Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Charitone book cost: $20; available early December


I promised an update when a price had been set for the new book, "The Charitone: Reviving the Cornerstone of Chariton's Square." That's been sent now at $20, a remarkably good deal in this day and age. And if printer promises are kept, copies should arrive in Chariton during early December and be available for Christmas giving.

Published by the Lucas County Preservation Alliance, I wrote the narrative. Ray Meyer added a detailed introduction, conclusion and appendices --- including a list that acknowledges the financial contributors without whom the $5.5 million Charitone project would not have been possible. The illustrations are a mix of my photographs, photos by Jeri Reeve and vintage images.

Here's the table of contents, which will give you an idea of the book's scope. Those of us who read the final proof were very happy with the way it turned out. It's a darned good read.


Once copies arrive, they'll be available at several locations in Chariton, including the Chariton Hy-Vee store, Charitone Market Grille, Piper's, the Chariton Area Chamber/Main Street office and offices of the Meyer Law Firm.

Orders also may be placed by mail beginning now, using the form below (right click, then open full-size in a new window and print).


The mailing cost is $6 for one or two copies; $12 for three or four copies. 

We'll let you know when the books arrive in town.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The ins and outs of Garfield School


We've had some good clean fun this week sorting out the identity of this school building over on the "You grew up in Chariton if you remember ..." Facebook page. The postcard view turned up on eBay, Ray Gwinn found it and posted it to Facebook and the conversation began. It's identified only as the "East Ward School" in Chariton.

The major identification difficulty is that Chariton had two elementary school buildings from late in the 19th century until 1914, when one got a facelift, that looked very much alike --- Garfield in the southeast part of town and Franklin, in the northwest. To confuse the issue a little, neither was known to any of us as "East Ward School." And while Franklin hadn't changed much by the time it was taken down in 1964, Garfield --- still with us although repurposed --- looks radically different.


So I went out to the museum yesterday and found another photo of Garfield in its earliest incarnation to clarify the issue. It's not the best of images, but it has the advantage of having both the name of the school and its location printed underneath it.

Garfield was built during 1881 at the intersection of South Seventh Street and Armory Avenue; Franklin opened during the fall of 1890. Although 10 years apart, they were remarkably similar, four-square Italianate brick buildings, four rooms up and four rooms down, each with a turret to house the school bell. Garfield was known only as "East School" and Franklin, as "West."

Two buildings constructed in the late 1870s already were in use when these then-state-of-the-art structures came online. The betowered and beturreted South School, later called Columbus, was just up the street from where I live. The fourth, very similar to the East and West buildings and called, as you might expect, "North," was on the current site of the Chariton Community Center, just west of the "new" (1923) high school.

During 1892, the Chariton School Board --- apparently tiring up directional designations --- gave all four schools names: Garfield, Franklin, Columbus and Bancroft. "Garfield" probably was selected to commemorate President James A. Garfield, assassinated during the year the school was built.

In 1914, responding to the need for more room, a four-room addition (two up and two down) with new central entrance was attached to the east front of the Garfield building, masking the original facade and presenting the streamlined front we see now when driving by on Seventh Street. That project cost roughly $16,000.

During 1940, the decision was made to demolish most if not all of the original Garfield building --- still in use behind the 1914 front --- and construct on its footprint a new wing containing three classrooms, a community room (usually called the gym), a new heating plant and various subsidiary rooms. Hardwood floors were added throughout as part of this project, tile went down on hallway floors and everything was spruced up and repainted from top to bottom. Grand opening for that $50,000 project was held during February of 1941.

Garfield in this form served elementary youngsters in Chariton until it was retired by the school district during the late 1990s. 

Then, Garfield got very lucky. It was purchased in 1998 by Trish and Paul McKinley as headquarters for their company, McKinley Inc. No attempt was made to mask the original character of the building. Modern offices, work areas and store rooms were inserted into the unaltered high and light spaces of the original building. 

Although it's obviously a working enterprise, former students who visit have no problems recognizing their old school.

This photo dates from November of 2010, when the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission presented its annual preservation award to the McKinleys to recognize their sensitive adaption of a vintage structure. That's Alyse Hunter, Commission chair, on the left; Trish McKinley, on the right.



Monday, November 24, 2014

There are fairies at the bottom of my garden ....


Or what could be mistaken as a "fairy garden" on my kitchen table --- whatever. 

I am not, am not, going to make fun of fairy gardens, popular in Lucas County this year. Several of my creative friends are proficient at making them --- collections of miniature plants in shallow containers studded with tiny tchotchkes.

Sales of supplies and assembly have provided a welcome retail interlude for my favorite greenhouse/garden center.

This, however, is just a bowl of succulents that's been around for several years, outdoors in summer, indoors in winter. Usually, I neglect to water it in the winter, kill off a plant or two, then replace them in the spring. This year, the resident rabbit took a liking to my favorite new plant and stopped by to chew it down to ground level now and then (I'm hoping it grows back).

But the name strikes me as funny. 

For one thing, in the course of a relatively long life I've been called "fairy," sometimes in alliterative combination with other words, on various occasions --- despite the fact I have neither gossamer wings nor am particularly light on my feet. So when someone brings up "fairy garden," it's a struggle not to crack a vaguely homophobic and entirely inappropriate joke.

And then there's the late Beatrice Lillie, actress and comedian, still on the Ed Sullivan Show and late-night talk show circuit when I was a kid. It was inevitable that she would be asked to perform "There Are Fairies at the Bottom of Our Garden," a 1917 poem for children written by Rose Fyleman, then somewhat later set to music.

