Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on October 27, 2011 at 7:07 AM by Global Reach

Many of the ideals that developed and strengthened the Webster County 4-H Program in the early years are just as important today. Evidence abounds that communication, citizenship and leadership skills were taught to early 4-H members. Today, these same skills are the backbone of helping 4-H members become successful adults in our communities.

In 1917, public meetings were held to stir up interest in Webster County for Boys and Girls Club work. Nineteen meetings were held in one month that reached 1,727 people. These meetings resulted in signing up 162 boys and girls 14 to 20 years of age. Each club was organized, set goals and worked on a project until the goal was met. The club would then disband until another need was identified, and then reorganize to pursue a new goal. The Iowa State Extension Agent and Farm Bureau leaders selected a Boys Club Committee to organize a Pig Club. Similarly, a Girls Club Committee was chosen to organize and set goals for girls Canning and Garden Clubs. This was the beginning of the community clubs that we know today. In 1921 membership was expanded to include girls and boys 10 to 21 years of age.

Soon girls were learning to can fruits and vegetables under the supervision of club leaders trained by the Home Demonstration Agent. Several members from each club were also trained in the ‘cold pack’ method of canning. In 1918 these teams gave 10 public demonstrations of cold pack canning with an attendance of 144. The canning team from the Lanyon club was judged the county winner and represented Webster County at the Iowa State Fair. In the 1942 Extension Narrative it was noted by a mother of a 4-H girl that “I just wanted to go to town yesterday, but Marilyn wouldn’t listen to it. She just wanted to can and can and can all the time.” Marilyn was a girl with an outstanding 4-H record that year.Webster County 1922

