Boys 4-H in Hamilton County started out in 1919 as county-wide livestock clubs, and the first recorded club was a Purebred Sow and Litter club. Each member had a sow and litter, and they raised an average of seven pigs per litter. A sale was held at the county fair; a Poland China boar brought $350 and a Duroc brought $325.
Girls 4-H started in 1923, and in 1924 there were four clubs with 60 members. A County Club Committee of four women was named, and they helped in getting exhibits ready for the county fair and in judging demonstrations that were held to determine the team that would represent Hamilton County at the State Fair.
Hamilton County has had two very significant contributions to the history of Iowa 4-H.
In the early 1920’s the Hamilton County Lamb Club organized a band under the leadership of Mr. John Bonner from Jewell, Iowa. John was the 4-H Lamb Club Leader in Lyon Township. Mr. Bonner recruited the skills of Mr. W. L. Schaub of Blairsburg to serve as the director of the band and George Hanson of the Ellsworth News to serve as manager. Eventually the band expanded to include young people from all over the county. They practiced almost every Sunday afternoon during spring, summer and fall. The band members’ mothers provided supper for the members, if they were to have a concert in a county town on Sunday evening.
The 1928 Hamilton County Extension Service Reports indicate that the band was very active. They played at the Iowa State fair, the Hamilton, Boone and Webster County fairs, held two concerts at the American County Life Association meetings in Ames and in numerous concerts at various towns in the county. That year the International Livestock Exposition invited the Hamilton County 4-H Band to be the official band for the show. The band played at the National 4-H Club Congress the first week in December as well as leading the parade for the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago, Illinois.
The Hamilton County band was honored to be the official band for several years following this initial performance. Eventually the livestock show officials decided to pass this honor on to another state. But the Hamilton County 4-H Band continued with several in-state engagements. The 1934 Annual Report stated, “It would be very hard to estimate the value of the fine performances of the Hamilton County 4-H Band.” In addition to their appearances in Chicago, they appeared in concerts in Alden, Clarion, Fort Dodge, Blairsburg, Blue Earth, MN, and the All County 4-H Club as well as neighboring county fairs.
In 1931 after the band had made three performances at the International Livestock Exposition, the Hamilton County 4-H Club Band approached Dr. Karl King, a well known composer, to write a special march for them to perform in Chicago. He wrote “International Favorites.” This march is on display at the Karl King Music House in Fort Dodge, Iowa, as well as the Hamilton County Extension Office.
Owen Crosby, a member of the band, said that in a restroom in Chicago some boys from another state asked them who paid for their trip, and he said they paid their own way, and the boys could hardly believe it – this included buying their own uniforms – part of their expenses were paid by raising money through fundraisers – many of the tickets were sold to “friendly merchants.”
While in Chicago the Club Congress kids would tour various places, and many times the band would play and lead them from one place to another on the streets of the Windy City. Several of the band members ended up being married to another band member, and one member married a girl from North Carolina, whom he had met at the Club Congress. In Chicago, the kids decided where they would go as a group, and one group went to the burlesque, yes, with a chaperone.
Some of the 4-H members who made the trip to the International Livestock Exposition were: Arthur Bittner, Dwight Calkins, Wallace Iverson, Harold Arnold, Owen Crosby, Wallace Westre, Clifford Myers, Floyd Woodard, William Carstens, Aldis Hendrickson, George Seamond, Merrill Pierce, Edward Sealine, Lloyd Fonken, Wendall Carlson, Ralph Arnold, Herman Carstens, Jack McMartin, Burill Pierce, Robert Huddleston, Oscar Brown, Harold Vining, Eldred Lindquist, Alton Berggren, Lylel McConnell, Fred Larson, Clinton Larson, Harold Crosby, Gladys Groves-Hanson, Francis Meister, June Caruth, Jean Cheyne, Martin Teig, Carl Teig, Russell Bergeson, Lloyd Oakland, Alvin Gere, Myron Gere, Lyle Bahr, Roland Meister, Glen Schlafke and John Olson.
The report stated, “Sunday after Sunday the band practiced, and the way they were received was a splendid tribute to the efforts they had contributed toward making the band much better.” Much credit was due to Mr. Schaub, director, and Mr. Hanson for handling the management of the band.
In 1933 the Animal Husbandry Department of Iowa State College located an attractive position for Mr. Bonner on the Old President Monroe Estate in Virginia. He was the 4-H club leader in the lamb project and because of his outstanding sheep production activity he was chosen for this notable position. People were glad to have Mr. Bonner receive this recognition but felt the loss of an outstanding club leader.
