Knowlton Now a Ghost Town, Remembered Southwest Iowa

DIAGONAL, Iowa- The former town of Knowlton, in Ringgold County voted to unincorporate in 1926.

The town is now, all but gone, but it is still remembered in nearby Diagonal.

Arlene Sobotka is a part of the Diagonal Printing Museum, the volunteers running the museum work to gather items of historical interest around the area.

Sobotka was so interested in Knowlton, she spent three years working to build a scale model of the town. She contacted people who worked and lived there.

“I guess my interest in this it started about 25 years ago,” said Sobotka. “We had a blacksmith shop, we had an undertaker, of course the hotel with the bank.”

One room is dedicated to the former town of Knowlton, The ghost town diorama is located on the second floor in the Knowlton Room.

Jim & Patty Newton live on the old Knowlton town sight. Jim Newton can point out where the streets used to run. Some can still be driven on.

The last original Knowlton building is still standing on the Newton’s ground. Newton plans to keep the building.

“My wife's great grandparents had this, with the shop there was a house it right beside it.“ said Newton.

Knowlton began in 1885 when the Great Western Railway build a rail line from Kansas City, to Des Moines. That was in 1885.

Knowlton grew to around 450 people, with two churches a school and businesses. A foundry started which made sleigh runners.

“It’s our history, it's our ancestors,” said Sobotka. “My great uncles used to ride into town on their horses shooting their guns, not at anybody, they would just make a noise.”

The town of Knowlton survived two fires, and rebuilt the downtown with brick buildings.

Knowlton began a decline after a second rail line came through the area, though nearby Diagonal. Gradually people moved to Diagonal, where two rail lines crossed.

“The railroad made the towns, and the railroad also made some of the towns ghosts,” said Arlene Sobotka.

The Knowlton diorama can be seen at the Diagonal Printing Museum. The Musem is closed in the winter, but appointments can be made.

Click here to contact the Diagonal Printing Museum