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Views and opinions: Mason City museum holds ag treasures for collectors


The Kenny Pioneer Museum in Mason City, Iowa, has a collection that will please every visitor. Director Kay Ingersol said, “This is our 50th season. We have this building; it was put up in 1968 … Outside we have a one-room schoolhouse, a log cabin, a jailhouse, a blacksmith shop, an ag building and a caboose.”

Inside the museum, the first thing visitors will see is a beautiful yellow car – it is the only Colby left of 900 produced by the Colby Car Corp., made in Mason City from 1911-14. The buildings from the car company are still in existence and were taken over by Associated Milk Producers, Inc.

Those interested in farm items won’t be disappointed because while there is local Mason City history, much of it is connected to agriculture. There’s a wooden cart that was used for hauling grain at the old Red Mill in Wheeler Wood, a city that has disappeared and is now just part of Mason City.

The cart was brought to the museum by the grandson of the operator of the mill. There is also a large wooden wrench that was used to open and close a dam that was located on Parkers Mill, which is now gone.

Another unique piece of equipment is the hand-carved wooden shoulder yoke that was used by George Lyman of Geneseo Township. The yoke was used to carry buckets while making maple syrup. The description on the yoke says: “He went off to the Civil War and left his wife and five children. The yoke is presented to the museum by his granddaughter, Iva Bruce Cegswell.”

Inside the museum there are farm-animal tools and ice-harvesting tools, along with pictures of how they were used during the ice harvest at Clear Lake in 1920.

One of the treasures Kay pointed out was a recently restored Regina Orchestral Corona that now plays again. Visitors will enjoy seeing the old soda fountain, and a beautiful loom that is in working condition.

There is also a 1906 Model N Ford and several vehicles that include a late-1800s Mason City Fire Pumper and an original horse-drawn wagon from the Hermanson Brothers Dairy. There is a lot of dairy history at the museum, in fact. (Hermanson Brothers became Carnation Dairy in 1954.)

There are also Deckers Ham items on display, including tins of pure pork sausage and pork tenderloin from Jacob E. Decker & Sons. In 1896-97, John Richards built a meatpacking plant along the Winnebago River in the northern portion of Mason City, and Jacob Decker and his son, Jay, began renting the plant on July 4, 1899.

They bought the plant for $6,000 in 1901 and established Jacob E. Decker & Sons Meat Packing Co. At one time, the company employed around 13,000 people.

A Prairie Schooner Conestoga Wagon replica shares the westward migration story. Built in the winter of 1990-92 by Henry and Ralph Peterson, the wagon has a photo of John & Mathilda Russell attached to it. They were the first couple to come to Cerro Gordo County in 1853 in a Conestoga wagon from Ohio with teams of six animals or more.

Other conveyances like a sled and buggy are on display, along with fur coats and hats to show how the early residents kept warm while moving from place to place.

The blacksmith shop is filled with tools as well, but the heart of the antique farm equipment though is located in the ag building. It is there that collectors will see the Light Running New John Deere binder that was bought by John Deardeuff in 1926, the Farmall F20, the John Deere B, the fanning mill used for making seed oats and a seed sack from Appells, a South African Water Bag.

Outside the front of the museum there is a lovely hay rake, a thresher and, off to the side, a huge Allis-Chalmers engine. It would take several visits to see it all!

Located at the entrance to the Mason City Airport, the museum is open May-September from 1-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Call 641-423-1258 for more information.


Readers with questions or comments for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication. Learn more of Cindy’s finds and travel in her blog, “Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl,” at