The pervasive impact of the Civil War on life in early Greene County


RIPPEY, Iowa, Dec. 16, 2016 — Six generations, or “four greats-” ago, mothers, wives and sisters may have been preparing food to send off with their sons, husbands, and brothers as they leftMary Weaver Profile Greene County for the “War of the Rebellion,” the “War Between the States,” or as it is now called, the “Civil War.”

It was 1861, and Greene County men, young and middle-aged, were ready for adventure. They were eager to get away from the mundane work of being a pioneer on the prairie.  There was great patriotism and general excitement among the citizenry.

The men drilled frequently, at least once per week, and the Brand School, near present-day Squirrel Hollow Park, was composed of  32 men up to age 25 that served as a company under the leadership of their teacher Azor Mills. The 32 men’s names include ones familiar to current residents – Toliver, Burk, Davis, Myers, Johns, Turpin, as well as Brown.

The State of Iowa, under Governor Samuel Kirkwood who was elected in 1860, called for volunteers to fight for the North.  The still-young state – it had won statehood on December 28, 1846 – provided 70,000.  Of those, 20,000 perished due to battle or illnesses, or infections associated with battle. Among those who went to the war from Greene County, many were iinjured, died of disease or returned home with injuries. Their commander Azor Mills lost the use of his arm after it was struck by a cannon ball.

School teacher, administrator, military and political leader Azor Mills and his wife Miranda Mills, an early civic leader herself, were portrayed during a 2014 “cemetery walk” in Jefferson by Rob and Emily Hoyt, of Scranton.

In 1861 the population of Greene County was 1,400 persons.  One half of Greene County’s able bodied men wore the blue uniform of the Union Army according to the local history book “Past and Present of Greene County, Iowa,” published in 1907.

That book notes, “…among the pioneers, a good many people who had been born and brought up in the South and hence were not great admirers of the plan to keep the South in the Union. They settled along the ’Coon, adjacent to the timber and when the war was really on, many of them were neutral and some even leaned South in their sympathies.”

An interesting historical fact documented in that history is that on July 4, 1861, at the Independence Day celebration in Jefferson, two full companies of infantry were present.  The Jefferson Company’s uniforms featured trousers with a red stripe down the outer seam.  The other company, from Washington Township, was not fully uniformed, but was well-drilled.  A number of men in the Washington Township unit had no boots suitable to wear at the July 4th celebration, but local Rippey physician Dr. J. C. Lovejoy suggested the barefooted men black their feet.

Onlookers noted the agility demonstrated by the men during their drills.

I came across those fascinating notes of local history during the Civil War when I was searching the internet for recipes that were popular and common back then.  One thing that caught my attention is that troops on both sides of the war carried and ate soda-like crackers.  The soldiers of the South called them “Johnnie Cakes,” while the Union forces called them “Hard Tack.”

They could not have been very tasty by current standards, as the Hard Tack was made of flour, water, and lard, while the Johnnie Cakes were made of cornmeal, milk, lard with a little soda and salt.  Here are the recipes if you’d like to try them:

Hard Tack

2 cups flour
½ cup of water
1 Tablespoon of lard
6 pinches of salt

Johnnie Cakes

2 cups of cornmeal
2/3 cup of milk
2 Tablespoons of lard
2 teaspons of soda
½ teaspoon of salt

Baking instructions: Roll out as a thin dough and bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

The Civil War soldiers were also issued “crackers” during fighting, but reports indicated those had become homes for insects and rodents as they were transported to the front lines.

The pioneer cemeteries of Greene County have the graves of many Civil War veterans.  Be on the lookout for the headstones. During upcoming family gatherings, ask members of the oldest generation who among their ancestors fought in the Civil War. Be certain to determine if they wore the Blue or Gray uniform.

You can comment on this story in the space below here, or write directly to the columnist by email at  The author, who lives outside Rippey, is an active member of the  Greene County Historical Society.

Our historical society needs members (and donations, too!)

