Our program March 10: Historic old buildings do not scare Nick Sorensen


JEFFERSON, Iowa, March 4, 2019 — The phone calls and even visits from leaders of other small towns across Iowa come often now for officials of the city government and the Jefferson Matters Main Street program. They want to know how Jefferson is successfully saving and redeveloping the 100-plus-year-old buildings around its courthouse square.

Nick Sorensen, who is the City of Jefferson “building officer, zoning officer, code enforcer and special projects coordinator,” says part of the answer is the leadership of Peg Raney of the Main Street program. Part of it is the commitment by the city government, and finding funding from state and federal governments, too. A key factor, he says, “is a core group of volunteers willing to get in there and get after it.”

Nick Sorensen

My own observation is that a big reason the historic old buildings are being salvaged and re-purposed is that 38-year-old Nick Sorensen isn’t afraid of them.

He is going to talk us through all that in a Greene County Historical Society program about notable buildings and restorations around the square at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 10. While most historical society programs in Jefferson are held in the museum, Sorensen’s is being moved to the rotunda of the Greene County Courthouse.

“Two reasons for moving this program to the courthouse,” said Roger Aegerter, the society’s executive director. “First, since this program is about our historic buildings, it seemed appropriate to hold it in our beautiful courthouse. Second, we are getting ready to do reconstruction of the ceiling support system in our 102-year-old museum building, and the work may be started by March 10.”

Sorensen said a focus of his presentation will be about three restoration efforts underway now involving three to six buildings, depending on how you count them. Those are “City View on State” at the northeast corner of State Street and Chestnut Street; the “Harness Shop” at 205 N. Wilson Avenue, and “The Arcade,” or former Pizza Ranch, also on N. Wilson.

But he can discuss the possibilities with all the 40 or so buildings around the square and the 92 that are part of the Main Street District.

Sorensen has lived and worked in Jefferson since the fall of 2003, when he joined the Jefferson Police Department. In 13 years with the police, he became a sergeant “and loved being around the guys, the camaraderie, and being of service.” When the building inspector position opened in city government – along with his other duties – he felt a tug on his heart. “I went to Dave Morlan, who was my chief and my mentor, and told him about how interested I am in old buildings,” Sorensen said. ‘He said, ‘If this is something you really want to do, go for it!’ ”

He’s now been on the new job since June of 2015. He was very involved in the façade refurbishment of 13 buildings in 2016 and 2017 with a Community Development Block Grant, and several others since then.

Nick Sorensen says the successful renovation and re-development of the Sensibly Chic building by the Tuckers on the south side of the square in Jefferson shows what can be done with old buildings that have been in various stages of dilapidation.

What is it about old buildings for Sorensen?

“I grew up in Exira, and learned a lot about construction from my dad Larry Sorensen and my grandpa Charlie Sorensen,” Nick said. “They both were roads workers, but my dad was also a mason for several years, and I learned masonry from him. Grandpa Charlie retired from the Iowa DOT when I was in high school, and he saw that there weren’t a lot of jobs available for high school kids to earn some money. So he started up a little construction company to do roofing, painting, flooring, cleaning, changing light bulbs for grandmothers – whatever was needed – and he hired a bunch of us high school kids.

“We did a lot of work at rental properties that Judith Sutcliffe had around the area, and she was really big into historic preservation and renovation. Her sister had a downtown building we were working on in Audubon, and I remember when I walked into the big empty room on the second story, I thought, ‘Why is this great space not being used for something?’ And that always stuck with me.”

So, there’s no fear when he’s starting to work on saving buildings that, in some cases, previous owners have walked away from?

“No, when you jump in and start working on them, you get over that,” Sorensen said. “Digging into them, you gain so much knowledge. You see how well they were put together and how, with a little work, they can have years of good use, decades, or even longer. When you get the work done and you see businesses doing well in them again, it’s very satisfying knowing you’ve been part of it.”

Is he confident enough of the potential that he’d like to own one of the old buildings on the square and redevelopment it for himself?

