Jennie McElyea Beyer

Honored by:Jean B. Stange
Brick location:F:4  map

Jennie (McElyea) Beyer was born in Lee County, Illinois on November 5, 1861, coming to Iowa with her parents when she was six years old. They settled in Ames on the McElyea homestead at Beech Avenue and Lincoln Way. (Today the C.Y. Stephens Auditorium probably occupies a portion of that homestead land.) In later years she would recount how President Welch of Iowa State College took relatively barren flat terrain as a campus site and began its development into the beautiful campus we know today. He carried a sack of potatoes on the campus and would occasionally toss one of the potatoes onto the ground. Where the potato landed a tree was planted.

After graduating from Iowa State College in 1879, a year before Carrie Chapman Catt graduated, she taught in a one-room school house, riding a horse to and from it each day. On April 19, 1882 she married Harry B. Beyer in Ames. The couple moved to Rock Valley, Iowa where he was in the lumber business.

Three daughters were born to them: Harriet Newell was born in 1886; Genevieve born in 1887, died when she was fourteen years old; and Winnifred, born in 1890, died when she was seventeen years old. Returning with her daughters to Ames after the death of her husband in 1892, Jennie Beyer lived there the rest of her life.

Gladys H. Meads in her 1955 book "At the Squaw and the Skunk" describes Jennie McElyea Beyer as "one of the pioneer women of Ames. She was a leader in all kinds of civic enterprises and her name could be found on many boards and committees as soon as women began serving on them. She was president of the Ames Women's Club, and also served with distinction and originality on the Missions Board of the state organization of the Methodist Church." In fact, she was head of the Des Moines Conference of the Women's Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Church of Iowa for fifteen years. In a tribute to her leadership following her death, members of the Conference wrote that they felt "a very personal enrichment from their intimate contact with the directness of her nature, her love, her persuasiveness, her originality, her moments of tenderness, her faith, and her forceful personality". She also served as president of a P.E.O. chapter in Ames. Later a newspaper described her as "easily a leader and an executive with exceptional ability."

Her daughter Harriet Newell Beyer, also a graduate of Iowa State College Class of 1907 in 1909, married a fellow classmate, Charles Henry Stange, Dean of Veterinary medicine Iowa State University. Jennie Beyer made her home with them until her death. In her later years, she entertained her 1879 fellow classmates at that home during the annual commencement/class reunion festivities each year. The occasion was marked by photographs being taken of the members of the class reunion on the front steps of the Stange residence at 421 Ash Avenue. Among the returnees would be Jim and Monty, two of her favorite classmates, and with much levity and reminiscing a marvelous time was had by all.

That pattern was broken by her death at the age of seventy-nine in 1940. She is buried in the Ames Cemetery.