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Our Story

A Snapshot in Time:
Dubuque through the ages.

  • January 20, 1877: ... persons were appointed to search out much of the suffering poor in the different districts as can be cared for by the society, and report such cases of actual want among this class of person ... It is expected that the ladies (on) both sides of the several streets from the bluffs to the river, that none be overlooked.

  • October 27, 1883: As long as Dubuque has no Old Ladies Home, this must be their shelter ... One pulling need we feel as the cold weather approaches, a large furnace or heating apparatus of some kind that will warm the entire building.

  • October, 1891: (The current census is:) seventeen adults, nineteen children ... (We find) necessity of having a man on the premises  to take charge of the furnace, cows, and do all out of doors work.

  • October 29, 1898: Since the ladies responded so kindly to the required work in the kitchen during the absence of the cook, it was moved and seconded that each one be presented with a percale dress as an acknowledgment of her services.

  • December, 1910: ... approved serving afternoon tea daily but, after further discussions, decided this might be establishing an unwise custom and one very difficult to change once established.

  • January 4, 1913: Vote to change name to Mount Pleasant Home.

  • January 2, 1925: ... There is also some good furniture in the barn which should be looked over and cared for. Miss McDonald suggested the walnut furniture be saved and restored and used in the home. This will add charm and homeyness to Mt. Pleasant Home.

  • March 4, 1926: All the children have now finished the inoculation for diphtheria ... the icebox needs looking in to ... need for new apple and cherry trees ... suggested having a pig, keeping of a sheep.

  • Jan 6, 1934: Because of our present economic conditions, we have endeavored to keep our girls in the home for beyond the prescribed time.

  • Jan 6, 1940 The Lull fund, when we started building operations, amounts to $10,948.21. The new building has plans which call for $69,762, and the repairs and changes in the old building will amount to $8,359.

  • September 1, 1947: Owing to the polio epidemic, the children have been confined to the Home grounds and behaved well under the restrictions.

  • January 16, 1958: Looking back on 1957, we find Mt. Pleasant Home has made an excellent start on its new career -- of offering to needy, elderly women a simple home to live out their golden years.

  • May 7, 1964: Treating of elm trees by inoculation to prevent Dutch elm disease for a year--discussed. Mrs. Woodward will contact firm that is taking care of elms on Rhomberg Ave.

  • May 2, 1968: Mrs. Foster reported the purchase of seven trees--two pine oaks, two majestic locusts, one sugar maple, one Norway maple and one large Norway maple.

  • April 5, 1979: We would not cultivate the garden space this year as it is expensive. We now have no one who really wants to cultivate it and the variety of produce enjoyed by the residents is limited.

  • August 14, 1988: Fourteen men ready to come in and no rooms ...


Swenson, Jim. "140 years later, Mt. Pleasant Home still a haven." Telegraph Herald, 7 October 2015


Mount Pleasant Home Benefactors


Dr. John H. Lull

A major gift from Dr. Lull's estate along with a gift from Mrs. Finley prompted the founding of Finley Hospital.

~Hartwig Bornemann (1837-1887), the portrait artist lived in San Francisco.

Mrs. Mary E. Lull

Mary Lull was a long-time member of the Board of Directors for the Iowa Home for the Friendless (later renamed Mount Pleasant Home). Mary Lull donated the funds that built the 1940 addition to Mount Pleasant Home and added the elevator in 1965.

~Hartwig Bornemann (1837-1887), the portrait artist lived in San Francisco.

In 1874, fifty-three women signed a charter establishing the Home for the Friendless or the Iowa Home for the Friendless. Its mission was to care for women and children. The charitable organization opened its doors to residents on New Year's Day,

In its early stages, the home had five committees that took responsibility for the operation of the home: the Committee of Ways and Means was responsible for the entertainment of the home; the committee on Home saw to keeping the home in good repair; the Committee on Applicants decided who would be admitted to the home; the Committee on Homes for Children took charge of finding permanent housing for the children; and the Visiting Committee would visit the home once a week and report back to the board as to the conditions of the clients.

