Last October while we were in the Dubuque area, we stopped at the Mines of Spain State Recreation Area and E.B. Lyons Nature Center. The nature center was a sort of small museum with a gift shop and a conference room. A field trip for an elementary school class seemed to be in progress; there were a lot of children.
We started our hike on the very short Pine Chapel Trail. The roof of the chapel was being fixed, and a local historian happened to be there. She told us about the chapel, built in the 1860s by Otto Junkermann to resemble a church he remembered in Germany. It seems this chapel, though, was never really used as a church.
It served as a meeting place for social gatherings and business and political meetings, and also as a trading post between the Native Americans and settlers. During the Prohibition, the chapel was used as a grainery to supply grain for an illegal still. Later, a hiking club used it as a meeting place.
A bench and water pump mark the spot where the old Junkermann homestead stood. Elsewhere on our hike, we saw the foundation for a greenhouse (above right).
We decided to take the Mesquakie, Calcite, and Julien Dubuque trails up to the Dubuque Monument. We didn't have a huge amount of time on our hands, and to the monument and back was approximately a 5K. So...we decided we might as well get our run in for the day.
And--what a run it was! Part of the trail was grassy, but most of it was dirt. There were plenty of roots protruding (tripping hazards), and there were many stairs. I loved it, but I wouldn't recommend it for anyone not used to trail running--or afraid of falling.
We went up these stairs to get to the monument and see the Mississippi. The Julien Dubuque monument is a huge gravestone of sorts, built around Dubuque's grave. Dubuque, a French Canadian, was one of the first Europeans known to have settled in Iowa. He received permission to mine lead in the area from the Mesquakie Indians in 1788. The Spanish government subsequently gave him their approval as well in 1796 with a land grant, and he named the area the Mines of Spain in honor of the governor.
A contemporary, Mr. Soulard, described Dubuque as, "a man below the usual stature, of black hair and eyes, wiry and well-built, capable of great endurance, and remarkably courteous and polite, with all the suavity and grace of a typical Frenchman. To the ladies he was always the essence of politeness."
Dubuque earned about $20,000 annually through his lead mines, and also had income from fur trading and farming. However, Dubuque still had debt problems. He was very generous and supported friends who worked in his mines. He also enjoyed an expensive lifestyle compared with others who lived on the frontier at that time.
Julien Dubuque was a friend of Peosta, a Mesquakie chief, whose grave is near Dubuque's. Dubuque is said to have married Potosa, the chief's daughter. In 1810, when Dubuque died, the Mesquakie buried him with tribal honors under a wood and stone mausoleum.
Eventually, souvenir hunters took the cross French friends left over the grave. There were rumors vandals had broken into the grave, and there was evidence that vandals had tried. After years of effort to arose interest in building a monument around Dubuque's grave, the Julien Dubuque Monument Association was organized in 1896.
Upon excavation, the bones of Julien Dubuque, Potosa, Chief Poesta, Chief Rolling Cloud, and Gray Eagle were found.
Dubuque and Chief Poesta had been such good friends that when the Poesta died, he was buried in the same mound as Dubuque. According to Richard Herrmann, the Mesquakie, "wishing to put the two as close together in death as they had been in life" unearthed Dubuque's skull and buried it right beside Poesta's with a peace pipe between them.
The current monument was built of limestone, and in 1897, Julien Dubuque was again laid to rest.
I thought it incredibly strange to see what appeared to be the ashes of Penelope K. Shaw (1940-2016) in front of the monument! I assume (hope) someone has buried (or scattered) her ashes by now. But there were no mourners anywhere in sight.
At first glance, I thought, "I sure hope no one steals this." But then one of my family members asked me, "Who would want to steal ashes?" Good question.
I'm sure there's a reason and a story behind this all. Maybe her dying request was to spend a few months near he Mississippi at Dubuque's grave. Who knows? In any case, I'd like to hear the story.
Looking out over the Mississippi, we could see speedboats and admire the view of Dubuque. Most prominently featured on the horizon were the Dubuque Courthouse and the spires of St. Mary's.
The Twilight, which claims to the most elegant riverboat launched in the past 100 years, happened to make its way down the river while we were watching.
Tickets are $399 for a two-day cruise, $159 for one day, or only $16 for 90 minutes. The Twilight reminded me of the ships and boats regularly sighted and posted by John's Island in Seattle (be sure to check out his blog).
On our way back to the nature center, we saw a lead mine. It was surrounded by a fence and a sign told its story. Apparently Native Americans were already mining lead when the first Europeans arrived. Dubuque's mines, however, were the first "truly organized" mining, smelting, and marketing operation. Many of the Mesquakies worked for him.
The Mines of Spain Recreation Area is beautiful. There are several other trails we didn't have the time to hike/run. My impression was that a person could spend a week covering all the trails in the area.
I very much enjoyed my visit to the Mines of Spain and would recommend it to anyone looking for a great place to hike.