Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


Examining and comparing old maps is not only fun, but can be very informative. Just as with any other kind of data, maps published at the same time within a publication do not always provide consistent information.

For example, maps published in the past provide some vastly different information in terms of the area of towns and villages in Van Buren County. Farmington holds the status of reaching the highest population of any village during the county’s history, with 1,342 people residing within the town in 1905. However, it appears that several towns within the county have covered a larger area than Farmington covered.

A map of the State of Iowa in 1875 showing all 99 counties on a grid reveals that Bentonsport covered about 2 square miles of area at the time. Vernon and Birmingham each were about 1/3 square mile in size; Keosauqua was ¾ square mile in size; and Farmington covered ½ square mile.

Villages shown as mere dots on the map were Upton, Mt. Sterling, Home, Bonaparte, Niles, Lebanon, Oak Point, Milton, Pierceville, Utica, Winchester, Independent, Iowaville, Douds, Kilbourne, Pittsburg, and Summit. On the map it also showed that Independent’s post office was named Hickory and Summit’s post office was Mt. Zion.

However, within the same publication is a large map of Van Buren County that has several discrepancies. Pleasant Hill was shown as a triangle about 1/8 of a square mile in size; Pittsburg, Cantril and Portland each covered about 1/3 square mile; and Business Corners was about 1/10 mile square. The area of Bentonsport according to the county map was only about 2/3 of a square mile (1/3 the size that was shown on the state map.)

An interesting note on this map reads "Edwin Manning owns 3,352 acres in this county."

A map of Iowa published in 1909 shows the following villages: Selma, Birmingham, Longview, Stockport, McVeigh, Douds, Leando, Kilbourne, Winchester, Utica, Pierceville, Pittsburg, Keosauqua, Lebanon, Bentonsport, Vernon, Farmington, Willit, Cantril, Milton, Upton, Mt. Sterling and Bonaparte.

It is interesting to note that Kilbourne’s post office was Kilbourn.

A recent plat map of Van Buren County shows that Stockport covers 1 square mile; Birmingham about ¾ square mile; Keosauqua about 1 ½ square miles; Bonaparte, Cantril and Mt. Sterling each cover about 4/10 of a square mile; Farmington covers about ½ square mile and Milton is about 2 ½ square miles in size.

Milton is clearly the largest village in terms of territory covered, but Bentonsport covered nearly as much territory, at least according to some maps. At least four villages within the county were larger in area than Farmington (largest in population)!

(A. T. Andreas’ Historical Atlas, 1875. Chicago: Lakeside Press. State Map showing Van Buren County, page 21; and Van Buren County map, page 246.1909 Standard Atlas of Jefferson County, 1909. Chicago: George A. Ogle & Company. Map of Iowa including Van Buren County.)

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