Another inspiring service Memorial Day weekend at Pleasant Hill Church
JEFFERSON, Iowa, May 27, 2019 — On a perfect late-spring morning Sunday, May 26, the Pleasant Hill Memorial Homecoming service & potluck dinner was held in the pioneer Greene County community of Pleasant Hill, five miles southeast of Jefferson.
The highlight, just as it’s been every year since 1960, was area native Wallace Teagarden, now 96, doing a stirring patriotic oration — without notes — on foundational American documents.
Featured speakers were Jefferson-Scranton 2009 classmates Melissa Bosshart Frederick and Rep. Phil Thompson, both of whom have deep family roots at Pleasant Hill.
The event at the 138-year-old former church is sponsored by Pleasant Hill Memorial Inc. and the Greene County Iowa Historical Society.
You can learn more in the captions to the photos.
Wallace Teagarden, 96, a 1941 graduate of Grand Junction High, a retired attorney & insurance claims adjustor who has lived for years in Ames, does the patriotic oration he’s been doing since junior high school, reciting excerpts of several important American documents and then the full Gettysburg Address. Teagarden has done this at the Pleasant Hill Memorial Homecomings every year since 1960, and does from memory. His oration this year was flawless, and inspiring as ever.
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.
Cooper Hubbell, meet your great-great-great-grandpa Isaac Cooper, this town’s namesake!
By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
COOPER, Iowa, April 11, 2019 — The Greene County Iowa Historical Society tries to preserve and present local history in many different ways. It’s found a new way to do so this Friday, April 12, when the organization hosts one of its monthly meetings here in the town of Cooper (pop. 30, maybe).
The organization will be introducing Cooper Hubbell, 35, of Des Moines, to his great-great-great-grandfather Isaac Cooper. Sort of.
Isaac Cooper, who died in 1902, was a pioneering business leader of Des Moines, and this town is named after him.
“I was not familiar with this story until I heard from you about it,” said Hubbell in a phone interview, when he was confirming his attendance. “I’m really looking forward to learning about this part of my heritage.”
And the Franklin Township Board of Trustees, who govern the greater Cooper area, plan to name young Hubbell an “Honorary Mayor of Cooper” — an honor he’ll share with about seven others who’ve been recognized this way over the years.
Friday’s featured program, at the Cooper United Methodist Church, is going to have Dennis Peer, a native son of Cooper who taught theater for 38 years before retiring at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, costuming up and portraying Isaac Cooper. He will speak in-character about life during Iowa’s settlement in the mid 19th century. He’ll undoubtedly talk about how his son-in-law Frederick M. Hubbell, another early business leader in this state, in 1880 was developing a railroad from Des Moines to the Iowa Great Lakes. In 1881, he founded the town of Cooper as a passenger & freight stop, and named it in tribute to his father-in-law.
Peer plans to stay in-character as he shares some history and current-day observations about the town. You can read more about the program, and about Peer, in another story on this website by clicking here.
Now let’s meet Cooper Hubbell.
He is the son of Mike and Debbie Hubbell, of Des Moines. The dad is formally Michael Cooper Hubbell, but goes by “Mike.” The son is actually Michael Cooper Hubbell Jr., but he has always gone by “Cooper.”
He said that Cooper has been a frequently-given middle name in the generations of Hubbells. In fact, if I’m reading family history correctly, Frederick M. Hubbell and his wife Frances E. Cooper Hubbell had three children, sons Frederick and Grover and daughter Beulah, and they gave all three “Cooper” as their middle names.
If you’ve been around Iowa very long, you are familiar with the Hubbell family and all the leadership it has provided in business, philanthropy and public affairs. Cooper’s uncle Fred Hubbell was the Democratic candidate for governor of Iowa in 2018.
How does Cooper feel, being part of that lineage?
“It’s really a big honor to be a part of it, and to see how much my family has been part of Des Moines,” he said. “It’s also very humbling, and gives me a sense of civic duty, too.”
Cooper Hubbell, who has his own information technology consulting company Hubbell IT, graduated from Des Moines Roosevelt High School, where he started dating the woman who is now his wife, Dr. Alexandra Hubbell, a family practice physician at UnityPoint Health’s East Des Moines Clinic.
