Colleges & Schools

Violet Mildred Butcher of Fairfield, Iowa.

We found a scrap book of a teacher Violet Mildred Butcher (1907-1940) who substituted at Cedar Twp. School (See video), Cedar No. 6, for one day in 1926, the year she graduated from Fairfield High School. She also substituted for a few months that year at Schoolhouse Cedar No. 4.

Someone asked us, “Why did she die so young?” We don’t know the whole story, but there was a lot of tragedy in her life. Her father, Charles Goble Butcher, moved his wife and daughter in 1916 to Jefferson County, where he farmed and later served two terms as sheriff before running the Totem Inn near Chautauqua Park and a Mid-Continental filling station at 809 W. Burlington. But around 1929 he was in an automobile accident north of town, in which the other driver died. Charles was not in good health after that and became obsessed with a younger friend of the family. When the woman continued to reject his advances, Charles shot her twice in the chest with his .38 on the steps of the post office on June 2, 1931, and then killed himself there. (Miraculously, the young woman survived, and lived until 1989.) Violet’s mother died exactly 11 months later, on May 2, 1932. Violet had married Donald Sigafoose, another school-teacher, in December 1926, and the couple had three children, the last of whom was born in 1938 and died the next year. Perhaps Violet died in part from the stress of losing her child, added to the rest of her family sorrows.

Fairfield Township’s Elm Grove school house (School District No. 4) was built in 1866 near the Brookville Road in Fairfield, Iowa, and moved in 1962 to the Jefferson County Agricultural Fairgrounds. Here Gloria Countryman gives directions to the historic one-room school house’s original site, and provides a glimpse of the school house in its new location. Open to the public during special events.

Parsons College from the newspaper 1887.
Ad in local Fairfield IA newspaper for Parsons College, 1887

Maharishi University of Management time-travel to former Parsons College, Fairfield, Iowa.

Now: Looking north on the campus of Maharishi University of Management, January 2011. At left is the Maharishi Veda Bhavan building; at right is the venerable Bernhart Henn mansion.

Then: The same view of Parsons College, ca. 1892. At left, Ankeny Hall was built as the college’s original chapel in 1875. That August, construction foreman Ezra Brown died when a truss broke and the building’s east wall fell, but the chapel was finished by January 1876, and that June it held the college’s first annual commencement exercises. Des Moines architects Bell & Hackney, designers of the Iowa State Capitol building, added a west wing in 1882, and Burlington superintendent E. P. Dunham added an east wing in 1890-91 with a $15,000 donation by W. R. Ankeny of Des Moines, after whom the building was then named. The three-story Ankeny Hall measured a stately 114 by 76 feet, and contained not only the chapel but the classrooms and library. But in August 1902 the entire building burned down, leaving only Henn Mansion and Ballard Hall, a just-finished women’s dormitory to the east.

At right, the President’s House was built in 1857 by Bernhart Henn as his residence; it was later named Ewing Hall after Thomas D. Ewing, Parsons College president in 1880-89. Slated for demolition, the building was restored by M.I.U. in 1986 and still stands today.

Bernhart Henn

November 8, 2010

Bernhart Henn, Fairfield IA pioneer banker.

“Your sincere friend, Bernhart Henn”

Bernhart Henn (1817-1865), Fairfield Iowa’s pioneer banker

The son of Bernhart and Ann (Hudson) Henn, Bernhart was born in Cherry Valley, New York in 1817. As a young man, Henn mined lead in Wisconsin with General Augustus Caesar Dodge, and clerked for him when Dodge became register of the land office in Burlington in 1838. He married Elizabeth Price of Baltimore in 1841, and the couple had six children.

Henn himself became Fairfield Iowa’s land office register from 1846 through 1849, was elected president of the Fairfield branch of the State University in May 1849, and was senior member of Fairfield Iowa’s first bank: Henn, Williams & Co., founded on January 1, 1851.

Bernhart Henn served as Democratic U. S. Congressman from 1851 to 1855, during which time he supported the controversial “pro-slavery” Kansas-Nebraska Act. After returning from Washington, D.C. to Fairfield, Iowa, he remained involved in banking and real estate until his death on August 30, 1865, a scant four months after the end of the Civil War.

His gracious 1857 brick mansion – for years affectionately called “the Henn House” – was restored in 1986 and still stands just north of downtown Fairfield Iowa on the college campus of what is now Maharishi University of Management.

An early photograph of the Henn Mansion on the campus of Parsons College in Fairfield Iowa, 1890.

Parsons College original buildings, 1890, Fairfield IA.

View of Parsons College ca. 1890 in Fairfield, Iowa. At left, the central portion of Ankeny Hall was built as the college’s original chapel in 1875. That August, construction worker Ezra Brown died as its east wall fell, but work continued and the following June the new chapel held Parson’s first Annual Commencement Exercises. Des Moines architects Bell & Hackney added its west wing in 1882, and Burlington superintendent E. P. Dunham — brother of architect C. A. Dunham — added its east wing and modernized it in 1890 with a $15,000 donation by W. R. Ankeny of Des Moines, after whom the building was then named. With the main building measuring 58 x 76 feet and the two wings each 28 x 76 feet, the completed structure shown here finally measured 114 x 76 feet. It was entirely destroyed by fire in 1902.

At right, the President’s House was built in 1857 by Bernhart Henn as his residence and sold by W. H. Jordan in 1875 to Parsons College; it was restored by M.I.U. in 1986 and still stands today.

Click here for a photo and brief biography of Bernhart Henn.