Marshalltown, Iowa
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History
"I've found the prettiest place in Iowa, and here I'll live and lay my bones." - Henry Anson, 1851

Nine years after the Sac and Fox tribes signed a treaty with the U.S. government opening up the rich and fertile soil of what is now Marshall County, Henry Anson decided to build a town on the divide between Linn Creek and the Iowa River. It was the summer of 1851. Anson called his settlement Marshall and built a cabin on what is now Main Street. The name was changed to Marshalltown in 1862.

A visionary with great dreams for his town, Anson hoped Marshalltown would become the capital city of Iowa because of its central location. Marshalltown grew during the decade before the Civil War, and, by the mid 1850s, Anson had donated land for a county courthouse. Citizens raised money for the courthouse, and, after a struggle to secure the title of county seat from the village of Marietta, Marshalltown became the official county seat in 1863.

A Potawatomi chief named Johnny Green (Che Muese) helped early settlers get established in the wilderness in and around Henry Anson's young town. When Green died in 1868, he was buried on a high bluff overlooking the Des Moines River by members of his tribe and the grateful citizens of Marshalltown. Today, a large monument stands on the grounds of the Iowa Veterans Home in tribute to the Native American leader. The years following Green's death were building years for the fledgling town; the railroad finally reached the settlement from the east, bringing with it a host of light industries. As America entered the Industrial Revolution, Marshalltown went from a post-war prairie settlement to a boomtown.

By the dawn of the 20th century, Marshalltown was an established city of more than 10,000 residents and the home to many industries that developed into major national and international companies, such as Fisher Controls, Lennox Industries and Marshalltown Trowel (now the Marshalltown Company). Henry Anson didn't live to see his town become a bustling city, but his presence is still felt in Marshalltown, now home to 26,000 residents. Anson Park, Anson Middle School and Anson Street are all named in his honor.

Henry Anson's son, Adrian "Cap" Anson, led the Anson baseball team in Marshalltown for years before turning to professional baseball in 1872, when he signed with the Philadelphia Athletics. He later became captain of the Chicago White Stockings. Cap was a leading hitter in the National League and set a record by playing big league baseball for 27 years. He was immortalized in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and was the first Iowan named to the state's Athletic Hall of Fame.

Billy Sunday also played baseball for the Marshalltown Ansons and went on to the major leagues. After a few years in the majors, Sunday "found religion" and quit baseball. He toured the nation and shook up the citizens of Marshalltown with his fiery oratory before earning national fame as America's leading evangelist.

Today, Marshalltown's past lives on through museums, historical attractions and other celebrations of local history. The Marshall County Historical Museum features a permanent geological exhibit displaying a collection of LeGrand fossil crinoids. Special exhibits feature famous Marshalltown residents, such as actress Jean Seberg, Cap Anson and T. Nelson Downs (1867–1938), a magician whose mastery of intricate coin manipulations earned him a place in the magic world's Hall of Fame.

The Glick-Sower House offers a rare showcase of family life from over a century ago. Built in 1859, the house and its furnishings are considered one of the best examples of a Civil War-era home west of New York. The house remained in the Sower family until the mid 1950s and now stands in downtown Marshalltown as a lasting tribute to all Iowa pioneer families.

Located on the square in the heart of Marshalltown, the Marshall County Courthouse is an historical treasure, visible for miles. Designed by the same architect who conceived the Iowa State Capitol Building, the courthouse was constructed during the years between 1884 and 1886. The building has retained its original exterior, while restoration of the interior featured renovation of the courtroom, law library and the grand stairway with wrought-iron decorations.

Constructed in 1929 and dedicated to those who served in all wars, Marshalltown Veterans Memorial Coliseum showcases a recently restored mural, painted in 1958, that depicts a century of Marshalltown history. The coliseum features two areas that may be rented for a variety of functions: The Blue Room, a small, carpeted room with a stage, and the Gymnasium.

Our history provides a solid foundation upon which our community builds today and plans a bright future. Marshalltown’s cultural amenities rival any small city in Iowa and the region. Opened in 1958, Fisher Community Center was the vision of J.W. "Bill" Fisher, who recognized the importance of an enhanced quality of life. The facility is home to the community theater, outstanding works of art and many local clubs and organizations. Added in 1969, Martha Ellen Tye Community Playhouse seats 450 people for stage productions. The art gallery addition, built in 1988, features Impressionist and post-Impressionist works by artists including Matisse, Degas and Cassat. The center welcomes traveling exhibits by renowned artists and introduces the community to the talents of local artists.

Sculptor Christian Petersen was commissioned to create a statue representing the ideals of the Community Center. Unveiled in 1961, Petersen's final work, "Dedication to the Future," is a statue of a man holding a child up above a reflecting pond, symbolizing the theme, "We lift up our young to see beyond that which we can see."

Art and theater are only part of the cultural offering. The Marshalltown High School/Community Auditorium was built completely with private funds. Add in the variety of community concert series; community band, dance and art classes for all ages; and vocal music from choir to the Sweet Adelines, and you get a sense of what it is like to live in Marshalltown. Together, we continue to write the exciting story of Marshalltown. You, too, can be a part of it!


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