We’re again sharing history at the Greene County Fair, and there’s a new co-host for our “history chats”

JEFFERSON,  Iowa, July 11, 2022 — The Greene County Historical Society will have its buildings on the Greene County Fairgrounds open on Friday and Saturday this week during the fair, with “history chats,” tours of a restored one-room country schoolhouse, and opportunities to learn about the farm tools and equipment that were commonly used in earlier times in the county.

For the past six years, the “history chats” were hosted by retired journalists Chuck Offenburger and Jerry Roberts and covered a wide variety of topics.  Roberts died early this year, so Offenburger has invited well-known Greene County native Don Van Gilder to join him in hosting the interviews, which will last an hour.

Trained at Iowa State University in English and telecommunications, Van Gilder has now retired after a 45-year career in public works administration with the Greene County Secondary Roads department.

Don Van Gilder

They will host four of the “history chats,” with folks sitting in a circle of chairs in the Historical Building on the fairgrounds.  The discussions will be Friday, July 15, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and Saturday, July 16, also at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.  They will be videotaped for later posting on the historical society’s YouTube channel.

The first of the chats, on Friday at 11 a.m., is “Growing Up at the Greene County Fair.” This one will start with the experiences of four generations of the Lawton family, of Cooper, and then include tales from other families, too.

Another of the chats, on Saturday at 11 a.m., will be “Greene County Sports Stories & Legends” with KGRA radio sportscaster & former Jefferson Herald sports editor Doug Rieder. He’s been the “Voice of the Rams” for more than 40 years and is an authority on the county’s general sports history, too.

The last of the chats, on Saturday, at 1 p.m., is “Greene County Movie Theater History” with Mike & Dianne Piepel, of Jefferson, who have done deep research into all the theaters that have operated in the county – especially the Sierra Community Theatre in Jefferson.

The topic of the Friday, 1 p.m. “history chat” was still being finalized as this week began.

In addition, the “Bristol No. 7” country schoolhouse on the fairgrounds will be staffed Friday and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. by Becki Cunningham, of Paton, secretary of the historical society, with explanations of what rural education was once like in the county. She attended a country school herself.

The schoolhouse was built in 1874, restored by the historical society in 1967 and repaired again in recent 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.

The historical society’s collection of agricultural tools and equipment at the fairgrounds shows how farming was done in Greene County from the late 19th century to the middle of the 20th century.  Members of the society will be serving as docents to explain the exhibits on both Friday and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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

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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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