Ervalene: Her Story

By Carolyn Cole Gage


Ervalene Curtis Brown sitting for her 1993 interview for the documentary "Villisca: Living With a Mystery." (this photograph did not appear in the original "Villisca Review" article)

Photograph 1993, Fourth Wall Films. All Rights Reserved.

Ervalene Curtis Brown was born in Villisca in March 1898 to Clyde and Stella Curtis. She is the oldest person who was interviewed by Kelly and Tammy Rundle, producers of the documentary, Villisca: Living With a Mystery.

Mrs. Brown still lives in Des Moines and her memory is quite clear on those early years in Villisca. Following is the information she gave the Rundles.

She and her younger sister, Dorothy, remember her maternal grandmother, Laura Edenfield who arrived in Villisca in 1854. She and her husband lived in a log cabin near the Nodaway River, the only water source in the area. The Edenfield's home later served as a stop on the northern route of the Underground Railroad.

Three-year-old Ervalene Curtis checks the headlines in this 1901 photograph which was taken in Knoxville, Iowa; and then used on the letterhead of the jewelry store owned by her grandfather, Dexter A. Curtis.

Photograph courtesy Ervalene Curtis Brown.

Mrs. Brown graduated from Villisca High School prior to her family moving to Clarinda and then to Red Oak. Mrs. Brown said one reason the family left was due in part because they became weary of the division in the community due to rumors and controversy about the 1912 axe murders.

A graduate of the University of Iowa, she later taught English and Latin in the Essex and Elliott schools. In 1922 she married WWI veteran Leo R. Brown and moved first to Ames and then to Des Moines, where she still resides.

Next month she will celebrate her 101st birthday with her two children, five grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and 12 great-great grandchildren.

Her cousin, Betty Hendricks, still lives in Villisca.

[Ervalene lived to the age of 104 years.]

ervalene_03.jpg (92379 bytes)

Article courtesy of the Thursday, February 4, 1999 issue of the The Villisca Review.

Photographs of Fourth Wall Films and Ervalene Curtis Brown.
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Text Copyright The Villisca Review, All Rights Reserved.



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