Effigy Mounds
Administrative History
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Chapter Five:

On August 31, 1949, Acting Director Arthur Demaray of the National Park Service accepted, on behalf of the United States, a gift of 1,000 acres of land from the state of Iowa for the establishment of Effigy Mounds National Monument. [1] The state retained title to another 204.39 acres which it had purchased for national monument purposes pending the receipt of legislative authority to transfer the additional land to the federal government.

The basis for the discrepancy in acreage began in 1937, when Neal Butterfield of the National Park Service's Washing ton office and Howard W. Baker and Edward A. Hummel of the Region II office in Omaha investigated some of the mound groups in northeastern Iowa. Their report recommended the establishment of a national monument of about 1,000 acres in three separate units, with a headquarters area in or near the town of McGregor, Iowa, as a fourth unit. The state already owned some land in the area and the Governor's Executive Council empowered the Iowa Conservation Commission to acquire the rest of the acreage necessary for the Yellow River and Jennings-Liebhardt units of the monument. The United States, in the agencies of the War Department's Corps of Engineers and the Department of Agriculture's U.S. Biological Survey, already owned the Sny Magill property on which the third unit was to be established. By 1944 the state had acquired through purchase, gift, or condemnation, the Yellow River mound area which became the basis for the north unit of the present monument, and the Jennings—Liebhardt mound group which became the basis for the south unit. [2]

Between 1944 and 1946, when the state of Iowa formally offered the property to the Department of the Interior, several changes took place in the plans for the monument. The state acquired several properties for incorporation in monument lands in addition to those initially envisioned; the planners adjusted their concept accordingly. By 1946 the idea of a separate headquarters unit had been all but abandoned, and visions of the monument included a well—developed south unit with the north and Sny Magill unit being held in trust as reserve research areas. [3]

Further, the Park Service decided to put the head quarters unit close to the area of greatest development. Sometime between 1946 and 1948, Service officials began seriously considering the possibility of locating monument headquarters on a terrace near the mouth of the Yellow River on its north side. Even if this piece of land did not become the location of the headquarters complex, its inclusion in the national monument precluded its use for any purpose incompatible with the development of the unit. Further, Service officials reconsidered the wisdom of operating the north (Yellow River) and south (Jennings-Liebhardt) units as discrete entities. As the units were so close together perhaps it would be better to acquire the few acres separating them and have one larger parcel as the core of the monument. In light of these considerations, the Iowa Conservation Commission condemned the sixty—eight acres between the previous southern boundary of the Yellow River unit and the river itself in 1947. [4]

In October 1949, the National Park Service assumed control over these two contiguous areas [5] (including the 204.39 acres the state had yet to transfer officially to the federal government). It was too late to introduce legislation during the session of the General Assembly then meeting, and with Iowa's biennial legislative sessions the request for authority to transfer the additional lands could not be made until the winter of 1950.

The bill passed the Senate on March 15, 1951.

In the interim, V.W. Flickinger, the man with whom the Park Service had worked for three tedious years to ensure the smooth transfer of the land from Iowa to the United States, left his position with the Conservation Commission. [6] Wilbur Rush succeeded Flickinger as chief of the Lands and Waters division of the Iowa Conservation Commission. In mid—August 1950, Rush promised that legislation enabling transfer of the land would be introduced in the next session of the assembly. He also promised to send a copy of the draft legislation to the-Park Service for comments prior to its introduction. In late October, however, Rush's staff was still in the process of drafting the bill. Apparently, the Conservation Commission generally or Rush specifically was not sure what land Iowa still owned. By early December, Rush still had not sent a copy of the bill for National Park Service review. Apparently, the Commission's secretary went on vacation without signing the minutes of the meeting during which the draft bill had been approved; without the secretary's signature approving the minutes of the meeting, Rush explained, they were not official. Finally, Region II Director Howard W. Baker received a draft copy of the bill on December 13, 1950. [7]

