Montgomery County Home         Biography Center

Women of Montgomery County, Iowa

Women of Montgomery County, Iowa" was edited with a committee which included Betty McKenzie, Ruth Anne Draper and Elizabeth Richards. Printed in 1982 by the Nishna Valley Printing Co., Red Oak, Iowa 51566.

Permission was given by Bettie McKenzie to include the text of this booklet online


Virginia Kelly was born in 1868 in LeClaire, Iowa. Her parents, Charles Kelly and Sarah Jane Conrow Kelly, came to Red Oak when Virginia was four years old.

   She taught at Lincoln, Bancroft, and Jefferson schools for 59 years and was principal of Jefferson school for much of that time. She was especially interested in the welfare and character of her pupils and was often referred to as the "Jane Addams of Red Oak."

   In 1944 she was given the Good Neighbor Award on a national radio program through recommendation of the Red Oak Ministerial Association. She was a member of the Red Oak Public Library Board of Trustees from 1911 until her death. In 1958 she donated funds which were used to build the south addition to the library, increasing its space by one-third. In 1960 she was named most valuable trustee of the year by the Iowa Library Association. That year she was honored with the `'Outstanding Citizen" award of the Lorraine Post of the American Legion. Miss Kelly died in 1962.



Hazel was born in Montgomery County to James M. and Mary Ella Keyte on September l l, 1889. She attended the Red Oak High School and a business school in Omaha. Hazel was a cashier at Red Oak Trust and Savings Bank and later a Secretary for Edwin Enquist Insurance. She was a member of Altrusa and served as its president. Hazel retired in 1959. The date of her death was February 16, 1970.



  Caroline Morgan-was born in Spring Arbor, Michigan July 7, 1842 to David Collins Morgan and Calista Packard. Calista Packard was the daughter of Dr. Benjamin Packard and Annie Bennett who are buried at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa cemetery. Caroline Mathilda Lane came to Red Oak from Mt. Pleasant. She taught the first school in Red Oak in 1865, according to "Merritt's History of Montgomery County." "Tilly" Morgan married Charles Henry Lane, merchant, in Red Oak January 23, 1867. The wedding was performed (as so many were in this period) by the Reverend W. W. Merritt, pioneer and historian. The children of Caroline and Charles Lane were Sarah Maria (Mrs. Fred Pomeroy), Herbert Charles, Julia, Laurence, Donald and Everett. Charles and Caroline Lane left Red Oak in 1902, traveled around the world and retired in Seattle. Their ashes were buried in Evergreen Cemetery February, 1931, with Reverend Grant Wilder, Congregational minister, in charge of services. Children surviving the parents were Everett, Julia and Laurence as listed in obituary in February 26, 1931 Red Oak Express.

   The Lane family was always very supportive of the Red Oak Library and this support carried on after they left Red Oak up to the present day. There are photographs of Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Lane and their son l-lerbert in the Lane Memorial Room of the Red Oak Public Library.



   Lydia Ann Lightbody came to Villisca from Hillsboro, Ohio in 1853. The Lightbody family traveled with the James Carlisle Jr. family. Lydia Ann's mother, Marilla Wade Lightbody, was a sister of Mrs. James Carlisle Jr. On the way west Mr. Lightbody disappeared and it was thought he drowned in the river as they crossed. James Carlisle, knowing his sister-in-law and her eight children would need some means of support, gave her a portion of land so she could sell parcels of it for income. In the summer of 1859 a school house was improvised from a corn crib on the Thomas Moore farm just west of Villisca. It was felt that the children were not equipped to wade the winter drifts, so school was operated for a few weeks during good weather. Lydia Ann taught this school, in the community that was then called "The Forks" (Villisca). Later Lydia Ann was married to Joseph Carlisle.



  Darleen Bolt was born in Villisca, Iowa June 1, 1886 to J. C. Bolt and Mary Stewart Bolt. She married Charles Luppold.

