EVERLY, Iowa (KCAU) — The welcome sign that stands just outside of Everly, Iowa is slowly fading away. But just a mile or 2 away, in town, work is underway to make sure the history of this small northwest Iowa community doesn’t vanish as well.

“We really didn’t know what we were going to come across when we started,” said Connie Goeken.

In 2019, Everly graduated its last senior class and closed its school buildings.

“Ya know when a small town loses its school it loses some of its identity. It kind of goes away with it,” said Goeken.

Determined not to let that happen, Goeken and a group of community members started a push to find, catalog, and display the history of this now shrinking town. And at the center of it all were 7 state tournament trophies won by the girls’ basketball teams from the 1960s.

Cindy Fliss was on the 1966 team that won it all.

“It’s kind of important. This is part of this town’s history. If we don’t tell the story then it will die. I’m pretty concerned the young people don’t know much of the history,” said Fliss.

Today that state championship trophy and several others won by Everly Cattlefeeder teams, are on display at the Everly Heritage Museum.

“When you image these wonderful trophies sitting in somebody’s barn that was kind of a scary thought,” said Goeken.

Goeken was on Everly’s 1968 state runner-up team.

“I believe almost everybody in the state knew who the Cattlefeeders were. In 12 years, we went 10 times,” added Goeken.

“Playing in that game against Union Whitten was absolutely crazy. I never heard the crowd in any other game but in that game, it was just nuts,” added Fliss.

Opened in November, after nearly 3 years of work, the Everly Heritage Museum shares more than sports stories.

“A lot of very interesting very historically significant to our community. Stuff that has been in attics and storage sheds,” said Goeken.

Nineteen hundred items and unlike the town itself, still growing.

“The stories they come in with have been unbelievable,” said Verdon Schmidt.

The history being shared, just as incredible.

“We have one corner of the museum that will be strictly military,” said Schmidt. “Larry Dillingham, a 3-star brigadier general. A hero.”

“He was in a bomber during WWII as a navigator and when his plane was hit, he managed to fly the plane to allow the last crew members to parachute out of the plane before crashing,” said Goeken. “Willard got out and then was captured and spent 6 months of the war as a POW in a German war camp. He kept a very detailed diary during those 6 months, and we have that in the case.”

“In July 2021 the fire department celebrated 100 years. We’ve got a display dating back with the pictures,” said Schmidt.

Decades of history, some known and some not known till now.

“To lay it all out here the details from the people whose grandpa filled up Bonnie and Clyde’s car with gas at the gas station on the highway and saw the guns in the back of the car,” said Goeken.

From faces of years gone by to telephones that didn’t fit in your pocket, a 1939 state baseball title with educational and business memorabilia from a simpler time, each offering a chapter in the story of Everly. 

“This small area had talented people and they really worked hard at doing whatever they did,” said Fliss.

“Hopefully, we’ve slowed down that disappearance of the town because there aren’t many businesses left in every,” said Schmidt.

“We’re one of those small rural communities losing population and maybe part of our identity is slipping away. I think people see this as a way to stop that slide. One of the most rewarding things is to see people make connections over these artifacts. Remembering things coming together and that’s exactly why we did this, to keep memories alive,” said Goeken.