Many places and things around Greene County have people’s names. Did you ever wonder who those people were? Here are a few explanations:
• Churdan. The town of Churdan was named for Joseph Churdan, an Englishman born April 25, 1824. He emigrated to Canada and the U.S., buying 80 acres of land in Highland Township in 1868. At that point the township contained only two log cabins. Joseph Churdan (who pronounced his name “SURE-dun”) accumulated more land and served as the town’s first postmaster. Eventually, railroad men changed the town’s pronunciation to “ChurDAN.”
• Cooper. The town was laid out by the Polk and Hubbell Development Company in 1881. It got its name from Isaac Cooper, the father-in-law of F.M. Hubbell, a Des Moines pioneer.
• Don Monthei Airfield, Jefferson Airport. The old Jefferson Airport was on the north side of town. Construction of an airport to the east of Jefferson began in 1950. Don Monthei was the airport manager, and Monthei Air Service offered flight instruction, charter flights, crop spraying and plane repairs. During World War II, Monthei trained 125 beginners as pilots and 20 as flight instructors, including Paul Nally and my uncle, Donald Hamilton. Monthei retired from 34 years as airport manager in December, 1971. He remained on the airport commission. In 1990, the airport was named “Jefferson Airport Don Monthei Airfield.”
• Head Park. This Jefferson park lies at the intersection of Head and Walnut Streets in the northwest part of town. The Head family was Jefferson’s leading family in the late 1800s. Captain Albert Head and his brother, Mahlon, came here following the Civil War. Three brothers and their parents soon followed. According to a 1975 Jefferson Bee article, “The five brothers all had good-sized families — 25 or 30 children altogether — so they constituted a real clan and a great one.” Albert Head was elected speaker of the Iowa House in 1886, and Mahlon was the first mayor of Jefferson and first fire chief.
• Hyde Park. This beautiful county park lies northwest of Jefferson. It was named in honor of Sam Hyde, who was a State Commission Fish and Game officer for many years. Until his death in 1963 he served as the first director of the Greene County Conservation Board. He was known for carrying green willow switches.
• Paton. The town got its name from William Paton, a Scot who moved to New York. He took a trip to the area and found a nameless town. He offered to set up a trust fund for a library and help the citizens build a church if they would move their town to higher ground. The town said yes to the new location and took Paton’s name.
• Wilson Street. Originally called Cherry Street, Jefferson’s Wilson Street was renamed after attorney E.B. Wilson, who lived there and donated the square’s Lincoln statue.
The author of this story, Margaret Hamilton, is a member of the Greene County Historical Society. You can write her at email@example.com.