Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Treasure Hunter Casting Call - Host Wanted for Documentary Series

Every once in a while Kathy and I are contacted by production companies for guidance.  Today it is a production company in Australia looking for someone in the USA to Host a documentary series.  Here's the email in it's entirety.  If you know someone let them know Legends Of America sent ya!

Good Day Kathy & Dave,

My name is Serita Wesley and I am a Development Casting Director with Prospero Productions (www.prosperoproductions.com.au), a television production company out of Australia. We are currently developing an exciting new documentary series based around the worlds of Treasure Hunting, Battlefield Detecting, Aviation Archaeology, Warbird Restoration, Wreck Diving, Battlefield Archaeology, etc.  Unfortunately, we have yet to find a charismatic and knowledgeable host for this series.

I stumbled upon your website while doing research online and wondered if either or you might be interested in the opportunity or know anyone who might be a great fit.  Ideally we would like to find someone who is youthful, incredibly passionate about any of the subjects previously listed, has a wealth of knowledge (its not required to be an expert on all of the sub-categories listed above), someone with a very outgoing personality that viewers would find easy to watch and trustworthy.   
We are looking for individuals in the USA.  I have pasted below the casting notice for this particular search.  Our deadline is fast approaching; therefore, I would love to speak with you and give you more information on the series.

If you or someone that you know of fits this description please contact me, Serita Wesley (Casting Director) at SWesleyCasting@gmail.com

NOTE: Please feel free to pass this note and the casting notice along to any groups, clubs or forums that you might belong to pertaining to the topics.
Thank you so much for your time, and please do not hesitate to contact me for more information.

Serita Wesley


*Are you or someone you know a true to life TREASURE HUNTER?
*Do you travel the country or the world combing historic battlefields?
*Do you scour the fields looking to collect a piece of history?
*Do you search local parks and beaches for treasure?
*Do you dig at battle sights and wreckage sights in search of historic relics?

Prospero Productions, a television production company in Australia, is seeking charismatic, knowledgeable & fearless Metal DetectorsBattlefield DetectorsWreck DiversWar-bird Restorers, etc. all over the United States and Canada.  

We are looking for people who have fun personalities, a zest for life and who love to learn and explore.

If this sounds like you or someone you know send us an email to SWesleyCasting@gmail.com, with the following information…

- Name
- Age
- Location
- Contact Information
- TWO photos of yourself & your finds
- A summary of where treasure hunt, how you are “known” in the treasure hunting/historical excavation world.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Deadwood to Home

Downtown Deadwood, SD
We cut our trip short to get back to Kansas to see our new Granddaughter, but made sure to spend some time in downtown Deadwood.  This city was founded in 1876 after  a miner named John B. Pearson found gold in a narrow canyon in the Northern Black Hills the previous year.  Today the entire city is a National Historic Landmark.  We highly recommend experiencing this Old West city, which despite the commercialization through the Casino's, still holds plenty of it's original charm.

Pine Ridge Reservation
From Deadwood we head back to I-90, then south to Rapid City, where we take Highway 79 to 40 and  through the Pine Ridge Reservation. Home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe, it is located just on the edge of the South Dakota badlands. Though the reservation is 2,000,000 acres large, the bulk the original Sioux homeland was the Black Hills which the Sioux considere sacred. In fact, the Sioux continue to dispute losing their lands in the Black Hills to this day.

Wounded Knee
After we get on Highway 18 we found time for a quick jog north to the site of the Wounded Knee massacre. This regrettable and tragic clash of arms, occurring  December 29, 1890, was the last significant engagement between Native Americans and soldiers on the North American Continent, ending nearly four centuries of warfare between westward-bound immigrants and the indigenous peoples. Today, it serves as an example of national guilt for the mistreatment of the Natives. You can read the full story about Wounded Knee here.

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway
After heading back to Highway 18, we start making our way to Nebraska via 391/27 into Gordon.  From Gordon we continue south to Highway 2, which is also Nebraska's Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway.  The rolling hills of Nebraska and the somewhat sandy soil is home to very few.  In fact, Kathy and I believe that this was one of the longest stretches of desolation we have encountered yet.  Though there are a few small towns through this region, we were happy we filled up in Gordon.

