Davis County, Iowa 4-H History

Iowa 4-H History By County

Davis County, Iowa 4-H History

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As I research the history of 4-H in Davis County, I am again reminded of the importance of record keeping. Records of project work are important as a learning tool to teach youth a life skill. Records of events surrounding the 4-H clubs in our county are an important tool in documenting our history. I was not easily able to find records of 4-H in our county before the 1930. It would have been a great thing if someone had those records stored in a place where they are accessible to all. Therefore, I am starting with the records that I was able to find.Davis County Farm Tour 1

Looking through those records makes me ponder the lives of 4-Hers and their families through the early years and speculate what the goals were for the youth of those days. I can only think that their goals were to be productive citizens with skills necessary to maintain a healthy life style, skills they would use to later provide for a family and to make a living.
 
Davis is a very rural county with Bloomfield as our county seat. There are several small towns surrounding Bloomfield. The population count has never been large. The census of the county is between 15,620 in 1900 and 9,959 in 1950. With a slight decline, the count was 8,703 is 2005. The town of Bloomfield has about 2,500-2,700 residents. Even though it is not a very populated area with large businesses, the number of clubs in the county grew steadily for many years. There were as many as 30 very active clubs some years in the county with nearly 400 boys and girls as members in 1958. There were 9 clubs in the county in 2005 with about 200 members. In 2011 there were 9 clubs with 178 members.
 
After spending time in the archives at our local newspaper and going through old 4-H club historian's books at our extension office, I am lead to believe that 4-H in Davis County must have had strong ranks in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Mention is made in the Davis County Republican and the Bloomfield Democrat, our local newspaper, of boys and girls club members making preparations to exhibit at the Davis County Fair August Davis County Farm Tour 2 - Bily Eakins12-15, 1930. County Agent Walter Brown reported that there were 61 beef entries and 14 dairy calves from 19 boys and girls. Exhibits were also expected to be displayed under the amphitheatre. Rows of gleaming, colorful jars of canned fruits and vegetables prepared by girls' club members were also on their way to the county fair. About 80 girls were enrolled in the food preservation project. The girls, along with their leaders, had met with Dr. S. W. Edgecombs from ISU and Miss Nellie Stromer, home demonstration agent. Training was given on growing and preserving vegetables and fruits, preserving meat and planning meals. I can almost smell the aromas and feel the heat from the canners in those family kitchens as the girls learned a necessary skill used in contributing to their families' good health.
 
Mention was also made of trees being offered by the county agent to use as 4-H projects. I wonder if those 70 year old trees might still be providing shade or wind and erosion control or fence posts from Osage Orange plantings. There were demonstration teams and livestock judging teams. A nutrition champion was selected from the county at the 1930 Davis County Fair.
 
Always an important part of the "learning by doing attitude" of the 4-H program have been teaching workshops. Records show tractor maintenance, sewing, furniture refinishing, child care, health, art and many other subjects covered in those workshops. The tractor maintenance workshops were held at 6 diffDavis County Future 4-H'erserent local farm equipment dealers and mechanical departments. So many youth attended that they have to break the schedule up into 2 clubs per dealership and meetings that were held on 6 different days. When the 4-Hers completed the workshops, they had gained the knowledge of how to maintain and extend the life of the tractors on their home farm.
 
One interesting event held each year in the 1940s, 50s and 60s was a county -wide health screening. Members were encouraged to come to various locations in the county seat of Bloomfield were physicians and their assistants, dentists and eye care staffs were giving free health screenings to all 4-H members. In a 1958 report in the Bloomfield newspaper, it stated that 82 boys had been examined and the following results were reported to their parents: problems with acne-13; nail, skin and scalp difficulties-16; overweight-5; underweight-1; vision recheck-6; throat, ears and glands-6; foot disorders-16; abdomen or hernia-2; 31 boys had 107 cavities; need extractions-10; teeth should be cleaned-28; teeth should be straightened -13; gums inflamed-2; and teeth should be exrayed-5. One must think that going to the doctor was not an every week or month occurrence. A fine meal was served to the medical staff after the examinations. 4-H clubs donated the food and it was prepared and served by the County Girls officers. Girl members were scheduled to have their screenings at a later date.
Davis County Leaders Training 
In the earlier years, the girl members were involved in only one project area per year...those project areas being sewing, cooking or home furnishings. Then came the time when you could select your favorite project areas from a list of 20 possibilities in the 60s. There are numerous project areas in the current year. Self determined is an open-ended project where 4-H youth can pick his or her project area.
 