Cooper started college in Colorado, but didn’t like the separation from Alexandra, who was going to Washington University in St. Louis. He transferred to St. Louis University, they dated through their undergraduate years, and then Alexandra came home to complete her medical studies Des Moines University.
They have two sons, Harry, 6, and Max, 2.
Interestingly, Cooper Hubbell never worked for any of the family’s companies, which have included Equitable of Iowa Insurance Company, the old Younkers Department Stores, Hubbell Realty and various development companies.
“My field has always been ‘IT,’ a personal interest going back to when I was a young kid, tearing apart old computers in my parents’ basement, trying to see how they worked,” he said. “I’m still doing that, actually!”
In his mid-20s, he interviewed with Hubbell Realty for an IT job, but opted instead to join another IT company. That had him doing consulting with companies from Storm Lake to Audubon, Marshalltown, Centerville and towns in between, so he saw a good bit of Iowa.
He saw lots more of the state in a very unusual way.
“My dad has been an amateur airplane pilot for 25 years,” Cooper said. “A couple years ago, he set a goal of doing a touch-down at every airport in Iowa — every single airport — and he did it! In fact, he’s now starting to do the list again, in reverse order. I went on some of those flights with him, and so I saw a lot of Iowa — from above.”
When his second son was born two years ago, Cooper decided he wanted to reduce his business travel, and that’s when he decided to start up his own IT company. He operates it from home, which allows him to keep a close eye on the boys.
He has also rekindled an interest in music he had as a young boy.
“I’ve played piano from boyhood, but then not at all from about 10 years old to probably 30,” he said. “I went through that period where I got ‘too cool’ for that, you know? Now I’ve gotten back into it, and I really enjoy playing piano, improvising and experimenting with chords. That’s led me to start doing some composing and arranging, doing all my own instrumentation. It gives me a way to use my hands and my brain — and all this computer equipment I have. I’m doing a little recording and I’ve started to have a little success with some independent recording companies.”
Any interest in politics?
“Yes,” Cooper said. “When Uncle Fred ran for governor, that really got me energized in the Democratic Party. It made me pay a lot more attention. And I realized it pays to pay attention.”
He enjoyed hearing stories about a couple of fun ties that the Hubbell family had to the town of Cooper over the last 40 years.
In 1981, Cooper made international news by naming NBC-TV “Tonight Show” host (and Iowa native) Johnny Carson the honorary 51st citizen of the town during its centennial celebration. Carson had three Cooperites come to California to appear on his show, and he spent 17 minutes in a hilarious chat with them. That led to more than 12,500 people attending the one-day celebration on July 11. The grand marshals of the two-hour parade were Fred and Charlotte Hubbell. They were honored not only because of Fred’s ties to Isaac Cooper. More notably, the couple had recently returned home safely after being victims of an airplane hijacking in Pakistan when they were on an around-the-world trip celebrating their honeymoon. Their story was widely reported in the news then.
In 2006, Cooper was celebrating its quasquicentennial, and community leaders jumped at the chance to book the Iowa State Fair Singers & Jazz Band to perform — becoming the smallest town ever to host a concert by the group of high school all-stars who toured the state during the summertime. But the cost for hosting the group was $3,800, and the town could only come up with $800. An appeal was made to Fred Hubbell and his older brother Jamie Hubbell. Jamie publicly committed to contributing $1,500, but only if Fred would match his donation.
He did, and everybody in Cooper, Iowa, had a great time!
Chuck Offenburger, who wrote this story, lives outside Cooper and is on the board of directors of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society. You can write him by email atchuck@Offenburger.com.
Quick work & generous grants allow historical society to avert museum disaster
JEFFERSON, Iowa, April 11, 2019 — About $35,000 in savvy engineering and quick construction has allowed the Greene County Iowa Historical Society to avert a disaster with our 102-year-old museum building in Jefferson.
Last fall, when volunteers Chris and Janet Durlam were working as docents during the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling “Hometown Teams” sports exhibit that was on display in the museum, they noticed the ceiling was badly sagging in about the middle of the building — in fact, sagging a foot or more.
