Edwin E. Jenkins: Pioneer
By Susie Enarson
Edwin E. Jenkins was a pioneer
resident of Villisca, having come here from Illinois in 1869 with his parents, Charles and
Emma May at the age of 4.
He lived in Villisca most of the remaining 84 years of his
life, spending the last year in California with family.
Ed Jenkins and his wife, Anna L. Banes were two of the total
of four members of the first graduating class of Villisca High School in 1884.
At one time, perhaps just following his high school
graduation, Ed went to Osage, Iowa where he served as a bookkeeper for a lumber company.
He later returned to Villisca where he made his home for all of his working years.
Ed and Anna had no children, but made a home for his nephew,
Roslyn Kamm, following the death of Ed's sister. Their home was on Third Avenue in what
was called the "Banes House" which had been in her family and was theirs to use
for their lifetime.
Dr. Fred Jenkins, a longtime Villisca dentist, was a brother
of Ed, and returned to Villisca to practice following a length of time spent in Canada in
a farming operation. During the time that Fred lived in Canada he wrote to Ed urging him
to come up to the farm to help out for the summer and asked him to bring his cello along
to play in the orchestra which they had organized in Canada. Fred played the violin, so
evidently the family was musical.
The Odd Fellows Lodge was very important in his life, as was
his membership in the Baptist Church. Old negatives left in his home attest to his
interest in both, and also his love of photography and travel. There are pictures of the
original frame Baptist church and of the building of the "new" brick church.
Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Banes, parents-in-law of Ed Jenkins were
among the early members of the Villisca Baptist Church. Anna Banes Jenkins was also
involved in the church and the Baptist Church history states "Mrs. Edward E. Jenkins
contributed money for the organ, and the story goes that she kept the key and would not
allow anyone else to play it." The Presbyterian Church history also states that in
1899 when the "new" Presbyterian Church was built, "Mrs. Edward E. Jenkins
served as organist."
For the early part of his working career, Ed was in business
in the Ford Garage with Harold "Red" Peters. This garage was located in a
building on the west end of the lot where the Citizens State Bank building was built on
the northwest corner of the city square in the 1990s.
He retired from the garage business and at retirement age,
began a new career. From April 4, 1928 until April 1, 1946, Mr. Jenkins was the city
manager of Villisca. He was chosen by secret ballot of the city council in a 4 to 1 vote
over his competitor, F. C. Reese. Following the vote to hire him, a motion was made to buy
the office furniture owned by F. C. Reese, so evidently Mr. Reese had been supplying his
During the time Ed was city manager, the city water
filtration plant and the municipal power plant were built. Other projects completed during
that time were extensive cemetery improvements and the acquisition of the new city hall.
The new city hall was purchased from a bank which failed during the 1930s.
He spent many hours beyond the call of duty, developing the
first permanent city water, sewer and cemetery records. He retired from his city position
in 1946 at the age of 81.
Ed loved woodworking and was always making something for
somebody. Several items of interest which he made were left at the City Hall following his
tenure. The most intriguing one was the famous "coat tree" which was actually
made retaining the natural form of a tree. It could not be moved about, since the base of
it was shaped to exactly fill a hole in the floor where a heating radiator was removed! It
was adapted to continued use by the addition of a flat base at the time the office area
was carpeted and the hole in the floor was covered. He also made a letter opener from a
piece of hedge which has been used by each city clerk after him. Another item he made was
a gavel for the mayor to use made with wood which allegedly came from a mill in
Highland County Ohio called the Spargur Mill. This gavel was inscribed with the name of
his friend, George Farquhar, Villisca Mayor from 1929 to 1938. This gavel was recently
retired from use by the Villisca City Council in honor of Janis Sue Enarson, Villisca
Mayor from 1982 to 1994.
Following his wife's death in 1952, at the age of 87, he cast
his vote for President Harry Truman and the next day boarded the train for Winters,
California where he lived for almost a year with his niece, Mrs. H. B. Christensen.
His health began to fail in the summer of 1953 and by fall he
was talking of returning to Villisca to see his many friends. His family put him on the
train in Sacramento on November 5th, and he passed away in Glenwood Springs, Colorado on
the train, so he never made it back to his beloved hometown.
His family recalls him as a wonderful person and the young
children in the family adored him.
Ed Jenkins is a good example of the intelligent, hard
working, dedicated type of person that helped to build the town of Villisca.
Information compiled by Janis Sue Enarson. Sources include:
Ed's neice, Marilyn Christensen, former Villisca City Clerk Kenneth Higgins, Villisca
Review, Villisca City Hall records with assistance of Clerk Elinor Brown, Villisca
Memories compiled by Audrea Higgins, Virgil Anderson, owner of the Jenkins photos.