1920s Steam & Farming in Iowa

Greene County farmer Nick Foster, who wound up his 24th annual steam threshing bee on his farm northwest of Jefferson in late July, will talk about 1920s agriculture at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church west of Churdan at 449 E. Ave, on Friday, Sept. 1. 

The program is sponsored by the Greene County Historical Society. Foster is the current board president of the society.

Foster and his son Chuck farm 1,500 acres, something they’re able to do using the latest in farm equipment.

That would have been impossible in the 1920s.

Today’s equipment—GPS (Global Positioning System), huge diesel tractors and multi-row planters that can be operated by one person—is a far cry from the steam equipment of the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries when many hands were needed to plant and harvest crops.

Foster’s program will include photos of 1920s farms, farmers and steam-powered equipment, as well as models of steam threshers plus other items. There will be time for questions and reminiscence.

Foster is a fourth-generation Greene County landowner, who began farming fulltime when he graduated from Jefferson-Scranton High School in 1980. The home place, Pleasant Prairie Farm, has been in his family since 1900. He also rents farm ground. 

Lunch will be served at noon before the free 12:45 p.m. program. Cost of lunch is $10. Please RSVP by Aug. 29. Call 515-386-4408 (History Society members may call their community contacts) to get a seat at the table.

Barbie Open House

Gina Harrington of Jefferson sold her cards and books at our Barbie Open House and also put on a short Barbie skit. Over 60 attended, ranging in age from 2 to 90+ years. They sampled cinnamon rolls and doughnut holes and entered drawings for prizes. The Barbie Box Photo Booth was a popular attraction, and there were many of the Museum’s Barbies on display.

Think Pink! Barbies on parade at Museum

Barbie, left, wearing pink clothing and Ken, right, shirtless with swim trunks on.
Barbie (in pink, of course) and Ken and more than 300 of their doll friends and likenesses will be on hand at the Greene County Historical Society on Saturday, Aug. 12.

JEFFERSON, Iowa, August 4, 2023 — More than 300 Barbie dolls will be on display at the Greene County Historical Museum, 219 E. Lincoln Way, from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 12.

The vast collection, which includes dolls from Barbie’s debut in March1959, was donated to the Museum by former Jefferson resident Arlene Garland Klatt in 2003.

The dolls are dressed in their best, from formal gowns to cheerleading uniforms to swimsuits. What a closet that girl has!

Pink, of course, is the color of the day. There will be pink Barbie decorations, a lifesize pink Barbie Box for for those who wish to pose, drawings for gift cards, plus cinnamon rolls for all.









Veteran train engineer will talk about his 50 years on the rails

JEFFERSON, Iowa, July 24, 2023 — The Greene County Historical Society will present a free program, “A Railroad LIfe,” on Friday, Aug. 4, at the Grand Junction Community Center, 212 Main St.

Retired engineer John Valmaine of Boone will regale the audience with tales of his life on the rails. He worked for the Chicago Northwestern, which merged with the Union Pacific in 1995, for 40 years. He headed freight trains, rolling in Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska, and did many grain runs north out of Grand Junction.

For the last 10 years of his career, he drove the Boone Scenic Valley Railroad engine.

“I stepped into my first engine on Christmas Eve 1973,” he says. “It was 20 below. My last run for the Boone Scenic was on Christmas Eve 2014. It was only six below that night.”

Valmain recalls that when he began driving trains, the rules and regs book fit in his back pocket. “Now you need a briefcase,” he says. And, in1973, the engineer’s cab had a crew of four. Today, the crew is made up of two men, and there’s talk of going to a single engineer, he adds.

The 12:45 p.m. program is free. Lunch, provided by Grand Junction’s Horizons Club, will be served at noon. Cost is $10. Reservations are requested by Aug. 1

To assure a place at the lunch table, please call 515-386-4408, or your Historical Society community contact:

Churdan: Nancy Wessling, 515-389-3325

Grand Junction: Janice Gillley, 515-738-2642

Jefferson: Marilynn Hoskinson, 515-386-3490

Paton: Virginia Carlson, 515-386-2401

Rippey: Mary Weaver, 515-360-8046

Scranton: Dawn Rudolph, 515-370-5605

Looking for your Civil War ancestor?

Historical Society program will offer tips for learning more about him

JEFFERSON, Iowa, July 15, 2023 — The Greene County Historical Society will present a free program, “Researching Your Civil War Ancestors,” at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 23, at the Museum, 219 E. Lincoln Way.

David Connon of Earlham, a self-taught independent researcher, will offer hints in a workshop  on searching for information on Civil War soldiers. There will be time for questions and comments.

