Sorting out one family’s history: The researcher, Jean Tucker, keeps surprising the descendent, her husband Doug Tucker!

By MARY WEAVER

JEFFERSON, Iowa, Dec. 7, 2020 – One hundred forty-eight years ago, there was another highly contagious disease that brought sickness and death to Greene County residents. One known victim was Nancy Tucker, the great-great-great-great grandmother of Doug Tucker of Jefferson.  The cause may have been “henfluenza.”

Stories about that have emerged as Doug’s wife Jean Tucker has been doing careful research into Tucker family history, sometimes finding facts that have corrected decades of folklore passed down through the generations.

Mary Weaver Profile“An explosive fatal epizootic (widespread in an animal population) in poultry, prairie chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, occurred over much of the populated United States between 15 November and 15 December 1872,” documents from the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health tell us. “The epizootic spread very rapidly in association with a well-reported panzootic (pandemic in animals) of equine influenza (horse flu) that had begun in Canada during the last few days of September 1872.

“The rapid spread was associated with rail transportation, as the disease moved quicky from Canada to New York, and Michigan and throughout the Midwest. The disease present was about 100 miles either side of the railroad.”

Nancy Bradford Tucker was born March 27, 1781, to John Bradford and Johanna Regina Shrout.  Eventually, Nancy and her husband, James P. Tucker, moved to Ohio and later moved to Tippecanoe County, Indiana.

Nancy and James P. were the parents of 10 children. The 10th child appears to have died in infancy.

James P. Tucker’s father was John Tucker. John and his four boys came to America and settled in West Virginia. Jean Tucker has been unable to document where they lived prior to traveling to America.

Doug Tucker, the descendent, and Jean Tucker, the researcher.

She further states the Tucker family story about four brothers coming to America is “hearsay,” but two of the brothers, John Jr. & James P., have been documented as sons of the father, John Tucker, as they are both listed on early tax lists. It was not unusual to give the first-born male child to be given the same name as their father.

Nancy’s husband, James P. apparently died around 1839 (as he was not listed on the census records in 1840). Deeds recorded in 1846 show the children then having 1/9th interest in the farm.  Following her husband’s death, Nancy rotated living with her sons, and came to Iowa with her son, William, as she is recorded in the 1856 Greene County census.

She died on February 27,1872, at age 91. There seems to be some dispute regarding her age, as the community thought she was 104, but the birth and death records obtained by Jean Tucker through her research indicates her age at 91 at the time of her death.

There are several nostalgic, even romantic stories in the Pleasant Hill Church area history, but, as a result of Jean’s research, some of those stories now have to be considered folklore.

One is that Nancy Tucker “was the first White buried in Greene County,” but Jean indicates this is untrue, as there are settlers’ graves older than 1872 in the Pleasant Hill cemetery.

The gate along the east side of the Pleasant Hill Cemetery, west of the Pleasant Hill Church.

Secondly, verbal history given by Nancy Tucker’s great-great-granddaughter, Mrs. Charlie (Dollie) Thompson, relates that an Indian who claimed to be a doctor, helped care for Nancy Tucker when she had the “plague.” He dug roots, boiled them and gave her the liquid.  The story continues he also contracted the disease, and three days after her death, he also died. They were buried beside each other on the hillside.  Her grave is reported to be under the fence by the gate west of the Pleasant Hill Church, where you can walk into the cemetery.

So sorry, but through genealogical research, Jean Tucker has learned that Nancy Tucker died at the home of another of her sons, Isaac Tucker, in neighboring Carroll County. She was returned for burial in Greene County.

Jean found an excerpt from the diary of Thomas Terrill, an early Greene County settler, written March 1, 1872, stating: “Chored etc, chopped stove wood Hitch to wagon and went to Tuckers to the funeral. Did not go to the graveyard. She was said to be 104 years old —Grandmother Tucker. Came back and chopped stove wood   Cloudy N.W.”

While Pleasant Hill Church history has it that Nancy Tucker is buried near the gate to the cemetery, the diary excerpt regarding the graveyard indicates others had been buried there. So that’s more folklore.

Thanks to Doug and Jean for relating this story and sharing family genealogical information about the Tucker family.

Dates to remember while reading:

–The Revolutionary War started in 1775 and lasted until 1783.

–Iowa became a state in 1846.

–The Truman Davis family came to Greene County in 1849.

–The Western Stage Company, which had a route going through the Pleasant Hill Church property, was established in 1854, allowing people to travel from Des Moines to Sioux City aboard stagecoaches.

