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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Iowans who fought for the Confederacy? Some little-known Civil War history is coming Sunday, Oct. 10, at museum in Jefferson

JEFFERSON, Iowa, Oct. 7, 2021 — Avid historical researcher and re-enactor David Connon, of Earlham in central Iowa, was digging deeply into the history of the Underground Railroad’s route across Iowa when he discovered a Civil War story he’d been unaware of — there were at least 76 Iowans, maybe even more, who in fact joined the Confederate army and fought against the Union.

For the next 11 years, from 2008 into 2019, he pursued the story, and has now published a new book, “Iowa Confederates in the Civil War.”

On Sunday afternoon, Oct. 10, Connon will tell that fascinating and little-known story, and answer questions, in a program at 2 p.m. at the Greene County Historical Museum in Jefferson.

David Connon

The free program — with free refreshments, too — is a collaboration by Humanities Iowa, the Jefferson Public Library and the Greene County Historical Society.

The heart of Connon’s book consists of historical sketches of all 76 Iowa Confederates, featuring their pre-war, war-time, and post-war experiences.

In the program, he will offer insights into the strains and turmoil of life and politics in Iowa during the Civil War era.  For example, one of four Iowa Confederates had a divided family, that is, at least one brother or a father who served in the Union Army.  Some fathers of Iowa Confederates were prominent Democrats, and at least a couple were personal friends of Jefferson Davis, who served as president of the Confederate States of America.

“Of course, I was surprised when I first came across this, because Iowa has such a strong and proud history of support for the Union during the Civil War,” Connon said. “But the fact that there was also support here for the Confederacy is not so surprising when you think about how riven the whole country was back then.”

As for Connon’s own family, two of his great-great-grandfathers served in the Union Army.  He is a member of Sons of Union Veterans, an associate member of Sons of Confederate Veterans, and a member of the Des Moines Civil War Round Table.

Besides his book, his history stories have appeared in Iowa Heritage Illustrated, Iowa History Journal, Illinois Magazine, and local newspapers in both states.  He blogs regularly on the internet at his website titled “Confederates from Iowa: Not to Defend, but to Understand.”

Connon, who grew up in Illinois, did his undergraduate studies at North Central College in Napierville, and he has a master’s degree in education from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.  In Iowa, besides his continuing research, writing and occasional substitute teaching, he has worked as a historical interpreter at Living History Farms, and he now works part-time at the West Des Moines Public Library.

He said he has been able to spend so much time focused on history the last 20 years because his wife Melinda Bradshaw Connon “is a veteran and professional high school math teacher” while he is “doing research and handling chores around the house.”

He will sell and sign copies of his book Sunday at the museum in Jefferson.

The book cover.

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Our columnist’s thoughts on our new historical exhibit? “Well, it used to be the ’70s, and now I’m 70!”


 JEFFERSON, Iowa, July 2, 2021 – When the Greene County Historical Society decided to do a new “historical display on the 1950s, ’60s & ’70s,”  I thought it was a good idea until I realized, hey! That was my life! I’m not historical!

I was born in the ’50s, was a teenager in the ’60s, and worked my way into the adult world in the ’70s. So, I guess that does make me an historical figure now.

We needed objects for the display, objects as I came to realize were the fabric of my life. They were also the fabric of my house, things I still use.  Unlike my wife Jan, I don’t have clothes from my first dance in junior high (not middle school) or even my suit from graduation.  I grew, mostly out. But some of the clothes in the display are real “Groooovy.”   They really do remind me of those good ol’ days.

Roger Aegerter Profile PictureThose days don’t seem so long ago. But my birth was 25,682 days ago. What?  It seems like only 23,998 days ago.

All of us can reflect on their lives and say they have been through a lot.  But I can modestly, honestly say I have.