“Absolutely, if I could afford it,” he said. “I’d put in some neat second-story apartments, recruit a business for the main floor, and then start trying to get the building next door. This downtown is coming alive.”

Just as for the historical society’s programs at the museum, there is no admission charge for this special program in the courthouse rotunda and there will be free refreshments, too.

Photos below here show the buildings in the business district that Sorensen says are now works in progress — and which he will be talking about during his March 10 program for the historical society.

“City View on State” at the northeast corner of State Street and Chestnut Street.

The “Harness Shop” at 205 N. Wilson Avenue.

“The Arcade,” or former Pizza Ranch, also on N. Wilson.


Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Feb. 10 program explores sports photography thru the decades & into the future — capturing the drama, fun & excitement

JEFFERSON, Iowa, Feb. 4, 2019 — The Greene County Iowa Historical Society begins its 2019 programming with a special feature program on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 10, on “The Past, Present & Future of Sports Photography.”

Presenting will be two well-known newspaper photographers in west central Iowa – Jeff Storjohann of the Carroll Daily Times Herald and Brandon Hurley of the Jefferson Herald.

They will be discussing and sharing their work at the 2 p.m. free program at the historical museum at 219 E. Lincoln Way in Jefferson. (You can see some of their favorite sports photos at the bottom of this story.) The museum’s display of cameras used through the decades will be available, too.

Jeff Storjohann

Storjohann, 53, is in his 26th year as a photographer with the Carroll newspaper, and he is generally regarded as one of the best sports, news and feature photographers working in Iowa today.

He is a native of Gladbrook in east central Iowa, and he earned a photojournalism degree from Hawkeye Tech in Waterloo, where he was trained in news, sports, commercial, industrial and portrait photography. He served as a photo “stringer” for the Marshalltown Times Republican during his school years, and landed his first newspaper job in Postville in northeast area before moving to Carroll.

“My father Don Storjohann, who was an amateur photographer, is really the person that got me started down this path,” Jeff said. “We used to shoot black & white film, and set up a darkroom in the bathroom, which was the only one in our house. This was sometimes a hardship for a family of five at bedtime, when they had to wait for film to be loaded or prints to be made.”

Of course, there’s little use of black & white film today and even less darkroom work being done now, after all the advances in color technology and digital photography. There’s more emphasis than ever before on the quality of the pictures.

Storjohann said he began his sports photography career using a “Pentax K 1000” 35-millimeter camera, then shot Canon cameras for 35 years, “until last year when I made the switch to a Fuji mirrorless system.” He said “that’s just a teaser to get people to attend the program to learn why I prefer a mirrorless system and the lens collection that goes with it.”

He said he’s learned a lot over the years by closely observing several photographers for the Des Moines Register, most notably the retired Pulitzer Prize winner, David Peterson. “I consider one of the absolute best track & field photographers ever,” Storjohann said. “I think his strength was his knowledge of the sport, since he ran track at Kansas State University. I used to watch him at high school and Drake Relays events, just to see where or what location he would shoot from, and then try and visualize what he’d see in the viewfinder from that spot. That sort of taught me how to ‘see’ the world around me without looking through the lens.”

Hurley, 29, now closely watches the work of Storjohann – and other good shooters around the state – to help him improve his photography.

Brandon Hurley

He is a native of Ames who is a graduate of the University of Iowa Journalism School. He began his newspaper career as a staff writer with the Dickinson County News in Spirit Lake four years, worked for a time as sports editor of the Boone News-Republican and for the last 2 ½ years has been with Herald Publishing. He serves as sports editor of the Jefferson Herald and also contributes regularly to the Daily Times Herald in Carroll.

“When it comes to sports photography, I’m for the most part self-taught,” Hurley said. “It’s always been something that is expected of my job. I have really only been a sports photographer for four years, and it’s been pretty much on-the-job training since then. I pick Jeff’s brain on occasion, while other times it’s a lot of trial and error for me. I’m still learning how to find the best angles and proper lighting. For me, it’s a continual learning process.”

He generally uses a Canon 7D camera with a 70-to-200 millimeter telephoto lens.

