Wednesday, June 7, 2023

East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour

One of our family's favorite ways to explore the state of Iowa is by visiting the different county Iowa Freedom Rocks. All 99 counties in the state have a uniquely painted mural, showcasing local heroes and stories honoring area veterans painted by Iowa artist Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II. Here is a look at all of the county Freedom Rocks located in Eastern Iowa.

East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour

Iowa County Freedom Rock, 1498 County Ave., Marengo, Iowa


East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Iowa County, Marengo

Located in the Gateway Park & Preserve in Marengo, Iowa, the Iowa County Freedom Rock is underneath a nice pavilion with signs sharing the stories of all the veterans featured on the rock. There is also a nice memorial with flags next to the rock.

This side of the rock seen above shares the images of Eugene Ely, who was an aviation pioneer born in Williamsburg, Iowa, who was credited with the first shipboard aircraft take-off and landing, as well as Dr. Burns Byram, who was a family doctor in Marengo, who would fly his restored military plane named "Tangerine" to let folks know he was in town and ready to see patients. Both of these men passed away doing what they loved, flying.

The rock also features a mural of a military funeral and images of Marine, Brad Kasal, who received the Navy Cross for his heroic actions in Iraq. He was in a firefight in Operation Phantom Fury where he was shot seven times and took 43 pieces of shrapnel from a grenade. Although injured himself, Kasal shouted encouragement and directions as his unit cleared an insurgent-infested structure. He was honored for his leadership, wise judgement and complete dedication to his duty.

East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Iowa County, Marengo

Washington County Freedom Rock, 206 E Fountain St., Brighton, Iowa


East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Washington County, Brighton

Located at the intersection of Hwy 1 and Hwy 78 in Brighton, the Washington County Freedom Rock showcases the county's namesake on the front side, as well as local veterans Craig Rich, who served in the Vietnam War, and Timothy Brown & Samuel Lewis, who served in the Revolutionary War, on the sides of the rock.

On the back side of the rock, a recreation of Des Moines Register cartoonist Ding Darling's Teddy Roosevelt cartoon is painted. Darling received two Pulitzer Prizes and was an important figure in the conservation movement and has a lake/recreation state park near Brighton named for him.

East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Washington County, Brighton

Johnson County Freedom Rock, 122 N Chabal St., Solon, Iowa


East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Johnson County, Solon

The Johnson County Freedom Rock had lots of interesting stories painted on it. Johnson County is named for former Colonel, Congressman, Senator and Vice President Richard Johnson. During the War of 1812 Johnson recruited volunteers and is most know for the Battle of Thames and killing Indian Chief Tecumseh.

The rock also shares the story of Lester and Paul Pavel, brothers from Solon, who both join the Army and were trained as bomber pilots in WWII. Paul was on a training mission in May 1943 when his plane disappeared and in 1944 in support of D-Day Lester's B-24 collided with another B-24 over the English Channel. Both brothers lost their lives and are memorialized on the Freedom Rock.

There is also a painting of the USS Gambier Bay that was sunk by enemy gunfire during WWII. A survivor of its sinking still resides in Johnson County. And a painting of mortar men represent another veteran still residing in the area, who shared their story of firing mortars (bombs). Our family also loved the illustration of the Tomb of the Unknown solider.

East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Johnson County, Solon

Muscatine County Freedom Rock, 210 N Railroad St., Wilton, Iowa


East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Muscatine County, Wilton

The Muscatine County Freedom Rock is located in Downtown Wilton next to the Historical Site of the Rock Island Railroad Depot.

Murals on the rock include a few local veterans including Rear Adm. Will Pennington who is a native of Wilton. He graduated from the US Naval Academy and has received numerous awards as commanding officer of USS George H.W. Bush. Also, Arthur James Latchaw who was the nose gunner on a B-24 "Liberator" bomber when he was shot down over Hungary and was a POW at Mossberg, near Munich. And Rolland J Claussen who received the Silver Star in action against Japanese forces on Iwo Jima. There is also a painting on the skinny side of the rock of poppies, which are the enduring symbol of remembrance of WWI.

East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Muscatine County, Wilton

Our family recommends to come hungry when you stop in Wilton. Check out Arty's Ice Cream & Grill for a burger and ice cream, or the Wilton Candy Kitchen for ice cream while you are in town!

