Rural Neighborhood Clubs
Rural neighborhood clubs formed an important part of the Midwest agrarian heritage. Women particularly would form clubs as a means of getting acquainted and socializing with their farm neighbors. Meetings were typically held monthly, with members rotating the hosting function. Picnics, entertainment, and educational events formed the core of the activities. Although the Grange existed in the rural Ames area in the 1860s, it did not have a lasting presence. After the turn of the century, neighborhood clubs including both men and women became common.
NORTH STAR COUNTRY CLUB
The North Star Country Club, formed in January 1912, included rural residents in the vicinity of what is now Top-O-Hollow Road and Hoover Avenue. Examples of other clubs were Fairview Community Club (south Ames), Might Like Us Club, and Beach Avenue Club. Some groups used the term "country club" in their formal name. These should not be confused with the later and more exclusive "golf and country clubs" formed across the nation.
The Ames Historical Society Archives contain two record books of minutes taken at meetings of the North Star Country Club between 1912-1913 and 1917-1919. The club apparently disbanded by October 1919 since no further minutes survive (except for minutes of a 1944 reunion). Of special interest is a letter signed by Wallace Greeley in 1916 concerning the contribution of funds for furnishing a room in the new Mary Greeley Hospital. The following abstract of selected minutes was made in September, 2004 by Alice Mellen. Reproduced pages include : typical evening program, Fourth of July activities, and hospital correspondence.
Constitution & By Laws, Feb. 6, 1912
Family names who signed at the first meeting: Baird, Campbell, Cromwell, Dodds, Griffith, Gunder, Kooser, Miller, Oliver, Shugart, and many others
First meeting was held at the home of Mr. & Mrs. W.R. Dodds on Jan 12, 1912. All in attendance agreed to make the "club a permanent organization" with short programs. S.S. Kooser was elected temporary chairman. Mrs. Dodds was declared president, with F.E. Gunder as vice-president, Mrs. J.E. Campbell, secretary, and Mrs. S.S. Kooser as treasurer.
Program committee was directed to prepare devotional exercises for each meeting. (These often consisted of a Bible reading, religious song and prayer.)
Feb. 6. Fifty members signed the constitution and by-laws. Total dues collected was $7.35 (at 30 to 60 cents per family).
Feb. 17. Eighty-one persons attended at the home of Mr. & Mrs. L.J. Baird. A bill of 33 cents was presented for the cost of a secretary’s book. The evening’s program was recitations and music by 13 different persons. 24
March 1. In an item labeled miscellaneous business, a proposal was made to provide lap boards (for two persons) to eat luncheon. The club appointed a committee of three to "saw out about 30 boards for trial." Motion tabled. Motion instead to investigate the price of lap boards and trays.
March 15. After pricing trays at 10 cents each and lap boards at 14 cents, it was decided that each person would buy his own. It was felt they did nor want to use the treasury for this purpose.
Moved to join in meeting with other clubs at a later date.
June 21. Reference made to a MR. HAYDEN presenting a report – (no prior reference or name on membership lists) [this is probably D.M. Hayden, Ada’s father]
Plans were being made for a Fourth of July picnic. Each member family could bring two other families, not to exceed 10 persons in all. About 150 picnicked at F.E. Gunder’s oak grove.
The club voted on a name for a school house in their neighborhood: 26 votes for North Star, 2 for Shearer, 1 for Fairview.
Reference made to a Mrs. Clyde Brenton and Federated Clubs.
Typical evening program.
An invitation was offered to join the mid-winter picnic at the M.E. Church on Dec. 14, 1912 [prepared by other clubs?]
Communication from ISC Pres. Pearson declining an invitation to the mid-winter picnic – he would be out of town.
Jan. 10, 1913. Changes were made to the constitution: new members being elected by ballot and the establishment of a floral committee. A motion was tabled to "declare members should be land owners or those actively in farming."
Jan. 25. Content of the entertainment program added more informational offerings in addition to members’ talents. The first such program was a talk entitled "Home Economics at ISC and its influence on the farmer girl." A literary committee was formed to "look up a subject of study in literary work."
March 23. Club voted to send President Jay Allen to second annual meeting of IOWA ASSOCIATION OF FARMERS’ CLUBS to be held in Des Moines, March 22, 1913, with expenses paid by the club. Literary topic for discussion was "Useful labor savers on the farm" by W.L. Morris. 55 members and guests were in attendance. Five dozen teaspoons and forks of "the Alaska wear" [sic] were purchased by the refreshments committee at a total cost of $13.25.