JEFFERSON, Iowa, Dec. 7, 2016 — As this year comes to a close and 2017 is set to begin, it’s time to purchase or renew memberships in the Greene County Historical Society. And it’s also a great time to make donations to the society and be able to claim the donations in your income taxes.

Individual memberships are $15, family memberships are $20 and you can really help us by becoming “Friends of the Greene County Historical Society” at the $50 level.  Additional donations are welcomed for any amount, of course.

You can get all the details about memberships and donations — including the new option of making these transactions online on this secure website — by clicking right here.

Greene County Historical Society officers for 2017 are (left to right) past-president Ces Brunow, vice-president & program director Nancy Hanaman, president Dale Hanaman, treasurer Becki Cunningham, executive director Roger Aegerter, and secretary Margaret Hamilton. Elections of the officers and board members were held at the year-end society meeting on Friday, Dec. 2, at the Greenewood Center in Jefferson.
Greene County Historical Society officers for 2017 are (left to right) past-president Ces Brunow, vice-president & program director Nancy Hanaman, president Dale Hanaman, treasurer Becki Cunningham, executive director Roger Aegerter, and secretary Margaret Hamilton.

Chuck Offenburger, a member of the GCHS board of directors, said he “used my credit card and the online payment method to buy our family membership for 2017, primarily just to test the system, and I was amazed how quick and easy it is. People should give it a try, both for memberships and for straight donations.”

And while you are on that memberships/donations page on the website, please take time to read the compelling story by past-president Ces Brunow published there.  Brunow concisely explains just what our organization’s financial obligations and challenges are.

Dale Hanaman, our current president, notes that our membership is very loyal.  “Using the membership list, we have 284 people who are members — people holding individual or family memberships,” he said. “During 2016, all but 37 paid their membership,” which is pretty good in comparison to most organizations that have members.   We figure that the 13 percent who did not pay in 2016 either didn’t get our reminders or just plain forgot.

Hanaman said he has to be aware and a bit concerned that our members include “a large number of people over 60 years of age.  I hope that we are able to attract many new members during this coming year,” and he added that current members can sure help recruit.

“Many of us are business persons, or involved in a community service group or connected to a worshipping community,” Hanaman said.  “And we all have friends and neighbors.  New historical members may come from our own contacts, so our members need to encourage others to join.”

He noted that “the historical society is a group of people wanting to remember our roots, help cherish our various backgrounds, and celebrate our history.  What of your history can we lift up and give thanks?”

We typically attract 50 to 60 people to the monthly historical programs we have April thru December.  We strive to make those programs informative, interesting and even entertaining.  And we make them accessible, too, as we schedule them into churches or other meeting facilities around Greene County.  The programs, over the year, span a wide variety of interests.  In addition, we feature up to a half-dozen special feature programs that are typically held at our historical museum in Jefferson, and those programs often attract more than 100 people.

Our 2017 election & holiday party Friday

JEFFERSON, Iowa, Nov. 27, 2016 — The Greene County Historical Society will have its final meeting of 2016 on Friday, Dec. 2, at the Greenewood Center in Jefferson.  There’ll be lunch at 12 noon, an election of the group’s officers and board members for 2017, and holiday music from Greene County High School band members directed by instructor Wes Anderson.

The lunch is $8 for historical society members, and they should make reservations by Wednesday, Nov. 30, with group’s community contacts.  Others can RSVP for lunch to programs chairperson Ces Brunow at (515) 370-5531.

Dale Hanaman, nominee for re-election as president.

Nominated for re-election as president is Dale Hanaman.  Other nominees are Nancy Hanaman for vice-president, Margaret Hamilton for secretary, Becki Cunningham for treasurer, Ces Brunow for past-president, with Roger Aegerter continuing as executive director.

They would also serve on the board of directors, which would include these additional board members:  Carol John, Chuck Offenburger, Mary Lynch, Nick Foster, Joyce Ausberger, Dallas Schrader and Paul White.

Additional nominations can be made by historical society members at the Dec. 2 meeting.

Committee assignments for 2017 are as follows:

Acquisitions: Roger Aegerter, Janet Durlam, Dianne Piepel, John Turpin.

