When a Place Provides a Link to the Past

When my husband’s grandma died last march, she left behind a houseful of worldly goods for her daughter to sort through. The long process of declaring “keep,” “throw,” or “donate” turned up many an artifact from days gone by. In recent posts, I’ve been sharing a few items I found useful for historical research.

Today I’m sharing two more photos from Great-Grandma’s collection. I don’t know the people in the pictures, but they interest me all the same. Judging from the length of the dresses, these pictures probably date back to the 1920’s. This family is on an outing, posing for the camera with points of local interest as their background. I wondered if I could figure out where the pictures were taken by examining the monuments.

With the help of a magnifying glass, I learned that the statue of the man on the horse is inscribed “Corse” on one side and “Allatoona” on another. When I Googled those words, I found Civil War General John M. Corse, best known for his heroic leadership at the Battle of Allatoona Pass, Georgia, where he stubbornly held the Union position until General Sherman arrived. Corse grew up in Burlington, Iowa, where his father served six terms as mayor. The Corse equestrian statue still stands in Burlington’s Crapo Park.

Since the first picture was taken at the park, I assumed the second was, too. I confirmed this by searching Crapo Park images online until I found a vintage post card of the Civil War cannon the ladies are sitting on. The cannon overlooked the Mississippi River, which you can see in the background.

1920’s Post Card of Crapo Park. Cannon is at lower left.

The Civil War cannon no longer stands in the park. According to the website IowaCivilWarMonuments.com, the cannon was most likely melted down for scrap during World War II.

Betsy on the Cascade Bridge

My interest in these pictures became much more personal when I learned where they were taken. When my husband and I lived in Burlington in the 1990’s, our home was close to Crapo Park. We biked and walked there, and I ice skated on Lake Starker in the winter.

A few years ago I drove through the park with my daughter Betsy on our way to explore Iowa’s Great River Road. I took this picture of her on the Cascade Bridge, a green metal structure at the park entrance. Can you see the Mississippi River in the distance?

To recap, nearly a century ago three women posed for pictures at Crapo Park. I now hold the memento of their holiday in my hands, connected to them by the common memory of a special place.

For more about Burlington, Iowa, see my post, Burlington and Denmark: Road Trip 2015


  1. The pictures of Crapo were immediately familiar to me. David and I have taken out our 1979 MGB to drive through Crapo Park on warm summer nights. It is a little outing on these days of “staying home”.

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