Along the way we stopped for pictures in Ashby, Nebraska. Near the end of the 19th century, the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroad moved west and laid rails through the Sandhills of western Nebraska. This area had once been called a desert, and unfit for humans. Not suitable land for farming, it was ideal for the grazing of cattle. The land south of Ashby was set aside for a time as a forest reserve, and then opened for settlement to homesteaders by way of a land drawing in 1912. With the homesteaders, the town grew and added businesses. In 1914 there were three lumber yards, two livery barns, a blacksmith shop, a bank, barber shop, post office, two grocery stores and a newspaper called The Ashby Argos. Today, Ashby is called home to less than 100 people.

Nebraska National Forest
On down the road you pass by the Nebraska National Forest. Located in the Sandhills of central Nebraska, was established in 1902 as an experiment to see if forests could be created in treeless areas of the Great Plains. This effort resulted in a 20,000-acre forest, the largest human-planted forest in the United States.

After a long day of driving, we spent the night in Grand Island and then quickly wrapped up our journey to Lawrence Kansas to be with family.  Overall, Kathy and I were fortunate to experience the wonderful history, Ghost Towns and people along the way of our 9 day journey to North Dakota and back.  We look forward to writing more about the places we've seen in the months ahead.

You can follow this portion of our trip in pictures via our Facebook Fan Page here!

Congratulations to Kathy's daughter Torri, and husband Pete Nobo on their 3rd daughter.  We welcomed Havana Blue Sky Nobo to the world on Friday and plan to start priming her with history as soon as she can talk!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Deadwood to Devils Tower

Deadwood's Historic Adams House
It was a wonderful feeling waking up and realizing that we didn't have to pack up and leave our hotel.  Kathy and I decided we would stay in Deadwood, SD for a couple of nights and spend Friday traveling close by.  We didn't really need to "do" Deadwood, since Kathy has already been here and done that.  Of course, this city does have some fantastic history, which is worth reviewing once in a while.  The famous and the infamous have called Deadwood and the Black Hills home. Lewis and Clark, Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, George Armstrong Custer, Poker Alice, the Sundance Kid, Calamity Jane, and many others have all passed through here in search of fortune and adventure.

Homestake Mine, Lead SD
And for all the hoopla over Gold and Deadwood, it was the town of Lead, just a few miles further on Highway 85, that actually struck it richer. Founded in 1876 by Mining Magnate George Hearst , it's Homestake Mine, which closed in 2002, was the most productive gold mine in the Western Hemisphere, as well as the largest and deepest.  Today, a viewing platform allows visitors to view the Mine and learn about the "rich" history of the area.  It's also worth noting that the town is now home to a "Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory" which deals in dark matter and other nuclear physics studies. By the way, Lead and pronounced Leed, just so ya know.

Bridal Veil Water Fall
We departed Lead on Highway 14 for some picturesque views of the Black Hills, stopping at the areas water falls and generally enjoying the Fall color already prevalent along the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway.  Beautiful clear water is a welcome site to a couple from the Lake of the Ozarks.  We typically don't see fish "in" the water, unless they are coming up for air.  Absolutely worth the drive over to Spearfish, where we catch I-90 and head west into Wyoming.

Along the way we run into Vore Buffalo Jump just west of Beulah.  This was something I hadn't run into before, at least the way it was found.  It's one of the most important archaeological sites of the Late-Prehistoric Plains Indians that just happened to be discovered when I-90 was being constructed during the 1970's.  It's a natural sink hole that was used by natives as a buffalo trap around the years 1500 to 1800 and is actively being studied to this day. Different than the Buffalo jumps we have seen where the natives would run them off a cliff, but just as effective.  The building at the bottom of the sink hole was built to protect and expand the excavation unit working the site.

Devils Tower, WY
From there we continue down I-90 to Sundance, where we veer off with Highway 14, then onto Highway 24 to take in Devils Tower.  Movie geeks know this as a key place in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (well, at least I did), however this monstrous rock is a sacred and important landmark to Plains Indians, America's First National Landmark, and draws thousands of visitors a year.  It is 867 feet from the base to the top,  and 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River that runs below it. You just can't appreciate the awe of this place on a movie screen.  Incredible.

Aladdin General Store, WY
From Devils Tower we start our trek back to Deadwood, stopping at the General Store in Aladdin for some shopping, before heading back to South Dakota. Aladdin's General Store was built in 1896 and is one of Wyoming's five remaining 19th century mercantiles. It hasn't changed much in appearance since then.  If you are ever in the area, stop in this town of 15 and check this place out, on Highway 24, a few miles from the state line.

