Monday, February 19, 2018

Murder (or not) at Lucas County's "New Cleveland"

The dual nature of the Lucas County coal mining town of Cleveland, which died and then rose again in another location, is one of the complexities facing those who try to sort out place names in this neck of the woods.

The first Cleveland, developed just east of Lucas after the first Whitebreast coal mine was opened in 1878, faded away when the last of the first three Whitebreast mines closed in May of 1891.  During 1899, a fourth Whitebreast mine was opened southwest of Lucas. The old Cleveland plat was vacated and the town name reclaimed for a new mining camp housing hundreds of miners, this one at the new mine site a few miles southwest of Lucas.

"New Cleveland" is the setting for a murder (or not) mystery that occupied the attention of Lucas Countyans during the fall and early winter of 1901 and, during December, attracted attention statewide and beyond.

The details of the case are spelled out in the story that follows, published under the headline "Shooting at Cleveland" and published in The Chariton Herald of August 29, 1901:


"Thomas V. Hall, proprietor of a saloon at Cleveland, a small town twelve miles west of here, was shot last Sunday night by Charles Sage, his partner, and died at four o'clock Tuesday morning from the effects of the wound. The circumstances surrounding the tragedy are as follows:

"Hall is a bachelor 35 years old, and sleeps in the saloon. Of late Sage has been sleeping with him on account of trouble with his wife at home. On Sunday night at 10:30 o'clock Sage entered the saloon, partially drunk, and Hall, who had also been drinking, greeted him with accusation of theft from the establishment. In the altercation that followed, both men became angry, and Hall drew a revolver and tried to shoot his partner. Sage also drew a revolver, and in his attempt to keep Hall from shooting him, struck the latter. His revolver was discharged in the striking, and the bullet entered Hall's left shoulder, breaking the clavicle, severing the sub-clavian artery, and ranging downward into the left lung. Help was immediately summoned, and the wounded man was cared for. It was thought that he was not seriously wounded, but interior hemorrhage set in, and he died as stated above.

"Before his death he repeatedly stated that the accident was all his fault, and requested that Sage be not prosecuted. A coroner's jury was impaneled by Coroner T.P. Stanton, and investigated the killing on Wednesday at eleven o'clock. They heard several witnesses, among them Sage himself, who stated that Hall attacked him with a revolver when he went into the saloon Sunday night, and in self defense he pulled a gun himself. He did not intentionally discharge the gun, but accidentally discharged it while trying to keep Hall from killing him.

The jury exonerated him from any felonious intent, and found that the deceased had come to his death accidentally. Ed. J. Giles, E.P. Harris, and J.P. Lane composed the jury.

The funeral of the dead man was held on Wednesday afternoon at two o'clock under the auspices of the K.P. Lodge, of which both he and Sage were members Interment took place at the Lucas cemetery (now called Fry Hill). Deceased had no relatives in this part of the country. 


We know very little about Thomas V. Hall. He was single, seems to have had no family in or near Lucas County and his grave at Fry Hill Cemetery is unmarked. When the 1900 census was taken he was boarding with a family in New Cleveland, age 35, and apparently not sleeping in his saloon. His occupation was given as coal miner rather than saloon-keeper and he was native to Scotland.

Charles Sage, about 38 when the shooting occurred, was a native of Port Mulgrave, north Yorkshire, and had married his wife, Elizabeth Ann, there during 1883. The following year, they had emigrated from England to the United States and, by 1890, were living in New Cleveland with their three youngest children, all teen-agers. He, too, was a coal miner.

The seem to have been having marital difficulties. Elizabeth filed for divorce during September of 1901, a month after the shooting, and the decree was granted the following February.

Although the coroner's jury had ruled the killing accidental, law enforcement officers, prosecutors and a Lucas County grand jury disagreed. Some time during the fall, Charles was charged with murder, indicted and his trial scheduled for early December in Chariton.

Shortly before that trial, a sensational story about the case hit the front pages of many Iowa newspapers --- and a few beyond. Here's that story as it was published in The Waterloo Times-Herald of December 6, 1901:


Sequel to a Romance Seldom Equaled Outside the Covers of a Story Book
Were Rivals for the Hand of Miss Reynolds --- Case Will Come Up for Hearing

"Chariton, Dec. 6 --- The preliminary gathering of evidence which is to be used in the approaching Sage murder case assigned for Monday, Dec. 9, has developed many elements of heart interest and a romance seldom equaled outside the covers of a story book. It is the narrative of one who, in his dying hour, forgave his old friend, rival and slayer and bequeathed to him his entire fortune.

