SCRANTON, Iowa, Nov. 4, 2017 —If you were among the 45 people attending our Greene County Historical Society program on Friday, Nov. 3, at the United Methodist Church here in Scranton, you almost certainly came away with a half-dozen or more books that you’ve now put high on your reading lists. Jane Millard, director of the Jefferson Public Library, gave an outstanding program on “Greene County authors.” She highlighted 45 of them who, collectively, have written more than 100 books, and she says she knows there are several more, maybe many more.
“It’s quite a feat, writing a book,” Millard said in opening. “How many times do we all say, ‘I could write a book!’ But not many of us ever do.”
In putting the program together, Millard built an actual file on authors with Greene County roots or ties, and she now has that available for the public reference at the library in Jefferson. And she says her intent is to have a whole section at the library for local authors. She said it’s not exclusive.
“So, who is a ‘Greene County author’?” she asked rhetorically. “Well, we pretty much claim everybody. If you’ve ever put a foot in Greene County, we’ll count you.”
The works she has collected so far from Greene Countians begin early in the 20th century, but some are new in the past two years, and she knows of a couple new books coming out in 2018 from Greene County authors.
There are many surprises on her list, or at least they seemed to be to most of our crowd. Two were especially so:
–One of those is Robert Harned, now of Brooklyn NY, who in 2015 published a book about his mother Sally Phipps, a head-turning beauty who was a star in the silent movies of the 1920s and early talking movies of the 1930s. Her second husband was Alfred Harned, who was born and raised in our Grand Junction. Phipps, in her heyday, was the talk of the movie industry in Hollywood and of all of show business in New York City. Quick browsing indicates her life was in many ways a sad, perhaps tragic one, but nevertheless very interesting.
–Another surprise to most is a 2016 book by Fred Monthei II, now of South Yarmouth, Mass., called “Iowa Farm Wife.” His grandmother Anna Cox Monthei lived out her life on a Greene County farm, and one remarkable thing about her was that she always kept a camera and often took photos of life and work happening around the farm — more than 1,600 “stunning photos of her everyday life,” as Millard described them. After she showed her visiting grandson Fred the 50 years’ worth of photo negatives stored in her attic, he made mental note to do something about them eventually. He now has done that, publishing more than 150 of them in what looks to be an excellent coffee table-type book that the library has available.
Those are just two of the authors and their books that Millard has now made many more people aware of, with her thoughtful program for our historical society. And as we said in starting, she has probably just changed the reading lists of Greene Countians for the near future.