On our way back to the hotel in Deadwood we discovered that our new Grand Girl decided to come a few days early, so we are going wrap up our trip in rapid time so Nana can help out with the other two grand girls while Mom recovers.  Welcome to the world Havana Blue Sky Nobo.  Papa Dave and Nana are on the way to Lawrence, Ks to make sure you get the historic welcome you deserve!

See Day 7 of our trip in pictures here on our Facebook Fan Page!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Jamestown, ND to Deadwood, SD

We spent parts of 3 days hunting down history and Ghost Towns in North Dakota and decided we were ready for some real Old West atmosphere, so we have landed in Deadwood South Dakota for a couple of nights  and will travel the region around us before heading back toward home.

Old School in Cleveland, ND
Day 5 of our North Dakota adventure found us heading out of Jamestown west on I-94.  We made a quick stop in the ghost town of Cleveland, founded in 1882, for some shots of an old school building that caught our eye from the interstate.  It's been taken over by a construction company now, so at least the property is still in use. The town still has an active post office with a few residents.

Abandoned Church in Crystal Springs, ND
Next stop down I-94 was Crystal Springs.  Crystal Springs got its start in 1873 and a Post Office opened in 1884. It remained a thriving small town until it was cut off by I-94. Today, there are about 8 inhabited homes.

Arena, ND
Back on I-94 turning north on Highway 3 at Steel up to 36, then back west we came to Arena. This  is the kind of Ghost Town Kathy loves the most, completely abandoned, but with still enough buildings in tact that you can still imagine the life that once was.  Founded in 1906 and with a peak population of about 150, this town appears to have had some activity as recent as 15 years, however only a couple of homes, a church and grain elevator remain.  We spent some time there taking lots of pictures and enjoying a quick break before moving closer to the Missouri River again.

Fort Mandan
After hooking back up with Highway 83, we move north to Washburn for some key Lewis and Clark history.  Fort Mandan, located just outside of Washburn, was built by Lewis and Clark in 1804.  Named after the nearby friendly Native America Mandan tribe nearby, the fort was key to the Lewis and Clark expedition as it prepared to explore western regions of the unknown West. This is also where Lewis and Clark hooked up with Sacagawea, the Native American woman who would be indispensable to the expedition as a translator and guide.

You'll run into the interpretive center first, which includes some very interesting and historical exhibits about the region and the expedition, and then travel just a mile or so down to a recreation of the original fort. We found the stop to be worth the price of admission and the staff friendly and knowledgeable.   We were also lucky to even visit the Fort recreation, as it had only been open for two weeks after being closed due to flooding back in June.

Fort Clark Site
Heading down Highway 200 out of Washburn we also pay a quick visit to the site of Fort Clark, a trading post from 1830 to 1861. Although there are no buildings left today, it is an important archaeological site due to its well preserved records of trade and tragedy.  Unfortunately for the Mandan Indians who lived in the area, the Forts trade brought Small Pox in June of 1837, which would wipe out 90% of the Mandan tribe. After moving into the abandoned village, the Arikara tribe would suffer more epidemic, killing most of them as well.

Knife River India Village Wigwam
Still moving west we visit the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, a 1,759 acre national park that preserves the historic and archaeological remnants of the culture and agricultural lifestyle of the Northern Plains Indians. Here, can be seen a visitor center and museum, reconstruction of earth lodges, and a self-guided walking tours of three historic village sites that date back as far as 8,000 years.

Scenic views along Highway 85
Satisfied with our Lewis and Clark and Native American history, Kathy and I head back south to I-94 and push west, then south on 85 toward our hotel in Bowman.  This picturesque  highway is right next to the Little Missouri National Grassland area, providing some beautiful views of rolling hills, etc. On the way we pass by the highest point in North Dakota, White Butte at over 3500 feet, then  through quirky Amidon, which touts itself as the smallest county seat in the nation.

We were also lucky enough to run into some buffalo just outside of Bowman for one final picture opportunity before calling it a day. After settling into our great Mom and Pop, the Trails Motel,  Kathy and I prepare to wrap up North Dakota, visiting several Ghost Towns here in the Southwest part of the state, before heading back south.

