Newspaper Article Archive of
The Kalona News
Kalona, Iowa

Newspaper Article Archive of
The Kalona News

January 18, 2017 Featured - Wellman Advance - Accounts, structures of original settlement sparse
Article Pages -- as published on the The Kalona News website.

Thumb Image
Thumb Image
Thumb Image
Thumb Image

It was nearly 179 years ago when the first settler staked a claim in Wassonville, the precursor of Wellman. Less than two decades after the first structure was erected, Wassonville was gone.

Little is known about the town, and even the party that settled initially is disputed. A historical account published in the Wellman Advance in 1889 and in the Advance’s special 50th anniversary edition and the account in the Wellman Centennial book tell similar, but slightly different stories.

What the sources do agree on is that the namesake of the town, the Wassons (Joseph, Robert, Benjamin, and Hiram), were among the party. Different accounts have either the Wassons staking the initial claim alone or with either James Thomas and Samuel Watters or John and Robert Mickey.

What is agreed on is that the party hailed initially from Burlington, up in the Flint Hills and, after winning an arbitration battle with the McDaniels, who staked the claim after the original party, but before they returned to were given settlement rights.

From there the town eventually burgeoned to 300 people including the mill, and its descendent after the original burnt down, and a ferry, which helped with transportation in the area.

Also known is Wassonvillle was the first town in the area to have to have a Methodist ministry, according to “Wassonville: Marterial gathered and compiled from many Washington County documents, and from interviews with many life-long residents” by Paul Dietterich. The ministry was established in 1852, but multiple accounts have the town nicknamed after the biblical town of Sodom for its depravity and tell stories of whiskey flowing throughout the pool halls.

One story that does seem to be confirmed is an incident from the early years of the settlement. As told in the 50th Anniversary edition of the Wellman Advance, due to a misunderstanding, members of the town amassed to save a woman from the Black Hawk camp, only to find that she was married and wished to remain there.

Though unconfirmed by the State’s Historical Society, according to the Wellman Centennial book, rumors that famed abolitionist John Brown stopped in the town were prevalent in the town’s history and in the previously mentioned accounts. They claim that either Brown himself or Jim Lime, a follower of the abolitionist, made a pit stop at the old town. What is not in dispute is the town’s abolitionist nature.

Due to the persistent flooding the town was eventually abandoned. The land for its descendant, Daytonville, was purchased and laid out in 1855, according to the 1889 article in the Wellman Advance. By 1859 the post office migrated to Daytonville and by 1860, it was the new commercial hub of the area.

Wassonville and Daytonville are just a couple of the county’s 31 ghost towns listed at

The only thing that remains of the former town is the cemetery, with both the former mill and the bridge now being consigned purely to the past, kept alive by the small collection of accounts available at the Wellman Heritage Museum.

Newspaper Article Archive of The Kalona News produced by SmallTownPapers, Inc.
Website © 2020. All content copyrighted. Copyright Information.     Terms Of Use.     Request Content Removal.