Artifact Database: Margaret Hamilton, Abby Hamilton.

Building Oversight: Roger Aegerter, Paul White, Dallas Schrader.

Educational Outreach: Janet Durlam, Roger Aegerter.

Exhibits: Janet Durlam, Ces Brunow.

Fairgrounds Facilities & Threshing Bee: Nick Foster.

Historian: Lois Clark.

Membership: Dale Hanaman.

Programs: Nancy Hanaman, Ces Brunow, Chuck Offenburger.

Public Relations: Chuck Offenburger, Ces Brunow.

Refreshments: Denise Harberts.

Spelling Bee: Marilynn Hoskinson.

Memberships for 2017 can be purchased at the meeting; by mail from the historical society at 219 E. Lincoln Way (Box 435 in Jefferson, or online right here on this internet site. Individual memberships are $15, family membership is $20 or you can be a “Friend of the GCHS” for $50.

Printed newsletters, including a review of 2016 activities and the schedule of 2017 events, will be available at the meeting, or will be mailed to members afterward.


Dramatic bank robbery in 1925 in our little Farlin


Roger Aegerter Profile PictureJEFFERSON, Iowa,  Nov. 16, 2016 – Let’s go back 91 years ago to Feb. 19, 1925, when the peace and calm of rural Greene County was broken with an unexpected jolt – the 3 a.m. dynamiting and robbery of the Farlin Savings Bank, leading to a gun battle on the streets and I the yards of the small town, and then a middle-of-the-night capture of some of the robbers.

If you visit Farlin today, about four miles northwest of Jefferson, it’s amazing to think of all the drama that happened there on that long ago winter night.

What follows are accounts of the crime and arrests as they appeared in the Jefferson Herald and Jefferson Bee. Most of the descriptions are taken directly from the newspapers.

The Herald that was published later the same day of the robbery shocked readers with a two-column, front page headline reading: “FARLIN SAVINGS BANK PAID VISIT BY YEGGS THIS MORN.”  That word “yeggs,” I learned with a little research, was a slang term for “burglar” or “safecracker.”

Here’s how the story started:

“Bank robbers entered the Farlin Savings Bank at about 3 a.m. The robbers entered the rear window of the bank, after trying to open the front door, breaking the handle off.  They used 10 charges of nitroglycerin to blow the door off the vault.

“This was a planned heist, maybe not a well planned heist, but the robbers came into Farlin about midnight and bound the Milwaukee train station manager, who sleeps at the station. He was tied to his cot so he could not notify others in town or law enforcement.  The bank building did not have considerable damage but the glass was blown out of the windows and the interior of the bank was torn apart by the blast.”

The additional details below here come from that Feb. 19 Herald or from a follow-up story in the Feb. 25 edition of the Jefferson Bee:

–“Telephones lines going out of Farlin were all cut except one.  It was on that line that a message was sent to law enforcement in Jefferson that there had a series of explosions at the bank.   Sheriff Edson C. Morain, when hearing of a robbery in Farlin, summoned his deputy Mr. Whitter and also called to the ex-Sheriff Quinlan also Constable Reyes.  The sheriff’s deputies collected  themselves and their equipment so fast they were on their way to Farlin in less than 10 minutes.  Deputy Whitter drove the officers in his Buick and the other men stated, ‘He drove so fast that he burned up the road, and the green visor which shaded  the front was doubled back over the top of the car.’ ”

Among the law enforcement officers who made the hurried trip from Jefferson to Farlin to catch two of the bank robbers before they could get out of town.

–“Within 25 minutes, the Greene County officers from Jefferson arrived in Farlin. Almost immediately, Mr. Reyes watching the ‘birds’ near a corn crib north of the depot. He perused the robber and when he had him cornered, the bandit opened fire on Constable Reyes. He responded with his revolver and the robber ran across west across a vacant lot toward the road where the get-away cars were believed to be.  Reyes said he caught one of the robbers in the ditch between the bank and the depot. Flashlight in hand, he discovered the man lying (with) his weapon, a shotgun which contained an empty shell.”

