Like so many other villages and cities in Clinton County, the village of Fowler owes its inception to the railroad - and to swampy land about three-quarters of a mile east of the present village where its predecessor, Dallas, was located.
The first passenger trains that passed through on the east-west railroad line in 1857 stopped in Dallas that included the rail station, a post office, hotel and store building. The surrounding countryside was so swampy that travel to and from the village was next to impossible.
When J.N. Fowler, who owned land west of Dallas, offered the railway $750 in 1867 to move its depot and buildings to his site, the village of Dallas faded from the map - and the village of Isabella was born. The name was changed to Fowler, and an addition was platted south of the railroad with the plat of the village recorded Feb. 1, 1870.
The railway station that was brought from Dallas was destroyed by fire in 1898 and a new station was built shortly thereafter, serving both passenger and freight trains for many years. When rail service lessened the station was closed and eventually sold to an area resident who moved it to Hinman Road where its outline is still clearly visible as part of a private home.
The village of Fowler grew slowly but surely, aided by the both the railroad and what would become M-21 - both major east-west thoroughfares for the movement of agricultural commodities and manufactured products from area factories.
One of the most widely known entertainment centers for the vicinity was the Sturgis Opera House located above the Whittaker Hardware. It was used for a variety of functions, from school and civic events to dances and concerts.
Church life was an important part of the village and continues to be so to this day. The parish of Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church dates back to 1857 when it was served by Fr. George Godez of St. Mary's in nearby Westphalia. The first frame building was constructed in 1881, with the present brick building erected in 1906.
Similarly, what is now the congregation of St. Paul Lutheran Church has its roots as part of St. Peter that was originally located in 1869 south of Fowler on Wright Road. John N. Fowler donated land in 1878 for the construction of a new woodframe church at its present site. A brick veneer structure was built in 1921 and burned in 1945. The present sandstone church was dedicated Oct. 10, 1948.
Tragedies of special note in Fowler's history include a torrential downpour in July 1957, resulting in a "flood" of village streets; and a tornado that hit in April 1967, wreaking havoc and causing major destruction.
School events, both academic and athletic, are a point of pride for Fowler residents. Downtown businesses continue to fare well, anchored by stores like Becker’s Bridal Shop and Becker’s Furniture. Quality Dairy is a frequent shopping destination for area residents, while Mathew’s Elevator continues to serve the farming community that surrounds the village.
Fowler’s growth is evident in opening of a branch of the Clinton County Federal Credit Union, that will open soon on M-21, and in residential housing developments on the north and west sides of the village.
Historical information taken from the 1980 Clinton County History; complied by Nina Waldron.