Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 25, 2018

Henry County Heritage Center seasonal opening Saturday

Museum showcases rich history of Mt. Pleasant, Henry County
May 03, 2018
Photo by: Grace King The City Cab exhibit is just one of many historical artifacts found at the Henry County Historic Trust Center, which opens for the season Saturday, May 5. City Cab was owned and operated by “cutting-edge” Vera Shafer from 1944 to 1987 in Mt. Pleasant.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


The Henry County Heritage Center is opening for the season with new exhibits and better accessibility for the public this Saturday, May 5.

The Center is a museum of Henry County and Mt. Pleasant history, dating back to the Revolutionary War. While tours are available any day of the week upon request, the museum will remain open every Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. from now until October.

Thanks to grants and donations from Jared and Carol Hills, who matched up to $50,000 in funds in 2016, the museum is now fully outfitted with chairlifts, the last of which was installed just last week in the former Saunders School at 203 N. White St. in Mt. Pleasant.

The chairlifts are an especially exciting factor for HC Heritage Trust Treasurer Pat White, who said it can be embarrassing when someone requests a tour for them not to be able to access any part of the museum outside of the entryway.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” added Heritage Trust member Waunita Gibbons.

Accessibility is just one additional factor the members of Henry County Heritage Trust are excited to unveil Saturday. Others include new exhibits and artifacts borrowed and donated from people in Henry County.

Greeting museum-goers at the entrance is a new display honoring those who served in World War I. Many of the items displayed are from former Henry County residents, such as Herman C. Brown, of Salem, whose picture, war maps, gas mask and other artifacts are showcased behind the glass.

“I think it’s pretty cool we have this many items. This is just a small tidbit (on display),” White said. “I expect there’s families in the area with many mementos from World War I veterans.”

While White doesn’t have a favorite exhibit in the museum, she thoroughly enjoys sharing with people how historic Mt. Pleasant is. She likes to say the museum has everything “from Vera to Van Allen.”

Vera, that is Vera Shafer, is a notable name in the Mt. Pleasant community for her entrepreneurship in starting her own cab company from 1944 to 1987 - a time when women typically didn’t start companies. In the corner of one of the rooms sits a car door with the words “City Cab” imprinted on it. While this door isn’t taken from one of Shafer’s own cars, it is from the same type of car she would have driven at the time. The neon “City Cab” sign, however, is original.

“People loved her,” White said, adding that Shafer passed away not long ago in 2011. “Even after she sold the cab company, she was a one-woman R.S.V.P. in her day, taking people to appointments and delivering groceries.”

“She was just cutting edge,” added Terry McNair, president of HC Heritage Trust.

Van Allen, or James Van Allen, on the other hand, also has a display in the Center. Known as the “father of space science” and a graduate from Iowa Wesleyan University, some of the physics lab instruments he used at his time as an undergrad student were recently donated to HC Heritage Trust to display.

Additionally, the Center has a room dedicated to the rich history of education in Henry County, which White said was known as the “Athens of Iowa” in the late 1800s for the educational opportunities here.

A third room showcases history of towns surrounding Mt. Pleasant, not to step on the toes of the other amazing local museums throughout Henry County.

For questions or to make an appointment to tour the museum, call Pat White at 319-385-4983.

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