–Pleasant Hill Church was erected in 1881, although services were held earlier in the homes of the settlers.

–The railroad came to Greene County in 1867.

You can comment on this story in the space below here, or write directly to the columnist by email at mweaver235@gmail.com. The author, who lives outside Rippey, is an active member of the Greene County Historical Society.

Leading Iowa historian Tom Morain, a native of Greene County, will be memorialized in special state program online on Tuesday evening, Nov. 24

DES MOINES, Ia., Nov. 22, 2020 — One of Iowa’s leading historians, Tom Morain, the Greene County native who died of cancer at 73 last month, will be honored in a special online program on Tuesday evening, Nov. 24, at 7 p.m.  Hosting the free public event will be Leo Landis, curator at the State Historical Museum in Des Moines, and Charity Nebbe, host of Iowa Public Radio’s “Talk of Iowa” show, who often called on Morain for his expertise on historical topics.

The event is titled “Historian Stories: Remembering Tom Morain.”  You can register beforehand for the program by clicking here, and then you will receive email instructions how to join in on the Zoom audience.

Brothers Tom (left) and Rick Morain, when they presented a Greene County Historical Society program in 2018.

Morain, who grew up in Jefferson, retired in the past year after a distinguished career, the last stop of which was director of government relations at Graceland University, in Lamoni, where he also taught and assisted with the honors program.

He formerly served as director of Living History Farms and also was administrator of the State Historical Society of Iowa.   He 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.

He also presented several historical programs for the Greene County historical group, most recently in November, 2018, when he and his brother Rick Morain, retired editor and publisher of the Jefferson Bee and Herald, gave an overview of the political history of their home county.

One especially notable achievement in Tom’s 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.

You can read Tom’s obituary in the Jefferson Herald by clicking here.

Historical museum is now closing again, and until further notice, out of concern over corona virus spread

JEFFERSON, Iowa, July 14, 2020 — The Greene County Historical Museum in Jefferson was closed throughout the spring by threat of the corona virus but re-opened for Saturday mornings in July.  It is now being closed to the public again – until further notice.

“The uptick in COVID-19 cases in surrounding counties is one of the main factors in our decision,” said Roger Aegerter, executive director of the Greene County Historical Society.

He added that he and society president David John looked “at many factors related to the museum being open, and agreed that the negative factors out-number the good things. So at this time, we are closing down the museum until further notice.”

There were few visitors when the museum was open on the first two Saturday mornings of July.

Roger Aegerter’s fun new artwork lets you walk the full length of the historic Lincoln Highway!

JEFFERSON, Iowa, July 8, 2020 — Roger Aegerter has long been intrigued by the historic Lincoln Highway.  Maybe it’s because for 42 years, he has lived just a half-block of the highway’s route as it goes through Jefferson. Over that time, he’s driven nearly the entire route, from its beginning in New York City to its finish in San Francisco.  And now he’s painted it!

Aegerter, a former art teacher, school administrator, working artist and for eight years the executive director of our Greene County Iowa Historical Society, had been thinking “a couple of years” about doing a public art project on the highway, and decided in March it was time to act.  He talked to the City of Jefferson streets department officials about the idea, got their permission and arranged to borrow the paint sprayer they use for traffic markings on local streets.

Roger Aegerter shown on his representation of the Lincoln Highway. (Photo by John Brunow)

Then he went to work on the math part of the project.  He wanted to paint the 3,389 miles of the trans-USA highway “in scale” on the 295-foot-long sidewalk of one block of East Lincoln Way in downtown Jefferson, so some calculating was required.  “So one foot on the sidewalk is the equivalent of 11.5 miles on the real route,” Aegerter said.

That sidewalk is on the block just southeast of the courthouse square in Jefferson, so it extends past the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Gardens, the Stitch quilt shop and the Greene County Historical Museum.  And both East and West Lincoln Way in Jefferson are the actual route of the original Lincoln Highway.

Aegerter gathered his paint — “regular outdoor latex paint” — other equipment, then scheduled around other commitments and activities so he would have plenty of time in the last week of June and first week of July.  He was blessed with mild weather.  Since he was using spray paint, he generally painted in the early morning and evening, “when winds are almost always lighter and it’s usually 10 degrees cooler, too.”

Another artist Jolene Peters, who operates the “Art on the Fly” studio in Jefferson, volunteered to cut stencils with the names of 13 towns and cities that Aegerter wanted to paint on his highway, to help people know its real route.

