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


Schools in 1865

 Here is how schools were back in 1865!  ...........

Cedar Valley Times, March 30, 1865
Schools of College and Putnam Townships

PUTNAM TOWNSHIP has six schools, two of which are well taught, one fair and the other three as poor as need be. They have three males and three female teachers each of whom received $25 per month and after they pay $12 per month for board they would each have $13 left as clear gain for twenty days of work.

There are two frame houses which have been once good ones but are dilapidated and much decayed. There are two log houses, one of which looks as if it had been built before the flood. Its history has almost passed out of memory of the oldest inhabitant. They are still using it; they talk of building a new one sometime. In this neighborhood they have built two very respectable churches which are an honor to the neighborhood. These have been built by a few willing hands and benevolent hearts, with less wealth among either of the church memberships than in the school district.

COLLEGE TOWNSHIP has also six school houses and six schools. They pay the same exorbitant wages. In this township there are three old log houses, one old framE and one good "unfinished" brick in Western. Two of the schools have been good ones, two fairly taught and two poor ones as any place need be afflicted with. These last two teachers were within sight of the smoke of the building in which we held our annual institute, that had been gotten up by the labor of weeks and for no other purpose than to improve our teachers and consequently our schools. One of these teachers represented to me that he was sick at the time of institute. I have evidence that he gathered corn all the week. I was at the other school and think it of no possible account. The people are losing both their school and money. I hope the time will soon come when school officials will learn wisdom and watch such cases and report them. We have nine log school houses in our county and five of them are in these two townships. 

The Western school house will be a good one when finished. It is very evident that it has been neglected in consequence of the attention that has been paid to the College. 

The people of these townships should see to it that these old houses are displaced by good ones. Good teachers look after good surroundings and good houses. These are a sure index to the feelings that sustain good schools. There is a great emigration of Bohemians to those two townships who are fast displacing the English by buying farms. There is some talk of establishing a school in College township where they can teach their own language.

WESTERN COLLEGE Western is a village situated in College township 8 miles south of Cedar Rapids and has perhaps 300 or 400 inhabitants. Eight years ago it was a broad, wild and unbroken prairie. Some of the leading men in the United Brethren church determined to locate a school house somewhere in Iowa. They advertised for donations promising that the locality which offered the mnost should have the school. A liberal man in the vicinity offered several hundred acres of land and they located a college upon it. The college grounds cover an area of near ten acres. The enclosure contains the college building and two large boarding halls. The college and one of the other buildings are finished. The other will be finished during the summer. The enclosure has a bordering of several rows of trees with rows planted in several directions from the college buildings. A part of the college grounds is occupied by a nursery. The college with its grounds show taste and culture. All that it wants is a good stream of water to make it like the old pioneer preachers description of the Good world, "a Kentucky of a place." The school has three professors with an average attendance of about 70 students. There have been only two graduates. This is probably owing to the heavy calls of men to enter the country's service. The denomination is intensely Union in its sympathies, and has furnished a large per cent of its students for the war.

... F.W. Reeder, County Superintendent

From the 1875 Iowa Atlas, page 343


Rogers Grove School

We really don't have a lot of information or photos of Rogers Grove School at the Archives Room. If you have photos or info you can share, please send us an email. (Our email is on the right column.)

The earliest mention of the Rogers Grove School we have found was February 25th, 1864, during the civil war from the Cedar Valley Times, a Cedar Rapids newspaper. It announces that the voters have cast their ballots for Abraham Lincoln.

Cedar Valley Times, Cedar Rapids, Thursday, February 25th, 1864
President Making in Putnam Township
     The Union citizens of Putnam Township met at the Rogers' Grove School House on Monday, February 22, 1864, for the purpose of putting in nomination a candidate for the next president. The meeting was called to order by Mr. Arrasmith, and on his motion, James Thompson was elected President and J. Moorhead, Secretary. On motion of Mr. Arrasmith, Abraham Lincoln was unanimously chosen said candidate.
     On motion, it was resolved that the proceedings of this meeting be published in the Cedar Valley Times.
     On motion, the meeting adjourned.
     Joseph Moorhead, Sec'y


Ed Vavra provided this photo with comments, "The original log school was located at the NE corner of the Ivanhoe and Palisades Access Rd.

is the second Rogers Grove school building. This was moved in the late 1920's and the new school constructed in its place. It was located at the NW corner of Ivanhoe Rd and Old School Rd (so named for it)."

 Below are photos of the Rogers Grove School from the Ely History Archives collection. 

The "new" school house was located on the NW corner of Ivanhoe Rd and Old School Rd.
Year the photo was taken is unknown.


Estimated to have been taken in the 1940s. If you can identify any of these children, let us know!


This photo is from about 1981. The school has since been torn down.

The below image is from the 1875 Map of Linn County, State of Iowa (Putnam Township) and in Section 21, near the upper right, is the original location of the Rogers Grove School  and just to the east, the Rogers Grove Church. The church was later the Bohemian Reformed Evangelical Church, a branch of what is now the First Presbyterian Church near Ely. The town of Ely is in the lower left corner.

Karen (Clark) Fiala contributed these photos of Rogers Grove school children.

From left Joann Moses, Karen Clark (married name Fiala), Bob Havlicek. Mr. Hertz, Ron Nezerka, Betty Koutny, Mary Carson, Karen Clark's sister, Barb Clark. 

                               Karen's sister Barb Clark and her brother, Jim Clark - teacher, Mr. Hertz


 On left is Bill Carson, Lumir Nezerka, and brothers Will and Mark Clark.


Nearest row starting at back:. Karen Clark, Bob Havlicek, Mary Carson and Ron Nezerka.