Former County Recorder Turns 100

Marguerite Gowin, Dallas County Recorder from 1957 to 1978, shared smiles with former deputy recorder Eleanor Myers and current county recorder Chad Airhart Thursday at Spurgeon Manor in Dallas Center. Gowin turned 100 years of age Saturday. “I’ve hung in there,” said Gowin.

She served 22 years as Dallas County Recorder, the seat’s longest elected tenure in county history. Gowin also served five years as deputy recorder under Amelia Fidler.

For Gowin, serving as Dallas County Recorder was a family affair. Gowin’s grandfather, John W. Grimes, was recorder from 1901 to 1907 with her mother Gertrude Grimes serving as deputy recorder from 1902 to 1905.

In a 1978 newspaper article, Gowin said that family tradition had nothing to do with her interest in the office.

“I was walking across the street to the dime store when Amelia (Fidler) asked me to come here and work for her. When she retired, it just seemed logical that I take over,” said Gowin.

A photo from 1903 still hangs in the Dallas County courthouse showing Gowin’s grandfather and mother seated at their desks. A note written by Gowin, attached to the back of the photo reads, “Property of Marguerite Gowin. This is the original picture taken in the Dallas County Recorder’s Office in 1903. My grandfather J.W. Grimes was recorder and my mother Gertrude Grimes was deputy when they moved into the present building in 1902. Her signature is on the back of the photo. The key was the one used at the ‘Stables’ at that time.”

Airhart brought the photo along during a visit to Spurgeon Manor in Dallas Center last week. Gowin hadn’t seen the photo since leaving office in 1978.

Gowin was born and raised in Adel and worked at the dime store and grocery store before becoming Dallas County Recorder. She held her position through 12 elections – terms changed from two to four years during her tenure. In the 1978 article, Gowin commented that she had opponents in every election.

During Gowin’s first year as recorder in 1957, the office received $8,036 in fees for recording real estate papers – deeds, mortgages, contracts, affidavits, etc. Twenty years later, near the end of her career, the amount of fees had tripled to $25,340.

Gowin mentioned in the article that one of the most efficient improvements came in 1971 when the office switched to making Xerox copies, which really cut down on a lot of work.

Gowin’s comments in 1978 summed up her 27-year career in the recorder’s office.

“We’re going to be busy getting things wrapped up. There are a lot of reports that have to be done the last day of the year. But it’s hard to unwind. I’ve worked all my life, but I’ve enjoyed this work and I’ll really miss it,” said Gowin.

Gowin left office to work part-time at her husband Keith’s hardware store, Gowin Hardware in Adel.

Myers, Gowin’s deputy recorder for 21 years, now lives a few doors down from Gowin at Spurgeon Manor and recalls Gowin’s work ethic.

“She was always working,” said Myers.

During their 21 years together in the Dallas County Courthouse, Gowin and Myers were the only employees in the recorder’s office. There are now eight full-time employees.

Thousands of documents still in use feature Myers’ and Gowin’s handwriting. “Let me say, you had beautiful handwriting,” commented Airhart while speaking with Myers. Myers took pride in the quality of her penmanship and is upset with changes to the current education curriculum.

“It makes me very perturbed that they’re not teaching cursive writing anymore,” said Myers.

Myers ran for county recorder in 1978 and 1982 following Gowin’s retirement but was defeated by another Marguerite – Marguerite West. Despite 21 years experience as deputy recorder, Myers still wonders if voters didn’t realize the difference between Marguerites.

Myers started as deputy one month after Gowin took office in 1957.

“I did everything that the recorder does, only I got 80 percent of the pay,” said Myers.

Myers graduated from Adel High School at the age of 16 and spent time working for an abstractor before accepting the position as deputy recorder.

After 21 years together in the Dallas County Recorder’s Office, Gowin and Myers have reunited at Spurgeon Manor in Dallas Center.

Myers is a member of the Spurgeon Manor Do-Good Club that collects 100 items during the month for the Dallas Center Food Pantry every time a resident turns 100. In the past year, four residents including Gowin have reached 100 years of age.

Written by Jason McGrann and published in the Dallas County News on June 5th, 2014.