WGS FIELD TRIP TO PLUMER SETTLEMENT AREA
BY KAREN HANSEN
On Thursday, June 10, 2010, seventeen members of the Walnut Genealogy Society took a field trip to the Loess Hills in Mills County, Iowa. We first drove by the Green Hill Farm on Highway 275 north of Glenwood. Carl (Charles) Jurgen Green had purchased the first 80 acres for $100 on June 1, 1860. In that same year, he married Julia Anna Bauer, a granddaughter of Johann Plumer. After 7 years, Charles sold it to his brother, Henry August Green, for $1800. Henry was Mariann Martens’ grandfather. The farm has not been owned by the Green family since the 1930’s, but is still called Green Hill Farm.
The farm at the top of the hill was owned by Leon and Sarah Wait. Sarah was the youngest daughter of Henry and Christina Green. Christina made her home with them after Henry’s passing. They built a large downstairs bedroom onto their house for her.
We stopped at the Old Plumer Homestead where the Plumer Settlement started. In the 1830’s in Mercer County, Ohio, some emigrants from the kingdom of Hanover, Germany gathered. Some of the names were: Johann Deitrich Frohardt, John H. and Mary (Meyer) Kinning and daughter Wilhelmine Christine, and the Meyer family. Another daughter was born to the Kinnnings, Sophie.
In 1840, Johann Heinrich Plumer and wife, Maria Gelthaus and children, Caroline, Sophie, Heinrich F., Frederick, Wilhelm and Christopher also emigrated from Hanover to Mercer County, Ohio. In 1842, these immigrants migrated to Missouri, some in Moniteau and Miller Counties. While in Missouri, marriages took place within these families and tied them even closer. Johan (John) Frohardt married Wilhelmine Christine Kinning. They were the parents of Christina Wilhelmine Green, Mariann’s grandmother Green. In 1843, Henry Saar of Bavaria arrived in Moniteau Co., Missouri. He married Sophie Plumer. In 1849, Henry F. Plumer married Sophie Kinning, the sister of Wilhelmine C. (Kinning) Frohardt.
In May of 1851, Johann H. Plumer began the migration to Iowa. At that time the climate was not healthful in Missouri due to malaria. Johann decided to take his family to Iowa, hoping to find it more healthful and hoping to find more fertile prairie land and better markets. Later, Johann sent word to his former neighbors in MO of the rich land here and many others followed. Then many log cabins were built and the area was known as the Plumer Settlement.
The Plumer family lived in their log cabin for 13 years before John built a 10 room, 2-story home. Hand-hewn walnut beams, some 40 feet long, supported the house. It was a stage coach station and is now occupied by the 5th generation of the Plumer family.
We saw the Van Pelt Ranch, where Mariann Martens’ father was married to Mary Angeline Phifer, his first wife. It is another huge, beautiful house. This is where a log cabin was built by Sophie Plumer and her husband, Henry Saar. The first Plumer Settlement burials were on this farm in Saar’s Field.
Next, we toured the Salem Lutheran Church and Cemetery. The Plumer family was influential in the building of the Salem German Lutheran Church and the cemetery was named for John Plumer.
The church, built in 1867 from locally fired bricks, was once known as the “Little Brick Church.” Salem was the oldest Iowa Lutheran Church. In Oct. 1880, the Western District of the Iowa Synod was organized in this church. It was known as the mother church of the central district of the American Lutheran Church, from which some 100 Lutheran churches have stemmed, including those at Mineola and Treynor.
In 1900, the exterior was coated with cement for easier maintenance and is now sometimes called “The Church of the Woods.” In 1933, Salem was closed to services. Only one service a year is now held, on Memorial Day. Restoration of the church began in 1956 and re-dedication services were held on Sept. 22, 1956. The restoration of the church in 2002 included replacement of the windows and a new exterior and interior. The hand-hewn pews, chandelier, kerosene lamps and crucifix are all original furnishings.
Across the road from the church is Plumer Settlement Cemetery. We toured the cemetery, seeing the tombstones of Paul Lees’ grandparents Earl and Dorothy Shelby and his great-grandparents William and Maggie Huff. Mariann Martens’ parents, grandparents, great-grandmother, and three more of her children, all of her father’s brothers and sisters and their spouses, except one, and also some of their families are buried there. You can find 420 approved records for Plumer Settlement a.k.a. Salem Lutheran Cemetery at http://iowagravestones.org/cemetery.
We continued on to St. Paul’s Church and Cemetery at 11055 Dumfries Avenue. On January 13, 1868, the German Evangelical St. Paul’s Congregation was formed, about one year after Salem Church. Mr. Henry Plumer, Sr. deeded 1-1/2 acres in Pottawattamie County, Lewis Township, to the church for $5.00. The church was dedicated 3 months later in April 1868 and was 18 feet by 30 feet. By 1884, the little church was outgrown and plans were made to build a larger one across the road. It was 26 feet by 46 feet and was completed in 1885 still serving the present congregation. The church is now called St. Paul’s Evangelical Country Church and is non-denominational. The cemetery is on the east and south sides of the church. Paul Lees’ grandmother’s sister, Mildred Franks, her husband, Edgar, and their daughter, Doris Spetman are buried there. Wilbur and Ioma Hubbard have a friend, Orville Boehm, who is buried there.
We drove by what remains of the town of Dumfries, which is only some foundations. The little church is gone, as is the Post Office, established on April 26, 1895 and discontinued on October 7, 1931. We then passed the small Zion Cemetery in Keg Creek Township on the way to eat dinner at the Mineola Steak House. It was a very interesting trip.