From Frank Myers

The definitive source of information about Iowa’s ghost towns is David C. Mott’s “Abandoned Towns, Villages and Post Offices of Iowa,” originally published in Volumes 17 and 18 of “The Annals of Iowa” during 1930 and 1932 and republished as a paperback book during 1973 by J. W. Hoffman and S. L. Purington, Council Bluffs.

What follows is based upon Mott’s list of 30 former post offices or ghost towns in Lucas County, although information from other sources has been added and communities he did not mention incorporated. It’s useful to remember, so far as post offices are concerned, that they often were portable. Small post offices sometimes were located in the postmasters’ homes. If a new postmaster were named, the post office would move. So locating post offices not co-located with small towns or trading centers can be tricky.


 Mott identifies Argo as a post office in the northern part of Union Township from 1853 to 1875. Union Township is located in the extreme southwest corner of Lucas County. Derby is its only incorporated place. Argo was not located on the 1875 Lucas County map included in A. T. Andreas’ “Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa” and was not incorporated.

A rough map found on Page 18 of the Lucas County Genealogical Society’s 1978 “History of Lucas Co., Iowa” places Argo at the juncture of Sections 3, 4, 9 and 10 of Union Township, directly on the Mormon Trace three and a half miles northwest of Derby. The Trace was for a time the principal route used by Mormons fleeing Nauvoo across southern Iowa toward Utah. Here, the Trace is meandering southwesterly from Chariton toward Smyrna in Clarke County where it branched south to Garden Grove and west to Mt. Pisgah, both Mormon way stations. The Trace remained a principal route west and southwest out of Lucas County for some years after the passing of the Mormons, so this would have been a logical place for a stage stop and community center to flourish briefly. A photograph on Page 19 of the Lucas County history depicts a substantial but derelict wood frame building identified as the Fancy Hill Hotel at Argo, described as a stage coach stop.

There is no indication of Argo’s existence on the 1895 plat map of Union Township. Residents of the Argo vicinity probably would have been buried at the Last Chance Cemetery, approximately two miles southwest; or the Goshen Baptist Church Cemetery, a mile and a half due east. Other cemeteries in Union Township are the large Derby Cemetery, northeast of town, and the small Webb-Fisher Cemetery, a mile or so south of Goshen in Section 14.

Although one needs a sharp eye to locate them and some familiarity with the area to follow them, the route of the Mormon Trace from Chariton through the former location of Argo is marked with signs.


 A hamlet and post office in the western part of Pleasant Township from 1858 to 1908,” Mott writes. “A few scattered residences still remain.”

Andreas’ 1875 map locates Belinda on the line between Sections 7 and 8 of Pleasant Township, which is in the extreme northeast corner of Lucas County. Since it never has been an incorporated place, its boundaries are flexible. The Belinda Christian Church (organized 1849) was a mile and a half north on the Lucas side of the Lucas-Marion county line. The church building still exists, embedded in what now is a toy museum. Belinda school, destroyed within the last five years, was a mile and a half south. The Andreas map shows S.C. Coles and G. Rainus (sic) living adjacent to Belinda and Oiler & Co. as doing business within it.

In the Andreas “Patron’s Directory” S.C. Coles is identified as “Sarah C. Coles, Section 8, farmer, born Morgan County, Illinois, came to Iowa 1860”; G. Rainus as “Gustave Raimis (sic), Belinda, blacksmith and wagon maker, born Sweden, came to state in 1865”; and “G.W. Oiler & Co., Belinda, general merchandise, born Columbiana County, Ohio, came to state 1864.”

There is a story that Belinda was named for a Coles daughter named Belinda. We know that Belinda did indeed exist as she married (disastrously) as her first husband, a distant cousin of mine, Jones S. Clair.

An 1895 plat map of Pleasant Township locates the Belinda Post Office and store as well as a few houses (no ownership indicated). Landowners in the square mile surrounding Belinda during that year were M.E.H. and William Selby, Martin G. Smith, Jonas Newman, Matilda Smith, William F. Garrett, C.A. Kinney, Charles E. Loynachan and Sarah C. Park.

The Lucas County Genealogical Society’s 1978 “History of Lucas County, Iowa” contains additional information about Belinda on Page 21.

According to that brief history, “There was a hotel, blacksmith shop, a mill, two general stores, the post office …, a brass band, eight dwelling houses with perhaps 50 people that ever lived there at one time and a doctor who spent some time living there.”