You can see Day 5 in pictures via our Facebook Fan Page here!

Day 6 Bowman, ND to Deadwood, SD

Griffin School House
We headed out of Bowman west on Highway 12 to catch a few Ghost Towns our wonderful host at the Trails Motel told us about.  First on the list was Griffin.  This completely abandoned ghost town still sports a few buildings, including a school, that appears may not be there for too many more years.  A railroad town, it is said to have a rowdy history, including a few main street gun battles back in it's early days.  It's also just a couple miles south of the old Yellowstone Trail, which was one of the first roads in North Dakota.  The trail was created in 1912 by a group of businessmen in South Dakota who wanted a useful automobile route across America.

Rhame Watering Hole
From Griffin, we continue west on Highway 12 to Rhame, founded in 1908. This town still has an active population of around 169 people. It was originally called Petrel, but had to change it's name for the Post Office since Petrel was already taken.  Another Railroad town, it was incorporated as a village in 1913 and didn't become a North Dakota city until 1967 when the State Legislatures eliminated incorporation titles for villages and towns.

Mystic Theatre, Marmarth, ND
From Rhame we weathered massive road "re-construction" almost all the way to Marmarth.  Still can't say that towns name well, but it was great stop.  Situated beside the Little Missouri River, it was originally established on the East side of the river but had to move to the west side over a dispute over prices with the Rancher who owned the land. Named after Margaret Martha Fitch, granddaughter of Albert J. Earling, president of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad,  in 1911 it was the largest town in North Dakota on the Milwaukee Railroad, and the fifth largest west of the Missouri River. It's peak population of around 1,300 was reached around 1920, but it only has 136 residents left as of the 2010 census.

South of Marmarth on Camp Creek Road
From Marmarth we headed south on Camp Crook Road, then back East on a county road and back up to Rhame just to enjoy the scenery of the landscape.  Lot's of prairie and hills in these parts that we would get more of on our way to South Dakota, but for now we wanted to head back through Bowman and hit a few more Ghost Towns before leaving.

Gascoyne, ND
To the East of Bowman on Highway 12 we make a quick photo stop in Scranton.  Although it's not a ghost town, we do have a regular reader of Legends that is from there, so thought it would be nice to post a pic or two on our Facebook page.  Just down 12 from Scranton is Gascoyne.  This ghost town started in 1907 as Fischbein but changed its name in 1908. It was an active coal mining town as recent as 1997 when coal operations shut down. Efforts soon began to revive the mining operation and build a new power plant, but these plans were abandoned in 2008 due to environmental concerns. It too was on the Yellowstone Trail and today supports about 16 residents.

Haley, ND
From Gascoyne we leave the main highway and head south on Gascoyne Road then west on Haley Road to the ghost town of Haley. It was supposed to be named for William Galey, however postal officials misspelled it.  The town is just north of the South Dakota border and, as of the 2000 census, had about 23 residents, though according to Ghosts of North Dakota, it only has two residents now.

Vessey, SD School
Moving on south of Haley on roads less traveled, we run into an old school in the middle of a field on County Highway 859 and Vessey Road.  It was the Vessey School, and it's possible there was more evidence of Vessey somewhere close by, but Kathy and I wanted to push on South to Ludlow Road and get back west over to Highway 85.  In the meantime we ran into quirky Boot Hill, which was a fence lined with more boots. Cute picture opportunity anyway.

Bear Butte, SD
From Ludlow, SD we headed south on Highway 85 to 163 to Castle Rock, where we met up with 79 South toward Sturgis. Here we ran into some interesting history at Bear Butte, including a Historical Marker that pointed out the remnants of the Bismark Trial and told the story of a family killed there by Native Americans. Bear Butte was an important landmark for Plains Indian tribes for many years before European settlers invaded the region, with some artifacts found dating back 10,000 years.  To this day it is still sacred to many Native Americans who make pilgrimages and leave offerings there.

Fort Meade Post Office
From Bear Butte we move on toward Sturgis, and after a quick photo stop at the largest biker bar in the US, the Full Throttle Saloon, we head on down a mile or so to Fort Meade.  Established in 1878 to protect settlements in the northern Black Hills, the fort was a key to several stage and freight routes on the way to Deadwood. It's still active today and has a rich military history, including the 7th US Calvary, Buffalo Soldiers, and the 10th and 4th US Cavalries. Today it's a training site for the South Dakota National Guard, a Veterans Hospital, Army National Guard Officer Candidate School and home to Fort Meade National Cemetery.

