We must admit, our title may be a little bit misleading as the town of Bethany in Scott County, Iowa most likely should fall under the category of the town that never was. But the story of Bethany has inspired us to look into local ghost towns for future blogs.
Thomas McGovern platted the town of Bethany on February 5, 1855 in Scott County, Iowa land records. Located on the west side of Hickory Grove Road in what is now northwest Davenport, it contained five streets running east to west with each block having an alley. In total, there were fourteen lots in Bethany. The town was platted between Hickory Grove Road and the railroad tracks not far from the area known as Five Points. As for the name Bethany? The reason McGovern chose the name seems to have been lost not too long after the town was founded.
By 1921, the town was surrounded by the city of Davenport as it expanded its city limits. Bethany had never been developed, no city government existed, and those in northwest Davenport claimed that the area rarely had more than one house on the property. Sometimes the resident population of Bethany was one or maybe a few more depending on the size of the family on the property at any given time.
Even land records varied with how the name was recorded. Sometimes Town of Bethany was used while other times it was recorded as Bethany Addition as when Max A. Giersch and wife sold Mrs. Lizzie Jessen lots 1, 2, 3, and 4 in March 1915 for just over $5,000.
By 1921, Mrs. Jessen and real estate businessman Thomas Agar (who owned the rest of the town lots) had a wish to dissolve the town of Bethany. They petitioned the district court in August of that year to vacate the plat of the town and give Jessen and Agar title to the streets and alleys in addition to the lots they owned.
The story of Bethany spread across the state of Iowa via newspapers. People were fascinated by the story of the state’s smallest town that never really was a town. On September 19, 1921, the petition appeared in district court and was approved.
The land eventually was annexed into the City of Davenport and is today part of the Golden Gate Park Addition which was accepted by Davenport City Council in June 1929. The main road in the subdivision, besides Hickory Grove Road, is Frisco Road.
We hope to one day discover the meaning behind the name of Bethany. In the meantime, we will be searching out other ghost towns and lost cities of Scott County to share with you all.
(posted by Amy D.)
- The Davenport Democrat and Leader, March 4, 1915. Pg. 12
- The Davenport Democrat and Leader, August 14, 1921. Pg. 14
- The Davenport Democrat and Leader, September 8, 1921. Pg. 4
- The Daily Times, September 24, 1921. Pg. 7
- The Davenport Democrat and Leader, September 25, 1921. Pg. 21
- Plat Map of the City of Davenport, Iowa. c 1940s. Pg. 10
- Combined Atlases of Scott County, Iowa, 1882, 1894, 1905, 1915.
- James T. Hogane & H. Lambach Map, 1857.