Everyone who was able to contribute, did. They were charged fifty percent of their earnings. Orphans who were left to the care of the home were charged $1.50 per week. Those who could not pay could still be admitted to the home at the discretion of the board president.

From 1874 until 1891, women were hired to run the entire operation. In 1891, it was decided that they needed to hire a man to see to the furnace, cows, and all outdoor work. This position was referred to as the "house man".

In 1874, the Home was located in a small building on Hill Street that was leased by Archibald Graham, a brick maker. On New Year's Day in 1875, the first Dubuquers were welcomed to their new location: fifty-one residents, thirty-nine of which were children.

Very soon thereafter, the Home of the Friendless relocated to the Judge John King mansion on Broadway Street off of Couler Avenue. (Central Avenue). The stone edifice, with a number of additions over the years, still stands today with the year 2023 address of 2404 Broadway Street, Dubuque.

On March 15, 1876, the Iowa House of Representatives appropriated $5,000--by a vote of 58 to 22--to the Iowa Home for the Friendless. Adjusting for inflation, that $5,000 would be worth $138,446.73 in today's currency.

The King mansion soon became too small to house those in need, so in November 1877, Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey M. Griffith, through their gracious generosity, donated their large mansion and two acres of ground for the home on Mount Pleasant Street in Dubuque, Iowa. The first residents were welcomed into the Griffith House on November 22, 1877.

On January 4, 1913, the board of directors renamed the Iowa Home for the Friendless to Mount Pleasant Home. It's board, consisting of women, introduced a clause stating that any new board members were required to be Protestant. This requirement was later dropped in 1972.

In the years of 1939 and 1988, two wings were added and three acres of ground were purchased.

In 1976, Mount Pleasant Home clarified its position with the State of Iowa stating that it was not a health-care facility and did not require a license from the state health department. In 2015, residents could choose to receive home health services from an agency of their choice.

Beginning on January 10, 1957, the home no longer sheltered homeless or needy people. The courts quickly directed that responsibility to child welfare workers and tasked them with placing the children either in foster care or in institutions that were better equipped to care for their needs.

In its heyday, Mount Pleasant Home saw to the tending of milk cows, chickens, orchards, grapevines, and acres of corn and tomatoes which yielded thousands of quarts of canned produce. This all ended in 1979, whcn no-one wanted the responsibility of caring for the animals or nursing the produce.

The Home saw  first male board member in 1990, and the first male president of the board was elected in 2001.

Mount Pleasant Home has been witness to several national and global events. It saw to the end of the Reconstruction Era, World Wars I and II, the landing on the moon, the attack of September 11, 2001, and the election of the first African-American president, to name a few.

Mount Pleasant Home is dedicated to the comfort of its residents. With this philosophy, Mount Pleasant Home will continue to serve the residents of Dubuque well into the future.

--retrieved from ""

From the Archives: Who is Jeffrey M. Griffith




Death of J. M. Griffith

The Sad Event Occurs in Paris, France

A Brief Sketch of His Life and His Services in the City He Loved so Well

Dubuque mourns the loss of one of her prominent and most revered citizens -- one whose enterprise did much toward placing Dubuque among the manufacturing points of the west. Knots of men, and women, too, stood upon the street corners lamenting the sad news which was wafted by the breath of rumor, and verified by fact, such as that brought here by means of the ocean cable. a dispatch came to W. J. Knight, Sunday evening, dated at Paris, France, stating that Jeffrey M. Griffith, his law partner, was laying dangerously ill. Mr. Knight was moved with direful apprehension, and almost resolved at once to start for Paris. He answered the dispatch sent by Mrs. Griffith, asking whether she desired his presence. Mr. Knight's business compelled him to go to Chicago Sunday night, but he left word to telegraph him all cablegrams that came concerning Griffith. During his absence a dispatch was received at 11:30 o'clock yesterday morning announcing Mr. Griffith's Death. This was forwarded to him at Chicago, and to Elgin, Illinois, also to Mrs. Griffith's brother, Mr. Packard of Cedar Falls.

