Old Jefferson Town is a unique collection of vintage buildings from different locations in the county. They are preserved as a historical town of early day Jefferson County settlements. Plans for the village of yesteryear began in 1967 when Jefferson County Historical Society accepted a gift of four and half acres from Bill and Betty Leech. In 1988, the Leeches donated another five acre tract for a native grass and wildflower prairie.
Old Jefferson Town was named from old-time references made regarding this county of Ol' Jefferson.
Old Jefferson Town
25 January Jefferson County Historical Society organized. Officers: William C. Leech, President; Mrs. Jack Rickert, Vice President; Miss Hazel Ahrens, Recording Secretary; Mrs. Joh S. Vorhees, Corresponding Secretary; Russell Shaw, Treasurer; Mrs. Marion Catren and William Grinter, Directors
10 February Jefferson County Historical Society incorporated.
JCHS focused on collecting records, specifically cemetery records and discontinued post office records.
14 January - Land donated by William and Betty Leech. Plans began to create Old Jefferson Town. Original plans included relocating a railroad station, an old residence, a farmhouse, and barn to house antique implements, school, church, bank, old store, jail, bridge and log cabin.
01 May - Work began on obtaining tax levy of 1/10 percent to support the Historical Society
07 August - Tax levy obtained.
29 May - Purchase of Wellman School $1500. Moving costs estimated at $350.
10 Marc h - Foundations were built for the Edmonds Chapel and Wellman Church.
19 March - Osborne building in McLouth purchased for $300. (Reynolds building was the former Osborne Feed Store building.)
09 July - Dedication of Old Jefferson Town
21 September - first wedding at Edmonds Chapel in Old Jefferson Town. Officiant was Judge Jesse J. Wilson.
14 October - Dedication of bandstand, featuring the Santa Fe band of Topeka
02 May - Wk Rhodes will donate a lavatory and stool for restroom in Reynold building
23 July - Mr. James Tenpenny has purchased the former grade school grounds located on the Critchfield block and given the buildings to JCHS
08 Oct - Wk Rhodes reported the larger foundation completed and hopefully the section made up of the Plum Grove and Kigore rural school buildings could soon be moved. The restroom at the Reynolds store was completed as well as the light pole near Wellman School.
05 January - Organ gift of Mrs. Julia Shackelford; Bell from Church of the Brethren in McLouth given by Roy Kimmell
01 March - Mr. House will repair and the old jail ready for visitors this summer
10 Nov - Completion of the store front, board walk, and museum building. Dedication of the John Steuart Curry room.
05 September - Valley Falls Historical Society donated barbershop furnishings (chair, paneling, marble, mirror, etc.)
16 November - Jefferson County Genealogy Society formed
05 December - Nincehelser house offered to JCHS
August - The Kilgore and Plum Grove Schools was remodeled and open to the public for the first tine during the Indian summer Days Festival (Sept. 29 and 30)
28 May - Nincehelser house moved to Old Jefferson Town
26 Mar - accepted donation of printing press at the Valley Falls school which came from the Winchester Star office.
01 April - Jim Tenpenny reported on the gift of an early John Steuart Curry painting "Portrait of a Gypsy" by his brother, R. Eugene Curry.
February - Lighting has been added on all porches from the Reynolds Store down to the museum/library buildings. Lights are on a timer.
o9 February - Tombstones were found at Oskaloosa while excavating was being done. They were offered to JCHS and accepted.
10 Oct - Jim Tenpenny has purchased 3 phones and a switchboard, buy may need two more phones. The switchboard came from Warsaw, Indiana
11 April Five acres south of OJT has been offered as a gift to JCHS with the understanding that it never be used for anything but prairie grass. T he board accepted the donation.
12 November - JCHS serves as an umbrella organization under which the Genealogy Society, the Craft Guild and the newly formed Art Guild function. Arleta Manville, president of Art Guild. Bylaws of the Art Guild are written,
09 June Discussion of restoring the printing equipment, getting the "snapper" press into working order. Dr. Barker would like to donate the sculpture "The Wind Wagon" created by Matt Frazer.
