The Montgomery County History Center


Coming soon- NEW Military Exhibit- Bigger and Better than ever!

           History of Red Oak Mural 

Painted by James Hoskinson, local atist. 

Unveiled - April 24, 2010

A beautiful 3-D mural showing the Red Oak Square in various stages of development through the years.  It is a must see to appreciate exhibit.




         Native American Canoe


300 Year Old -Indian Dugout Canoe

Displayed here is a dugout canoe that was fashioned from a

single walnut tree by early Iowa residents. Carbon dating

indicates that the dugout is a

 at least 300 hundred years old.


A special ‘ thank you’ to Mr. Eshelman, Montgomery

County resident, and to John Doershuk, Iowa State

Archaeologist, for helping make this possible.

After more than 30 years, a big piece of history is coming home to Montgomery County. In the fall 1975, a major discovery was made south of Red Oak along the Nishnabotna River. A man by the name of Ron Foreman, while fishing, saw something protruding from the river bank. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that it was part of a dugout canoe. After an extreme but unsuccessful effort, Foreman and friends decided to cut off the exposed part of the canoe, being that it was the most intact section. Russell Archer would later recover the remaining section.

Initially the recovery of this canoe was probably not an example of the best archaeological practice, but this did not diminish the magnitude of the discovery. Artifacts of this sort and condition are more than just uncommon. Foreman did extensive research and was only able to find two other like discoveries in Western Iowa, neither were even close to in age or magnitude to his discovery. A sample of the wood was sent to California to be carbon 14 dated, however due to contamination from the river itself, dating was only able to say the dugout was probably at least 300 years old. It was determined that the canoe was hand-made, using no modern tools, from a black walnut tree along the banks of our local river.

Sadly, the rear, or most deeply buried part (approximately two to four feet) of the canoe had rotted away. The middle section, nearly 10 and a half feet, was in poor condition and extreme waterlogged. While the exposed five feet was the proved to be in the best state. Even more sadly, the pieces ended up being separated. The exposed five feet, the best preserved, was displayed at the Red Oak Library for a short time, then ended up at the Office of State Archaeology in Iowa City and was stored away in their archives. The middle section changed ownership, but remained in private hands and became the property of Gale Eshelman.

Eshelman in 2002 procured a two year loan from the OSA of the fore section and with his piece was able to reunite and display this piece of history briefly. Recently this Spring, Eshelman attended one of the public meetings that the Montgomery County Historical Society has been hosting to get public input. It was then that Mr. Eshelman presented a challenge to the Board; if the Board could regain possession of the fore section for display at the History Center in Montgomery County, then he would donate his portion. He related that it had been a dream of his to have the canoe pieces reunited permanently and displayed close to the river where it had been created and used. Shortly thereafter, Dave McFarland, one of the History Center’s Board members, contacted the State Archaeologist, John Doershuk, and began negotiations. On March 20, 2009, McFarland travelled to Iowa City and after having met with Dr. Doershuk and Dr. John Cordell of the OSA signed, on behalf of the Historical Society, a five year loan application for the first five feet of the canoe. McFarland returned to History Center the same day with that portion of the canoe. After which, McFarland visited with Mr. Eshelman and on March 27th and true to his word, Mr. Eshelman generously donated his portion to the Montgomery County History Center.

                         Exhibits and Gift Shop


Front Lobby Area

A Special Thank you to Roxanne for her hard work and dedication on many of the wonderful exhibits.

Below is our gift shop in cooperation with Pudgy Pumpkin.

Pottery now for sale at History Center from Redesign

Mural of Montgomery County Early Towns of 1910 


Masonic Lodge 162


Wilson Concrete Exhibit



 Thomas D. Murphy Company Exhibit


Military Exhibit


Early 1900's Kitchen Exhibit




 Antique Tractor Display


      Bettie McKenzie Memorial Library

One of the Society's main goals is to collect research materials on county history and genealogy and make them available to the public.  Users of our new library have improved access to an increasing collection of historical publictions, family histories, civil records, newspapers, computer databases, and other materials; plus, our volunteers are trained to help you with your research.


               Programs and Workshops

The Montgomery County Historical Society provides

educational programs to both K-12 students and


 From Spring through Fall, we present monthly Sunday

afternoon programs on a variety of topics.  In

addition, special workshops, events, and parties are

scheduled throughout the year.  The Montgomery

County History Center has a variety of meeting rooms

and large lecture hall that can accommodate  

almost any event or party.