Baseball’s first superstar came from Marshalltown

by Don Doxsie


Like many men of the middle 19th century, Henry Anson had a serious case of wanderlust. He was born in the area southeast of Rochester, New York, but moved with his family to Ohio at the age of five. As a young adult, he drifted through Michigan, stopping for brief stays in such towns as Marshall, Sturgis, Adrian and Constantine, then ventured to western Illinois.


He left his young family there for a time and traveled further west, over the Mississippi River. He finally happened upon a place in 1851 that was mostly inhabited by the Sioux and Potawatomi. He decided it was “the prettiest place in Iowa” and his wandering days were over.


He built a cabin, brought his wife Jennette and infant son Sturgis, there, and finally put down roots. A year later, on April 17, 1852, he and Jennette had another son, who was believed to be the first white child born in what is now Marshall County. As with Sturgis, they named him after towns in which they had lived previously.


Henry Anson would become a prominent citizen of the fledgling community, which came to be known as Marshalltown. He was widowed at a young age when Jennette died in 1860, but he built a thriving lumber mill, became the town’s surveyor and land agent, served as justice of the peace and county supervisor, and even dabbled in dentistry. His impact upon the town was so profound that a statue was erected of him in 2003 and an elementary school there bears his name.


But his youngest son far surpassed him in terms of fame and notoriety. Adrian Constantine Anson, who came to be better known as “Cap”, was to become the first true superstar in the new sport of baseball.


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