There were boys clubs and girls clubs. The boys clubs were agriculture­ oriented and the girls clubs were concerned with working on projects related to home and family care. If a girl wanted to also compete with livestock projects at the county fair, she would have to be a member of both a girls club and a boys club. With the co-ed clubs of today, all projects are covered in one club.
Club names were always clever. There were the Cheerie Chix, Davis Chargers, Dew Drop Inn, Tiny Toilers, Bloomfield Bombers, Country Cousins, Yearlings, We Can, Honey Bees and Clever Cloverettes. Several clubs were named after areas in the county like Vinegar Hill, Roscoe Prairie Rambles, Chequest Eagles and the Soap Creek Demons. After the onset of gender equity, clubs with specific boy or girl connotations were not allowed. Little Women, Lucky Lassies and Darling Daughters soon found their club names changed. Now -with co-ed clubs, we have names like Odyssey, Kalico Kids, and Pure Country.
 Davis County Girls Club
Record books were a very important part of the 4-H experience and are due in the Extension Office for judging by Oct. 1. Clippings make reference to several trips and conference events where the members had to turn in their record books for the judging committee to select the 4-H members that would be allowed to participate. At one time in Davis County, you could not get your premium money from the fair exhibits unless you turned in your record book in October for the annual judging.
 
As I look through the ledgers at the extension office where award recipient's names are recorded, I see many family names familiar to me after spending almost my entire 57 years of life here in Davis County. Those records seem to begin in the 30s. There weren't many award categories in the early days. I imagine the awards were more coveted in those days. Project awards were presented as well as awards created by businesses, organizations and families as a memorial to loved ones passed away. As time has past, more and more awards have been created. Some awards listed include Chris Clover Outstanding First Year Member, Artist of Distinction, Emerald Elite, Bolin Memorial, Scott Memorial, Barker Memorial, Shawn Sample Memorial, Davis County Cow Belles and Cattlemen's Awards and the Dale Hendricks Safety Award. All of these are unique to the Davis County 4-H program. The youth of Davis County have certainly had ample opportunity to grow in their knowledge and skills and be rewarded for their progress. For years, community members have been more than generous with their support of the 4-H program through providing awards for youth and their leaders.
Davis County 1982 demonstration 
You can surely bet 4-H was a social asset in our small south-central Iowa county. 4-H functions encouraged growth of social skills. County camp, Rally Night, officer training, hayrides, roller skating parties, Halloween and Christmas parties as well as the camaraderie of exhibiting at the county and state fair have provided times for 4-H members to interact and make lasting friendships. In the 1950s the county 4-H officers sponsored "record hops" in the community hall that was located above the fire station in Bloomfield. 4-H members flocked to these events and a good time was had by all! There were tractor rodeos, achievement shows, club tours and state conference to attend. More importance was given to 4-H sponsored activities in the early days because youth were not involved in so many school activities.
 
Building family ties always has been and will continue to be a very important part of the 4-H program. Meetings were generally held in the members' homes. It was nothing to have an entire club working on their sewing or refinishing project in your basement or out under the shade trees in your back yard. Dads and Moms have opened their homes to their children's fellow club members for all kinds of workshops. Dads have provided hay wagons for hayrides and large brush piles for bon fires following the same. Families were treated to co-op meals and soup suppers. A favorite was a picnic during or following a club tour where you would visit members' homes to see the livestock or crop projects that they would be exhibiting at the county fair. Many times that picnic would be held along a creek or at lake Wapello State Park. Parents have hauled kids back and forth to the camp at Madrid and livestock projects back and forth to county and state fairs. One sign that we used to see in our county was a green and white sign that had the outline of the state of Iowa and a 4-H clover. The sign said, "A 4-H Club member lives here". It was hung on your gate or corner post with pride... not only by the 4-H member but by his or her family. Many members have been preceded in Davis County 4-H history by their parents, grandparents and great grandparents. It is definitely a family tradition.
 
