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
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.