In 1869 on the great plains of Northwest Iowa there were no roads, no railroad, just one solitary sod house approximately were the town of Newell now stands. The Dubuque and Pacific Railroad Company was interested in having a town located in the area. The first railroad station was built in 1870 and the first steam locomotive came through the area shortly after.
The town of Newell was organized in 1869 and an named after John Newell, vice president of the Dubuque and Pacific Railroad. Rural school houses could be seen on every other section corner through-out Buena Vista County. Each school was furnished with a competent teacher. In 1888 a new four room school building was begun on the spot where the central part of the present building now stands. In 1898 two more rooms were added. The tuition from 1884 to 1894 was 75 cents per month for grade students and $1.50 per month for high school students. Salaries ranged from $24.00 to $80.00 per month.
It was said of Newell in 1869: "This is a splendid location if it doesn't float away." There was so much swamp land surrounding the town that corn could not be planted in straight rows as farmers had to go around the mud holes. Over time improved drainage ditches were hand dug allowing fertile rich farm land to be tilled. The farming community was constantly battling muddy streets and roads, mosquitoes and plagues of grasshoppers.
The first newspaper, The Newell Times, started up in 1871 and was a four page county paper containing continued stories, sermons, word by word reports of trials and women's columns. In 1872 Newell had its first bank as well as several businesses on Fulton Street.
In 1889 electricity was available with current flowing through the lines from early evening until midnight. The West Side Café was always a popular eating place with its history going back to the early 1900's. The Newell Billiards Parlor also has a long history on the main street of Newell.
The town became famous for the Newell Corn Show which started on February 3, 1910 and was an annual event until 1949. People as far away as 40-50 miles came to see the displays of the best ears of corn and the ribbons and prizes for the winners. Over 26,000 ears were entered in one year and the county fair like atmosphere was enjoyed by all for several days.
Agriculture was key to the small town and the stockyard next to the railroad was a very important market place for area farmers. It was rumored that "In the 1930's more livestock shipped out of Newell than any other point between Sioux City and Chicago."
The Great Depression had its mark on the small agricultural community with the local paper reporting 2-6 farm sales a week. Times were tough but the people of Newell gathered together and provided food and a community shelter to the homeless and unemployed.
WW II handed out tragedy in heavy bitter doses to the peaceful community. Newell had always supplied many boys to the Arm Forces. It is possible that no other Iowa Community had sacrificed so high a proportion in lives as did Newell.
The community of Newell has much to offer that cannot be found in larger places. The community enjoys an outstanding park system with its golf course, swimming pool and other recreational facilities. The school system is the pride and joy of the community with its many state champion titles in sports and a dedicated staff who provide each child with personal attention. There is an excellent day care center and a variety of churches.
The rural and town community has worked together over more that 140 years to provide a quality of life respected and envied by many. The residents continue to pass down through the generations the pride in Newell and the life time experiences of growing up in rural America.
Information taken from the July 3, 1969 Centennial Edition of the Newell Mirror entitled "The Newell Heritage" by Mrs. Orville B. Rogers and respectful submitted by Marilyn Monson.
Annual Festival - Pride Days
The first weekend in August the City of Newell has Pride Days as our town festival. It starts out with a catered picnic in the park at the shelter house on Friday night which is followed by live entertainment in the park. Saturday morning there is a 5K run/walk starting at 7:30 am from the bank corner. Then at 10:00 am is the parade that starts by the cemetery and goes down our main street. At noon there is another catered meal in the park at the shelter house. There is usually a vendor fair, inflatables for the kids, a softball tournament for older adults, water fights by the fire department or for kids all in the park area. Saturday night there is a street dance on Fulton St or main St. There is fun for all ages!