"On June 25, 1901, Thomas Hall, a saloonkeeper and bachelor, was shot and killed at his place of business by his bartender, Charles Sage. The shooting arose over some charges made relative to the conduct of Hall's business by Sage when the former was away. A quarrel between the two men ensued. Sage seized a pistol and shot his employer in the left breast. Hall died, but before death came, he signed an ante-mortem statement exonerating Sage from all blame and making oath that he was responsible for his own death. He also made a will in which he bequeathed to his slayer every penny he owned in the world, including his business and a number of houses and lots here.

"Subsequent developments ascribed a motive to what was looked upon as one of the strangest transactions of modern times. Years ago, Tom Hall was in love with Gwendoline Reynolds of this city. Owing to some misunderstanding the match was broken up and she became the wife of Charles Sage. Hall never married. He never gave any stated reason for remaining a bachelor but intimate friends knew that away down in his heart he still had a spark of the love, which one woman, at least, possessed the magic power to fan into a blaze.

"The bachelor was always prosperous. He saved his money and, while the business in which he was engaged did not meet the approval of a great many, it was truthfully said of him that he implicitly obeyed every letter of the law.

"The two men were always fast friends and when circumstances seemed to be a little against Sage, a place was made for him in Hall's saloon. There he remained until the ugly rumors were set afloat connecting the employee's name with an alleged illegal transaction, resulting in his being branded a murdered by the Lucas county grand jury. Attorney W.H. McHenry of Des Moines has been retained by the defense."


The difficulty with this story --- and it's a good one --- is that none of the detail was published in Lucas County newspapers; in fact, the case was hardly covered at all beyond references to the impending trial in published court notes. So we don't know where the story came from.

Charles seems always to have been married to Elizabeth, not a Gwendoline, and they had been hitched for nearly 20 years and had produced six children before she booted him out during 1901 and he found refuge in his friend's saloon. Admittedly, we don't know how faithful he had been. And it's possible the two friends had gotten into it at some point over a rival love interest. 

The case did come to trial during December in Chariton, although postponed a week; but none of the newspapers seem to have covered it (there were three independent weeklies in Chariton at the time).

The Herald report of the outcome consisted of a paragraph buried under other "Court House Notes" in its edition of Dec. 19, 1901:

"The state case against Charles Sage, for the murder of Thos. Hall at Lucas, was sent to the jury on Tuesday and after hanging until today, six members being for convicting Sage of manslaughter and six being for acquitting him, they came in this morning with a verdict of acquittal. As the killing was largely accidental and Hall exonerated Sage before he died, the verdict seems the proper thing to do."


By the time the verdict came in, Elizabeth apparently had moved herself and those children who remained in her care to Colfax, where the extended Sage family seems to have settled soon after their arrival from England.

Charles high-tailed it for Montana where, on Oct. 4, 1907, in Carbon County, he married 40-year-old Margaret (Cavender) Wilson, also native to England and also divorced. This marriage does not seem to have endured, however.

Charles eventually moved back to Iowa, working in the mines at Melcher; and about 1930 returned to Lucas County to make his home in Chariton with his daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Robert Phoenix (Robert also was a miner). He stayed on with his son-in-law after Mary's death in 1936 and died himself at the Phoenix home on October 21, 1938, age 77.

His former wife, Elizabeth, had died at Colfax a month earlier --- on Sept. 26, 1938. Charles's remains were taken from Chariton to Colfax where funeral services were held at the Methodist Church and he was buried beside Elizabeth in the McKeever Cemetery.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Reuel R. Fogg and Russell's cathedral of lumber

Giant structures like this --- cathedrals of lumber if you like --- one stood in nearly every Iowa town of any size at all, but few remain.

That makes this grand old and somewhat battered building just south of the railroad tracks at the intersection of Prairie and Short streets in Russell a rare survival.

The line drawing dates from 1901, when it was published in The Chariton Herald on August 29 as part of a "Merchants' Edition." The fuzzy image of the building today was lifted from Google Map --- and the map mobile apparently rolled through Russell on a rainy day so the quality isn't very good.

The text that accompanied the 1901 drawing --- a paid-for "puff piece" --- is valuable for the information contained under the headline, "R.R. Fogg, Owner of Russell's Big Lumber Yard, Planing Mill, etc."

"One of the most important business enterprises of Russell  is that owned by R.R. Fogg, who conducts a large lumber yard and planing mill.

"This  business was started in 1879 as a lumber yard. A steady growth was sustained from the start until at the present time there are ten men employed steadily, besides occasional extra men, to handle the business.