”Searching for information can often be hard and boring work, but if you stick your shovel in the dirt, you’ll hit something valuable or interesting,” says Connon. “I’ve spent a lot of time in those trenches.”
The descendent of two Union soldiers, Connon is the author of “Iowa Confederates in the Civil War.”

Ada Ross of Jefferson, a longtime member of the Greene County Genealogical Society, will inform the audience about how the society can assist people who are researching their family histories.
The group’s reference room, located at the Jefferson Public Library, 200 W. Lincoln Way, includes local census data as well as death and marriage documentation, indexed newspaper obituaries and county cemetery records.

Join the conversations about Greene County history at the Fair

JEFFERSON, Iowa, June 27, 2023 — The Greene County Historical Society will sponsor four chat sessions about county history on Friday and  Saturday, July 14 and 15, at the County Fair. All four discussions will take place in the Fairgrounds History Building,

Friday sessions:

11 a.m.—Rippey Baseball

1 p.m.—Country Schools

Saturday sessions:

11 a.m.—Evolution of Farming

1 p.m.—Fairgrounds Race Track

Jed Magee of Jefferson, who will manage the chats, says he hopes for lots of audience participation. “The chats are always a lot of fun,” Magee adds. “And, the History Building is a good place to sit down and cool off.”

Baseball chat leaders will be Mary Weaver and Nancy Hanaman of Rippey. Former players on Rippey and East Greene High School teams, as well as former members of the Rippey Demons (or Merchants) town team, also will be on hand. A representative of the Rippey Baseball Commission, which manages the town’s recently renovated ball field, will give an update on the new diamond. Prizes will be awarded to audience members wearing their team ball caps.

Weaver also will lead the Country School discussion, with Jefferson residents Virginia Carlson, Mike Piepel and Mike Minnehan, who all attended country school, joining in. Paton resident Becki Cunningham, who is the “marm” at the country school house at the Fairgrounds also will be present.

Farm Evolution discussion leaders will be farmers Roger Custer and Jerry Fields of Jefferson and Chuck Derry of Rippey.

Race Track panelists will be Gary Haupert, Ed Calvert and Frank Kozal, all of Jefferson.

Fairgoers can tour the large history site, which includes a country school house and a display of antique farm machinery and other ag artifacts, as well as a log cabin.

History Society continues look at recent history

JEFFERSON, Iowa, June 18, 2023 — The Greene County Historical Society will present a program on important social movements of the 1950s, ’60s and ‘70s moderated by Chuck Offenburger of Jefferson on Sunday, June 25, at the Museum, 219 E. Lincolnway.

The free 2 p.m.program will be a panel made up of current and former Greene County residents who took part in the large social and political movements of those years that have lingering impacts on society today..

Attendees are invited to comment or ask questions of the panel members.

It’s part of the Museum’s “Dig It!” programs and displays, which were organized several years ago when the Museum realized that its historical offerings stopped with the end of World War II, says Offenburger.

Panel members will include Jack Bucklin of Cooper, a Viet Nam veteran, who will discuss his life as a pacifist. Retired from a career in conservation and natural resources management, he’ll also talk about his ongoing activism in the environmental movement.

Tim Heisterkamp of Jefferson, a financial consultant, community volunteer and political conservative, will discuss conservative movements. 

Former Jefferson resident Patti Miller of Fairfield who will relate her experiences in Mississippi as a freedom rider and teacher in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

George Naylor, a Churdan farmer who is a University of California-Berkeley graduate, will talk about the student movement of the 1960s, plus the farm movement that began in the 1970s.

Mary Riche of Jefferson and Des Moines, a leading Iowa feminist with a long involvement in public issues, will speak about the women’s movement.

“Most fun of all,” says Offenburger, “is that Rick Morain, Jefferson’s piano maestro, will play a song that is emblematic of each of the movements as we begin our discussion of it.

“And at the conclusion of the program, he’ll provide the music as we circle the Museum’s big room, link arms and sing “We Shall Overcome.”

The program will last about an hour and a half, “but those who want to talk longer, march or picket can stick around afterward,” says Offenburger.

The Documentary: Jefferson-Scranton-Paton-Churdan Hall Of Fame Season Of 1999

The 99’ team was only Jefferson, Iowa football team in the last 100 Years to be 1 play from playing for a state title, hear their exciting story in this documentary 24 years after the season ended.