Full Throttle Saloon
After a few more snapshots in Sturgis, we make our way on into Deadwood where we plan to spend a couple of nights and do more traveling around the region on Friday. Overall, our time in North Dakota ghost towns was great and we are just as excited about our journey toward home.

You can see Day 6 of our trip in Pictures via our Facebook Fan page here!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

To North Dakota - Yankton, SD to Jamestown ND

We finally found North Dakota!  It took us over 3 days, but we crossed the border today in a blaze of Ghost Town glory.  So let's catch you up on what we've experienced in Day's 3 and 4 of our journey, and how our jaunt into North Dakota almost wasn't.

Day 3 - Yankton to Pierre South Dakota

Yankton Mural
Yankton South Dakota has some pretty friendly folk.  We found a quaint little Mom and Pop, the Starlight Hotel, where despite the lack of some basics like a climate control and a coffee pot, the Gal on duty went above and beyond in friendliness, even letting us borrow the office coffee pot for our early morning routine. Thank goodness, because we had a lot of driving along the Missouri River to do, looking for things that in some cases weren't there anymore.

Yankton Museum
Yankton itself is pretty historic, known as the town where Jack McCall, who shot and killed Wild Bill Hickok, was tried and hanged, it sits right on the Missouri river.  It was the original Dakota Territorial Capital, and home of the first and oldest Dakota Daily Newspaper, published in 1861. It's also the home town of noted journalist and NBC anchor Tom Brokaw.  Lawrence Welk also launched his career here back in 1927 on WNAX Radio in Yankton. We enjoyed the picturesque view of the river just on the edge of downtown  before heading out on highway 52.

Scenic Drive no more
The idea was to stay as close to the river as possible, which wasn't possible all the time.  Recent flooding has closed some roads, including what was advertised as an 8 mile scenic drive along a dirt road west of Yankton Marina area.  Luckily for us, we didn't have to travel too far into it before running into water.  Plenty of scenic along this trip though, so back to the highway we go, making our way to Pickstown, which just across the Dam is next to historic Fort Randall.

Fort Randall Chapel
Fort Randall, established in 1856, was the last in a line of Forts that protected the Overland Route along the Platte River, and the first in a chain of forts along the upper Missouri River.  It was a strategic military post during the Indian Wars, after which it closed in 1892.  We found an old Church, still partially standing and now being protected from further destruction, along with the Fort Randall Cemetery on a hill overlooking the Fort and River.

Lake Andes has a new pair of shoes
Just up the road we stop at a convenience store in the town of Lake Andes. Kathy decides it's warm enough to change into shorts, so she promptly does so in the parking lot.  We wouldn't discover until much later down the road that she had left her only pair of tennis shoes "in" the parking lot, so note to Lake Andes residents.. No, no one was kidnapped, and yes, they are nice shoes, we hope someone is enjoying them.

Most of the rest of this day was spent simply driving along the river, enjoying the scenery, and hoping against hope to run into more fort ruins or Ghost Towns. Some roads were closed due to the recent flooding, but we did manage to hit a good stretch of Missouri River starting in Chamberlain, up Highway 50 to 34, then over to Fort Thompson.  We should have done a little more research for this stretch, as we looked and looked for Fort Hale, which was located across the river from Fort Thompson, only to learn later that it is completely gone, and the location now under water.

Lake Sharpe near Chamerlain
Oh well, like I said, scenic drive anyway and we head on toward the South Dakota Capital of Pierre along Highway 34.  After settling into our hotel for the evening, we decided we better go ahead and book hotels for the next couple of days in North Dakota.  We had been warned by one of Kathy's old high school friends that we better book ahead in North Dakota, but we had determined that the only area of concern would be Northwest ND due to the recent Oil Boom.

Pierre, South Dakota State Capital
Being the "fly by the seat of your pants" travelers we are sometimes, we had simply planned to stay in Bismark, ND for a couple of days and travel the entire region from there.  However there was "NO ROOM AT THE INN".   And I don't mean just Bismark.  The more we looked for hotels, the more we started to think that we actually may not make it to North Dakota this trip.  In addition to the Oil Boom, Bismark was also playing host to a huge conference and not one room was available anywhere in town, or in any surrounding towns for that matter.  On top of that, it's hunting season, which pretty much took the rest of the rooms across much of the state.  Bottom line, if you are a Hotel Owner, you should seriously consider building some in North Dakota.