"The lumber is housed in the building shown in the cut, which is 112 x 130 feet and 47 feet to the comb. It contains four stories, and has a large elevator running from bottom to top. Pumps, windmills, stock tanks and patent well refrigerators are also housed in this building. The yard is as complete as any in the country.

"Across the street west from the lumber yard and office is located the planing mill and the building where stock tanks are made. The planing mill is equipped with a 21 horse power Otto gasoline engine for power and with first-class planing mill machinery for doing all ordinary work. Mr. H.L. Hill is the foreman and his work has proven very satisfactory to customers.

"A specialty is made of cedar tanks, which are made from clear Washington red cedar lumber two inches thick. They are manufactured and kept in stock in all sizes from three feet diameter up. Those who have bought the Fogg tanks claim that they are the best on the market.

"Coal, brick, tile, etc., are kept by the side of the railway track, west from the big building.

Several hundred well refrigerators have been sold here during the past few years. This is inexpensive and most convenient and useful. It is the invention of W.H. Argo, who is manager of the yard and mill.

Those who patronize R.R. Fogg find him and his representatives very pleasant people to deal with and people can come as near getting their money's worth at this place as anywhere in southern Iowa."


Reuel R. Fogg (1843-1928) was a native of Maine who, following military service during the Civil War, married Eliza Jane Woodman there during 1869. 

Eliza Jane's brother, Alfred J. Woodman, moved west from Maine to the new railroad town of Russell, Iowa, after the war and established a hardware business that included an outlet in Chariton. 

The Foggs and their son, John, followed that family connection to Russell where Reuel established his successful lumber and planing business.

Sadly, not long after the Herald piece was published during 1901, Eliza Jane's health failed and they decided to move to Boulder, Colorado --- where son John had been living --- in the hope the climate there might improve her condition.

The planing operation was closed and during April of 1902, the lumber yard was sold to Eikenberry & Co. of Chariton, the company that would carry it past the mid-point of the 20th century. Later on, it was owned by the Arnold brothers and others.

The Foggs were visiting the Woodmans in Russell when Eliza Jane died during November of 1905. Reuel returned to Boulder, where he lived until his own death during 1928. Both are buried in the Russell Cemetery.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The death of Jake Baux in the Number 1 Mine

Find a Grave photo by Doris Christensen
Jake Baux came from a long line of coal miners, a line that stretched back several generations in the native land of his parents, Jacob and Jane (Flower) Baux --- in and around Timsbury, Somersetshire, in southwest England.

During 1870, Jacob and Jane brought their family to the United States to work in the Midwest's expanding coal industry, landing in Illinois --- but sorrow awaited.

After surviving many years of hazardous work as a miner, Jacob died of typhoid fever two years later, on Nov. 10, 1872, at Illinois City, near Rock Island. Jake --- Jacob Jr. --- was born five months later, on April 24, 1873.

His mother remarried another miner soon thereafter and kept the family together. Young Jacob went to work in the Illinois mines as soon as owners would hire him --- about age 13 --- and followed that line of work along with brothers and brothers-in-law west to Iowa --- to Mystic in Appanoose County, then to Hiteman, in Monroe.

He was married at age 27 to 18-year-old Rosa Belle Phillips at Hiteman in 1900 and they had one son, Clarence, born in 1905 --- 10 years before Rosa divorced Jake and moved herself and their son elsewhere.

Most likely that divorce was a major factor in Jake's move soon after to Chariton, where he went to work in the Central Iowa Fuel Co's No. 1 mine, catching a rail car on workday mornings at the new Rock Island depot and riding the mile or two to the mine just northeast of town. He was, by all accounts, greatly respected both by his fellow miners and the company that employed him.

Death came in that mine on Monday, the 18th of February, 1918, when he was 44, through no fault of his own. 

Here's The Chariton Leader's Feb. 19 account of the accident, resulting from the carelessness of others, that killed him:

"Jacob Baux, who was a trap rider in the Inland Mines, was killed by a fall of slate Monday. A trap rider is the conductor of the string of coal cars as they are brought from the rooms to the shaft, and his position is on the rear car. The timbermen had worked in this entry the day before and had taken out one of the top timbers and had replaced it with a new one which projected beneath a couple or three inches lower than the old one. Prior to this there was only sufficient room for the loaded cars to pass beneath and as these cars are propelled at the speed of 12 or 15 miles an hour, it may be seen that any obstruction might result disastrously.

"The cars had all passed through except the third one from the end, the coal being piled higher on this, and when it struck, the timber was dislodged, besides several others and some uprights, and this loosened a section of the roof, which fell by the time the last car came directly underneath, with the result that the trap rider was crushed to death."

