Think Pink! Barbies on parade at Museum

Barbie, left, wearing pink clothing and Ken, right, shirtless with swim trunks on.
Barbie (in pink, of course) and Ken and more than 300 of their doll friends and likenesses will be on hand at the Greene County Historical Society on Saturday, Aug. 12.

JEFFERSON, Iowa, August 4, 2023 — More than 300 Barbie dolls will be on display at the Greene County Historical Museum, 219 E. Lincoln Way, from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 12.

The vast collection, which includes dolls from Barbie’s debut in March1959, was donated to the Museum by former Jefferson resident Arlene Garland Klatt in 2003.

The dolls are dressed in their best, from formal gowns to cheerleading uniforms to swimsuits. What a closet that girl has!

Pink, of course, is the color of the day. There will be pink Barbie decorations, a lifesize pink Barbie Box for for those who wish to pose, drawings for gift cards, plus cinnamon rolls for all.










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  1. Absolutely loved reading through the captivating stories and articles on your website! The deep historical insights and well-researched content truly transport readers to the rich heritage of Greene County, Iowa. It’s evident that the dedication to preserving and showcasing local history is commendable, as each story is engaging and informative. As a history enthusiast, I can’t help but appreciate the wealth of knowledge shared here. Keep up the fantastic work!

    Gary Ford

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Historical society to try a new way of exploring Greene County’s history

JEFFERSON, Iowa, Nov. 7, 2022 — There are many different ways to explore history, and the Greene County Historical Society is trying out a new approach this Saturday afternoon, Nov. 12, at the museum in Jefferson.  Up to 25 people are invited to take part.

They’re calling it “Leafing Through Greene County History,” and it’s set for 2 p.m.

The free event has two parts, program director Margaret Hamilton explained.

“First, we’ll sit in a circle, and four members of the historical society will share interesting artifacts from the museum’s collection,” she said. “Everyone can look at the items they’ll display and get some new insights into the museum and our county’s history. There’ll also be time to share your own memories – not required – on the topics we’ll discuss. We’ll follow that with a tea – with scones, clotted cream, jam, tea sandwiches and cookies”.

There will be four presenters who will pick some museum artifact or document, and start the conversations.  The four, all from Jefferson and all active members of the historical society, know the museum’s collection well.  They are:

–Mikki Schwarzkopf, who will discuss Greene County diaries and autograph albums, as well as a registration book from the old Head House Hotel.

–Jed Magee will talk about the Greene County Courthouses.

–Mike Piepel will share newspapers, posters, yearbooks and atlases.

–Dianne Piepel will talk about historic homes.

Magee said the idea for sharing history this way popped up after a conversation the four of them and Hamilton had one at the museum one lazy afternoon this past summer.

“We were sitting by the bookshelves, and one of us had pulled out a ring binder of historical information,” Magee said. “I think it was either about local theaters or movies that had played here.  All of us were telling related stories we knew, and I think we were all surprised how interesting it was.  Then we realized that doing this kind of thing would help people understand just how much we have in the museum, and learn more about all of it.”

He encourages everybody to give it a try.  “If this first ‘Leafing Through History’ approach seems successful, I’m sure we’ll do another one, probably next spring,” he said. “And remember, you don’t have to be an expert at all – just curious about the things you can find in the museum.”

Because the discussions on Saturday will happen in a circle, the event is limited to 25 actual participants. If you want to be involved, RSVP to reserve your seat, either by emailing Hamilton at or calling (515) 386-4408.


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Robby Pedersen led us in a “time travel” adventure back to about 1875 in program at Scranton

SCRANTON, Iowa, Nov. 5, 2022 — Robby Pedersen of Jefferson led the Greene County Historical Society members & guests in some time travel on Friday, Nov. 4, in a program at the United Methodist Church in Scranton.
Pedersen’s focus, in his discussion of both heirloom furniture building and pioneer living, was circa 1875. As most local folks know, he is the owner of “RVP-1875,” which makes furniture using only the tools and styles available in that year. It was a brief era when the master furniture trade was at its peak in Iowa — with 2,013 of the tradesmen registered back then. Soon after that, factory-produced furniture took over.

