Fairfield Ledger

Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 1, 2016

Please take students to historic sites

By Jim Turner | Sep 15, 2016

To the editor:

I have lived in Fairfield for 19 years now. I learned more about the history of Fairfield in two hours with Jeff FitzRandolph than I had learned in all of the previous nineteen years.

Jeff is a volunteer guide at the Maasdam Barns Museum here in our city. Maasdam Barns were known throughout the world for their design, their efficiency and their practical value, which means they are durable!

The barns you see on the tour are just part of what the tour is about. You also learn about The Louden Company which was based in the Broadway Building [that many of us often drive by] and was known on all seven continents. Millions of people used Louden farm products and tools. A trip to Maasdam barns also offers a look back in history when farm animals were of inestimable value. The Maasdam family was famous for raising prize winning draft horses.

One half hour with Mark Shafer at the Carnegie Museum was worth more than reading a book about Fairfield history, and not because Mark talks fast, either. It is because the way he talks about history is so interesting...and memorable. A short visit to the museum reveals countless fascinating facts about our hometown. A senator from Faifield knew Abraham Lincoln personally. He personally delivered the news of Lincoln’s second presidential election victory. Another fairfield resident knew Andrew Carnegie and was instrumental in having Mr. Carnegie build the first of his libraries west of the Mississippi.

Fairfield held the first Iowa State Fair and had the first municipal electrification project in Iowa. There are artifacts from the Civil War and an impressive display of military uniforms that would be worthy of the Smithsonian Institution.

The purpose of this letter is to appeal not to the history teachers in Fairfield but to the administrators, department chairs, and principals: to encourage them to facilitate and organize a visit by every school in our community to these wonderful museums. Every child in Fairfield should see these museums at least once over the course of their education. It is important to note that the admission is entirely free.

History isn’t in textbooks – at least the history that is alive and vital isn’t. It isn’t in YouTube videos either. History is right here in our local museums. The history of Fairfield has been revived and resurrected by some of our stalwart fellow citizens. Let’s use every opportunity we have to give the children in our community the invaluable educational experience these museums offer.


– Jim Turner, Fairfield

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