6 Historical Events In Iowa That Prove That Truth Really Is Stranger Than Fiction
If you’re a fan of fiction, one of the things you’ve already discovered is that it doesn’t have to match reality. In fact, that’s often what we love most about it! But every so often, something will happen in real life that is such an unbelievable part of history that it beats anything you can find in a novel. This seems to be especially true of Iowa around the turn of the 20th century.
1. Once upon a time, in 1872, a new town was established in Iowa. It was named "Villisca," after the Sac and Fox word "Waliska." Why was this word chosen? Because those who founded the town thought this word meant "pretty place," and Villisca was.
However, the word "Waliska" actually means "evil spirit" or "Satan." And today, Villisca isn't known for its scenery - it's known for the gruesome, never-been-solved ax murder that happened here in 1912.
2. A few years later (around 1879) in Council Bluffs, Iowa, a clergyman gained some notoriety for his method of marrying couples who came to him wanting to be wed. It wasn't how he married them that was so unusual; it was how he billed the couple for officiating their ceremony.
The rate was four cents per pound for the groom and two cents per pound for the bride, which we can imagine only added to any pre-wedding jitters experienced by the couple!
3. Also in 1879, the largest meteorite to EVER hit North America fell to earth in Estherville, Iowa. It was all of 455 pounds and entrenched itself 15 feet into the ground.
Estherville, IA 51334, USA
The sky really was falling in Estherville that day!
4. In 1886, a well was drilled in Belle Plain. But it turns out, this was no ordinary well! It was a water elephant and earned the nickname "Jumbo" (after a Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth elephant).
Belle Plaine, IA 52208, USA
Here's why: the water pressure was so strong that the well spontaneously shot water five feet into the air. And not just a little water - up to 50,000 gallons per minute! It took the town over a year to figure out how to tame this rogue well. (Pictured is the Strokker geyser in Iceland.)
5. Although it happened much too long ago to actually confirm, there was a story about a local duck widely circulated in Iowa newspapers in 1910. According to the story, this pet duck escaped from its enclosure and feasted on a pan of yeast sitting out on the bird's owner's back steps.
Unfortunately for the duck, this yeast did not settle well; in fact, it produced so much gas in the poor duck's belly that the bird exploded. Unfortunately for the owner, that's not even the worst part. When the duck exploded, the concerned owner took a flying bone fragment to the eye. He never saw out of that eye again.
6. Speaking of unbelievable animals, the Jackson County Historical Society is in possession of the most unique lamb ever to be born in Iowa.
This lamb, which has been stuffed for posterity, has two hind ends. That's right, it's a double bottomed sheep. See it to believe it - the Jackson County Historical Society is in Maquoketa.
What other unbelievable Iowa history have you heard tell of? We’d love to know!
Here are a few more things you won’t learn about Iowa from history books.
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