Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick



On October 8, 1848 Ella Stewart was born in Pittsburg along the Des Moines River in Van Buren County.

Ella’s parents were Rev. I. I. And Mary R. Stewart, who played a dominant role in pioneer Methodist work.

Ella moved to Mt. Pleasant with her family when she was quite young. In 1864, her father died. Ella attended Iowa Wesleyan College for three years, taught instrumental music and was an instructor in a Boy’s Industrial School at Eldon.

While she was involved in college work at Iowa Wesleyan, she helped found a women’s Christian organization known as the P.E.O.

(Iowa’s Amazing Past. George Mills. Iowa State Univ. Press: Iowa City, 1972)


Edgar R. Harlan succeeded Charles Aldrich as curator of the Historical, Memorial and Art Department of Iowa. Son of Sam Alexander Harlan and Marinda Ellen Rubey Harlan, Edgar was born in Spartansburg, Indiana on Feb . 28, 1869. His wife, Minnie was from Pittsburg.

Harlan always considered Iowa to be his home. He collected historical data and became an Iowa historian. In 1921, he received a Master of Arts Degree from Drake University.

Harlan was a Republican, practiced law for many years, and was the county attorney for Van Buren from 1898-1901. From 1901 to 1907 he was part of the law firm of Work, Brown, and Harlan.

Harlan belonged to at least 22 organizations. After he became curator of the Historical Department of Iowa on October 1, 1901 he helped found the Iowa State Historical Society.

In Keosauqua, Edgar R. Harlan married Minnie C. Duffield on June 9, 1897. Children born to the couple were John Edgar Harlan, George Duffield Harlan, Mary Adelaide Harlan, James Rubey Harlan and Ada Margaret Harlan.

(History of Iowa. Edgar Rubey Harlan. Chicago, New York: American Historical Society, Inc., 1931)


Jo Stidger Stong was born in Pittsburg on September 12, 1903.

His father was Ben J. Stong of Kilbourne, who attended Birmingham Academy; owned a general store in Pittsburg and later owned one in Keosauqua; and married Ada E. Duffield. Ben and Ada’s three sons were Jo, Phil and Benton J. Stong.

Jo’s brother Phil resided in New York City and was the most prolific writer to come from Van Buren County. Some of his best books were children’s stories. He also wrote fiction novels based on characters in Van Buren County. Several movie versions including a musical were made from one novel, State Fair.

Jo’s youngest brother (Benton J.) lived in Nashville.

Jo graduated from Keosauqua Schools in 1921 and entered Drake University. During his early life he became experienced in merchandising through his father’s stores. Stong graduated from law school in 1926 and joined the law firm of McBeth & Stong in Keosauqua.

A Republican, Stong belonged to the Masonic Fraternity and the Congregational Church.

On July 15, 1926 he married Eleanore L. Rowley of Keosauqua.

(History of Iowa. Edgar Rubey Harlan. Chicago & New York: American Historical Society, Inc. 1931)

- -
Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick