by Sara Krohnke
You probably know that Living History Farms is not your ordinary museum. At Living History Farms visitors are encouraged to personally experience the exhibits through interactive, educational activities, bringing to life what Iowa farm life was like in the 1700s through today and beyond.
But did you know that long-time parishioners Vincent and Mabel King were instrumental in the development of this museum?
In 1970, Bill Murray, a retired Iowa State professor, opened Living History Farms to showcase western contemporary agriculture, old farm techniques and a futuristic view. Bill asked Vincent and Mabel to farm the land and take residence in the farmhouse located there. They accepted his offer and moved into what is now the historic Flynn Mansion. (This 14-room mansion was built in 1867 by Martin and Ellen Flynn, who sold it to the city of Clive in 1914 when it became the Clive Honor Prison, which housed 48 prisoners from Ft. Madison Penitentiary.) For over 32 years, Vince was a farming assistant and a modern farmer operator at Living History Farms. Along with taking care of the livestock, he raised corn, oats, and hay. He was in charge of grain harvest in July and the Corn Husking Contest in October. Above and beyond being Vince’s biggest helper with the many farm chores, Mabel helped with the bookkeeping portion of running a farm.
Vincent and Mabel were born and raised in the Des Moines area. Vincent graduated from Valley High School and began his life of farming. Mabel, an advocate for children, graduated from St Joseph Assumption in Churchville and furthered her education at Simpson College and the State Teacher’s College. She taught in the rural schools in Madison County for many years.
Their passion for farming was very apparent to many who knew them. Vincent was a farmer all his life. Prior to being part of the success of Living History Farms, Vince and Mabel farmed their own land, as well as did custom farming for others. At one point in time, they farmed what was known as the Chevrolet farm which is now the four corners of I-35 and Mills Civic.
Vince & Mabel knew first hand of the hard work and dedication that it took to be successful and also of the sacrifices when Mother Nature was not on your side. Their compassion for farmers all over the world shone bright through their very generous donations to St. Boniface’s mission in El Salvador (which supports the local farmers in the village of El Recreo). Over the years they volunteered on various boards and committees such as National Corn Huskers Association; Madison County Angus Association where Vincent was a member and past president, and sales clerks at auctions. Vincent was also the Chairman of the Festival Board at Living History Farms for many years. Along with dedicating their lives to farming, they served on the All Saints Catholic School Board for 25 years, and were members of the Knights of Columbus and Rosary Society.
Vincent passed away in Oct 2009 at the age of 91. Mabel lived five more years, and at the age of 100 would still share stories of their life on the farm…Living History Farms, that is. How proud she was of her and Vincent’s part of the success of this historic museum! Mabel passed away in April 2014.
Vince and Mabel are remembered for their stewardship to the land and their loyalty to their Catholic faith. It is with great fondness and gratitude that St. Boniface Parish thanks them for remembering their church family with a generous bequest. Vince and Mabel dedicated their lives to giving back, and are true examples of using the gifts God gives you in order to help others.
Vincent and Mabel King in 2005
Today, it is the Historic Flynn Mansion. The Flynn Mansion hosts a variety of special events; including Flynn Mansion Dinners and Victorian Afternoon Tea.