Robby Pedersen

Pedersen, who is a native of Jefferson, operates his business as a genuine furniture maker — typically producing 70 pieces per year for customers who are on waiting lists — as well as a museum and tourist attraction. He usually dresses like the cabinet makers dressed in 1875.

He also heads the non-profit “History Boy Theatre Co.,” which presents musicals, comedies and dramas in a 140-seat theatre he built in the rear of his downtown building that was once a lumberyard.
Insights from Pedersen during his program on Friday:
–“I’m so glad to be doing what I do, here in Greene County. You know, you feel most at-home when you’re actually home.” After Navy service and his college education at Iowa State University, he started his business while portraying a master cabinet maker at Living History Farms for a decade. Then he moved it first to Story City and then, 15 years ago, back home to Jefferson.
–“Something that has served me well is that I’m braver than I am smart. I’m one to dive-right-in and try, on almost everything.”
–When factories took over furniture making, “we lost 800 years of history in about 20. That’s what happened in my trade. It’s sad to think about that. And that’s why I’m doing what I do — re-creating that history and sharing it with people.”
–“The most important element of a pioneer farm was having two trained oxen.”
–“We have a lot more trees in Iowa today than we did in the 1880s. Back then during settlement, Iowa was 85 percent prairie and 15 percent timber.”
–“Life was hard in pioneer times. People worked long, long days building their farms and just getting by. They say that local politics didn’t come into it for at least a generation — 20 to 30 years after the first settlers got here — because people were so busy they didn’t have time to get involved in that stuff.”
–“People ask me if I would’ve liked to live in 1875, and my answer is a quick no. I mean, I like my movies, I like driving my truck around, I like medicine — and all the other things we have available to us today. But I’d like to visit 1875 for a couple weeks, you know? That’d let me see what people’s lives were really like back then.”

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Two fun historical events: Friday’s “Trivia Team” challenge, Saturday a free matinee of “Whitcomb’s War” movie made here

The Greene County Historical Society is shifting into some real summer fun for gatherings this Friday, Aug. 5, in Grand Junction and Saturday, Aug. 6, in Jefferson.

Friday’s regular monthly meeting will be at the United Methodist Church in Grand Junction, with a lunch followed by the return of the historical society’s undefeated “Trivia Team” to challenge all members and guests with questions on local history. 

The team of Roger Aegerter, Nancy Hanaman and Chuck Offenburger is 1-0, having baffled the members and guests of the Greene County Farm Bureau at their annual picnic meeting a year ago. However, the team will be without Hanaman on Friday, as she’s recovering from an illness, and she’ll be replaced in the line-up by new board member Denise Harberts.

Aegerter, of Jefferson, the society’s executive director, says he has trivia expertise in “Jefferson history going back 12.2 billion years, art, the Historic Lincoln Highway and other things that are too much, too odd, too nuts.”  Offenburger, of Jefferson, boasts of his knowledge of “Greene County sports — because I know Doug Rieder, Iowa history, politics, journalism, fight songs, and controversies around Cooper.” Harberts will bring expertise the Pleasant Hill community, traditional foods, music and spirituality.

Friday’s RSVP lunch, for $10, is at 12 noon.  The program, which is free, should start about 12:45 p.m.

The historical society’s “Trivia Team” for this Friday’s competition — Chuck Offenburger, Roger Aegerter and Denise Harberts.

Saturday’s event promises especially fun – a free 2 p.m. showing on the big screen of the Sierra Community Theatre in Jefferson of a 1980 movie “Whitcomb’s War,” which was filmed mostly in Jefferson, with a few scenes in Fort Dodge, and then released and shown nationally. 

You’ll see several Greene Countians appearing in small roles in the movie, and a few others had prominent jobs in its filming and production here.  Those you’ll see who are still living include Pauline Borst, Jed Magee, Bob Telleen and Rolfe Blaess.  And Muriel Lehman worked in arranging and delivering props the actors used.

