From Sibley Gazette-Tribune September 3. 1931


You May Live on Top of a Might-Have-Been Town

Every Schoolboy knows that Osceola County has five incorporated towns. But how many know that any one of these towns might now be several miles away from its present location, if circumstances had been just a little bit different?

For example, there was Thomas Shaw's store which stood on the banks of Otter Creek in section 32, Gilman township, about four miles southwest of the present town of Ashton. This store was probably the first center of activity in the county. And, as such, you would expect to find the first town laid out there.

But when the first railroad, the Omaha, was built through the county, the tracks were laid about a mile east of Shaw's potential metropolis. So, Sibley was laid out in its present location in 1872, the railroad having been built that far in June of that year. The railroad's land department laid out a town on the present site of Ashton a little later during 1872. Shaw, not to be daunted by the change effected by the building of the railroad, moved his store to this town, where it still stands. Name Changed to Ashton

This second town was not known as Ashton then, but as St. Gilman. It was not until 1882 that the name of the town was changed to Ashton.

There was the postoffice of Runyan in section 2, Baker township, about six miles south of the present location of Ocheyedan. As an official postoffice Runyan seems to have had a short life for it is listed only from 1884 to 1885.

This might-have-been town derived its name from Harmon H. Runyan who settled there with his family in June, 1873. At that time there were practically alone in that part of the county. There was no house within 12 miles of them until several years later. Mr. Runyan had charge of the postoffice during its existence. It was kept to accommodate immigrants in that section.

It Might Have Been

To most of us, the word "gopher" recalls only a small, burrowing animal. Had it not been for several changes, Gopher, not Melvin, might have been the center of south central Osceola county life. Gopher was a postoffice in that section of the country from 1872 to 1895.

Part of the time it seems to have been in the northeastern part of Goewey township. For many years Frank Thayer was its postmaster and it was located in section 8, Baker township, about two miles north of the present town of Melvin.

Then Jake Brandt donated ground for a co-operative store in section 18. Since there were no nearby towns, the store was well-patronized and the Melvin postoffice was established. This was the end of Gopher and the postoffice there was discontinued.

Melvin is Moved

Five years later, in 1900, the Gowrie branch of the Rock Island was built and the town of Melvin was laid out, about a mile south of its original location.

Another early potential township that has sunk into oblivion was Rush Lake, about one mile east of the present lake of this name om section 32, Fairview township. Little is known of the place, except that it was a postoffice from 1878 to 1889.

Ocheyedan was laid out in 1884 just after the second railroad was built across the county. The origin of the name of the town is unknown. In 1889 Harris was laid out and a railroad station was established. Since the Rush Lake postoffice was about halfway between these two towns, it was probably discontinues, when Harris was laid out, since it was only about two miles away.

New Locations Chosen

Why is the location of either Ocheyedan or Harris chosen instead of the previously established site of the Rush Lake postoffice is not clear, except that town laid out by railroads along their roads were usually spaced about seven miles apart. Thus Allendorf, Ocheyedan and Harris were more evenly spaced from Sibley, the spot where the railroad crossed the previously built Omaha tracks.

This second railroad was first the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern, being bought later by the Rock Island line.

This new railroad also changed the location of Ocheyedan, which was originally about two miles northwest of the present site. A postoffice was located in section 34, Horton township, from 1875 to 1884, when it was moved.

Allendorf Appears

There are several changes of names. Besides the change from St. Gilman to Ashton, there is also the change in the name of Allendorf. From 1879 to 1884 the postoffice there was called Holman.

Curiously enough, the present village of May City was platted in the early nineties under the name of Lexington, although the postoffice established there in 1880 was called May City. The postoffice was discontinued in 1904 and mail service is now given over a rural route running out of Ocheyedan.

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