Celebrating 12 Years of Preserving Villisca History

Villisca square 30s
Photo courtesy Fourth Wall Films.

By Mary Hansen, VHSI President

It’s hard to believe, but the Villisca Historical Society, Inc. came into being more than a decade ago, in 2005. The mission statement of the new organization was, and still is: The Villisca Historical Society, Inc., shall collect, preserve, interpret, and display artifacts, photographs and documents to shed light on the natural, civil and political history of the City of Villisca, Iowa. It will develop programs and services to promote public awareness, scholarly research and appreciation of Villisca’s unique history.  This society will foster excellence in leadership and historical inquiry, believing that an understanding of the past illuminates the present and gives vision to the future.”

Thanks to the generosity of a large number of people, our society continues to fulfill many of those same goals. But just as importantly, the VHS Inc. has supported other organizations that share our aim of preserving and celebrating our joint history.

For instance, just a month after receiving our certificate of incorporation and our 501(3)C status, we were able to provide start up money to the Villisca Alumni Association to help get the 2005 All-School Reunion under way. We have continued that support ever since.

Ed & Susie ax
Former Villisca Mayor Susie Enarson and Ed Epperly
examine the Villisca weapon. Photo courtesy Fourth Wall Films.

We’ve also received many items of historical significance in the past 12 years. Perhaps the most important one came from Dr. Ed Epperly, who donated the ax from the infamous Villisca ax murders. As we have no secure place in which to safely store the murder implement, it has spent the past 12 years at the State Historical Society building in Des Moines. Nevertheless, it belongs to the Villisca Historical Society and through us to the town of Villisca. Because of our efforts, it has been protected.

John Rundles Rialto
Photo courtesy Fourth Wall Films.

During the past several years, we’ve also had the privilege of hosting the showing of several of Kelly and Tammy Rundles’ movies, like the preview of Lost Nation: The Ioway in 2007 during Villisca Heritage Days. The Rundles also helped create and maintain our website and are now developing a VHS Inc. blog for us which will make our work available to even wider audiences.

In addition, we’ve participated in studies of the National Guard Armory in the hope that venerable building could be restored and preserved in order to bring it back to serving as a community center.

Villisca Memories

We have been participants in history fairs at the local schools and reprinted Audrea Higgins’ “Villisca Memories,” her history prepared for the Bicentennial. For almost ten years, Dave Higgins produced fascinating newsletters that documented important events, people and memories from our town’s past. Recently, we created a Facebook page, Historic Villisca, which is reaching even more folks.

I have had the privilege of representing the Society in many events, like the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Iowa’s statehood in which I drew from Lorene and Dennis Neal’s book, Montgomery County Veterans of World War II.

VReview front page.jpg

We helped the Villisca Library pay for digitizing the Villisca Review’s archives through July 2011, which has made much of the town’s history accessible through the internet. Last year we co-sponsored Iowa History Day in Villisca with the Forgotten Iowa History Society, group of more than 35,000 Facebook members.

This year we also funded a brochure celebrating the 80th anniversary of Villisca’s City Hall and helped purchase shelves to display artifacts in the Armory where renovations are continuing.

We don’t know what we’ll be called upon to help with next, but with your participation, we’ll be ready. So please, join the Villisca Historical Society today and help preserve Villisca’s past for those who in the future wish to look back to understand their present.

If you are not a member of the Villisca Historical Society, we encourage  you to join us!  We are currently launching a funding drive to raise money to assist in our efforts to preserve, educate and inform about Villisca’s treasured past and its future! Thank you for your support.

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Villisca Historical Society

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for the price of 12 months:
September 2017- December 2018.
Annual individual membership $20.
Annual family membership $35.
Sustaining membership* $100.


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