July 27 – 29, 2016, Donnellson, Iowa
We arrived at Donnellson, Iowa where we are staying at Wilson Lake Park, a very nice county park surrounding Wilson Lake. We have a great full hook-up site with lots of shade trees. We are visiting our friends, Larry and Pauline, who are snowbirds we met in Arizona. We spent 2 days driving around the southwest corner of Iowa between the Mississippi and Des Moines rivers.
One stop was in Bentonsport which was established in 1836 and was a steamboat port on the Des Moines River until the railroad was built to Des Moines in 1866. Many historic buildings are still standing like the Mason House Inn which was built in the late 1840s. It served steamboat passengers and other travelers under a number of owners. Its barn reportedly sheltered runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. It is now a bed and breakfast with 9 bedrooms furnished in 19th century antiques. We stopped at a great shop down the road called Iron and Lace which sells Queen Anne’s Lace pottery and artistic ironwork. We bought a pottery Christmas ornament with the Queen Anne’s Lace design and a great Shepard’s hook to hand our hummingbird feeders on - both the pottery and the ironworks are made on site.
We also stopped at the Indian Artifact Museum – this is the owner and artist, Tony Sanders. He has spent his lifetime collecting Indian artifacts and arrowheads in the area and the museum has over 5,000 of his artifacts and arrowheads. He also designed and built the museum.
Mr. Sanders also created all the frames and displays with intricate designs of inlaid woodwork made from various types of wood. Every available space is covered with his beautiful displays.
On the way back to Donnellson we stopped at the Dutchman’s Store in Cantril – do you think those wind chimes are big enough? It was a calm day so we did not get to hear them but imagine they have a very deep tone. We enjoyed browsing through this Amish store where you can buy anything from Amish clothing to food to toys. We bought some bulk oatmeal and freshly ground almond butter.
The next day we drove across the Mississippi to historic Nauvoo, IL which is where the Mormons settled after they were forced out of New York. The Mormons are in the process of restoring the original settlement but because most of the original buildings are gone they are forced to recreate them as close to original as possible. We toured the schoolhouse and post office but the most interesting was the Browning Home and Gun Shop. Yes, this is the Browning Rifle family who supplied guns to the travelers heading west. He and his wife joined the Mormon Church shortly after moving to this area and set up their gun shop in Nauvoo. He had hundreds of patents but was not interested in mass manufacturing so one of his sons sold his patents to other gun manufacturers like Winchester and Remington. We were told that most of the guns sold today came from one of Mr. Browning’s patents. This was a very interesting historical site but, unfortunately, we left our camera back at the campground.
We enjoyed our time with Larry and Pauline and thank them for the great hospitality and for showing us around the area.