More “cover crops” being planted in Greene County now, and they’re really as historic as they are futuristic


RIPPEY, Iowa, Sept. 27, 2019 — Gillum S. Toliver, born in 1840, was a youth of 14 years when he settled in Greene County with his parents. The Greene County Historical Society has a copy of a diary kept by Toliver, and this is his description of the North Raccoon River, and the surrounding land:

“The river afforded more water and it was a more swift-running stream than it became after the country was settled. There were no dams on the river then. No stock had crossed it. Nothing but the wild game had disturbed it. The lands had not been plowed, so little of the soil reached the river to make the waters turbid. When the rains and snows fell, much of the water ran off through the rivulets, gullies, ravines, branches and creeks. More water reached the river than was the case after the land was put under cultivation. The North Raccoon River was a clear rapid running stream, and its bottom was generally covered with white sand and gravel. Then you could frequently see a fish, as far as across the river, in two feet of water.”

Mary Weaver ProfileThe prairie, when first seen by young Toliver, was covered with grasses such as buffalo grass, big and little blue stem, and others having very long tap roots, as much as five to seven feet.

Jerry Hatfield, USDA soil scientist for Iowa, says with current practices, we will run out of top soil in the Loess Hills in 35 years, and in the prairie pothole region of Iowa in 80 to100 years, with current climate conditions. He states, “It took us something like 150 years to lose the first half of our top soil in Iowa.”

High intensity rainfall (defined as over five inches) events occurred throughout the state in 2018, further adding to serious soil erosion, at a rate above five tons/acre/year.

The current soil status is described by Elizabeth Garst, a well-known conservationist from Coon Rapids, as being unhealthy.

“Repeated tillage breaks apart soil aggregates, and current conventional crop practices hurt the soil biotic,” she explains. “Soil biotic is defined as bugs in the food chains, from bacteria to spiders, that along with fungus, become the glue which holds the soil together. Many highly tilled soils in Iowa now take in water at the rate of ¼-inch an hour, while healthy crop soils can absorb perhaps 4 inches per hour. Prairie can handle 10 inches or more. The difference lies in the soil aggregate structure and percentage of organic matter.

“Our soils are increasingly resembling dust,” Garst continues. “The water from unhealthy soils goes across the surface instead of into the ground, exacerbating erosion.”

She says the crop ground “is not armored for this new reality. Terraces, strips, waterways, and buffers all help. Other ways to improve soil health is no-till, extended crop rotations, along with cover crops.”

Several area Greene County farmers are planting cover crops in the fall to provide nutrients for the soil, to hold moisture, as well as diminishing wind erosion. One has to feel remorse when driving in the rural portions of Greene County during the winter, only to see black soil covering the snow drifts in the ditches. Winter cover crops planted in Greene County include radishes that look almost like turnips, up to 12 inches long and white. Additional cover crops planted include cereal rye, wheat, and oats.

Several winters ago, our son David Weaver planted radishes, and we identified several areas in the field where deer had pulled the soil away from the radishes and enjoyed eating portions of the cover crop!

On a personal note, winter wheat was planted on our farm last September and was harvested in July. The field was “second-cropped” with buckwheat. The buckwheat grows very quickly, and provides a thick foliage cover. In fact, it is so thick it smothers weeds, limiting the use of herbicides, and has a high nutrient value, thus limiting the amount of fertilizer to be added. The buckwheat seeds are harvested, and the remaining plant are regenerated into the ground with a chisel plow.

As land stewards of Greene County, many farmers are beginning to use cover crops.

Don’t you pause and wonder what Gillum Toliver would have thought about our new cover crops?

A full, lush “second crop” of buckwheat, shown here in the blossom stage.

You can comment on this story in the space below here, or write directly to the columnist by email at The author, who lives outside Rippey, is an active member of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society.


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At Oct. 4 Rippey meeting, we’ll hear the stories of three historic farms

RIPPEY, Iowa, Sept. 27, 2019 — Nancy Hanaman, of rural Rippey, will lead a program on “Farming in Greene County: From horse & plow to GPS in the fields” on Friday, Oct. 4, when the historical society meets at the United Methodist Church here.

The program will focus on this historic farms of three families — the Jones family, from the Dana area, and the Youngs and Bardoles from the Rippey area. The Jones and Young families have officially-recognized “Heritage Farms,” meaning they have been in the family’s ownership for 150 years. Roy and Phyllis Bardole have “Century Farms,” with 100 years of ownership, on both sides of their family.