Fund raising activities are a usual part of the 4-H experience. Davis County has been no exception. Clubs have conducted bake sales and wreath sales. Pop and food stands are always a favorite. Members have sold candy bars and greeting cards. One club would go into corn fields after the fall harvest and pick up any ear corn left on the ground. They would sell the corn for money for their club treasury. Blanket and quilt raffles also brought in much needed money.
 
Davis County Legislative DayOne noticeable difference in the 4-H program has been the way the judging of fair exhibits is handled. In the early days, the members brought their home economics exhibits into the fair and they dropped them off for the judging. Members would later return to see the ribbon placing they had received. There was no communication with the judge. Now the exhibits are judged in a conference setting where the 4-H member and the judge discuss the learning that happened and the quality of the exhibit. Many of the ribbons handed out in the early times were red ribbons and white ribbons. The coveted blue ribbon was not handed out nearly as often as they are today.
 
In 1981 a monthly newsletter to be sent to 4-H families was established. It was a great way to keep everyone involved in the program updated on opportunities open to members and on dates and rules set forth by the 4-H and Youth Committee.
The 4-H and Youth Committee has been the governing body of our county program. Adults and youth are nominated by the club members. Then those names are submitted to each club for their vote. Top placers are them recommended to the Extension Council to serve a one to three year term on the committee. In early years, each club had a candidate for county officer. Those candidates campaigned at the county level at Rally Night. A team of boys and a team of girls were elected to serve in the various county offices. Now there is a County Council made up of one or more delegates from each club. They have a monthly meeting to help plan Awards Night, plan activities and fund raisers at
 
As I research the history of 4-H in Davis County, I am again reminded of the importance of record keeping. Records of project work are important as a learning tool to teach youth a life skill. Records of events surrounding the 4-H clubs in our county are an important tool in documenting our history. I was not easily able to find records of 4-H in our county before the 1930. It would have been a great thing if someone had those records stored in a place where they are accessible to all. Therefore, I am starting with the records that I was able to find.
 
Davis County - Our ClubLooking through those records makes me ponder the lives of 4-Hers and their families through the early years and speculate what the goals were for the youth of those days. I can only think that their goals were to be productive citizens with skills necessary to maintain a healthy life style... .skills they would use to later provide for a family and to make a living.
 
Davis is a very rural county with Bloomfield as our county seat. There are several small towns surrounding Bloomfield. The population count has never been large. The census of the county is between 15,620 in 1900 and 9,959 in 1950. With a slight decline, the count was 8,703 is 2005. The town of Bloomfield has about 2,500-2,700 residents. Even though it is not a very populated area with large businesses, the number of clubs in the county grew steadily for many years. There were as many as 30 very active clubs some years in the county with nearly 400 boys and girls as members in 1958. There are 9 clubs in the county in 2005 with about 200 members.
 
After spending time in the archives at our local newspaper and going through old 4-H club historian's books at our extension office, I am lead to believe that 4-H in Davis County must have had strong ranks in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Mention is made in the Davis County Republican and the Bloomfield Democrat, our local newspaper, of boys and girls club members making preparations to exhibit at the Davis County Fair August 12-15,1930. County Agent Walter Brown reported that there were 61 beef entries and 14 dairy calves from 19 boys and girls. Exhibits were also expected to be displayed under the amphitheatre. Rows of gleaming, colorful jars of canned fruits and vegetables prepared by girls' club members were also on their way to the county fair. About 80 girls were enrolled in the food preservation project. The girls, along with their leaders, had met with Dr. S. W. Edgecombs from ISU and Miss Nellie Stromer, home demonstration agent. Training was given on growing and preserving vegetables and fruits, preserving meat and planning meals. I can almost smell the aromas and feel the heat from the canners in those family kitchens as the girls learned a necessary skill used in contributing to their families' good health.
 
Mention was also made of trees being offered by the county agent to use as 4-H projects. I wonder if those 70 year old trees might still be providing shade or wind and erosion control or fence posts from Osage Orange plantings. There were demonstration teams and livestock judging teams. A nutrition champion was selected from the county at the 1930 Davis County Fair.
 
