Sunday, January 22, 2017

In grateful appreciation to those who marched ...

In Des Moines

I was so proud yesterday of friends, Facebook and otherwise, who participated in Women's Marches --- the mother march in Washington, D.C., sister marches across the nation (and the world).

At first, it seemed like it might be possible to keep track of all of these folks as social media reports started coming in from Des Moines.  Then there were dispatches from the West Coast, south and east through Texas and Oxford, Mississippi to Florida, up the East Coast to D.C., even skipping across the Atlantic to Paris --- and the impracticality of that became evident. 

In Des Moines.

The photos here are a few I snagged along the way, most Iowans, some with Iowa and/or Lucas County roots.

An estimated 26,000 turned out in Des Moines --- a huge deal in Iowa where march organizers thought originally the crowd would be small enough to fit into the Capitol. Crowd estimates are notoriously difficult to sort out. But there's general agreement that this was the biggest one-day demonstration of solidarity in the history of America as the number of marchers climbed into the millions.

In Des Moines

All in all, it was a welcome antidote to the poison of that dark, foreboding and by comparison sparsely attended inauguration ceremony on Friday.  

There are perilous days ahead and it's important to remember that President Trump is only the front man --- emotionally immature, morally empty and easily manipulated by malignant interests motivated by white nationalism, racism, xenophobia and Christianist-right extremism.

In Los Angeles

It's useful to remember, too, that many in that minority of Americans who voted this regime into power had no clear idea of what the consequences of their votes would be.

It wouldn't surprise me if women took the lead in seeing us safely through this, so thanks again to everyone I know who organized and marched.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

America, America ...


President Trump's distorted and dark inaugural vision of America, past and present, seemed to leave little hope Friday. A significant opportunity missed to unite and move us forward together.

So I looked elsewhere for a more accurate vision of where we've been and who we have the potential to be --- and found it in a song, usually reserved these days for Veterans Day, performed so memorably by Norah Jones in Ken Burns' 2007 documentary series, "The War."

"American Anthem," composed by Gene Scheer, premiered during 1999 at a Smithsonian Institution ceremony marking restoration of the "Star Spangled Banner" and subsequently was featured during the 2005 inauguration of George W. Bush.

Here it is, performed by mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, who premiered it. And read the lyrics, too.

All we've been given by those who came before
The dream of a nation where freedom would endure
The work and prayers of centuries have brought us to this day
What shall be our legacy? What will our children say?

Let them say of me I was one who believed
In sharing the blessings I received.
Let me know in my heart when my days are through
America, America, I gave my best to you.

Each generation from the plains to distant shore
With the gifts they were given were determined to leave more.
Battles fought together, acts of conscience fought alone:
These are the seeds from which America has grown.

Let them say of me I was one who believed
In sharing the blessings that I received.
Let me know in my heart when my days are through
America, America, I gave my best to you.

For those who think they have nothing to share,
Who fear in their hearts there is no hero there.
Know each quiet act of dignity is that which fortifies
The soul of a nation that will never die.

Let them say of me I was one who believed
In sharing the blessings I received.
Let me know in my heart when my days are through
America, America, I gave my best to you.

Now get out there, damn it, and give your best. To those participating in Women's Marches today --- you go out there in Los Angeles, Roberta --- thank you!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Let there be (new) light


Jeff Bailey (above) and Tyler Wignall (below), both of Des Moines-based Tesdell Electric, have been at the museum this week installing new LED lighting in the Vredenburg Gallery and Library of the Lewis Building. 


Looks like the job will be finished today --- bringing almost to a close a year-long project to update these two rooms, which fill the top floor of the 1975-76 wing --- the first new building constructed on the museum campus after development began during 1966.

The last phase will involve --- finally --- getting everything back into place and restoring order before we open for a new season on May 1. (These rooms were open during the 2016 season, but order had not been fully restored.)

We began early last year by evacuating the two rooms, repainting the walls, then tearing up and replacing what seemed like acres of the original 1975-76 carpet --- durable stuff that none-the-less had served its purpose. Four new cases to house items from the military collection also were installed at that time. All of this project was funded by a generous grant from the Vredenburg Foundation.

New lighting wasn't part of the original plan, although the need for it became increasingly evident. The old lighting system, rows of 1970s-era fluorescents, was too dim and did not extend into two gallery alcloves. Enough funds still were available from the Vredenburg grant to fund about half a lighting project --- so we went ahead.

