Odebolt Business History


History of Odebolt Businesses

Fong's Hand Laundry..... Hotels.... Green Bay Lumber.....  Great Plains ..... Carlson Blacksmith ..... Cracker Jack ..... Potteiger's ....  Nelson's Variety..... Larson's Grocery..... Photographers .... A.W. Dahlstrom

Fong’s Hand Laundry

Source:  “As Time Goes By”, Odebolt, Iowa 1877-1977, 
printed by The Odebolt Chronicle May, 1977, pp. 115-116

One of the early businesses in Odebolt was a Chinese hand laundry operated by Charley Fong in a wooden building at the corner of 3rd and Main streets where Dr. Page’s office is now [1977] located…

The family later moved to Waverly where they also ran a laundry.  The marriage broke up, Charley Fong moved to China, and then came back to this country, where he was murdered in a San Francisco gambling house about 65 years ago.

Charley Fong and his Odebolt wife had one son, Edward.

At one time, according to the Des Moines Register of March 9, 1975, the Fongs of Iowa had 10 or so hand laundries, the very first one having been opened in Cedar Falls more than 100 years ago by Edward’s grandfather who had come from China.

Over the years, Edward Fong built up a reputation as the Laundry King, before he and his wife retired in 1975.


Source:  “As Time Goes By”, Odebolt, Iowa 1877-1977,
printed by The Odebolt Chronicle May, 1977, pp. 115-116

Odebolt was well supplied with hotels during the early years of its growth.  On Second Street where the Masonic building has stood since 1895, there was first a hotel known as the “Odebolt House”, started by Benjamin Worden.  He sold out to William Graham, who in turn sold it in 1881 to Henry Dockstader, who renamed it the “Revere House”.  This hotel was later operated by Fred Hansman until the structure was removed, when he built the “Traveler’s Home” on the corner of Maple and Third streets.  Mr. and Mrs. Paul Dinges presently [1977] operate this hotel, having purchased it from Mr. and Mrs. Jack Brower about twelve years ago.  It is now known as the “Dinges Hotel”.

Stratton Hotel, pre-1908
"Traveler's Home" was later known as Stratton Hotel & , Brower Hotel, and Dinges Hotel, among other names. 
This building is still in use for apartments and now features a "Traveler's Inn" apartment for rent. 

The building which still [1977] stands on the southeast corner of Main and Third streets and is presently owned by Mr. and Mrs. L. A. Gras, was originally erected as a hotel in 1881 by Cornelius Shea.

(Click for a much larger photo)
The "Commercial House" about 1902
on the southeast corner of Main & 3rd Streets in Odebolt.
This building was also where the Odebolt Hospital was located for a time.
In 2010 United Bank of Iowa occupies the corner where this building stood.

On the site of the Herbert Bauer Foodland Store, a hotel, called the “Pennsylvania House”, was built by Henry Keck in March 1879.  Mr. Keck soon sold the hotel, which was renamed the "Delmonica House”.

Green Bay Lumber Chain Began Here in 1874

Source:  The Odebolt Chronicle Progress Edition,
Volume 65, Number 44, October 29, 1953

Oldest Firm in Odebolt Doing Business Under Same Trade Name

For 74 years, the Green Bay Lumber Co. has furnished building materials to the people of this community.  From a small beginning here in the early days of the town, this company has grown throughout the years until it now embraces a series of yards extending over the State of Iowa. 

For years the Green Bay Lumber company was located next to the railroad tracks on the northeast corner of Main and First streets in the present Skelly Oil station location, and later was moved eastward to its present location at a comparatively recent date.  

Oldest Firm in Odebolt

The Green Bay Lumber Co. is the oldest business firm in Odebolt still (1953) doing business under the same name.

What is now a state-wide chain of yards was started in Odebolt Dec. 10, 1879, when E. C. Finkbine bought a lumber yard here.  His brother, W. O. Finkbine, joined him the following year and they acquired yards at several other towns.  Their policy was to establish lumber businesses in towns along the railroad as the roads were extended, and it was only a relatively short time until they had established a network throughout the state.

