All officers re-elected as our historical society closes out 2019 programming
JEFFERSON, Iowa, Dec. 7, 2019 — The Greene County Iowa Historical Society had its final meeting of 2019 on Friday, Dec. 6, with a holiday meal at the Greenewood Center in Jefferson.
Officers re-elected for 2020 are David John, president; Margaret Hamilton, programs chairperson; Joyce Ausberger, secretary; Becki Cunningham, treasurer; Dale Hanaman, past-president, and Roger Aegerter, executive director. Newly elected to the board of directors is Jed Magee, who has moved back to Jefferson this fall after years in Charles City.
Entertainment was by an instrumental quintet from Greene County High School.
Scranton’s “Varceis Club” headlines our program on the many women’s clubs
SCRANTON, Iowa, Oct. 27, 2019 — The Greene County Historical Society will dip into some real rural Iowa culture in its meeting and program on Friday, Nov. 1, at the Scranton United Methodist Church.
Journalist Chuck Offenburger, of rural Cooper, will share some details from a column he has written about the history and current status of women’s clubs in Greene County. Then he will introduce a skit by members of the almost-legendary “Varceis Club” of Scranton, who’ll act out some of the 70 years of club history.
You may know that the “Varceis” name comes from the initials of the first names of the club’s founding members. With a salad luncheon and their annual comedy skits, they’ve raised money to donate to local programs and activities.
Performing from the Varceis Club will be members Linda Hedges, Lanie Schermerhorn, Sue Holden and Susanne MacDonald. After their skit, they will be joined by the one remaining founding member of the club, Roberta Henning, to answer questions from the audience.
There will be lunch served at 12 noon, $8 for historical society members and $10 for others who want to enjoy the meal. Members should RSVP to their community contacts by Tuesday evening, Oct. 29, and non-members who want to come for the lunch should RSVP by calling program director Margaret Hamilton at (515) 386-4408.
The program at 12:45 p.m. is free and the public is invited.
More “cover crops” being planted in Greene County now, and they’re really as historic as they are futuristic
By MARY WEAVER
RIPPEY, Iowa, Sept. 27, 2019 — Gillum S. Toliver, born in 1840, was a youth of 14 years when he settled in Greene County with his parents. The Greene County Historical Society has a copy of a diary kept by Toliver, and this is his description of the North Raccoon River, and the surrounding land:
“The river afforded more water and it was a more swift-running stream than it became after the country was settled. There were no dams on the river then. No stock had crossed it. Nothing but the wild game had disturbed it. The lands had not been plowed, so little of the soil reached the river to make the waters turbid. When the rains and snows fell, much of the water ran off through the rivulets, gullies, ravines, branches and creeks. More water reached the river than was the case after the land was put under cultivation. The North Raccoon River was a clear rapid running stream, and its bottom was generally covered with white sand and gravel. Then you could frequently see a fish, as far as across the river, in two feet of water.”
The prairie, when first seen by young Toliver, was covered with grasses such as buffalo grass, big and little blue stem, and others having very long tap roots, as much as five to seven feet.
Jerry Hatfield, USDA soil scientist for Iowa, says with current practices, we will run out of top soil in the Loess Hills in 35 years, and in the prairie pothole region of Iowa in 80 to100 years, with current climate conditions. He states, “It took us something like 150 years to lose the first half of our top soil in Iowa.”
High intensity rainfall (defined as over five inches) events occurred throughout the state in 2018, further adding to serious soil erosion, at a rate above five tons/acre/year.
The current soil status is described by Elizabeth Garst, a well-known conservationist from Coon Rapids, as being unhealthy.
“Repeated tillage breaks apart soil aggregates, and current conventional crop practices hurt the soil biotic,” she explains. “Soil biotic is defined as bugs in the food chains, from bacteria to spiders, that along with fungus, become the glue which holds the soil together. Many highly tilled soils in Iowa now take in water at the rate of ¼-inch an hour, while healthy crop soils can absorb perhaps 4 inches per hour. Prairie can handle 10 inches or more. The difference lies in the soil aggregate structure and percentage of organic matter.