The result is going to be very bright indeed, but can be adjusted with dimmer switches until the proper level is reached, should that be necessary. It should be possible now to see clearly everything on display in these two areas.

It's going to be great to have this project finished and move on to others. Projects during 2016 also included repairing and residing the north wall of the Lewis Building and paving (thanks to a gift from the Coons Foundation) a parking area just east of it.

Come spring, we'll be replacing sidewalks leading to and from Otterbein Church and improving handicap accessibility to buildings in that part of the campus, also with Coons Foundation funds. And we're getting estimates on rewiring the Stephens House, the 1911 dwelling that is the original building on our campus. So if it isn't one thing, it's another ....



Thursday, January 19, 2017

Mississippi, the Civil War & Chariton's John Aughey


I stumbled upon an interesting 2014 documentary the other day from Mississippi Public Broadcasting that provided fresh insights, to me at least, about the Civil War, its causes and effects. It's entitled "Mississippi's War: Slavery and Secession" and runs about an hour, a considerable commitment of time in this day and age, but worthwhile.

Although the documentary deals specifically with the war, its causes and long-term effects in just one  state, the Mississippi experience and the Iowa experience certainly were linked in various ways. Among them, Iowans benefited from the booming "king cotton" slave-based economy of the South during the years leading up to war; then during the war, hundreds of young Iowans died there --- including two uncles of mine, Jim Rhea and Gene Dunlap, one in combat at Vicksburg, the other of disease at Jackson.

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The Civil War, its causes and post-war consequences are relevant in the divided United States as we're experiencing it now, some would argue, in large part because as a nation we've never dealt with racial issues that arise from the fact a slave-based economy underpinned it during formative years. Just as we've never dealt with racial, cultural, religious and other issues that arise from destruction of our native people during those same formative years and beyond.

In any case, the documentary deals concisely with a number of historical "sacred cows" that have developed during the post-war experience. Among them, especially in the South, is the idea that the war resulted from something other than a desire to preserve the institution of slavery --- state rights often are cited.

And then there's President Lincoln's burnished reputation as the "great emancipator." Which he was, of course, but he also was a pragmatic man of his time and a politician and while not in favor of slavery probably would have allowed it to stand where it existed before war erupted had it been possible to find compromise at crucial times.

Then there's the idea that the economic elite of the south favored war. In Mississippi, at least, hotheads favored war. The planters --- the millionaires of their time --- in a good many cases were opposed to secession because they knew war would disrupt if not destroy their businesses and doubted the ability of the South to prevail. Many were prepared to take their chances with Lincoln.

And finally, that our Iowa Union ancestors fought and died to end slavery. In the long run they did, but most thought at the time that they were fighting (and dying) to preserve the Union; slavery was a secondary issue. Although there were active and vocal abolitionists in Iowa at the time, the great majority of our Iowa ancestors were not among them.

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I was also pleased to find in the Mississippi documentary a cameo appearance by the handsome mug of and a few words from the Rev. John Hill Aughey, later of Chariton, who was living and working in Mississippi when war broke out. 

A Unionist firebrand, his 1863’s “The Iron Furnace: or, Slavery and Secession,” became widely influential in the North. His next book, “Tupelo,” completed during the 1880s when Aughey was preaching in Chariton, was a revised and expanded version of “The Iron Furnace,” and it, too, was a best-seller. You can read more about Aughey and his two terms as pastor of Chariton's First Presbyterian Church here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Iowa's deadliest blizzard kills 20: Jan. 7-8, 1886


I wrote yesterday about the "Schoolhouse Blizzard" of 1888 on the northern Plains, getting the cart a little ahead of the horse by failing to mention that Iowa's deadliest storm --- reports usually state that 20 died as a result of it --- had occurred two years earlier, on Jan. 7 and 8, 1886. 

The 1888 blizzard struck Iowa in the night, when most were at home, and so there were few reports of deadly consequences in the state. The 1886 storm  moved in earlier in the day and it had been five years since the last storm of such magnitude had struck the state --- on March 2-4 1881. The 1886 blizzard caught many Iowans unprepared and the deaths that resulted were scattered from southern Iowa to the far north. The photograph here, found online, reportedly was taken in Cherokee after the 1886 winds had stopped blowing.

