83-Year-Old Woman Needs Help Preserving Webster County’s History

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OTHO, Iowa– An effort is underway in Webster County to preserve part of the state’s history.

The nonprofit historical museum in Otho is home to about 10,000 artifacts at risk of being destroyed.

More than a century’s worth of Webster County history is covered up under one roof. The 83-year-old woman who runs the museum said the leaky roof isn’t holding up, and she needs help funding the museum.

“I just think the county is really interesting,” Phyllis Stewart said.

The museum sits in the old Otho Elementary School donated to the museum 16 years ago.

“Well we never know where the leak is going to be coming in from the ceiling, so we just covered everything up,” Stewart said.

Last fall, growing mold and water damage forced Stewart to close the museum’s doors.

“I would like to be open right now, but with all the leaks you can’t uncover for people to see it, then cover it up when you go home, then go back and uncover it,” Stewart said.

It is preventing her from showing off one of her favorite items in the collection, a wedding dress from 1917.

“We’ve got the picture of her dress, her veil, her shoes, her socks, her under clothes, everything she wore when she got married,” Stewart said.

The bride was Alice Anderson.

“She was our landlord when I was growing up. She and her husband were our landlord. I was astounded when that came in,” Stewart said.

Stewart said she fears the doors will never reopen to the public. Now, she’s turning to Webster County for help.

“It’s not in the budget, but we are going to see what can be done. The county supports the fairgrounds and other opportunities. This is something that isn’t a part of the county budget,” said Webster County Supervisor Mark Campbell.

Stewart has yet to calculate how much it will cost to repair the museum but hopes something can be done preserve Webster County’s history for generations to come.

Stewart said there will be a community meeting at the VFW in Fort Dodge this Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. The county will also be there to ask questions.


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