The Wapello Republican
June 18, 1981, Section B, Page 42

Transcribed by Shirley Plumb, July 4, 2018


     On April 23, 1964 a group of interested persons met at the Louisa County Extension office to discuss the formation and need of establishing a Louisa County Historical Society. Gaylord Elliott was elected temporary chairman and Miriam Mackey named secretary protem.

     An organization committee was named. This committee consisted of Gaylord Elliott, Robert Gustafson, Russel Newell, Roy Pierce, Mrs. Wayne Carter and Lucille Parsons. Mrs. Parsons’ collection of Indian artifacts collected by Don Parsons was to form the nucleus of the collection and exhibit for a museum.

     Mr. James Hodges, president of the Wapello Chamber of Commerce, spoke of the advantages of having such an organization in the county.

     The purposes of such a society would be:

     1. Collection and preservation of historical and antique items.

     2. Marking and publicizing of historical sites.

     3. Storage of, and insurance for, valuable artifacts.

     4. Correct identification.

     5. Research and verification of historical events that took place in this area.

     At this meeting a motion was made by Twyla Gilkey and seconded by Alta Otto that such a count organization be formed. Motion carried unanimously.

     A committee, with Russell Newell a chairman, was named to draw up articles of incorporation and bylaws. On May 25, 1964 a meeting was held at the Wapello City Hall. Over 50 interested persons were present. At this time the articles of incorporation and bylaws were discussed. Russell Newell discussed the advantages of incorporation, should the society ever acquire property in the future. The prepared articles of incorporation and bylaws were adopted.

     A board of directors was to be elected rather than appointed. . The executive officers had to be elected from the board members. The first board members were: Russell Newell, Roy Pierce, Alta Otto, Twyla Gilkey, Lucille Parsons, Catherine Schwob, Ruth Fisher, Fred Schwob, Jess McGill, Robert Gustafson, John Gabriel, Dwight Stineman, and Frances Swans. Officers elected were: President Roy Pierce, vice president Fred Schwob, Secretary-Treasurer Twyla Gilkey.

     It was suggested by Millicent Winter that the signing of the Articles of Incorporation was truly an honor and should be recognized as such. Mrs. Winter made a motion that the annual dues be set at three dollars, but that dues for charter members privileged to sign the Articles of Incorporation pay five dollars. This motion carried.

     At a board meeting on November 16, 1964 the membership had grown to 28 members. There was a balance of $ 135.36 in the treasury.

     A special charter meeting was called for November 30, 1964. This meeting was held in the lunch room of the Wapello High School. By the end of the session 110 members had paid their dues and signed the articles of incorporation. Mr. W. O. Weaver presented a paper on the Air Line Railroad and Burris City. This paper was presented with appropriate anecdotes, maps, etc. This talk was recorded for future reference.

     At the first general meeting on February 13, 1965 the membership had reached 117 and there was a balance of $ 534.13 in the treasury.

     A board of directors meeting was held on August 10, 1965. The president, Roy Pierce requested Russell Newell to secure information for, and do necessary follow up work, in connection with the recommendations of Congressman Schmeidhouser, to the Department of Interior, that Toolesboro be made a “National Historic Landmark”.

     On September 19, 1965 the first “History Caravan” by the society was held. Brochures had been prepared containing pertinent facts about the places to be visited. Thirty-five places of interest were visited, the last place being the home of Judge Francis Springer, south of Columbus City. Mrs. Edith Pierce gave a very informative talk about this historic homestead and its builder. Other tours were held covering the county, the last one touring Grandview in September 1972.

     By the time of the annual meeting on March 23, 1966 the new hew had evidently worn off as the membership now reported to be 35.

     At the executive board meeting on May 4, 1966 the president, Russell Newell reported that he had met with Mr. Petersen, of the State Historical Society and of Mr. Petersen’s willingness to meet with the officers of the society and of his hopes of establishing a National Historic Site at the Toolesboro mounds.

     On June 30, 1966, president William Petersen of the Iowa Historical Society, curators of the State Society, representatives of the Great River Road organization, and some political candidates were guests of the society. They gathered at the Toolesboro Mounds. The society president, Russell Newell, conducted a tour and visited the site of the first landing of Marquette and Joliet on what later became Iowa, and Louisa County.

