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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