William Forster (1794 – 1866) in Winterset, Iowa

William Forster
William Forster

William Forster is my 3rd Great Grandfather

He was born in New Garden, Guilford County North Carolina.  New Garden was a mostly Quaker community and William came from Quaker roots.  He migrated to Winterset Iowa, where this article finds him.

Winterset Iowa was then and still is a very small town.  Laid out in 1849, by 1860 the population was 915.  By 1870 it had grown to 1485.  In 2010 the population was 5190.  You can see details about Winterset here:


William Forster is mentioned in the text below, taken from “History of Madison County, Iowa, and it’s people, Volume 1.”

Winterset Iowa is described as W. H. Lewis found it in September 1864.  William Forster who was then 70 years old, is mentioned, along with some of his real estate holdings and family.

William’s young son Aaron Milton Forster (my 2nd Great Grandfather) is not mentioned.  He wasn’t at home because he had enlisted in the Civil War 2 years before this, on August 2, 1862.  He is listed elsewhere as:  Private, Company H, 23rd Iowa Infantry.  You can find more about A.M. Forster in another post on this blog.

In the following text we get a verbal picture of the small town of Winterset Iowa, where William Forster lived and Aaron Milton Forster, my 2nd Great Grandfather, grew up.

We also get a very brief description of their house and family:

W. H. Lewis made his first entrance into Winterset in the early dawn of a September day, in the year 1864, being a passenger on one of Colonel Lothrop’s stage coaches. He describes his first impressions and the appearance of Winterset as follows:

What I found on my arrival it will be my effort to relate in this paper. The public square had been enclosed in the early part of that year by a good strong fence, and a row of trees had been planted along the border of the square. The season was a very dry one and many of the trees were dead, but the enclosure was occupied by a very rank growth of weeds — many of them higher than the fence.

The house on Court Avenue that marked the eastern limit of dwellings was on the comer just beyond the residence of Mr. Wolf, and was the home of William Forster and his daughter, Mrs. W. R. Shriver. Captain Shriver was on duty in the army. This house was at the crossing of Court Avenue and Walnut Street, and the eastern dwelling on Jefferson Street was a little house at the northeast comer of the same block. This house was far from neighbors on the west, the next building to it being the Methodist Church, standing on the present church site.

The western dwelling on Court Avenue was on the lot next west of the residence of Mrs. Jones, at the crossing of Court Avenue and West Street. The western building on Jefferson Street stood nearly directly north of the western one on Court Avenue, at the comer of Jefferson and West streets, where the residence of Mrs. Hutchings now stands.

The buildings just described as being eastern and western ones on Jefferson Street were both out of repair and unoccupied, and were owned by William Forster, the owner of the eastern house on Court Avenue. The house marking the northern limit on the street passing the square on the west was the one now occupied by L. O. Carey. The extreme limit of the residence part of the town on the south was the residence of Dr. G. M. Rutledge, until recently occupied by his widow. In stating these limits, it should be remembered that the other streets extending in the same direction were most of them without any houses upon them. The public buildings were very few.

The first courthouse standing on the east lot of the Monumental Park was no longer used as a courthouse, and the county clerk had his office in an upper room on the west side of the square. The stone building at the north- west of the square, now known as the St. Nicholas, then called the Pitzer House, held in its western part a hotel kept by S. M. Holaday. The lower room of the east part had been occupied as a saloon, but was closed at that time. The second and third floors were reached by an outdoor stairway on the north side. The first room on the second floor was rented by this writer for a law office, and the south room was the office of the only newspaper, the Hawkeye Flag, now the Madisonian. On the third floor were two rooms ; one was the office of the county judge, the other the office of the county treasurer and recorder. There were no safes in any of the county offices and the books and papers were kept in open cases and pigeon holes. The sheriff had no stated office, but made his stay in a lawyer’s office on the north side of the square.

There was an old two-story wooden schoolhouse on the lot now occupied by the South Ward schoolhouse, but the windows were broken, its floors unsafe, and it was no longer used as a schoolhouse, and there was no other. During the early summer of that year schools were held in a room on the west side of the square and I think in one of the churches. In the winter of 1864-65, no public schools were maintained in Winterset. This writer had a private school of forty pupils, in a little building where the Stultz feed bam now stands. Captain Goshom b^an another private school in a church that stood on the lot where Ben Bare’s house now stands, but the building was so open it could not be kept warm and he had to abandon it.

The Methodist Church stood on the site of the present church, and C. C.
Mabee was the pastor in charge. The Baptist Church was a stone building on the site now occupied by the armory. W. A. Eggleston was the pastor. The Old School Presbyterian Church stood on the site of the city hall. I think they had no preacher at that time. The New School Presbyterian Church was on the site of the present Church of Christ. They had no settled pastor at that time, but Rev. J. C. Ewing, who resided here, preached there most of the time. The Christian Church stood on its present site and N. C. Storrs was the pastor. The Disciples Church was a large wooden building on the site of the residence of Ben Bare. They had no pastor. The building was a poorly constructed one and was generally known by the name of “God*s barn.*’ This was where Goshom froze out. The courts were held in the churches, mostly in the Christian and Old School Church. The writer remembers that the then famous Stone-Ballard case was tried in the Old School Church. The presiding judge was taken seriously ill during the trial and directed the writer to take his place for a part of the time. We sat in the pulpit.

