Our History

More than 160 years ago Robert Clark, a native of Pennsylvania, sought out a better life in the westward settling of a new state called Iowa-"Land between two rivers". As he traveled from Mason City northwest to the new frontier, he came to a spot where a river flowed, trees were plentiful for building and a giant prairie laid to the West, which was abundant with deer, elk, and a buffalo-a perfect combination. Here Mr. Clark, in 1855, set the pin stakes for a town called Forest City, which was literally carved out of the native forest.

Although the Civil War interrupted the growth of Forest City, the benefits of the new community were attractive to immigrant settlers. In 1879, a new rail line running between Minneapolis and St. Louis brought new faces and new languages from Sweden, Norway, Germany, and Denmark to Forest City. In the 1900's, Forest City's history showed the progressiveness that continues today in the community. New schools, banks, churches, and the formation of Waldorf University, and the introduction of electricity and telephone turned Forest City into a county seat town ideal for raising families and growing industry.

Entrepreneurship has always thrived in Forest City. A new county courthouse was built in 1896, which still stands majestically today in the center of town. Two large first class hotels were built in town, one which became in 1903, what we know today as Waldorf University. The formation of the Farmer's Cooperative, in 1916, helped develop the rich area land base which, in 2007, grew the largest average county corn yield per acre in any county in Iowa. In 1924, citizens stepped forward to preserve the remnants of the beauty of the Wisconsin Glacial Drift, which is enjoyed by thousands today as Pilot Knob State Park. Great strides continued in 1960 when local investors, headed by John K. Hanson and Elliot Cooper, took over a failing out of town travel trailer factory and made it into Winnebago Industries today's leader in worldwide RV motor home manufacturing. Last, but not least, what began as a physics project in the Forest City Community Schools, a wind turbine was added to their facilities in the fall of 1998, which generated savings for the schools, cranking green power to the classroom and community

If there were a book title for this Winnebago and Hancock Counties town, it would be: "Forest City - A Place to Grow... families, education, government, industry and productive farm fields." Welcome to our community, where roots run deep to grow the future!

Riley Lewis-Historian