No one seems to know when Independence Center (Old Baxter) began. It just grew. Over one hundred years ago a new schoolhouse with the inscription “Independence Center erected 1870” was built. The new schoolhouse was located at what is known today as the intersection of S-52 and Hwy F17. The National Archives at Washington D.C. states that Independence Center was established January 20, 1870. The name “Independence Center” was changed to “Baxter” February 16, 1872.
The government would not accept the name “Independence” because there was already an Independence, Iowa. The name “Sidney” after Sidney Baxter Higgins was then submitted only to be rejected for the same reason. Finally Higgins’ middle name, “Baxter”, was submitted and that prevailed. Sidney Baxter Higgins was postmaster from 1875 to 1884.
In the spring and summer of 1881, the Chicago, St. Paul and Kansas City, later the Chicago Great Western Railroad sent representatives to urge the people to vote on a 3 per cent tax on their lands to help construct a road from Marshalltown to Des Moines. Nothing more was heard of the railroad until July 11, 1883, the Newton Journal announced that a contract for grading the Diagonal was let to Henry and Balch, noted Minneapolis contractors. The work was to be completed in ninety days.
The community was excited and happy, but it couldn’t understand why the station should be placed a mile and a half to the east and north. Then came the moving to the new town site. In a few weeks all the buildings but the schoolhouse had been moved. The name went along with it too. But the former location, still claiming ownership, continues as OLD BAXTER.
Following the location of the station, the town was platted October 24, 1883. Wooden store buildings with high false fronts began to spring up along North Main St. The sidewalks were six feet wide and at the south end they were six feet above ground.
On May 29, 1894 Baxter was incorporated with 99 votes being cast – 58 for incorporation, 41 against.
On July 28, J.D. Richards became mayor.