ANNIKA WALL, EDITOR RUN THE VALLEY
Driving 11 miles East of Waverly down Highway Three, it would be easy to miss one of Bremer County’s 31 ghost towns. One of the lone remaining signs of Knittel, Iowa, is Del’s Auto Repair, located on the corner of Highway Three and Piedmont Avenue.
Grove Hill Cemetery is also a remnant of the town, according to Dianne Oltrogge, a Readlyn, Iowa, resident.
“Until 20 or so years ago, there was still a tavern on the site,” Oltrogge posted on iowaghosttowns.com. “Now it is entirely gone.”
Bremer County’s population declined only twice in the last 120 years, 1910 and 1990. Between 1980 and 1990, the population dropped 4.7% due to the farm crisis, and the drop was nearly flat with a decline of .32% between 1900-1910, according to census.gov.
“In many rural communities, population is concentrated in cities and towns, while most of the surrounding countryside is sparsely populated,” Dr. David J. Peters, associate professor of sociology and extension rural sociologist at Iowa State University, said.
In 1910, 48.1% of the state’s population lived in rural communities. By 2010, only 26.5% lived in rural communities, which created Iowa’s ghost towns, according to Peters. Knittel had a post office from 1889-1903.
During that time, the Readlyn-based Ohlendorf family sold land to the Townside Company to build a railroad station in Readlyn, Iowa, according to readlyn.com. The incident may have contributed to Knittel’s abandonment, as the two places are located 2.4 miles apart in Bremer County.
“Every country post office, hamlet village or town that has passed away was, during its existence, of importance to its surrounding community,” David C. Mott, author of “Abandoned Towns, Villages and Post Offices of Iowa,” wrote in the book. “Many are now a meadow or corn field, with no trace of its former busy life.”
Since 2011, 34 Iowa post offices have been suspended or closed and 234 additional post office are under consideration for closure, according to iowabackroads.com.
For more information about ghost towns in Bremer County, go to iowaghosttowns.com.