Early Citizens of Council Bluffs – Royal Amy

This is part 2 of a continuing series about the history of Council Bluffs and its early citizens.

Royal D. Amy was born in 1834 in Concord, Ohio.

In 1847 Royal arrived in Kanesville with his parents.  Figuring out how he got here is a bit confusing.  In an 1895 interview Royal said that he arrived in Kanesville on the river boat Archer.  In his obituary it states that he came west with John A Creighton.  Of course John A Creighton didn’t arrive in the area until 1856.

In 1852 or 1853 Royal married Mary Edwards, by 1856 they had two children, James and Walter.

Mary Edwards Amy was born in Liverpool, England in 1836.  She came to the United States in 1841 and by 1851 found herself in Kanesville, Iowa.

In an 1895 interview in the Daily Nonpareil Royal talked about the early days in Council Bluffs:

“Gambling was indulged openly without fear of any restraining law and the gamblers did not haunt gloomy rear rooms and secret second story apartments, but during the warm months played poker, faro and three card monte night and day in the streets and lanes.  The men who practiced the perilous vice were generous, open hearted and careless mortals and not the cunning, treacherous and uncanny beings who work the rustics nowadays.  They were willing to give in a good cause and indeed they built the first church ever erected in the city.  Elder Moses Shinn went around among them and in a few days collected $600.

                In 1853 a Spaniard named Francis and a companion named David Hill came out from the Empire state and in three months cleared $65,000 and departed on their way rejoicing.  No such sums are made and lost now, but more hearts are broken and more homes destroyed by amounts infinitely less”

Royal became a successful business man, owning a stove & tinware business for most of his life.  He was also prominent in the fire departments of Council Bluffs.  In 1854 he was a member of the Hook and Ladder Brigade of Council Bluffs and in 1876 he was named chief engineer of the Fire Department.

A bit of fire department history from the May 1st, 1897 Nonpareil:

“Twenty years ago yesterday, as shown by The Nonpareil’s files, while Ernest Fisher was excavating for the basement of his residence on Upper Broadway, he unearthed the big iron hook which had formerly belonged to the Volunteer Fire brigade.  It had been missing since 1855 or 1856 but its discovery revived man a scene of fire in which it had played an important part.  The hook had been made about the year 1854 by Moran Griffin for the Volunteer Fire Company, of which Douglas Harle was captain.  The firemen at that time had not an engine, so when a house caught on fire and water could not be thrown on top of it the big iron hook was brought into requisition.  It was attached to an iron chain and thrown onto the top of the building on fire and the fireboys would attach a rope to the end of the chain and with a strong pull and a pull altogether simply bring the burning house over on its side so that they could pour water on it.

When the hook was discovered by Mr. Fisher there was then no further use for it and it was presented as a memento of pioneer days in fire fighting to Rescue Company No. 3.  It is now in the possession of R. D. Amy.”

By 1875 Royal and Amy had 3 more children, Maggie, Lee and Mamie.  Sometime in the late 1870s Royal and Mary got divorced.  In 1876 Royal, Sol Bloom and Julius Haas took a trip to the Black Hills by wagon.

According to the 1880 census Royal Amy was living with his mother, and it appears Mary Amy kept the family home.

Royal remained in the stove, tinware and hardware business at 620 South Main St for the rest of his life, although he did live in Omaha for a year after marrying Hannah E Miles in 1886.

Mary E. Amy started her own tinware shop at 516 S Main and ran it with her son Walter, she turned over the business to Walter when she married John Hammer in 1903.

Royal D. Amy passed away in 1907 and is buried in Fairview Cemetery.

Mary E Amy Hammer passed away in 1919 and is also buried in Fairview Cemetery.


Written by Mary Carpenter – Manager of Special Collections