Street Address
814 10th Street
Fort Madison, IA 52627
Mailing Address
P.O. Box 285
Fort Madison, IA 52627
phone: 319-372-7661
Regular Hours
Monday - Saturday10 AM - 3:30 PM
Sunday12 PM - 3:30 PM

The museum operates on donations
Andy Andrews, President
phone: 319-372-7661
William Windsor, Docent
phone: 425-802-5644


In order to temporarily move the historic center and museum to facilitate the elevation of the Santa Fe Depot complex, the NLCHS museum will be in the CB&Q depot (right across the tracks from our former location in the old Santa Fe depot.)

The Historic Center housed at the Santa Fe Railway Depot Complex is proud to boast a number of important regional, local, and railroad artifacts. Outside the depot sits a circa 1954 caboose, completely restored including brakemen seats, Conductor's desk, and folding seat/beds, of course the traditional cast iron stove remains in the old caboose, allowing visitors to picture the caboose crew warming their hands, coffee and cooking supper in the traditional way. The caboose was donated to the Historic Society by the Santa Fe Railway, now the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and was permanently placed on the depot property by volunteers. Also included on the site is a diesel utility car utilized by the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad. It is often the center of attention of our young visitors who climb aboard and enjoy an imaginary journey down the railroad tracks to exotic destinations.


Lee County is located in the extreme southeast corner of Iowa. With a total of 522 square miles, it is mostly agricultural with the major acreage in farms. The Des Moines River flows southeasterly along the southern border, the Mississippi river flows south along the eastern border and the Skunk River flows southeasterly along part of the northern border of the county. The land along the rivers is forested and steep.
Lee County was first defined in 1836, with the final boundaries established in 1838. Fort Madison was named as the county seat, but due to much disagreement and numerous votes, a second court jurisdiction was established in Keokuk in 1847, and the county seat was divided with deputies at the offices in Keokuk. All land south of the Half-Breed line, except the east half of Jefferson Township, is recorded at Keokuk, and the remainder of the county at Fort Madison. (The Half-Breed line, also known as Sullivan’s line, is the easterly extension of the Iowa-Missouri border through Lee County.) In 1834, the barracks were built at Fort Des Moines, which was located at what is now Montrose.
Land was designated in 1824 for the half-breeds of the Sac and Fox tribes. In 1838, the lands north of the Half-Breed Tract were sold by auction at Burlington. Population of Lee county was 2,839 in 1838; in 1850 it was 18,912; in 1860 29,232; in 1905, 18,006; in 1950, 43,102 and in 1990 it was 38, 687.

Artifacts Collections

The Historic Center is proud to have at the center of its collection a horse drawn Silsby pumper, showcased complete with its hosecart. As part of Ft. Madison's rich heritage of local volunteerism and public service, the Sislby is also complimented by a Firefighter's display and a police department display. Also of interest to many visitors to Ft. Madison is the Iowa State Penitentiary, the oldest Penitentiary still in use west of the Mississippi. A display representing a typical cell at the Penitentiary and pictures of the original stone Penitentiary structure are often topics of discussion for visitors, particularly after viewing the many artifact restraints on display. The Historical Society is thankful to the Iowa State Penitentiary for its loan of these artifacts for the public to view.
Other artifacts on display include Victorian Era Clothing, a Native American arrowhead collection, a working Thomas Edison phonograph, and a reed organ that runs by continuous pumping of air by the operator.