Funeral services were held two days later, on Wednesday, Feb. 21,  at First Baptist Church.

"The United Mine Workers attended in a body," The Herald-Patriot of Thursday, Feb. 21, reported, "marching to the church, which was completely filled by friends of the deceased. By special request, Mr. Giles sang a solo in addition to the hymns sung by a large choir. In his remarks, Mr. Donovan repeated the comments which all of Mr. Baux's acquaintances, as well as friends, made concerning his unfailing good nature, sterling manhood and his fidelity to every duty. The Central Fuel Company confesses that it has lost one of its best workmen; a man whose interest went beyond his own immediate affairs, and always included the care of the company's interest.

"Mr. Baux was born at Belleville, Ill., April 14, 1874 (sic), and died February 18th, 1918, at Chariton, Iowa, at the age of 43 years, 10 months and 4 days. Interment was in the Chariton cemetery."

The United Mine Workers had arranged for and conducted Jake's funeral, and most likely was responsible, too, for the substantial stone that continues to mark his grave in the Chariton Cemetery today --- ensuring that someone now largely forgotten is at least commemorated.

His ex-wife, then living in Des Moines, brought their son to Chariton for the funeral. Clarence married and continued to live in Des Moines, worked at a variety of jobs and finally moved to California during World War II perhaps to work in war-related industry. He died at age 40 in Los Angeles during 1945.

The Central Iowa Fuel Company's No. 1 mine continued to operate until 1925, when it closed and its miners went to work in newer mines in Pleasant Township.

You still can drive through the area of the old mine by turning right off Highway 14 onto the graveled 510th Lane a mile or two north of Chariton --- just before the highway curves and descends into the Little White Breast Creek valley. The shaft was some distance off the road to the south; deep beneath the ground, however, chambers and passages that have not collapsed remain.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The road to a "modern Gomorrah" --- back in 1870

One of the oddities after great public calamities often involves a turn of conversation to younger folks --- followed sometimes by a shift into another gear as oldesters declare, "this younger generation sure is going to hell in a handbasket" or something similar.

One of my favorites yesterday involved a widely circulated meme that ran something like this: "Back when I was a pup every pickup in the school parking lot had a gun rack in the back window and nobody got shot."

But when I was a pup more than 50 years ago, there was no school parking lot for students and classmates lucky enough to have their own vehicles would not have dreamed of investing in a pickup (pickups became sex symbols many years later). Some of us Iowa farm boys were in fact so poor that our families could not afford the luxury of both a good car and a utility vehicle.

Maybe I lived a sheltered life, but quite frankly don't ever recall seeing a pickup parked near the school with a gun rack in the back window back in the good old days, although my Wyoming cousins tell me this was not unusual there.

But this isn't about gun racks --- rather about perceptions of younger folks. So I was interested to find the following article on Page 1 of The Chariton Democrat of April 26, 1870, under the headline, "Crime Among Children."

It's not local news --- these were early days still for Iowa weekly newspapers and The Democrat relied heavily on syndicated copy. Only one page of hand-set type was entirely local. This story was a reprint from The New York Times.

At that time, The Democrat --- a four-page broadsheet --- was printed on sheets of paper that arrived partially pre-printed weekly by rail, most likely from Chicago. These were known as "patent insides" even when, as in The Democrat's case, Page 1 was a pre-print, too --- other than a hole at the top where The Democrat's flag --- or nameplate --- could be added.

But even though the setting was New York City, the patent insides editors probably were fairly certain it would resonate across the Midwest as well. It's something of a morality tale, too, involving lessons about the examples older folks should be setting if they expect younger folks to behave.


Just as the twig is bent the tree's inclined; and those who read the newspapers cannot fail to see that the present tendency of wrongdoing among children threatens a lamentable warp toward evil hereafter. Youthful crime hereabouts is rapidly increasing. Several children have lately killed or attempted to kill their parents. Nearly every day, small boys commit highway robbery --- usually by snatching the purses of ladies --- in the streets of New York and Brooklyn.

On Monday last, a little rascal of seven, who had been picked up on Broadway and placed in charge of the matron of the Lost Children's Department at Police Headquarters, actually, with great deliberation, set fire to the room in which he had been temporarily left, and the building was only by accident saved from conflagration.

Thefts from shops by juvenile experts are of constant occurrence, although these cases, when detected, are often hushed up by friends and so do not get into the police reports. The torture of animals by children is almost as common. Some small fiends anointed a cat with kerosene the other day in a neighboring city, set fire to the poor animal's fur, and drove her, while she screamed with agony, through the streets.

