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Reese Family Papers

Identifier: IWA0818

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Scope and Contents

The Reese family papers date from 1800 to 2009 and measure 3.7 linear feet. The papers are arranged in six series: Biographical history, Monona County, Business documents, Correspondence, Ephemera and Photographs.

The first series Biographical history (1878-2009) contains genealogical charts, family reunion correspondence and newspaper clippings. Birth, marriage, and death certificates are in this series. Leff Swedish heritage materials, are included, such as Olof Leff's personal documents including immigration and nationalization records, and Nellie Jo Leff's trip to Sweden in 1908 with her father is documented through her diary and postcards. Newspaper clippings and a photograph document Nellie's involvement with the Turin Bloomer Girls baseball team in 1904. Her autograph, birthday, and recipe books are also part of this series.

The second series, Monona County (1910-1987) contains flood photographs of Turin, Iowa from the 1950s, a collection of programs from all the funerals Howard and Jo Reese attended in the Monona County community and a souvenir letter from 1910, "The Men who built the Town of Turin," which includes references to Richard T. Reese.

The third series, Business (1870s-1970s) consists of contracts and deeds for large land and property purchases and the business documents of R.T. Reese between 1870s and 1890s from his red leather folding pocketbook. These documents are checks and receipts of business transactions made by R.T. Reese to local companies such as the Iowa Railroad Land Company and Freeland and Cleghorn, who specialized in lumber and farm machinery. There is also a general store ledger containing a list of customers and all of their purchases. Howard Reese business checks and public sale posters advertising the sale of livestock and farm tools and machinery are also contained. The Donald Reese farm records from 1940s to 1960s contain an assessment roll of the inventory of farm equipment, trade documents from the Farmers Union Live Stock Commission and a War Production Farm Plan from 1943.

The fourth series, Correspondence (1863-1953) includes letters and postcards to the Reese family from personal friends and other family members. Early letters are to R.T.Reese from California in the 1860s and postcards from Nellie's travels in 1910. Most of the letters and postcards are to Howard and Nellie Jo Reese from various family and friends from 1900s to 1950s. There is also a collection of letters from World War II to Howard and Nellie Jo Reese, from Donald Reese who served in the Navy as a pharmacist's mate first class until he was honorably discharged.

The fifth series, Travel Ephemera (1900-1935) consists of advertisements, postcards and documents relating to Howard and Nellie Jo Reese's travels around the United States. A polaroid photo taken in 1915, from America's Exposition in San Diego, California, is included as well as travel documents such as a personalized road atlas and National Park permits and souvenir tickets such as a "stratosphere flight" which Howard and Jo took in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Also, a postcard album of all the various places travelled, from Idaho to California, is included.

The sixth series, Photographs (1800-2000) contains photographs of different branches of the Reese and Leff families covering approximately two centuries. Most of the collection contains portraits of distant family members. There are photographs of early family members; early pioneers and railroad workers. Also, there are photographs of more immediate family; Nellie Jo Reese and her sisters, Howard Reese's brothers Henry and Dick Reese, their son, Donald Reese. Donald's wife Luella Sprague also has family photos in this collection. The Photograph albums consist of the Leff family album composed for reunions and the fragile Nordyke Reese red album has early pictures from the 1800s.


  • Creation: 1800-2009


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been retained by the donor.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Richard Thomas Reese was born in Monmouthshire, South Wales on August 15, 1831. When he was about ten years old, he moved to the United States with his sister. In 1854, Reese married Henrietta Nordyke. They had four children: Henry, Frederick, Richard and Howard. Reese died in 1910, two years after Henrietta Reese.

Howard Reese was born on August 29, 1881. A farmer by trade, Reese also prospered as a merchant in Turin, Iowa. He donated a substantial amount of money to the local Methodist church and later became its director. In 1920, Howard Reese helped establish the Turin Telephone Company. The first telephone in Turin was located in the Reese store.

Reese married Nellie Josephine Leff, who was also from Turin, in 1909 in Sioux City, Iowa. They lived in the same farm home in Turin throughout their lives. Their son, Donald Reese was born May 14, 1916. In 1933, he graduated from Onawa High School. His participation in his school's winning team at the Iowa State High School Debate Tournament that year earned him a four-year scholarship to The University of Iowa (then State University of Iowa). He graduated with a degree in English Literature in 1938.

Donald Reese served in the Navy during World War II as a pharmacist's mate first class. He was honorably discharged on December 6, 1945 and returned permanently to the family farm. Donald Reese married Luella Henrietta Sprague Zahrt on the 26 October, 1946 in Iowa City, Iowa. He worked as a rural mail carrier in the areas surrounding Turin and Onawa, Iowa, for 24 years. Donald and Luella had four children; David, Christy, Jo and Karen Reese.

Nellie Jo Reese died in 1972 in Onawa, Iowa, three days after her 88th birthday. Howard Reese passed away on April 10, 1979 in Turin, Iowa. Donald Reese passed away at age 81, on March 12, 1998 in Turin, Iowa.


3.70 Linear Feet

4 CD-ROMs in box 1 boxes ([d0212 - d0215])

Language of Materials



Business documents, correspondence and travel ephemera of the Reese Family from Turin, Iowa.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no.1270) were donated by Karen Bird in 2011.

Rosemary Riess, 2012.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)