Latitude / Longitude:
42° 48′ 28 N, 91° 21′ 5 W
Central (CST) (UTC-6)
Motor is an unincorporated community in Clayton County, Iowa, United States. The townsite is also a nationally recognized historic district listed as a historic site on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
John Thompson, J.P. Dickinson and James O. Crosby formed a partnership in the early 1860s. They planned to build a gristmill, a sawmill, a farm and a town that they called Motor. The site they chose had been the location of a previous sawmill named Hastings Bottom. They began construction of the mill and the cooperage in 1867. The mill was in operation by 1870, and the town was laid out in 1875. Because of their success with establishing nearby Elkader, they were confident that Motor would be equally successful. The townsite includes the gristmill, a bridge across the Turkey River, cooperage, smoke house, an old inn, and the livery barn. The site also contained a few houses, a school, general store, sawmill and a tavern.
A narrow-gauge railway was completed within 4 miles (6.4 km) of Motor in 1874. A station house was built, a station agent was hired, and track was scheduled to be laid in 1875, but a flood wiped out the ties and the railroad never made it to Motor. Cinch bugs wiped out the local wheat crop and local farmers moved on to other crops. Because of that the mill closed in 1882. The partnership that built the town dissolved, and the district court auctioned the property in 1891. Louis Klink bought the property in 1903. He sold the mill machinery and he used the buildings for his farm operation. The property remained in the family for 80 years. The Clayton County Conservation Board acquired the property in 1983. The area is now a 155-acre (63 ha) park with hiking trails, a primitive campground, and a place to launch canoes. It is part of the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area.