On Saturday night it was a loafing place with all the hired men boxing, pulling square holds and Indian wrestling. There was the hitching rack for the horses which was the only mode of transportation. A great gathering place for the neighborhood bringing their produce for trade for the necessities of life. A great place for travelers who could find a resting place and night’s lodging.”

The same historical sketch identifies men who operated the general store in the early days as Dale LaFever, Floyd Brownfield, Erving Wood, Floyd Roberts, Tom Lenig and Ben Kenney. Early mail was carried by Jonathan Lenig.

Beginning about 1946, Belinda was the site of a large and for that time elaborate softball field that was a popular neighborhood recreational spot and gathering place. It has long since vanished.

Highway 14 connecting Chariton and Knoxville still follows the angled path of the old road across the broad Belinda plain and through the town site. It still is recognizable if you know what you’re looking for. A former service station and house are located on the west side of the highway; a 1950s-era house and mobile home, on the east side.

Pleasant Prairie United Methodist Church, which dates from 1875 but occupies a building constructed about 1960, also is a part of the Belinda neighborhood. It is located at the first gravel road intersection with Highway 14 north of Belinda proper. This remains an active congregation.

Residents of the Belinda neighborhood were most likely to have been buried in either the Columbia Cemetery, located south of Columbia in Marion County, the nearest incorporated place; or the Strong Cemetery, located in the middle of farm fields southwest of Belinda Christian Church in Section 5, Pleasant Township, and accessed via a long lane entering from the west.

A tiny cemetery just across the road northwest of the Belinda school site is known alternately as the Belinda or Swede Cemetery. It does not seem ever to have been a major community burying place and was lost in brush and weeds until a few years ago. Now cleared, it is in the care of the Lucas County Pioneer Cemetery Commission.


Bucyrus was “a post office from 1871 to 1880 in the southern part of English Township,” according to Mott. Andreas’ 1875 map does not show this post office, but the 1978 “History of Lucas County, Iowa,” map locates it in the southwest portion of Section 32, a little more than three miles due north of Chariton and about two miles southwest of Williamson, north of the beginning of Highway 14’s curve to begin a northeasterly descent to Little Whitebreast Creek. Land owners in Section 32 when the 1895 plat book was published were Jas. K. Loon, Littie J. Maxwell, Thos. H. Smyth, Lucy Carnahan, N.B. Branner, J.G. Foulks, Thomas Van Loon, A. D. Marshall, Mary Foley, Thos. Avitt, John A. Brown and P.V. Van Arsdale. The nearest cemetery to this site would be Brownlee, the pioneer English Township Cemetery, located in the southeast quarter of Section 21about two miles northeast, but people who lived in this vicinity would be equally likely to gravitate toward Chariton.

It seems likely that Bucyrus was one of those post offices that moved from place to place, then died because of proximity to Chariton and inability to find a long-term postmaster. The 1881 “History of Lucas County” (Page 606) places Bucyrus in Lincoln Township, which adjoins English Township on the south and includes the city of Chariton (Lincoln Township was known as Chariton Township until the mid-1870s). According to the 1881 history, “A post office named Bucyrus has been established several times at different places, but it seems that neither the emoluments of the office, nor the honor of being a United States official is sufficient to induce any one to retain it. However, they claim the right to the name, Bucyrus, and as soon as they have a railroad station they will call it Bucyrus, when it is hoped it will stick.” Obviously, it didn’t.


According to Mott, Cedar Grove was “a post office from 1854 to 1868 in the central part of Cedar Township.” The 1978 “History of Lucas County, Iowa,” map locates Cedar Grove in the northwest portion of Section 11, very near Ola, in Section 10, identified by Mott as a post office from 1867 to 1902. This suggests that the Cedar Grove post office became the Ola post office and moved slightly when one postmaster succeeded another. Both Cedar Grove and Ola are located in the northeast quadrant of Cedar township, two miles south of the Pleasant Township line and two miles west of the Monroe County line. The 1895 plat map locates the Ola Post Office on a farm owned by A.M. Hall in the southeast quarter of Section 10. Both locations are about a mile northeast of Bethel Cemetery and Bethel United Methodist Church, which remains active, so residents of this neighborhood logically would have been buried here.


Mott identified Cleveland as “a coal mining town in the 1880s in section 18, White Breast Township, about two miles east of the town of Lucas. A few scattered houses still remain (in 1930).”

