Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Pages 1 & 9
Biker magazine features Ringgold County
Editor's note: Those who live here in Ringgold County can appreciate the unique qualities that make our county what it is.By Vernon Schwarte
But from time to time, it's interesting to hear what visitors think of our county.
The following article appeared in the January 2017 edition of Thunder Roads of Iowa magazine, a publication dedicated to all things motorcycles - the machines, the gear, the lifestyle and, of course, the road trip.
Recently Vernon Scharte, owner/editor of Thunder Roads, visited Ringgold County as he neared completion of his goal to visit all 99 Iowa counties.
Presented below is Schwarte's account of his visit to our county, along with some of his photos, reprinted in its entirety by permission of the author.]
THUNDER ROADS OF IOWA
99 Counties to tour on the bike. 99 counties to tour, take one down, drive on around, 20 counties to tour on the bike.Ringgold County
A few years back, a summer reading goal was to ride through each one of the counties of Iowa, and what was found was a wealth of interest and beauty. Each month we will revisit each county as a featured article. We will tell you about new things to see, places to ride, and give you a little spark of touring curiosity for our state of Iowa.
Ringgold County is located at the intersection of Highways 169 and 2, on the bottom tier of counties that border Missouri.
The county is named after Major Samuel Ringgold, a hero of the Battle of Palo Alto fought in May 1846, during the Mexican-American War. Ringgold County is unique for a variety of reasons; one reason is that it is one of the 26 Iowa counties which have a name that is not shared with any other county in the United States.
It is a county with just over 5,000 people in total population disbursed rurally as well as in 10 cities and towns entirely within the borders of the county. This makes it the second from smallest populated county in Iowa, but still with a 535 square mile surface area.
Ringgold County is also the home of the three towns of Beaconsfield, Delphos, Maloy, which happens to be three of the top ten smallest populated towns in the state of Iowa. Between the three towns, there are a total of 69 people that call these towns home. Ringgold County is proof that size does not matter, and that great things come in small packages!
When I knew when I was going to be coming through the area, I reached out to a couple of great friends from a former life of disaster planning. Joe Dukes who is the EMS Director at the hospital in the county seat of Mount Ayr, and Teresa Jackson, who is the EMA for the county. those two gave me tons of ideas about where to go and what to see, as well as I got to spend the afternoon with Joe, who took the afternoon off of work to show me around.
Highway 2 traverses the county west to east, and one of my favorite highways to travel across the state. It is a decent highway, and areas like Ringgold County have rolling hills, [Page 9] folks that live in Ringgold County, it was easy to realize that despite the lower population , Ringgold County has more than its share of claims to fame.
A 1990 graduate of Mount Ayr, Dawn Huff Elliot was all-state in softball, basketball, and track. She later ran track at Missouri, even though softball was her favorite sport. Her son is Ezekiel Elliot, who was the fourth round draft pick running back for the Dallas Cowboys in 2016. Dawn no longer lives in the area, but still has family in Ringgold County. She has stated that she loved growing up in Ringgold County because it was a warm and loving community. I can attest to that fact, because after touring around Ringgold County, I think we so far have a winner for one of the friendliest of places in Iowa. We have a few more to go, but the friendly people here would be hard to improve upon!
Another noteworthy person of interest from Ringgold County is astronaut Peggy Whitson. We spoke to her brother Hugh, and he said she was just his older sister that used to pick on him growing up, and that it is hard to fathom how much she has accomplished. She was a hard worker growing up on the farm, and then took her career to unbelievable heights. She has been to space three times, logging a total of over a year's worth of time in space on different missions. She was on Expedition 5, and on Expedition 16 she was the Commander, making her the first female commander of the ISS. She recently went back into space as the Commander for Expedition 51, and will return to earth in April 2017.
A common Iowa grocer set roots in Beaconsfield, Iowa in 1930. The store was started with a goal to provide "good merchandise, appreciative service, and low prices." Charles Hyde (1883 - 1980) and David Vredenburg (1884 - 1949) leased the building for the store only a few weeks before the stock market crash of October, 1929, but continued with their plans despite the recent financial collapse. The two men began calling their operation Hyde & Vredenburg in 1933. Since its founding, Hy-Vee stores have operated autonomously, choosing their own inventories and setting their own prices. Store Directors were then, and still are today, encouraged to test new ideas. One of the first such entrepreneurial concepts - employee bonuses - was introduced in 1936 and endures to this day. Roger Townsend from the Mount Ayr store was more than gracious to share the history of the chain. He also noted that the Mount Ayr store has been in operation since 1947.
Another point of history in Ringgold County is that the Dragoon Trace goes right through the county. This is an historic trail that runs north and south through central Iowa and Missouri. It was originally made by migration of animals, and because the animals would cross waterways at the best points, Native Americans knew this fact and followed the same path for the best travel. Later pioneers used the same trail. Native Americans used the trail when they were forced to leave Iowa and resettle in Kansas. The trail has been marked with Indian picture writing so that the removal of these tribes out of Iowa is not forgotten.
With small towns in the county, some do not have much for services, so plan your fuel and food stops accordingly if you are going to roll around this part of Iowa. There were a few gems buried in the mix that are worth a look though.
On the northeast side of the square in Mount Ayr there are a couple of businesses that are connected. Doug and Gina Still own and operate Designs by Gina, which has all sorts of home decor and signage, as well as an outdoor outfitter in the back of the store. This place has decorations, guns, ammo, and targets, what could be better? In the attached building are a banquet room and a restaurant called Still Smokin' BBQ. We were early enough in the day that the vittles were not being served, but the owners were a couple of cool cats with a passion for what they do. Joe even had to buy a new sign to hang up at his home.
We went up the street and grabbed a sandwich at Jamie's Coffee Mill and Deli. A unique little spot you can read more about [in an upcoming Record-News].
Also for something cold to drink in town is Rumors right on Highway 2. This bar & grill is where Christie Barber works, and the 10th Annual Brooke Barber Memorial Run will leave from here on July 29, 2017. We have been on this run in friendly southern Iowa more than once and it is always a blast.
A 50s themed diner named Greggo's is also on the square in Mount Ayr, and worth a trip around the square at least to see the outside building decoration.
With waning daylight and a long trip back home, we had to part ways with the friendly and historic county of Ringgold. I had to hit one last spot and check out something, though, a painting at the Post Office. Orr C. Fisher's "Corn Parade" oil on canvas mural is just short of 12 x 7 feet in size and was painted based upon one of the artist's cartoons from the last 20s. It is amusing and wonderful work on the USPS wall. You can check it out yourself, and look for anything else you can find in Ringgold County. If you find something else cool, let us know about it so we can see it also!
You may contact the author at Vernon@thunderroadsiowa.com.]
Photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, September of 2017