The Story of Ronneby in Benton County
Every small town has a story and this is the story of Ronneby. Ronneby is an unincorporated community in Maywood Township in Benton County 2 miles east of Foley on Highway 23. According to the 2010 census Ronneby had 67 residents but the last sign that was up in 2008 in Ronneby indicated they had 37 residents.
To help tell the story of Ronneby I was joined by Mary Ostby, the Executive Director from the Benton County Historical Society and longtime Ronneby resident, former Mayor and former Benton County Commissioner Duane Walter.
Ronneby was plated in 1896 by C.S. Grant. Ostby says the town grew quickly and at that point was bigger than Foley as Foley was just starting up in 1900. She indicates people started moving into Ronneby in 1890 and were largely immigrants with Scandinavian heritage. The name Ronneby is from Sweden. Ostby says Maywood Township in Benton County is very Danish, Norwegian and Swedish. She says they settled there because the land was similar to their home country.
Both Ronneby and St. Francis were towns that were plated in 1896 but the town of St. Francis never happened because nothing was ever built there. That land was plated just east of the St. Francis River. Ronneby is to the west of the river. Ostby indicates the road which later became Highway 23 and the Great Northern Railroad going through the community of Ronneby really helped their early growth.
Ronneby had lots of the businesses in their community including a post office, hotel, saw mill, a granary, an elevator system, a lumber yard, a church, and a school when it started. Ronneby later added a bar/restaurant, gas station, grocery store, and used car dealership. Ostby says many of the businesses in Ronneby were recruited to leave for Foley and ultimately some did which led to a shift in population in the two communities.
Ostby says the railroad needed a large water tower and both Ronneby and Foley were interested in supplying that water tower. Foley ended up getting the water tower which contributed to Foley's growth and Ronneby's decline.
Ronneby today doesn't have a post office or a sign indicating its name but both Ostby and Duane Walter say the community is still known as Ronneby. Ronneby does have Gethsemane Lutheran Church, who recently celebrated a 150 year Anniversary, Goodfellas Bar and Grill and Foley Auto Glass. Walter speaks highly of Goodfellas and says they hold a yearly event which brings the community together. In additional to the political positions Walter held in Ronneby and Benton County he also played in a band called "Big D and the Country Stooges".
If you'd like to learn more about Ronneby you can listen to my conversations with Mary Ostby and Duane Walter below.
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