Abandoned Iowa: Liberty Township

Some photographs and history of an area where I found and abandoned group of homes I found nestled in the woods in Liberty Township, Johnson County, Iowa.

Last year I decided that it would be a good idea to get some outdoor time by walking little used stretches of railroad that have an ‘end of the line’ nearby. There is such a place just a short distance from my home, which leads from Iowa City and ends roughly a dozen miles south in the town of Hills. Even though I have walked the stretch a handful of times in the past 9 months, I had never seen it in early spring, when growth and snow do not obscure the secrets hiding just a short distance away; until yesterday, and what a surprise it had in store for me!

We arrived by way of heading north 1.3 miles on the tracks after parking at the power station just north of Hills, when I noticed the ruins just a few yards west from the tracks. There were remnants of four distinct homes, as well as a smaller shack and and some other outbuildings. One of the foundations was quite large and may have been something other than a home, but I lack the skills to identify such things. Maybe after looking at the photos below, some folks out there can help with that. I mention it only because it appeared as though there might have been enough of a human settlement there that perhaps I was seeing a ghost town; so the second half of the fun was researching the area after my visit to find out if my hunch was right. Here is what I learned.

The area is in Liberty Township, section 3 (Maybe section 10?), just south of West Lucas Township and was platted to either Chas Miller or Julius Otto Schulze. While there is little information on Miller, Schulze is a recognized historic Iowa City figure who even had a school named after him. However Schulze had moved away years before the ruins I found would have been abandoned. Miller had three children, but all of them died relatively young. Nothing suggested that either family would have built so many structures, and definitely did not suggest the upstart of some failed town.

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Further, the area in question is pretty well known, and so if it had been a village or town in the making, it likely would have been recorded. The reason it is well known predates colonial settlements, as it was a place where Sac and Fox natives kept lookout for invading Sioux tribes, and became known as Indian Lookout. The homes I found lay at the bottom of that notorious apex on the southeast side.

Indian Lookout has some pretty rich history after colonization as well. In 1911 it was where the body of Jared Ham was found murdered, which has never been solved. And my guess is that the shack mentioned in the historical account of that event is the one I discussed above and appears in the photographs below.

In the 1970’s a new roadway was to be constructed in the area. One archaeological researcher determined that the proposed route would have passed right through Indian Lookout, whose location had been forgotten for decades until this time. A lawsuit took place to save the historical place, and victorious, the proposed route bypassed the area. None of the archaeological records claimed a former settlement, either.

So while I did not find a ghost town as I had first hoped, I did find a lot of interesting history, a subject that I never really appreciated as an adult until recently. It just goes to show that even a little bit of exercise and fresh air can open up stories and mysteries to us, and give a glimpse into lost times and places. So get out there and explore, but be also be respectful. I did not cross any fences or disobey any no trespassing signs. If in doubt, find an occupied home nearby and ask first. And if you have more information about this area, or want to share stories of abandoned places you have found, I hope to hear from you in the comments!

Enjoy the photographs below.

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3 thoughts on “Abandoned Iowa: Liberty Township

  1. I remember the lawsuit. I. Don’t recall who owned the land. It almost looks like those are dairy cattle milking stations. The well/cistern is really interesting since it appears it has/had a curved brick top. Would be cool to read the abstract

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your input. I guessed those were livestock structures, but was not sure. So that was probably a barn for dairy cows. Probably a clue in that!

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  2. A glimpse into lost times and places. YES…. perfect wording on how I feel! You say things so well Josh! Interesting that it might have been for cows and milking.

    Liked by 1 person

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