Here are three of the six generations of Bardoles who’ve operated “Century Farms” in Greene County. Left to right are brothers Pete and Tim Bardole, Tim’s son Schyler Bardole, and Roy Bardole.

“The owning and operating of farm land by Heritage and Century families is a significant accomplishment in Iowa and Greene County,” said Hanaman, who is a cousin to the Bardoles.

She plans to summarize the Heritage & Century Farm programs that the state has, and will give statistics on the number of such farms in both the state and in Greene County. She’ll then call forward representatives of each of the three families to talk about their farms’ histories. And any other owners of Heritage or Century Farms who are at the program will also be recognized.

There will be lunch served at 12 noon, $8 for historical society members and $10 for others who want to enjoy the meal. Members should RSVP to their community contacts by Tuesday evening, Oct. 1, and non-members who want to come for the lunch should RSVP by calling program director Margaret Hamilton at (515) 386-4408.

The program at 12:45 p.m. is free and the public is invited.


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Grand Junction hosting two of our programs: Friday Aug. 2 on county’s movie theatres, Sunday Aug. 4 on GJ’s 150 years

GRAND JUNCTION, Iowa, July 29, 2019 — There’s a Friday-Sunday doubleheader of local history programs coming this weekend, both in Grand Junction, as that town celebrates its sesquicentennial.

On Friday, Aug. 2, Mike and Dianne Piepel, of Jefferson, are presenting the “Theaters in Greene County,” with a 12 noon lunch for those who RSVP and pay, and the free program at 12:45 p.m., both in the Grand Junction Community Center. This will be the historical society’s normal monthly meeting.

On Sunday, Aug. 4, Alan Robinson, of Grand Junction, will present “Grand Junction: 150 Years of Transportation and Transitions” at 1 p.m. at the community center. This free program is co-sponsored by the historical society and the Grand Junction Sesquicentennial Committee.

Mike and Dianne Piepel, 1970 classmates at Jefferson High School and then at Mankato State University in Minnesota before they married, have been movie fans since childhood, probably Mike more than Dianne.
“As a boy, going into the Iowa Theatre – which is now the Sierra – for their weekend matinees, I just fell in love with films,” Mike said. “At Mankato State, we had a new student center, and I got involved with the committee that booked the movies, dances, concerts and all that, and I always enjoyed working on the movies the most.”

Mike Piepel in 2014 when he presented a Greene County Historical Society program on the impact of movies on life here. In his new program, researched by his wife Dianne Piepel, Mike will be talking about all the movie theatres that have operated in the county.

That interest continued as the Piepels moved on for graduate school and teaching at the University of Southern Colorado and at South Dakota State University. After 15 years away, the couple returned to Jefferson when Mike landed a job at American Athletic Inc. He also taught social studies at Des Moines Area Community College, was elected Greene County auditor for 12 years in the late 1980s and ’90s, and finished his career in rural route delivery for the U.S. Postal Service, where he recently retired. Dianne served as middle school librarian for 23 years, and that helped develop and sharpen her skills as a researcher.

Mike said the research into all the movie houses that have operated in Greene County taxed both his knowledge of movies and Diane’s research abilities. “We’ve spent six months digging into this since Roger Aegerter (executive director of the historical society) asked us if we’d be interested in doing this,” Mike said. “Dianne got into the archives of the newspapers in Jefferson, Grand Junction, Paton, Scranton, Rippey and Churdan.”

They found that all but the tiniest of our towns had at least one, and some towns have had several through their history. “Jefferson had three or four movie theatres operating at the same time, and Churdan once had two going at the same time,” Mike said. “And in some of the smallest towns, we found mentions of how the local people were going to show movies on the sides of business buildings, with people sitting outdoors on benches or blankets.”

The Eagle Theatre that served Grand Junction in about 1914.

Many of those theatres were built as opera houses, and the films came to them later. The crown jewel of all those entertainment houses is today’s community-owned Sierra in Jefferson, which opened in 1884 as the Head Opera House. It has operated continuously for public entertainment for 135 years. Mike Piepel serves on the board of directors of the Sierra.

Preceding Friday’s program on the theatres, there will be a lunch by the Horizons organization in the community center at 12 noon, $8 for historical society members and $10 for others who are not members but would like to eat with the group. Historical society members should RSVP about lunch to their community contacts by Wednesday noon, July 31, and others who want to have lunch should RSVP to board member Margaret Hamilton at (515) 386-4408.

The Lincoln Theatre in Jefferson.

