The Davis County Historical Complex is one of Davis County’s oldest tourist attractions. It is located in the heart of Bloomfield just a block off the east side of the square. The facility is full of Davis County history and can take anyone back to a time when things were much simpler.
The Davis County Historical Society was first incorporated in 1962. The facility is staffed by local volunteers working to preserve Davis County’s past for future generations to come. The local entity has thrived on that labor and the generous donations of those who want to see history preserved. Donations don’t just come in the form of money, although monetary donations are always appreciated and needed to help the facility survive. Most every item, within the five buildings on the grounds, has been donated. This includes everything from medical equipment, farming tools, machinery, clothing, furniture, military uniforms and much, much more.
The centerpiece of the complex is the two-story brick Dr. William Findley home, which was built in 1867. It was the first building acquired by the Society. It has undergone extensive renovation, both inside and out, including brickwork on the chimney and restoration of the foundation. One of the museum’s highlights is a handmade piano built around 1849 and completely restored and donated by Howard and Daisy Selix. This piano is located in the music room. A piano of the same vintage, given by the McGowen family, is also on display. The McGowen piano was the first piano in the county, traveling up the Mississippi River to Keokuk, the Des Moines River to Keosauqua, and finally by mule team to Davis County. Also, on the main floor are the parlor, a “doctor’s office” featuring medical equipment, and an old-time kitchen.
Three bedrooms are located at the top of the extensively restored staircase. One room contains military memorabilia including a World War I blanket made by Martha Garrett, a nurse stationed in France, who acquired insignias from all allied branches of service. Another bedroom showcases ladies’ dress goods, sewing equipment, a display of Indian arrowheads, a portrait of Chief Blackhawk and his son and the story behind them. The third bedroom features numerous old quilts and vintage clothing. The house features 12-foot ceilings and period wallpaper in all the rooms.
The second addition to the complex was the Mormon Log Cabin donated by Mr. and Mrs. Tom Harbour and moved to the grounds in 1971. The Mormons hand-hewed walnut logs for this one-room cabin that was built around 1848.
The next addition came in 1972 when the Livery Barn, built in 1920, was purchased and remodeled to house the growing array of historical gifts. Notable items include many antique tractors, a covered wagon, old telephone switch boards, old wooden washing machines, items from well-know Davis County businesses, mementoes of local sports teams, the original Courthouse clock hands and a mural depicting the 1864 Guerilla Raid in Davis County, which was the northernmost point in the States reached by Confederate raiders. The mural, painted by local artist Debbie Baughman, took 900 hours to complete.
In 1974, Center No. 5 schoolhouse from Wheeler Ridge in northwest Davis County, was moved on site. The one-room school is filled with tools of the trade, including a schoolmaster’s desk, student desks and a potbelly wood stove.
The Historical Society added the former Savannah Christian Church to the complex in 1998. The church was built in 1902 and used until the late 1990s. After extensive cooperation by various agencies and volunteers, the building was moved 10 miles onto its new foundation at the corner of Dodge and Walnut Streets. It was in excellent shape and required only minor repairs plus rebuilding of the steeple, which had to be cut down to make the move. In 2017, two new stained-glass windows were unveiled during a celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Findley home. The church is currently used for special events.
A new section opened in the Livery Barn in 2017. This new section, made up of several booths, intrigues visitors interested in historical businesses, agriculture and appliances used in daily life. Several items on display show progression in technology through the years.
The complex is scheduled to be open every Saturday from the first Saturday in June through the first Saturday in September. The hours are 1-4 p.m. The phone number at the facility is 641-664-1855. Visitors are encouraged to schedule an appointment to visit the Museum Complex anytime by calling 641-799-7463.
Anyone wanting more information about the complex is asked to contact Nancy Clancy at 641-799-7463, Cherri Casteel at 641-777-3848 or Ron Hewus at 515-720-6627.