Ghost Towns of Iowa County, Iowa

Old Towns Nearly Lost and Forgotten

During the 1840s and '50s,  settlers began to move into Iowa County, homesteading areas around rivers, creeks and timber. Some of these areas became villages, growing with homes and businesses.  Many post offices were established.  While some of these towns have grown and thrive today, many others declined or moved when the railroads were established in the 1850s - '80s, or simply dried-up!.  At left, the Rand McNally map from 1890 shows most of the towns.  A more complete list of those old and nearly forgotten towns appears below.  

From 1890 Map of Iowa: Rand McNally, Chicago. Chromolithograph

 

Ghost Towns of Iowa County, Iowa

Alberton: Dayton Township: Section 10.  The town was laid-out on September 3, 1857, by A. T. Cross.  It never grew beyond a small village.

Ambrose:  Dayton Township, Section 28.  Formerly known as Musquaka (1875 - 1893.)  Post Office of Ambrose established April 10, 1895, first postmaster Henry George.  Business: Thomas McLaughlin, Dealer in Agricultural Implements and the Woman’s Friend Improved Steam Washer (1874.)  Included the nearby Sherman School.

Armah: Dayton Township, Section 26.  Primarily consisted of the Armah Catholic Church and denominational school, as well as the Hawkeye School.   In the early days the priests of the Catholic Church at Armah often served other area Catholic Churches in Millersburg, North English and Little Creek at Hinkletown.  

Hawkeye School Class at Armah - January 5, 1917

Boltonville:  Iowa Township, Section 26.  This was the site of a post office kept by Orrin Bolton from about 1868 - '73.  After five years, Bolton desired to be relieved and the post office was discontinued.  Boltonville continued to show up on many maps of Iowa through the 1890s.

Boyle:  York Township, Section 5.  This was a Post Office established on December 22, 1884, less than 1 mile west of Pittsburg Post Office on the State Road to Iowa City.  Thomas Boyle was named postmaster. 

Carter: Fillmore Township,  Section 29.  Approximately three miles northeast of North English. Served as Post Office by the same name in 1874.  Included some businesses and residences.

Dayton:  Cono Township, Section 1.  This was a town formally laid out by William Greenlee on June 27, 1857, with the promise of becoming a substantial town.  A post office was established in 1855, and discontinued several years later. 

Downard:  Sumner Township, western part.  Had post office from 1853 - '59.  Postmaster William Downard.  Shown on some early maps of Iowa as town.

Foote: Fillmore Township.  The name of a village and post office with four documented locations.  Foote may have started as a small village in Section 35 of Fillmore Township, setting in a low-lying valley area adjacent to the English River.  Early settlers probably selected the spot due to a scenic, flat and protected spot between nearby bluffs and the river.  After having built log cabins, the river flooded, causing removal to higher ground.  In 1862, the name Foote is attached to a Post Office in the nearby town of Hinkletown, ¾ mile southeast of its original location, and ½ mile directly south of the English River.  In the 1880’s, as Hinkletown began to decline, the Foote Post Office was physically removed and re-established one mile east in the town of Greene Valley.  In the 1890’s the post office moved ½ mile, north of the English River, and was again known as the village of Foote.  Foote, and its various locations, is shown on many early maps of Iowa from the 1860's through 1910.  

Fremont:  Fillmore Township, Section 23.  A formally laid-out and platted town, on September 26, 1857, by Fouand Gowery.  This was probably more of a dream of one Gowery, as it is referred to in the 1881 History of Iowa County as a town in name rather than reality.

Genoa Bluffs: Sumner Township, Section 32. This town was platted and mapped as a full-scale town with streets and town square.  John E. Stoner, one of the early pioneers of Iowa County, ran a store and steam grist mill in Genoa Bluffs.  The town included a post office and church, and many residents. Genoa Bluffs gained notoriety when a second battle over the county seat came in March 1857, when the enemies of Marengo started a movement to move the county seat to Genoa Bluffs. A petition was presented to the judge asking that the question of the location of the county seat be put on the general election in April,1857. It was soon discovered, however, that the petition contained names of non-legal voters. These names removed, the petition no longer contained sufficient numbers to call for an election.

Greene Center: Greene Township, Section 29.  Served as small hamlet and post office in 1880’s – 90’s.

Greene Valley: Fillmore Township, Section 36.  Named after a General Greene of the Revolutionary War. Some sources say Greene Valley was settled as early as 1831, due to general store ledgers kept by a Daniel Lamoraux.  These ledger entries may have been made in another state prior to emigration to Greene Valley.  Early stories relate life by the English River as shared with local Indians who fished peaceably by the river.  Greene Valley is know to have thrived with businesses in the 1870’s through 1920’s, including a grist mill, saw mill, telephone office, Foote Post Office, black smith, general store, I.O.O.F. lodge, and several residences.  The town had annual picnics, parades, dances, a ball team and fife and drum corps.

Hedge:  Dayton Township, Section .  A post office was established here in 1876 and served residents through 1902.

Hinkletown: Fillmore Township, Section 35.

