23-27 May 2016; Enjoying Iowa

Greetings once again from the Hawkeye State.  We sure are enjoying our time in this gem of a camp ground in Scott County Park, IA.  We seem to have gotten ourselves back in bicycling shape somewhat, with all of the hiking and biking trails they have in this area.  The Scott County, IA park that we are in just keeps delivering great surprises as far as things to do.  At the north end of the park, we stumbled upon the Walnut Grove Pioneer Village.  This was a Scott County cross-roads settlement and stage-coach stop of the 1860s. The Village includes 18 historic buildings, some relocated from rural Scott County.  It was only $2 per person to tour all of the buildings.  They will have period area actors on site over the holiday weekend.  We were glad to be able to tour it with no one else around on Monday.

Getting ready to bike the four or so miles to the museum.

The church, which was relocated here from another spot in Scott County. It is used for weddings now. In fact, the folks camped across from us were married there. Of all the buildings on the site, the main house, blacksmith shop and school are original to the specific village.

From the church looking toward the school.

Inside the church. What is really neat is all of the items in all of the buildings are from the local area, and original. Most donated by Scott County residents.

Inside the school-house. They have pictures of some of the graduating classes. The school closed in the late 1960’s.

Inside one of the two cabins they have on site.

Pano of cabin number two.

The bank.

A safe inside the vault at the bank.

Exceptionally maintained grounds.

They have a huge shed with tons of items donated by the residents of the county.

This is a huge agricultural area of the state, so most of the artifacts relate to that. This is an old threshing machine.

The saloon.

Barber Shop.

Looks like the setup my dentist had when I was a kid!

Doctor and Dentist in the same building.

Long Grove telephone and telegraph office.

Main Street USA…

Grocery, hardware, clothier…you name it, it is likely in this store.

Blacksmith shop and auto repair. Most of the blacksmiths in this area had to transition their skills to auto and equipment repair as the need for blacksmiths decreased.

It was a great tour.  On our bike ride back, we got a shot of the pool which opens this weekend.

Later Monday afternoon we headed to downtown Moline, IL where the John Deere HQ and Pavilion are located.  Much more on John Deere later on.  I didn’t get too many pictures inside the pavilion as the lighting was terrible.  They have a lot of their large equipment inside and outside, and you can climb on and in most of them.  They also have interactive displays and simulators of many of their large industrial products.  That was a blast!  Terri had to drag me away.  In fact, the simulators are the same type that the company produces to train the operators.  It just so happens that we met a couple in the camp ground that are farmers in the area.  The young man offered an opportunity for me to ride along with him during harvesting season in one of the huge pieces of harvesting equipment they have if we are in the area in the fall.  I may just have to make a drive over here later in the year…that would be a blast!  We learned later in the week that John Deere passed away before seeing the first tractor carrying his name was produced.

Drivers area of a huge combine.  These new machines are stuffed with advanced technology.  I don’t know if I could even figure out how to start one of the new tractors they produce.

Mural on one of the buildings in old downtown Moline.

Later in the afternoon we enjoyed a pint of the local fare at one of the many breweries in Moline.

Tuesday was spent mostly bike riding, stocking up on groceries again, and reading the instructions on how to replace the springs in our living room slide awning when it shows up.

Found this picture which reminds us of how our kids spent much of their youth, and now Jason and Meghan’s kids are doing the same.

After more bike rides Wednesday morning, we took a walk on some of the nicely mowed hiking trails.

About the time we got done with our hike, the RV dealer that ordered the awning spring for us called and said it had arrived, so I went and picked it up.  It was threatening to rain when I got back, so I didn’t get any pictures of the installation.  It took longer than it should have, since the spring was broken in two places, and we had to figure out how to get something inside of the awning tube to pull the pieces out.  The back end of the spring frame had broken off as well, and it was a bear to get that piece past the internal rivets that hold the fabric on the awning tube.  Zip-Dee technical support is really good at providing assistance over the phone if you ever need to replace parts of their awnings.

Below is a picture of the awning with the new spring in it.  The tube you see is what contains the spring.  The arms have to come off, then there are three rivets that have to be drilled out of the end cap to get the old spring out.  Slide the new spring in, put new rivets in, attach the arms, wind the spring up and you are done!

Here is the old broken spring. Glad that project is done!

I was awoken about 0600 on Thursday morning by thunder and lightning.  Terri was already up, as usual.  After that storm passed, we enjoyed some of the 5 dozen farm fresh eggs that our neighbor brought us the day before.  Then we decided to head toward Grand Detour, IL and the John Deere Historical Site.  This area has a lot of significance for Terri, as it is where her great, great-grandfather worked as a blacksmith.  We have yet to determine if he or her great-grandfather worked for, or apprenticed under John Deere.

