Greene County Historical Society programs thru early May postponed due to corona virus
The Greene County Historical Society announced Monday that all its programs scheduled between now and early May are postponed, as a precaution during the nation’s battle to control the spread of the corona virus.
Historical society president David John, of Jefferson, said there were five programs on the schedule from now through May 1, and the organization will attempt to re-schedule them later in the year.
Anyone with questions can leave word at the Greene County Historical Museum, (515) 386-8544, or with executive director Roger Aegerter at (515) 370-3982.
Come join live “Skype” chat with fascinating diplomat Michael S. Owen, a Lincoln Highway explorer & author
JEFFERSON, Iowa, Feb. 24, 2020 — Retired U.S. ambassador Michael S. Owen said after extensively traveling the roads of a half-dozen African nations, Pakistan, Ireland and India in his 30 years as a career diplomat, he was thrilled to explore his American homeland by driving the historic Lincoln Highway in recent years. That’s brought him through Greene County each of the last two summers.
He’ll talk about all that and his new book, “After Ike: On the Trail of the Century-Old Journey that Changed America,” this Sunday, March 1, when he’ll be interviewed live at 2 p.m. at the Jefferson Public Library – via Skype.
Retired Iowa journalist Chuck Offenburger and others in the audience in Jefferson will chat with the 68-year-old Owen, who will be at his home in Reston, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C.
The free program – and free refreshments – are being sponsored by the Jefferson library, the Greene County Iowa Historical Society and the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association.
Owen’s 223-page book is delightful reading. Earlier, he’d written many journal articles and official cablegrams in his state department years, but his re-tracing of the 1919 military convoy’s exploration of the then-new Lincoln Highway route across the nation produced a fascinating first book for him.
The “After Ike” in the title refers to the fact that one of the Army officers who commanded the 1919 trip was Lt. Col. Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower, who would become Supreme Allied Commander in World War II and then president of the U.S. in the 1950s.
Yes, author Owen gives you a chronological report on his own east-to-west journey on the Lincoln Highway – Washington D.C. to San Francisco – but he also fills it with the American character (and characters) he encountered.
“One of the things he does really well in the book is tell about his occasional side trips off the Lincoln Highway route to see other nearby things that interested him,” said Joyce Ausberger, of Jefferson, who is on the boards of both the historical society and the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association. “The highway association has always encouraged people to think of the Lincoln Highway as a corridor, not just a highway, and go explore other attractions that are a few miles off the actual road.”
Owen did that in Iowa with side trips to the Field of Dreams outside Dyersville and to museums in Waterloo, La Porte City, Rockwell City and other spots.
From Greene County, Owen included interviews with Ausberger at the Lincoln Highway Museum in Grand Junction and Robby Pedersen at his “RVP 1875” working museum and furniture shop in Jefferson. In the book, the author describes Joyce Ausberger as “an inexhaustible font of enthusiasm and knowledge about anything related to the nation’s first highway.”
Copies of Owen’s book are available locally for check-out at the Jefferson Public Library and for purchase at the highway museum in Grand Junction.
Historical society board member Margaret Hamilton, of Jefferson, gave Owen a nice review of the book as she was arranging details for next Sunday’s interview.
“I’ve read your book now and really enjoyed it,” Hamilton wrote in an email to him. “I wasn’t expecting to read so much about so many places. It gave me ideas for future trips. I also wasn’t expecting it to be so funny. So, thanks for writing it and thanks for agreeing to do a program on it for us. We hope to have a good audience.”
Owen grew up in the northwest Mississippi town of Lyon, pop. 250. He went on to Rice University for an undergraduate degree in civil engineering, then earned a master’s in public affairs from Princeton University. A highlight of his 30 years with the U.S. State Department was serving as U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone from 2010 to 2013. He said he traces his interest in serious road-tripping, as well as in wanting to learn more about and serve nations in Africa, to an adventure he took with pals in 1980 and ’81 — an 8,400-mile driving trip from London, England, to Cape Town, South Africa!
