Posts From The Road: Humble Beginnings

Carson House: The birthplace of Johnny Carson sits on a corner in Corning, Iowa. The house is open to the public only on weekends and was closed the day of our visit. Photo by Gary Warren/

Eisenhower Birthplace: First Lady Mary Geneva Doud (Mamie Eisenhower) was born in Boone, Iowa and grew up in Iowa and Colorado. In 1916 she married Dwight D. Eisenhower who later became the 34th president of the United States. Mamie Eisenhower was First Lady through 1961 when the Eisenhowers retired in Pennsylvania. Photo by Gary Warren/

Wayne Museum: The John Wayne Birthplace Museum is in Winterset, Iowa. The facility features personal and professional artifacts, movie posters, and memorabilia relating to Wayne’s acting career including a selection of movie wardrobe items, scripts and many other items. Photo by Gary Warren/

Formerly of Los Alamos

We love traveling the backroads of America which take us to hundreds of small towns, most of which we have never heard of and know nothing about the towns or their history. We are continually amazed by rural America and the deep history rooted within.

While traveling the backroads of Iowa in June 2021, we came across the birthplaces of three well know U.S. citizens, two from the entertainment industry and one former First Lady of the U.S. These birthplaces represent a time where most births were in the family home rather than a hospital as we are accustomed to today.

Johnny Carson was born in Corning, Iowa in a typical rural white house on the corner. Carson lived for a short time in Corning and other Iowa towns before his family moved to Norfolk, Nebraska when he was seven years old. He lived the rest of his younger life in Norfolk before leaving home.

John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa. Winterset is a beautiful small town in Madison County near Des Moines, Iowa. It was in Winterset that he became known as “Duke” which was the name of his dog which was always by his side. The family relocated to Southern  California when Morrison was nine years old where he grew up and lived for the rest of his life.

It was not until he began acting that he became known as John Wayne. He was given one movie credit as Duke Morrison before Fox Studios gave him the “acting name” of John Wayne. From that time forward, he was John Wayne with the nickname “Duke”. Winterset, Iowa has an impressive John Wayne Birthplace Museum that is adjacent to the small four room house where John Wayne was born. The museum and house are well worth visiting if traveling this area of Iowa.

Mary Geneva Doud (Mamie Eisenhower) was born in Boone, Iowa, a small town located in central Iowa near Ames, Iowa where Iowa State University is located. Mamie Eisenhower was born into the family of a meatpacking executive and her birthplace house is a little larger than the birthplace houses of Carson and Wayne above. The Eisenhowers also spent time in Colorado during her childhood years before she married Dwight D. Eisenhower who later became President of the United States for two terms beginning in January 1953 making Mamie Eisenhower the First Lady of the U.S. for eight years.

There are probably other notable Americans who were born in rural Iowa, but these are three that appeared on our travel route through the state. We enjoy learning about the history and the surprises that arise in small town America as we travel the backroads of our beautiful country.

Editor’s note: Longtime Los Alamos photographer Gary Warren and his wife Marilyn are traveling around the country, and he shares his photographs, which appear in the “Posts from the Road” series published in the Sunday edition of the Los Alamos Daily Post.

Carson Birthplace: Former late night TV host Johnny Carson was born in this house in Corning, Iowa on October 25,1925. Carson lived in Corning and two other Iowa towns before the family settled in Norfolk, Nebraska when Carson was 7 years old. Photo by Gary Warren/

Eisenhower House: Mary Geneva Doud (Mamie Eisenhower) was born in this house Nov. 14, 1896. She married Dwight D. Eisenhower at the age of 19. He became president of the United States in 1953 and Mamie Eisenhower served as First Lady of the U.S. from January 1953 until January 1961. Photo by Gary Warren/

Wayne Birthplace: Marion Robert Morrison (John Wayne) was born in this tiny four room house May 26, 1907. The family moved to Southern California in 1916 where he began his acting career. It was not until he began making movies that the name John Wayne was given as his ‘acting name’ by Fox Studios. Photo by Gary Warren/