“Our soils are increasingly resembling dust,” Garst continues. “The water from unhealthy soils goes across the surface instead of into the ground, exacerbating erosion.”
She says the crop ground “is not armored for this new reality. Terraces, strips, waterways, and buffers all help. Other ways to improve soil health is no-till, extended crop rotations, along with cover crops.”
Several area Greene County farmers are planting cover crops in the fall to provide nutrients for the soil, to hold moisture, as well as diminishing wind erosion. One has to feel remorse when driving in the rural portions of Greene County during the winter, only to see black soil covering the snow drifts in the ditches. Winter cover crops planted in Greene County include radishes that look almost like turnips, up to 12 inches long and white. Additional cover crops planted include cereal rye, wheat, and oats.
Several winters ago, our son David Weaver planted radishes, and we identified several areas in the field where deer had pulled the soil away from the radishes and enjoyed eating portions of the cover crop!
On a personal note, winter wheat was planted on our farm last September and was harvested in July. The field was “second-cropped” with buckwheat. The buckwheat grows very quickly, and provides a thick foliage cover. In fact, it is so thick it smothers weeds, limiting the use of herbicides, and has a high nutrient value, thus limiting the amount of fertilizer to be added. The buckwheat seeds are harvested, and the remaining plant are regenerated into the ground with a chisel plow.
As land stewards of Greene County, many farmers are beginning to use cover crops.
Don’t you pause and wonder what Gillum Toliver would have thought about our new cover crops?
You can comment on this story in the space below here, or write directly to the columnist by email firstname.lastname@example.org. The author, who lives outside Rippey, is an active member of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society.
At Oct. 4 Rippey meeting, we’ll hear the stories of three historic farms
RIPPEY, Iowa, Sept. 27, 2019 — Nancy Hanaman, of rural Rippey, will lead a program on “Farming in Greene County: From horse & plow to GPS in the fields” on Friday, Oct. 4, when the historical society meets at the United Methodist Church here.
The program will focus on this historic farms of three families — the Jones family, from the Dana area, and the Youngs and Bardoles from the Rippey area. The Jones and Young families have officially-recognized “Heritage Farms,” meaning they have been in the family’s ownership for 150 years. Roy and Phyllis Bardole have “Century Farms,” with 100 years of ownership, on both sides of their family.
Here are three of the six generations of Bardoles who’ve operated “Century Farms” in Greene County. Left to right are brothers Pete and Tim Bardole, Tim’s son Schyler Bardole, and Roy Bardole.
“The owning and operating of farm land by Heritage and Century families is a significant accomplishment in Iowa and Greene County,” said Hanaman, who is a cousin to the Bardoles.
She plans to summarize the Heritage & Century Farm programs that the state has, and will give statistics on the number of such farms in both the state and in Greene County. She’ll then call forward representatives of each of the three families to talk about their farms’ histories. And any other owners of Heritage or Century Farms who are at the program will also be recognized.
There will be lunch served at 12 noon, $8 for historical society members and $10 for others who want to enjoy the meal. Members should RSVP to their community contacts by Tuesday evening, Oct. 1, and non-members who want to come for the lunch should RSVP by calling program director Margaret Hamilton at (515) 386-4408.
The program at 12:45 p.m. is free and the public is invited.
A second “museum party” this Saturday welcomes another Lincoln Highway tour recalling 1919 convoy
JEFFERSON, Iowa, Sept. 3, 1010 — The Greene County Historical Society is hosting another “museum party” this Saturday, Sept. 7, to help welcome another group coming through Greene County as part of a motor tour across the nation on the historic Lincoln Highway.
The historical museum at 219 E. Lincoln Way will be open for its normal Saturday business hours from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. But it will remain open until 4 p.m. for the special “museum party” through the afternoon. Admission to the museum and refreshments are free, and local people are encouraged to come greet the travelers.