Iowa trivia expert brings “Iowa Trivia Challenge” to museum on Monday
JEFFERSON, Iowa, Feb. 19, 2020 — We’ll find out how well everybody knows their Iowa history and culture on Monday, Feb. 24, when Jessica Rundlett of the State Historical Society of Iowa brings her “Iowa Culture Trivia Challenge” to Jefferson for a free program at 2 p.m. at the Greene County Historical Museum.
The program is a collaboration by the Greene County Iowa Historical Society and the Jefferson Public Library.
Rundlett is coordinator of special projects and outreach for the state historical group. She helped see that the “Iowa History 101” mobile museum brought its remarkable exhibits to Jefferson last summer during the Bell Tower Festival.
A native of Vinton in east central Iowa, Rundlett knows Iowa trivia well. She twice won the “Van & Bonnie All-Iowa Trivia Bee” held by the morning show co-hosts on WHO radio in Des Moines.
“I love Iowa and I love Iowa history,” said Rundlett. “I got my love of the state from my parents – so shout-out to Bill & Deb Rundlett, who are still there in the same house where I grew up in Vinton. Dad is a trucker, and so he traveled all over the state and got interested in the people and places. That led to our family – I’m the oldest of the three kids – going on lots of car trips around the state. I can remember one time we were heading from Vinton to Yankton, South Dakota, and it took us two days because there were so many things along the way we wanted to stop and see.”
She’s learned a lot traveling Iowa by bicycle, too, as she is one of the state’s most avid cyclists.
After graduating in politics, history and international business from Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Rundlett earned a master’s of teaching at Simpson College. She joined the State Historical Society staff eight years ago. Five years ago, that organization developed an “Iowa Culture” app for easy-access to information about state attractions on smart phones and computers.
“When we were doing that Iowa Culture app and had all that information readily available, that’s when we put together the ‘Iowa Culture Trivia Challenge’ and started taking it around the state,” she said.
When she presents the challenge, like she will be doing in Jefferson on Monday afternoon, “usually there are one or two people in the group really know Iowa well, and everybody else learns a lot,” she said. “And we all have fun.”
The program at the museum will include free refreshments.
We’re celebrating President Lincoln’s 211th birthday at the museum, with free lunch, party and chat
JEFFERSON, Iowa, Feb. 8, 2020 — This coming Wednesday, Feb. 12, will be the 211th birthday of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, and the Greene County Iowa Historical Society is having a new kind of event that day to honor the president — a “Lincoln Lunch & Birthday Party” at the museum in Jefferson, beginning at 11 a.m.
Jed Magee, of Jefferson, a retired attorney and Iowa District Court judge, will lead a conversation about President Lincoln with those who want to gather for the lunch.
Magee has had a fascination since his junior high school student years in Dunkerton, Iowa, about the life, career and legacy of Lincoln. After his college and law school years at the University of Iowa, Magee moved to Jefferson and practiced law here for 25 years. In 1992, he was appointed a judge, moved to Charles City and worked much of north central Iowa.
Over all those years, he amassed quite a collection about President Lincoln. It included 10 shelves full of books about Lincoln, 30 busts of Lincoln at different stages of his life, photographs (including two that are more than 100 years old), prints, paintings, and more.
As Judge Magee began retirement in 2008, and finally took full retirement in 2015, he was looking for a permanent home for most of his Lincoln collection. The Greene County Historical Society jumped at the opportunity to make it a part of the collection in its museum, which is located on the historic Lincoln Highway as it passes through Jefferson. Magee made the transfer in early 2016.
He and his wife Betty decided to move permanently to Jefferson this past fall and are enjoying becoming active — again — in activities in Greene County. Jed Magee was elected to the historical society’s board of directors at the organization’s meeting in December, and he agreed to conduct a Lincoln chat in the new special event on Feb. 12.