WATCH THE DOCUMENTARY HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiHtexj1Chs

Team Highlights:
1.) JSPC first district title in school history.
2.) Round 1 Playoff win over #3 ranked Denison Monarchs.
3.) Round 2 win over #1 ranked & 2 time defending state champion Harlan Cyclones.
4.) Field goal blocked on last play of a 10-8 game in the UNI-dome in the state semi finals with a chance to advance to the state finals.
5.) A unique story of overcoming adversity as the team started the year with 1 win and 3 losses before going on a legendary and unmatched run of success from any previous Jefferson team.

-Michael Walker #73 : All District Offensive Lineman
-Scott Schwaller #71 : All District Defensive Lineman
-Doug Reider, Radio Announcer
-Joe Gitch, Radio Announcer
-Rick Morain, Bee & Herald Newspaper
-Jason Gibson: Year 2000 Jefferson-Scranton Alumni
-Bill Kibby : Head Coach At JSPC From 1988 – 2010 (Coached Football Since 1962)
-Richard Five, Narrator *Documentary

Producers (JSPC Alumni):
-Michael Walker (Jefferson-Scranton Alumni Year: 2000)
-Scott Schwaller (Jefferson-Scranton Alumni Year: 2001)
-Jason Gibson, Homecoming King (Jefferson-Scranton Alumni Year: 2000)
-Mitch Murphy #1 (Jefferson-Scranton Alumni Year: 2001)
-Matt Lautner #36 (Jefferson-Scranton Alumni Year: 2000)

Community Swimming Pools by Denise O’Brien Van

Historical Society Program given April 14, 2023, at First United Methodist Church, Jefferson

Well, here I am again, ready to regale you with another story of Jefferson’s great assets, our swimming pool in Chatauqua Park.

The last time (April 2022) I was here to tell you about local history, I was a Post Office baby.

Today I’m a pool rat. Here’s a picture of me, ready to head to the pool in 1948.

I hope that when this story is over, many of you will share your memories of the swimming pool. And Greene County’s other municipal pool in Grand Junction.

And before I begin, thanks are in order to Dianne Piepel for finding old pictures for me. And to Grand Junction librarians Susan Hogueison and Diane Kafer for helping me find out the info I needed about Junction’s pool. And current Jefferson Rec Director Denny Hamman. And former director Vickie Lautner.

About 75 years ago, I climbed down the ladder at the southwest corner of Jefferson’s swimming pool into the 3-foot depth and took my first swimming lesson. I floated! In the freezing water in the grey cement pool. I was an instant pool rat. I was also blue.

I don’t remember who my lifeguard instructor was, but I hope it was Harry Upton, son of the local sherrif, whose name also was Harry. He looked like a movie star to 5-year-old me. Harry was the first lifeguard crush of many to come. Or maybe it was the beautiful and blonde Virginia Tronchetti, daughter of the legendary Louie who owned the teen hangout candy kitchen on the west side of the square.

Enough about the little pool rat.

The pool opened on July 18, 1937, a Sunday. “Marked by a cold rain and a temperature of only 62,” the Jefferson Herald said.

A crowd of some 140 hardy souls roared with delight when Dr. J.K. Johnson Jr., a local osteopath and chair of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, a group that had pushed for construction of the pool, was tossed fully clothed into the icy pool. No heater in  those days…and for many years to come.

The pool was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. The pool and bath house were constructed at a cost of about $21,000.

WPA planners alloted $12,400 for the estimated $17,000 cost of the original project. The city  had to come up with the remaining $5,000 bucks, which was slotted for the pool’s circulation system.

An April 9, 1936, Herald editorial suggested that bonds be issued for the $5,000 shortage. Adding that “swimming in the river is dangerous not only from a standpoint of drowning, but because of pollution.” Sound familiar?

The City Council set the referendum for May 14, 1936. The Jaycees mounted a campaign in favor of the bond issue. School kids joined the effort and the supporters hit every house in town to urge favoerable votes.

The issue passed…almost by a hair… because 60 percent of the vote is required for a bond issue to pass. The final vote was 600 for, and 345 against. Just 33 votes put the issue over 60 percent.

Twenty-five WPA workers dug the pool by hand. They had previously worked on the Squirrel Hollow project and county roads. Working 29 hours a week, they made just over $40 a month.

They dug out tons of dirt for the 75-by-120-foot pool..to depths ranging from 3 o 10 feet…that would hold 400,000 gallons of water. They also dug the shallow “baby pool,” which originally was outside the main pool’s fence….so toddlers could splash without having to buy a ticket.

As the project progressed, another $3,200 was needed. The Herald noted only that the extra money would be raised locally. Lots of citizens probably chipped in.

Work on the pool  began in fall 1936. The Sept. 17, 1936 herald reported a “hiccup” in the construction had occurred. “A member of the Board of Supervisors ordered that the shovels and tools use by the workmen be taken elsewhere.”

