Showing posts with label Ely. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ely. Show all posts


Ely School Kids 1930s

 Click the photo to enlarge it

                                         Ely school kids outside the building in the 1930s

The girl on the right with her legs crossed is Edna Sladek, who graduated in 1933.

We would appreciate if people can identify others (in comments below) or email


Ely School Kids

      Below is a photo of children and teachers standing in front of the Ely School House. We estimate the year to be about 1935. It would be great if we could get some identities for the kids!
     Click this link for a close-up of the  people in this photo.

Janine Norman
Fourth row, 3rd from left is Evelyn Elias Stastnyl. 2nd girl next to her is Doris Krob Buresh.(I think)
Third row from the right 5th girl is Rachel Trular Garnant.
Top row from the right is Chuck Varva & third guy is Gilbert Hynek!

Mary Vavra Haster
In the upper right area, do I see Vernon Erenberger and Inez Hartley?

Mark Krob
Bob Krob -3rd row, 4th from right.
Norb Krob - 3rd row, 3rd from left.

Pat McNamara
I think I see three Sladek girls.
Helen Sladek Walshire Second row from top third from right.
Maxine third row from top fifth from left.
Mildred Sladek Staley is third row from bottom and sixth from left.

Thanks to Darren Ferreter for colorizing this photo!


First lots sold in Ely

 From a Facebook post by Ed Vavra

On June 5, 1872, the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Minnesota Railroad Co. treasurer, John F. Ely, signed over land owned by the railroad for public use as the village of Ely.

The town had been platted into 6 residential blocks consisting of 18 lots each. 3 blocks along each side of the railroad tracks were platted for businesses.

The first lot purchased was by Wesley Svacha on June 29th, 1872 for $100. Svacha would build a home and harness shop on this land where the library now sits.  He sold the house and harness business to Wesley Valenta in 1880.

House and harness shop (left) built by Wesley Svacha and sold to Wesley Valenta. This photo was taken in 1895 and shows the 3rd owners of the property, the Frank Hanzlik family. This was on land where the Ely Library is today.


The second lot was purchased for $1 by the trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church whose congregation had built a church East of Ely around 1859. They had hoped to increase attendance and financial support and moved their building into town. Lack of a permanent preacher and no new membership forced the church to close in 1885.  Members of the St. John’s Lutheran church south of Ely purchased the building for $225 in 1886; this congregation still worships here today.

St. Johns Lutheran Church building around 1910. This building was originally built by a
Methodist congregation and located east of Ely.


John Dolezal built a saloon on a lot on the northwest corner of Dows and Walker streets.  He advertised a dance in his "newly furnished saloon" to be held on November 25, 1872. In addition to his saloon, Dolezal was also an early farm implement dealer in Ely until his death in 1879. His saloon was purchased by Frank Poduska in 1876 who operated it for the next 25 years.

 Poduska Saloon on Walker St. (far left) looking to the north from Dows St.

As Ely grew, men with an entrepreneurial spirit came from surrounding towns hoping to make their fortunes offering the business and services a new town would need.  Most of these "outsiders" did not make it long and the Bohemian presence in the surrounding area moved in to fill these needs as Ely grew over the next 20 years.


Holets Harness Shop


Joseph Holets standing in the door of his harness shop on Walker Street in Ely. His eldest daughter,
wife, son (also Joseph Holets, and younger daughter are standing by the fence.

A closeup of the Holets family from the above photo

In 1880 Joseph Holets established a harness shop on the west side of Walker Street near the corner of Downs Street.  Expansion of the warehouse soon housed an implement dealership. 

FROM THE ”ELY ECONOMY", an Ely, Iowa newspaper.  The paper has no date, but I believe the date would be about 1897 or 1898. (Since this is my husband's family I have made a few changes to the article with family knowledge.- Barb Horak)

The Holec (Holets) family came to the United States in the fall of 1857. Joseph Holets was born in 1859 on their farm about a mile south of Swisher, Iowa,and was raised there until 17 years old, attending school during the winter terms.  At that age he began his apprenticeship with J.W. Pauba, of Solon as a harness maker where he served two years and then worked for J. E. Dolezal at Ely as a journeyman for 18 months, till the death of Mr. Dolezal. 

He worked for his brother, John Holets, of Fairfax for two and a half years.  In September 1880, he married Miss Katherine Sedlacek at Danforth (later Swisher) and in November began business for himself in Ely where he has remained since and prospered in this line of business.  Mr. Holets is an enthusiastic member of the AOUW (Ancient Order of United Workman) in which he holds the master’s degree.  He and his family are members of the Bohemian Reformed church near Ely.  Mr. Holets is one of the respected and substantial business men of Ely who are doing not only for themselves but for their fellow men what they believe to be right.  His business as a harness maker is prosperous and his customers are all over this region.

The Holets harness shop after expansion to include implements. This view is looking down
Walker Street towards Dows St. with the long-gone Poduska Saloon in the background.

Article from a Cedar Rapids newspaper - in family possession - no date (Spring of 1939)

Joseph Holets, 79, retired Ely business man, was killed at 5:40 p.m. Friday, when run over by a truck, which Leonard Reyhons, 23, was backing into Ely's main street from an alley beside the retail store he manages.

Mr. Holets, who would have been 80 May 7, suffered a crushed chest and broken back.  Following an investigation with Deputy Sheriff Harlan Snyder, Dr. B. L. Knight, coroner, said there will be no inquest.

Accompanied by Frank Kos, 78, and J. C. Dvorak, 78, both Ely men, Mr. Holets had left the post office just across the street from the accident scene.  Kos and Dvorak started east on the north side of the street and Holets was walking across the road southward, apparently scanning newspaper headlines as he entered the mouth of the alley, witnesses said.  Acquaintances said Mr. Holets was hard of hearing.

Mr. Holets was born about one mile south of Swisher.  For a half-century he operated an implement and harness store at Ely.  He and his wife, Katherine, who survives, would have passed their sixtieth wedding anniversary next September.  He was affiliated with the Masonic lodge at Fairfax.

Other relatives include a son, Joseph W. Holets of near Ely, and two daughters, Mrs. Frank Henik of Mount Vernon and Mrs. Thomas Horak, route 2, Cedar Rapids; one brother, John Holets of Cedar Rapids; two sisters, Mrs. Joseph Kubicek and Mrs. A. O. Latimer, both of Cedar Rapids and seven grandchildren.  The body was taken to the Brosh Funeral home in Cedar Rapids.

Joseph's son, Joseph W. Holets was a banker in Ely for many years.

Cedar Rapids Gazette
Tuesday, 3 April 1984

     Joseph W. Holets, 97, of Ely, manager of First Trust and Savings Bank in Ely from 1943 until retiring in 1965, died Monday morning at St. Luke's Hospital of heart failure.
    Born July 17, 1886, in Ely, he married Ida Barta on Nov. 28, 1911.  She died in 1965.  He farmed and served as secretary and treasurer of the Ely Livestock Shippers Association, was secretary of the Board of Education, served on election boards and the Ely Volunteer Fire Department, and also as township clerk and town treasurer.  He was a member of Ely IOOF Lodge 581, Linn Encampment 49, Canton Rainbow Patriarchs Militant 22 of Cedar Rapids and Posledni Taborita 16 of Ely, and a charter member of Ely Rebekah Lodge 56.
     Surviving is a daughter, Gladys Holets of Ely.

Gladys Holets served as a clerk in the Ely bank for many years.

Joseph Holets and wife, Katherine Sedlacek Holets

Joseph W. Holets with his wife, Ida, and daughter, Gladys

Joseph W. Holets built a brick house where his father's harness and implement business had been. He,his wife, and his daughter, Gladys, lived there for many years. The house still stands today on the west side of Walker Street.

 The Ely Community History Society was initially funded by a large grant from the Gladys Holets Estate, for which we are grateful!


Early Schools

from: The History of Linn County Iowa, Pub. Chicago, Western Historical Co. 1878. Transcribed by Terry Carlson for IaGenWeb.

