Jim Meister: Dexter’s Master Blacksmith

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.

Clell Fletcher Hoy (1917-1991)

Master blacksmith Jim Meister of Dexter, Iowa, married Roxie (Stone) Hoy, who had five children: Ora, Cleo, IG, Clell, and Max Hoy. That was about 1930. Lyle and Marilyn Frost also lived with them several years. 

Clell joined the Navy right after he graduated from Dexter High School in 1936. He served aboard seven destroyers, including the USS Kidd and the USS Madison. During WWII he served at Casablanca in North Africa, as well as in the Pacific–Eniwetok, Okinawa, and the Philippines. He was awarded a Purple Heart. Hoy, a Chief Commissary Steward, served ten years. 

After the war, he married Margaret and lived in the Chicago area until her death in 1982. He returned to Dexter and traveled extensively, including to Australia. 

Clell Hoy and other family members donated over 1000 homemade tools and other items from the blacksmith shop of his stepfather, Jim Meister. A group of Dexerites bought a small brick building on the town’s main street and moved Meister’s machinery and tools to the building.

Hoy willed $50,000 to the Dexter Museum. It has been set up as a trust to help support the museum, which also features the 1933 Bonnie and Clyde shootout in Dexfield Park, the speech by President Truman at the 1948 National Plowing Match at Dexter, as well as items from Jim Meister’s blacksmith shop. 

Clell Hoy is buried at Dexter, Iowa.

History of Dexter, Iowa, 1968, page 33; also obituary of Clell Fletcher Hoy. 

Marilyn Frost Black gave the museum a notebook of information and photos about Jim Meister, including the two older photos above.




    • Wow, you’re sharp! Thank you. I’m running it down with a local right now. Stay tuned.
      Later: Their headstone in the Dexter Cemetery says Meister, so guess someone on the museum board needs to change the little sign. Thank you for catching this!

  1. It’s fun and I love reading about Dexter and learning all about the town and people. Jim Meister was an amazing hard working salt of the earth man. Thanks for highlighting him.

    • I can no longer get out to Dexter to regularly help with the museum, but they love it that I’ll write “ads” to remind people it’s open every Sunday afternoon. They hope to enhance that dark corner of the museum soon!

  2. Joy, My goodness Mr. Meister was a busy man. What a mind he had a make so many different things.

    • I think the “town kids” really got a kick out of all the things he made. Friday the 14th will be about our births so close together, with a sweet picture of us hugging at the end! I’ll be at a writers workshop end of next week, but it’s the story is already scheduled. This WordPress stuff is such fun!

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