The history of the Fremont Hotel is America's story. It's the story of war, immigration and the western migration
of settlers. My great great grandfather John Miller, built the Fremont Hotel in 1866. It was
an interesting time in our history. Immigrants like John came to America to escape the unending wars
John came to New York only to find America on the verge of civil war. So he sold his land, bought a stallion,
came to Iowa, sold his stallion and bought the land that I spent my early childhood roaming around on.
At that time, Iowa was the place to be if you wanted to avoid war. The Civil War started in 1861 a thousand miles
to the East and never did cross over the Iowa border.
Iowa escaped the worst of the Indian wars with only one massacre. The great Sioux war had already
been pushed out west of the Platte river and would begin in earnest with the Sand Creek massacre of 1864 and
reach a climax with Custer's last stand against Crazy Horse at the battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.
The immigrants who would stop for a bite to eat at the Fremont Hotel were likely taking part in the great
Black Hills gold rush of 1874. So John Miller must have heard a lot of their stories and have been
glad to live safely in Iowa, attending to the needs of travelers and their oxen.
This is an picture of the Fremont Hotel
taken circa the late 1870's. The people in the
picture are believed to be John Miller and his wife,
Mary, in the center with their son, George, standing
to the left. The worman on the far left is either George's
soon to be wife, Mary, or one of his sisters.
This is a picture of a mail delivery wagon
of the 1800s.
The Fremont Hotel owes it's beginning to the American
Constitution and it's directive to establish "post roads".
The Post Office had the responsibility of awarding contracts
to stage coach companies to carry mail and the Western
Stage Company had won that contract for Iowa.
The State of Iowa established the Toledo Road between
Cedar Rapids and Toledo in 1854, the Fremont Hotel
would become the only stage coach stop between these
I say towns because John Miller would later claim that Cedar
Rapids was too small to even have a market for his grain.
He would spend a week taking a load of grain to Iowa
City and bringing back supplies. Mail delivery
and transportation determined where towns would sprout
up. While the Fremont Hotel started as a stagecoach
stop Atkins owes it's existance to the railroad that
would come through and in 1881 the Milwaukee House Hotel
was built to house the men building the railroad.
So John had the Atkins hotel market all to himself for 15 years.
Mail delivery was an important part of all stage coach
stops and even my grandfather Charles would later deliver
mail by horse and buggy. Years later, I would
be thrilled at the sight of watching the trains pass
off the mail bags to the train depot in Atkins without
stopping. There was a hook at the edge of the
tracks and the train engineer would hang the mail bag
out the train window and the bag would catch that hook
and Atkins had it's mail.
My grandmother's recipe books and old Zenith radio.
memories are the stuff that family legends are made
of. And one of those legends has my grandmother
Ruth as a young girl of about 12 years old being alone
at the Fremont Hotel with her mother out in the fields
and the rest of the family gone. Mud roads were
legendary back then and thirty oxen with their drivers
stopped by because of the mud and my grandmother Ruth
took care of the oxen and fed the travelers all by herself!
It made for a great story and the reporter who interviewed
my grandfather believed every word of it!
my grandmother never cooked for guests of the Fremont
Hotel, she did use the kitchen. Cooking was a
lot different back then. Behind my grandfathers
house was a small building we called the summer kitchen.
Now put yourself in the middle of a hot summer, no air
conditioning and a dining room full of hungry travelers.
And all you have to cook with is a wood burning stove.
Can you imagine how hot that house would have been in
the summer? Well in the summer they would cook
in the summer kitchen and bring the food into the house.
Ruth loved to cook and while I never got to meet her
while she was alive, she did leave me with part of her
legacy in the form of three journals and a radio.
Radios were an important connection with the outside
world when you spend your life as a farm wife in the
1930's. And Grandma Ruth would sit by the Zenith
radio and record recipes in her journals that other
farm wives would send into the radio program.
As I looked through her hand written recipes, it struck
me that they didn't include any directions for time
And that makes sense when you cook with a wood burning stove.
A good cook knows how hot the fire is and when the food
is done. All farm wives cooked with wood burning
stoves back then. Some of the recipies even called
for open fires as the butchering took place outside.