Monday, July 10, 2017

(46) Nobody ever told the bumblebee it couldn't fly!

Ipswich, Birthplace of the Yellowstone Trail

July 7, 2017
Lac qui Parle State Park, Minnesota
to Mobridge, South Dakota

We are spending tonight in Mobridge South Dakota on the banks of the Missouri River. Mobridge is so named because there is a bridge over the Missouri River at this point. The abbreviation for Missouri is Mo. Combine that abbreviation with the word bridge and the town at that point ends up with the name Mobridge.

Once again we "gave in" and are not spending the night in the tent trailer. It is 105° here and sleeping in our canvas tent trailer did not sound pleasant. I guess we're getting old.

We started the day battling mosquitoes at the campground in Minnesota. Minnesota is known for its mosquitoes, although the state's Department of Commerce does not promote that fact. The mosquitoes made us to break camp at Lac qui Parle State Park in Montevideo (pronounced "Mount video") quickly and gave us a few parting bites on the way out of the campground just to make sure that we would remember the place.

Ortonville, Minnesota
The first town we visited was Ortonville, Minnesota. Ortonville is the county seat for Big Stone County Minnesota. It is another Midwestern city that has been passed by, by the march of time. It appears that it was once fairly prosperous. It still looks pretty good, but there are a few vacant storefronts on Main Street.

The reason we traveled to Ortonville and went through the city is that I have an antique postcard of the Big Stone County Courthouse. The Big Stone County Courthouse was built in the first decade of the 20th century. Since it was only a block out of our way, I was curious to see if the courthouse was still standing and how it had weathered the passage of time. It was still standing proud and is being maintained by the county in good repair. Big Stone County, it seems, is proud of its courthouse.

While we were in Ortonville we stopped for breakfast at the Ligonberry coffee shop. A ligonberry is a Scandinavian berrry that is somewhat tart, but makes into a very good jam to be spread on muffins.

The coffee shop was owned by Khadija who operates it along with her sister Karina. Most of the pastries are prepared on site, although a few are purchased from outside vendors (yummy chocolate croissant).  Khadija was born in Ortonville, but left and has seen the world. She returned home to open the Ligonberry coffee shop. As much as we enjoyed our time there, we needed to get on the road and keep moving west.
Khadija and her sister Karina
War Memorial on Courthouse grounds
From Ortonville we immediately crossed into South Dakota. While we had seen some Yellowstone Trail signs in Minnesota and Wisconsin, we began to see more and more in South Dakota. South Dakota is the birthplace of the Yellowstone Trail, but more on that later.

The first town that we came to in South Dakota was Milbank. Milbank is home to the Milbank mutual insurance company and is also the birthplace of the Super 8 motel chain.

At a park across the street from Milbank Mutual's headquarters there is a windmill. It turns out that this windmill was a gristmill when the town of Milbank was first settled. As the town grew with houses and other commercial structures going up, along with the planting of trees to line the city streets, the owner the gristmill found that it affected the wind. The wind power had to be supplemented in order to grind wheat into flour.

Eventually, operating the gristmill became uneconomical and it was suffering from neglect. Some public spirited citizens, recognizing the importance of the gristmill to the town's history purchased it and moved it. Later it was restored and moved once again. The Milbank Mutual Insurance Company takes good care of the windmill. From what I read they maintain it for the city, its citizens and visitors to enjoy.

Competing claims are just part of the fun!
Prairie Pothole Country

We moved on from Milbank to Ipswich, South Dakota. On our way to Ipswich we passed through the Prairie Pothole Country. The Prairie Pothole Country is a remnant of the last Ice Age. As the ice receded from the northern Great Plains, it left a relatively flat countryside, but not one that is perfectly flat. As the ice sheet receded, it left potholes as well as moraine. In the spring as the snow melts and with spring rains, these potholes fill with water. Some are so large and deep that they are also fed by springs and remain a standing body of water for the entire year. Most of the potholes dry up during the year. Farmers and cities have eliminated most of the potholes, but those that remain are now guarded as productive wetlands which are the breeding grounds for most of the waterfowl in this country.

