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Local antique club is oldest in the West

Wahkonsa chapter of Questers has been meeting longer than any other this side of the Mississippi River

April 29, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

Wahkonsa Quester Chapter 12 recently celebrated its 60th year of seeking out antiques and the history behind them. Members of the Fort Dodge group say it's a way to keep in touch with their heritage and learn about the past.

Questers is a national organization promoting the study and collecting of antiques, and the Wahkonsa chapter is the oldest chapter west of the Mississippi, said member Connie Bruner, Fort Dodge.

Members of the Wahkonsa chapter meet every month in a member's house. The host chooses a topic on which to give a presentation.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Back row from left, Shirley Hovick and Connie Bruner, front row Jeanette Lawrence and Virginia Kelley, examine an antique bell which Kelley’s mother used to ring for the maid. They are members of the Wahkonsa Questers Chapter 12, which recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Jeanette Lawrence said members have done interesting programs on postcards, carousels and Norwegian Christmas.

Bruner, one of the newest members of the group, said she likes to do a show and tell when it's her turn to host.

"Each brings their own interest," Bruner said. "Some of us are interested in dishes, and some are interested in postcards, so it's just fun to see and learn the history of each individual interest."

Lawrence said the group began with women in the early 1940s who scoured antique shops and discussed what they found.

"They called themselves Questers before they knew about the national organization," said Virginia Kelley.

The national organization began when one woman, Jessie Elizabeth Bardens, found a syrup jar in an antique shop, which triggered her interest.

"This was a down time for women during the war, and Questers was a desirable diversion for many women," Bruner said. "Bess Bardens recognized a widespread interest in antiques and the desire of many to know more about their possessions."

For Bruner, her interest in the group grew from a curiosity about napkin rings.

"I've gone way back to learning about the first napkin rings, that were made out of bone and wood and things like that," Bruner said. "Napkin rings are an invention of the European middle class, first found in France in 1799. I enjoyed when we studied about the presidents, what they would use in the White House for their napkin rings."

There are a total of five Questers chapters in Fort Dodge, Lawrence said. The Wahkonsa chapter has 11 members. Each chapter takes on community projects, and they sometimes work together. For instance, they helped build the gazebo in front of the Fort Dodge Public Library.

"The bandstand at the library was a project, a joint effort of all the Questers in Fort Dodge," Lawrence said. "They got a grant from the national Questers to be able to do that."

Questers supports the YWCA, The Salvation Army, and the Domestic/Sexual Assault Outreach Center. The national organization gives scholarships to worthy students each year.

Like other Quester groups, the Wahkonsa chapter chose a name with a meaning.

"Wahkonsa was the first Indian to help the settlers here," Lawrence said. "His name means 'One Who Will Be Heard'."

For its 60th anniversary, the Chapter 12 members met in Lawrence's house. They looked through pictures in an old scrapbook and read the minutes from the very first meeting.

"We got a chuckle, because the dues then were only a dollar," said Lawrence. "They've gone up quite a bit from that."

Contact Joe Sutter at (515) 573-2141 or



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