When the public art project was near completion. (Photo by Jan Rosdail Aegerter)

On the sidewalk, the highway is painted as a 15-inch-wide green strip, but it meanders as it goes the length of the block. “Where the real highway route goes, so does the green highway on the sidewalk,” he said.

He also painted a representation of the borders of Iowa on the sidewalk, and people will note that it seems extremely wide.  “The width of Iowa really is in scale there,” Aegerter said. “When you think about it, the Lincoln Highway route across Iowa is about 350 miles long, so it really is about 10 percent of the entire highway route across the U.S.”

Total cost of the project wound up being $200, he said, and that was paid from the budget of the Tower View Team, which promotes public art for the Jefferson Matters Main Street program.

Sidewalk superintendents were watching his work closely.

“When all I had done was the green strip for the highway, and it was kind of bending and curving the length of the sidewalk, I heard a couple of guys speculating that this might be a walkway where the police officers could give people sobriety tests,” Aegerter said. “Since I got it done, it’s been kind of neat to see a couple of kids riding their bicycles there, trying to stay on the green highway.”

He and his wife Jan drove the east half of the Lincoln Highway over the years, as part of several different trips they took to various locations in the U.S.  In the fall of 2016, Roger drove the route from Jefferson to San Francisco in three and a half days.  He then drove to Seattle, where Jan flew in to join him.  Then they made a leisurely drive back to Jefferson via a northerly route. Roger did a historical society program on that trip, with great photos, in August, 2017.

The art highway, just like the real Lincoln Highway, goes right by the front door of the Greene County Historical Museum.

Note the names of the cities along the way. 

Where it ends.

Greene County Historical Museum to re-open, on Saturdays in July

JEFFERSON, Iowa, June 23, 2020 — After being closed all spring and early summer, out of concern for the spread of the corona virus, the Greene County Historical Museum in Jefferson is going to begin re-opening to the public – starting with Saturday mornings in July.

“We will be open Saturdays from 9 a.m. until noon on July 4, 11, 18, and 25,” Roger Aegerter, the historical society’s executive director, said this week. “And then we’ll evaluate what additional times we can be open.”

Aegerter said for now, visitors as well as the volunteer guides at the museum will all be encouraged to observe social distancing of six feet, wear masks, and refrain from touching or handling the exhibits. There will not be organized group tours available, and the total number of people in the museum at any one time will be limited to 10.

“This may sound like a lot of restrictive regulations but we want our visitors and volunteers to stay safe and healthy,” he added.

In other corona virus-related decisions, the historical society will not be opening its two historical buildings at the Greene County Fairgrounds this summer, and its regular monthly lunches and programs will not be resumed until at least September.

Museum will remain closed at least through June, and June 5 program canceled

JEFFERSON, Iowa, May 21, 2020 — The Greene County Historical Museum in Jefferson will remain closed at least through the month of June, historical society president David John announced today.

The governor of Iowa has authorized the re-opening of museums beginning on Friday, May 22. Museums have been among the public facilities that have been closed since mid-March to try to prevent the spread of the corona virus.

“I know people are anxious to get out & about, but I think we should err on the side of caution, rather than jump right in,” said John, who polled the society’s board of directors before making the decision.

In addition, the historical society’s program director Margaret Hamilton has announced that the organization’s meeting and program scheduled for June 5 has been canceled. That program — on the history of Spring Lake Park — will hopefully be rescheduled later, she said.

His research stalled when he became absorbed in what Jefferson was like back in the year 1876

By ROGER AEGERTER

JEFFERSON, Iowa, April 8, 2020 — There is a group of women in Jefferson, “Why Not Us,” who are coming together to bring the business “Angie’s Tea Garden” back to life. The Centennial Block building, which houses or did house the Tea Garden on the northwest corner of the Greene County Courthouse square, is now an empty shell waiting for its new life.

The business was destroyed in early February, 2019, when water pipes in a vacant upstairs apartment froze and dumped thousands of gallons of water through the structure.

I initially thought it would be interesting to explore the nine lives of this building, which was built in 1876. The research of businesses and owners of Centennial Block led me to a history of all businesses in Jefferson around the beginning of 1876. So this is a story about Jefferson in that year, when the population was a little over 1,500.

