At the centennial of women receiving the right to vote, a look back at the battle in Greene County

By MIKKI SCHWARZKOPF

Mikki Schwarzkopf

JEFFERSON, Iowa, March 30, 2020 – This year marks the centennial of the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote. Nationally, the amendment came after approximately 60 years of effort. And Greene County had its share of heated controversy and debate, both pro and con.

But 60 years? Why so long?

As with today’s politics, it’s complicated. So I’ll start with a little background on suffrage before getting to Greene County specifically.

Firstly, the word “suffrage” originated from Latin, “to support.” Its first use regarding voting was in the U.S. Constitution in 1787.

Also, the words “suffragist” and “suffragette” meant different things. Suffragist is far older, but in 1906, a London journalist coined “suffragette” as a mocking, demeaning term for women who were militant supporters. These women were disillusioned with peaceful methods. They spat at officers, sent letter bombs, and chained themselves to railings. But over time, the words came to mean the same thing.

Tradition held that Victorian values, Democratic ideals, and the Bible agreed that women should be protected from sordid politics. They should stay home and tend to their proper duties. Both men and women firmly believed that each sex had a different role in life. The fear of changing roles, and that women might vote for Prohibition, both played a part in the long delay for women’s right to vote.


Many women wanted the vote because they depended almost entirely on their husbands for income, and were afraid of becoming destitute. Drunkard husbands put the lives of the family at risk. Understandably, many Iowa women joined the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in the 1840s and 1850s.

Women had little chance at training, education or jobs. Even women who were schoolteachers had to quit once they married.

Iowa was considered an ideal state for debating “the women’s question,” because many felt the state was already progressive. For example, by 1851 Iowa women could legally control their own property under “dower rights.” So by the 1850s, famous suffragists began speaking throughout Iowa.

But both the Civil War and World War I put the measure on the back burner. In 1870, black men nationwide were granted the right to vote as part of the 15th amendment, and women were outraged that they won nothing. That same year, the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association was founded.

Surprisingly, the 1870 Iowa legislature voted for women’s suffrage as well. Most women were certain that the 1872 general assembly would quickly approve it.

But, there were increasing conflicts in the women’s movement. In 1871 a “free love” scandal splintered the proponents. A few members believed in “free love,” and people soon became afraid that suffrage would destroy families. The most famous was Victoria Woodhull, of Chicago, who believed in both sexual freedom and birth control. In 1872, she was also the first woman to run for U.S. president after she founded the Equal Rights Party, with Frederick Douglass as her running mate. Douglass was a former slave in Maryland who, after emancipation, became one of the nation’s leading abolitionists and a pastor in Massachusetts and New York.

Victoria Woodhull

The following quotes from Woodhull express just how unconventional she really was:

–“The American nation, in its march onward and upward, can not publicly choke the intellectual and political activity of half its citizens by narrow statutes.”

–“All that is good and commendable now existing would continue to exist if all marriage laws were repealed tomorrow…”

Iowa suffragists worked hard to separate themselves from these extremists in the movement.

Annie Savery

Annie Savery, perhaps the most famous Iowa feminist, was heavily pressured to denounce Woodhull. Savery refused, reminding all that Woodhull had donated over $10,000 to the suffrage cause. “The Iowa Women’s Suffrage Association has no responsibility for anyone’s opinion, except the question of granting women the vote.”

Because of her stance, Savery was denounced as being too liberal, and was drummed out of IWSA membership. The issue had lost momentum, although suffragists continued to fight for rights.

In 1894, Iowa women were allowed to vote on local bond issues and similar matters because those were felt to be of natural interest to women and mothers. They could not vote for candidates running for office. This was called “partial suffrage,” and existed in 19 states. Legislators required separate ballot boxes and tallies for men and women. Women voters were handed shortened ballots, since they could only vote on one or two issues. They then inserted their ballots in boxes clearly marked “Women Voters.”

Even partial suffrage met with objections. A full page ad in the Iowa Homestead magazine inflamed farmers, warning that their taxes would be much higher. City women had easier access to the polls and would vote for “hysterical legislation.”

Victor Hugo Lovejoy, editor of the Jefferson Bee, later addressed these fears of higher taxes and of men’s motives in voting. He wrote: “Man thinks too dern much of dollars and too little of humanity. He does not see idealism as does woman. When a new schoolhouse is needed woman looks at the child and the child’s future, while man looks at his purse.”

About the woman voter, Lovejoy wrote: “She is going to arrive at her voting decisions on public affairs with a mental attitude at variance with man. She is not going to say, ‘How much will it cost’, but rather, ‘how much will this measure add to human service, human well being, human convenience, and human betterment.’”

