Jim Meister, according to historian James Graham, was known throughout the area as a master artisan in metalworking. Whenever something broke on the farm made of metal, he could either fix it or make a new one.
Martine James Meister was born in Iowa in 1886. As a boy of 10, Jim has a milk route for the Dexter Farmers Cooperative Creamery. Driving a team and wagon, he would pick up milk from area farmers and deliver it to the creamery, which was located at the south end of Dexter.
In the 1920s, he ran a threshing crew from northern Missouri to southern Minnesota. Two threshing machines and the steel, cogged wheels were stored in a large machine shed in Dexter.
He started his blacksmith business in the late 1920s, making steel-rimmed wooden wheels.
A large gasoline engine ran a grinding wheel for oats and cord for animal feed. It also powered an overhead system of large wheels which operated a drill press, drop hammer, lawn mower sharpener, and wood lathes. He also sharpened hay mower blades.
First Fire Engine
Jim Meister manufactured the bed and box on a frame for Dexter’s first fire engine. I sure wish we could find a picture of that.
He married Roxie (Stone) Hoy, who had five children: Ora, Cleo, IG, Clell, and Max Hoy. Lyle and Marilyn Frost also lived with them several years.
He subscribed to Popular Mechanics magazine, where he got ideas for things to build. Their yard was filled with novelty mechanical things, such as a merry-go-round, a hammock out of barrel slats, Adirondack and other lawn chairs, a windmill, and a fish pond with an underground water pipe.
Meisters raised a few animals–chickens, geese, rabbits for sale, a pig or two–and used a small Ford tractor on a small farm to raise a garden and animal feed.
Personal: I wonder how many times we kids were in town with Dad, waiting in the car for him to leave something off at Meister’s or pick up something he’d fixed or sharpened. I wish we’d gotten out to have a look at the novelties in the yard, but we’d probably been told to stay in the car so Dad could get home for chores or field work.
Interest from a $50,000 trust donated by Clell Hoy, stepson of Jim Meister, supports the museum, which got its start in the early 1970s.
Besides Jim Meister’s blacksmith tools, the Dexter Museum has a notebook of memories and photos by granddaughter Marilyn (Frost) Black.
History of Dexter, Iowa, 1968, page 33.