Author And Ghost Town Explorer To Present At Eddyville Historical Museum

by Dave Baker

Crickets…the sound most commonly heard today on what was once land owned by the Smoky Hollow Coal Company. Unless it is evening, in which case the silence is punctuated by the drone of late season cicadas. The sounds of William Burt’s restaurant are no longer heard, having faded into the past as have the conversations once held at Anderson’s grocery store. Popper’s Drug Store was torn down more than a century ago; and Cook’s livery…well, the smells might seem to linger on but they are now generated by livestock grazing nearby. Welcome to Hynes, Iowa–a ghost town that once boasted a population of nearly 500 residents, many with ties to the numerous coal companies which once powered the mighty engines of the vast rail network.

Little to nothing remains of Hynes today, though traces of the town are still visible, at least on paper. Over the years, the roads of Mantua Township were resurveyed altering or destroying evidence of the community. Little Avery Creek, flooded numerous times since, further changing the surrounding landscape. Company houses once standing on J. Z. Evans’s land are no longer extant, torn down, decayed, or removed elsewhere. But there are hints of the town; for example, two surveyed lots on 172nd Place, easily overlooked, are the same as they were when miners walked the dirt roads of the company owned town. Hynes’s fate is not unique; its disintegration is similar to that of hundreds of other communities in the west and midwest.

Why did Eddyville survive while Hynes didn’t? Was it the leadership? Finances? Community Pride? All of these, it turns out, are critical factors, but just as important is luck. Eddyville, a much older community, was better established when the coal mines began to play out. While indeed home to miners, Eddyville was not a company town and had a solid agricultural, industrial base for a decade. Across the river though is Bridgeport, a failed community which might have been equally successful under different circumstances. Other towns which flooded have come and gone, but Eddyville has endured natural disasters as well. Polifantasmology–the study of abandoned towns or “ghost towns” doesn’t explain why some towns thrive and others do not–but it does offer some clues.

Straddling three counties, Eddyville has plenty of ghost towns in its vicinity. Mahaska County alone boasts over eighty formerly named sites, if counting all of the post offices and railroad stations which appear on maps and timetables as ghost towns. Most of these had at least some semblance of a settlement, but there were some, like Tower Station located west of Albia, which were little more than an outpost. Add in the Monroe and Wapello County ghost towns, and the count easily crosses over one hundred in number. Some of them are names that still endure in our collective memory, like Buxton and Foster, while others have lent their names to nearby landmarks: Tyrone, LaHart, and Miami were all names associated with small communities before being attached to nature areas. Still, there are dozens more of which little is remembered. In some cases, these places are entirely forgotten: Hagerty, Arkel, Keb, Comstock, and Chisholm.

On September 20th, I will be bringing a program to the Eddyville Historical Society to examine some of these ghost towns. We’ll look at their histories, what made them successful, even if only for a short while, and learn what ultimately was their fate. Having researched extant and non-extant Iowa communities for over a decade, I am excited to share some stories from Wapello, Monroe, and Mahaska Counties. While time constraints will only allow us to look at a fraction of these places, the stories that emerge will not only inform but also might help keep our communities healthy. So please plan to join me for this interactive, fun, and informative program next Tuesday night at 6:00 at the Eddyville Historical Museum.

Oskaloosa News is proud to present another Dave Baker program to the area. We hope you will join us for promises to be an interesting evening.

Posted by on Sep 15 2022. Filed under Events, Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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