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The Blue Book of Iowa Women A History of Contemporary Women

Compiled by Winona Evans Reeves, 1914.


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Mrs. Charles E. Perkins

One of the most interesting women in Iowa, and certainly one of the most charming, is Mrs. Chas. E. Perkins of Burlington.  She is a woman whom one would notice in a thousand, a woman of striking personality, and gracious manner.  Mrs. Edith Forbes Perkins was born March 4, 1843, in Boston, Mass.  She is the daughter of Commodore Robert Bennett Forbes and Rose Smith.  Her father in 1847 took the ship Jamestown, which the U. S. Government loaned him, to the famine sufferers in Ireland, loaded with a cargo of food furnished by the merchants of Boston.  She was educated in the schools of Boston.  In 1864 in Milton, Mass., she was married to Charles E. Perkins, at that time a clerk in the offices of the Burlington and Missouri River R. R.  Mr. Perkins was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and at the age of nineteen (1859) came to Burlington and began his connection with the corporation of which he later became president.  His biographer says of him:  "He has earned and won by superior executive ability, energy and fidelity to the trust reposed in him, an honorable promotion through all grades of service, from that of clerk in the treasurer's office, at thirty dollars a month to the position as chief executive of one of the greatest railway systems of the country."  He was promoted to the superintendency in 1865, when the road extended from Burlington to Ottumwa, a distance of seventy-five miles.  Since that time there has been constructed a net work of railroads from Chicago to the Pacific Coast.  In the creating of this great system Charles E. Perkins had a very large part.  For twenty years, to the time of his death, he was president of this great system.  Six children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Perkins:  Mrs. Elsie P. Hooper, Robert F. Perkins, Mrs. Edith P. Cunningham, Mrs. Margaret P. Rice, Mrs. Mary P. McIlvain, and Charles E. Perkins.  In 1867, Mr. Perkins purchased what was known as the Dill farm on the edge of Burlington.  On this place Benjamin Tucker, a pioneer and a pedagogue, had built a log cabin and planted an orchard of apple trees, the first orchard in that section.  They moved to this cabin, which, through all the years they have kept practically intact, and it still forms their principal living room, --- "the heart of the house."  At the coming of each child they enlarged the house by adding a new building, which has made a rambling mansion, with wings and additions and porches --- a wonderful house, unlike any other.  It has been named "The Trees," and is filled with most exquisite treasures.  It is a rare privilege and one never to be forgotten to be a guest in this house.  Each room has its own characteristics.  One room is filled with the possessions of Mrs. Perkins' mother, brought from the old home in Boston.  The beautiful rose wood and mahogany furniture would fill with longing the heart of one who loves antiques.  Everywhere about the house there are books, books, books.  There are books of history, sociology, books on music, books on art with exquisite illustrations, all giving evidence of Mrs. Perkins' wide reading and of her knowledge along many lines.  But the books she has made herself are the most interesting of all.  For each year she makes a Christmas book of all the letters and notes of greeting which come to "The Trees."  She has a set of books on the Indians which have not their parallel anywhere.  Her guest book which has been kept for years contains the names of many distinguished people.



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