Odebolt, Iowa - Wheeler Ranch

Wheeler Ranch

The Wheeler Ranch

THE SAC SUN, VOL. I, NO. 26, JANUARY 26, 1872

The following circular came into our hands through a letter sent to this place:

Mr. H. C. Wheeler, who purchased in 1871, a farm of 10 square miles near the head waters of the Soldier, states "what he knows about farming."

WAKEGAN, Illinois, Dec. 21, 1871.

J. B. Calhoun, Land Commissioner.

Dear Sir:--The buildings on my farm in Sac county, as near as I can estimate, cost as follows: Four dwellings, 1 story, 16x24, $250 each; one dwelling 1 story, 26x32, $1000; barn 30x60, 1 story, $600; shop, 16x20, $150. Two yoke of good oxen or three horses will break two acres per day. Wheat sowing commences the last of February or the first of March, according to the season. Wheat and corn are the principal grains raised at present, and the average yield per acre is 20 to 25, and 60 to 75 bushels respectively. But oats, barley, rye, flax, and in fact everything that will produce well on good land, yields well in Sac county. A short time since I had occasion to travel over the county, and was surprised to find how rapidly settlements and improvements were being made. As for quality and general surface desirable in land, I am satisfied that there is nothing better in Iowa, or any other State, as I made an extensive examination before purchasing of your company. I consider the herd law a great advantage, and the value of land considerable enhanced thereby, in the saving of fences and the security it affords to new settlers.
Your Obedient Servant,

(Transcribed by B. Ekse)

The below photo is from 1938 Odebolt Chronicle, "Fifty Years of Progress".
The building was still standing in 1938.


Wheeler Ranch

(Source:  “As Time Goes By”, Odebolt, Iowa 1877-1977,
The Odebolt Chronicle May, 1977,  pp.109–110)

The large ranch joining Odebolt on the south and west, has been one tract of land since the nine sections were originally purchased by H. C. Wheeler in 1871.  It is one of the richest and one of the largest farms in Iowa.  This land was purchased from the Iowa Railroad Land Company for three dollars an acre, but Wheeler received a discount because of the size of his purchase.  He had made a fortune in business enterprises in California and through money speculation during the Civil War.

Wheeler township was named to honor him and it was created by separating it from Levey township.  Within two years the town of Odebolt was platted on land donated by Wheeler.  By 1879 land was selling for six dollars an acre.

In 1872 the work of breaking the prairie on the old South ranch was undertaken by George Ellis, who rented it for a short time.  After he moved to his own farm in Ida County in the fall of 1872, Abner L. Chandler of Libertyville, Illinois served as superintendent of the ranch for four years.  He went on his own farm but served as superintendent for another three years.  While he had charge the land was broken and buildings erected on the West and North ranches.

H. C. Wheeler
Wheeler made a specialty of raising fine stock.  In 1888 he had 33 head of Norman-Percheron and English Sire Stallions, which were among the finest animals ever imported to the United States.  He also had Short Horn cattle and Clydesdale horses and colts.  In breaking his land he experimented with a steam plow.  He also experimented with milking machines when they were just beginning to be used.  He wanted his large farm conducted scientifically.

The Republicans nominated him for the office of Governor of Iowa in 1891.  he was defeated by Horace Boise, Democratic, by a vote of 207,594 to 199,381.  The big issued was temperance.  From this political setback Wheeler’s star was on the wane.

The Wheeler family resided in a large mansion at the west edge of Odebolt.  He had this residence built in the [eighteen] eighties after living for a time in a cottage on the South ranch.  The house was later used as a hospital and an apartment house before being purchased by Dale Gronemeyer of Odebolt in the late 1950’s.  A contractor, Gronemeyer tore down the building, built himself a house on part of the lot and sold the remainder where other new homes were erected.

Through the influence of Wheeler a flax mill was established in Odebolt in 1880 by J. B. Winslow and Son.

In 1896 Wheeler sold the ranch to W. P. Adams.  For the land Wheeler paid $20,000 for a quarter of a century earlier, they received a reported price of $185,000.  The Wheelers moved from Odebolt to Texas where he started a large dairy business which failed.  His only son died and he returned to Chicago completely disheartened.  There he fell ill and died September 25, 1909 almost penniless.  Members of the Wheeler Masonic lodge of Odebolt, which was named for him, sent money to help pay his last funeral expenses.  He left behind in Iowa a heritage in his farm which became the renowned Adams Ranch.

Wheeler Home in Odebolt


Also see Articles about Hiram C. Wheeler


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