What a beautiful way to start
The history of Marion, Iowa began in the first legislative assembly of Iowa Territory. On January 15, 1839, the County of Linn was organized, the government surveys having been partially completed in preparation for the sale of the land. Three commissioners were selected to "locate the seat of justice in said county," having in mind the convenience and 'healthfullness' of the location. The site of the present town of Marion was their choice, it being on high ground, with a gentle slope leading to an adjacent water-power site on Indian Creek. The first cabin had been erected on the site that became Marion by Albert K. Farnsworth in 1838.
The original town survey was completed in November, 1839. The name "Marion" was a tribute to General Marion, whose biography was a popular feature of early American literature. In February, 1840, a new local Board of Commissioners entered the townsite at the Dubuque land office. While the numerous small merchants, professional people, tradesman and others were establishing permanent homes, a series of lot auctions were held to finance the original county buildings.
The year of 1840 saw the building of a two-story log tavern by Luman M. Strong and a water-powered sawmill on Indian Creek by Hiram Beales. Thompson and Woodbridge were the proprietors of the first store (at 11th St. and 10th Ave.). The leading pioneer merchant, Addison Daniels, built the second store on 10th Street. The year also heralded Thomas Hare as the first blacksmith, the first frame building, the "American House," the first "Temperance Hotel built by O.S. Hall, and the temporary log court building, opposite the southwest corner of the park.
The permanent brick county court building was completed in 1844 to serve a county population of 2,700. It was remodeled in 1877 and an office building was added. On November 6, 1919, the county seat was transferred to neighboring Cedar Rapids, which by then had the necessary voting strength to approve the action. The focal point for recruiting volunteers in the Civil War was the courthouse. Nine full companies were enlisted and Linn County was named the most patriotic county in Iowa.
Some of the teachers in the early private schools are well-remembered. Miss Legare and Isbell Small, were ladies well-equipped in music, the languages and art. Of these, Miss Small, a graduate of Mt. Holyoke College, organized the "Young Ladies' Literary Society" in 1867. A few years later, this group became known as the "O.O.P. Club," the oldest women's study club in Iowa.
Another well-known educational facility in Marion was St. Berchman's Seminary, established in 1905 by the Sisters of Mercy as a boarding school for small boys. The academy consisted of five buildings spread over 23 acres. Today, the main building still stands at First Avenue and 15th Street and is in use as an apartment building.
The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad played an important part in the history of Marion. The city is situated on the main line between Chicago and Omaha, and until 1957 served as a division point, which meant that sizeable yards, a roundhouse and machine shop were located in Marion. The railroad was the largest employer in Marion from World War I until the Depression. At the peak of rail travel, approximately 50 passenger trains stopped in Marion daily, the last of which was the famous Union Pacific "Western Cities" that arrived in Marion April 30, 1971, on the eve of Amtrak.