More than 400 people took advantage of the warm and blustery Sunday afternoon weather to tour the newly restored and reopened Dayton House historical stagecoach inn near Bouton.
“I counted 90 cars at one point,” said Mike Wallace, director of the Dallas County Conservation Board. Wallace helped visitors park their vehicles, and he said turnover in the lot was steady. He estimated about 200 cars came and went over the course of the event.
As part of the grand reopening, the Phoenix Irregular Guard, a troupe of historical reenactors, staged two short dramas for visitors. Dressed in period costumes, the actors played “Lawyer’s Lament,” concerning the shotgun marriage of a shyster lawyer and land grabber, and “Wells Fargo Gold,” showing the perennial greed at the heart of settler morals.
The Phoenix Irregular Guard are part of the National Congress of Old West Shootists and included Leonard Abels, Baverly Abels, Leonard “Runner” Hudson, Kathy Hudson, Lyle Greiner, Kevin Daniels, Craig Wagner abnd Lena Cox.
Theresa Burns and Harley Weyer of Perry hitched up their two Belgian draft horses, Charlie and Tom — “They both answer to Charlie,” Weyer said — and gave visitors rides in a reproduction covered wagon, built to the same scale as the wagons used by homesteaders who settled Iowa or crossed the continent on the Oregon trail.
Theresa Burns is also an active member of several dressage groups in Iowa and around the Midwest and has won contests in driving traps, phaetons, four-in-hands and other horse-drawn vehicles.
Tours of the Dayton House and its rolling grounds were led by knowledgeable local historians, but the crowd soon grew so large that most of the touring became self-guided.
Sherry James, Dallas County Conservation Board administrative assistant, served hundreds of cookies and gallons of punch to visitors an even had to run to town to fetch more provisions.
The Dayton House sits on approximately 10 acres of land that includes 150-year-old oaks and some limited access to Beaver Creek. Peter Malmberg, curator of the Forest Park Museum and historical and cultural resources coordinator for Dallas County Conservation, recently landed a $14,000 grant for archaeological research at the Dayton House grounds.
The Iowa City-based Tallgrass Historians LC, a company specializing in historical research in the Midwest, will conduct light detection and ranging and shovel testing at the site. The company was chosen from among two applicants by the Dallas County Historical preservation Commission.
The Dayton House has a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, two bathrooms with ADA showers, two sitting rooms, three bedrooms accommodating as many as nine people, an outdoor deck, picnic table and fire ring.
The historically significant house will be available for public rental from May to October and in April and November when conditions permit.