In 1865, Ohio resident William Cole got western fever and came to Iowa on the railroad which was being built across the state that year. One of many who moved west after the end of the Civil War, he bought 390 acres on the bluff west of the Skunk River. When he and his sons arrived with the family’s goods, depot conditions in Ames were very primitive. Their possessions were unloaded onto a wagon and it immediately became stuck in one of early Ames' famous bogs! With the aid of a logging chain, the wagon was pulled to firmer ground. The family’s farm included the area where Homewood golf course and Carr's Pool are now located, as well as some acreage on the east side of the Skunk River.
John, one of William’s sons, was 19 when he arrived in Ames in 1866, and had spent three years in the army during the Civil War. He was a husky lad who had not been able to attend much school, but was naturally bright. John bought land in the area of 13th and Burnett and continued farming. Eventually, he turned to brick making and owned a plant at 13th & Burnett and one northeast of town on his father’s farm. He later became a well-regarded general contractor, a business he pursued for 35 years.
Two of John’s four sons, Lew and Ben, and then later Ben and his son Herman, continued in the building business. Ben passed away in 1939. John Cole's home at 13th & Burnett was occupied by family members from 1866 to 1967, when the last of John’s daughters died. The house was sold to the First Assembly of God and was demolished to make way for a church.
The jog in 13th Street at Burnett was caused when John planted a row of trees along the road. When the city wanted to straighten and pave the street, John refused to let them cut down the trees to do it!
In addition to Ben, there were three other boys. William continued to farm on land south of town. Clarence Dig graduated from the Veterinary Department of Iowa State and was in charge of the Agricultural Experiment Station on the bank of the Skunk River, east of town. It was the forerunner of the National Animal Disease Laboratories. Lew and Dig were members of Ames High's first football team.
The girls were Elizabeth, Jess, Nell, Catherine (Kate) and Avis. Elizabeth, Jess, and Kate homesteaded in South Dakota and then returned home to Ames. Avis taught first grade in Old Central (east of Clark between 5th and 6th) and Roosevelt School for about 40 years. Nell was a school teacher at the Ray School and Catherine was with the Iowa State Extension Service for many years. The girls were all active in social clubs of the day. Catherine and Jess were members of a merry social club called the Bachelor Maids which started when they were in high school and continued until all were quite advanced in years.
There are fourth, fifth, and sixth generations of the Cole family still living in Ames.
Examples Of Cole-built Structures
(John, Lew, Ben, or Herman)
Ames Savings and Loan Building
Logan, Lincoln Highway
(largest viaduct in Iowa)
Mahaska County, Highway No. 2
(longest bridge in Iowa on state highways)
City of Ames
City Hall (formerly Ames High School)
Filtration Plant & Reservoir
Lincoln School addition
Louise Crawford School (1930)
Underpass on Grand Avenue (1938)
Water Softening Building & Plant
College Savings Bank
Duitch (Max) Garage
Fair Store (1895)
Fareway Grocery at 417 Kellogg (1938)
Iowa State College buildings
Fraternities & Sororities
Alpha Sigma Phi
Beta Theta Pi
Delta Delta Delta
Delta Sigma Phi
Gamma Phi Beta
Pi Kappa Alpha
Sigma Phi Epsilon
Memorial Union 4th & 5th floors
Knapp (Herman) residence
Lechner Building (formerly Adams Building)
McFarland Clinic at 313 5th Street
Octagon (formerly Masonic Building)
St. Cecilia Catholic Church on Lincoln Way
Sheldon-Munn Hotel addition to the west
Standard Oil Station
West Super Service Station
Yates Oil Co.