Kellum Noble House
12 December 1908: Houston’s first municipal park was a 20.43 acre tract of land purchased in 1900 for $1700. On the land was a somewhat dilapidated old brick 2-story home erected 1841-1843 by Nathaniel K. Kellum, a brick-maker, from bricks made on nearby Buffalo Bayou. Kellum was friends with Sam Houston, who visited there frequently. He sold it in 1849 to Abram Washington Noble, Houston merchant from Copiah County, MS. In the Civil War Noble volunteered as Captain of Company A of Madison’s Regiment of the Texas Cavalry, and for a few years after the Civil War used the property for the Sam Houston Military Academy. Noble’s wife was Zerviah Metcalf Robinson, previously the widow of George Stillman Kelley, both from New London County, CT. As a young woman Zerviah had attended Bacon Academy in nearby Colchester, one of the few schools admitting women at that time, and there acquired a liberal education. Zerviah’s marriage did not last, but as a widow she had invested well and was able to retain the house near the bayou. With her 17 year old daughter, Catherine Kelley, she opened a girl’s school in 1852 giving instruction in English, arithmetic, as well as embroidery, painting and music. In 1860 Catherine married Alexander Adolph Szabo, a Hungarian immigrant, but sadly she died six years later leaving a four year old daughter, Eloise Eleanor. In 1871 the State of Texas constructed the 4th Ward Primary School on Zerviah’s land and named her the principal and teacher. She retired in 1883 and died in 1894, and her granddaughter, Eloise E. Szabo Witte, wife of Otto Witte, inherited the property which became the core of the city park.
20 May 2005: After Sam Houston Park was opened, the Kellum-Noble house was the residence for the park keeper, but eventually it was abandoned, then condemned as unsafe except for storage. In the early 1950’s Buffalo Drive (now Allen Parkway) had been constructed on the south side of Buffalo Bayou with its terminus at the park where an extension of eastbound Dallas street ran directly in front of the old house. Many called for the eyesore to be demolished since it had fallen into a dilapidated state. Many windows were broken, the upper galleries shook when walked on, and large wall cracks had begun to threaten the structure. Sensing that private action was needed, the Harris County Heritage and Conservation Society (now The Heritage Society) was formed in 1954 to restore the structure and furnish it as a period house and museum to honor some of Houston’s 19th century voices: Nathaniel K. Kellum (1812-1862) buried at Kellum Springs Cemetery in Grimes County; Abram Washington Noble (1815-1892), buried at Kemp Cemetery in Kaufman County, TX; buried in Founder’s Park Cemetery: George Stillman Kelley (1811-1846), Catherine Adelia Kelley Szabo (1835-1866), and Zerviah Noble’s parents Andrew Metcalf Robinson (1788-1851) and Eunice Waterman Robinson (1796-1859); in Glenwood Cemetery: Zerviah Metcalf Robinson Noble (1815-1894) and Alexander Adolph Szabo (1831-1905).
Postmarked: 18 December 1908; Houston, Tex. "D"
Stamp: 1c Blue Green Ben Franklin #300
To: Miss Flo Nutting,
#3. E. 31st, St.
[Front] I presume dear Dr Beers is back now - and am sure every one is glad to see her again. give her my love, - and with lots of love to you and all my friends there, I am sincerely, B. E. Iler.
[Back] Dear Miss Nutting -
Your card was received. some time ago - and you don’t know how glad I was to hear from you, it was just like a little letter from the club, and, it’s news greatly enjoyed I assure you. How is Art going this year? No doubt - you are enjoying your work. Well you girls are [planning for “Xmas”, I know, - & it makes me feel “kinder lonesome” for all of you.
The “Girls Club” where Flo Nutting stayed in 1908 was Eleanor Club #5, a converted hotel at 3111 Indiana Avenue just south of E. 31st Street on Chicago’s South Side. These clubs were the vision of Ina Robertson (1867-1916), a philanthropist interested in the welfare of young single women drawn to work in Chicago and needing safe housing options. The 1893 Columbian Exposition brought Chicago to the attention of the world, and 27 million people visited the city in its 6 months run; the city soon became a beacon for those, especially from the Midwest, wanting a modern life. Ina Robertson came to Chicago from Linn County, OR after graduating from Albany College (now Lewis and Clark College) in Portland in 1889, attending Chicago’s new University of Chicago for graduate school. When a friend, Eleanor Law (1835-1926) through her brother James Law (1827-1899) from Washington County, NY, designated her as trustee for his considerable estate, Ina turned her attention to philanthropy. Having had some difficulty finding safe housing when she came to the city, she had a vision of a home-like environment where working single women had private rooms and shared facilities such as parlors, meeting rooms, sewing rooms, laundry facilities, and careful but not oppressive supervision. Eleanor Clubs, named for Eleanor Law (and significantly a name meaning “light”) had a single entrance with a observant receptionist, and residents shared meals in a common dining room for breakfast and dinner (the presumption being that residents would be at lunch in the area where they worked). A House Council managed the rules and decided upon activities which included guest lecturers and social events. Unlike the YWCA and other Christian charities, religion was never mentioned and church attendance was entirely at the discretion of the tenants. The atmosphere was collegial and business-like, providing companionship, support and a safe harbor for young women who would otherwise be isolated in a great city. The clubs were a sorority of sorts, with a fluid membership of working-class girls. Accommodations were clean but modest, affordable at $2.50 - $6.50 per month at a time when a cash girl was paid $6 a week and bookkeepers $12.
