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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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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