The Harper Mansion

Religion in Family History

Today I have been thinking about the Harper Mansion of Ottumwa, Iowa.

I was really not ready to write this post, but had to get it out of my head and clear my wandering thoughts 🙂

I guess I should start at the beginning.

The Harper family came to Ottumwa, Iowa from Zanesville, Ohio in the mid 1850’s. Samuel Harper was a businessman who specialized in hardware.

His son William or W.T. Harper first worked on the family farm. He then taught school for several years before starting to work in a drugstore. He eventually started a business with William Daggett to manufacture linseed oil at the Ottumwa Linseed Oil Mills. This firm eventually became J. W. Edgerly & Co. and several generations of the Harper family worked for the company over the years.

Harper Mansion - Ottumwa, Iowa - 908 North Court - Midwestern School of Evangelism - W.T. Harper

In the 1880’s W.T. Harper built a mansion in the High Victorian Italianate style. The mansion was built with deep red brick. The mansion is at 908 North Court Street in the historic Court Hill District of Ottumwa. The picture above was posted in the Ottumwa, We Love Ottumwa Facebook group by Fred Zesiger who is the chair of the Ottumwa Historic Preservation Commission.

1900 Census - Harper Mansion - Ottumwa, Iowa - W.T. Harper - Druggist

In the 1900 census, the address shows as 1000 North Court and we see that W.T. Harper is listed as a Wholesale Druggist and his three sons are listed as Druggist Clerks. You also see his daughter Mary E. who is 16 and is at school.

1920 Census - Harper Mansion - Mary Harper Widow - Ottumwa, Iowa

In 1920 we find that W.T. Harper has passed away and his widow Mary E. is now the head of the household and the address is now listed as 908 North Court.

1930 Census - Harper Mansion - 908 North Court, Ottumwa, Iowa

Harper Mansion - 908 North Court, Ottumwa, Iowa - Mary Harper

In 1930 Charles and Mary E. are the only ones living in the mansion and in 1940 only Mary is living there. I found out that Mary died in 1959 and that at the time she was living a couple blocks away on Maple street.

Midwestern School of Evangelism, 908 North Court, Ottumwa, Iowa - Harper Mansion

The Harper Mansion was sold in 1951 to the Midwestern School of Evangelism. The picture above was scanned from a 1981 Memory book that belonged to my Grandpa.

You can see that by this time the tower has had a large section removed and a large wrap around porch has been added. The building at some time had also been painted white. I would like to find out a little more about the history of the changes. My research will continue.

My grandfather, parents, sister, several aunts and an uncle all went to school at Midwestern School of Evangelism which used the mansion as an administration building.

I have many memories of the mansion from when I was growing up in Ottumwa. I also took piano lessons at the mansion, so would often wander around the building while waiting for my older sister to finish her lesson.

908 North Court, Ottumwa, Iowa - Harper Mansion - David Schwartzkopf , photographer

The picture above was taken earlier this year by my friend David Schwartzkopf. The mansion was recently sold to an individual who has started the restoration process. I am looking forward to seeing pictures of it in the future.

If you know more about the history of this beautiful old mansion, let me know and I will add it to my research notes. I would especially like to acquire some nice interior pictures that I can use in a future post.


This post is part of a series on Religion in Family History. See also:

Religion in Family History

Amish in California?

The Light in the Forest

Stephen Jenks – Singing Master

Amish in Oregon

Amish Origins

Gallup Poll Connection I – Amish

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

Pilgrim Ancestry

First Amish Settlements

Irish Heritage

Amish in Oklahoma

This entry was posted in Culture, Education, Genealogy, History, Memories and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to The Harper Mansion

  1. alakate says:

    Steven: David Mills posted a great photo of the staircase on the MSE Facebook page. Some of his other photos may also show some of the bric-a-brac that adorned some of the archways. Cathy Koch

  2. Love old buildings — and knowing their history always makes them more wonderful.

  3. Michael F Daggett says:

    Steven, I remember walking by this building many a time. I’m really glad it is being restored. But my reason of commenting is that William Daggett was my Great Grand Uncle. His brother, Edgar Daggett was my Great Grandfather. I worked at J. W. Edgerly & Co. in 1969 as i waited for school to start. Like you I have chased down most of my family. The Daggett’s came over with the Puritan’s in 1632 and one branch made it to Ottumwa in the late 1850’s. Fun story…thanks for the post.

  4. Sheryl says:

    It’s fun to see how the mansion has evolved over the years. I especially like the old picture.

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  6. Boomdeeadda says:

    Looks like a great old place. I admire people who’ll take on those projects and preserve a piece of history. You have to have deep pockets to manage all the surprises that are sure to come up.

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  16. Randy says:

    Very interesting I know the guy that bought it I’m sure I could get you in sometime to see it.

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