Mott is mistaken about Cleveland’s location. It actually was surveyed and platted 26 June 1878 in Section 13 of Jackson Township by the Whitebreast Fuel Co., owner of Cleveland Mine Nos. 1-3, as a home and commercial center for its miners, many of whom were professionals from England, Wales and Scotland as well as Sweden and mining centers in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. With subsequent additions, its west city limits joined the east city limits of Lucas, organized 10 years earlier and by 1878 also a flourishing coal mining town. Cleveland’s east city limit was the Jackson-Whitebreast township line, and the town spilled over. By some accounts it had as many as 1,000 residents during its heydey.

By all accounts, Cleveland was an extremely clean, neat and well-mannered little boom town and tolerated no saloons, but as with most mining towns it flourished only briefly.

By 1891, the Whitebreast Fuel Co. has ceased operations, the mines were closed and Cleveland faded away as miners moved to Lucas or to the sites of other mines.

The 1895 plat map of Jackson Township shows tiny Midway in the extreme northwest corner of Cleveland, adjacent to Lucas. This was a separate incorporation undertaken by Smith H. Mallory, Lucas County’s great 19th Century mover and shaker, which had no identifiable history of its own. There also was, by some accounts, a small community of black miners in the Cleveland-Lucas vicinity, organized perhaps because they were excluded by the white residents of the other towns, but information about it is extremely scarce.

Today, neighboring Lucas remains an active and interesting small town which has undergone a main street renaissance, spurred in part by the John L. Lewis Mining and Labor Museum, which is located there and honors the area’s mining heritage as well as native son John L. Lewis (born at Lucas 12 February 1880), president of the United Mine Workers of America from 1920-1960 and founding president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).

Follow Lucas’s Front Street east out of town onto gravel and the location of Cleveland is on the left. Fry Hill Cemetery, on the heights due north of old Cleveland and with sweeping views of the surrounding countryside, served (and still does) Lucas, Cleveland and other small communities in the immediate vicinity. Fry Hill is reached by a road that forks north at the Jackson-Whitebreast township line, climbs a steep hill and turns abruptly to dirt over the brow of the hill. A lane forks left at the crest of the hill and leads into the cemetery. The Lucas County Genealogical Society reports that Fry Hill was established on land owned by the Whitebreast Fuel Co. about 1880 and that the first burial there may have been the victim of a mining accident named Shadrack Fry, whose tombstone inscription states that he died 30 November 1880, age 24.

Additional information about Cleveland, in the form of transcripts from early Chariton newspapers, may be found elsewhere on this site.


The Lucas County Genealogical Society’s 1978 “History of Lucas County, Iowa” locates New Cleveland approximately two miles southwest of Lucas in Section 21 of Jackson Township.

It was established after 1896 when the failed Whitebreast Fuel Co. reorganized and, during 1899, opened a mine named Cleveland No. 4 in that location. Although never incorporated, the community included a depot, post office (discontinued 1913), company store, saloons, boarding houses, churches, a school and substantial population.

The mine, however, closed during 1908, subsequent efforts to make it pay failed and the community faded away.


Another of Lucas County’s short-lived post offices, Mott describes Earle as a post office (1869-1872) and railroad station in Union Township, about two miles southwest of Derby.

The Lucas County Genealogical Society’s 1978 History of Lucas County, Iowa places Earle in the southeast corner of Section 27, about a mile southwest of Derby, on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy rail line connecting Derby and Wayne County’s Humeston.

The village of Derby was platted 1 May 1872, and so it seems likely that the railroad station was moved there from Earle and the post office ceased to exist when another nearby post office, Henderson, was moved into Derby and rechristened.


Freedom is one of those Lucas County places with an identity that has survived for more than a century after the town that established it ceased to exist. Mott describes it as a village in the southeastern part of section 25, Warren Township, on Wolf Creek, laid out in 1856. Post office, 1855-1876.

Warren Township is in the southern tier of Lucas County townships, joining Wayne County and running from east to west as follows: Washington, Benton, Warren and Union.

An account of Freedom, found on Page 634 of the 1881 History of Lucas County, reads as follows:

The town of Freedom was laid out by Allen Edwards, the first probate judge of the county, in June, 1856, on the southeast quarter of section twenty-five. It consisted of four blocks of eight lots each. A store was established about 1860, by the Barnett Brothers, and they are said to have made a large amount of money in business. They kept the post office for a number of years, but it and the store were both discontinued some years ago, and recently they have sold their land, and their interest in the town, to Mr. Noah Tuttle.

A saw and grist mill, for grinding corn, was established something like twenty-five years ago. The saw mill was removed some years ago over into Benton township, but the corn burrs are still used occasionally, and make a first rate article of corn meal.

