Continuing on the theme of items uncovered while researching Geographic Matryoshka with US States and in recognition of the Presidential primaries that will be held in Iowa in a couple of weeks, I felt an Iowa topic might be appropriate. I’d uncovered a wonderful triple sequence formed by Iowa Township in Iowa County in the state of Iowa. That put it right up there in exalted territory along with Oklahoma City/Oklahoma Co./Oklahoma and New York Co. (i.e., Manhattan)/New York City/New York. The latter two were a little more obvious and significant. I hadn’t anticipated Iowa.
Homestead in Iowa Twp., Iowa Co., Iowa, USA
Iowa Township was rather obscure. There were only 148 people living in Homestead, its principal settlement, as of the 2010 Census. That made it just a tad less meaningful than the more obvious trifectas of Oklahoma and New York. Still, the relationship existed and it counted as much as the others for purposes of this exercise. The triple layer arrangement had been around for a long time, too. I turned to the History of Iowa County, Iowa (1881) which helpfully noted that Iowa Township existed ever since Iowa County was first subdivided in 1847. It was one of the county’s original townships in a much larger form until chipped away to create additional townships in later decades, as more people moved in to farm its fertile soil.
One never knows what one may uncover while searching for information on obscure jurisdictions. Often it was very little. However the History of Iowa County turned out to be a goldmine. That little Iowa Township tucked within a rural county of the same name hid quite a colorful past, particularly in its former Brush Run community. Brush Run sounded like a quiet, relaxing name and yet the History claimed "… the first settlers along the section of country where Brush Run is were very depraved…" I’ve consulted a lot of similar county history books over the years and they’ve tended to be puff pieces exclaiming the wonders of their out-of-the-way domains. I’d never seen any of them refer to settlers within their own boundaries as depraved. It got better:
Though Brush Run is scarcely any run at all it is noted in history. No creek or flow of water in Iowa county has witnessed so many deeds of love and hate, so many scenes of joy and sorrow, so many drunken revels and fights, so many suicides and murders… the headquarters of drunkards and cut throats.
It then kindly offered several examples of depravity and debauchery, most distressingly,
A child six years of age was attacked with delirium tremens one day in November, 1857, at Brush Run. The father was in jail at Iowa City for selling whisky, and the mother, in a fit of drunkeness had recently fallen and killed herself.
Brush Run did not appear on any modern maps, nor did it receive a mention within the records of the US Geological Survey’s vast database of place names, past or present. I supposed it should be expected given Brush Run’s notoriety. They erased the name from the map. However, the paper trail hadn’t disappeared completely and I was able to trace its evolution. Brush Creek soon faded, to be replaced by Homestead at the same approximate location.
Homestead by Jon Taylor on Flickr (cc)
Homestead bore no resemblance to Brush Creek whatsoever, in fact it was pretty much its polar opposite. Homestead was designed as a rail depot and shipping point for the nearby Amana Colonies. Amana had its roots in a religious movement arising in Germany that settled on the American prairie to escape persecution.
In 1855 they arrived in Iowa. After an inspired testimony directed the people to call their village, "Bleibtreu" or "remain faithful" the leaders chose the name Amana from the Song of Solomon 4:8. Amana means to "remain true." Six villages were established, a mile or two apart, across a river valley tract of some 26,000 acres – Amana, East Amana, West Amana, South Amana, High Amana and Middle Amana. The village of Homestead was added in 1861, giving the Colony access to the railroad.
Homestead was the only one of the seven Amana villages in Iowa Township. The remainder were across the nearby border in Amana Township. Homestead didn’t receive much attention after that except for the meteorite that exploded directly overhead.
The Amana Meteorite flashed into Iowa between 10:00 and 11:00 pm on Friday February 12, 1875. Its bright fireball was visible from Omaha to Chicago and St. Paul to St. Louis… it exploded over Amana, producing a meteorite field approximately 3 miles wide and 5 miles long. A total of about 800 pounds of the Amana meteor, classified as a dark chondrite, were recovered from this field, the largest fragment weighing about 74 pounds.
Don’t be fooled by references to the "Amana" Meteorite. The closest settlement was Homestead, and indeed the Meteoritical Society declared Homestead as the meteorite’s OFFICIAL name. People still search for fragments of it today.
Things remained quiet in old Homestead for more than a century after that, remaining in obscurity until Ashton Kutcher grew up there. Recently he even renovated his childhood home. He was one of the few people who could claim that he lived in Iowa Township in Iowa County in the state of Iowa.
Somehow I never saw that one coming.