IAGenWeb Project

Iowa History

       An IAGenWeb Special Project


Join the IAGenWeb Team






By Charles Keyes*

Transcribed by Debbie Clough Gerischer



Biennially for ten years, in the interest of better government, a legislative committee has sent to the curator of the Historical Department, and presumably to the head of every other department of state government, a list of questions of which the following is a specimen:

Name of office or department?

Under what law do you operate?        

Under what department head?

Duties of office or department and functions?

Number of employees?

Salaries of employees?

Is help adequate?

Can it be reduced?

Office space occupied?

Is it adequate?

Is office equipment adequate?

Does any of your work overlap that of any other department?

In your opinion can your office or department be combined with any other at a saving to the state and without lessening efficiency?

Comments and recommendations.

In anticipation of these inquiries the curator of the Historical Department has biennially taken up their import with the trustees of the department.  He has answered the questions with their approval and to the best of his ability, and, following legislative direction, under the trustees and with their approval, has then mapped out his program for the ensuing two years.

The curator has usually reduced to writing and diagrammatic form the working organization, not as a rule or law, but as a guide.  The diagram has been so arranged that all the working departments can be separately seen.  Either of these could be "lifted" from this institution and set over to some other, or set off to itself.  But so setting over or setting off would, in the opinion of the present curator, tend away from and not toward, economy, efficiency and the aims of the institution.

Accomplishments of the Historical Department result from co-operative thought and effort of the curator and his board of trustees; of the curator and his subordinates; of the support and co-operation of the legislative branch of the government through appropriations; and of interested, loyal citizens who are devoted to the educational, historical and aesthetic things the department stands for.

Among the functions of the Historical Department is that of fixing in popular thought the achievements of the men and women who so well laid the foundations of our state, and of those who offered themselves in defense of the Union, and of humanity in the more recent wars.  Carried out through historical, memorial and art activities made or directed by the office of the curator, this has led to the priceless collections now reposing, but for want of room only partially displayed, in the building.  They illustrate by object lesson more vividly to young and old, to educated and uneducated, than could be done in any other way, the struggles through which the people have emerged from simple and crude conditions to the more complex and modern society of today.  They also illustrate in the same vivid way, so far as may be done, the heroic acts of our soldiers in our different wars.  Other exhibits give the student a glimpse of geological ages of the earth and of the prehistoric times of man.  Indian life and history are exhibited, and wild animals and birds, many species of which have disappeared, are shown by mounted specimens.  Nearly every object striking the eye of curious youth or aged person, as he passes through our great collections, has come to the department without cost to the state, and this, we believe, would not be without the supervision of so eminent a board of trustees who are the governor, secretary of state, the state superintendent of public instruction and the chief justice and the entire membership of the Supreme Court, and the tact and skill, great or small, of the curator, assisted of course, by the public spirit and patriotism of so many private citizens.

We may mention among the treasures the great collection of autographs and personal letters of many Iowa leaders, the historical and genealogical library, the unrivaled collection of paintings chiefly of distinguished Iowa men and women, and the public archives division, where over five million documents are methodically filed and indexed, while some three million in storage await case, room and handling, making so rich a field for historical research, and the thousands of volumes of Iowa newspapers, abounding in local, state and national history-all accessible to the public three hundred and sixty-five days in the year, and no less.

The policy of acquisition through the free gift of the people to such a large degree, encouraged through historical department management, is a factor but little known, never inventoried nor appraised, but highly valuable, and which the legislature and the public might properly take into account.  Donors, especially when childless, as they approach the place where they consider joining "the great caravan," often leave the most priceless objects with the Historical Department when sympathetically shown the certainty that otherwise their treasures are bound to pass into mercenary channels.

The General Assembly properly asks, "Does any of your work overlap that of any other department?"  If by this is meant the doing of the same work by a person in our department and person in a different department, the answer is, no.  If it is whether a person in our department does his work in the way that the same type of work is done in a different department, then it must be said that our library handles local history, that is, the histories of our counties, towns, families, etc., the way the general reference division of our great state library handles general history, but the two workers do not come into the same field nor deal with the same persons.  Whether this is overlapping or not, it illustrates that frictionless contact, not wasteful, not inarticulate, nor loose-jointed.  It is the harmonious arrangement, avoiding friction and waste of every kind, particularly that of disjointed or open jointed administration.

