Historian To Present On The Ghost Towns Of Mahaska County

Dave Baker from the 29th State Facebook page explores the area where Carbonado use to exist.

Dave Baker from the 29th State Facebook page explores the area where Carbonado use to exist.

by Dave Baker

Just what exactly is a community? Depending on interpretation, a community can describe many types of collectives. A church can be a community as can a school, a club, a political party, a lodge, or even an entire town. Essentially, anywhere where people collectively connect or come together is a community. Broadly speaking, when people discuss the communities of Mahaska County, typically they are referring to the ten incorporated cities where the majority of the population resides: Beacon, Fremont, Keomah Village, Leighton, New Sharon, Oskaloosa, Rose Hill, University Park and the two towns shared across county lines: Eddyville and Barnes City. Perhaps, some might also include those unincorporated places; villages which are, under Iowa law, not incorporated and therefore not technically “cities.” These would include Bellefountain, Cedar, Givin, Indianapolis, Lacey, Taintor, and arguably Hopewell, Lakonta, and Union Mills. For residents in and near these places, community is a peculiar term. It can still apply to their neighborhood; however, it is less likely to. These places often lack the infrastructure: businesses, churches, and schools to build the necessary connections to form cohesion.

One hundred years ago this was not the case. Residents often worked, resided, played, and socialized within the boundaries of their physical location which meant that, in some cases, the town was entirely associated with a particular industry. In Mahaska County, this meant that many residents lived in mining communities, and their social fabric reflected this. These were places like Excelsior, Colon, Fishville, Evans, and Pekay where mining companies provided a social order through their corporate welfare. Churches, schools, and retail establishments were in some cases created, managed, and maintained by the mine owners. While the workers spent time in the mines, the spouses and children spent time together as well forming bonds, celebrating and conflicting with one another.

When I started The 29th State more than a decade ago the purpose was to celebrate Iowa history through sharing photographs of communities. While my initial task was to photograph the extant and incorporated towns around the state, I very quickly realized that the full story of Iowa could not be told without including the ghost towns—as many of these had such interesting events and people. Since 2009 I have explored and researched over five hundred ghost towns in and around Iowa and I will be sharing some of those with Oskaloosa. We will look at what an immigrant experienced when they arrived to work in the mines. Using maps, photographs, and documents this presentation will recreate on a small scale what life was like in these places. How did they buy clothes and shoes? What did residents do in their leisure time? How did they treat diseases and injuries? Who were the interesting neighbors? What happened during strikes?

We will explore all these questions and more Friday June 10, 2022 at the George Daily Auditorium in Oskaloosa from 6:00-7:00 pm. Join me, Dave Baker –essayist and photographer of The 29th State on this fascinating romp through some of Mahaska County’s many ghost towns and mining towns. I have presented on ghost towns all over Iowa since 2016 and I am very excited to bring this program to Oskaloosa.

You can visit The 29th State on Facebook HERE to learn more about Dave’s work.

The presentation is brought to you by Oskaloosa News in a partnership with the George Daily Auditorium.

Posted by on May 23 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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