Callanan, Iowa - Hamilton County

Callanan was located in NW Sec 2-86-24 of Ellsworth Township. An addition, called North Callanan, was located just north across the township line in SE Sec 35-87-24 in Lyon Township. The two towns were considered as one for its brief, but violent, history. The people who lived here in four townships in the southeast corner of our county wanted a railroad, so they voted themselves a 5% tax to secure one. James Callanan, a Des Moines investor, was president of the Des Moines and Minnesota Railroad. His railroad was a narrow gauge line that connected Ames with Des Moines. He planned to expand it north to Minneapolis. The town of Callanan became the northern terminus of this expansion.

The town was originally planned to have the name Lakin, for an early pioneer, but to secure the railroad, the settlers instead named it Callanan. A post office was secured on April 10, 1878, with David Schoonmaker as the first postmaster. The town plat was not recorded until June, with North Callanan being recorded in January, 1879. The postmaster held up the mail, designated for Lakin's Grove, to increase the count for Callanan.

The town's violent history came about because it became a popular spot for rowdy folk from Des Moines to go for a happy weekend trip. The Callanan Hotel was busy; the many taverns made the liquor flow freely at all times. When sober residents objected, they were told that the business was good for Callanan. The town grew to have a population of about 200.

The railroad went bankrupt and the roadbed was taken over by the Toledo & Northwestern Railroad. The tracks were then converted to standard gauge, and the line was relocated to run to Jewell Junction, connecting with Ellsworth. Most of the town businesses moved to either Ellsworth or Jewell Junction. The Callanan town depot became the Ellsworth depot. The Callanan post office was closed on October 12, 1881.