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Ottumwa Stories: The American Gothic History Trail

Published July 18, 2022

Your trip to Southeast Iowa includes a stop at the American Gothic House and Center to visit the museum, explore the gift shop and have your own parody picture taken in front of the house that Grant Wood made famous in his painting. But your history-themed trip doesn't stop there! Here are just a few historic places in and around Eldon that you'll want to add to your itinerary.

A map of all nine stops can be found HERE.

1. Sioc Cemetery and Indian Burial Mounds: Sometimes referred to as Sioux Cemetery, Sioc Cemetery is believed to be the only cemetery in Iowa where early settlers are buried among and on top of Indian Mounds. Two of the earliest burials here are dated 1845 and 1847. The cemetery is located 4 miles southwest of the American Gothic House Center.

2. Eldon Public Library: This Carnegie library is on the National Register of Historic Places, having been dedicated on May 9, 1913. In addition to being one of Eldon’s stately historic properties, it serves genealogists on their quest for information.

3. McHaffey Opera House: Eldon’s century-old opera house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places with a grassroots group hard at work to restore the beautiful building. Irish immigrant David McHaffey built the McHaffey Opera House in 1891 during the city’s days as a thriving railroad town.

4. Rock Island Train Depot: The historic Rock Island Train Depot in Eldon is a railroad museum with numerous displays and serves as a meeting place for city wide activities. In its day, the depot served the needs of local travelers and the US Postal Service. The depot is also home to a former Chicago Central & Pacific caboose that has been refurbished in the theme of the Rock Island Line.

5. Des Moines Scenic River Overlook: At the boat dock and shelter house on Water Street you'll find the Des Moines River Scenic Overlook, a beautiful spot for a picnic or just a place to sit back and relax.

6. The Lockkeepers House: The Lockkeeper’s House, built in 1845, is located south of Eldon, along the Des Moines River in Davis County, Iowa. The building served only as a residence, having never been used for the locks, which were never built. The Lockkeeper’s House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 14, 2009.

7. Iowaville Cemetery & Chief Blackhawk's Burial Site: Located on HIghway 16 between Eldon and Selma, the Iowaville Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries west of the Mississippi River. Stones date back to the early 1800s and include the Chief Blackhawk memorial site. An Ioway Indian village dating back to the early 1800s was also discovered nearby.

8. American Gothic House & Center: Iowa artist Grant Wood sketched this house on a 1930 visit to Eldon and that summer depicted it as the backdrop for his world-famous painting, American Gothic. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the adjacent Center includes exhibits, a gift shop, and a media room with educational films about Grant Wood. Also, there are props on hand so visitors can pose in front of the historic home and create their own American Gothic portrait.

9. Chippewa Creek Disc Golf Course: End your American Gothic History Trail exploration by playing the Chippewa Creek disc golf course. Beginning and ending right next to the American Gothic House Center, this 9-hole course loops out and around beautiful woods and a walking trail.

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