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In April 1970 the Ringgold County Historical Society met to discuss plans to establish a county museum and genealogical library.
They discussed two possible locations: the former West End Market building in Mount Ayr and the Ellston High School building.
The West End Market building had a $9,500 price tag but was centrally located and neighbored Judge Lewis Park. The schoolhouse in Ellston was in its last term of use by the Mount Ayr School District and looked to be obtainable. And while Ellston was not the ideal location, the future Sun Valley Lake was just under construction with very bright prospects.
The RCHS decided to focus on the Ellston schoolhouse and in May 1970 a notice appeared in the Record-News announcing the acceptance of sealed bids for the Ellston School building by the Mount Ayr School District.
Plans were made to turn one room of the schoolhouse into a showcase of trophies and relics of Ringgold County schools that were no longer operating.
In June the RCHS began measures to establish a non-profit organization to operate their new museum.
The deadline for the sealed bids was July 15. RCHS President Charles Bennett shared the results of the bid in the August 27, 1970 History Highlights article; the society’s bid was not accepted.
Quentin Anderson had the accepted bid of $2,000 while the RCHS had bid a “nominal” $300. And that was that.
Also, in 1970, a man named Cecil Cornwall died and his family donated a house he owned to the Ringgold County Historical Society.
The house, built in 1864, was moved to Ellston in 1971 and sits on the lot formerly occupied by the Ellston Hotel. We know the house today as the Cornwall Pioneer Home which is currently being restored after being damaged by racoons.
The RCHS had a grand opening at the Ringgold County Pioneer Center in Ellston on May 5, 1973. There were 156 in attendance with Dr. Harley Wilhelm, atomic scientist at Iowa State University, as guest speaker.
Dr. Wilhelm was a 1919 graduate of Ellston High School. Also at the center is the old telephone factory which houses buggies, tractors, and other large pieces.
The 50’ x 100’ brick building was erected in 1916 to manufacture telephones and switchboards but was never used for that purpose.
The first president was B. F. Burwinkle and the treasurer was Joseph Clough in July 1916. The building was completed in October 1916.
In April 1917 Joseph Clough became president of Ellston Manufacturing, succeeding S. A. Fouser who resigned.
The next information I have is John Barnes operating an auto livery and garage here in August 1919.
A rural schoolhouse, Hazel Glen (Washington Township No. 8), was moved here from Mount Ayr in 1980. Richard Knapp, Mike Bainum, myself, and one other man brought the building here from the Mount Ayr Community School grounds.
The school was brought to Mount Ayr in 1956 to serve as a second grade classroom.
So, happy 50 years to the Ringgold County Pioneer Center!