The editor of Chariton's Democrat, setting type as the wind continued to blow on Friday, Jan. 8, reported the storm's development in Lucas County as follows:

"For the past two or three weeks the weather in this part of Iowa has been remarkable for mildness. there was a general break up of the short season of severe weather we had in the early part of December, and indications pointed to a general open winter. No ice, was the fear of the ice men. Then followed a week of rainy weather, growing colder Saturday; and Sunday last, the rain froze as it fell, covering the earth with ice and literally breaking down the trees with the accumulated load. Yesterday (Thursday), a blizzard from the west hurled drifting snow about promiscuously, the mercury rapidly sinking. Last night the thermometer indicted 15 degrees below zero at 8 o'clock and 25 degrees this morning. We shall probably have winter enough."

Lucas Countyans were lucky, however, and rode out the storm with no serious consequences. Passengers on a north-bound train that left the C.B.&Q. depot at 5 p.m. Friday were, however, inconvenienced. They were headed for Des Moines via Indianola when the engine got stuck in snow drifts just south of Ackworth and they were forced to spend the night there aboard their passenger cars. A crew from Chariton reached the stranded train on Saturday morning, shoveled it out and those aboard finally reached their destination at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Reports of more serious consequences began to appear in The Iowa State Register, published in Des Moines, on Sunday, Jan. 10:

"GRIMES, Jan. 9 --- Early this morning Ben Zickafoose, living two miles south of Grimes, came in and reported that a man had been frozen to death about 40 rods south of his place. A party was at once made up, and on reaching the place the man was found to be Mr. Wm. Cook, an English farmer, about 55 years of age, and living about two miles from Grimes. He had gone to Des Moines Thursday, where he was caught in the storm, and when two miles from home had wandered from the road, and in the blinding storm had driven onto a pond, the ice broke, he made an effort to free the team, but was unsuccessful. Both horses were found dead with one tug fast to the sleigh. The bewildered man then started on foot across the prairie, and had got about twenty rods from the sled, when, overcome by cold, wet and fatigue, he fell on his face and was found frozen stiff. He was forty rods from a house and ten rods from a hay stack, but in the blinding snow it was impossible to see anything. The body was taken care of and the family notified. The family are in needy circumstances, but people here in town sent out coal and provisions enough to meet all immediate needs."

CRESTON, Jan. 9 --- Henry Teri, an aged citizen, was engaged yesterday in drivinig a coal team for E. Q. Soulman, and on his way home in the evening he was overcome with the cold and was found in the street in a semi-conscious state, by some citizens and cared for. He died at 12:15 this morning. He leaves a wife and little daughter in destitute circumstances.

It's difficult to judge the accuracy of the claim that 20 died as a result of the 1886 storm. There was no central reporting agency, no statewide news services and reports of fatalities began to spread in most cases only after they were reported in local weekly newspapers.

And in some instances, death reports turned out to be inaccurate. The Register, for example, killed off John Shipley, of Bedford, in its Jan. 10th edition, then was forced to resurrect him in the form of a correction in later editions.

Reports of the death of a young school teacher in northwest Hancock County did not begin to circulate until early in the week following the storm when the following report was carried in several newspapers:

"BRITT --- Miss Bertha Nelson, a young lady teaching school seven miles northwest of town, was frozen to death during the last storm. Thursday morning she started to school with several children, and the storm being so fierce they remained in the school house all night. A man living near there took provisions to them Friday morning and told them not to leave the building as he would take them home with his team as soon as the storm abated. Friday afternoon, the teacher and children started for home, the nearest home being a quarter of a mile distant. They had gone but a short distance when she went back to the school house for something she had left, and told them she would overtake them. On reaching the house, the father of one of the children saw them, and took the six year old boy into the house and inquired for their teacher. Being told she was coming, he started toward the school house and called her name all the way. Not finding her, and the school house being locked, he went home and supposed she had reached her boarding place. Saturday he called there, and was astonished to learn that she had not been seen since Thursday. Search was made for her on Sunday and Monday, and word sent to Britt for help. Tuesday morning about forty men went, and her body was found on the prairie about a mile and half from the school house, and half a mile from her boarding place. She was frozen stiff. Her brother was telegraphed for and arrived Wednesday night. He starts tonight for Keokuk, with her remains. His name is Aven Nelson and he is principal of the High School at Ferguson, Mo."

