County Museum

A Hidden Treasure!

That is what visitors to the Jackson County History Museum typically say after having spent an hour or two perusing its holdings. Located just inside the Pearson Memorial Center on the Fairgrounds in Maquoketa, Iowa, the Museum comprises 22,000 sq. feet. It is two floors of facts, photos, and artifacts that together tell the incredible story of Jackson County Iowa. It is our heritage - of which we are very proud.

Just some of the exhibits on the First Floor

  • Vintage Wurlitzer Harp is from the early 1800s, though the manufacturer’s records have been lost through time, we know this pedal harp was one of the first that Wurlitzer made.  Those still in existence have been restored and are owned by famous musicians or collectors.  JCHS is seeking further information about “Wurlitzer Harp #113 - Chicago/Cincinnati” so as to apply for a conservation grant for restoration.  This instrument was donated by the family of Gaylord and Betty Willman, and played by Betty’s Grandfather Stoltz.
  • The Two-headed Calf & Two-butted Lamb - Even Mother Nature makes mistakes!  Favorites of children - and their parents who remember when these Jackson County born animals were at the Sagers Museum.  (I copied these photos from the internet)
  • Three Bellevue Pianos - Tap your foot to “Turkey in the Straw”  as the 1914 Bellevue Player Piano belts out a tune.  On their best day, they sold 333 player pianos which were shipped out by rail and steamboat to all parts of the country.  Craftsmen created the beautiful hardwood cabinets in the factory’s basement; women put together the music boards because of their dexterity and all piano tuning was done by blind piano tuners whose auditory senses were superior.  
  • The Wildlife Display - Enjoy visiting animals that have inhabited Jackson County through the years such as the elk and the black bear.  Native Americans found so many bear along the banks of our river, they named it Maquoketa - meaning “there are bears”.  According to the 1879 History of Jackson County, the river was teeming with muskie, and you will a large variety of fish in our waters.  Pelicans, loons, crane - and the JCHS is fortunate to have 3 bald eagles in our collection; 2 adults with their beautiful white headdress and one immature eagle - a teenager!!! 
  • The Lucke Boot Shop - The oldest family owned business in Iowa when it closed in 2004.  Its founder, Joseph Lucke, was a friend of U. S. Grant, who crossed the Mississippi a couple times a week selling leather goods to the cobblers and boot makers.  (Grant worked at his family’s tannery in Galena between his early Army service and the outbreak of the Civil War.)  See the “Grant Chair” where he often sat, with his feet on the desk, puffing on a cigar.  Other notable artifacts are a “Paul Bunyan sized” leather boot made by Joseph Lucke - wooden pegs and all.  It hung outside his shop along the Bellevue riverfront for over a hundred years and is now considered a “folk-art trade sign”.  The vintage cash register still works, tallying up the daily sales as well as the safe used throughout its years.  There are many pair of handcrafted shoes and boots with buttons and hooks.
  • The discovery of the Maquoketa Caves - The military exhibit with artifacts from the Civil War, both World Wars, Korea and Viet Nam,  and so much more...


The Second Floor - Take the stairs or the elevator!

  • Jump back in time to the ole General Store.  Every village had one.  You could buy everything from grocery items to bib overalls!  In the back they candled eggs that the farmers dropped off,  These “mom & pop” businesses served as the centers of their communities.
  • he one room country school?  One teacher - many children four through twenty.  Boys were often older than the teacher as they could seldom attend - their help was needed on the farm. With first through eighth grades, these little schools were busy places and often very crowded - you’ll note the world globe on a pulley so it could be hoisted up and out of the way when not needed.
  • Wooden sandbox used for projects - such as creating a diorama of a skirmish in the Civil War or a model of the Jackson County Courthouse
  • Imagine yourself carrying in firewood for the wood cookstove in the 1900s kitchen, pumping water into a big dishpan in the dry sink to help with the dishes after supper and then studying by candlelight or the light of an old fashioned oil lamp at the old oak table.  Walk to the bedroom, where often 3 or 4 children slept on a rope bed, covered by a feather tick and several layers of patchwork quilts.   And peak into the Victorian Parlor used only for company, or very special occasions. A very different and long forgotten life.
  • Check out the display of vintage washing machines and old fashioned irons.  Perhaps the reason laundry day was traditionally Monday was that one needed to rest up the day before…
  Visit the County History Museum often - there is so much to see, that one can’t possibly take it in all at once.  Also, volunteers change out the exhibits continually so there are new and different things to amaze.