A trip back in time, to Christmas 1950, right here in Greene County


RIPPEY, Iowa, Dec. 15, 2018 – Let’s make a trip back to Christmastime, 68 years ago.  At that time, this writer knew that Santa Claus would be coming and delivering presents to our house on Christmas Eve.

I have vivid memories of visiting the Lauver Hardware store on Main Street of Rippey.  It was a two-story building, but the second floor was actually a balcony with railing similar to a picket fence. The floor only extended about six feet from the walls. At Christmas, the balcony had toys, lots of toys, which could be easily viewed from the first floor.

Mary Weaver ProfileI can recall scooters, pull wagons, tricycles, bicycles, large dolls with their eyes open as they were standing, along with huge soft furry teddy bears that peered down on me when I went in with my parents. 

That year Santa Claus brought me a record player. A one-speed turntable housed in a dark green lizard skin cover.  It could be closed like a suitcase with an ivory colored handle, and easily transported.  It was just like one I had seen at Lauver’s store.

For the adults, televisions were available, along with refrigerators, and automatic washers and dryers, and even a “deep freezer.”

It was a time of prosperity and joy for the 15,000 residents living in Greene County. World War II had ended five years earlier and though we were in the Korean conflict, at that time it was of minimal impact on most of the population.

The Jefferson Herald published on December 14, 1950, had 18 pages. There were numerous published letters to Santa Claus.  

Santa actually arrived in the area by airplane at the Jefferson Airport, and was transported to town in the police chief’s car. He was available to meet children at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Christmas trees were available at Smith’s Fruit Market, at a cost of 98 cents and up, according to their ad. The Greene County Treasurer listed 26 new car registrations, along with the name of the individual and the make of the automobile.

A 16-inch Westinghouse TV was available at Lyon Electric at a cost of $349.95, which in our 2018 dollars would be approximately $3,500.

Maybe one of the most unique listings was from C.H. Daubendiek, manager of the Jefferson Telephone Company.  In an add, he listed 200 names and phone numbers that had been added or changed since April. He suggested the ad be clipped and placed in your current phone book.

Social life and charitable giving were in place 68 years ago, and exemplified by an ad from the Beta Tau Delta sorority,  which was sponsoring a Dec. 20 ball with a live band.  Tickets to the event were $1 per person.

Movie goers were able to see “Annie Get your Gun” at the Iowa Theater in a continuous showing on Sunday afternoon.  A price was not printed in the ad, but a former attendee has told me movies were 10 cents.

Greene County residents had a joyous Christmas in 1950, and the Greene County Historical Society wishes another for all here in 2018.

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.


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We know from history and from life in recent days, that when it comes to hate and fear, we’ve “got to be carefully taught”


RIPPEY, Iowa, Oct. 30, 2018 — In the Rodgers & Hammerstein movie “South Pacific,” there is the song “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.”  The words are haunting. The first verse goes:

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear
You’ve got to be taught from year to year
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

We have to be carefully taught to hate and fear.

Ponder for a moment when you were taught to hate and fear. Who were you to hate and fear? Was it around issues of Protestants or Catholics, Christians or Muslims, people of color or those who are white, young or old, sighted or blind, or even other differences? Where did we learn to hate – at home, the schoolyard, in church, on television? Who were the models for hatred?

Think even further, why are we taught to hate? Are we afraid? Are we feeling insecure? Why do we teach to hate? How does this reflect our faith in God? And what does it say about each one of us? So, if we have been taught to hate, can we learn new ways of interacting with others? Is all hatred wrong? Is it good to hate some things?

I attended an event recently where race discrimination was the central topic. As part of the sharing, the leader provided a visual model of a six-leveled pyramid of hate. Each succeeding upward level reflected an increase and intensity of manifested hate. Think about where and when you have witnessed one or more of these levels.

–The broad base level, entitled “Acts of Subtle Bias,” included stereotyping, jokes, rumors, discussing feelings with like-minded others, accepting negative information and screening out positive information, and insensitive remarks.

–Level two, “Acts of Prejudice and Bigotry,” included scapegoating, slurs and name calling, ridicule, social avoidance, and de-humanizing.

–The third level, called “Acts of Discrimination,” included harassment, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, educational discrimination, and social exclusion.

