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BY MIKE AVITT
James Preston Fife was born March 15, 1865 in Pennsylvania, his parents having come from Ireland. The family moved to Liberty Township, Ringgold County in 1876 and J. P. Fife never lived anywhere else. He passed away on September 22, 1945.
In August 1941, Mr. Fife deeded forty acres of his land to the State of Iowa. This land was filled with oak trees and was already known as Fife’s Grove, a popular picnicking and gathering site. Fife wanted the area to be preserved for future generations and there were no county agencies in place to ensure that.
In 1952, the State of Iowa turned Fife’s Grove over to the Mount Ayr Lions’ Club. Nothing had been done with the park so the Lions’ Club began a beautification project in the spring of 1952.
The project concluded in 1953 with the construction of roads from the west and the north. The north road was probably eliminated when the fish rearing ponds were constructed later.
At this same time, playground equipment was installed including two swing sets, a teeter-totter, and a factory-made slide. Also, eight picnic tables, six new grills, pre-cut firewood, and garbage cans which would be emptied weekly by a caretaker. C. O. Willey supervised the project.
In July 1957, the brick fireplace at the Mount Ayr Depot Park was moved to Fife’s Grove.
The park has been used for weddings, reunions, Vacation Bible School, campouts, picnics, Kids’ Fishing Day, Boy and Girl Scout projects, and many other events. There was once an ice skating rink at Fife’s Grove but it sat on low land and I believe the frequent floods of the 1990s caused that to be removed.
This week’s photo shows the dried up pond during the drought of 2012. The pond was later reconstructed. The park is now under the direction of the Ringgold County Conservation Board.