Luckily for us, we found a room in Eastern North Dakota in Jamestown for Tuesday night, and another at a Mom and Pop in Bowman, way down in the Southwestern corner of the state for Wednesday night, and just prepared ourselves for some long travel days ahead.

Day 4 - Pierre, SD to Jamestown ND

Miles of nothing
Now this is what I'm talking about...Kathy and I love Ghost Towns, and we finally found what we were looking for on the way to Jamestown. Our trip started with a stop at the local Wal-Mart in Pierre to get Kathy some new Tennis Shoes, then up Highway 83.  This stretch was pretty much Corn and Sunflower crops and harvest elevators most of the rest of South Dakota. Small communities that could be Ghost Towns, but seemed to bustle with activity from area farming dotted our way.  Like Onida, which is Sunflower haven, with a county courthouse that sits on the site once occupied by Fort Sully, which was one of the main military forts in Dakota. Not to be confused with the Old Fort Sully which is Southeast of Pierre.

Venturia, ND Bar
It really wasn't until we crossed into North Dakota that we reached our true Ghost Town destinations. Venturia, in McIntosh county, was founded in 1901 and only has a handful of people left.  Still sports a local bar though, and we've since read that it also serves as the owners living room. Some of the older buildings include a Depot and old post office and was a good way to start our real ghost towning in North Dakota.

Ghost Farm near Danzig
On down a bit we travel some backroads to Danzig, which never had more than 100 residents and now appears to be privately owned with one residence and a couple of Grain Elevators. A nice bonus in this area was the Ghost Farm just outside of Danzig.  Cool stop to stretch our legs, careful not to go past the "no trespassing" signs while taking in the scenery.

Fredonia, ND
On down the road we go to Fredonia, which got it's start in 1904.  A mural on the side of an abandoned building promotes its Centennial saying "Fredonia will shine once more in 2004".  This town is still inhabited by about 46 people as of the 2010 census, but we only saw a couple of them while we were there.  The downtown had only a few buildings and sported a Flagless Pole in the middle of one intersection, seemingly lonely for times long ago.

Lehr, SD
Lehr North Dakota was much bigger, but still shows signs of being a Ghost Town. Sitting on the county lines of McIntosh and Logan, it's said to be the smallest city in the US situated in two counties. Founded in 1898, this town continues to lose population, down to about 80 in the 2010 census, compared to 114 just ten years ago.

Evidence of flooding in ND
Outside of Lehr we are seeing more evidence of the incredible effects this past years record snows have caused, with flooded ponds and farmland.  Got a cool shot of a barn and windmill under water. Not sure if it was due to the 90 inches of snow they received in ND last year, or has been this way for a while, but never the less, this landscape seems to have permanently changed.

Nortonville, ND
Nortonville on up the way off highway 281 has been long forgotten by the census since the 1960's but still sports a few residents.  The sign above the door on one of the abandoned buildings reads "Memories", which seem to be most of what Nortonville has left.

We love this quirky Boot
We only had a couple more Ghost Towns on the list for the day, including Millarton and Sydney, which were far enough off the highway that all business was gone, leaving a Grain Elevator and a couple of homes as reminders of a town that once was.  Maybe we will find some gems of history to write about from these places, but for now we are satisfied with driving through these once populated towns and getting back to more civilization in Jamestown for the night.  We have a long day ahead of us on Day 5, traveling across much of the state, including north of Bismark and back to Southwestern North Dakota where our next hotel awaits us in Bowman.

Follow our adventure from Yankton to Jamestown in pictures via our Facebook page here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

To North Dakota - Iowa to South Dakota

Axe Murder Home in Villisca, Ia
We got a late start getting out of Clarinda, Iowa on Sunday.  Didn't leave the hotel until almost 10am, which is unusual for us.  So feeling a little pressure to put some miles on we wasted no time getting out of there and on up Highway 71, where it wasn't long before we ran into Villisca, a town with a macabre story to tell.  It was at the home of Josiah Moore on the morning of June 10, 1912, that the town awoke to find eight of its residents brutally murdered by an axe. It immediately changed this peaceful community into one of suspicion, with residents locking their doors, carrying weapons, and generally distrusting many.  Newspaper reporters, private detectives and law enforcement agencies from neighboring counties all converged on the town collecting hundreds of interviews and and facts. Though there were several suspects, the murders were never solved.

