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5 Interesting Facts About Iowa

Iowa is a Midwestern state. It became the 29th state in 1846. Iowa has more hogs than people and is the largest producer of corn in the United States. It has more golf courses per capita than any other state. The state was named for the Ioway people, a Native American tribe that once inhabited the area.  

The Honey War

Did you know that once Iowa and Missouri nearly went to war in 1839? It was a conflict that had been brewing for years. The cause for the hostilities, their shared border. They had long disputed exactly what their border was with each claiming the fertile land that lay between them. It got started with a survey that was filled with errors called the Sullivan Line. Missouri was unhappy with this and claimed more land. Eventually, Missouri ordered a new survey which put the border 9.5 miles north of the Sullivan Line, this was called the Brown Line. Tensions between Iowa and Missouri escalated with both governors getting involved. A sheriff went into the disputed land in an attempt to collect taxes but the people who considered themselves a part of Iowa refused. One of the main reasons they were fighting over this land was that it had many trees filled with honey bees. Someone from the Missouri side crossed and cut a few of them down. This angered the Iowa side. Missouri decided to muster a militia and so Iowa did as well. They each marched and headed towards a major conflict. Both governments along with the federal government eventually reached a solution. The militias went home without a fight. The matter wasn’t fully resolved until 1849 when the Supreme Court ruled against Missouri and the modern boundary was formed. 

The Day the Music Died

The Day the Music Died was forever immortalized in Don McLean’s “American Pie”. It is known as the great tragedy of rock music. On February 3, 1959 three of rock’s biggest acts died in a plane crash at Clear Lake, Iowa. There was Buddy Holly who was probably the most famous one at the time, the young up and coming Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. They had been on a tour of the Midwest and Buddy Holly was tired of the tour bus, so he decided to charter a plane to their next stop in Moorhead, Minnesota. A member of Buddy Holly’s band, future country superstar Waylon Jennings was supposed to be on the flight but allowed Richardson to take his place. There was a weather advisory that the pilot was unaware of and shortly after takeoff the plane crashed. It was a shock to not only the music world but to the whole world as well. 

Arabella Mansfield

Iowa was ahead of the times when it came to civil rights. In 1851, married women were allowed property rights and in 1868 they desegregated their schools. Also, in 1869 the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that women should be allowed to practice law. This made Arabella Mansfield the first female lawyer in the country. Arabella grew up in Mount Pleasant, Iowa and attended Iowa Wesleyan College there. After graduation she taught at Des Moines Conference Seminary. She then returned to Mount Pleasant and studied law at her brother’s practice. Even though the Iowa law bar exam was restricted to males over 21, she took it and passed with high scores in 1869. She then challenged the law that excluded her from being admitted to the bar. The Court ruled that women may not be excluded from practicing the law and became the first state to allow women to do so. Arabella did not practice law but decided to remain a teacher and taught at Iowa Wesleyan College. She was also active in the women’s suffrage movement before her death in 1911. 

Iowa 80

The world’s largest truck stop happens to be in Walcott, Iowa along Interstate 80 off exit 284. It is on 220 acres, four times larger than the average truck stop. Bill Moon located the spot for Standard Oil. They built the truck stop with Bill becoming manager in 1965. Years went by and it was completed. It was a place where thousands of truckers and travelers would stop to refuel and grab a bite to eat. In 1984, Standard Oil decided to sell Iowa 80 and Bill Moon jumped at the chance to buy it. He used everything he had, even borrowing money, in order to make the purchase. After the Moon family owned it, they expanded the building and added services as needed. There has now been 28 expansions and remodels. There is the 300-seat restaurant Iowa 80 Kitchen, a gift shop, dentist, barber shop, chiropractor, movie theater, laundromat, private showers, food court and so much more. It also has parking for 900 trucks, 42 gas islands, 16 diesel pumps and a 7-bay truck service center. The Iowa 80 Trucking Museum opened in 2008. Today, it is run by the second generation of the Moon family and has around 5,000 visitors a day. 

The Grotto of the Redemption

The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption is a religious shrine located in West Bend, Iowa at Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux City. It consists of nine grottos that depict the life of Jesus. The grotto is made up of precious stones, shells, fossils, minerals and petrifications. It is considered the largest man-made collection of them. The estimated value of all the stones and minerals is over 4.3 million. The grotto was built by Father Paul Dobberstein who had promised to build a shrine to the Virgin Mary if she helped him recover from a severe case of pneumonia. After he recovered, he began collecting various stones and minerals for years and began working on the grotto in 1912. He continued working on it for 42 years. Others began to help and continued after Dobberstein’s death in 1954. There is also a museum there with precious and semi-precious stones from all over the world. Around 100,000 people visit the grotto every year. It is supposed to be an amazing sight to see.