1881-1899

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Waldo & Frank Boller.

We don’t know for certain where the newly married couple made their home immediately after their nuptials. We assume that it was still in the Deer Creek area since records show that their two sons, Waldo Emerson Boller (1884) and Ora Francis Boller (1886) were born in the immediate area.

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Map of Greene Township/Iowa County showing land owned by D.J. Boller.

We do know that sometime during the 1880’s, Daniel started to get restless and was looking for a change in scenery. A late 1800’s township map from Iowa County, shows D.J. owning land there, but none of our records show him moving there. But apparently, during this same time, D.J. did make a major decision that changed the direction of his life, his family’s life and Our Boller Story. After generations of farming, Daniel set out in another direction, and he picked up his family of four and moved fifty miles further west to Grinnell, Iowa. There he went into the furniture and undertaking business (now called mortician or funeral director) with his younger brother, George D. Boller.

Now it might seem strange to you to see these two professions linked together, but actually, it was quite common in those days for the two businesses to go hand in hand. First of all the furniture business would come as no surprise to those who know the Mennonite community. Over the centuries, the Mennonites have become excellent craftsmen working with the many fine woods found in their communities. Remember that when the early Mennonite settlers looked for new land to farm, they were experts at identifying healthy trees. The Deer Creek area was well known for its fine selection of hickory, walnut and cherry groves. Those trees produce some of the finest wood available to those who have the skills to carve and construct fine furniture. Certainly, Daniel grew up around men who excelled at building quality furniture that is still being passed from generation to generation. It would seem only logical that a young man might see the great potential in marketing furniture to the growing population of farm communities springing up throughout eastern Iowa.

One of the primary products that furniture dealers handled was a necessity that eventually every family needed to purchase….coffins. In the Deer Creek area, some men become experts in designing and custom-making burial coffins, so it again seems only logical that as men such as Daniel & George Boller entered the furniture business, they also learn the undertaking business as well. As the old joke goes, people are “dying” to have their business!

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1896  Wayland, Iowa. A new home.

(BH-105) This book on the first century of Wayland, Iowa contains a treasure-trove of information about our Boller family’s first home in Henry County, Iowa.

It seems that Daniel’s and George’s partnership in Grinnell lasted less than ten years. In 1896, Daniel again picked up his family and headed to a new farming community that had sprung up about 25 miles south of the original Boller homestead in the north-western section of Henry County, Iowa. The name of the small community was Wayland, Iowa located in Jefferson Township of Henry County.

Much like the fertile farmland of Johnson County, this land was first settled in the 1830’s and a town named Crooked Creek soon developed. By 1851, more people had settled in and the community, now called Marshall, included some stores, a hotel and a doctor. By 1879, Marshall had reached a population of two hundred, but a problem was developing for its townspeople. The U.S. mail service which had now expanded into the growing populations of the Middle West was having great confusion distinguishing between mail that was to be delivered to Marshall, Iowa and the much larger Iowa community of Marshalltown. It became necessary for the people of Marshall to relinquish their community name, so on March 20, 1880 they took up the new name of Wayland, Iowa.

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Read more about the early post offices in Iowa.

Wayland, Iowa’s Post Office.

In a book on Wayland history, we see that the decision was announced in a very unique way! At the city well, located in the heart of the business district, the town crier rang a bell and proclaimed to all, “Hear ye, hear ye, the town of Marshall shall be known hereafter as Wayland.” I find it also interesting that the U.S. Postal System in Wayland not only played a part in the renaming of the community, but it will also play a big part in Our Boller Story in a Boller generation yet to unfold! Keep reading!

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D.J. Boller, wife Barbara, and sons Waldo (top) and Frank.

By the turn of the century, Daniel (D.J.) and Barbara Miller and their two sons, Waldo and Frank (Ora Frank) had well established themselves into the growing community of Wayland, bringing to the area both his fine selection of furniture and his important skill as mortician and funeral director. Actually, we find that Daniel was not the only man in town bidding for the people’s business. During the same period (1891-1900), a John Hamil opened a furniture business, and a John Magdefrau opened a furniture, casket making, and undertaking business as well.

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Wayland hearse, circa 1910 (from Ann Miller White photo collection). Could this be D.J. Boller?

Apparently, D.J. was well received in the Wayland community. Originally a settlement of Methodist men and women, many Mennonite families with rich German heritage were now moving into Wayland as well. By 1897, D.J. was a member of the Wayland School Board and in 1899 (the year of the big 50th wedding anniversary of D.J.’s parents back in Kalona) D.J. had become the key organizer in bringing the first Mennonite Church to Wayland!

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