The Crawford County Historical Preservation Commission is trying to preserve the early history of the settlement of Crawford County by identifying these "lost" towns (marked on our interactive map). These were the places that the earliest settlers found most suitable for their homes.
Spend a pleasant day or a few hours following this map to these former settlement sites in Crawford County. Perhaps discovering the vanished towns of Crawford County will spark your interest to do more research on our prairie heritage.
Map of Historic Settlements
List of Historic Settlements
Abandoned Postal Sites
5 miles south of Westside, just east of the "5 Mile House". (S.W./N.W. Sec. 13, Hayes Township, 83N, R37W) Established July 15, 1880 by George S. Nickles. Discontinued November 28, 1882.
Located 7 1/2 miles northwest of Ricketts. (S.W./S.E. Sec. 8, Solider Township, 85N, R41W) Established July 17, 1879 by Ralph French. Discontinued March 18, 1881.
About 1 1/2 miles southwest of Ricketts. (Sec. 3, Charter Oak Township, 84N. R41W) Established October 5, 1875 by Barnett Brazell. Discontinued February 24, 1880.
6 miles south of Denison or 5 miles northeast of Buck Grove. (273rd St. and S. Ave., Washington Township, 82N. R39W) Established July 2, 1875 by J. Fred Meyers. Discontinued April 3, 1878.
5 miles north of Deloit, 4 miles south of Kiron. (N.E./N.E. Sec. 30, Stockholm Township, 85N. R38W) Established October 6 1899 by Frank L. Johnson. Discontinued February 28, 1903.
About 2 1/2 miles southeast of Schleswig. (N.E./N.E. Sec. 31, Otter Creek Township, 85N. R39W) Established February 2, 1877 by Albright J. Brock. Discontinued November 12, 1894.
About 3 miles northwest of Dow City. (Sec. 5, Union Township, 82N. R40W) Opened February 5, 1862 by Spencer Smith. Closed November 13, 1863.
On Milwaukee Railroad, 2 miles southwest of Manilla. (S.E./N. E. Sec. 33, S.W./N.W. Sec. 34, Nishnabotna Township, 82N, R38W) Established July 31, 1882 by ALexander Liedlum. Discontinued August 31, 1944, Astor was the "short cut" road to Denison.More Information
From boom to bust in three short years, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Company was responsible for the glory and defeat of the little town of Astor. Around 1883, Robert Theobold sold land to the railroad when they laid their first line from Chicago to Council Bluffs causing the town to quickly spring to life. Three years later, however, placement of a new line by that same railroad running north to Sioux City would crush all hopes of future success and force the city fathers to abandon all the progress they had made toward incorporating the town.
Astor, located near the border of Shelby County was distant enough from Denison not to interfere with the success of Denison merchants. However, when the line to Sioux City was being planned in 1886, it was intended to begin at Astor, run through Denison and Charter Oak and then on to Sioux City, causing Denison to make the "greatest decision mistake in history." Instead of realizing that the advent of another railroad would give it great added importance, it was felt that it would instead create new market places too close to town and draw trade away from Denison. A public meeting was held at which it was decided to run the line through Arion instead. Before the railroad's plans were finalized, the promise of Astor becoming a large and prosperous junction town prompted the county to spend a great sum of money to build the Denison and Astor Short Cut Road for access between the two major trading towns since there would be no rail line connecting them.
The anticipation did have Astor booming, but growth of the town was abruptly halted when the railroad decided to intersect their tracks a mile and a half east leaving Astor in the dust, never to become an important trading center. The bulk of Astor's population simply picked up and moved their buildings and belongings to create the boom town of Manilla at the new junction.
Excerpt from the Denison Review - November 7, 1884
Editor's Review: We made a short visit with the Astor people the other day and find it to be quite a lively, busy little town, with a good elevator set of business men in it, and people can now invest their money with the Astor merchants instead of doing as they have formerly had to do when the town was not there.
