It's been about 10 days since my full Sunday of adventures in the Villages of Van Buren and so far I've profiled three of the communities individually - Keosauqua (the County Seat), Bentonsport, and Bonaparte. They may be three of the more notable villages in the county, but certainly there are lovely parts elsewhere.
I thought it might be best to show a little about the other communities in one post. Please enjoy the summaries and I would welcome feedback on anything I might have missed as I was out and about. Please feel free to send me a note through my website.
Farmington is located down in the southern part of the county and the day I was there, some "Scenic Drive Festival" activities were happening down in the park area by the Des Moines River. As the sign outside the town notes, it's the oldest village in the county. I stopped briefly but also drove around the community. Of particular note, I really loved that there is a "Hel-Mart" in town, offering free bubble gum! I am sorry I was unable to go inside, as it was closed on Sunday.
Like all the communities in the county, I noticed some beautiful old buildings in the business district of town.
As noted above, there was some festival activities occuring in the shelter house down by the river.
If I told you that I went to both Birmingham and Selma on the same day, you might have assumed I was in Alabama. But no, I was in the Villages of Van Buren! While in Birmingham, they were having a "Trash to Treasures" event in the city park to raise money for the restoration of a log cabin, also situated in the city park. I did not buy any items, but I did have some pocket change in my pocket and made a small donation. I hope they are successful in preserving this historical landmark.
Here are a couple of other shots I took as I was driving around the community.
While technically no longer an incorporated city, Selma is a beautiful area and I found a small business open that was offering tastings from a local winery.
Just across the street, there are several beautiful historic buildings that add to the charm.
I got real excited on my way to Cantril because I had heard great things of the famous Dutchmen's Store. There is a sizable population of Amish in the area and Dutchman's is an old fashioned general store. Unfortunately, again, because it was Sunday...it was closed. I look forward to returning to Cantril sometime when I can get into the store. I did find a beautiful covered bridge in the park as I was leaving town.
Stockport was pretty sleepy on Sunday afternoon as I was driving around. My stay was not too long, but here are a few photos.
Like Cantril, Milton is home to a sizable Amish population. The Milton Creamery on the outside of town is apparently a great place to visit, but it was closed (Sunday!). I spotted a beautiful old church and a great Bull Durham advertisement on the side of a brick building. Like the Dutchman's store in Cantril, I'll have to come back to Milton for a stop at the creamery.
Douds has to be a rarity in Iowa. It's technically an unincorporated area but has an independent grocer and a gas station/convenience store! There are a lot of incorporated areas of Iowa that cannot even boast of having those amenities.
Mount Sterling is almost to Missouri and it's got a pretty small population, but I did find an absolutely stunning old church. I hope there is a plan to preserve it because it would be a shame to lose something so beautiful.
Lebanon is pretty much a "corner" out in the country but I did find a neat country store building that is currently vacant but available. Is anyone looking for a new career? Also, like many small communities in our state, I did find another nice country church. A high school classmate mentioned to me that her husband served as a substitute United Methodist pastor for this and a couple other churches in the county this past summer. Small world!
Van Buren County is worth your visit. If the Iowa Adventurer had a "seal of approval" to award for intrigue, this place would get it. I look forward to return trips. What did I miss? One thing that struck me is that I saw numerous examples of "maps" of the county written on a window or something similar.
I also want to commend the county for forging together to create the whole tourism concept of "The Villages of Van Buren". I wish all counties could work together and buy into a shared vision as they have. It's working for them.