Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Driving into a ghost town on Hogsback Road July 23, 2012

An old building, perhaps a former blacksmith shop, in Belvidere Mills.

GHOST TOWNS INTRIGUE ME. I wonder—who lived in these places and were these towns once thriving and why did people leave?

Often, placement of the railroad determined which Minnesota town survived, which did not.

Recently my husband and I, on one of our day trips, turned off Goodhue County Road 3 about 10 miles south of Red Wing, onto Hogsback Road and into Belvidere Mills.

Yes, Hogsback Road. When you read a street sign like that, you just know there’s a story somewhere that’s been passed down from generation to generation. If only I knew the right old codger to consult for a little history lesson on the road that now also is called Wellscreek Trail. I’ll travel on Hogsback Road, thank you.

The former Belvidere Mills creamery, modernized into a garage.

The first view we got of the lovely old barn in Belvidere Mills.

And so we did, up the hill on Hogsback Road past a handful (or less) of houses and the old creamery and a stately red barn and past another old building (perhaps a blacksmith shop), around a curve in the gravel road and we were already out of Belvidere Mills. We turned around and backtracked.

Our second view, the side, of the barn as we backtracked into the ghost town.

And back again past the old building in the top photograph, this a side shot. What is it, readers?

Thanks to signage placed by the Goodhue County Historical Society along the county road, we knew this was the site of the former Belvidere Mills, established in 1858.

The historical society has marked some 60 ghost towns in Goodhue County with signage to “preserve their history and to recognize their historical contribution.” All either once had, or currently have, post offices.

They also have intriguing names like Black Oak, Cannon Junction, Featherstone, Roscoe Centre, Skyberg and White Willow.

And then there are the Goodhue County Minnesota ghost towns of—ready for this—Lena, Norway and Miami.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


18 Responses to “Driving into a ghost town on Hogsback Road”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Great pictures as always, Audrey!!! Makes me want to go check it out!!!

  2. htrax107 Says:

    What interesting little spots that you find on your day trips Audrey. Love the photos and they do give you pause to wonder about the former inhabitants of the village. I like the barn shots of course and it looks as if the barn might still be used for animals other than skunks and raccoons, which would be a good thing. The grass is short in the fenced in area so something has been grazing. Don’t you often wish you could just step back in time for a moment and watch or interact with those people of yesteryear? We are living in tomorrow’s yesterdays now so it is important to document what is happening today for those coming in front of us. I hope that they will be glad that we did. Your blog does that. I did not know there were places called Hogsback Road here in Minnesota. I always learn something new as I read your blog.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      And I learn something new each time I travel the Minnesota back roads. And, yes, I do sometimes wish I could step back in time and talk to the people who lived in these places.

  3. treadlemusic Says:

    The location of the railroads, rivers and “easiest routes”(terrain wise) often dictated settlement locations. What I have found interesting is that the original location of a town may be different from the current recognized mapped spot. Due to many factors (some political), the official/existing town designation, at least in our area, came about because of an early, influential (wealthy!?) resident had their own thoughts on where the town would be best suited (for their business venture). With the many hills/valleys/coulees in this area each group of settlers built what was needed: church (usually first),dry goods,school, etc. and these little buildings today (if surviving) are voting places or 4-H meeting spots. A slice of a by-gone era. Love it!!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Ah, yes, rivers and other factors contributed to the locations of towns. You are so right.

  4. Jackie Says:

    Love anything about ghost towns, been to a few myself. I’m in love with the barn pictures, as you know, I love old barns as well. I love the little miniature barn next to the big one in the 1st barn shot, do you suppose that’s the milk house?

  5. Love Ghost Towns – great post and love the photos, especially the barn:)

  6. ljhlaura Says:

    The photos certainly spark the imagination. Also love the barn. 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Makes you wonder doesn’t it, about the people who worked in these buildings. And that well-kept barn is simply beautiful.

  7. Bernie Bowman Says:

    Love barns!! Your mom told my mom that you might possibly have some Vesta school books with pictures in them from the 70’s…if this is true just let me know..I remember a yellow book that had pictures of all the grades, and I think I was in maybe 5th or 6th grade…would love a copy or if anyone would have an extra one. Thanks Audrey…oh, and mom says that the book library is going over well! Makes me happy, cuz I love books!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Bernie, you just made my day by telling me the Little Free Library has been well received. Oh, that makes my heart so very happy. I’ll be delivering another 40 books for everyone from preschoolers to adults. Overflow will go into the cafe. Please tell your mom I am absolutely grateful for the warm reception of the LFL.

      As for any Vesta school books…, no I don’t have any and my mom must be thinking of someone else. I don’t recall any Vesta Elementary School books with photos in them. Maybe my younger siblings do as I was in high school already in the 1970s. Sorry, I can’t help you. But if you find any, let me know.

  8. Bernie Bowman Says:

    Thanks for responding!! I will have to do some checking…have a great weekend!

  9. Derek Says:

    The building from Belvidere Mills that you were wondering about was a old grocery store.

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