Town Sign Project: Webster County

I’m not going to go hard on history with Webster County. When I covered Hamilton County, I covered how notoriously awful the people of Webster County are. How they killed the poor town of Homer, Iowa in a vicious power grab and created two counties.

Webster County is the 5th county that I have completed in the project:

5 Counties - Town Signs Project

Now I just need to complete Dallas County and Polk County to finish off the counties that surround Boone County. I’m not looking forward to Polk County, cause it is mostly suburbs. Suburbs aren’t real towns. They are where rich people that like to pretend they live in a city move because they don’t want to be around poor people. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Here are the town signs of Webster County (Population from 2010 Census):

Fort Dodge, Iowa
Fort Dodge – 25,206

Gowrie, Iowa
Gowrie – 1,037

Dayton, Iowa
Dayton – 837

Stratford, Iowa
Stratford – 743

Badger, Iowa
Badger – 561

Otho, Iowa
Otho – 542

Lehigh, Iowa
Lehigh – 416

Duncombe, Iowa
Duncombe – 410

Callender, Iowa
Callender – 376

Farnhamville, Iowa #3 - East Side
Farnhamville – 371

Harcourt, Iowa
Harcourt – 303

Barnum, Iowa
Barnum – 191

Vincent, Iowa
Vincent – 174

Clare, Iowa
Clare – 146

The only town in Webster County that didn’t have a sign was Moorland. It only had one of those green and white DOT signs and I’m no longer documenting those. Moorland has a 2010 population of 169. There are two unincorporated towns in Webster County. Burnside and Lanyon. I did not check out either of those. Although I have been to Burnside before and when I was there, they only had the lame green and white DOT sign.

But what sign was my favorite sign from Webster County. Last week Shannon told me she likes to guess what my favorite sign is. I don’t think she’ll have a hard time guessing this week. So I’ll start with who has the worst sign. The worst signs are Barnum and Vincent.

I’ll give a shoutout to Badger. I had high hopes for them and they did deliver. Beaver, take note, this is what your sign should look like. I also really like the signs in Gowrie and Otho. It is a county of solid signs.

I’ll also give props to the people of Duncombe for putting their sign on top of an old garage door. At least I’m pretty sure that is what going on there. I almost missed their town sign and went with a pretty sweet mural they have in their town:

Duncombe, Iowa - Town Sign Alternate

I would love to know what the squiggly line going across the state of Iowa is supposed to represent. My first theory is the historic route of Highway 20. Another theory is the rout of the railroad tracks that go through town. My last theory is that it is a RAGBRAI route that once went through Duncombe.

But the obvious winner is clearly Farhamville. But they don’t have just one great sign. They have 3.

Here is the sign I picked to represent Farhamville:

Farnhamville, Iowa #3 - East Side

This is the other side of that sign:

Farnhamville, Iowa #3 - West Side

But the first sign I saw when I came into the town from the north was this one:

Farnhamville, Iowa #1

Now, I was very curious about what the heck was in that circle on the state of Iowa, so I took a close-up image:

Farnhamville Town Sign Close-Up

Now that I’ve seen it, it answers no questions and creates even more questions. It almost looks like a cult symbol to me. But maybe I just have cults on the mind after just watching the NXIVM cult documentary on Starz recently.

Then as I was leaving Farhamville, heading towards Jefferson for cheese curds, I came across this stone town sign.

Farnhamville, Iowa #2

I’m sure you’ve picked up that I don’t like stone or granite town signs. However, this one is quite the exception. If you are going to do a town sign, this is how it is done friends.

Farmhamville is mostly in Calhoun County. Only a small sliver of it is in Webster County. So maybe it isn’t fair for it to be Best in Show for Webster County cause I’m not sure how some town in Calhoun County beats this one. But hopefully some town comes strong from Calhoun County. I guess we’ll see when I get there.

But maybe Farhamville is my Ohio State. I have one set of rules for them and an entirely different set of rules for the University of Indiana.

Here is my current Town Sign Top 5:

Christopher D. Bennett Iowa Sign Power Rankings

Scranton, Iowa
#5. Scranton, Iowa

Boone, Iowa
#4. Boone, Iowa

Farnhamville, Iowa #3 - East Side
#3 Farhamville, Iowa

Pilot Mound, Iowa
#2. Pilot Mound, Iowa

Moingona, Iowa
#1. Moingona, Iowa

These are the Top 5 as I see them at this second. But that could change any moment. It is a very fluid situation.

I believe that Dallas County will be next, but I also have my sites on Polk County, Wright County, Carroll County, Marshall County, and Crawford County in the coming months. Weather and life permitting.

10 thoughts on “Town Sign Project: Webster County”

  1. Webster County signs are sort of like a microcosm of the county itself – when they do things right, they do them very right. But when they do them wrong – they go “have a gravestone as their town sign” level of wrong? How are towns like Stratford and Barnum spending their meager town coffer on big stone road signs? That’s the first time I’ve used the words “town coffer” in a sentence, I believe.

