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Women of Montgomery County, Iowa

A - D E - J K - O P - Z

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


    Cornelia was born 1816 in New York state to a veteran of the War of 1812 and his wife. They obviously believed in educational opportunities for their children, because there is evidence she attended the school for young women, Miss Seward's Seminary, in Rochester, N. Y. 1834-38. She married Jason Bennett Packard in New York on August 14, 1839. They had two children, Kennedy' and Benjamin. Jason was a pioneer lawyer when they came to Montgomery County in 1856. Cornelia had a land grant from her father's status as veteran of the 1812 war. The land was claimed in the west part of Frankfort Township, west and north of the community known today as Stennett. It was there that they built their unusual and innovative eight sided limestone home which unfortunately no longer exists. And it was there in this home that they held the parties and sťances that were to make them the cultural nucleus of the county.

   She died on September 8, 1878 and was buried in the Red Oak Junction part of Evergreen Cemetery in Red Oak. Her eulogy as quoted by W.W. Merritt in the "History of Montgomery County" states: "She fills quite an important place in the early history of the county...with a mind enriched with the best thoughts of such writers as Carlisle, Goethe, Swendenborg Thoreau and Emerson, withal she is given to hospitality."

   The interest she shared with her husband in the occult is evident today in the inscriptions on their tombstones. The stones themselves are flush mounted halves of hand hewn stone, hand engraved. Cornelia's reads, "Peace and infinite rest are mine, Glorious, glorious the change!" This is carved under a new moon insignia. Curving around the edge of the stone is the information, "received 14th day post obit."



    Sarah Palmer was born August 6, 1871 in Red Oak, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Palmer. She became the first librarian of the new Red Oak Public Library in 1908 and served until 1931.

   The public library was a long sought community goal. The idea had its inception at a meeting of the Current Topics department of the Monday Club. When public interest was sufficiently aroused that the city council put the matter to a vote, it was determined that the women of the community could be "allowed" to vote. Although women did not have the constitutional right to vote in this time, state law permitted state and local governmental units to extend the vote to women if they so desired.

   On March 25, 1907 the following measure was submitted to the electors: "Shall a free public library be established?". There were cast by the male electors 869 ballots, 544 were for the' proposition, 325 were against. There were cast by the women electors 419 ballots, 386 were for the proposition and 33 were against such a proposition. 

    Sarah Palmer suffered from a congenital problem of the spine until her teens when she became interested in Christian Science. Through earnest study and prayer in this religion she was healed. She eventually had class instruction from Louise Knight Wheatley Cooke, a teacher of Christian Science in Kansas City, Missouri, and became a practitioner. She continued in the practice of healing until her death on November 18, 1956.



   Mary Gertrude Weir was born in Montezuma, Iowa on February 6, 1892, the daughter of Alexander and Roberta Shelly Weir.

   Gertrude was one of four children, the only daughter. She was educated in Montezuma schools and at Grinnell College. On May 26, 1913, she was married to Raymond H. Perryman. They moved to Red Oak in 1918 to establish a funeral parlor. It was located above the old Iowa Light and Power Office at Third and Coolbaugh. Later it was moved to a permanent home in the Fisher house at 506 Coolbaugh Street. The Perryman's became parents of one son, Dr. Charles Richard Perryman. Gertrude assisted her husband with all of the activities of the funeral home. They lived in an apartment on the second floor. They added a chapel to the home and in the early days used an electric organ and piano combination that played musical rolls to provide music.

   Mrs. Perryman was a member of the United Methodist Church, a charter member of the Altrusa Club, a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, and the Red Oak Monday Club. She died March 24, 1974.



   Sophia Pieper was born in Minden, Iowa to Henry and Abel Rholfs Pieper. She was educated in Minden High Schools and received her nursing education at Jennie Edmundson Hospital in Council Bluffs, becoming an RN in 1915. She became surgical supervisor at Paxton Memorial Hospital, (1926-27), the superintendent of Lutheran Hospital, Omaha, Nebraska (1927-36) and from 1936 until her retirement in 1957 she was superintendent of the Murphy Memorial Hospital in Red Oak, Iowa. She was a war nurse during World War I stationed at Fort Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska. She held memberships in the American Legion, American Nurses Association, Iowa State Hospital Association, Jennie Edmundson Alumni Association, Altrusa, (of which she was a past vice president) and the Lutheran Church.

   Her career in hospital development started with the old hospital at Washington and Fourth street. She helped develop the plans and oversee the transfer to the new Murphy Memorial Hospital on Highland Street in 1942. As hospital administrator she was responsible for about everything. She supervised all staff hiring and operation, the purchase of all supplies, the making of all schedules, and was the Director of Nurses as well. She assisted in surgery giving the anesthetic for operations. Her careful management laid the ground work for two future additions to the hospital. She died in October 1979.