"School was first held as a primary department of the College, at which there was an attendance of twenty during the first year.  A district school was then organized and held in a small dwelling now standing vacant in the western part of town.  School was held there until 1861, when the present two-story brick building, about 24x40 feet in size, was constructed west of the business part of town.  There are two rooms, now taught by Stephen I. Harrison and Miss Sadie Bowman." p. 581.

"The first school house in this vicinity was erected in 1850.  It was a little cabin, made of lynn poles, and school was first taught there by Israel Clark.  Another, one-quarter of a mile east of town, afterward known as the Ely school house, was built in the fall of 1854, and first taught by R. Rowe.  This was moved nearer to the town plat when the latter was laid off.  A new frame school house of one room was built in Ely in the fall of 1876, where school was first taught by Isaac Heller, who was afterward drowned in the Cedar River.  Al Weaver taught the next winter." p.585.

Source: 1883 History Of Johnson County, Iowa

"But Mr. Lingle reports the first school house as built on section 9, by Chauncy Fowler, in 1848 or '44. He says it was about fourteen feet square-built of round logs; but there was one log left out, and the hole was covered with greased paper for a window. There was no floor; and a big fireplace at one end, with huge back-log and forestick, and then plenty of small wood, served to keep it warm in the coldest days.


Big Grove Township
Section 11 -Stone Academy (N. of Solon, highway 1)
Section 3 - Hazel Green
Section 5 - Salubria
Section 7 - Buresh

Jefferson Township
Section 1 - Sulek
Section 3 - Shueyville
Section 5 or 7 - Houston (or Swisher)
Section 19 - Strang
Section 22 - Anderson
Section 24 - Vorel


Ely School Sports Teams

 Mark Krob submitted these two mid-1930s sports photos.
They are from the collection of Bob Krob.

Click each photo to enlarge it, then click again to enlarge more.

Top row, left to right: Dave Clark, Chuck Vavra, Walt Wagner, Leo Pizarek, unknown
Middle row: Dean Lockwood, Norbert Krob, Verne Upmier, Jack Clark, Bob Krob, Joe Becicka
Bottom row: Frank Sladek, Lumir Skripsky, Bud Stahle 

Back row: Frank Sladek, Jack Clark, Walt Wagner,Norbert Krob, Dave Clark
Front row: Lumir Skripsky, Bud Stahle, Verne Upmier, Dean Lockwood, Bob Krob, Chuck Vavra


Banner Valley and the Fuhrmeister Family

On April 15, 2021 Dan and Debbie's Creamery of Ely posted a story on their blog: 

"THE TOUCHBERRY LEGACY WILL LIVE ON; The historical Fuhrmeister Farm on the south side of Ely, Iowa becomes a permanent part of our family’s journey to sustainability on our dairy farm and creamery.
(Please click the link to read the story.)

Carolyn (Fuhrmeister) Touchberry and her husband, Bob Touchberry.

The Fuhrmeister Family are Ely area pioneers. Christopher Fuhrmeister came from Germany and bought land south of Ely in 1838. He then returned to Germany and brought his family over.

From THE CEDAR RAPIDS REPUBLICAN, Thursday, December 14, 1905.
(A.J..Fuhrmiester obituary)

His father, Christopher Fuhrmeister, was .... a wagon maker and meeting with reverses, came to this country to recoup in the mill business. He crossed the ocean several times before removing his family here and was a great admirer of General Jackson, naming his son (Andrew Jackson Fuhrmeister) for him while the family were still residents of the old country. 

He wished to save his sons the necessity of serving in the army; he knew that in the United States there would be a better future for them, and these reasons entered into his decision to move his family to the United States.

The family came to this country in 1841, landing at Baltimore, and coming by canal boat and rail over the B.& O. Railway to Pittsburg. Thence they came down the Ohio and up the Mississippi to Muscatine and arrived at Iowa City, October 14, 1843. They settled at once on the old Fuhrmeister homestead farm near Ely. 

FROM: Cedar Rapids Gazette, August 16, 1981  -  Forrest Fuhrmeister, 90, poses at left with the lad he helped raise, Mike Albaugh, 42, in front of a marker on Forrest's farm. The marker indicates that Forrest's great-grandfather, Christopher, settled in the Ely are in 1838. Christopher purchased Forrest's present farm in 1871.