Two weeks ago, on Aug. 24, a tour of more than 50 restored military vehicles made a stop in Jefferson while on their drive across the nation. That tour was sponsored and organized by the Military Vehicle Preservation Association.
The one that will be here this Saturday is organized by the Lincoln Highway Association, and it is expected to bring more custom and antique cars.
Both tours are saluting a 1919 U.S. military convoy, which was led then by a young Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who later became president of the U.S. The troops were exploring how effective the Transcontinental Highway, as it was becoming known, would be for moving soldiers and equipment. That experience is said to have shaped Eisenhower’s thinking three decades later in directing the construction of the interstate highway system.
The people on this latest Lincoln Highway Association-organized tour left the Washington, D.C., area on Aug. 30. They’re traveling up to 200 miles per day en route to a Sept. 16 finish in San Francisco. Their total route of just more than 3,000 miles generally follows the historic Lincoln Highway.
They will be crossing Greene County this Saturday, arriving in Jefferson at about 1 p.m. for a stop of up to an hour. They’ll be parking near the museum. The entourage will be moving between overnight stays in Marshalltown on Friday and Council Bluffs later Saturday.
At the museum, Janice Harbaugh, of Raspberry Ridge Publishing here in Jefferson, will be displaying and selling her line of historical re-publications, which include vintage postcards and other early books that portray the settlement and development of this area. The Greene County postcards have been especially popular with visitors here. Refreshments are being donated by historical society members.
Historical society hosting “museum party” Saturday Aug. 24 for re-enactment of 1919 military convoy
JEFFERSON, Iowa, Aug. 19, 2019 — The Greene County Historical Society is hosting a “museum party” this Saturday, Aug. 24, to help welcome those coming to Jefferson on the re-enactment of the trans-USA 1919 military vehicle convoy.
The historical museum at 219 E. Lincoln Way will be open for its normal Saturday business hours from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Then it will be re-opened from1 to 4 p.m. for the special “museum party.”
More than 50 restored military vehicles are now on their way across the nation on the Lincoln Highway. They are re-enacting a 1919 military convoy, which was led then by a young Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who later became president of the U.S. The troops were explaining how effective the Transcontinental Highway, as it was becoming known, would be for moving soldiers and equipment. That experience is said to have shaped Eisenhower’s thinking three decades later in directing the construction of the interstate highway system.
The convoy of re-enactors in their restored vehicles left York, Penn., on Aug. 10 and is traveling about 150 miles per day en route to a Sept. 14 finish in San Francisco.
These vehicles will be crossing Greene County this coming Saturday, Aug. 24, arriving in Jefferson at about 3 or 3:30 p.m. for a stop of up to an hour. The public is encouraged to turn-out and cheer on the convoy participants, who’ll be parking around the courthouse square in Jefferson.
At the museum, Janice Harbaugh, of Raspberry Ridge Publishing here in Jefferson, will be displaying and selling her line of historical re-publications, which include vintage postcards and other early books that portray the settlement and development of this area. The Greene County postcards have been especially popular with visitors here.
There will also be free refreshments during the afternoon at the museum.
“The idea for the museum party is to give people a place to gather as we get ready to welcome those coming in on the convoy,” said Margaret Hamilton, a board member and program director for the historical society. “We’ll welcome the re-enactors to stop-in at the museum, too, after they get parked around the courthouse square.”
The military vehicles convoy will then go on to Denison for an overnight stay Saturday.
A second convoy across the U.S. on the Lincoln Highway is expected to arrive in Greene County on Sept. 7. It will feature antique and customized civilian vehicles.
Grand Junction hosting two of our programs: Friday Aug. 2 on county’s movie theatres, Sunday Aug. 4 on GJ’s 150 years
GRAND JUNCTION, Iowa, July 29, 2019 — There’s a Friday-Sunday doubleheader of local history programs coming this weekend, both in Grand Junction, as that town celebrates its sesquicentennial.