–“On the other side of Farlin, the other robber jumped three more fences in his attempt to make a getaway through the Dick Beebe yard.  Mr. Beebe who was watching from the window called out to the officer that the robber ran past the house and could be found on the side of the garage.  When Deputy Whitter called to the fellow to put his hands up, there was no response. Later Whitter said the robber’s stubbornness placed him mighty close to the brink of Whitter’s patience.”  Finally, the robber set his rifle around the corner of the garage and then came out with his hands in the air.

–“The two captured men were brought to Jefferson and locked in the city jail. More men joined the officers and went back to make further investigations at the crime site.  It was believed that there were five bandits and that one of them went out of the town to the south.”

–“The loss to the bank of course was fully covered by insurance, the loss includes damage to the safe and all the glass windows were damaged. The estimated loss (in the robbery) was between $500 and $600, and this included a bag of silver dollars.”

–“Two state police officials reported to Jefferson Thursday noon and went to Farlin with Sheriff Morain and County Attorney W.E.S. Hutcheon to look over the bank and seek clues. They came back to Jefferson after the inspection and spent the afternoon and evening grilling the prisoners, one of them gave the name of Jack Marsh and the other as Ed Larson, which may or may not be the real names.  The attitudes of the two men were typical gangster type. The wives of Marsh and Larson came to Jefferson on Saturday and have been here looking after legal arrangements for their husbands’ defense.”

–“Details concerning the robbery since the February 19th robbery have been interesting.  One of the suspects was located in Sioux City, and when officials charged into his room they found him hanging by the neck, determined to be a suicide. There was also a woman arrested, being the driver that escaped the Farlin scene. A third man was arrested a few days later in the area when he stopped at a farm south of Jefferson to ask directions to the nearest town.  He was reported by the farmer and arrested without incident later in the day.”

Concerning the robbery and the aftermath, the Bee called it “mighty fine work on the part of Sheriff Morain and his deputies. While there is disappointment that all the robbers were not caught that night, considering every phase of the case, the capture of the three men within hours of the robbery, and preventing of a complete looting of the bank, was an unusual accomplishment, and it is one upon which the State Officials congratulate the effective work of the sheriff and his men.”

You can comment on this column in the space below here, or you can write directly to the author by email at The author is executive director of the Greene County Historical Society.

When country schools served Greene County’s kids

SCRANTON, Iowa, Oct. 30, 2016 — Sometimes when Marilynn Hoskinson, of Jefferson, thinks back on how she started her education in the “Hardin No. 6” country school, west of Spring Lake Park, she is still amazed at the job that her teacher Miss Liberty Maye Mattson was asked to do.

“There were 20 of us in that one-room schoolhouse, we had all eight grades represented and she taught us all by herself,” Hoskinson.  “That teacher had her hands full!” 

But there were learning advantages for Hoskinson, who attended the country school from 1931 until late in her fourth grade year, when her family moved from a farm into the town of Grand Junction.  “I swear, for me it was like a Head Start program,” she said. “I learned so much by listening to the older kids recite their lessons.” 

She’ll discuss the impact of country schools on Greene County and share her recollections as a student in one of them when the Greene County Historical Society gathers in Scranton for its Friday, Nov. 4, meeting. “I’m also going to invite people in the audience who attended country schools to share some of their stories, too,” Hoskinson said. 

Marilynn Hoskinson, who will present the program on country schools, is a frequent volunteer for the historical society. Here she’s shown serving chili after a “cemetery walk” a couple years ago.

A lunch will be at 12 noon at the Scranton United Methodist Church.  Historical society members, who pay $8 for lunch, are asked to RSVP to their regular community contacts by Wednesday, Nov. 2.  The public can also make reservations, for $10 each, by calling program coordinator Ces Brunow at (515) 370-5531.  If you make a reservation but do not attend, you will be billed for your meal’s cost. 

The program, which is free, will begin at 1 p.m. in the church sanctuary. 

