In 1973, Jasper County was one of only five of Iowa's ninety-nine counties that failed to have an organization charged with the responsibility for the preservation of its history. The Hazel Dell chapter of the Questers held a meeting to unite persons interested in Jasper County history. On August 21, 1973, a temporary steering committee composed of Mrs. Liz Jones, Judge Harold Fleck, Jack and Chloressa Dew Wormley and Mrs. Winifred Bond Hundling began the formation of the organization.
On September 5, 1973 a public meeting was held in the Farm Bureau building and the purpose, functions and responsibilities of the newly formed Jasper County Historical Society were presented. The articles of incorporation were sent to the Iowa Secretary of State on October 11, 1973.
The first office was in the basement of the First Newton National Bank with an office area large enough for the museum to start its collection of artifacts. Among the early gifts was a handmade walnut bedroom suite constructed in 1881 by Aaron Custer of Monroe. The B.C. Berg collection of Jasper County Indian artifacts was presented to the Society in 1973. As the treasures of the past accumulated a building committee was formed, chaired by Herb Rucker, and a finance committee charged with raising money for the new structure was chaired by Larry Brierly.
In April of 1977, Homer Denniston and the Denniston Partridge Company donated approximately 2.6 acres in the Denniston Knolls development at the I-80 and Hwy 14 interchange which would allow ample space for the building and parking. By the spring of 1978, over $300,000 was raised and a groundbreaking ceremony was held on April 30, 1978. A team of horses pulled an old-time slip to break ground for the construction. The cornerstone was made from the steps of the second Jasper County Courthouse and was laid on September 9, 1978. The museum was officially dedicated on May 6, 1979.
Most of the early exhibits were temporary, but the Jasper County Conservation Commission did allot $10,000 for a bas-relief sculpture featuring Jasper County to be sculpted by Newton naturalist artist Herman Deaton. The project took nine years to complete and has become our signature exhibit.
In February of 1980, The Maytag Company dismantled their downtown historic center and donated the contents to the museum.
It is now adjacent to our "Washing Machine Center of the World" exhibit that also features washing machines from other Newton Companies. The Maytag Company continued to donate milestone machines and our post-WWII machines now include the last wringer washer made (1983) as well as the last Maytag made in Newton.
In 1989 an addition was added to the building doubling the size of the museum. The museum campus now includes the Ag Building, 1875 Barn, Blacksmith Shop, Smokehouse and the Engine House which houses our Minneapolis Steam Engine.
There have been, and continue to be, changes at the museum; and all of us who value our history owe a debt of gratitude to all the previous volunteer board members, docents and executive directors and others who built this outstanding presentation of Jasper County History. Special recognition must be given to Neal Deaton, the Deaton Studios, and especially Herman Deaton, for their efforts over many years.
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