Hurley says he enjoys sports photography more than news and feature photography “because there’s always action, always a chance for a new and interesting shot. You will always have something to capture – whether it’s the first tip of a game or a third-down catch midway through the last quarter. The opportunity for images always seems to be there, which is what makes it so fun. Plus, it’s not too bad a gig to be right down on the sidelines of some pretty cool sporting events.”

When Storjohann, the older pro, is asked if he likes sports photography more than news or features, he says “that answer is yes – and no.

“It’s ‘yes’ in the sense that I love the challenge of capturing that single, solitary ‘moment’ that defines most, but not all, sporting events,” he said. “The challenge comes from first determining when that ‘moment’ is happening and then having the skills to capture it. The truth is it takes some luck, too, but you can make your own luck in a game, or at least bring the odds in your favor.

“But it’s ‘no’ in the sense that you can have technically great photos from a game but you completely missed that ‘moment.’ ”

People are invited to bring their own cameras and photos to get tips about them from Storjohann and Hurley.

There will also be free refreshments.

A Jeff Storjohann photo of Greene County High School champion high jumper Megan Durbin celebrating a successful jump.
One of Storjohann’s photos from a Carroll High School football game. 
A Brandon Hurley photo of the Greene County High School Rams football team getting ready to take the field.  
A Hurley photo from a cross country meet.  
A Hurley portrait of MMA figher Dylan Forkner, a native of Paton in Greene County.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Mary Geisler, at 100, tells her life story (and favorite stories) in a video interview being televised this month

CHURDAN, Iowa, Jan. 9, 2019 — At 100 years old, Mary Geisler  has lived a whole lot of history here in Greene County. In the late 1920s, she watched in horror as Ku Klux Klansmen, wearing hoods and robes and carrying torches, walked west through the business district of Churdan, then lit on fire a huge cross erected near the railroad depot. She saw her farm community around St. Patrick-Cedar Catholic Church suffer through the hard times of the Great Depression. She taught country school for eight years, starting in 1938 at a salary of $45 per month.  She married, helped husband Ed Geisler run a successful farm, raised eight kids and a lot of chickens.  “I was called a rabble-rouser” a time or two when she was campaigning for one cause or another.  She was a star alto in the Greene County Farm Bureau Chorus, she wrote & recited poetry, and over her lifetime she checked out & read more than 5,000 books from the Churdan Public Library.  (For decades, she “averaged a book a day.”)

Mary Geisler

The story — and stories — of Mary Coan Connolly Geisler simply had to be preserved.

And now they have been.  For these next two weekends in January, Jefferson Telecom and the Greene County Iowa Historical Society are televising a recently-completed, hour-long video interview of Geisler. It will be televised four times on Jefferson Telecom’s cable television Channel 9 at 6 p.m. — on Friday, Jan. 11; Sunday, Jan. 13; Friday, Jan. 18, and Sunday, Jan. 20.

The interview will then be available on DVD at the Greene County Historical Museum.

Chuck Offenburger, retired journalist and a member of the historical society’s board of directors, conducted the interview this past Nov. 8 at Geisler’s farm home five miles west of Churdan, or just southwest of historic St. Patrick’s church.  Roger Aegerter, the historical society’s executive director, did the video recording.  It seems appropriate to add here that Mary Geisler is a past-president of the historical society, serving back when the museum was still located on the north side of the courthouse square in Jefferson.

The interview flows like a warm, friendly conversation, although she confides, “My kids think I talk too much.”

She gets upset now at her fading hearing and vision and “not being able to get out and do things like I always have.”  But generally, she feels good and looks terrific.

At one point, Offenburger tells Geisler that “even at 100 years old, you are still a quite attractive, fetching-looking woman.”  She responds, “Well, thank you!”  Then he asks, “Well, in your early 20s, were you kind of a hot catch?”  She answers with a smile, “Well, I dated a lot of guys.”

He also coaxes her into reciting her favorite passage of Shakespeare, from the famous “Speech to the Players” in “Hamlet.”