(From the same 1981 article) The original Banner Valley Post Office sits in Fuhrmeister's back yard, a memento of days when the area was known as Banner Valley rather than Ely. Settlers in the 1840s and 1850s would stop at the one-room cabin to pick up the mail.


In 1871, Christopher Fuhrmeister purchased the present farm from George Stream, also an early pioneer.

- By Luther Andrew Fuhrmeister

In 1853 my maternal grandfather, George Stream, (pictured on right) came from the state of Ohio and purchased the land now owned and lived on by Forrest Fuhrmeister. I remember this anecdote coming from the lips of my mother Lucinda Stream Fuhrmeister. "Stage coaches ran right by our house and the drivers would stop to feed and water their horses and leave mail to be distributed to settlers in the community by her father George Stream. ... The stage coach drivers would pick up any outgoing mail left at the Stream home. Therefore it can be truthfully said that my grandfather George Stream was the first one active in the capacity of postmaster in the south part of Linn county.

This post office was known as the Banner Valley Post Office. Below is a very early photo of the house that was once on the farm. There are also two photos of a part of the house, which still stands on the farm, and is designated as the Banner Valley Post Office.



In the year of 1856 a Post Office was established about one half mile South of the present site of Ely. The Banner Valley Post Office was short-lived.  November 27, 1856, George H. Walker was appointed the first Postmaster.  George Stream received an appointment as Postmaster on December 24, 1859.  The third and final appointee was Alexander Gillmore, receiving his commission December 15, 1864.  On July 23, 1866, the Banner Valley Post Office was discontinued.

THE ELY POST OFFICE, established May, 1871

Application was made by Samuel A. Stream (pictured at right) to the United States Post Office Department for a Post Office to be established near the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Minnesota Railroad, ten miles South of Cedar Rapids and to be known as the Ely Post Office. The application was signed by Samuel A. Stream and verified by W. H. Shuey, Postmaster at Western College, Iowa, on April 20, 1871. The Ely Post Office was established on May 16, 1871, at which time President Ulysses S. Grant commissioned Samuel A. Stream as Postmaster. He served as Postmaster for three years and one month.





1923 News Article

If you want to learn about the early history of Ely, here's your chance! Why not take some time and read about the early days. 

(A link to the article is at the bottom of this post.)

The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette published a full page spread on the town of Ely on August 4th, 1923 entitled

"ELY - It's Community One Of The Oldest In County"
- by John R. Battin

(Some of the headings on the page are ...)

Town founded with coming of railroad in 1872
but first settlers near there in 1838.

Samuel Fackler, 93, who came in 1840 recalls stirring events of early days;
Fuhrmeisters also among first who pioneered there, are prominent.
New school house is being built; Town has own light plant;
Say business is good

(J.C.Dvorak) Active in civic affairs; Gained fame as "Barefoot Mayor" when in office ten years ago;
(F.J.Krob) World War Veteran Present Town Executive

Sub-headings are:

(Under Samuel Fackler)
Lives in One-Room Cabin
Simple Diet
Oust Speculators
Met Frontier Justice
Ferried to Cedar Rapids

Mrs. Fuhrmeister, Pioneer
Prominent Family

Goes Barefooted (J.C. Dvorak)
Prominent Odd Fellow
Town Laid Out in 1872

Bank Organized

War Veteran Is Mayor (F.J. Krob) 

Photos are titled
"Some Pioneers and Street Scenes of Ely"
"New Schoolhouse"

 There is also information on many businesses then in Ely.

Click here to access the article.
It is located on Google Drive and if you hover your cursor over it you'll see a "+" sign that you can use to enlarge the article to make it readable.


F.J. Krob 120th Anniversary

F.J. Krob & Company made some ink! They are featured in the Jan/Feb issue of Grain Journal magazine. The article focuses on the original wooden grain elevator in Ely, which was built in 1900.

