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The stories of Willson Avenue

Local author pens book about an historic Webster City street

September 19, 2012
Anne Blankenship - Managing Editor (editor@freemanjournal.net) , The Daily Freeman Journal

A Webster City woman said she never dreamed she would ever write a book, but that's just what she has done. Loween Getter has become Webster City's newest author with her book, "The Stories of Willson Avenue."

Getter said the idea for the book all stemmed from a request to present a program to the Webster City Women's Club. A small play about Sunday dinner at the Kendall and Jane Young House was presented at the group's club house. The script had been written and staged nearly 20 years ago and was revived for the program. Getter, dressed in costume, prepared a side bar to the play about the homes and residents of Willson Avenue.

She found an account written by Charlotte Crosley years ago, and used that as part of her research.

Article Photos

- Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Anne Blankenship
Loween Getter recently published a book detailing the history of Willson Avenue,

"I read that and found it very interesting to learn all of the history of those houses," she said. "So that just kind of ignited the spark, I think."

Getter was asked to do another program the following year and continued her research into the history of the homes and the street. She studied files at the Kendall Young Library and read MacKinlay Kantor's book, "Look, the Morn." She studied the obituaries and news clippings of the early prominent citizens.

"There was a lot of background there," she said. "These people were pretty important to our community, so there was a lot of information that the local librarians had clipped and saved in the vertical files through the years. Those files are a treasure."

With the help of her daughter-in-law, Lisa Clayberg. she compiled all of the information and stories and tracked down photos of the homes and original owners which were scanned and added to a PowerPoint presentation. Getter gave the presnetation at the Women's Club June Tea.

"After that, I thought, you know, you do all this work and you'd like to share it again and have some kind of a more permanent record than just typewritten sheets and a flash drive," she said.

That desire for a more permanent record sparked an idea to create a book. Getter said she had done some work with Snapfish.

"I thought that might be a good fit for me," she said. After she put together the first draft, she sought out the help of Charles McMurray who helped her proof the information.

"He was pretty much my first customer," she said.

Getter said one of her favorite stories in the book was the one about the three sisters. The Covil house, owned by Kendall Young's attorney, stood alone on a large lot. Eventually, Mrs. Covil's sister moved to Webster City, and she and her husband built the Lewis house, next door. The third sister arrived in the community, and her family built a brick house in the same block.

Some of the homes she details in the book are no longer standing. The McMurray mansion, a large elegant home, was the first to be built at the brow of the hill, Getter said. At the time, there were houses to the north, "but nothing to the west until you got to Fort Dodge," she said.

The mansion was demolished, but not before the McMurray women held a couple of parties.

"The accounts of these parties printed in the newspaper at the time were just amazing," Getter said. "They also had an open house tour just before it was demolished and hundreds and hundreds of people came through in one afternoon. They were all curious about what it was like inside."

So, far, Getter has been marketing the books by word of mouth. She gave a copy of the book to the Kendall Young Library as a way to thank for allowing her to use the resources there. The library also purchased a couple more copies which will be placed in the genealogy collection and also in the Jane Young Room - which is where copies of books written by local authors are placed.

"I think that's probably the best little accolade of all," she said.

Copies of the book are on sale at the Chamber of Commerce office. She's planning a presentation to a local service club this fall, and will give a talk at the Kendall Young Library on Oct. 3, followed by a book signing.

She feels that books like hers are important to keep the history alive.

"We don't want to lose track of the story of our town," she said. "Every town has that one street that you drive down and that's where all the big, elegant homes are.

"I was just curious about the lives of all those people along Willson Avenue," she said. "It's the story of the people who called this street home."

"Take pictures of your house inside and out. Share with your children and grandchildren, the history of your home," she said. "Because, it's kind of sad when the houses aren't there any more."

 
 

 

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