Ringgold County is a quiet rural community surrounded by rich farmland in Southwestern Iowa, just 22 miles west of Interstate 35 on State Highway 2. Founded in 1875, the community was named in honor of poet Robert Burns’ birthplace in Ayr, Scotland, and the “mount” was added to indicate its location on the highest point of land in the area. While retaining our past with historic buildings and cobblestone streets around our beautiful town square, we are moving towards the future with a new hospital opening in January 2010, a new elementary school being constructed and a new jail project being worked on. Whether you are looking for a place to relocate and raise your children, to start-up a business or a place to retire, we have it all.
Mount Ayr Post Office
East of Ellston
2 miles n of Mount Ayr
Places to Stay
Armstrong Guest House
204 W. Monroe St., Mount Ayr | (641) 344-5553
Charlie – Jane’s B&B
400 W. Madison, Mount Ayr | (641) 464-2564
Mount Ayr Inn & Suites
Intersection of Highways 169 & 2, Mount Ayr | (641) 464-3500
Lesanville Inn B&B
2285 270th Ave. | 4 miles east of Mount Ayr on Highway 2 | (641) 414-8550
Fife’s Grove Park
Fogle Park Recreation Area
Kokesh Recreational Area
Poe Hollow Park
Experience Aunt Jennie’s Attic in Downtown Mount Ayr
Aunt Jennie’s Attic was opened in November of 2004 as a joint venture with Ramsey Farms. It is located at 114 W. Madison Street on the north side of the square in Mount Ayr.
Aunt Jennie’s Attic was named to honor the memory of the late Paul Ramsey’s aunt, Jennie Lesan Vance, with whom he spent his summers in Iowa as a young boy. According to her granddaughters, Aunt Jennie’s attic was a truly wonderful place.
Visitors to Aunt Jennie’s Attic will find a unique collection of antique furniture, dishes, glassware, and other vintage items as well as rustic paintings, original woodcarvings, pottery, Amish baskets, dolls, quilts, and collectibles. They also carry giftware such as WoodWick® candles, Willow Tree® figurines, jewelry, scarves, candy and many holiday items. Also, offered is a huge variety of colors as well as glazes, waxes and metallics of Vintage Market & Design™ chalk based furniture paint.
Aunt Jennie’s annual Christmas open house brings a vast selection of Christmas decorations and gift ideas for all those who come from miles around to shop during the holiday season.
It is owner Marilyn Saville’s goal to make a visit to Aunt Jennie’s Attic a unique shopping experience…a time to relax, browse, and discover connections to the past. New treasures arrive almost daily, so there’s always something “new” in the attic. As life long residents and former teachers, Marilyn and her husband James enjoy visiting with old friends as well as making new ones.
Aunt Jennie’s Attic is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 am to 5 pm; Saturday from 10 am to 2pm. They will also be open by appointment. For more information call the store at 641-464-2149, cell phone at 641-234-0125 or email email@example.com. You can also find Aunt Jennie’s Attic on Facebook, www.auntjenniesattic.com and cyberattic.com.
ORR FISHER Paintings on Display in Mount Ayr
Orr Fisher is a famed artist that was born in Ringgold County in 1885. Fisher painted “The Corn Parade” mural in the Mount Ayr Post Office. President Franklin D Roosevelt and Congress commissioned the mural as part of the recovery from the depression designed to get Americans back to work called the WPA project. Fisher had submitted many sketches and “The Corn Parade” was chosen for the Mount Ayr Post Office and another of his sketches called “Evening on the Farm” was chosen for the Forest City Post Office.
The mural is still in great shape and can be seen by many visitors at the Mount Ayr Post Office.
Fisher, a painter, muralist, cartoonist, author as well as an inventor lived in Mount Ayr, New York and California. He passed away in 1974 and left most of his estate to his niece Donna Howard. After his niece’s passing last winter, all of Fisher’s remaining art work was willed to Iowa State University.
Iowa State University allowed some of his paintings and works to be displayed in Mount Ayr. The Mount Ayr Depot Museum was the recipient of images, letters and other paper items as well as some of his paintings. Other places in Mount Ayr that were able to display his paintings are the Mount Ayr Public Library and the Ringgold County Extension Office.
