Once upon a fairy tale people came across the plains searching for a new life in a new land – all kinds of people from all kinds of places. In the 1860’s a stalwart group of pioneers came over a hill and discovered a lush green valley where a gentle stream flowed into a beautiful river. The banks were lined with trees, mostly willow and maple. One excited fellow cried out, “This is my dream come true!”
Thus the little settlement was born and they called it Bluff Dale. Slowly they came, other early settlers seeking their fortunes, who found Bluff Dale to their liking. When the Civil War was over the lure of land grants and the fertile soil brought about a rapid increase in the population of the area. A gristmill was built and the village became an important center for farmers in the region to bring their grain. As Bluff Dale grew it was decided they should have a more dignified name and Willow Dale was chosen.
In 1877 when the railroad laid tracks just a short distance northwest of them the people were growing tired of facing occasional flooding and decided to move the entire settlement. They moved lock, stock, and barrel, including most of their buildings, and relocated along the railroad tracks where they built a depot. They became the hub of the livestock business with area farmers herding their livestock in for shipment to Chicago. Other businesses followed and Willow Dale became a thriving “boom” town.
There was already a Willow Dale elsewhere in Iowa so another name change became necessary. Stories had long been told of a fierce battle that took place in 1849 between a group of government surveyors and the Sioux Indians on a hill east of the town. The site became known as Battle Hill and the creek and the town took the name Battle Creek. Through the years many human bones and relics have been found indicating the truth of the battle stories and a stone monument along the highway pays homage to the historical event. In those days our town included several adjacent areas, known as Dinty’s Park, Dutch Hollow, Schau Town and Hell’s Bend (whose reputation reportedly spawned the name).
So Battle Creek prospered through the years and made a name for itself in many ways. But like most small towns that depend on agriculture for its success they began to downsize as farms consolidated and farm families dwindled. Job opportunities diminished and people and businesses were forced to move elsewhere. We saw many changes and lost many things that were important to us, but a bit of that old pioneer spirit remains and we survive. We have settled down to a peaceful, comfortable place to live with just enough going on to keep us happy and let us take care of our business.
We have almost 800 warm and friendly people, most of who know more about your business than you would like, but most of who will also be at your door to help you if it’s needed. We try to take care of our own. We are mostly honest people although we admit to having a few cantankerous cranks, but we love them too and they do add a bit of local color.
We provide our people with almost all the basic necessities and what we don’t have is nearby. We have great volunteer fire and ambulance departments who really know what they’re about, two active churches, a well-staffed nursing home/rehabilitation center, recreation facilities include a community building/library, three city parks, and a man-made lake called Crawford Creek a few miles south. Crawford Creek is a beautiful and popular area with a swimming beach, clean and modern showers and restrooms, a shelter house, camping pads, and cozy log cabins. There is a boat ramp, docks and piers, including one for the handicapped. The 62-acre lake provides good fishing. A camper’s dream! In the planning stages for the city are a walking trail and new playground equipment.
Our little town takes on a new atmosphere on the Fourth of July when our traditional celebration goes into action. The traffic is heavy, the campgrounds are at capacity, and the downtown streets are crowded with old faces and new. There are fun activities for all ages, food stands, and the streets are lined with spectators who enjoy the fun of a small town parade. A big crowd gathers at dusk at our “natural amphitheater” to watch the firemen’s spectacular fireworks.
Points of interest include a wildlife museum and a bed and breakfast. The Battle Hill Museum is most unusual for a small town, or even a large town, for that matter. It brings visitors and tour groups from far and wide to see the thousands of specimens and dioramas. It is locally operated and there is no charge for admission. The Inn at Battle Creek is a popular bed and breakfast with gourmet dining established in a beautifully restored Victorian house.
You can gas up your car or get it repaired; you can have your hair done or open an account at the bank; you can visit the library or even buy a log home. You can find something to drink or get a good meal – the potatoes don’t come from a box and the gravy doesn’t come from a can. You can even buy fresh, homemade bakery items on Saturday mornings. If that’s not enough, you can find a group of men at one coffee shop and a group of women at the other almost every morning working at solving all the world’s problems. They would welcome your input. We can provide most of the essentials and if we haven’t got it, we can get it. But, by the way, if you’ve had a life-long dream of operating a small town grocery store we would be more than happy to provide a space for you!
So these are the times of Battle Creek – the good times, the bad times, and all the in-between times. Where you can dial a wrong number and talk for twenty minutes. Where everybody knows your name. It is our town and we like it here. Something about it even brings former residents back here to retire. We appreciate the fact that so many before us gave so much to our community so we can live happily ever after.