Merriam-Webster’s definition of a ghost town is: “a once-flourishing town wholly or nearly deserted usually as a result of the exhaustion of some natural resource.”1
It is sad to say, but Scott County has its fair share of ghost towns. Below is a list of those ghost towns, with years that the towns were founded and/or ended. As you can see, many of these towns only lasted a handful of years, at most.
- Louisville, 1854
- Mount Pleasant, 1856
- Bellefontaine, 1856
- St. Lawrence, 1856
- St. Joseph, 1858
- Dooleyville: 1855-1870
- Merriam Junction, 1866-1871
- Helena, 1887
- Village of Joel: Blakeley Township 1897-1917
- Brentwood, 1860
- Luxembourger – early 1900s
Why did these towns disappear? Many of these towns contained grist or sawmills, a post office, church, school house, hotel, general store, creamery, newspaper, tavern, blacksmith, and of course residential houses. So why, with all the apparent success of a growing town, did these towns die out?
For many of these towns, the main reason was location, as well as mode of transportation to the town. Several of these towns were built near rivers, as that was one of the main sources of transportation at the time. For St. Lawrence, the building of the railroad spelled the end for the town. The river was no longer used, and no main roads were built to the town. For Merriam Junction, a town built right on the railroad, the invention of the automobile was its downfall. All that is left of the town is an old dilapidated railroad depot.
For towns like Yorkville and Brentwood, animosity between their neighbor towns caused them to struggle with their business. Yorkville residents were seen as a threat by those in Chaska Township, and many Yorkville residents were lured over to the other side. Brentwood was on the other side of the railroad tracks to Jordan, and held possession of the depot. Jordan residents disliked this fact, and eventually Brentwood was incorporated into Jordan, disappearing entirely.
No matter the reason for its disappearance, the fact remains that these towns that once flourished are no longer standing. Even though many of these towns have little to indicate where they once stood, their memories are still held in the minds of once residents, as well as their family members. These towns still stand in photographs, newspapers, and postcards. Take a look at a few of the photographs the SCHS has in its collection of some of the ghost towns in the county. Place your mouse over the photo to see the town.
If you wish to learn more about the ghost towns of Scott County, please contact the SCHS for more information. If anyone happens to have photographs or information on any of the ghost towns in the county, please let us at SCHS know. We would greatly appreciate the information! Of course, if you’re feeling adventurous, go right ahead and do your own exploring of Scott County’s ghost towns!