Friday, December 16, 2016

A little Historical Society history ...


I've been asked to do the program today at Noon Rotary, discussing as you might expect the Lucas County Historical Society and various projects completed or launched during the year now rapidly passing. 

Rather than getting bogged down in background, I put together a handout introducing the society and its buildings and and thought I'd share that text this morning. Here it is:

About the Society …

The Lucas County Historical Society was organized during March and April of 1965 after a series of public meetings and incorporated shortly thereafter. It is the successor to Iowa’s first county historical society, organized during June of 1901 in Chariton, duly chartered and active until the pioneers who were instrumental in leading it passed from the scene. 

During June of 1966, the society purchased for $10,500 a dwelling and its three-acre lot in west Chariton, generally known as the Stephens-Carpenter house, from Mrs. Richard Chamberlain. By September of 1968, when a grand opening was held, the dwelling had been restored and converted into a museum. 

Puckerbrush School was moved to the grounds during 1968 from northwest Lucas County and during 1976 both Otterbein Church and the first part of the John L. Lewis Building were complete. Since then, additions have been made to the Lewis Building and a pioneer log cabin, pioneer barn and blacksmith shop constructed on the grounds.

The Stephens House 

The A.J. Stephens House (top) was built during 1911 by Chariton contractor Andrew Jackson Stephens for his family in a vernacular style with Greek revival porches. It is constructed of rusticated hollow cement tile ordered from a local lumber yard mixed with brick of a similar color. The material makes it a unique dwelling in Lucas County. 

The house soon passed into the hands of other families, however, and was occupied for the longest time by the John W. and Margaret Carpenter family. As the years passed, it was sold a number of times and eventually divided into apartments. 

The house was restored and held a majority of the society’s collection from the time of its purchase in 1966 until 1975-76, when the first wing of the John L. Lewis Building opened. Since then, it has been furnished --- more or less --- as a period home. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places during 1987. 


Puckerbrush School 

Built during 1874 in northwest Lucas County’s Otter Creek Township, Puckerbrush (Pleasant Ridge No. 3) School was the last rural school to close as the consolidation process wound down in Lucas County. The society purchased it for $1 during late 1967 and it was moved 22 miles to the museum campus during February of 1968, placed on a new foundation and restored.


The John L. Lewis Building 

A majority of the society’s collection of artifacts, documents and photographs is housed in the John L. Lewis Building. Our offices and restrooms are located there as well. It is named in honor of labor leader John L. Lewis, a native of Lucas County. 

Construction of the first wing of the building (now the middle north-south wing) commenced in 1974 and the two-level structure was complete in time for dedication on July 4, 1976. 

Construction of the two-level east-west wing, now the point of entry for museum guests as well as society headquarters, began during 1991 and it opened to the public during the spring of 1992. 

The lean-to wing to the west, opening onto the patio, also is an addition and is called the Swanson Gallery in honor of the late Harold A. and Dorothy Swanson whose major bequest to the society included cash as well as hundreds of artifacts from their personal collection. This wing currently houses for the most part farm-related machinery and artifacts.


Otterbein Church

The installation and restoration of Otterbein Church was a project of the Lucas County Bicentennial Commission, a project completed in time for dedication on July 4, 1976.

The Otterbein congregation --- United Brethren in Christ and named for a founder of that denomination, Philip William Otterbein --- dates from 1869 in Benton Township, but its first building was not constructed until 1889. That building was born down during the 1940s and this building constructed from salvaged material. Contents of the old church were moved into the new. The building and contents were donated to the society after regular services had ended.

Once the building arrived on the museum campus, a new fa├žade, including twin entry doors, fretwork and a bell turret similar to those on the original church, was constructed.


The Pioneer Barn

The pegged framework of the Pioneer Barn, a native of Wayne rather than Lucas County, was donated to the society during 1996 by Roma (Showalter) Jennings in memory of her parents. The barn in its original location had been badly damaged by a tornado. 

The framework was moved to the museum and reassembled during 1996 and 1997, then new materials used to construct a reproduction of a typical pioneer barn around it. The barn is used for a variety of displays as well as social gatherings.


Pioneer Log Cabin

The pre-Civil War log cabin on the museum campus was donated to the society during 1994 by the Firman Schaeffer family on whose farm it had stood along White Breast Creek in northwest Lucas County since pioneer days. Original construction is attributed to the Mumford family. 

The logs were disassembled, numbered and brought to the museum campus. Reconstruction, a long process, commenced during the fall of 1997 and was completed during 2001. The 18x18-foot structure is typical of the type of cabin the county’s first settlers would have built for themselves upon arrival.


Blacksmith Shop

The Blacksmith Shop, which incorporates a storage and work area to the rear, was a multi-year project that was completed during 2011. This is the most recent building added to the museum campus and perhaps the last --- we’re flat out of flat ground on which to build anything!

The Society Today …

Currently, the society is governed by a 16-member board and its museum campus is open free of charge to the public from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays from May 1 through September 30. Membership dues are $5 per year.

Board members are: Darlene Arnold, Char Asell, Adam Bahr, Lucinda Burkhalter, Nash Cox, Kylie Dittmer, John Hamilton, Ray Meyer, Ann Moon, Frank Myers, Jerry Pierschbacher, Jim Secor, Joe Sellers, Fred Steinbach and Bob Ulrich (one vacancy).

Marilyn Johnson is curator, Kathleen Dittmer is office manager and Dana Gall Secor cleans.

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