Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
With the cooperation of the Southeast Iowa Union/Mt. Pleasant News, The Mt. Pleasant Historic Preservation Commission will be publishing, every week or two, peeks at some of the featured homes in the 1909 book, Mt. Pleasant Beautiful.
In the series, the 1909 picture will be contrasted with one of recent vintage. The Commission has been collecting information for the eventual issuance of a new book updating the information on the still standing homes from the 1909 publication.
You can test your knowledge of historic Mt. Pleasant with this column. The identity of the featured home will be published with the next featured home.
The last featured home was the Snyder House, 108 North Adams.
This week’s home was built some time prior to 1869, the exact date yet to be determined.
The 1870 census lists the residents as a family from Indiana: the Mahlon Wilkinsons. Mahlon’s mother was from the Harlan family and a cousin of Mt. Pleasant’s Sen. James Harlan.
Harlan and Wilkerson had attended law school at Asbury University. Harlan, whose daughter married Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd, nominated Wilkerson to be an Indian Agent and he was so appointed by President Abraham Lincoln.
Wilkerson suffered a heart attack and died while in Washington in 1871 and is buried in Mt. Pleasant.
The family sort of went downhill from there. His wife, Louisa (or Louise) Puitt Wilkerson moved west with other family members and married a man named Hendrickson.
Somewhere along the way they ended up in northwest New Mexico and southwest Colorado. One of the children, Burt, who was 8 years old at the time of the 1870 census, fell in with some lawless characters and the end came when he was lynched by vigilantes, after he was arrested in connection with the cold blooded shooting of Silverton, Colorado Marshall Clate Ogsbury in August of 1881.
Of some interest here is that in 1880, Sen. Harlan had filed papers to have Louisa removed as the administrator of Mahlon Wilkinson’s estate (10 years after his death) because she had not settled it at that time.
Future residents of the home were somewhat less infamous.
Shortly after the turn of the century (to 1900) it was purchased by James Gillis of a prominent banking family in Mt. Pleasant.
James’ father was president of National State Bank and when he passed away in 1907, James and Fannie moved to his mother’s house.
Next came “Doc” Frank Edwards and his wife Louva. Edwards was a dentist who practiced in Mt. Pleasant for 48 years. In 1910 they added city water and gas. The newspaper reported that he built an outbuilding that “looked” like a garage. It did not indicate that he was the owner of an automobile.
The couple made other improvements and were the owners at the time Mt. Pleasant Beautiful was issued in 1909.
In 1916, the home was purchased by Frank and Augusta Bird. Bird was a horse dealer and small retailer and became the manager of the Farmer Cooperative Store when it was started in 1917.
In the early 1920s, he started or acquired a grocery store on the square and quickly enlarged it and moved to a new location on the east side of the square.
He was noted for good fresh produce and his granddaughter recalls that he often drove to St. Louis to purchase goods and stored them in the basement of the featured home. He died in 1939.
The current owners of the home have been there for about 35 years...