Travel through Laurel’s Historic District, and you’ll see Catherine Gardiner’s vision. It was her husband’s decision to move to Mississippi, but once here, she worked beside, not behind, him to make our City Beautiful a wonderful place to call home.
Not all of Laurel’s growth, or her accomplishments, can be attributed to our Iowa men. Some of our greatest and most enduring successes were homegrown, and their legacies (and relations) still live on in Laurel today.
By folding community and family life into the unruliness of the traditionally male-dominated lumber camps, Eastman Gardiner gave their workers a home, albeit one on wheels, and created a completely different way of doing business.
Our Laurel gentry may have come from money, but they were made from sterner stuff than other mill owners of their time. When the going got tough, they put themselves in the shoes of their men and realized that it benefit no one to cut costs by cutting jobs.
Long before Laurel was named or formed, the Southern railroads were being laid in earnest. Railways proved the most economical means of conveyance for people and goods, but rival rail companies, fierce competition, and the Civil War had wreaked havoc on the country’s ability to adhere to a single national standard track gauge.
Laurel’s past offers us a glimpse into what’s possible for her future — craftsmen, innovators, visionaries, and makers working together to foster creativity, build community, and leave this town better than we found it.