Saturday, October 3, 2009

Stop #16 - Winterset Iowa “Bridges of Madison County” Setting

Hereeeeeee’s Johnny! Won’t go into how I got here from Stanton as I followed a lot of county roads that were really very nice. I did stop in the little town of Corning, where Johnny Carson was born. The town has two main streets, both very wide with one wider than the other and has parking down the center (sounds familiar with a town I use to live in in northern Kansas). Makes me think that Corning was established as a cattle center (did notice more grazing cattle in this part of the State) with its wide main street. It is also a Main Street Program town and the larger main street has a lot of restored building fronts. It sits on a hillside and I found Johnny’s house - a very small building. I didn’t get to see it as it was closed, despite an open sign in the window. It hasn’t had a lot of care given to it like I found the John Wayne birthplace house has been given.

Am at the public library and it is a beautiful building, lots of comfortable chairs to use. In fact, I like the whole town and area so far. Except the weather, but had better be quiet as I asked for ONE rainy day, just to relax, read one of my books and/or start another ribbon wind sock. Still having trouble getting pictures loaded to my blog. Ah, finally got the pictures loaded for the previous blog posting.


Today, Thursday, I just took it easy, sauntered around downtown, took some pictures, got a vanilla latte', stopped in a Ben Franklin store and just looked. Oh, boy do I remember those stores, kinda miss them - guess it’s one of those things that happen when you get older - things that use ta be. I piddled with another wind sock, started reading a Dick Francis book I picked up at the coffeeshop - “10 Lb. Penalty”, and just did what I had wanted to. Friday will head out to do sightseeing. Oh, in the Chamber/Visitors Office talked to a young lady, who works there, who was born and raised in Hays. She said her parents still live there and will be up for the Covered Bridges festival next week. Sounds like another one of those crowd things to miss.

This stone tablet is a tribute to Jessie Hiatt, an Indiana Quaker, who discovered and unusual seedling in his apple orchard, near East Peru in southern Madison County, in the early 1870’s. It appeared to be an off shoot of a Bellflower seedling that had died. After a few years, the new tree produced it first fruit and was the best he had ever tasted so he named it after his beloved State - the Hawkeye State.

Hiatt entered his “Hawkeye” apple in an 1893 Missouri fruit show. Apparently his name and address became separated from the entry; and, the judges after biting into the apple stated “It was delicious” . And, that is how the Delicious apple got it’s name. The following year, Hiatt linked up with C.M. Stark starting the first chapter in the book of apple lore. The information for these two paragraphs came from Souvenir Program of the Decades of Festival (Covered Bridge Festival), published by the Winterset Madisonian newspaper.

Friday, woke up to slight drizzles but they came and went so it was the day to explore the Bridges and John Wayne’s Birthplace. It’s still drizzling and raining. Has been all day. Okay, am ready for sunshine.

I set out to see as many of the covered bridges as I could get in today. The first bridge I went to is Cedar. It was completed in 1883 and was featured on the cover of The Bridges of Madison County (the author was a local). It was originally in another location and was moved to its present site in 1971. Unfortunately, the original bridge was destroyed by arson in 2002. A new replica was dedicated in 2004. There were several other arson attempts on bridges in this time period, and the arsonist has never been caught. Even Oprah Winfrey came and met with the book’s author at one of the bridges and made a contribution to the reward fund. I understand it still stands and is around a $45,000 reward.

From there, I was going to the Hogback Bridge, but instead of turning left on the paved road, I turned right! Not having the sun I totally lost what direction I was heading. I could have swore I was driving south; but alas, I was driving northeast and when the road reached I-35, I kind of realized what I had done. Knew I should have taken my compass with me. Dang. It was a pretty drive even in the rain.

One thing I did learn later at Roseman Bridge, was the house used as Francesca’s house was on that road. I didn’t know that but do remember one that was off the road and looked deserted. It wasn’t open to the public as it was also hit by arson and destroyed and not restored. I was told that a couple that had originally agreed to let their house be used for the movie, backed out at the last minute and the crew had to find another place. The one they found had been abandoned for 30 years, so required a lot of fixing up. They just worked on what they needed for the movie inside and outside. So after my extra drive off into the back country of Madison County, I found myself heading in the right direction to see the Hogback Bridge.

