The Old Stone House on the Hill
The house, also known as the Blodgett House, was built in 1854 by Henry
Milder. He was one of the first settlers in the town of Vernon Springs on
the Turkey River in the Northeastern part of the territory that would later
become the state of Iowa. He is also thought to have built the "Blue Store",
but it is not known whether this was a separate building, or if our house
was, in fact, also the Blue Store.
The first county court sessions took place in the house, before the first
Howard county court house was built. And it seems that the first wedding
took place in our house, because of this. Or perhaps because Henry Milder,
who seems to have gotten
married about this time, was in this first wedding.
The town of Vernon Springs, along with its downstream twin, New Oregon,
prospered along the Turkey River until the coming of the railroad in the
1860's. The railroad builders chose a route 2 miles north of Vernon
Springs, and the town of Cresco was accordingly founded along its route.
With that, the towns of Vernon Springs and New Oregon faded away, although
their existence is still obvious in the concentration of homes that are
still to be found along the scenic banks of the Turkey River.
Our house was repeatedly abandoned and reclaimed throughout the years,
and by the time my father bought the property in 1970, it had been used as a
hayloft, and grain bin, as well as for the parties of local young people.
As a result, its windows were kicked out, its wiring was pulled down, and
the structure was in danger of being burned down at the next drunken party.
The house was so dilapidated, that it was not even considered in the price
of the property when my father bought the three lots in the new subdivision
in Vernon Springs.
Dad worked very hard to fix up the house, using salvaged period
materials and furnishing the house with auction finds (an exercise born of
necessity that has continued now long after the necessity has passed). Even
so, when he and my mother got married in 1971, the plumbing wasn't in, and
Mom endured morning sickness with me in the outhouse.
In the early 80's, we added onto the back of the house, doubling the
living space, but even so, my sister and I shared a small bedroom
until I went to college. The addition, intended to be usable as a separate
apartment/house for grandmother, instead has been used to hold Dad's better
auction finds. Mom gave up even worrying about cleaning the stuff years
ago, and my sister and I can't keep up with the new finds.
The house and its furnishings have not been the only projects of my
father. He's also expended considerable time and effort, if not money, in
the landscaping of the 4.5 acre surroundings. It's quite amazing to compare
early photos of the lonely old house on the hill, with the thick green park
that now surrounds it.
It was a great place to grow up, and its a perfect place to go home to now -
to stop and smell the roses (and the lilacs, and the peonies), and remind
oneself anew of the joy of a simple life and the rewards of patient labor -
no six-figure salary required.
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