Denise O’Brien Van shares the colorful history of Jefferson’s Post Office this Friday, April 1

JEFFERSON, Iowa, March 28, 2022 — When the Greene County Historical Society meets on Friday, April 1, Denise O’Brien Van, of Jefferson, will be sharing the intriguing, 85-year history of the U.S. Post Office in Jefferson.

O’Brien Van is a Jefferson native who had a career in journalism in Des Moines and Chicago before she and husband Jack Lewis, another Jefferson native, moved back to their hometown.

Denise has personal ties to the Jefferson Post Office.  Her parents, Clem and Virginia O’Brien, were introduced by Lilly B. Gibbons, who was the postmaster when the new facility was planned, constructed and then opened on March 15, 1937. Clem O’Brien worked at the Post Office as city carrier and later a rural carrier.

Denise O’Brien Van in front of the Jefferson Post Office.

While the U.S. Post Office was one of the first businesses or government agencies to hire women and minorities, it was still unusual in the 1930s to find a female postmaster in rural Iowa communities.

But Lilly Gibbons was widely known in the community and evidently well-connected politically. E.B. Stillman, publisher of the Jefferson newspaper, described her in print as “a Democratic powerhouse and the prettiest girl in Greene County.”  She was the grandmother of later Jefferson Post Office employee Davis, who is still a resident here.

Friday’s event, being held at the First Presbyterian Church in Jefferson, will begin at 12 noon with a lunch, which costs $10.  Historical society members should make luncheon reservations by calling the organization’s community contacts.

Those are: Dawn Rudolph, Scranton, 515-370-5605; Janice Gilley, Grand Junction, 515-738-2642; Marilynn Hoskinson, Jefferson, 515-386-3490; Virginia Carlson, Paton, 515-386-2401; Nancy Wessling, Churdan, 515-389-3325; Stephen & Bette Molle, Cooper, 515-386-3822, and Mary Weaver, Rippey, 515-360-8046.

Non-members are welcome for the $10 lunch, too, and they should make reservations with program director Margaret Hamilton at 515-386-4408.

The program, which will begin about 12:45 p.m., is free.


The American eagle above the main entrance.


One of the two bas-relief sculptures above front windows that salute the new idea of air mail back when the Post Office opened in 1937.


The classic postal boxes in the building.


Here’s the iconic 1938 painting above the door to the Postmaster’s office at the east end of the lobby. The mural was commissioned by the federal Department of Treasury’s Arts Program. The artist, Thomas Savage, of Fort Dodge, was paid $650 for the painting, which he titled “The New Calf.”

Denise O’Brien Van, her husband Jack Lewis and former postal employee Steve McCoy collaborated in 2017 to have the two bowl lights beside the Post Office’s entrance restored and re-installed after they’d been stored in the basement for years.

 

 

 

 

We gathered St. Patrick’s Day for a celebration of shamrocks, storytelling, poetry, music, goodies and all things Irish!

JEFFERSON, Iowa, March 17, 2022 — Begorrah, it was fun!

About 60 of us gathered Thursday afternoon at the Greene County Historical Museum in Jefferson for a historical society celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. There was storytelling, poetry, an enthusiastic sing-along, Irish-themed goodies and more.

You can learn more in the captions to the photos.

Greene County’s genuine Irishwoman Betty Kuebler, born and raised in Coleraine in Northern Ireland, reflected on her love for her homeland and many trips there. She’s been living here since 1957, when she came to visit an aunt who was a war bride of a solder from Scranton.

Johnny Turpin, retired teacher who has traveled Ireland, recalled visits to the most historic & popular Irish sites, then got into fun Irish tales. That’s his “travel hat” he’s wearing in this photo, along with a sweater from Ireland.

Johnny Turpin had several leprechaun stories and enhanced his Irish outfit for those.

Hollie Roberts, an accomplished poet, was a courageous pinch-hitter on the program for her late husband Jerry Roberts, who had already committed to do readings at this event before he died in February.

Hollie Roberts didn’t just read the Irish poem, “Drinking from the Saucer” by John Paul Moore. Beforehand, she visited with Betty Kuebler, our native Irishwoman, who coached up Roberts on how to do a proper brogue. And then she added perfect facial expressions, too!

Peg Raney told how she grew up in the very Irish northwest Iowa town of Emmetsburg, where her father owned a well-known Irish bar where singalongs were frequent and spirited. Then she led the crowd in just such a singalong Thursday.

Peg o’ our hearts! Peg Raney, on 12-string guitar, joined Rick Morain on the piano in leading the crowd in a dozen traditional Irish songs.

Rick Morain was masterful as ever on the piano, playing Irish tunes. The baby grand was recently fully-tuned for the first time in a while, and Morain reports it “now plays really well, and it has a good barroom tint to the sound.”

Here’s Rick Morain’s elevator chair for sitting at the right height for the keyboard of the museum’s baby grand piano.

Part of the goodies at our St. Patrick’s Day program.

The St. Patrick’s Day program was coordinated and emceed by Margaret Hamilton, the program director for the historical society.

 

 

Matt Wetrich presents “Birding” this Sunday, March 6, in first of two special programs this month at the museum

Matty Wetrich and friend in 2020.

JEFFERSON, Iowa, March 1, 2022 — The Greene County Historical Society is hosting two programs at the museum in Jefferson during March.

On Sunday, March 6, at 2 p.m., Matt Wetrich will speak on “Birding.”  Wetrich is a Jefferson City Councilmember, a naturalist & conservationist, and also a noted photographer. His talk should be a treat for everyone, and cookies will be served, as well.

On Thursday, March 17, at 1 p.m., there will be a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. The museum’s baby grand piano has been specially tuned, and Rick Morain will play. Peg Raney will lead singing, and we’ll have readings by Johnny Turpin and Hollie Roberts. Cake will be served in a celebration of Shamrocks and all things Irish.

The museum is located at 219 E. Lincoln Way. The programs are free and open to the public.

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