I could take you through my life day by day, if I could remember, but that may take too long.  “It was a cool spring day in 1951 when I was born…”

I spent my first eight years growing  up on a small farm outside Rockwell City, Iowa. I remember watching a tornado pass two miles west of the barn.  I remember going with my dad to see a neighbor’s barn burn down.  I remember standing in the yard trying to see a small light travel across the sky, Sputnik, I assume. I also remember it was the “country kids” vs. the “town kids” on the school playground.  In my mind, my parents lived a typical farm life. I was too young to really help with chores, except gathering eggs from the hard-pecking hens and yelling at cows to move out the gate. My mother was a stay-at-home farm wife in a typical 1950s – gardening, sewing, cooking, choring, etc.  Ever since my days on the farm, I have been a fan of green tractors.

When historians or my aunts talk about the ’50s, they many times have said it was a simpler time.  I agree. Getting on a yellow school bus with my sister, playing with my dog Tippy, riding my black Schwinn up and down the gravel farm lane, thinking a bottle of pop or an ice cream cone was a special treat worth waiting or working for – those were the best of times.  The ’50s were a great time to begin life.

I can tell you exactly where I was sitting when a high school girl walked into Mrs. Gallentine’s  7th grade English class and said President Kennedy had been shot.  Front row to the right by the door.  I have gone back to that classroom several times and stood in that spot.  The school is now a museum for historical stuff!  We had a short assembly before we got on the busses to go home that day.  I don’t remember if at the time I thought the world was ending, but I do remember lying in front of the black & white TV and watching the next few days’ events unfold.

The rest of the decade, the world – I mean Iowa, or I mean northwest Iowa – was turned upside down and inside out. A few days ago, I was “scooping the loop” (the square) in Rockwell City, and it did bring back memories! Almost all those memories are triggered by familiar sights, sounds of the oldies, and smells like a lockerroom which take me back in time. I can still tell you when, with whom, and what car I was in when I was traveling to the Iowa State Fair to see the Beach Boys, listening to and singing to my Beach Boys 8-track.

There are also memories of the Vietnam War as I graduated and moved on to college. In the fall of 1971, I lost a high school classmate in Vietnam.  I remember the funeral. I was on many athletic teams with Craig in high school and I remember him as a kind, quiet person who was big into Boy Scouts.  This May, we had a 50-year memorial service for Craig with over 100 people attending.

I also remember protests going on at Iowa State University. Classes ended early that spring because of the riots and deaths at Kent State University in Ohio and protest marches on campus.  I forget when, but sometime in 1970 or ’71, the first draft lottery came about. Thirty of us in our dorm sat in the lounge to watch the draft numbers being picked to match birth dates. A couple of things I remember about that night.  We were all real quiet, there was no kidding going on when someone was assigned a number.  My number was 273, fairly high. But a junior in electrical engineering who was vocal against the war was assigned number 1.  He was going to be drafted eventually.   I remember him crying, getting up and throwing up several times in the bathroom.

My higher education happened in the early ’70s. My becoming an adult, at least that is what I thought I was becoming at the time, happened in the late ’70s. Being on my own, trying to find my first real job, my second, my third, and for me, getting married, a lot happened in my life in that decade.

Just one last thought about my ’70s decade. In April of 1973, April 9, my birthday to be exact, there was a 1950s-type of blizzard (things seemed bigger when you were a kid). I was in Ames, the snow had been coming down for a couple of days, but I tried to drive out of Ames to go home for my birthday. Not quite thinking as an adult yet. I only made it to the edge of west Ames before I turned back.  ISU was closed down for a couple of days, one of the first times in history weather shut it down, and I witnessed a fairly big John Deere tractor, my favorite, doing donuts down main street in downtown Ames! The snow was piled 6 feet down both sides, so it acted as pinball bumpers as the tractor hit the snowbanks.

As with that tractor, “My life, what a ride!”

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.comHe is executive director of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society.


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Sharing memories from our featured historical era — like playing cowgirl “Dale Evans” in the 1950s


RIPPEY, Iowa, June 25, 2021 – “Roy Rogers, King of the West” was a famous television show from 1951-1957. Though my family was not able to have a television until 1954 at our rural Rippey farmhouse, it was so very magical to watch Roy ride his horse “Trigger” every Saturday morning while I was in elementary school.