On Friday, Aug. 2, Mike and Dianne Piepel, of Jefferson, are presenting the “Theaters in Greene County,” with a 12 noon lunch for those who RSVP and pay, and the free program at 12:45 p.m., both in the Grand Junction Community Center. This will be the historical society’s normal monthly meeting.
On Sunday, Aug. 4, Alan Robinson, of Grand Junction, will present “Grand Junction: 150 Years of Transportation and Transitions” at 1 p.m. at the community center. This free program is co-sponsored by the historical society and the Grand Junction Sesquicentennial Committee.
Mike and Dianne Piepel, 1970 classmates at Jefferson High School and then at Mankato State University in Minnesota before they married, have been movie fans since childhood, probably Mike more than Dianne.
“As a boy, going into the Iowa Theatre – which is now the Sierra – for their weekend matinees, I just fell in love with films,” Mike said. “At Mankato State, we had a new student center, and I got involved with the committee that booked the movies, dances, concerts and all that, and I always enjoyed working on the movies the most.”
That interest continued as the Piepels moved on for graduate school and teaching at the University of Southern Colorado and at South Dakota State University. After 15 years away, the couple returned to Jefferson when Mike landed a job at American Athletic Inc. He also taught social studies at Des Moines Area Community College, was elected Greene County auditor for 12 years in the late 1980s and ’90s, and finished his career in rural route delivery for the U.S. Postal Service, where he recently retired. Dianne served as middle school librarian for 23 years, and that helped develop and sharpen her skills as a researcher.
Mike said the research into all the movie houses that have operated in Greene County taxed both his knowledge of movies and Diane’s research abilities. “We’ve spent six months digging into this since Roger Aegerter (executive director of the historical society) asked us if we’d be interested in doing this,” Mike said. “Dianne got into the archives of the newspapers in Jefferson, Grand Junction, Paton, Scranton, Rippey and Churdan.”
They found that all but the tiniest of our towns had at least one, and some towns have had several through their history. “Jefferson had three or four movie theatres operating at the same time, and Churdan once had two going at the same time,” Mike said. “And in some of the smallest towns, we found mentions of how the local people were going to show movies on the sides of business buildings, with people sitting outdoors on benches or blankets.”
The Eagle Theatre that served Grand Junction in about 1914.
Many of those theatres were built as opera houses, and the films came to them later. The crown jewel of all those entertainment houses is today’s community-owned Sierra in Jefferson, which opened in 1884 as the Head Opera House. It has operated continuously for public entertainment for 135 years. Mike Piepel serves on the board of directors of the Sierra.
Preceding Friday’s program on the theatres, there will be a lunch by the Horizons organization in the community center at 12 noon, $8 for historical society members and $10 for others who are not members but would like to eat with the group. Historical society members should RSVP about lunch to their community contacts by Wednesday noon, July 31, and others who want to have lunch should RSVP to board member Margaret Hamilton at (515) 386-4408.
In Sunday afternoon’s program, Alan Robinson will present some amazing stories about his hometown of Grand Junction’s history with transportation and the impact that has had on the town’s growth, decline and re-development over its 150 years.
Robinson, a 1973 graduate of East Greene High School in Grand Junction, went on to study journalism at Drake University, then eventually earned his degree at New York University. He worked as a reporter and editor for newspapers and magazines in Wapello, Sheldon and Storm Lake in Iowa; in North Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island, South Carolina, and for 20 years in New York City. He also had two hitches in public relations at colleges along his way.
He moved back home to Grand Junction in 2011 and has been very active in Greene County organizations since then, including serving now on the Grand Junction city council. He works now as a guest services rep (“fancy words for front desk clerk,” he said) at the Cobblestone Hotel & Suites in Jefferson.
Development came fast in Grand Junction after the east-west railroad mainline came through Greene County in 1866. Within a couple years, it was determined that a north-south rail line, from Missouri through Des Moines and on to Minnesota, would be built through what is now Grand Junction.
