Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

December 28, 2006

Enterprises served by the interurban

By Bill Heusinkveld - correspondent

The Mystic electric interurban, built in 1910, served three large coal mines on its way to Mystic.  In addition it served the county club, Glen Hagan Park, the Hadite Plant and provided passenger service to Brazil.  The Country Club was first on the way, organized in 1912, two years after the railroad went through, when the first 30 members were secured.  The first club house was built that year.  Dues were priced at $10 a year to care for the grounds.  Dr. Donahue was the first to have his own golf cart. 

The design and construction of a golf course on land with a railroad running right through the middle should be a fact worthy of “Believe it or Not”.  How many golf courses across the country would boast that kind of a hazard?   Special rules had to be written such as “A tee shot on No. 8 coming to rest in the tracks east of the crossing may be dropped in the fairway back of the track without penalty”.  I wonder what the penalty was for hitting a train or the train engineer with a golf ball.

Next on the route was the Glen Hagan Park.  It was developed as a way stop for the passengers on the way to Mystic.  It extended almost a half mile westward along the north bank of Hickory Creek, which flowed eastward into Cooper Creek.  The park was on a flat wooded piece of land and extended about a quarter mile to the north.  The railroad went west along the south edge of the park on the south side of Hickory Creek..  At that time the predecessor to the Country Club had a golf course to the north of the park.  Later when the Golfview housing area was developed, it was on land just east of the Glen Hagan Park. 

Glen Hagan  Park was the pleasure resort for Centerville and much surrounding territory.  It was named for J. Mace Hagan who came from Oskaloosa to operate it.  There was a big roofed pavilion with a dance hall, roller skating rink and a ball diamond.  There were two refreshment stands.  Picnic and playground equipment were provided.

Baseball attracted a great deal of interest in those days, especially when Centerville and Mystic faced off.  There were baseball games, circuses and shows.  The Mystic Interurban was the only transportation to the park, and the 48-passenger open air cars would be loaded down with people.  Sometimes the crowds were so large, especially on Sundays, that cars were crowded to the limit and people had to stand in line to get them.  The fare was a nickel.

Sunday dancing at Glen Hagan Park became something of an issue in June, 1914.  After considerable opposition, it was announced it would be dropped.   Encouraged by this, the ministerial association passed a resolution at its next meeting condemning Sunday baseball playing.

The Hadite Plant produced a light-weight block, similar in size and shape to the concrete building block.used for foundations.  Part of the raw material was a particular clay found in Appanoose County.  The plant had a good business for a time, but was phased out when the railroad was discontinued in 1958.  The area is now being re-designed as a housing area, complete with pond and access to the golf course via the old railroad right of way.

In 1916 the Centerville Light and Traction Co. name was changed to Iowa Southern Utilities Co. the name by which we all knew this prestigious electric and gas utility for so many years to come.  The company continued to operate the interurban passenger service to Mystic and Moravia during all the heavy coal production years with great success.

Eventually there were enough people that owned automobiles to make the venture unprofitable.  Everyone loved the convenience and flexibility of driving their own car rather and going where they pleased rather than being tied to the rigorous schedule of taking the train.  So it was the end of an era and the electric railroad, having served its purpose, finally came to an unheralded but dignified end.