Chris Durlam investigated above the ceiling and could see that the beams which held up the ceiling were pulling away from the support structure under the roof. He located jacks to push the ceiling back up and secure it, a temporary fix that allowed completion of the Smithsonian exhibit’s scheduled stay here.
Roger Aegerter, executive director of the historical society, then began work on applications for grants from the Greene County Community Foundation and the Grow Greene County Gaming Corporation to help with the repairs estimated to be $35,000.
In the last month, the foundation gave the historical society $15,000 and the gaming corporation contributed $20,000 — providing for the construction without bankrupting the historical group.
Brad Bendickson and his crew from Bendickson Woodworks LLC has been at work on the project for about three weeks now, and they expect to finish this week.
In the middle of all this, there were leaks from the flat roof, too, when the snow was melting and the rains began. Aegerter contracted temporary repairs to stop the leaks and is now studying whether total replacement of the roof is required.
The museum is closed to the public until displays are cleaned and put back in place after the construction is completed. You can see in these photos, which are provided by Bendickson Woodworks, just how extensive the construction has been on the supports between the ceiling and roof.
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.”)
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 young adulthood and at her marriage to Ed Geisler in 1944.
The tally sheet on Mary Geisler’s family.
Ces Brunow’s thoughts on the historical society as she steps down from seven years of leadership
By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
JEFFERSON, Iowa, Jan. 4, 2019 — Celia “Ces” Brunow, of Jefferson, hasn’t been involved in the Greene County Iowa Historical Society as long as many other people have. But she has had a major impact in her eight years with us – seven of them as an officer and/or board member.
She started attending meetings and volunteering in the museum in 2011, months after moving back to her ol’ hometown. Then she served a year on the board of directors, a year as vice-president, two years as president, and the last three years as past-president.
She decided to leave the board at the end of 2018, primarily because she and her husband & business partner John Brunow have increased their travels in demonstrating and selling specialty bicycles in their All Ability Cycles business. They are especially marketing specially designed, imported bicycles that are easily adapted for riders with special physical challenges, including the elderly.
“I do plan on staying involved with the historical society,” Ces said. “I have volunteered to work on increasing membership, and I’m always going to be interested in helping at the museum. There may come a time when I’d like to go back on the board, too, but for now, it’s hard for me to commit to a regular schedule for meetings when we’re traveling like we are.”
Brunow brought a new level of museum experience and new ideas about museum operations home to Greene County with her.
For the previous 15 years, she had worked at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., as site director of their infant-toddler and later their pre-school program.
“Basically we were the child-care program for employees of the Smithsonian museums and for a few other federal agencies that were nearby,” she said. “What was really unusual about it was that we were located right in the museums, and we used their full resources with the children. In fact, we had a written curriculum we used called ‘Museum Magic,’ and it was a state-of-the-art program for early learning.”
That helped shape her belief that “a museum should always be educational, a place of learning. A museum should never be thought of as a boring place where you just go look at old things. And it may be even more important to emphasize educational role of museums in small towns than in bigger places.”
“Your local history is not really going to be offered in bigger museums elsewhere,” she said. “If we don’t preserve it right here, present it in programs and teach it, it’ll be forgotten.”
In her time with us so far, Brunow has joined with friends Janet Durlam, Dianne Piepel, Mary Weaver and others in several innovative new programs and exhibits.
They helped add several special Sunday afternoon feature programs, covering a wide range of topics, to attract new audiences to the museum – people who because of job normally can’t attend the historical society’s monthly Friday midday programs. They went through the museum archives and storage, acquainting themselves with the artifacts we have and using them in new displays. They put a new emphasis on personal histories of people in Greene County, even having them tell their own stories in video or audio interviews. They initiated a real change in making the museum much more of a “hands-on” place instead of a “do not touch place,” especially for children. And they’ve helped with several special exhibits and programs in support of major events in the community – like the 100th anniversary of the courthouse, the 50th anniversary of the Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower, the Iowa Bicycle Festivals held in Jefferson, and the traveling Smithsonian Institution “Hometown Teams” exhibit about sports in our culture, which was displayed at the museum last summer and early fall.
Brunow pointed to that Smithsonian exhibit, which was co-sponsored here by the Jefferson Matters Main Street program and the historical society, as an example of how new programs or exhibits will attract new people – not only in the audiences but as volunteers.