The Historical Department materially differs from the usual administrative department in that its purposes are in no sense mercenary or economic; it is educational and cultural and cannot properly be reduced from that classification; it is in the field with schools, churches and hospitals-operated not for gain, and not alone by levies against the tax payer,  It is for the care of our traditions and our history, and for the guidance and inspiration of our own and future generations.  It subsists to a great degree upon gifts.

Our entire supervisory board serves without pay, its head serves for $3,000.00 a year as curator, and without additional pay serves a member and secretary of the Board of Conservation, establishing state parks.

The activities of the department cannot be added to any other not can its functions be distributed at a saving of money, nor without great loss of efficiency.



SEPTEMBER 19, 1919

Reports by the Chairman-That progress is being made on arrangements for the dedication of Backbone Park in Delaware County; that gentlemen from Emmettsburg desire a conference with the Executive Council and this Board concerning Medium Lake; that citizens have appointed committees to further the project of securing park land bordering on Twin Lakes, Calhoun County.

Area Visited-The Board, in company with a committee of Fairfield gentlemen visited the proposed park near Fairfield known as the Chautauqua grounds and made note of its advantages and desirability.

OCTOBER 7, 1919

Inspecting Tours-The secretary was directed to prepare specimen tours based on travel conveniences, to be ready for the 1920 season.

Dedication of Parks-The dates of the dedication of the Keosauqua and Farmington parks were ordered left to the convenience of the people in those localities.

Caretakers of Parks-All matters relating to the employment of caretakers for the parks to be left to the Committee on Rules and "rules" to be construed to embrace the governance of the Board as well as the park areas.

Exhibit Photos of Scenes-Invitation of the Mid-West Horticultural Exposition to display the Board's pictures of scenic places in Iowa at their meeting in the Coliseum in Des Moines, November 10-14, was accepted.

Action on Areas-Eldora-Steamboat Rock area is declared suitable to be considered for reservation as a state park; Big Boulder, near Nashua, certified to Executive Council with the request that it be acquired; Pisgah area, Harrison County, and Grove Township, Shelby County, referred to Harlan; areas in Jackson County referred to Kelso for investigation and report.

OCTOBER 17, 1919

Van Buren County Co-operation-The co-operation of Van Buren County citizens in helping the state acquire park areas is approved and recommended.

Resolutions on Keosauqua Area-Recommended to Executive Council to acquire 657 acres more, making in all 1,126 acres, at a total cost of $46,110, the citizens to pay $6,400.

NOVEMBER 15, 1919

System of Accounts-That Mr. Ford and assistant secretary and some one from the Board of Audit, or Accountant Paul, be requested to audit the Board's available funds and make a system of account-keeping for the Board.

Action on Areas-The matter of a dam at Turtle Lake and letter relating to Sunk Grove Lake, referred to Pammel and Albert; Stone House area on Yellow River, referred Harlan; Harlan directed to get in touch with the Muscatine committee concerning Wild Cat Den area; secretary directed to write P. K. Ware that when deed and abstract of Farmington area are received, the Board will recommend to Executive Council to use $500 in constructing dam and roads; progress reported on Tama area; Pammel to go to Eldora and ask all interested there to unite on one project; Ledru Willitts, of Mt. Pleasant, reports progress on Oakland Mills area.

Acquisition of Books-Executive Council is requested to set aside $100 for acquisition by the Board of books and authorities on parks and conservation.

