Deeply Rooted in Central Iowa
Founded as a town in 1855; “Forest City” was not the first name given to our community in its founding years. In the beginning it was known as Puckerbrush, Big Brush, or Hill City. Robert Clark, the official founder and surveyor of Forest City, deemed “Forest City” as the official name because it was literally cutout of a forest. Most will agree that Mr. Clark made the right choice. In 1878, Forest City was incorporated, and the first mayor, Eugene Secor, was elected.
Forest City’s first train arrived at 3:30 pm on December 10, 1879; a cold and stormy day. The weather didn’t stop residents from turning out to welcome the arrival of the new rail lines at the depot. Rail service meant many things to our community: instead of going to Mason City, McGregor, or Dubuque for supplies or mail, it now arrived by train; instead of cutting down trees for heating, coal was now brought in; instead of riding a buckboard behind a horse to travel long distances, you could ride in the comfort of a Pullman Car; farmers could now ship products from their farms. Eventually two passenger trains and two freight trains arrived and departed daily from Forest City’s two train depots.
When the rail line was built, telegraph poles were erected beside the rail bed. Two weeks after the arrival of the first train, Christmas Day 1879, the first telegraph message went out from Mayor Secor to our friends in Lake Mills.
Voted by Winnebago County supervisors to be County Seat at their June 17, 1896, County Supervisors meeting because the residents of Forest City had a 1,645 signature petition, representing 70% of the county’s voters, to counter Lake Mills’ 1,154 signature petition. The original portion of our current 5 story courthouse was built in just six months with only manual labor-no trucks, no backhoes, no cranes; just people, sweat and engineering. The original portion is still standing more than 100 years later. The cost of the building was $20,496.