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Cities of Cerro Gordo County

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Clear Lake

Incorporated in 1871, the city is named for the large lake on which it is located. It is the home of a number of marinas, state parks, and also a popular summer destination for many vacationers. Clear Lake is also home to the Surf Ballroom, famous venue where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper played their last show.

For more information visit the City of Clear Lake Website or the Clear Lake Tourism Website.


Founded in 1900, it gets its named from one of the first settlers to the community Irish immigrant Daniel Dougherty. The town of Dougherty owes its beginnings to the building of the Iowa, Minnesota and North Western Railroad, which was later purchased by the Chicago and North Western Railroad, before the track was completed to Belle Plaine, Iowa.

Mason City

Originally called Masonic Grove in 1853 by one of the first settlers to the area Mr. John Long. Mason City gets its name from the order of Freemason from which Mr. John Long was a member of. Mason City is known for its musical heritage, consistently producing successful performers and educators. The city was once home to Meredith Willson who’s crowning achievement was the famous musical The Music Man, which was inspired by his childhood years in Mason City. Mason City is also known for its collection of Prairie School architecture, the largest concentration of any city in Iowa. It is also home to the Park Inn Hotel designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The hotel is the only remaining operating hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright remaining in the world.

For more information visit the Mason City Website or the Visit Mason City Tourism Website.


Incorporated in 1893, the town of Meservey gets its name from a prominent Fort Dodge, IA citizen by the name of S.T. Meservey. S.T. Meservey was a big promoter in getting the Chicago Great Western Railroad to put a railway through the city of Meservey, (which at the time was called Kausville) that would connect Fort Dodge and Mason City. For more information visit the Meservey Website.


Founded in 1858 the town of Plymouth was so named as a large granite boulder was found in the area and reminded the Pioneers of “The Plymouth Rock” in Massachusetts. Like so many of the other small towns of Cerro Gordo County Plymouth benefited by having the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad tracks that were laid through the newly build town. Plymouth, being located on the banks of the Shell Rock River was able to furnish its newly built town with a water powered mill that was capable of grinding what into many grades of patented flour. For more information visit the Plymouth Website.

Rock Falls

Incorporated in 1882, Rock Falls name was derived from a falls in the Shell Rock River over a solid lime rock ledge of about four feet in height. The ledge is in existence still to this day. Like its neighboring city Plymouth, Rock Falls benefited from the Shell Rock River as well. A grain and saw mill were built which brought prosperity and major industry to the town. For more information visit the Rock Falls Website.


Originally called Linn Grove in 1854, was named after the larger cluster of Linden/Basswood trees that were in the area. Then in 1870, name was changed to Rockwell, after George B. Rockwell. Mr. Rockwell moved to the area from Milton, New York and became engaged in teaching, farming, studying, and practicing law. He is considered the founding town father and was one of the more influential community, spiritual, and educational leaders.


Like the neighboring town of Meservey, Swaledale came into existence in thanks to the Chicago Great Western Railroad that ran tracks through the town. Mr. Hamilton Browne, a contractor from Fort Dodge, IA was one of the first settlers to the area and as a promise to his wife he named the town after her maiden name (Swale). It was thought that the village was located in a valley or dale at the time and therefore the town name Swaledale was adopted.


Incorporated in 1892, the name comes from one of the early settlers Mr. J.T. Knapp (Thornton was his middle name). This area of the county had many undrained water areas and marshy spots which made it suitable for cattle grazing which helped the early begins of Thornton combine with the newly built railway which connected Fort Dodge and Mason City, IA. For more information visit the Thornton Website.


Incorporated in 1895, the town’s name comes from one of its first settlers Mr. Thayer. Mr. Thayer was the first to cut baled hay and sold from the first railroad siding he built. Thayer's Siding was the first identification or railroad siding name used for the town. When the railroads came through, they passed through land obtained through land grants. Some land grants were owned by families and the towns were named after these families. This railroad siding - Thayer's Siding may have been so named. The U.S. government gave the railroad land to build the railroads not in land grants. Wild hay was cut and baled to sell from what is now the marsh. When asked what they wished to call the siding, as the story goes, the Skene Bros. said that being in the area was quite a 'venture'. Thus the new choice for the town name was made. However, to identify the freight lading for the railway, the town name needed to be included. In the process, the name Venture was changed to Ventura.  With a city motto of, “Sportsman’s Paradise,” it is a destination for those who enjoy fishing, hunting, boating, biking, and snowmobiling. For more information visit Ventura Website.