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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: