marci's blog

The Accidental Revelations of Sanborn Maps - A Great Introduction

Des Moines, 1884 Sanborn Map from Library of Congress

Have you used the library's collection of Sanborn maps for family history research? They are a great resource for a family historian attempting to identify property owned by ancestors. Sanborn maps can also show the evolution of a city, including residences, businesses, schools, churches, and mining companies (a surprisingly popular topic)...

Skull in the Ashes: Murder, A Gold Rush Manhunt, & the Birth of Circumstantial Evidence in America

Skull in the ashes - cover

On a February night in 1897, the general store in Walford, Iowa, burned down. The next morning, townspeople discovered a charred corpse in the ashes. Everyone knew that the store’s owner, Frank Novak, had been sleeping in the store as a safeguard against burglars. Now all that remained were a few of his personal items scattered under the body.

Gentlemen Bootleggers: The True Story of Templeton Rye...

Gentlemen Bootleggers cover

During Prohibition, while Al Capone was rising to worldwide prominence as Public Enemy Number One, the townspeople of rural Templeton, Iowa--population just 418--were busy with a bootlegging empire of their own. Led by Joe Irlbeck, the whip-smart and gregarious son of a Bavarian immigrant, the outfit of farmers, small merchants, and even the church Monsignor worked together to create a whiskey so excellent it was ordered by name: Templeton Rye.

Sherman Block - Historic Tour #8

F.M. Hubbell

On the northeast corner of 3rd and Court was the Sherman Block, built in 1855 by Hoyt Sherman.  B.F. Allen was a banker here and it was also the first home of Equitable of Iowa. Equitable was founded by F.M. Hubbell who arrived in Des Moines on May 7, 1855, with $3 in his pocket.  His father demanded he give the money back to him so he could buy land in Dallas County. Young Hubbell walked the streets until he found a job as a clerk in the land office with Phineas Casady.

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