Have you ever looked at a Google Map view of Iowa and noticed just how many towns exist that you've never heard of before? Many are tiny, unincorporated communities, and some are even on the precipice of being considered ghost-towns. You'd probably describe a small town as a place where "everyone knows everyone." That has to be literally the case with a town this small.

In messing around with Google Maps, I stumbled upon Beaconsfield, IA, a tiny city in Ringgold County, right near the Missouri border. The current population of Beaconsfield, per the 2020 census, is merely 15 people, down from its most recent peak at 29 in 1999. In 2009, its population was only 10 people.

United Methodist Church in Beaconsfield. Photo Credit: Google Street View
United Methodist Church in Beaconsfield. Photo Credit: Google Street View

For a town so microscopic and easy-to-miss, it's hard to believe anything of note would be there. Alas, there is something worth knowing about Beaconsfield, IA! The town is considered the birthplace of the Hy-Vee chain of grocery stores.

The centerpiece of the area, the former Beaconsfield Supply Store, was purchased by Charles Hyde and David Vredenburg in 1930. It operated like a general store for a few years before becoming a telephone exchange.

In 2007, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, it serves as a community center, which isn't difficult to imagine seeing as it's positioned in a town of less than 20 people. Its addition into the National Register of Historic Places came with a commemorative plaque on the building. It reads:

In 1930, the dawn of America's Great Depression, David Vredenburg and Charles Hyde realized a life-long dream and opened this Beaconsfield Supply Store, stocking the shelves with dry goods, work clothing, and groceries. Building on a set of core values that included honesty, integrity, respect, and dedication, the partnership grew and became Hy-Vee, Inc., one of the most innovative and successful employee-owned retail corporations. The store operated until 1933.

Here is the application submitted for the store to be recognized as a historic place.

Designated as a village in 1881 after a train station had been built, Beaconsfield was named after Lord Beaconsfield of England. He was a British statesman who twice served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the late-1800s. The town was incorporated in January 1990, but lost its post office three years later.

The main drag in Beaconsfield, facing away from the downtown square. Photo Credit: Google Street View
The main drag in Beaconsfield, facing away from the downtown square. Photo Credit: Google Street View

Beaconsfield was also the birthplace of retired NASA astronaut and former NASA Chief Astronaut Peggy Whitson. Whitson grew up on a farm with her family, and graduated as Iowa Wesleyan University. The 675 days she spent in space means she has spent more time in space than any other American or woman.

Presently, Beaconsfield is the second smallest incorporated city in all of Iowa. The smallest is a town known as Le Roy, located about 30 miles from Beaconsfield. Per the 2000 census, the per capita income for the city of Le Roy was $14,560, and not a single person in the city was below the poverty line. However, in every census but the 1990 and 2010 reports, respectively, population in Le Roy had declined.

Find out more about the town of Beaconsfield, IA on its Facebook page (appropriately named "Tiny Town in Iowa")!

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