The lunch of soup, sandwiches, cornbread, cookies and drinks is free, and no RSVPs are necessary.
Scranton’s “Varceis Club” headlines our program on the many women’s clubs
SCRANTON, Iowa, Oct. 27, 2019 — The Greene County Historical Society will dip into some real rural Iowa culture in its meeting and program on Friday, Nov. 1, at the Scranton United Methodist Church.
Journalist Chuck Offenburger, of rural Cooper, will share some details from a column he has written about the history and current status of women’s clubs in Greene County. Then he will introduce a skit by members of the almost-legendary “Varceis Club” of Scranton, who’ll act out some of the 70 years of club history.
You may know that the “Varceis” name comes from the initials of the first names of the club’s founding members. With a salad luncheon and their annual comedy skits, they’ve raised money to donate to local programs and activities.
Performing from the Varceis Club will be members Linda Hedges, Lanie Schermerhorn, Sue Holden and Susanne MacDonald. After their skit, they will be joined by the one remaining founding member of the club, Roberta Henning, to answer questions from the audience.
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. 29, 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.
A second “museum party” this Saturday welcomes another Lincoln Highway tour recalling 1919 convoy
JEFFERSON, Iowa, Sept. 3, 1010 — The Greene County Historical Society is hosting another “museum party” this Saturday, Sept. 7, to help welcome another group coming through Greene County as part of a motor tour across the nation on the historic Lincoln Highway.
The historical museum at 219 E. Lincoln Way will be open for its normal Saturday business hours from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. But it will remain open until 4 p.m. for the special “museum party” through the afternoon. Admission to the museum and refreshments are free, and local people are encouraged to come greet the travelers.
Two weeks ago, on Aug. 24, a tour of more than 50 restored military vehicles made a stop in Jefferson while on their drive across the nation. That tour was sponsored and organized by the Military Vehicle Preservation Association.
The one that will be here this Saturday is organized by the Lincoln Highway Association, and it is expected to bring more custom and antique cars.
Both tours are saluting a 1919 U.S. military convoy, which was led then by a young Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who later became president of the U.S. The troops were exploring how effective the Transcontinental Highway, as it was becoming known, would be for moving soldiers and equipment. That experience is said to have shaped Eisenhower’s thinking three decades later in directing the construction of the interstate highway system.
The people on this latest Lincoln Highway Association-organized tour left the Washington, D.C., area on Aug. 30. They’re traveling up to 200 miles per day en route to a Sept. 16 finish in San Francisco. Their total route of just more than 3,000 miles generally follows the historic Lincoln Highway.
They will be crossing Greene County this Saturday, arriving in Jefferson at about 1 p.m. for a stop of up to an hour. They’ll be parking near the museum. The entourage will be moving between overnight stays in Marshalltown on Friday and Council Bluffs later Saturday.
At the museum, Janice Harbaugh, of Raspberry Ridge Publishing here in Jefferson, will be displaying and selling her line of historical re-publications, which include vintage postcards and other early books that portray the settlement and development of this area. The Greene County postcards have been especially popular with visitors here. Refreshments are being donated by historical society members.
History comes alive at the Greene County Fair, Friday & Saturday July 12-13
JEFFERSON, Iowa, July 9, 2019 — The Greene County Historical Society will take part in the Greene County Fair later this week with its popular “history chats” for a fifth straight year, displays of early farm life and classic ag equipment, tours and explanations of a historic one-room schoolhouse, and a free ice cream social each afternoon.
The society’s exhibits building on the fairgrounds will be open Friday and Saturday, July 12 and 13, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The displays in that building – and the antique equipment around it — showcase the agriculture of Greene County in the early to mid 1900s
“How long since you strolled through our exhibits building to look at historical Greene County farming?” said Roger Aegerter, executive director of the historical society. “Have you ever been there to see the hand tools, tractors, and local farm inventions? This building was put up in 1975 and houses many of the historical society’s large agriculture artifacts. The walls of the building underwent a renovation about 10 years ago and the walls were lined with authentic barn boards with cattle and horse stalls. This might be, should be the year you discover Greene County’s agricultural past.”