Astor, being located on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, makes it a good shipping point. It is an excellent fertile portion of the county being west of the Nishnabotany river and in the south part of the county. The railroad company bought the land of Robert Theobald on which to build the town and surveyed and platted in it August 1882, and the sale of lots still continue in the hands of E.T. Bidlack who will show you some fine lots in the town.
A.U. Palmer is the village blacksmith.
Pearce & Theobald handle lumber, lime and all kind of building material and coal. They also have a saw-mill for cutting frames, brackets, &c, run by water power.
B.H. Hamilton keeps the feed and livery stable and acts as constable.
Alex Ludiam is the post master, also justice of the peace of the town and does a large business in the line of collections which seems to be very satisfactory to all parties concerned.
J.L. Bidlack keeps a supply of drugs, patent medicines, paints, oils, tobacco, toys, confectionery, notions, and school books, and is doing a thriving business.
J.E. Milligan is the only drayman.
Callamore & Campbell are among the first to begin business in Astor. They keep a good supply of dry goods, groceries, clothing, glass and queensware, hats, caps, boots, shoes, notions, jewelry, watches and clocks, and also repair jewelry.
G. Gleiser has a fine assortment of general merchandise such as dry goods, groceries, glass and queensware, boots and shoes, fruits and confectionery.
Miss Lizzie Saunders who has been teaching the town school, will likely teach in Shelby County this winter.
E.W. Blackburn is the successor to Blackburn & James dealers in shelf and heavy hardware, stoves, hard or soft coal burners, agricultural implements &c. Mr. Blackburn expresses himself well pleased with the patronage he has received while here, and promises to continue in his square dealing way among his patrons
Clause Pepper keeps a temperance billiard hall, with all sorts of temperance drinks, and a good billiard table, and barber chair.
E. Hanne deals in dry goods, groceries, notions, ladies and gents furnishing goods, glass and queensware, canned and dried fruits, boots, shoes and clothing all new and fresh goods.
The many friends of the family will be glad to know that Mrs. Hanne is again able to be around, after fourteen weeks' illness.
Dr. Allen is a little like the Irishman's flea "when he went to put his hand on him he was not there" so it is with the Doctor he has so much to do that he is seldom at home therefore we did not see him.
We found Mr. Fuller a very genial landlord and fared well while with him, for both board and bed. The Astor House is well spoken of as a hotel.
The town has a nice Methodist Church, a school house a short distance from the business part of town, and something over fifteen nice dwellings, besides many of inferior class, and many rooms over business houses occupied by families.
We think it would be a good idea for the business men to try and get a good grist mill here from some source, as it would certainly be a paying investment.
A harness maker we think would do well here, and many other enterprises which every live town should have.
Learn more about Astor's history in a historic copy of The Denison Bulletin.
About 1 1/2 miles northwest of Arion at a Milwaukee Railroad station. (S.W. Sec. 34, Paradise Township, 83N, R40W) Established August 17, 1887 by Cornelius A Butterworth. Discontinued October 17, 1895. The Sandlandes Bell log cabin can be seen in the Washington Park in Dension.More Information
In 1886, the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railway established the town of Bell Town (later shortened to "Bell") in honor of Robert Bell, who owned the adjoining land and advertised the new site to attract settlers:
"The town of Bell is pleasantly situated in the south-west portion of Crawford County, on the Sioux City and Dakota Division of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railway. It is eight miles from Denison , the county seat, and commands the grain and stock trade from many miles of well settled valley lying North and West. It is located on the south slope of a hill near Paradise Creek and overlooks the Boyer River, with its rich access of bottom land contiguous. An abundant supply of pure water is easily obtained at trifling cost. Any one, who is in search of a new location in which to pitch a tent with a view to transacting a lively and prosperous business, and to reside in a thickly settled community where the society is good, and perhaps better than where his is now located, should go to Bell, which is sure to become a thrifty town in the near future."
