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-Taken from “1881 Bancroft Centennial” published by the Bancroft Centennial Celebration Committee and the Bancroft Comprehensive Development Plan and Zoning Ordinance handbook.

The Beginning of Bancroft
In 1852, the Iowa and Minnesota state line was surveyed with Bancroft County adjacent to it.  The county was named after historian and diplomat George Bancroft.  Three years later, Asa Call was successful in merging Bancroft County with Kossuth County. The town of Bancroft, Iowa, was first surveyed in the fall of 1881 at the direction of the
Western Town Lot Company. 
 

Serving as an important agricultural and railway hub for the area, numerous merchants established operations in Bancroft in that first year, including a grocery, lumber yard, iron forge and hardware store, as well as three restaurants, the Bank of Bancroft, and a hotel, the Globe House. The importance of education to local residents, still a high priority to this day, was evident with the earliest formal schools in operation by the winter of 1881-1882.

In April 1882, D. A. Ellis started the Bancroft Register, a newspaper still in publication to this day. Soon there were three hotels serving visitors to Bancroft. A fire on December 13, 1893, the second such incident in a decade, destroyed much of the downtown area to the north of Main Street including the newspaper, thus much of the early history of the area has been lost. 

 

The late 1800's and early 1900's saw George and John Holloway's world famous diving horses (more information here). After watching their horses dive into a river, the Holloway's constructed a 75 foot chute at the east end of Main Street.  The horses would dive into the water at the bottom of the chute.  A special show was held in Bancroft on Easter Sunday, 1900. The act was shown throughout the nation. Acts were also exhibited in Ireland and in front of England's Queen Victoria. 

By the early 1900’s four general stores, two drug stores, and two hardware stores were located in Bancroft.  Early telephone service was established around 1900 and a waterworks system had been in operation since 1895.  Many of the merchants and business established during this period are familiar to residents today. These include Bancroft Register; Farmers and Traders Savings Bank; Hatten Brothers; Kennedy Brothers, Department Store; P. J. Nemmers; and Welp Cement Products.

By 1910, the city had a water system and phone system.  A sanitary disposal plant was constructed in 1920.  The city made several improvements to the municipal sanitary sewer system in 1972.  City-wide electrical service was made available by Interstate Power Company in 1929. Electric service became a municipal utility in 1938. 

In 1939, voters approved the construction of an electrical generating plant to serve the town.  Numerous expansions and additions to the plant have been made to meet growing demands of residents and customers. Today, Bancroft Municipal Electric Utility serves the residents of Bancroft, rural agricultural customers and the nearby community of Burt. 


A joint fire department between the City of Bancroft, Greenwood Township, and Ramsey Township was established in 1944.  In 1934, J.H. Sheridan termed Bancroft "The Garden Spot of Iowa," a slogan that has existed since.  At least $25,000 worth of damage occurred when a tornado ripped through town in 1943.  Bancroft's first television set was viewed at Jake's Farm and Home Store in 1949.

 

The famed and historic Bancroft Memorial Baseball Park opened for play in 1948 on land donated by W. A. Murray, V. J. Lattimer, and the McGuire family. A $5,000 donation by the American Legion helped finance park construction. Today there is covered seating for nearly 1,000 fans who turn out to watch their favorite team play including the North Sentral Kossuth Eagles, who call the ballpark home.

In 1960, the U.S. Census showed that Bancroft had the largest population gain in the county as it went from 901 persons in 1950 to 991 in 1960.  Heritage Home ,the city's nursing home facility opened its doors in 1964.

 

Learning and a thirst for knowledge drove the establishment of the Bancroft Public Library in1961 by William Droessler and James Kennedy. The library served the community out of the Bancroft Public school before a new library building was constructed in 1969. Since its early days, the library has partnered with area schools. In the 2007-2008 school year there were over 5,000 student visits to the library.  Today, the library has a collection greater than 19,500 volumes. In 2008, there were a total of 24,480 visits by 1,492 patrons. Library patrons circulated 27,533 books, videos and other materials and nearly 5000 users accessed the libraries computers.

 

The Bancroft Housing Agency operates 28 low rent housing units near the Bancroft Golf Course. The complex, constructed in 1969, offers 1, 2, 3, and 4 bedroom units to eligible families under guidelines established by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.  The Chicago and Northwestern Railroad closed the Bancroft Depot office in 1971.  The 90 year old depot was subsequently demolished by the company in 1972.  The city was declared a "Bicentennial Community" in 1976.  To qualify, the city displayed hand painted flags from June 14 to July 4.  This "Avenue of Flags" coupled with the city's musical, "Hear America Sing" aided in it getting this designation.

 

The loss of area ambulance service in 1976 created a void Bancroft leaders were quick to fill. Numerous fundraisers were held and greater than $30,000 was contributed towards the effort. Soon the Bancroft Emergency Medical Service was established. Bancroft EMS now serves the area with twenty-four hour ambulance service. In 2007, the ambulance moved to its present location in the Bancroft Medical Clinic.