About Ivanhoe and the Wolfe family

We all know about Ivanhoe Road that you encounter when you head north out of Ely on Jappa Road. But many may not know that this is a very old road. It once was more of a trail used by early pioneers, and was named Ivanhoe because of the Ivanhoe Ferry that was used to cross the river at what is now Highway 1 south of Mount Vernon. And it was the Ivanhoe Ferry because there once was a town there.

From: History of Linn County, 1878:  Ivanhoe was laid out as a town in 1838, and found and noted by the government surveyors in 1841 on the line between sections 29 and 30, Franklin Township, on the north bank of the Cedar River.  It was on the old Dubuque and Iowa City road and had a post office from 1845 to 1849.

According to the 1911 History of Linn County
Ivanhoe was never platted, but was only a squatter town. "Colonel Merritt kept the first store at Ivanhoe for parties in Rock Island.  This town had better prospects of becoming a great city than any other town in the county.  It had a good river frontage, a rich country around it, plenty of timber and good water, and had the government road besides. For some unknown cause the place seems to have been ignored when Marion and Cedar Rapids began to flourish."  (p. 271 vol. 1)

Portraits and Biographical Album of Linn County, Chapman Bros., 1887.

DANIEL D. WOLFE, one of the highly esteemed and prominent residents of Franklin Township, occupies a fine farm on section 31. He was born in Seneca County, Ohio, Oct. 4, 1837. His father, John Wolfe was also a native of Ohio, and emigrated to Iowa while it was still a Territory. His grandfather, also John Wolfe, was a native of Pennsylvania and a descendant of German ancestry. He removed to Ohio at an early day, and located in Seneca County, where he remained the balance of his life and passed to his rest in 1855.

JOHN WOLFE, the father of our subject, was reared on his father's farm in Ohio, and married in the county of his birth, the maiden name of his bride being Miss Annie Dildine, also a native of the Buckeye State, and born in Fairfield County.

JOHN WOLFE came to the Territory of Iowa in 1839, and made a claim in Cedar County, where he remained until the following year, and then returned to Ohio for his family, which consisted of his wife and four children. They made the journey overland to their new home and located upon the claim, which, however, they only occupied for a short time.

Mr. Wolfe had visited Linn County in the meantime, and concluded that he could secure a more desirable location there. He accordingly made a claim on section 12 of what is now Bertram Township, but removed the following year. He then made a third claim on Cedar River, which comprised a part of sections 27 and 31.

He also purchased the ferry which was used to cross the river at this point, and as he surmised, a village soon sprang up at this point, which was named Ivanhoe. He erected a large boat-house, fitting up a part of it for a habitation, opened it to the public, and kept the first pioneer "hotel" in that region. He continued thus occupied the greater part of the time until his death. He entered his land from the Government, erected a dwelling-house on section 31, and when not engaged with his hotel business employed his time in the cultivation of his land.

At the time of his death, in 1854, he was living at the brick hotel in Ivanhoe. His widow survived him several years, and died on the home farm on section 30.

Mr. Wolfe was a prominent man in his community at that early day, and a leader among the early pioneers. He was the first Justice of the Peace in this section. The household of Mr. and Mrs. John Wolfe included nine children, six of whom grew to be men and women: Rhoda, the eldest daughter, married J.S.F. Bryney, and is now deceased; Sarah R. became the wife of G.W. Harvey, and lives in Washington Territory; the next son was Daniel D.; a daughter, Melissa A., married Aleck Gregory, and they live in Missouri; Laura A. became the wife of George Klinick, and they are residents of Linn Township; Squire W. was the youngest son.

DANIEL D. WOLFE was a child of three years when he came with his parents to Iowa, and may properly be said to have grown up with his county. He was still but a boy when deprived of a father's care, and he made his home with his mother until his marriage, which occurred in January, 1860. The lady of his choice was Miss Elizabeth Dill, a native of Knox County, Ill., and daughter of John and Mary Dill. At the time of his marriage he was running the ferry across the river at Ivanhoe, carrying on business which his father had established there a number of years previously. 

