Mary Victoria Young was born in 1847 in New York state. She eventually pursued the teaching profession and while attending a teacher’s institute in Ellicottville, New York, met an educated and ambitious young man who was the school master. His name was Wallace Greeley. When war was declared between the states, he resigned his position in 1861 to enlist in the Union army.
When the Civil War was over, he and Mary were married in 1866 and they promptly came to Ames, a small town of about 100 people. The couple had at their disposal a nest egg of $3,200 – money carefully saved from Wallace’s army pay.
They bought land south of Ames in the area now occupied by Green Hills, and farmed there until 1876 when they moved to a house in town at 11th and Douglas.
Wallace had developed a banking business and in 1881, established the Union Bank, named of course for the Union Army. His bank building still stands at the corner of Douglas and Main, and the name, Union Bank, can still be seen over the door. Wallace’s bank still exists many mergers later – Union Bank became Union Story, then United Bank, then Firstar and now, US Bank.
The Greeleys prospered, and in 1882, they built the lovely home at 5th & Douglas that would be their life-long residence. It has been noted that the low doorknobs throughout the house were placed that way to accommodate Mary’s small stature. That house, with several additions, is now the Adams Funeral Home.
Mary has been described as a lovely lady and an artist. This invitation for a social event in her home features Mary on the Pianola. She was a quiet person and it was often hard for her to fulfill her outgoing husband’s wishes when it came to entertaining.
Mary and Wallace were very community-minded and contributed the land for the original Ames Public Library. Mary served as a trustee from the time it opened until her death.
The Greeleys had two children, both of whom died in infancy. When Mary died in 1914, Wallace was determined that Ames would have a hospital. In 1915 the site was secured and prepared, and in September 1916, the hospital was dedicated and named in her honor.
Wallace died in 1917, and it’s an interesting irony that of the two, it is now Mary whose name is better remembered!