My cousin Bob and I played cowboy, with him being Roy and me being Roy’s wife Dale Evans. We had “pretend” horses, not even stick ones, but we could ride ’em fast in his apple orchard.  We had cap guns, and I can conjure the vivid odor of caps being exploded. Most times, they would not feed into the trigger mechanism of our little guns, and we just hammered those caps on the sidewalk.

Mary Weaver ProfileHis little brother Mike was 6 years younger, and he became “Pat” and drove his pretend jeep “Nellybelle” to get help and save the day. In the TV series, Nellybelle was cantankerous and sometimes on the show refused to start and Pat would beg and threaten her. When our older second cousin from up the road came to visit, younger Mike was relegated to being “Bullet,” the dog. I think he resents that to this day, as he sometimes mentions it at family gatherings.

I had many Roy and Dale articles, like a lunch box with a picture of Roy and Trigger on one side, and Dale riding “Buttermilk” on the other. I had a large towel with a picture of the entrance to their ranch and all the actors dressed in their cowboy outfits. I had a Western cut shirt without buttons, but rather with those snaps like cowboy shirts have. It had a yoke with piping that in my mind made me look just like Dale Evans.

When I went to the Denver Livestock Show on the train with my parents in 1956, I wore my cowboy shirt, and skirt and vest with white fringe, just like Dale’s.  I also wore my two pistols, but did not take any caps. When we toured the U.S. Mint there in Denver, the security guard asked me to give him my guns and they were placed in a locker during the tour!

Though I can not recall the specific plots of the shows, it seems the good guys always won. The bad guys went to jail, but there were no hangings, or deaths due to gun fights. Oftentimes, Bullet would grab the bad guy’s wrist, wrestling the gun away from the outlaw before someone was fatally injured.

During that time, Dale, who in real life was married to Roy, gave birth to Robin, a child with Down syndrome and a congenital heart condition. Dale wrote a book, “Angel Unaware” about that birth and the care of the child. I still treasure the story, and after all these years recently shared it with a mother who had given birth to a child with a congenital disability.

I enjoyed the end of the show, with Roy and Dale singing “Happy Trails” while riding Trigger and Buttermilk. I always sang along, but now I can only remember “Happy Trails, until we meet again”.

I had to research it online to find all the lyrics and was surprised about the line, “some days are blue.”  I didn’t recall those words, but I will share them with you.

Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.

It’s the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here’s a happy one for you.

Happy trails to you,
Until we meet again.
Happy trails to you,
Keep smiling until then.

Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.

Happy trails to you,
Until we meet again.

I had always thought I would request to have “Happy Trails” sung at my funeral, but the song and lyrics now seems diminished, since it is often played when a basketball player fouls out of the game.  I’ll have to ponder that thought some more, but the song’s lyrics are not really about fouling out of a game.

“Happy Trail” thoughts to you readers.

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 still lives outside Rippey, is an active member of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society.



  1. Thanks for the memories. Pat Brady and Nellybelle were my favorites. On a very fringe memory, when I taught at East Greene, Burt Toyne did the announcing at track meets and I was his trusty sidekick. At the end of the meet I would play a recording I had of “Happy Trails” as the athletes left the field. Happy Trails to you!

    Roger Aegerter, Jefferson IA

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Historical society seeks a few more donations to cover $42,000 costs of a new roof on museum & other expenses


JEFFERSON, Iowa, April 26, 2021 — When I was entrusted as executive director of the Greene County Historical Society a little less than 10 years ago, I tried to familiarize myself with not only the contents of our museum but also with the structure of the building. I am still discovering new things in the displays and artifacts every time I go in.

But one of the first things I did long ago was climb into the attic of the building at 219 E. Lincoln Way to see what the attic and the underside of the roof looked like. I remember seeing over a dozen 5-gallon pails scattered throughout the attic. Most of them were rusty, some had water in them.  From that discovery and additional questions asked of the historical society’s members, I found out that a leaking roof had been a problem for many years.  Who knows, maybe it started shortly after the building was built around 1917.