  

          1874 Atlas                             Hickory Ridge School - 1905                          1874 Atlas

Hinkletown: Fillmore Township, Section 35.  A predominantly Irish Catholic - English community located in a heavily timbered area on the Iowa – Keokuk County line.  Hinkletown was settled in the 1850’s and named in the 1860’s after businessman Harmon Hinkle, who purchased an existing sawmill from Patrick Rock.  In 1852, William Watkins settled here and built and operated a brick factory for 14 years.  About 1855, Henry Charles Chapman established a shoe making shop.  The town sat on the southern route of the Diamond Trail that went from Burlington to Fort Des Moines.  Several businesses, two general stores, two lodges, a doctor’s office and stage coach stop operated for several years.  The Foote Post Office was housed on the main road in the general store building of Frank Lytle.  The Hickory Ridge School, located on the west end of town, served as community center, with weekly literary programs and debates, and housed as many as 52 students each session.  The “Hinkletown Journal” was a weekly newspaper published by Rachel Breeden Weimer.  The town began its decline in 1872, when wealthy businessman Hinkle moved his residence and businesses, along with several business partners, to the newly established railroad town of Keota, nine miles directly south.  A new stage and mail route was quickly established between Keota and Hinkletown through to the county seat of Marengo. St. Patrick’s Church was erected in 1875 and a second building was constructed along side as rectory and to house the Ancient Order of Hibernians.  However, Hinkletown took another big hit in 1879, when a second railroad went through just four miles south, in spite of the petitioning of the businessmen and residents to bring the railroad through Hinkletown.  Most of the remaining businesses moved to the new town of Kinross.  The brick kilns continued to be operated by Thomas F. Hudson and sons through the early 1900’s.  By 1923, the remaining general store was vacated and in dilapidated condition.  The school operated until 1952, and the church was torn down in 1965.  Today, there is little evidence that a thriving town ever existed at this site.  History-related website at: http://www.hinkletown.com

The Ancient Order of Hibernians at St. Patrick's Little Creek Church, south of Hinkletown.

Holbrook:  Greene Township, Section 5.  Also sometimes referred to as Old Man's Creek Settlement. About 1850, the site of Holbrook was settled by a large number of Irish.   An early grocery store was owned and operated by Mrs. Catherine Quinn.  A new store was built in 1884 and managed and operated by R.H. Dunn.   An early frame Catholic Church served the heavily populated Irish of the area.  In 1868, a commodious brick church was built under the direction of Father P.J. Sullivan, and became home to the second largest Catholic congregation in the State of Iowa.  St. Michael's Parish had a radius of at least twelve miles with parishioners traveling from Keokuk County, Millersburg, Williamsburg, Cosgrove and Hinkletown.  Holbrook was also known for the breeding and raising of some of the best Aberdeen-Angus cattle in the country.  In 1885, a spacious sale pavilion was constructed at a cost of $5,000 for cattle sales by the breeders of the area.   The post office of Holbrook was established in January of 1885, and operated until 1953.  The nearby Hannon and Boyle schools served the area of Holbrook.

 

Saint Michael's at Holbrook - constructed 1868

Lytle City:  Fillmore Township, Section 1.  Robert B. Lytle laid out an ambitious town on June 23, 1857.  The town grew to substance through the 1870’s.  By 1881, it had declined, and at that time contained a hotel, general store, blacksmith, wagon shop, post office, two physicians, shoemaker, carpenter, a school, and a handful of houses.  When a north-south railroad was established through the county, a town was born two miles west of Lytle City. In 1884, the people of the little Irish town of Lytle City moved residences, stores, buildings, and families to where the railroad was beginning.  The new town of Parnell (first called Callan) quickly lured residents and businesses away from Lytle City, which completely disappeared. 

Musquaka:  Dayton Township, Section 28.  Shows on many early maps.  Later became known as Ambrose.  Post office established in December 1874 and discontinued in 1880 when changed to Ambrose.

Ricord's Settlement:  Greene Township, Section 3.   Site of the first settlement of Iowa County, also known as Old Man's Creek area.  Edward R. Ricord is often credited with having been the first settler (March 1840) and built the first house in the county (at the time included in Johnson County).  This area around Old Man's Creek was one of the heaviest points of entry into the county during its early days.  Many of the first elections of the county were held at the Ricord house.

West Pilot:  Pilot Township, Section 15.  This place had a post office from 1872 -'89.  Nearby was the site of an Indian burial ground, and Oak Hill Cemetery.

West Troy:  Troy Township, Section 19.  Post office from 1873 - '81.  According to the 1881 Iowa County History, West Troy was the name of a post office kept in the home of Edward Dill.

Williams Grove: Troy Township, Section 10.   This was the site of an early day saw mill operated by Richard Williams and William Rowlands.  Has its name and connections to the same Richard Williams who laid out the town of Williamsburg in SW corner of Section 10 and SE corner of Section 9, Post Office, Stellapolis.

York Center:  York Township, Section 9, 10.   York Center post office was established on February 3, 1868, with Thomas Wallace as the postmaster.   It remained though 1900.   According to the 1895 Iowa Atlas, York Center had a population of 45.     

 

Information supplied by Dave Jackson - Community History Project, North English, Iowa. Compiled from 1881 and 1915 Iowa County histories, US Post Office records, maps, oral and written history accounts.   January 2004 

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