The Hoover Houses and Community Structures
Historic Structures Report
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HOOVER COTTAGE (continued)


A. Personal Property Owned by Jesse & Huldah Hoover

1. Inventory of Jesse Hoovers Estate

Jesse Hoover died on December 13, 1880, 18 months after he moved his family from the Cottage into the two-story frame house at the northeast corner of Downey and Cedar streets. Immediately following his death, an inventory was made of his personal property and real estate, for the Cedar County Probate Court. Shown on the inventory was property found in the home of the deceased and at the implement shop. The inventory listed:

Items Value
23wood pumps
150feet wood pump tubing
18feet wood pump couplings
4wood pump rubber buckets
2wood pump leather buckets
36wood pump valves for buckets$ 2.75
5chain pump curbs
300feet chain pump tubing
114pounds of chain pumps chains10.41
24chain pump rubber buckets6.25
3new wheelbarrows
1old wheelbarrow
1sulky plow bottom9.00
1set of iron pump tools10.10
2barbing machines25.00
100pounds of barbs8.50
94pounds of fence wire5.03
1hay carrier with hooks8.73
6washing machines25.50
1set of runners for bobsled3.50
1heavy bobsled17.00
1sleigh frame2.00
1spring seat2.50
3spring buggies (new)67.00
2spring wagons (second hand)15.00
stovepipe & elbows3.67
brace & bits.60
3iron cylinders6.00
1monkey wrench.60
1porcelain chamber2.75
1farm wagon (second hand)15.00
2sewing machines (second hand)$ 20.00
6sewing machines (new)133.83
1/2of a harrow2.00
1set of shafts3.00
barley fork and fork handles1.00
120-foot lightning rod10.40
1dark bay horse65.00
1light bay horse60.00
2sets of light double-harness14.00
1set single harness8.75
1well auger50.00
1cow (34.00
2hogs (
Second Hoover House & one acre of land550.00
Implement Store & lot550.00
sewing machine
1oil stove
1string of bells1.00
1set fly nets4.00
18dozen cans of sewing machine oil1.12
3blades for rolling cutter3.00
1office chair.75
1office file.90
1set buggy lamps2.00
6braces2.00 [1]

Of the enumerated items, it was determined by the Probate Court that the following belonged to the widow:

Items Value
6 chairs (200.00
1 bedstead (
1 oil stove (
1 cookstove (
1 sewing machine (
1 cow (34.00
2 hogs (
1 dark bay horse$65.00
1 light bay horse60.00
1 farm wagon (second hand)15.00 [2]

2. Inventory of Huldah Hoover's Personal Estate

Huldah Hoover died on February 24, 1884, almost five years after the family had moved from the Cottage into the Second Hoover House. An inventory made for the Cedar County Probate Court showed that at the time of her death, she owned:

Items Value
1lot of books$ 3.00
1single bedstead1.00
1lounge & tick3.00
1paper holder.25
2looking glasses (one of which belongs to Mrs. Miles).20
10pictures (small)1.00
1case of wax flowers1.00
1corner whatnot.50
2pairs of Texas Longhorns.25
2rocking chairs.75
1heating stove1.00
1center table1.00
2center table cloths.50
20yards of rag carpet (good)6.00
2lace curtains.50
1piece stairs carpet.50
1oak bedstead (Mrs. Miles')
2bedcloths (plane)1.00
1sewing machine (Mrs. Minthorn's)4.00
3feather beds5.00
4pairs of pillows1.00
1barrels of flour.75
20yards of rag carpet2.00
40yards of rag carpet4.00
1lot of potatoes
1cookstove & furniture$5.00
1extension table3.00
1common table.25
1coal bucket.10
1water bench (goes with oil stove)
1oil stove & furniture2.00
5curtains for windows.50
15glass cans with fruit2.25
1pie safe1.00
1washing machine.50
1clothes wringer1.50
1ton soft coal3.00
32gallon jars1.00
11sheets (cotton)2.00
9pairs pillow cases1.00
5table cloths1.00
2chairs tidies.25
5comforters (Mrs. Minthorn's)3.00
1bed spread.25
1oil cloth coat.25
7dresses (Mary Minthorn's)5.00
5skirts (Mary Minthorn's)1.00
22pieces underware.50
1lot of dishes3.00
Ilot of sundries1.00
1lot of jars and jugs.50
5straw ticks1.00 [3]

