Towns Along the Trail
French and Spanish explorers and traders were in Council Bluffs for almost a century before the Lewis and Clark expedition stayed five days at White Catfish Camp, known today as Long's Landing. Lewis and Clark later met with Missouri Indians and Otoe Indians 10 miles north of Omaha. This historic council in the bluffs provided the model for future meetings with Indians and the name of our city. The history of Council Bluffs glitters with a parade of famous western explorers, fur traders, military figures, engineers, and great Indian nations. Abraham Lincoln had the foresight to realize Council Bluffs should be the eastern terminus of the transcontinental railroad. Known as the Gateway of the American West, Council Bluffs has a proud and rich history. Today, Council Bluffs' businesses make a national and international impact. Local industry includes frozen foods, robotics, dairy products, plastics, railroading, electrical products, and pork and beef packaging, among many other industries. Recent changes in state law allowed gambling expansion, boosting the local economy and providing hundreds of new jobs. Council Bluffs is the Pottawattamie County Seat and has a current population of roughly 61,000. Connected to the Omaha metro area, you’re only a short distance away from the acclaimed Henry Doorly Zoo, Eppley Airfield, TD Ameritrade Park (Home of the Men’s NCAA College World Series), and much, much more.
Mineola is an unincorporated village in Mills County with a population around 160. This community on the highlands east of Keg Creek was first established as Lewis City during construction of the Wabash Railroad. The land had previously been owned by German immigrant freighter Louis Lanz and Germans long dominated the community. St. John's Lutheran Church was established in 1883 on the hill overlooking town. The original church closely mirrored the church at Giekau in Schleswig-Holstein from where many settlers had originated. During the early 20th century Mineola had grown into an important local shipping point with an opera house, hotel, the Mills County German Bank, and other associated businesses. The present Mineola Community Center began as Joe Deitchler's pool hall in 1916 and was converted into the Palisades Ballroom in 1934 by Roy Wasserman. The Palisades featured a variety of famous performers, including the Lloyd Hunter Orchestra of North Omaha, Nebraska, and Lawrence Welk, along with movies, bingo, and school programs with a saloon and lunchroom in front. A branch of the Glenwood State Bank still operates here, as does the Mineola Steakhouse. In recent years the village has become a bedroom community of Omaha in what is still a largely rural area. Mineola is the first major stop on the Wabash Trace southeast of Council Bluffs, and current home of the infamous “Thursday Night Taco Ride”.
Silver City is another Mills County town with a population of roughly 245. The town had its start in the year 1879 by the building of the Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railway (which would later become the Wabash Trace). Silver City was named for Silver Creek, which runs along the east side of town. Downtown features a small park with a gazebo, a library, fire department, bar & restaurant called “The Hood”, and a restored service station with memorabilia. Happy Trails Cycle is located trailside and offers minor bike repairs, tubes, refreshments and more! They also put daily trail condition updates on their Facebook Page! Silver City was the original destination for the Taco Ride nearly 20 years ago, but it was changed to Mineola due to a business closure at the time.
The town of Malvern was founded in the year 1869, originally as Milton. It was later renamed after it was discovered that another Milton, Iowa existed. The completion of the railroad soon brought a flood of new residents and business enterprises and Malvern grew almost explosively in its first two years. In its fifth year, Malvern reported a population of 800. It served a particularly productive farming area and soon had a number of factories, including a hog packing plant, an electric generation plant (in 1892) which permitted a municipal water system, and in the early part of the twentieth century, developed a varied poultry industry that at one time furnished employment for up to 200 persons. Malvern started a school system in 1870, a county fair in 1873 (although not the county seat), a Chautauqua in 1905, built the town library in 1916 and the present Liberty Memorial Community Building in 1926. Today Malvern is a rural community with much to offer. Population in Mills County is growing at one of the top ten rates across the state of Iowa. Malvern, Iowa is situated just 38 miles southeast of Omaha. In the most recent census, Malvern had a population of 1,142. Malvern boasts a revitalized downtown, with two of the original main street buildings undergoing major renovations, an art gallery, the Art Church, a bakery, grocery store, bar, cafe & ice cream shop, and the Classic Cafe -featuring a full service restaurant, bar, coffee shop, and catering. There is a city pool, library, and 9-hole golf course. Malvern has overnight accommodations in the renovated basement of the Art Church or at Pierce Crossing Guest House, in addition to camping at Boehner Park and the newly-remodeled bunkhouse in the Depot at the Trailhead. The Wabash Trace Nature Trail Marathon begins in Malvern, now a certified qualifier for the Boston Marathon!
The western exodus of Irish and Germans from the Zwingle/Dubuque area of Iowa to “Little Ireland” in Monroe Township began in the 1870s. More settlers came with the railroad. Captain Anderson obtained township papers on November 6, 1879 for 160 acres owned by Edgar Faust and named the town after his daughter Imogene. Imogene wasn’t actually incorporated until February 18, 1881. By 1890, the population was at 400. When 1900 dawned, several blocks of businesses made Imogene a vibrant community. Town fires, the desire to continue pioneering west, the lack of a town water supply & sewer system, economic downturns, and smaller families have all caused Imogene to decline to a current population around 45. Despite a smaller town population, the greater community of Imogene is experiencing a revitalization, with city-wide clean-up and preservation efforts, Historic St. Patrick Church, Imogene Ballfield Complex, King’s Cottage, Heartland Co-op, Wabash Trace Trailhead campground, and the Emerald Isle restaurant & bar.
Shenandoah was incorporated in 1871, on the very western edge of Page County. Dubbed ‘the city with energy’…..a beautiful garden city with renewable fuels production and plenty to energize the spirit….recreation, shopping, dining and more. Shenandoah is a progressive bustling community full of entrepreneurs, industry, opportunity, gardens, art, and friendly people. Its unique shops and restaurants have made it the retail hub of southwest Iowa. Under current renovation downtown is the Iowa Walk of Fame. The Walk of Fame highlights over 120 famous Iowans from around the state on sidewalk tiles. Stop by the Chamber office at 710 W. Sheridan Ave. for a guide book filled with biographies of each famous Iowan. You can also tour the Shenandoah Historical Museum, Wabash Arts Camp Murals, Park Gardens planted by the Home & Garden Club, and the Everly Brothers childhood home. Residents of Shenandoah are proud of these local attractions and hope visitors take time to visit and enjoy! We have two hotels on the west side of town, as well as the new Shenandoah Inn & Suites right in the heart of downtown. Shenandoah's growing population of over 5,500 is small enough to escape the hassles of the big cities, yet close enough to metropolitan areas and airports for convenience. In the past it's been the home of the famous singing Everly Brothers and Blackwood Brothers, and nursery giants like Earl May, Henry Field and many more.
Like many of the other railroad towns, Coin was founded in 1879. It has a present population of around 190. Businesses in town include the local co-op, insurance agency, post office, and guest house. Unfortunately the bar & restaurant in town is currently closed, so pack along drinks and snacks you might need for the southern end of the trail. The City Park at the Wabash Trace Trailhead features restrooms and showers for campers. Contact Coin City Hall for entry. Rural Coin is also home to the Vineyard for Wabash Wine Company of Shenandoah.
Blanchard is “The End of the Trail” as it exists, stopping right at the Missouri border. The population in Blanchard is around 35. While there have been cafes in the past, currently Blanchard still has its Post Office, but no retail or convenience stores, so pack in any drinks or snacks. There is a nice shaded area with picnic tables to rest before heading back north! At one point there was an effort to extend the trail into Missouri and connect to Maryville. Unfortunately, after the reversion of the railroad right-of-way to the adjacent landowners that became a nearly impossible task. While portions could have been secured, there wouldn’t have been complete connectivity. This is where the importance of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation is very clear – without their assistance in acquiring and railbanking the Iowa portion the Wabash Trace would not exist today.