Headquarters for the company were moved from Odebolt to Carroll in 1881, and a general office was established in Des Moines a few years later.  E. C. Finkbine, founder of the company, still served as president.  

Origin of a Name

The story of how Odebolt received its name has been given considerable publicity, but the story about how the Green Bay Lumber Co. was named is not so well known.  It is said that an old man in Odebolt was asked in a joking manner what the name should be, and replied that he would make his suggestion the next morning.  The following morning he called attention to the fact that Mr. Finkbine had started with the one yard and that he was adding other yards and spreading over the country.  This suggested to him the name of Green Bay Lumber co. from a passage in on of the Psalms of the Bible where it speaks of "spreading himself like a green bay tree".

The first manager of the local yard after moving of the headquarters was Cliff Miller, who later retired and moved to Chicago after being here 14 years.  He was followed by Frank W. Stolt, who had been manager of the Farmers Lumber Co. yard.  Mr. Stolt retired in 1928 after 32 years of service to the company, and is now living in the state of Washington.

Other managers included Alfred Meyer, now at Maquoketa, Iowa, with Green Bay Lumber Company; F. W. Carritt, Fayette, Indiana, retired; Robert Summerville, manager of the Iowa Wholesale Lumber Company, Early; and the present manager, James A. Kanne. 

Great Plains Serves Area

(Source – The Odebolt Chronicle Progress Edition, October 29, 1953, Volume 65, Number 44)

Although the Great Plains Supply company of Odebolt has been operating under that name only eight years, it is, in fact, a continuation of a business which dates to pioneer times.

Sam H. Bowman established the Bowman Lumber company during the pioneer days of the town.  It passed into the hands of the C. M. Youman Lumber company in 1927.  This company operated a sawmill in the early days at Winona, Minn. and a number of retail yards.

bowmanlumber.jpg (28390 bytes)

Main Street looking north across the railroad tracks. The lumber company is in the center of this photo if you look closely. The building is still in use in 2002.  The building on the left was replaced by the present Odebolt State Bank Building. 

It is interesting to note that the Odebolt yard has had only a few managers.  It is recalled that R. P. Johnston, now deceased, became manager of the yard on 1904 while it was a Bowman property and continued in that capacity after it was purchased by the Youman interest.  In 1929 Harry M. Carlson, the present manager of the Great Plains Supply company, took charge of the yard.  Mr. Carlson came to this organization with considerable experience and business ability which dates back to 1909.  He had served several other companies in Minnesota.

The Great Plains Supply company is a subsidiary of the Grain Terminal Exchange of St. Paul, one of the largest grain elevator exchanges in the United States.  The Great Plains Supply Company is a farmer-owned organization built and operated for farmers.  The yard here carries a complete line of building material, sand, brick, tile and also coal.

Manager Harry M. Carlson is assisted by Charles Hokanson, assistant manager and Everett Wunschell, truck operator.

David Carlson Blacksmith Shop

Source:  “As Time Goes By”, Odebolt, Iowa 1877-1977, printed by The Odebolt Chronicle May, 1977, pp. 115-116

David Carlson came to Odebolt from Sweden in the spring of 1892.  He worked in the blacksmith shop at the Wheeler Ranch southwest of Odebolt.  On January 29, 1897 he married Anna Charlotte Helgren, who also came from Sweden in 1892.  They made their home at the Cook Ranch north of Odebolt.

Three children were born to the couple while living at the Ranch, namely:  Joseph W., who died in 1965; Ranghild, Mrs. Charles F. Holtapp of Pomeroy, Iowa; and Ferne, Mrs. Don P. Flater of Denver, Colorado.

