Celebration will honor Sagers' life, work

MAQUOKETA — Maquoketa Caves State Park is proud to host a two-part event to celebrate the life and work of Paul Sagers.

The Friends of the Maquoketa Caves, Jackson County Conservation, Maquoketa Access Channel and the Jackson County Historical Society have teamed up to document the Sagers family story.

Sagers turned a boyhood interest in Native American artifacts into an extensive collection, displayed first in his home and later, in the Sagers' Museum. which he built at the entrance to the state park. He quarried the massive limestone blocks for the building that now serves as the Maquoketa Caves State Park Visitor Center.

He took a correspondence course in taxidermy, prepared mounts for his museum, operated a sawmill, worked with many schools and universities, and was employed by Clinton Engines Corporation, where he received many awards for inventing more efficient and economical ways of getting things done. All this while raising a family of five children, who attended the same one-room country school that he did.

Sagers' collection was turned over to the Office of the State Archaeologist in Iowa City, where it has been invaluable as a basis for Native American studies in the Midwest.

The intent of the two-day program is to capture this history and its significance from those who knew it best.

At 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, Dirk Marcucci, grandson of Paul Sagers, now an archaeologist in New York state, will lead a guided tour from the Blizzard Ridge Parking area near Canton, to the Levson Rock Shelter, a hike in of about 45 minutes. This is where many of the most significant finds were unearthed.

Meet at the Hurstville Center at 8:30 a.m. or the Buzzard Ridge Wildlife Area Parking Lot on E-17 near Canton at 9 a.m. Parking is limited. Please dress appropriately. The hike-in is approximately 45 minutes over rough terrain. Water will be provided, and in case of inclimate weather, the rain date will be Sunday, Sept. 15, at the same time.

From noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16, Maquoketa Caves State Park Visitors Center, formerly the Sagers Museum, will feature a video presentation detailing the story of the Sagers family. The information and accompanying photos, captured and edited by the Maquoketa Access Channel, are remembrances of Jo Caven, daughter of Paul Sagers, and other family members.

At 2 p.m. next to the Visitors Center, Charlie Sagers, who is Paul’s grandson, will greet guests and share his thoughts. He will also display four 3-foot-by-5-foot panels, copies of those depicting the significance of Paul’s work that are on display at the Office of the State Archaeologist in Iowa City. Charlie has framed these panels with wood that was cut and cured by Paul Sagers so they can be more appropriately displayed at the Jackson County History Museum.

Marcucci will speak about growing up in this family and his grandfather’s passion for archaeology, which led Dirk to follow in his footsteps and pursue a career in the field. Dirk and his wife, Sue, also an archaeologist, have a very successful business in New York state by the name of Landmark Archaeology, Inc. It was under Dirk’s guidance that the family donated this collection to the State of Iowa in 1988, and in 2008 it was accepted by the Office of the State Archaeologist for perpetual curation.

In 2011, Paul Sagers and his collection were showcased at an open house at the University of Iowa, and in 2012, the Jackson County Historical Society was honored to install both Paul Sagers and his father, John Sagers, an early Jackson County lawyer, into its Hall of Fame.