Roger Aegerter Profile PictureSo for the last 10 years at least, we have had almost a yearly problem with leaking water. Sometimes it rained down on some of the displays, which is a terrible thing. Members would scramble to put plastic over the displays and try to catch water in big garbage cans. Thankfully we have never lost anything permanently to water damage, but there has been extensive cleaning before we opened up each May 1.

This year just before Christmas, I sat down and wrote an application for a grant from the Grow Greene County Gaming Corporation. I obtained two bids for the roof. I submitted the grant application early in 2021 and waited for the news of the awards. But before grant money was awarded we had the 10-day thaw in Greene County. I started to check the museum daily to see if I could see or hear any leaks. About the third day, I could hear water dripping up in the balcony of the south storage room. Sure enough water was coming through the roof in a spot that had been patched several times in the past.  But because this was around the drainage pipe, the ice had frozen under the tar roof and then thawed, creating a crack.

For the next 10 days, I went to the museum twice a day and emptied a 35-gallon trash container. I estimated that over those 10 days, until all the ice and water were gone from the roof, I captured and carried over 180 gallons of water out to the back alley to dump.

Thankfully Grow Greene County selected our grant proposal as one of the four competitive grants this year. They awarded the historical society $30,000, a substantial contribution toward the total roof replacement cost of $42,000. I would like to thank Grow Greene County again for thinking GCHS and our museum are important assets to our county.

The museum in Jefferson, one block east of the courthouse square.

So the roof is scheduled to be replaced the second week of May, depending on the weather. But as you can see we are short of the total bid for the roof. We have the $30,000 from Grow Greene County, $5,600 from specified roof donations of the past few years and an additional $3,050 dollars donated in the last two weeks.

I am asking all GCHS members to consider donating what ever you can to complete this project.  You also will be helping us replace the normal donations and income that have been severely limited during the last 15 months when COVID forced us to suspend programming and keep the museum closed. (As you’ll read elsewhere, we are resuming our normal museum hours this Saturday, May 1.)

Donations can be mailed to:

Greene County Historical Society
219 E. Lincoln Way
P.O. Box 435
Jefferson, IA, 50129

Online donations are also available by clicking right here.

The Greene County Board of Supervisors, City of Jefferson, Grow Greene County Gaming Corporation, Greene County Community Foundation, Kiwanis Club and the people of Greene County believe that having a venue to collect, preserve, exhibit, interpret and promote the heritage of Greene County and Iowa is important here.  We hope you do too.

Roger Aegerter, the author of this column, is executive director of the Greene County Historical Society. You can comment on this column in the space below here, or you can write directly to Roger by email at roger.aegerter@gmail.com.


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Sorting out one family’s history: The researcher, Jean Tucker, keeps surprising the descendent, her husband Doug Tucker!


JEFFERSON, Iowa, Dec. 7, 2020 – One hundred forty-eight years ago, there was another highly contagious disease that brought sickness and death to Greene County residents. One known victim was Nancy Tucker, the great-great-great-great grandmother of Doug Tucker of Jefferson.  The cause may have been “henfluenza.”

Stories about that have emerged as Doug’s wife Jean Tucker has been doing careful research into Tucker family history, sometimes finding facts that have corrected decades of folklore passed down through the generations.

Mary Weaver Profile“An explosive fatal epizootic (widespread in an animal population) in poultry, prairie chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, occurred over much of the populated United States between 15 November and 15 December 1872,” documents from the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health tell us. “The epizootic spread very rapidly in association with a well-reported panzootic (pandemic in animals) of equine influenza (horse flu) that had begun in Canada during the last few days of September 1872.

“The rapid spread was associated with rail transportation, as the disease moved quicky from Canada to New York, and Michigan and throughout the Midwest. The disease present was about 100 miles either side of the railroad.”

