The History We Live In: Lt. Col. Lysander Tulleys’ home
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The History We Live In: Lt. Col. Lysander Tulleys’ home

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Lysander W. Tulleys was born in Frankfort, Ohio, in 1835, the son of Erasmus and Julia Tulleys. He was educated in the Ross County schools and attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, from approximately 1854-1858. He went on to Union College in Schenectady, New York where, in 1860, he obtained the degree of A.B. in classics. Three years later, he was awarded an A.M. degree while active in the war. He was principal at the Yellow Springs High School when the Civil War broke out.

His military records are included in the papers donated to the Kent State University Department of Special Collections and Archives by his grandchildren. He began his military career in April of 1861 as a high private in Company F of the 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and ended it as a lieutenant colonel of the 44th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He was honorably discharged in 1864.

During his enlistment in the 44th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, his regiment was sent to Frankfort, Kentucky. H.H. Field, in his “History of Pottawattamie County”, tells of an incident that occurred there:

“The convention met in the state house in 1862 and was expected to pass secession resolutions which would take Kentucky out of the Union. Tulleys was placed in charge of a body of soldiers who were to surround the state house, allowing all to enter but none to come out. When the assembly was called to order Col. S.A. Gilbert, the colonel of the Forty-fourth, addressed the convention, “advising” them to disperse to their homes, which they did under penalty of arrest, and thus Kentucky was saved to the Union.”

When he returned to civilian life, Tulleys obtained a law degree in Cleveland, Ohio. He began the practice of law in Xenia, Ohio, where he met and married Sarah Gowdy. They eventually moved to Champaign, Illinois, where he practiced law and became involved in providing farm loans.

In an interview with the Nonpareil in 1926, when Tulleys was 91 years of age, he “recalled the wild days”- a period of wild financing featured by large amounts of interest obtained on money borrowed, and “frenzied efforts on the part of easterners to place their moneys at the disposal of the farmers in a country whose development was assured in the early seventies”. After the close of the Civil War, Tulleys joined a firm known as Burnham-McKinley whose business interests were law and the loaning of money to farmers. From 1880 until 1890, the farm loan business continued to be a wildly lucrative profession. “The boundless prairies were being opened up. Farmers were in need of money to finance their farms. Borrowers and capitalists alike were oblivious to the future. Many far-sighted farmers paid off their mortgages to the farm loan companies but the greater percentage continued to pay their interest each year, invest in more land or break more prairie….”

Being the junior member of the firm, Tulleys was selected to cross the Mississippi and develop the farm loan industry in the west. In Ottumwa, he bought and studied maps of every county in Iowa, and determined that Pottawattamie county had the best agricultural land and would become the leading farming county in the state. And so, in 1875, the Tulleys settled in Council Bluffs.

The firm name was changed to Burnham-Tulleys when it was established here. In 1884, John G. Wadsworth applied for a job and was set to work as a book-keeper and general helper, including sweeping floors. But, under Tulleys, he rapidly learned the business. The firm eventually became Tulleys, Waters and Wadsworth.

“Loans were made in Iowa at 10% cash commission and 10% interest”, Tulleys said. The eastern clients of the firm, some even in England, went wild to place their money at this good rate of interest with such excellent security as new farms in the west. Funds poured in, interest was paid each year, and Tulleys crossed the Missouri and expanded his field in Nebraska and, eventually, the Dakotas.

In 1890 or 91, the crops failed due to drought, and again the following year. Tulleys had faith in the future, and paid his clients the interest that was due to them, “receiving scarcely a cent from the farmers. “We all thought that crops must come… so we advanced the interest”, Tulleys said. The Tulleys firm lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, drifting into the hands of the receiver through its own efforts to keep faith with the farmers and stand between them and the mortgage-foreclosing tendencies of the capitalists.

Farmers found themselves so deeply entangled in the mesh of finances and pyramided interest that they deserted their land and drifted further west, or went back to their former homes, or clung to their lands, which were taken by the lenders. Mortgages were purchased at the rate of 50 cents to $1 per acre. One group made money: those who purchased those mortgages and held them until the land could be sold to farmers, financed under the saner farm loans plans, for many times the amount per acre for which the mortgages were bought.

But, as the article states, the farm loan-frenzy settled the west, by a class of farmers whose belief in the west was unbounded. Farm loans continued, but on a sounder and more conservative basis and were eventually taken over by the banks.

Tulleys left the firm and concentrated on selling timber and mining lands in the west. The Tulleys had four children: Paul, Mary, Julia and Charles.

Lt. Col. Lysander Tulleys died in 1928; Sarah died in 1934. They are buried in Fairview Cemetery in Soldiers’ Circle next to the Kinsman Monument. Mary, who lived at 151 Park Avenue until it was sold in 1930, is buried outside the circle, a short distance away.

The house was built in 1877 in the Victorian Gothic style, designed by Chicago architect P.E. Hale and constructed by Wickham Brothers. (P.E. Hale also designed Council Bluffs’ Union Depot.) The impressive two 1/2 story brick house has Gothic arched windows and Eastlake decorative wood details. The four-story tower inset at the junction of the front and side gables, contains the main front entrance and an open stairway to the second floor and the third floor attic. An enclosed additional stairway continues to the top of the tower. The house has 54 exterior doors and windows. In the attic was a vat for running water.

The Tulleys House, once converted to apartments, has been faithfully restored to its original grandeur and, with the carriage house, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

– 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, for this story, Bob Pashek. Mary Lou McGinn can be reached by email at

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