THE RURAL LEGACY PROJECT
Mission Statement: The Rural Legacy Project is devoted to preserving the history of Iowa’s rural schools and instilling pride in the heritage of our community.
The purpose of the Rural Legacy Project is to preserve the history of the community of Odebolt, as well as the surrounding area, and to tell its story to residents and visitors. With the generations of past leaving our ranks, we feel the need to represent and preserve what has been distinctive about our area in Iowa. In doing so, we concentrated first on the story, as well as the restoration of Willow Tree/ Richland Township No. 1, a one-room school house representative of the 12,623 schools in the Iowa Rural Schools System at its peak in 1901.
We have excellent preservation of many stories of former students and teachers, the records of this school house, the building itself and the artifacts – a good number of which were part of this school at one time. The legacy of Iowa that ensured all farm children, many of whom were immigrants, had the guarantee of a free and accessible education in the rural areas is one of foresight and demonstrates why the populace of Iowa ranked highest in literacy and education for so many years.
The community of Odebolt, along with rural residents of Iowa, has long been proud of its agricultural and educational history. The Rural Legacy Project strives to preserve the stories and the remaining structures that demonstrate that broader history – not only the Rural Schools System of Iowa and town history preserved in the Historical Museum of Odebolt, but also the unique history of the two largest row crop farms in Iowa – the Adams Ranch including the restored Adams bank still serving Odebolt and the Cook Ranch, known for its Hereford cattle.
The story of the connection between the building of Willow Tree School and the Petermeyer’s Grain Company of Odebolt that was sold to the Cracker Jack Company shows some of the contributions of area farmers. An Odebolt area farmer was the founder of the American Popcorn Company with its Jolly Time brand. With the expansion of Cracker Jack and American Popcorn companies, Odebolt became the popcorn center of the world by 1911.
These same farmers formed the Sac County Mutual Telephone Company in 1902 so rural families could have telephone service like town residents. This area is known for raising several legislative members of the Iowa and U.S. congressional bodies, being a strategic Civil Defense Tower location and providing a prisoner of war work camp in World War I and World War II.
If these histories and stories are not preserved, our community will lose sight of its prominent past and the rural history of Iowa. Americans will not know nor understand Iowa and Midwestern history or its contributions to the nation. The Rural Legacy Project believes Odebolt’s history is important and a great representation of Iowan and Midwestern cultural history. We want to tell the world through our tourism efforts. The Rural Legacy Project believes its mission is to preserve and collect area history; then share our history and contributions with future generations.