Keith Wood, left, and Kevin and Martin Wood were among 17 cousins at the Wood reunion here Saturday.
Keith Wood, left, and Kevin and Martin Wood were among 17 cousins at the Wood reunion here Saturday.

Descendants of Arthur and Femmie Wood gathered in Panora over the weekend. Besides the usual social aspect of the reunion, there was an unusual twist.

After a Saturday brunch hosted by Martin and Carla Wood, the group traveled south to Orient to tour the area where the Arthur Woods farmed before relocating to the Yale/ Panora area. Then on Sunday they assembled locally at the original Wood farm,

Arthur and Femmie Wood had seven children. Keith Wood, 73, of Bettendorf is one of the couple’s 26 grandchildren. He organized the reunion after writing a book that in part chronicled the life of the patriarch Arthur Wood. Titled “A Country Boy Reminisces,” Wood calls the book “a memoir” as it tells of his life and that of his parents, Arden and Norma Jean Wood.

“I wrote it more for family and friends,” said Wood, explaining it was to pass on a history of grandparents and parents.

While the family had gathered in the past, such as at funerals, this was the first time all the cousins were invited. “Seventeen of the 26 took us up on the invitation,” said KeithWood, noting four were prevented from coming because of health issues.

The book reveals that Arthur Wood was a respected farmer and one of a million farmers to lose their land during the Great Depression. In the cold spring of 1934 he journeyed 48 miles north from Orient by wagon caravan in two days. Three wagons loaded with grain and machinery were pulled by

large Belgium horses. Arthur, sons Clyle and Ralph along with a relative and friend were part of the caravan along with 10 head of Angus cattle and assorted horses.

Prior to Arthur’s leaving, his father-in-law, John Chapman, forgave a $3,000 debt, calling it an inheritance. The money came from sealing (storing) corn and being paid 45 cents a bushel by the government. With the money Wood bought 320 acres between Panora and Yale. Granddaughter Gladys Willey and husband Norman now occupy that land along Highway 4. Six of the seven Wood children married people living within six miles of the Wood farm.

They since have scattered. Only three grandchildren reside in this area -- brothers Martin and Kevin Wood operate a landscaping business and Gladys Willey is an officer at the Panora State Bank, the very bank where her grandfather Arthur Wood was a founder and original member of the board of directors.

As an insight into Arthur’s character was the fact he gave $1,000 to each grandchild toward their education.

Besides Iowa, the Wood reunion drew attendees from Wyoming, North Carolina, Montana, California, Texas and Colorado.

“I’ve gained so much about family history just talking to people, things that would have been lost,” said Martin Wood of the Saturday gathering at his home. Six of his seven siblings were present.

For Marlene Griffee of Casper, WY, being back home was great. “I always love to come back to Panora. Yesterday I had breakfast with high school friends.”