Birthplace of an American Hero

Picture with me if you will the year 1907, in a small rural farming town of Winterset Iowa. Forty Two minutes from the capital city of Des Moines, Iowa, the population of Winterset was at that time around 3,039 residents  in the town.

But who would have ever guessed that the living legend larger than life American hero would come from such small  upbringing? He was born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907, the son of Clyde and Mary Brown Morrison.

His father Clyde was a pharmacist who worked on the south side of Wintersets town square. In his youth, Clyde attended nearby Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. John Wayne described his father as “the kindest, most patient man I ever knew.” Wayne’s mother Mary was of Irish descent, and Duke said “she was a tiny, vivacious red-headed bundle of energy.”

Step back in time and picture the life of a young mid-western boy and his family near the turn of the century. This modest four-room home has been restored to reflect its appearance in 1907, the year of Duke’s birth. An impressive collection of John Wayne memorabilia includes unique items such as the eye patch worn in the movie True Grit, a hat worn in Rio Lobo, and a prop suitcase used in the film Stagecoach. Hundreds of rare photographs of Duke are on display as well as letters from such notable stars within there own right most of which were friends of Duke’s including  Lucille Ball, Gene Autry, Maureen O’Hara, Jimmy Stewart, Kirk Douglas, Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan and George Burns.

Since its opening, the childhood home of John Wayne has been visited by over one million people, including many celebrities and dignitaries. On November 3, 1984, President Ronald Reagan commented that “the John Wayne Birthplace is an inspiring tribute to a good friend and a great American.” But in reality it is much more than that. It is a chance to see a glimpse in Duke’s life that we the fans have maybe only heard about or even read about in fan magazines or even in books. But why would the writer of this blog be advertising  the birthplace to already a huge Duke fan base? Most of which  may already know or even some of us have visited before? For the chance to revisit the birthplace look at in a new light, a way that we have or may not have noticed. I for one try and visit there at least once a year if I can and each time a tear swells up in my eyes as I picture young Marion running around the front lawn.


  1. William Bailey says:

    Very Amazing I really like He has always been one of my Favorites.

  2. Cathy says:

    I read somewhere that he was Marion Michael Morrison. And now read he was Marion Robert Morrison. Don’t understand, since his son was named Michael, I thought maybe after him. Can you help me here?

    • Adam DeFrancesco says:

      Cathy the way I understood it : it was Marion Robert Morrison but his younger brother was named Robert , his brother was born maybe 2 or 3 years after Duke was born then his middle name was changed to Michael hope that helps

  3. Ed Crawford says:

    Too bad Mr. Wayne never came back to Iowa, even to visit. I was a huge fan of his until I heard that. If you make it big, be man enough to visit your roots.

  4. JAMES W REED says:

    why did he always keep that one long shell in the back of his gunbelt i miss he westerns

  5. Robert Boutin says:

    John Wayne was an actor….not a hero as some people say…..with that said, I have a lot of his movies….he was very good.
    Too bad cancer got him before his time.

  6. cathy M says:

    Excuse me. Not a hero? You are as entitled to your opinion as am I. This site is for fans and you stand out like a sore thumb,” with that said” I have all of his movies!

  7. Say what you may BUT to me John (Duke) Wayne was MY HERO. Then now and as long as I may live. He was a great actor, and I loved all his movies. A true fan am I. Yes it is a shame that Cancer took him before his time, but he lives in a lot of our hearts and memories. Long live the love of John (Duke) Wayne. A true American Icon.

  8. Vikki Pruitt says:

    When my sweetheart sees a picture of The Duke he stops dead in tracks & removes his hat in honor of that hero. We have all his movies & have watched them with our kids & now our grand kids. Love that man.

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