Nancy Bradford Tucker was born March 27, 1781, to John Bradford and Johanna Regina Shrout.  Eventually, Nancy and her husband, James P. Tucker, moved to Ohio and later moved to Tippecanoe County, Indiana.

Nancy and James P. were the parents of 10 children. The 10th child appears to have died in infancy.

James P. Tucker’s father was John Tucker. John and his four boys came to America and settled in West Virginia. Jean Tucker has been unable to document where they lived prior to traveling to America.

Doug Tucker, the descendent, and Jean Tucker, the researcher.

She further states the Tucker family story about four brothers coming to America is “hearsay,” but two of the brothers, John Jr. & James P., have been documented as sons of the father, John Tucker, as they are both listed on early tax lists. It was not unusual to give the first-born male child to be given the same name as their father.

Nancy’s husband, James P. apparently died around 1839 (as he was not listed on the census records in 1840). Deeds recorded in 1846 show the children then having 1/9th interest in the farm.  Following her husband’s death, Nancy rotated living with her sons, and came to Iowa with her son, William, as she is recorded in the 1856 Greene County census.

She died on February 27,1872, at age 91. There seems to be some dispute regarding her age, as the community thought she was 104, but the birth and death records obtained by Jean Tucker through her research indicates her age at 91 at the time of her death.

There are several nostalgic, even romantic stories in the Pleasant Hill Church area history, but, as a result of Jean’s research, some of those stories now have to be considered folklore.

One is that Nancy Tucker “was the first White buried in Greene County,” but Jean indicates this is untrue, as there are settlers’ graves older than 1872 in the Pleasant Hill cemetery.

The gate along the east side of the Pleasant Hill Cemetery, west of the Pleasant Hill Church.

Secondly, verbal history given by Nancy Tucker’s great-great-granddaughter, Mrs. Charlie (Dollie) Thompson, relates that an Indian who claimed to be a doctor, helped care for Nancy Tucker when she had the “plague.” He dug roots, boiled them and gave her the liquid.  The story continues he also contracted the disease, and three days after her death, he also died. They were buried beside each other on the hillside.  Her grave is reported to be under the fence by the gate west of the Pleasant Hill Church, where you can walk into the cemetery.

So sorry, but through genealogical research, Jean Tucker has learned that Nancy Tucker died at the home of another of her sons, Isaac Tucker, in neighboring Carroll County. She was returned for burial in Greene County.

Jean found an excerpt from the diary of Thomas Terrill, an early Greene County settler, written March 1, 1872, stating: “Chored etc, chopped stove wood Hitch to wagon and went to Tuckers to the funeral. Did not go to the graveyard. She was said to be 104 years old —Grandmother Tucker. Came back and chopped stove wood   Cloudy N.W.”

While Pleasant Hill Church history has it that Nancy Tucker is buried near the gate to the cemetery, the diary excerpt regarding the graveyard indicates others had been buried there. So that’s more folklore.

Thanks to Doug and Jean for relating this story and sharing family genealogical information about the Tucker family.

Dates to remember while reading:

–The Revolutionary War started in 1775 and lasted until 1783.

–Iowa became a state in 1846.

–The Truman Davis family came to Greene County in 1849.

–The Western Stage Company, which had a route going through the Pleasant Hill Church property, was established in 1854, allowing people to travel from Des Moines to Sioux City aboard stagecoaches.

–Pleasant Hill Church was erected in 1881, although services were held earlier in the homes of the settlers.

–The railroad came to Greene County in 1867.

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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His research stalled when he became absorbed in what Jefferson was like back in the year 1876


JEFFERSON, Iowa, April 8, 2020 — There is a group of women in Jefferson, “Why Not Us,” who are coming together to bring the business “Angie’s Tea Garden” back to life. The Centennial Block building, which houses or did house the Tea Garden on the northwest corner of the Greene County Courthouse square, is now an empty shell waiting for its new life.

The business was destroyed in early February, 2019, when water pipes in a vacant upstairs apartment froze and dumped thousands of gallons of water through the structure.

