Harrison County, Iowa 4-H History
In September 2012, Extension in Harrison County will be 100 years old! 4-H helped to spread new ideas by first exposing new methods to the more receptive youth through their 4-H projects. As a result, the parents would often watch their children experiment with new methods and eventually adapt these methods into practice themselves with their total farming operation.
The articles of incorporation of the Harrison County Agricultural Extension Association were signed on September 30, 1912, and records show that in February 1914, the third Short Course was held in Harrison County. Both youth and adults participated in classes addressing farm crops and soil programs, livestock and domestic science.
Contests were held at the end of each program. The prizes were much better than today. A girl had the chance of winning a Lily Cream Separator valued at $75. The student making the highest score in stock judging won a Dempster Single Row Balance Frame Cultivator valued at $28. The contests were as follows:
- Boys and Girls under age 16—10 ears yellow corn, any variety;
- Boys under 18—10 ears white corn, any variety
- Boys under 18—corn and stock judging
- For school boys and girls—scholarship for best standing in final examination
- Girls under 16--classes in white bread; layer cake, any frosting; white loaf cake; button holes; embroidered piece
- For student with best grade in regular course--scholarship
Also in 1914, Harrison County held its first poultry show but it isn’t clear if youth could enter or not. Documented records at the Harrison County Extension Office for 4-H start in 1925, but there is information indicating the 4-H club program started before then. Letters from former 4-H’ers tell the story of 4-H before 1925.
Sometime between 1914 and 1921, 4-H officially began. We do know clubs were in place by 1921. One of the earliest, if not the earliest, clubs in Harrison County was active in Allen Township. The leaders were Mrs. Kathrine Christensen, Anna Payne Howard and alternate Cecil Holman. The members were Rachel Carson, Zelma and Syllvia Taylor, Juanita and Ruby Holben, Alice Lee, Marjorie Riley, Lois Smith and Lottie Hildreth. The girls rode their ponies to get to the meetings that were held at the Allen Center Township School.
In 1925, there were eight girls clubs with a total of 81 members. They were called the “Own Your Own Room Clubs.” Ten boys were in the Pig Club and five boys and 17 girls in the Poultry Club. The Baby Beef Club started the next year (1926) along with the Corn Club.
Rally Day in 1935 was held June 4 with a good number of girls, parents and friends in attendance. They sang, heard the secretary’s report from the previous year, enjoyed a talk by the county home demonstration agent Mrs. Idelia Bakke, were introduced to a group of Ames delegates, and listened to a travel talk by Rev. Victor Johnson. Election and installation of the county officers for the coming year were held. Officers were President – Eleanor Clark, Vice President – Hazel Rippey, Secretary/Treasurer – Maxine Clark, Reporter – Helen Edwards, and Historian – Charles Mullenix.
The 1940 4-H Girls Achievement Day had 10 clubs and 130 members present. Some of the demonstrations that were presented included: Dishwashing Made Easy, Wash and Wear It, Outwitting Bacteria, and Cutlery Consciousness.
Fair became the focus in the 50’s
In the late 50’s, the fair had become a central part of the 4-H program. The Harrison County fair was held at the Fairgrounds in Missouri Valley where cattle and hogs were shown in a makeshift arena in the grass area east of the livestock barns. The barns were often full, and overflow tents had to be erected to hold the livestock. One 4-H’er during that time remembers staying overnight at the fairgrounds. The 4-H’ers borrowed a truck and put a tarp over the bed and a ramp up to the end gate. There was room for about eight boys and their sleeping bags, but not much sleep occurred. He also recalls going to the 4-H camp near Madrid.
In 1962, Harrison County had its first Boys and Girls joint 4-H Rally Day. This was a big event with some 300 people present. Around $60 was contributed for the International Farm Youth Exchange Program. A Woodbine club leader, Mrs. Casperson, explained the program to the group.
From 1966, and possibly earlier, 4-H’ers had a chance to be on the Warren Nielson Farm Report of the Week television show on Channel 3, KMTV in Omaha. 4-H’ers from many counties in Iowa and Nebraska were featured every Saturday morning. Harrison County 4-H’ers provided the topics three times a year. The youth, who taped the show on Wednesday night at the studio in Omaha, were given a studio tour if they wanted and then were taken out for supper. They were then able to sit with their families and watch the show early on Saturday morning. This opportunity lasted until about 1995.
In 1966, there were 391 entries in the Home Economics building at the county fair. By comparison, in 2004, there were 1,190 entries.
70s bring new ideas
A 32 percent enrollment increase in 4-H in 1971 found Harrison County enjoying the largest increase in the state for that year.
Some new events were started in the 70’s at the Harrison County Fair. In 1971, an Apple Pie Auction began; all the money raised went to the 4-H fund to support programming. In 1987, muffins joined the pies to provide younger 4-H’ers an option for participating in the auction. Apple pie and muffin auction proceeds have increased every year since 1971 to 2011 when the total was more than $12,000. This money is used for scholarships, camperships, awards, half of enrollment fees for every youth, a blanket insurance policy for county 4-H’ers, and other supplies to directly support the Harrison County 4-H’ers. The most expensive pie was sold in 1996; it was baked by Jill Perkins and sold for $1,125. We have had the same auctioneers, Gochenour and Family, since the start of the contest.
A new babysitting course was started in 1971 with 36 participants the first year. This program has continued throughout the years. Today, the program is held in six school districts across the county with 75 – 115 participants per year.
In 1972, dogs and cats were shown at the Harrison County Fair for the first time. Also in 1972, the Southwest Iowa 4-H Area Council was first organized. That first year David Dickinson from Logan and April Arrick from Missouri Valley were Harrison County members of the elite group.