Cedar County Freedom Rock, 400 Cedar St., Tipton, Iowa


East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Cedar County, Tipton

The Cedar County Freedom Rock is located in Tipton, Iowa in front of the Cedar County Courthouse and includes a painting of the 31st President of the United States from 1929 to 1933, West Branch, Iowa native, Herbert Hoover. On the other side is a mural is an image of a Honor Guard leading the way of a parade through a small town. The members of the Honor Guard feature Veterans across generations and represent Cedar County residents, including Civil War Medal of Honor recipient Pitt B Herington, WWI nurse Ella Marie Noring, WWII Marine Arthur Thompson, Sgt Aaron Sissel, SSG Donald Griffith and SPC David Behrle.

Another side of the rock shared about the John Brown Freedom Trail that came through Cedar County at William Maxon's house near Springdale, Iowa. This was a unique story that our family was unfamiliar with and learned that John Brown was an abolitionist who made several trips across Iowa to aid formerly enslaved people on their journey to freedom during the Bleeding Kansas conflicts.

East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Cedar County, Tipton

Linn County Freedom Rock, 201 Central City Rd., Central City, Iowa


East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Linn County, Central City

The Linn County Freedom Rock is located near the entrance of the Linn County Fairgrounds and was the final county Freedom Rock to be painted. A funny thing about the Linn County Freedom Rock is that our family visited this rock a couple times before it was painted, so we were very excited to check it out after its completion in the Fall of 2021.

Like the other Freedom Rocks it was interesting to learn about all of the local heroes painted on this rock. On the side seen above is Army Specialist Salvatore Augustine Giunta who is the first living person since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor for his courage, selflessness and leadership in Afghanistan to defeat an enemy ambush and recover a fellow American soldier from the enemy. Next to Giunta is Naval Aviator Bob Naughton of Cedar Rapids. He served during the Vietnam War was taken as a POW for 2,118 days after being forced to eject over North Vietnam. He received the Silver Star for his determination, courage, resourcefulness and devotion to duty.

On the other side of the rock in Mancil Root and Charles A Clark. Root was one of the youngest soldiers in the Union Army on record and enlisted as a drummer boy at the age of 11. Clark served in the Marine Infantry from 1841 to 1864 and was a Medal of Honor recipient for his leadership. Both men called Linn County home following their service.

On the end of the rock is a painting of Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr. was who a brigadier general in the US Air Force. He flew the B-29 Superfortres, the Enola Gay (name after his mother), when it dropped Little Boy, the first of two atomic bombs on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. You can also see on this side a little bear in a military uniform that pays tribute to Nich Aberle was lost his life in a car accident in 2013. His parents Bert and Dawn take this little bear on adventures, including visiting the different Freedom Rocks.

East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Linn County, Central City

Jones County Freedom Rock, 12819 Stone City Rd X28, Anamosa, Iowa (Stone City)


East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Jones County, Stone City

The Jones County Freedom Rock is located in Stone City, Iowa and has been one of the largest rocks we have seen yet. On the side you walk up to you'll learn about The Dillon Furrow Military Road (Highway 1). Lyman Dillon used a team of 10 oxen and a large plow to furrow a 86 mile path to create a Military Road in 1839. You'll also learn more about Linn County native, artist Grant Wood's background as a WWI US Army Veteran as a camouflage designer and painter.

The other side of the rock shows a folded flag with a prisoner of war hand reaching up to escape the barbed wire, representing all those POW and MIA. The people around the flag portray someone with a Jones County connection and represent someone from every war since the Revolutionary War. The Jones County Freedom Rock has excellent signage to tell you the stories of: Israel Fisher (Revolutionary War), Alexander Crawford Jr. (War of 1812), Col. William T. Shaw (Mexican-American War and Civil War), Arthur McCullough (WWI), Pauline A Quigley (WWI), Gale Edwards (WWII), Charles Edward Ricklefs (Korean War), William Edward Rees (Vietnam War), Beck Dirks-Haugsted (Desert Shield/Storm), Craig Amundson (9/11) and Terryl Pasker (Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan). Our whole family thought this rock was quite impressive with its size and stories told.

East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Jones County, Stone City

Dubuque County Freedom Rock, 191 Jacoby Dr. E, Epworth, Iowa


East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Dubuque County, Epworth

The Dubuque County Freedom Rock is located just off of Hwy 20 in Epworth, Iowa in front of their fire station and city hall. The front side of the rock features the Governor's Greys "G G", which was a group of Dubuque citizens who formed the first military company in the US pledged to the service of the nation at the start of the Civil War. On the side of the rock is a mural remembering Dubuque County Missing in Action servicemen.