Hogback Bridge is in its original position in a little valley northwest of Winterset. It was built in 1884. The reason why these bridges are covered (originally 20, now only 6) is that a gentleman who moved here from Ohio was use to covered bridges and he covered the bridge he built to save the wood
used for the floorboards of the bridge, since it was expensive to replace the lumber in the floorboard - it was less costly to replace the sides and roof. He shortly became a county supervisor and worked to get all the bridges covered to save the lumber. I also learned that this bridge would have succumbed to the arson’s torch too, had it not been for a young couple heading out to feed their cattle and passed by just as the fire was starting and were able to use the buckets in the back of their pickup to have the fire out by the time the fire department arrived.

The next bridge was the Roseman Bridge, which is the best known of the Bridges, as it played a prominent role both in the book and the movie. It was built in 1883 and is in the same position today as it was then. There is a little gift shop there and I bought a Bridges T-shirt and visited with the lady. She is the one that filled me in on Francesca’s house and the arson cases.

I came back to town, got gas and stopped off at a local restaurant for lunch,
then headed over to John Wayne’s birthplace. Boy, he was a whopper when he was born at 13 pounds! It’s a little 4-room house, so typically at that time. There is lots of interesting history inside and one is given a very informative tour. The Foundation is currently raising money to build a museum for all the J.W. items they have.

From there I went to see the Cutler-Donahoe Bridge, which is located in the City Park. It was originally in another place and built in 1871 and moved to the present location in 1970. In the City Park there is a unique-English Stylehedge maze as well as drive a winding one-way dirt road to the Clark Tower, built on a bluff overlooking the river valley. There is a little stone bridge that was used in the movie also. The “Delicious Apple” stone is also located in the City Park, as well as an early settlers log cabin. The City RV Park is located right next to the City Park, thus giving the RV Park a pretty view. There is also RV parking at the County Fairgrounds and at Pammel State Park, just a few miles outside of town.

There are two more bridges to see and will do that Saturday. I have to mention the County Courthouse.

It is by far one of the MOST beautiful county courthouses I have ever seen. I just love the dome. With the decor above the windows in the dome, it reminds me somewhat of a cone flower. It was constructed in 1876 of native limestone and black walnut. Prisoners kept in a 3rd floor room in the 1800’s covered the walls with graffiti, which was rediscovered during a restoration project and can be seen by visitors. Wish I had known that before this weekend, as the building may not be open.





And I have to throw a few pictures of the homes in town too. I have driven up and down quite a few streets and seen all styles, even the old not so lovingly cared for homes have some interesting features.

Saturday morning, the sun came out around 9:30 and looked like it was going to be out while. The clouds were still coming out of the north, but at least it wasn’t overcast. So off to the last two Bridges.


The Holliwell Bridge(left), is the largest bridge and the best known as it was featured in the film. Built in 1880 The last Bridge to see was the Imes Bridge (right)built in 1870 and moved in 1887 and moved again to its present site in 1977.

Can you imagine moving these bridges in one piece? Info I have on one bridge moved - the Cutler-Donahoe - in 1970, traveled 18 miles to Winterset on a 16-wheel, 40-ton, 79 foot-long house moving flatbed trailer pulled by a 1934 model truck.

Well, the sun was out long enough to let us know that it was still around, there were more patches of blue sky than sunshine. I don’t usually take pictures of churches, but the steeple on this one was so pretty:

Sunday is moving day and will be heading towards Ottumwa, then down towards Keosauqua in Van Buren County, where I’ll be taking in the Villages of Van Buren County. These include Bloomfield, Troy, Keosauqua, Bentonsport and Bonaparte. From there Ross Watson suggested going to Keokuk and visit the Mississippi River and the activities there, which includes a very large lock system. Then I’ll be heading westward through northern Missouri and catching up with US-36 at some point and taking it to within an hour from home.

PS Just noticed I didn't get the Sac County pictures posted to Flickr. That will be the next project.

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