POPPLE CREEK -- Back in the day the little town of Popple Creek in Benton County was quite the hot spot for dancing.

It is considered a ghost town now but at one time the village at the intersection of Golden Spike Road and 65th Street Northeast in Mayhew Lake Township had a blacksmith shop, school, sawmill, and a potato warehouse. In addition to St. John's Lutheran Church, which is still in use today.

Benton County Historical Society Executive Director Mary Ostby says one of the most notable businesses in the town was the store that opened in 1896. She says it changed ownership several times over the years, and living quarters and upstairs dance hall were added.

It had a second floor to the store which also served as a kind of dance hall where the local musicians could get together.

During the days of prohibition, Benton County was just as established for running moonshine as Stearns County was, although most families in the county are still reluctant to talk about their past connections with Chicago gangsters. Ostby says one of the moonshine hotspots was Popple Creek and store/saloon.

Popple Creek was a moonshine area, where there are stories that as the dances took place on that second floor there were people out in the parking lot selling their little shot glasses of moonshine for two bits, for anyone who doesn't know what two bits are, that's .25 cents.

Ostby says they have a still at the museum that was donated from the Studer family who lived in the Mayhew Lake area.

Benton County Historical Society

The store closed down around 1983, but the building is still standing today. Ostby says the current owner has told her the original bar which dates back to the early 1900s is still there inside the building.

Popple Creek is not the original name of the town, it was first called Raether after Friedrich Raether the village's first store/saloon owner and postmaster. The townsfolk changed the name to Popple Creek in 1903 when Raether sold the store.

Once a month Ostby is on the News @ Noon show on WJON talking about the forgotten history of Benton County.

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