–The next level, called “Acts of Violence,” included assault, terrorism, desecration, vandalism, and threats.

–The next level, “Acts of Extreme Violence to the Individual,” included murder, rape and arson.

–The final level, “Genocide,” covered the systematic extermination of an entire people.

In seeing these levels and descriptors, we can see how easy it is to share in hate, to actively participate, or to stand by and do nothing when hatred is experienced. In our world we have witnessed people at all levels of hate. Just this last week we witnessed pipe bombs sent to prominent Democratic Party leaders and killing of Jewish men and women in the Tree of Life, or L’Simcha, congregation in Pittsburgh that left 11 dead and six others wounded. In the “Me, Too” movement we have become all too aware of sexual and physical harassment of women.

We may have even offered hate in one form or another – or been the recipient.

It is sad to reflect on our recent national and international news to see such levels of hate expressed. We are aware of some of these expressions of hate in our state and national election rhetoric. When considering such issues as immigration, asylum seekers, war, starvation, prisoners, as well as international affairs, we have clearly become more aware of these levels of hatred.

It is easy to oppose forms of hatred like pipe bombs being mailed to maim or using weapons to kill faithful people in synagogues, mosques and churches. It is difficult to oppose ethnic jokes or slurs in conversation with others. It is even harder to oppose the racial slurs of friends and family, off-color jokes which demean others, or more subtle acts of hatred in our workplace and public space. We often overlook harassment, name-calling, and insensitive remarks.

Out of our faith journeys, we are convicted if we do not oppose hatred in its varied forms. We can no longer stand by and do nothing. I believe we are called to listen carefully to our own conversations and those around us. We must be ever vigilant to oppose all signs of hatred. And when we hear any level of hatred aimed at anyone – we must be willing to challenge hatred in every form.

The author, Dale Hanaman, is president of the Greene County Historical Society lives on a farm near Rippey. He is a retired pastor in the United Methodist Church. You can write him by email at dale.hanaman@gmail.com.



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Exploring a pre-cut barn built in 1933 on what’s now the Tronchetti farm


Mary Weaver ProfilePATON, Iowa, May 9, 2018 — “The barn came on a train to Paton.” Those were the first words Sue Tronchetti used to describe the nearly 100-year-old Sears barn she and her husband Dan have on their farm east of Paton.

After I wrote a column several months ago about 1917 pre-cut homes, Dan Tronchetti told me about their pre-cut barn that was built to house Percheron workhorses.

The Tronchettis know the barn was built in the 1933 by brothers William and Rudolph Petersen. Rudolph was a bachelor and lived with William and his wife Ella. They traveled to northeast Greene County from Winterset to purchase farm ground.

The barn is a two-story structure, measuring 40-by-70 feet, built on cement. The interior wood frame was made of sturdy yellow pine, and each column is massive measuring about 12 square inches.

Though the actual receipt is not available from the Petersens, research on Sears’ barns of that era indicates a price of $769.

Each barn kit included lumber, windows, fasteners, hardware, paint and shingles, plus accessories such as animal pens, cupolas, (roof ventilators) and feed racks. This barn also included hay track, and rope.

The cost did not include the foundation, or the labor.

The advertising indicates up to 30 percent cost savings, as the lumber was pre-cut. The ad focused on less waste of lumber, and decrease of labor to achieve the cost savings. The ad further indicates, “Any handy man can erect our already-cut modern farm buildings.”

Here’s the classic Sears-brand barn which was pre-cut and shipped to Paton, for assembly at the Petersen farm that now belongs to the Tronchettis. You can understand why some of these large barns were promoted as “cathedrals of the prairie.”

It is unknown if the Petersens used the service, but Sears offered financing of new buildings. Installment payment plans were available, with payments every three months or six months. Sears charged six percent interest and encouraged payment over five years.

The work horses have long since left the large heavy-doored stalls. Percherons were massive in size as demonstrated by a remaining horse shoe held by Sue.

The Tronchettis purchased the farm in 1975 from the Petersen estate. Laura and Lisa Tronchetti had pleasure horses they housed in the barn, and their brother Brad used the barn for his 4-H cattle.

