The Wilson Connection to the White Rock Conservancy at Coon Rapids, Iowa

Heater House was center for hard work and good fun

“Editor’s Note – Another feature written by Liz Garst, this story centers on the “Heater House”, now known as the “River House“, located south and east of Coon Rapids beside the Raccoon River. Mrs. Henry (Clarice) Shirbroun, shared some of her memories about the Heater house. She moved there with her parents, Clarence and Agnes Heater, when she was 10 years old.

“Clarence and been farming north of town on rented land. He wanted a place of his own, so he bought what is now known as the Heater House and 80 acres. Then it was known as the Sam Wilson place. Sam had purchased it from his father, Lawn (Lloyd) Wilson. [I believe this was Alonzo (or Lon) Wilson, son of Carroll County pioneers Samuel and Emily Wilson.] Part of the deal was another 80 acres, one and one half miles northeast. . . . They moved onto the place in 1926.

“The Wilsons left many out buildings, including pig pens, chicken sheds, the barn, the outhouse, and an ice house. The screened porch wrapped the first floor of the frame house on a stone and cement foundation. The house didn’t have many windows. The stairs were enclosed, and the basement unfinished. A spring northeast of the house had been channeled to pass under the first floor kitchen. A dumb waiter ferried butter, milk and, occasionally, jello to the waters of the cool, running spring. Clarice said it wasn’t handy. Fighting the crank and the weight of the platform and food, it was hard not to spill the jello. Merle Shirbroun remembers exploring the spring by dumb waiter with his brother, Darrell. A tamer route was through a basement crawl door.

“The Wilsons had planted a large orchard north of the house. The varieties aren’t common today – bit Wolf Rivers and Greening apples, which tasted like a banana. There were also pears and plums. The road of that day ran parallel to, but west of today’s road. It cut much closer to the house, bending sharply to find the bridge. The river also divided the farm.”

Coon Rapids Enterprise, September 3, 1987

This 1875 map shows pioneer Samuel Wilson’s land just to the east of Coon Rapids.

1887 Biographical and Historical Record of Green and Carroll Counties, Iowa, published while Sam Wilson was still living, names his living children, including Alonzo N. and Daniel. For some reason, this page shows up better on an earlier post.


  1. Decades ago, while visiting my wife’s brother and sister-in-law, they took us to a supper club that was behind a gas station. In Coon Rapids. The food was good and the entertainment was unique. It consisted on a man who played the accordion and his daughter who sang and danced. They were the hardest working entertainers I’ve ever seen. He was billed as a former member of “The Three Suns”, a semi-famous accordion group. An unforgettable experience.

    • Did her brother and sister-in-law live in Coon Rapids? My mother-in-law did for a few years after she remarried, but I didn’t know about a supper club there.

  2. Interesting article! Especially fascinated by running the spring water under the kitchen floor. As an aside, drove through Coon Rapids for the first time a couple of months ago. The coon lying next to the road near downtown was apparently not rapid enough!

    • Thank you, Jon. You were in Coon Rapids? My husband is from Glidden, which isn’t that far from there. The Coon Rapids cemetery is within the wooded area on the old map, handsome bur oaks throughout on a rather steep hill. A beautiful area. No wonder the Wilsons pioneered there.

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