Washington Township School

NewsJan2020 (2)

Leora was their mother. My grandmother.

The two youngest Wilsons, Danny and Junior, graduated from this school in 1941 and 1942.

I’ll be donating all the book sales that morning to the restoration project.


A trip to Perry from rural Dexter, Iowa, where I grew up, usually took us to the corner of Panther Store, then north past Washington Township School. Mom would always reminisce that her two younger brothers had graduated from there.

The Wilson family moved to a farm southwest of Minburn, to be tenent farmers, the spring of 1939.

Danny and Junior finished their freshman and sophomore years at Washington Township School. When they learned that football wasn’t offered, the Dexter coach asked Wilsons if they knew what a good football player Danny was. And offered to have him live with them through the rest of his schooling so he could play football.

Danny Wilson said he wanted to stay with the family–with brothers Delbert, Dale (who graduated from Dexter High School that spring), and Junior.

Dan went to Washington Township two years, played basketball, and helped on the farm, and went hunting in the timber regularly with his dad and brothers.

1939-1940 Washington Township School Boys’ Basketball Team. Back: Junior Wilson, Leo Glass, Leland Schuhardt, Charles Elliott, Danny Wilson, Coach George Haynes. Front: Jay Ranee, Gene Sutherland, Harry Holling, Dale Brewer, Bob Wicks. (Edmonsons Studio)
1940-1941 Washington Township School Boys’ Basketball Team: Coach George Haynes behind. Back: Harold Godwin, Paul Daniels, Dan Wilson, Charles Elliott, Keith Sutherland, Harry Jackman. Front: Junior Wilson, Ed Kautzky, Jack Jackman, Paul Diddy, Bob Wicks, Harry Reves.

The 1941 Junior-Senior Banquet was held at Younkers Tea Room in Des Moines. I don’t know whether Danny Wilson went or not, but he was valedictorian of the Class of 1941.

1941(3 (2)
From Washington Township, Dallas County, Iowa, History 1850-2000

That December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. Wilsons knew this would change their lives. One brother Donald was still in the Navy, aboard the USS Yorktown. Oldest son Delbert would probably be recalled to the Navy. And Dale had had to register for the draft.

Decades later Mom and I met Leland Lapp, a classmate of Junior’s, at the Perry Cemetery a few years back. We ended up corresponding and he was able to label the basketball picture my grandmother had saved. Ed Kautzky sent me a copy of the later one.

The 1942 Junior-Senior Banquet was held at the school because of gas rationing.

Washington Township School bus at Wilson’s driveway

My mother Doris, a sister of the Wilson brothers, was working as a waitress at Perry’s McDonald Drug Store. The Class of 1942 held their Senior Banquet in the banquet room in the back of the store. Junior’s classmate, Jack Jackman, didn’t have money or decent clothes and wasn’t going to the banquet, so Junior said he didn’t want to go either. Instead, they showed up at the soda fountain counter at McDonald’s, where Doris was working. She made them the best malts that she could, and she paid for them, too.

Ed Kautzky, a grade behind Junior, said that Junior could find humor in about anything, but that he did things well. They were all a little envious of his hunting and fishing stories.

Another neighbor, Marjorie (Hill) Joslin remembered the Wilson boys driving by on the tractor without shirts, and how brown they became.

Junior was a good student, too, but when he learned that Dan had to give a speech at commencement, he made sure he wasn’t at the top of his class. The Class of 1942 graduated in gowns for the first time. Leland Lapp said that their class motto was “Tonight we launch. Where shall we land,” which made him uncomfortable, since the war was on.

From Washington Township, Dallas County, Iowa, History 1850-2000

About the time Junior was graduating, his brother Donald was in desperate combat in the Battle of the Coral Sea (one carrier was lost, Don’s carrier damaged) and the Battle of Midway (his Yorktown was sunk).

Soon Delbert rejoined the Navy. And Dale enlisted in the Army Air Force to become a pilot. The next year, both Danny and Junior joined the Air Corps, as they usually called it. While Clabe and Leora were still at the farm, the first telegram arrived with the news that Dale was Missing in Action off New Guinea.

All five sons were in the service, so Clabe Wilson couldn’t keep up with all the farming by himself. He and Leora found an acreage to buy just south of Perry.


So, after shopping in Perry, decorating the graves at Violet Hill Cemetery, or both, we’d usually drive south on 16th Street a mile to go by the little house where most of the terrible telegrams came–telling Wilsons of the losses of their three youngest sons, including the two who went to Washington Township School.

Many times, we’d also take a detour on our way home so we could see the old Minburn farm once more–my first home when Mom got out of the hospital after I was born (two days before D-Day). It sits just west of today’s North Raccoon River Wildlife Area.

Minburn (2)

It’s also south of the Voas Nature Area. Snyders and Voas were Wilsons’ good neighbors there.

Handsome Washington Township School is being restored, and is used regularly for community events.


  1. Thank you, Joy. Glad you are feeling so much better than when I first met you. You are getting so much accomplished with documenting your family and communities. What a legacy!!

    • I’ve been trying to get a hold of you! Pete has an estimate on the Wilson brothers’ display and said he wants me to “sit down with the Snyder sisters and review it.” He showed me what he’s got in mind and it looks good. I edited some of the text. I think when you get back maybe we should meet at the vendor. I’ve offered the old telegrams to Forest Park Museum and the vendor will probably need to scan them. Thanks for your note!

  2. I enjoyed reading this post with some detail of the younger Wilson brothers’ high school years. Best wishes for the fundraising breakfast for the Washington Township Project!

  3. Six of my aunts and uncles graduated from there. My aunt Mary Ellen Messamer’s picture is just to the right of Daniel.

    • The Wilson family moved there in early 1939, tenant farmers, pulling them out of the Great Depression misery. All five Wilson brothers served in WWII. Danny was one of the three who were lost during the war. The brothers are remembered on the Dallas County Freedom Rock at Minburn, 2-3 miles from the farm. “Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II” is the family story. (My mother was one of their sisters. I was born in Dexter two days before D-Day. Because Dad was in Texas, my first home was the farmhouse at Minburn with Mom and her folks!)

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