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Ghost towns are images of our faded past

point

The Lower Blue Point Church in the town of Blue Point was a post office from 1860-72, located in section 26 of Washington Township. The church was moved in April 1990 to the Heritage Park, Poweshiek County Fairgrounds, Grinnell where it currently stands. Photo Courtesy of Heritage Park, Poweshiek County Fairgrounds

During the early settlement of Poweshiek County, the first settlements were made in or near the timber. As timber was originally found only in strips or small groves along the streams or rivers, the first settlements were made not on the banks of the streams or rivers but along or in the vicinity of these streams.

Owing to the abrupt turns in the streams, the belt of timber spreads out and presents the appearance of detached groves. These were the beginning of settlement, the groves taking their names from the first settler locating in each.

Thus, we have Harklerode’s Grove (near Guernsey), Snook’s Grove (near Carnforth), and Lattimer’s Grove (near Grinnell). Near Guernsey in the east side of the county, William Harklerode settled for a short time and the groves there were named after him. He moved to Oregon around 1855.

Originally an extensive belt of timber, some two miles in width, extended from Brooklyn eastward five or six miles. It was at the eastern extremity of this grove that Henry Snook settled. This area was known as Snook’s Grove for many years. Snook was a blacksmith and his business thrived due to the Gold Rush. The dragoon trail passed through this grove. When the travel along this trail ceased, Snook’s work was no longer in demand and he sold all his property and moved west. John Talbott settled in this same area and it was also known as Talbott’s Grove.

Nathaniel J. Lattimer settled in the north part of a grove at the headwaters of Sugar Creek very early on. Upon the establishment of Fort Des Moines, a line of communication with Iowa City and Davenport was opened up across the county and Lattimer’s Grove became a favorite camping place.

This grove became a station stop for the Western Stage Company, a stopping place from Iowa City to Des Moines.

The area also served as the junction from the southeast through Dresden and Montezuma. Sometime before 1880, Lattimer disposed of all of his property and moved to Kansas. This area became known as Westfield.

There was a small grove on the North English River, directly north of Montezuma, known to the early settlers as Bogus Grove. Owing to certain remains which the first explorers found in and near the old log cabin there, it was believed to be the occasional dwelling place of a notorious gang of horse thieves and counterfeiters.

About four miles northeast of Grinnell, in Chester Township, there was a small growth of timber, which on account of it’s smallness and distance from other timber, was known as Lost Grove. Early settlers found remains of a cabin there.

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There are also many “Ghost towns” and abandoned towns of Poweshiek County. Many were just post offices established in someone’s home for a short time. They include:

• Bear Creek – This was a post office from 1849-65 near the edge of Bear Creek Township on the south side of Bear Creek about one mile northeast of the town of Brooklyn.

• Blue Point – Blue Point was a post office from 1860-72, located in section 26 of Washington Township. The early settlers of this area thought the land looked blue from a distance of approximately five miles, so they named the area Blue Point. Mail was carried from Montezuma to Blue Point, Tyro, and Sugar Creek by horseback. [A man named] Taylor had a store there. William McNabb donated an acre of land to be used for the church, school and cemetery. The first burial was [a] Mrs. McNabb. The cemetery was later enlarged to include three acres. The first church was the Methodist Episcopal Blue Point Church. The most current Blue Point church, known as the Lower Blue Point Church, was taken to Heritage Park at the Poweshiek County Fairgrounds in Grinnell in April of 1990, where it now stands. In November of 1994, more than 37 acres of woodland called Blue Point Woods, was preserved as a nature sanctuary.

• Brownsville/Browntown – A village located six miles south of Montezuma in the southwestern part of Jackson Township straddling the Poweshiek/ Mahaska county lines. The name of the post office was Sherman, lasting from 1864-95. Many of the residents were also Mahaska County residents.

The main street had several dozen houses, two general stores, a combined doctor’s office and post office, and a wagon maker’s shop. On the cross street were two blacksmith shops. One was run by a German man named Wiles whose son conducted a tavern on a back street. Just south of town was the old red school house, the center of all neighborhood social events including literary clubs and Sunday school. There were two churches, a Methodist Episcopal and a Methodist Protestant. Today Browntown is little more than a collection of a few farms, cornfields and one large barn. This “barn” was actually one of the churches which was moved across Highway 63 by [a] Mr. Latcham to a hand poured slab of concrete and converted into a barn. It still stands, but is deteriorating rapidly.

