1900-1955 – The Baton Is Passed.

By 1900, Daniel J. and Barbara (Miller) Boller and their two boys, Waldo and Frank, had become active members of the Wayland Community.

D.J. Boller started Boller Furniture & Undertaking in 1896, and by the turn of the century, he was doing a booming business.

Click here to read more about the early days of Boller Furniture Company.

From some of the pictures and reports from these early days, it appears that the good people of Wayland knew how to live life to the full – celebrating their community whenever they could.

Waldo (born in 1884) and his younger brother, Frank (born in1886), had the unique honor of being a part of Wayland High School’s second graduating class (1903). After graduation, Waldo took the State Embalmer’s examination, and after receiving his license, he was employed in both Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, before finally returning to Wayland to go into business with his father, D. J. (1906). More on Waldo and Frank Boller here…

In 1907, D.J. and Waldo organized a team of nine Wayland businessmen to incorporate and establish North Hill Cemetery, located at the top of one of the rolling farmland hills just north of Wayland. This small cemetery has become the resting place for four generations of our Boller family.

In September 1910, the Boller family joined the big 50th Wedding Anniversary party for Barbara’s parents, Jacob & Catherine Miller, on the Miller farm in Deer Creek. In the “grandchildren” picture above (back row), we find Waldo (#2 with glasses), and brother, Frank (#3) with wife Stella (#4). Author Glen R. Miller (#21), admirer of Waldo & Frank’s bird egg collection, age 8, is in the front row. Click here to read more.

And speaking of wedding anniversary parties – The Mt. Pleasant News, in its reports from the Wayland/Olds area, gives us a wonderful look at D.J. & Barbara’s Wedding Anniversary Celebrations of 1935, 1936 and 1944. While the newspaper headlines are a bit confusing (based on the number of years married at the time of the event), the 1935 article is invaluable since it offers us other dates and information we didn’t have about D.J. & Barbara’s early days (1881-1896) before coming to Wayland. And, of course, it’s important to know, in 1936 and 1944, that the Bollers served turkey at their anniversary dinners!

Around 1920, D.J. (age 64) turned the reins of Boller Furniture over to my grandfather, Waldo. Family records indicate that even though D.J. was no longer in charge, he just couldn’t stop himself from looking over the shoulder of his son. Sadly, when this inability of D.J. to let go was combined with the extreme pressures caused by the Great Depression, Waldo was simply not able to cope, pushing him into depression, which then led to a problem with alcohol. This all led to a family crisis my father, George Boller, briefly addresses in a letter to his mother; Olive, in 1945. Click here for more.

Circa 1925 – my dad, George E. Boller with his grandfather, D.J. Boller. Click here to read more about George Boller.

D.J.’s obituary states that he “retired” in 1941 (age 85), but, of course, we know that this retirement was not by choice, but was due to the death of Waldo and the closing of Boller Furniture. We don’t know much about D.J.’s life after this tragic event, but we do know that he and Barbara lived the remainder of their years in their beloved farm community of Wayland, Iowa. Daniel J. Boller passed away on May 24, 1946 (at the age of 89) just as World War II was ending.

As for Barbara, through those dark years, she continued to be the beloved matriarch of the Boller family, keeping peace as best she could. My father, George Boller, and my grandmother Olive, both spoke very highly of Grandma Barbara, making me believe that she became the anchor of the family throughout this difficult season.

(C-0106) Above left – a rare letter written in 1915 from my great grandmother, Barbara Boller to her niece, Erma Miller (sister of Glen R Miller) living in the Wellman/Kalona area. Above middle – that’s me at Christmas-time 1951 sitting on my Grandmother Olive’s lap, with Grandma Barbara and my older brother, Eric. Above right – Grandma Barbara with my mom and dad and Eric in 1953.

Barbara Boller lived on to a ripe old age of 91 and finally succumbed to death on February 12, 1955. Below are obituaries from The Mennonite Weekly Review, The Wayland News, and The Kalona News:

From The Mennonite Weekly Review – February 24, 1955

Mrs. Barbara Miller Boller, charter member of the Wayland Mennonite church and long-time resident of Wayland, passed to her reward on Saturday evening, Feb. 12, 1955, at the Memorial Hospital in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. She had been a resident at the McClintic Home in Wayland for the past several years and had suffered a fall there recently which necessitated hospitalization. Her advanced age and weakened condition finally gave her release from the cares of this life. Mrs. Boller was born on Nov. 21, 1863, on a farm near Wellman, Iowa, the daughter of Jacob B. and Catharine Shetler Miller. Thus her departure came at the advanced age of 91 years, two months and 21 days. She was united in marriage with Daniel J. Boller on Nov. 22, 1881. The young couple resided on a farm near Kalona for a time and then moved to Grinnell, Iowa. It was from the latter place that the Bollers came to Wayland to make their contribution to the church and the community. Since shortly before 1900 the Wayland people have been blessed with the presence of this family. Mrs. Boller always enjoyed opening the home to their many friends. A well spread and bountiful table always greeted their friends, and the home was the scene of many friendly visits and gatherings. As a charter member of the Wayland Mennonite church, she was active in its many organizations. She faithfully served her husband as an encourager in his capacity of deacon for many years. For a long period, she taught a Sunday School class. In the Dorcas Society she was active in deeds of charity and kindness. As long as her health permitted, she was a faithful worshiper in the sanctuary on the Sabbath. Always she was an ardent student of the Bible, and a staunch supporter of and servant of Christ. Her departure leaves only 14 surviving charter members of this church. As a mother, she was faithful in the care of the home. She was the mother of two sons, Waldo Emerson and Orie Francis “Frank” both of whom preceded her mother. Her husband, Daniel J., also preceded her when the union was broken by his death on May 24, 1946. Two grandchildren, Baja and Kathryn Boller, and one great-grandson, Wm. Edward Boller, also preceded her. Survivors included two daughters-in-law, Mrs. Olive Boller, Wayland, and Mrs. Stella Boller, Phoenix, Ariz.; one grandson, George E. Boller, and his wife, Dixie Boller, two great-grandsons, Eric and Martin Boller, all of Wayland; two brothers, George Miller of Clarion, Iowa, and Ervin Miller of Prosser, Wash.; three sisters, Mrs. Marion Erb of Elkhart, Ind., and Mrs. Kate Kinsinger and Mrs. Gideon Marner, both of Wellman, Iowa; as well as many other relatives and younger friends who were not of the same generation but who learned to love their aged friend. In her last years, “Grandma” Boller grieved for her loved ones who had gone on before, and we know that in her faith she has gone to join them and her master.

The two pages above are from Barbara Miller’s bible given to her by her parents, Jacob & Catherine Miller. The family records page is a valuable resource for Our Boller Story.

On the personal side, Barbara is the oldest personal connection in Our Boller Story that I actually met. I was born in 1951 and Grandma Barbara, who died in 1955 (when I was only four), lived just down the street from our first home in Wayland. I recall my father, George, telling many stories of Barbara’s unbelievable cooking skills that I’m certain she developed growing up on the Miller farmstead near Deer Creek. My father swore to his dying day that Grandma Barbara’s Pearl Tapioca dessert and her raisin creme pie was as close to heaven a man could find on this side!

So much happened in America from the time of D.J.’s and Barbara’s birth in the mid-1800’s to their deaths in the mid-1900’s. One can hardly imagine living in the midst of so much change. From kerosene lamps to electric light bulbs, from horse-drawn wagons to fast-moving automobiles, from outhouses to indoor plumbing, D.J. and Barbara Boller lived in a span of American history unlike any other. Bridging the occupations of farming and retailing, D.J. Boller gave Our Boller Story a whole new perspective on life. His willingness to risk, leaving the familiar settings of the family farm near Kalona, Iowa to learn a new trade and develop a new business with his own ingenuity and hard work provides us with an example we all need to follow.

Daniel J. Boller (1856-1946), Barbara (Miller) Boller (1863-1955)

Waldo E. Boller (1884-1941), Ora Francis (Frank) Boller (1886-1949)


Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

Wayland Couple Married 53 Years, Mt. Pleasant News, June 27, 1935, p 4

D.J. Bollers Are Married 54 Years, Mt. Pleasant News, November 28, 1936, p3

Barbara Boller – Birthday/Anniversary, Mt. Pleasant News, December 1, 1944, p 4

Daniel J. Boller obituary, Wayland News, May 30, 1946, p 1

Dan. J. Boller obituary, Mennonite Weekly Review, June 13, 1946, p 2

Daniel J. Boller, Find-A-Grave

Barbara Miller obituaries, Mennonite Weekly Review, February 24, 1955, p 3 and March 3, 1955, p 8

Mrs. Barbara Boller Taken at Age 91, Wayland News, February 17, 1955, p 1

Death Takes Mrs. Boller, 91, Mt.Pleasant News, February 14, 1955, p 1

Barbara Miller Boller, Find-A-Grave

Waldo Emerson Boller, Find-A-Grave

Ora Francis (Frank) Boller, Find-A-Grave


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