I initially thought it would be interesting to explore the nine lives of this building, which was built in 1876. The research of businesses and owners of Centennial Block led me to a history of all businesses in Jefferson around the beginning of 1876. So this is a story about Jefferson in that year, when the population was a little over 1,500.

Roger Aegerter Profile PictureJefferson was laid out in 1854 on 160 acres purchased with money borrowed by the newly formed Greene County from Fort Des Moines banker Hoyt Sherman. The initial loan was $200. The original name was New Jefferson. There was already a Jefferson near Dubuque, so the addition of “New” was done at the request of the U.S. Post Office. Soon the post office decided that New Jefferson could become just Jefferson. Their reasoning was that New Jefferson was putting a lot more effort into becoming a prosperous community.

The town had a public square and the first courthouse was built in 1856. Commercial lots around the square were sold for $10, with one lot on the southeast corner going for $60.

The purchase of at least one prized lot around the square was actually decided by a wrestling match between County Judge William Phillips and the newly-appointed County Clerk Benjamin F. Robinson. The judge threw the clerk on his back and chose the corner lot. (It turned out to be swampy and not a very good lot at all!)

In 1876, the Centennial Block building became the costliest structure ever built in the town. It was 80 feet long, 22 feet wide, and 30 feet high. The cost was $3,500.

Centennial Block building (on left) and its neighbors, in the late 19th century.

As I was researching the Centennial Block building in the January 22, 1876, Jefferson Bee newspaper, and that edition gave me a good glimpse of what the 20-year-old town what was like.

Back then almost 150 years ago, the Jefferson business environment was thriving.

Jefferson had four churches, with total congregations of 400 members. The public school had 300 students. (About this time there were 14,000 country schools in Iowa, I am not sure how many of these schools were around Jefferson.) There was also a Jefferson Academy, with approximately 60 pupils, that was started by the Presbyterian Church.

There was a list of eight “good” barns, no definition of good. There are several flour mill historical markers around the county now, but in 1876 there were only the Eureka Mill and Jefferson Mill in the immediate area along the “Coon” River, as it was called.

There were several secret societies: Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons; Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, and the Lodge of Odd Fellows. There is still a Masons Lodge in Jefferson located on the west side of the square, and the Odd Fellows Lodge last known location was in the new Forge building.

Parade in Jefferson in late 19th century.

Following is a list of 1876 businesses in Jefferson, with most descriptions and addresses indicating that they were generally in the present-day area of the square:
Attorneys — three firms and two individuals.

Two banks – Greene County and City.

Two broom makers, one by the depot and one on the north city limits.

Two barbers.

Two bakers, north side and west side.

Three blacksmiths, on the southeast and southwest corners of the square.

Six boot and shoe stores, all near the square.

Two cigar makers.

Five candy confectionary stores.

Five dry goods stores.

Five grocers.

Two jewelers.

Four shoemakers.

Two hardware stores.

Street scene in the early Jefferson business district.

Four hotels – Revere House, Mansion House, Massasoit House and, near the depot, Western House.

Two livery stables.

Two millinery hat shops – and later there were four active millineries in Jefferson.

Four dressmakers, two “Miss” and two “Mrs.”

Three real estate agencies.

Seven medical service providers, all men, and two dentists.

There were no furniture stores. You had to order all furniture out of a catalog. Later on it was customary for funeral parlors to deal in furniture.

There was only one restaurant.

There was a traveling salesman in town who sold tin ware.

Farm machinery was generally sold through the hardware stores.

There was one lime dealer.

Three carpet businesses.

Two merchant tailors. One by the name of George Bleakney, boasted of his accomplished hands with the tape and scissors. A client was quoted in the paper saying, “He makes ’um fit every time!”

There was only one grain buyer in the area, and three hog buyers.

Two coal dealers competed, with coal bring $5 per ton at that time.

The town had one harness & saddle maker.

There were two grain elevators, serving farmers who grew lots of oats and wheat.

There were ads from a salesman offering musical instruments, basically pianos and organs.

N.G. Cook was the only photographer.

