Category: Crime

The Hotel Pattee and I are Hosting a Party—And You’re Invited!

What are you doing on Monday evening, Sept. 11? I would like to personally invite you to Perry to the historic Hotel Pattee at 7 p.m. for the debut of Dallas County, my latest non-fiction Iowa history book. It’s all here—drama, crime (Bonnie and Clyde), politics (Dallas County made President Harry Truman the original Comeback Kid), romance, tragedy, mystery, action, adventure, sports, food, agriculture, architecture, science, business, biography, comics and more—all told through more than 100 vintage photos and short stories in 10 chapters.

During this fun event at the hotel (click here for all the details!), I’ll take you on a time-traveling virtual tour of fun, surprising and sometimes shocking Dallas County history highlights. Stick around for the book signing after the program, and then stroll through the iconic Hotel Pattee to tour some of the guest rooms that will be open that evening. Every room in this grand boutique hotel features unique décor that tells the stories of Perry, Dallas County and Iowa history.

I’ve specifically asked that the luxurious Louis Armstrong Suite be open that evening. (In case you’re wondering about the Iowa connection, Louis Armstrong performed in Dallas County in 1954 at the legendary Lake Robbins Ballroom near Woodward and stayed at the Hotel Pattee.)

If nothing else, stop by on Sept. 11 for the homemade cookies the Hotel Pattee’s culinary team is preparing with some of my favorite recipes!

Dallas County Iowa hiistory bookExplore forgotten Iowa history
I am so excited to bring you this new hardcover, illustrated book, which is the first in-depth, non-fiction history of Dallas County, Iowa, in nearly 80 years!

No Iowa county has influenced American history more than Dallas County. It propelled Harry Truman to an unlikely victory in the 1948 presidential campaign, following a fiery speech he delivered to 100,000 farmers on a sweltering September day at the National Plowing Match near Dexter. Just 15 years earlier, a shoot-out near Dexfield Park marked the beginning of the end for infamous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde and the notorious Barrow Gang.

Dallas County, located just west of Des Moines, has produced several major-league baseball players (among them Bob Feller and Hal Manders), a US congressman (David Young), and Nile Kinnick, the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner and University of Iowa football legend whose grandfather George Clarke, of Adel, served as Iowa’s governor from 1913 to 1917.
Today, Dallas County is one of the fastest-growing counties in America and remains a region of opportunity with a rich heritage of small-town living, farming, coal mining, and the immigrant experience.

My 128-page book from Arcadia Publishing (order signed copies here) is filled with intriguing black-and-white, vintage photos on nearly every page, along with stories from Adel, Perry, Waukee, Granger, Woodward, Dexter, Linden, Minburn, Dawson, Dallas Center, Van Meter, Redfield, Bouton, surrounding rural areas and ghost towns.

Alice Nizzi, spaghetti, Waukee, Iowa, food, Italian, history

Alice Nizzi, owner of Alice’s Spaghettiland, an Italian restaurant open from 1947 – 2004 in Waukee. Source: Waukee Area Historical Society

Here’s a quick list of highlights that make this Dallas County book unique:

1. Many of the images have been donated from private collections.

2. In the early 20th century, Dallas County was one of the biggest coal-mining areas of Iowa. Much of this history, from Waukee to Woodward, is shared in this new Dallas County book. You can also get the inside story in this guest blog post I wrote for Hometown Heritage in Perry. 

3. At least two circuses once made Dallas County their home base, including the famous Orton Bros. three-ring circus, where Five generations of the Orton family thrilled audiences for years. The Yankee Robinson Show, a Midwestern traveling circus, made its winter quarters two miles southeast of Granger. The spacious area also provided a place to bury deceased circus elephants. Granger may be the only Iowa town to claim an elephant graveyard.

4. Minburn’s legendary Singing Wheels roller skating show debuted in 1950 and ran through the early 1960s. Local children, high school students from the Minburn Roller Club and adults all participated in the Singing Wheels’ summer performances, which included a new theme every year, eye-catching costumes, and choreographed routines. These shows attracted thousands of people to the Minburn roller skating rink.

5. The Lake Robbins Ballroom, which opened on November 11, 1931, near Woodward, is still a popular entertainment destination and is one of the few remaining ballrooms in Iowa. The legendary Louis Armstrong performed at Lake Robbins in 1954 and stayed at the Hotel Pattee in Perry, where the most luxurious suite in the hotel is named in his honor.

