331 Ninth Avenue – Dr. Mary Tinley

by | Historic Homes

Whoa, Nellie! Here comes Dr. Mary in the familiar four-wheeled carriage, rounding the corner at Third Street and Ninth Avenue, her driver at the reins of the old sorrel mare.

Dr. Mary Tinley’s parents were born in Ireland in the years just prior to the beginning of the potato famine in 1845. Matthew Hugh Tinley was born in 1838 in County Cavan. He came to America with his family in 1850. He was twelve years old. Rose Ann Dolan was born in 1837 in County Roscommon. She came to America with her family in 1848 and they settled in New York. She was eleven years old. Both families eventually made their way to Quincy, IL, where Matthew and Rose met.

They were married in Quincy in 1865 and moved to Council Bluffs in 1869 with their two young sons, Robert Emmet and Hubert. Their daughter, Mary Louise, was born that same year. Mathew, George, John Patrick, Frances Beatrice and Aurelia Rose followed.

331 Ninth Avee. Mary Tinley

Early city directories list their address as 1017 Main Street, with Matthew’s occupation as “milk man” and Rose’s as “lunch room”. Perhaps they lived above their small store, which was common during that time. The family purchased this property in 1884 and built the house c.1886 which, over the years, was home to extended family members as well. Mary and Aurelia purchased the property from their mother in 1913. They lived here through the 1940s.

Mary graduated from Council Bluffs High School in 1887. While in high school, according to an article published in 1953 in the Album of Women in Medicine, she was inspired to become a doctor by a visiting woman physician. After high school, she taught for five years at Longfellow and Bloomer Elementary Schools and saved enough money to enter medical school. She graduated from the University of Omaha Medical College in 1894 at the head of a class of 21 men and three women. For finishing first, the faculty gave her a bag with a set of surgical instruments. After postgraduate work in New York and Boston, she opened her first office in 1895.

The Tinley Family in 1907. Standing left to right: Aurelia, George, Mary, Mathew, and Beatrice. Seated: Emmet, Hubert and John.

The Tinley Family in 1907. Standing left to right: Aurelia, George, Mary, Mathew, and Beatrice. Seated: Emmet, Hubert and John.

Mary encouraged her brother, Mathew, to study medicine. They shared office space for many years, most of them in the Park Building. (He became General Mat Tinley and was once nominated for Vice President of the United States. He turned it down.) During World War I, Dr. Mary (as she was fondly called) cared for her brother’s patients as well as her own.

When the great influenza epidemic hit Council Bluffs in 1918, Dr. Mary carried bread and broth as well as medicine to the sick. (Album of Women in Medicine).

When automobiles replaced horse-drawn carriages, Dr. Mary was one of the first women in Council Bluffs to own one. Her license number was always 69, the year of her birth.

Dr. Mary was active in the Iowa State Medical Society, was district surgeon for the Union Pacific Railroad for 23 years, was a physician examiner for baby clinics for 30 years, and was physical director for the Pottawattamie County 4H girls for many years. She was active in many organizations: a charter member of the Altrusa Club and the Women’s Catholic Order of Foresters, and a former president of the Council Bluffs Medical Society. She was named “Woman of the Year” by the Chamber of Commerce in 1953, just four months before her death.

Dr. Mary Tinley died at age 84 after practicing medicine in Council Bluffs for almost 60 years. Nearly 1,000 persons attended her funeral at St. Francis Catholic Church. She is buried with her family in St. Joseph Cemetery. Bessie Thordsen, who worked for the family for decades, is buried with them.

The Italianate house retains many of the original interior features. Slate siding covers the original lapped wood. A small porch on the west side has been removed. The porch posts and the upper spindles, and the brackets under the eaves, are original. The porch railing is original but the spindles have been replicated.

The address was first listed as 225 Ninth Avenue. The house numbers in the block were changed at some point in time, and the address became number 331.

Source Material

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, individual research and, for this story, Emmet Tinley, Jane O’Brien, and Valerie and Bill Sullivan.

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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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