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170 years of history: Abandoned ‘ghost town’ still attracting tourists

Published: May. 26, 2022 at 7:34 PM EDT
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Once a thriving community near the Iowa border in Minnesota, Forestville now posts a population of zero.

The residents are long gone, but tourists are still visiting.

Forestville doesn’t need a mayor. So, Matt Eidem serves as the town’s manager.

“It was a pretty prominent town because of its position on the stagecoach line,” Eidem said.

In 1852, the first settlers arrived in Forestville after signing treaties with the Dakota people.

The general store, which still stands today, was the epicenter.

“You needed things that drew people to the area. If you read old advertisements to bring people to Forestville, they would talk about an old general store and the schools,” Eidem said.

Catering to immigrants from Europe, Canada and the East Coast, the store was stocked with $700 worth of goods. The goal was to make it a one-stop-shop.

“It was the Amazon of its day. You could get anything you wanted at the general store,” Eidem said.

That included medicines that probably wouldn’t fly nowadays.

“When you were sick, you saw someone here with a recipe book,” Eidem said.

Forestville hit its peak in the 1860s with 150 residents, making it one of the most significant towns south of Minneapolis. It had sawmills, a blacksmith shop, a hotel and even a distillery.

But much of it was gone by 1910.

The railroad never came through as the town had planned, and people moved to other nearby towns.

The Meighen family bought the land and turned it into an industrial farm. The buildings and goods that remain are originals.

These days visitors fill the empty spaces worth 170 years of history – not bad for a town that hasn’t had a single inhabitant in more than a century.

The general public can tour Forestville from Memorial Day weekend through October.

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