On April 17,1885, Richard K. Pearce applied for a patent to homestead 160 acres in Lake County, Dakota Territory. President Cleveland granted this to him on October 16, 1886. Two days after Pearce received his patent, he sold his land to Milwaukee Land Company of Iowa. Milwaukee Land Company platted the town of Romona on his land. In April of 1887, a strip of the land for right-of-way was sold to the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad Company. By fall, the railroad line running north from Madison to Bristol, through the town, was completed.
Mary Tuor, one of the first pioneers of the area, told of seeing tents surrounded by horses in the vicinity of where the town was to be built. People were waiting to build homes and business places in the new town. At this time the quarter of land was wild prairie sod. Herman "Barb" Witt, who later became the town barber, broke the sod on the slope that is now Main Street. He did the work with a team of three oxen and a plow.
The site of the town started out with the name of Nakomas, and Indian name, but on April 6, 1887, it was changed to Romona, in honor of Richard Pearce's daughter. Probably in conformity to traditional spelling, the spelling was changed to the present Ramona in 1901.
The first building to go up was built by Gottlieb Honneger that was housed as a pool hall, with the upstairs being a dance hall. The second building to go up was the general store owned by John O'Donnell. His sister, Nora, served as first postmistress, succeeding Richard Pearce who was the postmaster of Nakomas. The post office was on the farm she and her brother owned on the southwest edge of Ramona. Mail was brought into town daily by train. C. L. Colman established a lumber company in Ramona in 1886, completing construction for the first year.
During 1887, however, a considerable amount of building went on in the new town. Another general store was built and operated in partnership by Wyman and Curtiss.
In 1890 another building boom began with the establishment of several more business firms and the building of a number of private homes. In a short time, John McBride opened a saloon.
In 1892 J. H. Cole started a hardware store. Fred Bast built a two-story building on the north side of Main Street where he started his general merchandise store of groceries and dry goods. The store also served the people by cashing checks and taking care of money transactions for the townspeople and farmers until the Ramona Bank was established in 1901.
When the railroad began serving Ramona in 1887, its first depot was one of its boxcars. Later, the regular depot was built in the style of all depot buildings at that time and contained a ticket window, passenger waiting room, office for the depot agent and his telegraph key, and a large freight storage room.
In 1899 Ramona's first newspaper, Ramona Times was founded by F. L. Jackson. In 1906 the newspaper was sold to Mr. George Sterling. Following him, as owners were H. J. Davis, J. G. Todd, C. L. Clough and Harry P. Clough. Charles Wells then bought the paper and continued to publish it until his death in 1940.
The State Bank was first opened in Ramona in 1901. By 1910 Ramona had enough business to have two banks, the Ramona State Bank and the Farmer's and Citizen's Bank. Both were closed when the depression hit.
When the railroad was at its peak, the town of Ramona had several stock buyers who worked out of a stockyards in the southeast corner of town. The stockyard was built on railroad property and leased to the stock buyers. It consisted of a scale, holding pens and loading chutes for both railroad stock cars and trucks. Among the earlier stock buyers were the Carmody Brothers, and from about 1933 to 1955 Carl Alick operated the stockyards. Before trucks were used, neighbors would help each other drive their cattle on foot. To haul hogs, they used horses and a three-box wagon.
Ramona had telegraph service beginning in 1892. In February of 1904 a franchise was given to Dakota Central Telephone Line, Inc. to establish telephone service. Poles were erected, wires strung and an office was designated for an operator, relief operator and a switchboard. The office was in the rear of the Werner drugstore, and Della DeHaan was operator for many years. Ramona's first electric plant provided power from 7:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. each evening, and on Monday mornings to enable women to do their laundry. At 10:45 each night the lights were blinked to warn people that the power would be shut off in 15 minutes. This procedure went on until 1926 when the electric transmission came to Ramona and provided electricity 24 hours a day.
When Ramona reached its height in the 1930's, the population was 350. The town then had two churches, a school, two hardware stores, two general merchandise stores, one drugstore, two blacksmiths, one meat market, two ice dealers, a furniture store, an undertaker parlor, one hotel, a jewelry and watch repair shop, a livery and sale barn, one pool hall, a moving picture theater, three restaurants, two dray lines, one doctor, a newspaper and printing office, two lumber yards, two barber shops, a harness store and repair shop, several saloons, the Post Office, several gas station/garages, two banks and a Farmers Cooperative Creamery.
Prior to 1956, street lighting in Ramona consisted of six strings of colored lights strung across Main Street, with 200-watt bulbs on the corner of each block. The bulbs had to be replaced often, as they burned out or were broken. In 1956 large fluorescent lamps were installed to give good lighting to the downtown area as well as throughout the town.