Another form of misbehavior we alluded to a short time ago. Gangs of lads stop other single boys and rifle their pockets of whatever they may contain. If interrupted by an adult, the young brigands are only "in fun." If undisturbed, they make off with their booty.  All this is lamentable and ominous and yet there is reason to fear it is only what under existing circumstances ought to be expected.

There can be little doubt that most boys if left to themselves are likely to be selfish and cruel. Society recognizes this by subjecting them in general to much coercion, and by dwelling strenuously in its precepts relating to children upon the force of example. The immediate occasion of increased juvenile crime apparently lies, then, in the slackening of the reins of coercion, and in permitting children to become familiar with bad examples. Young New York smokes, chews, gambles, falls in love with ballet girls --- does anything in a word in the way of promiscuous sensuality, and no man says him, nay. His younger brother, gazing with admiration on these splendid achievements, makes haste when he can go and do likewise.

But it is not merely social vices of the class that may be called sins against one's self that are thus inculcated. The spectacle of notoriously bad men in high office, of gamblers, thieves, and assassins, mounting to official station, the prevalent worship of money, no matter how got, and all but universal chuckle over what is called sharp practice and ought to be called scoundrelism; all this corrupts the young, breaks down their moral sense and first induces their assent to such evils, and subsequently their active participation in them.

Some imagine that children do not see or know of these blots on our escutcheon, which is a grievous mistake. The knowledge and influence of such social stains extend to all classes, conditions and ages, down almost to the very cradle. As surely as the bad habits of parents work their effect in the household, are the vices of a community reproduced in its rising generation.

Example, to be sure, is not always literally and instantly followed. It is not all children who would do what the Canadian lad lately did, who, having seen a pig butchered took the earliest private opportunity to cut up and dress his little brother in the same way. 

But the influence of bad example, if commonly less direct than this, is pervasive and destructive, and although the methods of turpitude vary like fashions, so that different kinds of crime have their spoch just as different modes of executions have theirs, depravity may, at the various times, equally exist. We may be preparing fewer Jack Sheppards and Claude Duvals for future use than ballot box stuffers, repeaters, or robbers of our city treasury; and the harm in that case may be the greater because more difficult to punish.

It is plain, meanwhile, that the disposition to evil on the part of our city youth is growing strong and dangerous. There may be ways to cope with or to extirpate this disposition; but one way is most palpable and certain, however it may be among the most difficult. It consists in the establishment of a pure local government. The influence for mischief of our municipal system, as for years it has practically worked, might almost have made of New York a modern Gomorrah. Let us hope that with the reforms promised for the immediate future, we may accomplish among other collateral benefits, a diminution of the ratio of juvenile crime. (New York Times)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Feast or fast & ashes to go ...

We had a great turnout last evening for the Shrove Tuesday pancake supper at St. Andrew's, so thanks to all who came to share a meal and especially to all of those amazingly efficient Girl Scouts who serve as the wait staff for this annual event. They were particularly amazing this year, I thought.

As the official dispenser of filled plates, It was my observation that more people were eating more pancakes this year (it's an all-you-can-eat for a free-will donation event; all proceeds to the Ministry Center Food Bank).

The individual record was four pancakes (and these were not small cakes). Orange juice was more popular than usual, too, I thought --- at least we went through a lot of it; a few more customers and I'd have had to dash through the snow drifts to the hospital parking lot where I'd left in the truck a reserve supply I was sure we wouldn't need but brought along just in case.

Today is Ash Wednesday; the first time since 1945 when Valentine's Day and the commencement of Lent collide --- feast or fast? The brief Litany of Penitence and imposition of ashes begin at 6 p.m. at St. Andrew's; at other times in Chariton's Catholic and Lutheran churches.

And if you happen to be among those who work in downtown Des Moines, I noticed in my feed from the Cathedral Church of St. Paul this morning that "Ashes to Go" will be available from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. on the sidewalk in front of the cathedral, 815 High Street in the shadow of the Principal tower. If you prefer a more formal setting --- inside the cathedral at 7 a.m., noon and 7 p.m.

Wherever and whenever, it's a lovely and for many highly meaningful ritual --- open to all.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

About those Obama portraits ...

If your buddy begins the conversation by saying, "I'm no art critic, but ...." --- you can be fairly sure that he or she doesn't know much about art. So let me begin by saying, "I'm no art critic, but ...

... I am such a geek that watching an hour's worth of live feed from the Smithsonian Monday morning as the Obama presidential and first-lady portraits were unveiled seemed like a logical thing thing to do.

It was good to see the Obamas again --- such a class act. And it really did help to be on hand when both artists and subjects talked about the portraits.