“Like most volunteer organizations, we need to be adding new people all the time,” she said. “it was interesting that with the ‘Hometown Teams’ exhibit, we had about 40 docents signed up who welcomed people to the museum, guided visitors through, answered questions, that sort of thing. Many of those 40 people had never been in our museum before. I think they enjoyed it. Now we need to get back in touch with those people, thank them with a reception, and tell them how they can be involved with us in the future.”
She says attracting more members and volunteers is one of three big challenges she sees for the historical society in the near future.
A second one is “trying to find a way to continue one of the sweetest things about our Greene County historical society, and that’s our tradition of having the monthly meetings move around to the smaller towns in the county,” she said. As population has aged and declined, it’s increasingly hard for the small communities to find enough volunteers to provide lunches and help with hosting. The society works hard at not only meeting in as many of the towns as possible, but also presenting programs there about their local history.
A third challenge, she said, is “maintaining and improving the buildings we have now.” Those are the museum in the business district, as well as the historical building and one-room country schoolhouse at the county fairgrounds.
Ces Melson Brunow graduated from Jefferson High School in 1967. She and John Brunow, a native of Centerville in southern Iowa, met at the University of Iowa. After graduating in 1971 and marrying, they settled in Centerville, where in 1972 John was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives and served three terms. The Brunows also owned and operated the Moravia Union and Moulton Tribune newspapers in Appanoose County.
Later when John was selling insurance, they moved to New England for eight years, and then on to the Washington, D.C., area. When Ces was working at the Smithsonian, John realized a long dream of owning and operating a bicycle shop, in Vienna, Va. They decided to move back home to Iowa, to be here whenever their retirement begins, and picked Ces’ hometown of Jefferson, partially because of its location on the Raccoon River Valley Trail and John’s desire to open a bicycle shop here.
They have three grown children, all artists. Jessica is an art teacher in Bellevue, Wash.; Jacob, a sculptor and now a craft beer specialist, works with a distributor in Richmond, Va., and Sara, who graduated in musical theater, is now director of community engagement for a theater in Houston, Tex. They have six grandchildren, with a seventh on the way.
The author of this story, Chuck Offenburger, of Cooper, is a member of the board of directors of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society. You can write him atchuck@Offenburger.com.
Marilynn Hoskinson has always kept us moving!
By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
JEFFERSON, Iowa, Dec. 21, 2018 — As all who know her will attest, Marilynn Hoskinson, even at 91 years old, is a dynamo. She always has been.
Student, cheerleader, wife, mother, grandmother, a 30-year banker with Home State Bank, singer, piano & organ player, painter, cross-stitcher, devoted reader, crossword puzzle addict, 4-time cancer survivor and outstanding volunteer leader for First Presbyterian Church, for the Jefferson B.P.O. DOES Drove #196, for the Greene County Iowa Historical Society and other groups.
“I have two words that are my key words for life,” she said in a recent chat in her Jefferson home. “They are ‘Keep moving!’
“You have to,” she continued. “You can’t just sit in a chair and piss & moan. I say this all the time: ‘Thank you, God, for all the things I can do, and I’ll keep doing them until I can’t.’ ”
O.K., I said, since you’re already fired up, will you please do that old favorite Grand Junction High School cheer of yours for me again? She reached back more than 80 years – “it actually came from cheerleaders one generation before me,” she said – and whooped it:
“And we waved at the opponents’ crowd when we yelled the ‘Yoo-hoo!’ ” she said. “They didn’t like us much.”
We salute her now because of her tremendous service to the historical society the past 25 years or so. She served a dozen years on the board of directors, and a decade of that as treasurer. She’s done programs for us on women’s hats, Spring Lake Park, Grand Junction history and, of course, the one-room country schools of an earlier era.
“Country schools have always been a favorite subject for me, probably at first because I attended one and I remember it so well,” she said.
That was out in the rural neighborhood around Spring Lake, from about 1931 to 1935, when her family moved into Grand Junction. That school, “Hardin No. 6,” was one of more than 70 rural schools operating in Greene County then. Young teacher Miss Liberty Maye Mattson had 20 students together in one room, with all eight grades represented. Hoskinson looks back on it now and is amazed at the challenge the teachers had, but what an advantage it was for students.
