People in Iowa seem to know Iowa history, so when a woman walked up to me after my presentation at History Camp Iowa and said, “I enjoyed your presentation and learned a lot about Buxton that I didn’t know,” I felt great.
I was one of about 24 presenters at History Camp Iowa, where I presented for the first time, “Buxton, Iowa: A Coal Mining Town Ahead of Its Time.” In 1900, at a time when Jim Crow laws, segregation, and the Ku Klux Klan kept blacks and whites separated, residents in Buxton, Iowa—a thriving coal mining town established by Consolidation Coal Company—lived, worked, and went to school side by side. African Americans—miners, teachers, business owners, doctors, lawyers, and more—made up more than half of the population for the first 10 years and remained the largest ethnic group until 1914. Unfortunately, by 1922, Buxton was a ghost town.
To tell the story of this unique town of 5,000 people, I used photographs and rare audio clips from interviews with former Buxton residents to highlight what made Buxton so unique, both in terms of the residents and the town itself, and why Buxton is still being talked about today.
Attendees seemed to enjoy the presentation—I didn’t notice a single person sleeping, texting, or walking out ☺—and 15 minutes into it, there were about 30+ attendees and standing room only. My expectations were surpassed and I floated on clouds of gratitude all day as I enjoyed presentations by others. Professor Pamela Riney-Kehrberg used high school yearbooks to illustrate how the farm crisis of the 1980s affected individual families and communities. Julie Frances Miller spoke emotionally about farm life in Iowa, tying it in to the experiences of Laura Ingalls Wilder of the “Little House” books fame and informing attendees about the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum in Burr Oak, Iowa. Professor Doug Biggs talked about how the once little-known Iowa Agricultural College built an impressive football team that, along with the name change to Iowa State University, helped save the college.
A great day of informative presentations. A friendly and knowledgeable bunch of history buffs. I was happy to be able to participate and look forward to History Camp 2017!