In addition, the “Bristol No. 7” country schoolhouse next door on the fairgrounds will be staffed Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to5 p.m. by Becki Cunningham, who will explain what rural education was once like in the county. Cunningham, a member of the historical society board from Paton, attended a country school in her student years.
The schoolhouse was built in 1874, restored by the historical society in 1967 and repaired again in the last three 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.
In special programming inside the historical building, the historical society will sponsor “History Chats” for a fifth consecutive year. There will be six different chats on topics of local history, with moderators Chuck Offenburger of Cooper and Jerry Roberts of Jefferson, both retired journalists, asking questions of a small panel of people with expertise on each topic. Questions and stories from the audience will be encouraged, too.
“For each of these history chats, we hope people with some knowledge and stories about the topic will attend for these discussions, which will be more like conversations than interviews,” said Offenburger. “We’ll sit in a circle of chairs, Jerry and I will get the chat started, and we’ll do our best to draw stories out of the people there. One reason we like to do this is because we usually hear about historical moments or incidents we’ve never known before – and that sometimes leads us to full-blown programs later on for the historical society.”
Here are the days, times and topics for the history chats:
Friday, July 12
11 a.m. — Auction Barns of Greene County.
1 p.m. — Doug Rieder & Greene County Sports History.
3 p.m. — When Rock ‘n’ Roll Arrived in Greene County.
Saturday, July 13
11 a.m. — The Ku Klux Klan in Greene County.
1 p.m. — The 50-Year News Careers of Jerry Roberts & Chuck Offenburger (including the times they got fired), interviewed by Jefferson native Jack Lashier.
3 p.m. — The Future of Greene County.
And both days at 2 p.m. in our historical building, there’ll be free servings of “Hanaman’s Historic Homemade Ice Cream,” made by historical society board members Dale and Nancy Hanaman, of Rippey. Cookies, too.
Because of the activities at the fairgrounds on Saturday, July 13, the historical society’s museum in the business district will not be open that day.
Stories of the Mason House from the Fosters when our society meets Friday June 7
Nick and Annette Foster, owners for about a year now of the Mason House hotel in Jefferson, will share fascinating stories they’ve learned about their 130-year-old guest house when the Greene County Historical Society meets on Friday, June 7, at the First United Methodist Church in Jefferson.
Located at 502 E. Lincoln Way, the hotel opened in 1889 primarily to serve passengers on the north-south railroad coming through Jefferson.
Today, it’s still serving a lot of visitors — those who are arriving on bicycles on the Raccoon River Valley Trail, which now occupies the former railroad route, and others who are driving to the community.
The Fosters, who live in Jefferson and farm just outside town, bought the hotel from previous owners Dr. Jim and Nancy Teusch, also of Jefferson. The Teusches had called the hotel, which they renovated a decade ago, the Old Lincolnway Hotel, but the Fosters decided to restore usage of its original name, the Mason House hotel.
The Fosters are well-known among history buffs in the area, as they also host the annual Old-Fashioned Threshing Bee at their farm on a weekend in late July. And Nick Foster is on the board of directors of the historical society. Annette Foster and their daughter Nicole Timmons, both former public school teachers, are now co-directors of Natural Wonders Learning Center for early childhood education in Jefferson.
For the historical society event on June 7, there will be a lunch in the church hall 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 right away, and others who want to have lunch should RSVP to board member Margaret Hamilton at (515) 386-4408.
The program at 1 p.m. is free and open to the public.