Roger Aegerter Profile PictureJefferson was laid out in 1854 on 160 acres purchased with money borrowed by the newly formed Greene County from Fort Des Moines banker Hoyt Sherman. The initial loan was $200. The original name was New Jefferson. There was already a Jefferson near Dubuque, so the addition of “New” was done at the request of the U.S. Post Office. Soon the post office decided that New Jefferson could become just Jefferson. Their reasoning was that New Jefferson was putting a lot more effort into becoming a prosperous community.

The town had a public square and the first courthouse was built in 1856. Commercial lots around the square were sold for $10, with one lot on the southeast corner going for $60.

The purchase of at least one prized lot around the square was actually decided by a wrestling match between County Judge William Phillips and the newly-appointed County Clerk Benjamin F. Robinson. The judge threw the clerk on his back and chose the corner lot. (It turned out to be swampy and not a very good lot at all!)

In 1876, the Centennial Block building became the costliest structure ever built in the town. It was 80 feet long, 22 feet wide, and 30 feet high. The cost was $3,500.

Centennial Block building (on left) and its neighbors, in the late 19th century.

As I was researching the Centennial Block building in the January 22, 1876, Jefferson Bee newspaper, and that edition gave me a good glimpse of what the 20-year-old town what was like.

Back then almost 150 years ago, the Jefferson business environment was thriving.

Jefferson had four churches, with total congregations of 400 members. The public school had 300 students. (About this time there were 14,000 country schools in Iowa, I am not sure how many of these schools were around Jefferson.) There was also a Jefferson Academy, with approximately 60 pupils, that was started by the Presbyterian Church.

There was a list of eight “good” barns, no definition of good. There are several flour mill historical markers around the county now, but in 1876 there were only the Eureka Mill and Jefferson Mill in the immediate area along the “Coon” River, as it was called.

There were several secret societies: Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons; Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, and the Lodge of Odd Fellows. There is still a Masons Lodge in Jefferson located on the west side of the square, and the Odd Fellows Lodge last known location was in the new Forge building.

Parade in Jefferson in late 19th century.

Following is a list of 1876 businesses in Jefferson, with most descriptions and addresses indicating that they were generally in the present-day area of the square:
Attorneys — three firms and two individuals.

Two banks – Greene County and City.

Two broom makers, one by the depot and one on the north city limits.

Two barbers.

Two bakers, north side and west side.

Three blacksmiths, on the southeast and southwest corners of the square.

Six boot and shoe stores, all near the square.

Two cigar makers.

Five candy confectionary stores.

Five dry goods stores.

Five grocers.

Two jewelers.

Four shoemakers.

Two hardware stores.

Street scene in the early Jefferson business district.

Four hotels – Revere House, Mansion House, Massasoit House and, near the depot, Western House.

Two livery stables.

Two millinery hat shops – and later there were four active millineries in Jefferson.

Four dressmakers, two “Miss” and two “Mrs.”

Three real estate agencies.

Seven medical service providers, all men, and two dentists.

There were no furniture stores. You had to order all furniture out of a catalog. Later on it was customary for funeral parlors to deal in furniture.

There was only one restaurant.

There was a traveling salesman in town who sold tin ware.

Farm machinery was generally sold through the hardware stores.

There was one lime dealer.

Three carpet businesses.

Two merchant tailors. One by the name of George Bleakney, boasted of his accomplished hands with the tape and scissors. A client was quoted in the paper saying, “He makes ’um fit every time!”

There was only one grain buyer in the area, and three hog buyers.

Two coal dealers competed, with coal bring $5 per ton at that time.

The town had one harness & saddle maker.

There were two grain elevators, serving farmers who grew lots of oats and wheat.

There were ads from a salesman offering musical instruments, basically pianos and organs.

N.G. Cook was the only photographer.

Lumber dealers, Yeager & Co. and Nowlin Brothers, reportedly were selling most of their lumber for developments in Guthrie and Calhoun Counties.

A barbed wire dealer indicated much of their business was putting new barbs on old wire strands.

There was a plow maker.

And two insurance companies.

This time of 1876 in Iowa was a time of expansion. Immigrants were moving west and had the expertise and willingness to start new businesses wherever they were needed. Jefferson was a hub of activity in the area, thus this is where businesses set up.

In 1876 and for years after, the business district was at least two blocks wide in all directions from the courthouse square. I am sure some of these businesses were not there at the same time the following year, but there were probably some new ones, too.

Now, having shared this glimpse of early Jefferson, I’ll get busy completing my research for a detailed examination of the Centennial Block building, which is what I started out to do before I got caught up reading about the whole town back then.