     During the board of directors meeting on August 3, 1966, the president, Russell Newell, reported that he had been assured that there will be a National Historical Landmark placed in the Toolsboro vicinity, under the supervision of the National Park Service. The dream of a museum was mentioned at this time.

     At some of the meetings in 1966 an interest was expressed in making a study of the cemeteries in Louisa County. At the board of directors meeting on November 2, 1966, Nell Weber reported that she had conferred with Mrs. Pettis, Wapello librarian at that time, ho was interested in the cemeteries of the county. Mrs. Pettis had informed Mrs. Weber that a registration of graves was made in 1930 as a WPA project. At that time there were 62 cemeteries.

     A general meeting was held on February 1967. It was suggested, that in addition to the original elected officers, should be added the offices of corresponding secretary and historian.

     At a board of directors meeting on January 17, 1968, W. O. Weaver reported on the Toolesboro project concerning acreage to be acquired. It was decided to meet with Dr. Petersen of the State Historical Society in order to effect a settlement on the matter of the Toolesboro and Wesley sites.

     At the February 21, 1968 general meeting, Lyle Weber told of the society’s project of having a museum at Toolesboro. Lyle and Russell Newell had visited such museum at the site of the Spirit Lake Massacre at Arnolds Park. The new bylaws for the society, which had been completed by Nell Weber and Twyla Gilkey, were read. With a few deletions these by laws were voted on and adopted. By this time the treasury had grown to $1,025.27.

     At a board of directors meeting on July 17, 1968 the president, Twyla Gilkey, read a letter she had received from the Picture Frame Gallery on Lahaska, Pennsylvania. This letter told of a quilt in their possession that had been quilted in 1892 by the ladies of the United Presbyterian Church in Columbus City. On the quilt was a map of Louisa County including several interesting details. It was moved and seconded the society should further investigate this, with the possibility of purchasing the quilt.

     Several years later this quilt was purchased by some interested parties, from the granddaughter of the former minister of the Columbus City Church. It was presented to the historical society. It was discovered at the time of purchase that the quilt had been made by the ladies of the United Brethern Church. This quilt was framed and hangs in the hallways of the Louisa County Court House.

     The chief topic of discussion at the general meeting on November 20, 1968, was what to do with, and how to make the best use of the many valuable artifacts and antiques being collected. It was the general hope of all present that “sometime, somewhere a building will be available to store these possessions”

     On October 21, 1969 a special called meeting of the officers was held. The purpose of this meeting was to inform the officers of the results of a meeting Wm Weaver, Russell Newell, and Representative Dean Corey had with William Petersen. The purpose of the meeting with Mr. Petersen was to formulate plans for a tour of historical places near the Toolesboro Museum which had recently been completed. State officials were to be guests on this tour.

     According to the minutes on Sunday, November 9, 1969 this was a memorable day in the history of the society. A larger than expected crowd gathered at the Toolesboro Mounds and museum where the tour was to start. Mr. William Weaver and Mr. Russell Newell explained the historical sites as the group proceeded from one site to the other. These included the sites of the Great Tribal Council of 1832; Burris City, wiped out by flood in the 1850’s the landing sites of Joliet and Marquette, the Indian Mounds of the Hopewell culture. Included among the guests for the day were, William J. Petersen, of the State Historical Society, a group of twenty Indians from the Tama settlement, including George Young Bear, chief of the Mesquakee Indians, Elmer Vermeer, chief assistant to Governor Ray, Senator Stevens, Rep. Dean Corey, David Stanley and many, many others.

     Following the tour over 100 people were served dinner at the VFW Hall in Wapello.

     When the general membership meeting was on November 19, 1969 it was reported that the new Articles of Re-Incorporation were now on file. Then new articles necessary because of change in tax laws pertaining to the accepting of legacies and donations, whereby the donor get tax credit for these gifts.

     The Museum Committee reported that for the time being they were concentrating on the Toolesboro project and looking forward to the big celebration there in 1973, commemorating the three hundredth anniversary of the landing of Marquette and Joliet.

     It was reported by Mr. Weaver at the April 15, 1971 Executive Board meeting that the legislature had granted $10,000 for the development of the Toolesboro area. No dissent in the House and only 2 against in the Senate. Governor Ray had signed the bill. $ 50,000 had been asked for.