   Gertrude Dorothy Hall was born in Stennett, Iowa on February 24, 1906, to Elza Joseph and Florence Roseberry Hall. She completed eighth grade at Stennett Elementary School. On December 21, 1925 she was married to John O. Platt. They had three children: George D., Myra J. Platt Farrington, and Elmer L.

   Gertrude was a hard-working farm wife who raised a big garden and many kinds of fruit trees. She canned all she could, including meat. She hatched her own chickens, protecting them from hawks and wild animals. Her hobby was carpentry and she remodeled her kitchen, laid hardwood floors, and enclosed a porch, as well as making toys for her children.

   After retiring and moving to Red Oak in 1958, Gertrude cared for elderly people in their homes, later taking care of some in her home. She was noted for her cinnamon rolls which she frequently gave to persons as an expression of love or sympathy. In her spare time she quilted and donated the income to her church. She was the quilter of the Bicentennial Quilt permanently displayed at the Montgomery County Courthouse. Mrs. Platt died December 8, 1981.



   Velura was born April 14, 1874 in Ohio to Francis M. and Louisa M Newton Powell. The family was of Welsh descent. She was educated as a physician at the University of Michigan Medical School where she graduated in 1902. She died December 21, 1950 and is buried in Glenwood.

   Although Dr. Powell never married, her interest and her concern for children were the main motivations of her life. She and her mother founded the Powell School for Backward Children in 1903. She was active in child welfare programs, and one of the founders of the baby health conference of the Iowa State Fair. She was one of the first workers in the traveling Sheppard-Towner maternity and child welfare clinic in 1924.

   Other Civic groups she joined and supported during her active life were: Altrusa Club, charter member, and the General Federation of Women's Clubs.



   Estelle Priest was born in Adams County January 23, 1885 to A. I. and Emma Priest. She was educated in the Red Oak public schools and began work with the Thomas D. Murphy Company soon after graduation. She became the assistant to the art director, Nell Bishop. She was employed by the Murphy Company from 1905 until retirement in 1958.

   Estelle is remembered as an unusually talented painter, a writer of poetry and the author of the song "Fishing on the Nishna" which she sent with her Christmas cards about 1952. This song told in music and verse of the activities of the group of feminine adventurers who often fished together on the Nishnabotna River. She was a member of Monday Club, Business and Professional Women and The United Presbyterian Church. Estelle Priest died in Red Oak on March 15, 1962.



   Lula B. Reed was born on August 2, 1891 in Page County, and she served the people of this area almost all of her adult life in various roles as an educator. She died March 20, 1978. She was the daughter of Frank M. and Mary Elizabeth Reed. Lula Reed was educated in the Oakland, Iowa schools and at Iowa State Teachers College at Cedar Falls, Iowa. She held a Masters Degree from Omaha University, Omaha, Nebraska.

   Miss Reed first taught rural school in Pottawattamie County, then later was a primary teacher in Villisca, Macedonia and Sioux City. In 1928 she moved to Montgomery county to begin her long term as County Superintendent of Schools.

   In the early years each township of the county was granted a parcel of land for educational purposes. By 1928 the county prided itself on a number of one room schools and also the various communities had established small high schools which had the loyalty and the support of the families living in the assigned school district. Better education required consolidation (later called reorganization) of small districts. Community loyalty and support for one's own school, however, made many of these changes unpopular with the local citizenry. Through all these years, Miss Reed provided sympathetic, tactful, yet firm leadership for the changes that the times required. Lula Reed retired March 31, 1966.

   Lula Reed was a member of the Iowa State Teachers Association, a member of the Commission on Equal Opportunity, and president of Altrusa Club. She was a member of the First Christian Church.



   Mabelle was born in Red Oak, October 24, 1884 to Carl and Anna Burg Reimers. She attended Red Oak High School and the Drake University College of Music. She died in Red Oak February 27, 1980.

   As an organist and accomplished pianist, Mabelle contributed to the musical enjoyment and enrichment of Red Oak for more than 50 years. She maintained a studio downtown where she taught piano. As a graduate of Drake University with a degree in music, she was a member of the Honorary Mu Upsilon. She was a charter member of Pi Kappa Lambda.

   In February of 1917 the combined choirs of Red Oak sang the Hayden oratorio, "The Creation" with Mabelle as pianist, and Ethel Morris as director. It was performed in the Beardsley Theatre. The Red Oak combined choirs performed for many years with Mabelle as organist accompanist, Louise Artz as pianist, and Ethel Morris as director.

   She contributed her energies and talents to other groups in the community including the Eastern Star Chapter, where she was a member for 50 years.



    Mary Louise was born in Hazel Green, Wisconsin, September 5, 1847 to Cassius Andrew Mills, M.D. and his wife, Maria Honora Bennett Mills. She attended schools in Bristol, Connecticut and in Cincinnati, Ohio. On December 12, 1871 she married Charles Emery Richards, a pioneer attorney in Montgomery County. Their children were Paul William Richards, who became a Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, and Carl Richards, a physician.

   Mary Louise taught school with the first group of teachers employed at the Lincoln School in 1871, and held one of the first teaching certificates ever issued in Iowa. As an early genealogist, she traced her lineage with the Packards, and C. H. Lanes to the Knights and Williams of Rhode Island. She was one of the founders of the First Congregational Church in Red Oak, and she and her two sons were active in the musical ministry of that church. She sang and played the piano; her sons played the violin and cello.

   Among her adventures was a shipwreck experienced off the coast of Alaska in 1897. She sent accounts of the ordeal, 20 hours in an open boat, to the Red Oak Express. As an orphan early in life, she had established a self reliance that was to serve her in good stead all of her life. After the death of Charles Richards in 1905, she was married to John Banks. 

   One of her greatest enjoyments in her Red Oak social life was to make a grand appearance in a new ball gown from the great stairway of the McPherson house. She also enjoyed her membership in the D. A. R.

    Mary Louise Richards died in Seattle, February 4, 1917 and is buried in Red Oak Junction section of Red Oak's Evergreen Cemetery



     Frances Webster was born on the second of November, 1890 in Decorah, Iowa to Francis Marion and Ida Elizabeth Thayer Webster. She attended West Decorah public schools and went on to Bethlehem Academy in Faribault, Minnesota. She was married to George Lord Rushton on the 20th of May, 1908. They became parents of five children, Joseph G., James W., Robert V., George L. Jr. and Frances Marian. 

    Before her marriage to George, Frances taught music in Decorah, Iowa. The first Rushton home was in Omaha, Nebraska. During World War I she was especially active in War Bond drives. The Rushtons moved to Red Oak in 1922 to establish a creamery. After the children were in college Frances worked along the side of her husband in the creamery business. Frances Rushton was a member of the Altrusa Club. While this is a professional women's organization, there is a category of membership for homemakers and it was in this capacity that Mrs. Rushton first held membership in the club. Frances Rushton died on the 20th of July, 1957


  Viola Schimpff was born on April 3, 1893 to Charles and Minnie Muntz Schimpff, in Creston, Iowa. Charles Schimpff had come to Montgomery County from Illinois while his wife, Minnie Muntz had immigrated to this country from Germany when she was 13 years old. Viola was educated in the elementary schools in Creston and finished her high school in the Red Oak schools. She obtained her professional education at Peru College and Colorado State College. She taught at Syracuse, Nebraska and Stanton, Nebraska before coming to Red Oak. Viola Schimpff taught 27 years in the Red Oak schools. Her teaching career spanned a total of 45 years. She was the first kindergarten teacher in Red Oak and always was especially successful in working with the very young children.

   Miss Schimpff was a member of the Baptist Church, where she taught Sunday School for 35 years. Viola made her home in Red Oak with her parents and her sister who lived since the 1920's at 202 Valley. She was the only person honored as "Teacher of the Year" by Church Women United of Red Oak. She died on January 25, 1976.



   Florence Sellergren was born in Stanton, Iowa on March 31, 1880. She was educated in Stanton schools and completed her nursing education at Augustana Hospital, Chicago, Illinois. During World War I, she was the first Red Cross nurse to go from Montgomery County. A large crowd and the Stanton band were at the depot to see her off to training at Camp Dodge. She went overseas, serving in France and Belgium. In 1923 she moved to Red Oak to make her home with her sister, Myrtle Hossle and family.

   Florence worked throughout the area as a private duty nurse, staying in homes to care for the sick, sometimes for a short time, sometimes for weeks and months. She was especially talented in needlework-crochet, embroidery, and knitting. These articles given to her family and friends are cherished by the receivers today.

   Miss Sellergren is remembered for her kindness and gentleness. Her flag is among the memorial flags dedicated by the Lorraine Post at Evergreen Cemetery. She was a member of the Bethlehem Lutheran Church and a member of Lorraine Post #67 of the American Legion in Red Oak. She died April 1, 1971 in Red Oak.