Davis County - Our LeadersAlways an important part of the "learning by doing attitude" of the 4-H program have been teaching workshops. Records show tractor maintenance, sewing, furniture refinishing, child care, health, art and many other subjects covered in those workshops. The tractor maintenance workshops were held at 6 different local farm equipment dealers and mechanical departments. So many youth attended that they have to break the schedule up into 2 clubs per dealership and meetings that were held on 6 different days. When the 4-Hers completed the workshops, they had gained the knowledge of how to maintain and extend the life of the tractors on their home farm.
 
One interesting event held each year in the 1940s, 50s and 60s was a county -wide health screening. Members were encouraged to come to various locations in the county seat of Bloomfield were physicians and their assistants, dentists and eye care staffs were giving free health screenings to a1l4-H members. In a 1958 report in the Bloomfield newspaper, it stated that 82 boys had been examined and the following results were reported to their parents: problems with acne-13; nail, skin and scalp difficulties-16; overweight-5; underweight-1; vision recheck-6; throat, ears and glands-6; foot disorders-16; abdomen or hernia-2; 31 boys had 107 cavities; need extractions-10; teeth should be cleaned-28; teeth should be straightened -13; gums inflamed-2; and teeth should be exrayed-5. One must think that going to the doctor was not an every week or month occurrence. A fine meal was served to the medical staff after the examinations. 4-H clubs donated the food and it was prepared and served by the County Girls officers. Girl members were scheduled to have their screenings at a later date.
 
In the earlier years, the girl members were involved in only one project area per year... those project areas being sewing, cooking or home furnishings. Then came the time when you could select your favorite project areas from a list of 20 possibilities in the 60s. There are numerous project areas in the current year. Self determined is an open-ended project where 4-H youth can pick his or her project area.
 
There were boys clubs and girls clubs. The boys clubs were agriculture ­oriented and the girls clubs were concerned with working on projects related to home and family care. If a girl wanted to also compete with livestock projects at the county fair, she would have to be a member of both a girls club and a boys club. With the co-ed clubs of today, all projects are covered in one club.
Club names were always clever. There were the Cheerie Chix, Davis Chargers, Dew Drop Inn, Tiny Toilers, Bloomfield Bombers, Country Cousins, Yearlings, We Can, Honey Bees and Clever Cloverettes. Several clubs were named after areas in the county like Vinegar Hill, Roscoe Prairie Rambles, Chequest Eagles and the Soap Creek Demons. After the onset of gender equity, with specific boy or girl connotations were not allowed. Little Women, Lucky Lassies and Darling Daughters soon found their club names changed. Now.with co-ed clubs, we have names like Odyssey, Kalico Kids, and Pure Country.
 
Record books were a very important part of the 4-H experience and are due in the Extension Office for judging by Oct. 1. Clippings make reference to several trips and conference events where the members had to turn in their record books for the judging committee to select the 4-H members that would be allowed to participate. At one time in Davis County, you could not get your premium money from the fair exhibits unless you turned in your record book in October for the annual judging.
 
Davis County - Sara StevensonAs I look through the ledgers at the extension office where award recipient's names are recorded, I see many family names familiar to me after spending almost my entire 57 years of life here in Davis County. Those records seem to begin in the 30s. There weren't many award categories in the early days. I imagine the awards were more coveted in those days. Project awards were presented as well as awards created by businesses, organizations and families as a memorial to loved ones passed away. As time has past, more and more awards have been created. Some awards listed include Chris Clover Outstanding First Year Member, Artist of Distinction, Emerald Elite, Bolin Memorial, Scott Memorial, Barker Memorial, Shawn Sample Memorial, Davis County Cow Belles and Cattlemen's Awards and the Dale Hendricks Safety Award. All of these are unique to the Davis County 4-H program. The youth of Davis County have certainly had ample opportunity to grow in their knowledge and skills and be rewarded for their progress. For years, community members have been more than generous with their support of the 4-H program through providing awards for youth and their leaders.
 