In Sunday afternoon’s program, Alan Robinson will present some amazing stories about his hometown of Grand Junction’s history with transportation and the impact that has had on the town’s growth, decline and re-development over its 150 years.

Robinson, a 1973 graduate of East Greene High School in Grand Junction, went on to study journalism at Drake University, then eventually earned his degree at New York University. He worked as a reporter and editor for newspapers and magazines in Wapello, Sheldon and Storm Lake in Iowa; in North Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island, South Carolina, and for 20 years in New York City. He also had two hitches in public relations at colleges along his way.

He moved back home to Grand Junction in 2011 and has been very active in Greene County organizations since then, including serving now on the Grand Junction city council. He works now as a guest services rep (“fancy words for front desk clerk,” he said) at the Cobblestone Hotel & Suites in Jefferson.

Development came fast in Grand Junction after the east-west railroad mainline came through Greene County in 1866. Within a couple years, it was determined that a north-south rail line, from Missouri through Des Moines and on to Minnesota, would be built through what is now Grand Junction.

“Once the rail reached from Des Moines to the intersection with the Chicago & North Western, things moved fast for Grand Junction,” Robinson said. “It was a boom town. Over 60 buildings were constructed in just four months in late 1869. The town went from population 0 to 444 in Year 1, and doubled again in just a few more years.”

Ever since, Grand Junction has been dealing with changes in transportation and economic diversification. The population once hit 1,100, but by 2017 dropped to 784. The town remains a major rail center, now is positioned on the front edge of agricultural evolution, too – with the French-owned Louis Dreyfus ethanol plant on the north and electricity-producing wind turbines south of town.

Grand Junction’s story is a fascinating one, and Robinson probably knows it better than any current citizens.

Alan Robinson of Grand Junction.

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The traditions & adages that guided our pioneers on when it’s planting time


RIPPEY, Iowa, April 23, 2019 — Finally spring has come following the extremely long and rugged winter. It is time to think about our gardens.

Knowing when to plant is tricky and very weather-dependent, but to our early Greene County ancestors and pioneers, a garden was the source of 80 percent of the food eaten by the family. The gardens provided not only food, but some herbs that were used as medicines, fragrances and dyes. It was important the garden be successful for the family to survive, as there was no Fareway or Hy-Vee available to them.

Mary Weaver ProfileGardens were usually the responsibility of the woman of the household, though much of the labor was provided by her children. The garden was usually within steps of the kitchen door, and was usually fenced in to protect the plantings from the raccoons, rabbits and other animals living in the wild.

I recall from my younger years that my family always planted the seed potatoes on Good Friday. A little research provides an interesting fact; potatoes, when they were introduced into the European countries in the 1600’s were believed to be evil. They were planted on Good Friday and sprinkled with Holy Water to ward off the effects of “poison” and the “evil” ascribed to the potatoes.

As I was growing up on the farm, we had a hired hand that used to assist my mother with her gardening. The hired hand believed in planting by the moon signs, and used the Farmer’s Almanac to guide him in all his planting decisions. He did not profess to know why certain things were planted at certain times, but never the less was a firm believer.

We know the moon controls the tides, as the tides are highest during a new moon and a full moon. Those that abide by moon planting believe that a waxing moon (when it is growing to show more light) allows the seed to absorb more water, and that time should be used for above-ground plantings such as lettuce, spinach and cabbage. Root crops such as potatoes, radishes, turnips and carrots, grow most successfully during a waning moon (when it is diminishing its illumination).

I had a dear friend who had an amazing and prolific garden in a very small space. She always reminded me to plant the potatoes “with the eyes up” so they could “see better.” The scientific thesis is that the eyes produce the sprouts, and if they are planted upward, it’s easier for them to feel the warmth of the sun and break through the soil surface.

The pioneers stated you should “plant peas when the daffodils bloom,” and that corn goes in the ground when “oak leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear.” We had a former neighbor who embellished that “size of a squirrel’s ear” tip. He said when you could sit with your uncovered butt on the soil and be comfortable, it was then time to plant the corn.

Don’t drive in the ditch looking for farmers implementing the last adage, as we know corn planting has just now started. Better to look for the oak leaves!

You can comment on this story in the space below here, or write directly to the columnist by email at The author, who lives outside Rippey, is an active member of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society.


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The places where generations of a family meet for bonding become almost magical, like the author’s farm near Rippey


RIPPEY, Iowa, April 8, 2019 — It was nearly 53 years ago that I first ventured onto the farm where my wife Nancy and I live today. We moved here nearly 12 years ago.