“I swear, for me it was like a Head Start program,” she reflected. “I learned so much by listening to the older kids recite their lessons.”
In the 1990s, the Minnihan family donated to Greene County the old “Bristol No. 7” school that was on their farm. The historic schoolhouse was moved to the county fairgrounds, and the fair board asked the historical society to do something worthwhile with it. The society has maintained the building, opening it for visiting individuals and groups, and having it open for display during the fair each summer.
For a dozen years, Hoskinson has dressed as a country school teacher and served as a “docent,” doing historical interpretations of what education was like when it was held in such one-room quarters.
“I decided that I’d bow out of that after this last summer’s fair,” she said. “It was time to turn it over to another generation.”
Becki Cunningham, a historical society board member from Paton, has volunteered in the school house with Hoskinson the last couple years to learn the stories that we can share on into the future.
What are Hoskinson’s views of history and the historical society, after all she’s contributed?
“Well, first, I love history,” she said. “If I’d have gone to college, I probably would’ve become a history teacher. And I love our historical society. I think it’s done a tremendous job.
“My first concern about it, looking to the future, is that we need to get younger people involved, and that’s pretty doggoned tough to do today – in our organizations, our churches, in almost anything else. People are so busy!
“Some younger people probably don’t give a rip about local history right now, but when they’ve lived longer in a place, they start wondering why things are like they are, and who did what in the past. We need to try to keep them interested, and I think we’re doing that with new exhibits at the museum, new topics in our monthly programs, and doing more local history on TV.
“I’ve guided a lot of people through the museum over the years, and I notice that if you ask them what they’re interested in, you can almost always connect them with something in the museum. And then you build on that.”
Marilynn’s husband Leon Hoskinson, a farmer, died in 1997. Their daughters are Becky, a retired teacher in Mason City; Kathy, who is retired from the phone system in Waterloo, and Tracy, a retired early-learning teacher and medical insurance worker in Ogden. Marilyn has four grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.
The author of this story, Chuck Offenburger, of Cooper, is a member of the board of directors of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society. You can write him atchuck@Offenburger.com.
New president David John has Greene County roots as deep as you can get
By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
JEFFERSON, Iowa, Dec. 12, 2018 — David John, who was elected president of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society for 2019 at a meeting of the membership Dec. 7 , is about as deeply-rooted a Greene Countian as anyone around here today could be.
“My namesake and great-great-grandfather David John settled here with his family in 1856 and farmed west of Rippey,” said the current David John, 78, a retired school guidance counselor who lives outside Jefferson.
“They were one of about 150 families of settlers who moved in here between 1854 and 1856, probably from Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois,” John said. “I’m fairly sure my great-great-grandfather first stopped in Adel for a time, but then came on up here by river.”
It’s quite a heritage.
His great-grandfather John B. John was among the young men who were students at the early Brand School in our Washington Township. That’s the school from where instructor Azor Mills and all 30 students, including John B. John, marched off together for Civil War service.
Besides John as president, the other newly-elected are Margaret Hamilton, of Jefferson, programs director; Joyce Ausberger, of Jefferson, secretary; Becki Cunningham, of Paton, returns as treasurer, and Dale Hanaman, of Rippey, past-president.
David John spent his early years in Bagley, where his father was a mechanic for the local farm implement dealer. By David’s fourth grade year, the family moved to Osceola in south central Iowa where his father worked for a larger implement dealer. David graduated from high school there in 1958. He worked construction and hauled grain until 1963 when he was drafted into the Army. He was trained as a military truck driver, and served two years active duty in Missouri and Texas, then two more years in the Army Reserves in Ames.
Using the “GI Bill,” he started his college work in January, 1966, at Boone Junior College. After three semesters, he transferred to the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, where he eventually graduated with a degree in social studies with an emphasis in political science.
It was at UNI that David met Carol Norgren, of Rippey, a 1965 graduate of East Greene High School, who was studying library science in college.
After graduating and marrying, they began their education careers in eastern Iowa, Carol as a school librarian and David teaching government and economics at the high school level. David also earned his master’s degree from the University of Iowa in K-12 guidance counseling.
