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WATCH NOW: John Reeler, Mason City barber

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In May of 1911, The Bystander, a statewide publication from Des Moines, honored John D. Reeler of Mason City with the following: “Mason City has the honor of having the finest barber shop owned by any colored man in the state of Iowa, and one of the finest in the state, the honored John D. Reeler, proprietor.”

Not for much longer would John have the honor bestowed upon him by The Bystander. He was planning to turn his business, located in the first National Bank Building, from a barber shop to that of a chiropodist, a foot specialist.

Born in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1856, John’s father listed his occupation as a “white washer,” a painter. Carrie, John’s wife, was born in Missouri in 1869. Married in 1889 they made their home in Mason City, becoming leaders in North Iowa through their involvement in the Negro Grand Lodge, Eastern Star and Union Memorial Methodist Church.

The open ceremony in 1933 for the Negro Grand Lodge recognized the contribution and leadership of John to the Masonic community. Deceased for two years, the remarks told of John being a charter member. During his 46 years as a member he served as Grand Master and held a variety of leadership positions while promoting the works of the lodge as a 33rd degree Mason. Tributes paid to him at his funeral talked of him admired for his kindly disposition, good judgment and energy.

During those years Carrie was involved in the Eastern Star organization as Grand Treasurer and Grand Matron.

Following John’s death, Carrie became a member of the Progressive Widows Club serving as their chaplain. The group organized activities for widows such as concerts, a theatre party and pie socials and offered support for members of their community.

Very involved in her church Carrie would assist in leading worship services with other church members. A founding member of the Women’s Society for Christian Service Carrie offered her time to many in need.

COLLECTION: Tales from Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery


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