Geisler said she always intended to write her own life story in a book, and once “filled half a spiral notebook” with her stories and observations, but then got distracted and never returned to it.  She said she thought “it could have been titled ‘Mary’s Merry-Go-Round’ because my life has been a real merry-go-round.”

We’re honored to preserve at least some of those stories on the new video interview.

Mary in her childhood.

Mary in young adulthood and at her marriage to Ed Geisler in 1944.

The tally sheet on Mary Geisler’s family.

With a chalkboard used for lessons in her country school years.



Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


At Dec. 7 meeting, new officers, newsletter, 2019 programs & holiday music

JEFFERSON, Iowa, Dec. 3, 2018 — The Greene County Iowa Historical Society will close its programming for 2018 with the annual holiday-themed lunch and meeting on Friday, Dec. 7, at the Greenewood Center in Jefferson.

The annual election of officers will be held, and a newsletter covering 2018 and 2019 activities will be distributed — and that will include the schedule of monthly and special programs to be held in ’19.

Nominees for 2019 officers are David John, of Jefferson, as president; Margaret Hamilton, of Jefferson, programs director; Joyce Ausberger, of Jefferson, secretary; Becki Cunningham, of Paton, treasurer, and Dale Hanaman, of Rippey, past-president. Nominations will be accepted from the membership at the meeting, too.

A special feature will be musical entertainment by Greene County High School band members, led by director Wes Anderson.

The lunch requires RSVPs by midday on Wednesday, Dec. 5, with members calling their community contacts, while the public can make reservations with vice-president Nancy Hanaman at (515) 436-7684. Lunch is $8 for members and $10 for non-members.


Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


“Our Wilsons & Lincoln” event Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. will salute courthouse statue’s 100 years of inspiration

JEFFERSON, Iowa, Nov. 5, 2018 —  An inspiring story of how the unique statue of President Abraham Lincoln was commissioned, placed and dedicated on the Greene County Courthouse square 100 years ago will be told again on Sunday, Nov. 11, in a 2 p.m. program in the courthouse rotunda here.

“Our Wilsons & Lincoln –100 years later” has been organized by the Courthouse 100 committee, which in the fall of 2017 put together the celebration of the building’s centennial.

In the era 1915-’18, there was not only great pride across the county in the new courthouse, there was also great anticipation for the designation and construction of the new Lincoln Highway on a route taking it on the south side of the square.

All that prompted attorney E.B. Wilson and his wife Minnie, who were community leaders in Jefferson, to decide to order and donate a statue of President Lincoln, whose leadership in the Civil War and subsequent assassination made him an enduring national hero.

The Lincoln statue on the south side of the Greene County Courthouse. The plaque includes an inspiring passage from the president’s second inaugural address.

The statue was actually dedicated on Sept. 22, 1918, and the Jefferson newspapers reported more than 5,000 people attended.

A century later, on this Nov. 11, there’ll be a much smaller, but still meaningful, 100th anniversary celebration.

Courthouse 100 chairperson Don Van Gilder will welcome the crowd, and introduce Rick Morain, the program’s narrator.

Then Allan Sieck, of Rippey, will do a recitation of Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.” He will be followed by Jefferson native Dean Parr, now of Cedar Rapids, an active leader in both the National and Iowa Lincoln Highway Associations, speaking about the building of that important highway and its impact.

Then there will be a theatrical portrayal of the Wilsons, “reappearing” to tell their own version of the story about their gift of the statue.  They will be portrayed by Don and Jean Van Gilder, who have appeared in several plays together, most often in productions of the Greene County Community Players.

And Tori Riley will conclude the program with an original poem.

The program in the rotunda is free, and refreshments will be, too – apple cider from Deal’s Orchard and donut holes from Dunkers by Matt.

Early community leaders and statue donors E.B. and Minnie Wilson.
Don and Jean Van Gilder, holding a photo of the Wilsons, whom the Van Gilders will portray.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Recalling Greene County’s political & elections history, when we meet in Scranton Nov. 2

SCRANTON, Iowa, Oct. 25, 2018 — Brothers Rick and Tom Morain will be discussing “Greene County Politics Thru The Years: The Pendulum Always Swings” when the Greene County Historical Society meets on Friday, Nov. 2, at the United Methodist Church in Scranton.