Bell Town was platted with 63 lots complete with six streets running East and West and two running North and South. The East/West streets were numbered with 4th street serving as Main Street. Railway Street was on the west of town along the railroad property and on the east edge was Bell Avenue.
Excerpt from the Denison Review - July 21, 1926
Old Land Mark To Be Moved To Washington Park
Contract for moving the Bell log cabin from the George Bell place one mile north of Dow City to Washington park, Denison, was let to U.M. Gary Tuesday, Mayor N.L. Hunt informs us. The log cabin on the Robert Bell place was built in the fall of 1856, and although still standing, was not deemed in good enough preservation to be moved. It was built by Sandlandes Bell, who moved into it the day before the famous big snow fell four feet on the level when the storm subsided. Sandlandes built a second cabin a few years later and it is the one that will be moved to Denison. Old Settlers who helped to build the log cabin were Mr. Dow, Mr. Dunham, John Rudd, William Jordan, Robert Bell, Alex Bell and several others.
1 mile east of Monona County line or 3 miles west and 1 mile north of Charter Oak
Established in 1899 at the northwest corner of Sec. 5 of Jackson Township by Thomas Brogan. A hotel for railroad workers was built there with a depot and siding for loading and unloading lumber and livestockMore Information
Like many towns in Iowa, Brogan appeared on the map when the railroad tracks were laid. Brogan, so named by the Illinois Central Railroad Company after their company section foreman, Tom Brogan, was the site on which the railroad had built a shipping center, a depot, section house, tool shed, and boxcars to serve as homes for their employees. Large stockyards were erected, area farmers drove their cattle to be put on railcars for shipment to various points across the country and it was here the Brogans built themselves a permanent home.
Mrs. Brogan availed herself to be of service living so near the busy station. Lutie served meals in their home for the train crews who stopped there on trips from Council Bluffs to Fort Dodge. A telegraph system in the nearby depot installed an extension to the Brogan's house so the crews could wire ahead from Missouri Valley to notify her of their arrival times.
Lutie's menus included two kinds of meat, two vegetables, potatoes, salad, fresh-baked breads, and a choice of two pies. The price charged was 25 cents per plate, but the rule of the house for such fine service was "a box of fine chocolates for the cook." Lutie's mouth-watering meals were made from produce and meat raised on their farm, but twice a year she would board a train and travel to the city to purchase staples, such as five hundred pounds of sugar, to see her through. The water for drinking and cooking had to be carried a quarter of a mile and the laundry was done using a water boiler, tubs, washboard, and homemade soap.
Brogan is now only a memory, and its history is preserved only in the memories of those whose families lived in the area in times past. The Boyer River still flows past, but only hillsides of trees remain, although, as late as 1976, trains still passed by on their way to other destinations. It was in that year that the town was officially "closed" and a sign erected to designate its location.
Excerpt from the Denison Review - February 20, 1951
Whatever high hopes and ambitious plans the founder of Brogran entertained for seeing a Midwestern metropolis rise in the hills to the southwest of Wall Lake will come to a quiet and final end soon, for the 14.5-acre town site will be sold to settle the Brogan family estate.
Back in the 1800's a stage from Ft. Dodge to Ida Grove made connections with a state from Odebolt to Denison by way of Kiron and Deloit. Then came the railroad to replace the stage route. Mr. Brogan built a house near the tracks and there the building of Brogan ended.
Thus, an Iowa town was started and now died. Brogan is gone and it can truthfully be said that it never was a booming town, but at least it holds one distinction, however dubious this distinction may be.
On Illinois Central Railroad, 5 miles N.E. of Deloit. (NW/NE Sec. 23, Stockholm Township. 85N, R38W) Established January 24, 1900 by Benjamin F. Ells, discontinued April 15, 1914.More Information
Ells was a short-lived, yet busy village during the early 1900s that started in 1899 with an Illinois Central railroad station for passengers traveling to points between Fort Dodge and Council Bluffs with closer destinations at Brogan and Denison. It grew into a shipping center for livestock and soon came its own post office. Ells was about a mile south of Boyer and Mr. B. F. Wells, who had sold land to the railroad, pretty much created and operated most of the businesses in town.