The family moved to Odebolt in 1909 when “Dave” bought the shop in partnership with Jake Varner.  Their fourth child, Gladyce, Mrs. Marvin G. Hansen of Early, Iowa, was born in Odebolt.  In later years Dave bought out Mr. Varner and when son “Joe” was discharged from service in World War I he joined his father in the shop.  Upon Dave’s retirement Joe and Donald Einspahr took over the shop.

David Carlson died in June 1953 and his wife, Anna, died in June 1948.

Cracker Jack Big Industry in Odebolt

Millions of tons of Popcorn Processed by Company Annually

(Source – The Odebolt Chronicle Progress Edition, October 29, 1953, Volume 65, Number 44)

The firm of F. W. Rueckhelm & Bros. was established in Chicago in 1872 for the purpose of manufacturing popcorn specialties.  By early 1900’s production had been expanded to include a complete line of items ranging from Cracker Jack and marshmallows to bar goods, penny goods, bulk candies, packaged chocolates and other products.

In 1918, in order to secure popcorn to meet processing demands, a popcorn plant in Odebolt owned by August Petersmeyer was purchased.  The plant then consisted of an elevator and six small cribs.

In 1922 the corporate name was changed to The Cracker Jack Company.  The general office of the firm is at 4800 West 66th Street, Chicago, Ill.  Around 1920 there was a trend to increase specialization in the confectionery field and the candy items were discontinued and efforts concentrated on Cracker Jack and marshmallows.

It is interesting to recall how the name “Cracker Jack” as applied to the popcorn confectionery and later to the firm name originated.  In February 1896, F. W. Rueckheim was shown the first batch of molasses-coated popcorn, which his brother Louis had prepared.  While sampling and tasting the confection, one of the company’s salesmen enthusiastically exclaimed, “That’s a cracker jack!”  Mr. Rueckheim looked at him and said, “Why not call it by that name?”  “I see no objection”, replied the salesman.  “That settles it, then”, concluded Mr. Rueckheim.

Accordingly, the name Cracker Jack and the slogan, “The More You Eat, The More You Want”, were copyrighted in 1896 and have been used continuously ever since.

The Cracker Jack Company’s elevator, cribs, and office is now [1953] one of the most modern plants for handling popcorn in the state.  Of the six original cribs with a capacity of three and one-half million pounds, four cribs were dismantled and replaced by many new ones.  The present crib capacity is fifteen and a half million pounds of ear popcorn.  A new elevator was erected in 1930 with a capacity of two million pounds of shelled popcorn.

In addition to the popcorn raised in the area the Odebolt plant receives popcorn from Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Missouri.  Large sums are paid out for this popcorn.  The local plant is under the management of H. C. Sommers.  The personnel numbers on an average of nine persons throughout the years.


(Source – The Odebolt Chronicle Progress Edition, October 29, 1953, Volume 65, Number 44)

E. P. Potteiger is Odebolt’s one remaining pioneer businessman.  He opened a jewelry store here in 1898, and although he has not operated a jewelry store continuously he has been engaged in other business for short periods.

Mr. Potteiger went into partnership with S. D. Selby in the jewelry and drug business in 1904.  They erected a building in 1913 which now is occupied by the Watts Drug store.  They sold out in 1918.  For a period of two years Mr. Potteiger operated a truck farm adjacent to Odebolt, but returned to the jewelry business in 1920, having his shop in his residence for seven years.  This was followed by two years in the taverns business and then back to the jewelry business and gift store which he has operated continuously since.

Mr. Potteiger served as town councilman for three years.

In a reminiscent mood Mr. Potteiger compared Odebolt of 55 years ago to the Odebolt of today.  When he first came here in 1898, after learning the jewelry trade at Ida Grove, he said there were no brick buildings on Main Street.  He has seen them all erected since he came here.  He spoke of the hitching posts on both sides of Main Street, the mudholes which the horses would make at the hitching racks in wet weather, how they would splash mud over the fronts of the buildings.  At times the street was almost impassable and teams would get stuck in mud holes along the way.  With the coming of the auto the hitching racks were moved to the alleys, which caused much caustic comment by the farmers.