Rick Morain, who lives in Jefferson, is the retired editor & publisher of the Jefferson Bee & Herald, now writing a weekly “Greenery” column for the Jefferson Herald.

Rick Morain

Tom Morain lives in Lamoni in south central Iowa and is a community outreach representative for Graceland University there. He formerly directed Living History Farms, then was administrator of the State Historical Society of Iowa. He is recognized as one of Iowa’s leading historians, and in 2009, the state historical society honored him with its highest designation, the Harlan/Petersen Award for Lifetime Service to Iowa History.

The Morain brothers say their love of local history – including government and politics – traces to boyhood when they’d often open bound volumes of the Bee & Herald newspapers on the ping-pong table of their Jefferson home and read for hours.

After graduating from JHS, Rick in 1959 and Tom in 1965, they went to Graceland when it was a 2-year college, then completed their undergraduate degrees at the University of Iowa. Both went on to earn doctorates, Rick at Yale University and Tom at the U of I, both in American studies.

Three years ago, they co-taught an online Iowa history course for Graceland, and had students enrolled from private colleges across the state.

Rick said both brothers are “probably center-left” on the political spectrum today. In the 1960s and ’70s, Rick was an active Republican “in the Bob Ray wing of the party,” and even served as county Republican chairperson and a member of the state GOP Central Committee. Tom said he hasn’t been as directly involved in politics, although he did some volunteer work for Common Cause, the non-partisan, pro-democracy advocacy group.

“As far as our knowledge of politics and elections in the county, Tom learned it in a much more scholarly way, with oral histories and extensive research,” Rick said. “I’ve kind of lived Greene County political history, with all my time with the newspapers.”

Tom Morain

He added their Nov. 2 program “will be more anecdotal than scholarly.”

Would he give us a quick snapshot of the county’s electoral history?

“In general, Greene County has tended to vote with the winner over the years,” Rick said. “So it’s kind of a bellwether, but not as accurate as, say, Palo Alto County usually has been.” He said there is also a “balance” in the county, without any single dominating ethnic group or church denomination, so political leanings are more spread across the spectrum.

There’ll be an $8 lunch at the church in Scranton at 12 noon, with RSVPs for members due with their community contacts by midday Wednesday, Oct. 31. Members of the public who want to eat lunch for $10 should phone vice-president Nancy Hanaman at (515) 436-7684. The 1 p.m. program at the church is free and all are invited.


Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Our Oct. 5 meeting in Rippey: Remembering “Agri-rama” and national plowing matches

RIPPEY, Iowa, Sept. 26, 2018 — In the fall of 1966, Greene County hosted a 2-day “Agri-rama U.S.A.” showcasing the newest and best equipment available for farming, as well as enhancements for rural life — and more than 150,000 people attended! There were also plowing competitions, which from the late 1940s to the early 1980s were very popular across the U.S. Farm Belt as well as in other nations where agriculture was big.

Three Rippey-area natives — Roger Norgren, Robert Huber and Steve King — were involved in those events with their families, and they’ll tell their stories when the Greene County Historical Society meets on Friday, Oct. 5, at the Rippey United Methodist Church. Retired journalist Chuck Offenburger, a member of the historical society’s board of directors, will moderate the discussion.

People are welcome to bring photos and memorabilia from those events.

These three will share stories of Greene County’s colorful agricultural heritage when the county’s historical society meets Friday, Oct. 5, in Rippey. Left to right, they are Robert Huber, now of Cedar Falls; Roger Norgren, of Rippey, and Steve King, of Ogden. As Rippey-area farm boys, all were around “Agri-rama U.S.A.,” a huge farm show and plowing competition which, on two days in the fall of 1966, attracted more than 150,000 people to a special exhibition grounds east of Jefferson. Norgren and King went on to become national plowing champions, as did Huber’s father, Lawrence Huber. All three champions at one time or another used this very plow they’re standing with, which the historical society displays at the Greene County Fairgrounds.