Click this link to read the article on-line!
Old Time Elevator: 120 Years and Counting
F.J. Krob Co. Continues to Operate Ely, IA Elevator for Well Over a Century

 -- by Barbara Krupp-Selyem

 [photo: An early photo of F.J. Krob]


From the article: In 1910, William Howard Taft ... was serving as the 27th president of the United States.. Frank Joseph (F.J.) Krob, and his brother-in-law Wes Fiala bought the Ely elevator from C.S. King, though it wasn't long before Fiala sold his interest to Krob. Now, more than 110 years, 20 presidents and four generations later, the Krob family continues to own and operated the F.J. Krob elevator at Ely.  (below is the C.S. King Elevator that the Krob's purchased.)

 An old F.J.Krob sign posted recently on Facebook by Charlie Drahos.

1877 Richard Cox Fire

 Ed Vavra posted this on our Facebook page February 19, 2021

Cedar Rapids Times: The Weekly Times

March 15th, 1877

A DISASTROUS FIRE - Wednesday morning of last week, about 4 o'clock, during that fearful cold snow and wind storm, the residence of Richard Scott near Ely, was burned, with all the goods it contained. 

Mr. Scott was awakened by the roaring of the flames and had but barely time to seize the little ones of his household, who were quietly sleeping in their beds, and forcibly threw them out of the door into the storm ere the roof fell in and the house was in ruins. 

The family consists of eight children, ranging in age from 15 to 2 years, and the only articles of clothing they saved was the night clothes they had on, except that the oldest daughter secured one of her dresses.  Fortunately, Scott, in gathering up the children, gathered a portion of the bed clothes with them; otherwise they would have been utterly unprotected from that biting storm.  

Barefooted and naked, except the scanty underclothes and the meager supply of bed clothing they secured, the little ones wended their way to Mr. G. C. Stream's, where they were hospitably provided for. 

Mr. Scott lost his wife about a year ago, and he was struggling along as best he could to keep his family together.  Being a man of very limited means, the loss falls heavily upon him.  But we are glad to know that the good people of Ely and vicinity are making a successful effort to partially, at least, replace the loss.
Ed's note: Mr. Scott was 42 years old at the time of the fire He and his wife, Priscilla (born Cox), were married in 1854 and lived about 100 yards south of Wright Brothers Blvd (half way between Spanish Rd and Ely Rd).  Both were pioneers of this area before Iowa became a state in 1846.

After the 1877 fire, the home was rebuilt closer to the road where Mr. Scott lived until he remarried in 1887; at which time he relocated to the Palo area. He died at the home of one of his children in 1917.

Despite the hardships of life, Mr. Scott was known to be a good and kind-hearted man. As one story goes, Mr. Scott took his friend and neighbor George Clarkson into his home after the death of Mrs. Clarkson.  Mr. Clarkson was penniless and lived out his days with the Scott family until his death. 

The stone (below) in Rogers Grove Cemetery marks his resting spot and is inscribed "Erected by Richard Scott".

Richard Scott was buried in East Fairview Cemetery, Lenox, Taylor County, Iowa. His first wife is buried in the woods West of Ely.

Information from the cemetery page states, "Richard Scott was born Aug. 5, 1834 in Ireland and died Dec. 31, 1917 in Adams Co., Iowa. He married Priscilla Cox Oct. 12, 1854 at Putnam, Linn Co., Iowa.


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


Dvorak Hardware in Ely

Click the photo to enlarge it - then click again. 
DVORAK'S STORE circa 1909

J.C. Dvorak, Hardware, Tinware, Farm Machinery and Pumps. On the side of the building - Moline Wagons. To the left of the man's head - Jewel Stoves and Ranges. On the second building, below the upstairs doors - Moline Wagons and small sign to the right of downstairs door - J.L.Case. The I.O.O.F Lodge met in the rooms above the store (Independent Order of Odd Fellows). Note the wooden slat sidewalks and unpaved street.

JC Dvorak was born February 9 1861 in Luzany, Bohemia and in 1865, came with his parents to Linn County. He worked on his fathers farm and married Mary Cerveny in 1884. In 1888 he began a hardware and farm implement business in Ely which he operated until 1935. He was a prominent member of the Odd Fellows Lodge (IOOF) and served on the City Council and as Ely's Mayor, known as the "barefoot mayor" because he apparently had the habit of going barefoot.

The building on the corner was built jointly by Dvorak and the Ely IOOF Lodge No. 531, each paying half the cost with the understanding that the upstairs would be the Odd Fellows Hall.

Lumir Biderman operated the business from 1938 to 1972. Clary Illian had her pottery there for many years. This is the building that in 2020 is painted black.


Old area photos

Thank you to Sharon Furler for submitting these old photos. Two of them appear to be taken at a school, most likely at the Buresh (originally BureŇ°) School which used to be located just south of the present First Presbyterian Church near Ely, on Spanish Road.

It could be that they are from George Motycka, who used to live near the church and Buresh School.

 Click the photos to enlarge them. Once enlarged, if you click it again,
it may enlarge more!

A teacher and her students (back of the photo says "George Motycka, 1904)

Inside the school. (back of photo says "Charlie, June 17, 1904)

No description on the back of this photo. The women at the top of the photo appears to be the same as in the first photo ... the teacher.

 1911 photo of Buresh School

This 1914 map slice shows where the Buresh School was located in College Township, Section 35.


Men of Ely

Click on the photo to enlarge it.
You may also be able to click on the enlarged photo to make it bigger.

This photo of men in front of a tavern in Ely, complete with their beers, may be familiar to some. Perhaps your parents or grandparents happened to mention who the men in the photo are?

UPDATED: At present the only known identities are:
 - 3rd from the left - Joseph Dvorak (aka JC Dvorak), the "Barefoot Mayor" of Ely, behind the big man's shoulder. He ran Dvorak Implement and Hardware Store on the corner of Dows and Main Streets, across from the present Ely Post Office.  

4th from the left - Ely druggist Joe Lorenc
 - 7th from the left - Probably Louis Francis Konicek, (the tall young man)

We are looking for identities of the other men. Please help us out! If you know where the tavern stood we'd appreciate knowing that as well.



Ely High School Graduates

We have recently removed all the Ely High School graduation photos from their frames and stored them safely. Before storing them we took a photo of each year, 1930-1946. You may access the photos by clicking GRADUATION PHOTOS.

Click on the first photo and a slide show should appear with an arrow to the right, which advances you to the next photo.  There is a magnifier on the upper right above the photos. Note: The 1931 photo looks like 1951, but it is 1931.

View all the graduates' names below.


1930 - Chas. Becicka, Helen Sladek, Florence Netolicky, Adeline Horak, Adelaide Swenka, Georgia Jirasek, Kathryn Netolicky, Lillian Swenka

1931 - Walter Wagner (Supt.), Louis Stanek, George Lorenc, Gladys Holets, Rudolph Pisarik, Milton Kriz,

1932 - Walter Wagner (Supt.), Alma Netolicky, Robert Fajmon, Justina Fajmon, Frank Becicka, Chas. Konecny, Ernest Horak, Lester Horak, Mary Kadlec, Andrew Clark, Alma Klouda

1933 -Walter Wagner (Supt.), Helen Nemecek, Marvin Lustik, Joanna Buresh, Fred Telecky, John Phillips, Edna Sladek, Ivan Lorenc, Dorothy Lockwood, Victor Krob, Hilda Upmier

1934 - Walter Wagner (Supt.), Rose Mary Codec (or Codee?), Loren Frederick, Gilbert Hynek, Martha Krob, Norbert Vanorny, Martha Lorenc, Margaret Malatek, Marvin Horak, Wilma Skalsky

1935 - Walter Wagner (Supt.), Emily Binko, Verne Upmier, George Pisarik, Bessie Cesticky

1936 - Edward Osborn (Supt.), Florentine Lustik, Charles Vavra, Adelaide Nemecek, Joseph Becicka, Robert Krob, Norbert Krob, Dean Lockwood, John Clark, Lumier Skripsky, Olga Lorenc

1937 - Edward Osborn (Supt.), Keith Carson, Phylis Peet(?), Louis Jones

1938 - Supt. Osborn, Edna Fuhrmeister, Joseph E. Pennington, Charles S. Vanourny, David H. Clark, Frank C. Sladek, Hattie Ann Konecny, Joseph E. Kadlec, Leo H. Stahle, Wilbur W. Smyth, Henry F. Fisher, Mary L. McNamara