In 1863 he sold his ferry and engaged in farming, three years later removing to Solon, Iowa, where he engaged in the grocery trade. After two years he went east to Seneca County, Ohio, having disposed of his grocery, and was there engaged in the timber tract, getting out ties for the railroad which was then being built, and at which he was occupied for a space of eighteen months. In the meantime his brother, Squire, had purchased the ferry, with which he had heretofore been connected, and our subject going back to Iowa, became joint manager of the old business until the building of the bridge. It was again called into requisition on account of the bridge being carried away by high water, during which they ran the ferry one year. Since that time the brothers have been continuously engaged in agricultural pursuits, and have become joint proprietors of a farm which contains 480 acres, and comprises a part of sections 19, 30, 31 and 32. 

Mr. and Mrs. Daneil D. Wolfe have become the parents of four children --John D., Isa B., Thomas L., and Gracie G.

SQUIRE W. WOLFE is unmarried, and has made his home with his brother Daniel since he has been associated with him in business. He was born in Franklin Township in 1844, and remained with his mother on the old homestead until her death.

The brothers Wolfe are gentlemen still in the prime of life, and with a prospect of many years and continued usefulness. They are classed among the solid citizens of Franklin Township, and are among the leading men of the community. They are honorable and upright in their business transactions, and their farming operations are carried on with system and good order. Their homestead is a model one and an ornament to this section of country.

Wikipeida says: Unlike other towns founded around that time on the Old Military Road, Ivanhoe faded away; many of its residents relocated to Mount Vernon, Cedar Rapids, or Marion. The February 1921 edition of The Palimpsest describes the area as having been "a refuge for horse thieves and dealers in counterfeit money", though it is unclear whether that was during the time that the town existed or afterwards.

Besides the cemetery there are no standing structures left of the old town.


Grave Yard Book of Western Cemetery from 1869

 In 2013 the Ely History Society was contacted by Paula Sexton. Her elderly uncle had passed away and she found a number of items relating to the early days of the town of Western, Iowa. One of the items was a "Grave Yard Book" containing early burials in Western Cemetery, as well as burials that had been moved from the "old cemetery" in Western. The dates of the events range from 1869 to 1898.

In checking current lists of the burials in Western Cemetery, I realized that many of these early burials were not recorded. They had been lost through the years.

I felt it was important to publish what was contained in this old book, so I scanned the pages to enable me to magnify them. I then began the long process of transcribing the book page by page. The script as written by G. A. Manasmith, Sexton, was at times very hard to decipher, and the spelling was not the best. However, I tried to transcribe it as written, making corrections as necessary, but preserving the author's original entries. There are some entries I was unable to decipher. In addition there were a few obituaries tucked into the book that I also transcribed.

I hope that this transcription will help people who are looking for their ancestors graves.

Barb Horak,Collections Manager
Ely Community History Society

“The Grave Yard Book.”

The first 2 pages show a plot map of the cemetery with numbered lots. “A Plot of the grave yard of the town of Western” is the heading on the map.

"The first grave was dug by me in the year of AD 1869 when the transfering or removing of the Dead commenced. The Last Removal was made the 3rd day of May AD 1871 from the old Grave yard on A. Perry’s and A. S. Collier’s farm."  - G. A. Manasmith, Sexton 

The final entry in the book was in the year of 1898.

These links take you to uploads to Google Drive. You should be able to use the "+" to enlarge them.

Plot map 1 

Plot map 2

Lot Owners

 As I have time, I will upload each scanned page, but for now, here is the transcription. 

Transcription: Names of Lot Owners

Transcription: Town of Western, Iowa Original Cemetery Book

Transcription:  List of Old Cemetery Transfers & Free Burials

These are the burials I was unable to find in present Western Cemetery listings. 
Missing Burials 

And finally, Obituaries from the Western Grave Yard Book 

1884-Chesley L. Brockman
1888-Irene Stansbury
after 1885 - Rev. J.G. Snyder, (died in Des Moines)
1994-Jane Workman (loose slip of paper)
(unknown year) Isaac Workman (died at West Side)
1885-Mrs. Cinderella Rutt
1878-Jacob Funkhouser
1878-Mary Elizabeth DeMoss
(unknown year) Elizabeth Shuey
1874-Martin Rider

The present Western Cemetery is located on the northeast corner of the intersection of "C" Street and Vista Road, two gravel roads, just east of the small town of Western.