Norgren, King and Huber were all introduced to Agri-rama U.S.A. and competitive plowing by Huber’s father, the late Lawrence Huber, who farmed three miles west of Rippey, in the area of Squirrel Hollow Park.

Agri-rama was a promotion by Greene County agricultural and development leaders. It was much like today’s huge Farm Progress Shows, with major displays by ag business companies as well as the plowing competitions and other farming demonstrations. There was live entertainment, even a fashion show, and a visit by U.S. Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey. The event was held on 1,100 acres of land just east of Jefferson, around and across the highway from the Jefferson Municipal Airport, and there was so much airplane and helicopter traffic that the Federal Aviation Administration built a temporary control tower on top of one of the hangars.

The weather was nearly perfect both early-September days of Agri-rama, and the largest crowds ever assembled in Greene County turned out – estimates ranged up to a total of 182,000.

“Those were pretty progressive local leaders who got behind that,” said Robert Huber. “They put together quite a show!”

Lawrence Huber, Norgren and King – all farmers for much or all of their careers – each won a national plowing championship over the decades. Robert Huber, who became a teacher and then guidance counselor in Cedar Falls, didn’t devote as much time or attention to participating in the sport but has always been a fan. Lawrence Huber died in 2012. Today, Norgren still lives and farms near Rippey, King lives near Ogden and is a trucker, and Robert Huber is retired in Cedar Falls.

Another national champion, Dallas Bowman, grew up in the southwest part of Greene County but wound up competing after he was farming in the Adel area.

For the Oct. 5 historical society event, there will be an $8 lunch at the church at 12 noon, with RSVPs for members due with their community contacts by midday Wednesday, Oct. 3. Members of the public who want to eat lunch for $10 should phone vice-president Nancy Hanaman at (515) 436-7684. The 1 p.m. program at the church is free and all are invited.


Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


U of I Women’s Archives doing 6-on-6 girls’ basketball presentation Sept. 15 in Jefferson

JEFFERSON, Iowa, Sept. 10, 2018 — Small towns across Iowa came to a halt each winter to take in the mesmerizing game of high school girls’ six-on-six basketball.

It was a sport that captivated thousands and sent scores sky-rocketing over the century mark, creating legends in the smallest of communities.

The University of Iowa Women’s Archives is celebrating the impact of six-on-six basketball in Iowa with a presentation at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution’s “Hometown Teams” exhibit now being displayed at the Greene County Historical Museum in Jefferson.

Iowa Women’s Archives curator Karen Mason and U of I American studies lecturer Jennifer Sterling, who have spent hundreds of hours researching and interviewing former players, will discuss the marvelous history of the sport and its wide-ranging reach across the entire country through “Six-on-six Girls’ Basketball in Iowa: Stories from the Iowa Women’s Archives and Beyond.”

A “Remembering six-on-six” display, prepared by the U of I, is part of the “Hometown Teams” exhibit.

Part of the “Hometown Teams” exhibit at the museum in Jefferson.

Mason and Sterling will begin speaking at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Thomas Jefferson Gardens Welcome Center. Afterward, there will be a chance for locals to share their stories and memorabilia with the researchers. The presenters will scan historical items that people bring on Saturday, for inclusion in their archives, and people can then keep their precious memorabilia.

The “Hometown Teams” exhibit has also visited Mount Vernon, Ottumwa and Guthrie Center. It will travel to Ames and Conrad following its stay in Jefferson.

The operating hours for the exhibit at the museum here, through Sept. 23, are Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 6 p.m.; Wednesdays, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

For complete details about this program, please contact Peg Raney at Jefferson Matters: Main Street’s office at 110 W. Lincoln Way, call (515) 385-3585 or email director@jeffersonmatters.org.

Part of the six-on-six girls basketball display in the “Hometown Teams” exhibit.



Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Greene County’s “pioneer cemeteries” and the people who are preserving them

CHURDAN, Iowa, Sept. 8, 2018 — Ada Ross, the secretary of the Greene County Pioneer Cemetery Commission, told stories about the 10 “pioneer cemeteries” in the county when the Greene County Historical Society met Friday, Sept. 7, at historic and beautiful St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Cedar Township west of here.

