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TALES from the FRONT PORCH

Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project

ROAD TRIP THROUGH RINGGOLD COUNTY
May 22, 2009

On May 22, 2009, Mom, Mat, Sadie the mini-pin, and I took a road trip through Ringgold County. We started from Mom's apartment in Lamoni, and went to Caledonia. All that is left of Caledonia are signs placed by Ringgold County's Historical Society which mark the sites of where buildings used to stand. These sites are slowly being re-claimed by the land and what it used to look like is but a faded memory.

We had a nice visit with Jay BOWEN. He remembered when Caledonia was still in operation. The store used to be owned and operated by General S. MOORE. In 1933, when fleeing from Joplin, Missouri, Bonnie and Clyde, along with Buck and Blanche, stopped at the store for supplies. They went on to Mount Ayr were they held up a business. The following day, the gang was involved in a shoot-out near Dexter, Iowa. Buck was fatally wounded and Blanche was apprehended. Bonnie and Clyde escaped to meet their fate on another day in Louisiana.

Jay said that at the time Bonnie and Clyde came through Caledonia, Mr. BURCHETT owned the store. He died shorty after Bonnie and Clyde visited. Mrs. BURCHETT was widowed with young children. She was unable to keep up the store, so she sold it and moved to Mount Ayr. When the Social Security Administration was established, Mrs. BURCHETT secured at job with them and moved to Baltimore, Maryland with her two daughters. Mrs. BURCHETT died in Baltimore. Her daughters remained in the Baltimore area.

From Caledonia, we traveled on down Country Road J-55 to the gate leading to the cemetery. It is not visible from the road and is situated approximately 1/4 of a mile back in the pasture. It was a somewhat tricky drive to get there, but Mom got us there safe and sound.

The cemetery is absolutely beautiful and well maintained. Many of the stones which had been broken or fallen off their bases have been repaired. My photographs do not do this cemetery any justice at all.

As we drove through the countryside, there were a couple of Amish businesses, such as Pleasantview Woodworks. There are quite a few Amish families who have moved into Southern Iowa. It is good seeing what once was an abandoned farm being lovingly restored to how it once used to be like. Large gardens, good barns, and white two-story, sometimes three-story, farmhouses. Wash hanging out on the clothesline. At one farm there was a young boy, probably about 11 or 12-years-old, who was harrowing a farm field with a team of six horses. (Does anyone harrow anymore these days?)

The team came to the fence and then stopped almost nose-to-nose with the fence.

The outside right horse (left in the photograph) started taking large steps to turn to his right with each horse in the team taking smaller steps, with the left outside horse (right in the photograph) taking the smallest steps. The movement of each horse was perfectly orchestrated with the entire hitch as the team turned and started back down the field. I'm sure the horses have worked together like this thousands of times and it wasn't anything special to the boy who was driving the team. But I was impressed, as was my Mom and Mat, all of us thinking it was a small wonder to behold. Something worthy of applause (but we refrained ourselves.) Sadie wasn't impressed at all. She slept through the entire episode.

We stopped at Redding, Iowa, and drove around what is left of the town. All around the town square are hitching posts for the Amish horses. There probably hadn't been any hitching posts in Redding for over 100 years. We stopped so I could take photographs of the Redding School, and the United Methodist Church.

From Redding, we headed east on County Road 310th Street where we stopped first at Middle Fork Cemetery. The Middle Fork Methodist Church is located on the grounds. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is very representative of a country church. The congregation is still active with services held every Sunday.

Our second stop along Country Road 310th Street was another 4 or 5 miles east of the Middle Fork Church. Here, we stopped to visit the Hickory Grove Advent Church and the Hickory Grove Cemetery. This is a beautiful location, peaceful and tranquil.

Our next stop was at Delphos, the town of my ancestors. Delphos is virtually a ghost town with mostly residences. While we drove around, a couple of the town's dogs came out to greet us and follow the car. As I took a photograph of the Christian Church, the collie insisted upon being in the shot. His companion, a Chihuahua-mix seemed to be camera shy and ran off.

I wasn't sure what kind of church the 2nd one was since there were no signs. All I had to go by was the cornerstone which had been engraved "1921." Later, after doing some research at home, I discovered that this was the 1st Baptist Church. Across the street from the 1st Baptist Church is the site of where the Delphos School used to stand. I took detailed photographs of the site marker, however they are on 35-mm film and are not back from the photo lab yet. I will add a link to those photographs and others I took once they come back from the lab.

From Delphos, we traveled on to Mount Ayr were I took several photographs of historic buildings and the churches. Or all the churches we could find. We stopped to eat at a Mount Ayr landmark, the Dairy Sweet located on Highway-2 across the road from Rose Hill Cemetery. We placed flowers on my great-great-grandparents' and great- grandparents' graves.

We started back to Lamoni, stopping in Kellerton where I took more photographs (on 35-mm film). As Mom drove down the Kellerton-Lamoni road, I tried to see if I could find some clue as to where the LEWIS Cemetery might be found. I'm not sure how far that cemetery is off the road. Quite possibly it isn't visible from the road like Caledonia's cemetery. I didn't see it or any hint of where it might be. Perhaps that mystery will be solved another day during another road trip.

Photographs and article by Sharon R. Becker, May 22, 2009

To contribute to "Tales from the Front Porch: Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project"
contact Sharon R. Becker at
srbecker@windstream.net.
Please include the word "Ringgold - Front Porch" in the subject line. Thank you.


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