Clayton County Genealogical Society seeks help in compiling history for book

Stories, photos of Buena Vista Township schools, churches and organizations wanted

The Clayton County Genealogical Society’s offices on Main Street in Elkader. (Pat McTaggart)
The Clayton County Genealogical Society’s offices on Main Street in Elkader. (Pat McTaggart)

In 1987, Kathleen Habel and Joe Hefel began gathering information for the Buena Vista Book.

Habel and Hefel were chairpersons for the Buena Vista Township’s history book on schools. The township is located in southeast Clayton County. Before they died, Habel collected information on the No. 3 Riniker School and Hefel collected information for the No. 4 Hefel Ridge School. There also was the Plum Creek (Coffee Hole) No. 2 School and the Buena Vista Independent School, which was the Catholic parochial school.

The project is now in the hands of the Clayton County Genealogical Society, which is asking for help in compiling the history for the book that is to cover churches, cemeteries and organizations, among other topics.

“In past years, it appears that information on Buena Vista history has been limited and it is known that Buena Vista has a rich history with many people,” society member Diana Kirby said.

Only five pages were devoted to Buena Vista Township in the “1882 History of Clayton County, Iowa” book. Regarding township schools, the book says “The first school house in the township was built by George Cleaveland for a dwelling, but was purchased by the district for school purposes. Miss Holly Shipton was the first teacher. ... In 1872 a fine brick schoolhouse was erected at a cost of $1,800. There are two other buildings, one a frame, the other a log structure, the total value of the three buildings $2,800. The number of pupils enrolled in the year 1881 was 95. The present school directors are E. Merkle and the Treasurer, Charles Cook.”

“It would have been wonderful if someone had kept a log of all schools and people and updated them yearly,” Kirby said. “We don’t have that, so now we must go back and compile that information. Many of the people who lived that history are no longer with us, and this book is still waiting to be completed. We are looking for people to help us by telling their story of the schooling in Buena Vista Township. We are also looking for pictures, names of teachers, all students and directors, pictures of classes, first communion class pictures, confirmation class pictures and school and church gatherings. With today’s technology we can borrow your pictures and scan them without the pictures leaving your house.”

Kirby said it is “up to the people” to make sure their book is as complete as possible.

“Preserve your history. Tell your grandchildren how it was when you went to school, or the stories your parents and grandparents told you about their school days. Just write it down, in your own words, and send it in.”


Kirby said photographs sent in will be returned, but they should be marked clearly and all people in the photos should be identified, if possible, and the name of the school and approximate year also should be noted.

“Please look in those old boxes of pictures and make the Buena Vista Township history come alive,” she said.

Those with information or photos can contact Diana Cherne Kirby at (563) 252-0025 or by email at

The Clayton County Genealogy Center can be reached at (563) 245-1065 or by email at The mailing address is P.O. Box 846, 119 N. Main St., Elkader, IA 52043.



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