Those 10 cemeteries are the burial sites of many of the county’s earliest settlers. Although most of them are no longer active cemeteries – in other words, there haven’t been any burials for years – they are still overseen and preserved by the 6-member Greene County Pioneer Cemetery Commission. Those commissioners are appointed by the county’s board of supervisors.

Ross, of rural Jefferson, has been a member of that commission about 10 years, and is now its secretary. Its new president is Peg Semke, also of rural Jefferson.

Ada Ross speaking from the pulpit at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Cedar, located west of Churdan.

The commission was organized in the year 2000, with Valerie Heater Ogren, the county’s longtime champion of local history and genealogy, taking the lead.

“What Valerie saw back then was that many of these oldest cemeteries were in deplorable condition,” said Ross. “The worst was probably Old Franklin in the southeast part of the county. There were cows grazing in it, their residue was in the grass, stones had been knocked over, trees and brush had grown up. It was a mess.”

Ogren told the supervisors back then that the pioneer cemeteries needed “advocates for clean-up and protection,” Ross said. The commission fills that role.
Ada Ross had people asking her questions for 30 minutes after her presentation to the historical society.

“St. Patrick’s, Cedar,” is no longer an active parish in the Catholic Diocese of Sioux City, but funerals and a St. Patrick’s Day mass are still held there. The church has been renovated, improved and is now maintained by a committee of volunteers, who’ve made it a unique historic site in the area.

Ada Ross holding a county map which has the locations of the pioneer cemeteries marked in yellow.

A close-up of the map showing the locations of the pioneer cemeteries in Greene County — they’re marked in yellow.


Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Fire up! Fight songs, free sports movies and more will lead up to Smithsonian “HomeTown Teams” exhibit opening Aug. 11

JEFFERSON, Iowa, Aug. 3, 2018 — Several special events next week will kick-off the special Smithsonian Institution’s “HomeTown Teams” exhibit that will open here on Saturday, Aug. 11.

On Tuesday, Aug. 7, at the Farmers Market in Jefferson, the Greene County Singers will be performing fight songs from high schools around Greene County – both past and present – at 5:30 pm on the south side of the courthouse. Those attending will be invited to sing along.

The Sierra Community Theatre Board is sponsoring two free sports-related movies during the week. On Monday and Tuesday evenings, Aug. 6 and 7, “A League of Their Own” will be presented at 7 p.m. And that movie will also be shown in a matinee at 2 p.m on Tuesday.  On Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 8 and 9, “Field of Dreams” will shown at 7 p.m.  That movie will also be shown in a matinee at 2 p.m. on Thursday.

A photo op with authentic Greene County sports uniforms will be available at the Farmers Market on Tuesday, Aug. 7; again at the “Hot August Nights” car show around the square on Thursday, Aug. 9; also at the first Greene County High School football scrimmage on Friday, Aug. 17, and finally at the high school sports “Pep Rally” on Tuesday, Aug. 21.

The location for the Smithsonian traveling exhibit will be inside the Greene County Historical Museum at 219 E. Lincoln Way.

The exhibit will be open on Saturday, Aug. 1, and go through Sunday, Sept. 23.

Hours are Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.; Wednesdays from 1 to 6 p.m., and Thursdays from 3 to 9 p.m.

The exhibit will be staffed by volunteers.

School tours for Greene County Community Schools and Paton-Churdan Schools have been scheduled. Other school tours or group tours can be scheduled by emailing director@jeffersonmatters.org or calling (515) 386-3585.



Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


How To Get Involved
title tag Calendar of Events
title tag Membership & Donations
Help us grow! Donate, become a member, or renew your membership today!
see more arrow
title tag Historical Markers
Did you know there were so many historical sites in this county? See many of them on the map here!
see more arrow
title tag Videos
See interviews with historical figures, events and programs we have recorded, and much more!
see more arrow
title tag Historical Trivia

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.”


Sorry. Try Again!

title tag Featured Image Archive
This is a gallery of our featured images which are no longer viewable on the home page. See if you have missed any by clicking here!