The Lucas County Historical Society's annual meeting, scheduled for Monday, April 15, is exactly a week away --- and there's still a good deal to be done so it's going to be a busy week. We'll meet again at Pin Oak Lodge, just south of Chariton at Pin Oak Marsh. The business meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and a presentation by the evening's guest speaker, state climatologist Harry Hilacker, at 7 p.m. Pie and coffee will follow. Everyone's welcome.
One of the items of business this year will be approval of amended articles of incorporation and bylaws.
As strange as it seems now, when the society was incorporated during 1965 it had a 50-year life span. As a result, the corporation would expire during 2015 unless its governing documents were amended --- so it seemed like a good idea not to wait until the last minute to deal with that. Principally, the effect of the amendments will be to make the society perpetual --- it looks like it's going to last!
That's the Stephens House up top, the first building on the museum campus at 123 North 17th Street in Chariton. As years passed, Puckerbrush School, Otterbein Church, the two-phase John L. Lewis Building, a log cabin, the barn and a blacksmithshop have been added.
Had circumstances been different, I'd be telling you now that we have the oldest county historical society in Iowa --- but that's not the case. The first Lucas County Historical Society, the first of its kind in Iowa, was organized at the turn of the 20th century when there was intense interest among an aging population of old settlers and Civil War veterans in the county's past. The primary emphasis was on collecting memories rather than memorabilia, and we still have some amazing documents from that first incarnation.
But then the pioneer generation died off and the younger generations weren't as interested, faced as they were by World War I, the Great Depression and World War II. So it was not until 1965 that the threads were picked up again and rewoven into a formal organization. Here's an article from The Chariton Patriot of June 9, 1904, about that first historical society:
"We learn, with much pleasure, from Miss Margaret W. Brown, State Librarian for the traveling library of Iowa, that to Lucas county is to be accorded the very distinguished honor of being the first county, in this state, to organize a county Historical Society.
"The officers of the society are: Hon. W.S. Dungan, president; Thomas Gay, vice president; Miss Laura Fitch, Secretary, and B.F. Bates, treasurer. The intelligence and public spirit of any community always finds fitting expression in the pride and care taken in gathering and premanently recording, the items of its current history for the benefit of those who may come after us, so that they may come to know what manner of men and women lived and labored in this part of the world before them, and what they accomplished, in education, moral and religious progress, as well as in material prosperity.
"It has been said that history is but the recorded observations of other people, who lived before us, and in proporation as they were faithful in recording these observations is the history they left, for our guidance and instruction, valuable or practically valueless and unavailable.
"The Lucas County Historical Society will have a room set apart by the Library Association in their new building, now in process of construction, which will add greatly to the facilities for collecting and preserving data of our local history."