Thursday, March 27, 2014

Charles Francis Ransom, Iowa Farmer and County Weed Commissioner (52 Ancestors, week 12)

Charles Ransom > Lillian Emma Ransom > Charles Lloyd Walters

Charles Francis Ransom was born in Perry Hall, Maryland on Oct 7, 1870. My great-grandma, Charles’s daughter, believed he was born in the Perry Hall Mansion, a historic home now on the National Register. While I have yet to find proof he was born in that great home, there are several family connections with the owners of the house. At the time of his birth, the owner of the home was married to Charles’ aunt and his grandmother was living in the mansion. In the 1870 census, Charles’ parents, Jamison Harvey and Elizabeth (Winchester) Ransom, were listed just two households away from the mansion. Later, Charles’ sister married the following owner of Perry Hall Mansion. While I may not be able to prove he was born there, I am certain he and his family knew the great house.

The family moved from Maryland to Illinois in 1880 and by 1884 they were living in Benton, Iowa. In 1892, Charles married Elmira Lyons at her parents’ home in Blairstown, Iowa. The couple lived in Blairstown for 7 years before moving to an 800 acre ranch near Grinnell, Iowa. They lived there for one year before moving to a 40 acre farm south of town. After two years, Charles purchased a farm near Parnell, Iowa, a farm that included a creek, walnut trees, hickory nuts, hazelnuts, apple trees, peach trees, raspberries, blackberries and wild plums, as well as a large garden. There was a windmill used to get water for the cattle and a cow barn. When the old granary was struck by lightning, Charles built a new one and a new, level hog house was built to replace the straw-roofed model built on a hill. The family also raised ducks and chickens.

Charles Ransom Clear Lake Farm
Farm near Clear Lake, Iowa 1925
After 5 years here, in 1908, the family moved again, this time to Marengo, Iowa. My great-grandma writes about the 21-mile move in the rain and ice in their open buggy while the men drove the cattle on foot. The new farm was 200 acres with a big house and large horse barn and cattle shed. There was also a corn crib, granary, buggy shed, chicken house, and other out buildings. Although the family only lived here for 2 years, Charles was able to clear $2000 in the sale, enough to purchase a 200 acre farm near Clear Lake, Iowa and he farmed here for the next 26 years. As with previous farms, Charles made improvements to the Clear Lake farm as well, this time adding a large horse barn and cattle shed, a hen house and hog house, a silo and a large corn crib with an elevator that was run by horses. They also remodeled the house, extending its dimensions, adding upstairs rooms and a full basement. It was here the family had their first bath tub (although the hot water was still heated on the kitchen stove).

 After he retired from farming in 1936, Charles worked as the County Weed Commissioner for the next 21 years, retiring a few months before his death due to his declining health. I was excited to find Ancestry has a large number of issues of the Mason City Globe Newspaper, which included much of the Clear Lake area news. Their collection from 1930 and on is quite complete and I was able to find a lot about Charles and Elmira include a Q&A article with Weed Commissioner Ransom. Written in 1937, it seems from the article that the position was fairly new. Charles tells about his duties which included educating farmers of dangerous weeds and working with them to get rid of the weeds and help protect the agriculture in the county. While the 1940 census lists Charles in the same occupation, it also says he was unemployed for 28 weeks of the year, only made $300 the previous year, and was currently looking for work. As he continued as weed commissioner for another 17 years, I wonder if the position became more stable as the years went on. There are still County Weed Commissioners throughout Iowa today.

After retiring from farming, Charles and Elmira moved into Clear Lake, living first at 609 N East Street for a number of years and then lived at 804 N. 8th Street. This would be the final earthly home of Charles. He died on August 26, 1957 and is buried in the Clear Lake Cemetery.

64th Wedding Anniversary
Both Charles and Elmira were involved in the Methodist Church and Charles served as an active board member for a number of years. Charles and Elmira were also members of the North Iowa Golden Wedding Jubilee Club, a club whose members have all been married 50 or more years. In honor of their 50th wedding anniversary, an open house was thrown for the couple and was attended by over 100 guests who presented them with “gifts of furniture, silver, dishes, potted plants and flowers.”

Mildred, Jim, Lillian
Edmund, Charles, Elmira, Joy
Family seemed an important part of their lives – the paper reports of several gatherings, trips, and dinners. As years past and family members began moving away, many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren still gathered around Charles and Elmira to visit and celebrate. The couple would also travel to visit family, including trips to visit to Minnesota to see relatives, including his young great-granddaughter, my Mom.

Sources: Various issues of Mason City Globe from 1929 and beyond,; family photos and newspaper clippings, Life Story of Lillian Ransom Walters, and census records.

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