(Bertha, age 29, was a daughter of Christen and Anna Nelson, natives of Norway, and is buried in the Scandinavian Cemetery, Lee County.)

That same report also contained the news that "A young man named Carl Berner, living in the southern part of (Hancock) county, started for Corwith at 4 a.m. Thursday for a doctor. The storm commenced and increased so fast that he was benumbed with cold. Coming up to a house, he inquired the way, supposing he was lost. He was found to be on the right road, but was urged to remain until the storm ceased. He went on and was lost. He found a haystack and unhitched his team and tried to burrow into the stack. The team went home alone, and on following the tracks his neighbors found him on one side of the stack, frozen to death."

This report also stated that "one man at Forest City, another at Belmond and a women and two children at Algona were also frozen to death," but I was unable to find other reports that confirmed those deaths. The Algona report seems to have been false; January reports in the newspapers of that city mention no such occurrance.

On Jan. 13, the following death was reported in Humboldt newspapers: "A man named Peterson, living three miles from Goldfield, was frozen to death last Friday afternoon while on his way to bring his nine-year-old boy from school. He was not discovered until Monday night."

The Burlington Hawk Eye reported on Jan. 13 three deaths in Union County that I could not confirm through other reports: "Word comes to us from Creston that a man, wife and child were frozen to death near the north line of Union county. They were riding in a sleigh and were overtaken by the blizzard. One of the horses was also frozen to death."

And the Carroll Sentinel of Jan. 15 carried the following report, attributing it to the Denison Bulletin: "Mr. Frank Wingrove, of Washington township, was frozen to death within half a mile of his home last Wednesday night. He left Dow City afoot for home, three miles distant, about 10 o'clock at night, and as appearances indicate did not leave the road until he was within a mile from home, when he took a short cut across to lessen th distance. In the intense darkness that preceded the coming storm it is supposed he became bewildered after leaving the road, and soon succumbed to the bitter cold of that dismal midnight. His body was found by searching parties late in the afternoon Saturday, and that night the sad intelligence was conveyed to his father, who was snow-bound in Denison. The deceased was a popular farmer who was well respected and stood high in  his neighborhood. He was about 30 years of age, and leaves a wife and two children to mourn the loss of husband and father."

Although the storm was over by Saturday, its aftermath could prove deadly, as this report from The Iowa State Register of Wednesday, Jan. 13, datelined Council Bluffs, Jan. 12, proves:

"Thomas Delisle is a farmer residing ten miles south of the city (Council Bluffs). Saturday his son, Louis, came to town to do trading. In the evening he started for home, and when some distance from here the team took fright and ran away, throwing Delisle out. He got up and gave chase and caught the team in a snow drift three miles from the city. He extricated them, and while hitching up they started again, throwing him down. One wheel passed over his breast. he again gave chase, but he soon fell exhausted from his injuries. The mule team finally reached home. Mr. Delisle and a party hastened in search of his son. The search was continued all night Saturday, and Louis was discovered near Willow Slough bridge with both hands holding to a barb wire fence and his arms frozen stiff. He was in a kneeling position, both legs frozen and could not move. The thermometer was 25 degrees below zero. He had dragged himself for a mile. He was carried home and died that night."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The great blizzard of 1888

Our Sunday-Monday ice accumulation was just enough down here in the south of Iowa to justify complaints, but not enough to cause major inconvenience (other than a whole string of school and other cancellations and closures caused by slippery streets, roads and sidewalks).

So I went back to 1888 when a storm occurred on January 12 and 13 that generally is considered to have been among the most severe in the upper Midwest and on the Great Plains. An estimated 250 to 500 people died, mostly on the open plains from Nebraska north through the Dakotas and east into parts of Minnesota and northwest Iowa, in what sometimes is called the Schoolhouse Blizzard or Schoolchildren's Blizzard.

The blizzard struck on the plains west and northwest of Iowa without warning during the daytime, catching most youngsters in school. Wise teachers kept their scholars at schoolhouses for the storm's duration; attempts by youngsters and others to make it home during the storm often proved fatal.

In Iowa, the full force of the blizzard was not felt until Thursday night when most Lucas Countyans were at home and relatively safe.

