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Abandoned Towns and Village 
Pilot Grove
Marion Township

Overton/Pilot Grove located in Marion Twp. Sec. 22 was the former name of the railroad station and post office of Pilot Grove. Old Pilot Grove was located in Marion Twp. Sec. 10-Highway 16 go North on W74 (Pilot Grove Road) 3/4 of a mile on the West side of the road at 110 Street is past the cemetery.

Madisonia - date unknown

When it was officially platted in Marion township in 1858, Pilot Grove had 166 lots and a large public square, and during the 1870 and 1880s it became quite a town with a high school as well as a grade school, blacksmith shop, two dry goods stores, a general store, two churches, a hotel, two doctors, post office cemetery and a population of about 300.

One of the physicians was Dr. Pitman who at first drove from Salem where he lived, then removed to Pilot Grove riding in his buckboard, wearing his beard, everyday clothing, friendly manner and Quaker religion.

Quaker families in Pilot Grove, and there were quite a few, liked him because he came from Salem, the most important Quaker community hereabouts. They had one of two churches in Pilot Grove, sharing religious importance with the Methodists who had the other church in town.

The Quaker meeting house followed the strict Quaker custom of having the men sit on one side of the room, and the women on the other side and with both having separate entrances. Newlyweds could come to the church together, but had to separate as they entered.

There was no music during the meeting, at first anyway; later a pump organ made its appearances and there was singing and there were long periods of meditation during which the children were hard put to stay awake. Woe to the boy who dozed off for his britches were dusted plenty when the family got home.

That was the way of life was in Pilot Grove, religious, busy and every one confident that the town faced a great future. It came to an end after the Peavine Railroad, which struggled heroically through the 1870's to reach from Fort Madison to West Point, gave up and the company was sold to a contractor who changed the road from narrow gauge to standard gauge and pushed it on westward across Lee Co. in the early 1880's.

Everybody took it for granted that the Peavine Railroad would come through town but the survey missed Pilot Grove by a mile or more south and a railroad station was built at the point nearest town.

This was a mortal thrust for Pilot Grove and almost at once you could hear it gasping for breath as it prepared to expire, but its citizens refused to give up. Instead they moved down to the railroad around the new station, tearing down buildings and taking the lumber with them to erect the buildings there. Businesses went with them and so did the name of the town, Pilot Grove.

This caused a wild furry of confusion for the folks who didn't move to the new town insisted they lived in Pilot Grove and the people who did move were just as insistent that they did as well.

Out of this came the names of Old Pilot Grove and New Pilot Grove. This lasted for a time and finally everybody moved to new Pilot Grove, and the other became a ghost town. But it still had signs of life for some time the dances were held in the hall of the school building until at last all the buildings were gone or were razed for lumber.

The only thing that remains is the cemetery that is wedged between several of the Holtkamp family farms north of New Pilot Grove.

Surnames from the area circa 1838 - 1850:
 
ADDINGTON, ASHMEAD, BAILEY, BEARD, BEESON, BELL, BENEDICT, BERRY, BINFORD, BOND, BREACH, BROWN, BURNETT, CLARK, CLAWSON, COFFIN, COOK, DAY, DENNY, DILTS, DOWELL, EMMERSON, ENOS, FERGUSON, FISHER, GARDNER, GOODELL, GREGG, GRIFFIN, GRIFFIN, HAMPTON, HARVEY, HASKINS, HIATT, HICKS, HOBSON, HOLTKAMP, JACKMAN, JESSUP, JOHNSON, JONES, KELLUM, KEMPKER, LEWELLING, MAYO, MCMILLAN, MOON, NEWBY, NICHOLSON, OVERMAN, OVERTON, PARKINS, PHELPS, PICKARD, PITMAN,
POSTLEWAITE, PRESNALL, PRICE, RATCLIFF, RATLIFF, ROBERTS, SEAMAN, STEWART,
THORNBURG, TRUEBLOOD, TURNER, WHEELER . . . and many more.

Originally transcribed by Julia Holtkamp for the West Point Public Library.


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