Kehinde Wiley's work has been acclaimed for a long time and I've admired it before (honest) --- I like its exuberance, life, bright colors and sometimes iconographic feel.

In comparison to his other works, the Obama portrait --- a good likeness backed by foliage enlivened with interwoven flowers symbolic of places where the president has lived, including Chicago and Hawaii --- is rather restrained.

Wiley's subjects always are black, lifted from everyday life and projected in often heroic poses against sumptuous backgrounds --- backgrounds that sometimes seem like they're threatening to overtake the subject. Here's another example:

Comedian Chris Rock, upon seeing the Obama portrait, titled it "black panther" --- and that's not a bad characterization --- in a benign sort of way. I really like this one.

I'm still working on Amy Sherald's Michelle Obama image. I really like it, too, but we're so accustomed to seeing Mrs. Obama with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eyes that the somber face portrayed here is disconcerting.

The depiction of the gown and gracefully arrayed limbs is unmistakably Mrs. Obama --- but why isn't she smiling?

Amy Sherald is less well known than Wiley, but a little reading about the Baltimore-based artist reveals that the charcoal skin tone is among her trademarks. Here's another of her works:

Whatever the case, I'd call them terrific additions to the Smithsonian's presidential and first lady collections within the National Portrait Gallery.

And I'm willing to bet that there were more conversations about art yesterday both in person and online than had a taken place in a good long time. And that's a good thing.

Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald

Monday, February 12, 2018

The coup that routed Chariton Mayor George Routt

Prohibition --- a nationwide ban on the production, transport and sale of alcoholic beverages imposed by the Eighteenth Amendment --- became law of the land on Jan. 17, 1920.

In Chariton that January, a coalition of prominent businessmen were celebrating not only this moral triumph, but also the outcome of a coup they had launched three weeks earlier: the ouster of Mayor George Routt --- on charges of intoxication. Now those were interesting times!


The four-deck coup-related headline on Page 1 of the Herald-Patriot of Jan. 1 commenced, "Mayor George Routt Ousted from Office by Order of Court."  Henry Gittinger's report in The Leader of the same date, however, was more concise and to the point than the somewhat rambling Herald-Patriot story. Here's Henry's report:

"County Attorney C.F. Wennerstrum has filed the following petition in court and has asked the permanent removal from office of Chariton's mayor. He went to Albia Tuesday, presenting the petition to Judge D.M. Anderson, who ordered the suspension of the mayor from office pending trial and set January 12, 1920, for the hearing of the case. The mayor will meet the issue and has employed J.A. Penick and C.W. Stuart to defend him.

"Comes now C.F. Wennerstrum, the duly elected and qualified and acting county attorney of Lucas county, Iowa, and for cause of action states:

"1. That George Routt is the duly elected, qualified and acting mayor of Chariton, Iowa, having qualified as said mayor on the 7th day of April, 1919, and that he has been acting as mayor since that time.

"2. Your petitioner here states that on diverse and sundry dates since April 7, 1919, the said George Routt, mayor of chariton, Iowa, has been intoxicated to such an extent as to incapacitate him for the performance of his official duties, and has thus been guilty of wilful official misconduct and malfeasance in office. It is further stated that on the evening of December 21, 1919, certain citizens of Chariton, Iowa, called upon the said mayor .... at the office of the mayor in Chariton, Iowa, in regard to official business connected with the said mayor's office, and at that time the said George Routt ... was in such a state of intoxication as to incapacitate him from carrying on of official duties. It is here further stated that on the 23d day of December, 1919, several citizens of Chariton, Iowa, called upon the said mayor ... at his office in Chariton, Iowa, about 8 o'clock in the evening in regard to certain city business, and there found the said George Routt lying on a couch in his office in a stupor, and in such a state of intoxication as to prevent him from carrying on the duties of his office.

"3. Your petitioner further states that on or about the --- day of August, 1919, the said George Routt, mayor of Chariton, Iowa, in company with other parties, drove in an automobile to the pumping station of the city reservoir several miles east of Chariton about 9 o'clock in the evening, and at the time he was in a state of intoxication, such as to prevent him from properly carrying on the duties of his office as mayor. It is here stated that at that time he evidenced his intoxication by ordering the person in charge of the plant to start all the machinery, engines and electric pump.

"4. Your petitioner further states that at different dates and occasions the defendant herein has been observed in an intoxicated condition on the streets of Chariton, Iowa, and that at certain times since he has been mayor of Chariton, Iowa, the said George Routt has been in attendance at the meetings of the city council of Chariton, Iowa, in an intoxicated condition, and in such a physical state as to be unable to properly carry on the duties of his office.