Roger Aegerter, the author of this column, is executive director of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society. You can comment on this column in the space below here, or you can write directly to the author by email at roger.aegerter@gmail.com.

At the centennial of women receiving the right to vote, a look back at the battle in Greene County

By MIKKI SCHWARZKOPF

Mikki Schwarzkopf

JEFFERSON, Iowa, March 30, 2020 – This year marks the centennial of the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote. Nationally, the amendment came after approximately 60 years of effort. And Greene County had its share of heated controversy and debate, both pro and con.

But 60 years? Why so long?

As with today’s politics, it’s complicated. So I’ll start with a little background on suffrage before getting to Greene County specifically.

Firstly, the word “suffrage” originated from Latin, “to support.” Its first use regarding voting was in the U.S. Constitution in 1787.

Also, the words “suffragist” and “suffragette” meant different things. Suffragist is far older, but in 1906, a London journalist coined “suffragette” as a mocking, demeaning term for women who were militant supporters. These women were disillusioned with peaceful methods. They spat at officers, sent letter bombs, and chained themselves to railings. But over time, the words came to mean the same thing.

Tradition held that Victorian values, Democratic ideals, and the Bible agreed that women should be protected from sordid politics. They should stay home and tend to their proper duties. Both men and women firmly believed that each sex had a different role in life. The fear of changing roles, and that women might vote for Prohibition, both played a part in the long delay for women’s right to vote.


Many women wanted the vote because they depended almost entirely on their husbands for income, and were afraid of becoming destitute. Drunkard husbands put the lives of the family at risk. Understandably, many Iowa women joined the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in the 1840s and 1850s.

Women had little chance at training, education or jobs. Even women who were schoolteachers had to quit once they married.

Iowa was considered an ideal state for debating “the women’s question,” because many felt the state was already progressive. For example, by 1851 Iowa women could legally control their own property under “dower rights.” So by the 1850s, famous suffragists began speaking throughout Iowa.

But both the Civil War and World War I put the measure on the back burner. In 1870, black men nationwide were granted the right to vote as part of the 15th amendment, and women were outraged that they won nothing. That same year, the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association was founded.

Surprisingly, the 1870 Iowa legislature voted for women’s suffrage as well. Most women were certain that the 1872 general assembly would quickly approve it.

But, there were increasing conflicts in the women’s movement. In 1871 a “free love” scandal splintered the proponents. A few members believed in “free love,” and people soon became afraid that suffrage would destroy families. The most famous was Victoria Woodhull, of Chicago, who believed in both sexual freedom and birth control. In 1872, she was also the first woman to run for U.S. president after she founded the Equal Rights Party, with Frederick Douglass as her running mate. Douglass was a former slave in Maryland who, after emancipation, became one of the nation’s leading abolitionists and a pastor in Massachusetts and New York.

Victoria Woodhull

The following quotes from Woodhull express just how unconventional she really was:

–“The American nation, in its march onward and upward, can not publicly choke the intellectual and political activity of half its citizens by narrow statutes.”

–“All that is good and commendable now existing would continue to exist if all marriage laws were repealed tomorrow…”

Iowa suffragists worked hard to separate themselves from these extremists in the movement.

Annie Savery

Annie Savery, perhaps the most famous Iowa feminist, was heavily pressured to denounce Woodhull. Savery refused, reminding all that Woodhull had donated over $10,000 to the suffrage cause. “The Iowa Women’s Suffrage Association has no responsibility for anyone’s opinion, except the question of granting women the vote.”

Because of her stance, Savery was denounced as being too liberal, and was drummed out of IWSA membership. The issue had lost momentum, although suffragists continued to fight for rights.

In 1894, Iowa women were allowed to vote on local bond issues and similar matters because those were felt to be of natural interest to women and mothers. They could not vote for candidates running for office. This was called “partial suffrage,” and existed in 19 states. Legislators required separate ballot boxes and tallies for men and women. Women voters were handed shortened ballots, since they could only vote on one or two issues. They then inserted their ballots in boxes clearly marked “Women Voters.”

Even partial suffrage met with objections. A full page ad in the Iowa Homestead magazine inflamed farmers, warning that their taxes would be much higher. City women had easier access to the polls and would vote for “hysterical legislation.”

Victor Hugo Lovejoy, editor of the Jefferson Bee, later addressed these fears of higher taxes and of men’s motives in voting. He wrote: “Man thinks too dern much of dollars and too little of humanity. He does not see idealism as does woman. When a new schoolhouse is needed woman looks at the child and the child’s future, while man looks at his purse.”