There were two banks. Albert West’s bank was on the west side of the square and was the only one doing business after my advent. John Lebnard had a bank in a building on the site of the present Tate hardware store, but its safe was blown open by burglars in the early part of 1864 and the entire banking capital stolen, and he went out of the business.

There was but one building on the east side of the square; that was at the comer now occupied by the Bare Building. It had at an earlier time been used as a hotel but was then occupied as a residence. Crossing to the south side of the street there was a small one-story building used by H. M. Porter as a harness shop, and passing some vacant spaces to the east one came to Sam Snyder’s grocery. Returning westward and crossing the street stood a one-story building on the corner — a grocery kept by Mr. and Mrs. William Ogden.

Going west were some vacant spaces and the next building was a two-story stone structure — a general store by W. W. McKnight. Next west was a vacant space and the next a one-story house in which C. Ayres & Company had a general store. Going still farther west were more vacant spaces, then a double front one-story structure, in the east room of which was J. H. Barker’s jewelry store and the west one Dr. David Hutchinson’s office. Next west was a one-story house in which W. T. Roland & Company had a stock of groceries and queensware. Next was a two- story building, in which was the general store of White, Munger & Company. Passing a narrow vacant space was the office and bank of John Leonard, a one- story house on the eastern comer.

Crossing the street a little beyond the comer to the west was the one-story residence of Dr. D. H. Philbrick, the east room of which he used as a drug store. Returning to the corner and crossing the street to the south end of the west side was a row qf three one-story buildings, with gable ends to the street. The one at the comer held Dr. J. Bartlett’s drug store, and the others were unoccupied. The next building, on the site now occupied by H. N. Shaw, was a brick building. The first and second stories extended back to the alley as at present, and the third story about half way. The lower story held the general store of Dunkle & Company. The front room of the second story was reached by an outside stairway and was the office of the county clerk. The western part of the second story was in one large room, reached by an out- door stairway at the alley on the west. This room was known as Pitzer Hall. A public school was held there in the early summer, but in the autumn it was un- occupied, except for occasional dances or other special needs. The third floor was the Masonic Hall. Next was a two-story building occupied by the general store of Smith & Ballard, the residence of A. B. Smith on the second floor. Passing a vacant space the next building was a double one-story structure, the south room containing the bank of Albert West, and the next one the harness shop of H. C. Carter.

Crossing the alley the building next to it was a wooden two-story stmcture. This was the postoffice and the postmaster was J. J. Davis, one of the kindest men I ever knew, always on the lookout to help any one who might need help. He kept books and stationery for sale. The upper room was the photograph gallery of John D. Holbrook. Next was the meat market of E. W. Evans, an4 its next neighbor the jewelry store of Moses Bailey. There was an open space and then one more one-story wooden building, but I cannot recall the name of its occupant, and the rest of the west side was vacant.

Westward from here to the northwest comer of the block stood the jail. It was buitt of logs, two stories high, the entrance being on the upper floor, reached by an outdoor stairway on the south side.

Crossing the street was the Pitzer House, already described. Crossing the street there was a wide space on the north side vacant, the first building being occupied by James P. Noel as a furniture shop. William R. Danforth’s tin shop was the next and then was the two-story wooden building, the general store of Baxter & Kendig. A. J. Kendig was the agent of the United States Express’ Company and the office was in his store, and I think the Westem Stage Company had its office there. Next east was a small one-story building occupied by S. G. Ruby as a law office, and the sheriff used it as a stopping place. The drug store of I. L. Tidrick was next and on the comer was the grocery of Andrew Crawford.

Crossing the street eastward and passing two vacant lots one came to a one- story building formerly used as the postoffice, but then vacant. Crossing to the south side of the street was the furniture shop and dwelling of John Young, and from there to the north end of the east side of the square and on southward

3 thoughts on “William Forster (1794 – 1866) in Winterset, Iowa

  1. I have been searching for my ggg grandfather, William Foster (Forster) and his wife Polly for many years. My gg grandfather was Ithamar Foster, born in Indiana. Ithamar’s cemetery records show his father as Wm. Foster B. – NC (I think that might mean North Carolina.) What I find interesting about your William Forster is that he has a son named Aaron. In the bible, Ithamar is the fourth son of Aaron and I do find that interesting. Ithamar married a Julia McPhersonin 1850 and she appears to die somewhere between 1864 and 1870 as she disappears from the census. Another coincidence is that I believe that some of her family may have actually ended up in Winterset IA.
    I may be reaching for straws but that is all I have to go on. Have you ever taken a DNA test? Thanks for any help you might be able to give me.

    1. Hi Paul: I have done ancestry.com DNA and Family Tree DNA, ftdna.com, so if you’ve done either of those we can see if there’s a DNA link. Until now I haven’t found an Ithamar in my researches, but we could be related one or two generations further back. Dwight

      1. Hi Dwight, Thank you for your prompt response. I have also done both Ancestry.com DNA and FamilyTreeDNA/Foster Project. I am PaulFoster1007 on Ancestry.com. I’ll check out the DNA. Paul

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