Donna Jackson can still picture her grandpa, Donald Mackerman, sitting at the kitchen table of his Newton home and cleaning his gun, a Winchester Model 12 Pigeon Grade pump-action. It was the gun he had used for years as a seasoned and highly decorated trapshooter in Jasper County. Family members speculate about one million rounds had been launched from the barrel of that shotgun.
As a child, Donna Jackson also remembered watching her grandpa use a reloading press for his birdshot shells. Sometimes, she said, the floor would be riddled with lead balls, and the room would smell like gunpowder. His trapshooting trophies and other accolades were proudly displayed on shelves and tables.
One day she had asked him, “Grandpa, when did you start to like guns?”
Ol’ Mackerman smiled at her and replied, “When I was a little kid. Just like you.”
Of course, she doesn’t shoot much these days, and certainly not as regularly as Mackerman did before he died in 1995. The only way she can hit anything, she said, is if she takes the gun and throws it at the barn. Mackerman on the other hand was a tried-and-true shooter, a real natural at the almost 270-year-old sport of trapshooting.
For years, people in the county knew him from his longtime stint as manager of the Jasper County Gun Club. Lots of folks knew him for his shooting, too. It was no secret Mackerman was an accomplished sportsman behind the stock of a shotgun.
According to documents and articles provided to the Newton Daily News, Mackerman won state singles championship titles in 1962, 1963 and 1966 and placed high in the Champion of Champions race and Clay Target Championship. He was also the first to win the Spring Grand American singles championship in 1977. Mackerman earned trophies from around all the Midwest, as well as Arizona and Nevada.
From 1939 to 1995, the “Hall of Fame enshrinee” reportedly fired 225,735 singles, 115,575 handicap and 78,032 doubles targets when registered for the Amateur Trapshooting Association, according to a February 1996 issue of Trap and Field. Relics of that era of trapshooting are featured in the Jasper County Historical Museum exhibit.
The display flourished with the help of Donna Jackson, who provided several items on loan to the museum. Many were once owned by or featured her grandfather. Trapshooting patches, belt buckles, pins and other memorabilia make up a large majority of the display. Several of the trophies, Donna Jackson said, were given to the Jasper County Gun Club or sold back.
There’s even a record of the Jasper County Trapshooting Champions from 1950 to 2016. The first person to take home the top prize? Donna Jackson’s father-in-law Gordon Jackson, who was awarded first place seven more times after that. Mackerman’s name is listed 12 times. His son, Donn Mackerman, also shares a couple first-place finishes to his name.
The urge to compete was strong back then, too. Gordon Jackson was 20 years old when he became the first trapshooting champ in the county. Gordon Jackson attributed the popularity of the sport to the Jasper County Gun Club, which he said opened sometime in the 1940s.
“There was a lot more people right around this area that was in it then,” Jackson said. “There’s a lot of memories out there.”
Like Mackerman, Gordon Jackson had a knack for shooting. It’s a hobby he continues to this day.
“It’s something you kind of get in your blood,” he said.
Donna Jackson, “He’s got gunpowder running through his veins, too.”
Donna Jackson said her grandfather had a true passion for the sport, as evidenced by the amount of news clippings and other artifacts he had kept over the years. An article tucked away in her binder — packed with photographs and more information about her grandfather’s career — details the lengths in which Mackerman and his fellow shooters went to finish a competition.
She read the piece aloud, “‘Lightning caused a power failure at the gun club. And Mackerman, shooting in the final squad, finished competition with the aid of automobile lights.’ That’s how dedicated they are!”
Thankfully, these kinds of artifacts and more were just what staff at the Jasper County Historical Museum were looking for when they kickstarted a trapshooting exhibit this year. Bill Perrenoud, executive director of the Jasper County Historical Museum, said the sport gave area gun enthusiasts an outlet for becoming better marksmen.
Also, he said Mackerman and his success in the sport is now forever entwined in Jasper County’s history. Perrenoud felt comfortable calling him one of Jasper County’s greatest trapshooters.
“Everyone that I’ve talked to, if I say the name ‘Donald Mackerman,’ they know him,” Perrenoud said.
Grateful that Mackerman and his family had the forethought to keep news clippings and other materials relating to trapshooting in the county, Perrenoud suggested the display is all the better for it.
“We are very lucky to have (Donna Jackson) here with the artifacts from trapshooting,” he said. “We have other sports and other interests, but it’s hard to have a link as strong as that one. Very sincere, very heartfelt link. And they’re passionate about it, which is good.”
Editor’s Note: “History Lesson” is a weekly series inspired by the Jasper County Historical Museum’s 40-year anniversary. Newton Daily News will publish a story every Friday (until the museum is closed) featuring the people who work to preserve and promote the region’s past endeavors, while also showcasing the historical and educational significance of artifacts and exhibits on display in the museum.
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org