Beaconsfield in Ringgold County boasts a population of just 15 people, as of the 2010 census.
Obviously, a new census will be taken next year but based on what I saw on my recent visit, I don't expect a big shift upwards or downwards. The town of Le Roy in neighboring Decatur County had a population of just 13 people as of the same 2010 census. Le Roy and Beaconsfield are actually the two smallest incorporated towns in Iowa. There's a fun piece of trivia to impress someone with.
Yet, there is much more to Beaconsfield than it's small population. It's actually the place where two very notable Iowa icons got there start.
The first is Hy-Vee Food Stores. Today, Hy-Vee Food Stores is headquartered in West Des Moines and employs approximately 85,000 employees with annual revenue of approximately $10 billion dollars. It's one of the larger grocery chains in the country and it has quite the footprint in the Midwest, especially in Iowa.
However, the first Hy-Vee had very humble roots...Beaconsfield. The company was started by Charles Hyde (Hy) and David Vreedenberg (Vee) in 1930. The building they utilized as the first store is still standing and is now the town's community center.
There's a sign above the door that references it's history as well as it's current role as the community center.
However, the side of the building also has a nice plaque that provides a little more historical context. The structure is also now on the National Register of Historic Places.
The second Iowa icon to get their start in Beaconsfield is Dr. Peggy Whitson, one of the most accomplished and celebrated astronauts to ever live. Dr. Whitson, born in 1960, has spent 665 days in space. That makes her the most tenured and experienced of any NASA astronaut ever. She has also held the title of NASA's Chief Astronaut, the first woman to ever hold that impressive distinction. Her accolades are numerous. If you get the chance, do some more reading about her incredible life journey. It goes to show that you can grow up on a farm in Iowa and the sky is quite literally NOT the limit.
Dr. Whitson still has family that lives in the Beaconsfield area and she gets back to Iowa on a semi-regular basis. I had the privilege of hearing her speak at the 2018 Iowa Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in December.
There are several of these signs around the county. Needless to say, they are pretty proud of her.
Elsewhere in town, there's a small United Methodist Church.
There's a blue water pump in the middle of the street. I'm not sure what the significance of it is, but it's definitely one of the more unique "round-a-bouts" you'll find anywhere in Iowa.
I spotted a small park with some playground equipment and an old school bell.
There were a few houses in town and several other structures of varying use and condition.
I found what appeared to be an old brick structure surrounded by trees. I wonder if it this was once a school building? It certainly looked to be in rough shape.
Generally, there is a just a lot of open space.
Next time you are heading down the road past or through a small town, it might be easy to just dismiss it as a relic of yesterday. But in reality, it's very likely a community like Beaconsfield with a rich history worth exploring. Frankly, you would be hard pressed to find another town that has produced more icons per square mile than Beaconsfield.