But full suffrage would be another 26 years in coming. It wouldn’t become national law until 1920 with the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Meanwhile, advertising and articles on both sides were printed & distributed in Iowa and all over the country.

In Greene County, the famous suffragist Dr. Anna Shaw, of Philadelphia, spoke April 2 and 3, 1897, in Jefferson, both in the county courthouse and at the Presbyterian Church. Nearly all county churches adjourned their Sunday evening services so members could listen to Shaw’s presentation.

Speaking to a packed house were Shaw, several lecturers from around the U.S., and, from around Greene County, Mrs. Jesse Johnson of Farlin, Mrs. L. B. Sheldon of Scranton, Mrs. O. W. Lowery of Grand Junction, Mrs. S.L. Child of Jefferson, and the Presbyterian pastor Rev. A.C. Kaye of Jefferson. According to the Bee, a Mrs. Campbell gave an early history of the cause, “when it was thought a disgrace to speak in public, and she was not even allowed to even sit with a body of men as a delegate, but could sit in the gallery or behind a curtain.” Topics covered by the speakers listed different types of women and whether or not they needed the vote: wives, mothers, unmarried women, business women, tax-paying women.

Rev. Kaye spoke on “Would Woman Suffrage Benefit the State?” He pledged to advance the cause, saying “This is not a government of the people when a part were not represented.”

Anna Shaw was a logical and convincing speaker. Her credentials could only help her credibility. She was a medical doctor and also an ordained Methodist minister.

Dr. Anna Shaw

Quotes by Shaw became famous:

–“If we ever get to the polls once, you will never get us home.”

–“Around me I saw women overworked and underpaid, doing men’s work at half men’s wages, not because their work was inferior, but because they were women.”

–“When I hear that there are 5,000,000 working women in this country, I always take occasion to say that there are 18,000,000 but only 5,000,000 receive their wages.”

According to the April 10, 1897, story of the events in the Souvenir, an early Jefferson newspaper, Shaw believed that “women should vote, or their property should not be subject to taxation.” And, Shaw “presented the most convincing argument in favor of Woman Suffrage ever heard in Jefferson.”

Continuing from the Souvenir’s story: “The Court room was decorated with numerous banners…all of them bearing some emblem touching upon the question of woman’s rights. At the back of the Judge’s bench was a large silk flag having the usual thirteen stripes, but in the corner only four stars appeared. These represented the states of Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, and Utah, in which women are privileged to vote at the present time.”

The “suffrage flag.”

At one of the sessions, a Greene County suffrage group was organized, and the following officers were chosen: Mrs. Emily (Harvey) Church, president; Rev. A.B. Buckner, vice president; Mrs. Frank Wayt, secretary, and Mrs. J.J. Madden, Treasurer.

Judge E.G. Albert

Meanwhile, Greene County Judge E.G. Albert firmly believed that women weren’t meant to engage in politics, and he didn’t change his mind even after women won the vote nationwide. With the 19th amendment, women could not only legally vote, but could serve on juries – but NOT in Judge Albert’s courtroom. He routinely excused women from jury duty for trivial reasons, but only rarely would he excuse men. Eventually, women weren’t even summoned as potential jurors.

Contrast his opinion to that of Anna Shaw:

In 1898, a hearing was held in the Iowa State Capitol, letting both suffragists and anti’s have their say. Rep. Peter Stillmunkes, of the Iowa General Assembly, argued, “I have always been taught and Scripture says, God first made man and afterwards took a rib out of man’s side, out of which he made a woman. Now it seems to me a disgrace and an injustice to let that rib dictate to men in any way, shape or form whatsoever in regard to the law making power in this state. Therefore, I vote no.”

Rep. Peter Stillmunkes

The “No’s” carried the day.

Soon after, a Greene County Woman Suffrage Conference was held in April of 1898, organized by Grand Junction suffragist, Mrs. Jessie Johnson. In a March 31, 1898 article in the Bee, Johnson wrote, “The legislature, although petitioned by over 50,000 citizens of the state, has refused the submission of the question to a popular vote.” She urged locals to protest vigorously and demonstrate their convictions and strength of purpose.

But the issue wasn’t so much between men and women, but between conservatives and progressives of both sexes.

A lively debate was conducted in – and between – Greene County’s newspapers, according to historian Tom Morain’s highly-acclaimed book “Prairie Grass Roots, An Iowa Small Town in the Early Twentieth Century,” which was published in 1988.

Morain,who grew up in Jefferson, wrote how Lowrie Smith, the Scranton Journal editor, was outspokenly anti-women’s suffrage, while Lovejoy, the Jefferson Bee editor, was vehemently pro-suffrage.

Victor Hugo Lovejoy of the Jefferson Bee.

 

Lowrie Smith of the Scranton Journal.