The photos show the hay storage area on the second floor, and gothic-like framing of the interior of the building. The first floor markings are visible, the same ones the Petersens probably used to assemble the building frame.

After building the barn for their animals, the Petersens built a two-story red brick home in 1937. The Tronchettis currently live in that brick residence.

Sue Tronchetti holds one of the huge shoes that Percheron workhorses wore.

The heavy wood frame of the barn shows the assembly identification marks that guided the Petersens in putting the pre-cut barn together.

A pulley left over from the hay track along one of the roof beams.

The underside of the roof shows the elaborate woodwork used in the assembly of pre-cut barns.

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.


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Pondering the racism that was so common around him in childhood


RIPPEY, Iowa, April 19 2018– I grew up the second child of Bob and Mary Hanaman, on Argall Avenue in Beloit, Wisconsin. My sister, Marianne, was 3 ½ years older. Argall Avenue was a street filled with all kinds of neighbors. Two people I thought were married were but siblings living together. Five families had children near my age but younger than my sister. Three of these children were Nancy Dickson, Tom Plunkett and Bill Bronzi. None of the parents were college educated, most had finished high school. Both Italian and English could be heard in our neighborhood.

My mother was a stay-at-home mom until I entered middle school. She then entered the workforce as secretary at First Methodist Church, later with the Beloit schools administration office, and finally at both middle and high school offices until retirement.

My father worked as a patrolman at Fairbanks Morse, a large Beloit factory. He and other men provided security for the factory in shifts around the clock. He had one semester of college but had to drop out during the Great Depression.

During my elementary days, my neighborhood school was nearly all white, as I remember. Both the middle school and high school had both white and black students.

My father was very prejudiced toward black people (called “Negroes,” or worse, at the time).

When I was about 10, my dad and his younger brother, Jens (called “Duke”), visiting from Blue Island, Illinois, were sitting at our dining room table. They were talking about black people, using the term that begins with “n” and ends with “r”, which was common to hear back then in both Beloit and Blue Island.

I remember standing before both men and said, “I didn’t want to hear you use that term.” Again, I was about 10.

It was only much later that I reflected on that time and my comment to both my dad and uncle. They did not say, “You don’t talk to us like that,” nor tell me to “leave the room.” Instead, after that, I don’t remember they used that term in my presence.

While in high school, I was part of the local Masonic Order for boys, called DeMolay. The order for girls was called Rainbow. One weekend the Masons sponsored a dance at the Masonic Temple for DeMolay boys and Rainbow girls. Each could bring a “date.” One of the girls invited a biracial boy to our dance.

Early that next week, all the youth – DeMolay and Rainbow – were gathered in the same room. The Masonic leaders said, “That will never happen again.” The “that” was not defined, but we all knew it meant black or biracial persons were not welcome in our white Masonic events. We were further told, “Since there’s a black Masonic Order in town, they didn’t need to come to our events.”

Later, while I was attending Simpson College, the Simpson College Choir was on tour through northern Illinois and Wisconsin. Their tour included Beloit. My roommate Don Hamen was among those in choir. Since he was going to be in Beloit, I asked my parents to host Don and his roommate on the tour. They agreed.

Then I discovered that Don’s partner was Bobby Jones, the one black student in the choir. I again contacted my parents, saying it would be difficult for them – and for me at school – if they said now they couldn’t house the black student. After some consideration, including talking with one of their pastors, they did agree for both Don and Bobby to stay at our house.

I grew up – probably most of us grew up – with racial bias toward others different from ourselves. So, bigotry was always part of the life that surrounded me. It has taken me a long time to name the racism of my childhood, and grow through it. I am still learning.

I have grown even more since the births of our first two grandchildren, Adrianna, now 20 ½, and Adyara now 19, who are biracial, beautiful, compassionate, loving, patient, welcoming and open young women.

Our world is too small to place walls between others and ourselves. Skin color is just that, skin color.

We are all part of the human race. Some of us speak Korean, Thai, Russian, French, Italian, English, as well as other languages – but we all love.

Others of us are gay, bisexual, married, single, divorced, widowed, atheist, agnostic, Catholic, Protestant or other religions, citizens or undocumented – yet we all know pain, disappointment and loss as well as joy.

I believe it is time that we open our eyes, minds, hearts, and lives so we can greet others as neighbors, friends, as human beings.

