1103 Troy Road
When George and Anna Mahler retired from farming in 1905, they built a new house at 1103 Troy Road, only about a mile from their farmhouse. The Mahler farm was located on the south edge of Leclaire, on the west side of Troy Road. In 1905 it was purchased by a group of investors who divided it into building lots and called the new subdivision, appropriately, “Mahler Heights.” It became a part of Edwardsville in 1934 at the same time that Leclaire was annexed.
In the 1894 Portrait and Biographical Record of Madison County, George Mahler was described as one of Madison County’s most progressive and enlightened farmers. A man who owned a “fine estate” that included “a commodious farm residence.” When retiring to Leclaire, the Mahlers built another “commodious” residence on two of the five lots they purchased in Leclaire. Architecturally the house at 1103 Troy Road has characteristics of a Queen Anne Victorian with a typical hipped roof and front cross gable. The stately home stands out for its size and architecture, an appropriate legacy for a couple who came from two prominent Madison County families.
George was born to Anthony and Martha Mahler in 1856 on a farm in Pin Oak Township. His wife, Mary Barnsback Mahler, the daughter of Jacob and Elizabeth Barnsback, was from an old Madison County family. George had a common school education, but his wife was college educated, unusual for a woman at that time. They were married in 1882 and had two daughters, Fannie and Bess, who moved with them to Leclaire. The new house on Troy Road was likely completed circa 1906 since the lots were purchased in late 1905 and city directories show the Mahlers residing there by 1907.
In 1909 the Mahler home was the site of their daughter Fannie’s marriage to Charles Nash, a successful Edwardsville tailor. A lengthy description of the home and the special wedding decorations was published in the Edwardsville Intelligencer, and the guest list illustrated the prominence of the family as it included many old Edwardsville names.
In 1921 another announcement in the Intelligencer told readers that the Mahlers had sold their house to the William Duckles family and were moving in with their daughter and son-in-law on Hickory Street. It was only a temporary move. The Mahlers were building another new house on one of the adjoining lots they had purchased in 1905. Their new address would be 216 Hale Avenue, right behind their house at 1103 Troy Road.
The house on Hale Avenue was described in a list of building activities in the April 22, 1922, edition of the Intelligencer as “Geo. Mahler, Hale avenue, five rooms, efficiency of seven and bath, finished in composition shingles, $5,000; Built by Charles Theuer.” This house once had elements of a vernacular Queen Anne style with a steep-pitched side gable roof and a shed dormer.
In 1925, Bess Mahler married Joseph Barnett who also descended from early Madison County families, the Barnetts and McKittricks, who had farms south of Edwardsville near Bess’ maternal grandparents. Bess and Joseph, an auctioneer, established a home on Ruskin Avenue near her parents, but when George died in 1929, they moved in with her mother at 216 Hale Avenue. After Anna’s death, the Barnetts purchased the house where they lived until the early 1950s.
In the meanwhile, beginning in 1921, William and Cora (Snell) Duckles, with their two daughters, Dorothy and Gladys, and William’s mother, Emma, were enjoying the house at 1103 Troy Road. The Duckles family was originally from Macoupin County, but moved to Edwardsville a few years after their 1902 marriage. William successfully worked at a number of jobs over the years, most notably as a banker and an appraiser.
The house was nearly lost in a serious fire in 1946 that caused an estimated $1,500 in damages. Cora Duckles was home at the time of the fire and, hearing noises, went to investigate. She found a fire fully engaged and called the Leclaire volunteer firefighters. The fire was so great that they needed the assistance of the Edwardsville Fire Department that was willing to come after being assured they would be paid (a common occurrence since Leclaire residents did not pay for Edwardsville fire service). The entire roof of the house was gone by the time the fire was out and there was significant water damage. The newspaper reported that many people, “including women,” helped carry the Duckles family possessions from the house. This also was a common occurrence when there were fires. Neighbors and passersby helped move furnishings from the burning building, a dangerous proposition that would not be allowed by today’s firefighters.
Cora Duckles passed away in 1949 and her husband William in 1958. The Troy Avenue house, repaired following the fire, was sold in the mid-1950s to the Henry Cover family who would live in the house for more than half a century.