Skip to main content

McCown, Robert A., 1939-2015



  • Existence: 1939 - 2015


Alfred Brown McCown (1850-1929) was raised in Coalport, Iowa. In 1882, he married Armedia Jane Hegwood (1856-1928) and they had four children: Don Cleveland McCown (1884-1950), Bret Harte McCown (1886-1940), Walter Francis McCown (1889-1972), and Ethel Marie McCown (1892-1964). In 1900 Alfred. McCown was appointed to the Board of Control of State Institutions and was living in Des Moines at the time of his death. Don Cleveland McCown (1884-1950), was born and educated in Des Moines, Iowa. In 1908, he married Bernice Wooster (1887-1937) of Montezuma, Iowa, and they had three children. Don McCown was a champion in trap shooting and fly-casting. He won numerous competitions and wrote several articles on bait and fly-casting for The National Waltonian. Don C. McCown worked as a salesman with the Perfection Stove Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Widowed in 1937, he married Frances Anne Freking (1902-1963) in 1938. The couple’s only child, Robert Arthur McCown, was born the following year. In 1942, Don C. McCown purchased an interest in a hardware store in Hawarden, Iowa, and in 1944 became the sole owner, renaming it “Don C. McCown Hardware.” In 1949, he was appointed to the retail committee of the Hawarden Chamber of Commerce. The following year he suffered a heart attack and passed away. Frances Anne (Freking) McCown (1902-1963) was born in LeMars, Iowa, the sixth child of Henry and Elizabeth Freking. She married a farmer named Joe Groetken and had one child, Jean Groetken (1925-1988). Frances Anne Freking later left her physically abusive husband and returned with her daughter to her parents' home. She worked as a bookkeeper at the local hardware store where she met Don C. McCown. They settled in Hawarden in 1942, and Frances McCown became the bookkeeper for the Don C. McCown Hardware store. She belonged to numerous clubs and organizations and led an active social life. Two years after her husband’s death, Frances McCown sold the hardware store to an affiliate of Ace Hardware. She continued to live in Hawarden until 1953, when she returned with her son to LeMars. She kept a diary for much of her life and recorded many details of her daily activities and current events. She lived in LeMars until her death in 1963. Robert Arthur McCown (1939-2015) was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He started attending St. Mary’s School in 1944. His childhood was marked family trips out west and the "Spike Club," founded with a group of neighborhood boys in 1949, and named for a member’s beloved dog. By 1953, the boys had held two hundred official club meetings. At thirteen, Robert A. McCown enrolled at the Holy Ghost Seminary in East Troy, Wisconsin. He continued his education at Gehlen High School, graduating in 1957. He entered St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, graduating in 1961 a degree in history. In 1963, he completed his Master of Arts in history at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa). The same year he married Margaret Mary Myers of West Liberty, Iowa, and they moved to New Milford, Connecticut, where Robert A. McCown taught at The Canterbury School, a private boarding school for boys. In 1964, their first child, John Patrick, was born, followed by daughter Anne Elizabeth in 1965 and son Matthew Cleveland in 1969. After five years at the Canterbury School, McCown enrolled in library school at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. The McCowns' infant son Matthew contracted spinal meningitis and passed away in 1971. Robert McCown assumed the position of Manuscripts Librarian at The University of Iowa in 1971. He collected the papers of Iowa politicians, authors, and journalists. In addition, he began collecting the papers of Iowa women and their organizations. He presented regularly at the Midwest Archives Conference (MAC), and published several papers on issues related to his work in Special Collections. From 1979 to 1987 he served as editor of the Manuscript Society, an organization that promoted the appreciation and preservation of manuscripts, and earned an Award of Distinction for his services. McCown served on numerous boards and panels for organizations such as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Iowa State Historical Society. In 1986, McCown became head of the Special Collections Department and editor of "Books at Iowa," a bi-annual publication by the Friends of the University of Iowa Libraries. In 1997, he began phased retirement. He continued actively acquiring books and manuscripts for Special Collections and engaged in numerous professional activities until his retirement in 2001. McCown was honored by the State Historical Society of Iowa, receiving the Petersen/Harlan award, which is given to an individual or group that has made significant long-term or continuing contributions to Iowa history. Many of the papers he collected from women politicians, artists, writers, nurses, and journalists provided a foundation for the establishment of the Iowa Women's Archives.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

McCown Family Papers

Identifier: IWA0852

Northwest Iowa family including Robert McCown, head of the University of Iowa Libraries Department of Special Collections from 1986-1997.

Dates: 1909-2012

Robert A. McCown Papers

Identifier: RG99.0305
Scope and Contents

Includes publications

Dates: -

Additional filters:

2001-2010 1
2011-2020 1
20th century 1
Archives (groupings) 1
Businessmen 1