What I want to share with you is my early impressions of this farm, the land and Nancy’s parents Clark and Esther Bardole, who lived here west of Rippey.

In order to do this, I will share a bit about my neighborhood in Beloit, Wisconsin, a city then of about 35,000 people. I lived with my parents, Bob and Mary Hanaman, and my sister, Marianne. The street we lived on was often busy in the daytime due to a small chemical plant at the end of our block-long street. The tall elm trees, with their branches meeting near the center of the street, made it appear to be a large cathedral. Birds rested in the tree tops.

Neighbors looked after one another in our Beloit neighborhood. Houses were only feet apart with small front yards, narrow grass strips and driveways between them. Nancy Dickson lived to the west, Tom Plunkett lived to the east, and Bill Bronzi lived south across the street. We did many things together after school as well as throughout our summers: biking, fishing, playing softball in a neighboring ball field, and games under the street lights at night. I did not often ponder the close proximity of the houses on our block.

After high school graduation in 1963, I enrolled as a freshman at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, graduating in 1967. How I got there is another story for another time.

Nancy entered as a freshman at Simpson in 1964. Because of our birth dates, though we are only six months apart in age, Nancy was a year behind me in school. We were introduced to one another through classes and the Methodist Student Christian Movement. Due to the way my roommate and I treated a friend, it was clear Nancy did not like me.

In spite of all things, we found ourselves in more classes. We began to notice each other. And one night at a school dance, though we did not attend the dance together, we decided to dance. Since neither of us were very good dancers, we decided to go play tennis. You see, the tennis courts at Simpson were lit by overhead lighting. (Today, those tennis courts have been removed.)

So, during my college junior year, we began to seriously date one another. Since Nancy’s home was much closer to school than mine, we frequently went to the farm.

The nearest neighbors, Nancy’s Aunt Mary and Uncle Paul Bardole, were ¼-mile away. Other neighbors were farther away. A yard light illumined the driveway and part of the approach to the house. And the yard light could manually be turned off (and it still can today). Cattle were often in the west 77 acres, hogs were in the barn, a dog roamed the farm along with tame and wild cats with their litters.

It was a magical place, I thought.

Wide open, few vehicles going by, slow farm machinery easing by, and Nancy’s parents were welcoming, gentle and loving. It seemed like a great place to visit and spend time with Nancy. We often talked, hugged, walked, and talked about ourselves, sharing our thoughts for the future.

In June, 1968, we were married at the Rippey United Methodist Church. I had finished my first year of seminary while Nancy had just graduated from Simpson. Our lives together were just beginning. Each succeeding summer we would find ourselves coming back to the farm for a visit of a week or two. I continued to be intrigued with the gentle life, being able to see the sun rise in the morning and set at night,

After our daughter, Sarah, was born and later our son, Matthew, I was involved in United Methodist Camping ministry for senior high students. My leadership led me to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) operating out of Ely, Minnesota, for week-long camping ventures. Nancy often assisted me as the other counselor.

What would we do with our own kids for that week?

It was not long and we focused on bringing them to the farm. They loved coming to the farm, grandparents Esther and Clark were open and glad for their visits, and Sarah and Matthew would spend a week or two without us.

So a tradition began.

A generation later, our children began to have their own children. Matthew was the first with his two daughters, Adrianna and Adyara. Then it was Sarah and her husband Benji with their three children, Steven, Elizabeth and Andrea.

Arrangements were made with us where we lived during the summers to have grandchildren come to visit us. Our home – and it moved about during my ministry – became the magical place, with welcoming grandparents, opportunities to grow deeper together, laughter and joy abounding.

And since the summer of 2007, when we retired and moved to the farm, our grandchildren continued to come here.

But now they have grown older. Adrianna and Adyara, both college students and with boyfriends, jobs and other commitments don’t come to visit as often. Steven, soon to graduate from high school, is already engaging in sports and close friendships, finding it more difficult to visit more than a few days. Elizabeth and Andrea did spend two weeks at the farm this year. Swimming, talking, cooking, reading, engaging on their electronics and interacting with Nancy and me. It was a precious and enjoyable time for all.

It might be a decade or so from now, but Sarah and Benji as well as Matthew and Heather, will be grandparents, hopefully providing the magical locations for their grandchildren to come visit, to be the center of their attention, and to enjoy spending deep and creative time together.

The author, Dale Hanaman, is a member of the board of directors of the Greene County Historical Society. You can write him by email at


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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 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



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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 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 


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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

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


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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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