Here's how The Chariton Democrat reported on the Lucas County situation in its edition of Jan. 19, 1888, under the headline, "Bad enough if not the worst."

It is claimed by many that the storm of last week was the worst known in these parts for many years. Last Thursday morning, the snow began to fall through a mild atmosphere, accompanied by a southeasterly wind which blew it gently about but gave no warning of what was coming.

The snow continued to fall with no great change in the temperature until about 9 o'clock in the evening, when suddenly the wind changed to the northwest, blowing a terrific gale, and the thermometers seemed to be running a race to see which could reach bottom first. So fierce was the gale that it was almost impossible for belated business men to reach their homes.

The storm continued during the night, piling the newly fallen snow into huge drifts, rendering it impossible to travel on the roads throughout the country until a road was shoveled through. In many places, for half a mile at a stretch, the drifts were even with the tops of the hedge fences clear across the road. Trains were delayed on the main line of the "Q" and on the branches travel and freight traffic was abandoned Friday, and but few got through on Saturday.

Dr. Stanton was returning from a visit to the country and was several miles from Chariton when the storm burst upon him in all its fury, rendering it almost impossible for him to reach home. He got through, however, but says that it was the first time in his life that he had been out in a storm when he thought he was not going to get home, and he has been out in pretty near all of them.

The cold continued to press down on the thermometers until Saturday night, when they indicated 32 degrees below zero. It is stated by Mr. E. Gregg that this is the lowest the thermometers have went in the past 24 years.

At any rate, it was the worst storm we have had this winter, and we are fully prepared now to take some of those "extremes of heat" the Burlington weather prophet was going to give us this month. We are of the opinion that there will be plenty of ice where there is any water to freeze, notwithstanding the prediction by weather prophets that that delicacy would be rare the coming summer.

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The autumn of 1888 had been exceptionally dry, one of the reasons "weather prophets" had been predicting a short supply in ice houses during 1889. That drought caused complications in Lucas County during the week after the blizzard as suppliers in the East attempted to rush carload after carload of coal to freezing customers on the Plains. Here's another report from The Democrat of Jan. 19:

Yesterday morning (Wednesday, Jan. 18) there was a blockage on the C.B.&Q. at this point which was not of small proportions, occasioned by the lack of water. The Chariton River has been dry for some time, and a well was sunk which supplied plenty of water until yesterday, when it gave out on account of the unusual number of engines attached to coal trains which took water at this point. No. 1 passenger train going west was delayed an hour and a half waiting for water to run into the well that it might be pumped into the tank. A large number of freights were also delayed, so many, in fact, that there was an almost continuous line of cars and nearly dry engines from Russell to Lucas, a distance of fifteen miles. If the present cold weather continues it is feared that the water supply of the railroad company here will fail altogether and that water will have to be hauled to supply the demand.

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Most Lucas Countyans seem to have remained close to home, and safe, during the worst of the storm, but out northwest of town, Jackson Loney, for some reason chose not to. The Democrat reported, "Last Friday Jackson Loney was seven hours going from his farm to Oakley, a distance of only a few miles. He froze his ears, fingers, and toes very badly."

By Wednesday, things were getting back to normal. "Yesterday was a busy day in town," The Democrat reported. "The farmers had all been kept at home by the snow drifts and were unable to get to town until yesterday."

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The storm affected life (and death) in various ways during that long-ago January. Mary Holmes, for example, died at her home in Chariton on Thursday morning, Jan. 12, at the age of 56 of consumption. Snow was just beginning to fall at the time and the storm raged all day Friday. But by Saturday, conditions had improved to the point that funeral services could be held at her home.

Mary was to be buried at Waynick (aka Holmes) Cemetery, a couple of miles southwest of Chariton, beside her husband, William S., who had died six years earlier. But there was no way that Saturday to reach the cemetery with her remains.

As a result, a path was cleared to the new Stanton Vault in the Chariton Cemetery and her remains were deposited there until the roads were cleared and a grave could be dug at her final resting place.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Humbled, contrite and hopeful


It's an icy morning, rain still falling, and I may not venture out. It's warm and dry here --- a good time and place to meditate on the legacy and example of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to stand humbled and contrite before the black experience in America.

I was nearing the end of that long summer before my high school graduation  year when Dr. King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.  I had never exchanged more than a word or two with a person of color.