    Fort Dodge could pretty easily play off of the whole Cardiff giant thing, or actually have a silhouette of the Fort Museum, if they’re going to try and do word play off of Frontier Days. That’s super corporate.

    That actually brings up a sore spot for me. I hate, hate, hate corporate-looking art. Our arts commission was pressured to donate money to a new mural that was put up in September:

    I don’t think that has the full image of the mural on it, but it looks like a sophomore high school graphic artist designed it in Powerpoint and then slapped it up on a wall. It’s worth a trip to Main Street to go take a tinkle on it. I hate so much that we donated money to that bland garbage, instead of spending it somewhere worthwhile.

    But that’s all beside the point of your post. Farnhamville has so many signs that you could probably include the ones in Webster County in the Webster list, and the ones in Calhoun Co in that list, and it would still likely top both lists.

  2. Yeah. I really don’t like the gravestone as town sign look. Even though, most people will argue that it looks nice and it is professional looking. It is just boring.

    Maybe you don’t know about Stratford’s Bluegrass Festival? They are probably flowing in the cash. As for Barnum, maybe somebody in town is rich and paid for it. I’ve noticed a few town signs were donated by businesses that had businesses that allowed them to make this kind of sign. Like bricklayers. Gravestone makers, perhaps? You may notice that a few Dallas County signs look very similar cause of this.

    I didn’t put the Frontier Days connection together for the Fort Dodge sign. I’m sure there are actually better Fort Dodge signs, but I didn’t want to spend hours driving around the place. I did take a picture of another sign, but it is pretty much identical, without the “frontier line”. It was the first sign, but it was so heavily backlit that I ended up looking for another sign and found the sign I used coming into Fort Dodge from Coalville. This is definitely more of a “small town” project and that was hammered home to me with some time I spent in the West Des Moines suburbs on Sunday.

    That article seems to be aggressively trying not to show a full size picture of the mural. Could we get 5 more closeups of the guy painting it? But to keep things in perspective… at least the local slum lord didn’t put a mural of a serial rapist and notorious racist and Russian puppet up in your town. They recently put a 2016- in front of the 2020 on the mural. I’m not sure who did it. But it looks “professional”, so I think the slum lord had it done, so that it is no longer a “campaign ad” and won’t have to be taken down. Even though, seeing Trump 2016-2020 makes me laugh. Even though technically his term was 2017-2021. But whatever.

    As for Farnhamville. The sign with the two sides is in Webster County. The other two signs are in Calhoun County. It was the last sign of the day and it is always good to end on a high point. Did that on Sunday in Dallas County.

  3. Are brick-ish town signs made of gypsum – I think it can make concrete-style blocks? I know Ft Dodge has at least ten gypsum mines/yards, and I would bet maybe the surrounding areas also benefit. I guess that could go along with the thing with people paying for them. But you’re right, the Vincent gravestone one really could only have been made with the intent of making it like that. I don’t get it.

    I am not sure that we should give Ft. Dodge the credit of having been “clever” enough to try and pull in Frontier Days (that’s a loose usage of “clever”). I can’t think of any better Ft. Dodge signs – although it’s been a long time since I’ve come in from any way besides Business 30 from the south. It does look like they did a kind of mural thing on silos? But it’s not really FD-related. I can’t imagine that anything in Polk County that is at all Des Moines-adjacent will have any small-town feel or hand-drawn anything. Those are going to be very corporate-looking.

    I’m about 95% sure that the guy who was painting that flaming turd of a mural was paid copious amounts to do so, so why are we photographing him, anyway? Other than to record it for later in case we need to sue him for providing the worst mural ever?

    No, you’re right – at least this one doesn’t show Trump in any way, shape, or form. Although, the upside of that one is that it’s VERY clear that it was hand-done, by the quality level. It honestly stopped me in my tracks the first time I saw it – it’s terrible. It’s about as terrible as almost any art put out by hard right Republicans. Ever notice how NONE of them are funny/clever?

    That maths out for Farnhamville! I think the odds are still good that both of them will be the best in each of the counties.

  4. I pretty much always come into Fort Dodge on 169.

    There are some really cool signs for a Gypsum City Park out there. They have what looks like actual mining cars as part of the signs. I should’ve taken a picture of them because they were really neat.

    The mural on the silo is really cool. I’m surprised I never noticed that before. I guess. A couple weeks ago is the first time I’ve been to Fort Dodge in a couple years though and the last couple times have just been passing through town type of trips. I’ll have to look for it next time I go to Fort Dodge.

    I heard on the radio yesterday that Fort Dodge is getting jet service from its airport to Chicago, so big things are happening for Fort Dodge!

    And yeah, I have pretty low hopes for Polk County. Maybe Bondurant or Mitchellville. I mean Mitchellville has a prison. It really should have a good town sign.

