Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on April 25, 2013 at 11:06 AM by Global Reach

Historical Highlights 

The earliest records show that Cooperative Extension work in Franklin County began in 1918 with the organization of the Franklin County Farm Bureau.  Extension work was a service offered by the Farm Bureau.  One of the first things the Farm Bureau did in the county was organize 4-H youth club activities. 

The first girl’s 4-H clubs were organized in 1919 in the towns of Hampton, Popejoy, Sheffield, Alexander, Coulter, Latimer, and Geneva, with an additional club located in rural Morgan Township.  These were known as sewing, breadmaking, and canning clubs. Girls clubs were also organized with an emphasis on home furnishings, music appreciation and health. The first projects of the early years were presented at the annual county picnic.  

The girls club had a State Champion Bread making team in 1924.  Anna Obrecht and Helen Hartwig of Wisner Township.  They demonstrated at the Nation Congress in Chicago.  President Coolidge was in attendance and ate the bread for his breakfast.  A citation was sent to the girls from President Coolidge! 

One of the first boys clubs formed was a countywide Pure Bred Sow and Litter Club.  Because of the success of the first club the next year, 1921, they started a Pure Bred Short Horn Calf Club with five members.  Seven cents per pound was paid for the calves.

In 1923, the first girls 4-H camp in the state was held at Mayne’s Grove for three days in June.  It was attended by 135 girls and 28 leaders from 18 clubs in the county.

In 1930 the Iowa Champion Livestock Judging Team was from Franklin County, coached by V. B. Hamilton.  Team members were Wilbur and Willard Latham, Earl Shaull, and J. Verald Brown.  Many state and nationally ranked teams from Franklin County followed and included:  Charles Showalter, Donald Larsen, Gilbert Behn, Ernest Behn, Kenneth Showalter, Bill Hemm, Robert Butson, Ralph Paullus, Merrill Hanson, Fred Elling, Jim Johnson, Kent Brown, Bob Latham, Bill Dohrman, Charles Akers, Art Wagner, Judy Spainhower, Don Latham, Marion Elling, Bruce Dohrman, Gary Plagge, Paul Flint, Roger Peters, and Bill Schermer, Jr.

Jay S. Van Wert was named the Champion 4-H Club Boy of Iowa in 1929 and sent to the National 4-H Convention in Washington, DC.

J. Verald Brown was named the Champion 4-H Club Boy of Iowa in 1933 and received a trip to the National 4-H Convention in Washington, DC.

The war situation in 1942 necessitated all educational activity regarding livestock and crop production to be approached from the angle of war needs.  Both the boys and girls were involved in raising Victory Gardens, and sold stamps and war bonds.  War stamps were awarded as prizes at the fairs.  Youth explored such areas as Civil Defense – Rationing – Salvage – Money Management – Inflation.  Labor shortage due to the war made great demands on older 4-H members and records state, “In many cases an individual goes from a boy to a man – Youth – the conditioning period – is gone.”

In 1943 the first food stand was opened at the county fair as joint 4-H boys and girls venture.  Today the food stand is the major fundraiser for Franklin County 4-H program dollars and is currently under going remodeling to make it accessible year-round for educational programming.

In 1951 Carl Rehder came to Franklin County as a Youth Assistant. 4-H Club membership totals 532 members:  277 girls in 14 clubs and 255 boys in 14 clubs.

Until 1955, girls wishing to raise and show a livestock project could do so by belonging to a boy’s 4-H club.  In 1955 it was decided that a county-wide girl’s livestock 4-H club, the Livestock Queens, would be formed.  The girls also had to belong to a girl’s 4-H home economics club.  One of the reason these clubs were formed was many of the boys 4-H clubs would not permit girls to join their club.  Today all clubs are co-ed clubs within the county.

Farm Bureau sponsored the 4H programs through its formative years  in cooperation Iowa State University and the United State Department of Agriculture.  In 1956 the County Extension Council was set up to carry out the 4H programs instead of the Farm Bureau as decreed by the Iowa Senate file #198.  

In 1967 4-H Club membership totals 725 members:  399 girls in 21 clubs and 326 boys in 17 clubs.

In 2012 4-H Club membership totals 280 members:  151 girls and 129 boys in 13 clubs.


Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame Inductees from Franklin County:

J. Verald Brown

Mrs. Merle (Ruth) Grace

Alice Van Wert Murray

Dave Flint

Bill Hemm

Ken Showalter

Lorna Brown

April Hemmes

Jay and Sally VanWert

Charles and Mary Beth Sukup

Connie Meyer


Famous Franklin County 4-H’ers:

Iowa Congressman Tom Latham, 4th Congressional District


Visit the Franklin County 4-H Website.

To make a donation to the Franklin County Endowment through the Iowa 4-H Foundation, click this button. Then select Franklin County in the far right column (My 4-H County) and complete the gift information.

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