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Ivinson Family

Ivinson Family History

 

Edward Ivinson was born September 20, 1830, at River Estate on St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, where his father owned a sugar plantation and traded in exotic woods. Of English descent, Edward was educated at the Croft House Academy in Brampton, England and spent holidays at his grandfather’s farm in Cumberland. He remained in England as an apprentice in the cloth wholesale business and after a time emigrated to New York where he started as an apprentice at Lord and Taylor’s. Jane Wood was born in western England on October 22, 1840, and was educated there as she lived with her maternal grandparents.

Jane emigrated to the United States in December 1853 to live with her stepfather and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Waddington. As a favor to his friends, the Waddingtons, Edward met Jane's ship. English companions in the United States, the two became close friends and much to the consternation of their families were married four months later.

Jane Wood and Edward Ivinson were wed in Jersey City, New Jersey on April 12, 1854. She was 13 years old and he was 23. Their marriage lasted for 61 years.

The Ivinsons lived back east for a time: In Evansville, Indiana, and Peoria, Illinois where they became citizens of the United States (Edward applied for citizenship when they were in Indiana; Jane became a citizen automatically when her husband received his.) and adopted the three-year-old daughter of an acquaintance, George Watson. This adopted daughter, Margaret Ellen (Maggie) was born on September 25, 1857, in Pekin, Illinois. From there the family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where Ivinson was a cotton trader and opened a large dry goods store. Mr. Ivinson felt that excellent business opportunities were to be had by moving wesward to California, following the new transcontinental railroad. Edward bought supplies on mortgage for a general store and started out for the West. He left Jane and Maggie at home in Memphis while he traveled to see what kind of fortune could be made.

Edward first set foot in what would soon become Laramie City, Dakota Territory, in February 1868, a few months before the arrival of the rails. He decided to put down temporary roots and established a grocery/dry goods business in a log building near where the tracks would eventually be laid. As the railroad approached Laramie in the spring, Edward returned to Memphis, picked up his wife and daughter, and together with Jane's maid, they arrived in Laramie City on 10 May 1868 on one of the first passenger trains into the fledgling town.

Jane Ivinson immediately set about having some sort of church services in the wild little settlement, holding Sunday school on crates in the back of their general store, and contacting the diocese of Cheyenne for a traveling preacher to come to Laramie City on a regular basis. December 1868, the citizens had a festive party at the railroad station to celebrate the first Christmas in the new territory. Mr. Ivinson gloried in his role of Santa Claus - a role he repeated for several years. Within one year, Jennie Ivinson and the other ladies who had arrived on that first train had raised enough money--through sandwich suppers and cotillion dances for the soldiers at Fort Sanders--to open Laramie's Union School.

In 1869, Mr. Ivinson was appointed by the governor of the territory to a committee of three. This committee chose and acquired the site of the penitentiary on the west bank of the Laramie River. This is the building which is now the centerpiece of the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site (www.wyomingterritorialprison.com), and is completely restored. One of the items brought into town by Mr. Ivinson was a heavy secure safe which was never breached. That, and his reputation as an honest business man led to his entering the banking profession. In 1871, he purchased the local bank. Thus commenced his five decade long banking career, through which he amassed his great fortune. He served as a contractor and lent the money to build the first courthouse which was at the same location as the present one. His many other interests included ownership of the Buckeye Ranch in Centennial Valley and a large share in the Laramie, Northpark, and Pacific Railroad, which he promoted with great enthusiasm.

Mr. Ivinson was named to the first Board of Trustees of the University of Wyoming and served as its treasurer for several years. A devout Episcopalian, he and his wife were active in bringing that church to Laramie. They gave money to build the first Episcopal Church here, and were an influence with the cathedral being located in Laramie.

In 1870, the Ivinsons bought the lot upon which they were to build their mansion in 1892 for $400 from the Union Pacific Railroad. They planted trees and encouraged the full square block to be used as a city park for the families settling in the fledgling town.

In 1878, on her twenty-first birthday, Margaret married Galusha Benton Grow. Grow was a nephew of Galusha A. Grow, one of the drafters of the Homestead Act. Young Galusha had come to Wyoming Territory to see what all of the "hub-bub" was about with land and homesteads out West. He and a cowboy buddy worked the ranches around Laramie. Galusha and Margaret Ellen were married in a fashionable ceremony on September 25, 1878. The couple had three daughters: Helen Jean, Frances (Fanny), and Mary Elizabeth.

In 1892, Mr. Ivinson embarked on two great projects: he ran for governor on the Republican ticket, and began to build his home on the lot he purchased in 1870. While he lost the election, the home was a great success. W.E. Ware, a Salt Lake City architect, designed some buildings in Laramie including the impressive Ivinson Mansion. Frank Cook was the contractor who built the home for the then princely sum of $40,000. The house had central heating, electric lights, and running water, as well as the most elegant appointments of any house in town. Mrs. Ivinson designed the interior of the house. She visited Chicago in 1892 and 1893 to select furnishings, hardware and fixtures, including doorknobs, light fixtures, the bathroom appointments, and stained-glass windows. The house was completed in April 1893.

In 1904, the Ivinsons celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary with a gala event at Maennerchor Hall. Four years later, they traveled to Europe, returning with many treasures they had purchase during their travels. In 1914, the Ivinsons celebrated their sixtieth anniversary with another gala bash. Sadly, Mrs. Ivinson became ill soon afterward, and died the following year.

Upon Jane’s death, Edward began a long series of philanthropic endeavors. First he contributed land and $50,000 to the building of a new hospital, knowing that his wife wanted a hospital that "would be a credit to the city" and that she might have received better care with her own health decline if there had been an adequate hospital in Laramie. He also completed the three towers and gave money for chimes and the clock at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, as well as a pair of stained glass windows in Jane’s memory. Mr. Ivinson also donated the War Memorial (WWI) which now stands on the northeast corner of Courthouse Square, diagonally across from the front door of the Ivinson Mansion.

In 1921, Edward gave his home to the Episcopal Missionary District of Wyoming. The house was to be used as a school-home for teenage girls who lived on ranches and had trouble getting to town to attend high school daily.

Shortly after, in 1921, Edward had a brief marriage to Mrs. Ora Haley, widow of his former business partner. They both found the union to be highly unsatisfactory and, when that ended, Edward spent his winters in Denver, living in the Brown Palace or the Shirley Savoy, and his summers at the Connor Hotel in Laramie.

Mr. Ivinson died on April 9, 1928, at the age of 97; he was just short of his goal of 100. He gave his money to build and endow the Ivinson Home for Aged Ladies, a longtime dream of Jane’s, and endowed a pair of stained glass windows at the Cathedral in the Ivinson name.

 

 

City of Laramie
 
Laramie Plains Museum  603 Ivinson Avenue, Laramie, WY 82070  (307) 742-4448  lpmdirector@laramiemuseum.org