There seems to be no means of absolutely ascertaining the origin of the name Lost Nation. Many and various theories to account for it are set forth by the residents, some of which will be here given. It is certain that the region about the present town was called Lost Nation long before the establishment of the station, also that the locality was not known as such by the very earliest settlers.
One version, not very widely credited, has it that a tribe of Indians starved and froze to death here in early times. May people give credence to the story that a German named Balm was looking for some relatives here in the times when the prairie was unbroken and covered with grass high as a horse, and when asked where he was going, said that he was looking for the “lost nation.” H. V. Cook is said to have come over into this locality to buy stock from this same Balm when he settled here, to have searched for him one day and a part of the next before locating his cabin, and thus to have called it “lost nation.” Again it is related that some hunters from Brookfield township looking over the western prairie from an eminence noted the little settlement of a few houses under the clump of oaks before mentioned, and said to his companions that there was a small nation down there. Reply was made that it must be a lost nation. This is a more satisfying theory than some of the others. It is also said that a hunting party was lost here, remained for some time, and named their camp “Lost Man Camp.” Others state that the name was given because of the wild and somewhat inaccessible character of the region. Perhaps none of these theories is correct.
The station established by the Sabula, Ackley & Dakota in 1871 was named Lost Nation because the surrounding country had been long so called. Some years ago there was agitation among the people to have the name changed, but this was firmly opposed by the older settlers, they rightly urging that, aside from the associations to them connected with the name, it was better to have a name which expressed a meaning, even though somewhat romantic, than one of the colorless names borne by the majority of American towns. And it seemed to them that the possession of such a name was a valuable asset to the town.
[June 25, 2013]
image: Lost Nation Iowa train 106 by Flickr user Mark LLanuza