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.

David John, newly-elected president of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society, shown here in the museum in Jefferson.

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.”

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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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