From ’72 to ’79, the Johns served a school district in Burlington, Ill.
But they maintained strong ties back in Iowa. Early participants in the adult bicycling boom of the 1970s, they rode three of the earliest RAGBRAIs. And even though they were living in Illinois, they subscribed to the Des Moines Register “so we could get the ads for teaching jobs,” David said.
In 1979, when they read that the Jefferson Community Schools were advertising for a high school librarian and an elementary-level guidance counselor, they jumped at the opportunities. They got the jobs and finished their careers here, David retiring in 2001 and Carol in 2002. During their time in the schools here, David served as resident of the Jefferson Education Association for several terms.
The Johns have traveled extensively, visiting 49 of the United States, missing only Hawaii, and to all the provinces of Canada. They’ve continued bicycling, too, and have ridden their Bacchetta recumbents in Florida, Ohio, Minnesota, Colorado, Wisconsin and Idaho besides Iowa.
“I’ve always loved history, and my favorite reading has been historical biographies,” David said. “Even though my family has a lot of history around here, I wasn’t as interested in local history until more recent years. We didn’t get involved in the historical society organization, but we have been attending a lot of the programs and have been getting more interested all the time.”
After being asked to consider the presidency of the historical society, he said he’s been reading Tom Morain’s acclaimed 1988 history of Greene County, “Prairie Grass Roots,” and has been fascinated by it. That covers from white settlement of the area in the 1850s until the 1930s.
John said one think he wants to work on is “to tie Greene County history more into the high school history classes here.” Another goal – “get more people involved in the historical society.”
Program this Sunday: Bicycling history of Greene County – and of RAGBRAI, too!
JEFFERSON, Iowa, April 9, 2018 — If it seems to you like there’s been a whole lot of bicycling happening around Greene County in recent years, you’re right.
That will be especially so this summer when RAGBRAI (that’s the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) pedals through the county on July 23-24. It will visit Scranton on July 23, overnight in Jefferson, and then go on to Grand Junction and Dana the next day enroute to an overnight in Ames.
So this seems like a good time to review the history of bicycling in Greene County – and let’s add the history of RAGBRAI, too.
The Greene County Historical Society and Jefferson Matters Main Street are going to do just that this coming Sunday, April 15. They are co-sponsoring a special free program at 2 p.m. at the museum in Jefferson, looking at cycling’s past, present and maybe even future here. And the program will also explore how RAGBRAI became the international phenomenon that it is – the oldest, longest and largest bicycle touring event in the world. It should be a good primer for Greene Countians getting ready for RAGBRAI’s visit.
Presenting will be John & Ces Brunow, of Jefferson, co-owners of All Ability Cycles, and special guest T.J. Juskiewicz, the director of RAGBRAI.
This is one of a series of sports-related programs this year that are preliminaries to the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling “Hometown Teams” exhibit, which the historical museum in Jefferson will house Aug. 11 thru Sept. 23. That exhibit is being hosted here by the local Main Street and historical groups.
Bicycling had a big start in Greene County as early as the 1890s, when there was a large men’s cycling club based in Jefferson and a “women’s auxiliary” cycling group, too. There were races, exhibitions and jaunty group rides to neighboring towns. Through the decades, there have been “Bicycle Days” promotions and parades in our towns.
We’ve seen much more of the sport in more recent decades.
For 41 years, Rippey has been a host town and turn-around point on “BRR” — that’s the “Bike Ride to Rippey” from Perry and back in early February, no matter the weather. And since 1997, Greene County has had the northern 12 miles of one of the best-known and busiest recreational trails in the nation, the Raccoon River Valley Trail, with trailheads in Cooper, at Winkleman Switch and in Jefferson.
And now here comes RAGBRAI in its 46th year, delivering visitors to us from all 50 states and a dozen or more other nations.
All of the above is part of bicycling now having such a major economic impact in Iowa. According to a recent study by the University of Northern Iowa, bike-related expenditures in the state now total about $350 million annually.
At the program this Sunday, the Brunows and Juskiewicz will be speaking, and there will be displays of cycling memorabilia. There will also be time for questions and free refreshments.