A meeting scheduled for May 16 was cancelled because of measles at the Oliver’s and location was changed to Sam Kooser’s but it "rained and no one came."
A basket picnic was planned for July Fourth at a "convenient grove." Sites of Chautauqua Park and Story City were voted down, and finally Mr. F.E. Gunder’s timber was accepted. A committee of six was appointed to "supply a watering trough and plenty to drink" which was to be paid for out of the treasury. Ninety attended. On July 11 it was reported that $5.75 was paid for ice cream, 75 cents for chairs and $10 for fireworks, but no bill was submitted for beverages.
Typical July 4th activities.
Aug. 8. Entertainment program included the North Star Orchestra playing the Overture from William Tell and an encore of the Anvil Chorus, recitations, readings and a tableau on "Votes for Women."
Sept. 3. Program included a debate "Resolved that an automobile is more of a necessity on a farm than a luxury." [interesting to note that the secretary originally reversed the terms and then corrected them]. The decision of the judges was 2 negative, 1 affirming.
Dec. 12. Another debate took place entitled "Resolved that a boy living in the country has better advantages than a boy living in the city."
1914 Approximately 48 people from 21 families signed the secretary’s book as members. [no date is listed but possibly early January].
July 17, 1917. Meeting was held at the home of Mr. & Mrs. George Meyers. A report from the July Fourth committee stated "good time and no expenses." Motion made that "the $5 left of the hospital room fund be turned in to the club fund." Report of the hospital committee was received and that committee was discharged. "Motion made that the club contribute to a fund as a free will offering for army boys on their way south. Mrs. Dodds was appointed as a committee of one to disperse the money."
Dec. 4. Officers were elected for first half of 1919: Will Dodds, President; Burt Kooser, Vice-president; Harry Stewart, Secretary; Ed Miller, Treasurer. Letter from Sam Martin "somewhere in France." Club voted to "equip and furnish a barrack bag" as soon as possible to replace one lost by him.
Feb. 1, 1918. Programs still presented by members – readings, songs, instrumental music.
March 1. Meeting at home of Mr. & Mrs. Ed Miller. Program: song by all, reading by Dwight Gunder, song by Katherine Amlund, two-minute talk by Bernice Dodds on "what is necessary to start up housekeeping," talk by Edward Morris on the "best tractor for 160 acres of land," followed by marriage of Peter Cartwheel and Susan Pumphandle by Rev. Andrew Carniege Stewart, and then refreshments.
July 12. Semi-annual election of officers: M. Pruitt, President; Bernice Dodds, Vice-president; Bessie Meyers, Secretary; Maude Campbell, Treasurer. Mrs. Kooser then gave a report of one of our members, Sam Martin who is in France, aiding in making the world a safe place in which to live."
(Meetings continued every two weeks, but nothing remarkable happened).
Feb 12, 1919. (Members and relatives returned from the war). Three cheers given as a welcome to Roy Stewart. Address by Mr. Peabody on causes of war, sacrifices made by young men, achievements of U.S. forces and welcome to returning soldiers. Roy Stewart gave an overview of his service activities. Mrs. Miller spoke of George’s experiences. Mr. Kooser read letters from Sam Martin. Maude Campbell spoke of Robert’s illness overseas. Fred McDonald’s anticipated return was spoken of by Burt Kooser.
June 26. Officers elected: Edward Morris, President; Mr. D. Griffith, Vice- president; Mrs. D.L. Pruitt, Secretary; Mrs. E.A. Miller, Treasurer. Voted to disband until the first Friday in September.
Oct. 17. [last entry] brief business meeting; all bills paid; auditing committee appointed.
Aug. 27. Reunion at home of Robert Campbell; 36 persons from all over the country attended.
Meetings held every other Friday at members’ homes; number of attendees listed: 35-50. Planned activities with other clubs. Election of officers and updating of constitution and by-laws annually. Members signed minute book annually. Members admitted approximately every other month.
Meetings held every other Friday at members’ homes; number of attendees not listed. Election of officers semi-annually; updating of constitution and by-laws annually. Members did not sign book at all. Few members admitted. Did not meet summer of 1919; appeared to disband by October 1919 [no further minutes].