In the January 2021 issue of the FoMoCo Times, I teased some information about all of the fun, exciting things that we have to look forward to at the National Convention being held in Des Moines, Iowa in July. Each month from now until the June issue, I will be highlighting different events that will be featured at the Convention. This month, I want to introduce each of you to the two sites that we will visit on Monday of the Convention. On Monday morning, we will be driving our cars to Madison County, Iowa.
Madison County is famous for two things. The first is that it is the birthplace of the Duke, pilgrim. The one and only John Wayne! Our first stop of the day will be to visit the John Wayne Birthplace Museum. The second item that Madison County is famous for its covered bridges and the movie named after them. Many of you may have not seen the movie, the Bridges of Madison County (chick flick!) but the movie was set in and featured the many covered bridges that are in the County. Our self-guided tour map will take you to each of the six covered bridges as well drive past several Madison County Wineries.
John Wayne Birthplace & Museum
John Wayne: The mere mention of his name produces images of courage and patriotism. The life story of John Wayne began in the small central Iowa town of Winterset. He was born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907, the son of Clyde and Mary Brown Morrison.
His father, Clyde, was a pharmacist who worked on the south side of Winterset’s historic town square. In his youth, Clyde attended nearby Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. John Wayne described his father as “The kindest, most patient man I ever knew.” Wayne’s mother Mary was of Irish descent, and Duke said, “She was a tiny, vivacious red-headed bundle of energy.” Their modest four-room home has been restored to reflect its appearance in 1907, the year of the actor’s birth.
Since the John Wayne Birthplace Society was established in 1982, more than a million visitors have journeyed to historic Madison County to tour the birthplace home. Guests have included President Ronald Reagan, movie legend Maureen O’Hara, Wayne’s widow and all of his children, and fans from 50 states and 40 foreign countries.
With the opening of the 6,100 square foot John Wayne Birthplace Museum adjacent to the home, visitors now have the opportunity to see the largest diversified exhibit of John Wayne artifacts in existence, including original movie posters, film wardrobe, scripts, contracts, letters, artwork and sculpture, and even one of his last customized automobiles.
The only museum in the world dedicated to John Wayne, the facility naturally includes a movie theater. Relax in comfortable seats (originally from Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood) and watch a documentary on Duke’s phenomenal film career. You’ll be fascinated as you linger and learn about John Wayne the actor, the private citizen and an American legend.
The Covered Bridges of Madison County
Madison County is the Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa, with the largest group of covered bridges that exists in one area in the western half of the Mississippi Valley. Stop by the Welcome Center at 73 Jefferson Street in Winterset for a map and brochure about visiting the Covered Bridges.
As we visit the covered bridges, I make to make sure that you are aware that some of the bridges are located on gravel/dirt roads and if you are concerned about driving on gravel/dirt roads, here’s what you should know:
There are two bridges that are accessible by pavement only – Imes Bridge in St. Charles, and the Cutler-Donahoe Bridge at City Park in Winterset. Cedar Bridge is accessible via Cedar Bridge Road, which is mostly pavement south of the bridge. You would only be on gravel for a couple hundred feet.
The final three are on gravel/dirt roads – the Roseman, the Hogback and the Holliwell. Holliwell Bridge is on 1.9 miles of gravel after turning right onto Norwood Ave from E. Court Ave. If you access Hogback Bridge from 195th Street, then Hogback Bridge Road, it’s just over 2 miles of gravel. The Roseman is the furthest on gravel – 4.3 miles if you turn onto Roseman Bridge Road from I-92 to Elderberry. However, if you want to drive on less gravel, keep on I-92 to Elmwood Ave, and it’s only 2.2 miles of gravel.
Optional Site to Visit While in Winterset, Iowa
If you haven’t had enough of touring Madison County, Iowa there is one additional site that I can recommend that you visit if you have the inclination. This tour will not be arranged for ahead of time by the Club and is an optional place to visit while in town.
The Iowa Quilt Museum
Located on the south side of the town square in historic Winterset, Iowa—birthplace of John Wayne, county seat of Madison County, home of the Bridges of Madison County—the unique Iowa Quilt Museum space occupies a storefront that was for many years a JC Penney local branch. It offers changing exhibits—three to four per year—of American quilts both vintage and new. The Iowa Quilt Museum welcomes quilters, quilt lovers, history buffs, and all appreciators of American art and culture. Tours of the museum are self-guided, and the cost is $6.00 per person.