Showing posts with label People. Show all posts
Showing posts with label People. Show all posts


Identities needed

These photos of children in Ely were donated to the ECHS recently. We hope someone will be able to help identify them.

Please click on a photo to enlarge it.  If you can identify someone, please open your email, address it to  Go back to your browser & copy the link; paste the link into the email and then identify the child you know and his/her position in the photo.  (For example:  Photo #1 -  Name Surname - 3rd from the left in the back).  Thank you for your help!

Click each photo to enlarge it.

Photo #1

Photo #2
From Don Elias, who formerly lived in Ely, but now lives in Minnesota:  I believe these photos are not of "school children;" they are actually photos of "church children."  The background of these 4 photos is the present brick building that was used as a school [Jappa School] for many years but I think the photos are of the children who attended Sunday School in the school building during the time when the old wooden structure of St; John's Lutheran Church was being torn down and replaced by a brick building.  I think this occurred about 1950.

Photo #2 has 4 young men in front who are (left to right)
Carl Jensen who now lives in Texas and whose family lived with their grandpa Monroe Hemingway
John Tessman (I think) about who I have no current information
Carl Klinsky who was the son of Willie and Stella Klinsky and he passed away at a young age
Gene Erenberger who the son of Milo and Rosemary Erenberger
In back is Martha Krob Phillips and Roger Trpkosh whose family lived with their grandma Lizzie Clark and also died young

Photo #3

From Don Elias:
Photo #3 has in the front row (left to right) [Jappa School in the background]
Larry Trpkosh who was the grandson of Lizzie Clark and died young
Joan Tessman 
Karen Clark who was the daughter of Andy and Grace Clark
Rita Becicka who was the daughter of Leonard and Viola Becicka
Mike Albaugh who lived with Forest and Ann Fuhrmeister
The back row has:
Lavina Nederhiser (I think)
Nargi Rayman Steinbrech
Marilyn Jensen Cook
Elaine Jensen (I don't know her married name - she had a clothing store in Solon many years ago)
Norman Rayman (I think)

Photo #4

From Don Elias:  Photo #4 -  I cannot identify the adult or any of the children except that the boy in the front row on the left looks like a Trpkosh.

Photo #5

From Don Elias:  [Jappa School in the background]
Photo #5 - The 3 girls in front are
Joan Tessman (I think)
Rita Becicka 
Karen Clark
The boys in back are
Larry Trpkosh
Marvin Stastny who was the son of Hubert and Margaret Stastny 
Page Worley (although I don't ever remember him with that much hair) who was the son of John and Katherine Worley and later the husband of Shirley Worley. 
Norman Rayman (I think)
Denny (or Bruce?) Erenberger
Mike Albaugh


Cowboys terrorize Ely in 1900

Thanks to Ely resident, Rob Smith, for finding and sending in this article.  It is s story of some young men who delivered a number of broncos to the Ely area from a Montana ranch.  All was fine until they began drinking in the town of Ely.

From the Cedar Rapids Republican
September 29, 1900
"They had the whole town terrorized, compelling people to close their places of business, making them get down on their knees in the street .... They refused to be arrested ..."

Read the story by clicking the below image to enlarge it.


Joseph Wojtishek

The Ely Community History Society has received a history on Josef Wojtishek (also seen as Vojtisek, or Woitisek) from Scott Phillips, a genealogical historian who has translated a large number of publications from the Czech language to English. 

The Wojtishek history appeared in Amerikán Národní Kalendář, Volume: XXI, Year: 1898, Pages: 196-208, under the heading of “Memoirs of Czech Settlers in America"

The1898 history appears on the following links on Phillips' site "Onward to Our Past". 

Link 1 (scroll down to find the Wojtishek history);  Link 2;   Link 3

Read more about Joseph Wojtishek in an earlier blog post.
Here is the transcript of the 1898 article:
Josef Wojtishek from , Linn County, Iowa, was born in 1837 in Jimramov, Moravia on the Bohemian border where his parents worked as farmers. He attended local elementary school there. When he finished that school he helped his parents until 1853 when they sold everything they owned in order to leave for America. They hoped that their hard work would be better rewarded there. Another reason was to avoid military service for Josef and his brother. None of them wished to see them wearing the tight jacket of an Austrian soldier.