“Once the rail reached from Des Moines to the intersection with the Chicago & North Western, things moved fast for Grand Junction,” Robinson said. “It was a boom town. Over 60 buildings were constructed in just four months in late 1869. The town went from population 0 to 444 in Year 1, and doubled again in just a few more years.”
Ever since, Grand Junction has been dealing with changes in transportation and economic diversification. The population once hit 1,100, but by 2017 dropped to 784. The town remains a major rail center, now is positioned on the front edge of agricultural evolution, too – with the French-owned Louis Dreyfus ethanol plant on the north and electricity-producing wind turbines south of town.
Grand Junction’s story is a fascinating one, and Robinson probably knows it better than any current citizens.
History comes alive at the Greene County Fair, Friday & Saturday July 12-13
JEFFERSON, Iowa, July 9, 2019 — The Greene County Historical Society will take part in the Greene County Fair later this week with its popular “history chats” for a fifth straight year, displays of early farm life and classic ag equipment, tours and explanations of a historic one-room schoolhouse, and a free ice cream social each afternoon.
The society’s exhibits building on the fairgrounds will be open Friday and Saturday, July 12 and 13, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The displays in that building – and the antique equipment around it — showcase the agriculture of Greene County in the early to mid 1900s
“How long since you strolled through our exhibits building to look at historical Greene County farming?” said Roger Aegerter, executive director of the historical society. “Have you ever been there to see the hand tools, tractors, and local farm inventions? This building was put up in 1975 and houses many of the historical society’s large agriculture artifacts. The walls of the building underwent a renovation about 10 years ago and the walls were lined with authentic barn boards with cattle and horse stalls. This might be, should be the year you discover Greene County’s agricultural past.”
In addition, the “Bristol No. 7” country schoolhouse next door on the fairgrounds will be staffed Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to5 p.m. by Becki Cunningham, who will explain what rural education was once like in the county. Cunningham, a member of the historical society board from Paton, attended a country school in her student years.
The schoolhouse was built in 1874, restored by the historical society in 1967 and repaired again in the last three years by the organization. It is also known as the “Minnihan Schoolhouse,” after the family that owned surrounding land and donated the building for re-location to the fairgrounds.
In special programming inside the historical building, the historical society will sponsor “History Chats” for a fifth consecutive year. There will be six different chats on topics of local history, with moderators Chuck Offenburger of Cooper and Jerry Roberts of Jefferson, both retired journalists, asking questions of a small panel of people with expertise on each topic. Questions and stories from the audience will be encouraged, too.
“For each of these history chats, we hope people with some knowledge and stories about the topic will attend for these discussions, which will be more like conversations than interviews,” said Offenburger. “We’ll sit in a circle of chairs, Jerry and I will get the chat started, and we’ll do our best to draw stories out of the people there. One reason we like to do this is because we usually hear about historical moments or incidents we’ve never known before – and that sometimes leads us to full-blown programs later on for the historical society.”
Here are the days, times and topics for the history chats:
Friday, July 12
11 a.m. — Auction Barns of Greene County.
1 p.m. — Doug Rieder & Greene County Sports History.
3 p.m. — When Rock ‘n’ Roll Arrived in Greene County.
Saturday, July 13
11 a.m. — The Ku Klux Klan in Greene County.
1 p.m. — The 50-Year News Careers of Jerry Roberts & Chuck Offenburger (including the times they got fired), interviewed by Jefferson native Jack Lashier.
3 p.m. — The Future of Greene County.
And both days at 2 p.m. in our historical building, there’ll be free servings of “Hanaman’s Historic Homemade Ice Cream,” made by historical society board members Dale and Nancy Hanaman, of Rippey. Cookies, too.
Because of the activities at the fairgrounds on Saturday, July 13, the historical society’s museum in the business district will not be open that day.
