Monday, September 19, 2011

In honor of Bill Heusinkveld

The Vermilion house, or Pinecrest, is one of countless aspects of Appanoose County history that the late Bill Heusinkveld researched and wrote about during his remarkable second career.

Willis M. “Bill” Heusinkveld, Appanoose County’s preeminent local historian, died in Centerville on Thursday, age 86. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Centerville’s beautiful old First Presbyterian Church with burial in Oakland Cemetery where he will join many of the people he wrote about over the years.

A native of Hull, in northwest Iowa, Heusinkveld’s first career was as an electrical engineer for Iowa Southern Utilities. His remarkable second career, commencing when he “retired” during 1990, was as a researcher and prolific writer, recording for posterity an amazing range of detail about the history of his adopted home. That's Bill at left in a Centerville Daily Iowegian photo.

I have five of his books here, all beautifully researched and written but simply produced and affordable, some punched for binders, most spiral-bound, all containing a wealth of information.

In addition to books, Heusinkveld wrote a history-related column for the Centerville newspaper, the Iowegian --- some 428 of them. His final book, a compilation of columns entitled “My Last Hurrah for Appanoose History,” was published last year.

Here’s a list of Heusinkveld’s body of work: "Heusinkveld's in America,” first published in 1966 and updated in 1991, "Mormon Trails across Appanoose County, Iowa" published in 1995, "This Day in Iowa History" published in 1995, "Cemeteries of Appanoose County, Iowa" published in 1999, "Towns of Appanoose County, Iowa" published in 2003, "101 Historic Sketches of Pioneer Days in Appanoose County, Iowa" published in 2004, "The Appanoose County Courthouse Centennial," published in 2004, "Historic Homes of Centerville, Iowa" published in 2004, "The History of Coal Mining in Appanoose County" published in 2007, "Civil War History of Nine Iowa Companies" published in 2007, "History of the First Presbyterian Church, Centerville" published in 2008, "A History of Centerville, Iowa" published in 2009 and "My Last Hurrah for Appanoose History" published in 2010.

One of the Centerville homes Heusinkveld wrote about during 2004, Pinecrest or the Vermilion house, is on the market now, offered privately by its owners. If interested in more information, you can find that listing here.

I’ve lifted in its entirety from Heusinkveld’s “Historic Homes of Centerville” his account of the Vermilion house as a minor tribute and also to give an idea of how he researched and wrote.

By Bill Heusinkveld

The home pictured above is located in the S.E ¼ of the S.W. ¼ of Section 35 of what was initially called Cedar Township. The land was first owned by William Ware by patent from the U.S. Government in 1856. There were land transactions of portions of Mr. Ware’s land to other owners. In 1870, William F. Vermillion decided to build his dream home in this location. He contracted with a well-known architect, C.A. Dunham of the firm of Dunham and Jordan in Burlington, to design his house. He purchased three acres from William Ware and five acres from Rhoda Miller in February, 1871, so he could begin construction. He kept buying additional land until 1875, ending up with a total of 32 acres consisting of wooded pastureland.

William F. Vermilion (1830-1894) was born in Kentucky and came to Appanoose County in 1857 as a physician after attending DePauw University and Rush Medical College in Chicago. In 1858 he married Mary Alice Cecilia Kemper, a school teacher he had met while in Indiana. The Kemper family had moved to Iowa in 1855. Mary lived in the house until she died in 1883.

William practiced medicine for a time in Iconium. During the Civil War, William organized Company F from men of the Iconium area in the summer of 1862 and was commissioned captain. He took his company to the front as part of the 36th Infantry, commanded by Francis M. Drake. He escaped the terrible defeat at the Battle of Marks Mills, because he had been sent back home to recruit replacements for all the deaths caused by illnesses. During the war he carried on an extensive letter correspondence with his wife, Mary. This correspondence has been preserved and published in a book by Donald C. Elder III.

After the war he studied law. He became a partner with Col. E.C. Haynes and was the senior member of the firm of Vermilion, Haynes and Vermilion. He served one term in the Iowa Senate. The area surrounding Centerville was named Vermillion Township in his honor, although they misspelled his name.