They went via Bremen to Galveston, Texas where they landed after 8 weeks of fortunate sailing. They continued on to Houston where they then stayed for 2 weeks. A Protestant preacher Bergman, from Cat Spring in Austin County, tried to convince them to move there, but they did not like the intensely hot weather of Texas, which they were not accustomed to. They were also afraid of the lack of good spring water, a really rare commodity in Texas.

Due to these reasons they decided to go back to Galveston and from there continued on to New Orleans. From that town they sailed via the Mississippi River north to St. Louis where they planned to settle. But they did not like that town too.  During this time there were some riots and therefore they decided to go to Chicago.”
“In Galena, Illinois the father of Wojtishek became very sick and on the third day after their arrival in Chicago he died. Everyone can understand the feelings of these poor immigrants staying by the coffin of the man who was their main support and breadwinner.  After they buried their father for his eternal rest, they continued on as orphans to Caledonia, Wisconsin, near Racine.

In this town there lived some other Czechs including some of their friends from the Old Country. They went there to buy some land and settle there. But the land in Caledonia was already too expensive and for newcomers it would have been very difficult to start there. Several families from Caledonia were going to move to Iowa at this time because land was cheap there and the people who had already settled there sent them good news. So the Wojtishek family decided to move there, too.

They bought a pair of oxen and together with another four families started the journey. After two weeks of traveling they reached Cedar Rapids. This was about eight miles from the place called Hoosler Grove (now Ely). At this place they occupied governmental land and started to farm. In the surrounding area were a lot of redskins in those times and also a lot of wolves. This made it difficult for the newcomers. Their first summer Josef, together with his younger brother, built a hut. Despite the fact that the hut was a primitive one they were proud of it and having one made it feel like a palace to them.

Three years later their mother remarried and in 1862 bought 40 acres in the same neighborhood and Josef remained alone on the first farm. His brother helped at both places and also worked for other farmers. In that time (1862) he married Miss Anna Riegel,[also Rigel] who came from an old Czech patriotic family.

They worked hard on the farm until 1872 and being successful, they found themselves able to buy more land. In the mentioned year he already owned 280 acres and an additional 80 acres, which they later sold. But his wife suffered from gout and could not be of much help to him. Therefore he began thinking about starting a new business. In 1872, together with one American, they established a profitable drugstore [general store] in Ely. But they went separate ways some time later. From that time on Wojtishek has had his own store and thanks to his hard work it has flourished.”

At a later time later he (Ed: Josef Wojtishek) took advantage of an opportunity to join a grain store, where he successfully worked together with his co-partner for sixteen years. In 1888 he paid his co-partner for his portion of the store and since that time he has been the sole owner of the store.  Wojtishek became a wealthy man because in addition to owning the drugstore [general store] and grain store he is a stockholder in one bank in Cedar Rapids and for some time he was also its chairman. He also is the owner of 275 acres of great soil in Linn County.

He has a three living children. His son, Fr. J. Wojtishek, is a popular physician in Cedar Rapids and a daughter Marie works as a teacher in the public schools there. The youngest daughter, Anna, still lives with her parents.
However, Wojtishek is a cool-headed man who always works with invincible energy. This is the reason for his successes in business and in farming, too. His wife is alive too and she likes to talk about their hard beginnings in this country that they overcame.
Below: Daughters, Anna Woitishek (left) and Marie Woitishek (right)



Remembering Ely in the 40s and 50s

We have received an email from Lloyd Duffe, a long-time Ely resident who now lives in Columbia, South America. He tells of growing up in Ely in the 1940s and 50s.

10-18-13 Letter from Lloyd Duffe who lived in Ely for many years.

Trying to recall and write about the past is good medicine at times and I should try to push myself a little harder in this regard. This bit of writing and recall made me think back to the 40´s and 50´s in Ely and some of the things that took place that I am sure are not recorded and there are all too few left that would remember this time.