6. Granger became the focal point of a successful New Deal program inspired by Monsignor Luigi Ligutti, who had served Assumption Church in Granger since 1926. Ligutti felt coal camps were an unsuitable environment for children and looked to the land to address the miners’ economic and social challenges. The 225-acre Granger Homesteads, built in 1935, included 50 modern homes, along with approximately four acres each for raising crops and livestock. In 1936, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the Granger Homesteads and praised the success of the project.

7.  The KKK was active in Dallas County, especially Perry, in the early 1920s. Almost 15,000 people witnessed a KKK parade and semi-public meeting in Perry on May 31, 1924.

8. Dallas County is one of the fastest-growing counties in America and remains a region of opportunity with a rich heritage of small-town living, farming, coal mining, and the immigrant experience.

Bonnie and Clyde shootout Dexter Iowa Dallas County 1933

While Bonnie and Clyde escaped, Clyde’s older brother, Buck Barrow (shown lying on the ground), was mortally wounded during a shootout with law enforcement during the early morning hours of July 24, 1933, near Dexfield Park in southern Dallas County. Buck would die a few days later at Kings Daughters Hospital in Perry. Source: Dexter Museum

Click here to order your signed copy today! Priceless memories of Iowa history make a great gift, too.
• Series: Images of America
• Hardcover: 128 pages
• Publisher: Arcadia Publishing (September 4, 2017)

 

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by.  I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you want more more intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page. Feel free to share this information with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press, as well as my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, which showcases the history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

About me:
Some people know me as Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, while others call me Yettergirl. I grew up on a Century Farm between Lake City and Yetter and am proud to call Calhoun County, Iowa, home. I’m an author, writer, marketer, business owner and entrepreneur who specializes in agriculture.  Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com. 

Coming Soon–“Dallas County,” a New Iowa History Book!

No Iowa county has influenced American history more than Dallas County. It propelled Harry Truman to an unlikely victory in the 1948 presidential campaign, following a fiery speech he delivered to 100,000 farmers on a sweltering September day at the National Plowing Match near Dexter. Just 15 years earlier, a shoot-out near Dexfield Park marked the beginning of the end for infamous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde and the notorious Barrow gang.

Dallas County, located just west of Des Moines, is a study in contrasts, from its key role on the Underground Railroad in the 1850s to the revival of the KKK in the 1920s. Dallas County has also produced several Major League Baseball players (including cousins Bob Feller and Hal Manders), a US congressman (David Young), and Nile Kinnick, the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner and University of Iowa football legend whose grandfather, George Clarke of Adel, served as Iowa’s governor from 1913 to 1917.

I’m very excited to announce that “Dallas County,” my third Iowa history book, will be released by Arcadia Publishing on Sept. 4, 2017! This will also be one of the publisher’s first books to be available in a hard cover version for $26.99. Want to know the story behind the cover? These dynamic ladies of the Van Meter Matrons Club (founded in 1909) socialized while improving their knowledge of Iowa heritage and current events. When the group celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1959-1960, historian Hazel Lauterbach said the group “helped me be a better homemaker, citizen, and community member and has taught me the true meaning of teamwork.”

Discover the fascinating stories of Dallas County, which is one of the fastest-growing counties in America and remains a region of opportunity with a rich heritage of small-town living, farming, coal mining, and the immigrant experience.

More details coming soon!

Want more Iowa culture and history?
Read more of my blog posts if you want more Iowa stories, history and recipes, as well as tips to make you a better communicator.

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press, as well as my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, which showcases the history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Iowa’s Vigilante Crime Fighters of the 1920s and 1930s

Who were these guys? It’s a question I couldn’t get out of my mind after I discovered a black-and-white image in the Calhoun County Museum in Rockwell City that showed a group of well-dressed men in front of the Calhoun County Courthouse. The only identification on the image, which appeared to be from the late 1920s or early 1930s, were the words “Calhoun County Vigilantes,” along with some long-forgotten names of men I suspect were mayors and other leaders in local towns around the county.

A recent trip to the fascinating “Ain’t Misbehavin:’ The World of the Gangster” exhibit at the Hoover Presidential Library and Museum helped me piece together some potential clues about the story behind this photo.

While bank robbers and swindlers are as old as the banking industry itself, crime sprees shifted into high gear during the early twentieth century. As early as 1912, the Iowa Bankers Association (IBA) decried the “epidemic” of bank burglaries sweeping the state. This proved to be only an inkling of what lay ahead, however. By 1920, burglaries and holdups had increased so dramatically that new protective measures had to be taken.

