Bob & Joyce Ausberger on the past, present & future of “Traveling the Lincoln Highway” in program this Sunday at our museum

JEFFERSON, Iowa, June 20, 2022 — Bob and Joyce Ausberger, of Jefferson, longtime members and advocates for the Lincoln Highway Association, will be presenting a program “Traveling the Lincoln Highway” in a special program of the Greene County Historical Society on Sunday, June 26.

The program will be at 2 p.m. at the historical museum in Jefferson.  Admission and refreshments will be free.

The historic coast-to-coast highway, considered “America’s Main Street” from the 1930s thru the 1950s, then carried an average of 3,500 cars and 700 trucks per day across Greene County.  It went right through the business districts of Grand Junction, Jefferson and Scranton.

Joyce and Bob Ausberger

Joyce and Bob Ausberger

The Lincoln Highway’s prominence as a main traffic artery across the nation was drastically diminished in the late 1950s when new U.S. Highway 30 was built along the same general route, but bypassing most cities and towns.

The Ausbergers have been active in the Lincoln Highway Association for more than 30 years, and they’ve traveled and toured extensively on the historic route.

In their program Sunday, Joyce Ausberger is going to detail her “favorite places in 13 states of the highway.”  Bob Ausberger plans to lead an audience discussion of “a vision for the Lincoln Highway in the future.” And they plan to collaborate on “how you can easily spend a week in Greene County while exploring the Lincoln Highway.”

They’ll display some of their favorite memorabilia and sourcebooks about the highway.

In addition, a new three-panel interactive display on the Lincoln Highway – developed for the Iowa Department of Transportation by the Prairie Rivers Association – will be available during and after the program.  The historical society has hosted that display during the month of June.

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Lincoln Highway Traveling Exhibition Premiers at the 2022 Bell Tower Festival

AMES, Iowa, June 1, 2022 — An audiovisual exhibition telling the story of the national Lincoln Highway premiers at the Bell Tower Festival in Jefferson this year. Promise Road: How the Lincoln Highway Changed America opens June 9 at the Greene County Historical Society Museum and will remain through June 26.

“Many of us have driven the Lincoln Highway but haven’t realized its significance for the unfolding of our country’s modern history. This exhibition tells that story,” said Shellie Orngard, the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway coordinator.

The building of the Lincoln Highway was initiated in 1913, when most people traveled by foot or by horse and the roads were mud or gravel. America’s first coast-to-coast highway, the Lincoln Highway starts in Times Square, New York City, and travels through 14 states, ending at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A dramatic story of ingenuity, personality, and commerce, Promise Road will engage visitors in a new understanding of and appreciation of our forgotten past and what it means for us today.

The exhibition culminates with a presentation on June 26 by Bob and Joyce Ausberger of rural Greene County, who helped found the new national Lincoln Highway Association in 1992, which now has hundreds of members across the country and around the world.

After this first stop in Greene County, the exhibition will travel to Marshall and Story counties, and on to the rest of the 13 Iowa counties traversed by the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway.

The traveling exhibit Promise Road: How the Lincoln Highway Changed America was funded in part by a grant from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and with support from the Iowa Department of Transportation.

In 2021, the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway in Iowa was recognized as a National Scenic Byway. The National Scenic Byways Program is a voluntary, community-based program administered through the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to recognize, protect, and promote America’s most outstanding roads. 

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Dale Hanaman explains how 3 Amendments helped move America beyond its slave-holding history

JEFFERSON, Iowa, Feb. 14, 2022 — Dale Hanaman, of rural Rippey, a retired United Methodist minister and advocate for civil rights and social justice, will present a program on Sunday, Feb. 20, at 2 p.m. at the Greene County Historical Museum in Jefferson, on the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution — what inspired them, the impact they had in the late 19th century and ever since.

The program is especially fitting during “Black History Month,” which is observed in February.

Dale Hanaman

Those three remarkable changes in law are sometimes called the “Civil Rights Amendments” or the “Reconstruction Amendments.”

States ratified the 13th Amendment in 1865, formally abolishing slavery across the U.S.; the 14th in 1868, granting citizenship to all born or naturalized in the U.S., including those formerly enslaved, and granting all “equal protection” under the law, and the 15th in 1870, prohibiting states from disenfranchising voters “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Hanaman said his understanding of the importance of the three amendments has been enhanced by the book “The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution,” by Eric Foner, a Columbia University professor who is an authority on American history.

“It’s important to consider how the United States began to move away from holding slaves against their wills,” Hanaman said.

“It is often difficult now to recognize that former slaves were men, women and children with thoughts, hopes, desires, and dreams. But they were held as ‘property.’ For decades after that, we continued to insult these people by ‘redlining’ where homes and apartments would be available for them to own or rent, limiting job opportunities, and denying equal education for their children.”

Hanaman said his program, like Foner’s book, will “re-visit our past as a nation and understand the attempt we made through these three Constitutional Amendments to act differently” toward former slaves and their descendants.

The program is free, and the refreshments are, too.

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Museum will remain closed at least through June, and June 5 program canceled

JEFFERSON, Iowa, May 21, 2020 — The Greene County Historical Museum in Jefferson will remain closed at least through the month of June, historical society president David John announced today.

The governor of Iowa has authorized the re-opening of museums beginning on Friday, May 22. Museums have been among the public facilities that have been closed since mid-March to try to prevent the spread of the corona virus.

“I know people are anxious to get out & about, but I think we should err on the side of caution, rather than jump right in,” said John, who polled the society’s board of directors before making the decision.

In addition, the historical society’s program director Margaret Hamilton has announced that the organization’s meeting and program scheduled for June 5 has been canceled. That program — on the history of Spring Lake Park — will hopefully be rescheduled later, she said.

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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.

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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.

Ambassador Michael Owen and President Barack Obama in 2011, when Owen was the U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone, having been appointed by Obama.

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!

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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.

Jessica Rundlett with her two championship trophies from the Van & Bonnie trivia contests.

“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.

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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.

Jed Magee

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.

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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.

Some of the “Varceis Club” members in a performance this past September. (Photo courtesy of the Scranton Journal)

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.

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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.

One of the cars expected to be in Jefferson Saturday is this classic 1956 Packard. (Lincoln Highway Association photo)

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.

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

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There have been three courthouses built where the Greene County Courthouse stands today.  Ground was broken on the current courthouse in November of 1915, the cornerstone was set in May 1916 and the new building was dedicated in October of 1917. The centennial celebration of the courthouse is already underway, with events being planned by the “Courthouse 100” committee, with support from the Greene County Historical Society.  You can learn more about the courthouse history and the celebration plans on the Facebook page “Courthouse 100: Greene County, Iowa.”

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