Fun Facts: Historic Mount Vernon
Test your knowledge of historic Mount Vernon, Iowa, with these 10 fun facts.
The original name for the settlement—referring to the wooden pins used by merchants to hang up goods—was dropped in 1847 for a more patriotic name.
Body Buried Under Highway 30
In 1848 a stranger passed through and left his ill father with the family living at what is now First Street and Second Avenue West. The elderly man died a few hours later and was buried plumb in the middle of what became the Lincoln Highway.
Chicago & North Western
The railroad arrived in 1859, bringing new settlers, products, and ideas. During the 1950s the line—which had long shuttled the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to town for Cornell’s May Music Festival—stopped direct passenger service. The depot was demolished in the 1970s.
In 1885 the city installed 12 kerosene street lamps, and by 1889 a total of 40 were in place when “no longer were our streets a danger for pedestrians at night.” Electric lights came along in 1897 but stayed lit only until 10 p.m., a practice that ended in 1911.
The future president made a whistlestop in 1897 and the town went en masse to see him at the train station. By accident the train pulled out just as he was beginning to talk. McKinley said later it was the best speech of his entire campaign.
Street Names Dropped
Mount Vernon’s streets once had the names Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Penn, Vine, and Liberty. That changed in 1900 when the streets were numbered instead.
From 1914–1928 an electric interurban train plied between Lisbon, Mount Vernon, and Cedar Rapids, resulting in Main Street being paved for the first time. The service ended after 14 years as the automobile came into greater use.
It took close to a century, but with the repeal of Prohibition, taverns began to appear along Main Street in 1933.
WWII Emergency Landing
A Boeing B-17 made an emergency landing in 1942 on a beanfield north of town. The best Iowa hospitality was offered to the stranded crew and, as a result of this “visit from the skies,” a local woman married one of the sargeants the following year.
Cornell’s WWII Naval preflight school brought 600 uniformed men to town, boosting business and lending a military atmosphere. By 1944 an official USO club, staffed by volunteers, was opened at the Legion Hall.