“Just when did Jefferson cease to be a part of Greene County,” enraged editor and publisher A.J. Kirkpatrick wrote. I never found how the issue was resolved…but it must have been!

And there were other hitches. When a lack of skilled labor on WPA lists delayed the summer 1937 opening, the Herald reported that City Councilman Oren Goodrich and Mayor Dr. D.E. Lyon “finally took the bull by the horns.”

“WPA workmen, it seemed were stalling,” the reporter wrote. “Goodrich and Councilman Hal Thompson informed the foreman that local workmen would finish the project.”

The pool opened two weeks later. JHS athletic coach Mark McLaren was the manager, and there was one lifeguard.

For many years, JHS teachers and coaches managed the pool during their summer vacations.

This summer the pool Anna Pound will oversee daily operations. She’s held that job for several years, and… she’s a teacher. There will be 15 lifeguards….if they can be found. For safety reasons, lifeguards now work two-hour shifts.

And, now for a little intermission:

There’s another public pool in Greene County. That little gem over in Grand Junction. Talk about a beloved entity: That pool has had huge community support since it opened in 1965.

The $75,000 bond referendum was held on May 27, 1964. The Globe-Gazette noted an unusually high turnout of 444 voters. 275 voted “yes” and 168 voted “no.” Jan Scheringson of Junction remembers her parents counting “yes” and “no” votes as people arrived at the poll.

“They literally pulled people off the street to assure the 61 percent needed to pass,” she told me.

When the bond issued passed, the community ralleyed and over the years has kept the pool in good working order. Junction Garden Club members donated  the original landscaping.

In 2016, the pool needed costly repairs, priced at $100,000, and it didn’t open that summer.

Grants were successfully sought to fund therepairs. And the community…local businesses, civic clubs and individuals raised the rest.

Over the years, Grand Junction civic clubs have raised money to support and renovate the pool. Bake sales, plant sales, salad luncheons…you name it. Grand Junction loves and supports its pretty pool with its summertime colors.

And now for a couple of stories:

Beginning 1948, the Jefferson pool was the site of of spectacular free water shows featuring up to 100 cast members. Usually put on for two nights in a row, the shows drew huge audiences on summer evenings. The annual shows continued into the early 1960s.

The 1952 show, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, had a circus theme and ran for two nights. It featured a clown diving act performed by members of the JayCees, three “choruses” composed fo young swmmers of various ages, a water ballet solo by Jean Lindhart, who was the show’s co-director. She founded the Jefferson Swim Team in 1962.

Bill Sorenson, one of the founders of American Trampline, and his University of Iowa gymnastics teammate Frank LaDue performed on the trapeze, flying rings, and, according to the July 22, 1952, Bee, “on the trampline, the appartus which brought them great fame in intercolleciate athletics.” 

The 1951 show, narrated by Maxine Hawwk, featured the “Singing Fountain Chorus.” Members include current Jefferson residents Mary Jane Seela Sorenson and Carole Peninger Fischer. There was alsoa queen contest..never found a record of who got the crown.

“Let’s climb the fence.”

Legions of Jefferson teenagers have uttered those words, and the brave among them probably followed through, scalng the pool’s chain-link fence before it was topped with barbed wire during the 1987 renovation.

The barbed wire was removed last summer. Rec Director Denny Hamman says there’s no need for it now because of security cameras and motion sensors. Cases of midnight swimming have decreased to almost zero.

The first-recorded nabbing of after-hours swimmers took place in July 1939, when four young men, recent JHS graduates, were busted. “Four Jefferson boys arrested by night watchemen McDowell and Parr taking a dip about midnight,” trumpeted the Herald.

The miscreants were Dough Moranville, Richard Tate and Jack and Verle Langford.

“The boys were taken before Mayor Harding immediately and fined $10 and cost,” the newspaper reported. “The boys admitted to swimming several nights before they were caught. They undressed in Chatauqua Park to avoid detection.” So it probably was a case of skinny dipping, too.

In the late 1940s, Don Goodrich often swam after hours with permission from high authority. “All I had todo was find Mick Parr…who was Jeffersons’ legendary police chief…up on the Square, and tell him that I wanted to take a dip,” Goodrich told me several years ago.

Support for Jefferson’s pool has continued over the years.

Right now, the pool is getting a “small” renovation. At a cost of $104,000, there will be a new family restroom which will be built into the women’s side of the bathhouse. A new attraction at the pool this summer will be a rock climbing wall funded by a $12,215 grant from the Greene County Community Foundation. The climbing wall will be located near the northeast corner of the pool. And a new one-meter diving board will also be installed.

