The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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October 18, 2008

Some lost towns were renamed, relocated

In the 1800s, if communities didn't boom, they became lost ghost towns

Part I of II

Long before a town in Texas recently changed its name to Dish in exchange for free satellite television service, naming a town was a serious undertaking. The names of southern Minnesota communities attest to this.

The names came from a variety of sources, some even revel dreams for the future. Naturally, some of these towns no longer exist.

In Martin County, DeSoto was named for the famous Spanish explorer, but only existed a few months before losing to public sentiment and a better location. After the Spanish-American war, nearby citizens were upset by the DeSoto name. Residents raised $1,500 to move DeSoto farther south to create Dunnell.

Nicollet also was moved. When residents discovered the railroad was to be built a few miles away, they packed up and moved to the existing site. Other towns were simply renamed. Fremont was named for the Republican presidential candidate in 1856. Replatted two years later, it was renamed Garden City.

Some names weren’t a good fit. Local pioneers thought Golden Gate in Brown County was too high-toned and nicknamed the village Podunk, a name that stuck until the village died.

“This area has a number of ghost towns,” said Bob Sandeen, collections manager of the Nicollet County Historical Society. Nicollet County had Swan City, Union City, Eureka, Red Stone, Red Stone City, Washington, Dakota City and Waheoka.

Most of these towns sprang up during the Panic of 1857 when real estate was being bought and sold at a frenzied pace. “The Panic of 1857 was the death knell for a lot of these proposed communities,” Sandeen said.

While some of these towns had people living in them for a short time, others were only platted on paper.

“One of my favorites is called McQuiston’s Addition to LeHillier,” he said. The proposed place would have been at the Minnesota and Blue Earth rivers junction, across from Sibley Park. “If you look on the north side, it doesn’t look very promising — it’s a cliff. I have a personal interest in this. McQuiston was married to the sister of my great grandfather John Haslip. I don’t know if he was running a scam, but the McQuistons left the state shortly after that.”

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