History of the Carter Family and their House
The Carter House Museum gives visitors a glimpse into the lives of Iowans of 150 years ago. Built in 1855 as a “mirror” or double house for pioneer brothers Henry and Ernest Victor Carter and their families, it is a Neoclassic Greek revival mansion of 18 rooms now used as an historic museum to display furniture, clothing, and artifacts from
the 19th and 20th centuries. An adjoining annex contains military uniforms from past wars, primitive farm tools, early fire-fighting equipment, and a display of 19th century drug store supplies.
The Carters made their home in this house for 30 years. During that time, E.V. Carter served as a major in the Union Army during the Civil War, returning from the war in 1866 only to die at home, probably from “consumption” contracted during his army service. Brother Henry and his sons were bankers. Henry and his wife Harriet had eight children, three of whom died and are buried in Elkader. E.V. and his wife had no surviving children, but raised an orphan niece, Julia Carlton. The Carters were prominent in establishing Elkader’s Congregationalist Church and supported the Abolitionist and Prohibitionist movements.
In 1885, the surviving Carter’s, except for E.V.’s widow, moved to Ashland, Oregon. The house was sold to Joe and Ella Lamm, and Mrs. Lamm lived on in it after her husband’s death in 1913 until her own death in 1938. William and Lina Reimer were the next owners. During their tenure, in the 1960’s, the property was placed on the
National Register of Historic Sites. In 1983, after the deaths of the Reimers, the property was purchased by the Elkader Historical Society and restored to its original appearance to serve as an historical museum. The large annex was added in 1993 to accommodate the growing collection.
The Elkader Namesake
Named for an Algerian Hero
The Carter House Museum is located in the little N.E. Iowa town of Elkader, with a population of just 1500. The town is named for an Algerian hero, Abd El Kader (1807-1883). He was a remarkable man who fought in Algeria against the invading French and who was later instrumental in saving the lives of 12,000 threatened Christians in Syria. In 1846 early settler Timothy Davis admired Abd El Kader and named the town in his honor.
Because of this, we frequently play hosts to Algerians, including the ambassador to the U.S., and many of us have been guests in Algeria. Most Algerian visitors stop at the Carter House Museum to see the Abd El Kader display and to learn about Elkader’s sister-city connection with Mascara, Algeria.