    Sophronia Dean, 15 years old, was sought out at her family's pioneer cabin in Pottawattamie County by leaders of the Climax area to teach their children. This is the first school of which there is record in Montgomery County. The year, 1856. The log school house was empty of furniture the first day of school. Log slabs were brought from the sawmill for seats.

    After teaching at Climax three years she married Henry C. Shank, owner of some of the land later acquired for the railroad facilities at Red Oak. Although she was prominent in community affairs, little is recorded of Sophronia until the fire of 1902, when her brick building is listed as one of the principal losses, and until the Red Oak Baptist Church honored her 90th birthday about 1931.



   Ellen Stafford settled with her husband, John Stafford on section 19 of Grant Township very early. They are listed as one of the five families in Montgomery County when it was surveyed in 1851. She is reputed to be the first white woman settler in Montgomery Co., in 1848.

   Their location north of present day Coburg on the east side of the Nishna, became the nucleus of a neighborhood that preceded Red Oak and Coburg. Ellen and John Stafford had one daughter, Dicia.

   Ellen Stafford's position among those pioneer families is shown by her affectionate name "Aunt Nellie", and by such stories as Henry Binn's. His family was unable to redeem a postage due letter at the post office for some time, and were unable to raise the cash among their neighbors. Although Henry notes she lived several miles away, Aunt Nellie sent the Binns the money so they might obtain the letter.

   Present day Staffords of Montgomery County are descendants.



   Elizabeth Layman was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1820. She married Martin Light there in 1843 and moved to St. Louis where a son, Henry Pryor Light was born in 1845 and a daughter, Jane Light was born later. Martin Light joined the "49ers"" and disappeared. Elizabeth obtained a "49ers divorce", a procedure authorized by Congressional action and in 1852 loaded up a covered wagon and a "mammy" for her children and drove to Buffalo, Iowa where she had relatives. She met and married Wayne Stennett in eastern Iowa and they came to Montgomery County in 1856. They lived for a time in a log cabin and later in the lovely old stone house built of native yellow limestone. The children of Elizabeth and Wayne Stennett were F. M. (Marion) Stennett, Frank Stennett and a younger brother, Wayne, who was killed in a shooting accident. The Stennetts furnished their stone house with fine furniture including a square grand piano shipped at great cost. A Mr. Remmers, a young man from Germany, taught music from their piano for eleven years and also organized community sings which enhanced the social scene, according to a clipping from the Red Oak Sun.

  Elizabeth Stennett, like so many of her period was interested in spiritualism. She was also a dedicated Suffragette and a friend of Susan B. Anthony. About 1894 Susan B. Anthony made a visit to the stone house at Stennett. Elizabeth's granddaughter had very long hair and the story is that Susan B. Anthony announced the hair should be cut lest it sap her strength. "No," Elizabeth answered, "It will not be cut, because I have to live with her mother."

   Elizabeth Stennett died December 24, 1907 and is buried in the Red Oak Junction Section of Red Oak Evergreen Cemetery.



 Ruth Wright was born March 22, 1890 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. She was the fourth and youngest child of David Sands Wright and Elizabeth Ralston Wright.

   Her father was a Professor of Mathematics at Iowa State Normal School (now University of Northern Iowa), at Cedar Falls. He was one of four on the original faculty at that institution and had the distinction of teaching the first class in the fall of 1876.

    Mrs. Swanson had an older brother, Joseph S. Wright and two older sisters, May L. Ratcliff and Luella M. Wright, the latter having been on the faculty as a professor of English at the State University of Iowa for nearly fifty years.

   Ruth was educated in the public schools in Cedar Palls and received her college degree and teaching credentials from Iowa State Normal School in 1914. She was employed as a teacher at Yankton College in Yankton, South Dakota from 1914 to 1917.

   While at Yankton she met Ralph J. Swanson, an attorney. They were married in June of 1917. Five children were born of this marriage; David W. Swanson, R. John Swanson, Luella M. Woodburn, William H. Swanson and Ruth E. Schneider. Her husband was an attorney in Southwest Iowa from 1919 until his death in l968. He served as Judge of the District Court for several years in the 1930's.

   Mrs. Swanson was very active in civic circles when she and her family lived in Villisca from 1919 to 1939. She served on the Villisca School Board for a number of years. After moving to Red Oak in 1939, she was active in the O. E. S., P. E. O., First Congregational Church and various allied fellowship groups within the church. She passed away in 1969.



   Josephine Cochrane Turner was born on May 19, 1900 in Monroe, Iowa to William and Myrtle Murphy Cochrane. She attended Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland far 2 years and completed her Bachelor's Degree at the University of Iowa. Josephine married Lyman Turner and they had two children, Joanna Turner and William Cochrane Turner.

