Herriman Mansion Restoration Project - Article: Elgin Echo, August 15, 1990

Hometown Wadena (We all have hopes that the Herriman house can be restored....)

The Elgin Echo, August 15, 1990

Photo of drawing of Herriman Mansion taken from an 1875 Atlas of Iowa

What a lovely place Iowa is when we have had plenty of rain! Everything is so green, leaves are so full and the garden produce that builds on water content absolutely fantastic. Cucumbers are in over abundance; tomatoes are just starting, and that Iowa corn just the best, meaning sweet corn. Of course along with the good there is always the weeds, that seem to thrive on wet weather.

Once again someone has come through with a lot of good help on the history of this little community. We all have hopes that the Herriman house can be restored, or at least kept from completely falling apart. In its heyday it must have been quite a place for that time in the building of houses. Have seen a drawing of the place on the outer edge of a map from time of many years ago. This picture might have been made from that but there is much more detail and actually makes it seem more real and shows the many outbuildings there were at one time. Also shows a hedge and a wall outlining a well-kept large lawn.

It shows the set of front steps leading up to the second floor living room and area where much entertaining was done. One can well imagine Major Herriman being very, very proud of his home and family.

The railroad, of course, was not that close to the Herriman House, but certainly was completely visible from the home and yard. The railway went from the park area of town east following the Volga River closely at times and crossed the road east of the old Mart Frey little home very near their house, south of the river.

This photo of the place is a painting that is framed and named as the home of Major D.B. Herriman, Wadena, in Fayette County. Would surely like one of those larger paintings in our local public library.

From a record copy is the following:

"That I. David B. Herriman of the township of Illyria in the County of Fayette and State of Iowa being of the age of 67 years and of sound mind. knowing the evitability of death and uncertainty of life, do make, account and declare the last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills by me have this to say:

"First: I give and bequeath to my wife Elizabeth Hcrriman all household furniture and everything in the house, including piano and iron safe. That I further bequeath to my wife the sum of Twenty Thousand ($20,000), to be paid to her in cash, or in such property she may desire of which I be possessed (further words a little hard to decipher here.)

"Second: I give and bequeath to the oldest son of John Herriman (David P. Herriman) my grandson, the watch that I may be wearing at the time of my death."

Will in next columns continue with further bequests. It is written evidently in his own handwriting, which is mostly legible but has faded during the years.

We remember that Elizabeth did marry after the Major's death and became Elizabeth Anderson. She eventually left Anderson, lived in West Union, and is buried in the West Union Cemetery.

Early maps show that beyond actual cash he owned an enormous amount of land in the town as well as several farmlands outside. Anyway, little of the original holding remained in the Herriman name. We do think the road out past the cemeteries to the Herriman house should be named Herriman Lane, or some such. Maybe with all out efforts pooled together we can still save that historic site. Have noted that several persons doing free lance work on this, have stated that it is now too far gone.

The IMT Insurance Company probably all of 10 years ago, offered a good price for the house and would have restored it and put a chain link fence around it. The owners at that time wanted a very big sum and more, or less, just stated it was not for sale. One remembers the founder of that company was Major Herriman's son.

It is time that some of the history of this very full of history little community be saved. Have always thought a double log cabin on the old trading post site would be great. But the price of building it would be much greater than the original one. Then there would be the problem of vandalism and expense of upkeep. With the right set of sites involved, Wadena could have a tourist attraction that would bring in many and even produce a demand for tourist eating place. Dreams--that is what makes things eventually happen. People are coming from the cities to the small rural community and liking the small town life. Economics may not be the answer, but tourism is fast becoming a million dollar asset to Iowa. During winter you are back to small town. And that is right.

Did Major Herriman dream of a business place type of Wadena or along with his race track was he seeking outside trade?