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Explore Iowa’s Civil War Heroes in Hopkinton
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Explore Iowa’s Civil War Heroes in Hopkinton

We once traveled the Delaware Crossing Scenic Byway from Backbone State Park. The scenic route winds through 36 miles of pretty countryside in the southern part of Delaware County. The landscape varies from rugged timberland in the Maquoketa River Valley, to rolling farmland.

Wild Chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace blooming along the roadside added to the beauty of the drive. There were several Amish farms and stores along the way, and through the trees, we caught a glimpse of what had been Lake Delhi before the 2010 flood breached its dam on the Maquoketa River. We were glad to hear plans are under way to rebuild the dam and restore the lake.

We headed to Hopkinton, where we discovered now closed Lenox College, established in 1859 and the first Presbyterian college in Iowa.

After the campus closed, the Delaware County Historical Society took it over and turned it into a museum. Hats off to those folks—running and maintaining a 10-building museum is quite an undertaking. It’s crammed with interesting memorabilia. For instance, in “Old Main,” there’s a display of old-time medical, dental and pharmaceutical items donated by area residents that made us glad we weren’t sick in the “good old days.” The cures seemed worse than the disease!

In another hall was an exhibit of the life of Mary Edwards Walker, the only woman to ever receive the military’s Medal of Honor. (Now that would make a great trivia question!)

Born in 1832, Mary was an early American feminist, abolitionist, prohibitionist, as well as a surgeon, Union spy and prisoner of war in the Civil War. She was strong-willed and intelligent—and was kicked out of Lenox College in 1860 after refusing to quit the college’s all-male debate team.

During the Civil War, she served as a volunteer field surgeon near the Union front lines at such bloody battles as Bull Run, Fredericksburg and Chickamauga. She was captured by the Confederate Army, accused of spying and imprisoned.

That’s not Lenox College’s only connection to the Civil War. In 1864, when President Lincoln put out a call for 100,000 "Hundred days men” to serve in the Union Army, 92 students and the college president enlisted, forming what became known as the “Schoolboy Company.”

All but two of the college’s male students volunteered—one was not physically able to fight and one was too young.

Twenty-seven of those volunteers, including the college president, never returned. They either dyed in battle or from disease. A memorial was erected in their honor in the middle of the campus.

This content previously appeared in the popular “Road Trip” series in Our Iowa Magazine. Learn more about the publication at

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  1. Travel Iowa
    Travel Iowa
    Really fascinating stuff! We're so glad to know about the rich life of Mary Edwards Walker and this special place! Thanks for contributing to Travel Iowa.
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