The town of Bentonsport was platted on the north bank of the lower Des Moines River in 1839. In 1840 a dam and accompanying locks were built, helping to assure the town's importance for river navigation. River transportation was supplemented in 1857 by the arrival of the railroad. By the time of the Civil War, Bentonsport and the community of Vernon across the river had developed a number of industries, including gristmills, a paper mill, a pottery works, and, in Vernon, a woolen mill. Along with several other towns on the lower Des Moines River, Bentonsport did not prosper very much in the late nineteenth century. Today it relies primarily on visitors who wish to see “Iowa's liveliest ghost town.” 2In 1972 the two communities were designated a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to the buildings listed below, note the remains of the mid-nineteenth-century locks and dam, and also the 1882 iron bridge joining the two communities.
Leroy G. Pratt, Discovering Historic Iowa, 1975.
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