"5. That for reasons set forth in this petition and the affidavits herein attached, the said defendant should be suspended from office during the pendency of said action, as by law provided.

"6. That in support of this petition for removal and for suspension from office there is attached thereto the affidavits of H.G. Larimer, J.H. Darrah, H.W. Brewer, O.J. Israel and W.C. Milthorpe, all residents of Chariton, Iowa, which said affidavits are attached to this peition and marked Exhibits A. B. C. D. and E, respectively, and made part of this petition.

"Whereas, Plaintiff prays that a time be fixed for the hearing of this petition and that during the pendency thereof the defendant, George Routt, be suspended from the office of mayor of the city of Chariton, Iowa, and upon the final hearing that the defendant be removed from said office and that said office be declared vacant, and for such other and further relief as in equity may be deemed just and equitable."


It may be useful to know a little more about the protagonists here. 

The leader of the pack seems to have been Horace Greeley Larimer, who had preceded Routt as mayor but had not sought re-election. He was senior partner in the retail firm Hollinger & Larimer (Hollinger being his late father-in-law) and a major mover and shaker in Chariton. The Larimers had moved into the old Crocker mansion (now Fielding Funeral Home) on South Grand Street after the unfortunate self-inflicted demise of its builder, Frank R. Crocker, notorious for having single-handedly bankrupted First National Bank in 1907.

Darrah, Brewer and Israel also were among Chariton's leading merchants and Milthorpe, a former railroad detective, was city marshal.

Like Larimer, George Pendleton Routt was a native of Lucas County --- widely known and respected as a hard-working brick mason and masonry contractor. He lived with his family on the "other side" of the railroad tracks, in a modest home on West Armory Avenue about a block from the home in which he had been born.


George Routt had won a two-year term as mayor during city elections on March 31, 1919, by 78 votes in a three-way race. Former Mayor Larimer had backed the Citizens Party candidate (E.R. Welker) in this election, as had most of the city's business community. Routt, running on a Commoners Party ticket, was favored --- according to newspaper reports --- by the "working man." It was generally agreed that the Peoples Party candidate (Clarkson Seward) didn't have a chance of winning, but affected the outcome by attracting votes that might have gone to one of the other candidates.


Mayor Routt's accusers were relying upon what commonly was known as the "Cosson Law" in their effort to depose him. This was a 1909 rewriting of Iowa statutes that already had given disgruntled citizens legal recourse against elected officials --- mayors, county supervisors, county attorneys, sheriffs and police officers. At the instigation of State Sen. George Cosson, "intoxication" had been added to the existing five just causes for removal from office --- neglect, wilful misconduct, corruption, extortion and conviction of a felony.

In the intervening 10 years, the Cosson law had been used with success in several other Iowa cities to depose mayors --- at Marengo and Ottumwa for example --- as well as other elected officials.


George initially had lawyered up and announced plans to contest his removal, but changed his mind during the week that followed and on Jan. 8 resigned. One factor he cited was the expense of defending himself in court --- funds he did not have.

"Mr. Routt, after the acceptance (of his resignation), addressed the council briefly," The Herald-Patriot of Jan. 8 reported. "He expressed his gratitude for the harmony which had prevailed and said that it had been his ambition to be a good mayor and that he had tried to be such. He characterized the charges against him as unjust and untrue and brought about by petty politics on account of factional jealousy. He was particularly bitter against the 'perverted idea of journalism' which had made the charges public. He stated that he should remain a citizen of Chariton and would be loyal to the city in every way, although he should use his influence for his friends and not for his enemies."

Later that month, George B. Van Arsdale --- a prominent farmer, farm manager and entrepreneur who lived at 815 Grace Avenue in the Spring Lake Subdivision --- was appointed mayor and the powers that be congratulated themselves on finding a suitable replacement for Routt.

George Routt continued to live and work in Chariton until 1935, when he died at age 66 as the result of complications following a stroke. Horace G. Larimer had died during 1928 at the age of 52 while consulting at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., seeking respite from an unidentified chronic condition that had plagued him for several years.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

In honor of Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. Howard M. Oden

Jack Williamson, of Winter Park, Florida --- but originally from Williamson of course --- decided recently to entrust four items related to his late uncle, U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Howard M. Oden (1922-1943), to the Lucas County Historical Society.

These arrived safely Saturday afternoon --- on one of southern Iowa's coldest and most snow-covered days --- in two huge FedEx cartons. We're delighted to have them and they will go out to the museum on Monday, after the driveway is cleared. In the meantime, I have custody. My photographs of of the items --- propped on chairs in the living room --- are not the best; I'll do better at the museum.

In addition to the portrait of Lt. Oden, Jack shared the three-star service banner that was displayed in the home of his grandparents, Preston H. and Olive (Cain) Oden, in honor of their three sons in the service --- the gold star represents the sacrifice of Howard Oden; the blue stars, the service of  U.S. Army 1st Lt. Loren F. Oden and U.S. Army Sgt. Donald B. Oden. Lt. Oden's aviator crush cap and a depiction of the cockpit of a B-24 Liberator like the one he was aboard when he was killed complete the collection.

Lt. Oden, born May 18, 1922, at Chariton, was a 1939 graduate of Russell High School who attended Parsons College for two years and then worked in Washington, D.C., for a year before enlisting on April 10, 1942, in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

He was deployed to North Africa with the 448th Bombardment Group on Nov. 20, 1943, flying a B-24 Liberator. On 8 December 1943, he and other airmen were killed when their plane exploded during a training flight near Marrakech, Morocco. Recovered remains were repatriated during 1949. Ten --- including Howard --- share a common grave at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Chariton Leader, Aug. 23, 1949

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The bear facts about Chariton

Bears are rare these days in Lucas County and I may have discovered why. In the past, when one of these rare creatures appeared in or near Chariton, it was eaten by the natives.

I found the first indication of this on the front page of The Chariton Leader of Jan. 23, 1919, under the headline, "The Bear Feast: A Big Crowd Was at the Banquet of Bruin:"

"Several months since, a citizen of Tipperary became possessed of a cub bear, which he carefully raised as a zoological wonder until it reached that period in its existence when the instincts of its wild nature began to predominate and it became dangerous and troublesome, so he decided the best thing he could do was dispose of the beast at the best figures possible. So he loaded the animal in his Ford car, well chained and came over to Chariton.

"Soon a deal was struck up by and between him and several of our gamey citizens, and the carnivorous beast changed ownership. Here was a wild west feature in reality. There had been raccoon bakes in town on diverse and numerous occasions --- and Possum feasts galore, but here was a chance for bear steaks and all the accessories.

"On a propitious day after the transfer of bruin was made, the ferocious beast was set free and the chief Nimrod of the purchasing company, armed with a bear gun, did the execution and the bear soon lost his hide and his flesh was placed in the ice box in order to temper for the feast.

"On last Thursday night the occasion arrived which the epicurean hosts had been looking forward to and longed for, and the home of Dr. Sam V. Carpenter had been selected for the feast of the mountains. All day Lewis Jackson, the best chef in southern Iowa, with his assistants, had been preparing the savory repast and the company of gentlemen had been given notice to appear not later than 7:30 in the evening and the great culinary tragedy would be pulled off not much later, and between 35 and 40 responded.

"And what a feast it was --- bear steaks and a banquet of accessories worthy of the epicurean hosts there assembled. And what good cheer abounded. Toasts were proposed and responded to and the theme of friendship invaded the innermost thoughts, and sociability reigned until near the midnight hour. It was a merry feast and a lively occasion. If anyone else has unruly bears for sale, call the Epicurean Club, Chariton, Iowa, U.S.A."


Lucas was a dry county; the 18th amendment would kick in nationwide in a year; and Methodists were forbidden by their Book of Discipline to drink alcoholic beverages. So we can assume, of course, that all of those toasts involved sarsaparilla and nothing stronger.


Less than 10 years later, another unfortunate bear arrived in Chariton --- this one partially disassembled and in the back of George Steinbach's truck. It's arrival was reported upon in The Herald-Patriot of Feb. 3, 1927, as follows under the headline, "Bear Steaks Served: George Steinbach Slaughtered Bruin and Has It on the Shambrels:"

"There was a gentleman by the name of Johnson, at Knoxville, who owned a bear. This bear had become ferocious and unruly and the owner decided it was best to get rid of it, so he offered it for sale. George Steinbach, of the north side market, in Chariton, purchased it, so went over with the truck, and after slaughtering the beast, brought the carcass home, and now bear meat is for sale, a luxury never indulged in by many. The bear had a fine robe on, which is valuable. The owner will probably have this robe prepared according to the Indian formula, and convert it into a luxuriant rug."


There were no follow-up reports, so we have no way of knowing how many Lucas Countyans rushed to Steinbach Meat Market to bring bear steak home. Or if somewhere, deep in the collective Steinbach subconscious, is the memory of bear roast served up rather than chicken for Sunday dinner  that winter if the patriarch's marketing strategy failed.