Video Documentary: Rediscovering Hinkletown - A Prairie Ghost Town

The 1860s:  "Organizing the Union Horse Company" 

Filming took place on location at McGregor, Iowa on August 30, 2008 - Promotional still photographs below.


1869:  Some of the men of Hinkletown argue about the local thefts of their neighbor's horses in the Pioneer Store of Henkle & Littler.  They know the thefts can't go unpunished, and come up with the idea of organizing an anti-horse thief society in the area.   Thefts were also occurring in Liberty Township, Keokuk County, and Lime Creek Township in Washington County.  Hinkletown was located in Fillmore Township, Iowa County, near the intersection of the three counties.

Historical Basis:  In June, 1869, a group of thirty men from the area around Hinkletown, Iowa, and a several-mile perimeter, mustered together to fight horse thieves and outlaws.  One of the charter members was Harmon Henkle of Hinkletown.  In one of the longest lasting organizations of this kind in the country, the Union Horse Company actively pursued criminals through 1925, transitioning its focus to automobile and store thefts.  The men worked with local constables and Justices of the Peace.  The Iowa County Board of Supervisors enacted laws to pay men $100 for the successful tracking and apprehension of any horse thieves convicted of the crime.   They also paid expenses for tracking a horse thief.

Thanks to the River Junction Trade Co., and The Landing, Jim and Linda Boeke, Proprietors, for their hospitality in providing period sets for the McGregor filming.


They created the following:  "Whereas, the stealing of horses, and the commission of other crimes, are becoming so frequent, so much so that no property of any kind is safe. Therefore, we the undersigned, in order to form a more perfect union, the better to protect ourselves against such outlaws and thieves, do ordain and establish the following constitution for our government: This organization shall be known and designated by the name of Union Horse Company, for the detection and apprehension of horse thieves, and any person charged with any crime or misdemeanor whatsoever.

A charter, constitution and by-laws were drawn up and a minutes book maintained.  One of the later minutes books is still in existence (1890's - 1925.) 

"No person shall be permitted to become a member of this company unless he is a free white male over the age of 18 years, and must be of good moral character."

Any member known to be breaking the laws of the State of Iowa was immediately expelled. Members were fined 20 cents for missing a meeting, and 10 cents for discussing anything other than the business at hand. Intoxication was not tolerated and any member who showed up with liquor on his breath was immediately expelled. Three offenses at profane language would result in the same.

"When the president is putting a question or addressing the meeting, no member shall entertain any private discourse, nor walk across the room, nor leave the room unnecessarily, or when any member is addressing the meeting shall any other member entertain any private discourse, or pass between the speaker and the president."

August 2, 1863:  Governor Kirkwood Speech at South English, Iowa

The atmosphere on August 2, 1863 was solemn.  The Governor was coming to South English to restore order after the Talley shooting.

Below:  Union Horse Company Scenes filmed at Hinkletown, Iowa on May 17, 2008.

Reenactors arrive on location at Hinkletown and prepare for a day of filming.  They came from Wisconsin and Iowa.  Thanks to members of the Iowa 24th Infantry, 3rd Iowa Cavalry, Wisconsin 1st Cavalry, Red Cedar Regulators and the Hole in the Sock Gang for lending their talents to the Hinkletown video production.

Thanks to the Moffit farm for hosting the location.


Checking out the set prior to filming.  Actors and horses want to be thoroughly familiar with the location.  This is the original 1850s road the settlers cut through from Hinkletown north through the timber and across the English River.  In 1873, upon the establishment of Keota, ten miles south of Hinkletown, the road was extended from Keota to Marengo, the county seat of Iowa County.

Above: Members of the Union Horse Company track three horse thieves, (Right) through the timber around Hinkletown.  Historically, there are several stories of Jesse James gang camping and staying over here.


Left: Villain on the move.      Right: Union Horse Company at edge of Tallgrass prairie.













    On the move through the tallgrass prairie.  The Moffit farm at Hinkletown provided a splendid natural setting for the video work.













                           Left:  Villain's campfire scene.   Right:  Ready to roll out.

1870s Keokuk County Sheriff and Union Horse Company member pause for a promotional shot in the timber.

Also filmed on May 17, 2008:

May Day 1943 at Hickory Ridge School
















All photographs above by Dave Jackson, Copyright 2008 - Request Permission for Reprint or Reuse


May 17, 2008

8:00 AM - Noon:  Union Horse Company and Jesses James Scenes - Hinkletown

12:30 - 2:30 May Day at Hickory Ridge School - Hinkletown

Here's a special treat:  Hickory Ridge School at Hinkletown, July 4, 1907, Nellie Kernan, teacher.  The new school, built in 1906,  was acclaimed as the best country schoolhouse in Iowa County.  This was the third schoolhouse built at Hinkletown.   The first was a log cabin, measuring 16' X 18', built in July 1849, one of the first schools in the county.

Copyright 2008 - English Valleys History Center, North English, IA,  and Historic Photo Archives, Klemme, Iowa

Video Documentary "Rediscovering Hinkletown" Planned for Release 2009

Historical Basis:  The Making of the Documentary

Hinkletown Home Page

Earliest Published Account of a Hinkletown Settler - 1847
(Music Alert- Hinkletown Bluegrass)

Contact Us