LACEY STATE PARK — John Fletcher Lacey is a familiar name in the Mahaska County area.
Lacey Recreation Complex is named for Lacey; as is the small town of Lacey, located between Oskaloosa and New Sharon.
In 1855, Lacey and his family moved to a farm near the Des Moines river, a few miles from Oskaloosa. He served in the Third Iowa Voluntary infantry during the Civil War, attaining the rank of Major.
After the war, Lacey became a lawyer. He served on the Oskaloosa City Council from 1880-1883 and served one term as city attorney.
He later turned to politics and served as a United States congressman.
Lacey created the Bird and Game act of 1900, (also known as the Lacey Act), which made it a crime to ship illegal game across state lines. He also created the Lacey Act of 1907, which regulated the handling of tribal funds.
Lacey was involved with other influential legislation such as the Mine Safety Act and the Yellowstone Park Protection Act. He was also associated with the Antiquities Act.
Following his career in politics, Lacey returned to Oskaloosa and resumed his law practice and was elected president of the Iowa Bar Association in the year of his death, 1913.
Chris Bennett, a southeast Iowa artist currently located in Bentonsport, near Keosaqua, was approached by the Friends of Lacey group to create a bust of Lacey.
Bennett said he had never heard of Lacey until this project.
“He is very interesting, of course,” he said. “I did research. I found as many photos as I could and learned about him a little bit.”
The bronze bust started, Bennett said, with a clay prototype that was 1-1/3 lifesize.
“I make an armature of foam over steel to fill it out, then I place clay on it and create it anatomically correct with the skull and the musculature of the chest and shoulders and neck and everything, then I start placing his features on that,” he said. “And that clay prototype, I took it to MaxCast in Kolona and they did the mold making and the casting and the mount system.”
Bennett said he spent a couple months with the prototype and the foundry spent about three months with the bust. The stone pedestal was created by Lacey Park Ranger Justin Pedretti. Musco Lighting helped fund the project. The bust is on display near the learning center at Lacey State Park.
Oskaloosa is home to one of Bennett’s bronzes. In 1997, he created the bronze sculpture of George Daily, located outside of George Daily Auditorium.