Hoskinson said when formal education was established in rural Greene County, “the general plan was to put a schoolhouse on each section of land, meaning there would be up to nine in a township.  In some cases, there wouldn’t be that many because some sections were broken up by the river or creeks, or by areas with a lot of timber.”  There are old maps of the county showing more than 70 country schools. 

Most students walked a mile or so to school unless the weather was rough.  Once it got really rough, Hoskinson recalls.  During the legendary blizzard of 1936, school was canceled for five weeks “because no one could get there,” she said. 

How’d she find the transition from country school when she joined the students in the school in Grand Junction?  Because she had advanced a grade or two in the country school, she was nearly two years younger than many of her Grand Junction classmates.  “I was confident in my studies,” she said, “but I felt like a real nerd otherwise.  I didn’t know how to dress like the town girls.” 

After graduating from Grand Junction High School in 1944, she went on to a long, successful career as a nurse’s aide and then secretary at then-Greene County Hospital in Jefferson; secretary to the Jongewaard physicians; wife, mother and then 30 years with Home State Bank. At the bank, she was promoted from bookkeeper to officer to manager of the old “red bank” office that Home State operated on the corner where the Fareway Store is now located in Jefferson. 

Hoskinson has long been active in the historical society.  For at least 10 years, she has volunteered during the Greene County Fair to portray the school teacher in the “Bristol No. 5” country schoolhouse that was moved next door to the historical society’s display building on the fairgrounds.

Our Tom Morain given major Iowa history award

AMES, Iowa, Oct. 19, 2016 — Greene County native Tom Morain, long-recognized as one of the leading authorities on Iowa history, received the top award of the Iowa Museum Association when its members met here on Monday, Oct. 17.

Morain, who grew up in Jefferson, is now director of government relations at Graceland University, in Lamoni, where he also teaches and assists with the honors program.

Tom Morain

He formerly served as director of Living History Farms and also was administrator of the State Historical Society of Iowa.   He has taught and shared Iowa history at Graceland, Iowa State University, several other colleges and across the state as a speaker for the Humanities Iowa program.    He has consulted on the development and displays of local history in the museums across Iowa, including our Greene County Historical Society Museum in Jefferson.

One especially notable achievement in his career came early-on, in 1988, when he authored the book “Prairie Grass Roots.”  That 287-page book is a well-researched and well-written portrayal of the history of Jefferson and Greene County from settlement up through the 1930s.  That followed an oral history project he conducted in 1979, when he did in-depth interviews of more than 40 Jefferson residents.  In 1989, that book won the prestigious Benjamin Shambaugh Award from the State Historical Society as the best recent book focusing on Iowa history.

He has often said that his love of local and Iowa history can be traced back to his childhood, when his father Fred Morain was editor & publisher of the Jefferson Bee & Herald and kept bound volumes of the newspaper stored in the basement of the family home.  The Morain boys would often pull out a particular year of old newspapers, put the big book on the ping pong table and spend hours reading them.  Tom’s brother Rick Morain followed their father as editor & publisher of the newspapers, and now in retirement writes the weekly “Greenery” column for the Jefferson Herald.

You can read a story from Graceland University Tom Morain’s winning of the leadership award of the Iowa Museum Association by clicking here.

And, on Tuesday of this week, Morain was interviewed by Charity Nebbe on Iowa Public Radio’s “Talk of Iowa” program, and you can listen online to their 30-minute chat by clicking here.

Program in Rippey shared town’s baseball history


RIPPEY, Iowa, Oct. 10, 2016 – Former players, coaches, fans and many others gathered for the Greene County Historical Society program about Rippey’s baseball heritage on Friday, Oct. 7, at the United Methodist Church here.

Following a “ball park meal” of hot dogs, brats and hamburgers served by church members, community leader & historian Mary Weaver opened the program by leading those present in the Pledge of Allegiance and a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” accompanied by Dick Bardole.

Weaver shared some of the early baseball history, including a story about Rippey’s first team, founded in 1888, which played under the name “Hardscrabble.” Later town teams were known as the Rippey Merchants and the Rippey Demons, the latter coached by Pat Daugherty, who went on to become a top college and professional coach.

