Friday, September 03, 2010

A glimpse of history

I grew up knowing about this grist mill ... we could still find the pilings in the river from the bridge - a newer, more modern bridge had long since been erected, but we knew how to find where the old bridge had crossed the river.  Most of that has been absorbed back into the landscape.  It's wonderful to see what nature will do when given freedom.  It reclaims everything.

I have a wonderfully fun book on Hamilton County (which is where my cabin is located) history written by Ed Nass.  Dad bought one for each of us kids several years ago when it was published.  As I look through it, I have a blast finding out about Iowa history and the local history surrounding my little part of the world.

The Boone River is actually named for Nathan Boone - the tenth child of Daniel Boone.  Yup ... did you know that?  He was a Captain in the First Dragoons.  The War Department created this group (commanded by Colonel Henry Dodge, for those of you from the Omaha/Council Bluffs area) to protect the frontier.  In 1832, this land was the Black Hawk Purchase - 6 million acres given to the Sac and Fox Indians.  They mapped the land between the Des Moines River and the Mississippi River.  Boone, along with Lt. Albert M. Lea and H.S. Tanner and 170 men moved through this area with guides to get a detailed map of the land.  When they found a river branching off the Des Moines, Lea named it the Boone River.

Well, whadya know - that's cool!

Benjamin Bell purchased Bell's Mill in 1878, one of several mills on the Boone River.  These mills were gathering spots for people in those days.  Bell's Mill Park has one of the turbine wheels on display - the other is located in Webster City.  Another mill - Tunnel Mill - is located not too far up the river and there are many stories of Indians living in the woods and trading at the Mill.

McKinlay Kantor, in his book "Andersonville," (also a movie) wrote about the area surrounding my cabin, telling stories of people gathering at the mill site to have their grain ground and then about religious revivals that were held in our meadow. 

The rains have washed down reminders of the iron that was in the hills behind the cabin - red streaks run through the gravel and into the meadow.  For a time, there was a mine back in those hills ... when we first got here, we were told stories of men who died in the mine.  It was finally closed, but we knew that somewhere there are the tunnels and in those tunnels remain cars filled with dirt. 

It's good to be in a place with a history that goes back beyond a time that I can remember, that my parents could remember and even that my grandparents would remember.  History is something that ties us to each other, to those who have gone before us, to a place and helps us to remember who we are in the long-view of life.

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