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Crawford County is a closely knit with 13 individual towns: Arion, Aspinwall, Buck Grove, Charter Oak, Deloit, Denison, Dow City, Kiron, Manilla, Ricketts, Schleswig, Vail and Westside. The Crawford County population is just under 17,000 people.
Each town has its own distinct heritage, and retains the charms that distinguish it from the others. Whether it is Denison, the county seat, or Deloit, the county's oldest town, an overwhelming sense of community prevails. The history of Crawford County, and the origin of the place names, are often connected with the Chicago and North Western Railroad.
Crawford County was named for W. H. Crawford, Secretary of Treasury in 1817-1825 under President Monroe. The county was created in 1854 and organized in 1855.
Arion was named from the celebrated poet and Cithara player of Lesbos found in ancient Greek history. This is supposed to be one of the mythical names for the Grecian god Apollo.
There have been many stories of how Aspinwall got its name; no one can be totally sure. One story is that, "While standing approximately where Main Street is today, the early settlers could look north and view a mile-long stretch of aspen trees which extended westward. This view reflected a 'wall' of aspen trees thereby giving the pioneers the idea to call their new town Aspinwall." Another theory might be that Aspinwall was named for a prominent citizen of the area. The town of Aspinwall was platted August 21, 1882.
In 1862, a little market town earned a spot in the center of Washington Township of Crawford County. The land around the town was used for farming and grazing cattle. It was also found to be a good hunting ground because of the many deer. Because of this, the town was named Buck Grove. This town was on the Sioux City branch of the Milwaukee Railroad and in many ways was an ambitious and thriving town.
Charter Oak received its name from the American Emigrant Company which was organized at Hartford, Connecticut. The story is told that, during the time the territory was being surveyed by that company, a sudden heavy cloud burst made it imperative for the surveyor to protect his maps and papers. He bundled them up and thrust them into a hollow spot of a large oak tree.
Deloit was platted by the Western Town Lot Company, in 1899, and was named Beloit from the city in Wisconsin. As another location had adopted this name, it was changed by using the letter "D" in place of "B" and, thus the present name was made.
Denison IA, which is the county seat, was named by Rev. J. W. Denison, a Baptist preacher, after himself. He organized the Providence Western Land Company, who platted the town in 1856.
Dow City was named for Judge S. E. Dow, a prominent citizen of the county, who once owned the land on which the town site was platted. At first the town was called "Dowville," but afterward was changed to its present form.
Kiron was located by the Western Town Lot Company in 1899, and was named by Andrew Norelius, who had an interest in the place, from Kiron in Manchuria, in China.
Manilla was located two miles east of a small community by the name of Astor. Railroad officials were looking for a shortcut to Sioux City and they bought W. L. Paup's farm. The new town did not have an official name. In 1885, Astor celebrated the Fourth of July and one of the program features was a tug-of-war. Since the new town did not have a name, they decided to name it with the tug-of-war contest. There were some who thought that the town should be named after Les Paup (who owned the land before the railroad bought it). They wanted to call it Paupville. Until this time, grain had been bound by hand, but the self-binder had just been invented. Mr. Blackburn's Hardware store in Astor was sending out circulars advertising the new twine, called Manila Binder Twine. Mr. Blackburn furnished a Manila rope for the tug-of-war and suggested the town be named Manila. There are those who wonder how Manilla got its two "L's". This seems to have happened at the recording of the town name.
Many believe the town of Ricketts got its name from a bachelor named Ricks. The people talked about naming the town Sciford, but Mr. Sciford didn't want it named after him. Since Mr. Ricks had died about that time, they named the town after him. He had lived north of Ricketts.
Schleswig was laid out in 1899 by the Western Town Lot Company and was named for the Province of Schleswig in Germany, because many of the nearby farmers had emigrated from that Province. Early on the post office was called "Hohenzollern" because when the railroad built the track diagonally crossing the northwest quarter of Otter Creek Township this corner became what is known as Schleswig today. Hohenzollern, which was located one and a fourth mile to the east, moved to Schleswig.
It was in 1875 that Vail was incorporated, the first town in Crawford County to do so. In March of that year, Justice John DeWolf went to Denison with a petition. Dr. James DeWolf, who erected a one and one-half story building, which he used as a grocery store, doctor's office and a residence was the towns first physician, first merchant and for many years the leading spirit of the town.
Westside was so named because it was the first town on the railroad west of the high lands that divide the waters that flow into the Missouri and Mississippi Valleys respectively.