The walls of this old home today continue to protect the identity of the vicious murderer who bludgeoned to death the entire family of Josiah Moore and two overnight guests. Open for tours today, the old house is said to be the site of a number of paranormal activities. A number of reports have been given that visitors hear the sounds of children voices and laughter when there are none present, objects seemingly move of their own accord, mysterious banging sounds are heard throughout the house. Paranormal investigators are known to have come away with mysterious  audio, video and photographic evidence.  We didn't have time for the tour, but looks like it could draw quite a few, especially this close to Halloween.  

Coffee Pot Water Tower
In Stanton, Ia
On up 71 we make a turn West on Highway 34 toward Stanton, a town with rich Swedish Heritage that bills itself as "The little white city".  A neatly kept community of about 700 residents, Stanton is home to a Swedish Heritage and Cultural center, and what is said to be the largest coffee pot in the world (it's a water tower in the shape of a coffee pot). They also have another water tower in the shape of a coffee cup on a saucer. This is only fitting since one of it's residents was the actress Virginia Christine, or Mrs. Olsen on the classic Folgers Coffee commercials.  It felt a little odd driving into a cemetery to get a good picture of the water tower, but worth it for our quirky Iowa page soon to come. 

Fort Omaha, Ne
After stopping for breakfast in Red Oak just down 34, we boogied on over to I-29, crossing into Omaha, Nebraska.  Of course, there's lots to see and do in Omaha, but we were on a mission to move north, but with some interest on Forts, we stopped at Fort Omaha, which started as a supply barracks in 1868 and is now also home to Metropolitan Community College. There are still some facilities for Military Reserves on the perimeter of the old Fort that are used to this day for troop deployment.  An interesting history, the Fort was also the location of America's first military balloon flight school in 1916. However it's best known for it's role in the 1879 landmark trial of Native American Ponca Chief Standing Bear, which resulted in Standing Bear being the first Native American to be recognized by the US Government as a "person" under the law. 

Recreated Buildings at
Fort Atkinson, Ne
North from Fort Omaha, we head up Highway 75, which becomes the Lewis and Clark Scenic Byway just south of Blair.  Before reaching Blair we run into the town of Fort Calhoun, where a quick right turn toward the river takes us to Fort Atkinson State Historical Park.  From 1820 to 1827, this was the most westerly military post, the first established west of the Missouri River.  This is the site where Lewis and Clark first held council with Native Americans, but after being abandoned in 1827, the original Fort was burned down and all remnants later found were taken away by settlers who were glad to find the bricks for building their homes.  Today, this recreated Fort in the Fort Atkinson State Park provides visitors with a glimpse of what life was like there when it was the first important town in the state of Nebraska. 

Decatur, Ne
Once we are back on 75 we keep our northward trek up to Decatur Nebraska, which seems to be the closest point to the river we have been since Omaha.  Here we find evidence of the recent flooding of the Missouri River and ponder on the risks people take building so close to such a mighty torrent.  Living on the Osage River back in Missouri, we can understand the draw, but the evidence of flooding here would keep us from building anything within a mile, depending on land elevation of course.

Lewis & Clark Scenic Byway, Ne
Just outside of Decatur we enter the Omaha Indian Reservation, immediately followed by the Winnebago Reservation.  While the landscape along this scenic byway is pretty, we aren't finding a lot of shots of the river and decide to push harder north in an attempt to at least get into South Dakota before stopping for the night.  So on to Sioux City we went, catching I-29 to Highway 50, through Vermillion and into Yankton. We're right on the river here and plan to spend some time in this historic town this Monday morning before heading northward.

As far as my quest for cheddar bay biscuits from Red Lobster, it's still ongoing. We were still full from breakfast when we hit Omaha, and it was too early to eat in Sioux City. Oh well, we did find a nice Mom and Pop hotel in Yankton and the history of the area is enough to keep my mind occupied ... that and the possibility of staying in Bismark, North Dakota at some point keeps my hopes of buttery garlic goodness alive.    

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