Afton was founded in 1854 by Edward Temple. The town’s name was chosen by Temple’s wife, who is said to have named it after Flow Gently, Sweet Afton, a popular melody of the time based on a poem about the River Afton in Scotland.
Afton was soon appointed as the county seat by a local commission. Later in 1857, when the official vote was held, the fast-growing township of Highland contended for the honor of hosting the county seat. According to one recorded account, Afton narrowly won the election only after a local town leader forged a letter purportedly from the president of the Burlington and Missouri Rail Road (B&MRR) Company indicating that the new train tracks would pass through Afton instead of Highland.
The B&MRR rail line would eventually reach Afton in 1865 (after a lengthy delay during the Civil War). The population quickly grew, and by 1880 the town boasted a population of over 1,200 residents. To the west, however, the town of Creston was growing even faster, and in 1890 the county seat was permanently moved there.
Today, Afton is home to over 800 and serves as a gateway to two of Southwest Iowa’s best recreation areas – Three mile Lake and Twelve Mile Lake. Combined, the two lakes cover nearly 1,500 acres, and the surrounding recreational areas offer numerous opportunities for hiking, camping, and more
Afton is also home to the East Union School district which serves the city as well as the nearby communities of Arispe, Lorimor, Thayer, and Shannon City; plus the rural residents of eastern Union county.