About the woman voter, Lovejoy wrote: “She is going to arrive at her voting decisions on public affairs with a mental attitude at variance with man. She is not going to say, ‘How much will it cost’, but rather, ‘how much will this measure add to human service, human well being, human convenience, and human betterment.’”

But full suffrage would be another 26 years in coming. It wouldn’t become national law until 1920 with the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Meanwhile, advertising and articles on both sides were printed & distributed in Iowa and all over the country.

In Greene County, the famous suffragist Dr. Anna Shaw, of Philadelphia, spoke April 2 and 3, 1897, in Jefferson, both in the county courthouse and at the Presbyterian Church. Nearly all county churches adjourned their Sunday evening services so members could listen to Shaw’s presentation.

Speaking to a packed house were Shaw, several lecturers from around the U.S., and, from around Greene County, Mrs. Jesse Johnson of Farlin, Mrs. L. B. Sheldon of Scranton, Mrs. O. W. Lowery of Grand Junction, Mrs. S.L. Child of Jefferson, and the Presbyterian pastor Rev. A.C. Kaye of Jefferson. According to the Bee, a Mrs. Campbell gave an early history of the cause, “when it was thought a disgrace to speak in public, and she was not even allowed to even sit with a body of men as a delegate, but could sit in the gallery or behind a curtain.” Topics covered by the speakers listed different types of women and whether or not they needed the vote: wives, mothers, unmarried women, business women, tax-paying women.

Rev. Kaye spoke on “Would Woman Suffrage Benefit the State?” He pledged to advance the cause, saying “This is not a government of the people when a part were not represented.”

Anna Shaw was a logical and convincing speaker. Her credentials could only help her credibility. She was a medical doctor and also an ordained Methodist minister.

Dr. Anna Shaw

Quotes by Shaw became famous:

–“If we ever get to the polls once, you will never get us home.”

–“Around me I saw women overworked and underpaid, doing men’s work at half men’s wages, not because their work was inferior, but because they were women.”

–“When I hear that there are 5,000,000 working women in this country, I always take occasion to say that there are 18,000,000 but only 5,000,000 receive their wages.”

According to the April 10, 1897, story of the events in the Souvenir, an early Jefferson newspaper, Shaw believed that “women should vote, or their property should not be subject to taxation.” And, Shaw “presented the most convincing argument in favor of Woman Suffrage ever heard in Jefferson.”

Continuing from the Souvenir’s story: “The Court room was decorated with numerous banners…all of them bearing some emblem touching upon the question of woman’s rights. At the back of the Judge’s bench was a large silk flag having the usual thirteen stripes, but in the corner only four stars appeared. These represented the states of Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, and Utah, in which women are privileged to vote at the present time.”

The “suffrage flag.”

At one of the sessions, a Greene County suffrage group was organized, and the following officers were chosen: Mrs. Emily (Harvey) Church, president; Rev. A.B. Buckner, vice president; Mrs. Frank Wayt, secretary, and Mrs. J.J. Madden, Treasurer.

Judge E.G. Albert

Meanwhile, Greene County Judge E.G. Albert firmly believed that women weren’t meant to engage in politics, and he didn’t change his mind even after women won the vote nationwide. With the 19th amendment, women could not only legally vote, but could serve on juries – but NOT in Judge Albert’s courtroom. He routinely excused women from jury duty for trivial reasons, but only rarely would he excuse men. Eventually, women weren’t even summoned as potential jurors.

Contrast his opinion to that of Anna Shaw:

In 1898, a hearing was held in the Iowa State Capitol, letting both suffragists and anti’s have their say. Rep. Peter Stillmunkes, of the Iowa General Assembly, argued, “I have always been taught and Scripture says, God first made man and afterwards took a rib out of man’s side, out of which he made a woman. Now it seems to me a disgrace and an injustice to let that rib dictate to men in any way, shape or form whatsoever in regard to the law making power in this state. Therefore, I vote no.”

Rep. Peter Stillmunkes

The “No’s” carried the day.

Soon after, a Greene County Woman Suffrage Conference was held in April of 1898, organized by Grand Junction suffragist, Mrs. Jessie Johnson. In a March 31, 1898 article in the Bee, Johnson wrote, “The legislature, although petitioned by over 50,000 citizens of the state, has refused the submission of the question to a popular vote.” She urged locals to protest vigorously and demonstrate their convictions and strength of purpose.

But the issue wasn’t so much between men and women, but between conservatives and progressives of both sexes.