When Dr. King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on December 10, 1964, I was in my freshman year at the University of Iowa, a progressive island in a sea of corn-fed bucolia, and horizons were beginning to widen.

When Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968, I was approaching graduation again, facing the draft and Vietnam.

Here are a few of the words Dr. King spoke that day nearly 50 years ago, on the eve of his death. 

"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live - a long life; longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

We've traveled a ways toward that promise land as the years have passed, but the road remains long, filled with twists and turns, and difficult days remain, especially now. I'm grateful that we have the light and example of Dr. King's life to follow. In that there is hope.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Seven principles for inauguration week


My favorite lapel pin, still worn now and then, is a stylized version of this rose window, installed during 1961 in the meeting house chancel of First Unitarian Universalist Society, Syracuse, New York. It incorporates symbols that point to religious traditions that have been sources of inspiration --- and more than a little dissension --- during the course of human history.

You'll find the cross of Christianity, which also can be seen as a tree of life; the mystic rose, also a Christian symbol; the wheel of doctrine of Buddhism; the lotus of Hinduism; the menorah of Judaism; the sacred shield of Islam; a yin-yang representation of Taoism; and the Confucian double ladder of joy. The book represents revelations of the past; the torch, ongoing revelation as new truths become evident, including those that rise outside religious traditions, certainly those made evident by science.

The window --- and the pin --- are useful reminder of diversity and I use the symbolism to remind myself that whatever positive threads may be found in my own Christian tradition are present, too, in all of these other great religions. None have any basis for claims to be channels of exclusive truth.

The pin and its symbolism came to mind as I was poking around for something to post this morning that would be appropriate for inauguration week, during which a new president takes the oath of office. It's likely that these will be very contentious years and we'll need all the accumulated wisdom we can find to get through them safely.

The various creeds are inappropriate because they're all about right belief --- and not right action. And James, traditionally considered to be the brother of Jesus, pointed out in his epistle that faith without works --- right action --- is a dead and useless thing.

So I went back to my Unitarian Universalist friends for the following: The seven principles that, in lieu of a "right-belief" creed, are looked upon as essential to a "right-living" faith. 

1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;

4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Remove the "congregation" references and you have the necessary underpinnings for the week ahead and the work ahead.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Cold (Needle) Case File


I spent quality time at the museum Friday with this bright little item, photographing it and then processing and inserting the images into a digital catalog file. Although the artifact was part of a 1967 accession, as far as I know it's always been in storage --- so tiny it would get lost in a display of multiple items; not significant enough to deserve the type of display that would draw attention to it.

Now, I'm hoping, we can figure a way to show it off.

It's a needle case distributed, when filled with needles, about 1875 by the C.M. Linington & Bro. Co., a Chicago-baased importer and distributor of "novelties, notions and general merchandise." The product line included an array of needles advertised in a small catalog that year.

The case, constructed of heavy red leaterette and with elaborate gold-embossed cover, is similar to one in that catalog described as a "Combination Needle Book & Porte Monnaie." The latter translates as "wallet." The inscription on the cover reads, "Linington's Celebrated Spring Steel Needles. Try Them."


Needles were stored in the tri-fold "book" according to gauge and the "wallet" --- a small pocket --- provided a place for the lady of a house to keep her calling cards, or other small paper items. Whether or not the owner carried the case in her reticule when out and about, I can't say.

I thought it might be fun to figure out how and why this small item, 2x3 inches, landed in the Lucas County Historical Society collection, so a little detective work was in order.

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Still tucked into the pocket of the little case after all these years are two hand-written calling cards with clipped corners bearing the name "Mrs. G.W. Dungan." That probably tells us who the original owner of the case was.


Nancy (Ferris) Dungan arrived in Chariton from Knoxville with her husband, George W., and children at some point between 1860 and 1870. His occupation was given as "horticulturist" in the 1870 census, but we don't know too much about him, other than the fact he died at age of 66, during 1876, and was buried in the Chariton Cemetery. The family was native to Beaver County, Pennsylvania.


Nancy outlived George by many years --- until 1901. She left five surviving children, but only one daughter --- Mary --- who may have held onto the case as a memento of her mother. Mary also was the only Dungan child who lived out her life in Chariton.

