Mr. Connrardy, the Husband of Exira’s Famous Sewing Teacher

Alice Connrardy ran a successful sewing school in Exira, Iowa, from about 1897 until 1925. She took a sewing course in Chicago at the Baughman School for Dressmaking, then trained girls and women at her home, returning to Chicago occasionally for a refresher course.

Mrs. Connrardy wasn’t the only amazing person in her family.

Immigrant, Civil War, Audubon County Sheriff, Exira Postmaster

From his obituary: John Baptist Connrardy was born January 6, 1843, in Niederamber, Grand Duchy of Luxemborg, Germany. He died at his adopted home at Exira, Audubon County, Iowa, on Monday, November 2, 1914.

Photo of John B. Connrardy, taken in Dubuque, Iowa

John immigrated to America in 1856 with his parents and siblings, first locating in Cascade, Dubuque County, Iowa, until the Civil War. He enlisted in the 16th Regular Army in 1862. (John’s father, Nicholas Connrardy, also served in the Civil War: Co. F, 88th Ill. Inf. Regiment.)

John Connrardy relocated to Audubon County in 1868. Eleven years later he was elected County Sheriff, serving two terms. During the Grover Cleveland administration, he was Exira’s postmaster. (Cleveland was 22nd and 24th president of the United States from 1885 to 1889 and from 1893 to 1897, the only president in American history to serve two non-consecutive terms in office.)

Mr. Connrardy married Alice Poage on February 16, 1984. They had eight children, three of whom died in infancy. Survivors: Flora, J. Walker, Lucille (Connrardy) Halloran, Kathryn (Connrardy) Simpson, Alice Clara (Connrardy) Graf.

John B. Connrardy holding his grandson, Ted Simpson.

John B. Connrardy was a member of the Eastern Star, and A.F. and A. M. of Exira [Ancient Free and Accepted Masons], a Knight Templar of Audubon, a member of the Zag-a-Zig shrine of Des Moines, a member of the Exira GAR post, as well as a member of the Congregational Church.

Findagrave pages for John B. Connrardy and Alice Connrardy. Their daughter Kathryn Connrardy m. Lafe E. Simpson. Their children were Ted E. Simpson (a WWII veteran), James Simpson, and Ramona (Simpson) Knick.

A son of Ted Simpson’s was Robert Lafayette Simpson, the father of Susie Simpson.

Photo thanks to Susie Simpson, great granddaughter of John B. and Alice Connrardy

The large Connrardy home in Exira still stands. Susie Simpson, a great great granddaughter of John and Alice Connrardy, shared a picture of the “sewing school house” as it looks today.

My Grandma, then Leora Goff, attended a sewing class with Mrs. Connrardy in 1910. That story is told in Leora’s Early Years: Guthrie County Roots.

You may find the book at the libraries at both Exira and Audubon.


    • I’ve heard it pronounced za-gay-zig. The men wear fezzes and ride little scooters (at least they used to) and raised funds for different things).

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