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Marcus Memories

The Louis Gund Family

by Arlene Hollenbeck

Marcus Historical Society

At our November meeting I was given a letter and an old postcard that we received from a member in Iowa City.  She had been shopping in a mall where a flea market was being held.  A booth selling items from all over Iowa caught her attention and she asked if they had anything from Marcus Iowa.  One postcard was from Aug. 12, 1895 sent to Louis Gund Esq. in acknowledgement of his insurance premium payment of $89.13 to the German Insurance Co. of Freeport Illinois.   The postcard is in excellent condition and will be a very nice display item with a brief history of the Gund family .

The Gund family was of German ancestry and came to America in 1848 settling on a farm near Freeport,  Ill.  Louis had a brother Frederick who was associated with the Freeport Insurance Company,  founded February 16, 1865 in Freeport Ill.  On June 23, 1866 it was  purchased by a number of local businessmen of German extraction and the name was changed to The German Insurance Company. During that first year the company issued only 411 policies.  In December of 1867 Frederick Gund became secretary of the company.  He was a dynamic young man of only 21 when he joined the company.  He promoted and developed “The German of Freeport” and was an active civic leader.  By 1896 the company was doing business in 14 states and 1 territory and it’s assets exceeded $3,000,000.00.  It was said to be the largest insurance company west of Philadelphia.   A new building was built in 1898 and still stands today.  The company was a vigorous lender in mortgages to keep it’s capitol working  and prospered until April 18, 1906 when the great San Francisco earthquake and fire brought down $5,000,000.00 in claims.  The company went into receivership and closed.   Frederick Gund died in 1889.  

Frederick and Louis Gund’s parent’s died of cholera in 1850 and they were raised in Galena, Illinois by his sister.  Louis  learned the wagon making trade and in 1867 he moved to Benton Co. IA. where he met and married his wife Margaret.  They had three children, Minnie, Cora and William.  Mr. Gund and his family arrived in Marcus in 1876 and he became involved in the community as mayor in 1882 and also with a grain elevator, an implement business and later a bank.  William L. Gund along with his sisters ran the bank after the death of their father in 1917 until it’s liquidation in 1929.   William maintained an office in the bank building until his death in 1955.

Minnie and Cora never married.  William married Ethel Lytle but had no children.  All of the Gund family was very involved in the community during their lives.  Some of their gifts to the community include the brick entrances and fences at the cemeteries, a water works system at the cemetery, a scholarship for Marcus Community students, property east of the former Catholic school which was a playground and the W.L. Gund Library. 

The Gund’s owned a large amount of farmland.  I grew up on one of those farms.  It was  located one mile west of the Tilden Township School.  None of the buildings remain today.  This 160 acres is in a permanent trust that provides the scholarship’s for the Marcus students. 

My parents, Elmer and Irene (Digel) Anderson moved onto this farm after their marriage in 1935 and lived there until the mid 1960’s when they moved 1/2 mile south of the Tilden School to the former Gus Olson farm.   William Gund (my Dad called him Billy) rented the 160 acre farm to my Dad in 1935 and loaned him the money to buy start up machinery.  After “Billy” passed away his wife Ethel took control of the the farming operations.  I remember when she would drive into the yard and honk the horn until Dad would come to the car.  She had a small dog with her and she wouldn’t get out of the car for fear our farm dog would hurt her dog.

Mrs. Gund had a house keeper.  I’m sure many Marcus people remember her.  Alice (Anderson) Dunn, my Dad’s little sister.   Aunt Alice inherited Mrs. Gund’s house when she died and Alice and Jack Dunn raised their four girls in that house. 
Ethel Gund was killed in an airplane explosion over Indiana in 1960.

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