Bentonsport celebrating history

BENTONSPORT ? Bentonsport, one of the Villages of Van Buren County, will celebrate its history Saturday.

Bentonsport was platted in 1839 and became a bustling steamboat town on the Des Moines River providing transportation for people and goods. Bentonsport was the site of the first paper mill in Iowa as well as grist, saw, linseed oil and woolen mills. About 1,000 residents depended on the mills to process their crops, the river for shipping, and local stores to obtain goods they could not make. It became a stop on the Des Moines Valley Railroad, which helped bring settlers and pioneers west in the 1800s.

As the river traffic slowed due to locks and dams being shut down, and the railroad extended its reach, Bentonsport gradually declined in the later 1800s.

Today, the village is home to about 40 residents with several of the buildings housing a variety of shops. In addition, some buildings have been added to enhance the village and provide arts, crafts and historical artifacts. The Vernon School House, Wendell Mohr?s former home and studio, is across the river in Vernon, once known as South Bentonsport. The iron truss bridge is one of the oldest iron wagon bridges remaining on the Des Moines River and is now a pedestrian bridge.

Saturday, the heritage of the historic village, which was named a National Historic District in 1972, will be celebrated with shopkeepers in period dress as well as a home-cooked meal, with live music, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for a freewill offering; artist demonstrations from 1-3 p.m., weather permitting; shared history and refreshments at the Mason House Inn from 1-4 p.m.; and tours of the Vernon School House from 1-4 p.m.

For more information, 319-293-3749 or visit