Stratford was yet another town in our county that was platted by the Western Town Lot Company, the real estate division of the Toledo & Northwestern Railroad. A small town, called Rosstown, was created by Hewitt Ross in the hopes that when the railroad between Jewell and Dayton came by the area, his town would be on the line. This would assure success for the town. When John I. Blair, the chief railroad engineer who laid out so many other towns in our county, came to Ross seeking concessions in return for putting the railroad through Rosstown, he was turned down. He told his surveyors to find another route bypassing Rosstown as he had done with Blairsburg and Williams earlier. His surveyors told him that the absolute best route would have to pass along the northern edge of Rosstown. He then came up with another plan.
This plan called for putting the tracks along the north side of Rosstown but making sure that none of his streets in this new town would align with the streets of Rosstown. Then he put the depot on the north side of the tracks blocking the traffic to the south. His crew members were staying in the home of Col. Whitaker at Hook’s Point so he held a meeting to have those in attendance come up with a name for the new town that would replace Rosstown. One crew member suggested Stratford for Stratford, Pennsylvania., which in turn had been named for William Shakespeare’s home Stratford-upon-Avon in England. The plat was then developed with all streets named for English authors, save one, which was named for the river Avon. The east-west streets were, starting at the depot, Goldsmith, Tennyson, and Milton. The north-south streets were Avon, Byron, Shakespeare, Burns and Moore, with Shakespeare running to the depot.
The new town and the railroad spelled the demise of Hook’s Point, as residents soon moved. Several buildings were put on skids and moved to Stratford. The post office was moved from Hook’s Point on May 2, 1881. J. W. Lee reported that in December, 1880 there was not one stick of lumber in all of what would become Stratford. One year later there were ten businesses and two hotels. One hotel, the Stratford House, was new. The Central House was moved by Anson Deo from Hook’s Point.
H. G. Hicks served as Stratford’s first postmaster. Rural free delivery was started from Stratford in 1903 with three routes serving 1500 persons. Stratford is on Highway 175 connecting with Dayton on the west. The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad served this area for many years, but the line was discontinued.
The first schoolhouse in town was built in 1882 for $2,200. It was used for all of the grades. In 1889 the Hook’s Point school was moved to Stratford and put to use as another school. The first high school graduates were Vina Norton and Otto Van Krog, who graduated in 1898. By that time there were three teachers and 117 pupils. By 1902 the school was so crowded that the Town Hall was used for classes. After some disagreement about the price of the land purchased by the school board, a new sixroom school was built in 1906. The two frame school houses were sold; the school bell, that was brought along from Hook’s Point, was sold also.
Continued growth for Stratford called for a new school which was turned down in 1920 but passed six years later. This new building contained 20 classrooms and a gymnasium. It was occupied in September 1926. In 1929 the athletic field was added to the school property. Another reorganization took place in 1954 when the Stratford Community School District was created. Grades K-6 continue to be held in Stratford and attend classes in a new building completed in 1999. Students in Grades 7-12 have attended classes in Webster City since the fall of 1987. In the summer of 1999 the 1906 and 1926 school buildings in Stratford were demolished, Grades K-6 are enjoying the new addition to the elementary wing which was completed in the fall of 1999.
One unusual person in Stratford’s history has to be John Jonas Johnson, who took a trip to California and back, walking and pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with his possessions. He left for the gold fields with only 85 cents but returned with enough money to start up hardware stores in Mineral Ridge, Hook’s Point, and Stratford.
The 2010 census showed the Stratford population to be 743 people. The town remains alive with an active community development group and promotion committee. Most of the store fronts are filled, and the town is kept “spruced up,” which is in contrast with many other small towns in Iowa.
To learn more about some of Iowa’s history, click here: www.netins.net/showcase/marjned/hamco.html
Compliments of Ed Nass of Webster City, Iowa.