     Mr. Weaver reported by letter to the October 21, 1971 Executive Board meeting that $ 12,000 more had been appropriated to further the development of the Toolsboro area. Russell Newell told of his appointment to represent the state of Iowa on the Tri-Centennial Committee for the Joliet-Marquette Expedition, which will stop at Toolesboro.

     On April 18, 1973 the board was asked by Neil Weber, chairman of the program committee for the Louisa County Tricentennial, if the society would exhibit at the Toolesboro observance, it would be housed in the former Toolesboro Methodist Church. At the May 30, 1973 board meeting was voted to allow up to $100.00 to Jim and Mary Beth Carey for materials needed for constructing and fixing an exhibit in the church.

     On June 24 & 25, 1973 the long planned for observance of the Tricentennial of Joliet’s and Marquette’s landing on, what is now Louisa County soil, took place. Huge crowds attended. Many dignitaries were present. State officials including Governor Ray, representative of the French and Canadian governments, the landing of Marquette and Joliet along with them accompanying voyageurs arrived at the landing below the Toolesboro bluff precisely on time.

     James Carey suggested at the July meeting in 1975 that a bus trip be planned to a place of historical interest. This suggestion was followed through and later in the year a bus trip was planned by Mary Beth Carey to Galena, Illinois. This trip was just the beginning of many bus trips to places of historical interests, dinner theaters, etc., all under the able arrangement and supervision of our Louis County Historical Tour Guide, Mary Beth Carey. To date 45 bus trips have been taken, from one day to four day trips.

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     From the time of the society’s inception on April 23, 1964, it had been the dream of many of the members to own a building that could be converted to a museum, or heritage center, or own a plot of ground on which a suitable building could be erected. Many sites and building had been discussed and looked at. The city of Wapello had been gracious enough to allow the society the use of a room above the city hall, but for various reasons this had never been too successful. The abandoned church at Toolesboro was considered. It was voted down by four voted through a man ballot that extended over a period of five days.

     Our society began in earnest in 1979 to accumulate money, for the above stated purpose, by having an antique and hobby show.

     One of our faithful members, Irene McDill, passed away July 1, 1980. When her will was read it was found that she had left a considerable amount to the society for the erection, or purchase of a suitable building for a museum.

     On Monday March 9, 1981 the president of the society, Wm. H. Matthews, met with the Louisa County Board of Supervisors and explained that Louisa County was one of the few, if not the only county in the state that did not have a museum. We had been notified that a building was for sale. The board graciously offered a generous amount from revenue sharing funds for our use should the society decide to purchase the building.

     Another memorable meeting of the general membership was held at the Townsend Avenue Church of God in Wapello on Thursday evening, March 26, 1981. After an inspection of the building and an explanation of the funds available, ballots were cast. The vote was 50 – 0 in favor of purchasing the building.

     However, in spite of the jo and the glad feeling of accomplishment, there was a note of sadness, for many of the early members of the society who had worked long and hard for a place to display many of the antiques and artifacts of our rich heritage we no longer with us. Some of those early workers, included, Lucille Parsons. Alta Otto, LeRoy Pierce: Robert Gustafson, Fred Schwob, Ruth Fisher and Irene McDill. It would be altogether fitting and proper if friends or relatives of these person could give to the society a sum of money in their memory.

     At present time the society has a membership of 155. The 1981 officers are: William H. Matthews President, Valeen Ziegenhorn Vice president, Robert Hedemann Treasurer, Treva Beard Corresponding secretary, Norma Schweitzer Recording Secretary, Oleta Schaper Historian, Mary Beth Carey Tour Director, Orval Schmeiser Chaplain.

     Board of Directors through 1981 are Bonnie Weeks, Mae Jahr, Deane Jamison, Edwin Wiederrecht, Virginia Wheeler, Bart Schweitzer, Norma Schweitzer, Treva Beard.

     Board of Directors through 1982 are Doris Clark, Keith Clark, James Carey, Valeen Ziegenhorn, Mary Beth Carey, Crystalle Schmeiser, Orval Schmeiser, Helen Morrison.

     Board of Directors through 1983 are Oleta Schaper, William H. Matthews, Glenn Beard, Dorothy McConahay, Phyllis Connolly, Robert Hedemann, Gladys Hedemann, Ralph Faris, Winona Faris, Phyllis McKinney, Keith Ziegenhorn.

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