Spencer is the county seat and economic powerhouse of Clay County, but there are several other communities in the county that are worthy of exploring further. Three of those towns are Gillett Grove, Greenville, and Webb in southeast corner.
After a visit to Solsma's Punkin Patch near Sanborn and then several hours at the Clay County Fair in Spencer, I put on the Cyclones vs. Hawkeyes football game on the radio and headed on down Highway 71 to see what was going on in these three towns.
I was doing a little research online about Greenville, population 75, and discovered a few interesting tidbits. First, it got it's name after it's first postmaster, A.W. Greene. Secondly, the bank in town was once robbed at the turn of the 19th century and the vault doors were blown off using explosives. Third, I see that one of it's famous natives, Merlyn Hans Dethlefsen, earned the Medal of Honor for heroic actions in Vietnam. He passed away about 30 years ago and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
As you might imagine, with only 75 people, there's not a lot of activity but I still found plenty to appreciate. I found a whole ditch section full of this very pretty wispy white grass. Does anyone know what kind of grass this is?
Once you turn into town, on the east side, the road turns from pavement to gravel.
Like most towns in Iowa, no matter the size, there is almost always an elevator or cooperative.
I was impressed that this MaxYield Cooperative had a gas pump. I know plenty of other small towns in Iowa that would love to have that.
I also spotted a congregational church with a large bell tower.
There's a nice city park as well with some equipment and a semi-existing softball field.
Next door to the softball park is a newer building that seemed like it might be a community center, though I did not find anything immediately noticeable labeling it as such.
Behind the building is a small creek with a neat bridge going over the top.
There are several commercial buildings of varying use and condition. The Greenville Locker appears to be a nice existing business.
Across the street from the locker is a building that looked like it might be a cafe or bar. Upon further research, I see that is is known as the "Spencer Bunch Clubhouse". It seems like the kind of place I would love to stop in and check out.
I spotted a nice mechanic or garage business and there were several men working as I drove by. Several cars were either parked outside or were up on a hoist.
I also spotted what appeared to be a machine shed or storage facility and a couple other buildings on the Main Street that didn't appear to be in regular commercial use.
There is also a long row of antique farm machinery. I'm not sure if it's someone's valuable collection or if they are just waiting to take it to Shine Brothers in Spencer, but it is all lined up.
I spotted a building with "man cave" written on it. But then it got one-upped by another house up the street a block or two.
On my way out of town, I saw a house that seemed to be pretty proud of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Unfortunately, for Nebraska and this guy, it's not the 1990's anymore. The 2018 Huskers are off to a rough start.
From Greenville I headed on down the road to Gillett Grove, a town even smaller in size than Greenville. With a population of 49 as of the 2010 census, it is the smallest town in Clay County. Like a lot of communities in Iowa, it got it's start as a result of the expansion of the railroad.
Gillett Grove lies along the Little Sioux River and on the way into town, I pulled off the road and hiked on down this boat access to the river.
There looked to be a little flooding going on in some of the adjacent timber area.
Once in town, I found a nice city sign with the backdrop of the river valley behind it.
Along the blacktop, there is the post office.
There is an small, older building with a ramp that is being utilized as city hall.
On the same side of the road is also a grain elevator.
Across the road, I found a United Methodist Church with some unique trees behind it.
There's also an old bar building that appears to be defunct. However, based on the name and the sign, I'm sure it was quite the place at one time.
I spotted this other commercial appearing business along the highway as well.
A lot of the residential area has gravel streets and is built on the side of hills.
Before heading on the road to Webb, I spotted a stone hiding in the grass with the Blue Star Memorial Highway information on it.
Of the three Clay County towns that I stopped in (other than Spencer), Webb is the biggest of the three. With a population of 141, it's not too much bigger. It's also located on the Blue Star Memorial Highway.
Heading into town, I drove by an aronia berry farm. Aronia berries are an emerging specialty crop in Iowa.
I spotted a trucking company as well as a grain elevator campus nearby.
There are nice memorial heritage parks on both ends of town.
There are a number of different buildings in the downtown area.
There's a water tower and a service station.
There's also a nice Methodist church and it seemed as though, based on the parked cars, that something was going on when I was driving by.
Growing up in O'Brien County, I'd been to this area of Clay County before but had never really spent time in these towns. They've all probably seen better days but their sense of community is still strong and that's worth a lot.
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Clay County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have an idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through my website.