The author, Dale Hanaman, is president of the Greene County Historical Society lives on a farm near Rippey. He is a retired pastor in the United Methodist Church. You can write him by email at dale.hanaman@gmail.com. 


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A funeral of an 89-year-old stirred him to reflect on how we could all live better in a new life


RIPPEY, Iowa, April 10, 2018 – Last Thursday, April 5, I attended the funeral for Doris Brown, a woman who was important to me and to the rest of the congregation at our Rippey United Methodist Church. She was nearly 90 when she died.

She provided a legacy of family, commitment to children, to neighbors and friends, as well as to her church. That is the setting for these thoughts.

One of the songs chosen for congregational singing was “In Remembrance of Me,” which focuses on the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. The first verse sets the stage:

In remembrance of me, eat this bread. In remembrance of me, drink this wine.
In remembrance of me, pray for the time when God’s own will is done.

These are deep and powerful words to hold our attention. Gifts of God – bread and drink for each of us.

But the second verse speaks of even greater depth – the reason that we remember the bread and drink:

In remembrance of me, heal the sick. In remembrance of me, feed the poor.
In remembrance of me, open the door and let the neighbors in, let them in.

We don’t only eat and drink for our own health, our own safety, or for our own lives. To do so would be stingy, self-serving, or thinking only of ourselves. The focus is always on how we care for the least among us.

I have also been viewing some “TED Talks” online. To view them yourselves, you just need to connect to www.ted.com/talks.

One of the talks was by Christian Picciolini entitled, “My descent into America’s neo-Nazi movement – and how I got out.” Picciolini speaks eloquently about his neo-Nazi involvement and even more about leaving that movement. At one point he shared his interaction with another neo-Nazi, an injured soldier who wanted to return to Afghanistan to kill Muslim people. Picciolini arranged for the two of them to “drop by” a Mosque because a “Christian man” wanted to learn more about Islam. With a window of only 15 minutes – which stretched into over two hours – Picciolini’s friend became closely connected to the Imam and remains so this day.

It seems to me that we in Greene County are quite isolated from people who are really different from ourselves. We may interact in shops, restaurants, and stores with others, but we don’t know their names nor share our own. We leave our grandkid pictures in our pockets or purses. We seldom step out of our way to comfort, offer empathy, or share joyous occasions with others – unless we know them well already.

Perhaps the change need not be as wide as that of Christian Picciolini, yet we each need to be reflective and be open to change.

Until we do so, we will continue our sense of separation: city or rural, Democrat or Republican, old or young, gun supporters or anti-gun.

I believe we need to become vulnerable, loving, patient, welcoming – ready to “open the door and let your neighbors in, let them in.”

The author, Dale Hanaman, is president of the Greene County Historical Society lives on a farm near Rippey. He is a retired pastor in the United Methodist Church. You can write him by email at dale.hanaman@gmail.com.


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Our final 2017 meeting is Friday, Dec. 1, with holiday music & elections

JEFFERSON, Iowa, Nov. 20, 2017 — The Greene County Historical Society will meet Friday, Dec. 1, in Jefferson to close its 2017 programming, elect officers & board members for 2018, and celebrate the holidays.

Lunch is at 12 noon at the Greenewood Center, 401 West Greenewood Road, with the business meeting following about 1 p.m.

There’ll be holiday music during and after the meal, from 12:30 to 1 p.m., provided by Greene County High School band members, directed by Wes Anderson.

Dale Hanaman

“Mr. Anderson mentioned that he will be bringing six saxophones this year for a new sound,” said the historical society’s program director Nancy Hanaman. “In previous years, the performers have played brass instruments and clarinets.”

Nominated as officers and board members for 2018 are Dale Hanaman, for re-election as president; Nancy Hanaman, vice-president; Joyce Ausberger, secretary; Becki Cunningham, treasurer; Ces Brunow, as past-president. Others nominated for the board are Margaret Hamilton, Nick Foster, Carol John, Dallas Schrader, Paul White and Chuck Offenburger. Executive director Roger Aegerter is hired, not elected, and is an advisor to the board.

Additional nominations will be accepted from members at the meeting.