The storyline of the movie, according to one old review, is that “Pastor David Michael Whitcomb is assigned to a church in Harrah, Iowa (think Jefferson), that is dealing with employer Phil Esteem, who changes the work week to Wednesday through Sunday.” Pastor Whitcomb leads a campaign against working on Sunday, and “three comic demons” are “assigned to see that the pastor fails.”

The movie cast included a dozen or more Hollywood stars, led by Patrick Pankhurst, Leon Charles and Bill Morey – all with a long list of credits.  The writer, producer and director was Russell S. Doughten, Jr., a native of Carlisle, Iowa, who lived most of his adult life there while making films across the nation and beyond.  His production credits stretch from 1958 to ’84 after he studied literature and movie making at Drake University and Yale University.

“It was a surprise when it was finally announced that Jefferson was going to be the site of a movie that would bring in these stars and a full production company,” said Jed Magee, then a young attorney in Jefferson, now a retired Iowa District Court judge who moved back to Jefferson in retirement. “We’d all heard rumors earlier, but then sometime in the 1970s, here they came.  It seems like they were here filming, mostly at the Greene County Fairgrounds, for at least a couple months, but maybe as long as a month.”

He said the Hollywood people all stayed at the Redwood Motel on the north side of Jefferson, and ate most of their meals at the Redwood’s fine steakhouse restaurant, visiting with local folks as they did.

He said for the scenes when Pastor Whitcomb’s war is raging with the demons and the devil himself, “they used one of the fairgrounds buildings and made it look like Hell, complete with flashing red lights, smoke and a lot of noise.”

Magee said that while the movie was not a major hit, it did have a good run nationally.  “At the time, most of us here thought it was a really interesting story, with quite a plot.”  It runs 67 minutes.

The idea to show “Whitcomb’s War” here again – more than 40 years after its debut – emerged at a brainstorming session the historical society’s board of directors were having a year ago about what historical incidents in county history should be featured in upcoming programs.

“For some reason, I thought of that old movie and said, ‘Why don’t we see if we can get ‘Whitcomb’s War’ and show it at the Sierra?’ ” said Magee, who is on the board.

Then local movie buffs Mike and Dianne Piepel, who are historical society members, got excited and that led to the scheduling this Saturday.

Magee will lead a brief discussion of the movie at the theatre before it is screened.

Admission for the movie is free.  Concessions will be available for purchase.


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

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

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

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

Joyce and Bob Ausberger

Joyce and Bob Ausberger

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

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

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

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

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


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Mikki Schwarzkopf will share the colorful stories of the traveling “Chautauqua” shows 100 years ago

JEFFERSON, Iowa, May 9, 2022 — A century ago the hottest ticket for entertainment in Greene County – or sometimes for religious or educational programs — was for the “Chautauquas,” which often would pack 2,500 people into a huge tent set up every August at what today is known as Chautauqua Park here.

Mikki Schwarzkopf

Mikki Schwarzkopf, one of the most persistent researchers for the Greene County Historical Society, will present a program at 2 p.m. this Sunday, May 15, at the museum in Jefferson on nearly two years of occasional research she’s done into Chautauquas.

Between 1901 and about 1930, the Jefferson Chautauqua Association brought such nationally prominent speakers here as evangelist & former Major League Baseball pitcher Billy Sunday; Congressman & attorney William Jennings Bryan; alcohol abolitionist Carrie Nation, and farm visionary Henry Wallace. There were dozens of others who became stars on the circuit.

“These programs were so popular because they started up in a time when people were really isolated,” Schwarzkopf said. “Remember, the only access most people had to the outside world back then was the occasional newspaper.  No TV, at first no radios.  These speakers would come in and give our people kind of a connection to what was happening” nationally and around the world.

The Jefferson Chautauqua Association was formed in 1905, and shares of stock were sold to help the organization purchase a tent and chairs, and schedule and pay the traveling speakers.

“Originally the programs were more religious and informative,” she said. “They turned more toward entertainment as time went on – and politics in the later years.”

In the 1930s, with the proliferation of radios and cars, the Chautauqua programs began to fade.