You can find present listings of burials in Western Cemetery at
Iowa Gravestone Photo Project

In searching newspaper archives, I have found a few obituaries that have the term "Western Cemetery" in them. Here are obits for 

William A. Boudinot, more about the family 
John H. Nesmith
(not Nethmeth as the obit states)
Ransom Davis
Mr. Manning, who is probably Daniel M. Manning.
Anna Manasmith

 Click to enlarge the obits, then click AGAIN if they aren't large enough




Auxiliary to American Legion Post #555

 This is a transcription of the history of the Auxiliary to Ely's Post #555 American Legion, written [we believe] by Ann Fuhrmeister [possibly written in 1971 according to date on envelope].


Auxiliary to Post #555, American Legion; Ely, Iowa

Before and during WWI groups of women all over the U.S. organized by Red Cross met in homes, home-economics rooms in schools, etc., to sew and roll bandages, first to help England and France, then our own country. Then, after 1919 when the Legion was organized, these women who were already in service groups, became Auxiliaries to the Legion Posts.

In small towns and villages, one of the first objectives was a Legion and Auxiliary meeting place. As in other towns, Ely’s Post was organized in early 1921, named St. Quentin #555, and the women’s auxiliary charter was signed at Washington D.C. on August 1, 1922, countersigned at Davenport August 10, 1922.

National President - Edith Irwin Hobar
National Secretary - Pauline Currick
Department President (Iowa) - Mrs. Donald McCrae
Department Secretary (Iowa) - Mrs. M. Myron Skelly

The Charter members were: Mrs. George Clark, Mrs. Frank W. Elias, Mrs. David S. Fackler, Georgia Fuhrmeister, Mrs. Peter F. Fuhrmeister, Mrs. Sophia Hanus, Julia Hartl, Mrs. Edward Havlicek, Mrs. Joseph Jonas, Mrs. Alois Kadlec, Mrs. Frank J. Koss, Mrs. Frank J. Krob, Mrs. Alfred Minor, Mrs. Agnes Motycka, Mrs. John Phillips, Mrs. Thomas Phillipson, Mrs. Thomas P. Smith, Mrs. Joseph Stastny, Mrs. Stephen Stastny, Viola Stastny [Becicka written in pencil], Mrs. Lumir Truhlar, and Mrs. Frank A. Zahradnik.

The first president was Georgia Fuhrmeister. Early records show nearly every one served as President or as another officer at one time or another. Mrs. Stephen (Matilda) Stastny was a long time faithful secretary, often walking from her farm home to town for meetings - roads were still in the mud and rut stage.

When the Post bought a lot for a Legion building, the Auxiliary started making money by serving food at farm sales. Remember this was before R.E.C. and good roads and a later-acquired lunch wagon. A board laid over machinery, possibly in front of some shed or chicken house, was the counter - there was no heat for the workers and hamburgers were fried and coffee heated on an oil stove someone had brought from home. Many tales were told of the extreme hardships endured by the women serving these farm sales, and the tragedies, too, as when the pan of raw hamburger meat tumbled off some machinery into the debris below (chickens had roosted on the machinery!) These farm sales netted as little as $4.18 and $16.70 to $130.43 for a large sale. Quilting, rag rugs, bake sales, dances, suppers served, and ice cream socials were other sources of income.

After the lot for the Legion building was purchased on April 21, 1922, instead of building a new structure, two Ely wooden school buildings were available (since the district was putting up a new 2-story brick modern school) for $300. These were put together in such a way that the larger one was the hall - the smaller, placed with side to end of hall and raised several feet higher, was the stage, with the basement below serving as kitchen. Stoves in the hall, on the stage and in basement heated the hall - but water had to be carried from neighbors until the well was drilled near the outside door of the kitchen to save steps for the ladies! Also, 2 small structures were erected at the end of the lot near the alley - marked “M” and “W”. Lights were furnished by the local electric light plant. This set-up was a community center for plays - dances - programs - suppers - school affairs and commencements. In 1928, the hall was enlarged so that it was large enough for basketball, for which the school board rented the hall for many years.