Ells was not always a scheduled destination for train passengers. After a few years, it became a "whistle stop" on the line where a flagman by day, or night watchman with a lantern, would signal for the train to stop there when needed. The town never grew to include many more businesses than a dry goods store operated by Mr. Ells who was also the appointed post master and justice of the peace.
The tracks near Ells claimed more than its fair share of lives in accidents and incidents near there. On October 24, 1901, Peter Larson of Ells, the section foreman for the Illinois Central, was killed by freight No. 51:
"Larson was on the section handcar at the west end of Newcomb Siding, which is about two and a half miles east, or north, of Deloit. The car was on the main line and the freight coming down the road at a thirty-five mile clip and facing the sun directly, ran upon the car quite close before it was discovered. The air and whistle were quickly applied, but the train could not be stopped in time to avert the accident.
When the train whistled, Larson was apparently asleep on the car. He jumped up and tried to lift one end of the car, then ran to the other side, and then as the engine was upon him he crouched behind the car and received the full blow of the train. He was knocked down and rolled under the car and the engine, the latter catching his left leg and grinding it to shreds below the knee. The skull was crushed at the back of the head and on the left temple and bruises were all over the body."
Excerpt from the Denison Review - November 30, 1927
Mrs. Julia Ells Killed Tuesday at R.R. Crossing
Pioneer Resident Struck by Illinois Central Freight Train at Ells Depot Yesterday Afternoon
Death was Instantaneous
Ells, Iowa, Nov. 30 - (Special to the Review) - Mrs. Julia Ells, a resident of this locality for almost fifty years, was instantly killed Tuesday afternoon at 7:24 o'clock when she was struck by an Illinois Central freight train near the depot here. News of the tragic death of this estimable woman came as a great shock to everyone in the community, for notwithstanding the fact that she was almost 85 years of age, she was in excellent health, and very active for a woman of her years.
Mrs. Ells was crossing the tracks at the station expecting to take the afternoon train to Denison. The engineer of the freight train upon seeing her crossing the tracks slowed down his train and had every reason to believe that she would be able to make a safe crossing, but she evidently became confused and although she had placed one foot on the platform her body was wedged between the train and the platform. Death was instantaneous and her body was badly mangled.
Located 1 1/2 miles W. of Schleswig. (Sec. 23 Morgan Township, 85N, R40W) Established February 5, 1891 by Jurgen Schroder. When the railroad was completed, Hohenzollern was abandoned. The town of Schleswig was established 1 1/2 mile E. of November 16, 1899.More Information
Once upon a time, there was a little town by the name of Hohenzollern located a mile west of Schleswig in Morgan Township where Jurgen Schroeder and his second wife, Johanna, built a house and noticed a need. Provisions were hard to come by in that location due to the distance one had to travel for supplies, so the Schroeders build a little grocery store next door to the south of their house. Before long a saloon was built next door to the north, and the town eventually boasted of two intersecting streets complete with a cream and produce station, a dry goods/farm implement store, a blacksmith shop, a post office, and a very large dance hall with a saloon. It became a popular stopping place on cattle and hog drives to the railroad stations in Charter Oak and Ida Grove where a man could get a decent meal and cold beer.
Hohenzollern was a spectacle to behold. Celebrations were frequently held there and known to last into the wee hours of the morning on a regular basis. The saloon and dance hall caused much consternation county-wide and Willie Schroeder, Jurgen's oldest son, with his four-horse drawn wagon was noted as quite a sight and sound as he regularly drove the team with speed to Denison for supplies. Sometimes it wasn't until late at night that the horses' thundering hooves were heard returning home and it wasn't always the bare necessities that Willie hauled to Hohenzollern in his wagon.
