Stay up to date on what is happening at the museum

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  • 9 Jun 2023 9:13 AM | Anonymous

    We are excited to announce that we have partnered with Heritage Woodworks, Inc. to complete the preservation work on the McIntosh and Leland cabins!

    Heritage Woodworks, Inc. is based in Clemons, Iowa. They work on timber frame and historic restoration projects throughout the state of Iowa. Our favorite bit about them from their website is: "We love our families, good chisels, sharp blades, beautiful woodgrain, traditional joinery and the smell of sawdust." We are looking to working with a group that is so passionate about their work!

    A team from Heritage Woodworks, Inc. visited the cabins in August 2022 to assess the cabins and determine what needs to be done to ensure they remain a community resource for many years to come.

    Their plans for our cabins include:

    • Remove the exterior chinking that is currently falling from the structures
    • Treat exposed logs with boron preservative in rot prone areas
    • Apply Sashco insecticide to the logs
    • Apply Q8 log oil with a mold-resistant additive to the logs
    • Install a historic mix chinking that includes colorant and straw for a period-appropriate appearance
    • Repair window sashes
    • Reglaze window panes
    • Replace rotted logs
    • Stabilize the structures using internal hardware
    • Repair decayed log portions using the dutchman's repair
    • Install vents for the foundation
    • Reframe the roofs to original, steeper pitch
    • Replace metal roofs with rubber roof shakes for a more period-appropriate appearance

    We're hoping to begin this work in the late summer or early fall this year. We can't wait to document the process to add to our records!

    To contribute to the project, visit We appreciate your support!

  • 26 Jan 2023 8:55 AM | Anonymous

    Gailyn Larsen was born in Harlan on October 17, 1942 to Ivan and Alice Larsen. He attended country school and worked in the fields from an early age. After graduating from Harlan High School, he attended the University of Nebraska and earned a degree in Business Administration in 1964 and graduated from law school in 1967.

    Linda Booth was born in Schenectady, New York on April 9, 1943 to Robert and Mary Booth. She graduated from Harlan High School and went on to earn a degree in education from the University of Nebraska.

    While students at Harlan High School, Gailyn and Linda were both members of the Ninety Club, Quill and Scroll, and the National Honors Society. They also worked together on The Cyclone, the school newspaper.

    Gailyn and Linda were married in Harlan on August 15, 1964. Together, they raised two children, Andrea and Jeffrey. Though life took their family to Nebraska, Indiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Florida, they both maintained a strong love of Shelby County.

    Before having children, Linda taught elementary school. She was known for her commitment to volunteering, generously giving her time to the Junior League, the P.E.O. Sisterhood, and community and school organizations.

    Gailyn was known for his stories about growing up in rural Iowa, and loved to share wisdom learned through years of hard work and perseverance. He used skills learned while working on his family farm to develop successful careers in the United States Army, law, business, and transportation logistics.

    Throughout their lives, they enjoyed spending time with each other, and with family and friends gained from a lifetime of adventure.

    Linda passed away in November of 2020, and Gailyn passed in February 2022. Their children, Andrea Larsen Hayden and Jeffrey Larsen hoped to find a way to memorialize the lives of their parents.

    We are honored that Andrea and Jeffrey selected the Shelby County Historical Museum to receive memorial donations in support of our Historic Log Cabin Preservation Project after Gailyn's passing.

    They have also chosen to provide an additional $100,000 donation to help preserve the historic McIntosh and Leland log cabins. In recognition of their generosity, the historic log cabin plaza will be named in honor of Gailyn and Linda Larsen, and their love of Shelby County. We are honored to become part of Gailyn and Linda's legacy and serve as a reminder of their pride in Shelby County.

  • 25 Jan 2022 1:53 PM | Anonymous

    Christen Pedersen (b. 1865—d. 1945) emigrated from Denmark to America in 1888 at the age of 23. Seven years later on April 18, 1894 Christen Pedersen married another Danish immigrant, Marie Lauritsen (b. 1873—d. 1953).

    Marie was born to parents Eli Lauritsen (b. 1843) and Karen Hansen (b. 1845) in Tranderup Kirke, Denmark. Marie immigrated to America in 1890 at the age of 17 with her family. The family moved to Shelby County, where Christen and Marie met.

    After their marriage, Christen and Marie had four children: Miller (b. 1895), Eli (b. 1898), William (b. 1900), and Rose (b. 1909). The family farmed in Jackson Township located in eastern Shelby County. To help transport the family during Iowa winters Christen Pedersen built this horse-drawn cutter in the 1890s. A cutter is a lightweight, open sleigh. Most cutters only had one seat that would hold two people; however, the Pedersen's needed more room in their sleigh so everyone could ride at the same time.

    The family hired George Jensen, a Danish immigrant, in 1920 to help with daily activities on the farm. Rose and George fell in love and got married on August 11, 1936. George donated the handmade sleigh to the Shelby County Historical Museum in the 1970s.

