Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick
Take Your Pick . . Kilbourne or Kilbourn
There has been a lot of recent discussion about the correct and proper
spelling of one of Van Buren's villages--whether the correct spelling is "Kilbourne"
On Rich Lowe's Van Buren County website is an article from Annals of Iowa,
dated July, 1931, by B. T. Fitzpatrick, on Abandoned Towns of Van Buren
County. I have used this reference many times in my historical writing. (Annals
of Iowa is considered an official source of information)
According to Fitzpatrick, the village spelled Kilbourne was located
in the southeast part of section 2 of Lick Creek Township, west of the mouth
of Lick Creek, next to the river on the old Keokuk and Des Moines (later
C.R.I.P.) Railway line.
Fitzpatrick goes on to say that the name Kilbourne is doubtless for
David B. Kilbourne of Keokuk, born April 13, 1803 in Marlborough,
Connecticut. He emigrated to the Iowa portion of Wisconsin Territory in
1836, established a store in Montrose and became postmaster there in 1839.
He moved to Ft. Madison in 1843 and on to Keokuk in 1852. The man helped
organize3 the Keokuk, Ft. Des Moines and Minnesota Railroad and was
president of the line for several years. His son was George Erskine
Kilbourne, a director and purchasing agent for the rail company, born May
26, 1832 and died Feb. 26, 1889.
The other spelling surfaces much with the establishment of post offices.
Some of the post office dates are typed incorrectly in the article, but the
post office at this village location was established as Philadelphia on
January 11, 1840 with Montgomery Perry serving as postmaster. As different
political parties came to power in Washington, post offices changed
locations and sometimes names. Philadelphia Post Office was Lick Creek for
awhile (1849-1855) and became Kilbourn (spelled without the "e") on December
Kilbourn School District #7 in Lick Creek Township, comprised sections 35
and 36, with parts of 25, 34, south 3, and fractions of 1, 2 and 12 north of
the Des Moines River.
The village itself was laid out as Philadelphia in July, 1839, by John
Patchett, and was changed to Kilbourne. Both the village and post
office was originally spelled with the "e" on the end. The "e" was not
dropped from the village name until 1917 when it appeared that way on a U.S.
The village was never incorporated as a town or city, hence it never had an
"official" spelling and either way is correct and acceptable, since the post
office made matters confusing by dropping the "e" from the name.
(Much of the above information is from Annals of Iowa, July, 1931,
"Abandoned Towns of Van Buren County," by B. T. Fitzpatrick--under the
Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project
by Andy Reddick