WWI exhibit featured at Conger House Museum

WASHINGTON, Iowa (GTNS) ? While Conger House Museum has long displayed Washington County?s contributions to a variety of armed conflicts throughout American history, this year, World War I is featured.

Deborah Johnson-Wagner, a member of the Conger House board, said the display in the dining room is made up of items that had been donated to Conger House over the years by people who had family members serve and who wanted to make sure the artifacts are saved for the future as learning tools. She said not only could people visit the items in the local museum inside Conger House, but family members of the original owners can view them.

?We have a table set up in the other room where people can sit down and actually look up their relatives who served in World War I,? she said. ?The book includes both men and women.?

Conger House board member Joanne Breen said the display had been set up because the country is observing the 100-year anniversary of World War I. She said because World War I actually took place over two years, this is the second summer the display is being presented.

Items on display include items owned by Lt. Stanton Kalk, who history recognizes as the first maritime casualty of World War I. Johnson-Wagner said after his ship, the Jacob Jones, was torpedoed, he worked to get as many people off the ship in lifeboats as he could. Johnson-Wagner said he had gone between the life rafts to ensure they were weighted properly. He ended up dying of exposure and exhaustion. Two ships were named after the Washington native.

Also on display are several uniforms and accessories, including a uniform from local soldier Henry Burdeau. Breen said that there also is a display of women who served in World War I, most as nurses.

A small display on Jesse Radda also is included. Johnson-Wagner said Radda graduated from Washington High School in 1917 and went into the military in 1918. He returned to Washington and was known for his bugle playing with the Leon Beatty American Legion Post. He was known for playing Taps at funerals, attending somewhere between 386 and 500 services. He and his family also created the Radda family orchestra.

People wishing to see the display can visit Conger House 1-4 p.m. on the third Sunday of each month June through October or special arrangements can be made by contacting a Conger House board member. or calling 319-653-4329.

The Jonathan Clark Conger House is a historic house museum at 903 E. Washington St. in Washington, Iowa.

The original section of the house was built in 1855 by Nathan Littler, a teacher and author of the first Washington County history, and one of the Washington community?s first settlers.

Businessman Jonathan Clark Conger bought the house and added major additions in 1867 that were built by John Patterson Huskins. Conger also was responsible for adding a small den in 1906. The two-story brick house was covered with concrete sometime in the early 20th century. The cement and concrete block porch replaced the 1870s era wooden porch.

The house has subsequently been converted into a house museum operated by the Washington County Historical Society. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

The Conger House Museum now contains 13 exhibits ranging from medical, military, prairie, railroad, Indian, famous locals and Washington County memorabilia. Grounds feature an herb garden, time-honored and restored flowerbeds and a gazebo.