“Scheduling them was always tricky,” Schwarzkopf said. “You had to have them at a time when farmers wouldn’t all be in the field, and not up against the county or state fairs. So here in Jefferson, they seemed to have more of the Chautauqua programs for a week in early August.”

Admission and refreshments for her 2 p.m. Sunday program are free.


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Learning how to use the archives of local history & records created and maintained by our six public libraries

CHURDAN, Iowa, May 1, 2022 — When the Greene County Historical Society gathers this Friday, May 6, at the Churdan Public Library in Churdan, members and guests will learn about “Mining Digital Treasures from the Archives.”

Created in 2012 and growing impressively ever since, those “Greene County Archives” are available free online 24/7 and worldwide, from the website of the Jefferson Public Library. They are a collaboration by the county’s six libraries, the local newspapers, local government agencies and donors.

Jane Millard

“We receive usage statistics every month, and it’s always fun to look at how many users we’re getting from countries all over the world,” said Jane Millard, the Jefferson library director. “You always wonder, ‘Who are these people and how have they become interested in some part of our history in Greene County?’ ”

The largest volume of material in the archives are the digitized newspapers of the county – all of them.  The oldest archive on the site is the 1856 U.S. Census report on Greene County.

“We’ve built the archives in two phases, with lots of public support,” Millard said. “In fact, writing the grants and finding matching money for both phases has been the easiest fundraising I’ve ever done. That tells you how much public support there is for having archives that are as accessible as ours are. If you can do a Google search, you’ll easily be able to use our archives.”

She will lead the presentation on Friday, but it’s been developed with all the libarians in the Greene County Librarians Association.  Those include Millard, Shari Minnehan in Churdan, Diane Kafer in Grand Junction, Wendy Johnson in Scranton, Cara McCoy in Rippey and Kimberly Bohnet in Paton.

The Churdan library has special equipment that will allow the presenters to use the library website while projecting it on a large screen, so the audience can see and follow along when Millard shows how to access specific documents.

The event Friday will open with a lunch at the library at 12 noon, provided by the members of St. Columbkille Catholic Church. Cost of that is $10 and members should RSVP to their historical society community contacts.  Others are welcome for lunch, too, and should make a reservation with program director Margaret Hamilton at 515-386-4408.

The free program will begin at 12:45 p.m.


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Denise O’Brien Van shares the colorful history of Jefferson’s Post Office this Friday, April 1

JEFFERSON, Iowa, March 28, 2022 — When the Greene County Historical Society meets on Friday, April 1, Denise O’Brien Van, of Jefferson, will be sharing the intriguing, 85-year history of the U.S. Post Office in Jefferson.

O’Brien Van is a Jefferson native who had a career in journalism in Des Moines and Chicago before she and husband Jack Lewis, another Jefferson native, moved back to their hometown.

Denise has personal ties to the Jefferson Post Office.  Her parents, Clem and Virginia O’Brien, were introduced by Lilly B. Gibbons, who was the postmaster when the new facility was planned, constructed and then opened on March 15, 1937. Clem O’Brien worked at the Post Office as city carrier and later a rural carrier.

Denise O’Brien Van in front of the Jefferson Post Office.

While the U.S. Post Office was one of the first businesses or government agencies to hire women and minorities, it was still unusual in the 1930s to find a female postmaster in rural Iowa communities.

But Lilly Gibbons was widely known in the community and evidently well-connected politically. E.B. Stillman, publisher of the Jefferson newspaper, described her in print as “a Democratic powerhouse and the prettiest girl in Greene County.”  She was the grandmother of later Jefferson Post Office employee Davis, who is still a resident here.

Friday’s event, being held at the First Presbyterian Church in Jefferson, will begin at 12 noon with a lunch, which costs $10.  Historical society members should make luncheon reservations by calling the organization’s community contacts.

Those are: Dawn Rudolph, Scranton, 515-370-5605; Janice Gilley, Grand Junction, 515-738-2642; Marilynn Hoskinson, Jefferson, 515-386-3490; Virginia Carlson, Paton, 515-386-2401; Nancy Wessling, Churdan, 515-389-3325; Stephen & Bette Molle, Cooper, 515-386-3822, and Mary Weaver, Rippey, 515-360-8046.

