Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Little Depot in Vinton, Iowa

A relic in 42N country is the Vinton Depot located in Vinton, Iowa (42.168N, 92.023W.) Dedicated on March 1, 1900 this portal to past rail traffic now preserves the area’s history as a museum. At this rail station you can find a Rock Island Line caboose from the 1950s and assorted road crossing warning signs. But here's the rest of the story of these tracks...

In the town of Vinton there is a facility formerly known as the Iowa College for the Blind. One of its most famous students was 16-year old Mary Amelia Ingalls, the sister of Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder. Mary's sight declined during the years at On the Banks of Plum Creek (Walnut Grove, Minnesota) and worsened when the family moved to DeSmet, South Dakota. Her parents, Charles and Caroline Ingalls, also known as Pa and Ma, took Mary by rail from DeSmet to Vinton for the start of school on November 23, 1881 on the recommendation from a missionary who knew of the sight college.

Mary graduated in 1889 and moved back to DeSmet to live with her family. On October 20, 1928, Mary died and was buried in the family plot near DeSmet. In the 1930s her sister Laura began writing the Little House stories that would immortalize the family including Mary's story of blindness and her connection to the town of Vinton.

Aside from the Little House books which are still in print, much more original material on the Ingalls family can be found at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa. Laura’s only child, Rose donated her professional papers (as a journalist and novelist) and much of her mother’s manuscripts for the Little House books to the Hoover library for archiving.

While the Ingalls passed through Vinton a decade before this depot was dedicated perhaps they used the same area to board. The specialized school is now known as the Iowa Braille School and can be more readily reached car. Some 128 years ago the school was reached by rail - this rail. Know that.

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