The 4-H Band, especially the original group, was very anxious to do all they could to have a successful farewell party. As a result, club members from all over the county gathered on the outskirts of Jewell and marched to the Gronbeck home surprising the Bonners who had been called there for a quiet evening of visiting. The band played pieces that John Bonner liked the best, and everything was done to give this worthy family a real farewell party.
The other major contribution Hamilton County made to the Iowa 4-H Program was the establishment of the first County 4-H Foundation.
This all came about in 1948, after the group of businessmen decided their efforts to promote their catch-a-calf program was not a practical way to assist 4-H’ers in their 4-H project work. For three years this group of Hamilton County businessmen sponsored a “calf wrestle.” Twenty calves were purchased and 40 boys participated each year, to see who could wrestle a calf; if they accomplished the task, then they were able to raise that calf for their club project work.
The number of older boys catching calves was such that it was not practical to hold the contest. The businessmen asked if they could promote 4-H work in other ways. The Club Committee, with the assistance of leaders, suggested projects that might be promoted. These suggestions were discussed by the sponsors at two meetings. At the conclusion, the group decided to head up a Hamilton County 4-H Foundation.
They voted to limit its membership to 50 individuals, business establishments, farmers or organizations. The membership fee was set at $50.00 and the Foundation was to be administered by a group of seven people. Three were to be named from the Foundation, one from the Farm Bureau board and one from the Fair board. Two advising members were representative of the Boys and Girls Club committee. Chuck Donhowe, Extension Director and later the Director of the Iowa Extension Service, assisted with the formation of this unique foundation.
Harry Jahnke of Webster City, Ted Lekwa of Williams and Steve Linn of Stanhope were selected as a committee to organize the drive, set up a Constitution and By Laws and serve as advisory members. Harry was the first president, and Ted the first secretary of the Foundation.
Initially there were 49 members with each paying $50 that resulted in a budget of $2,450 to be used to reorganize the accomplishment of the 4-H members in Hamilton County. The membership dues for the first year provided funds for the following awards and recognition: 1) Fall Market Litter Show; 2) Record Book Award Trip; 3) Club Performance Award; 4) Corn Safety Project; 5) County Livestock Judging Team Trips; 5) Showmanship Awards at the County Fair; 6) Better Grooming contest; 7) Demonstration Team Award Trip; 8) Longtime Record Awards; 9) Expense Record Awards; 10) Rate of Gain Contests and 11) County 4-H Jamboree event, which recognized all the award winners.
At the present there are 97 members giving $3,337 this past year (2011) for the furtherance of 4-H in Hamilton County. The Foundation has branched out to provide partial scholarships to individuals participating in Citizenship Washington Focus trips to Washington D C (every other year), youth attending State 4-H and Youth Conference in Ames, Intermediate Award Trips, Omaha Zoo Trips (for 6th & 7th graders), State 4-H Camps, Junior 4-H Camp, state judging team competitions, Danforth Leadership Awards and the coveted top Senior Award Trip to Chicago. They also awarded thirty $200 scholarships to graduating Senior 4-H’ers last year. These scholarships are only awarded after applicants submit applications and go through an interview process with the Hamilton County 4-H Foundation Board.
Other statewide accomplishment gleaned from Extension records are enumerated here and probably are similar to other counties. In the clothing judging contest held at the Iowa State Fair, Leona Geitz and Ruby Greiner won honors as the “Champion Clothing Judges of Iowa” in 1930. Dorothy Carlson was selected the “Best Groomed Girl in Iowa” that year. The Approved Footwear demonstration given by Anna and Agda Gronbeck, was awarded the championship in clothing class and won the grand championship honors after competing against the bread making team from Decatur County, the home furnishings team from Page County and the canning team from Black Hawk County.
In 1934 4-H reached a milestone as clubs were organized on a township basis rather than as county units for the projects carried. Organizing the clubs on a township basis brought new life into the enrollment picture and was responsible for 72 new members being enrolled.
In the 1990’s clubs were encouraged to become coed clubs. Serving both boys and girls. Today we have one club with all boys as members and one with all girls (it’s not that they won’t take boys or girls, it just that no one of the opposite gender has asked to become a member of those clubs). Hamilton County has produced some outstanding youth leaders whom have served on both the Iowa State 4-H Youth Council and the Iowa Technology Teams in the last fifteen years. Many of these young people have gone on and accomplished some outstanding leadership recognition in their collegiate and professional lives. Presently our county membership is 184 members for the 2011-12 club year, served by nine clubs. We also have a very active pre - 4-H membership of about 97 youth, K – 3rd grade. Approximately 89 volunteers work with the 4-H program in Hamilton County.
This has been a compilation of some of the historic 4-H happenings in Hamilton County that hopefully will be interesting reading.
Submitted by……Lynn Habben, former Hamilton County Extension Director
Cheryll Entriken, County Youth Coordinator