    This 135 year old horse-drawn cutter is still being used! Christen Pedersen had no idea when he made this sleigh that it would be a highlight of a holiday event, but we are glad that it is! At Santa in the Cabins visitors were able to take family pictures in the cutter.

  • 30 Mar 2021 8:39 AM | Anonymous

    Throughout Women's History Month we have learned about many different Shelby County women who made differences not only in our community, but throughout America.

    Today we will learn about Astrid Willadsen, and her husband Chris, who actively participated in the Danish Underground Resistance Movement during WWII.

    Astrid, daughter of Andreas and Nikoline Villadsen, was born on November 17, 1914 in Guldager, Denmark. In September 1935, two months before her 21st birthday, Astrid married Chris Willadsen.

    Nazi occupation of Denmark began on April 9, 1940. Instead of fleeing before the German invasion, the Danish king and government worked alongside German authorities. Due to this collaboration few changes were noticed in the everyday life of Danish citizens.

    However, Danish Resistance Groups formed as soon as four days after Nazi forces occupied Denmark. Chris and Astrid Willadsen were actively involved in the Danish Underground Resistance Movement which blew up German troop trains as well as helping hide Jews and downed pilots until they could be moved to safety.

    After the end of WWII Chris, Astrid, and their family moved to Irwin, Iowa. Astrid passed away on March 1, 2008 at the age of ninety-three.

  • 24 Mar 2021 12:08 PM | Anonymous

    Dr. Mary Jane Wyland was born in Harlan on December 19, 1883. At the age of 17 Mary Wyland was listed as a teacher in the 1900 Harlan High School Annual Yearbook. Five years later, in 1905, Mary Wyland graduated from Grinnell College; Grinnell, Iowa and received her Master of Arts degree from Teachers College, Columbia University.

    In 1915, Dr. Mary Wyland became the superintendent of the Harlan Community School District.

    Pictured is Dr. Wyland in the 1916 Harpoon yearbook where she is quoted saying, “For if she will, she will, and you may depend on it. And if she won’t, she won’t and there is an end on it.” She left the Harlan Community School District in 1926 and joined the Penn State faculty in 1927. Mary Wyland retired from Penn State in 1952.

    Upon her retirement, Junitata College, at Huntingdon, awarded her an honorary Doctor of Laws degree for her “wide influence on public and collegiate education in Pennsylvania.”

    In 1957, the Pennsylvania Governor George Michael Leader appointed Dr. Wyland as a trustee of the Pennsylvania State University and she continued in this post until the expiration of her term in 1964. Dr. Wyland also had a scholarship named for her by the Scrolls campus society.

    Mary Wyland was an active member of Pi Lambra Theta, honorary for women in education, and was affiliated also with numerous other professional and education groups, including Phi Kappa Phi, Pennsylvania Education Associate, and the national Education Association. She was a member of the Presbyterian Church, American Associate of University Women, Altrusa Club, Business and Professional Women’s Club, League of Women’s Voters, and the Woman’s Club.

  • 16 Mar 2021 2:47 PM | Anonymous

    Happy Women's History Month! Each week during this month we will highlight and learn about women from Shelby County and their lives.

    Pictured is Thelma "Toots" Heflin (1913-1995) helping Dave Schechinger organize the Shelby County Historical Museum's store room in 1990.

    On May 18, 1913 Thelma was born in Grafton, NE to her parents Clifford and Elizabeth Cade. In 1916, her family moved to Shelby County. At the age of 16 Thelma graduated from Harlan High School (Class of 1929). Three years later on June 2, 1931 she married Gaillard Heflin.

    For many years Thelma wrote a Harlan Newspaper column, "Down on the Farm". This article covered many different topics, but mainly she shared the history of Shelby County in a gripping way. On May 30, 1977 she wrote, "... We had been going past those two big cement (or rock) pieces at the west end of the new Nishnabotna River bridge and I kept wondering if they could possibly have been a part of the old Chatburn Mill, which had been on that exact location when it was built... I stopped by to see Gladys Reynolds, because J.W. Chatburn, builder of the mill, was her great-grandfather and I felt she'd KNOW. She got out her collection of pictures of the Mill and, sure enough, there didn't seem to be any place where large chunks of cement would have been used... It was fascinating, as always, to hear her tell about the Mill. How it was opened with a dance on Christmas Day, 1876. The 'forby' and the 'mill-race' and the 'dry bridge' close by are all intriguing terms..."

    Thelma was a charter member of the Shelby County Historical Society. Not only did Thelma help preserve the history of Shelby County, she volunteered locally for over 60 years. She spent time volunteering for 4-H, Eastern Star Lebanon Chapter # 8, Church Women United, Shelby County Farm Bureau, Shelby County Extension Service, PTA, Harlan Community School Board, Baptist Memorial Home, Harlan Literary Club, and many other organizations.

  • 9 Mar 2021 2:09 PM | Anonymous

    Happy Women's History Month! Each week during this month we will highlight and learn about women from Shelby County and their life experiences.