It is hoped that in 2016 there will be a celebration of his work in Mount Ayr.
Ringgold Trailway Caboose Restored
The Ringgold Trailway caboose was acquired in 1979 from the Burlington Northern Railroad. This rail line was completely abandoned in 1977. It is a 1940’s model caboose and has been a fixture of the Ringgold Trailway for over 30 years. The caboose is located on the east side of Mount Ayr on Highway 169 at the entrance of the Ringgold Trailway.
In 2014, the Conservation Board began renovation efforts of the caboose due to the severe deterioration of the structure. Any original piece that could be salvaged was left on the caboose, including the interior bunks. The final touches were completed in 2015, making the caboose a safe structure for the public to once again enjoy.
Caboose: A strange word for a strange railroad car that somehow survived for more than a hundred years, from the days of oil burning lamps into the computer age. The origins of both the car and the word are surrounded as much by legend as by fact. One popular version dates the word back to a derivation of the Dutch word “kombuis,” which referred to a ship’s galley.
The use of the caboose began in the 1830’s as a rail transport vehicle at the end of a train and had many functions. The caboose served such purposes as: an office for the conductor, living quarters for long trips, and space for the brakeman and flagman. In 1863 a conductor discovered he could view his train better by peering through the hole in the roof of his boxcar, so became the cupola, a lookout post atop the caboose.
The caboose lasted over a hundred years as a functioning part of the railroad system. Until the 1980’s, United States law required all freight trains to have a caboose and a full crew for safety. Technology soon overtook the use of the caboose with the automatic air brake system and the use of the electric track circuits that activate signals providing safety and protection for the trains. Trains became longer and freight cars taller, making it difficult for the conductor to see, and labor laws reduced the hours of the crew, making lodging unnecessary. The caboose became an American tradition, while other countries eliminated their use many years before.
Contributing to the success of this project with partial funding for the restoration includes: the Ringgold County H.E.L.P. Youth Philanthropy Group and the Ringgold Outdoor Alliance.
Walnut Creek Farm Greenhouse & Produce
By: Blair Glendenning
Dave, Jenifer, and Aaron Breneman moved to Iowa three years ago and later Aaden would make his appearance into this world. Dave had been to Iowa guiding deer hunters and really liked this area (Ringgold County). Right after their oldest son Aaron graduated high school they moved to Ringgold County to pursue everyone’s dream of farming. They knew tobacco grew in Wisconsin and Missouri, so they picked right in the middle to start their farm. Jen was raised on a poultry and tobacco farm growing up, so she had abundant amount of knowledge about it.
The Breneman’s do all of their work in the evening after Dave and Aaron are done working their full time jobs and then on Saturdays, too. This also depends on the weather. The sun needs to be shining to get into the field. The perfect weather is hot, humid, and dry weather with a few tenths of inches of rain every week, but we live in Iowa, so who knows what the weather will be like in a few hours.
In the greenhouse they have a seeder to assist. The tobacco starts in a Styrofoam tray in a float bed with 288 cells per tray. In the field, four people sit on a trans-planter and plant by hand, two at a time. To harvest they cut the tobacco with clippers (giant scissors). Then, spear five stalks onto a lathe, which is then laid into piles. They pick the piles up and transport them to the greenhouse or barn. They are then hung in the building until they are dried/cured. Then, they wait until the tobacco is cured, which is around the end of November. The stems on the leaves, as well as the leaves, need to be dried down and brown. The next process of the step is stripping the tobacco, which is grading the leaves and putting them into tobacco presses that can make bales the size of a small straw or hay bale. That is the end product and they deliver and sell.
If the tobacco doesn’t keep them busy enough, they also have a greenhouse. They built the greenhouse for the curing step of the tobacco, but since it sits empty while the tobacco is in the field growing they also have plant business, which they are planning to expand.
You can find them west of Mount Ayr about three miles. You can “like” them on Facebook at Walnut Creek Farm – Greenhouse and Produce. They offer annuals, perennials, vegetables, flowering, hanging baskets, herbs, planters and supplies, and much, much more.