From 1923 to 1930 the Auxiliary gave the Post a total of $791.23. All this money was laboriously made at farm sales, suppers, quilting, bake sales, dance refreshments, rag rugs, etc. The amounts were:

 6/13/23    $ 29.28     
12/2/24      105.30
2/1/28        121.65
11/20/28    300.00
12/12/28     50.00
4/8/29         50.00
1/13/30       35.00
3/10/30     100.00
TOTAL    $791.23

A new building was dedicated in 1955. Thus a new need for help from the Auxiliary. Annual fried chicken dinners and other dinners (as Prairie High School Athletic Banquets) and other projects - such as rummage sales, rag rug sales netted $22,374.83 given to Legion for paying the cost of the new Hall. [crossed off in pencil is “from Feb 1955 to July 1967.]

Besides helping the Legion pay for building expenses, the Auxiliary met all requirements as to assigned child [either a son or daughter of a Veteran], gifts to Veteran Hospitals, etc., and earned many citations through the years.

The Auxiliary has had one member at Iowa Girls’ State as counselor (Martha Phillips) and two Linn County Presidents (Martha Phillips and Dianne See.) 

Read more Ely Legion History at their website

Below are photos of the Ely Legion Hall dedicated in 1955. 


Nevin Duffe's contributions to Ely

Lloyd Duffe, a former Ely resident who moved to Columbia, South America, phones me (Barb) off and on about Ely history. He recently called to say that he had written a history of his dad, Nevin Duffe, that he wished to add to his collection at the Ely Community History Archives. I think this story also deserves to be published for people to read. Nevin certainly did contribute a lot to the Ely community in the 48 years he lived there. Here is his story.

To The Ely Historical Society,

    The "Jim Miller Citizen of the Year Award" was started in the town of Ely, Iowa, in 2018 for present residing citizens who have demonstrated exceptional community participation. I feel past and deceased citizens who have contributed a great deal to the town also deserve remembrance.

    I therefore want to add information about My Father Nevin W. Duffe to various pieces of historical information my wife Nidia and I gave the Historical Society, when we left the Ely area in 2005. Nevin was a highly civic minded resident of Linn County and Ely for over 50 years.

    Nevin Duffe was born February 8, 1908 at Wilton Junction, Iowa. He attended Burr Oak country school until the age of 8, moving from a truck farm to Wilton Junction and attending the Wilton Public schools until graduation from High School.

     During his early boyhood years he did garden work mowed lawns, sold the Grit magazine and the Saturday Evening Post.

     He drove an oil truck for his father during the Summer during High School, making deliveries. During this time he also helped his father remodel their home. He was active in sports earning a total of eight varsity letters in football, basketball and track. In track he was one of the best distance ( half & mile runners) in the State. He also sang in the Glee Club choirs and taught a young boys Sunday School class and took this class on hikes and outings.

     Nevin gave up an opportunity to go on to college in Pella, Iowa after graduating from High School in 1927. His coach L.A.Winters went from High School to College coaching at Central College, Pella in 1928 and wanted to help Nevin attend there and participate in athletics. Instead he started to work substantially to help his older brother Jacob Duffe financially, in finishing his last two years of pharmacy school studies at the State University of Iowa in 1928 and 1929.

     Nevin worked his first Summer out of High School on a road gang filling slips and scrapers. He then started in carpenter work and formed his own business by 1931. In addition, many evenings he worked in a carpenter shop, where he designed an early roller type overhead garage door and a sump pump. During this time he began buying the business from the owner who was retiring.  

Nevin and Florence Duffe about 1931

It was a very good year, plus Nevin married Florence Booth, the mother of his two sons Lloyd and Ronald and who he celebrated nearly 59 years of marriage with!

     1932 was unfortunately a year to be remembered! Money was tight and building became non-existent. From 1932 till 1937 Nevin worked throughout four Eastern Iowa Counties, where any kind of work was available, His wife Florence and son Lloyd altered living with both the Duffe and Booth Grandparents. 

     In late 1937 he was able to make Linn County his permanent residence, first living in College Township. He designed a new type of country school for the College Township District called Rose Hill. Much work on the school required Federal government WPA worker participation. A huge crew of workers ( many with little building experience) made properly completing the project a real challenge.       

     Carpenter work was slowly picking up in College and Putnam Townships. In March of 1942 he moved my mother, me and brother Ronald who was born on June 20th 1941 to a rented acreage in Ely on the corner of Fuhrmeister and State Street. This is where he would live for over 48 years, until passing away on May19, 1990.

An early photo of the house on the corner of Fuhmeister and State Streets.