Lumber dealers, Yeager & Co. and Nowlin Brothers, reportedly were selling most of their lumber for developments in Guthrie and Calhoun Counties.

A barbed wire dealer indicated much of their business was putting new barbs on old wire strands.

There was a plow maker.

And two insurance companies.

This time of 1876 in Iowa was a time of expansion. Immigrants were moving west and had the expertise and willingness to start new businesses wherever they were needed. Jefferson was a hub of activity in the area, thus this is where businesses set up.

In 1876 and for years after, the business district was at least two blocks wide in all directions from the courthouse square. I am sure some of these businesses were not there at the same time the following year, but there were probably some new ones, too.

Now, having shared this glimpse of early Jefferson, I’ll get busy completing my research for a detailed examination of the Centennial Block building, which is what I started out to do before I got caught up reading about the whole town back then.

Roger Aegerter, the author of this column, is executive director of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society. 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.


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  1. So very interesting! Thanks for doing this, in addition to everything else you do.

    Mikki Schwarzkopf, Jefferson IA

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Thinking of Greene County’s old country churches, like St. Mary’s, north of Jamaica


JEFFERSON, Iowa, Feb. 15, 2020 — Many roads in Greene County will take you past a church or two, or the ghost of a congregation from years past. Most of these churches have some written history from their origins.

Some churches may have been formed by the very first settlers in the area. The earliest rural church was around 1880 in Bristol Township, northwest of Jefferson. There were several more that met in schools or homes. Earlier churches were established in several towns in the county around 1863-1872.

Roger Aegerter Profile PictureIn 1896, there were 20 country churches in Greene County. The Methodists at this time had a church in every Greene County town except Farlin, which had Christian and Baptist churches. Most of these churches have been gone for many years.

Greene County does have a country church on the National Register of Historic Places, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church west of Churdan. St. Patrick’s does not have regular services but is used for special occasions.

Another of the interesting past churches in Greene County was St. Mary’s Catholic Church, two miles north of Jamaica on County Road P30 and west on 330th Avenue, in section 26 of Franklin Township. Like many country churches, St. Mary’s had its own cemetery. St. Mary’s originated in 1881 when the Tighe family deeded five acres of their homestead to Bishop John Hennessey, of the Catholic Diocese of Dubuque, to be used as a cemetery. The next step was raising funds for a church to be built on the cemetery grounds.

Early in 1882, the first load of lumber came from Rippey. Late in 1882, the first mass was said by Father Michael Joseph Quirk, and the church was totally finished a year later. Father Quirk was assigned to Grand Junction and came by train to Rippey where he was met by members of St. Mary’s and transported with a team and wagon to the church over roads that by today’s standards would be impassable.

At this time Father Quirk was the priest assigned to all of Greene County, all of Boone County and part of Calhoun County. He served four years.

St. Mary’s was dedicated Sept. 8, 1890. Priests from Cherokee and Perry officiated and a choir from Lohrville provided music. At the time of the dedication, there were 34 families that were active members at St. Mary’s. In the following years, a priest out of Jefferson had mass once every three weeks. The priest referred to St. Mary’s at this time as “Little Ireland.”

This statue of Mary stands on the spot where St. Mary’s Catholic Church stood. And note the etching of the church in the base of the statue.  The cemetery is now operated by the Franklin Township Board of Trustees. (Photos by Roger Aegerter)

Within a few years a new parish as established in the town of Jamaica, and St. Mary’s lost about half of its members.

From 1906 through 1954, St. Mary’s was administered as a part of parishes in Perry, Jefferson, Coon Rapids and Scranton. St. Mary’s closed in the fall of 1954. Most families became part of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jefferson, and some families attended Jamaica. The church was torn down soon after.

Country churches had many memories, weddings, funerals, first communions, box socials, baptisms, Sunday School and Christmas programs. In many cases the church was the center of activity for the rural community. Midnight mass at St. Mary’s, with an “Aladdin Lamp” hanging from the ceiling, made the church seem typical, and yet special, at the same time.