• Chester Center – Chester Center was a post office from 1877-1903. There was a church and cemetery there. Both still exist.

• Clearfield – There was a post office here from 1869-72, located in the northern part of Madison Township.

• De Etta – This was the name of the post office of Tilton from 1884-87.

• Dresden – Dresden was a town laid out by A. L. Morgan and Robert Taylor in June of 1856 about one mile east of what is now Deep River in Deep River Township. It was one of the earliest settlements in this county.

The name of the post office was Deep River. One of two stage coach lines ran through here. There was a general store, wagon factory, blacksmith shop, shoe shop, drug store, and harness shop plus hotel, and livery.

Dresden reached its peak in the early 1880’s when it had 140 residents, two churches, a school house and many of the shops mentioned. The coming of the branch of the Northwestern Railway in 1884 caused it’s removal to the new town of Deep River. Stores and shops were literally moved from Dresden and taken to Deep River to be rebuilt and used.

• Forest Home – Forest Home was a village in Union Township. The post office was in use from 1858-1902. At one time the community contained a population of 70 or 80 residents, a store and many houses. By 1880 there were 26 inhabitants living among the trees.

It contained a post office, M.E. Church, school house, blacksmith shop, a store, and several residences. Many of the houses were removed to neighboring farms and one store had burned. All that remains is the cemetery which was a quarter of a mile west of the town.

• Greenville – Greenville was a town laid out in 1849 by James Manatt. There were never more than a half dozen buildings during it’s brief existence. It did not last long and history books do not give us an explanation for its demise.

The current town of Brooklyn was platted several blocks east just a few years later and eventually it grew to include the land where Greenville existed.

• Humbug Town/Ottawa City – Platted as a town in 1859 in Sheridan

Township, Ottawa City turned out to be one of the largest real estate frauds in the country.

The land was bought by a George T. Perry of Philadelphia. It was surveyed, platted, and recorded. Hand bills were printed, depicting a large river to the east of the city (the Iowa River), showing steam boats and ferries and a railroad to the east and one to the south. Perry distributed these handbills in the east and sold hundreds of lots to unsuspecting people. Buyers traveled hundreds of miles to see the land they had bought but found no inhabitants, no river and no railroad as advertised in the hand bills.

Some purchasers paid taxes for years without seeing the real estate. The land was being farmed by [a] Mr. Graham and [a] Mr. Graff. They went to court to receive a true claim to the property in 1920. It’s not known if Perry was prosecuted for this land scheme or not.

• Jacobs/Jacobs Switch – This was a switch for some years on the Montezuma branch of the Iowa Central Railway in Washington Township. It had a post office from 1896 for several years and a store until about 1928. There was also a creamery there in 1896.

• Manatt – This was a post office for a short time in 1884 at or near the location of the railway station of Carnforth.

• Mill Grove – This village was in Sugar Creek Township, on the north bank of the North Skunk River. It was one half mile southwest of the railroad station of Moore, had a post office from 1856-72.

• North Skunk – The name of the station on the Iowa Central Railroad in 1887 at the location of the station of Moore, as shown on maps of that period.

• Sheridan Center – Sheridan Center was a post office from 1877-83. It continued as Sheridan until 1902. There is still a store there with a church and cemetery to the west about one half mile.

• Sonora – A post office in Chester Township from 1879-1901.

• Stillwell – At one time Stillwell, or Moore Station, hoped to be a town. There was a post office from 1892-1914.

Passenger trains stopped, and freight trains picked up car loads of hogs and cattle for market. Whenever there was a passenger to get on at Moore Station, Ike Fleener would flag down the train. When it was laid out for a town, Stillwell had a lumber yard, two stores, one of them housing the Post Office, and several residences.

A grist mill known as the McIntire Mill was on the river about a half mile southwest of the railroad crossing. The school and church were across the road from each other east of the railroad crossing. The cemetery, which still exists,was northwest of the church.

