A New and Somewhat Different Explanation of the Source
of the Name of Odebolt
(Source: “As Time Goes By”, Odebolt, Iowa 1877-1977, The Odebolt Chronicle May, 1977, p. 13)
Mr. Frank Shaw
Odebolt, Iowa 51458
Because of the rapidly approaching centennial of Odebolt, I thought you and the Centennial Committee might be interested in this story which might shed some light upon the origin of the name of Odebolt.
In 1969-70 I attended St. Paul’s University at Ottawa, Canada. Because housing was difficult to obtain I lived with the students at the White Fathers’ Seminary. The White Fathers is a bilingual French/English speaking African Missionary Society and their members must be competent in both languages. Some of the students were natives of France. I decided to check out the legend that Odebolt was named after a French trapper but none of the students would admit of ever having heard of any word which sounded like “Odebolt”. Nor had they ever heard of a family name that would sound like “Odebolt”.
One day, while having lunch in the cafeteria, I overheard a couple of French speaking students saying what sounded like “Odebolt”. They were puzzled. They did not notice any resemblance between the word I was pronouncing and those they were using. So they resumed their conversation and sure enough, they used it again. Once more I asked them for the subject they were discussing. They replied they were discussing their scripture class. They were studying the book of Genesis. Their class was about the problems of the first three chapters, and they were discussing creation. “You know, the beginning, the ‘au debut’.” When looking at the word in print you almost hear a sound like “Odebolt”.
In double checking with Sister Loyola, professor of French at Briar Cliff College, I learned that the modern French translations of the bible do not use this expression. But an older bible, printed in 1888, while not using “au debut” in the text, does use that expression in the footnotes!
So, Frank, I am not so sure Odebolt was named after the proverbial trapper. Nor am I so sure it was named after the person whose wagon came while fording the creek. Is it possible Odebolt was named by someone who had at least a smattering of French who either referred to the first words of the Bible, or was he referring to the town being built at the “au debut” (the beginning) of the creek?
I hope this little bit of information will assist you and the centennial committee in resolving the problem of the true meaning of the word “Odebolt”.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
(Rev. Msgr.) Leonard M. Ziegmann
(Source: "As Time Goes By", Odebolt, Iowa 1877-1977, The Odebolt Chronicle May, 1977, p. 14)
In the May 30, 1912 issue of The Chronicle, a third version of the name has come to light. The editor said then, "If The Chronicle is correctly informed, it can finally clear up the point." -CC-
A gentleman visited the office that Saturday in 1912 and by degrees unraveled a story of immense historical importance. His name was A. Oderbolz of New York. He said when a boy he learned from his father, George Oderbolz, that a townsite in Iowa, by which ran a small creek, and not a great way from Sioux City, had been named after himself. His father, a boy under 20, was with a surveying party in charge of a Capt. Smith. Along about 1860 or ’61, this party left Dubuque and crossed the state laying out townsites. When they reached this section, his father was so taken with the lay of the land that Capt. Smith, after completing the survey, said: "George, we will name this creek and townsite after you." But in making the records he supposed the name was spelled as pronounced "Odebolt". His father left the surveying party and homesteaded near Deadwood, S.D., but was forced to leave because of the hostility of the Indians. He went to Texas where he lived until his death in 1906. His father often told of the Iowa townsite given his name, but he never made a record of exact dates.
A. Oderbolz, who claimed his home at Calvert, Texas, the place of his birth, was a traveling salesman out of New York, and being in Iowa, made a special trip to Odebolt, upon request of his relatives, to take a look at the town. He made a collection of post cards of local scenes and hoped to return at a future day.
The editor wrote: "The story squares with what little is known of our earlier history and sounds logical and conclusive." Did Odebolt come from O-de-bolt, Odebeau or Oderbolz? [or au debut – see Rev. Msgr. Leonard M. Ziegmann’s letter to Frank Shaw.]
Calvert is located in Robertson County, Texas. In the 1880
US Census I found the following from Robertson County, Texas.
(Direct copy and paste from census at ancestry.com)
Enumeration District 139 And 140, Robertson, Texas; Family History Library Film 1255324; NA Film Number T9-1324; Page Number 354D
Geo OLDERBOLTZ Self M Male W 42 SWITZ Butcher SWITZ SWITZ
Morvena OLDERBOLTZ Wife M Female W 31 PRUSSIA Housekeeping PRUSSIA PRUSSIA
Albert OLDERBOLYTZ Son S Male W 10 TX At School SWITZ PRUSSIA
George OLDERHOLTZ Son S Male W 7 TX SWITZ PRUSSIA
Fred OLDERHOLTZ Son S Male W 4 TX SWITZ PRUSSIA
Kate OLDERHOLTZ Dau S Female W 3 TX SWITZ PRUSSIA
Gustave OLDERHOLTZ Son S Male W 1 TX SWITZ PRUSSIA
Note that there is a son "Albert" who would have been about age 42 in 1912. He could be the "A. Oderbolz" of the above story.
- Barb Horak
Judy Bauer, who grew up in Ida Grove and has ties through ancestry to Odebolt, found the following and posted it on the Odebolt History Pages Message Board.
December 22, 2003
Written in this month's Ida County Historical Society's newsletter:
--Letter written in 1897 by Ed M. Smith, an early settler in the Ida Grove area "Odebolt Creek was named for a young German who worked for the Townsleys in 1856."
--Written by M.G. Aldrich of Battle Creek in his "Notes on Ida County, Iowa," June 6, 1872. "...a young German by the name of Odobo, selected a claim immediately across the small stream that forms a junction with the Maple River (near where Ida Grove was later established in 1877). This claim was soon abandoned and the young man sought a home in another land, but his memory is preserved in the name of the stream (Odebolt Creek) on which he settled, which in common with many other streams in this section of country, was named in honor of its first settler, Odobo. This name has since been perverted to Odebolt. This passed the season of 1855."
(Transcribed by B. Ekse & B. Horak)