Lee County, Iowa

Historical Society

Photo Courtesy Vinson Photography

​The Lee County Iowa Historical Society is dedicated to preserving the history of Lee County, Iowa.

Samuel Freeman Miller  was born in 1816 in Kentucky and grew up on a farm. He earned a medical degree from Transylvania University in 1838 and practiced medicine for ten years. During that time he taught himself law and was admitted to the Kentucky bar in 1847, abandoning his medical practice. Miller became more interested in politics after he became an attorney. As member of the Whig Party, Miller was opposed to slavery, a position that caused him difficulty because of the increase of pro-slavery sentiments in Kentucky. 

In 1850, he moved to Iowa, a state which aligned more with his anti-slavery views. He established a law practice in Keokuk and became a prominent member of the Republican Party and a supporter of Abraham Lincoln's presidential campaign in 1860. Lincoln appointed Miller to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1862 where he served until his death in 1890.

In 1859 Miller built this three-story brick home at 318 North 5th Street at a cost of $13,000. Miller and his family lived in the home only two years before departing for Washington. In 1965 the Lee County Historical Society bought the property and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Today it serves as a museum.

Main Floor
The grand hallway is graced by portraits of Chief Keokuk and Justice Samuel Freeman Miller as well as a lithograph of the City of Keokuk in 1857. Also on display are a pair of overalls owned by Robert Earl Hughes (b. 4 June 1926 - d. 10 July 1958 in Baylis, Illinois). During his lifetime, Mr. Hughes was the heaviest human being recorded in the history of the world at a confirmed 1,041 pounds (472 kg).
The front parlor is home to portraits of the founders of the Medical College and the Civil War Generals from Keokuk.
The back parlor is where family and friends would entertain. Our collection in the parlor includes a square grand piano, pump organ, stereopticon and photograph albums.
Both parlors have been renovated and decorated to the period and feature a beautiful collection of historical pieces.

The hallway displays a variety of local artifacts, including pieces related to the Half-Breed Tract and Chief Keokuk. 
The Art Nouveau bedroom features the age of starched collars, curled hair, and hats and flowers. Other bedrooms feature various styles of historic clothing and personal items.
Our recently established early Keokuk history room highlights the history of the tribes who lived in this area as well as the lives of early settlers.
The lawyer’s study honors Miller, his partners, and local judges who served in Keokuk’s Federal Courtroom. The room is very masculine and is full of various furnishings featuring a revolving bookcase, huge desk and a Dictaphone.

​​On The Ground Floor
Our kitchen has a cast iron stove and many kitchen instruments used before electricity, such as a churn, sadirons, and carpet beaters.
The ground floor is also home to a wonderful display of turn of the century medical instruments including a dentist’s suite complete with a foot powered drill.
The laundry room is filled with a collection of items from Hubinger’s Elastic Starch Company, an old washing machine, and all of the things that kept a home spinning before modern technology.