Vigilante.Aint.Misbehavin.low res

This 2016 display in the “Ain’t Misbehavin:’ The World of the Gangster” exhibit at the Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa, explains more about vigilantes and the role of the Iowa Bankers Association.had increased so dramatically that new protective measures had to be taken.

Although the Iowa Bankers Association (IBA) had previously employed the services of the Pinkerton Detective Agency and the W. J. Burns Detective Agency, the IBA formed Vigilante Committees in the early 1920s to fight the crime wave. In 1921, IBA helped organize 99 county associations and a Vigilance Committee in nearly every city and town in the state to help protect Iowa’s banks.

Vigilantes attracted international attention
The system was a modern reincarnation of the vigilante groups who fought back against horse thieving and cattle rustling during the days of the pioneers. In Iowa, each Vigilance Committee consisted of at least four men in every town where there was a bank. Each committee member was appointed as a deputy sheriff by the county sheriff. In addition, the banks of each county subscribed to at least a $1,000 reward for the apprehension and conviction of bank burglars, plus smaller rewards for telephone operators who helped in the process.

Arrangements were later made with the U.S. War Department so officers in each of Iowa’s County Bankers Associations could purchase guns and ammunition for the members of their Vigilante Committees. The Vigilance Committees were prepared for—and frequently engaged in—gunfights with criminals. At one time, there were 4,303 vigilantes covering 881 banking towns in 84 Iowa counties. “The time of easy dough for the bank bandit has passed,” noted a financial publication that commented on the plan.

Thanks to this system, the bank theft crime wave that had swept Iowa was broken. While losses from bank burglaries totaled more than $225,000 in 1920-1921, more than 100 bank bandits were apprehended from 1920 to 1925. “The plan was such a success that rates for bank burglary and bank insurance in Iowa were dropped to $1 per thousand, while in other states the rates ranged from $4 per thousand in Missouri to $10 per thousand in Oklahoma,” noted Howard E. Bell in his book, “A History of the Iowa Bankers Association.”

Insurance companies across the United States quickly adopted the Iowa Vigilance Committee Plan. A 10 percent discount for both night burglary and daylight holdup insurance rates was automatically granted to banks in any county in the United States that maintained Vigilance Committees.

Iowa’s Vigilance Committee Plan continued to be of national interest for a number of years and generated coverage in a number of magazines and periodicals. As late as 1930, the IBA received an interview request from a publication in Paris, France, that wanted to feature the Vigilance Committee Plan.

IBA takes to the airwaves
Though the vigilantes helped curb crime in the 1920s and early 1930s, the IBA also initiated a low-wave police radio system to bolster its crime prevention efforts. While Des Moines radio station WHO had broadcast news of bank robberies (when requested by the IBA) as early as 1924, it became clear that a radio station devoted solely to police information must be established.

To connect local law enforcement officers with the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation by radio, the IBA purchased a transmitter that was installed in February of 1932 in the organization’s headquarters in the Liberty Building in Des Moines. After the system was tested carefully, station KGHO began regular operations on May 15, 1933.

Later, four other radio stations in Storm Lake, Atlantic, Fairfield and Waterloo (subsequently moved to Cedar Falls) commenced operations to allowed prompt contact with county sheriffs’ offices throughout Iowa. While the IBA transferred the operation of its radio station in 1937 to the State of Iowa and the organization sold its radio equipment, the IBA’s leadership in radio communication helped initiate Iowa’s permanent, statewide police radio system.

Darcy.Aint.Misbehavin.Hoover.exhibit.May.15.2016 low res

Couldn’t resist getting in on the action at the “Ain’t Misbehavin:’ The World of the Gangster” exhibit at the Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa!

Although radio communication lessened the need for Vigilance Committees, the groups continued to function. The rewards that had been offered by various County Associations were rescinded around 1938, however, as the number of bank holdups and burglaries decreased substantially. As new state crime prevention agencies developed, the suggestion was made to abolish the Vigilance Committees, so banks would no longer have to assume the expense of maintaining the committees. Nevertheless, there were 216 vigilantes who remained active in a number of counties across Iowa as late as 1949.

Although the vigilantes and IBA radio stations are long gone, their legacy remains an intriguing part of Iowa history, including right here in Calhoun County.

Explore more rural Iowa history
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Want to discover more stories and pictures that showcase the unique history of small-town and rural Iowa? Perhaps you’d like a taste of Iowa’s culture and favorite recipes. Check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa” book from The History Press and “Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, and order your signed copies today. 


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