Non-members are welcome for the $10 lunch, too, and they should make reservations with program director Margaret Hamilton at 515-386-4408.

The program, which will begin about 12:45 p.m., is free.

The American eagle above the main entrance.

One of the two bas-relief sculptures above front windows that salute the new idea of air mail back when the Post Office opened in 1937.

The classic postal boxes in the building.

Here’s the iconic 1938 painting above the door to the Postmaster’s office at the east end of the lobby. The mural was commissioned by the federal Department of Treasury’s Arts Program. The artist, Thomas Savage, of Fort Dodge, was paid $650 for the painting, which he titled “The New Calf.”

Denise O’Brien Van, her husband Jack Lewis and former postal employee Steve McCoy collaborated in 2017 to have the two bowl lights beside the Post Office’s entrance restored and re-installed after they’d been stored in the basement for years.






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We gathered St. Patrick’s Day for a celebration of shamrocks, storytelling, poetry, music, goodies and all things Irish!

JEFFERSON, Iowa, March 17, 2022 — Begorrah, it was fun!

About 60 of us gathered Thursday afternoon at the Greene County Historical Museum in Jefferson for a historical society celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. There was storytelling, poetry, an enthusiastic sing-along, Irish-themed goodies and more.

You can learn more in the captions to the photos.

Greene County’s genuine Irishwoman Betty Kuebler, born and raised in Coleraine in Northern Ireland, reflected on her love for her homeland and many trips there. She’s been living here since 1957, when she came to visit an aunt who was a war bride of a solder from Scranton.

Johnny Turpin, retired teacher who has traveled Ireland, recalled visits to the most historic & popular Irish sites, then got into fun Irish tales. That’s his “travel hat” he’s wearing in this photo, along with a sweater from Ireland.

Johnny Turpin had several leprechaun stories and enhanced his Irish outfit for those.

Hollie Roberts, an accomplished poet, was a courageous pinch-hitter on the program for her late husband Jerry Roberts, who had already committed to do readings at this event before he died in February.

Hollie Roberts didn’t just read the Irish poem, “Drinking from the Saucer” by John Paul Moore. Beforehand, she visited with Betty Kuebler, our native Irishwoman, who coached up Roberts on how to do a proper brogue. And then she added perfect facial expressions, too!

Peg Raney told how she grew up in the very Irish northwest Iowa town of Emmetsburg, where her father owned a well-known Irish bar where singalongs were frequent and spirited. Then she led the crowd in just such a singalong Thursday.

Peg o’ our hearts! Peg Raney, on 12-string guitar, joined Rick Morain on the piano in leading the crowd in a dozen traditional Irish songs.

Rick Morain was masterful as ever on the piano, playing Irish tunes. The baby grand was recently fully-tuned for the first time in a while, and Morain reports it “now plays really well, and it has a good barroom tint to the sound.”

Here’s Rick Morain’s elevator chair for sitting at the right height for the keyboard of the museum’s baby grand piano.

Part of the goodies at our St. Patrick’s Day program.

The St. Patrick’s Day program was coordinated and emceed by Margaret Hamilton, the program director for the historical society.




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Matt Wetrich presents “Birding” this Sunday, March 6, in first of two special programs this month at the museum

Matty Wetrich and friend in 2020.

JEFFERSON, Iowa, March 1, 2022 — The Greene County Historical Society is hosting two programs at the museum in Jefferson during March.

On Sunday, March 6, at 2 p.m., Matt Wetrich will speak on “Birding.”  Wetrich is a Jefferson City Councilmember, a naturalist & conservationist, and also a noted photographer. His talk should be a treat for everyone, and cookies will be served, as well.

On Thursday, March 17, at 1 p.m., there will be a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. The museum’s baby grand piano has been specially tuned, and Rick Morain will play. Peg Raney will lead singing, and we’ll have readings by Johnny Turpin and Hollie Roberts. Cake will be served in a celebration of Shamrocks and all things Irish.

The museum is located at 219 E. Lincoln Way. The programs are free and open to the public.


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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.”


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