On the side facing the city hall, is the story of several Dubuque County veterans. Roman Catholic Chaplin Lt. Aloysius Schmitt was aboard the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Schmitt helped men to escape through a small escape hatch until it sank, killing him and 447 other crew members. US Army Combat Engineer Rich Billmeyer was wounded by an IED in Afghanistan and his image honors all those injured in service. Our family really enjoyed learning about Army Nurse Maj. Genevieve Smith. She served as Chief Army Nurse in Normandy in WWII and continued to serve for over 20 years. Then in 1950 she accepted a position to serve in Korea. While in flight to Korea her plane crashed, killing all on board besides one survivor. Vietnam Veteran Bob Klusner was a machine gunner and during a firefight his machine gun jammed and he had his hand shot. The Vietnamese then shot him in the back of the head, rolled him over and shot him in the chest to confirm the kill. After being placed on a pile of bodies, Kluesner moaned loud enough to be discovered and rushed to a hospital. He survived and returned home to Iowa. He received four purple hearts for his service.

East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Dubuque County, Epworth

Jackson County Freedom Rock, 203 N Riverview Dr., Bellevue, Iowa


East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Jackson County, Bellevue

Sitting alongside the Mississippi River and Lock and Dam No. 12, the Jackson County Freedom Rock, shares the history of the area and local veterans. On the street side of the rock seen above is a mural representing Civil War soldiers boarding the riverboat the "Henderson" which left Bellevue to serve.

On the river side of the rock is a painting of a military caisson with a flag draped coffin and each branch of the military represented.

East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Jackson County, Bellevue

Clinton County Freedom Rock, near 303 Riverview Dr., Clinton, Iowa


East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Clinton County, Clinton

The Clinton County Freedom Rock is located along the Mississippi River and next to the Clinton River Walk/Path. On the side of the rock facing the road are the stories of several Clinton County Veterans starting with Henry Langrehr. He was one of 6,000 who parachuted into France on the morning of June 6, 1944 (D-Day). He survived the jump, spent months of fighting, was wounded twice and escaped from a Nazi prison camp. Below Langrehr is Brigadier General Russel W Volckmann. He was called "The Father of Special Forces" and spent three years behind Japanese enemy lines working with Pilipino Soldiers using Guerrilla tactics. Three astronauts with Clinton County connections are also recognized on the rock, George Nelson, David Hilmers and Dale Gardner.

Two Medal of Honor recipients are honored on the river side of the rock, Private William B. Mayes and SSG Salvatore Giunta. Mayes was a member of Company K, 11th Iowa Infantry. He rescued a wounded comrade and carried him to safety during a fierce enemy fire during the Civil War. Giunta received his Medal of Honor for administering medical aid to his squad leader and rescuing a wounded soldier from two insurgents carrying him away in Afghanistan. His courage, selflessness and leadership helped his platoon's ability to defeat an enemy ambush and recover a fellow American soldier from the enemy.

East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Clinton County, Clinton

Scott County Freedom Rock, 100 Front St., Le Claire, Iowa


East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Scott County, Le Claire

The final East Central Iowa County Freedom Rock also sits along the Mississippi River in Le Claire, Iowa. The backside of the rock seen above shows two Scott County native Medal of Honor Recipients, Buffalo Bill Cody and John Baker Jr. Buffalo Bill is one of Le Claire's most famous natives and is known for many things. He received the Medal of Honor for his role as a US Army Guide during the Indian campaigns. Baker received his Medal of Honor for his service for rescuing several soldiers while continually returning to enemy fire during the Vietnam War. The front side of the rock recognizes all our service men and women including police, fire and EMS.

On the river side of the rock is a painting of a folded flag and the Gold Star. A really special part of this is that the ashes of US Army Staff Sgt Nathan Cox are painted onto the rock. Cox died September 20, 2008 in Afghanistan after his vehicle was struck by an IED.

East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Scott County, Le Claire

Visiting these Freedom Rock, along with others across the state is a great way to teach your children about the price of freedom, learn Iowa history and explore the state of Iowa. We love how each rock has a local connection and you can see the thought and time put into each design. It is also nice that most rocks are in towns off the beaten path and help you visit somewhere new. For a complete guide to all of the county Freedom Rock, check out this checklist. You can also check out our pictorial directory of all of the North Central Iowa Freedom Rocks, Central Iowa Freedom Rocks and learn more about our home county, Franklin County's Freedom Rock on the blog.

Have you seen any of the Iowa Freedom Rocks? Which one do you recommend we road trip to next?

5 comments:

  1. Wonderful description of the freedom rocks. Very interesting!

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    1. Thank you. We love it when the Freedom Rock "parks" include historical information but for those that don't, we do some "googling" to find out more about the stories shared on the rock.

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  2. The East Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour offers a unique opportunity to explore the rich history and patriotic artwork displayed on large boulders, honoring veterans and American values throughout the region. It's a moving and educational journey that celebrates the sacrifices and values that make our nation strong. ||Mercer County trespassing attorney




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