Video Documentary: Rediscovering Hinkletown - A Prairie Ghost Town

The 1940s:  "May Day at Hickory Ridge,"  "Johnny O'Rourke & the Overland Trail."

SCENES:  May Day at Hickory Ridge School, May 1, 1943.  A group of students and their teacher prepare for reenacting the annual "Joy of Discovery" field trip to the timber and English River behind the school.  The cast listens intently for instructions.   Several scenes were shot on May 17, 2008, with consultation from former students of the 1940s.   Photographs by Dave Jackson, Copyright 2008


"Hamming it up" on the set for a promotional shot.

All scenes filmed on location at Hinkletown, Iowa, May 2008


"Here we go 'round the Mulberry bush" was a favorite song at Hickory Ridge and many other country schools.  If a mulberry bush was not close by, a class mate stood in the middle.  The children played games on their way to the wooded area river near the river. 


The children had made up small baskets out of construction paper the day before their trip, for collecting  flowers, plants and special treasures.  Little Johnny O'Rourke discovers some strange ruts in the ground and calls his teacher over.  She uses the discovery as a history lesson.  This was the remnant of a stage and overland trail that began at Muscatine and traveled to Des Moines in the 1850s.


The students of Hickory Ridge gather in the field south of the timber for a group photo.

LEFT:  The Chapman boys on their 1940s "school bus."  The boys traveled a couple miles to school at Hickory Ridge. 

RIGHT:  On May 17, 2008, the mode of transportation is reenacted by local boys from North English, Iowa, five miles west of Hinkletown.

Thanks to students and their parents from North English, Cedar Rapids and Applington, Iowa for recreating the look of the '40s.

   We think there may be some serious budding actors and actresses in the bunch!  


One of our local youngsters stands on the original site of the Pioneer General Store of Henkle and Littler.
Hinkletown bears the name of Harmon Henkle, the first storekeeper.  Henkle also ran an extensive lumber milling business in town.  His partner, the Honorable Nathan Littler, was a state representative from Washington County.  The two men opened their first store in Hinkletown in 1859, and a second in Keota, Iowa in 1872, as well as the first bank in Keota in 1875.  The men had a partnership in many other businesses, including furniture, hardware and undertaking.



Stories from former students tell of the many games they played at Hickory Ridge, including "Ante, Ante Over the Schoolhouse, " and "Fox and Geese," in the wintertime.   In the one-room country school house, as many as 84 students ranging from age 5 through 17 went to school each term during the early years. 


May Day was one of the main annual festivities at Hickory Ridge School in Hinkletown during the 1940s.   The prairie and timber behind the school house served as a nature walk and playground on their way to the English River.  They gathered many types of early spring wildflowers, morel mushrooms and leaves, hunted frogs and lizards, and played games.  A century earlier, two young boys who settled near the trail in the 1840s, wrote accounts of the same prairie and timber.   Jeremiah and Mordecai Suiter wrote ten accounts of the early settlement, the Indians in the area, hunting and fishing trips in the ravines and English River, the building of the first log  school house on the site in 1849, and how their father died in 1852 when trying to build a bridge across the river.  The rich tradition of celebrating May Day at Hinkletown and Hickory Ridge School came to an end when the country school closed its doors in 1949, exactly a century after it first opened.

The photographs below were a few of the ones used to recreate the 1940s clothing and hairstyles.

These Green Valley school children are wearing several clothing styles that can be recreated today without much difficulty.  Boys are wearing mostly denim bib overalls.  Girls in dresses or skirts that can range from slightly above the knee to below the knee.   Most of the boys wore long sleeve shirts year-round.



Hickory Ridge School Class at Hinkletown, 1937.  Note the boys are in long sleeves and the girls in short sleeves.  In the many old school photos we used as examples, we found an occasional girl in bib overalls also.



Students at Kinross School, 1935, four miles south of Hinkletown,  - The above styles were used into the 1940s.  Note back row, rolled up sleeves on boys shirts.




May 17, 2008 Schedule Filmed on Location at Hinkletown

8:00 AM - Noon:  Union Horse Company and Jesses James Scenes - Hinkletown

12:30 - 2:30 May Day at Hickory Ridge School - Hinkletown

Here's a special treat:  Hickory Ridge School at Hinkletown, July 4, 1907, Nellie Kernan, teacher.  The new school, built in 1906,  was acclaimed as the best country schoolhouse in Iowa County.  This was the third schoolhouse built at Hinkletown.   The first was a log cabin, measuring 16' X 18', built in July 1849, one of the first schools in the county.

Copyright 2008 - English Valleys History Center, North English, IA,  and Historic Photo Archives, Klemme, Iowa

Video Documentary "Rediscovering Hinkletown" Planned for Release 2009

Historical Basis:  The Making of the Documentary

Hinkletown Home Page

Earliest Published Account of a Hinkletown Settler - 1847
(Music Alert- Hinkletown Bluegrass)

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