It was found, some years ago, that Freedom was too large a place to be supported properly by the surrounding country and accordingly one half of the town plat was vacated and turned into farm land again.

There is a grocery and blacksmith show there now, and the total assessed valuation of real estate, for 1880, was seven hundred and ninety-five dollars.

According to the same source, the post office at Freedom was discontinued a few years ago, because no one would accept the position of postmaster.

The 1978 History of Lucas County, Iowa, in an account to the town of Derby, tells us that Derby’s Masonic lodge, Mt. Carmel No. 295, was organized at Freedom in June 1871 but moved to Derby during 1876.

Noah Tuttle, born 3 November 1830 in Pitt County, N.C., arrived in Freedom with his family during its heydey and built his home on its main street. His son, Guilford (1896-1974), was born and died in that main street” location and it continues to be occupied by Tuttle descendants.

Freedom is clearly identified on the 1875 Andreas Atlas map of Lucas County, but had vanished by the time the 1895 plat of Warren Township was published.

Freedom Cemetery is located north of the old town site, accessible via a long lane leading north from the gravel road that heads west out of old Freedom. According to the 1881 history (Page 632), “The first death known to have occurred in the township (Warren) was that of a daughter of Allen Edwards, in 1851. She was the first person buried in what is now known as the Freedom cemetery. A child of Charles Gartin died in 1853, and was buried near Edwards’ daughter. The cemetery remains in use and is well-maintained. Dorothy (Fluke) Many, a Tuttle descendant, had a new gateway with “Freedom” emblazoned in wrought iron above it installed at the entrance some years ago, and was buried there herself during 2003.

A mile to the west of old Freedom is Freedom Bible Camp, dating perhaps from the late 1940s or early 1950s, denominationally independent but maintained by several congregations, and the site of summer youth camps and revival camp meetings.

Warren Township has in recent years become home to several Old Order Amish families, and so horses and buggies pass through the community regularly again.

To reach Freedom, travel south of Chariton on Highway 14 three and a half miles to the paved Derby Road, west on the Derby Road for a mile and then south on gravel approximately two miles to the Y intersection where Freedom once was located.

There are three other cemeteries in Warren Township, but all located some distance from Freedom.

No stones remain in the Gay Cemetery, located in Section 5, along the township’s northern boundary. The area, however, is respected by landowners and maintained. The Lucas County Pioneer Cemetery Commission has been frustrated in efforts to mark it by larcenous louts who find the name amusing.

Waynick Cemetery, located in Section 1 in Warren Township’s extreme northeast corner, quite near Chariton, also is known occasionally as Holmes Cemetery. Both the Waynicks and Holmes were pioneer Warren Township families. It is very old and in somewhat dilapidated condition, but restoration efforts have begun. The array of Waynick tombstones would delight any researcher interested in that family.

Murray Cemetery is located in Section 29, approximately four and a half miles due west of Freedom. Small and no longer used, it is well maintained.

Many Warren Township families also are buried in Sharon Baptist Church Cemetery in Section 12 of Washington Township, Wayne County.


 Mott describes Freeland as a post office from 1854 to 1865, shown on the maps first in the southwestern part of Warren Township, and later in the southern part of White Breast Township.

The Lucas County Genealogical Society’s 1978 History of Lucas County, Iowa locates Freeland in the northeast corner of Section 5, Warren Township, but provides no further information. White Breast Township joins Warren on the north. This is in the general neighborhood of May Baptist Church in northwest Warren Township, but that congregation was organized much later, during 1890. Apparently the post office moved frequently, then vanished.


Zero was located in the far northeast corner of Washington Township. There's no trace of it today, although the site still is accessible via a road leading south off Highway 34.

Here's what the 1978 "History of Lucas County, Iowa" had to say about it:

"Located halfway between Melrose and Russell, Iowa, is the ghost town of Zero. Only a couple of old wooden buildings and a few foundations remain of the old town that was platted in 1883 by the Zero Coal Company. There were 61 lots, 5 streets and 3 alleys drawn into the town.

"Zero did have a post office operated by Aquilla Kern and there was a general store run by Henry Gettinger. The Zero mine was never a big mine. It never exceeded 20 railroad cars of coal a day and finally closed in 1886 because there was too much water in the mine.

"Today Zero, Iowa, is losing its contest with time. Fred Schreck is the last person living there in 1978 and he is 78 years old. The few buildings that remain have deteriorated past the point of ugliness and have achieved a weathered beauty of their own. The lovely countryside is closing in on the once proud house and sagging barn, and the shingle roofs no longer hold back the rain."

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