Museum Opens for Summer on May 3

The Museum opens for the summer on 5/3! Hours will be: Wednesdays 1-4, Saturdays 9-12. We also have a new exhibit, “A Parade of Prams, Perambulators, and Push Chairs,” on display, courtesy of Jed Magee.

Greene County’s indigenous people topic of May 5 Historical Society program

JEFFERSON, Iowa, April 25, 2023 — Mary Weaver of Rippey will give a program on Greene County’s original inhabitants on Friday, May 5, at the Churdan Public Library, 414 Sand St. 

Round wheel like stone tool with hole in middle.
Found in Greene County, this ancient tool was used by Native Americans for…..? Find out at the Historical Society’s May 5 program at the Churdan Public Library.

The free presentation is part of the Greene County Historical Society’s 2023 program series. It will follow lunch, which will begin at noon.

Weaver has been interested in American Indian cultures since she was a child. She says she hopes to finally find an arrowhead along one of the county’s waterways this year.

Her continuing interest was piqued last fall when local professional photographer Peg Gannon told her about an Indian burial site at Seven Hills Park southwest of Jefferson. 

Graves of indigenous people had been inadvertently dug up when the park’s tow rope was constructed in 1967. The remains were reburied near their original locations in the hilly park.

Members of the nomadic Sauk and Mesquaki tribes lived along Greene County’s many streams, including the Raccoon River’s Horseshoe Bend, in the 19th century. The bend area, a large loop in the Raccoon River, is located in Kendrick and Cedar townships north of Scranton. 

Weaver will display American Indian artifacts found in the county by the late Payson and Berniece Hillman, who lived in Grand Junction and amassed quite a collection.

“I’m going to pass a few around,” says Weaver. “They are touchstone items that people used…scrapers, tomahawks and fire starters.”

Dan and Bessie Sayre will help Weaver tell the story of Greene County’s indigenous people. Dan is a Greene County Conservation employe, and Bessie was director of the Historical Society’s first museum on the north side of the Greene County Courthouse Square.

The free program will follow lunch. To reserve a place at the table, call 515-386-4408, or your Historical Society community contact by Tuesday, May 2. Cost of lunch is $10.

Swimming Pool Talk with Denise O’Brien Van

Denise O’Brien Van gave a wonderful talk on Greene County Community Swimming Pools on Friday, April 14, at Jefferson’s First United Methodist Church. Many interesting facts and fun stories were shared with an appreciative audience.

Jefferson’s Broom Factories

Watch the program here in case you could not attend:

Brooms were traditionally made from broom corn, which is said to have started in the US with Benjamin Franklin. He bought an imported whisk broom that still had a seed attached, so he removed the seed and planted it. Soon he had lots of broom corn plants, and by 1895 it was an important part of the US economy. Broom corn was prevalent in New England, but it also grew in Iowa. In Greene County there were 23 acres in 1885, and it was a regular crop in the state in 1920. Following World War II, there was some interest in establishing broom corn as a staple crop in Iowa, but nothing came of it. It’s grown today in the Thomas Jefferson Gardens.

The Jefferson Broom Manufacturing Company was founded by Herbert Pelton and George McCully in the 1880s. Its first site was 206 S. Oak, and it was located in a building that had originally been a Presbyterian Church and had been moved to that address. They produced about 20 dozen brooms a day. Jesse Bailey bought out McCully, and he and Herbert Pelton moved the business to Madison Street between Oak and Elm. 

In 1898 Pelton and Bailey moved to Cedar Rapids where they continued making brooms, but the Jefferson Broom Manufacturing Company remained in Jefferson. The company was purchased by Fred Bossert, A.M. (Earl) Head, and Clyde Eagleson at that time. It employed 8 people and made whisk brooms, broom brushes, and brooms for the home. Earl Head was president of the company. They added a power stitcher to the business, which allowed them “to turn out work with greater ease and expedition.” Their brooms were carried by all the merchants in town.

The biggest danger facing the young company was fire. In April 1899 the business had nine employees. Two of them extinguished a fire that started when a bundle of broom corn ignited from a melting kettle. Nearly 50 pounds of broom corn were lost, but there wasn’t a total loss of property.

  Just 8 months later, though, in December 1899, there was a huge fire in the afternoon, shortly after the dinner hour. It was spotted by a workman returning from lunch. He found the inside of the drying room on the east side of the building ablaze. $200 worth of finished brooms waiting for shipment burned, along with two tons of corn. Workers cut a hole through the west side of the main building and removed most of the machinery, some gasoline, and some finished and unfinished brooms. The loss was estimated at $1,250, and the insurance only paid $450, so there was a total loss of $800.

Despite this loss, the company was determined to continue. It moved to the site of a blacksmith shop owned by Mr. A. T. Lohr, which was just west of the Louk Blacksmith shop and across the street from the Washington Street Stables. The Jefferson Broom Manufacturing Company owners were optimistic about this new location which was central and convenient, and they were able to move their power stitcher there. Yet, by 1901, they’d sold their business for $1500 to Mr. H.E. Reever, who’d previously had business interests in New York. Reever hired another man, Ose White, as a traveling salesman, and the two men were constantly on the road selling brooms. Although the business was profitable, in 1902 Reever decided he wanted to spend more time at home, so he sold the company to Mr. D. Talbot. Unfortunately, the company’s life under Talbot was short.

Another broom maker emerged, though. Clyde Shannon had started at the Jefferson Broom Manufacturing Company at the age of 11 as a worker. In 1918 he and his mother moved onto a farm in the Horseshoe Bend area. Clyde had the owner of that farm plant 4 or 5 acres of broom corn for him. In the fall he’d walk through the field and bend the rows of broom corn toward each other, about waist high. This made a bench, and when he’d cut the heads off the corn, he’d lay them across this bench to dry. These heads were gathered and held over a spinning drum to remove the seeds. They were then fashioned into brooms using sticks and wire that Clyde would order. People came from miles around to purchase Clyde’s brooms, and he also peddled them from a horse and buggy.

In 1924 The Bee said, “Clyde Shannon, of Kendrick Township, was in Jefferson yesterday with some fine samples of broom corn which he is raising there for broom making purposes. He tells the Bee he has enough this year to finish 125 dozen brooms, and that the quality this season is the best he has ever produced. Clyde is an old hand at this business, having conducted the broom factory in Jefferson for a number of years, and folks who buy his brooms can count on them being of the highest wearing quality.” 

A year or two later Shannon joined with R.W. Bennett to found the Jefferson Broom Factory, which was located near Winkelman Switch on the Bennett farm. They had 12 acres of broom corn, and they made 500 dozen brooms a year in 1927. 50% of their brooms were sold outside of Greene County. However, despite this success, the factory didn’t continue, and its demise marked the end of broom making in the county. Shannon left the broom business, going on to a long career with the Jefferson Telephone Company.

In the 1970s the Lions Club sold brooms in the for $2 apiece as a fundraiser, but broom making itself was a thing of the past in Greene County.

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



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


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