Welcome to winter …

As I sit writing this, the wind is whipping snow horizontally past my window, filling the backsides of fences, making it hard to see Our Neighborhood across the street. I am so unfamiliar with this scene, having spent so many winters away from the Midwest, that I’ve taken to streaming the music I listen to while in Florida or California.

So, having vented (just a bit), I’ll let my imagination go to a warm time in Webster City history. It’s summer and folks are strolling along the banks of the “much wider” Boone River, enjoying the walkways and watching others boating on the water.

Selim Rosenkrans was born in New York in 1824 and grew up near Hammondsport, on a lake that connected to the Erie Canal. When he married Charlotte Larrowe, in 1856, the couple moved to Webster City and Selim partnered with C.T. Fenton in operating a sawmill. He soon became involved in the beginnings of the Republican Party, attending the first convention in Iowa as a delegate.

Selim also delivered the first Fourth of July address in 1857.

He was active in business as well, as president of the first building association building the first brick commercial structure located at what is now the Seneca Street Saloon.

Mr. Rosenkrans served as a state representative, was elected mayor of Webster City and, later, served on the city council for several terms.

Along the way, he purchased forested land and built other structures and many homes in town. He was, indeed, well-respected and had Webster City’s growth in his mind.

And then he built Rosenkrans Park …

The park, according to many writings and articles, was a favorite of the people for several summers. The Hamilton Freeman reported a crowd of some 2,500 attended the opening of the park in June of 1885. A special train from Lehigh brought visitors to the park to watch their baseball team play Webster City. It was, perhaps, a gathering like no other for the town.

That evening, the Webster City band serenaded Rosenkrans at his home, located on the corner of Seneca and First Street.

The park bordered the lake formed by the dam at the Chase Mill, creating a widened area of the Boone River that allowed a small steamboat to ply the waters. Rosenkrans Park’s main entrance was at Park and Dubuque streets and included natural springs, fountains and a boat house that provided rowboats and canoes.

The opening of the park in June was an annual highlight for Webster City, drawing many visitors from around the state.

Some years later, in the 1890’s, the love of the park waned. With all the visitors, local businesses actually lost money, as they said, because they were closed for the festivities.

Young people began to vandalize the park, tearing out flower beds and cutting down trees and shrubs. Rosenkrans eventually sold the property for development and moved out of town, no longer the beloved man he had been. He moved to Perry, Iowa, where he eventually died in 1901.

He returned to Webster City and “moved into Our Neighborhood” where he resides to this day.

And now, I suppose, it might be time to see how much snow has blown into the driveway … after just one more beach song.

Our Neighborhood is a column by Michael Eckers focusing on the men and women whose presence populates Graceland Cemetery in Webster City.


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