Landers, Adams, and Bodensteiner Families

(Phyllis Leseth)

The large brick Victorian-ltalianate house on the southeast corner of Grove Street and Broadway, Decorah, IA, has been the home continuously of members of the Landers, Adams, and Bodensteiner families since its construction in 1860. Frederick Landers, original owner of the residence, was a pioneer Decorah businessman, born 7 Oct 1829 in Bethlehem, NY He was married at Canisteo, NY 4 Jan 1850 to Sarah Mulholland, born 3 Aug 1830, in Canisteo. They were parents of ten children, four of whom died in infancy.

In 1854 the Landers traveled west to Dubuque, IA, where Frederick was employed by PH. Conger and Company for about a year. A new opportunity beckoned in Decorah; 5 May 1856, the couple arrived in the city and Frederick joined D.B. Ellsworth as partner in a dry goods and general store. (Ellsworth was the first owner of the large home on Broadway now known as the Porter House Museum). When Frederick’s son Franklin Samuel entered the business at a later time, the firm became Landers and Son.

For over thirty years Frederick was an important factor in the commercial life of Decorah. He was described as “a natural trader, a born merchant possessed of boundless energy." After his death 28 May 1887, Franklin took over the firm and continued for several years; he retired from the store, moved to Chicago, and represented a grain commission house.

Sarah Landers lived in the home until her death in 1901. Frederick and Sarah are buried in Phelps Cemetery, Decorah.

Winnie Van Campen Landers, the youngest of Frederick and Sarah's children, was born in the family home 9 Sep 1873, and lived there all her life. Her unusual middle name was given in recognition of Major Moses Van Campen, a courageous Revolutionary War soldier captured by the Seneca Indians and forced to run the gauntlet thirty rods to their ancient council house near Canadea, NY In 1905 Winnie married Burton H. Adams, born 29 Aug 1870, son of another prominent early Decorah businessman, Newton H. Adams and his wife Carrie. Newton was born 8 Oct 1844, in Talmadge, OH. As a young man he attended Humiston Military Academy, Cleveland, OH, and was one of four students chosen to guard President A. Lincoln’s body while it laid in state in Cleveland enroute from Washington, D.C to Springfield, IL in 1865. Newton’s wife Carrie was born 29 Jan 1848, in New Ipswich, NH, to Henry and Mary Adams. She was the niece of Rev. Ephraim Adams, pioneer pastor of Decorah's Congregational Church from 1857 to 1872. In addition to Burton, Newton and Carrie had a son Walter and daughter Grace (Mrs. Severt Ringeon).

Newton Adams entered the shoe business in Decorah with his father Cyrus in 1865; ten years later he established a wholesale feed company in Decorah. In 1906 his sons Burton and Walter founded a separate firm— the Adams Seed Company, specializing in sales of carload seed. By 1915 the brothers’ business experienced such growth that they purchased the large, two-story J.J. Marsh building on the southeast corner of Mechanic and Water Streets (presently the Armory building). However, the Great Depression took its toll and the company ceased operations in the 1930’s. Burton died 8 Jan 1933, Winnie 24 Feb 1959; they are buried in Phelps Cemetery.

Burton and Winnie’s only child was a daughter, Helen, born 24 Dec 1907, in the family home. After graduating from Decorah High School in 1926 and Carleton College in 1930, Helen taught speech and drama for two years at Odebolt (IA) High School, then was hired to teach at her Alma Mater, Decorah High School. During several summers she took advanced courses in speech and theater at Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota. Helen retired (for the first time) when she married Leonard J. Bodensteiner 22 Jul 1937; the couple were the third generation to “set up housekeeping" in the original Landers home. Leonard was born on a farm near St. Lucas, IA, 19 Aug 1907, son of Joseph C. and Margaret Drilling Bodensteiner. Leonard graduated from Iowa State University in 1936 with a degree in agronomy; he received his M.A. Degree in economics in 1951. He was employed by the Iowa State Extension Service as an agricultural economist from 1937 until retirement in 1973, based respectively in Davenport, West Union, and Decorah. Between sessions of counseling farmers, Leonard relaxed with favorite pastimes—golf and bridge. The Bodensteiners are parents of two sons, both doctors: Joseph A.(b. 21 Apr 1942) and John B. (b.26 Sep 1944). Joseph married Emily Homstad and has three daughters: Karin, Kirsten, and Ingrid. John married Donna Berge; they have a son Peter and daughter Beth.

Helen was busy with family responsibilities when Luther College sought her assistance in the drama department to handle the greatly increased enrollment in 1946. With her mother’s help on the home front, Helen found time to direct three plays in 1946-1947; in 1949 she joined the faculty on a part-time basis and later became a full-time instructor. According to biographer Leslie Rude, "From the end of World War II until (retirement in) 1969, Mrs. B. directed forty-eight major dramatic productions, seven one-act plays, co-directed eleven operas, supervised at least thirty-eight student-directed productions, taught drama, oral interpretation of literature and fundamentals of speech, and became a friend and confidante to hundreds of students.”

The Landers-Adams-Bodensteiner home at 509 West Broadway continues its long tradition as a residence for the Landers’ descendants and a favorite gathering place for the newer generations.

Lang, Forrest & IvaNell (Ginapp)

(IvaNell Lang)

Forrest Elmer Lang was born in Frankville, IA 13 Apr 1920. He was the son of Eldo and Hazel Meikle Lang. His father was born 24 Jun 1895, Frankville, IA and his mother Hazel Meikle was born 23 Jul 1898, Mclntire, IA. They were married 10 May 1919 at Decorah, IA. Forrest had no brothers or sisters. Forrest married IvaNell Ginapp


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