About Buena Vista County Historical Society

A group of women met on March 15, 1960, at the home of Mrs. Bennett Marshall to form an organization to stimulate interest in the heritage of Storm Lake, and to generate action for its preservation.  Miss Inez Young, city librarian, told of receiving numerous inquiries from people who had items of historic value which they wished to preserve and exhibit.  The need for a society to organize this effort and to establish a center to exhibit historical artifacts became clear.  It appeared certain that public awareness of an organization dedicated to collecting and protecting these items would result in a welcome and generous response.  And so it proved.  Meetings continued throughout the summer with increased interest and participation countywide.  An organizational meeting was set for September 29, 1960 in the Little Theater, Buena Vista College.

Due to capable planning, this meeting records a signal achievement in parliamentary action: articles of incorporation (the work of Wendell Edson) accepted and signed; a three-year slate of officers and revolving board of Directors elected; and an ambitious program of committee-action in place.  The new officers were Basil Rice, president; Miss Inez Young, vice-president; Mrs. Luther Johnson, secretary; and Mrs. Walter Luhmann, treasurer.

The first major gift to the society was the donation of the Prairie Log Home by Mr. and Mrs. Oscar "Ossie" Anderson of Rembrandt.  As the society flourished, and the need for display space became critical, the city library prepared to move from the old Carnegie library building to new quarters.  The Society arranged a lease with the city to use the Carnegie building as its primary museum to house our collections.  When space again was needed, the need was met through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Melander of Alta, who donated the old Ford building at 214 West 5th Street.  This is now our main museum.  The Elk Township county school house was acquired in 1996 and is pictured below with the log house.


Built in 1872 in Elk Township near Rembrandt, Iowa, this plain but sturdy little school is not a “has been.”  It had lived a normal school life in its early days but as times changed it became outdated and was used for other purposes.  The Buena Vista County Historical Society recognizing the need to perpetuate the history of the “one room schoolhouse,” moved the building to the northeast shore of Storm Lake in 1996.  With the log house very near, a pioneer village has been created.

Each spring its door is flung open.  The month of May brings an influx of students, mainly 3rd graders attired in long dresses and bonnets and buckle overalls.  For a few hours the old school once again absorbs the sounds of children as they read from the McGuffey readers, they practice their writing skills, learn their facts in ciphering, study local history, and sing favorite songs.  Former teachers and others also dressed in the period of the day, offer their time to teach the exuberant children.

Stepping inside one can see a neat compact classroom furnished with desks and other necessities used in the school including: a water pail, washbasin, potbelly stove, and the coal skuttle and Victrolla.  Behind the school is an authentic “two holer” backhouse.  This adds to the “real life” scene but is not usable.  A large bell dominates the roof and is rung before classes begin.  Since the log house is just next door some students have been taught some of the essentials of pioneer living such as, chopping wood, grinding coffee, washing clothes on a wash board, and making funnel cakes.  Pictured below are kids dressed in the normal dress attire of the day.

The school is open in the summer for tours and has been the site of several adult meetings and programs thus expanding its usefulness for many years to come.

For additional information about the Storm Lake Area please click on the link below.
    City of Storm Lake

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