Those teams helped build the town’s love of baseball, and that led to Rippey having one of the first lighted ball parks – and one of the finest diamonds – in the state.  In fact, the Iowa High School Athletic Association hosted at least five high school state championship games in Rippey.

A panel of former Rippey High School and town team players Dan Peters, of West Branch, Iowa, and Lester Zanotti, of Omaha, and Ron McNeil who grew up in Jamaica and later was principal and coach at East Greene High School, responded to Weaver’s questions about their experiences with baseball here. Peters and Zanotti played together while in high school in the mid 1950s.  Zanotti went on to play for the University of Iowa and also in the U.S. Army, and Peters signed a professional contract and played in the minor leagues.

Many memories were shared by former players and others, including Cindy Anderson Cole, daughter of Walt and Nadine Anderson. She talked about her memories of being at the ball park with her dad and racing to retrieve foul balls. John Munson brought a catcher’s mitt stuffed with horse hair that had belonged to his father Willis Munson. Baseball uniforms and other items were also on display for viewing.

Lester Zanotti, Dan Peters and Ron McNeill (left to right), all of whom have deep roots in Rippey baseball history, told stories and answered questions when the Greene County Historical Society met at the United Methodist Church in Rippey on Friday, Oct. 7. Zanotti and Peters were two of the best Rippey High School players in the 1950s, and also played on the Rippey Merchants town team. McNeill was a principal and coach at the former East Greene High School, which served Rippey, Grand Junction and Dana. (Photo by Nancy Hanaman)
Lester Zanotti, Dan Peters and Ron McNeil (left to right) telling stories and answering questions about Rippey’s baseball heritage (Photos here by Nancy Hanaman)
Artage Zanotti, another former Rippey High School player, brought along a scorebook from the 1940s.
Artage Zanotti, another former Rippey High School player, now of Charles City, Iowa, brought along a scorebook from the 1940s. At left is program moderator Mary Weaver and at right is Artage’s brother Lester Zanotti.
A classic Rippey High School baseball jersey, made of wool.
A classic Rippey High School baseball jersey, made of wool.

We’ll learn little Rippey’s rich baseball heritage

RIPPEY, Iowa, Sept. 27, 2016 — It’s almost time for the Major League Baseball playoffs, and the Greene County Historical Society is going to help set the mood with a Friday, Oct. 7, program on one of this area’s best baseball stories – the grand heritage of the sport in Rippey. 

Rippey community leader and history-lover Mary Weaver will introduce the 1 p.m. program, which is free and open to the public, in the sanctuary of the Rippey United Methodist Church. And she will draw stories out of two of  the best players ever for the old Rippey High School Bulldogs and the Rippey Merchants town team – Les Zanotti (Class of 1954), now of Omaha, and Dan Peters (’55), now of West Branch, Iowa. 

“Baseball was big in Rippey, real big, back when we were in high school, and for a long time before and after,” said Zanotti. “We were one of the first places in the whole area that had lights on our ball diamond so we could play night games, and we were one of the first to have a grass infield.” 

The ball park was eventually named Walt Anderson Field, honoring a local banker and baseball booster. 

“We had pretty good teams when Dan Peters and I were in high school together,” Zanotti recalled.  “I was the pitcher and Dan was the catcher.  My memory is that we played a spring season, and with all the farm kids on our team, we sometimes had trouble fielding nine players because they were all doing field work at home. 

“The town team would have adult men from around the area, sometimes a college player or two and a couple of the better high school players.  We played a pretty good class of ball.  We had pretty good rivalries with Madrid, Slater, Linden and other towns, and the team often qualified for the state semi-pro tournament that was held late in the summer at the minor league baseball park in Des Moines.”

Early Rippey basesball photo library
An early Rippey “town team,” in this photo from the Rippey Public Library website.

Zanotti won a baseball scholarship and played for the University of Iowa.  He went on to play ball for a U.S. Army team during his two years in the military, and he recalls that there were five players with Major League Baseball experience on that team.  He went on into the sales business, then founded an executive search firm that he operated for 34 years before retiring. 