A lively debate was conducted in – and between – Greene County’s newspapers, according to historian Tom Morain’s highly-acclaimed book “Prairie Grass Roots, An Iowa Small Town in the Early Twentieth Century,” which was published in 1988.

Morain,who grew up in Jefferson, wrote how Lowrie Smith, the Scranton Journal editor, was outspokenly anti-women’s suffrage, while Lovejoy, the Jefferson Bee editor, was vehemently pro-suffrage.

Victor Hugo Lovejoy of the Jefferson Bee.

 

Lowrie Smith of the Scranton Journal.

And they hurled insults in print for years to each other on the issue.

In the Bee, Lovejoy voiced, “On suffrage, Lowrie needs fixing. We have tried it, but have given it up as a bad job! …the only way to fix him is with a club!”

Concerning fears about women voting against liquor, Lovejoy argued, “The liquor business is afraid of women. It is no wonder, for woman-kind has suffered more from booze than any other part of the human race.” He accused the Lowrie camp of “unutterable, indefatigable, uncompromising, inexpressible, ineffable, unspeakable, unremitting, untiring, unwearying, everlasting and eternal opposition to woman suffrage.”

Smith retorted that the Bee was “bumptious,” and said that his paper, the Journal, “regards unlimited participation by women in public affairs as the greatest evil impending in this country.” Women were too lofty and saintly, and according to Smith, “…directing the affairs of government is not within woman’s sphere and political gossip would cause her to neglect the home, forget to mend our clothes and burn the biscuits.” He said that women might “approach the polling places with cleaner hands and hearts….but still the old couplet is true: ‘We can live without poetry, music, or books but civilized men cannot live without cooks’.”

Interest in suffrage was reaching a fever pitch all over Iowa.

Parades were held everywhere.

This photo is from a march in Boone:

Hecklers also attended the marches:

Pro-suffrage groups repeatedly lobbied Iowa legislators to approve a referendum, and let Iowa men decide. But suffrage didn’t even reach the Iowa statehouse until 1916, when Iowa men voted on the issue, Greene County men approved the proposal, 1,692 to 1,018, but the issue lost statewide by about 10,000 votes. Historian Morain noted, in a 1979 Bee article, that the “wet river counties poured in massive margins against it.”

While the statewide suffrage vote was set for June 5, 1916, a Greene County parade took place in May, with participants from all over the county. This was a mile-long Community Clubs parade that wound from the fairgrounds, through Russell Park, to the Chautauqua grounds, where a picnic was attended by over 3,000 people from all over the county.

Suffragists marching in Russell Park in Jefferson.
Supporters parading through Jefferson enroute to a rally of 3,000 people.

Suffrage had a large part in both the parade and picnic. Thousands of suffrage flyers and buttons were distributed at the Greene County Suffrage tent at the picnic. This was especially timely because the statewide vote was just around the corner.

 

The local news editors’ feud must have had some effect on that 1916 vote. Scranton Township had the largest “no” vote, 98 to 106 against, and Willow came in 31 to 47 against. Cedar Township split 40-40. Approving suffrage were Grand Junction 160 to 155, and Jefferson by a large margin. Greene County men were overall in favor, but the issue was defeated statewide.

So women still couldn’t vote, even after years of working toward it.

After the loss, suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt made this color-coded map of Iowa. It detailed the counties where suffrage passed and defeated, but also where there were irregularities in voting. Our county sports the gold circle indicating passage, and NO irregularities.

But the long, slow fight for suffrage achieved its main goal in 1920, after Congress had submitted a national amendment to the states. Iowa and other states ratified it, and Greene County women voted in their first national election in 1920.

There were celebrations across America after ratification in 1920.

The Prohibition issue is interesting. Women had no say in that decision, no matter what their opinions. Prohibition was passed by Congress in 1919, a full year before women could vote on it one way or another. Public feelings were changing, thanks to increasing awareness of alcohol’s effects on society.

As Morain explained, “the story wasn’t quite over.” Women still were prevented from becoming state legislators. That restriction wasn’t lifted until 1926, with yet another referendum. Greene County voters approved the proposal 721 to 222, and it also carried in the state. This was the last step to full political rights for Iowa women.

To conclude, I simply want to remind women that their right to vote came from many years of effort. Greene County women and men contributed to that effort. Voting is a hard-won right, and not to be taken for granted.