The Harrison County Fair Queen Contest began in 1974, and the King Contest was added in 1979. The first County Fair Queen was Donna Wede, and the first Fair King was Nathan Weigelt. All Fair Queen and King contestants must be a 4-H’er nominated by a Harrison county 4-H club.
By 1974, there were 34 clubs with a total of 594 members.
80s and 90s
Harrison County participated in the first statewide 4-H meeting via satellite. The Extension office did not have the equipment for conducting such a meeting, so the participants met in three houses around the county where the program could be seen.
In 1996, the Harrison County Fair Grounds flooded a week before fair. With the help of many volunteers, the grounds were power washed, cleaned, and sprayed for insects. The fair started on the scheduled date with very few signs that a flood had ever happened.
Harrison County had its first county-wide beef weigh-in in 2004. Before then, each club was in charge of their own cattle weigh-in and was responsible for getting the papers and weigh tickets turned in to the Extension office. Harrison County still does not have a livestock sale at the county fair. Some 4-H’ers show their livestock a second time at the independent 4 County Fair in Dunlap and then sell the livestock at that fair.
First Clover Kids Clubs
Harrison County Clover Kids Clubs started in 2006 with two clubs. There are now four clubs in four of the six school districts in Harrison County.
When the 4-H Hall of Fame was started in 2002, the first Harrison County inductee was Grace Vandemark of rural Logan. Grace was a long time volunteer who worked on the local, county, area and state levels. Grace has volunteered with 4-H for 40 years. Our next inductee was Gary Guge, long time CEED of Harrison County. Gary worked at the Extension Office for 40 years until his retirement in 2004. Next inducted was Beverly Harter into the 4-H Hall of Fame. Other inductees include: Alice Meyer, 2005; Robert “Bob” Brock, 2006; John and Debbie Straight, 2007; Charlie and Julie Wisecup, 2008; Rex and Debbie Gochenour, 2009; Rozanne King, 2010, and Beth Magill in 2011.
The Harrison County Fair withstood two more floods since 2000. In 2008, the grounds were covered with 3.5 feet of water for two weeks before water started to recede. The buildings did survive but most things inside them did not.
Then in 2011, the Missouri River flooded and the Harrison County Fairgrounds was in the potential floodpath. A decision to move the fair was made and everything was removed from the fairgrounds. The fair was held in Dunlap at the 4 County Fair Grounds – a much smaller facility. The Harrison County Fair was once again a success! It’s all about being together as a 4-H family!
Today, Harrison County has eight 4-H clubs and four Clover Kids clubs totaling more than 300 members. 4-H’ers in Harrison County bring approximately 1,000 static exhibits to the fair and more than 400 livestock exhibits. The communication area of the fair is also full. Harrison County continues to have a full schedule of Educational Presentations, Working Exhibits, Share the Fun, Pride of Iowa and Extemporaneous Speaking every year. It is normal to have 20-25 each of presentations and working exhibits at the Fair each year. In 2011, 13 youth participated in Extemporaneous Speaking alone. Hundreds of Harrison County 4-H’ers have participated in the State Fair, and many have worked there as volunteers or paid staff.
4-H has come a long way from cornstalk and cake contests. The newest edition to the club program includes the 4-H First Lego League Clubs, started in 2009. At present, we have one Junior Lego League Club, seven First Lego League Clubs, and one High School group (called I-T Adventures). Shooting Sports was started in 2006. As the times change, so will the look of 4-H in Harrison County.
County Agriculture Agents or Extension Directors
Seven individuals have served as County Agricultural Agents or County Extension Directors from 1912 until 2009 when Iowa State University Extension disposed of the position. There is now a County Program Coordinator in place of the CEED. The directors since 1912 are: C.W. Hammans, 1918-1920; Carl Fritzsche, 1920-1924; F.B. Hanson, 1924-1936; E. I. Rosenberger, 1936-1944; Paul Watts, 1944-197; Gary G. Guge, 1963- 2004 (Gary Guge was an Associate Agent from 1963-1970); Clint McDonald, 2004-2009 and Rich Pope, 2010-present.
Extension Home Economists
The longest tenure for a Home Demonstration Agent (later called Extension Home Economist) was that of Ailene Latta from 1948 to 1968. Other Home Agents were: Josephine Simpson, 1935-1937; Esther Klingebiel, 1937-1939; Clara M. Bryan, 1940; Elinor Lockwood, 1941; Esther Whetstone, 1944-1945; Mildred Ryan, 1945-1948; Ailene Latta, 1948-1968; Carolyn Carlson Manning, 1968-1978; Jackie Thompson, 1978-1980; and Mary Beth Vittetoe Kaufman, 1981-1992 (when she was reassigned as a Field Specialist).
October 1, 1992, Iowa State University Extension reorganized across the state and Field Specialists in specific areas of expertise were assigned multiple counties and relocated across the state.
Youth or 4-H Agents
Youth or 4-H Agents were employed at various times over the years. Sometimes the position was shared with other counties as well. They were Dwight Booth, 1934; John J. Finch, 1937; Lafe L. Hood, 1938; John Bryant, 1957-1959; Ronald Sanson, 1959-1962; Gary G. Guge, 1963-1970. Following 1970, 4-H work was assisted by part-time 4-H Program Aides, Program Assistants, or County Youth Coordinators (their titles have changed over the years). Aides or Assistants have been Kathy Brandon, Rozanne King, Kathi Hall Loy, Wanda Burkholder, Beverly Harter, Barbara Dunn Swanson (shared the position with Shelby County Extension until October 1, 1992, when she was reassigned as a Youth Field Specialist), and Dee Colwell, 1992-present.
To make a donation to the Harrison County Endowment through the Iowa 4-H Foundation, click this button. Then select Harrison County in the far right column (My 4-H County) and complete the gift information.
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