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Homesteading In Rooks County



Woodston was founded in Lowell Township, eastern Rooks County, in October of 1885 because of a single creating force - the railroad. The railroad, so vital to the economic well-being of every frontier region, was slow in coming. There were already several older towns nearby to serve the needs of the settlers.

The man most responsible for the construction of the railroad and the founding of Woodston was the Stockton businessman after whom the new town was named, Charles C. Woods. He came to Stockton from Marion, Iowa, in 1879, and established the first bank. Woods understood the importance of railroads, and when he could not persuade the Missouri Pacific to extend the Central Branch from Bull City (Alton) to Stockton, he contacted an Iowa contractor and organized the Rooks County Railroad Company to do the job.

The Rooks County Record reported in 1885, "The proposed railroad from Bull City to Stockton contemplates the establishing of a station and shipping point in Lowell Township, and a nice lively little village could soon be built there. " The railroad did eventually come, and the townsite was officially founded July 4, 1885. Because of his efforts in securing the location of the townsite, Robert L. Stephens was acknowledged as the town's founder. But the town was later named Woodston in honor of Mr. Woods.

Woodston, after one year, boasted a population of almost 200 people and almost 40 business establishments. Businesses included five general stores, four carpenters, three insurance agents and land offices, two blacksmith shops, two hotels, two lumber yards, two livery stables, two meat markets, two drug stores, two boot and shoe repair shops, and one each of at least 12 other businesses.

The Rooks County State Bank was organized in April, 1909 and opened for business on June 14. A decision was made to erect a new building in the fall of 1909. Robert Brittain, a local contractor, designed the bank and contracted for the construction. The building was erected during 1910 and opened for business on November 10 at the location where the bank operated until the year 2000 when it was closed.

Woodston received its first post office in February of 1886 in the general store of James S. Wilson, Woodston's first postmaster. The post office moved several times, once because of fire, before being located in March, 1934 in a new building that is still in use today.

When Woodston was established in 1885, there were rural schools in operation in every direction from the new town. The residents of Woodston wanted their own attendance center, and a subscription school was organized during the first winter. The residents went on to construct new grade schools in 1886 and 1907. Construction began on a new high school in August, 1921 at the east end of Main Street. The building was completed in May, 1921. A new auditorium and grade school were built onto the south of the high school building in 1958-1959. Classes continued in the high school until 1968 and in the grade school until 1974.

Among the most important institutions of rural America, including country towns, were churches. The first church organized in Woodston was the Free Methodist. Two churches in Woodston still stand today as monuments of the past. The Methodist Episcopal Church held their first services in their new building on September 17, 1911 and today is the only active congregation in Woodston.

The Ash Rock Congregational Church or "Stone Church," located north and east of Woodston, held it's first services on March 4, 1883. The native limestone building was renovated in 1976 and today is one of the truly historic sites in Rooks County.

The ethnicity of its settlers is unknown.


Information from Roger Hrabe, Rooks County Economic Development Director.


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