Girls’ clubs continued to be organized to teach young girls about bread making, baking, meal preparation and garment construction. Through these club meetings the girls not only learned about the project, but also learned to conduct a business meeting and plan a program. Every girl was expected to keep an expense account which showed the girl just what she cost her family, helped her develop a feeling of responsibility in spending the family’s money, and gave the 4-H girl a standard of values.  In 1920 there were 252 girls in grades 8 – 12 taking part in this project. In 1923 the county was represented at the State Fair for the first time in the Girls Club Department. They had 23 entries, which won four prizes.
Although, the Webster County Agricultural Society was formed in 1858, the first record we have of 4-H involvement was much later. The Exposition Grounds were located in the in the area of the Expo Swimming Pool and included several buildings and a quarter mile race track. In 1930 the grounds were put up for sale and the area was developed much as we know it today. For a while the fair did not have a permanent home. Several locations were used including the Enos Airport on the east side of Fort Dodge and the International Harvestor Building. During WWII an Achievement Show of one or two days was held. 
In 1946 The Fort Dodge Betterment Foundation purchased 11.5 acres on the city’s west side. The first fair was held at this location in 1949 with the addition of the auditorium for girls exhibits in 1951. This property was sold in 1970 to Iowa Central Community College with the agreement that the fair would have three years to find a suitable location. The first fair was held at the present site, south of Fort Dodge, in 1973. The auditorium and arena building were built in 1972, and the pole barns were moved to the new site. In time, many improvements have been made including additional buildings and a home for the fair grounds manager. Much of the work for these fairgrounds over the years has been done by volunteer labor. The fairgrounds is used by the community as well as 4-H members for project meetings and other activities throughout the year.
In 1920, the Pig Club’s work was done through the Hawkeye Fair and Exposition Association. The fair furnished the funding with which a pig was purchased for one boy in each township. The boys were chosen by lot, and the fair association delivered the pig to each boy’s farm. Letters were sent and personal visits were made to help the boys learn how to manage the care of their pigs. This project was deemed a success, and plans were made to repeat the project in 1921. The Heifer Calf Club was started, and although they held no formal meetings, parents realized that by boys being interested in club activities, they were better satisfied with farm life. By 1922, boys and girls participated in Baby Beef and Market Beef Clubs. The goal of these Farm Clubs in 1923 was to get as many boys and girls interested as possible, and to conduct two club achievement days, one in Lehigh and one in Gowrie. 
Boys and Girls Clubs were firmly established in Webster County by 1923. The list of project clubs had grown to include Pig, Heifer Calf, Baby Beef, Market Beef, Poultry, Canning, Garment, Own Your Own Room, Meal Preparation, and Garden. Clubs that would be added later included Colt, Dairy, Lamb, Rate of Gain; clubs continued to expand according to topics that youth were interested in learning about. Today, more than 70 projects are available to Webster County 4-H’ers including a strong Aerospace Project started in the late 1980s. Early club names were the Otho Wits, Washington Wiseacres, Fulton Hustlers, and the JFG Garment Club. The Extension Report states, “The big idea in back of all club work was to develop Iowa’s best crop – its boys and girls.” Over the years, the community played a great role in assisting 4-H’ers with their projects. This remains true today.
 Webster County 4-H 1924
In 1922, 60 girls wearing their 4-H uniforms attended the first county Rally Day in Fort Dodge. The day’s activities included films on topics such as lace making and bread baking. At the high school auditorium they took part in music appreciation activities and elected their first county officers. After listening to a talk by Ida Ahrens of Iowa State University explaining the 4-H Motto, “To Win Without Bragging, To Lose Without Squealing,” they voted to adopt the motto for Webster County 4-H members. This was also the year the first Healthy Girl contest was held. This contest was the forerunner of the Better Groomed Girls Contest in which a county champion was named, and she went on to compete for the title of State Better Groomed Girl. 
In 1925, the first Music Memory Contest for girls was held at Rally Day. The winning club won the use a phonograph for the year; if a club won three years in a row, they were given the phonograph permanently. The 1927 4-H Club Rally Day was attended by 165 club members including 25 boys. For the boys, a sports program was held in the afternoon. The first Honorary Member Initiation Ceremony using crepe paper streamers to form the shape of a four-leaf clover on the stage was held in 1929. The Washington Roses initiated a new 4-H club, the Colfax Clovers. The tradition of using a field clover chain woven onto a rope to initiate the County Honorary Members was continued for many years. Webster County also had the honor, several times, of making the clover chain and initiating the State Honorary Member at Girls State Convention. Another component of early Rally Days was a Style Show which is an activity that remains popular today with both 4-H boys and girls, and is now held during the county fair. The boys clubs also had their own Rally Night events to elect county officers. In 1967 the first joint Rally Night was held in Harcourt to elect County Officers and initiate Honorary Members.
It was recognized in 1923 that the success of county 4-H clubs was attributed to the regular attendance of leaders at the four training schools held that year. This continues to be true today with well-trained county volunteers being very important to the success of community clubs as well as project groups. Many leaders have been long time Extension volunteers with the late Evelyn Peterson, leader of the Lost Grove Leaders of Harcourt, having served the longest tenure, of 64 years. Webster County has had many State 4-H officers and Council members over the years. The first girl elected to State Office was in 1926. The earliest State Officer for the boys from Webster County was in 1931.
Webster County 1929The highlight of the 1928 Webster County 4-H Banquet held in March was the naming of the champion boy and girl 4-H member. This was the beginning of the 4-H Awards Program. Webster County sent their first Achievement Award winners on the Chicago Award Trip in 1952. At the 2004 Banquet more than 100 County Project awards were given. Additional awards include college scholarships given to worthy high school seniors and several hundred awards given to club members for Junior, Intermediate, and Senior Achievement and Outstanding Club Officer.
