|Today we braved the pouring rain and headed to Madison County, specifically the town of Winterset. As American as apple pie, Madison County was the birthplace of the Delicious apple and an American icon, legendary actor John Wayne. It was about an hour, pretty drive. Our first stop was at the Chamber of Commerce to get information on what to see in the area. The gal working there (Bonnie) was very helpful and nice and gave us a bit of the local history as well as maps and directions.
We learned that the county was organized in 1846, and is named after James Madison, the fourth President of the United States. She noted that its picturesque terrain features an abundance of rivers and creeks, and great expanses of fertile farmland. Yep, we can attest to that!
Midwest quilters call Madison County their Mecca as it's home to two of the world's best known quilters, Marianne Fons and Liz Porter, whose company, Fons & Porter Love of Quilting, is based in Winterset. There's a second quilt store, an old-fashioned Ben Franklin, just down the block.
Just across the street from the Chamber of Commerce sits the Madison County Courthouse. The present courthouse is actually the second structure on this site. The original courthouse on this site burned down in 1875. The second, identical structure was built in 1876 and is made of native limestone. The interior woodwork and twin staircases are made from locally milled oak and walnut. Writings and drawings from incarcerated persons from the early 1900’s can still be seen on the third floor courthouse wall. The Madison County Courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Bonnie recommended we stop in for a bit, so we did. It was quite lovely and we enjoyed looking around before heading across the street for a bite of lunch.
We'd learned that the Northside Cafe had a reasonably priced homemade style meal and was in the Bridges of Madison County movie. In existence since 1876, the Northside is the restaurant in the film where Robert Kincaid stops for coffee and offers Lucy Redfield a stool. You can still take a seat where Clint Eastwood sat—it’s the fourth stool from the front of the restaurant and we did! The food was good, as advertised. There were plenty of pics on the walls of both the film crew and of John Wayne.
Born Marion Robert Morrison in 1907, John Wayne began life in a modest home just a few blocks away. The home has been restored to its 1907 appearance with authentic furnishings, and features memorabilia such as the eyepatch worn in True Grit. It was pouring when we got there, so we took a quick pic & moved on. After visiting the park we stopped back by because the rain had let up, so we took another pic. It was late enough by then that we decided to pass on the tour but move on to view more of the bridges. Another time perhaps. We'd like to come back to this area again.
Next stop, Winterset City Park where we found our way through an English Hedge Maze, after being lost several times I might add! Then we drove up to Clarks Tower. The tower was erected in 1926 as a memorial to the county’s first pioneer family by their descendants. Constructed of native limestone, it stands 25 feet high and offers a commanding view of the Middle River valley below. We also noted there is a small but very nice RV park on the grounds. Wish we had known, we would have liked to have stayed here.
Arriving back in the park, we stopped at the plaque telling about Jesse Hiatt, a farmer who discovered an unusual seedling in his apple orchard in 1872. He carefully nurtured the tree, and found its first fruit to be of a remarkable flavor. Originally named Hiatt's "Hawkeye," the apple was entered in the Missouri State Fair in 1893. Upon biting into the apple, one judge proclaimed it "delicious" and that name stuck. A descendant of the original Delicious apple tree still stands just north of Peru, and residents celebrate each year with an Apple Days festival.
And of course, everyone knows of the Bridges of Madison County. Originally boasting 19 covered bridges, six of the Covered Bridges of Madison County remain today – with five of the six bridges being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridges were covered by order of the County Board of Supervisors to help preserve the large flooring timbers, which were more expensive to replace than the lumber used to cover the bridge sides and roof. Usually, the bridges were named for the resident who lived closest. We visited 4 of them today, the first being the Cutler-Donahoe Bridge. Built in 1870 by Eli Cox, the Cutler-Donahoe bridge is 79 feet in length and features a pitched roof. Originally located over the North River near Bevington, it was moved to its present site in Winterset's City Park in 1970. Cutler-Donahoe was renovated in 1997 at a cost of $35,538.
We next drove out to probably the most famous of the bridges, the Roseman Covered Bridge. Built in 1883 by Benton Jones, it is 107 feet in length and sits in its original location. Roseman was renovated in 1992 at a cost of $152,515. In Robert James Waller's novel, The Bridges of Madison County, and the movie of the same name, Roseman is the bridge Robert Kincaid seeks when he stops at Francesca Johnson's home for directions; it is also where Francesca leaves her note inviting him to dinner. You might also remember that Clint Eastwood picked Meryl Streep a flower here. Well, my romantic hubby hiked down to the rivers edge and picked two for me today too! Ahhhh, my hero!
Also known as the “haunted” bridge, Roseman is where two sheriff’s posses trapped a county jail escapee in 1892. It is said the man rose up straight through the roof of the bridge, uttering a wild cry, and disappeared. He was never found, and it was decided that anyone capable of such a feat must be innocent.
Next stop, Holliwell Covered Bridge. Built in 1880 by Benton Jones, it is the longest covered bridge, measuring 122 feet. It remains in its original site over the Middle River southeast of Winterset. Holliwell was renovated in 1995 at a cost of $225,000. It was also featured in The Bridges of Madison County movie.
And our final stop for today was the Imes Covered Bridge. The oldest of the remaining covered bridges, Imes was built in 1870 and is 81 feet in length. It was originally located over the Middle River west of Patterson. In 1887 it was moved to a spot over Clinton Creek southwest of Hanley. Imes Bridge was moved again to its present site over a natural ravine just east of St. Charles in 1977. It was renovated in 1997 at a cost of $31,807.
Whew, it was a full day but we loved it. Fortunately, the rain came and went and even though our truck looked like we had given it a full blown mud shower, we still loved it. All of the bridges are down dirt roads and they were VERY muddy today. The covered bridge festival is October 9-10th so we will hope they get plenty of sunshine that weekend!
We were planning to leave tomorrow, but there is an 80% chance of rain and I think it's really more like 100% by the way things look right now. So, if it's gray in the morning we'll be sticking around and taking a tour of the State Capitol. Some call it the 2nd best capitol building in the country. We'll let you know!