  5. I didn’t know there was a Gypsum City Park there! That must be fairly new, or just that I wasn’t aware of it when I was in elementary school? That’s really neat that they lean into that. The main park that I remember when I was growing up was the Oleson one with the really sketchy petting zoo in it. The front side of that petting zoo was sketchy enough, but I’m pretty sure about 90% of the drug deals in The Diggity (which is a town rife with drug deals) happened on the walking trail around the back.

    I need to get up there to see the silo. That’s really neat. I am having trouble picturing where it’s at – it would be neat if they could pretty up the old Carnation plant, if it’s still there. I remember my mom flew in and out of the FD airport once – that’s the only time I was ever in that building. We only ever went there for the airshow on the Fourth. This all is bringing back a lot of memories – I hadn’t thought about that airshow in probably 25 years, but it used to be one of my favorite things every summer.

    Bondurant has an interesting mural! I did some senior photos near it this fall: So, worst case scenario, you can get that and the football stadium? I believe there was a town sign near the high school that we also took photos by. It was not great, so I hope there are others. It was hard to tell, in between all of the Trump signs.

  6. I did actually drive through Bondurant today, but I didn’t see that mural. Wish I would have, it would have been a highlight of the town.

    Another thing on my list of things to do after the pandemic. Go to church in Fort Dodge and find this silo.

    I didn’t even know Fort Dodge had an airport, but I suppose most town of any size do.

  7. I had Badger & Farnhamville guessed as your favorites. We drive through Badger on our way to Dakota City to visit Jason’s mom. Vincent’s sign definitely looks like a gravestone. What does that say about the town? Also when you’re ready for Calhoun County (which contains Rockwell City – the buckle on the corn belt of Iowa), there is a good Bardole connection there – my sister! I think you’ll find the sweet Rockwell City sign on the east side of town on old Highway 20.

  8. It’s too bad you didn’t see the mural – the rest of the town is… antiseptically small-town, I would say. It’s like they watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” a bunch of times and thought that they needed to only accept things that fit that super-cleaned up 1946 version of a small town. It’s a lovely movie, but maybe not realistic long-term.

    Do you go to the Methodist Church in Fort Dodge where Andrea is minister? We used to go perfunctorily when I was little, and they had the best spaghetti and meatball dinners that we would go to with Grandma B. It’s a beautiful old church. I haven’t been in it probably since I was about 10 or so – neither Grandma nor Scott had their services there. I hope that Andrea really enjoys it – she ended up being the one to help me out when Scott passed at the funeral home and such. She was busy the day of the service (I think already had a service or similar), but she was awesome. That was all about 7 years ago today.

  9. Bondurant actually does have a pretty cool town sign. It is very unique. Unfortunately, I think Bondurant is doomed to be gobbled up by the urban sprawl that is the Des Moines metroplex. There are already a collection of cookie cutter neighborhoods on the outskirts of town.

    I hear really good things about the food at Reclaimed Rails. True it is from radio personalities that are probably paid to say it, but I still want to try it someday.

    I like to go to Andrea’s church in Fort Dodge a couple times a year. Frequently watch her service streamed these days. Since our church is only streaming right now as well.

    Andrea is absolutely the best. One of my favorite Pastors ever. Possibly #1, but definitely Top 3. I love her worships services so much. They strike exactly the right tone. Plus her husband Josh is also amazing.

    When my Mom was in the hospital for almost 6 months, she or Phil visited every single day. Even though she was in Methodist in Des Moines.

  10. Shannon,

    Thanks for the intel! Near Badger, there is an amazing park with maybe the best playground I’ve ever seen. Do you also go through Thor? I have pretty high hopes for the Thor sign.

    How about Dakota City? They have a decent sign?

    The next batch will come out tomorrow and I think you’ll have no problem figuring out my favorite from Dallas County. Also, I expand the Power Rankings to a Top 10.

    I’m surprised Vincent has the money to spend on a sign that “nice”. But I guess when you buy a gravestone, it should last forever. At least I’m sure it will outlast Vincent. Although I think it was Vincent that had a Koch plant nearby. Which makes me sick on many levels.

    Currently when I drive through the country and I see somebody that still has a sign up for their Dear Leader, Donald Trump, I point at it and do the Nelson laugh from the Simpsons. In some parts of the state, this unfortunately causes me to eventually lose my voice.

    But for the Koch brothers. One of their plants. The people that are ultimately responsible (among others) for Trumpism getting a platform. The Nelson laugh isn’t enough.

    Not sure when I will get to Calhoun County. I still need to get a couple signs from Polk County. (Although I could easily be persuaded to call Polk County, good enough). Then Wright County is probably next. Then after that it looks like I might do a 2fer with Carroll County and Crawford County, cause it turns out, I really only need the towns in the southern part of those counties. So it is pretty much a straight line on one highway. Then it might be time for some Calhoun County action. But geographically speaking, Marshall or Jasper county are probably closer. I guess we’ll see.

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