The sad news soon spread throughout the city, and it has cast a deep gloom of sorrow in every household, especially among those who knew him, and those who have felt his benevolent hand.

Mr. Griffith, accompanied by his wife, left here last August for Europe. His object in going was to benefit his health, which had been failing rapidly since he returned from the continent a year or so before. He was conscious of his declining health and seemed to have a premonition of a speedy dissolution from the fact that a day or two before his departure he made his will, which was witnessed by Mr. Walt Cantillon and Mr. Joe Brown, the document being -- characteristic of him -- in a few words. He also stated to a party of his most intimate friends who called to bid him God-speed on his journey, that he was afraid that he would not live long enough to return to Dubuque and his friends. Those to whom he made these remarks endeavored to cheer him up, and before they left him he was feeling in excellent humor. He was troubled with rheumatism and several ills brought on by close attention to his business and the lack of sufficient physical exercises. In the cablegram announcing his death, Mrs. Griffith requested the presence of Rev. C. H. Seymour. The latter gentleman being in Davenport, a dispatch was forwarded him to that effect, but Bishop Perry and one of the professors of Griswold college being absent, it may be possible that Rev. Mr. Seymour will be unable to respond immediately. A dispatch was forwarded to him to come to Dubuque at once, at any rate.

Mr. Griffith wrote a letter from London, dated September 5th, to Horace Poole, of this city, in which he expressed the most cheering news in relation to himself, stating that he had not felt better in a long time; also, that it was his intention to leave London in a few days for Holland and thence to Paris; that he would leave in October for the United States in time to arrive in Dubuque by the 5th of November. This s the last letter, as far as is known, received from him; Mrs. Griffith's housekeeper, however, received later news, but mainly referring to domestic matters in relation to the home

Jeffrey M. Griffith was born in Montgomery County, Maryland, on the 25th of February, 1830, making him fifty-three years old. He was educated in his native state, but at what educational institute is not known at this writing. He studied law in Baltimore and was admitted in 1850, after which he practiced letters of introduction to Gen. Jones and others, who did what they could to obtain business for the young barrister. The next year he became acquainted with Miss Helen N. Packard, who was visiting friends in Dubuque with her father who came west for the benefit of his health. The acquaintance ripened into mutual affection, and on Christmas day, 1855, they were married in Rochester, N. Y., the home of Miss Packard's parents. Soon after his marriage he formed a law partnership with M. B. Mulkern, and subsequently with Wm. J. Knight and Ed McCeney. Afterwards, Mr. McCeney retired, and the firm in 1858 became Griffith and Knight, which has existed ever since, for a period of over twenty-five years, and its success is well known by all our citizens. About twenty-eight years ago Mr. Griffith made his first political speech in Iowa. Though not a politician by any means, he was an active and consistent democrat, using his best endeavors for the success of the democratic gubernaturial ticket at that time, although the election resulted in the choice of J. W. Grimes for governor.

The new law firm stuck to "Blackstone" and soon became eminent and wealthy. Mr. Griffith especially became noted as a practitioner, careful in the preparation of his cases and earnest and untiring in prosecuting them.

The firm of Griffith and Knight has always commanded a large and constantly increasing practice, and soon contested the leadership of the Dubuque bar with older established firms. He never spared himself any toil in the preparation of his cases, and never allowed his interest in any case to flag until every remedy known to the law had been exhausted. His great abilities joined to his unflagging industry and clear perceptions made him a formidable opponent. In the heaviest litigation in this part of the country he was always employed, and generaly on the winning side. Such was his intense application on to his business that when engaged in the preparation of a case he would shut himself up for hours alone, denying admission not only to clients and his associates at the bar, but even to members of his own family, and his arguments were often rewritten after they were prepared for the press, in order to make them satisfactory to himself.

The litigation familiarly known to our bar as the Oat case and the Elevator case are well remembered in this section, involving the largest amounts ever tried to a jury in this state, and that they were won by the plaintiffs was largely due to the ability with which their side was handled by Mr. Griffith.

~From the Dubuque Daily Herald  of October 24,1883.

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