From our friends at Wiki:  The John Deere House and Shop is located in the unincorporated village of Grand Detour, Illinois, near the Lee County city of Dixon. The site is known as the location where the first steel plow was invented by John Deere in 1837. The site includes Deere’s house, a replica of his original blacksmith shop, a gift shop, and an archaeological exhibit showing the excavation site of his original blacksmith shop. The Deere House and Shop is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; it joined that list in 1966, the year the Register was established. Prior to that, it was designated a National Historic Landmark on July 19, 1964.

In 1836, native Vermonter John Deere set out from Rutland, Vermont to Grand Detour, Illinois, founded by his friend and fellow Vermont native Leonard Andrus. The town lacked a local blacksmith, Deere’s trade, and within two days Deere had a forge and new business established. In Vermont, Deere produced plows made from cast-iron and when he first arrived in Illinois he produced the same plows. Soil conditions in Illinois differ from those in Vermont. In Vermont the soil is sandy and falls easily away from the plow blade but in Illinois the soil is thicker and wetter; it stuck to the plow and had to be scraped off by the farmer as he plowed.[5]

There are varying tales as to the inspiration for Deere to create the invention he is famed for, the steel plow. In one version he recalled the way the polished steel pitchfork tines moved through hay and soil and thought that the same effect could be obtained for a plow. By early 1838, Deere completed his first steel plow and sold it to a local farmer, Lewis Crandall.  Crandall spread word of his success with Deere’s plow quickly, and two neighbors soon placed orders with Deere. By 1841 he was manufacturing 75 plows per year, and 100 plows per year in 1876.[5]

John moved to Moline, IL in 1847 to take advantage of being located on the Mississippi River and the trade opportunities that brought.  If you are ever in the area, this is well worth the $5 per person!

The blacksmith shop is a replica of the original Deere Shop, unearthed during the 1960s dig. The shop recreates Deere’s shop and includes a demonstration by a modern blacksmith using antique tools of the trade and an open furnace.

Many of the versions of the plows John made for this area. The second plow he made is on display in the Smithsonian.

The John Deere House was built in 1836 when Deere arrived in Grand Detour and the building was added onto as his family grew. It is furnished with period furniture and household objects that would have been common around the time the Deere family occupied the home. The house has two levels with four rooms on the main level and two rooms upstairs. Each of the upstairs rooms is accessible via a private staircase and it is believed one of the rooms was used by Deere’s apprentices while the other was used as a children’s bedroom.  The front entry leads into the living room where polished wood is found throughout as well as 19th century furnishings. The front room is part of the original building which consisted of one room. The room acted as the Deere’s kitchen, living room, bedrooms, essentially everything. Deere eventually added onto the house, including a bedroom and an upstairs loft. The first floor bedroom would have been used for John and his wife, and possibly a couple of the children while the upstairs room would was used for the rest of the children. The Deeres left the home in 1847 when they moved to Moline, Illinois.[7]

The carriage area and workshop attached to the house.

They did a great job during restoration leaving hint as to the original construction. Here you see a cut out in the pantry which shows that there was brick in the outer walls between the inside finish and the siding on the outside. This was for insulation and strength.

Another cut out in the pantry shows the framing between the interior rooms.

The original blacksmith shop on the site is long gone, however, in 1962 an archaeological team made of students from the University of Illinois approached the Deere Company about excavating the site where the shop once stood.   The team unearthed the location of the original Deere Blacksmith Shop where the first successful steel plow was developed in 1837. The dig site is preserved beneath a building, known as the pavilion. The site is surrounded by museum exhibits which include artifacts, news clippings, and photographs.  This was really kewl by the way!!

What an awesome tour!  After a quick lunch, we headed to the local cemetery, where Terri was able to locate the grave of her great, great-grandmother!  We also stopped in the county courthouse, but they didn’t have records on hand for the early 1800’s.

Now, Terri’s maiden name is not Backus. Her great, great-grandmother re-married after parting ways with her great, great-grandfather. Her great grandfather was essentially raised in the Backus home, and left for the Ringle, WI area when he was 18, and continued the black smith career that is very prolific in Terri’s ancestry.

Very hard to read the back of the stone, but Terri was able to decipher it well enough.

After that bit of history, we took a nice drive through the countryside on the way back to the park…and stopped for ice cream of course!  What a great day!!

Today has been overcast, and off and on thunder storms, which is predicted to continue through most of the day Sunday.  On Monday, we will head over to Wisconsin to be near Ashley and family, and to attend our grand-daughter Emma’s high school graduation.

That all for now folks!  As always, we hope this finds you Happy, Healthy and Living your Dreams!!



2 thoughts on “23-27 May 2016; Enjoying Iowa

  1. Hey Ron & Terri, nice “tour” of that region of Iowa. Don’t forget, we live near St Louis. Please call if your ever headed our way (near Scott AFB). Would love to see you guys. Jim & Peggy


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