   Mrs. Turner was a member of Delta Gamma sorority and the PEO sisterhood. She was a state officer of the Iowa Women's Society of Christian Services of the Methodist Church, and she served on the Red Oak Public Library board of trustees for 20 years. Mrs. Turner served as president of the Phoenix Rotary Ann's Club and president of the Good Samaritan Hospital Auxiliary.

   Mrs. Turner and her husband were associated with the Thomas D. Murphy Calendar Company prior to their moving to Scottsdale, Arizona in 1952. Mrs. Turner died on October 18, 1968 in Arizona.



    Nellie Walker was born December 8, 1874 in Red Oak, Iowa to Everett Walker and Jane Lindsay Walker. When Nellie was very young the family, five daughters and one son, moved to Moulton, Iowa where her father had a stone cutting shop. Nellie helped her father cut letters and decorative work on headstones. She attended Moulton High School and the Art lnstitute in Chicago. Nellie studied with Lorado Taft at the Art institute and became his assistant.

   The huge figure of Chief Keokuk which stands overlooking the Mississippi at Keokuk was commissioned by the Keokuk D. A. R. chapter and completed by Nellie in 1913. Other works are in Ames, the Library of Iowa State University, and the Suffrage Memorial Panel at the Capitol in Des Moines.

    Nellie stood 4 feet 10 inches tall, consequently had to do much of her work on ladders. She was active at the age of 91, completing a life size plaster cast figure entitled "Courage." She died in 1973 in Colorado Springs.



   Amanda Saphronia McComb was born in Scio, New York on April 27, 1842. Her parents were Mr. and Mrs. John McComb. On March 3, 1865 she married Augarca DeForest Wheeler and they became parents of seven children, William A., Emma, Minnie, Nettie, Annie, Louis A. and Grace L..

     Mrs. Wheeler was primarily a housewife and mother. She purchased the business of making hairpieces, or switches as they were called from a lady who was retiring. She continued making switches and hair pieces for ladies in Red Oak and surrounding territory, in her home, until her death May 8, 1924. Amanda was the only one in this business at the time and the quality of her workmanship was well known. If at all possible, every lady brought her hair-combings to be made into a switch or hair piece. These were an important part of a ladies appearance.

    Mrs. Wheeler would often trace her ancestry, verbally, to the Orange of Holland. It has never been traced genealogically by her survivors.



   Hazel Kirk was born March 24, 18g4 to John Houston Kirk and Margaret Byers Kirk in Kirkland, Illinois. She attended Waterman Hall Girls School at Sycamore, Illinois and received her Bachelors Degree from Teachers Preparatory School at Oregon, Illinois. Hazel married George Ernest Wood on July 12, 1909. They had two children, John Kirk Wood and Ruth Anne Wood Draper.

    Mrs. Wood was the last surviving member of the pioneer family that founded Kirkland, Illinois.. Hazel was an accomplished pianist and taught piano and music in Winnetka, Illinois and at Tabor College when her husband was president of the college. They moved back to Red Oak in 1916 and Mr. Wood was associated with the Thomas D. Murphy Conway. Mrs. Wood was an early supporter of the United Nations Association, a member of the First Congregational Church and had been a member of its Women's Fellowships for 60 years. She was a member of the Red Oak Monday Club, a charter member of the Red Oak Country Club, and a Red Cross worker.

   Hazel Wood was prominent in the Women's Suffrage movement and was the first vice chairman of the Republican Party of Montgomery County, a post she held for many years. After women received the right to vote in 1920 she influenced other women to work in politics, one being Anna Lomas, who became National Republican Committee Woman. The first night school in Red Oak was held at the old Congregational parsonage and Mrs. Wood taught English, Hattie Worsley and John Bryant taught secretarial skills.

    Hazel Kirk Wood died at the age of 90 years and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery. Mr. and Mrs. Wood left bequests to the Murphy Memorial Hospital for medical equipment, the first being a neonatal intensive care center for the Obstetrics Department of the hospital.



    Mabel Welty was the daughter of Martin and Emma Hardenbergh Welty and was born April 23, 1891 in Ipswich, South Dakota. She married Otto Alvin Wood in 1912 in Harlan, Iowa.

     For 37 years she was the secretary to the combined offices of the Farm Bureau and the Montgomery County Extension Office. During those years she was extremely instrumental in establishing and supervising the 4-H Clubs of Montgomery County. She was a member of the Christian Church and was very active in youth work in her church as well as in the work of the Extension Office. Mabel Wood died on May 24, 1958 and was survived by her son Donald Wood.