Story City History

The first settlers, primarily of Scandinavian heritage, came to Story City in the 1850s from several Eastern states looking for new land to settle. They preferred to live near the Skunk River (then called the Chicaque) because it provided ready access to water & timberland which surrounded its banks.  Originally called Fairview, Story City owed its growth, if not its initial settlement to the arrival of the railroad & Norwegian immigrants. The Fairview settlement remained small & relatively insignificant until after the Civil War.

By the 1860s the settlement activity quickened.  Norwegians who had first come to Illinois from their native country in the 1850’s found land in Story County both inexpensive to buy ($1.25 an acre) and profitable to farm.  American farmers & merchants followed the Scandinavians.

The Des Moines & Minnesota railroads’ arrival in 1879 assured a continuous existence for this small town.  As in so many towns in Iowa, the railroad proved a vital factor in touching off a local commercial boom.  Farmers in the area enjoyed the conveniences of delivering their produce to this new depot in preference to the tedious, mud-ridden haul to Ames & Gilbert.  The Northwestern, a railroad line running east to west, arrived at the Fariview settlement in 1881.

That same year, 1881, the town incorporated. When the post office was established, it was discovered that there was already a post office with the name of Fariview. The town name was changed to Story City, after associate justice of the United States Supreme Court Joseph Story. The town began expanding away from the Skunk River towards the depot and Story City’s financial activity expanded with the advent of numerous small scale industries and manufacturing works.

Story City’s population was composed of a Scandinavian mixture of mainly Norwegians and some Danes. The Norwegians pushed into Iowa not only in quest of cheaper land, but also for the freedom to establish a new Lutheran congregation; in fact, they organized three Lutheran churches. The Norwegians also had a newspaper printed in their native language. Throughout the city’s history the Scandinavians have contributed to the city’s vitality.