And they hurled insults in print for years to each other on the issue.

In the Bee, Lovejoy voiced, “On suffrage, Lowrie needs fixing. We have tried it, but have given it up as a bad job! …the only way to fix him is with a club!”

Concerning fears about women voting against liquor, Lovejoy argued, “The liquor business is afraid of women. It is no wonder, for woman-kind has suffered more from booze than any other part of the human race.” He accused the Lowrie camp of “unutterable, indefatigable, uncompromising, inexpressible, ineffable, unspeakable, unremitting, untiring, unwearying, everlasting and eternal opposition to woman suffrage.”

Smith retorted that the Bee was “bumptious,” and said that his paper, the Journal, “regards unlimited participation by women in public affairs as the greatest evil impending in this country.” Women were too lofty and saintly, and according to Smith, “…directing the affairs of government is not within woman’s sphere and political gossip would cause her to neglect the home, forget to mend our clothes and burn the biscuits.” He said that women might “approach the polling places with cleaner hands and hearts….but still the old couplet is true: ‘We can live without poetry, music, or books but civilized men cannot live without cooks’.”

Interest in suffrage was reaching a fever pitch all over Iowa.

Parades were held everywhere.

This photo is from a march in Boone:

Hecklers also attended the marches:

Pro-suffrage groups repeatedly lobbied Iowa legislators to approve a referendum, and let Iowa men decide. But suffrage didn’t even reach the Iowa statehouse until 1916, when Iowa men voted on the issue, Greene County men approved the proposal, 1,692 to 1,018, but the issue lost statewide by about 10,000 votes. Historian Morain noted, in a 1979 Bee article, that the “wet river counties poured in massive margins against it.”

While the statewide suffrage vote was set for June 5, 1916, a Greene County parade took place in May, with participants from all over the county. This was a mile-long Community Clubs parade that wound from the fairgrounds, through Russell Park, to the Chautauqua grounds, where a picnic was attended by over 3,000 people from all over the county.

Suffragists marching in Russell Park in Jefferson.
Supporters parading through Jefferson enroute to a rally of 3,000 people.

Suffrage had a large part in both the parade and picnic. Thousands of suffrage flyers and buttons were distributed at the Greene County Suffrage tent at the picnic. This was especially timely because the statewide vote was just around the corner.

 

The local news editors’ feud must have had some effect on that 1916 vote. Scranton Township had the largest “no” vote, 98 to 106 against, and Willow came in 31 to 47 against. Cedar Township split 40-40. Approving suffrage were Grand Junction 160 to 155, and Jefferson by a large margin. Greene County men were overall in favor, but the issue was defeated statewide.

So women still couldn’t vote, even after years of working toward it.

After the loss, suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt made this color-coded map of Iowa. It detailed the counties where suffrage passed and defeated, but also where there were irregularities in voting. Our county sports the gold circle indicating passage, and NO irregularities.

But the long, slow fight for suffrage achieved its main goal in 1920, after Congress had submitted a national amendment to the states. Iowa and other states ratified it, and Greene County women voted in their first national election in 1920.

There were celebrations across America after ratification in 1920.

The Prohibition issue is interesting. Women had no say in that decision, no matter what their opinions. Prohibition was passed by Congress in 1919, a full year before women could vote on it one way or another. Public feelings were changing, thanks to increasing awareness of alcohol’s effects on society.

As Morain explained, “the story wasn’t quite over.” Women still were prevented from becoming state legislators. That restriction wasn’t lifted until 1926, with yet another referendum. Greene County voters approved the proposal 721 to 222, and it also carried in the state. This was the last step to full political rights for Iowa women.

To conclude, I simply want to remind women that their right to vote came from many years of effort. Greene County women and men contributed to that effort. Voting is a hard-won right, and not to be taken for granted.

The author of this story, Mikki Schwarzkopf, of Jefferson, Iowa, is a member of the Greene County Historical Society. She is scheduled to present much of this research in a program for the historical society on Friday, Aug. 7, at the United Methodist Church in Grand Junction. Schwarzkopf grew up in Ames, and moved to Jefferson from Omaha in 1980, seeking a smaller city. Her favorite pastimes include historical research, reading, and gardening. You can contact her by email at rschwarz@netins.net.

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All officers re-elected as our historical society closes out 2019 programming

JEFFERSON, Iowa, Dec. 7, 2019 — The Greene County Iowa Historical Society had its final meeting of 2019 on Friday, Dec. 6, with a holiday meal at the Greenewood Center in Jefferson.

Officers re-elected for 2020 are David John, president; Margaret Hamilton, programs chairperson; Joyce Ausberger, secretary; Becki Cunningham, treasurer; Dale Hanaman, past-president, and Roger Aegerter, executive director. Newly elected to the board of directors is Jed Magee, who has moved back to Jefferson this fall after years in Charles City.

