History of Oran
Oran's past full of many hardships, successes
The political existence of Oran township dates from the first Monday in April, 1855. The first school was held in the winter of 1855-56.
First death of a white person was that of an emigrant passing through the township in 1852. He died in his wagon and was buried at his last camping place.
First Oran township post office was located on the southeast comer of Section 23 and was operated by J. W. Weeks.
In 1880 the land where Oran now stands was virgin prairie, with no fences except around a few small plots of grain. Most fences were zigzag rails or posts, with holes burned in them and rails with flattened ends stuck in from each side.
Wildcats were plentiful in those early years and enjoyed laying on the rail fences in the sun. There was a 50-cent bounty on them, and that was a lot of money for a boy in those days; so fellows usually carried strong clubs to help dogs kill the cats. Wolves were plentiful also, with a bounty on them, too.
Dairy farming was the principal industry around Oran. There was no herd law, and all cattle were turned out in the morning to wander to the best pastures. Several lead cows in the herd were belled. About four o'clock in the afternoon boys would start out in the direction where they hoped the cattle were. Often boys from several families wandered together, many times returning after dark with the herd.
The first creamery in the community was located three miles west of where Oran now stands. John Reith was the first person to pour a can of cream into the big vat which was used. That creamery existed for a few years, and in 1888 another was built at Minkler (a small community just across the line in Bremer county, in existence from the late 1880's to 1903).
Some of the early settlers were the Greens, Lockwoods, Schmits, Rundles, Kellys, Maleys, Can Cannons, Reiths, Shippys, and Gerkens. John Steggal raised the first wheat in 1854, cutting it with a cradle. He reaped 27 bushels from the crop and hauled it to McGregor, where he was paid only 40 cents a bushel.
Will Kelly taught the Weatherbee school, No. 2, in 1880 for $15 a month and $20 in winter.
Many men worked a ten-hour day, grubbing tree stumps for 50 cents. When the Chicago Great Western railroad was built from Oelwein to Clarion in 1903, the railroad condemned five acres of the Dick Rundle farm and built a depot which stood alone for several years. One day Elmer Shippy and other early pioneers met on the rails and planned a town plot, which was the way Oran was founded. It was named after the township and was organized in about 1906. First house was moved from Minkler in 1908. First business was a lumber yard, with S. M. Furrow as manager. Creamery was moved from Minkler to Oran in 1908, with Bert Bently as first buttermaker. Elmer Shippy and Frank Harwood built their store in 1909. Oran Savings Bank was opened in 1910. It burned in 1931 and was immediately rebuilt. It was one of the few banks in the state which did not close during the Bank Holidays in the 1930s.
Ed Lockwood built a garage and hardware store. A livery barn and blacksmith shop were built in 1912, and Joe Lorber and Phillip Schmit built a grocery and dry goods store.
When the farmers in the community felt they needed a stockyard, a smooth-talking stockbuyer came along who talked them into donating $1,700 for the project. He took the money to Waverly, where he reminded lawmakers that railroads were to build a stockyard wherever they had erected a depot. He left with the money and was never heard from again. The stockyard was built for Oran by the Chicago GreatWestern.
The first worship service in Oran was held on Main Street, conducted by a Presbyterian minister from Sumner, until the depot agent, J.N. Getz, received permission for the people to meet in the waiting room of the depot.
In 1912 the Rev. C. A. Paddicord came to the Methodist church in Fairbank and started services at the Dewey school one and one-half miles east and one mile north of Oran. It was there that plans were begun for a place of worship in Oran.
Building committee was composed of Richard Rundle, Ira Clark, and J. E. School. The active Ladies Aid Society, already organized in 1910, was instrumental in helping to pay for the church and later to keep it going. In 1913 Robert Swisher and his wife Myrtle deeded a lot in Oran to the Methodist church, and work began on the building, which cost $1,500. Dedication service was held May 24, 1914. First important improvements came after the powerline arrived in Oran in 1914. Electric lights replaced the gas fixtures in the next few years. More changes followed in 1940 and 1950.
Ward L. Donat son of Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Donat, is the only person to become a minister while a member of the congregation.
Through the years four pioneer names have remained on the records: Mrs. Maud Getz, Elmer Bennett, Dorothy Rundle, and Mrs. Ethel Cosselman.
St Peter's Lutheran Church, affiliated with The American Lutheran Church, was organized at Grove Hill on November 16, 1902, by the Rev. F. Schedtler, with 12 charter members.
The church building at Grove Hill proved to be too small, as years passed, and in 1955 it was moved to Oran and made larger with lumber from the old Zion Lutheran church in 0elwein, which had been sold by that congregation. In 1956 the church in Oran was dedicated and additional improvements have been made from time to time since then.
St Peter's Lutheran congregation celebrated its 65th anniversary in 1967.
Oran was in the center of four country school districts, which consolidated in about 1918, and a town school was constructed. First graduating class consisted of Earl Shippy and Marie Knochel.
First baby born in Oran was Leslie Getz.
The past was full of hardships and inconveniences, but there were also times of fun and entertainment.
House and barn dances, school programs with spelling bees, debates, and basket socials, and the Iyceum courses that came to town offered good times for everyone. Even politics was a joy in those days, when a big brush fire and rally were held with the caucus.