Sevastopol, a small settlement in a narrow coulee at the upstream end of Lake Pepin, began as a convenient place to build taverns for lumbermen in the area. The village was platted in 1857 by three men who didn’t live there: John Elder, Hugh Adams, and GJ Richards. They probably snatched the name from a play called The Siege of Sevastopol, which was popular at the time. A few lots were sold but as the logging industry shifted away, the small town lost its raison d’etre and mostly faded away.

Original plat of Sevastopol

The plat was never vacated, however, and some folks stuck around. In the early 20th century, Sevastopol was the center of a commercial fishing operation run by Scandinavian immigrants. Nothing is left of the village today, but there are a couple of subdivisions just south of Red Wing that are close to the village site.

©Dean Klinkenberg, 2016



Maybe a couple of these guys were named Jim, too
Maybe a couple of these guys were named Jim, too

Jimtown, located near Illinois City, was so named because a lot of guys named Jim lived there (or so the story goes). Most of the men, regardless of their name, worked at a nearby coal mine. It was a tough place full of inpatient guys. During a dance one evening, one of the guests didn’t like the way the fiddler played, so he killed him. The other patrons of the bar formed a cortege and paraded the body to Essex Cemetery where they buried the fiddler, poorly; they had to go back the next day and do it again because they left his feet sticking up. After the coal mine closed, Jimtown did the same.

© Dean Klinkenberg, 2015

Drury’s Landing

Drury's Landing, as sketeched by John McGreer in 1899
Drury’s Landing, as sketeched by John McGreer in 1899

Isaiah Drury and Priscilla Reynolds moved the large Drury clan to Rock Island County in the early 1830s and got busy building homes and businesses. One of their sons, Stewart Reynolds Drury, established the first steamboat landing, which is why the spot became known as Drury’s Landing (when it wasn’t called The Landing or The Pint). Boats stopped at Drury’s Landing to resupply wood for fuel and drop off passengers looking to begin new lives in the area. Stewart Reynolds Drury also ran a busy store and post office (a letter cost .25 cents to mail).

Stewart Reynolds Drury platted a village called Richmond in 1843 (it was a single block deep and five blocks long) that was soon subsumed into Drury’s Landing. He was known for being tough, stubborn, and grouchy, but he did have a softer side. He would often share meals with strangers and neighbors. If you happened to be in his store when the dinner bell rang, you’d probably be invited to join his family at the table; he never charged anyone for it, either.

He had many offers to sell his land, but he refused them all, even to sell just a portion, which made a lot of folks very angry and probably killed the village’s chances of ever being anything other than a footnote in history. When the Corps of Engineers shifted the main channel to the Iowa side of the river, boats no longer stopped at his landing, and his business essentially ended. He eventually lost all his land to the county in 1892 when his unpaid tax bill got too high. Stewart Reynolds Drury died the following year in the Rock Island County Infirmary. Drury’s Landing became a ghost town after the land forfeiture, but a few of the original frame buildings survived into the 1980s.

© Dean Klinkenberg, 2015

Crow Wing

Bealieu House, Crow Wing State Park
Bealieu House, Crow Wing State Park

Crow Wing village was located along the Mississippi River at the mouth of the Crow Wing River. For centuries, the Ojibwe and Dakota Indians frequented the area for its abundant game. The village eventually grew into the primary commercial center for central Minnesota by the mid-1800s.

Crow Wing began as a post for the fur trade. Jean Baptiste Perrault, an agent for the Northwest Fur Company, arrived in 1790; Allan Morrison opened a trading post here in 1823. When the Red River Oxcart Trail was routed through Crow Wing in 1844, it gave the village a boost as it grew into a primary supply station for carts making the run between Winnipeg and St. Paul. In 1848, just as the fur trade was ending, Henry Rice worked out a deal with Ojibwe leader Bug-o-na-ghe-zhisk (Hole in the Day II) to log pine trees on tribal land. Crow Wing soon had a couple of sawmills and a steady source of jobs for the 200-300 folks who lived there.

The village was home to a diverse population, including many folks of mixed French and Ojibwe heritage, as well as the rough-and-tumble lumberjack set. A large community of Ojibwe lived nearby and their trade with the village’s stores was a major economic force. When the US government ordered the Ojibwe to relocate to a reservation at White Earth, the village suffered a deep blow.

Still, Crow Wing might have survived if not for the hubris of Clement Beaulieu. According to one story, when the Northern Pacific Railroad was looking for a place to bridge the Mississippi River, their first choice was at Crow Wing. Beaulieu, however, demanded too much money for his land and thought the railroad was bluffing when they threatened to build the bridge elsewhere. The railroad wasn’t bluffing; they built their bridge a few miles to the north of Crow Wing instead. Many of the businesses relocated to Brainerd, and Crow Wing faded away; Beaulieu and his wife, Elizabeth, sold their possessions and moved to the White Earth reservation. You can walk around what remains of the village at Crow Wing State Park.

Sinnippi Wisconsin

Once upon a time, a village named Sinnippi was here
Once upon a time, a village named Sinipi was here

The flat path along the backwaters at today’s Fenley State Recreation Area was originally one of the main streets for the town of Sinnippi (a word that apparently means “lead ore” in an unspecified Native American language). The town was settled in 1831 by Payton Vaughn; by 1839 the town had a thousand residents and several thriving businesses, including a bank, a church, a mill, and a school. The village was located next to a swamp, which turned out to be the town’s undoing. Low river levels at the end of the summer in 1839 bred widespread disease and led to the abandonment of the town. A few remnants of building foundations are still visible. Mississippi City was supposed to be a neighbor of Sinnippi and was noted on some maps in 1837 and 1842, but the town was never developed.

Geneva Iowa


Vacation home on Geneva Island
Vacation home on Geneva Island

Founded in 1836 by Dr. Eli Reynolds and Harvey Gillett about three miles upriver from Muscatine, the village of Geneva was very nearly the county seat of Muscatine County. It was, in fact, designated as such by the Wisconsin Territorial legislature in 1837, but the bill was vetoed by Governor Dodge. It was pretty much downhill from there. When Gillett brought his wife to live with him, she wasn’t too impressed by what she found. Accustomed to the life of a New York socialite, she pretty much freaked out when she got to Geneva and saw the rough log cabin she and her children were supposed to live in. She stayed a year, then took the kids and went back to New York. Harvey stayed in Iowa and found a new wife, but Geneva never amounted to much.

Next town upriver: Fairport

Next town downriver: Muscatine

© Dean Klinkenberg, 2014