MVHPC Presents “Houses That Moved”

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Marj Whitley presenting at “Houses That Moved” on September 11, 2021

My House That Moved: 303 3rd Ave NW

July 1, 1966, we moved from Delhi to the house at 303 3rd Ave NW, Mount Vernon, IA, otherwise known as Lot 2 Block 16 Bowman’s Second Addition to the town of Mount Vernon, Linn County, Iowa. Our family consisted of husband Wes, myself, and 4 minor children Mark, Carla, Ann, Judy, and my niece Cindy Whittemore 16 who lived with us.

Carla was handicapped and took a great deal of care so my parents Carl and Verla Whittemore wanted us close so they could help. They purchase said house from Joe and Shirley Giannini and we rented from my parents. Dad and mom worked for Cornell College and lived in Cornutt House, the little house south of the library.

It wasn’t long before the neighbors asked us if we knew our house had been moved and did, we know it was built after the Civil War? We found this out later.

In 1966 when granddaughters Angie and Lindsey were freshman in high school they had to write about a house. They wrote “The History of Our Grandparents House” using the Deed and Abstract as a guide. Even though it was worked on at our house because the pictures and Deed were here, I didn’t really pay much attention. After it was graded, and they got a good grade they gave it to us. Years later I shared it with a member of the Mount Vernon Historic Preservation Commission and it’s on their website.

The land was first mentioned in 1844 as 80 acres. In 1857 George Bowman purchased 37 of the 80 acres. Later that year Lot 2 Block 16 was added to the city of Mount Vernon. It was called Bowman’s Second Addition and stipulated all the land will be private property except for alleys and streets.

In November 1866 Bowman sold Lot 2 Block 16 to Albert Foster. This is the first entry of my corner and it sold for $75. The first time a house is mentioned is 1869 when in a divorce case Anna Smith gets custody of her child and her husband James gets the house. The lawyer in this case was Charles Kepler.

A lawyer Charles Kepler built a small house (the front of my house) at 205 2nd Ave NW soon after he returned from serving in the Civil War. In 1893 he purchased Lot 2 Block 16 for $225 and then after living in the small house for a few years moved the house from 2nd Ave NW to 3rd Ave NW where it was connected to the existing house. Kepler’s smaller house was moved by a team of horses pulled across logs on the dirt road. Kepler built a beautiful Victorian house at 205 2nd Ave NW.

The Giannini’s bought the “moved house” in 1954. They did some remodeling and added a large family room to the back of the house. Now we have 3 sections to the house: the center which is original, the front moved in, and the back added on, and this is the way it is today with the exception of a garage/room to the north.

Two of my most important sources of information about this house and surroundings were Hildred Colon Yeisley, who grew up here and Judy Johnston, the fuel oil man. Mrs. Yeisley told me her father told her about how they moved the house over the dirt road with a team of horse and logs. Mr. Johnston told about a funeral in the living room and weddings in the south bay window. The weddings were John E. Colon Jr. & Helen Emerson and Romona Colon to Mr. Barrett.

Tombstone

The family room that the Giannini’s added was all windows. A couple years after we moved there, I was looking out a back window and in the bushes all I could see were snakes wrapped around the branches. I hate snakes!! On the ground was a large stone with more snakes. I asked my husband what it was and he replied a gravestone. I didn’t believe him until in the spring when we turned it over and I saw the writing.

I called Shirley Giannini and asked her about it. She said that her husband Joe had taken trash to the city dump, which was across from the quarry, and in a pile of headstones found Shirley’s great grandfather’s name. It seemed the town had cleared off the broken stones and taken them to the dump. I told her it was hers and she replied they would pick it up. After several years that didn’t happen and since I like old things, we put it up in the back yard.

We moved it several times and when I was satisfied with the location planted flowers behind it. Years later I got a call one morning from a neighbor who said he was in his garage late the night before and two guys attempted to take the stone. They got it almost across the fence when the fence broke, he yelled at them, and they dropped it. No, I didn’t report it to the police, who would believe someone was stealing a tombstone? We fixed the fence and put the stone in the shed for a couple of years. Eventually we put it in the same spot with the help of cement.

Description on the tombstone: Near the top are an anvil, hammer, and horseshoe. He must have been a blacksmith. Below that it read Died, John G. Minich, April 13, 1875, 39 years, 17 days, and 21 hours.

When my husband Wes passed away in 2010, Carla who now lived in a group home in Cedar Rapids, had a bad time with his death. We had a service for him at her residence, but she was still very sad. She seemed to want something tangible. On one of her trips home for a visit we purchased a bouquet of flowers and pushed her in her wheelchair out to the stone. She put the glowers beside the stone and after a few times seemed to come to terms with his passing. Carla died in 2017 at the age of 58. Although I didn’t plan it this way this story starts and ends with Carla.

I have lived in this house for 54 years and two months. My “House That Moved” despite its flaws, like one bathroom, etc. has been a wonderful home to raise a family and entertain family and friends in, and I have no plans to leave anytime soon.

Families that lived in the house after it was moved:

Perry & Martha Turkle

Lois Richardson, widow

John E. Colon Sr, wife Jennie

John E. Colon Jr, Hildred & Romona Colon

Shirley & Joe Giannini

Snodgrass family

Wes & Marj Whitley & family