Continuing the series of Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:
New Virginia Public Library
504 Book Alley, PO Box 304
New Virginia, Iowa 50210
Hours: Tuesday 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Wednesday 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Thursday 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 12 Noon.
The library’s website says they have “a local history collection.” Those words don’t even begin to describe the wonderful collection. I had heard the collection existed, but was totally unprepared for its enormity and detail.
Leota Houlette (1921-2009) was a life-long Warren County resident. She lived primarily in the New Virginia area and was very interested in its history. Was she ever! I estimated that the collection of three-ring binders fills 27 lineal feet of shelf space in two steel cabinets. The binders are arranged chronologically beginning with 1836 and are filled with everything imaginable relating to the history of New Virginia and its citizens. Some notebooks contain multiple years and sometimes one year requires two binders.
Examples of things I found in the binders are:
photocopies of Bible records
land entry information
family group sheets
deaths and obituaries
many articles of general interest
photocopies of a Civil War letter
copies of parts of a Civil War pension file
excerpts from a diary
The list could go on and on and on! Items have been saved from Des Moines newspapers, the New Virginian, Indianola, Osceola, and Winterset newspapers. Some items are handwritten, some are typed, and some are photocopies. It is obvious that when people discovered that she had started a collection, they gave her more and more. Leota’s collection became more like a centralized repository for everything related to New Virginia and the people.
The librarian told me that about ten years ago the Friends of the Library took over the collection and have continued to update it, primarily with vital records: births, marriages and deaths.
I noticed a third steel cabinet contained a large box with many rolls of microfilm. The librarian told me that the notebooks up to 1980 have been microfilmed. The label on the boxes I looked at indicated that this was done by The Advantage Companies in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Stickers on the outside of the steel cabinets refer to Heritage Microfilm. As the Friends of the Library can afford to, they get more binders filmed. The microfilm company has the original silver copies and the library has the only other copy of this valuable collection. I was disappointed to learn that the State Historical Library does NOT have a copy.
Other items I found in the local history corner of this small-town library were:
Virginia Booster 4-H Club scrapbooks
Women for a Better Community scrapbook
Future Homemakers of America scrapbook
New Virginia Saddle Club
1979 Architectural Survey of New Virginia
Girl Scouts scrapbooks
Virginia Jolly Jills 4-H club scrapbooks
Bay View Club 1930-1960
New Virginia Melody Makers
New Virginia House of the Month with house histories
a dozen or more ledger books from local general stores and other businesses, at least one dating to 1881
Hazel Ridge telephone information dating to early 1900s
Zylphia Felton – 4 books of newspaper clippings
five other books donated in memory of various people by the Bay View Club – of clippings of weddings, obituaries, 50th anniversaries and such
New Virginia High School yearbooks 1940-1961
Interstate 35 school Travelogs and Road Runners 1967-1982
several family histories
Warren County history books
7th and 8th grade school records Sept 1917 – Nov 1917, Sept 1919 – May 1919 (includes name of students, attendance, and in some cases grades)
a few local church histories
A cover sheet in Leota’s notebooks announces the beginning of a new year, and on that cover sheet is the following:
Behold the World of the Old
Let your heritage not be lost
But bequeath it as a memory
Treasure and Blessing
Gather the lost and the hidden
And preserve it for thy Children
—–Christian Metz 1846