The Jackson County Historical Society was founded April 25, 1903 when prominent citizens in the county met in Maquoketa. The nine men were:
George L. Mitchell, businessman
Harvey Reid, businessman, county treasurer, and local historian
W.C. Gregory, realtor
Dr. A. B. Bowen
Will Cundill, legendary photographer
They were soon joined by W.C. Swigart and James W. Ellis. Swigart was a newspaper publisher at the time, while Ellis was an insurance broker and avid local historian who wrote the Annals of Jackson County, a two volume 1910 History of Jackson County.
“Re-invented” in 1964, the Historical Society was spearheaded by people such as Paul Jr. Papke, Lucille Sorensen, Grace Holihan, Clarence Kindred, Howard Tabor, Charles Butterworth, Judy Carlson, H.D. Keeley, Leroy Hepker, Mary Hoerner, J.W. Brady Jr, Peter Schroeder, Charles Bevan, Mary Elda Schreiber, George Kingsley, and Robert Manley.
The Society struggled until Jackson County millionaire businessman Allison Pearson passed away in 1966 leaving almost a million dollars to improve the quality of life for those in Jackson County. Due to Allie Pearson’s intense interest in history, the executors of his estate felt that the Jackson County Historical Society was the perfect fit. Judge Arthur Janssen was chosen to spearhead the erection of the Pearson Memorial Center on the Fairgrounds to house the Historical Society and the Fair Association. Having at last found a home, the Jackson County History Museum has become one the country’s finest.
The Society added a Machine Shed on the Fairgrounds to house its outstanding collection of horse powered farm machinery, 1914 Case Steam Engine, and an authentic log cabin among thousands of other items.
The Hurstville Lime Kilns are part of the JCHS complex. Sitting along old Highway 61, just north of Maquoketa, they remain the only restored set of four kilns in the entire country.
In 2008, the JCHS rehabbed the old administration building on the site of the Clinton Engines factory. It is now an interactive museum telling the story of the Clinton Engines Corporation, one of the world’s leading producers of small gasoline engines. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and part of Jackson County’s designation as an Iowa Great Place.
Also within the Clinton Building is the Jackson County Research and Genealogical library – an extensive collection of local and family history through the years.
The Jackson County History Museum and the Hurstville Lime Kilns are part of the Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area. The Historical Society is also a member of Time Travelers, giving its members discounts at fine museums around the country.