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Close Bros. - William, James, John & Fred - Ireton Builders


Posted By: Wilma J. Vande Berg - volunteer (email)
Date: 9/3/2022 at 12:38:40

Close Bros – William, James, Fred and John B. The Iconic land brokers and builders of Ireton

This story was taken from pages 348-349 of the Ireton Centennial Book (1882-1982). The story was transcribed for this BIOS by Beth De Leeuw of the Greater Sioux County Genealogical Society. The submitter of this narrative Wilma J. Vande Berg, added additional information taken from pages 2-6 in the Ireton Centennial Book 1882-1982 as indicated .

Pages 348-349 - Ireton is the home of one of the oldest and surely the best preserved Sioux Co. landmarks of the past century. Known as “The Close Brothers House,” the sturdy two-story home on lower Main was built in the early 1880’s by the land agents, known as the Close Brothers, whose story appears in the early part of this book.

Ireton welcomed the legendary brothers who were concentrating their considerable talents and resources on the development of Sioux Co. in 1882, when they caused the “brick block” to be constructed on the Ireton townsite. Seeing the opportunity for volume sales by a resident agent, they built a brick building on the corner of Main and Second which was unique for the times, in that it was of brick construction (probably the first in Sioux Co.) and of two full stories. It housed a land office, the residence for their agent and his family, and sleeping rooms for prospective customers. It was an altogether far-sighted and economical arrangement.

It is unfortunate that none of the records of the company so closely guarded by brother James have survived, but it is a matter of recorded fact that many of the lots within the original twelve blocks of Ireton’s city limits were owned and/or developed by the Close Bros. or one of their agencies.

The Western Town Lot Co., which had connections with both the Close Bros. and the Sioux City and St. Paul Railroad Co., was credited with platting the original twelve-block area of Ireton. That company, under Albert Keep, Pres. And J.B. Redfield, Sec., first took title to lots 7 & 8, block 2 (whereon the brick block was located) in June of 1882.

Fred, Wm. and James Close, together with their wives, held title to the property until it was transferred back to the Western Town Lot Co. in 1889.

We are aware of the names of only two agents serving Ireton on behalf of the firm: Mr. Sears and Wm. T. Humble. Mr. Sears actually lived in the brick house and we assume that Mr. Humble did too. We don’t know how long the office residence was used as a land agency, but we assume it to be only a matter of a few years, since development of the town and the area was rapid.

Early Ireton residents have reported that the H. Carder family of Garden Grove, Ia., were “domiciled” in the brick Close building (probably upstairs) while Mr. Carder was supervising the installation of the steam roller mill along the railway.

Mr. O.C. Burket entered into a contract of purchase with James, Wm. and Fred Close in Aug. of 1889, but was unable to fulfill its terms, whereupon Philander Peebles and his wife, Hannah C. (Hulburt) became the owners in early 1893.
Mr. Peebles sold it to Fred Vlotho in 1895 for a modest profit of $300. Mr. Vlotho was the owner and operator of the Chicago Cash Store just a block up the hill and his wife Margaret (Fitzpatrick) was a successful milliner. The two lived in the brick house until his death in 1926.

The Albert DeRaad family moved in the following year as the next proud owners of the brick home, where they lived for several years. During their residence the large horse barn at the west end of the lot was damaged and the house chimney destroyed by the tornado in Sept. of 1928.

They were followed by Melvin Berwitt in 1934, the Walter Ottens later, and the Andy Anema family in 1946. During all of this time, the house remained essentially the same as it had been at construction, except for a bathroom installed by the Anema’s and an earlier wooden porch on the west.

Melvin Borgman and family owned and occupied the property from 1949 through the 1950’s, and during that time the stucco was applied over the red brick exterior.

Clarence Anema bought the house in 1958, and he, his wife Eileen, and their children have lived there ever since. In 1977 they built the only major addition to the original house--a double garage, breezeway and family room of wood construction which extends to the NW. They have been careful to preserve the essence of the original construction, however, including the double-hung windows in the thick brick walls.

In 1982, this proud old house enters its Centennial year, still standing like a sentinel on the corner. It has been witness to the entire history of the town--if we only knew the stories it could tell!

Pages 2 – 6 in the Book “Ireton A Proud Heritage 1882-1982 is the store headlined ‘The Close Brothers and Ethnic Influence’.

Fred, William, James and John Brooks Close first heard of the investment opportunities here in NW Iowa when they participated in the American Centennial Celebration at Philadelphia in 1876, as members of the British rowing crew from the Cambridge Boat Club. At that time Wm. chanced to visit with Daniel Paulin of Quncy, Ill., who described his recent success at buying and selling land in Illinois.

Summarizing, page 2, the Close brothers made investment trip to Iowa and NW Iowa buying and setting up farms for rental and at early sages became owners of a vast amount of farm land. They began here as carefree young bachelors, and met and married their brides through their business ventures.

