Onslow, Iowa and Some Interesting History

Onslow 1Welcome to the blog!  On Sunday I visited the little town of Onslow, Iowa which is located about 20 minutes from here.  This small community has 196 residents, plus or minus, depending on who you ask.  Most of its citizens are either retired or work elsewhere, including one of my buddies at Wally World.

Onslow was holding a pancake breakfast at its community center, a comfortable gathering place for weddings and other events.  The breakfast included buckwheat or regular pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs, and orange juice.  The price?  It was just $5.  The older ladies working there encouraged me to eat more… and I did. You just don’t find buckwheat pancakes with sorghum syrup at very many places.

In conversing with the locals, I learned some history about one of the town’s former residents.  It was a guy who went on to shape the city of Cedar Rapids in a big way.  That resident was Howard Hall.

Howard Hall was born in 1894 and moved to Cedar Rapids when he was 24, having served in France during World War I.  Howard started working as a bank delivery boy and then a teller.  He went on to co-found and serve as President of two factories:  Iowa Manufacturing and Iowa Steel and Foundry Works.  Both companies were major employers in town, providing well paying factory jobs.  An old timer told me that if a worker was having financial difficulty, Howard Hall would give him / her some money to help out.


The Brucemore Mansion

Howard Hall met his future wife, Margaret Douglas, in 1923 at a dinner party.  After the Halls married, they moved into the Douglas family’s mansion in Cedar Rapids called “Brucemore”.  To this day the beautiful home is carefully maintained and various events and tours take place throughout the year.  The previous Douglas mansion is still located on 2nd Avenue Southeast and later became a mortuary. The top floor of its carriage house was the apartment and studio of artist Grant Wood.

Regarding Margaret Hall, Howard’s wife, you’ve likely been touched by her family’s company.  Margaret’s father, George Douglas, Jr., was a Scottish immigrant.  In 1870 he became a founding partner in a company called Douglas and Stuart… later renamed to Quaker Oats.  It was – and still is – a major employer in Cedar Rapids although Quaker Oats is now owned by PepsiCo.

Buckwheat PancakesWow, what a digression.  But at the same time, it’s kind of fun to talk about history because it’s so interesting!

As substantial as the history lesson, so are these wonderful buckwheat pancakes with sorghum syrup.  I don’t know of any buckwheat grown in Iowa but it is raised in Illinois, Minnesota, and other nearby states.  Buckwheat is very high in fiber and much more diabetic friendly than the white stuff because it is much lower on the glycemic index (converts to blood sugar slower).

As far as sorghum, it is grown in Iowa.  In fact, I used to live in a mobile home court that was once a sorghum field.  Sorghum is a cereal grain that grows quite tall.  It has a number of uses including animal feed, making sweetener, and is even used for the production of ethanol fuel.  As a sweetener, sorghum is similar to a dark molasses… and very tasty!  (but not too diabetic friendly, unfortunately)

The breakfast of high fiber pancakes and all the trimmings really filled up the belly.  It was a fun little outing, helped a good cause, and a lot was learned.  Maybe some buckwheat pancakes will show up in a camping breakfast one of these days.  It’s great stuff!

For now, it’s about 1:00 AM and time to hit the sack.  The weather is quite warm the next couple of days and I’m tempted to do a little fishing… as much as I can while still in the 40 something age range for another week.

For now take care and thanks for visiting!

Bradford, Jesse James, and Jennifer
Jones County, Iowa


About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"
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