Printed newsletters with a 2017 recap and the schedule of meetings & programs for 2018, will be distributed at the Dec. 1 meeting, and will be mailed subsequently to members who are not at the meeting.

The lunch is $8 for historical society members, $10 for non-members. The members should phone reservations to their community contacts by 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 29. Others can RSVP for lunch by calling Nancy Hanaman at (515) 436-7684.


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How “kit homes” and buildings helped early residents settle here


RIPPEY, Iowa, Aug. 23, 2017 — I have long been interested in identifying a “Sears” home that could be featured in my “Hearth & Home” column for the Greene County Historical Society. Several different elders were approached, and I finally identified one just three miles south of my home, the residence of Ben and Midge Vannatta. Their home was built in 1910.

I have learned much more about “kit homes,” also known as “mail-order homes.”

Mary Weaver ProfileThey were not all from Sears, Roebuck & Company. Aladdin, Montgomery Ward, and up to 10 other companies sold homes nationally, and the research indicated some were produced locally and stayed locally.

The kit homes came on the scene at the turn of the 20th century and were being sold and built until the early 1950s, but the boom time was 1910-’20s. The advertising announces, “Avoid the middle man mark-up, save on labor (a hired contractor estimated cost $450), and avoid wasted lumber!”

Copies of catalogs found on the internet, promised, “A man of average ability could assemble a home in 90 days.” A 75-page manual, along with blueprints and up to 750 pounds of nails, accompanied the order.

The homes were sent by railroad box car, and one of the ads shows a horse-drawn buckboard picking up the lumber at the depot. Dependent upon house size, there could be between 10,000 and 30,000 pieces of wood. The lumber was numbered sometimes with a grease pen, sometimes with a stamp, but all cut and packaged together for windows, doorways, rafters and other components.

The Vannatta home was a “Gordon-Van Tine” home. That was a Davenport, Iowa-based company, which began in 1865 as a lumber mill along the Mississippi River, as logs from the north could be transported easily via the river. As railroads were developed, the availability of the Rock Island Railroad allowed the pre-cut wood for homes to be transported both to the East and West.

In 1907, Gordon-Van Tine became a subsidiary of the U.N. Roberts Company, a millwork manufacturing company in Davenport. At one time, Gordon-Van Tine (named after its founding partners) employed 350 persons, selling an estimated 54,000 homes under its own name and 20,000 as a sub-contractor for Montgomery Ward. In 1946 the Gordon-Van Tine Company was sold to a Cincinnati salvage company that liquidated the firm.

The Vannatta home was originally purchased by John Kenney in 1910, at a cost of $926. The ad which is inserted into this article states, “we agree to furnish all materials to build this house, including lumber, lath, shingles, finishing lumber, doors, windows, frames, interior doors and finish, nails, tinwork and complete painting materials. Fire King Furnace complete with all pipes and fittings and ready to install is an extra $94.”

An advertisement in a Gordon-Van Tine Co. publication for the style of home that the Vannattas have today.

Ten years later, the home was purchased by George and Sarah Vannatta, the grandparents of Ben. The house was designed to use gas lighting, but Grandfather George replaced that with a Delco battery system.

Ben’s daughter Jeannie Vanatta Kotta pointed to her bedroom on a copy of the blueprints from House Model 127 of the Gordon-Van Tine catalog. She and her siblings shared the three bedrooms upstairs (listed as chambers) while the downstairs chamber was used by her parents. You will notice on the blueprint there is a sitting room as well as a parlor. Jeannie said indoor plumbing was installed in the attic.

The house plans for the home that the Vannattas now have.

In the interview with Jeannie, she further explained she believes the chickenhouse in the barnyard of her childhood home may have also been from the Gordon-Van Tine Company. Research for this article indicates that beginning in 1920, the company created a catalog making farm outbuildings available including chickenhouses, barns and corn cribs.

Could your home be a “mail-order house”? Look for blueprints, or warranties that came with the house. Check for stamped lumber on exposed beams, or for shipping labels on millwork. Check the abstract for information.

My next research project about “kit buildings” is the barn of Dan and Sue Tronchetti, of rural Jefferson. Dan states his barn is a “kit barn,” and I’ll have the story about it in a future column here.

The Vannatta home in 2005.

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.


