Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

Abandoned Towns in Van Buren County

Joe Stump sent me a copy of an article from the Van Buren County Register entitled “Abandoned Towns in Van Buren County.” An earlier article on this same subject was printed in the same paper in 1935 and made an appearance in “Annals of Iowa,” a historical magazine published by the Historical Department of Iowa. 

I am repeating the list, but amending the errors and making some additions not included. Several villages that still exist but have lost their post office, are not on the list. The names of the 17 existing villages appear at the end of the article.

1. Alexander: Village laid out in 1840, with a plat showing 14 blocks opposite Leando that was soon abandoned.

2. Alexandria: In the early 1860s, a small village began to form in an effort to revive the planned village of Alexander. When Douds Station was built the people began to cluster around the railroad.

3. Black Hawk: There was a proposed village by this name on the Iowa/Missouri border south of Farmington on the west side of the Des Moines River. 

4. Black Hawk: Another village by this name was on the Rex Westercamp farm, according to Ralph Arnold, who once viewed the rubble. Westercamp had found it on his farm abstract. The venture failed to grow.

5. Black Hawk City: This village was laid out in 1848 in the southwest corner of Section 7, Village Twp., south of the Des Moines River opposite Iowaville. It became extinct about 1861.

6. Boyer Station: A former station on the C B & Q railroad, about two miles west of Farmington. It had a post office from 1876-1884. Nothing remains except a cemetery.

7. Business Corners: A village on the north side of Section 24, Village Township, established in 1846. The post office existed from 1849-1864, when it was moved to Douds Station. It contained a church, school, blacksmith shop, wagon shop, store, broom factory, and about 150 residents.

8. Columbus: Pioneer village in Section 27, Washington Twp., on the northeast side of the Des Moines River, about 2 miles above Bentonsport. Government surveyors in 1837 reported finding the village.

9. Des Moines City: Settled in 1837, a plat for the village was made in 1839 and it became an addition to the town of Keosauqua within the same year.

10. Dogtown: Nickname for Mt. Sterling, originated because of the stray dogs hanging around the mills.

11. East Farmington: An annex to the town of Farmington that first tried to exist separately, it was laid out and platted on March 3, 1849, bounded by State and Washington Streets of the present town.

12. East Vernon: Laid out adjacent to Vernon, the village was listed separately in the beginning.

13. Egypt: A tiny settlement in the 1840s just east of the southeast corner of Milton in Jackson Township.

14. Gainsborough: A post office with that name existed from 1854-1864 in or near the northeast edge of Section 15, Harrisburg Township.

15. Gwinnupsburg: John Gwinnup laid out a village on the east side of Mt. Sterling, platted the venture in the 1840s, then went back east to marry and settle, leaving the town to flounder.

16. Harrisburg: A hamlet established north of Bonaparte. All that remains is Harrisburg Baptist Church. There was a town hall, school, store, and several houses at this location.

17. Harrisburg: Briefly another hamlet with this name existed across the river from Farmington. It was built on low land and was destroyed by the flood of 1851.

18. Hartford: This village was laid out about a mile east of Mechanicsburg, in the north part of Sections 4 and 5, Des Moines Township. The plat dated January, 1842, shows 5 blocks or portions and a town square. Several homes existed at this location.

19. Hedrolante: Hamlet existed around 1840, about 5 miles southwest of Keosauqua in or near Section 22, Des Moines Township, and was sometimes spelled Hedvolante. The town never developed.

20. Hickory: This was the name of the post office (1858-1882 at the village of Independent, often called Hickey by local residents.

21. Home: A post office from 1849-1882 on the east side of the southeast quarter of Section 20, Des Moines Twp.

22. Independent: An early name for the village and rail station of Selma in Village Township.

23. Indian Prairie: Original name of the village of Lebanon. The Indian Prairie post office existed from 1843-1853. The location is at the corners of Sections 35 and 36 of Chequest Township, and Sections 1 and 2 of Jackson.

24. Iowa City: Acts of the Legislative Assembly of Iowa Territory Session of 1838-1839 refer to this village, probably referring to the village of Iowaville in Village Township.

25. Iowaville: The Sac and Fox Indian village of Iowaville existed from 1824-1837. Late in 1837, the land where the village stood was purchased. In 1838 the white village of Iowaville was laid out on the west side of Section 7, Village Township, about 1 mile west of the present village of Selma. In the 1860s, Iowaville claimed about 200 inhabitants.