Entertainment was by an instrumental quintet from Greene County High School.

The newly re-elected officers for 2020 are president David John (front right), secretary Joyce Ausberger (front left), treasurer Becki Cunningham (middle left), programs chairperson Margaret Hamilton (middle right), executive director Roger Aegerter (rear left), and past-president Dale Hanaman (rear right).
New board member Jed Magee.
The holiday luncheon for our members at the Greenewood Center.
The instrumental quintet from Greene County High School.
Executive director Roger Aegerter in the holiday spirit.
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Historical society hosting “museum party” Saturday Aug. 24 for re-enactment of 1919 military convoy

JEFFERSON, Iowa, Aug. 19, 2019 — The Greene County Historical Society is hosting a “museum party” this Saturday, Aug. 24, to help welcome those coming to Jefferson on the re-enactment of the trans-USA 1919 military vehicle convoy.

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. Then it will be re-opened from1 to 4 p.m. for the special “museum party.”

More than 50 restored military vehicles are now on their way across the nation on the Lincoln Highway. They are re-enacting a 1919 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 explaining 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.

Part of the convoy of restored military vehicles now on the way across America. (Photo by Military Vehicle Preservation Association)

The convoy of re-enactors in their restored vehicles left York, Penn., on Aug. 10 and is traveling about 150 miles per day en route to a Sept. 14 finish in San Francisco.

These vehicles will be crossing Greene County this coming Saturday, Aug. 24, arriving in Jefferson at about 3 or 3:30 p.m. for a stop of up to an hour. The public is encouraged to turn-out and cheer on the convoy participants, who’ll be parking around the courthouse square in Jefferson.

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.

There will also be free refreshments during the afternoon at the museum.

“The idea for the museum party is to give people a place to gather as we get ready to welcome those coming in on the convoy,” said Margaret Hamilton, a board member and program director for the historical society. “We’ll welcome the re-enactors to stop-in at the museum, too, after they get parked around the courthouse square.”

The military vehicles convoy will then go on to Denison for an overnight stay Saturday.

A second convoy across the U.S. on the Lincoln Highway is expected to arrive in Greene County on Sept. 7. It will feature antique and customized civilian vehicles.

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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.

Featured speakers at old Pleasant Hill Church were Iowa Rep. Phil Thompson and Melissa Bosshart Frederick, both of whose families have deep ties to the church and pioneer community — and they are classmates from the Jefferson-Scranton High School Class of 2009. Both are rising young leaders in our area.
Peg Semke, the president of Pleasant Hill Memorial Inc., the non-profit which has overseen the renovation of the 138-year-old Pleasant Hill Church is shown here during this year’s traditional Memorial Homecoming service.
Central Christian Church, from Jefferson, had an early service of its own at Pleasant Hill Church on Sunday morning, May 26, and they brought along their brass ensemble that also played outdoors between the Central Christian service and the Memorial Homecoming service.
Taps after the 21-gun salute by the American Legion honor guard from Rippey and trumpeter Sam Bassett.
Melissa Frederick recalling how her parents were married at Pleasant Hill Church — and so was she.
Rep. Phil Thompson, a military veteran and now an Iowa legislator, said many of his deepest feelings about public service took root when he was attending Pleasant HIll Memorial Homecoming services as a boy.
Wallace Teagarden doing his oration. At the right is his cousin Jerry Evilsizer, of Fairmont, MN, who was visiting and helped chauffeur Wallace.
During the early Central Christian Church service at beautiful & historic Pleasant Hill Church.
Roger Aegerter, executive director of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society, prepares the sales table for prints of the 2017 oil painting of Pleasant Hill Church by noted Iowa artist Zack Jones. The historical society continues to sell the excellent canvas prints for $50 in a fundraiser.
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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.

The memorial salute during the 2018 Pleasant Hill Memorial Homecoming service.

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 Frederick

–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

–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.”

Wallace Teagarden

–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 at chuck@Offenburger.com.

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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.

Cooper Hubbell

“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!

The Cooper Way Station on the Raccoon River Valley Trail in the town of Cooper IA. The murals on the building were painted by artist Sarah Stott last summer.

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 at chuck@Offenburger.com.

 

 

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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.

Where the trouble started with the sagging ceiling

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.

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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.

 

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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.

Ces Brunow

“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.”

Why?

“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 at chuck@Offenburger.com.

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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.’ ”

Marilynn Hoskinson

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:

Ta-hick, ta-minnie,
Ta-zolly-zock,
Ta-boom, ta-larrie –
Yoo-hoo!

“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.

Marilynn and Leon Hoskinson.

“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 at chuck@Offenburger.com.

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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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