Edgewood Merchants, Boy Scouts Pitch In For Annual Project
By Ruth Wilson T-H State Editor
(printed in Dubuque Telegraph Herald Sunday, June 24, 1951)
Edgewood, Ia. — The crew dumping rocks into a huge washout along the road didn’t look much like Main street business and professional men, but a quick check showed that’s who they were.
It was the annual cleanup day Tuesday at Bixby state park, two miles north of Edgewood, and members of the Commercial club and Boy Scouts were hard at work on road repairs, part of the sprucing up scheduled for the park this year.
LaVerne Gremmels, who served as road chairman, explained that heavy rains had washed out sections of the bank and retaining wall along Bear creek. The wall was to be rebuilt where necessary and the holes filled in. Gremmels said the state this year had appropriated $400 for improvements in the park—the largest sum given for the work in several years.
Most of it was to be used for cement hauled from Manchester for the wall and road work, and to pay for use of a bulldozer which was to dig a ditch along the Bluff side of the road to prevent future washouts.
The Edgewood businessmen and Boy Scouts cleared away brush along the bluff side so the ditching could be accomplished.
Picnic tables were to be painted, the grass mowed, weeds cut and dead wood picked up in the general cleanup operation. Another major project was a bridge across Bear creek to replace one which had collapsed in disrepair.
Between 35 and 40 men and Boy Scouts worked in the park this year. It wasn’t all work, though. There was plenty of good-natured kidding when most of them took a breather for the lunch the woman’s club furnished.
It was the fourth year the Commercial club had taken a day off from business to clean up the state park, according to Dr. T. W. Lichter, who has worked on the project each year.
By the second year the Garden club became interested in-the plan and served lunch for the workers. The last two years the Woman’s club has taken over this job.
For several years before the Commercial club took on the annual cleanup the park had just managed to get by. Boy Scouts ^ bad helped with minor repairs S each year, but little major work bad been done since the ’30s when j the WPA assisted in improvements. , The area, which was made a c state park in the 1920s, was originally part of three tracts of land belonging to R. J. Bixby, an Edgewood pharmacist and member of the state legislature. He bought the land in 1887 and 1888 for use as a summer home and camping area. After a road was put through the land, tourists and campers were attracted to the spot by the beautiful scenery and the natural ice cave. In August 1896, persons from 10 states gathered at a celebration to name the camping area. The Hon. B. W. Newberry suggested the name Bixby park, which has stuck ever since.
In 1897 Bixby built a replica of a pioneer log cabin in the park, and there the Bixbys camped during the summers. Bear creek was dammed up to form a boating area and swimming pool.
The park’s main tourist attraction, however—the natural ice cave—was discovered by accident. A Strawberry Point Civil war veteran had leased the right to mine lead in the park, and it was during his digging operations that the cave was found.
The mining proceeded comfortably in the winter, but during the summer it had to be suspended because of the intense cold in the tunnel. In winter, the cave is warm, but in summer the temperature never climbs above 26 degrees and a chilly cloud of vapor hangs over the entrance.
In 1920 E. W. Hoch, a former governor of Kansas, wrote of the park: “My lecture work has taken me into 35 states and I have seen many picturesque places, but few of them exceed in scenic beauty the natural wonders I saw in a two mile ride to and from Edgewood to the really remarkable freak of nature known as the ice cave.”