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Mary, born during 1851 in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, was educated in Chariton and at a "female academy," probably affiliated with what now is Iowa Wesleyan University, in Mount Pleasant. She taught school prior to her marriage during 1875 to Channing Smith, some eight years older and a veteran of the Civil War, who had arrived in Chariton from New York immediately after the war.

The Smiths had two children, both of whom died as infants. Channing worked many years as a clerk in the G.W. Blake & Co. hardware store, then as secretary and treasurer of the Chariton Telephone Co. and as Chariton city treasurer. He died during 1921, leaving Mary alone in their home on South Eighth Street.

Mary Smith lived on for many years, dying at age 94 on October 17, 1946, although she was not well during her final years.

Her only family in Chariton consisted of distant cousins, the daughters of pioneer Chariton attorney Warren S. Dungan.

Warren and George W. Dungan, both native to Beaver County, Pennsylvania, shared great-grandparents, James and Rebecca (Wells) Dungan, and it may have been on Warren's recommendation that George brought his family to Chariton in the first place.


Warren's daughter, Myra, an educator, was the only one of his daughters to live all her life in Chariton and she and Mary Smith were close friends. As Mary's health failed, Myra took her under her wing, and upon Mary's death, the personal belongings of both Channing and Mary --- including most likely the needle case --- fell into Myra's hands.

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Myra, born in Chariton during 1871, was a lifelong educator --- one of seven children. Her only brother, Fayette, who never married, was a newspaperman who died at age 35 in Chicago; All of her sisters (except one who died as an infant) became school teachers, too, although Effie May, Minnie Warren, and Mary Edna taught in Minneapolis. Myrtle, married to Francis Marion Hunter, lived in Minneapolis, too. None of the Dungan children produced children and so when they passed, this branch of the family dead-ended.

When Edna retired from teaching in Minneapolis she moved home to Chariton to share the family home with her sister, Myra. Edna had had a try at marriage, tying the knot with Joseph B. Culbertson in Chariton during 1903 --- but that relationship had ended before long in divorce.

Myra Dungan died during 1966, also age 94, and the weight of the Dungan belongings, including the needle case, fell upon the shoulders of the only surviving sister, Edna.

The Lucas County Historical Society had been formed during 1965 and was actively soliciting family related memorabilia from residents at the time Myra died. Edna was aging and, wishing to downsize, donated an amazing variety of the family's personal belongings --- including many items related to Mary and Channing Smith --- during 1967 to the society. The needle case was part of that accession, and has been in the collection ever since.


Edna was the longest-surviving member of the family, passing during January of 1975 at the age of 100. Her burial was last on the family lot --- all of the children's graves there are marked by simple marble headstones bearing only their given names --- and that was the end of the family line.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Juniata Shepperd's commitment to farm women


I wrote yesterday about Lucas County pioneers Clerenda and John Wesley Shepperd and their family of academic over-achievers, then looked and looked for a photograph of their eldest daughter, Juniata L. Shepperd, born northwest of Chariton in Whitebreast Township during 1855. And came up empty.

Juniata lived most of her life in the Twin Cities, where she had been affiliated with what now is the University of Minnesota for more than 30 years. But when she died at age 72 during March of 1928, her remains were returned to Chariton for burial beside her parents.

So I thought perhaps a photograph of her tombstone might suffice as an illustration. Unfortunately, although the Shepperd lot in the Chariton Cemetery is marked by a mighty chunk of red granite, the inscriptions on individual headstones were acid-etched rather than carved, are very shallow and have been afflicted by a variety of black lichen that interferes with legibility.

So I'm going to make do with the title page from Juniata's most popular book, "Hand-Book of Household Science," published in 1902. She also wrote "Laundry Work for use in Homes and Schools." Both have been reprinted and remain available for purchase, minor classics in their genre.

Her field was academic home economics or "domestic science," areas kind of scoffed at today, but of considerable importance during the late 19th and early 20th centuries when women first were admitted in considerable numbers to public and private colleges and universities and the study of homemaking arts and sciences was among the relatively few fields of academia thought appropriate. 

Don't blame Juniata for this. She rose through the academic ranks to found the home economics departments of the School and College of Agriculture at the University of Minnesota and devoted her life to improving the lives of farm --- and other --- women.

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The best summary of her story that I could find was published soon after her death in "Minnesota Extension Service News" in its April, 1928, edition under the headline, "Juniata L. Shepperd Summoned by Death."