One interesting one, is the Summer of 1944 when a large group of Mexican´s were working on the Rock Island railroad both North and South from Ely. A side track was built along the rail line behind Vavra Lumber where their bunk and mess cars were located. I am not sure of the exact number of workers, but think it was close to 50 including foremen and workers who ranged in age from 16 to high 60´s.  I delivered news papers to several supervisors there on Sundays, when I had the paper route in town for the Des Moines Register. I got to know several of the younger ones well. I helped several learn to dog paddle in two excellent swimming holes in Rogers and Hoosier creeks near town that Summer. I could not walk by either tavern on Saturday without someone in this group of workers buying me a soda or ice cream cone. It was quite a Summer for a 12 year old. Many evenings and especially on Saturday night, there was guitar music along Main Street, in front of Les Philips and Rusty´s Tavern.

Pay day and Saturday night had the younger ones having the telephone central operator call for taxies to take them to Cedar Rapids and the brighter lights. The older one´s were more prone to be satisfied with Main Street Ely and be able to take the majority of their pay back to their families. Early nylon shirts and trousers were already in mode that summer and the younger workers liked to splurge on some quite expensive and wild color combinations they would come back with from their trips to Cedar Rapids.

Another thing that really livened up the town was the Tuesday night once-a-week movie. I worked for the fellow who ran this traveling theater for the better part of two years. Unfortunately I do not recall his name. He had a route of small towns in the area, where he and his wife put on weekly movies. She ran a pop corn machine and the movies were held in the old Legion Hall. My job was to set up the benches and chairs, take them down and clean up the place the next day. In the Winter, I stoked the two pot belly stoves, that was the hall's only heat.

Movies were extremely popular even though the majority were Cowboy & Western. Especially when the intermission drawing got up to 25 or more dollars - that was a lot of money at the time! Anyone who ever attended a movie signed a guest book and a number was placed in a wooden draw box. Five dollars was added progressively each week. If the person's number that was drawn was not in attendance, the following week's drawing went up another five dollars. Let the prize get up to 30 or 40 dollars and there weren´t enough seats for all the people coming to the movie in the hopes of walking off with a big prize. Many wives from the countryside would also come to town on Tuesday evenings to shop at the Sladek grocery store.

The Odd Fellows Lodge was extremely active in the 40´s and 50´s and their meetings were always on Tuesday evenings. At one time, Ely was the 7th largest Lodge in the State with a larger membership than the population of the town. I personally was signed up at 18 years of age like almost everyone else of this age group in the community and surrounding countryside. Sixty-three years later there are less than 20 of us still left and meetings are no longer held on any regular basis. Those in the community try to get together for a luncheon once a year to renew old times. Dick Netolicky was in charge of this for years and I think Bud Lingel, now handles what is left of Lodge functions.

The last graduation class in Ely High School was in 1945. After that students from the immediate area attended surrounding schools at Solon, Shueyville, Mt. Vernon or Cedar Rapids Schools until Prairie Schools started the first High School classes about 1957.

During the late 40´s a big thing for the farm boys and even myself living in town, was the Putnam Pals 4H Club. Living on what was my parents acreage on Fuhrmeister Street, we had room for livestock and I raised Hereford baby beef cattle to show at the All Iowa Fair for 3 years. The club had two basketball teams for several years. The younger members had a few games with surrounding area 4H Clubs. In 1949 and 1950 the older member team was made up of some of us in High School and a couple players that had just graduated from school. Over this two year period we played anyone we could schedule a game with; other clubs, church league teams in Cedar Rapids, Legion Clubs against older players and an occasional High School team. Right now, I think the only two left from this group are Bernard Erenberger and myself. I always considered Bernie the best player on our team. He played a lot of basketball and baseball at old Wilson High in Cedar Rapids. Others that rounded out this team were Bob & Richard Netolicky, Vernon Erenberger and myself. We played 30 games during the Winters and Springs of 1949-50 winning 29 or them. The only loss was when Bernie was absent because Wilson High had a game the same night he was committed to.

As I seem prone to usually do, I have managed to rattle on considerably and it is more than time to close.
 - Lloyd Duffe


Read a story about a murder that took place in the Ely area in 1898, from Iowa Unsolved Murders.

Tracks in the Night: Murder of Edward Moore
by Nancy Bowers



Kust-Erenberger Photos

Below are photos from a Kust-Erenberger family, and a Zach family, but there are no identities.  Does anyone recognize the people.  If so, please email us at

Click the photos to enlarge them.