Mr. Potteiger pointed out that when he entered the jewelry business many of the watches were the old style key-wind, then came stem-wind watches and then wrist-watch.

Mrs. Potteiger was his business associate, and during the years he was busy with his flowers, berries and garden, she ably managed the store.  Her friendships were many, her suggestions for bridal gifts and gifts for every occasion were greatly appreciated.  Her many friends called often, and regret that ill health has forced her retirement.

The last 11 years Mrs. Julia Warrington has assisted in the store.

Nelson Variety Store

(Source – The Odebolt Chronicle Progress Edition, October 29, 1953, Volume 65, Number 44)

Charley Nelson has operated the Nelson Variety store in Odebolt for 38 years.  He has lived in Odebolt since coming here at the age of 16.  When a boy he worked on a farm near Odebolt for a period, then found employment in the grocery store owned by W. J. Ahlberg, which stood on the site of the First National Bank building.

Mr. Nelson went into the variety store business in 1915 in the building now occupied by the Krusenstjerna Hardware, later moving to his present building which he has occupied continuously.

He was married to Mrs. Nelson 47 years ago, his wife coming to Odebolt from Marengo.  She was a teacher in the Odebolt public schools for a number of years, and later she served on the board of education.

For many years she was associated with Mr. Nelson in the operation of the variety store.

Mr. and Mrs. Nelson have two daughters:  Mrs. George Wallett (Carla).  Mr. and Mrs. Wallett have one daughter.  Their home is in Des Moines.  The other daughter is Mrs. Fred Norton (Burdette).  Mr. and Mrs. Norton have one son and one daughter.  Their home is in Omaha.

Larson’s Grocery Store

(Source – The Odebolt Chronicle Progress Edition, October 29, 1953, Volume 65, Number 44)

The name has been associated with the retail store business in Odebolt longer than the name of any other merchant.  The Larson’s store owned by Wallace Larson and Harry Sellman was established by Mr. Larson’s father, John M. Larson in 1918.  Wallace Larson and Harry Sellman purchased the store January 1, 1945.

John M. Larson can readily be classified as a pioneer merchant, having served customers in Odebolt stores since 1886.  He came to this vicinity when the town was but four years old, and except for the first three years when he was interested in farming, he had always been in the merchandise business either as clerk or store owner. Pioneer Merchant

In the fall of 1886 he started working as  a clerk for George Jenkins and later was employed by C. J. Chinburg.  In 1893 Mr. Larson and John Erickson purchased the Ed Lester store in the rooms now [1953] occupied by the Mattes Furniture store.  They later moved to the building which now houses the bakery and the partnership continued until 1913, when they sold to the Cooperative company.  Mr. Larson remained as manager of this store until 1918 when he started in business for himself where the present store is located.

With the passing of time a new generation came into Odebolt’s business world.  Wallace Larson, upon completion of high school, became associated with his father in operating of the store.  The experience thus gained under the tutelage of his father has been of great benefit in the operation and management of the store in the present partnership.

Self Serve Grocery

When Wallace Larson and Harry Sellman assumed ownership they inaugurated a remodeling project which developed into a modern self-serve grocery store and market.  The store is 45 feet wide by 150 feet long, divided into departments and each department divided into sections for the convenience of customers.  The store handles the popular Briardale brand of package and canned goods packed by the long established Briardale Food stores of Des Moines.  The fruit and vegetables section is equipped with open self-serve refrigerated cases, also a refrigerated case containing the nationally advertised Polar brand of frozen foods.  Smooth-Tex ice cream, sherbets, and other frozen delicacies are available in another refrigerated self-serve case near the front of the store.  The packaged, bottle, and canned goods occupy hundreds of feet of shelf space attractively arranged and convenient for the customer to place in the serve-yourself shopping cars.

