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  • 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!

  • 20 Jan 2021 9:58 AM | Anonymous

    The Shelby County Historical Museum is working to document the history of Shelby County and the experiences of its residents through recorded interviews through the Oral History Project. This opportunity is open to all individuals, we are interested in hearing from a diverse group of individuals who have a connection to Shelby County. Oral history interviews are a great way for future generations to learn about the history of Shelby County and learn about the past experiences of family members. 

    Are you interested in sharing your experiences in Shelby County?

    First, contact the Shelby County Historical Museum and we will create an appointment for your interview. We will then send you the Oral History Release Form to sign. On the date of your interview you will sit down with one of our volunteers for a recorded interview, which typically last from forty minutes to two hours. The interviewer will ask questions about your life in relation to Shelby County, you are always able to decline to answer questions. At the end of your interview the Shelby County Historical Museum will keep your recorded interview as part of our collection, you will retain the copyright and recording for the interview.

    What are some basic questions you will be asked at your interview?

    1. How did your family come to live in Shelby County? Where was your family originally from?
    2. What is your earliest childhood memory?
    3. What schools did you attend? What was school like for you?
    4. Did your family have any special holiday traditions?
    5. What world events had the most impact on you while you were growing up (Great Depression, wars, etc.)? Did any of them personally affect your family?
    6. How has Shelby County changed since you have lived here (businesses, atmosphere, population, etc.)?
    7. What is/was your profession and how did you choose it?

    We appreciate you thinking about participating in our Oral History Project!

  • 13 Jan 2021 11:22 AM | Anonymous

    We have a few pieces of hair art in our collection that date back to the late 1800s. You might be thinking, "Did I read that correctly? Does the Shelby County Historical Museum actually have hair art in its collection? Did people in the 1800s not have yarn to use instead?"

    Yes, as shocking as it sounds, we do have hair art in our collection. This piece of hair art was made by Mrs. Mary Lawrence of Portsmouth, Iowa. Mary was born on May 4, 1860 and died June 27, 1936; at some point within her lifetime she created this piece of hair art. 

    Hair art became popular in America during the 1860s. After Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, died in 1861 she kept a lock of his hair in a locket. Hair art was widely used for two reasons, to solidify a friendship or to remember a loved one. While there were other materials artists utilized when creating their work hair was more than a medium because it was a sign of intimacy between two people.

    Hair was commonly used to create jewelry or hair wreaths. Hair jewelry could be lockets filled with hair or rings made from hair. Just as Queen Victoria wore her late husband's hair in a locket, Americans also wore the hair of a loved one in a locket to remember them. Close friends might make rings out of each other's hair, like friends who exchange friendship bracelets today.

    Hair wreaths were much larger than their symbolic counterpart, lockets filled with hair. While both remembered a loved one who had most likely passed away, hair wreaths required hair from three to four people. Hair wreaths were made in the shape of a 'U' to symbolize their loved one's ascent to heaven. In the photograph of the hair wreath you can see the different colors; this is because the different hair was collected from multiple people or dyed.

    The practice of creating and having hair art may seem outdated and unusual now. Through technology such as photographs, videos, and voicemail we are able to remember our loved ones differently.

  • 18 Nov 2020 10:38 AM | Anonymous

    Our museum has two full-time staff members the Executive Director and the Grants and Development Coordinator. We are so thankful for the work that they do to help our museum run. Today Lauren Jones is sharing a little about herself so you can get to know her more! 

      Meet Lauren Jones

                                                 Grants and Development Coordinator

    Hello all!

    I was born and raised in Iowa. While my family lived in a small town, my parents wanted my siblings and I to experience cities as well. Each summer we would take a road trip to a new city. To pass the time on these road trips my dad would quiz my siblings and I on mental math problems. I quickly realized that math did not come naturally to me, instead I enjoyed the museums we would visit once we reached our destination.

    I have always been interested in history; when I went to college, I decided to major in Event Management because I wanted to work with people. Yet, after starting the program I was unsure if I wanted to plan events for a living. I flipped back and forth between majors my first two years at Iowa State. I finally decided I should take a class I enjoyed, so I took a class about European history. This class encouraged me to change my major to History with a minor in Event Management.

    My favorite part of history is that there is always something to learn. I joined the Shelby County Historical Museum in May of 2020. Each day has taught me new things about the unique history of Shelby County and I am able to work with people everyday.

    Since moving to Shelby County I have found new hobbies. If I am not at work, I am most likely walking my dog Kevin, cooking, or doing DIY projects around my house.

    Stop by the museum and say hello!

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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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