homepage logo

Palo Alto County Ghost Towns – Part 1

By Staff | Mar 22, 2016

I am one of those people who enjoy history and discovering sites that stood hundreds of years ago that have been long forgotten but are an important part of our past whether as a community, country or an individual. Ghost towns have been one of my favorite places to try and visit, especially in Iowa. With spring in the air and fields not yet worked, this is one of the perfect times of the year to explore the surrounding area and learn a bit of history while having fun.

Exactly what is a ghost town? The dictionary defines ghost town as a town that no longer has any people living in it: an abandoned town, which is a great definition. It needs to be carried a little farther in stating that a ghost town is a town that no longer has any people living in it and may or may not have buildings but simply foundations or may now be only in the memory of those who lived there. I began to wonder if there were any such places in Palo Alto County. I began researching the Internet, the History of Palo Alto County and just talking to locals and what I began to find was incredible. So many places that could have been lived in today with today’s town never existing

What really got me interested in ghost towns is the fact that one-mile south of our family farm and about a half mile west is the former site known as Sherlock. It was basically a post office and lasted about five years before the town of Ayrshire was established. You wont see any old buildings there. They are long since gone, but at one time you could see a foundation and the wagon wheel tracks that used to run past it.

The following is a partial list of Ghost Towns of Palo Alto County that I found on the website www.iowaghosttowns.com and then searched Palo Alto County. I was actually surprised to find that there are 20 towns that no longer exist in out county alone.

BLACK WALNUT. A post office from 1868 to 1871 and from 1879 to 1881 in the southern part of Walnut Township, near the West Fork of the Des Moines River.

BLAIRCOWIE. The name first given, and for a short time only, to the present village of Osgood.

CARY. A place in the western part of Highland Township, as shown on maps of 1878.

ELLENTON. A former railroad station near the northwest corner of Freedom Township, four miles north of Emmetsburg.

FAIRVILLE. A former hamlet and post office (1888-1906) in section 2, Fairfield Township.

FERN VALLEY. A post office (1862-1882) in Fern Valley Township near where now stands the town of Rodman.

FORSYTH. A former railroad station and post office (1890-1895) in the northeast part of Independence Township on the Emmet County line.

GREAT OAK. A post office (1866-1876) in the southwest corner of section 35, Emmetsburg Township, on the west side of the west fork of the Des Moines River.

Now is one of the perfect times of the year to get out and explore the county you live in. Find the location of places that once were. You may be surprised at how close you are living to a potential landmark in the community.