Appanoose County Historical Society
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Welcome to the
Appanoose County Historical & Coal Mining Museum!

The museum itself is an artifact! The gorgeous 1903 Georgian style masterpiece was the Centerville Post Office from 1904 until 1977, when the facility on North 10th street was built. The building features many lovely arched windows, terrazo and marble floors, and beautiful woodwork.

The Main Floor

Military Exhibit: There are exhibits featuring military items owned and used by local soldiers, including several items recently donated by the American Legion. There are flags, uniform, medals, armaments, and photographs of troops.
Theatrical History in Appanoose County

Theatrical Exhibit: The centerpiece of the Theatrical Exhibit is the silent movie projector used at the Cincinnati Theatre, as well as movie posters from the 1920s through the 1950s. The Drake Theatre as well as several other theaters in Appanoose County have a spot in this exhibit. Several famous residents are depicted here - Simon Estes, Corse Payton, the Spooner family, H.N. Swanson, and Robert Randolf are represented.


Explore the Museum

Postal Exhibits: With the museum being a former post office, it wouldn't be complete without showing several examples of post office equipment. Scales, cancelling machines, sorters and uniforms are among the many postal items on display.

Governor Francis Marion DrakeFamous Appanoose County Residents: Appanoose County has been home to many famous names, such as Iowa Governor Francis Marion Drake, Kentucky Derby winner, Mack Garner, international opera singer, Simon Estes, and several more who you may not have known about. Carl Weeks, Armand Cosmetic giant and builder of the Salisbury House in Des Moines, James Stevens, author of Paul Bunyan, and Corse Payton, 'America's Best Bad Actor', all lived in Appanoose County at some point in their life. These are but a few of the famous names that have touched Appanoose County. One of the most famous, was our namesake, Chief Appanoose. Click here read all about him.

Vignettes: The Centerville Rotary Club was instrumental in helping to build four vignette spaces in the museum to feature a doctor's office, a dentist's office, a school room, and a general store. These displays include many vintage items that you're sure to remember from the old days!
Camera Collection

Cameras: There is a large collection of vintage cameras, mostly donated by local photographer, Burrell Browns. Every age and type of camera imaginable are included in this fabulous exhibit.

Textiles: Many examples of textiles and textile related equipment have their home here at the museum. A large rug loom, several spinning wheels, winders, carders, sewing machines, and thread cabinets are on display. Clothing, hats, and many antique quilts, including many friendship quilts that feature several local names are among the textiles on display.

Household ItemsHousehold Items: The drudgery of housework is not lost here! Vacuums, ironing boards, stoves, iceboxes, kitchen cupboards and a unique clothes washer - the Laundry Queen, manufactured in Centerville - are on display.

Farm Room: The Farm Room is home to a many smaller piece of farm equipment and handFarm Room tools. A cream separator, a cider press, a corn sheller and a butter churn. This room is also where you will find a prime example of a Hercules Stump Puller, a once booming business in Appanoose County, employing around 1,000 people. This is also home to 'the bear', that once stood in Hank's Bait Shop, north of Centerville. It's one of the kid's favorites!

Music: Centerville has a colorful musical past! From Major George Landers, to Himie Voxman, to Simon Estes, you won't want to miss this wonderful exhibit.

Research Room: The research room is chock full of yearbooks, city directories, plat books, atlases, census records, cemetery records, mine inspectorreports, area history books, family scrapbooks, and files of ephemera, photos and documents on hundreds of different topics.

And much, MUCH, more! There are thousands of items and hundreds of photographs that help paint the picture that became Appanoose County.

The Basement

Coal Mining Museum: The basement level is home to our extensive Coal Mining Exhibits. This area features photographs, two replica coal mines that you can enter and experience the feeling of what a coal mine would have been like. There is also a scale model replica of a coal mining tipple, done very authentically for a Pancake Day float in 1963. There are also many mining tools and implements, and a theater area where you can watch "The Last Pony Mine", a video produced by Iowa State University in the early 1970's when the New Gladsone Mine closed it's business for good.

Iowa Southern Utilities Exhibit: Iowa Southern Utilities Company was a formative business in Appanoose County for many years. They were a major employer and headquarters for that business, which provided utilities for a large portion of Iowa.

Transportation Room: Railroads, highways, bicycles, and the Southern Iowa Railway - the interurban system that existed in Appanoose County in the early part of the 1900's are all represented in what we like to call, The Transportation Room.

Mormon Trail Exhibit: The Mormons took two paths to cross Appanoose County, and our large map defines exactly where these path went. We also have a small collection of Mormon Trail artifacts. A publication is also available, "Mormon Trail through Appanoose County."

Dirt Car

Outside the Coal Mining Museum

Outside of the museum, you will notice three large coal mining artifacts. The Dirt Car, pictured at the left, carried slag and waste to the top of the dirt pile. You will also see a mining machine, and a fan that was used to insure proper ventilation inside the mine.