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The pervasive impact of the Civil War on life in early Greene County


RIPPEY, Iowa, Dec. 16, 2016 — Six generations, or “four greats-” ago, mothers, wives and sisters may have been preparing food to send off with their sons, husbands, and brothers as they leftMary Weaver Profile Greene County for the “War of the Rebellion,” the “War Between the States,” or as it is now called, the “Civil War.”

It was 1861, and Greene County men, young and middle-aged, were ready for adventure. They were eager to get away from the mundane work of being a pioneer on the prairie.  There was great patriotism and general excitement among the citizenry.

The men drilled frequently, at least once per week, and the Brand School, near present-day Squirrel Hollow Park, was composed of  32 men up to age 25 that served as a company under the leadership of their teacher Azor Mills. The 32 men’s names include ones familiar to current residents – Toliver, Burk, Davis, Myers, Johns, Turpin, as well as Brown.

The State of Iowa, under Governor Samuel Kirkwood who was elected in 1860, called for volunteers to fight for the North.  The still-young state – it had won statehood on December 28, 1846 – provided 70,000.  Of those, 20,000 perished due to battle or illnesses, or infections associated with battle. Among those who went to the war from Greene County, many were iinjured, died of disease or returned home with injuries. Their commander Azor Mills lost the use of his arm after it was struck by a cannon ball.

School teacher, administrator, military and political leader Azor Mills and his wife Miranda Mills, an early civic leader herself, were portrayed during a 2014 “cemetery walk” in Jefferson by Rob and Emily Hoyt, of Scranton.

In 1861 the population of Greene County was 1,400 persons.  One half of Greene County’s able bodied men wore the blue uniform of the Union Army according to the local history book “Past and Present of Greene County, Iowa,” published in 1907.

That book notes, “…among the pioneers, a good many people who had been born and brought up in the South and hence were not great admirers of the plan to keep the South in the Union. They settled along the ’Coon, adjacent to the timber and when the war was really on, many of them were neutral and some even leaned South in their sympathies.”

An interesting historical fact documented in that history is that on July 4, 1861, at the Independence Day celebration in Jefferson, two full companies of infantry were present.  The Jefferson Company’s uniforms featured trousers with a red stripe down the outer seam.  The other company, from Washington Township, was not fully uniformed, but was well-drilled.  A number of men in the Washington Township unit had no boots suitable to wear at the July 4th celebration, but local Rippey physician Dr. J. C. Lovejoy suggested the barefooted men black their feet.

Onlookers noted the agility demonstrated by the men during their drills.

I came across those fascinating notes of local history during the Civil War when I was searching the internet for recipes that were popular and common back then.  One thing that caught my attention is that troops on both sides of the war carried and ate soda-like crackers.  The soldiers of the South called them “Johnnie Cakes,” while the Union forces called them “Hard Tack.”

They could not have been very tasty by current standards, as the Hard Tack was made of flour, water, and lard, while the Johnnie Cakes were made of cornmeal, milk, lard with a little soda and salt.  Here are the recipes if you’d like to try them:

Hard Tack

2 cups flour
½ cup of water
1 Tablespoon of lard
6 pinches of salt

Johnnie Cakes

2 cups of cornmeal
2/3 cup of milk
2 Tablespoons of lard
2 teaspons of soda
½ teaspoon of salt

Baking instructions: Roll out as a thin dough and bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

The Civil War soldiers were also issued “crackers” during fighting, but reports indicated those had become homes for insects and rodents as they were transported to the front lines.

The pioneer cemeteries of Greene County have the graves of many Civil War veterans.  Be on the lookout for the headstones. During upcoming family gatherings, ask members of the oldest generation who among their ancestors fought in the Civil War. Be certain to determine if they wore the Blue or Gray uniform.

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.


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Dramatic bank robbery in 1925 in our little Farlin


Roger Aegerter Profile PictureJEFFERSON, Iowa,  Nov. 16, 2016 – Let’s go back 91 years ago to Feb. 19, 1925, when the peace and calm of rural Greene County was broken with an unexpected jolt – the 3 a.m. dynamiting and robbery of the Farlin Savings Bank, leading to a gun battle on the streets and I the yards of the small town, and then a middle-of-the-night capture of some of the robbers.

