As I explored Lilydale Regional Park I learned there once was a community called Lilydale on the floodplain that’s now parkland. It’s completely gone now, and I’m not sure if it just moved up the bluff and became the modern Lilydale or if the two communities are completely separate. As you might imagine, the prospect of a ghost town or at least the faintest remnants of a town that as recently as 40 years still existed is intriguing.
Here’s what the Mississippi River Field Guide tells us:
The village of Lilydale was platted as Lilly Dale in 1886, in honor of the many Water Lillies that flourished in Pickerel Lake (Upham, Warren. p. 169). Between Water Street on the downstream end, and the hill to Highway 13 at the upstream end, was the village of Lillydale, bracketed by the river and Pickerel Lake. It was a village of several dozen homes on the flood plain, with a village hall in the former one-room schoolhouse (Hiebert, Gareth 1958. p. 68).
The origins of the name may be subject to debate as a brochure from the Friends of Lilydale Park says it’s either the lily pads or an old Mississippi River tow pilot song.
The one-room schoolhouse was known as Lilydale Village Hall and existed into the 1970s. But what became of it all? Apparently it was “bulldozed into an embankment that is still visible from the pot-holed roadway nearby,” according to a brief mention in an old article in the Riverview Times. I’m not sure where that location is exactly, though there are several likely spots and it probably wouldn’t take much exploring to figure it out.
We also get this detail from the Paddelford Packet boat company’s tour:
When Lilydale actually was a small community it was literally a town on wheels. Virtually all the residents lived on boats or in trailers and would move out for spring floods.
I realize that doesn’t answer a lot of questions, but it’s as much as I can find without doing some more involved research. This is kind of one of the things that frustrates me–the facts are certainly out there. Somebody knows what happened to Lilydale, and considering the recent history a lot of somebodies know. But the information just isn’t readily available.