Wednesday, July 27, 2016

West on Iowa Hwy. 2 – Van Buren County

Continuing west along on secondary highways in the general direction of Omaha Nebraska…

To those that think that Iowa is flat and that all you see is corn along the roadside…this is a view of the southeastern part of the state on Iowa Hwy. 2.  The view is expansive and there are rolling hills and lots of trees too.  Yes…that is corn down in the valley!

Don’t get me wrong… Iowa is indeed the #1 corn producing state in the USA.  It produces 3 times more corn than Mexico!  In 2014, Iowa produced 2,367,400,000 bushels of corn, slightly more than the state of Illinois.

This is the Burg Wagon Building in Farmington Iowa.  Lewis Burg, an immigrant from Bavaria, first worked in his brother’s wagon works in Burlington Iowa.  Then he moved to Farmington and set up his own operation in 1865.  In 1868 he had this two-story stone building constructed.  He had the largest wagon works in town, doubling his production over the next 10 years. (There were at least 2 other competitors!) Burg sold the building in 1892.  The structure has been used for various purposes over the years, with apartments being built on the 2nd floor around the turn of the 20th Century. 
This is a beautiful building… I just love it!  Although various retail operations have occupied the first floor over the years, it appears that it is vacant (or lived in) now.  Note the bench, plants, table and chairs on the roof over the sidewalk.  Yikes…no railings! 

This is the old Chicago, Burlington and Quincy combination railway depot in Farmington.  The tracks are long gone.   I was unable to determine when this depot was constructed but I’m guessing it was in the late 1800s.

Farmington was settled in 1833, following the Blackhawk War and about a dozen years before Iowa became a state.  The town was incorporated in 1841. Farmington is the oldest village in Van Buren County and it was the first county seat.   By 1900, Farmington had a population of 1,332 but today the village’s residents only total about 650.


·       The Black Hawk War was a brief conflict in 1932 between the United States and Native Americans, led by Black Hawk, a Sauk leader.  The war erupted soon after Black Hawk and a group of Sauks, Meskwakis, and Kickapoos, known as the "British Band", crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois from Iowa Indian Territory in April 1832.   Black Hawk wanted to reclaim lands previously ceded to the US Government.  This was the last Indian War fought east of the Mississippi River…

I noted that one of the websites that I use to find or verify railroad depots and related structures showed this depot being currently used as a residence.  The mailbox probably cinches that fact. 

One of the sites that I use to locate depots and other railroad structures is “Significant Extant Railroad/Railway Structures of North America.  The website is at

Farmington is sure a quiet peaceful place today.  However by 1878, the town supported 1 printing office, 4 dry goods stores, 2 drug stores, 3 grocery stores, 2 agencies, 3 hardware stores, a harness shop, those 3 wagon shops, 2 blacksmith shops, a cigar manufacturer, 2 shoe shops, 2 furniture houses, a grist mill, and a saw mill.  The town also boasted 3 lawyers, 5 physicians, and 2 Justices of the Peace serving 1,000 citizens.

This is the former Chicago, Burlington and Quincy combination depot in Milton Iowa.  The community has preserved this structure and it’s open for special events.  I found a history of Milton on-line and apparently the depot was built at about the same time that the railroad came to town…ca. 1871.  If the information is accurate, this depot is about 145 years old!  All rail service to Milton came to an end in 1969.

The town was founded in 1851 by settlers from Milton Delaware…hence the town’s name.  When the railroad came to town the town experienced a growth spurt although it never had more than 913 residents.  An interesting statistic is that in 1880 Milton had a population of 412.  In 2014 the town had 417 residents. 

It’s hard for us to imagine all of the activity and industry in towns like Milton back in the 1800s… Except by rail, travel was slow and to some degree each community had to be self-sustaining.  In 1878, Milton had 2 drug stores, 5 dry goods stores, 3 hotels, a grocery store, hardware store, cabinet shop, harness shop, shoe shop, 3 wagon shops, 3 blacksmith shops, 2 restaurants, an ice cream parlor, a photographer, a flour mill, a saw mill, an axe handle factory and 2 brick kilns. 

By comparison, Milton seems very laid back these days.  A number of Amish families moved into the area in 1969, adding a bit of diversity.  I observed that one interesting shopping opportunity noted for the town in the ‘Villages of Van Buren County’ website involved those modern day settlers. (

That shopping opportunity is Milton Creamery.  As per their website, “the Musser family mixes fresh ingredients, art, and passion to create internationally award winning cheese.  Traditional Amish dairy farmers produce milk used at Milton Creamery.  The cheese maker, Galen Musser, crafts each batch before hand-packing, pressing and aging to perfection.”  We love cheese so it was too bad that we passed by the Creamery on a Sunday holiday weekend.  To learn more about the Milton Creamery, go to

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

1 comment:

  1. 2.3 billion bushels is a lot of corn- we saw a lot driving across Kansas yesterday.