Dan Peters, whose father Jake Peters was the school principal in Rippey for 40 years, is one of the few – perhaps the only – former Rippey High School player to sign a professional baseball contract.  He was in the Milwaukee Braves organization for a year of minor league ball in Florida, then finished his education at Morningside College in Sioux City.  He became director of medical laboratories at hospitals in Sioux City, Fort Dodge and eventually Iowa City. 

Peters said he looks forward to coming home to Rippey and telling baseball stories.  

“Between Lester and myself, we out to be able to come up with quite a few stories,” he said. “They’ll be homespun, I’ll tell you that.” 

In the period from the late 1940s into the late 1960s, Iowa had three different high school baseball seasons – spring, summer and fall.  Some schools played one of those seasons, some played two or even all three, depending on whether they also offered other sports like football and track. 

The baseball park in Rippey, which then and now had a population of about 300, was so highly regarded that the Iowa High School Athletic Association made it the site of four state championship games.  Those were the summer ball championships of 1953, ’59 and ’60 and the fall ball championship of ’62. Three of those title games were won by powerful teams from Thomas Jefferson High School of Council Bluffs. 

The field eventually became the home of the East Greene Hawks, and after that school consolidated with Jefferson-Scranton to form the Greene County Schools, the diamond is used for sub-varsity games. 

The historical program on Friday, Oct. 7, will follow a “baseball lunch” in the Rippey Methodist Church hall, featuring brats and root beer floats.  That’ll be $8 per person.  Reservations are required for the lunch and can be made by members thru Wednesday, Oct. 5, with the historical society’s community contact persons. Non-members can RSVP for lunch by calling Mary Weaver at (515) 360-8046.

Amazing stories of the early settlers’ lives here


Mary Weaver ProfileRIPPEY, Iowa, Sept. 13, 2016 – The first white settlers in Greene County, Truman and Mary Davis, arrived about this time 167 years ago – in October of 1849.  Historical documents available at our Greene County Historical Museum in Jefferson say the Davises brought their six children, ranging in age from 2 to 16, and traveled in a prairie schooner pulled by a yoke of oxen.  They brought one cow, a horse, 12 chickens, eight sheep, two pigs and a dog.

They came from Missouri and were eager to settle into the log cabin that Truman and the two older boys, Charles (16) and Lewis (14), built when they visited earlier that summer. They planted a garden then, too.

In the fall, the Davis family stopped in Adel and procured coffee, sugar and salt – the things that wouldn’t be available from the garden, by picking in the wild, or that Truman and the boys couldn’t trap or shoot.

That garden included turnips and potatoes, and I can visualize Mary directing they be dug up right away and stored in a large hole in the side of a hill. The hole was then covered with dirt. Imagine a small side-hill cave for food storage!  Those provides places to store vegetables so they’d be protected from the freezing prairie winters, and cool enough to avoid spoilage in hot weather.

That following spring, in 1850, Mary was home with the children James (3), Catherine (6), John (8), William (10), and Lewis also called Levi (15). She happened to be pregnant with the first white child to be born in Greene County, Mary Ann.

Charles, the oldest son, and Truman were out trapping when about 25 Indian braves raced in on their ponies. They rode single file, but held a tomahawk in one hand and a rifle in the other.  They came in fast, whooping and hollering.

Of course the family was frightened and the document indicates that 10-year-old William grabbed a rifle from above the fireplace, and was prepared to protect his mother and the other children.  Lewis (Levi) cautioned him, saying all the Indians could not be killed before the family was murdered.

Rather, Levi went out and began to try and talk with them.  Despite the language barrier, they somehow agreed to a shooting contest.  Levi rubbed a mark on a tree, and being a good shot, could fire right into the middle of the mark. The Indian braves tried it, but were not as accurate.   The document continues, “It became a game. We eventually gave them some salt, and they went happily on their way.”

Seven years later, there was another Indian scare. Greene County was more populated and the town of New Jefferson had been established.  Word came about the “Spirit Lake Massacre” in northwest Iowa. Some settlers feared the Sioux might come south, and “some of our neighbors went and stayed in town,” the Davises reported.  But no related fighting happened in Greene County.


