A Rich Past
Named for General Nathaniel Greene, the Revolutionary War hero, Greene County has a wealth of history to be explored. Settled by pioneers who chose to explore the frontier in search of the American dream, they knew they had found their haven here along the lush Raccoon River Valley, which diagonally bisects the county.
Truman Davis, the first settler to the area, set up his homestead in 1849, not far from the present day town of Rippey. Also east of Jefferson, near the Pleasant Hill Church, one can still catch a glimpse of the path where the stagecoach traveled as people made their way westward.
Greene County was formally organized in 1854 with a population of 150, and the town of Jefferson, named for President Thomas Jefferson, was chosen as the county seat. The current three-story courthouse, built of Bedford Stone was the third built here in Jefferson. Completed in 1917 at a cost of just under $180,000, the courthouse features a domed stained glass ceiling, which crowns the rotunda, and continues to house the county offices and court system for a growing population of over 10,000.
While the mining of coal in the region was performed through the 1940's, the mainstay of the area through the years continues to be agricultural in nature. With a vast network of railways lacing the area, Greene County also realized early on the importance of quality roadways. We were the first county in the state to entirely pave its section of the now historic transcontinental Lincoln Highway, which spans the county from border to border.
With an emphasis on utilizing the most progressive technology and equipment, transportation has continually played a key role in county growth, and is as important today with the added development of industrial endeavors.
Education has also played a big part in the development of one of Jefferson and Greene County's most important resources, its people. George Gallup, founder of the Gallup Poll, was born in Jefferson at the turn of the 20th century. While his name is synonymous with polling in America and abroad, it was here that the foundation was laid for the great works he would accomplish later in life. Working on the family's dairy farm as a boy, "Ted" as he was known about town, delivered milk to local customers. Subscribing to the midwestern work ethic, he also worked on the building that today serves as the Middle School. When he had trouble starting a piece of equipment one day, a fellow co-worker later reported to his family, "We all knew that wasn't going to be his line of work."
As continued proof that our excellent educational system plays an important role in global development, another famous son, who was born in Jefferson and raised in the Paton area, is astronaut, Loren Shriver. Serving as pilot and commander for three missions, including the space shuttle, Atlantis, Shriver has logged over 386 hours in space. He also served as deputy director at Kennedy Space Center for NASA.
Jefferson is also home to Doreen Wilber, winner of the women's gold medal for archery in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.
Originally published in Village Profile 2004. Used with permission.