During the years as a building contractor from 1937 till 1973, he drew and designed most of the structures that he built. This covered agricultural, light commercial, churches and quality homes. Among those the Ely Lutheran Church (finished the summer of 1951, an expansion at First Presbyterian Church near Ely (1958) and expansion and improvement of the Hill Crest Country Club in Mount Vernon, Iowa.

     Besides his work in his Construction Company over the years, he was active in numerous community activities in both Ely and Linn County. He was instrumental in helping form local softball teams, donating his property for use of a softball field for many years, where the Ely Minor is now located. He also coached the local Putnam Pals 4-H basketball team, that were County and Eastern Iowa Champions in tournaments held in 1949 and 1950. 

     He worked for the formation of the College Community School District and was chosen as the first President of the Prairie High Booster Club. He was also active in political, social and fraternal work over the years that involved many community activities.
     He served on the Ely Town Council. Was a past President of the old Ely Public School Board. Mayor of Ely from 1960 to1972 and worked for acquiring the old Ely school for what is now the Community Center. He was a PastGrand and 50 year member of the I.O.O.F Lodge of Ely. During the 12years he was mayor, Ely started and developed its first city water and sewer systems. 

Nevin and Florence Duffe, 50th wedding anniversary, 1981

In later years and during retirement he served on the Linn County board of appeals, and served two terms as a delegate from Linn County on the Older Iowan’s Legislature. He was also on the Ely Planning and Zoning Committee and the Linn County Agency on Aging.

     The Ely Retirement Manor became a reality, when my parents donated 50% of the value of the their property that was used for the project, which allowed the community to qualify for a low interest 50-year government loan that made this development a reality.

     I feel my Father Nevin and his many activities during his 82 years of life, was a tribute to his love of family, community and country. That what he and other civic minded leaders did in the past, helped make Ely the community it has become today.

     I was also fortunate to have had the home life that I had with a lifelong housewife like my mother in charge. Florence Booth Duffe had two years of nurses training after graduating from Grant High School in Cedar Rapids in 1929.

    Marrying my Father in 1931 with the worst years of the depression about to set in, would alter her life for many years to come. She would continue to be a homebody housewife the rest of her life, with more than enough additional duties along the way, to keep a person busy 7 days a week! 

     She was Dad’s secretary, book keeper and check-writer for his business until he retired. Running the household through these difficult economic times and this additional involvement in his business did not leave time for a great deal of social involvement, although she was a charter member of the women’s Rebekahs arm of the I.O.O.F Lodge of Ely.

     Her most note worthy involvements from the mid 1970’s till she passed away on April 3, 1999, was volunteer work at the Ely Library, and the congregate meal site at the Community Center. Ely was blessed with a number of ladies, some in their 80’s and 90’s serving the needy, many who were much younger. The day she was hospitalized and fell seriously ill she had been working at the congregate meal sitet till early afternoon of the same day.

     Here again I feel blessed to have been a product of the Greatest Generation! The young adults of the 30’s and 40’s who instilled in me the guidance and underpinning that allowed me to live a much better and easier life do to their guidance.

Sincerely, Lloyd M. Duffe


Nevin Duffe obituary from Solon Economist, He died May 22nd, 1990


Search online in historic newspapers

 For years I have been hoping that the Solon would place old newspapers online. And they finally DID! 

Try searching for mentions of your family names, Ely businesses. Or search for "town of Ely".

There is news from Ely, Western, Shueyville, Fackler's Grove, Big Grove township as well as Solon. 

A lot of it is "who visited who" but I have found an1882 ad (below) from my husband's great-grandfather's harness shop in Ely! There are also mentions of the deaths of early pioneers in the area that may not appear anywhere else. You never know what you may find if you take time to look. - Barb Horak

Solon and area newspaper archive: https://solon.advantage-preservation.com/
Other newspaper archives in which to run searches include:
     Cedar Rapids and area: https://cedarrapids.advantage-preservation.com/
     Mount Vernon and area: https://mountvernon.advantage-preservation.com/
In addition these books are available to search online:

*The History of Linn County - (1878-1878)   812 Pages
*Pioneer Life In and Around Cedar Rapids - (1839-1839)   258 Pages
*1907 Linn County Atlas - (1907-1907)   175 Pages

Here is a list of all US newspapers on-line at The Ancestor Hunt -
80 Million Historic U.S. Newspaper Pages Now Available from Advantage Archives