Bancroft in Kossuth County lays claim to being the 'Garden Spot of Iowa'

January 13, 2020

In 1851, nearly 170 years ago, the Iowa Legislature enacted a bill to add an additional 52 counties to the already established 48. 52 + 48 = 100, right? 

 

Right. 

 

But I thought Iowa only had 99 counties? 

 

Well, we do know.

 

But long ago, for a period of a few years, we actually did have 100. That is until two of the counties combined under the name of Kossuth and pushed us down to 99, the total we still have now. Today, Kossuth County, located along the Minnesota border, is about twice as "tall" as it's neighboring counties.

 

So what was the name of the 100th county - the one that went away?

 

Bancroft County.

 

Even though Bancroft County is now just a mention in an Iowa history book, there is a nice city in Kossuth County named Bancroft that lives on today.

The town, with a population of about 730 as of the 2010 census, has laid claim to being the "Garden Spot of Iowa"

I visited Bancroft late last summer, while everything was still green, and found things to be looking pretty fertile and healthy.

As I was driving around the community, many things jumped out at me. I noticed that the branded town signs on the light poles made reference to baseball. 

Sure enough, I found an absolutely incredible baseball field, Bancroft Memorial Park, that looks like it could be straight out of an old baseball movie.

The town website has a nice page about the history of the park and it's long tradition of being a baseball powerhouse. It appears that it was renovated in 1997 based on this nice plaque I found.

The field is nicely manicured and I was impressed to see actual dugouts.

According to the website, the bleachers will hold about 1300 spectators.

 

These signs show that it is the home of the Bancroft Bandits and the North Union Warriors. The Bandits are a collegiate wood bat team playing in the Pioneer Collegiate Baseball League.

Bancroft is also home to a large and very beautiful Catholic Church, St. John the Baptist. It is over 125 years old. Nearby Algona, the largest city in the county, is home to Bishop Garrigan. Garrigan is a private Catholic high school.

 

There are a couple of other buildings on or near the campus that may have alternative uses these days.

I found another smaller church as well. It appears to be a Baptist church.

The downtown is home to a number of commercial buildings in addition to city hall. There is a small park-like green space and gazebo next door to city hall.

From banks and salons to a grocery store and hardware store, there's a nice mix of amenities. For a town of this size, I'm glad to see the downtown looks pretty healthy.

I was not able to stop in at this bar and grill on this trip but I'll hopefully make it next time.

This department store building appears to be recently refurbished. I'm not sure what its use is, but it's a gorgeous old building. I'm glad to see if looks like it's being well taken care of.

 

Highway 169 runs north and south through town and there are a number of different businesses along that.

Many of the businesses have an agricultural focus, as agriculture is the lifeblood of rural Iowa. For example, there's a grain elevator and other agricultural input businesses.

Aluma has a manufacturing or distribution spot here in town. They are a good (and sizable) Iowa employer.

There's both a car dealership and implement dealers. You can find a wide array of "colors" of implements.

 

 

I spotted a Sinclair gas station and a few other garage type business or structures.

 

I found a few other businesses as well as a county garage, fire department, post office, and a couple utilities buildings.

Welp is a poultry hatchery and they are also located along the highway. Poultry production is pretty important in many parts of northern Iowa.

 

There's a bowling alley, Leisure Lanes, but i don't know if it is still in business. I saw conflicting information when I searched online. I hope that it is. The quantity of bowling alleys lost in rural Iowa in the past decade has been a bit depressing.

On the east side of town, I found a nice golf course

There's a nice mix of both single family dwellings and higher density housing.

 

 

I spotted some new construction. That's always a positive sign for the long-term viability of a community. 

I found a nice park.

There's also a lovely looking swimming pool which is near the historic baseball stadium.

What's more American than summer, baseball, and swimming? Well, maybe combine that with ice cream. I don't know if this ice cream shop is open year-round or just seasonally, but these type of places never disappoint. 

On my way out of town, I drove past the cemetery. 

I've been to Algona on a number of occasions and have driven through the county on Highway 18 a few times. However, as far as I can remember, this was my first visit to Bancroft. Despite losing it's namesake as a county, the town is definitely alive and well. I will look forward to coming back again (and not on a Sunday afternoon) so I can check out more of the businesses and perhaps take in a baseball game at that magical looking field. 

 

As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Kossuth County or in 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 website.

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