If you visit Farlin today, about four miles northwest of Jefferson, it’s amazing to think of all the drama that happened there on that long ago winter night.

What follows are accounts of the crime and arrests as they appeared in the Jefferson Herald and Jefferson Bee. Most of the descriptions are taken directly from the newspapers.

The Herald that was published later the same day of the robbery shocked readers with a two-column, front page headline reading: “FARLIN SAVINGS BANK PAID VISIT BY YEGGS THIS MORN.”  That word “yeggs,” I learned with a little research, was a slang term for “burglar” or “safecracker.”

Here’s how the story started:

“Bank robbers entered the Farlin Savings Bank at about 3 a.m. The robbers entered the rear window of the bank, after trying to open the front door, breaking the handle off.  They used 10 charges of nitroglycerin to blow the door off the vault.

“This was a planned heist, maybe not a well planned heist, but the robbers came into Farlin about midnight and bound the Milwaukee train station manager, who sleeps at the station. He was tied to his cot so he could not notify others in town or law enforcement.  The bank building did not have considerable damage but the glass was blown out of the windows and the interior of the bank was torn apart by the blast.”

The additional details below here come from that Feb. 19 Herald or from a follow-up story in the Feb. 25 edition of the Jefferson Bee:

–“Telephones lines going out of Farlin were all cut except one.  It was on that line that a message was sent to law enforcement in Jefferson that there had a series of explosions at the bank.   Sheriff Edson C. Morain, when hearing of a robbery in Farlin, summoned his deputy Mr. Whitter and also called to the ex-Sheriff Quinlan also Constable Reyes.  The sheriff’s deputies collected  themselves and their equipment so fast they were on their way to Farlin in less than 10 minutes.  Deputy Whitter drove the officers in his Buick and the other men stated, ‘He drove so fast that he burned up the road, and the green visor which shaded  the front was doubled back over the top of the car.’ ”

Among the law enforcement officers who made the hurried trip from Jefferson to Farlin to catch two of the bank robbers before they could get out of town.

–“Within 25 minutes, the Greene County officers from Jefferson arrived in Farlin. Almost immediately, Mr. Reyes watching the ‘birds’ near a corn crib north of the depot. He perused the robber and when he had him cornered, the bandit opened fire on Constable Reyes. He responded with his revolver and the robber ran across west across a vacant lot toward the road where the get-away cars were believed to be.  Reyes said he caught one of the robbers in the ditch between the bank and the depot. Flashlight in hand, he discovered the man lying (with) his weapon, a shotgun which contained an empty shell.”

–“On the other side of Farlin, the other robber jumped three more fences in his attempt to make a getaway through the Dick Beebe yard.  Mr. Beebe who was watching from the window called out to the officer that the robber ran past the house and could be found on the side of the garage.  When Deputy Whitter called to the fellow to put his hands up, there was no response. Later Whitter said the robber’s stubbornness placed him mighty close to the brink of Whitter’s patience.”  Finally, the robber set his rifle around the corner of the garage and then came out with his hands in the air.

–“The two captured men were brought to Jefferson and locked in the city jail. More men joined the officers and went back to make further investigations at the crime site.  It was believed that there were five bandits and that one of them went out of the town to the south.”

–“The loss to the bank of course was fully covered by insurance, the loss includes damage to the safe and all the glass windows were damaged. The estimated loss (in the robbery) was between $500 and $600, and this included a bag of silver dollars.”

–“Two state police officials reported to Jefferson Thursday noon and went to Farlin with Sheriff Morain and County Attorney W.E.S. Hutcheon to look over the bank and seek clues. They came back to Jefferson after the inspection and spent the afternoon and evening grilling the prisoners, one of them gave the name of Jack Marsh and the other as Ed Larson, which may or may not be the real names.  The attitudes of the two men were typical gangster type. The wives of Marsh and Larson came to Jefferson on Saturday and have been here looking after legal arrangements for their husbands’ defense.”

–“Details concerning the robbery since the February 19th robbery have been interesting.  One of the suspects was located in Sioux City, and when officials charged into his room they found him hanging by the neck, determined to be a suicide. There was also a woman arrested, being the driver that escaped the Farlin scene. A third man was arrested a few days later in the area when he stopped at a farm south of Jefferson to ask directions to the nearest town.  He was reported by the farmer and arrested without incident later in the day.”

