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It was a time of optimism and growth, a further development in what had been dubbed our “Manifest Destiny”. The population was settling the West and railroads were an important part of it. The investors in the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad had big plans which would connect already existing lines and branches in the West to the east. They studied the maps, then drew a straight line from Chicago to Kansas City, MO. The line passed through farm and pasture land plus a few small towns. Further study convinced them that at a point between Carrolton and Ft. Madison, IA the steam engines in use at that time needed to refuel with coal and take on water to make the steam that powered them. A dot was placed on land that belonged to McGonegal, Ryan and Bresnan farms, and at that spot a town would be. It would be built and it would be named Baring in honor of the Barring Brothers firm in London who had invested in the venture. The roadbed was laid and rails were spiked to treated ties. In November 1887 the rails reached, then passed the place where Baring was developing. Agents had bought land and laid out streets and lots, then began selling them in 1888.
The business men of the town of Edina really wanted the railroad to come their way. Negotiations were underway to convince the company to make a curve in that straight line and come there, but the asking price to do that was extremely high and the money couldn’t be raised, so it was that Baring was built as planned. Men were hired to work on the road bed and the lake. A man was paid $1.50 per day or $3.50 if he provided a mule or horse to work six 10 hour days…. good pay for that time and a welcome cash supplement to the income from their farms.
The lots sold quickly and businesses began with hotels, restaurants, grocery and hardware stores, lumber yards and blacksmiths opening, plus homes, churches and the school. By 1890 the population was 266 and by 1910 it peaked at 379.
Agents of the ATSF bought land and laid out streets and lots, then began selling them in 1888. Soon it was possible to board a passenger train at the Baring depot and go east to Chicago or west all the way to Los Angeles, CA. I’m sure readers will recall that jazzy syncopated song sung by Judy Garland, “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe”.
Time passed and the sound of the trains were heard in Baring through the Spanish-American war, World War I, the flu pandemic, the roaring ‘20s, the Great Depression, then World War II. The steam engines gradually gave way to the diesel engines that pulled fast moving streamliners and all kinds of freight cars. Coal became obsolete and eventually the last coal chute was blasted down. Employment was reduced as passenger service decreased and the depot was no longer open round the clock. The telegraph click clack ended and bit by bit, everything declined.
Even the name was changed due to a merger with the Burlington Northern line in 1995. On Nov. 3, 2009, Warren Buffet, the so called “Oracle of Omaha” announced the takeover of the line by his investment company, Berkshire-Hathaway for the astounding sum of 44 billion dollars. Amtrak had already taken over passenger service and eliminated stops at Baring. One after another freight trains sped through, still giving the whistle of two longs and a short at the two crossings, then faded away either to the east of west. The cars were all the same and loaded with freight of all kinds on the long haul to a point where they were transferred to trucks that unloaded at the final destination. Railroad were needed more than ever now with the highways congested with trucks and general traffic on many lanes leading into cities. Once again, Mr. Buffett had invested wisely as profits continue to increase.
What happened to Baring? Recent population is projected at 128. Most of the buildings are gone including the hotel, school and once thriving places of business. One restaurant is busy serving highway crews and local folks with home style meals. The lake sold long ago to the Baring Country Club with the shore lined with vacation cabins and a few permanent residents who enjoy the beauty of the place once used to supply water for steam engines.
Hear them….two longs and a short at the two crossings, but the trains do not stop at Baring anymore.
Submitted by Marilyn Goodwin