Superintending the single women staying at the Eleanor Club #5 was Mary C. Mack, a 50 year old New York native from Canandaigua, Onondaga County, NY, a mature woman well trained to manage a group of 36 young women [Information here from the 1910 Census]. The neighborhood was busy but safe, especially within the confines of the club. She had only 2 assistants, a mulatto male, 37 year old Eugene Washington from TN who was janitor and general mechanic, and 37 year old Belle Shimrock who was housekeeper. The all-female boarders ranged in age from 18 to 56 with an average of 29, and about a third were foreign born. Occupations were typical of young women of the time: 14 clerical workers included stenographers, bookkeepers, and one who was a reader for a clipping service; 7 were involved in the arts, particularly music with one involved in concert work [possibly studying at the newly instituted VanderCook College of Music founded nearby in 1909], the visual arts included one student at an art institute and another studying and teaching art; 7 tradeswomen included seamstresses, milliners, dressmakers, and workers and managers in a corset factory; only 3 were designated students, specifically music and art, with one studying physical culture, our postcard recipient, Flo Nutting.
Florette Nutting was 24 years old when she received this postcard, far from her childhood home in Oregon where she lived in a family of just 2 other siblings: Roy nearly 5 years younger and Violet 15 years younger. They were the children of Fred Pike Nutting, editor of the Oregon Democrat in Albany, Linn County, OR and Olive Miller Nutting from Albany, OR. Ina Robertson, founder of the Eleanor Clubs, was from the small town of Halsey 17 miles south of Albany on the plain of the Willamette River Valley, but whether the Robertsons and the Nuttings were acquainted is not known. Dr. Beers mentioned in the postcard was most likely Lila Eliza Beers (1867-1950), a 41-year old physician who had lived in the neighborhood of the Eleanor Club #5. Dr. Beers attended Vassar 1891-93, and may have been sympathetic enough to the goals of the Eleanor Association to lecture there or mentor students.
The writer of the postcard, B.E. Iler, was Bertha Iler, 59 year old wife of Theodore A. Iler, a jeweler and watchmaker with a shop in the Moore-Burnett Building at 1013 Texas at Fannin. They roomed in a boarding house at 418 Willaird in the new Fairview Addition  between Morgan and Whitney. Bertha Elizabeth, daughter of Christoph Friedrich Schwab (1812-1874) and Philippina Schneidtmann (1813-1890), immigrated as a 5-year old from Fellbach in Baden-Wurtemberg Germany on the ship Manchester from Liverpool, England to Philadelphia, PA on 22 May 1854, the family also including her brothers Carl (1847) and Ernst August (1852). The Schwab family settled in Peoria, IL where Christoph ran a saloon and later a bakery. Bertha married Christlieb Frank Lehne, a prosperous grocer, also from Germany, and had a son Fritz who died as an infant of cholera in 1874. She became a widow with the death of her husband in 1887.
Bertha remained a widow for 14 years and may have traveled to Chicago and become involved in the origination of the Eleanor Clubs. She married T. A. Iler on 20 April 1901 in Mobile, AL while listed as a resident in Peoria at 811 N. Madison Avenue, but how she came to Alabama to be married remains unclear. Theodore Iler was a 46 year old widower originally from Athens, Clarke County, Georgia, son of Alfred W. Iler and Elizabeth Richards. Theodore married Anna Lou Willingham and moved to Jackson, Hinds County, MS where they lived at 232 State Street in 1880 where he worked as a jeweler. They had two daughters, Elizabeth (1878), Norma Estelle, who died at 5 weeks in 1880, and a son Ernest Theodore (1881), but their mother died at 32 leaving Theodore a widower with Elizabeth (12) and Ernest (9) to care for. There are lacunae in the records, but by the time he married Bertha, Elizabeth was nearly 23 and Ernest nearly 20 and out on their own. Theodore and Bertha’s 11 year marriage ended when Bertha died of Bright’s Disease on June 15, 1911, relying on her landlady, Mrs. William R. Coward to act as informant on her death certificate.
Flo Nutting returned to Oregon and seems to have attended a Normal School for teacher training. By 1920 she lived with her parents who had moved to Portland, Fred working for the Internal Revenue Service, which had expanded greatly after the passage of the 16th Amendment in 1913. Flo worked as a stenographer then in a wholesale optical concern, and ten years later she was back in Albany listed as a servant in the home of her aunt, sister to her mother Olive, Mary M. Blain. Her aunt, 84 years old and ill at the time, was the widow of Leighton Blain, a prominent clothing merchant who had come to the rich agricultural lands in the Willamette Valley, OR in 1847 among the state’s early migrants.
Flo’s mother Olive died 8 May 1931 and her aunt Mary Blain died 30 July 1931; her father died 23 February 1938. Flo never married and continued to live in Albany until her death in 1965; she was buried in Riverside Cemetery in Albany near her parents and many other relations.
Bertha Schwab Lehne Iler was buried in Peoria memorialized on the tombstone with her husband: “C. F. Lehne 1833-1887 His wife Bertha Schwab 1849-1911 wife of Theodore Iler 1901-1911.” Theodore continued on in Houston, lodging in various boarding houses. He died in 1927 but his burial has not been located in available records. His daughter Elizabeth Iler married Howard Stafford Jeans, a naval officer, and they moved often with the demands of a military life; they had two children, Howard Stafford Jeans, Jr. (1917-1959) and Betty Anne Jeans Francis (1921-2001). Ernest Theodore Iler married Louise Billiau and found work as an electrician in Gulf Coast cities of Biloxi (1910) and Beaumont (1920), and had children Alice M. (1909), Norma (1911), and Lois Elizabeth (1916). Last known residence was Hull, Liberty County, TX in 1922. Louise returned to Michigan after his death some time before 1931, and married Charles Tompkins in 1933 in Lansing, MI; she died in 1964 and is buried in DeWitt, MI.