One excellent source for such stories about the settlers’ early life here is a hand-written memoir by Gillum Toliver, who was 14 years old in 1854 when he settled in Greene County with his parents, Isom and Matilda Toliver.  Gillum served in the Union Army in the Civil War and later became an attorney and state legislator.

At some point in his life, he decided to record the stories he knew about the early settlers, and he did that in long-hand writing.

“The Toliver family lived in a large house on Wilson Avenue in the north part of Jefferson,” says Mary Lynch, of Jefferson, a member of the board of directors of the historical society who has read the memoir.  “Years after Gillum Toliver wrote the memoir, it was found in the attic of that home.”

Gillum’s great-grandson John Milligan, who lives in Jefferson today, later had copies of the memoir made and gave one of them to the museum, Lynch said.

“I took time to read the stories, and they’re just wonderful,” she said. “Gillum didn’t just write the story of his own family.  It’s like he wanted to leave an accurate account of the early years here, so he writes about many of the early settlers and what life was like for them. Everybody who’s interested in our local history should eventually take time to read the memoir.”

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Meet the latest historic plaque nominees

JEFFERSON, Iowa, Sept. 13, 2016 — A second “Historical Plaque Walk” will be held on Sunday, Sept. 18, beginning at 2 p.m. at the Greene County Historical Museum here.  This walk will actually be called the “Historical Plaque Nominee Walk,” because it will feature seven nominees to be honored eventually with bronze plaques on the brick pillars around the downtown square.  Last year’s first walk featured 10 other people or events of note in Greene County history, and their stories are now told in plaques on the pillars.

An opportunity for the second round of nominations was available to the public through the end of June, and seven were received.

Victor Hugo Lovejoy in 1925 family photoCROPPED
Victor Hugo Lovejoy of the Jefferson Bee newspaper

Those being portrayed during the walk Sunday afternoon include Iowa Supreme Court Justice Elma Gates Albert, legendary journalist Victor Hugo Lovejoy, Beta Tau Delta charitable sorority, the entrepreneurial early business Milligan Brothers Lumber Grain & Coal, circus promoter Yankee Robinson, Spring Lake county park, and early educator Azor Mills.

Each nominee will be portrayed by area residents costumed for the part.

The Jefferson Matters: Main Street program received a Greene County Community Foundation grant for $1,600, the cost of one plaque.  So, following the Historical Plaque Nominee Walk, those who’ve heard the stories are invited to return to the Greene County Historical Society for free refreshments and to vote for the nominee that should receive this first plaque.  Another plaque honoring one of the nominees, Milligan Brothers Lumber Grain & Coal, is being financed by John and Kathy Milligan, of Jefferson, descendants of the Milligan brothers.  Plaques for the other new nominees will be made and posted as funding becomes available.

The nominees and actors portraying them on Sunday are as follows:

Victor Hugo Lovejoy – Darren Jackson.

Spring Lake – Jean Van Gilder.

Milligan Brothers Lumber, Grain & Coal – Don Van Gilder.

Justice Elma Gates Albert – Alan Robinson.

Azor Mills – Rob Hoyt.

Yankee Robinson – Andrew McGinn.

Beta Tau Delta sorority – Cassie Dozier and Anita Van Horn.

This event is co-sponsored by Jefferson Matters: Main Street’s promotion committee and the Greene County Historical Society.  It will be a part of “Fall Fest” on the square, with activities throughout the afternoon.

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    How many courthouse structures have been built on the site of the current Greene County Courthouse?



    There have been three courthouses built where the Greene County Courthouse stands today.  Ground was broken on the current courthouse in November of 1915, the cornerstone was set in May 1916 and the new building was dedicated in October of 1917. The centennial celebration of the courthouse is already underway, with events being planned by the “Courthouse 100” committee, with support from the Greene County Historical Society.  You can learn more about the courthouse history and the celebration plans on the Facebook page “Courthouse 100: Greene County, Iowa.”


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