Landowner Stories Introduce Iowa’s Land Grant Legacy

September 20, 2016, 12:21 pm | Cathann A. Kress, Ray Hansen

Land GrantSPENCER, Iowa — Families with land in 13 northern Iowa counties shared their family stories at the Iowa Land Grant Legacy celebration at the Clay County Fair Sept. 16. They told of generations of family owning the land, shared stories of growing up on the land and caring for it, and told of family connections to Iowa State research, education and extension.

These families are the first in Iowa to know of their connection to Iowa’s Land Grant Legacy – a project initiated by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Over the summer, ISU Extension and Outreach visited the families to inform them of a special connection they have to Iowa’s land grant university, and introduce them to the project.

Using a map of the northwest quadrant of Iowa dotted with red squares, ISU Extension and Outreach directed the families to locate their property, explaining that the small red squares were quarter sections of land leased and sold to fund the start of Iowa’s land grant college. The families soon learned that each owns all or part of a quarter section of land that was first leased or sold under the terms of the Morrill Act of 1862 to fund the start of Iowa State University.

“Identifying the land grant parcels is an important step in understanding Iowa’s land grant legacy. And we’re pleased to honor the owners of these first parcels here in northwest Iowa,” said Cathann Kress, Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach. “However, there’s more to Iowa’s land grant legacy than the actual acres that were granted.”

At the Clay County Fair celebration, ISU Extension and Outreach introduced the families owning the first parcel of record in counties with Iowa land grant parcels, began sharing legacy stories and unveiled the Land Grant Legacy website.

Families attending the celebration, receiving certificates for validating their land as first-in-the-county land grant parcels, and sharing the stories of their family and the land included:

  • Buena Vista County - Rembrandt Foods, Mike Gidley, Spirit Lake
  • Calhoun County – Phil and Jody Calmer, Manson; Rhonda and Morey Hill, Madrid; Bob and Rozanne Swartzendruber, Carroll
  • Cherokee County – Kent Lundquist, Cherokee
  • Clay County – Rod Dillard, Dickens; Mike Gidley, Rembrandt Foods, Spirit Lake
  • Dickinson County – Dan and Jane Hummel, Spirit Lake
  • Greene County – Doug and Karen Wenger, Dana
  • Hamilton County – Don Doolittle, Webster City
  • O'Brien County – Irene Segelke, Paulina
  • Pocahontas County – Kathy Kaufman, Manson  and Russ and Mary Lamphier, Manson
  • Sac County – Larry and Bev Beckman, Odeboldt
  • Webster County – James and Sue Francois, Barnum
  • Woodbury County – Earl and Helen Maxwell, Moville
  • Wright County – Dennis and Charlene Hauser, Manly and Gene and Kathy Thelke, Dows

"What a great project, to be able to understand a little bit of how it all came together and then appreciate the history of Iowa State. There's a lot of land in northwest Iowa that was land grant land and originally helped build the university. And of course the connections always have been to agriculture and the reason we're so good at doing what we're doing out here is that we've learned from research from Iowa State," Northey said, noting the extension office's role in disseminating information. "It's a fun interconnected way to celebrate Iowa State Extension, celebrate our history, be proud of what we have in agriculture in general," added Northey.

The land grant parcel map at (the map with the red dots) allows landowners to go online and explore to discover their connection to the legacy. Directions and forms available on the website make it possible for landowners to validate their ownership of land grant parcels and contribute stories of the land and the people on the land to the website.

Connections beyond the map

“Our legacy also includes the stories – of the land and of the people,” said Kress. “We need to reclaim all these stories and remember them and share them with the next generation … so we more fully understand what it means to be Iowan.”

Kress used that comment made at the celebration to introduce a documentary video produced by ISU Extension and Outreach and featuring Krystal Doolittle, a member of the Hamilton County parcel owner family. In the piece Doolittle explores Iowa’s land grant legacy through her photography, conversations with landowners and time with the extension team involved in the project.

Those in the audience at the celebration nodded, smiled and at times laughed out loud as the stories being told connected to their personal story. What had started with a red square on a map had turned into a celebration of commonality between Iowans who care for the land.

“As we dig deeper into this legacy, we’ll likely find stories we’ve known. Some we may have forgotten. But there are many we don’t know. At least, not yet,” said Vice President Kress.  “Through this land grant legacy project we’re determined to find these stories and then tell the stories – and share the legacy of the land and the people that helped to build Iowa State University.”

The Land Grant Legacy website, in early stages of development, will continue to expand as stories connected to the land grant legacy are added. The expectation is that stories will come from all parts of the state and from across the Iowa State campus.

Event Photo (above): 
Brandon Duxbury, ISU history graduate student, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, ISU Vice President for Extension and Outreach Dr. Cathann Kress and Holstein Community Bank President and CEO Bob Butcher check out the digital map of land grant parcels. Butcher discovered that he owns land grant property.

Family group photos: Family photos include Sec. of Agriculture Bill Northey, Dr. Cathann Kress, and Ray Hansen, of the ISU Extension and Outreach land grant legacy team.


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