The meetup coincided with the farm’s WWII Remembered event, featuring re-enactors and World War II-era displays, set against a Czechoslovakia-themed backdrop.
About 10 members and friends of Save CR Heritage attended at various times during a beautiful August day, meeting with the volunteer board members of the farm museum and learning about their rebuilding efforts since the 2008 flood that devastated the site.
Save CR Heritage meetups, held quarterly, began in August 2018 as a way to bring together people who love local history. The events are held at museums and local restaurants and bars in historical settings.
Perry Cruse, a board member of the Seminole Valley Farm Museum, noted that some of the buildings at the site were washed away in the 2008 flood, during which floodwaters reached into the second floor of the two-story farmhouse.
Work is still underway on the house, while the neighboring summer kitchen has been restored and was open to visitors during the WWII Remembered event.
Seminole Valley Farm Inc., founded in 1969, is a non-profit run completely by volunteers. The farm hosts annual events that include a flea market in June; Reflections of the Civil War the second weekend of July; WWII Remembered the second weekend in August and the Seminole Valley Rendezvous the first weekend in October.
Donations at the WWII event were split between the farm and the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight. The event continues from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18.
Learn more about the history of Seminole Valley Farm from the group’s website, and see more photos from the Save CR Meetup, below:
The Seminole Valley Farm was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, representing a transitional period between Iowa’s austere pioneer farms and the mechanized farms that developed later in the 20th century.
That historic designation included a farm house (c. 1902-1903), summer kitchen, livestock barn, tool shed, ice house, chicken coop, outhouse and smoke house. There is also a small orchard, garden and visitors center.
Nearby timber was a source of raw materials for the farm, the fertile bottomland on which it is located provided rich soil for grazing and cultivation, and the smoke house and ice house were used to preserve agricultural products for later consumption. The barn and the chicken house were more substantial than those from earlier times.
The history of Seminole Valley Farm dates back to 1848 when the first claim to the land was made by Pvt. Joseph Tenney, a soldier of the Mexican War (1846-1848.) He never saw the land, however, as he signed away his land grant soon after the war.
Lafayette and Sarah Franks were known to first build on the site, living in a double log cabin near the current barn. In 1899, Joseph Dostal bought the farm from the Franks and moved a former hotel building from Cedar Rapids to become the farmhouse.
At that time the area was called Linn Junction. They also cleared more land for crops. They retired, left the farm, and moved to Cedar Rapids in 1906.
Ownership was transfered in 1909 to Joseph Jasa and his wife Maria Dostal Jasa, Joseph Dostal’s aunt. The family moved to the farmhouse between 1907 and 1909, bringing 6 children with them. In 1915, the barn burned to the ground.
John Ford, a valley farmer and carpenter, built the present barn. He was paid $2 and two meals per day for his work. The farm grew from 30 acres to over 200. Four bedrooms were also added upstairs to the house. The Jasa family moved from the farm to Cedar Rapids in 1921, after the deaths of 2 of their sons in the 1918 flu epidemic.
From 1921 to 1927 the farm was rented out. Then in 1927, the farm’s ownership was transfered to Francis and Wesley J. Miller. They also made many improvements to the farm. The present museum building was built in 1954 and had all the concrete mixed by hand. The summer kitchen was rotated 90 degrees so it was easier to move cream from the barn to the separator inside. The Millers owned the farm until 1965, when it was sold to the city of Cedar Rapids and it became the newest city park, Seminole Valley Park.
While the farm has survived many natural disasters over the years, the record flood of 2008 is the one that took its toll on the buildings and contents. Two previous record floods never saw more than 2 inches of water on the ground floor of the farmhouse.
In 2008, 2 to 4 inches of water were in the upstairs of the farmhouse. Most of the outbuildings were under water. The barn had water into its loft. There was over 12 feet of water around the farmhouse. All the contents of the museum were either severely damaged or destroyed. The tool shed, the hen house, and the smoke house, along with their contents, were washed away completely. An arson fire claimed the outhouse several months before the flood.
At this time, Seminole Valley Inc. is in the process of rebuilding. While it will take many years and thousands of dollars, the hope is to preserve this site for future generations to enjoy.