BY MIKE AVITT
Shirley Hickman ran this photo in her “Ayr Views” column of March 29, 1990. The house was identified as being at 202 E. Jefferson in 1917 but no other information was available at that time. Shirley asked her readers for help and she got it in the following weeks.
The home was believed to be that of Mr. and Mrs. Robert C. Smith in 1917. R. C. Smith had an insurance office at 110 E. Madison from 1920 until his passing in 1942. The Smiths built a house at 116 Shellway Drive in the 1920s on the same floor plan. The houses look identical.
The next occupants were Burritt and MaryAnn Lesan. The “Early History of Ringgold County,” was compiled by MaryAnn and published in 1936. The Lesans were also the grandparents of the late Paul Ramsey. It is thought the Lesans lived here from the 1920s to the 1940s.
Mr. and Mrs. Burl Cunning are thought to have lived here after Mr. and Mrs. Lesan. The Cunnings also built a house in Sheldon Heights, 115 Shellway Drive, and moved to it maybe in the 1950s. A 1965 telephone directory has the house at 202 E. Jefferson occupied by Ike and Mari McGehee. They lived here for several decades.
I have given much thought as to where the more elegant and opulent houses were in Mount Ayr prior to the development of Sheldon Heights in 1913 and the Highland Addition (Dunning Avenue) in 1918. Five streets immediately come to mind: Madison, Fillmore, Monroe, Taylor, and Jefferson. All of these streets lead to and from the courtyard square except for Jefferson which leads to the schoolhouse. Other notable streets are Columbus, Adams, and Lincoln.
The most historic house in Mount Ayr is the one at 201 W. Jefferson, the former home of Keith and Betty Cole. Built in the 1870s as the First Baptist Church, it was converted into a residence in 1915. In 1920, Dr. L. H. Ahrens bought the house and opened it as a private hospital in 1921. Dr. Ahrens sold the property in 1924.
The house at 104 W. Jefferson was built in 1905 for Dr. and Mrs. F. C. Smith. Dr. Smith’s father-in-law was Jacob Rabb. Mr. Rabb and his partner, J. H. Seevers, built the brick shop at 110 W. Madison in 1890 as a meat market. Bev’s Pantry occupied this building in the 1960s.
The house at 600 E. Madison was built in 1916-17 for banker Walter Scott. Dr. Bruce and Michell Ricker lived here about 25 years. Mr. and Mrs. Victor Lesan lived here in 1965 according to my 1965 phone book.
I have a few more we’ll do later. If you have the history of your house and want me mention it, just email me.