  Darleen Luppold worked for the Red Oak Express as a reporter. She became familiar with all of the inner workings of Red Oak "society" and through her efforts the social activities were carefully reported. Those who knew her report she was unexcelled in finding out just who was entertaining whom and wheedling as many details as she could, with discretion, from her informants.

  During the years in which important people came to the community on the railroad, Darlene met the trains to learn first hand of the people who made the news in Red Oak. She was an outspoken Democrat, and a charter member of the Red Oak Business and Professional Women. She died on January 26, 1961.



   Jane McGee came to the west part of Montgomery County with her ten children about 1855, or soon after her husband, William McGee, died in Fountain County, Indiana in 1850. She was born in Monroe County, West Virginia, November 27, 1800, so was already over fifty years of age when she settled in Lincoln Township to improve the first farm.

   One of her sons-in-law was David Silkett who owned Silkett's Mill and was Indian Creek (Mills County) postmaster. There were eight living children in 1881-James, Elizabeth, Ellen, William, Manuel, Edward, Margaret, and David.

   Mrs. McGee did the first weaving of cloth, blankets and coverlets in her part of the county. Mrs. Bruce Forward of Henderson, whose mother was a McGee, has a file of historical information about the McGees and earliest days in Lincoln Township.

   Jane McGee's parents were Jolt Harper and Elizabeth Hailton Harper. Jane and her husband William were married in West Virginia in 1820. Jane and William had pioneered in Indiana in 1830 and raised a large family. But after her husband's death Jane McGee and her mostly grown 10 children came to Iowa to begin again. The eldest son, James, was very well known in Mills County, in the Emerson area. Jane McGee, revered by her many descendants, died in Page County, June 27, 1891 and is buried at Farm Creek Cemetery, Henderson, Iowa.



   Frances Boyer was born on Christmas day, December 25, 1857 in Oskaloosa, Iowa to Dr. and Mrs. Augustus Boyer. We do not know of her early education. Local records show that she and Smith W. McPherson were married October 2, 879. Smith McPherson soon became prominent in the Red Oak area, being a congressman and a Judge of the Federal Court for the southern District of Iowa.

   The McPherson's built the outstanding brick and red stone residence at 802 8th Street. They were noted for their hospitality and lavish entertainment. Frances accompanied her husband to Washington, D. C. during his years in office. She was a charter member of the influential Red Oak Monday Club, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the First Congregational Church. Mrs. McPherson took a keen interest in politics and world affairs and faithfully cast her ballot when women won the right to vote. Both husband and wife were life long Republicans. Mrs. McPherson had a keen mind and wit all her long life. She was an avid whist player, enjoying duplicate whist play with Mrs. Samuel Payne, "Auntie," and Maude Heckert. She died still residing in her own home on August 5, 1948 at the age of 92.



  Bertha Weibel Mealey was born in Elgin, Iowa on September 3, 1886 to Benjamin and Rosa Weibel. She attended Elgin High School in Elgin, Iowa. In August, 1909 Bertha was married to Jerome Mealey. They had one son, Clifton B. Mealey on September 21, 1910.

   Bertha Mealey started her mercantile career after the death of her husband in 1911. She began as a clerk in Cappers Store in Elgin, Iowa, and moved to Oelwein, Iowa in 1921 to become the manager of ladies ready to wear at Connors, Inc. Mrs. Mealey moved to Red Oak in 1931 where she opened Connors, Inc. of Red Oak and later Connors, Inc. of Clarinda, Iowa. 

   She served as buyer for the various Connors Stores in Iowa and Missouri, and traveled to all the major mercantile markets in the United States several times each year. Bertha Mealey was an early believer in greater opportunities for women in management and executive positions in business and industry, and she believed in wider participation of women in politics.