26. Irish Bend: For a short time a group of Irish immigrants attempted to form a village across the river from Kilbourne, but the venture did not materialize. The farms area scattered across several square miles went by the nickname of Irish Bend for many years.

27. Lawrence: Site of the Soldier’s Orphanage after the Civil War, at the Plymouth Hotel, about 1 mile north of Farmington. The population was over 30 for awhile.

28. Lexington: A village existed in 1838 in Sec. 21, Washington Twp., on the north side of the Des Moines River, about 4 miles above Bentonsport.

29. Lick Creek: The Philadelphia post office changed to Lick Creek from 1849-1855. Lick Creek existed a couple miles northwest of Kilbourne, and was abandoned after the post office moved back to Kilbourne in 1855.

30. Longview: A railroad station and a post office in the 1880s, located 2 miles west of Stockport in Section 14. The settlement died when the railroad station was moved to Stockport in 1890.

31. McVeigh: A former railroad station and post office (1882-1901) near the southwest corner of Section 21, Cedar Twp., about 3 miles southeast of Stockport.

32. Mechanicsburg: Pioneer village east of Lebanon along the Van Buren and Des Moines Township Line, with a post office in the 1850s. 

33. Meek’s Mill: The original name of the place that became Bonaparte.

34. Napoleon: A projected early village on the south side of the Des Moines River opposite Bonaparte. The village never developed.

35. New Jerusalem: Portion of Douds north of the railroad track. Was added to the plat of Douds as an addition.

36. New Lexington: Town and post office from 1837-1842, located one mile west of present town of Bonaparte. People lived here temporarily and worked at Meek’s Mill until the land was cleared at Bonaparte for building homes.

37. New Market: The post office at the location of Black Hawk City was New Market, which outlasted Black Hawk City, existing from 1851-1865.

38. Niles: A village of 50 residents developed in the southeast part of the south section 5, Des Moines Township. The village was laid out in 1865 and the post office existed from 1860-1874. Niles had a school, mill, store, town hall, cemetery, Masonic Hall and a sorghum mill. 

39. North Bentonsport: The name by which present Bentonsport was first known from the 1830s until 1852 when South Bentonsport was renamed Vernon. A few blocks located north of the church in hilly brush country was laid out as North Bentonsport, but it was never populated or developed.

40. North Birmingham: This was an “unofficial” addition to the town of Birmingham, because it never was incorporated into the town of Birmingham, although it was absorbed. It was platted separately in 1849, comprising 39 acres and kept the separate identity until about 1860.

41. North Farmington: This was an addition to the town of Farmington, of several blocks along the river between Farmington and Plymouth. It was platted as a separate village and remained that way in the 1830s.

42. Oakland: A town was laid out in 1857 southeast of and adjacent to Bentonsport. It had a population of 30.

43. Oak Point: A post office from 1849-1880 existed in the northeast part of Section 5, Jackson Township, near the Davis County Line.

44. Palestine: Another venture that failed, adjacent to Napoleon, across from Bonaparte on the south side of the Des Moines River.

45. Pameko: Name of the post office from 1854 to 1857 at or near the present town of Selma, a little south of where the post office of Hickory existed.

46. Parkersville: The government surveyors of 1837 reported finding this town in the northwest part of Section 17, Union Township, about 1 mile southeast of the present town of Birmingham. It contained a store and several dwellings but failed to grow.

47. Philadelphia: The pioneer name for Kilbourne, it was laid out in 1839 and was the name of the post office from 1841-1849.

48. Pierceville: Located in the northeast part of Section 18, Harrisburg Township was the village of Pierceville, laid out and platted in 1855.  A post office existed from 1855-1902 with several retail businesses and a continuous population of about 30.

49. Pleasant Hill: Laid out in 1853 by Purdom on the south side of the Des Moines River in Section 36, Van Buren Twp. It was founded in 1850 and had a post office known as Pleasant Hill from 1853-1855. It was absorbed into the town of Keosauqua, along with South Keosauqua during the 1890s.

50. Plymouth: A village in the northern part of Section 35, Farmington Township, was laid out April 26, 1842 in Section 35, Farmington Twp. The Plymouth Company had formed in an effort to erect a dam across the river, with the Territory of Iowa footing the bill. When the project failed, the town failed.

51. Portland: Pioneer name of Leando. Settled in 1834, or earlier, a post office existed from 1840-1864, under the name of Leando. By the time the post office closed, settlers had adopted the name of Leando for the village.

