Hinkletown: A Prairie Ghost Town
Until 1837, the area at the site of Hinkletown was prime Indian hunting and camping grounds. The English River was lined with a thick oak and hickory savannah along what became the Hickory Ridge (Hinkletown) area. Just outside of the dense forest, the great expanse of prairie stretched as far as the eye could see.
This spot was part of the 1837 cession of lands just west of the Black Hawk purchase and was negotiated with Chief Keokuk of the confederated tribes of the Sak and Fox.
In the early 1840s, a few emigrants traveling on the trail from Muscatine to Fort Des Moines began to settle at the site of Hinkletown. Formal land purchases in abstracts begin to show up in 1850. A saw mill was built in the 1850s at this site, which indicates the need for lumber for the growing community.
One family's account of their ancestors' 1857 settlement describes this:
"Hinkletown was a busy village with the usual activities of a country town. An ambitious Irish and English community kept things lively. There was a store where necessities could be obtained, a blacksmith shop, a sawmill where lumber could be made from a man's own logs." - Nellie Maude Bever
Brick manufacturing began at Hinkletown as early as 1852, operated by William J. Watkins.
The name of "Hinkletown" has its roots with a 27 year old man, Harmon Hinkle, who moved to the site in 1859. He and his parents, George Washington Hinkle and Mary "Polly" Bush Hinkle were early settlers of Washington County, Iowa in the year 1840.
In 1859, Harmon Hinkle began farming and also sold goods that he commissioned from Nathan Littler. He opened a store in the business district about 1860.
In 1861, Hinkle traded his farm near the new village for the sawmill built by Patrick W. Rock. He soon built a new home next to the sawmill and general store. It is also written that he operated a grain business and implement shop. During this time several other businesses opened in the town, including two other stores, carpet manufacturing, basket weaving, a doctor's office and a newspaper.
The town was never "laid out" or platted like many towns, but simply started developing along both sides of the county line of Iowa and Keokuk Counties. No one knows exactly when "Hinkletown" became a commonly applied name, but it does show up formally in the 1874 Iowa County Atlas with a mapped business district. It is also referred to in early railroad maps, state maps and both Iowa and Keokuk County Atlases. The 1874 Keokuk County Atlas refers to "Hinkleville", but changed it to Hinkletown by 1887.
The town's church was St. Patrick's Little Creek Catholic Church, and the first school was called Hickory Grove, later rebuilt next to the business district and named Hickory Ridge. The school operated until the 1949.
Carl Hogendorn, publisher of the North English Record from 1944 - 1972 wrote a few articles about Hinkletown during his tenure. In one article he wrote: "Hinkletown was a thriving village located just a few miles east of North English over 100 years ago. Hinkletown had a great many businesses, a school, a church, two lodges, Masonic and Odd Fellows, a lumber mill, brick manufacturing works, and quite a large residential area."
During the mid - late 1800's, as many as 83 students attended the school in one session, which indicates the number of families living in and around Hinkletown.
Today, very little remains that would indicate that a town ever existed at this site. A hand pump protrudes from a water well, and a worn stone foundation marks the site of the school. You can't dig a hole or till a field around the site of Hinkletown without finding a few bricks.
Early Brickmaking Methods at Hinkletown
Hinkletown Then and Now - A Photographic Essay
Hinkletown's "Old West" Justice