Monday, October 12, 2009

Stop #17 Continued

Stop #17: continued

Thursday I drove to Keokuk, on the Mississippi River. There I went to Lock No 19, one of 29 locks on the Upper Mississippi. They begin at Upper St. Anthony Falls and end near St. Louis MO, with a drop of 420 feet in elevation. Towboats need a consistent 9-foot deep channel of water in order to navigate up and down the river.

A towboat can push a maximum of 15 loaded barges on the Upper Mississippi River. This is equivalent to a convoy of 870 semi-trucks or a train pulling 225 jumbo hopper cars. Once below St. Louis, the River is naturally deep enough so there isn’t a need for locks and dams. Here a towboat typically pushes up to 40-60 barges per tow. This information obtained from a publication put out by the US Army Corps of Engineers, titled “Locks & the River”. I was hoping to see one of the locks in operation, but it was a pretty quiet day and didn’t see anything.

I also toured the Keokuk River Museum which is in the George M. Verity steamboat. I was built in 1927 as the S.S. Thorpe and introduced barge service on the upper Mississippi. It moved barges from St. Louis northward to St. Paul and was in service until 1940 when the Armco Steel Corp. bought it and used it on the Ohio River. In 1960 the Verity was retired and in 1961 the boat was donated to the City of Keokuk. It is a sternwheeler steamboat with a “V” shaped paddlewheel.

There is a National Cemetery here also - one of the 12 original national cemeteries. During the Civil War, because the College of Physicians and Surgeons was here, the Federal government located a military hospital here. Many soldiers, from the North and the South, died in Keokuk and were buried here and is the final resting place for many of those soldiers. Keokuk was named after Chief Keokuck, a man who barely, if ever, spent any part of his life in the town or area. He was not a full blooded Indian and was not in line to be a chief. His father was one-half French and one-half Indian. His mother was full-blooded Indian. The official naming took place in 1834 by nine citizens in a saloon. A decanter of whiskey was set on the bar and the saloon owner suggested to all those present who wanted to name the settlement Keokuk, were to step up to the bar and have a drink. The “vote” carried 8 to 1.

I also drove along
Keokuk’s Grand Drive to look at a few of the homes that overlook the Mississippi River. It wasn’t until 1910-1913, during the time the of the dam building did the idea of having a house with a river view start to grow. The City was growing away from the river in the 1830’s and a building boom in the 1850’s caused “suburbs” to be laid out and Grand Avenue was one of those “suburbs”. There are many different styles - Greek Revival, English Tudor, Federal Clapboard built by Howard Hughes Sr (father of Howard Hughes Jr.), Neo-Classic, Spanish Revival, Colonial Revival, and Prairie School. They are just breathtaking gorgeous.

The little villages of Bonaparte and Bentonsport are so pre-Civil war. I had forgotten how much I like old brick homes that are 2 or 3 stories high. The little villages in Van Buren County are referred to as The Villages of VanBuren. In VanBuren County there are no stoplights or fast food places, nor motel/hotel chains, but lots of B&B’s, lodges and retreats and campgrounds and plenty of places to eat. All the “villages” are that - villages. The largest is Keosauqua, the County Seat, at a population of almost 1100. I recommend any one living or traveling in the area to stop and spend some time and take in some of the villages.

I stopped in the town of Bonaparte, on the way home, at the Adde Fudge Factory & Ol” Mill Antiques (formerly The Woolen Mill, c. 1853) and stocked up on FUDGE. Ohhhh, the pumpkin is heavenly, the Lemon Meringue Fudge is just like mom’s lemon meringue pie, the Root Been Float is a root beer float on a hot summer day, and I bought 10 other flavors to keep me happy for a few weeks! I also bought a ticket to a mystery dinner event there. It was a very enjoyable evening with a cozy atmosphere, there were around 35 of us and we had a hearty dinner of New York strip steak topped off with a dessert of chocolate/banana cake.

Here are a couple of pictures of the building next door and is now the The Bonaparte Retreat Restaurant and was formerly the The Grist Mill (c. 1878). Note the Amish buggy coming toward me (kind of hidden in the tree on the road in the picture on the right) and the beautiful view of the Des Moines River the restaurant folks get (left).

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