1939 - E.E. Osborn, Sup't, Doris Krob, Joe Zbanek, Evelyn Elias, Rose Skripsky

1940 - Edward E. Osborn, Sup't, Mildred Sladek, Charles See, Albert Konecny, Raymond Truhlar, Doris Zbanek

1941 - Anthony Blankers, Sup't, Rachel E. Truhlar, Emil W. Skripsky, Helen V. Burian, Vernon Neiderhiser, Margaret V. McNamara, Joseph J. McNamara, Annie M. Jonas, Ella J. See, George L. Kadlec, Olive R. Lorenc

1942 - Anthony Blankers, Sup't, Ozella J. Stastny, Maxwell D. Netolicky, Maxine D. Netolicky, Caroline Fuhrmeister, Wilmer L. Koss, Martha R. Horsky

1943 - Anthony Blankers, Sup't, Barbara Reif, Edmond Jones, Jean Dolezal,

1944 - Wm. H. Sedlak, Sup't, Mary See, Betty Langer, Evangeline Burian, Doris Becicka, Kenneth Lensch, Marie Moses, Georgia Dostal, Mary Jones

1945 - Nellie Krueger, Sup't, Juanita Hovorka, Marie Benesh, Eugene McNamara, Edna Randall, Irene Vanorny

1946 - Clarence E. Rundall, Sup't, Everett Spidle, Lorene Divoky, Wencil Bata


The baggage cart

Some of you may have wondered about the wheeled wagon that sits in front of the Ely Community Center. It is a baggage cart that was originally used at the Ely Train Depot back in the day. It once had a sign with a description, but that has disappeared.

Photo from City of Ely website, blown up to show the cart.

The baggage cart was donated to the Ely Community History Society by the late Jean and Don C. Brutsman. Below is a photo of what it looked like before it was restored by Orville Meskiman. A few years ago it was looking rather weather-beaten and it was painted and refurbished again, I think by Orville. If I am wrong, please let me know!
 - Barb Horak

It must have taken quite an effort to salvage this with all the trees growing up in it!


History book index

Do you have a copy of the Ely Centennial history book from 1972? 
We have scanned an index for the book to print if you wish. 

Click this link which will bring up the index. You will see a print icon near the upper right of the page. Click and print for your use!

If you would like to own a copy of the book, full of history and photos of the town of Ely from 1872 to 1972, we do have a number of them for $20 each. Contact us via our email (on the right column).


1903 New Bank in Ely

The Ely Bank, about 1912, on the corner of Dows and Walker Street.  Click to enlarge it.

Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, January 31, 1903
Ely, Iowa. Jan. 3 - The Ely bank, J.H. Smith & Sons of Cedar Rapids proprietors, and Wm. Benesh, cashier, will open on Monday next. With a volume of business largely exceeding many other towns of greater size in Iowa, Ely has never had a banking institution of any kind, the merchants and other business men being obliged to do all their banking in Cedar Rapids. The Messrs. Smith have erected a new building and furnished it in becoming style.

Pictured to the left of the bank in the bank photo is the above building.  Anna (Holets) Jonas, or Mrs. Joseph Jonas, and a school teacher that boarded in the home are pictured.  Joseph Jonas also had a shoe repair shop at this location.  A barber shop and a billiard table were added. Finally the shop was moved to another lot.

Later, the bank was bought out by First Trust and Savings Bank of Cedar Rapids. Joseph Holets and his daughter, Gladys Holets worked there for many years. The below photo was taken by Gladys.

1937 Fire Truck

Click the image to enlarge it.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 20, 1937
It has paid for itself already, declared Mayor Lorenc as this picture of the rural fire truck at Ely was taken recently. The machine cost farmers of the Ely community approximately $3,500 and has been used three times since it was put in use last spring. Frank Krob, elevator manager is fire chief. Mr. Krob is shown at the wheel. Mr. Lorenc stands beside the truck at left and a third man is one of the farmer-owners of the machine, Ralph Smith.

Read about the history of the Ely Fire Department (off-site link).