south side. According to research, the original plan was to build seven stories high with a hotel on top. The building was only built two stories. This company sold and bought corn and soybeans, and sold feed as well. Elmer Wood was a family ran business, and ended up closing its doors in 2012 after 116 years in business. Another business that started in Moulton was called “Berry Barb Beaters.” This company produced, and sold a medicine that was used to heal cuts on horses from wires. It must have been pretty effective considering it was sold in 25 different states, and foreign countries. The business carried over 10,000 different retails dealers.
As the town grew, Moulton looked at how to educate the children. The first public school was held in the Christian Church in 1869. The first ever high school in Moulton was built on the northeast corner of town. The town would eventually build a three story school in 1897. Something that most people do not know is that there was a college on the third story of the school. The college was meant to produce teachers, which was very common back than for schools to have colleges at their schools for that reason. They later built a gym and a few classrooms onto the three stories building in 1938. That gym is now the cafeteria, and the classrooms are still used for Shop, Ag, and Art classes. In November of 1956 a group of people met to explore the idea of consolidating Moulton and Udell schools. After much discussion they decided to consolidate the schools, making Moulton the place to have the school in 1959. Later on a bond was passed to build a new school for high school students. In 1975, high school students were moved to the new building and students in grades third, fourth, fifth, and sixth from Udell were moved to older building in Moulton. The community eventually built an elementary building, and tore down most of the old school building. The old school building basement is still connected to Moulton-Udell school, and used for storage.
Mouton also wanted to provide a good mail system for the town. Though the town had already established a Post Office in March of 1868, The State Savings Bank spent $14,000 to build a two story brick building on the corner of 4th, and Main Street in 1902. The State Savings Bank occupied the front part of the building while the Post Office occupied the back part. The upstairs consisted of different offices such as Dentists, Doctors, and Lawyers. The State Savings Bank closed in the early 1930’s because of the Great Depression. The building was later auctioned off, and sold to a man from Centerville. In December 1940, this building caught on fire, but it was saved. The Post Office was forced to the front of the building which caused a slowdown in mail, but it was later moved back to the back part. The Post Office today is in the same exact building, in the same exact part.
To keep the town together, residents of Moulton started district fairs in the town. These fairs were started in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. After the fairs came a new celebration called “The Farmer Institute.” This event had fruit sales, showed foods, and pastries, along with animals on show. The interest in these kinds of events dwindled in the nineteen teens. In 1923, 50 residents of Moulton joined together at City Hall and organized what was called the “Moulton Annual Jamboree and Short Course.” At the time other county schools participated in the parade. Today, it is just called the “Moulton Jamboree” which consists of three nights of carnival rides, food, entertainment, and a parade on a Saturday afternoon.
Some events from the Jamboree take place in what Moulton calls Pulliam Park. In the early 1920’s, Ollie Pulliam, wife of George Pulliam, worked hard to establish a park in the community of Moulton, and to have it named after her husband. Ollie believed that the park should be named after her husband because of all the things George Pulliam had done for the community. George had run a clothing store business in town for 29 years, and had served as the Moulton School Board Secretary for 44 years. George was also a trustee of the Methodist Church and a trustee for Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. Pulliam Park has been a place over the years for families to take their children to play, to host a family picnic, or to event hold a community event.
Many things have built the town of Moulton. Whether it was the railroad, the churches, the community clubs, organizations, or the business owners, they have all played an important part of our history. Moulton has been through ups and downs, economic depressions, and prosperous booms, but the one thing that hasn’t changed about the town is its people. They have stood united, and have shared a common goal. The goal is to make the town better for those to come.
A Special THANK YOU to:
Appanoose County Historical & Coal Mining Museum
Larry & Coleen Cook