Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick Remembering
Van Buren's 70 Villages (Continued)
As many as 70 villages within the present Van Buren County boundaries were proposed, planned, platted, or settled during the first fifty years of development. Some never advanced beyond the drawing board, but of those what drew settlers, rivals competed with each other for business, industry, population, and eventually for existence. Often they sprang up in close proximity, and in many cases they merged, or were incorporated with nearby settlements. A handful of villages became major towns with only six reaching a population over 500 (Farmington 1,342; Keosauqua 1,263; Milton 1,107; Bonaparte 968; Birmingham 643; and Bentonsport 515.)
The following is a listing of the villages, with a brief description of each that includes location, if and when the village was settled, laid out, platted, incorporated, and the population, if any:
continued . . .
27. Iowa City: East of Iowaville adjoining Indian Territory in Section 7 of Village Township was a planned town consisting of nine blocks or portions of blocks, according to a plat dated 1839. It was probably never inhabited.
28. Rising Sun: A plat of Rising Sun at the courthouse dated 1839 shows 15 blocks laid out north of Chequest Creek in Section 27, Van Buren Township West. A hotel and several buildings existed, traces of which can still be found. A post office was located here, but was moved across the creek in 1844 and the name was changed to Pittsburgh.
29. Alexander: Elias Doud settled in the Douds vicinity in 1843 and drew up a paper town of about six blocks along the north side of the river in Section 26 of Village Township. A settlement had existed there since about 1840, but it never grew and was abandoned.
30. Alexandria: Before Douds was platted in the 1860's, a village known as Alexandria grew up along what later was the railroad in Sections 25 and 26 of Village Township. This appears to be a modified form of the earlier village of Alexander.
31. Mt. Sterling: Originally called Wood's Mill in 1840 and Union Corners, the name Mt. Sterling did not appear for another decade, and the nickname "Dogtown" emerged. The post office in Section 7, Vernon Township, has been continuous since 1840. In 1915 the population was 243.
32. Gwinnupsburg: Gwinnupsburg was also platted about 1840, in Section 7 of Vernon Township, a short distance east of Wood's Mill. After the railroad came through in 1871, the two villages united. Old Mt. Sterling, the "upper town' is gone but the part that remains is in the original Gwinnupsburg.
33. Rushville: A village of eight blocks east of Milton in Section 21 of Jackson Township was laid out in 1840, according to the plat. It never materialized.
34. Winchester: Remnants of this little town, including its square, can still be found southwest of Birmingham in Sections 21 and 28 of Union Township. Laid out and platted in 1840, it was Birmingham's rival for several years, reaching a population of 300 in 1878. It was not on the railroad, and was located too close to Birmingham to survive.
35. East Vernon: The second addition to the town of Vernon was originally platted separately in 1840, and contained 13 blocks. During the early 1840's it existed as a separate village next to Vernon and may have reached close to 100 persons. It did not have a post office and what remained of the town was absorbed into Vernon by 1850. It was located in Section 1 of Henry township on the south side of the Des Moines River across from Oakland.
36. Harrisburg: The county courthouse has a plat for a village near the mouth of Indian Creek across from Farmington in Section 35 of Farmington Township, proposed during the 1840's. An actual village existed for a brief time, but was on marshy lowlands subject to frequent flooding.
37. Hartford: Hartford was laid out in Section 5 T68 R10W, between Lebanon and Pittsburg in Des Moines Township. According to a plat dated January, 1842, there were 5 blocks or portions of blocks and a town square. Only a few homes ever existed here.
38. Plymouth: Laid out April 26, 1842 along the east side of the Des Moines River one mile north of Farmington in Section 35, Farmington Twp., T68N R8W, the Plymouth Company was formed in an effort to build a dam across the Des Moines with the Territory of Iowa financing the project. The original plat contained 3 blocks, and an addition of 3 blocks was added. As late as 1918, Plymouth was still shown as a separate village, but never contained more than six homes.
39. Harrisburg: In the center of Harrisburg Township where sections 15, 16, 21 and 22 come together, a hamlet existed with a post office from 1841 to 1849. The town hall remained until recently, but only the Baptist Church remains of the settlement.
40. Mechanicsburg: Talk of Mechanicsburg serving as the junction of a plank road linking Bloomfield and Keosauqua began circulating in 1841. A plat of 36 lots exists in the county courthouse dated February 1846, but the exact location is disputed. It is described as being in the southwest part of Chequest township near Lebanon yet in the description of the plat, the site is designated as "being situated along the north line of township 68 North and (Barry's), 10 West on Section number 5 and 6 as signed by Elvert, Spain and Warner. This places the village one mile west of Hartford along the Van Buren Township and Des Moines Township line (a mile east of the other description.) A settlement never materialized.
41. Lebanon: This village started with a post office named Indian Prairie from 1843 to 1853. A post office called Lebanon existed from 1853 to about 1878. The location of the village is where Sections 35 and 36 of Chequest Township meet with Sections 1 and 2 of Jackson Township. A plat never existed, but the village contained 28 inhabitants in 1878. A small population remains, the old Lebanon Store is a popular restaurant, and the crossroads village has an Amish School.
42. Black Hawk City: This was one of the most enterprising adventures in Van Buren County history. Located on the south side of the Des Moines River opposite Iowaville, in section 7 of Village township, a man named Andrew Davis founded Black Hawk City in 1845 for the purpose of making whiskey. He built a building 200 feet by 150 feet, five stories tall, which housed the entire town consisting of a saw mill, woolen mill, distillery, store, copper shop, and a black smith shop and apparently housing for whatever population settled there. The building was torn down in 1861.
43. New Market: A plat exists for this venture, dated 1849 with 9 blocks divided into lots and a mile race track located on the west side of the river in sections 7 and 18 of Village Township, opposite Selma. The village located about a half mile east of Black Hawk City, had a post office from 1849 to 1865.
44. Business Corners: Ten families settled this area and platted a town in 1846 in Section 24 of Village Township (T70N R11W). The population reached 150 in 1860 and for a while rivaled Douds Station, but died out in the early 1900's.
45. Milton: Milton's first settler arrived in 1837, but a village did not originate until 1847 and was not platted until 1851. The original town was small with tiny lots and did not grow until the railroad served the town from 1872 to 1955. Incorporated in 1878, Milton reached a population of 1,107 in 1905. Located in Sections 19, 20, 29 and 30 of Jackson Township, Milton declined sharply with the railroad demise.
46. Union: A post office named Union operated in Section 34, Union Township, in 1847 and 1848. It was an extension of the Utica post office, but a town did not materialize and the post office was abandoned.
47. North Birmingham: North Birmingham was platted in 1849 and remained a separate village until 1860, comprising 39 acres. It was absorbed into the village of Birmingham but was never officially incorporated. The population reached about 100.
Continued . . .
Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick