Surprising Connections: Travelers Dee and Lee Anderson Make Historical Connection While Visiting Muscatine
by Margaret Hurlbert
October 17, 2019

In April of this year, Dee and Lee Anderson, retired and started making plans to sail the length of the Mighty Mississippi. Boaters since the 1980s, the couple arranged to travel down the river starting from their home port near Lake City, Minnesota, on their Lord Nelson Victory Tug, the Jack Robert (which they named for their fathers).

As the Andersons traveled down the river, they learned that Lock and Dam Seventeen had closed on October 13th due to flooding. Looking for a place to stay while they waited for the water to recede, they discovered the Muscatine Marina and chose to harbor there. Though not listed in their travel literature, they found the marina the perfect place to dock. “This is a great little Marina with great access to the waterfront,” stated Lee.

Since the two had plenty of time to explore Muscatine, the Andersons went into downtown to see some of the sights. Of particular interest, they visited the National Pearl Button Museum @ History and Industry Center, where Museum Director Terry Eagle gave them a guided tour.

While learning about the pearl button industry in Muscatine, the Andersons discovered a surprising connection to their hometown. Back in Lake City, the pair had seen the Lake Pepin Pearl Button Company (now an antique store with some historical displays). They assumed it had created buttons locally, but never investigated it. However, through their talk with Eagle, they learned that the factory actually harvested clams locally and cut out blanks, which they shipped down the river to Muscatine for finishing. Both Dee and Lee felt amazed to find this link with their home, as well as the larger history it contributed to. As Lee put it, “This town has a great history . . .. It’s as big as the gold rush!”

Along with diving into Muscatine’s history, the Andersons also had several chances to check on Muscatine’s restaurant scene. The two met Mike “Boonie” Kleist who treated them to dinner at his son’s new establishment, Skinny’s Barbeque, as well as drinks at Wine Nutz on their back porch, which Lee described as having a view worthy of a post card picture. Always looking to try something new, the Andersons have also gotten meals from Boonie’s itself, as well as Elly’s Tea and Coffee and Mamma Mia, an Italian restaurant.

Though the Anderson’s never dreamed of stopping in Muscatine, their unexpected trip has proved a truly enjoyable outing for them. “This is a wonderful town,” said Dee. “The . . . people are so welcoming and anxious to help.”

While their visit came to an end at the end of last week when the flood waters receded, the Andersons will never forget their stop in Muscatine. As they continue down the river, they look forward to running into more new discoveries.

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