Showing posts with label Photo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Photo. Show all posts


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.



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).


Ely Train Depot

Below are photos of the Ely train depot that once existed off Dows Street.

Also below are some memories of the train depot by Ely resident John Prastka. Prastka was born in 1885 in Oxford Junction but grew up in Ely.  Before 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  the Ely Community History Society collections. Prastka died June 1, 1975 at the age of 89.
Click each photo to enlarge it.

John Prastka writes ...
There was the depot.  The agent lived on the second story with his family, and it was of a color like clay and into the paint fine sand was blown so the sparks from the engines would not set it afire.  It had a big pot bellied cast iron soft coal stove in the comfy waiting room from which you could purchase your ticket through a window waist high. 

In the telegraph room was a smaller cast iron stove, and the doors had to be kept open to help knock down the draft and I had seen them red hot in winter at times.  The room often was full of acrid gassy smoke that could make you cough gasping for fresh air.  There were built in benches to the south and west.  The entrance door faced the tracks to the east.  On the ends of this depot were white letters “ELY”.  A long ladder stood next to the north end and held in place by tilting the ladder and pushing it up straight.  The entrance to the second floor was by the outside steps.  The freight room with a pair of scales was to the north and a door at both south and east.  We kids often weighed ourselves there on the scales and looking somewhat wishfully at the candy buckets and boxes, also the sacks of peanuts.  The smell was quite pleasant there.

About 1911, looking west.
The plank platform was on blocks of timber to make it easier for people to board the passenger cars and this platform was all around the depot and extended 40 or 50 feet each way from the front part of the depot where the windows were built out so the telegrapher could see both down the tracks and also up.

A double latrine of same color was set up a little to the west of the depot, men to the west and ladies to the east with the lettering over the doors.

At this time no homes were as yet built east of the tracks, which consisted of the main line. A two switch tracks, and there was also a switch track to the west of the depot.  Just a few rods north from the depot was a wooden water tank where the engines refilled the water tanks of the engine.  The coal was in the center easy to get at by the fireman with his big scoop.

Looking toward Dows Street.

I forgot to write that down near the creamery [Note: where the fire station is now located] was the section house where the hand car and the dumpy [?] were housed and under lock and key, and a short way across the tracks was a tall windmill that pumped the water for the water tank.  The land sloped towards Willow Creek and they need not go so deep to strike water there as it was maybe 8 feet lower than the tracks.  Many were the times us kids climbed to this platform to take a look around and our folks would have worried about us for fear we’d fall, and it is really dangerous to get up on these small platforms as gusts of winds could topple you off.  We were sure-footed however.

For us kids the depot was a sort of hangout, just to see the trains and passenger ones also, come and go.  We noted the styles of cars, caboose and engine types, some had only 4 drive wheels and later came these with 6 and on and on to bigger models, as time passed.

At this time I must write that those engineers who laid out the roadway Ely to Cedar Rapids had committed a grave error and had chosen a bad route north of Ely and had a big incline and a S curve also and many a freight got stuck there.  We kids often would jump off easy there, and of course had to walk back and if barefooted we had to use the dusty road. 


I ran across this account of a train wreck in Ely that happened in December 1887.


A Collision Which Barely Comes Off Without Loss of Life.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., Dec. 30.----The cannonball express on the Albert Lea route, leaving Chicago at 12:05 p.m., was wrecked at Ely, Ia., twelve miles from Cedar Rapids, at 2:30 a.m. yesterday. A heavy drift of snow stopped the train at Ely, and while the track was being cleared, a heavy freight engine with a caboose attached, ran into the rear of the buffet coach, telescoping it and sending the second or rear sleeper into the first as far as the toilet room and turning over the stove.

By prompt action of the passengers and conductor the fire was put out before doing any damage. The other coaches were jammed together, and the second engine converted into a wreck. The freight engine and buffet car were demolished. Every coach was full of passengers and all were jarred and bruised, three seriously, but none fatally. A driving snow storm was in progress, and the passengers thrown out of the sleepers in their night clothing suffered from severe cold. The train left Ely fifteen hours late. The names of the injured are not known here.

The Ohio Democrat, New Philadelphia, OH 5 Jan 1888




Ely Firemen

A couple photos of Ely firemen.  Thanks to the identity help from Ely residents on the Ely Facebook group, I found an article in the Monday, May 28, 1956 Cedar Rapids Gazette of the top photo.  It reads: 

NEW HELMETS, NEW TRUCK FOR ELY FIREMEN - Members of the College-Putnam Townships volunteer fire department at Ely proudly display new equipment - which ranges from new safety helmets to a brand new fire truck. Picture was taken Saturday. In the photo are (front row, left to right): Ed Vavra, Bob Zeman and Dan McCune. Standing are (left to right) Assistant Chief Bill Hajek, Bill Kadlec, Bob Malatek, Ed Jones and Duane Tobias.

     Click the photo to enlarge: 
Back Row
: Assistant Chief Bill Hajek, Bill Kadlec, Bob Maletek, Ed "Sunk" Jones,
and Duane (Toby) Tobias.
Front Row: Ed Vavra, Bob Zeman and Dan McCune, former Chief.
Click the photo to enlarge it.
1. Ed Vavra , 2. Bob Zeman  3.Dan McCune, former Chief  4. Assistant Chief Bill Hajek
5. Bill Kadlec  6. Bob Maletek, 7. Ed "Sunk" Jones, and 8. Duane (Toby) Tobias

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


Ely I.O.O.F. portraits


Individual portrait photos of 49 early members of the Ely I.O.O.F. Lodge #581. Believed to be from around the turn of the century, early 1900s.