W.F. Vermilion had his fine two-story frame house built amidst the evergreens. It is set on a wooded knoll west of Centerville and overlooks the town. The house is an excellent example of vernacular Italianate Victorian architecture. The exterior features paired brackets with decorative jigsaw work to support the eaves. There are denticular cornice friezes, tall windows with bracketed or arched hoods, a large bay window on the south side and highly detailed main entrance porch and side porches supported by square, slender wooden posts. There are multiple low-pitched roof levels resembling Italian Tuscan villas. The highest flat rooftop was crowned by a widow’s walk. All exterior design elements represent typical features of classic Italianate Victorian architecture. The house is believed to have cost $4,000.

The interior decorative features include a quarter-turn walnut staircase, paneled doors (some with etched glass), 1870 parlor stove and dining room fireplace. Victorian wallpapers with friezes and picture rails, pocket doors and Victorian furnishings and fixtures. The ceilings are striking, made of pressed tin.

The barn and gazebo behind the house also date from the decade 1870-1880, the barn built of heavy oak beams pegged together with oak pegs. The grounds immediately surrounding the house contain an apple orchard, pine, hickory, oak and other shade trees, the profusion of greenery contributing to the character of this country home.

William Vermilion died in 1894, his wife, Mary, having preceded him by 11 years, and the estate went to his only offspring, Charles W. Vermilion (1866-1927) being valued at $10,000 at that time. C.W. also graduated from DePauw University and the University of Michigan Law School. He returned to practice law and became a judge on the Iowa Supreme Court until his death. He and his wife, Eloise (Biddle), had one daughter, Dane. C.W. Vermilion did not keep the home very long. He sold it to Morris J. Hukill, a farmer, in 1897 for $6,000. Morris Hukill had a wife, Sarah J. Hukill, and a son, William R. Hukill.

Francis M. and Matilda Banta bought the house, complete with buildings, in 1910 for $5,500. They were also farmers and had a large family. Mr. Banta related that Captain Vermilion and Ben Kindig had built a plank boardwalk from the Vermilion country home all the way to town so he could walk to town. The walk was two boards wide, using 2x12 planks side by side.

The estate fell on hard times in the depression years and was mortgaged to the Iowa Trust Bank from 1931 to 1938. F.M. Banta was too old to farm and too broke to fix the house. A subsequent owner said they ran hogs through it!

Francis Banta died in 1942 and the estate went to his children, Glen, Paul, Nor Hoover and Lucille Hunter. No one lived there and squatters occupied the property. In 1943 they filed for right of possession. This did not succeed, and the Banta heirs sold it to John and Lydia Heimes in a very run-down condition in 1943 for $2,750.

John Heimes was the manager of J.C. Penny Co. He proceeded with restoration and modernization of the home. He discarded a “gasolier” acetylene gas lighting system fed by a carbide generator in the basement, and replaced it with modern electric wiring. He installed some of Penny’s old “beehive” lights in the house. He also added central heating and plumbing. Some of the small storage rooms became bathrooms. They called their home “Pinecrest,” a name it still carries.

In 1965, Lydia Heimes inherited John Heimes’ share of the property. Then in 1973 it went to their children, Martin Heimes and Margaret Easton, who sold it to the McConville family three years later.

Dr. James B. and Virginia A. McConville bought the property in 1976, including 26 acres, house, barn and five other buildings, for $75,000. They valued the home for its history and embarked on a campaign to restore the home to its original beauty while retaining its architecture. They went through the procedure to have the home placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The McConvilles were coal miners from Ireland and later Scotland. They came to the Mystic area in 1888 and bought and operated several area mines. Brad’s father, James Patrick McConville, married Marjorie Bradley and they had three children, Joynce, Patricia and James (Brad). Brad married Virginia Ann (Dewey) Vatterott in St. Louis in 1970. They had met at St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana. Brad also went to medical school at the University of Iowa, graduating in 1973. He has a practice in Centerville with a specialty in famiy practice. Dewey graduated from the physician assistant program at Iowa and has her own practice in the same office complex. Dewey and Brad have five children. Brad is a dedicated history buff with a specialty of Civil War history.


Ed said...

Wow, that one hit close to home for me. William Ware is my 4th great grand uncle, brother to James Ware my 4th great grandfather. Their father Lindsey Ware is my 5th great grandfather. I have a lot of relatives buried in Appanoose county and have run into Mr. Heusinkveld's work before but didn't know he had written so much.

Bill Hawkins said...

Your article is a wonderful tribute to Bill Heusinkveld who not only made a great contribution to Appanoose County history through his writings, but who encouraged and helped others with a similar interest.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the great photos and information!
Mark W. Heimes