Our historical society hosts “Iowa History 101” during Bell Tower Festival, plus the art show & spelling bee
JEFFERSON, Iowa, June 1, 2019 — The Greene County Historical Society is participating in the 40th Bell Tower Festival in Jefferson June 7-9 in three ways – hosting a special traveling display on state history on E. Lincoln Way adjacent to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Gardens, hosting the Bell Tower art show at the historical museum, and sponsoring the festival’s spelling bee at the Greene County Community Center.
–The traveling display of state history is aboard a “Iowa History 101” mobile resource — a very big bus that the State Historical Society of Iowa now has visiting all 99 counties. It will be at the Bell Tower Festival on Saturday, June 8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to it is free.
“This exhibition shares some of the essential stories that every Iowan should know about who we are and what we’ve achieved since Iowa became a state more than 170 years ago,” State Historical Society of Iowa administrator Susan Kloewer said. “So we’re delighted to bring this traveling exhibition, and we encourage all Iowans to learn about our state’s rich heritage.”
Like a visit to your grandparents’ attic, the exhibition unpacks stories of Iowa’s past with nearly 50 artifacts, including:
• A battered hat from a coal miner in Marion County.
• A 1917 prototype of the state flag designed by Dixie Cornell Gebhardt of Knoxville.
• The pen Gov. William Harding used to sign the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.
• A basketball jersey that superstar Lynne Lorenzen wore during her glory days at Ventura High School from the mid to late 1980s.
• An Olympic medal from sprinter Natasha Kaiser-Brown of Des Moines.
• A patch from a spacesuit worn by astronaut Peggy Whitson of Beaconsfield.
As a bonus, native Iowan Mike Wolfe, the creator and star of the hit television series “American Pickers,” lent his voice and video talents to the exhibition’s multimedia elements.
—The Bell Tower art show at the historical museum will showcase the work of local artists and pieces from the collections of local art lovers. There are no entrance fees, and the art is neither juried nor judged. “This is a show to showcase our local talents and also for people to share artwork that means something to them,” said Roger Aegerter, the chairperson of the show and the executive director of the historical society. Hours of the show at the museum will be Friday, June 7, from5to 8 p.m.; Saturday, June 8, from10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, June 9, from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is free and people are welcome to browse the museum exhibits, too.
—The traditional spelling bee will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, at the community center. There will be competition for four different age groups – adults included – and there is no entry fee.
Pleasant Hill Church, with new life & spirit, is ready for May 26 Homecoming
By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
The annual Pleasant Hill Memorial Homecoming service & potluck dinner will be held on Sunday, May 26, at the 138-year-old pioneer church located about five miles southeast of Jefferson.
The event is presented by the Pleasant Hill Memorial Inc. committee, with support from the Greene County Iowa Historical Society.
Pleasant Hill Church has roots from 1873 when Methodist classes were started to serve the pioneers settling in the area. The church structure was started in 1881, and it has been kept in more-or-less good repair ever since, even though there hasn’t been an active congregation using the church for decades. The neighbors formed a non-profit organization to sustain it.
For 60 or 70 years, a service on Memorial Day weekend has been held.
Peg Semke, president of the Pleasant Hill Memorial board, notes the old church is in a renaissance.
“We’re really grateful for all that’s happened the last two years,” Semke said. “Due to personal donations of time, money, labor and supplies, and a Louis Dreyfus Company grant from the Greene County Board of Supervisors, the interior has been patched and repainted, the windows have been replaced and some refurbished, the basement walls have been repaired, and the original wood floor is very near completion of rehab.”
She said that “going hand in hand with this, we have had increased usage of the church building with weekly Sunday evening services last summer,” led by Central Christian Church from Jefferson. There have also been two Easter sunrise services, Christmas caroling, and a funeral.
“Pleasant Hill Memorial is very grateful to be existing not only as a memorial, but to once again becoming a living part of the community,” Semke said.
Activities at this year’s Homecoming next Sunday will begin at 9:30 a.m. with a revival-like service presented by Central Christian Church, and the public is welcome.
