Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


I do remember growing up in Van Buren County before we had air-conditioning. The summers were very hot and humid, and when temperatures approached 100 we would pull the shades to keep the house dark. Doors would be open allowing air to circulate through the screened stormdoors, and a couple of screened windows would be open, with an electric fan attempting to create a breeze without much success. Nights were worse than the days, as the air was usually sultry and still!

Winters were bad for another reason. Our house was like so many others at that time--it contained little or no insulation. We did not have central heat, but heated with stoves that supplied hot air for a few feet around them while the rest of the house remained icy cold and drafty.

It is interesting to note that Van Buren County shares in the Iowa temperature extremes. Keosauqua is one of the hottest places in the state, while Farmington has recorded one of Iowa’s coldest temperatures.

According to Richard Tharp, the temperature plunged to 46 degrees below zero (unofficially) in Farmington on January 21, 1883. Elkader holds the Iowa official record of 47 below, recorded twice: on February 3, 1996 and once back in the early 1900s.

Keokuk holds the record for the highest temperature recorded in the state. On July 20, 1934 it reached a sizzling 118 degrees! On that particular date, Keosauqua was a "chilly" 111 degrees.

Keosauqua has recorded a temperature of 100 degrees or above as a record high for the date, on each day from June 25 through September 9. If you check the records, you will find many days during that stretch when Ottumwa and Mt. Pleasant had record maximums only in the 90s. Not all weather recording stations have the same weather conditions as factors. For example, it can be very hot and steamy in Keosauqua while it is storming in Ottumwa.

I believe that Keosauqua’s maximum temperature for the month of June was 107 on June 29, 1934. During July, the record highs in Keosauqua topped 110 degrees a dozen times: July 4, 1936 110; July 5, 1911 111; July 12, 1936 114; July 13, 1936 111; July 14, 1936 114; July 15, 1936 115; July 19, 1934 111; July 20, 1934 111; July 21, 1934 110; July 22, 1901 110; July 24, 1934 111; July 25, 1936 110.

August in Keosauqua is nearly as bad, although the maximums only top 110 on four dates:

August 6, 1934 110; August 8, 1934 111; August 9, 1934 115; and August 18, 1936 110. It also reached 109 twice; 108 3 times; and 107 5 times in August. September’s highest temperatures of 102 were reached on September 1, 1913 and September 8 and 9, 1947.

Therefore reaching 115 once in July and once in August becomes Keosauqua's highest recorded temperature. That's only 3 degrees below the state's all-time high!

Meanwhile, Keosauqua reached 29 degrees below zero on Feb. 3, 1996. It was -28 on January 15, 1979 and on January 14, 1957 (we had an unofficial 32 below at Pittsburg that morning.) It was 25 below on January 17, 1977 and on several other occasions.

Extremes follow extremes. My father always said, "If you have a hot summer, look out for a nasty winter!"

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick