Presidential Mothers: Herbert Hoover born poor; retires wealthy

Published 1:48 pm Saturday, April 15, 2023

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By  Betty Etchison West

For the Enterprise

Hulda Minthorn, the mother of Herbert Hoover, was born in Norwich, Canada, to Theodore Minthorn and Mary Wasley (Wesley) Minthorn.  She was born on May 4, 1848.   Hulda’s family moved to West Branch, Iowa, when she was 11.  She attended the University of Iowa for one semester before she dropped out to help her mother when her father died in 1867.

In 1870, Hulda married Jesse Hoover, who was a blacksmith in West Branch. The family joined a religious group called the Quakers. Hulda and Jesse Hoover had three children. Herbert was their middle child. He and the other children were born in the family’s small two-room house, which is open today to people visiting West Branch. Jesse Hoover worked hard in his blacksmith shop to provide for his family.  That shop or a reproduction of it is also open to the public.

Jesse Hoover died suddenly on Dec. 13, 1880 when he was 35. Mrs. Hoover was left with three children to care for, and she did that by sewing and renting to boarders.  She also became a Quaker minister and often traveled around Iowa to hold services. When she traveled away from home, her children stayed with relatives.

On one trip, Hulda got sick and she never recovered. She had typhoid fever and died when she was 35 on Feb. 9, 1884. She was buried in the North Maple Cemetery in West Branch next to her husband, Jesse.

Herbert, the Hoovers second son, lived with near-by relatives for a short period of time and then went to live with an uncle in Oregon when he about 11. The uncle was a doctor and a businessman. Herbert was not happy living with the uncle, but he got enough education to enter Stanford University. He earned a degree in mining engineering and became a successful mining engineer.

By 1914 when he was 40 years old, Herbert Hoover had become a millionaire.

In 1929 he was inaugurated as the 31st President of the United States.  Both of Hoover’s parents had been dead for many years when he became President.

It is interesting that wealthy President Hoover, who lived in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York about the last 20 years of his life and hired four or five secretaries to help him with his writing, chose the small town of West Branch, Iowa, to be his final resting place.

It showed that Hoover remembered his roots and chose to be buried in the town where he was born and where his parents were buried.

President Hoover’s grave and that of his wife are covered with plain marble slabs, certainly nothing ornate, which also indicated he also remembered his Quaker roots.