   Mrs. Mealey was a member of the Red Oak Christian Church, and served on many church boards. She was Worthy Matron of the Red Oak Chapter of Eastern Star, a member of Business and Professional Women, and a member of the Altrusa Club. She was a delegate to the International Convention of Altrusa held in Mexico City. Mrs. Mealey traveled extensively in Europe and the United States. Bertha Weibel Mealey died in August 1964.



   Elizabeth Mickle was born May 22, 1878 in Port Byron, IIlinois. Her parents were Joseph V. and Jane C. Malmsbury Mickle. She was educated for her profession at the Academy of Des Moines College, in 1897. In later years she studied by extension from Iowa State Teachers College (1918-1926). She also furthered her education at the University of Michigan in the summers of 1920 and 1935, and at the University of Iowa in 1922. She held the Uniform County Teachers Certificate (Life) and Elementary Principals Certificate (Life).

   Elizabeth Mickle's forty-three year career in the public schools of this area are a testimony to her dedication and her ability. She first taught in country schools, then in 1898 in the Red Oak Jefferson School. She served as Principal and first grade teacher from 1903 to 1934 in the Bancroft School and from 1934 to 1940 as teacher of a first grade class and as Principal at the Junior High building. 

   Elizabeth and her sister Margaret lived on Prospect and 4th street where Margaret taught piano in the home. The two sisters raised their nephew, Grant, from childhood following the death of their brother and his wife. In 1944 she moved to Washington, D. C. to make her home with Grant and his family. Later they moved to Hart, Michigan. She died January 17, 1955 and is buried in Marshalltown, Iowa.

   Dedicated professionals such as Elizabeth Mickle seemed to abound in the early years of Red Oak. Their students remember them fondly and because of their efforts the community maintained a justifiable pride in its schools



  Cornelia Merritt was born on the farm east of Red Oak owned by her parents, the Rev. W. W. Merritt and Pluma Johnson Merritt. On April 21, 1866 she married Oliver A. Milner in a ceremony conducted at the Merritt farm by her father. Because of the early death of her mother, Cornelia presided over the upbringing of her brothers John P. and Darwin as well as Murray Dawes, who lived in the Merritt household from the age of 8 years. The Rev. Merritt served in the state legislature in the early days of statehood and his home was a haven for slaves being transported from the south via underground during the Civil War. He was the author of the "History of Montgomery County" published in 1906. Her brother, Darwin Merritt, was lost on the Battleship Maine, an event which greatly affected the lives of the family in the years thereafter.

   Mrs. Milner was a past president of the Red Oak Monday Club, a member of the Order of the Eastern Star and a member of the First Congregational Church. She was active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary and is said to have been very instrumental in establishing the present meeting hall site in the 1930's. Cornelia Milner was an active member of the Democratic Party in the county.

   Scrapbooks of her collection are now with her nephew, Ross Oliver, of Mason City. Cornelia Merritt Milner died October 17, 1951.



   Ella Pine Miller was born in Eureka, California on October 1, 1884 of Safford and Mabel Pine. She was the first woman graduate in home economics from the University of Vermont in 1911. Ella was a homemaking instructor at the Pennsylvania Normal College in Indiana. Pennsylvania for one year. The following year she took a similar teaching position at the University of Minnesota. The original Betty Crocker was one of her students.

   In August of 1913 Ella Pine married Merwin 13. Miller, who was the superintendent of a power plant in Willard, Utah. After the death of her husband in 1919, Ella Pine Miller came to Red Oak. Mrs. Miller-taught in the Red Oak High School from 1919 until she retired in 1950. She taught chemistry, geography, general science, and biology. She was known as an excellent teacher and a strict disciplinarian Mrs. Miller was a Campfire Girl Leader, a member of the First Congregational Church, and a member of the Altrusa Club.

   Ella Pine Miller died on May 10, 1962. She was survived by her daughter, Martha C. Miller, of Mishawaka, Indiana, and son, William, of Rochester, New York.