You can surely bet 4-H was a social asset in our small south-central Iowa county. 4-H functions encouraged growth of social skills. County camp, Rally Night, officer training, hayrides, roller skating parties, Halloween and Christmas parties as well as the camaraderie of exhibiting at the county and state fair have provided times for 4-H members to interact and make lasting friendships. In the 1950s the county 4-H officers sponsored "record hops" in the community hall that was located above the fire station in Bloomfield. 4-H members flocked to these events and a good time was had by all! There were tractor rodeos, achievement shows, club tours and state conference to attend. More importance was given to 4-H sponsored activities in the early days because youth were not involved in so many school activities.
 
Building family ties always has been and will continue to be a very important part of the 4-H program. Meetings were generally held in the members' homes. It was nothing to have an entire club working on their sewing or refinishing project in your basement or out under the shade trees in your back yard. Dads and Moms have opened their homes to their children's fellow club members for all kinds of workshops. Dads have provided hay wagons for hayrides and large brush piles for bon fires following the same. Families were treated to co-op meals and soup suppers. A favorite was a picnic during or following a club tour where you would visit members' Davis County Clothing Eventhomes to see the livestock or crop projects that they would be exhibiting at the county fair. Many times that picnic would be held along a creek or at Lake Wapello State Park. Parents have hauled kids back and forth to the camp at Madrid and livestock projects back and forth to county and state fairs. One sign that we used to see in our county was a green and white sign that had the outline of the state of Iowa and a 4-H clover. The sign said, "A 4-H Club member lives here". It was hung on your gate or corner post with pride...not only by the 4-H member but by his or her family. Many members have been preceded in Davis County 4-H history by their parents, grandparents and great grandparents. It is definitely a family tradition.
 
Fund raising activities are a usual part of the 4-H experience. Davis County has been no exception. Clubs have conducted bake sales and wreath sales. Pop and food stands are always a favorite. Members have sold candy bars and greeting cards. One club would go into corn fields after the fall harvest and pick up any ear corn left on the ground. They would sell the corn for money for their club treasury. Blanket and quilt raffles also brought in much needed money.
 
One noticeable difference in the 4-H program has been the way the judging of fair exhibits is handled. In the early days, the members brought their home economics exhibits into the fair and they dropped them off for the judging. Members would later return to see the ribbon placing they had received. There was no communication with the judge. Now the exhibits are judged in a conference setting where Davis County Robotics Clubthe 4-H member and the judge discuss the learning that happened and the quality of the exhibit. Many of the ribbons handed out in the early times were red ribbons and white ribbons. The coveted blue ribbon was not handed out nearly as often as they are today.
 
In 1981 a monthly newsletter to be sent to 4-H families was established. It was a great way to keep everyone involved in the program updated on opportunities open to members and on dates and rules set forth by the 4-H and Youth Committee.
The 4-H and Youth Committee has been the governing body of our county program. Adults and youth are nominated by the club members. Then those names are submitted to each club for their vote. Top placers are them recommended to the Extension Council to serve a one to three year term on the committee. In early years, each club had a candidate for county officer. Those candidates campaigned at the county level at Rally Night. A team of boys and a team of girls were elected to serve in the various county offices. Now there is a County Council made up of one or more delegates from each club. They have a monthly meeting to help plan Awards Night, plan activities and fund raisers at the fair and help in anyway possible to gain leadership experience on the county level.
 
Davis County 2011 Baking WorkshopLooking back at past attendance records at local club meetings, it was very evident that members attended those meetings on a regular basis. Several members' names had an X on every month in the 40s, 50s & 60s. Times have changed and the 4-H program in Davis County has tried to keep up with those changes by making the program work for busy youth and busy families. Rules have been made to guide the 4-H member as to what is considered an active member. You must attend at least 6 4-H functions in one year and at least 3 of those functions must be your monthly club meeting. Events are planned around busy school activity schedules with some clubs having a definite monthly meeting night set in stone. Other clubs meet after an available date is determined and the calls are put out to the members.
 
The countless hundreds of boys and girls that have been involved in the Davis County 4-H program have reason to be proud of their 4-H history. These youth have been encouraged, taught, congratulated, consoled, guided and nurtured by countless caring adults, parents and leaders alike. Let the record show that the 4-H ideals have made a difference in the lives of all those involved. May the history of Davis County show a continued interest in one of the greatest youth programs in the world!
 
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