John & Ces Brunow have lived in Jefferson since 2010 and based their inspiring bicycle business here, although Ces grew up here as a Melson. John is a native of Centerville in southern Iowa, and he and Ces met as students at the University of Iowa.
They returned to the Centerville area after college, and in 1972 John was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives, where Ces served as his clerk until they started their family. They also bought and operated two weekly newspapers, the Moravia Union and Moulton Tribune. After three terms in the Iowa House, John ran for state auditor and was defeated, but then was elected Appanoose County auditor.
He served until landing a good insurance job with a company in New Hampshire. The Brunows spent eight years there, then John got a transfer to the Washington, D.C. area where they lived for nearly 20 years. They’ve been bicycle riders, even commuters, most of their adult lives.
John stayed in insurance until Ces Brunow, who had teaching experience in pre-schools, accepted a position at the Smithsonian Institution’s “Early Enrichment Center.” She became part of an innovative educational program that used the museum’s resources in a daycare program for employees’ children as well as some children from the public.
When she took that job, she said “it let John fulfill his dream of opening his own bicycle shop” in suburban Vienna, Va. He ran that shop, “Bikes@Vienna,” until they moved back to Iowa to be closer to his parents in their later years. They picked Ces’ hometown of Jefferson as their new home, and opened All Ability Cycles with the motto of “We believe that all can ride.” They sell a variety of bicycles, and repair them, but they specialize in adapting bicycles so people with all kinds of challenges can ride them. It’s a heart-warming story that has been shared nationally.
T.J. Juskiewicz is a native of Sunrise, Fla., who has been with RAGBRAI since 2003, director of it for 15 years. Before that, he was director of Florida’s cross-state ride Bike Florida and also directed the Florida’s Sunshine State Games. He’d met former RAGBRAI director Jim Green through their membership in the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association.
Green “kept wanting me to come to Iowa and ride RAGBRAI, so I did that in 2002 – with no intention that I’d ever move here,” said Juskiewicz, who lives with his family in Ankeny. “But I fell in love with RAGBRAI and with Iowa. In 2003, I accepted the job and worked with Green on the ride that summer, then he retired and I took over.”
Juskiewicz said he thinks RAGBRAI’s growth and success over nearly a half-century “has changed the way bicycling is looked at in this state. It’s not just a sport, it’s really a whole industry here. Because of RAGBRAI, many other biking events have started up in Iowa, and I think it’s also at least part of the reason we’ve had such a great trails system develop here.”
When you consider all that, he concluded, “I think we can put Iowa up against any other state, and – pound for pound – we’ve got the best bicycle state in the nation.”
A salute to Mary Lynch’s long, spirited service to our historical society
By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
JEFFERSON, Iowa, Dec. 1, 2017 — At the end of 2017, when Mary Lynch retires from the board of directors of the Greene County Historical Society, we lose regular participation by one of our key leaders over the past 20-plus years.
So we sat down with her for a valedictory interview, covering some of her favorite historical society memories and reflections.
“From 1999 to 2003, I was the president at the time when we bought the building the museum is in now,” said Lynch, who lives in Jefferson. “We worked in it from March in 2002 until we opened in December. We completely re-did the building, and almost all the work was done by our volunteers. In the building the museum had been in (since 1970) on the north side of the square, we had three stories of stuff displayed or in storage. We got rid of some of it that had deteriorated, but then we moved everything else over to the new building, where we built new exhibits and storage areas. It was exhausting, but it was a whole lot of fun, too.
“Ever since then,” she added, “when anybody’s told me they’re moving from one home to another and how much work it is, I’ve always said, ‘Well, you’ve never really moved until you’ve moved a whole museum!’ ”
Lynch said she “has always been a history buff,” but she didn’t join and become active in the historical society until after she retired from American Athletic Inc. in late 1993. She had worked her first 10 years there as a receptionist, the next 10 years in accounting. Earlier in her career she had worked in the offices of Dr. J.K. Johnson Jr., then the local electrical utility and also attorney Eugene Melson. And she spent 18 years at home raising the children she had with her husband Kenny Lynch, who had a carpet and floor covering business.
