116 Third Street – Dr. Frank Wilson Dean Part 1
In the Council Bluffs Public Library, on the second floor in the Iowa section, is the autobiography of Frank Wilson Dean, M.D. The book is so full of wonderful stories – some hilarious and others sad – that it will take two columns to barely scratch the surface. By coincidence, Frank and Sarah Dean lived in two of Council Bluffs’ historic homes. This is part one of a two-part story.
Samuel Dean and Elizabeth Abbott were married in 1856 in Andover, Massachusetts. A few days after the wedding, they sailed for India to do missionary work under the American Board of Foreign Missions.
Frank W. Dean was born in Satara, India in 1863, the fourth of six children born in India. (Two younger children were born in the United States.) When Frank was four years old, his father had what was thought to be a sun stroke and was ordered to return to America. It was advised that they not go by way of the Red Sea and cross by caravan where the Suez Canal is now, but to return on a sailing freighter, going around the south of Africa.
According to Frank’s autobiography, “We sailed out of Bombay harbor on March 19, 1867. On the ship besides the officers and crew, were – as passengers – only our family: father, mother, six children, my aunt Bertha and two Englishmen, a Mr. Brown and a Mr. Smith.
“After we set sail and were going south on the Indian Ocean, the captain took Walter and me down in the hold to see the stock. We saw cattle, sheep, hogs and a few goats. I did not understand why they were there except I knew we had goats milk to drink.”
When they reached the southern end of Africa, a storm struck at night. Water came into their compartments. Frank and George were in a lower berth. Their father found them under water, pulled them out and put them in the upper berth with their mother while he tried to keep the floating trunks from bumping against the berth. In the morning the captain had them moved to his quarters. Frank remembered being tied to the back of a sailor; the sailor had a rope around him so he wouldn’t be washed away. To keep from being frightened, they all sang songs. Some of the masts were broken off, and most of the sails were blown away. Shortly after they reached the captain’s quarters, the whole row of their former compartments was washed away. All of the trunks were cleaned out, and they had to wear their night clothes until they reached St. Helena three weeks later.
From St. Helena they sailed to Liverpool, and from there they took a steamship to New York. They arrived on August 22, 1867 after five months on the water. “That was a long trip, with a lot of anxiety for mother with six children under ten years of age.”
The family lived in Mt. Vernon, New Hampshire for two years, their father still not able to do much work. Then they moved to Georgia where his oldest brother owned and operated a gold mine at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
In 1872 the family moved to Nebraska where their father bought eighty acres of land, built a house and organized a church. Steel City was later built a short distance away, near the St. Joseph and Grand Island railroad. Frank wrote about the perils of living on the prairie- of plowing the land, going to school, raising chickens in a “dug out” hen house, the year of the grasshoppers, fighting prairie fires, hunting quail, trapping in the winter, raising horses and livestock, living through the blizzard of 1888, and attending Doane College at Crete, Nebraska.
While at Doane, Frank took some surveying classes. Working surveying jobs during the summers paid his way through medical school. He attended medical school in Chicago, and in the spring of 1891 he came to Omaha where his mother was then living. He heard that the doctor in Mineola, Iowa was leaving and set up practice there. After a year, his aunt Chloe and her husband invited him to visit them in Vienna and take some classes. This gave him an opportunity to study his main interest, the specialty of the eye, ear, nose and throat. He went on to take additional classes in London and Germany.
On June 10, 1897 he married Sarah Meston in Hastings, Nebraska at 8 am. After breakfast they took a train to Council Bluffs. They first lived at a rooming house, and then moved to a cottage at 302 South Ninth Street. This is where their son, Abbott, was born in 1900. In 1905 the family moved to this house which was first located at 233 Turley Avenue. In the city directory, the Deans are the first residents shown to be living in this house, although it is not known if they built it. In 1908 they moved the house to its present location at 116 Third Street.
The Queen Anne cottage, as described in the 2005 National Register nomination of the Third/Bluff/Willow Historic District, “is vinyl clad but has lots of style”. Since that time, the vinyl siding has been removed and the original wood siding restored and repainted. The well-maintained house retains shingle siding in the gable ends, a lunette window in the smaller front gable, and some original windows. The front porch enclosure is an early twentieth century addition. The house was sold in 1912, and the Deans moved into their new home at 424 Oakland Avenue in 1913. The new home and Dr. Dean’s medical practice will be featured in this column on March 23rd.
Preserve Council Bluffs acknowledges the following sources of information for this series: National Register of Historic Places nominations, the reference department of the Council Bluffs Public Library, the auditor’s office of the Pottawattamie County courthouse, Council Bluffs Community Development Department, homeowners, family members and individual research.
Preserve Council Bluffs is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote and preserve the heritage of Council Bluffs through its architecture, sites, and people.
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