The author of this story, Mikki Schwarzkopf, of Jefferson, Iowa, is a member of the Greene County Historical Society. She is scheduled to present much of this research in a program for the historical society on Friday, Aug. 7, at the United Methodist Church in Grand Junction. Schwarzkopf grew up in Ames, and moved to Jefferson from Omaha in 1980, seeking a smaller city. Her favorite pastimes include historical research, reading, and gardening. You can contact her by email at rschwarz@netins.net.

Greene County Historical Society programs thru early May postponed due to corona virus

The Greene County Historical Society announced Monday that all its programs scheduled between now and early May are postponed, as a precaution during the nation’s battle to control the spread of the corona virus.

Historical society president David John, of Jefferson, said there were five programs on the schedule from now through May 1, and the organization will attempt to re-schedule them later in the year.

Anyone with questions can leave word at the Greene County Historical Museum, (515) 386-8544, or with executive director Roger Aegerter at (515) 370-3982.

Come join live “Skype” chat with fascinating diplomat Michael S. Owen, a Lincoln Highway explorer & author

JEFFERSON, Iowa, Feb. 24, 2020 — Retired U.S. ambassador Michael S. Owen said after extensively traveling the roads of a half-dozen African nations, Pakistan, Ireland and India in his 30 years as a career diplomat, he was thrilled to explore his American homeland by driving the historic Lincoln Highway in recent years. That’s brought him through Greene County each of the last two summers.

He’ll talk about all that and his new book, “After Ike: On the Trail of the Century-Old Journey that Changed America,” this Sunday, March 1, when he’ll be interviewed live at 2 p.m. at the Jefferson Public Library – via Skype.

Retired Iowa journalist Chuck Offenburger and others in the audience in Jefferson will chat with the 68-year-old Owen, who will be at his home in Reston, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C.

The free program – and free refreshments – are being sponsored by the Jefferson library, the Greene County Iowa Historical Society and the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association.

Ambassador Michael Owen and President Barack Obama in 2011, when Owen was the U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone, having been appointed by Obama.

Owen’s 223-page book is delightful reading. Earlier, he’d written many journal articles and official cablegrams in his state department years, but his re-tracing of the 1919 military convoy’s exploration of the then-new Lincoln Highway route across the nation produced a fascinating first book for him.
The “After Ike” in the title refers to the fact that one of the Army officers who commanded the 1919 trip was Lt. Col. Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower, who would become Supreme Allied Commander in World War II and then president of the U.S. in the 1950s.

Yes, author Owen gives you a chronological report on his own east-to-west journey on the Lincoln Highway – Washington D.C. to San Francisco – but he also fills it with the American character (and characters) he encountered.

“One of the things he does really well in the book is tell about his occasional side trips off the Lincoln Highway route to see other nearby things that interested him,” said Joyce Ausberger, of Jefferson, who is on the boards of both the historical society and the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association. “The highway association has always encouraged people to think of the Lincoln Highway as a corridor, not just a highway, and go explore other attractions that are a few miles off the actual road.”

Owen did that in Iowa with side trips to the Field of Dreams outside Dyersville and to museums in Waterloo, La Porte City, Rockwell City and other spots.

From Greene County, Owen included interviews with Ausberger at the Lincoln Highway Museum in Grand Junction and Robby Pedersen at his “RVP 1875” working museum and furniture shop in Jefferson.  In the book, the author describes Joyce Ausberger as “an inexhaustible font of enthusiasm and knowledge about anything related to the nation’s first highway.”

Copies of Owen’s book are available locally for check-out at the Jefferson Public Library and for purchase at the highway museum in Grand Junction.
Historical society board member Margaret Hamilton, of Jefferson, gave Owen a nice review of the book as she was arranging details for next Sunday’s interview.

“I’ve read your book now and really enjoyed it,” Hamilton wrote in an email to him. “I wasn’t expecting to read so much about so many places. It gave me ideas for future trips. I also wasn’t expecting it to be so funny. So, thanks for writing it and thanks for agreeing to do a program on it for us. We hope to have a good audience.”

Owen grew up in the northwest Mississippi town of Lyon, pop. 250.  He went on to Rice University for an undergraduate degree in civil engineering, then earned a master’s in public affairs from Princeton University.  A highlight of his 30 years with the U.S. State Department was serving as U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone from 2010 to 2013.  He said he traces his interest in serious road-tripping, as well as in wanting to learn more about and serve nations in Africa, to an adventure he took with pals in 1980 and ’81 — an 8,400-mile driving trip from London, England, to Cape Town, South Africa!

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    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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