    This week we will learn about Elleen Wheatley.

    "With her husband and twin brother serving overseas in the U.S. Army during World War II, Elleen Wheatley wanted to join the war effort, too.

    "Though she had been working in munitions plants, first in Burlington and then in Ankeny, the 24-year-old felt the calling to enlist in the military. She joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943, serving until the war's end in 1945...

    "'I'm proud to say I'm a Marine,' she said. 'Most Marines are proud of our job and what we were doing.'

    "After enlisting in the Marine Corps on July 1, 1943, Wheatley attended basic training at Camp Lejeune, N.C., before being assigned to Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station Mojave in Mojave, Calif. as a quartermaster.

    "She was a native of the Leslie, Iowa, a town razed by the construction of Interstate 35. She worked as a transportation manager, coordinating trains for everything from soldiers heading out for training to ensuring soldiers' remains were sent home.

    "While in Mojave, Wheatley and the other Marines met Bob Hope on the one of the first stops of his tours of military bases. However, she said, Hope performed only for the male Marines, leaving her and her fellow women behind.

    "In that era, the Marine Corps didn't send women into overseas service, she said. The farthest place she could have been assigned was in Hawaii, but she resisted that. Instead, she hoped to stay on the mainland for when her husband, who was serving the European theater, would come home.

    "And that he did. Both were discharged late in 1945... Wheatley said. 'I just wanted to do my part in the service.'"

    "Living Heroes, Elleen Wheatley" written by John Schreier.

  • 3 Mar 2021 11:32 AM | Anonymous

    Happy #WomensHistoryMonth! Each week during this month we will highlight and learn about women from Shelby County and their life experiences.

    Pictured is Henrietta "Ada" Bomberger (1886 - 1982)

    Henrietta was born on January 28, 1886 to William and Arabelle Bomberger. The Bomberger's settled in Harlan three years after the town was incorporated in 1879. At this point Harlan was nothing more than a small village. If the family wanted to visit their relatives in Illinois, they would take a hack or hackney carriage, a horse-drawn cab, to Earling or Kirkman so they could take the Maple Leaf. The Maple Leaf was the main line for the Chicago's Great Western Railway. At the age of 22, Henrietta married Earle Cullums of Cook County, Illinois. A year later on June 17, 1919 the state of Illinois gave women the right to vote.

    Throughout her life Henrietta witnessed the first recorded flight (1903), WWI (1914 - 1918), Spanish Influenza (1918 - 1920), common use of automobiles (1920s), the Great Depression (1929 - 1933), electricity in homes (1930s - 1940s), WWII (1939 - 1945), invention of the first computer (1943), the start of the Cold War (1947), Apollo 11 and men on the moon (1969), invention of cell phones (1973), and so much more.

    After 96 years of experiences, Henrietta Cullums took her last breath on December 1, 1982 in Lyons, Kansas.

  • 3 Feb 2021 3:18 PM | Anonymous

    During March of 2020, we set out to improve spaces within the Shelby County Historical Museum. One of the spaces was the Wayne Alwill Research Center.

    We added a fresh coat of paint and installed shelving to house our record and document collections. The gray boxes you see in this picture help to provide a safe and stable environment for our historical documents.

    The research center now features a dedicated workstation with access to physical documents, digitized resources, and online databases.

    We have the tools you need to decipher tricky handwriting, learn more about the world that your great-grandmother grew up in, or even discover the missing link in your family tree!

    The Research Center is available during our normal business hours Monday - Friday, 8am - 4pm. The cost to use the Research Center in person is listed below.

     Member Cost  Free
     Non-Member Cost  $10/Day

    If you are looking to do research on the weekend, contact us to make a weekend research appointment!

  • 27 Jan 2021 10:23 AM | Anonymous

    The Shelby County Historical Museum's library is filled with thousands of books relating to Shelby County and its history. One of the books in the library is the Panama Centennial Cookbook. It was created in 1984 to celebrate the Panama's 100 year anniversary. Recipes from Panama residents were collected and combined to make this fun cookbook. 

    Streusel-Filled Coffee Cake

    By Irmine Mickels


    11/2 c. flour 3 tsp. baking powder

    1/4 tsp. salt 3/4 c. sugar

    1/4 c. shortening 1 egg (beaten)

    1/2 c. milk 1 tsp. vanilla


    1/2 c. brown sugar 2 tbsp. butter melted

    2 tbsp. flour 2 tsp. cinnamon

    1/2 c. chopped nuts (opt.)


    Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together. Cut in the shortening. Add the beaten egg and vanilla and mix all together. Pour 1/2 the batter in a 6"x10" pan. Sprinkle 1/2 of the streusel mixture over batter; then add remaining batter and put the rest of the mixture on top. Bake 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees. 

    This recipe takes 10 minutes to make and goes perfectly with a morning cup of coffee or milk!

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The Shelby County Historical Museum is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1964. This four building complex is located at 1805 Morse Avenue Harlan, Iowa 51537.

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