When she joined the historical board in about 1994, she began looking around the existing museum, saw how crowded it was, and eventually told the rest of the board, “Folks, it’s time to find a new home for our museum.” Valerie Heater Ogren, then the longtime president of the society, “put it right back on me,” Lynch said. “She said, ‘Well, Mary, how would you like to head-up a committee to make long-term plans and make it happen.?’ I had to say yes.”
She began looking for suitable buildings in Jefferson, and soon learned that Chuck Ryan was planning to retire from his Ryan Furniture store – our museum now.
“I knew the building pretty well because my husband Kenny had done the flooring in it when Chuck opened it in 1972,” Lynch said. “I thought the location would be perfect, just a block off the square and in view for people up at the top of the bell tower – they might come visit the museum, too.”
“As soon as I found out that Chuck Ryan was going to sell it, I called Craig MacDonald, one of the realtors, and told him the historical society was interested and to give us a chance on it,” Lynch said. “Then I called Francis Cudahy (an attorney) and Gene Houk (a dentist) and said, ‘Hey, guys, we have to go see this building and I want you to come along.’ ”
The brick building had been built in 1917 as a fuel station and repair shop for motor vehicles. Later it had been used for new car sales, and then the furniture store. The price was $65,000.
“Francis, Gene and I all thought that was a fair price, but still it was quite a bit of money for our historical society,” Lynch said. “But at our next meeting, which happened to be up in Churdan, I told our members about it and proposed that we buy it. No one spoke up against it, and we went ahead. We spent most of 2001 raising the money. I had been around Jefferson and Greene County my whole life, and I just knew that for a good project like this, people would get together and support a good project like this.”
Her nephew Chris Durlam “had just finished helping raise the money for the Greene County Community Center, so he was my advisor. He told us to get contributions first from all our board members, and then send out letters to the public. We did that, and just like I thought would happen, the checks came rolling in. I remember Jim Andrew driving over to my house and handing me two checks, each for $7,500. Gene and Carolyn Houk were major donors, and there were a whole lot of other donations from $1,000 to $5,000.
“Other people wanted to help fix or build the new museum. Carson Griffith had retired as a music teacher at East Greene, and he had a side painting business, too. He said he had many half-full cans of paint left over from past jobs, and his wife Betty wanted him to get them out of the house. So he mixed all that paint, came up with a nice light color, and then painted the whole interior of the building. My husband Kenny, who was then 76 years old, laid 650 square yards of carpet – and we laughed it was the second time he’d done the floors in that building.”
As they planned and built new exhibits, the historical society had free consultations on design and lay-out from Mike Vogt, the curator at the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum at Camp Dodge, and from Greene County native Tom Morain, who had headed Living History Farms and the State Historical Society of Iowa.
Volunteerism from our own membership must’ve reached an all-time high. Lynch recalls that there were a half-dozen or more couples who spent nearly every evening through the hot summer working at the new museum.
It was completed for a grand opening in December 2002 as part of the holiday “Tour of Homes” in Jefferson. More than 400 people came through the new museum then. And people have been coming ever since – to see the collection of artifacts (reported as 11,000 artifacts in 2010) as well as for historical programs and other community programs.
After her presidency, Lynch served a term as past-president and then went off the board. Three years later, “I realized I missed being involved, so I asked to go back on the board” and she has served until now.
At 88 and continuing to deal with macular degeneration, she felt time for another retirement had arrived.
But she did ask for time at our board of directors meeting in January to talk about her ideas for future projects by the historical society, most of them at the museum.
Exhibits need to be changed and refreshed, she says. “That really should happen every year,” she said. “There are events and people that should be featured in exhibits that we’ve never really done enough with – George Gallup Jr., Jackie Fye for her gymnastics, the Mahanays and others.
“And then we need to talk about what we can do with the level of funds that we have, in order to make the museum more popular.”
Mary Lynch’s story is a good reminder of how much our earlier members have invested in our historical society in time, talent and treasure. And it’s a call for more of us to step up and carry it forward, now and into the future.
This story was first published in the printed 2018 newsletter of the Greene County Historical Society. That was distributed at the Dec. 1 meeting of the organization in Jefferson, and subsequently mailed to members of the society who were unable to attend that meeting. You can email the author at chuck@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.”