At 10 a.m, there will be coffee, juice and Marianne Carlson’s Iowa State Fair champion cinnamon rolls served in the church yard, with music by the Central Christian brass ensemble.
At 11 a.m., the official Homecoming service will be held back in the church with congregational hymn singing; a special musical salute to veteran and service members led by Mark and Rita Rasmussen; an invocation and benediction by Rev. Dale Hanaman of the historical society, and brief messages from three guest speakers:
–Melissa Bosshart Frederick, 28, who now lives near the southern border of Greene County, grew up a mile north of Pleasant Hill, graduated from Jefferson-Scranton High School in 2009 and the University of Iowa in 2013. She was a candidate for Greene County supervisor last fall. Melissa and her husband Bill Frederick are raising baby daughter Leah on their farm in southern Greenbrier Township. She continues her strong personal ties to Pleasant Hill Church. “My mom and dad got married there, we’ve always been good friends with the Semkes and they got married there, the funeral luncheon for my great-grandpa was in the church, and my husband Bill and I got married there,” she said. “It’s always been a special place in my life.”
–Rep. Phil Thompson, of Jefferson, also 28 and a Jefferson-Scranton High School classmate of Melissa Frederick, was in the Army for eight years, deployed to Iraq, attended West Point for two years, and got out as a staff sergeant. He now represents his home area in the Iowa House of Representatives. “Pleasant Hill has always been a special church for my family,” Thompson said. “We attended the Pleasant Hill Memorial service and potluck every year. As a boy, the service stood out as one of my earliest, most vivid memories. I look back on those services and remember feeling so inspired by the church choir filling up the room and the 21-gun salute. It was probably the first community tradition that I fully understood and had deep reverence for. It helped shape my character and desire to serve.”
–And Wallace Teagarden, 96, a native of the Pleasant Hill area who now lives in Ames, says he intends to be back for his traditional patriotic oration. “I’m really blessed in my health, I feel good and I plan to be there as usual,” Teagarden said, then adding his annual caveat: “But at my age, you never know.” He learned his stirring address as a junior high student in Grand Junction, and has been doing it from memory ever since – including at every Pleasant Hill Homecoming since 1960. How does he do it? “Well, I practice it when Memorial Day is coming around,” he said. “And I do my voice exercises every day all year. When you get older and are living alone, your voice can get weak. So twice a day, I count to 100 in a good loud voice. I’ve probably done that for 50 years or longer. If I don’t exercise it daily, I find it gets kind of screechy and scratchy.”
At 12 noon Sunday, after the service, there will be a 21-gun salute outdoors by the Kinkead Martin American Legion Post of Rippey and “Taps” by Sam Bassett on trumpet.
Then there will be the traditional Pleasant Hill Homecoming chicken potluck dinner. The chicken will be provided, but all are asked to bring a favorite side dish and their tableware.
A freewill offering will be accepted to help with the costs of the celebration and the ongoing work on the church facilities.
Also, high-quality prints of an oil painting of Pleasant Hill Church, done during the Memorial Homecoming celebration in 2017 by noted Iowa artist Zack Jones, will be sold for $50 in a fundraiser for the historical society.
Following the dinner, the board members of Pleasant Hill Memorial Inc. will have their annual meeting in the church.
Marianne Carlson will have her Iowa State Fair champion cinnamon rolls available between the services at Pleasant Hill Church, just as she did in this photo from a year ago.
The fried chicken potluck dinner is a grand tradition at Pleasant Hill Church on Memorial Day weekend. Here, Nancy and Dale Hanaman, of rural Rippey, were enjoying the dinner at the 2018 Homecoming.
Roger Aegerter, the executive director of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society, had the prints of artist Zack Jones’ oil painting of Pleasant Hill Church available at last year’s Homecoming, and he’ll offer them again at this weekend’s event.
The author Chuck Offenburger, of rural Cooper, is a member of the board of directors of the historical society. You can reach him by email atchuck@Offenburger.com.
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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.”