Lehigh, Iowa

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Lehigh is a city in Webster County, Iowa, United States. The population was 497 at the 2000 census.

Located in a valley, Lehigh is divided in two by the Des Moines River, unusual for such a small town. Originally the two halves of Lehigh were two separate towns. While the town on the west side of the River was always called Lehigh, the east town was called Slabtown, and a piece of history marks the east side's roots––a sign that hangs over the playground with the words "Slabtown Traders," perhaps alluding to the flea market that occurs there every summer during Lehigh River Days. The "Slabtown Traders" sign was blown over by a gust of wind in the summer of 2010. It survived several floods while being located on River St. Lehigh was surrounded by coal mines until the early 20th century and home to a large clay sewer pipe factory until the 1980s. Dolliver State Park, Brushy Creek State Recreation Area and Woodman Hollow State Preserve are located within a few miles of the town.



Lehigh's first settlers, a Mr. Reed and Mr. Wright, set up a steam sawmill on the site in 1855. Originally, the town was named Slabtown because slabs, scrap from the mill, were used in construction). By 1870, there was a Methodist church and a school, and Oliver Tyson had purchased the mill and expanded it, adding a flour mill. Soon after this, Tyson opened a store.[1] The town was later renamed Lehigh, comparing the local coal veins to those of Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley.[2]

In 1871, W. C. Wilson of Webster City opened a coal mine in Lehigh and formed the Crooked Creek Railroad and Coal Company. The company built a 3-foot gauge rail line from Judd, on the Illinois Central Railroad 8.5 miles south to the mines, including a 370 foot wooden truss bridge across the Des Moines River. The line was later extended to Webster City. By 1894, the company had opened 5 mines, all using longwall mining. The Webster Coal and Land Company operated a mine near Lehigh from 1899 to 1902.[3]

In 1878, Lehigh shipped 5,640 tons of coal.[4] In 1883, 6,887 tons were shipped,[5] in 1884, 9,000 tons.[6]

The Crooked Creek railroad was widened to standard gauge in 1880 and a line to Webster City was built in 1886. In 1916, the line was incorporated into the Fort Dodge, Des Moines and Southern Railroad, Iowa's longest Interurban line. Diesel traction replaced overhead electric lines in the 1950s and the track was abandoned in 1962.[7]

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