Juniata L. Shepperd, teacher of home economics in the early formative period of the Minnesota School and College of Agriculture and later an extension worker, died at Asbury hospital, Minneapolis, early Saturday morning, March 10. Funeral services were held at the Portland Avenue Church of Christ (Disciples of Christ) in Minneapolis Monday afternoon, March 12.

Since her retirement from the university in the summer of 1923, Miss Shepperd made her home at 2180 Commonwealth avenue near the scene of her life work, where she could be close to friends and acquaintances. While her strength had been gradually failing, she was able to judge exhibits at county fairs as late as last fall. During the winter she became more feeble and the last few months she was helpless.

Miss Shepperd was born on a farm near Chariton, Iowa, 72 years ago. After attending secondary schools in the vicinity she won the college degree of B.A. in 1881 and her M.A. a few years later (at Drake University). The winter of 1891-92 found her doing institute work in Minnesota. Then followed a course in cookery at Chautauqua, N.Y., and a course in domestic science at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn. She returned to Minnesota in 1894 and taught cookery at a summer course in domestic science of the School of Agriculture, and in 1897, when girls were admitted to the school, she was given charge of the regular work in home economics.

Later Miss Shepperd, on request, helped to outline a similar course for the college. Two young women who had finished the school course were registered as the first students in the university course in home economics. In 1914, when she resigned her work in the school and college to join the extension division, the number of home economics students had increased to 211.

As an extension worker Miss Shepperd gave her time and energy to helping farm women with their problems of housekeeping and management. Her special work the last few years of her service was to forward the installation of water supply and sanitation systems in farm homes. She was the author of a book on laundry work and another on household science and the joint author of a bulletin on low cost water systems for farm homes. These books developed from her activities in school and college and were pioneers in their fields.

Surving her are two brothers, Professor J.H. Shepperd of the North Dakota Agricultural College, and Bruce Shepperd of Donna, Texas, and a sister, Mrs. Mary Powers of Gove, Kansas. Her remains were taken to her old home in Iowa for burial.

Miss Shepperd was always animated by a conscientious desire to be of service to others, and her work in shaping courses at University farm and brightening farm homes will endure as a monument to her zeal and faithfulness. Many friends mourn her departure."

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What isn't evident in the obituary is the intertwining of Juniata's early academic career with that of her younger sister, Clara, whose life was cut short at age 33 in 1893.

Like Juniata, Clara --- named after her mother, Clerenda (or Clarinda), but always known as Clara --- was born on the family farm northwest of Chariton, but during 1859.

Like Juniata, Clara earned her undergraduate degree at Drake University in Des Moines. When her brother, John Henry Shepperd, also a Drake graduate, enrolled for graduate studies at what then was known as Iowa State College in Ames, Clara accompanied him and enrolled for graduate studies of her own.

John H. had become at Drake the friend and protege of another young agricultural academic of great promise, Willet M. Hays. Willet and Clara fell in love and were married on July 16, 1885, at Clara's home near Chariton. All three continued their degree programs in Ames.

After Willet and Clara had earned their master's degrees at Iowa State during 1886, Willet accepted research and teaching positions at the University of Minnesota School of Agriculture. Clara became involved in farm institute work in Minnesota, focusing her attention on farm women, and it was she who invited Juniata to join her in that work during 1891 and 1892.

Also during 1891-92, Willet Hays accepted a research and teaching position at the brand new North Dakota Agricultural College in Fargo in large part because that institution's regents offered Clara a "domestic economy" teaching position, too.

Sadly, Clara died in Fargo during March of 1893 at the age of 33 following a short illness, but it was Willet who arranged for Juniata to return to the University of Minnesota during 1894 to launch her long career there.

Willet, who returned to the University of Minnesota after Clara's death, became one of the nation's leading researchers in the area of plant breeding, developing new and highly productive varieties of wheat, corn, flax, alfalfa, barley and oats.

In 1904, he was named assistant secretary of agriculture under James Wilson in the administration of Theodore Roosevelt and moved to Washington, D.C.  During World War II, a Liberty Ship, the U.S.S. Willet M. Hays, was named in his honor, recognizing his contribution to the productivity of the American farmers who were feeding a nation at war.

By that time, Willet was dead, having succumbed during 1928. Both he and Clara are buried in his hometown, Eldora.