Concerning the robbery and the aftermath, the Bee called it “mighty fine work on the part of Sheriff Morain and his deputies. While there is disappointment that all the robbers were not caught that night, considering every phase of the case, the capture of the three men within hours of the robbery, and preventing of a complete looting of the bank, was an unusual accomplishment, and it is one upon which the State Officials congratulate the effective work of the sheriff and his men.”

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. The author is executive director of the Greene County Historical Society.


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Amazing stories of the early settlers’ lives here


Mary Weaver ProfileRIPPEY, Iowa, Sept. 13, 2016 – The first white settlers in Greene County, Truman and Mary Davis, arrived about this time 167 years ago – in October of 1849.  Historical documents available at our Greene County Historical Museum in Jefferson say the Davises brought their six children, ranging in age from 2 to 16, and traveled in a prairie schooner pulled by a yoke of oxen.  They brought one cow, a horse, 12 chickens, eight sheep, two pigs and a dog.

They came from Missouri and were eager to settle into the log cabin that Truman and the two older boys, Charles (16) and Lewis (14), built when they visited earlier that summer. They planted a garden then, too.

In the fall, the Davis family stopped in Adel and procured coffee, sugar and salt – the things that wouldn’t be available from the garden, by picking in the wild, or that Truman and the boys couldn’t trap or shoot.

That garden included turnips and potatoes, and I can visualize Mary directing they be dug up right away and stored in a large hole in the side of a hill. The hole was then covered with dirt. Imagine a small side-hill cave for food storage!  Those provides places to store vegetables so they’d be protected from the freezing prairie winters, and cool enough to avoid spoilage in hot weather.

That following spring, in 1850, Mary was home with the children James (3), Catherine (6), John (8), William (10), and Lewis also called Levi (15). She happened to be pregnant with the first white child to be born in Greene County, Mary Ann.

Charles, the oldest son, and Truman were out trapping when about 25 Indian braves raced in on their ponies. They rode single file, but held a tomahawk in one hand and a rifle in the other.  They came in fast, whooping and hollering.

Of course the family was frightened and the document indicates that 10-year-old William grabbed a rifle from above the fireplace, and was prepared to protect his mother and the other children.  Lewis (Levi) cautioned him, saying all the Indians could not be killed before the family was murdered.

Rather, Levi went out and began to try and talk with them.  Despite the language barrier, they somehow agreed to a shooting contest.  Levi rubbed a mark on a tree, and being a good shot, could fire right into the middle of the mark. The Indian braves tried it, but were not as accurate.   The document continues, “It became a game. We eventually gave them some salt, and they went happily on their way.”

Seven years later, there was another Indian scare. Greene County was more populated and the town of New Jefferson had been established.  Word came about the “Spirit Lake Massacre” in northwest Iowa. Some settlers feared the Sioux might come south, and “some of our neighbors went and stayed in town,” the Davises reported.  But no related fighting happened in Greene County.


One excellent source for such stories about the settlers’ early life here is a hand-written memoir by Gillum Toliver, who was 14 years old in 1854 when he settled in Greene County with his parents, Isom and Matilda Toliver.  Gillum served in the Union Army in the Civil War and later became an attorney and state legislator.

At some point in his life, he decided to record the stories he knew about the early settlers, and he did that in long-hand writing.

“The Toliver family lived in a large house on Wilson Avenue in the north part of Jefferson,” says Mary Lynch, of Jefferson, a member of the board of directors of the historical society who has read the memoir.  “Years after Gillum Toliver wrote the memoir, it was found in the attic of that home.”

Gillum’s great-grandson John Milligan, who lives in Jefferson today, later had copies of the memoir made and gave one of them to the museum, Lynch said.

“I took time to read the stories, and they’re just wonderful,” she said. “Gillum didn’t just write the story of his own family.  It’s like he wanted to leave an accurate account of the early years here, so he writes about many of the early settlers and what life was like for them. Everybody who’s interested in our local history should eventually take time to read the memoir.”

You can comment on this story in the space below here, or write directly to the columnist by email at mweaver235@gmail.com.


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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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