From the past; comes our future...

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Preserving the past of Marshall County for future generations since 1908

The Historical Society of Marshall County was founded on March 7, 1908 by a group of interested Community Leaders spearheaded by Mr. and Mrs. Henry & Anna (Belknap) Howe. For the first fifty years the organization worked to collect and maintain some artifacts, but was most concerned with capturing the memories and historic moments of the region’s earliest settlers. The mission statement has always remained “From the Past; comes our Future.” During this period were held many “Old Settler Days” and orations on the lives and times of the area’s founders. They are also described by Mrs. Nettie Sanford in her book A History of Marshall County, published in 1867. This book’s background research became “The Early Settlers Memories.” This  invaluable resource was organized and indexed by former administrator of the HSMC Mike Vogt, who currently serves as Curator of the Gold Star Museum in Des Moines.

In early years the HSMC met at the Public Library, the Marshalltown Federated Women’s Club (before and after the donation of Binford House), and personal homes. The groups suspended formal meetings for a period of several years during the 1930s, but retained their organization.

In 1952, long-time HSMC member and secretary Susie Sower willed the bulk of her estate for the benefit of the HSMC, and the trust created for that purpose still provides a portion of operational funding. Her estate included her family’s historic home, which became the meeting and display location for the Society. The Glick-Sower Historical Home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. The home is staged for tours as a Victorian house museum.

Also located on the grounds of the home is Taylor #4 Country School. Each spring and fall, all county fourth grade students attend a full reenactment day at the school, which has been restored to the year 1913. Tours of this pristine example of a one-room county school are given as well.

In the mid-1980s the HSMC acquired the museum building at 202 East Church and established 501(c)(3) status. This building was originally a private home built in 1869 by Dr. George Glick. His family and the Fletcher family owned the building until it became successively the Dodge Hotel, a boarding house, a half-way house, and finally an empty building. While the building is not eligible for nomination as a historic home due to its many alterations, it is considered an important part of Marshalltown’s Historic Downtown District. The museum was also home to the Frances Rhoades Williams Library and the Central Iowa Genealogy Association. HSMC provided display space for the Early American Glass Club, founded in 1937.

Due to the tornado in July of 2018, all contents of the museum were placed in storage while the fate of the building was evaluated by the Board of Directors. Ultimately, the decision was made to sell the property. Plans are underway to create a new museum at an undecided location in Marshalltown that will serve as both storage and display space for the collections, including space for events and programs. 

The HSMC administers the Matthew Edel Blacksmith shop in Haverhill, IA for the State Historical Society of Iowa. Also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this site is a uniquely preserved blacksmith shop of a German immigrant and skilled blacksmith and inventor. In addition to daily tours in the summer months, the site is used by central Iowa blacksmiths for demonstrations.

In 2017, another historic home was donated to the HSMC, by Stephen & Madelyn Irvine. The large Italianate structure is located on the historic Lincoln Highway where it runs through the heart of Marshalltown, flanked by many beautiful original homes. This site is staged for tours as a historic home, and showcases prominent citizens and local artists. Due to the tornado on July 19, 2018, this site is now the home of the archive library and HSMC office. The site is also available for private events, meetings, and weddings.

In summary, our sites include two historical homes, a research archive, genealogy library, a blacksmith shop, and a country school. The Historical Society of Marshall County provides tours for local students and youth groups, clubs, bus tours, and interested persons. Our sites are also used by groups for private events. We continue to offer “History on Third Thursday” free programs featuring local speakers, annual National History Day presentations by local middle and high school students, and Humanities Iowa speakers. In addition we are adding other nontraditional types of programs to our calendar. HSMC serves students, community members, researchers, and genealogists, with an average visitor number around 60 per month, not including groups.

We also offer outreach to the community, giving programs to local assisted living facilities, clubs, MCC Early Retirement, and Rotary. HSMC works with the Chamber of Commerce, Convention & Visitors Bureau, Main Street Marshalltown, local educators, Boy and Girl Scouts, area libraries, the UNI Public History Program, and the State Historical Society of Iowa. HSMC has been a resource for renovations of several historic buildings in downtown Marshalltown. We have worked with a documentary film maker filming the “Hidden Mansions of Marshalltown”. We offer tours of downtown Marshalltown, Historic Home tours, and tours of local landmarks, such as the Courthouse and County Jail. We are also a primary resource for our local newspaper for a variety of articles and features.

Our main priority is to continue the mission of the HSMC founders with a sustainable financial position. The HMSC is governed by a board of directors, and employs an Administrator who is responsible for site and office management, maintenance, tours, and research assistance to visitors to the museum and our other sites.