"GENERAL JACK PERSHING", the world famous rooster from Fontanelle, Iowa, who raised over $40,000 for the American Red Cross during World War I, is an Adair County Icon !
Born in the Adair County town of Fontanelle, Iowa, during World War I, Jack’s legend began when he lent his talents to help the Red Cross Nursing Corps raise over $40,000 at auctions held throughout Iowa and South Dakota in 1917. A remarkable feat for anyone, but especially so for Jack, because Jack was a rooster!
It all started in Fontanelle, where farmer, Mark Dunkerson, had little to donate for auction except an extra (and unnecessary) rooster. (He had ten hens and two roosters.) The story goes that the first bidder to buy Jack decided that Jack was "too darn cantankerous to take home", so told the auctioneer, David R. Jones, of Casey (another Adair County town), to "sell him again." The idea caught on and Jack raised about $217 that night for the war effort. The auctioneer took him home, decided to call him "Jack Pershing" and, at the next auction, told the story about "General Jack". The idea became so popular that each town where Jack was auctioned tried to outdo the last. The high point was in little Exira, Iowa, a village of only 900, where Jack raised over $7,000 in a single day!
During his tour Jack became quite a ham and would sit on the auctioneer’s shoulder and crow loudly when the bidding became hot and heavy.
After the war, Jack retired to the auctioneer’s farm near Casey, Iowa. Later, because of his notoriety, he was taken to a taxidermist and preserved for posterity. Jack’s permanent roost is at the State Historical Building in Des Moines, where he resides in a glass case in the Veterans’ Exhibit.
" If you haven’t been to Adair County, you don’t know Jack!"
celebration of “Jack’s visit” to the county in 2001, Adair County promoted “The Roosters
of Adair County” through the summer.
Over 150 giant, painted, concrete roosters were located throughout the
county—some whimsical, some surprising, some silly, even some “Jack”
On September 30, 2001, another chapter was added to the story of “General Jack Pershing”, the Red Cross Rooster from Fontanelle, Iowa, who raised over $40,000 for the Red Cross during WWI.
Preserved by a taxidermist and donated to the Iowa State Historical Society after the war, Jack was “on loan” to the Adair County Heritage Museum to help the county celebrate its Sesquicentennial year. Following the events of September 11th, it seemed only natural to put his fundraising talents to work one more time.
Returning to the auction block after 84 years in retirement, “Jack” was once again sold—and resold—over and over again, as residents of Adair County, Jack’s ‘home” county, donated a total of $1,835. History repeated itself, as proceeds went again (of course!) to the Red Cross—this time for the September 11th Disaster Relief Fund.
Donating their services as auctioneers for the event were Ted Wallace, great-grandson of Mark Dunkerson, the Fontanelle farmer who originally donated the rooster for auction, and Delmer Baier, son of one of the original auctioneers. As the word “sold!” once again echoed over Jack’s head, it was an unexpected ending to an otherwise perfect visit.