I'm always a bit curious as to how towns in Iowa acquired their names. Many towns were named after local geological features, such as rivers or valleys. Some were given the name of a town in the home country where the settlers originated. Of course, others were named after various famous people of the time. The list of inspirations is probably many.
As I trekked into Orchard, a town of 71 people as of the last census, I wondered if there was a an interesting history of fruit trees that somehow underpinned the name. Was there a grove of apple trees that inspired the pioneers to put down their own roots? If yes, did any of the trees still exist? I'm always one to remind Iowans that our fine state is the home of the original Red Delicious apple, after all.
Alas, after doing just a little bit of online, I come to find out that Orchard, a town founded 151 years ago, does not actually have a fun fruit founding story. Instead, it's like a lot of the cozy communities that dot our state...it received it's name from a local settler...Moses Orchard.
Orchard is also similar in that it got its place on the map thanks to the post Civil War expansion of the railroad. If you are interested (and why wouldn't you be?), there's a brief write-up of information about the "Village of Orchard" in the book, "History of Mitchell and Worth Counties, Iowa, Vol. 1", that is worth checking out.
Even today, the railroad still cuts right through the town. I entered Orchard from the south (a gravel road) and found a set of tracks that certainly still carries freight.
As you roll into town over the tracks from the south, there's a fork in the road. It's a small enough town that I ended up taking both forks in order to see everything.
Orchard is about 5 miles away from Osage, the county seat and the largest community in Mitchell County.
It's also not far from Mason City and Charles City, both larger regional economic hubs in North Central Iowa. Thus, there's not a lot of commerce left in the downtown region. It's hard for a town of 71 to sustain too much. However, I did find a post office.
There's also a City Hall building with a soda machine out front.
I found another building that appeared to once house a commercial entity. Based on what I've seen elsewhere, I wonder if it once was a bank? Perhaps someone locally can confirm?
I'm not sure what this building once was used for, but it does not appear to be in very good shape anymore.
There is a grain elevator, or at least grain storage, in town. Mitchell County is rich with a fertile agricultural tradition and agriculture is the lifeblood of the local economy.
On every edge of town there are farms and farm fields.
Of course, though I didn't see a grove of fruit trees, I did see a few farm animals enjoying the early evening Summer sun.
On the east side of town, I found a beautiful First Congregational Church. As I'm guilty of saying way too many times, they sure do not make church buildings like they used to.
Orchard is home to a nice variety of single family homes.
Down one more residential street, I came across a building that houses the American Legion Post 641.
As with every small town it seems, there's usually at least one collection point with a lot of different vehicles, equipment, and other random miscellaneous items.
I was quite intrigued by this antique car sitting along the road. It reminded me of my visit to May City in Osceola County a few years back.
As you head north toward Osage, you cross Spring Creek.
As you head west out of town, you find yourself at the Orchard Cemetery. I didn't do too much exploring on this visit. However, if genealogy or exploring old cemeteries is your thing, I'd encourage you to check out the cemetery's FindAGrave.com website which has 699 entries. As it turns out, Moses Orchard is buried in the cemetery and you can even see a picture of him. He has other family buried there as well, including his wife and children.
Even though I did not find a grove of flourishing fruit trees, I did find a nice community with a lot of lovely homes. I've been to Mitchell County a number of times in my life, but this was my first visit to Orchard and my first post on this site for Mitchell County. There's lots more to see and do in the county and the area and I'm already looking forward to my next visit.
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Mitchell County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through this site.