Ironically, a small village that never grew has captured the imagination of those seeking to uncover the mysteries of Iowa’s past. Ortonville, a forgotten settlement located at the intersection of US 6 and County R16 and just three miles east of Adel, was once home to a circus family.
While not much remains of the town today, the story of the Orton family who wintered here up until the circus folded in the 1930s continues to fascinate history buffs and circus enthusiasts alike.
In this article, we invite you to join us on a journey of discovery as we delve into the history of Ortonville, Iowa’s very own circus village. We’ll explore the location and history of this once-thriving settlement, examine the remains and artifacts that have been uncovered, and take a closer look at the circus settlements that dotted the Iowa landscape during the early 20th century.
So, get ready to step back in time and discover the fascinating story of Ortonville and the circus family that called it home.
- Ortonville was a small village in Iowa that was once home to a circus family, and was also a circus settlement where other circus people also wintered.
- Iowa’s relatively mild winters made it an attractive destination for circus settlements, and Ortonville was one of Iowa’s most well-known circus settlements.
- The site of Ortonville has been heavily disturbed by road construction and other development activities, but archaeological investigation may reveal some remains and artifacts.
- Ortonville’s legacy lives on as a unique part of Iowa’s history, and any remaining relics can provide valuable information about the history and culture of the village’s inhabitants.
Location and History
While Ortonville was not a ghost town, it was a village that never grew and eventually disappeared. Located at the intersection of US 6 and County R16, about three miles east of Adel and 20+ miles west of Des Moines, the village was a circus settlement where the Orton family and other circus people wintered until the circus folded, likely before WWII.
Despite its former significance, Ortonville has little left to see as the highway was widened recently. The area now has a couple of houses, a modern manufacturing plant, and small warehouse type businesses on the north side of the old railroad bed which is now a bike trail.
Ortonville’s history is intertwined with the Orton family’s circus background. The Ortons were circus people who wintered in Ortonville until the circus folded. Interestingly, there was another circus settlement a few miles to the north and east of Ortonville just outside of Granger.
It is somewhat puzzling why circus folk would have wanted to hole-up in Iowa’s bleak winters. While there may be some remains or artifacts in the area, closer investigation may reveal that road crews and construction companies have worked well over the area.
Remains and Artifacts
Archaeological investigation of the Ortonville area may reveal some remains and artifacts, although the site has been heavily disturbed by road construction and other development activities. While it is unlikely to find intact structures or buildings, exploring ruins and uncovering relics can provide insight into the daily lives of the circus village’s inhabitants. This could include items such as household goods, clothing, tools, and other personal effects.
Due to the circus community’s transient nature, many artifacts may be left behind or lost over time. However, discovering any remaining relics can provide valuable information about the history and culture of Ortonville. Careful excavation and documentation of any findings can contribute to a complete understanding of the village’s past and place in Iowa’s history.
Circus Settlements in Iowa
Circus settlements dotted the landscape of Iowa, with multiple communities of traveling performers making their home in the state during the winter months. These settlements were usually temporary and existed as a way for circus performers to escape the harsh winter weather in other parts of the country. Iowa’s relatively mild winters made it an attractive destination for these communities, and several settlements were established throughout the state.
One such settlement was Ortonville, a circus village established by the Orton family. While it was not the only circus settlement in Iowa, it was one of the most well-known. Circus performers would winter in Ortonville, taking advantage of the mild climate to rest and prepare for the upcoming season.
It is somewhat puzzling why circus folk would have chosen Iowa’s bleak winters as a place to winter, but it was likely due to the state’s central location, making it an easy stopover for traveling performers.
Despite Ortonville’s disappearance, its legacy remains a unique part of Iowa’s history.
Frequently Asked Questions
What was the name of the circus that the Orton family belonged to?
The Orton family belonged to the Orton Family Circus, which performed in various locations. They are believed to wintered in Ortonville, Iowa until the circus folded in the 1930s before WWII.
Are there any surviving descendants of the Orton family or other circus families in the area?
A descendants inquiry regarding the Orton family or other circus families in the Ortonville area has not been documented. Further research may reveal information on potential connections to the circus village.
What types of acts did the circus in Ortonville feature?
The types of circus acts and performer specialties in Ortonville are unknown due to lack of records. However, as a circus wintering location, it likely featured a variety of acts including acrobats, clowns, animal trainers, and aerialists.
How did Ortonville compare to other circus settlements in terms of size and population?
Compared to other circus settlements in Iowa, Ortonville was a small village that never grew and eventually disappeared. While its significance to tourism is limited, it was interestingly the winter home of the Orton family who were circus performers.
What impact did the presence of circus settlements have on the local economy and community?
The presence of circus settlements had a local impact on economic growth, as they provided employment opportunities and attracted visitors. However, the exact impact on the community is unclear, as Ortonville did not grow and eventually disappeared. Further research is needed to fully understand the effects.