On April 14, 1884, the personal property of the deceased was sold at public auction at the Second Hoover House. The items sold, their purchasers, and prices paid were:

ItemsPurchasers Sale Prices
5comfortersMary Minthorn$ 4.00
7dressesMary Minthorn15.00
5skirtsMary Minthorn3.00
22pieces of underwareMary Minthorn3.00
2dolmansMary Minthorn$ 12.00
2bonnetsMary Minthorn2.00
1bureauAllen Hoover4.50
1coatAllen Hoover2.00
1ton of coalJ. Y. Hoover3.00
1oil stoveBenijah Hoover5.00
1cookstove &cSarah Collins7.75
1featherbedF. Berkhermer2.20
1featherbedH. Bradley3.50
1featherbedJ. Y. Hoover2.00
1rockerBenijah Hoover1.45
19yards of carpetC. H. Wickersham3.42
19-1/2yards of carpetJ. J. Kerr2.73
20yards of carpetJ. J. Kerr6.20
20yards of carpetH. Bradley10.00
4pairs pillowsF. Berkhermer & Sons1.30
1wringerJ. C. Coombs3.50
lextension tableWm. Hargrove5.00
1sewing machineWm. Hargrove3.25
1center tableWm. Walker1.50
10chairsSundry persons2.60
1loungeJ. C. Coombs2.00
5quiltsSundry persons3.20
1pie safeJoseph Cook.50
1wheelbarrowBenijah Hoover1.10

Sundry items too numerous to enumerate31.33


Not Sold
1case wax flowers11sheets
1lot of books6pairs pillow cases
1rocking chair (owner found)4table cloths
2pairs of Texas Longhorns (owner found)2quilts
1hammock1oil cloth coat [4]

The subject inventories provide detailed information on the number and kind of furnishings owned by the Hoovers in March 1884. We may assume that following their May 1879 move to the two-story frame house that Jesse and Huldah Hoover purchased additional furniture. Such action would have been dictated by two factors—Jesse's improved economic situation and the availability of more space.

B. "Memories of a Little House" by Lou Henry Hoover

1. Mrs. Hoover's Interest and Research

Mrs. Herbert Hoover, in the 1930s, became interested in the restoration of her husband's birthplace to its appearance, circa 1874. In 1938 Bruce McKay carried out the restoration. Mrs. Hoover, at the same time, prepared a manuscript titled, "Memories of a Little House," descriptive of the Cottage, its furnishings, and the grounds. To secure information and to insure accuracy, Mrs. Hoover consulted all surviving members of her husband's family familiar with the Cottage in the 1870s and 1880s. Drafts of the manuscript were circulated by Mrs. Hoover to interested parties for possible corrections and additions. When these drafts were returned, they were reviewed, and corrections to the original noted.

Mrs. Hoover, having grown up in a similar environment, was intensely interested in the Cottage's furnishings. Her meticulously researched monograph provides the Service with a documented study of the Cottage's furnishings, and constitutes the core of this section of this report.

2. The North Room

a. Parlor

Mrs. Hoover's research divulged that Jesse and Huldah Hoover used one end of the north room as a sitting room or parlor. Here, she wrote, were

two or three rockers or other comfortable chairs and a lounge, later called a sofa. In the northeast corner there was a small drop-leaf table for the lamp, the Bible, books or paper, and a round sewing basket with needles and thread in it and scissors, thimble and button box. A "table cover" was on the table. One remembers vividly "a fruit picture" on the wall, probably a lithograph, but cannot recall exactly where it hung. And there were other pictures, perhaps one or two historic or religious prints and perhaps an embroidered cardboard motto or two, in cross-stitch, the latter very likely "worked" by young relatives. [5]

b. Dining Room-Kitchen

Mrs. Hoover continued:

The other or west end of this room was the dining-room in the long months of pleasant weather. It was the combined dining-room and kitchen in the cold winter when the passage across the corner of the open porch to the little lean-to summer kitchen would not be good for either cook or food. In winter the arrangement would be very like the kitchenette and dinette of today but for the difference in the domestic gadgets.