DRAGOON TRACE NATURE CENTER
The Dragoon Trace Nature Center has come to life!! It’s hard to believe that we started this journey over 5 years ago!! I (Executive Director, Kate Zimmerman) started working for RCCB in the fall of 2010 and we have made so much progress in the past 6 years. We started our Environmental Education program with just a few furs and nothing else! It is hard to imagine that we now have a nature center and provide over 175 programs, reaching over 3,500 people each year.
Ringgold County is in a unique situation compared to most
This has been the undertaking of a lifetime! With no local county tax dollars going into the construction of the building, this was fully funded by grants, donations and fundraisers. We are beyond proud to be able to bring an environmental education center to southwest Iowa. We would like to thank our many donors for their generous contributions. We couldn’t have done it without you!
And, we’re not done yet!
There are several exciting things that we will be developing over the next few years, including our landscaping around the Nature Center that will include trails, butterfly gardens and ponds. We will also periodically host traveling exhibits that will bring new and exciting displays. You will also see seasonal display changes focusing on different species throughout the year.
The Conservation Board looks forward to completing these exciting additions to the nature center that will enhance the environmental education opportunities.
Definition of an Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE).
To provide a unique opportunity to Iowans that builds community value by creating accessible and vibrant outdoor learning spaces that enhance people’s relationship with the outdoors and inspires people with Iowa’s native landscape.
The Dragoon Trace Nature Center at Poe Hollow Park is owned and operated by the Ringgold County Conservation Board (RCCB) for the following purpose:
“To provide an inviting place, with educational programming, that encourages visitors to make a personal connection with nature and offers opportunities to discover, experience and enjoy our local natural resources.”
The Nature Center cannot be all things to all people at all times because of limits on time, staff and space. Thus, priorities have been established to insure an orderly use of these limited resources based on the stated purposes. Please keep in mind, the Nature Center is an educational facility, not an event center.
The Nature Center has one conference room that may be rented for use for business type meetings. Reservations must be made through the RCCB administrative office at least two weeks in advance of date requested and can be
Follow us on Facebook for up to date notices such as unscheduled closings or new exhibits at the nature center. For more information contact Ringgold County Conservation at (641)-464-2787.
Mount Ayr Community School’s New and Improved Auditorium
By Haylea England
Despite some technology glitches throughout the week of November 6, on November 11, 2016, the newly renovated auditorium in Mount Ayr High School opened for public viewing, as well as for the fall play, Shrek the Musical. Improvements from acoustics, visuals, and lighting were all made in the major renovation.
Senior drama member and the face behind Shrek, Mitchell Jennett, was impressed with the improvements. “The old wood in the former stage was just gross,” Jennett said. “There were paint chips and everything all over it. The curtains were getting all torn up. These are super nice. And, the sound is incredible compared to what we used to have.”
Delwyn Showalter, the school athletic director, also oversees the fine arts department. In his opinion, the facility finally matches the level of performances.
“We have a really strong performing arts department here in Mount Ayr, and this auditorium is just wonderful for them,” Showalter said. “Shaun Kniep gets so many kids involved with our plays. They always did a great job in facilities that were outdated. It was hard to hear. We were extremely excited for the weekend to come and enjoy the experience in such a nice, new facility. The stage is rearranged a lot better,” Showalter said. “The acoustics are better. The light booth was moved up above, creating more space down below. We have better seats and better lighting.”
Shaun Kniep, a Mount Ayr graduate who has taught at the school 15 years after three years in Diagonal, said the new auditorium is a smaller version of the Des Moines Civic Center, in terms of acoustical elements. Sound reverberates into the middle of the seated section, instead of fading out in the old auditorium.
“First of all, the aesthetics are better because the audience sees school colors (black, red and gray) instead of the old orange and yellow with orange carpeting from the 1970s in the old auditorium,” Kniep said. “There are acoustic boards on the side walls and on the back wall of the auditorium. They also put in ‘clouds’ in the ceiling, formations that are designed to bounce the sound from the stage to the back wall and back toward the audience. That’s what you see in the Civic Center. It’s awesome.”
Seating is also designed so everyone in the audience can see the stage performance. Seats are constructed of different widths across the rows so that no one is seated directly behind the person in front of them. Plus, there is a gradual rise in the elevation of the seats, which is another improvement from the previous auditorium.
