Herriman Mansion Restoration Project - Hometown Wadena (History of Major David B. Herriman)

Hometown Wadena

History of Major David B. Herriman

The Elgin Echo, Elgin, Iowa
Date (TBD)

At the time of this Picture one could still see the cross-panel windows frames of the Apiary. The windows were pretty well in place. The wide-side windowed doorway on the south in the early days had gracefully wide steps leading to that. Many entered the door from their carriages. Mr. and Mrs. Earl Little lived there at the time of this picture.

There is truly a lot of story about Major Herriman that still has been put all together in one complete article. Much history of the area and early settlers can. be found in that story. He certainly led an exciting life. prior to coming to Fayette County. The 6 foot 2 inch Herriman received his title of Major, just as being an Indian agent, anyone received the title of a military Major. It was not because be belonged to the armed forces of his country.

He was born in Morris County, NJ, and grew to manhood there. He left that place very suddenly. He had incurred the displeasure of four men who had resolved to get the best of him. They found him in a saloon. It was an underground establishment and they felt they had him trapped. He knocked each man down as they came at him, one hitting a red hot stove. He then managed to get to the stairway, when the first came to and grabbed his foot. He managed (Herriman) to grab an iron railing, pulled himself upright and kicked the four into a heap at the foot of the stairs, and made his leave.

He left home then and stayed with an uncle in New York state for two years. He then went to LaGrange County in Indiana, where he worked in a foundry at $2.00 per day. This was a high wage then. He immediately began purchasing land from his savings and selling at a profit. He then purchased land in the next county and made it his home which set where the present Eric Boehm house was moved to. It was a white two story frame house when we remember it. Mr. and Mrs. Howard Thomas lived there at one time since then. The address was Brush Creek or Arlington, in the early days.

A descendant of the Herriman family, Mrs. Bill Keasbee and her husband moved there some time in the thirties. They were from Chicago, and wrote books. He also was a very good entertaining piano player. They painted the house white and had blue shutters. It was a showplace. Have later heard of them being in Nebraska and she had published some children's books. Have kept an eye out for those books but have not seen them listed.

Later residents on the place were Amos and Zetta White. The house was burned before the now Boehm house was moved there. I have heard tell that there used to be a road go on the north side of the hill on the south bank of the Brush Creek River that led to the Nus dam area. There also was a rural school located just off the road west of the present highway and on the south side of Brush Creek.

We will cover more of the J.B. Herriman family, their children and the present descendants of the Herriman families still living in our area, and others elsewhere that are still alive. By all standards of that time, the Major was a wealthy man and with our inflation, would have been considered a millionaire. He at one time owned 1,400 acres of land here.

We will also cover the tries that have been made to preserve the historic home, to restore it and presently what is being done.

Had heard also in past days of a light that could be seen wandering on the hillside above the house. Tales had it that no reason had ever been found for the source of that light.

Where did the Major first build when coming here? He built a two story log home on the now Mattocks farm about 1860. The sunken remains of the foundation site may still be seen. He traded for this land in Illyria sight unseen.

If you entered the mansion today, voices would sound hollow. There might be remnants somewhere of once beautiful white and gold wallpaper, and stairways might not be safe. But the voices of the party goers might be heard, the music of the fiddle and the many gambling sessions. and its ensuing language would echo as the Major and help spent their evening. And one could step to the windows in the second and third floors to still see the magnificent view that was there for the Herriman family.