A brief history lesson

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part column on Marshalltown’s Army National Guard. The second installment will be published Sept. 19.

Recent publicity would help many local residents know the Iowa Veterans Home opened in 1887.

Consequently, one of the largest veterans homes in the United States will be celebrating its 130th birthday Wednesday with an open house.

Self-guided tours and other events, including a visit from Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, among others, are scheduled.

But how many residents know the history the town’s Army National Guard?

The “Fifty Years of Progress in Marshalltown”, published June 6, 1949, opened this writer’s eyes to its early history.

The bottom line: Be it Afghanistan, combat during the Civil War, or responding to a 1945 riot at Eldora’s Iowa State Training School For Boys, floods or train wrecks, members of Marshalltown’s guard have responded.

The current unit represents a long line of militia companies that have been stationed here from 1861 to 1900 and from 1923 to present — 133 years.

The unit’s names have ranged from the Bowen Guards of Civil War days to Company D, Fifth Iowa Infantry to Company D in 1949.

It has been active in war and peace time.

When the Spanish American War broke out in 1898, Marshalltown had a guard company — H of the 49th Iowa and it was promptly sworn into federal service. During most of the time during that short period of warfare, this company was stationed in Jacksonville, Fla., and at the close of hostilities became part of the Cuba occupation army.

After the company returned from Cuba, an attempt was made to continue the militia company and regular drill meetings were held until shortly after 1900. Then, the company was disbanded and it was 23 years before Marshalltown again was represented.

It remained for an overseas veteran from World War I, Edward Conley, then operating a local bakery, to bring Marshalltown back into the national guard cities in 1923. When the guard was reorganized after World War I, Marshalltown was not assigned a unit because this city had not had one before the war.

By early 1923, however, the unit at Harlan was not doing well and guard officials were seeking a new location. Conley pursued it and on March 15, 1923, the T-R carried a news story to the effect a company might be formed here.

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com