In 1870 there would have been in this dining end a sturdy table, on which in winter would be carried out the various culinary operations of preparation of the meal and of "cleaning up." Between these two periods the impedimenta would have been whisked off to a nearby shelf, the cloth would have been spread, dishes and cutlery placed in orderly array, and the kitchen table would have become the dining table and the straight-backed chairs would be drawn up for the delicious meal. We say delicious advisedly, for many of us still live with clear memories of the Iowa eating of that time, and no people was ever better or more temptingly fed,—although today it might not be considered that theirs was a balanced ration! [6]

Then, as the family dispersed, the remaining food was put away, dishes were gathered up, cloth carefully folded and put in a drawer if it were still clean, or in the "dirty clothes box" if soiled, and the dish pan was brought out and dishes washed on the same table, which had become kitchen table again.

Neither in this little house nor in the largest in the town (perhaps in the state) was there any plumbing. No sink, no drying board, no hot or cold water to be turned on nor to run away. Instead, the big teakettle which simmered on the back of the stove all day in the winter, was carried to the table and the steaming water poured into the dish pan. Then Huldah would have taken the long-handled dipper and dipped more cold water into the kettle from the water bucket sitting on a nearby shelf, with its top the same height as the stove.

The stove, doubtless, stood near the south wall, just west of the door leading into the bedroom, and served as the "central heating plant" to the whole house, as that door remained open most of the time during the winter.

Jesse and Huldah's stove was a wood-burning one which had to be replenished every two or three hours. So unless one of them planned to waken two or three times during the night (with out an alarm clock!) the fire went out a couple of hours after they went to sleep, and the room was near or quite a freezing temperature by the time they waked in the morning to rebuild it. [7]

This end of the living-room no doubt contained a cupboard for the dishes and glassware. It was doubtless one with drawers across the central portion where the silver, cutlery and linen lived. Some arrangement of shelves and hooks, or cupboard, housed the pots and pans nearby in winter. Probably this arrangement was easily carried to the lean-to when the kitchen moved out there in the spring.

It is remembered that when the kitchen was indoors there hung against the wall a large cupboard for food, known as a [pie] safe,—ventilated through perforated doors. No doubt in summer it was carried outside and hung on the porch wall near dining-room and kitchen door when the latter moved to the lean-to. In winter nothing could remain outside which would be injured by freezing. [8]

3. Bedroom

"From the living-room," Mrs. Hoover wrote,

a door through the south wall opened into the bedroom. On the west side of the room stood the high-legged double bed with the solid headboard and footboard that followed the four-posters in the Middle West. After little Theodore outgrew his cradle, there was his trundle-bed, which rolled under the big one when he was not in it. On them both were woolen "spreads" beautifully woven by some older member of the family on one of the family looms, the last remnant of domestic weaving to disappear from pioneer life. The intricate pattern was very likely in indigo blue and white, although red may have been introduced, probably of cochineal dye. The wool they no doubt carded and spun themselves as well as dyed. Under the "spreads" were charming patch work "quilts" of gay calico, the winter ones heavily padded. Some of these "spreads" and "quilts" of Grandmother Minthorn's own weaving are still in possession of the family. [9]

In the southeast corner of the bedroom, was the bureau with its drawers. This was called the "wedding-chest"—filled with household linens it was given to Huldah before her marriage by her mother. It had been made by her mother's brother near Detroit and sent out to Iowa. It was very like the one he had made for this very sister when she was married in 1840. The looking-glass hung over the bureau There was a couple of chairs and perhaps a little table. Without doubt there was a Singer or Florence sewing-machine, for which Jesse was agent as he was for various kinds of farm machinery. [10]

Built-in closets had not yet come to little houses in Iowa. Few, indeed, were in large ones. But a couple of horizontal strips of wood were nailed to the wall in the corner at the north end and at convenient heights were supplied with clothes hooks. Huldah made curtains to hang over the front of this practical closet to protect the garments from dust. Indeed it is remembered that Jesse had made a couple of shelves overhanging the row of clothes hooks, from the top one of which the curtains hung to the floor. Thus hats and treasured articles were on the protected lower shelf, and dust-proof things or covered boxes stood on the uncurtained top shelf. "The shoes stood in a row on the floor underneath, with scrap boxes and many necessary things," remembers one frequent . . . visitor. [11]

Mrs. Harriette Odell had been told that the curtains were of "unbleached muslin with three bands of chambray about one inch wide across the top and bottom." Some of the chambray was blue and some buff. Huldah had bought the material at Laban Miles' store and had hemmed them herself. [12]

4. Carpets and Wallpaper

"The floors of both rooms," Mrs. Hoover wrote,

were carpeted with rag carpets, for which the cloth of discarded family garments had been cut into long strips, perhaps an inch wide, sewed end to end and rolled into great balls by Huldah and her family before her wedding. On Mother Minthorn's loom these were woven into gay, striped widths of the hit-and-miss pattern which could be sewn together to fit the rooms. The carpet went close up to the walls to keep the floors warm in winter, and was underlain with many layers of old newspapers for the same purpose. In the restoration the architect discovered that inside the cracks of the outer wall boards had been covered or stopped with ticking before the papering, as a further protection against cold. [13]

Some family members recalled that "the inside of both rooms were papered." Mrs. Pemberton vaguely remembered "a very small figure, flower, or stripe as its pattern." [14]

5. Back Porch and Woodshed

"Outside, to the north at the back was the little 'lean-to' room," Mrs. Hoover continued,

whose door opened on to the covered back porch at right angles to the living-room door. Whether it was built at the same time as the rest of the house or shortly after is now uncertain. It was no doubt intended as a general utility room to be adapted to the greatest need of the moment. It has been called the wood-shed in recent decades. When built it was doubtless anticipated as a wood-shed to the larger house that the little one would grow into. And indeed from the very first it would become primarily a woodshed and storeroom during the cold winter months when the kitchen perforce moved indoors for its own sake as well as for providing the heat for the house. Relatives who frequented the little house in those years have very clear remembrance of it as a kitchen in pleasant months, with the north room used as sitting-room and dining-room only. A relative says "At one time I remember the north end of the lean-to housed the cook stove and a small table in summer time. There was a high chair there and another chair or two. Seasons changed the arrangement of things a great deal in those times."

Undoubtedly it occasionally became the spare bedroom for visiting friend or relative when a gathering of the family's many branches filled the bedrooms of the larger houses of father and older brothers and sisters.

Certain it is that it was used as his bedroom during part of the year at least, by the time little Theodore was old enough to leave his mother's room for the night. He remembers distinctly that as he grew to five or six years of age this was his room.

At the birth of his little brother Herbert, Theodore remembers his father coming there in the night to tell him that he had a little baby brother in mother's room with her. [15]

C. Toys and Christmas

May (Mary) Hoover, it was recalled, had dolls and was "absorbed in them." A precocious child, she learned to read at an earlier age than her contemporaries. [16]

At Christmas, the Hoover and Miles children exchanged gifts. There were knitted or cross-stitch mittens, stockings, scarfs, and table covers from Grandmother Minthorn; books like Happy Days and Chatterbox; and hazelnuts. [17]

D. Items Purchased from Miles & Townsend

Huldah Hoover bought from her brother-in-law's store tin cans and sealing wax for canning fruit, five gallon stone jars (for spiced pears), merino, cashmere, flannel, and black silk for dresses, and churns both stone and wood. [18]

E. Cottage Fixtures

Mrs. Pemberton recalled that her father and Jesse Hoover had built the Cottage. When she had visited the site in 1929, her brother Davis, who was only three years younger than Jesse, pointed out many oddities in the structure, such as the iron latches, the straight board doors, the small paned windows, and the low loft, formerly used for storage. [19]

F. The Furnishings, 1939-1970

1. Furnishing the Restored Cottage

The decision to refurnish the Cottage made, Mrs. Lou Henry Hoover contacted relatives to ascertain if they knew the whereabouts of the original furnishings, most of which had been sold at the auction following Huldah Hoover's death. Mrs. Mattie Pemberton reported, sadly, that she would not be of much assistance. She had the family Bible, and a period drop-leaf table and kerosene lamp which she would like to place in the Cottage, while Cora Hoover had a bureau similar to Huldah Hoover's. [20]

Mrs. Pemberton in the autumn of 1939 donated the family Bible and drop-leaf table to the Society, while Cora Hoover gave the bureau. In May 1940 Maud Stratton forwarded to Mrs. Hoover, in California, the Bible, to be rebound by experts. [21]

Mrs. Odell and her sister had cleaned out the attic of her mother's home following her death, and had found a package marked, "Huldah's bonnet and shawl." But they had been so moth eaten that they had to be burned. Mrs. Odell recalled that the bonnet was not the "long Quaker bonnet," but was "a neat inconspicuous poke bonnet of shirred black velvet." This satisfied her that Huldah had not been "a radical about dress." [22]

Meanwhile, Fred Albin, having received clearance from Allan Hoover, was spearheading a local campaign to secure period furnishings for the Cottage. A number of objects were obtained locally for display by Albin's committee. [23] Maud Stratton made a carpet similar to those woven by Mrs. Minthorn, and the Cottage walls were whitewashed.

Family portraits were mounted in "some lovely old frames" and a "God Bless Our Home" sampler placed over the back door. [24]

By April of 1941 the Cottage had been "refurnished to bring back the atmosphere of the days when the family occupied it and during which time the three Hoover children were born." [25]

During the winter of 1953-54 plans were announced by the Society to place period dining room furnishings in the Cottage. Already on hand were the table and high chair, but to complete the exhibit the committee in charge needed several wooden chairs, steel knives and forks, ironstone place settings, a castor, knife box, and spoon holder. In a successful effort to obtain these objects, the committee addressed an appeal through the local newspaper to the community. [26]

Visitors to the Cottage in 1954 were told by Mrs. John Thompson that the structure in the 1870s looked "just like it does now, for in restoring" it "close attention was paid to detail." The curtains at the windows, several of which were originals, were similar in pattern to those hung by Huldah Hoover. The rag carpet, made by Maud Stratton, was of the same pattern as the one Mrs. Minthorn had woven for her daughter's home. The bureau in the bedroom had belonged to Jesse and Huldah Hoover, and had been made by Herbert Hoover's great uncle, a Detroit cabinet maker. The high chair at the dinner table had been used by Herbert Hoover, while the cupboard was a family piece. Positioned in the cupboard was a deep glass dish, with maple leaf pattern, once owned by Huldah Hoover. The drop-leaf table had been donated to the Society by Mattie Pemberton, and the tea service had been the pride of Ellen Hoover, one of Herbert's aunts. [27]

2. The Waters Cradle

In mid-June 1930 Wilbur Waters excitedly told Editor Corbin of the West Branch Times that he had located the cradle in which Huldah Hoover had rocked her children to sleep. "The old-time cradle of walnut, built on graceful lines, with beautiful turned rockers, and artistic handholes carved in the side" had been found in Waters' barn, hidden behind the "stanchion in the manger of a cow stable, sheltering the nests of fussy setting hens."

Waters explained to Corbin that his father Milton had acquired the cradle at the auction disposing of Jesse Hoover's estate. Milton Waters had bought an Ottawa wagon and the cradle had been "thrown in."

A generation of Waters children had been rocked to sleep in the Hoover cradle, and in due time it, along with the wagon, had been inherited by Wilbur Waters. His children had gone to sleep in the cradle, until one of the rockers warped and the cradle was discarded in favor of a crib and sent to the barn. [28]

H. A. Larew of Waterloo challenged Waters' claim that he owned the Hoover cradle. He asserted that the cradle displayed by Waters was the "one in which he and his brothers and sisters were rocked, when his father lived on the farm now owned by Waters." Waters countered that the Larew cradle was much larger than "the four-by two box which held Hoover." Continuing, he pointed out that he had left the Larew cradle "on the old farm southeast of West Branch eighteen years ago." [29]

Despite the doubt raised by Larew regarding the authenticity of the Waters Cradle, it is displayed in the Hoover Cottage and identified as the cradle in which Huldah Hoover rocked her children.

3. Care and Cataloging of the Objects

Until the Estalls became custodians on January 1, 1965, inadequate attention was given to preservation and protection of the objects, especially those in the Blacksmith Shop. Assisted by Historian Glennie Murray of Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, the Estalls took steps to preserve and protect this valuable collection. Order was brought out of chaos in the Blacksmith Shop. Surplus objects not on display were stored in the basement of the Friends Meeting House. [30]

At present, Historian Nash, assisted by Park Technician Estall, is cataloging the objects.

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Last Updated: 28-Jul-2006