 The child in the photo is Martha Kust Waldebauer, and her mother Anna Erenberger Kust is standing behind her.  Seeking the identity of woman on the right.

Unknown woman above "could" possibly be the same woman on the right in the photo above.


Below is a photo believed to be "Grandma Zach and daughter" who lived north of Ely.  If you know the identity of the women, please email us.


Vornholt Family

Henry William Vornholt family probably taken in 1882.

Submitted by Sharon VeDepo Farnsworth

This is a picture of the Henry William Vornholt family probably taken in1882. Pictured  are the parents, Henry William Vornholt and his wife Catherine Elizabeth Hieber, their children, Mary  Elizabeth, Rosa Anna, Anna Caroline, Frederick William, Louisa Jane, Emmeline Lucinda , and John Elias.
  • The  youngest child, the boy the lower right, is John Elias born in 1880. 
  • Not pictured is Clara Ellen born in 1883, which helps to date this picture to around 1882.
  • Mary Elizabeth married Christian David See and is my great grandmother.
  • Married names of the daughters include; See, Brown, Klinsky, Miller, Zobel, and Baumgartner. 
  • Rosa Anna Brown moved to South Dakota while the others including Frederick lived around the Ely area.
  • Three of the Vornholt children, Charles, Catherine, and Jacob, died in the summer of 1878 of Yellow Fever, and are buried with their parents in Fackler Cemetery.  They do not appear in the above family photo.

I have other pictures of the Vornholt family.  My email address is
If anyone has other pictures of this family or has an interest in pictures I have including, baby, youth, some wedding, family photos some of which are unidentified, please contact me.

 - Sharon VeDepo Farnsworth


Unknown Wright family photos

Please CLICK HERE to see all the photos

One of the collections at the Ely Community History Center Archives contains a folder of scanned photos labeled "Unknown Wright Family Photos".  The collection was donated by Wilma Carson, formerly of Ely.   Does anyone recognize people in these photos?  If so, please email us at the address in the right column.

I have found the following family in the 1900 Census.  I do not know if this is the same Wright family.

1900 U.S. CENSUS
name:     Z L Wright
event place: ED 86 Putnam Township, Linn, Iowa, United States
birth date:     Jan 1867    birthplace: Wisconsin
relationship to head of household: Head
father's birthplace:     New York     mother's birthplace:     Canada Fr
race or color: White     gender:     Male
marital status: Married     years married: 10    estimated marriage year: 1890

Household / Gender / Age / Birthplace
head     Z L Wright     M     33     Wisconsin
wife     Clara Wright    F     28     Wisconsin
son     Floyd L Wright   M     9     Wisconsin
daughter     Zella Wright     F     8     Wisconsin

Citing this Record: "United States Census, 1900," index and images, FamilySearch (, Z L Wright, ED 86 Putnam Township, Linn, Iowa, United States; citing sheet 8A, family 146, NARA microfilm publication T623, FHL microfilm 1240443.


Graham / Hall photos

UPDATE - 2/8/2020
Linda Hey, a local historian has verified that when they built the house where Robert Novotny formerly lived in Shueyville, they built it behind this old house. They moved the old house to the east of the main Shueyville corner (120th and Curtis Bridge Road) where Leonard Zalesky lived.   The address of this house today is 2914 120th St. NE, Cedar Rapids, Ia.  This is a picture from Google Maps of what that house looks like today, just east of the 120th and Curtis Bridge Rd.

The below photos were sent in by Pat Vichas, hoping that someone could help identify them.

The first is a gathering of people in front of a house believed to be the home where Pat's great-grandmother Elizabeth (Hall) Graham lived in Shueyville, Iowa or nearby.  (Jefferson Township, Johnson County, Iowa)

Pat has identified Frank and Edith (Graham) Popham are 7th and 8th from left in the top row.  Elizabeth Hall Graham was Edith Popham's mother; in all, Elizabeth had 5 daughters.

Pat would like to know any information on the house - if it is still there.  Also information on the people in the photo.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.
Once open in another window, you may need to click
on the photo again to get the largest version.

