From the past; comes our future...

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Preserving the past of Marshall County for future generations since 1908

History was made in Marshall County on July 19, without question. As so many who were affected by the tornado that ravaged Marshalltown, the Historical Society of Marshall County benefited from the kindness of several organizations and individuals, many of whom were strangers. Our gratitude knows no bounds.

However, unrelated to the tornado, our docent at the Matthew Edel Blacksmith Shop in Haverhill, Keith Harrod, passed away at the same time we were dealing with the catastrophe in Marshalltown. The shop will be closed to visitors until further notice, and we offer our deepest sympathy to Keith’s family and friends. He was a remarkable man, who brought the history of the Blacksmith shop to life in a global context, as well as being very involved with astronomy groups in central Iowa. He is greatly missed.

All six of the properties owned and administered by the Historical Society and the Sower Trust were affected to varying degrees. At all six of those buildings that sustained damage, absolutely none of collections and archives were broken or lost, and most importantly no people were hurt. Local lore about Henry Anson choosing this location to settle was proved wrong after all these years. As the story goes, he was advised by local natives that areas situated near water were safe, so he chose to settle between the Iowa River and Linn Creek based on that advice.

Ironically, the tornado struck as we were preparing for our July History on Third Thursday. Humanities Iowa speaker Mary Kay Shanley was in town ready to present on the Iowa State Fair, and HSMC Administrator and Sower Trustee Michelle Roseburrough was en route to open the Museum for the program when the storm struck. Several board members and trustees have homes and businesses that were damaged by this catastrophe.

The most familiar of our sites, the Historical Museum at 202 E. Church Street, was the hardest hit. Many windows were broken and the building sustained both damage to the roof and to the second floor wall on the east side of the building. This location has been the headquarters of the HSMC since 1987, housing displays, the archive and library, and the main office. Contents were dirty and blown about, but are intact, and will be cleaned and stored elsewhere while the condition of the building is addressed. The office has already been moved to the Mowry Irvine Mansion at 503 West Main Street, and arrangements are being made to move the Frances Rhodes Williams Library and Archive to that location as well.

The Glick-Sower Historical Home suffered broken windows, roof damage, and a downed chimney. As at all of the sites, the contents were dirty, but spared. Taylor #4 Schoolhouse on that property suffered similar effects. Both buildings are being cleaned and in the process of repair.

Less familiar is the storage home of our collections not currently on display, 123 East Main Street. This building adjoins the newly renovated Kibbey Building, and was a part of the bequest of the Susie Sower estate. The brick facade was blown down and a window broken by the tornado, but the collection, which included the entirety of the work of Dorothy Apgar, was undamaged.

Thanks to the generous gift of the Irvine family, we were able to immediately relocate our headquarters to 503 West Main, the Mowry Irvine Mansion. As this stately Victorian also lies directly in the path of this event, many trees were lost and the building and the neighboring property, a rental residence also owned by the HSMC, sustained exterior damage from the tornado, but no interior damage occurred. Thanks to the generosity of board members, trustees, and other community efforts we have been able to move forward immediately in our effort to preserve the past for the future for Marshall County.

This list is by no means complete, and we offer our apologies to any we miss in this first expression of gratitude to those who have lifted a hand or a rake or funds to assist in rehabilitation. Board members Dan Brandt, Steve Sutherland, Julie Lang, Scott Mason, Lisa Naig, and Theresa Walton, Administrator and Trustee Michelle Roseburrough, and their friends and families who have all been on ground zero at all our sites. We also owe unlimited gratitude to the Marshall County Conservation Board, Linda York, Jay Paglia, WEB Electric, Borota Heating and Cooling, ServiceMaster Rice, Hay Construction, and all the teams that they enlisted, as well as those who offered their help but didn’t leave their names who helped clear the rubble and helped us move forward.

As we banded together to move the necessities of our office to our new headquarters, scanning displays at the Museum for items that could be relocated immediately, eyes lit on the Courthouse memorabilia, both from the building of that edifice and from the 1980s effort to save it. Those artifacts are a testament to both the purpose of the Historical Society since 1908 to the present banding together of our citizens to care for their neighbors.

As we are in the business of preserving our local history, this extraordinary effort has done everything to reinforce our mission. This is an amazing community with a lifelong history of support for its citizens. We are, and have always been, truly strong together.

For more updates and to view photos of our sites after the tornado visit our Facebook page at