by Dan Mundt
Coleen Barngrover gets up at 5 a.m. every day and begins a search through the history of Denison and Crawford County.
Barngrover is a member of the Crawford County Historic Preservation Commission.
The results of her search appear later in the day on the preservation commission’s Facebook page.
"She is diligent about putting something on there every day," said Amy Pieper, who is the commission’s treasurer.
"I do that because if you don’t put something new on there almost every day, people lose interest," Barngrover said. "My main goal is to keep people interested."
Her main source of information is the archived copies of the Denison Bulletin and Review that are available online through the Norelius Community Library website.
"This wouldn’t be possible without that," she said. "It would take hours and hours of just finding the newspapers."
Once Barngrover has identified a story she wants to put on the Facebook page, she retypes it as it appeared in the newspaper.
"I like to use the actual newspaper articles," she said. "I don’t think it’s right to read an article and paraphrase it. There is a magic to the way that stories were written years and decades ago."
Presenting the original words gives a truer picture of the way things used to be, she said.
"We lived differently and we thought differently," she said. "I just hope to capture that and share it."
The stories are not presented in any kind of order.
"I just try to find things that I think people might be interested in," Barngrover said.
The project has been a learning experience for her.
"One of my big problems is that I don’t know that much about Denison," she said. "I’m a Kiron kid."
Pieper said she has enjoyed seeing how people have reacted to the stories Barngrover has posted.
A story about a silent film actress from Denison sparked conversations about other actors on the Facebook page.
"Everyone knows about Donna Reed, but there are others I didn’t know about," Pieper said.
A story Barngrover recently posted was about the daughter of Leslie M. Shaw, a Denison resident and the 17th governor of Iowa.
Erma Lovisa Shaw died of pneumonia while on her way to France as a canteen worker for the Red Cross in October 1918.
"Word reached Denison Monday that the body is being returned to New York, but arrangements for the funeral or place of interment have not yet been made," the story said.
Barngrover also attached the funeral notice for Erma Shaw, from November 20, 1918.
She was buried in Oakland Cemetery.
One of Barngrover’s favorite stories was about the old, old days when the city was just beginning.
"There are letters from J.W. Denison as he was writing to investors back on the east coast," Barngrover said. "He wrote about the hardships they had and his frustrations."
"I think it’s great that she’s putting these stories out for people to read," Pieper said.
Pieper also provides stories for the Facebook page, but she says she can’t keep up with Barngrover.
"There is no way I could bust out a story every day the way Coleen does," she said.
Barngrover invited anyone interested in the history of the local area to visit the Crawford County Historic Preservation Commission Facebook page.
"I think people will be amazed and I hope it stirs their interest in seeing how we have changed," she said. "Come check it out."