In 2019, the City spent $86,000 on a new liner for the “tub” and $35,000 for a tarp to protect it in the off season

In 1986-1987, the pool was completely renovated and a new bathhouse was built at a cost of $430,000. Ten years ago, the facility was valued at about $1.4 million. Couldn’t find today’s value.

That first shortened 1937 swim season, the pool more than paid its way, taking in $1,600 while spending $1,000 on salaries and utilities.

But it’s run a deficit for the past 30 years. This year’s expenses will run $86,000I. Salaries and benefits, operating expenses and repairs and maintenance. Revenue is expected to be $36,000—from tickets , rental fees, lessons and concessions. The deficit is made up using City General Fund monies. Our pool is a valued and beloved recreational amenity for Jefferson, not a money-making enterprise.

And attendance has fallen off, too. During the hot, hot summer of 1962, 14,000 admissions were recorded between June 13 and July 10. Almost 900 swimmers plunged in on July 3 of that year. The pool’s record attendance was set on June 30, 1961, when temps reached 97 degrees and 1,102 people went for a swim. I’m sure I was one of them. Attendance in 1986 totaled more than 30,000. In June 2012 was 4,150.

Last summer, just over 8,000 swimmers used the pool, not counting dogs. Ten percent of those swimmers held senior passes. The 39 seniors senior pass holders swam just over 800 times. For an average, each senior made about 21 visits during the summer.

Those figures are kind of sad, compared to 1962.

But the value of the pool is really immeasurable.

Over the past 86 years, thousands of Greene County children learned to swim there. For many years, the Red Cross offered free swimming lessons for all skill levels. From beginners fearful of putting their faces in the water to senior lifesaving for teenagers hoping to snag that iconic summer job…lifeguarding. (And, by the way, both the Jefferson pool and the Grand Junction pool are looking for guards.)

Take a good look at the back of  my official junior life-saving card. The lifeguards who taught that class in 1956 were among the iconic college and high school kids who stood guard, taught, were admired by all the pool rats and had a lot of good times at the pool. You may remember them. Eddie Coover and Joyce Applegate, daughter of the famous “Doc” Applegate who taught science at JHS for man years.

Currently the Rec Center offers classes for nominal fees, lifeguards give private lessons, and the Home State Bank provides free lessons during one week each summer.

I hope this story of Jefferson’s swimming pool will encourage more people of all ages to use the pools. 

During the Jefferson pool’s adult swim from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily, 80-year-olds and their younger pool pals swim laps in the deep end or walk back and forth in “the five foot,” while aqua exercisers share the shallow end with toddlers taking private lessons. 

This year, Jefferson’s pool will open about June 1. Denny Hammen says the exact date depends on getting getting a full lifeguard crew in place.

And you know, that while swimmers up to a certain age look really good in their swim suits, some beyond that certain age worry about their appearance. I have a solution for that. Before I dive in, I take off my glasses. I can’t see anyone, and I figure they can’t see me either. We’re  all invisible. But I’ll say “See you at the pool!” anyway. 

A Parade of Prams and Baby Buggies at the Historical Museum

Baby Buggie with doll dressed in traditional clothing
This elaborate wicker baby carriage, circa 1900, belonged to the Henry and Mary Meinecke Schilling family who farmed near Cooper, It was donated to the Museum by Henriette Schilling Hagman, the daughter of August Schilling, who, along with his sisters, Vonnie, Grace and Minnie, were stolled around in it when they were babies.

Today, they’re called “strollers,” but in years past the vehicles in which parents took their babies out for an airing were called perambulators (often shortened to “prams”) and baby buggies.

A parade of 11 carriages, most bearing antique dolls, will be on display at the Greene County Museum, 219 E. Lincolnway, through June.

The prams on display were used from 1900 though the 1960s. They’re constructed of wicker, metal and canvas.

Beginning May 3, the Museum is open from 1 to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays, and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, or by appointment. Call 515-386-8544.

title tag
    How To Get Involved
    title tag Calendar of Events
    title tag Membership & Donations
    Help us grow! Donate, become a member, or renew your membership today!
    see more arrow
    title tag Historical Markers
    Did you know there were so many historical sites in this county? See many of them on the map here!
    see more arrow
    title tag Videos
    See interviews with historical figures, events and programs we have recorded, and much more!
    see more arrow
    title tag Historical Trivia

    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.”


    Sorry. Try Again!

    title tag Featured Image Archive
    This is a gallery of our featured images which are no longer viewable on the home page. See if you have missed any by clicking here!