*Denotes black ribbon for deceased member

Numbered from top, left to right.

1. L. Clark, 2. L. B. Calder, 3. *M.E. Mann, 4. J. Lorenc,
5. C. Vanorny, 6. F. Elias, 7. G. J. Fleming, 8. A. Hoppe, 9. J. Smith, 10. F.J. Krob

11. *Ed Rogers, 12. L. Davis, 13. F.H. Hoppe, 14. F.W. Borghart, 15. W.A. Cairns, 16. Cal Smith, 17. J.C. Baylor, 18. Fackler (no first name), 19. H. Upmire (Upmier)

20. *G.W. Smith, 21. W.J. Dvorak, 22. A.J. Minor, 23. J.O. Clark, 24. J. Tomlinson, 25. J.C. Dvorak,
26. P.H. Fuhrmeister, 27. J. Becika (Becicka), 28. J.W. Kadlec, 29. *G.W. Stansbury

30. *A.F. Stewart, 31. L. Stanek, 32. W.J. Kadlec, 33. G.D. Clark, 34. F. Dolezal, 35. F.J. Koss, 36. H.W. Smith, 37. M.D. Vanorny, 38. F.B. Vavrichek (Vavricek), 39. *L.G. Booth

40. R. Smith, 41. R.F. Smith, 42. W.R. Cairns, 43. D.C. Fackler, 44. *J.M. Worthington, 45. J. Kremenak,
46. John Lorenc, 47. *Wm. Umbdenstock, 48. W.H. Caryl, 49. C.C. Clark

Ely I.O.O. F began in 1893.

Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, Friday, June 2, 1893
A New Lodge Instituted at That Place Last Night- Large Delegation from This Place in Attendance - Handsome Treatment by the Ely Brothers

Ely lodge No. 581 has been instituted at Ely by Grand Master Geo. W. Murphy, assisted by a number of members of the Cedar Rapids lodge. Mr. Murphy and his assistants went down on the afternoon train and by supper time they had installed the officers and duly instituted the lodge.

The officers chosen are as follows:
J.C. Dvorak, noble grand.
Frank Svacha, vice grand.
E. L. Matthews, secretary
Joseph Tomlinson, Jr., treasurer
Frank Dolezal, guardian

In the evening still another delegation arrived from Cedar Rapids and the first session of the new lodge was held. Seven candidates were initiated into the subordinate degree. Short speeches were made by several present, when at 10:30 the party repaired to Mr. DeVaults hotel, where an elegant and substantial supper was served to the forty or more present. The Ely people left nothing undone to add to the pleasures of the visit. Their lodge starts out with fine prospects. The new members are the best young business men and farmers and they take hold of the lodge work with much enthusiasm.

Among those present from this city were George B. Murphy, J.A. Bye, George Lightner, H.E. Fisk, P. Myers, C. Fordyce, Frank Tisher, J.D. Blain, George Stauffer, G.W. Lutz, Charles Weare [? hard to read], Mr. Callaban, Oscar Solomon, Charles E. Inman, Cal Stout, J.M. Haines, David Brant, Dan F. Anderson, Henry Washburn and Chas. Nechuta.


Ely Rebekahs Photo

Above is a photo, perhaps from the 1950s, of a group of women belonging to the Ely Rebekahs Lodge. We need help identifying them! Click the photo to enlarge it!

Top Row: left to right   
1. Margaret Luny
2. Faye Benda
3. ? Irma Modracek?
4. Olga Vavra
5. Leona Poduska
6. Gladys Malatek
7. Katherine Worley
8. Jean Dolezal
9. Margaret Stastny
Middle Row: left to right    
2. Mina Randall
3. Mary Jones Martin
6. Agnes Benda
Front Row: left to right   
1. Helen Sipe
2. Julia Sladek
3. Esther Zvacek
4. Irene Vavra
5. Bess Rigel
6. ?Mabel Riddle? ?Flora Kermenak?
7. Florence Brokel

Thanks to Facebook followers of our page, and the "card players" at Ely Community Center for help!


Old drawing of Ely CSPS Hall

View of the scan sent from the Czech Republic (Click to enlarge)

Recently Ed Vavra, ECHS Board President, received a scan of a line-drawing of the Ely C.S.P.S. Hall from a contact in the Czech Republic.  It appeared in the "Kvety Americke" published in 1887 in Omaha, NE.

Č.S.P.S. stands for "Česko-Slovenský Podporující Spolek" (Czech-Slovak Protective Society). It was a large fraternal organization supporting the welfare of Czech and Slovak immigrants to the United States. It offered a type of insurance for the Czech people.

The Ely C.S.P.S. was located on the east side of Walker Street between Dows and Traer Streets. (behind the library)

Read an earlier post about the Ely C.S.P.S.

A close-up of the line-drawing (Click the image to enlarge it.)

A view of the C.S.P.S. Hall from an old postcard.


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


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


Early Dows Street photo

Below is one of the earliest photos of Dows Street in Ely.  It probably taken pre-1890 and looks west down Dows.  The house that appears to be in the middle of the street in the mid-background is where the convenience store stands today in 2011.