About Us

The Jackson County Historical Society is a private non-profit corporation headquartered in Maquoketa, Iowa.  Its mission is to seek out, preserve and tell the story of the rich heritage of this area. The first Jackson County Historical Society was chartered in The Society operates two sites, is open Tuesday through Friday – 10 until 4, Saturday and Sunday – noon until 4.  Closed Mondays and major holidays. There is an admission fee to tour the sites – $3 for one; $5 for both, with children 10 and under free. Members are free as well.

Sites and Attractions

County Museum

 Located just inside the Pearson Memorial Center on the Fairgrounds in Maquoketa, Iowa, the Museum comprises 22,000 sq. feet. It is two floors of facts, photos, and artifacts that together tell the incredible story of Jackson County Iowa. It is our heritage – of which we are very proud.

Upon entering our gift shop, our visitors pass by the Hall of Fame Wall – with likenesses of men and women who have left their mark on our area – who have made a lasting difference in our lives.  To delve deeper- see our Hall of Fame page which is emerging.

Clinton Engines

In 1950, Don Thomas moved his Clinton Machine Company from Clinton, Michigan to Maquoketa, Iowa where they quickly became a world leader in small engine manufacture. The 12 acre site yielded over 18 million engines, making the company the 10th largest employer in Iowa, drawing workers from over 33 different communities in three states. They were extremely innovative, many of their ideas becoming industry standards. The Administration Building, on the National Register of Historic Places, is the only building still standing and is now the home of the Clinton Engines Museum, and one of Iowa’s Greats Places.

La Motte Depot

The original 1876 depot burned in a tragic fire in 1910, but was rebuilt on the same spot the following year.  It was a busy place for the next 25 years, when the blizzards of 1936 – and the effects of the Great Depression closed the line for good.  The little Milwaukee depot sat deserted until 1994, when purchased and restored by Rick and Dixie Clasen. Then in 2015, the land on which it sat was sold – and the building donated to the Historical Society.   It was moved 20 miles to the Clinton Engines Site in Maquoketa.

Agricultural Center

The first thing one will see when entering the Clinton Engines Site is the Agricultural Heritage Building. Soon to be a fascinating museum in its own right – the Agricultural Heritage Building is well underway. Volunteers have finished pouring the concrete drives, the steps and walkways. An inviting bench in honor of Mary and Albert Kilburg is in place. And a garden in honor of J. C. and Arlene Engel has also been established.

When complete, it will pick up the story of agriculture in Jackson County just where the Penningroth Machine Shed on the Jackson County Fairgrounds Site left off. The PMS begins the story of Agriculture in Jackson County even before May 30, 1833, when settlers were first allowed to cross into the new Iowa Territory. It continues through the era of horsepower – or oxen or mule – right up to and including the big old steam engines.

Penningrath Machine Shed

Journey back to life on the Frontier with tools, artifacts, and the machines they used. Stepping into the Penningroth Machine Shed is truly step back in time – to Midnight, May 31st, 1833 when the government opened the Iowa Territory for settlement. For weeks, settlers had been gathering on the Illinois shore of the Mississippi, preparing for midnight when the race would begin. They crossed in boats, barges, and even on logs – and once ashore they scattered to find the most promising locations. Drawn to Jackson County by the fertile soil, streams and springs, timber and limestone for building, and plentiful game for food – they quickly staked their claims and began to till the soil.

Hurstville Lime Kilns

The area around Maquoketa was very well known for its limestone cliffs, and in 1870 Alfred Hurst began a small lime kiln. That one small kiln soon turned into 4 large kilns, run by teams of men. Horses hauled wagons of the famous Anamosa Limestone used for mortar to build strong brick buildings. Hurst died in 1915, and technology found new ways of building. The lime kilns feel into a great state of decay and began to crumble. In 1985 the Jackson County Historical Society, led by Paul Segers and Ed Kirchhoff, began to restore the kilns to their rightful glory. Ensuring this important piece of Jackson County could still be visited today.

Research Our History

Research and Family History

The Historical Society is justly proud of the extensive research library housed within the Clinton Engines Building. It is a busy place. Serious researchers from around the country pour over county history records; casual history buffs enjoy perusing the thousands of books and files, and family history enthusiasts work to extend their “roots”.  The Society partners with the Jackson County Genealogical Chapter, the Genies! We share records, technology and researchers and it is a win-win for all. Information included in the library are countless family history files and published works of family genealogies. Genie volunteers help those searching, acquaint visitors with Ancestry, and other like organizations, and answer queries that come in by mail, email or phone. They keep files of the results so that others looking into the same families can take advantage of that previous research, possibly connecting with other family members. The Library has internet, a copy machine, and state of the art microfilm reader that allows the user to find articles, cut and paste selected material which can then be printed, saved to computer or memory stick or emailed. The research library maintains the same hours as the museums. The library is open to all, with no charge to members of the Historical Society or the Genies. Non-members pay a $5 admission fee.

The Orphan Train

The Orphan Train Movement was a supervised welfare program that transported orphaned and homeless children from crowded Eastern cities of the United States to foster homes located largely in rural areas of the Midwest. Elaine Mercado, a Jackson County, IA Historical Society volunteer, became intrigued with the orphan train movement when she was tasked with organizing a huge, gifted repository of Iowa Orphan Train research files and documents that had been collected and compiled by MaDonna Harms.  MaDonna had collected the orphan train information from old newspapers and letters from the Foundling Home. After going through over 1200 of MaDonna’s personal files, Elaine was inspired to author a booklet on behalf of the Jackson County History Museum, entitled “Iowa’s Orphan Train Riders”.  She reports that between 10,000 and 20,000 orphans came to Iowa during the 75 years that the trains came.

Find us at:

Physical Addresses

Jackson County Museum
1212 E.Quarry St
Maquoketa, IA 52060
Phone: (563) 652-5020

Clinton Engines
607 E Maple St
Maquoketa, IA 52060
Phone: (563) 652-1803

Hurstville Lime Kilns
7301 Hurstville Rd
Maquoketa, IA 52060
Phone: (563) 652-5020


Office Hours

County Museum and the Clinton Engines Site
Tuesday – Friday : 10am – 4pm
Saturday – Sunday : 12pm – 4pm

Hurstville Lime Kilns
Please visit anytime.
For a guided tour please call.
Phone: (563) 652-5020