Wednesday, September 21, 2011
The Other Things of Madison County
These days, when people mention Madison county you most likely think of the covered bridges. If you mention the county seat of Madison county, Winterset, which came to a man in a dream and can't be found as a town name anywhere else in the world, you probably draw a blank unless you are Iowan and then you probably think John Wayne. Marion Robert Morrison, later Marion Mitchell Morrison, later John Wayne was born here in 1907 and spent less than four years of his life before moving onto California where he lived, became famous, died and was buried. But we Iowans cling to those few years.
Although I like the 'Duke' and have seen many of his movies, I wasn't a big enough fan to spend the $12 it would have cost me to visit his birth home that judging from the outside, was all of 400 square feet of real estate. Instead, we walked around to the back yard to have a look around and eventually went into the gift shop seen in the background in the adjoining lot. I'm not sure why I snapped this picture of the old pump in the Morrison's backyard but it called to me and I obliged.
I'm guessing this wasn't the outhouse ever used by John Wayne but it was back behind the house. I'm guessing this was in a joining lot that used to have a house but had long ago been razed so they could fashion a little seating area for folks visiting the house. The outhouse and walkway were probably added later in the fashion of 1907 as was the rest of the house according to the literature in the gift shop.
Never the less, my daughter had to go check it out as she does any restroom where ever we go.
We didn't come to see this fountain nor did we even know it was here. But it was on the grounds of the Historical Center in front of the mansion seen below.
The Bevington-Kaser Mansion built in 1856 sits on top of a hill overlooking Winterset. Charles Bevington built it there upon returning from the California goldrush though I haven't seen word that his wealth came from California gold. The last occupant of the house June Kaser who was a historical society president, donated the house and grounds to the historical society who built a museum on the grounds and transferred old buildings from all over Madison county to the site for preservation. But all this information came from their website and not from the lady who gave us the tour of the mansion. When I asked her who owned the house originally, she didn't even know. In fact, if it weren't for some laminated cards held together with a large silver ring, she didn't know anything and she only half heartedly mumbled a few words off of each card as we entered each of the nine rooms. I suspect she wasn't too thrilled about being there for some reason. Now the rest of the historical society members over at the museum were very nice and went out of their way to fill me in on details but the lady who gave us the tour of the mansion was a piece of work.
This was the 'outhouse' behind the mansion and definitely one of the most luxurious ones I have ever seen. Besides spots for three individuals at once, it also had...
... heat and...
... a urinal. So I guess technically it could hold four people at once though I suppose it was plenty cozy with only two people.
Normally I just love historical museums so we paid full fare admission for both the mansion and the museum ($10) and went to both. The mansion was disappointing mostly because of our tour guide and sadly the museum was also disappointing. It was more of a collection of a few families things that had been passed down through the years and didn't really have anything on the history of the area. If you were interested in period dress, a pencil collection and a huge rock collection, this is the place to go but if you are interested in local history, find someplace else. Despite this bad sounding review, there were a few things that caught my interest, one of them being the big Buick above. I can just picture myself driving that with a long black trench coat and a black fedora.
If this were the view you were seeing while standing in the road of this Buick speeding towards you, might as well kiss your ass goodbye.
The museum also had a corner with a large collections of medicine and some posters seen above and below.
There were about a dozen outbuildings on the site that were most likely moved there from throughout the area for preservation. There was a post office, law office, gas station, black smith, train depot, mercantile and more. They begged to be explored but sadly were all padlocked so all you could do was walk around and look in the windows. Since the museum and mansion were open, I'm not sure why they were locked. Perhaps they only open them up for special occasions. I think the picture above was of the corner of an old post office.
When we pulled into the place, my daughter shouted that she saw a deer. I thought she was referring to this tin one but she actually was looking at the flesh and blood variety over in another direction.
The deer in the preceding picture was grazing in the pasture of this horse which obviously made the farmer upset.
Normally I see old barns with more red wood than stone but in this case, the opposite was true. Since the owner of the mansion was wealthy enough for the mansion, a luxury outhouse and four thousand acres of land, I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that he needed a stone barn on the property. After walking around looking at all the locked buildings, we finally decided that we got our $10 worth and left to finish our covered bridge tour in the rain which had started again.