• Sugar Creek – Shown on the maps as late as 1869, this was a post office in southwestern Grinnell Township from 1849-62.

• Tilton – The post office of Tilton was about two and one half miles west of the railway station and village of Tilton from about 1871-84. It was later located in Tilton and during the Depression moved to Gibson. Tilton was located in Deep River Township, at the Poweshiek/Keokuk County line. The railroad went through the town. In it’s heyday, it’s citizens numbered about 65. It had four grocery stores, a hardware store, barber shop, a restaurant, lumber yard, grain elevator, two blacksmith shops, a Methodist church, schoolhouse, and telephone office.

• Tyro – A post office in Section 32 of Washington Township from 1862-1873.

• Verona – Before Guernsey was organized, the only settlement in Lincoln Township was Verona. This post office operated from November 1870 – August 1885, then was discontinued and the mail sent to Guernsey. The post office was in the home of Mary E. Forby Irwin. It was located southeast of Guernsey in Lincoln Township on the stage line from Victor to Dresden. Verona had a U. P. Church, a school, and shipped grain and livestock. The population at one point reached 100.

• Western – Western was listed as a post office in Poweshiek county from 1851-1853, but the location is unknown.

• Westfield – Formerly known as Lattimer’s Grove, Westfield came into being about 1855 and was in the center of a beautiful grove of timber. It’s post office was Sugar Creek. It’s features were saw mills, a blacksmith shop, two wagon makers, several carpenters, one tavern, a bakery, two dry goods and grocery stores, a school, a church, a brickyard, and a cemetery.

The town thrived until about 1863 when the railroad came, not to Westfi eld, but to Grinnell. There is still a church, now north of Interstate 80 and a cemetery which is located to the south of the interstate.

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Besides those listed before as post offices, I have found mention of other “communities” in newspapers. These communities had someone usually that would send the news of that area to the newspaper each week. They include:

• Bethel Grove – Located in the extreme southern part of this county, some of the residents had the last names of Gorsuch, Gerard, McMains, Swink, Whitehead, Latcham, Zimmerman, and Curry. There was still a Bethel Grove Church located here in 1932.

• Beulah – Located in Jackson Township, the Beulah Church was built in Section 23. The community around this church was referred to as Beulah. There was a women’s club from that area. Note: My mother belonged to the club for many years.

• Bunker Hill – was located west of Montezuma with residents by the last names of Tish, Johnson, Watson, and McGinn.

• Harmony – Harmony was located in the intersection of four townships: Lincoln, Warren, Scott, and Bear Creek. There was a Moravian Church located there. My great grandfather, Christian D. Breniman, deeded the land for the Harmony Cemetery located in Section 5 of Lincoln Township. His parents, Christian and Barbara Breniman, were charter members of the Moravian Church. This community consisted mostly of Swiss German immigrants and their families.

• Irish Ridge – Community of mostly Irish immigrants who settled in Lincoln and Scott Townships. The area is still referred to by this name.

• Jerusalem – Located northwest of Grinnell in 1880.

• Moon Creek – This was a community in Jackson/Union Township situated along and around Moon Creek. Some of the people that lived in the area and are talked about in the newspaper are John McKee, Roy Tarvin, Geo. Gilbreaith, Gus Anderson, Cletus Allen, and Frank Veverka.

• New Center – Southwestern Deep River Township • Oak Grove – Located in Washington Township, there is at present a small cemetery on the north side of the Ewart Road just east off highway 146 and the railroad tracks.

• Pleasant Ridge – Situated in Lincoln Township

• Slab Town – Location of this area has been is dispute, but from what I have read I put the location of this community just north of Diamond Trail in section 8 of Union Township, in the woods behind where Doris Lowery has built a large log house.

• Smokey Row – Situated in Union Township about in the area of the south end of Lake Ponderosa.

• Union Ridge – Located in Lincoln Township

• Walnut Creek – Located in the extreme northeastern corner of Jefferson Township, the community spills over into Iowa County. There is a small cemetery located in Poweshiek County named for the community with very few visible stones

UPDATED June 9, 2009 1:52 PM

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