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Adair City

Adair City Hall is located at 320 Audubon Street, Adair, IA 50002; phone: 641-742-4751.

Beginnings [1]

The city of Adair was laid out on land that belonged to George Tallman during the summer of 1872 and was then named Adair. The plat of the city was filed on August 20, 1872. Nothing was done towards building the town until the following summer when the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad put a station in Adair and a lumberyard was constructed. The first house built in Adair was erected in the summer of 1873.

The first store in the city of Adair was established in the early fall of 1873 selling general merchandise by Moody and Moran of Casey. Multiple citizens opened up stores selling general merchandise soon after that.

In 1874 J.A. Ramsdell opened an agricultural machinery business. Other entrepreneurs soon followed his lead in the agricultural industry by establishing their own stores.

D.W. Moss constructed a building and started a pharmacy in the building. Soon others followed his lead and other pharmacies opened as well.

Other businesses that came to Adair in its period of steady growth included a jewelry store, grain businesses, shoe store, a harness shop, a blacksmith shop, and a physician's office. A number of banks also saw their start toward the end of the 19th century in the city of Adair.

Railroads undoubtedly played a significant role in the city of Adair's history as well as every other community in Adair County. From determining the settlement and location of the city of Adair to historic events, the city of Adair would be very different today if it weren't for the railroad industries of the industrial revolution.

The point where the city of Adair is located was chosen because it was the highest point on the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad when the railroad was projected through the county.

The first settlers in Summit Township, the township Adair is located in, were Azariah Sisson and his son William. William was a train dispatcher for the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad.

Being located on the main line of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad enabled the city of Adair to grow because it allowed the agricultural industry to export its goods and provided other convenient shipping opportunities.

On July 21, 1873, approximately two miles west of Adair, the James-Younger Gang's staged their first train robbery on the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad. About nine gang members participated in the robbery; Jesse James, Frank James, Cole Younger, Jim Younger, John Younger, Clell Miller, Bill Chadwell, Bob Younger and Charlie Pitts.

The gang met up close to Adair and several members stole a tie hammer and a spike bar from a handcar house. The gang met up about a mile and a half away from the depot. They loosened the spikes on the railroad and a rope was tied to the end of the disconnected north rail. The gang then hid nearby in a small bank and held onto the rope while waiting for the train. The gang had hoped for the train to halt, but it didn't. Instead, Engineer John Rafferty slammed on the air brakes and the train derailed. Rafferty was crushed by the engine and instantly killed. Fireman Dennis Foley was also seriously injured. No passengers were killed. Half of the gang boarded the train while the other half stayed outside holding the horses. They went to the express car and ordered, at gun point, guard John Burgess to open the safe. Burgess did this, but only $2,000 was in the safe. The gang, disappointed that there wasn't more money decided to go through the passenger cars and order the passengers to give up their jewelry and money. They stole only from the men. While this was going on inside the train, the gang members outside were shooting their guns into the air to keep the passengers inside the cars. After the gang finished with the passengers getting $1,000 from them, they ran outside, jumped on their horses, and vanished. They ran off with a total of $3,000 that day.

The White Pole Road has significance in Adair's history because part of the White Pole Road has its route passing through the city of Adair.

Due to the poor road conditions all over the state, travel was very difficult in the early 1900's. People from all over the state met and decided that there would be a road from Council Bluffs on the west river bank to Davenport on the East river side of Iowa. Five towns, including Adair, had been promoting a marked road between Atlantic and Des Moines through the White Pole Auto Club and they thought they could improve on the longer and hillier official northern route with a more southern route that would pass through the communities providing travelers a community every 5-6 miles to stop at. The original White Pole Road was designated in 1910 and followed along the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad from Des Moines to Council Bluffs. This road was shorter and less hilly making it easier for motorists. The White Pole Road was not funded by the state and was maintained by the local people. The incentive to maintain was to get people to pass by on the road making businesses grow and profit. Poles along the route were painted white for marking.

In the fall of 1912, the road eventually extended east from Des Moines to Davenport to encompass the entire state and eventually extended from Chicago to Denver. The White Pole Road became the first certified route under the provisions of the Iowa State Highway Commission. The White Pole Road went through a series of transitions and other highways were built in the area, including the introduction of Interstate 80. The White Pole Road began to lose its significance in automobile travel and so did many of the communities that relied on the travelers of the White Pole Road.

In 1980, the section of highway in the Adair area was renumbered 925 after previously being renumbered to U.S. Highway 6. In 2003, state highway 925 was given to the area counties and has been officially renamed the White Pole Road. Poles along the 26-mile stretch in the Adair area have been painted white and once again the people are in charge of maintaining the road and growing their communities.

  1. Adair County Comprehensive Plan, City of Adair, 2012,, accessed October, 2015.
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