“It’s designed so that people can see between the shoulders of people in front of them, and you no longer have to worry about sitting behind someone really tall,” Kniep said. “We still have 400 seats, but our aisles are a little narrower to allow for the seats of different sizes across the rows.”
Besides housing the Mount Ayr Community School drama department, the band and vocal use the facility for their concerts and several classes are taught at different times throughout the year in the auditorium such as PE and driver’s education. The facility can also be rented to the public for performances.
Mount Ayr Public Library
In September 1913 a group of people met to discuss putting a library in Mount Ayr. On June 15, 1915 the idea of constructing a building was submitted to a vote by the people. The result of the vote showed that the women were more interested in obtaining the library than the men, as the vote of the women being 212 for and 68 against and the men’s vote was 180 for and 122 against. An application was made to the Carnegie Foundation for a grant of $10,000. Due to the lack of increase in population, the foundation gave $8000 toward the building. The women did much fundraising to secure the additional monies. The total cost of the building was $10,349.85 including the heating plant, lighting, furniture, book shelves, architect fees, excavating & filling, lying of necessary walks and sewerage.
The Mount Ayr Public Library is located on the southwest corner of the square. The library director is
Mary Kathryn Gepner and is assisted by Bobbie Bainum and Nancy Roe. The library is open from 1:30 to 5pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. On Thursdays the library is open from 10 am to 6 pm and Saturday the library is open from 9:30 to 12.
The library is equipped with a lift chair to accommodate the handicap. Access to the lift is through the handicap entrance at the back of library to the basement.
The basement also has a meeting room with a kitchenette that groups or individuals may rent out. There is also a Genealogy room in the basement. The library has an extensive collection of genealogical materials including local family histories, cemetery records and other items of interest.
The library is on the top level with books for all ages including large print and books on tape. They also have DVD’s and videos for checkout. There is also access to computers for patrons to use as well.
The librarian conducts a weekly discussion group with senior residents at Clearview Estates assisted living in Mount Ayr. The librarian delivers books and newspaper to the Estates and to Clearview Homes, the attached nursing home.
The librarian also presents special programs at Mount Ayr Health Care Nursing home once every three months.
The librarians will select books for those who cannot get to the library.
For more information – stop by; call 641-464-2159 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
JAMIE’S COFFEE MILL & DELI
The history of the building goes back to the 1920’s when it was The Mount Ayr Mill & Feed Company started by Jesse Anderson & George Tenant. They began selling and grinding feed under their own private label MARCO (Mount Ayr Ringgold County). Max Anderson purchased the building in the 1950’s and remained in business until 1992. The building was purchased in 2006 by Keith & Jamie Miller, which had been unoccupied for several years.
Jamie’s Coffee Mill & Deli has a variety of gift shop items to choose from; filling three rooms! People have said it to be a “mini Cracker Barrel”….you can shop while you wait for your food or coffee. If you need a coffee, there are a wide variety of flavors for a Latte’, Frappe’ or good gourmet black coffee. Fruit Smoothies are always a great choice also. All food items (sandwiches, wraps, panini’s & salads) are made fresh to order.
Jamie Miller states “When I started this business, I never dreamed I would be as busy as I have been. I am thankful for the community and its support, and hope for many more years here.”
Astronaut Peggy Whitson
Iowa native and astronaut Peggy Whitson grew up on a farm near Beaconsfield in Ringgold County and graduated from Mount Ayr High School in 1978. In 2017, Peggy wrapped up a record-breaking mission aboard the International Space Station.
Whitson has spent more time living and working in space than any other American or any woman worldwide. She has a total of 665 days over three different missions aboard the International Space Station. Her third and most recent mission ended in September 2017 after spending more time (288 days) in orbit during a single spaceflight than any other female astronaut.
During her career, she has also broken a number of other records. She is the first woman to command the space station twice. She has completed 10 spacewalks, more than any other woman in the world. She has logged 60 hours and 21 minutes walking in space, more than any other woman in the world. She was the first woman to serve as Chief of the Astronaut Corps.
Aboard the space station, Whitson performed numerous assembly and maintenance projects as well as conducted hundreds of biology, biotechnology, physical science and earth science experiments.