At the rear of the store is a section devoted to yard goods emphasizing the much publicized suggestion of “Sew it at home, make it yourself” theory which is gaining so many followers from the teaching of home-demonstration agents and Girls’ 4-H club work.

The partners, Larson and Sellman, do not keep any full time clerks.  Mr. Larson gives much of his time to the grocery department, and Mr. Sellman is an expert meat cutter.  Extra part-time help is added when required.

Quality and Service

It is interesting to note that the policy upon which the senior Mr. Larson established his store was, “A Store of Quality and Service”.  During the years there has never been a deviation from this business principle.  An oft quoted phrase originating with John Larson and repeated by the present owners is, “We are interested in our customers because all of us are a part of the community.  It is only by working together that we can continue to make progress.”

The operation and management of Larson’s store is a full time job for both Mr. Larson and Mr. Sellman.  Though each of them have been invited to serve in official capacity in civic government and educational projects they have declined in order to give full and personal attention to their business.  In this they have been successful as they number their customers, not only within the confines of Odebolt, but to those coming from a wide area in Sac, Ida and Crawford county who for three generations have traded at Larson’s. 


(Source:  "Fifty Years of Progress"; The Odebolt Chronicle, Vol. 51, Number 31)

Thursday, August 25, 1938) Lindquist Bros. [correct name is "Lundquist Bros. or Brothers"] established one of the first photography studios in Odebolt.  The site of the studio of A. W. Dahlstrom was first occupied by a residence.  Before 1882, a studio was erected by F.R. West.  West was succeeded by a Mr. Frey who, in turn, sold out to J. L. Humphrey.  Mr. Dahlstrom bought the business in 1907.

Click photos to enlarge

Front and back of a photo by Lundquist Brothers, two brothers from Sweden that were perhaps the first photographers in Odebolt.  The 1885 Census show James N. Lundquist, age 29 and Nels Lundquist, age 35, both single men born in Sweden, living in Odebolt.  Handwriting on the photo is "Grandma Nabel".


gracevansands.jpg (14334 bytes)

gracevansandsback.jpg (27864 bytes) Front and back of a photo of Grace Van Sands, age 16 years, by Frey
(Photo has initials E.S. Frey), Corner of 3rd and Main St., Odebolt, Iowa

Added 11/25/10
Front and back of two photos of "Masons". 

The back of the photos text says "E. S. Frey, Odebolt, Iowa.  Enlargement from negative at any time. Fine crayons a specialty. Duplicates can be had at any time.  Instantaneous process used exclusively.


Photographers Serving Odebolt

From"As Time Goes By, Odebolt, Iowa 1877-1977" p. 128

Lindquist Brothers [correct name is "Lundquist Bros. or Brothers"]
F.E. West 
E.S. Fry 
James Traver 
J.L. Humphrey 
A.W. Dahlstrom (45 years, 1907-1952) 
Loren Baber 
Bert Cannon (April 24, 1958) 
Howard Penny (June 26, 1969)

 Dahlstrom Retires After 46 Years

(Source – The Odebolt Chronicle Progress Edition, October 29, 1953, Volume 65, Number 44)

A.W. DahlstromA. W. Dahlstrom made photographic records of three generations of Odebolt people during the 46 years he operated a photography studio here.  He came to Odebolt from Marathon, Iowa and purchased the studio of J. L. Humphrey who had been in Odebolt some time, occupying the building always known as the studio.  Mr. Dahlstrom was an experienced photographer before buying out Humphrey.  Throughout the years he has always kept abreast of the times, making use of all scientific advancements and progress as developed by the industry.

Mr. Dahlstrom originally took pictures on glass negatives, then came the use of film and modern developing methods.  When he began business here, Odebolt was served with gas for illuminating, and it was difficult for him with those crude methods to develop and print his pictures.  Then came electricity and a general improvement in the work.  Mr. Dahlstrom retired in May this year [1953].

  - (transcribed by B. Ekse)


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