The preservation of hundreds of historic homes in western Iowa has largely been left to amateurs and volunteers, but the National Park Service is now getting involved in protecting one historic site in Mills County.
“The Davis Oriole Earthlodge Site” near Pacific Junction was declared a National Historic Landmark last month. It was discovered in the 1960s by “D.D.” Davis of Glenwood. Dennis Miller of Silver City knew Davis.
“Mr. Davis was a renowned hunter and collector,” Miller says. “He spent a lot of time on Pony Creek.”
The site used to be in a pasture, but that farm ground is now part of Pony Creek Park and the “earthlodge” that was built a thousand years ago is hidden under several feet of soil. Miller says there are hundreds of similar “earthlodges” in western Iowa which were home to Native Americans between the years of 900 and 1300.
“I’ve discovered quite a few over the years,” he says. “There’s a lot of them right around the Glenwood area, mostly north and west of Glenwood on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River flood plain and along Pony Creek.”
According to Miller, “hundreds” of earthlodges have been recorded in the Loess Hills.
“Quite a few of them excavated, some by the state, (some) by the Smithsonian,” Miller says. “In years past a lot of amateurs excavated sites. Most of the amateurs were like D.D. Davis or Paul Rowe…They didn’t sell the material. They just liked to collect it.”
Miller says it’s good to have National Park Service involved in coming up with a protection plan for the historic “earthlodge” that earned Historic Landmark status in October.
“There’s hundreds of them been found, but a lot of them have been excated (or) destroyed by roads and farming, so there’s very few intact sites left,” Miller says.
The intact “earthlodge” near Pacific Junction that’s now a National Historic Landmark sits under a few feet of soil right now. “D.D.” Davis — the man who discovered that “earthlodge” — helped construct an above-ground replica in Glenwood several years ago. It was recently rebuilt and remains on display across the street from the Mills County Museum.