Stories of the Mason House from the Fosters when our society meets Friday June 7
Nick and Annette Foster, owners for about a year now of the Mason House hotel in Jefferson, will share fascinating stories they’ve learned about their 130-year-old guest house when the Greene County Historical Society meets on Friday, June 7, at the First United Methodist Church in Jefferson.
Located at 502 E. Lincoln Way, the hotel opened in 1889 primarily to serve passengers on the north-south railroad coming through Jefferson.
Today, it’s still serving a lot of visitors — those who are arriving on bicycles on the Raccoon River Valley Trail, which now occupies the former railroad route, and others who are driving to the community.
The Fosters, who live in Jefferson and farm just outside town, bought the hotel from previous owners Dr. Jim and Nancy Teusch, also of Jefferson. The Teusches had called the hotel, which they renovated a decade ago, the Old Lincolnway Hotel, but the Fosters decided to restore usage of its original name, the Mason House hotel.
The Fosters are well-known among history buffs in the area, as they also host the annual Old-Fashioned Threshing Bee at their farm on a weekend in late July. And Nick Foster is on the board of directors of the historical society. Annette Foster and their daughter Nicole Timmons, both former public school teachers, are now co-directors of Natural Wonders Learning Center for early childhood education in Jefferson.
For the historical society event on June 7, there will be a lunch in the church hall at 12 noon, $8 for historical society members and $10 for others who are not members but would like to eat with the group. Historical society members should RSVP about lunch to their community contacts right away, and others who want to have lunch should RSVP to board member Margaret Hamilton at (515) 386-4408.
The program at 1 p.m. is free and open to the public.
Our historical society hosts “Iowa History 101” during Bell Tower Festival, plus the art show & spelling bee
JEFFERSON, Iowa, June 1, 2019 — The Greene County Historical Society is participating in the 40th Bell Tower Festival in Jefferson June 7-9 in three ways – hosting a special traveling display on state history on E. Lincoln Way adjacent to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Gardens, hosting the Bell Tower art show at the historical museum, and sponsoring the festival’s spelling bee at the Greene County Community Center.
–The traveling display of state history is aboard a “Iowa History 101” mobile resource — a very big bus that the State Historical Society of Iowa now has visiting all 99 counties. It will be at the Bell Tower Festival on Saturday, June 8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to it is free.
“This exhibition shares some of the essential stories that every Iowan should know about who we are and what we’ve achieved since Iowa became a state more than 170 years ago,” State Historical Society of Iowa administrator Susan Kloewer said. “So we’re delighted to bring this traveling exhibition, and we encourage all Iowans to learn about our state’s rich heritage.”
Like a visit to your grandparents’ attic, the exhibition unpacks stories of Iowa’s past with nearly 50 artifacts, including:
• A battered hat from a coal miner in Marion County.
• A 1917 prototype of the state flag designed by Dixie Cornell Gebhardt of Knoxville.
• The pen Gov. William Harding used to sign the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.
• A basketball jersey that superstar Lynne Lorenzen wore during her glory days at Ventura High School from the mid to late 1980s.
• An Olympic medal from sprinter Natasha Kaiser-Brown of Des Moines.
• A patch from a spacesuit worn by astronaut Peggy Whitson of Beaconsfield.
As a bonus, native Iowan Mike Wolfe, the creator and star of the hit television series “American Pickers,” lent his voice and video talents to the exhibition’s multimedia elements.
—The Bell Tower art show at the historical museum will showcase the work of local artists and pieces from the collections of local art lovers. There are no entrance fees, and the art is neither juried nor judged. “This is a show to showcase our local talents and also for people to share artwork that means something to them,” said Roger Aegerter, the chairperson of the show and the executive director of the historical society. Hours of the show at the museum will be Friday, June 7, from5to 8 p.m.; Saturday, June 8, from10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, June 9, from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is free and people are welcome to browse the museum exhibits, too.
—The traditional spelling bee will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, at the community center. There will be competition for four different age groups – adults included – and there is no entry fee.
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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.”