The bill was not presented to the General Assembly until late February 1951, possibly because the Conservation Commission was moving its offices during the early part of the month. The two senators who were to steer the matter through the General Assembly anticipated no difficulty in its passage, but Effigy Mounds National Monument Superintendent William J. ("Joe") Kennedy worked with both to ensure steady progress of the bill. As the two legislators had forecast, the bill readily passed both houses of the assembly and was signed by the governor on April 14, 1951, to become effective on the fifth of July. [8]

On July 14, Louis A. Strohman of the Land Acquisition Section of the Iowa Conservation Commission visited Superintendent Kennedy at Effigy Mounds National Monument, informing him of problems concerning a small triangular piece of land that was to have been added to the southwest corner of the south unit. This 0.09—acre parcel was deemed vital for the protection of the Marching Bear group of mounds and the Iowa Conservation Commission had committed considerable resources and effort toward its acquisition. The commission originally sought a much larger piece of land there and, that being refused, tried to buy as little as one acre. Failing that, the commission tried unsuccessfully to persuade the landowner, Leo C. McGill, to agree to a scenic easement on the acre of land. Finally, the Conservation Commission reached an agreement with McGill for the acquisition of a fifty- by 150-foot triangle of land. Unfortunately, the Commission failed to obtain a deed for the plot at that time, and in 1950 McGill sold the farm to Casper and Mary Schaefers without reserving the small parcel promised to the Conservation Commission. The Schaefers knew nothing about the promise and were not bound by it in any case. By the time the Park Service became aware of the problem in 1951, McGill had passed away. Thus the state of Iowa had obtained the authority to transfer to the National Park Service a parcel of land it did not own. [9]

Discussions concerning this land parcel continued for six months. The Schaefers refused to donate the land, but were willing to sell it for twenty-five dollars. The state of Iowa had no funds that could legally be used to buy the tract, and federally appropriated funds could not be used. Still, Acting Director Ronald F. Lee of the National Park Service felt that, if necessary, the Service could probably obtain twenty-five dollars from donated (nonappropriated) funds. The necessity was obviated when the Iowa Conservation Commission found the money and purchased the tract.

However, the Gordian knot of land donation was not yet untied. Sometime between October 1949 and November 1951, someone miscopied the dimensions of this same fraction of an acre, and what the state had purchased was a triangular plot fifty feet long north to south and one hundred feet (not 150) in its east—west dimension. The presidential proclamation and all Park Service expectations were for a parcel with an east-west dimension of 150 feet. According to Wilbur Rush, the fifty- by one-hundred-foot-plot was the largest piece of land the state could obtain without initiating costly and time—consuming condemnation proceedings which, in the end, might not be successful. As matters stood, the state had paid a rate of more than $400 per acre for the plot. Late in November 1951, the Park Service agreed to accept the smaller parcel. [10]

Unfortunately, the delays were still not over. Soon after the United States agreed to accept 0.06 instead of 0.09 acres in the triangle-shaped plot, Rush notified the Region II office that E.C. Sayre, head of the commission's land department, was in the hospital and seriously ill. Sayre did not return to work for four months and in the interim, the commission took no action to transfer the land. Even after Sayre's return to his office on the first of April 1952, imprecise work by the abstractor meant the Park Service did not obtain the abstracts and the state patent until three months later. [11]

In mid-July 1952, Region II Chief of Land and Recreation Planning George F. Ingalls asked Superintendent Kennedy to submit possessory rights reports which were required in order for the government to assume title to the land. Upon receipt, Ingalls returned the forms to Superintendent Kennedy because they listed the date of the inspection as January 10, and the reports needed to show a date after March 6, 1952 (the date the patent was recorded). Kennedy resubmitted the forms on the first of August and they were returned to him again for an inspection date later than April 1, 1952, due to some other technicality. The documents for acquisition of 204.36 acres of and, promised in 1949, were forwarded to Director Conrad Wirth of the National Park Service on August 13, and accepted by Acting Director Hillory Tolson on November 10, 1952. [12]

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Last Updated: 08-Oct-2003