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First Store
in Black Hawk County (site)


Cedar Falls
First and Main Streets

Wherever there was a settlement in the West there soon arose the need for a trading post or general store, a place where pioneers could purchase the necessities and frivolities they could not make for themselves. When Andrew Mullarky came to Cedar Falls in 1850, he saw this need and did something about it. He established the Black Hawk Store on this site, starting with a small stock of goods he had brought with him from Freeport, Illinois.

Mullarky was born in 1820 in County Mayo, Ireland. He came to the United States at the age of 10. When he settled in Cedar Falls it was a town of only 135 people, and his was the only retail store in the county; but already there were signs of progress.

Next to his store was the Overman millrace, which fed a sawmill (1848) and a grist mill (1850). In front of the store, Main Street twisted its way north and south so as to avoid the many tree stumps that still dotted the road. The edges were rough, but prospects seemed bright to Mullarky.

Provisions for the Black Hawk Store were hauled from Dubuque by oxen, a journey that sometimes required two weeks. One of the teamsters engaged by Mullarky was James Streeter, father of author Bess Streeter Aldrich.

For a time, the Black Hawk Store served a second purpose. Mullarky was custodian of county records when the Black Hawk County seat was established at Cedar Falls. He kept the county's official papers in the loft of his store from 1853 to 1855, making it the first "courthouse" in the county.

The millrace that was a source of prosperity for Mullarky and the town proved to be his undoing. On a dark night in December 1863, he fell into the millrace as he left his store and drowned.

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Last updated Wednesday, June 16, 2004

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