DECEMBER 6, 1919

Action on Areas-Recommended to Executive  Council that the gift of Irvin Lepley of a tract of land near Union, Hardin County, be accepted and an additional tract connecting it with the Iowa River be acquired; citizens of Mt. Pleasant present proposition concerning the Oakland Mills area and it is recommended it be accepted in accordance with offer of the Mt. Pleasant Commercial Club [Negotiations on behalf of the Board were in the main carried on by the secretary.  A general statement of intended payment in part by local citizens was made to the secretary by Mr. L. C. Willitts, A. W. Miller, W. T. Wright, and ____________. on behalf of the Mt. Pleasant Chamber of Commerce and others.  The secretary endeavored to obtain a definite amount proposed, the citizens naming at one time four thousand dollars and at other times larger amounts.  They, however, proceeded to complete all their negotiations with the Executive Council in the absence of the Board of Conservation and on April 6, 1920, without making any payment, obtained warrants for the payment of their lands in the amount of $14,295.50.-E. R. H.]; Mr. Ford reported progress on Wild Cat Den area; secretary was authorized to secure legal descriptions, etc., of Farmington area; proposed gift of C. M. Mather of a tract near Greene, referred to Harlan.

Committee to Draft Bill-Chairman Pammel and State Treasurer Hoyt, of the Executive Council, were appointed to draft a bill to be presented to the next General Assembly listing desirable options of lake and park lands, carrying a direct appropriation therefore.

DECEMBER 13, 1919

Lake Areas Suitable to be included in General Appropriation Bill.-Chairman Pammel reported that the Committee on Lakes has inspected the following lakes and that they recommend that areas bordering on them be included in a general appropriation bill:  Medium Lake, Palo Alto County; Blue Lake, Monona County; Manawa Lake, Pottawattamie County; Twin Sisters', Cornelia, Elm and Wall Lakes, Wright County;  Rice Lake, Winnebago County; Silver Lake, Worth County; Clear Lake, Cerro Gordo County; Crystal, Eagle and East and West Twin Lakes, Hancock County; North and South Twin Lakes, Calhoun County; Storm Lake, Buena Vista County; Sunk Grove Lake, Pocahontas County; Okoboji, Hottes, Marble and Spirit Lakes, Dickinson County; Tuttle, Iowa, West Swan and High Lakes, Emmet County; Wall Lake, Sac County; Little Wall Lake, Hamilton County.

Other Areas Suitable to be included in General Appropriation Bill.-Chairman Pammel also reported the following list had been reported to the Executive Council as desirable to be included in a general appropriation bill:  Ledges, Boone County; Woodman's Hollow and Boneyard Hollow, Webster County; Steamboat Rock, Hardin County; Falling Spring, Fayette County; Devil's Backbone, Madison County; Ice Cave, Dunning Spring and Ft. Atkinson, Winneshiek County; Morehead Caves and Tete des Morts, Jackson County; Wild Cat Den, Muscatine County; Stone Park, Woodbury County; Palisades, Linn County; Red Rock and Big Tree, Marion County; Cedar Bluffs, Mahaska County' Pictured Rocks, Jones County; Cedar Valley and Rochester, Cedar County; Pisgah and Missouri Valley, Harrison County; Buckingham area, Mills County; Hepburn Park, Page County; Monkey Mountain and Agency House, Wapello County; Myerholz Lake and Toolsboro Mounds, Louisa County; Yellow River and Waterville, Allamakee County; Bixby Park, Clayton County; Oakland, Pottawattamie County; Cherokee, Cherokee County; Big Boulder, Floyd County; Waverly Park, Bremer County; Hackberry Grove, Cerro Gordo County; Tama Indian Reservation, Tama County; Keokuk and Montrose, Lee County; Jasper Pool, Lyon County; Peterson, Clay County; Ocheydan Mound, Osceola County; Davis City, Decatur County; Marble Rock, Floyd County; Nashua, Chickasaw County; Swiss Hollow and Durango Road, Dubuque County; Perry and Farlow Ford, Dallas County; Pilot Mound, Hancock County.

To Codify Rules.- Mr. Harlan was directed to codify rules and regulations for the government of parks and that the Board then take them up with the Executive Council.

Reports on Areas.- Mr. Ford reported that the committee to whom was referred the Oakland Mills area made a report to a joint meeting of the Executive Council and the Board recommending the acquisition of the area, and that the report was adopted; also as to the Buckingham Lake area, they regarded the land priced too high, and the same as to lands desired to be acquired adjacent to Oakland Chautauqua Park, Pottawattamie County.  These matters were again referred to Ford and Hoyt.

back to History Index