A 1930 Extension Report states that “4-H Clubs have the highest esteem of our adults. Every day the remark was heard, ‘I wish I had 4-H training when I was young. My children will certainly have the opportunity and my support in 4-H Club work.’ In our county it has helped fill a definite need for the girls who cannot have the advantage of high school. It has helped keep farm girls actively interested in farm life and home making. It has developed artistic, as well as economic value.” Today, comments such as “ I wish I had been in 4-H when I was young,” and “these 4-H exhibits get better every year,” can be heard as people visit the county fair and see the many excellent exhibits of Webster County 4-H members.
Webster County 1929 
In 1931 a Senior 4-H Club was organized for those past high school age and not going to college. The purpose was for members to stay connected to 4-H work. They had educational programs and socials, and did community service projects. This group met a very real need when young men returning from WWII found it a valuable way to get reacquainted with their communities. Hi 4-H began in 1956 with a foodstand at the fair. At this stand, pop and ice cream were sold to help defray expenses for those going to Senior 4-H Camp. In 1958 the first Hi 4-H Dance was held. Interest in Hi 4-H dwindled in the 1990s as older members became more active on County Council and held more part time jobs. One of the activities the County Council continues to sponsor is the teen dances for youth in our community.
Each early girls club was expected to be in charge of one Farm Bureau, high school or PTA Program during the year. In 1930 a news training school for publicity chairmen and 4-H club reporters was held at the courthouse, with 30 attending. In 1937 it was hoped that 4-H Club Demonstrations and Educational Exhibits would help farmers understand hybrid corn more clearly, for many farmers did not understand the meaning of hybrid corn, nor did they understand that not all hybrids were adapted to this area. This was the beginning of the Communications Project for which 4-H is well known today. Other early means of communicating to the public were WOI radio and local radio shows, as well as KQTV in the 1950s and 60s. The Communication and Rate of Gain winners are treated to an ISU Football game as an award each year. This trip was started as a trip to Des Moines for the girls Demonstration Teams who visited Salisbury House, Des Moines Art Institute, Younkers Tea Room and the Iowa State Capitol.
Webster County 1931 Washington D.C.
Webster County 1934 
Webster County 1935
Webster County 4-H 1936
Webster County 1942
The girls were the first club members to go to camp at Dolliver Park, but the boys soon followed suit. County and district camps were held for all ages. In 1937, a 3-day Boys Leadership Camp Program was held at Dolliver Park including a record book clinic led by Herb Plambeck, discussion groups on the Pledge of Allegiance, recreation, and other camp activities. Hi 4-H members enjoyed both a summer and winter camp at the State 4-H Camping Center near Madrid for many years. 4–H Camp has continued to be a great experience for members to meet new friends from around the county and state.
In 1944, Girls 4-H Clubs did their part in the WW II effort by collecting salvage in the form of aluminum, fat, and tin; buying war bonds at their meetings; and being involved in the Mattress Program. This was the start of citizenship being an important part of 4-H. Today, most clubs carry out citizenship activities in their communities and surrounding area. These Clubs do a variety of projects from cleaning parks and highway ditches to providing food and clothing to those in need. On the state level, all that attend State 4-H conference take part in a citizenship activity.
The first King and Queen contest was held in 1956 with James McDonald and Karen Anderson being crowned. The Soil Conservation Service sponsored this contest and still does so today. Each year, the King and Queen contest is one of the highlights of the Webster County Fair.
Webster County 1958
Webster County 4-H 1959
Webster County 4-H 1959
In 1962, State 4-H Conference replaced the State 4-H Conference for girls and the 4-H Short Course for boys. For a while, Campus Day was held to compensate for fewer members being able to attend a state event on the ISU Campus. For the last several years Webster County has had one of the largest, if not the largest, delegations to State Conference.   The first Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF) trip was taken in 1968. Webster County routinely filled a bus with 4-H’ers and their chaperones for this 10-day trip to Gettysburg and the Washington D.C. area. In recent years, Webster County has taken part in an area CWF experience with other counties in our extension area.
Webster County State 4-H Conference 1985The 1970s were a time of change for several aspects of Webster County 4-H. Conference judging began in the mid 1970s. This process of evaluating 4-H exhibits allows the member to explain his or her goals to the judge and how the 4-H’er worked to achieve that goal. Urban Expansion Youth Programs were started in the mid 1970s with members of minority groups taking part in 4-H activities, including camps, State Conference, and exhibiting at the fair. In 1974 the Webster County 4-H Council was formed to replace the former County Officers who were elected by the members. This change was made because, at times, it had become a popularity contest and not all of those elected were truly committed to the required responsibilities. The County Council members are now given an opportunity to earn their place on the council. Webster County has been a state leader in having youth on the 4-H and Youth Committee as full partners in the decision making process of this governing body.
The Webster County 4-H Foundation was formed in 1982 through the effort of Extension staff and several key bankers in the county. Livestock auction buyers were increasingly being asked to support members at the livestock auction, and some felt like pulling their support from the 4-H Program entirely. A public exploration meeting was held, and we envisioned a new support system. It actually became much more inclusive of the membership, which made for more financial support than any of us hoped for. 
Webster County 4-H Food Club
Webster County 4-H Junior Camp at the Iowa 4-H Camp
Webster County Legislative Day with Senator Beall
Webster County 4-H Photography Club
Today the Webster County 4-H Foundation helps fund camps, State Conference, CWF, Football Saturday, Parade of Champions, Leader Recognition and Award Banquet, college scholarships, and other activities throughout the year. Without this additional funding, many of today’s activities would be curtailed.
We think our founders, whose ideals we hold in high esteem, would be proud of 4-H in Webster County as we know it today.
Submitted by:
Karen Amman
Cheryl Christopherson

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Continue the Webster County 4-H History and share your comments below.


I h ave a spoon marked ORTHO 1922. It was my mothers, of course. Is it of any value to you?? Fun to read about thi 4-H beginning.
Nan Reynolds | 3/20/23 at 3:16 AM
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