Linda McCann will bring her knowledge of Iowa’s history to libraries in Page County during October.
When McCann started researching Iowa’s history and discovered her two granddaughters weren’t aware of important events like how prohibition affected Iowa, that was all the motivation she needed to continue her research to share with them and eventually write several books on the history of Iowa.
McCann became involved in genealogy first and found that she was a descendant of the founder of the town of Shellrock, where she lives. This surprised her as she is not originally from Shellrock, nor are any of her family members. She asked her mother and grandmother, and they were shocked as well. A few years later, McCann said a group of community members formed the Shellrock Historical Society, and she was asked to join. She was later elected and remains president of the group.
After joining the Shellrock Historical Society, McCann wrote the first book self-printed by the group called “Where Did They Go?” in 2009. This book was displayed at the museum in Shellrock.
“A book publisher saw one and contacted me and asked if I could do more and could there be a series,” said McCann. “That’s how it all started.”
Since that time, McCann has written and published 14 books on the history of Iowa.
While in Page County, McCann plans to share her books “Prisoners of War in Iowa” and “Prohibition in Eastern Iowa.” On Monday, Oct. 25, McCann will be at the Shenandoah Public Library at 2:15 p.m. and Clarinda Lied Library at 6:30 p.m. On Tuesday, Oct. 26, she will be at the Essex Lied Library at 5 p.m.
McCann said she found that a lot of people did not know there were POW camps in Iowa.
“We had about 25,000 German, Italian and Japanese prisoners of war in Iowa between 1942 and 1946,” said McCann. “Most people know nothing about this.”
McCann said Clarinda and Algona were both locations for what she called the main POW camps, and then there were 19 other camps throughout Iowa. She said the camp in Clarinda held about 3,000 prisoners. While researching the book, she talked with people who knew some of the prisoners. She discovered many people around Shenandoah and Clarinda made lifelong friendships, and some that had been in the POW camps returned to Iowa with their families to visit.
“That’s a big part of all of my books,” said McCann. “I am able to talk to people that can tell me what happened.”
In addition to visiting with people and having them share their memories with her, she said a lot of her research comes from old newspapers. When she started her research to tell the story on how prohibition affected Iowa, she was once again surprised at the number of people who had no idea how prohibition affected Iowa.
McCann said she talked with children who’s fathers had been moonshiners and bootleggers during prohitibion.
“One of the things I would say to them after I felt like I could say it was, why did your dad choose to break the law to make alcohol?” said McCann. “Every case was that was the only way the father had to support his family. The corn prices had dropped from $5 to a quarter in four years. Many men chose to make alcohol using the corn to be able to support their families.”
When she started getting interested in the history of prohibition and how it affected Iowa, McCann said that one granddaughter was in middle school and one in high school.
“I said to them, ‘What do you know about prohibition?’” said McCann. “They said ‘prohibition what?’ Well, that shocked me at first.”
McCann said both of her granddaughters are now involved in the writing of her books. Her oldest granddaughter is currently a teacher and helps edit the books. Her youngest granddaughter, a senior in college, is majoring in computer graphics and has designed the book cover for her next book called “Rosie the Riveters of Iowa,” scheduled to publish this month.
McCann said being able to pass the history of Iowa down to her granddaughters and the younger generation has been her inspiration.
Following McCann’s discussion at the Shenandoah, Clarinda and Essex libraries she will have books on hand for sale and will be more than happy to sign them. McCann welcomes individuals in the community to stop by and visit with her while she is in Page County. She enjoys talking with people and hearing their memories and recollections of past events.