Page 3.
Wm. Brooks Close married Mary Paullin, the daughter of his early Illinois informant and benefactor, in the spring of 1877 immediately following his fact finding tour of the Midwest. Combining business with pleasure they honey mooned in England when a series of Wm’s letters on colonizing were being quoted in the British press.  Realizing that  great many other undeveloped area were being widely touted to potential investors in England, Canada and eastern US, the Close Brothers were honest in reporting not only the positive, but also the negative side of mid-western colonization, which included the abating grasshopper scourge; the extremes in weather; and the relative isolation.  But since the advantages were numerous, their glowing claims were quickly and publicly substantiated by those who came to look and to stay. 

The article goes on to describe how the Close Brothers implemented their land dealing set up all over northwest Iowa.  They would set up quarter sections of land with a farm building layout basically the same on each farm and they would get volume pricing on building supplies.  They would hire local contractors to carry this out.   Then they would rent the farms with the option of the farmer to buy the farm later.   This worked out well for them and the residents. 

Page 4 & 5.  The Close Brothers at Ireton.   Includes a picture of the Brick Block Office – home with later residents.  
Their Ireton Office was a large Brick Block, built in 1882 on block 2 of the fledgling town.  It was erected even before the railroad came through,, for the Close Brothers were financially involved with the railroad and the western Town Lot Company in the sale of the land where Ireton has grown.  No company records exist to prove either side of the question as to the motive involved; but we know that the names of the company or one or more of its officials appear on the abstract of lots all over Ireton’s original 12 blocks.  The brick structure was intended to be a combination office, residence and mini hotel for their agent.  The first such agent to live there was Mr. J. N. Sears, who managed their affairs in Reading and Washington Townships.  More history on the building can be found in the Interesting People, Places and Things chapter. 

Page 6. Summary  - Once the bulk of the property was sold there was no need for an agent  the house was occupied by various local families until it was sold to Philander Peebles in early 1893.  At the peak of their extended interests in the Midwest including SD, MN, KS and IA  the Close Bros were by far the largest land owners among the Britons, their holding numbering 270,000 acres in 1884, of which 40,000 acres were located in Sioux, Osceola and Lyon Counties. 

From ‘the British in Iowa” by Jacob Vander Zee 1922.  Page 119.  A brief biographical statement about the four brothers who did so much to promote the settlement and up building of NW Iowa will not be out of place here.  The tragic end of Frederick Brooks Close occurred on the polo grounds at Sioux City in Jun 1890.  James died on July 31, 1910.  John Brooks Close, who never entered the firm but supplied it with capital, died on Mar 20 1914.  William Brooks Close, the sole survivor of the original partnership;, was still enjoying good health, except for the effects of an operation and influenza from which he was recovering in a London hospital, when he wrote on Nov 30, 1921.

From a family report on ancestry.com (done by other than submitter)

The Close brother’s lineage – Parents James Close 16 Feb 1799 Manchester England died 18 Dec 1865 Antibes France and Anne Brooks born 1821 Manchester England died 19 Jul 1876 Paris France. They were married at the British Embassy in Naples, Italy. They were the parents of eight children: Margaret 1846-1877, Grace 1848-1911, John Close 1850-1914, James 1851-1910, William 1853-1923, Frederic 1854-1890, Anne 1857-1940, and Thomas 1859-1871.

CHILDREN: Only the four Close Brothers involved in the original early 1880 land office business in NW Iowa and Ireton Iowa are expanded upon herein:

JOHN BROOKS CLOSE born June 1850 Naples, Italy and died 20 Mar 1914 Probate was in London England. He first married Emily Brooks 1853-1905 and they had five children John, Annie, Emily, Margaret, and Arthur. He then married Grace Emma Matilda Cooke 1882-1973 and one daughter listed as Elizabeth Maria Close 1911.

JAMES BROOKS CLOSE 1851 Naples (British subject) died 31 Jul 1910 James Brooks Close died on July 31, 1910 Margate __. He married Susan Turner Humble born 1867. They had three children listed – Margaret Mary 1887-1977, James Brooks. Close Jr. 1888-1937 and Eleanor Brooks Close 1890-1914.

William Brooks Close born 6 May 1853 Naples Italy (British subject) died 19 Sep 1923 The Towers Yarmouth, Isle of Wight. William Brooks Close sole survivor of the original partnership was still alive Nov 30, 1921 when he was recovering in a London hospital. He married Mary Baker Paullin born 1859 and one child was listed as Herbert Close 1890.

FREDERIC BROOKS CLOSE born 8 Dec 1854 Naples Italy died 14 June 1890 Sioux City Iowa. Frederick Brooks Close’s tragic end occurred on the polo grounds at Sioux City in June of 1890. He married Margaret Turner Humble 1861-1920.
Original Brick house 1882 as pictured 1882 with the current owners in 1882 Mr. and Mrs. Charles Anema.


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