On the highest part of the hill in Hohenzollern was a deep, dry well where beverages were kept to cool in wooden pony-kegs that came equipped for instant serving. Nine-year-old Chris Gierstorf was sent to get the cool ale for threshing crews. The men would fasten a halter around him, tie it to a long rope and lower him down into the well attached to another rope, with two tongs to hook around the ends of the wooden kegs of beer, and then pull Chris with the ale of the well.
In the fall of 1899, the Northwestern railroad laid tracks a mile east of Hohenzollern forcing Jurgen Schroeder to move all his big buildings and start over in the new town of Schleswig. Some of the timbers used for the project were sixty feet long and sixteen inches square. The big dance hall, store and saloon were moved over the hills and valleys at the cost of $1,100 for the job... and Hohenzollern was no more.
Excerpt from the Des Moines Register - July 24, 1897
Some three hundred sports fans from neighboring towns assembled at Hohenzollern Tuesday evening to witness a prize fight between Clem Langley of Arion and Sam Broadus, a barber from Denison.
The fight was with large gloves, and took place in the large dance hall. Two rounds were fought, lasting six minutes. Langley being an easy victor. He gave Broadus an upper cut in the second round which quickly put him to sleep. The affair did not commence until 1 o'clock in the morning, and the short time that it lasted and the $1 admission fee charged, the sports fans concluded that it was a rather expensive affair.
After the main performance, several "knock down and drag outs" were indulged in by several in the crowd.
8 miles west of Dension. (S.E./S.W. Sec. 9, Paradise Township, 83N, R40W) Established August 12, 1886 by William C. Saul. Discontinued March 31, 1932.More Information
Excerpt from the Denison Review - November 1923
Thirty-five years ago (1888), or just one year after the Chicago Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad was built through the site of the village of Kenwood, John Miller stopped off there and decided to start a store. A small building was erected and a general stock placed on sale. That same store, online in a different building, is still running today and is owned by Vogt & Bahnsen.
The house Miller erected was sold and moved to Arion and it was necessary to build a new store to house the business.
Kenwood has a population of thirty-four and is the biggest little town in Iowa. It has one store, one elevator and lumber yard, a depot, school house and dance hall combined, several residences and is a large shipping point for live stock and grain. J.J. Ecklin is the depot agent and telegraph operator and C.E. Mullin manages the business of the Armour Grain Co.
Established by Swedish pioneers, it was the forerunner of the present town of Kiron. The original spelling was intended to be Kidron, but a error made it Kiron. Old Kiron was located 1 mile south of the corner of Sac and Ida Counties, and 1 mile east of the railroad.More Information
In 1867, three Swedes, C.J. Star, C.P. Frodig, and N.F. Rodine were scouting for a place to grow a Swedish settlement and found their ideal location in the northernmost part of Crawford County. By 1873, there were enough settlers to warrant partitioning the government for a post office. The paperwork was sent in requesting service to the town of "Kidron" and when the official documents were returned, the name had been misspelled and "Kiron" came to be.
With the building of the railroad in 1899, the misspelled town fell victim to the dictates of the railroad as to the location of the train station which was placed a mile west of the budding settlement. Like the residents of so many other towns and settlements, the solution to the matter was to pick up their buildings and move them to a new location.
The new area, essential for success and growth, came at what must have been a disheartening blow as the move took them out of the township they had named "Stockholm" in honor of the capital of their homeland and placed them in Otter Creek township.
When all the moving was done, the original little settlement was sparsely populated and would from then on be referred to as "Old Kiron."
In 1849, Cornelius Dunham Sr. came to Crawford County and built a cabin on the Boyer River approximately 3 1/2 miles southwest of Vail at the 300 Acre Grove.
In 1848, Jesse Mason arrived in the County. He returned and brought his family from the east in 1850. They arrived a what was named Mason's Grove, located just across the Boyer River east of present day Deloit. Jesse was known as the "Great Hunter" of western Iowa.