52. Port Oro (Portoro): The name of the post office at Van Buren, which was the beginning of Keosauqua in 1837. In 1841 the post office name changed to Van Buren, and in 1846 it became Keosauqua. The town was called Keosauqua by the citizens in 1838. It was laid out and officially platted as Keosauqua in 1839.

53. Rising Sun: This was laid out as a village on the north side of Chequest Creek from Troy. The village was first settled in 1837, and had a post office from 1841-1844. In that year, the post office was moved to the Troy on the south side of Chequest, and named Pittsburgh. The “h” was later dropped.

54. Rochester: This town was laid out in 1837, near the center of the east Section 29, Van Buren Township on the left bank of the Des Moines River about 2 miles downstream (northeast) of Keosauqua.

55. Rushville: A plat for this village filed in 1840 shows 8 blocks, located a short distance east of the present town of Milton in Jackson Township.

56. Salubria: A village laid out in 1838 south of Farmington, on the east bank of the river. A plat was made of the proposed village in Boston, but it was never filed at the Van Buren County Courthouse, and the grid cannot be found. The venture failed after its founder, Abner Kneeland, died in 1844.

57. Sheridan: A post office from 1865-1877 existed in or near Section 29 of Cedar Township.

58. South Bentonsport: This village began in the 1830s and became Vernon in 1852. During the 1840s there was an area next to it called East Vernon. Only a few houses exist where these ventures were proposed.

59. South Keosauqua: A hamlet on the south side of the Des Moines River, on the park side of the bridge, settled in 1837 and laid out in 1840. It was absorbed into the City of Keosauqua with Pleasant Hill about 1893.

60. Stumptown: Local name for village of Independent, which became Selma.

61. Summit: Summit was platted in March of 1860, and within a few years its name changed to Mt. Zion. The village had a store, hotel, church, depot, and several dwellings in 1878, and reached a population of 90 in 1911. It is located in Sections 7 and 18 of Van Buren Township, and served as a junction point between the KD line and the 4 ˝ mile spur to Keosauqua.

62. Troy: Settled as early as 1836, a plat was filed at the courthouse, of 109 blocks south of Chequest Creek. By 1844, it was called Pittsburgh. The name was probably changed to avoid confusion with Troy in Davis County, just past the Van Buren County Line.

63. Union: Name of a post office from 1847-1848 in or near Section 34, Union Township, this appears to be an extension of the Utica Post Office.

64. Union Corners: Early name for the village of Mt. Sterling. Name of the post office from 1849-1853.

65. Upton: Tiny village along the Missouri border, the Iowa portion being in Section 17, Des Moines Township. It had a post office from 1852-1903.

66. Utica: Utica Post Office existed from 1849-1903, but the town was not platted until 1857. It never incorporated. Located at the corners of Washington, Cedar, Harrisburg, and Union Townships, there were 2 churches, 2 doctors, a store, blacksmith shop, and 75 residents.

67. Van Buren: A triangle was laid out in 1837 by the Van Buren Company, which became known as Keosauqua in 1838. The post office was Port Oro, then Van Buren, and was not called Keosauqua until 1846.

68. Vernon: A village laid out in 1837 as South Bentonsport, was renamed Vernon in 1852. The name Vernon was first applied in 1841. Population was 300 in 1845. It had several mills and ran competition with its neighbor across the river. The post office existed from 1852-1903.

69. Watertown: Laid out in 1837 across from Plymouth above Farmington, this village never developed.

70. Willits: A station on the railroad in Section 1, Vernon Township, there was a post office from 1872 to 1894 about half way between Farmington and Mt. Sterling.

71. Wilsonville: A post office from 1872-1901 in the southern part of Section 9, Cedar Township.

72. Winchester: The town of Winchester was laid out and platted in 1840, and for awhile was a rival to Birmingham. The population stood at 300 in 1878, and the town had a drug store, hotel, two stores, four churches, a school, blacksmith shop and 40 dwellings. 

73. Woods Mills: This is another early name of the town of Mt. Sterling.

74. Zanesville: It appears that this was an alternate name for McVeigh. The settlement was named for Zanesville, Ohio by the proprietors, but the post office was kept on the land owned by J. H. McVeigh, thus the establishment carried his name.

This completes the abandoned town list. At least something remains of Selma, Kilbourne, Birmingham, Stockport, Douds, Leando, Lebanon, Milton, Cantril, Mt. Sterling, Pittsburg, Vernon, Bentonsport, Keosauqua, Mt. Zion, Farmington, and Bonaparte bringing the total of town ventures to 91 in Van Buren County, during its history.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick