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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. William S. Ivins

Mrs. Virginia Wilcox Ivins, author and pioneer, was born March 26, 1832, in Warsaw, Ill.  She is the daughter of Major John Remele Wilcox, of the U. S. army, who after graduation from West Point was ordered on duty successively at Forts Snelling, Armstrong and Edwards.  In the Black Hawk war he served as major in the state troops of Illinois.  Her mother, Mary Williams Kenney, a descendant of Roger Williams, was a typical soldier's wife, --- brave in enduring the hardships and inconveniences of life in the army.  Both parents died when Mrs. Ivins was very young, so she came to Keokuk in 1840, to the home of her uncle, Dr. Isaac Galland, who in 1837 platted and laid out the town of Keokuk, and named it.  He laid it out a mile square, taking the plan of Philadelphia as a model.  Her early education was received at Akron, Ohio.  In 1845 her guardian, Benjamin F. Marsh, of Warsaw, sent her to Edgeworth Seminary in St. Louis, where she remained for three years.  Returning to Keokuk she had a part in the society of that town, which had in it then many men and women who came to be national figures in the political world --- famous lawyers, financiers and military men of high rank.  In 1849 she was married to William S. Ivins, whose parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Ivins, had come to Keokuk from New Jersey in 1845.  When she was only twenty years of age,  she and her husband and little son, Charlie, started in covered wagons drawn by ox teams on the long journey across the plains and over the mountains to California.  The story of this journey is told in her book, "Pen Pictures of Early Western Days," published in 1905.  The book gives a remarkable picture of the journey and the times, graphic in its description and full of heart interest from the first page to the last.  It is authentic historically, which is more than can be said of many books written descriptive of the times.  The experiences of the little band would grip the heart of any reader, but when one knows the author personally, a brave, noble woman, the story has an incomparable interest.  Mrs. Ivins is a splendid type of woman, one who rises to the occasion, whatever that may be.  She is a very handsome woman of fine mind, gracious and charming in society, a woman of unusual interest.  There were seven children born to Mr. and Mrs. Ivins:  The oldest, Frank Herbert, died at the age of two years;  Charles died at the age of four years;  Sierra Nevada, now Mrs. Ralston Jones, of Cincinnati, was born on the journey across the plains, while they were in the Sierra Nevada mountains, hence her name.  Mrs. Jones' husband has charge of the government work on the Ohio river.  She has two children, --- Elizabeth Ivins Jones, an artist in New York, and Robert Ralston Jones, who is in school.  Mrs. Ivins other children are:  Harry, died at the age of five years;  Elizabeth Galland Ivins, a musician, who died in 1912;  Ivan Walton, who died in infancy, and William N. S. Ivins, who married Margaret Betcher Worthen, lives in St. Paul, is an attorney in one of the departments of the Great Northern Railroad.  He is an artist of much merit, an author and a musical composer, having written the words and musical score for an opera which has been successfully presented in many cities.  Mrs. Ivins' husband died May 18, 1889, leaving in her heart and life a great vacancy.  She is at work on a second book, "Yesterdays," to be published later.



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