Villisca is nestled between two rivers in the rolling hills and farmland of southwest Iowa. The town began as a settlement known as “The Forks,” and by 1858 the area had just two stores and a handful of homes.
In that year, the town was selected as a coveted spot on the Chicago, Burglington & Quincy Railroad line. The town was platted by one of the railroad employees, D.N. Smith, who named the town “Villisca,” believing it was a word from the Sac and Fox native American tribe for “pretty place” or “lovely view.”
However, historians now believe Smith mistook it for different local native American word, “Wallisca,” which meant “evil place.”
Even though the Civil War slowed the construction of the railroads, having been awarded coveted a spot on the CB&Q line ensured, the town flourished as a retail and agricultural trade hub. In 1867, the train line reached the town, and the town flourished.
By the turn of the century, Villisca had a variety of retail stores, restaurants, a theater and two large churches,
The United Methodist and the First Presbyterian, and by the turn of the century, boasted a robust population of 2,500 residents.
The community has a proud military history, beginning with the construction in 1912 of Iowa’s only publicly funded and longest operating Armory on the north side of the town square.
The 1912 Iowa Touring Atlas proclaimed it as “one of the finest towns in the state.” The brochure described it as a perfectly picturesque small town, populated with lovely Victorian homes on its tree-lined streets.
In the boom that followed the railroad opening, the house at 508 E. 2nd Street was built in 1868 on lot 310 for local resident George Loomis. The home would have echoed most others in the area in size and features, at about 600 square feet, with two bedrooms, a parlor, a downstairs sewing room and a kitchen and an outhouse. Loomis built a barn next to the house not long afterward. Josiah B. “J.B.” Moore purchased the home in 1903.