• A quiet summer walk through the Marching Bear Group of effigy mounds

    Effigy Mounds

    National Monument Iowa

Reminiscences of a Pioneer Boy

Ellison Orr
Ellison Orr circa 1923
Effigy Monument National Monument Museum Collection
Cover of Book


In 1924 when Ellison Orr was 67 years old, he embarked on a project to write down what he could recollect of his childhood and early life growing up near Postville, Iowa. Rather than sit down at one time and write all that he could recall at the moment, he would instead write up sections as memories came to him, such as coming face-to-face with a prairie wolf, helping his mother with house chores, or stealing eggs from a passenger pigeon nest. The result of these efforts was the creation of a manuscript, Reminisces of a Pioneer Boy, written in sections over a 21-year period. This manuscript, which is extremely rich in very descriptive stories, describes wild places and the lives of people that, while being vaguely familiar to us in these times, takes place in a time and place that, when compared with life in Northeast Iowa today, is largely occupied by people who live a foreign lifestyle and exist on a very foreign landscape.

The original manuscript is privately owned. Attached is a pdf (5.6 MB) of a photocopy of the original manuscript showing pages 1 - 10 (from the monument's museum collection).

Did You Know?

Ellison Orr at Desk: Most of Orr's collections reside at effigy Mounds National Monument

An important figure in the documentation of Iowa's effigy mounds was Ellison Orr. Born in 1857, Orr worked other jobs while pursuing research in archeology. After retiring at the age of 73, Orr began a career as an archeologist spending the next 20 years conducting surveys and excavations.