Herriman Mansion Restoration Project - The Elgin Echo Article

The Elgin Echo, Elgin, Iowa
Wednesday, January 31, 1990

Hometown Wadena

By Marjorie Knox

We like to read records, we like to discuss "the good old days," and certainly in the future one will read about the records this January 1990 has made as far as being a mild, snowless January for us. Just two brushes with the worst of it for one day, or so, and the temperatures have been in 30s or 40s. Suppose it has happened before. Personally, I like the moisture in the form of rain in the spring. "In those Good Old Days" they never knew, except by reading nature signs, just what was coming. Until the days of the radio, more just knew what was coming when it appeared on the horizon.

That was what it was like when the large Herriman mansion had daily evening lights in its windows. When the race track laid out below it to the south, was an event to go to. When the Major was "ruler" of his domain.

The Major was 50, when he married 16 year old Elizabeth Dye. He sent her to school in Dubuque, where she remained three years. When she was 19 years of age, they lived together as husband and wife. They had two daughters: Mary and Ella. This information was told last week. Then as the two daughters grew up, they were sent to school at Dubuque, to learn the niceties for young ladies.

According to an old account: "His fortune made the Major a proud and tyrannical man, and a powerful influence in the pioneer community. A staunch Democrat, he and his sons kept Illyria Township Democrat for many years. If anyone dared to cross his path personally or in business, the Major would make life uncomfortable for them, through his control of township, officials and his pull with county officers.

In spite of this, he was looked upon as a benevolent person by his poorer neighbors. His mills and lumbering operations many jobs for many men and he was always the source of a loan, if he liked a person. But woe- to- the debtor, who would not, or could not, pay at the appointed [time].

But let it be said: Wadena, no doubt owes more to the late David B. Herriman than to anyone else in history. He selected the name of Wadena. He acquired 1400 acres or land. He ga[v]e the cemetery land to Wadena. Most legal descriptions of property in Wadena, read a Herriman addition. Along with Horace Countryman, he operated mills in town.

He was very interested that education be fostered. He donated land for a school.

With the coming of the railroad, Major Herriman donated a large amount of the right of way to encourage the coming of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul. With the coming of the railroad Wadena began its upward trend.

The early days have gone and the Major's fortune, power and holdings are all gone and the name of Herriman no longer retains its old impact.

Within sight of his old home, the Major is buried with one of the most impressive gravestones in Wadena's cemetery, marking the site on which is printed only:


But the mansion still stands there, stately in the evening sunset, with the windows reflecting the sun, just as it did in its heyday. We would support the elements of dampness and time have made part of the inside in need of repair. But what a lot of history, was made within those walls! What a lot of decisions that still leave their imprint on Wadena! He had his dreams and made many come true. And, at this time only one person in Wadena has the family -name of Herriman --Wilma Herriman, who married a grandson, Leo. They have one daughter, June.

There are other descendants here, which have been mentioned previously. Perhaps the community needs to recognize and honor the great men that did so much for us. Maybe a Community Day honoring our heritage from those years?

There is a Herriman Street in Wadena. which is the one going past the Catholic Church building and on out to the Cemetery Road and the highway north. Wouldn't it be great to designate that piece of road on out as Herriman Drive, or such?

Many people have called. written, and are still helping in the search for more information on the building, the family history and the facts that still elude us. And, I guarantee, that if it were so that once again one could go through that home, it would be a great tourist attraction.