A white marble memorial was erected in St. Mary’s Cemetery in May, 2005, in remembrance of the Ireland immigrant founders. The entrance arch to the cemetery was restored and installed in October, 2007.

This story and historical events could be told about numerous rural churches in Iowa and around the country. The 2011 book “Heritage of Greene County Iowa” has many of these country churches’ stories and is the source of some of my information here. Also, Madeline Garrity, of Cooper, provided information on St. Mary’s, or as she may have called it in the past, “Little Ireland.”

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.


The top of the altar from old St. Mary’s Catholic Church is now in the Greene County Historical Museum in Jefferson, a donation by Madeline Garrity, of Cooper.



A memorial to the Irish immigrant families that were the founders of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Cemetery.
Entrance to St. Mary’s Cemetery, two miles north and just west of Jamaica. The cemetery is also where the church stood.
Looking to the east from St. Mary’s Cemetery.



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Holiday promotional gifts from merchants sure have changed over the years!


RIPPEY, Iowa, Jan. 20, 2020 — Christmas 2019 has passed, as has the whole decade of the twenty teens. The tree and the various Christmas house decorations have been placed back in the totes and stored in the basement. Most of the newly received gifts have been incorporated into the household. New turtleneck shirts have been worn and laundered. New books are stacked in priority of reading.

Mary Weaver ProfileAs I reflected about gifts this Christmas from merchants to this household – those “thank yous” for our business in the past year – I was startled to realize that we did not receive even one calendar!

Oh, how the “times they are a changin’,” as cell phones now serve as cameras, clocks, and other communication tools, including calendars.

Thus began an analysis of business gifts in Christmases past.

The earliest one pictured below, appears to be a hand-painted plate from the “Crumley and States General Merchandise” store. Our “History of Rippey” book indicates Halsey Crumley and Charles States began the general store in 1906.

The second image in the photo is a lightly-pressed paper advertising the services of “Ernest J. Clapp, Blacksmith.” It appears that it held note paper. These two items probably can be dated in the 1920s. My recall is Ernie came to Iowa from Wales, and had been severely burned in a blacksmith accident prior to coming to Rippey. He spoke with a very recognizable British brogue. I recall taking plow lays to his shop with my father to be sharpened, and other metal implements to be heated in the forge, and then pounded into repair.

The next photo is from Allan Sieck’s collection of Rippey historical items. You can identify they were all useful items for earlier households. At the upper left are items from the First National Bank of Rippey. They provided a thermometer with a lucky penny along with a note card holder. One of the most interesting items in the photo is a yellow thermometer from the Rippey Farmer’s Coop to use in measuring soil temperature at specific depths. The instructions indicate to “place into the ground at the desired planting level at 9:00 a.m.”

Errol Wilson’s Phillips 66 service station gave a plastic, bright yellow egg separator, reminding customers that Errol was “A Good Egg to Know.” These items in this photo probably date to the early ’40s and ’50s, based partially upon the phone numbers, as the Howard Implement Company selling De Soto and Plymouth Cars had the phone as “ Bell 12.”

In the ’60s, the businesses seemed to be catering to the women in the household with frequent complimentary Christmas gifts of kitchen utensils. See photo. I still frequently uses some of these items today, some 60 years later!

So finally, to 2020, the complimentary gifts given have diminished greatly. This year the Weaver household received a ham and bacon from the local seed corn dealer, no kitchen items, and no CALENDARS. See photo

All these historical promotional items, and others from Rippey’s past, will be on display Aug. 1, 2020, during the Rippey Sesquicentennial celebration.

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 Iowa Historical Society.



  1. Great selection of Rippey business souvenirs. I will need to share some that I have for the display from 1st National Bank and other businesses.

    Nancy Hanaman, Rippey IA

  2. Our household lived by the Rippey Elevator, later Rippey Coop. (We had those) wall calendars, with doctor’s appointments, birthdays and special occasions duly noted.

    Tim Acton

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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 mweaver235@gmail.com. The author, who lives outside Rippey, is an active member of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society.


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