These Prairie Potholes proved to be an immense challenge to the railroad engineers and to the road builders of the early 20th century.

Ipswich South Dakota and the birth of the Yellowstone Trail

Vintage scene of Ipswich. It doesn't
look so different today.

 Ipswich is the birthplace of the Yellowstone Trail. Joseph Parmley was a lawyer and owned a land office in Ipswich. Parmley was a product of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Parmley was urged to run for Congress
He was caught up in the progressive movement. He joined the prohibition movement and his wife was a member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Parmley was also active in the reclamation movement, which turned the West into productive farmland. But most of all, Parmley is remembered for his advocacy and hard work in the "Good Roads Movement".

Gathering of Good Roads Advocates outside of Parmley Land Office
Parmley sought to make his city, his state, and the region a better place to live. He was a strong advocate of the Good Roads Movement. Initially Parmley sought a road from Ipswich, east, to Aberdeen, South Dakota. It is from this seed, that the Yellowstone Trail grew. Very soon Parmley and others envisioned a road all the way from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Yellowstone National Park. The goal was later expanded to include Chicago, Illinois to Yellowstone. That eventually grew to include the goal of "A Good Road from Plymouth Rock to Puget Sound."

Tire Cover from the car Joe Parmley drove to
promote the Yellowstone Trail
One wonders how Parmley and others from South Dakota ever thought they could build a road from Plymouth Rock to Puget Sound? What is even more amazing is that they did it. They did it in a manner different from the way that the Lincoln Highway accomplished its goal, and if the truth be told, the road probably was not quite as good, but they did it nonetheless. The story reminds me of
the movie I once saw where a character in the movie said that aerodynamically there was no way that a bumblebee should fly. He then added that nobody told the bumblebee that, and so the bumblebee flies. I guess nobody ever told Parmley and the other businessmen and farmers from South Dakota and Minnesota that they could not build a transcontinental road.

A Sign on the Ipswich Memorial Arch

Parmley is held in high esteem in South Dakota and particularly in Ipswich. He was a remarkable man.
Livingroom fireplace made of stones and shells collected by Parmley
Parmley was known to be a very good public speaker. As I noted before he believed in prohibition, at least initially. Before the Prohibition Amendment to the Constitution was ever passed prohibition foes are suspected of setting fire to Parmley's house. Parmley built another house which was also burned down. The next house he built was built of concrete, brick and stone. Even the floors on the first and second floor, and the stairs are concrete. Today, Linda and I toured that house. It will last another 100 years.
Parmley's  house built of brick, stone and concrete.
It won't burn down.

Joe Parmley, by his hearth.

I wish Joe were here so we could talk.
Joe Parmley was really a remarkable fellow. While I know he wouldn't join me for a drink, I would like to sit down and have a long chat with him. What he and others from South Dakota and Minnesota accomplished, even without the resources and public relations know how of the Lincoln Highway Association is really quite amazing.

Tom is a volunteer docent at the Parmley house and Museum.

Tom, a volunteer docent at the Parmley
museum, in front of the Parmley Land office
For him it is a labor of love. He led Linda and I on a very informative tour of the house and then a tour of Joe Parmley's land office. We felt bad that we had to keep moving on as Tom had much more information to share with us.  For someone like me, I am very grateful for people like Tom, who desire to keep these local museums going for the next generation. Many times this is where the history lies.

Today is a day I will long remember.

Joe Parmley, outside his land Office


  1. As I traveled along with you in Ortonville, I noted The Columbian Hotel. I think it might have burned in 2012? I'd love to have gone through Parmley's home with you! Found it on google... a modest but lovely structure. That fireplace is something else... and you do look good sitting there, Bill!

  2. Here's one of those neat history lessons we were looking forward to. Thanks so much for sharing your adventure here.

  3. Here's a tidbit for you car guys and gals: Joe Parlmey also built a stone and concrete "carriage house" style garage behind his house to protect his car. He was a true car guy first, and wanted good roads to drive on as he was tired of fighting the mud to get to Aberdeen.

  4. Parmley's house is now firmly etched on my to-do list.