The below is a later photo of the house. Is this house still standing in or near Shueyville?  Please let us know.

A blow-up from a 1900 Johnson County, Jefferson Township map shows the approximate location of the J.W. Graham property and house. We do not know if it is the same as the above house.

 Some background:

Copy of an article by Elizabeth (Hall) Graham (Memories of Elizabeth (Hall) Graham, who came to the Shueyville area in 1855 and lived near Shueyville for 91 years. The newspaper is not identified, but the author is listed as Louise Johnston. Year it was written is estimated about 1946.)

From History of Johnson County, Iowa, 1883. - Biography:

Father of Elizabeth (Hall) Graham:   Thomas R. Hall (deceased), was born on the 15th day of December, 1819, in Albermarle County , VA ; was the son of Richie and Sarah Hall; was raised on a farm; learned the carpenter trade. August 10, 1843.  He was married to Miss Nancy M. Martin of Augusta County, VA. They have six children; John W., Elizabeth E., wife of J.W. Graham; Robert C., Eliza C., Cinderella C., and Cora A. In January, 1855 he came to Iowa , and settled in Johnson County; first in Shueyville, where he followed his trade. He purchased 240 acres of land in section 9 and moved there, where he farmed and worked at his trade up to the time of his death, which occurred November 22, 1871 . He was a member of the Methodist Church , and held the office of Justice of the Peace and trustee of his township. He was a good citizen, a faithful husband, and a kind father.


Joseph Woitishek & Jan Hanus, Ely merchants

John Prastka was born in 1885 in Oxford Junction but grew up in Ely.  Preceding the Ely Centennial in 1972 he hand-wrote his memories of early Ely.  He gave his writing to the Ely Legion, and they are now part of our collections.  He knew Joseph. Woitishek because his brother clerked for him in his store, which is now the building that houses the Post Office in Ely.

Following are a couple descriptions of early people in Ely.

JOSEPH WOITISHEK (Vojtisek in Czech)  
Caption: Joseph Woitishek was born in Moravia in 1837.
In 1853 he and his family arrived in Galveston, Texas and made their
way up the Mississippi, coming to Hoosier Grove (now Ely) in 1854, where
he bought land and farmed. Later he operated a general store
and was involved in the grain trade.
Mr. Prastka writes:
“Mr. Joseph Woitisek, Ely’s foremost financial success and richest person and merchant, had a lingo so much different than most people.  He wore a full beard about like Santa Claus is pictured, only his hair and beard were black or dark brown.  His talk was fanciful and he used so many phrases which differed from what an ordinary person ever uses.  He was not direct and to the point.  He beat about the bush.  .....such as “Yes, Mr. so and so, it could be just like this and how could it be otherwise?”  “For instance” was used a lot, also “that is”.  There were many fanciful words mixed and interwoven between his talk.  He also used them in his Bohemian languge.   “Ku prikadu totish” – “That is of course” was used the most.  He was nick-named by the Bohemians “Old Totish”.  ................The story goes on to tell about how Woitishek played checkers and who he played them with ...   "Woitishek lived in the house behind the store and “raised many different colored chickens and delighted in feeding them.  He would call out names he had for each one and throw the hen a few kernels of corn off the palm of his hand, and the chickens gathered all around him.

See a newer blog post about Joseph - a translation of a history about him from a publication in the Czech language.


An early ad for Jan Hanus Undertaking, Ely, Iowa.

Mr. Prastka writes:  “Mr. Hanus was an undertaker who wore chin whiskers, a small man in stature and he loved his daily nip of brandy at the saloons – a very restless type to the point of being nervous.  He had long waits between funerals and so had to raise a hog or two and kept many chickens in his barn yard.  He was good at carving walnut and finishing it, making nice bureaus and trunks, etc.  I think when Ely was new he made caskets with nice handles on and lined the inside.  (John Prastka used to hang around with a Hanus son, and tells of helping to clean the hearse before funerals.)  He also says, “When I was reported at Ely as dead at the time I got fever in the Navy, Mr. Hanus made a few trips to the train depot to see if I’d arrived there as a corpse!”  However, John was very much alive.

A copy of a translation of the Hanus ad from
 the Solon Economy newspaper, about 1895