09 March - Boardwalk is completed.
28 March - Purchase of a tract of land for the Curry House placement from Hans and Petra Fuhrmans
10 May - Curry House place on foundation
14 June - Motion to build addition to Curry House for two bathrooms.
12 July - City of Ozawkie donated merry go round from old Ozawkie School.
11 July - 3' x 4' orientation sign to be placed between jail and general store with the map of OJT
08 August - Donna and Card Ward donate stone bench made from capstone from the fence which was around the courthouse.
08 October - Color aerial photo of Old Jefferson Town became available
October - Restrooms operational at Curry House
10 March - Art Guild to dissolve. Funds transferred to JCHS and the Curry Home Fund
09 March - Work continues on the interior of the Curry House. Landscape planned for Curry House.
14 November - Loan on Curry House paid off.
03 May - Opening and ribbon cutting for Curry House
07 May - Sidewalk to Curry House installed
26 June - sold approximately 20 ft x 77 ft strip of land to Patrick and Joyce Peek, owners of the restaurant adjoining OJT on the north,
12 February - Estimated $10,000 cost to renovate Tibbot and Kilgour/ Plum Grove buildings does not include labor.
18 May - Website is up and running
11 March - KSU approval of annual grant for 5 consecutive years of $1500 to fund improvements and maintenance of the John Steuart Curry Boyhood home and a $1000 matching grant for endowment also for the Curry Home
09 March - Craft Guild changed its name to Prairie Arts Market
11 May - Grand opening of the Tibbott Building
13 September - Moving into the Kilgour/Plum Grove building complete
10 January - Prairie Arts Market is disbanded.
12 June - Geocaching project has been registered
10 June - Broken railings along boardwalk have been replaced. Spraying for termites needed at from of Reynolds
10 February - Bob and Verna Pierson Hundley to donate capstone from old courthouse. Reynolds windows have been built and are ready to be installed. Signage suggested for each building with a brief history for vistors.
13 October - Richard Wellman presented proposed revision of bylaws.
09 November - Revised bylaws accepted. Petticoat Council to sponsor a Tea to raise money for new sidewalk to the church.
08 March - Bid received from S&S Concrete for walkway from parking lot to church. Motion to accept the bid passed.
14 August - Land acquisition: obtained 100 feet adjacent to east of property line, but not the 100 feet east of Dollar General, north of Curry House.
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COVID limited access to the museum. The Genealogy library and tours were by appointment only.
June - August - An outdoor Farmers Market organized by Mary Luse gave a safe place for families to go.
October - Revision of bylaws was presented to board.
November - Bylaw revision approved and accepted. Motion was made to merge the Genealogy Society and Jefferson County Historical Society.
December - A $3000 grant was received from the Kansas State Historical Society for digitizing the objects, photos and archives in the Old Jefferson Town museum. Volunteers will enter 50 years of data in a program called Past Perfect. Public access will be available in the future.
The merge was approved between the Jefferson County Genealogy Society and Jefferson County Historical Society. There will be a Genealogy Committee to meet the needs of the library. All funds from the Genealogy Society will be transferred to JCHS.
January - Grant purchases were made and work began inputting data into Past Perfect. Numerous community volunteers have stepped up to assist.
The following was a part of the JCHS meeting notes for March of 1973:
William C. Leech of Oskaloosa was the first president for JCHS (1966-1969), succeeded by Mrs. Nell Curry Manville of Winchester (1969-1972) and presently guided by William K. Rhodes of McLouth. Mr. Rhodes serves as Chairman of the Building and Grounds Planning Committee for Old Jefferson Town (1969-1972) and is an authority on the development of this village for the present and the future.
Old Jefferson Town is the chief project of JCHS, initiated in 1967 with the gift from Bill and Betty Leech of a 4 1/2 acre tract located on the east side of Highway 59 in Oskaloosa. A contest was conducted in the county to select an appropriate name for a proposed pioneer village and “Old Jefferson” was chose because the first editor of the Oskaloosa Independent, J.W. Roberts used this reference for the county during his tenure from 1860-1882 as did his son, F. H. Roberts, who managed the paper from 1874-1945
The purpose of Old Jefferson Town is the recreation of a village of the ’80’s with relocation of authentic buildings and reproductions of others. Ground breaking ceremonies were conducted at the site on September 18, 1969.
In the late fall of 1970, the first three buildings were relocated: the Wellman Country School (1871) moved from Wellman Road southeast of Oskaloosa; the Reynolds Country Store (1887) from McLouth; and the Edmonds Country Chapel (1891) formerly north of McLouth.
Dedication for Old Jefferson Town took place on July 9, 1971, at the Old Settlers Reunion during the presidency of Mrs. Nell Curry Manville of Winchester. To open the program, Winchester Scout Troop No 192 raised a flag on the flag pole in front of the Reynolds Country Store while the Oskaloosa American Legion Post No. 36 formed a color guard. The flag had flown over the Capitol in Washington D.C. and obtained through the courtesy of Senator James Pearson. A specially recruited County band played the national anthem for the flag raising and provided other numbers. Mr. Stanley Sohl of the Kansas State Historical Society gave the dedication address.
Souvenir programs carried historical notes on each of the three buildings where appropriate “exercises” were conducted for the public tour. Participants wore period dress for demonstrations of quilting, knitting, and carpet rag sewing in the Reynolds Country Store and a large collection of antique guns were on display there. A church service was held in the Edmonds Country Chapel with reed organ accompaniment for the McLouth Methodist Church choir and a sermon by Rev. Ira Brammell of McLouth. At the country school Mrs. Verona Wellman McDonald as teacher conducted a last day of school program with recitations, a spelling bee and songs.
These buildings were all renovated for the dedication and newly painted in the original colors: yellow for the store, white for the chapel, red for the school. The store and chapel have the original furnishings. Old time desks were donated for the school as well as other equipment.
Since the dedication, Old Jefferson Town has opened the buildings to the public on weekends from May through September. The tours will begin on April 1 in 1973. No admission is charged.