   Ethel Gillmor Morris was born in Menominee, Wisconsin on December 20, 1880 to D. W. and Jane Gillmor. She was educated in Paris, France at the University of Paris. In 1906, Ethel married Roy Morris, D. D. S.

   Mrs. Morris was the Director of the choir of the First Congregational Church for 50 years and was also director of the combined church choirs for many years. She gave private voice lessons and had a beautiful contralto voice. Ethel Morris was a member of the Red Oak Country Club and held the women's golf championship at the Country Club for many years. Mrs. Morris died on February 24, 1963 and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Red Oak.



  Ina Culbertson Murphy was born on March 1, 1869 to Thomas P. and Mary Catherine Culbertson in Hardin County, Ohio. She attended Indianola High School, Indianola, Iowa and Simpson College Conservatory of Music. Ina married Thomas Dowler Murphy on February 28, 1894 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They had one child, Thomas Culbertson Murphy, born on May 3 1, 1897.

   Thomas D. Murphy was the owner of The Red Oak Express (newspaper) and the founder of the l homes D. Murphy Company, the nation's first producer of advertising art calendars. They built the gracious Victorian home at 810 Corning Street.

   Ina Murphy taught piano in Harlan, Iowa from 1887 to 1890. She was Matron of the Indian Mission School in Chamberlain, South Dakota from 1890 to 1893. Mrs. Murphy was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a member of the Methodist Church, and president of the Red Oak Monday Club. She traveled extensively with her husband in Europe and the United States. Mrs. Murphy and her husband left bequests leading to the establishment of the Murphy Memorial Hospital in 1931 and erection of the first building in 1941.

    The Murphys built a home in Los Angeles, where they spent the first six months of each year. Both there and in Red Oak they were well known for their hospitality. She died on November 22, 1930.



   Lucy Murphy was born in Red Oak June 10, 1882 to Augustus and Armanda Thomas. On September 11, 1964 she died in the same community. She was married to Charles H. Murphy and they became the parents of four children, C. Hugh, William A., Carolyn and Lillian. Charles Murphy was the superintendent of production for the Thomas D. Murphy Company and brother of its founder.   

    Lucy Murphy was president of the Christian Women's Society of the First Christian Church in Red Oak for twenty years. During World War I she was an active volunteer for the American Red Cross. She served on the board of the Girl Reserve, a high school girl's service club. Mrs. Murphy was a member of the Rho Delta Club. The First Christian Church in Red Oak has a stained glass window dedicated in her memory. She was regarded by family and friends as a devoted mother and wife who did not hesitate to give of herself to others.



    Irene Ockerson was a native of Red Oak, the daughter of Dan Ockerson, who arrived in the early 1870's. She was born about 1883. After attending Iowa Wesleyan at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa she began her teaching career at the Jefferson elementary building about 1901, at age 18. She later became principal of the Junior High School grades 7th and 8th at the old building on the north side of Corning Street. Her position there did not preclude her being a home-room teacher and participating in the teaching schedule. She taught continuously in the Red Oak system until illness forced her to take a leave of absence in the year o her death, 1941.

   She was an early member of the Altrusa C Club, an organization for professional women.

   The obituary in the Red Oak Express told of her death at the home of her sister, Mrs. W. A. Irwin on Sunday, September 28, 1941 and the funeral on September 29th at the Methodist Church. All Red Oak schools closed honoring her memory.

    J. R. Inman, longtime superintendent of Red Oak schools and respected educator was quoted in tribute: "Miss Ockerson was a wonderful disciplinarian. Red Oak has been most fortunate in having a teacher of her ability. I have never known a teacher who enjoyed the confidence of all the pupils more than did Miss Ockerson. She had the utmost respect for the individual ability and personality of each pupil and always saw the best in each, inspiring the boy and girl to do better...She inspired hundreds to stay in school Scholastic attainments of Red Oak High School students are largely due to the effort expended in their behalf by Miss Ockerson in the Junior High."