So every time someone brings up fairy garden, I'm tempted to burst into song.

Here, for your early-morning entertainment, is the inimitable Ms. Lillie (aka Lady Peel).

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ordinary Time, Advent and tender mercies


I'm recycling a photo here --- this image of flowers on the altar at St. Andrew's was taken last Sunday and I posted it to the church Facebook page. But I like it, so here it is again. It's my blog, and I'll recycle photos if I want to.

The cross, by the way, is the oldest item in our little church --- dating from the 1870s. There's no indication of who gave it, only an inscribed date and the information that it was given in gratitude for an unspecified mercy.

In addition to being the feast day of Christ the King, this also is the beginning of the final week of the church year --- and of Ordinary Time (for the time being). "Ordinary" in this usage doesn't mean "common," but is derived from "ordinal" and just means counted time. So it's also the 24th Sunday after Pentecost. The other briefer period of Ordinary Time in the church year stretches from Epiphany to Ash Wednesday. Just thought you'd want to know.

Some time during the next week --- perhaps on Thanksgiving day since we'll be having a cooperative meal at the church, the workaday green paraments of Ordinary Time will be retired and replaced by violet (call it purple, if you like), the Advent wreath will be assembled and we'll be ready next Sunday, the first in Advent, to light the first anticipatory candle of the new season and mark the beginning of a new year.

I'll be replacing all the other candles in the church, burning down now with the old year, too.

One of the advantages of attending to the liturgical calendar is the opportunity to observe two new years. Second chances always are welcome.

Many Anglicans and some in other protestant denominations prefer to use royal blue during Advent to differentiate it color-wise from Lent. That's a practice that can be traced, some say, to the Sarum rite, developed in England during the 11th century as a variant of the Roman rite. The Sarum rite remains embedded in Anglican liturgical patterns and the Book of Common Prayer, but doesn't come up much in general conversation. Now you can use the term properly.

Advent launched as a kind of of "little Lent," a season of penance and preparation --- and of performing tender mercies --- illuminating the road toward the joy of Christmas. That's why violet/purple is used.

One of the most merciful things we all can do during the upcoming season is not get involved in fussing about whether it's appropriate to wish someone a "happy holiday" rather than a "merry Christmas." Of course it's appropriate.  Any friendly greeting is. To argue about such an absurd thing is to mark yourself as a semi-literate buffoon.

If you want to be mildly subversive, however, try wishing all you greet with "blessed Advent" instead. That'll confuse 'em.

As previously mentioned, Advent also is a good time to perform works of mercy --- not that there's a "bad" time for works of mercy.

Six of these are outlined in the Gospel according to Matthew: Feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoner and comforting the sick. A seventh, burying the dead, is derived from the Book of Tobit, part of the Roman and Orthodox canon; consigned by Anglicans to the Apocrypha but still valued.

So get out there and perform a work of tender mercy or two, too.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fried apples for supper


Nothing is guaranteed to take me back quicker to supper at the farmhouse kitchen table on a fall or winter evening than fried apples, something my mother served now and then as a special treat as the main dish of what traditionally in rural Iowa was a light meal. Dinner at noon was the big one.

As a rule the apples were home-grown Jonathans, smaller than what turns up in grocery stores nowadays; always with skin on --- color is part of the point. Link sausages go well with the apples. I added a modest three to the plate last evening before eating these.

Mother would have cooked these in a cast-iron skillet, uncovered and never would have left them unattended. I used a non-stick skillet with tight-fitting cover and did leave them unattended (except for an occasional glance) for about 10 minutes while they simmered.

Choose apples that have some tartness --- avoid Delicious, for example. I used two big Jonagolds because that was what I had on hand and they worked fine. That would have served two, I suppose, as a side dish.

1. Wash, core and evenly slice the apples.

2. Melt a quarter cup of butter to the sizzle point over medium-high heat in a skillet, then add the apple slices, stir to coat, then arrange in even layer. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Juice will cook out of the apples and blend with the butter. Don't even think of using a product other than real butter.

3. Do a fork or taste test to make sure the apples are soft, but still firm. You're not making fried applesauce, after all.

4. Sprinkle a blend of brown and white sugar (between and eighth and a quarter of a cup) over the apples, stir in and continue cooking over medium heat until the resulting syrup thickens and coats the apples. Then sprinkle cinnamon to taste over the apples, stir and after a minute or so --- serve.

Couldn't be simpler.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Black Diamonds: Lucas County & Coal (Part 4)



The town of Phillips, named after Thomas J. Philips --- then superintendent of mining operations at Cleveland --- was platted in 1887 just south of the White Breast Coal & Mining Company's new No. 3 mine. The town died at birth; the new mine three years later.

To recap a little --- William Haven and his crew of miners hit Lucas County deep coal with an exploratory shaft about a mile and a quarter east of Lucas on Saturday, Jan. 15, 1876. Sunday, Jan. 16, was spent burrowing through the bed to determine its thickness and when that had been gauged at 5-feet-3-inches --- 5 feet was a magic number --- there should have been a shout of "Eureka," if there were not.

The White Breast Coal & Mining Co. was incorporated the following Wednesday and west central Lucas County began to boom.

This all took time, of course. The exploratory shaft would remain as the air shaft, but the main shaft had to be dug and walled some distance to the south. Rail sidings were built from the main line of the C.B.&Q. to the mine site so that coal could be hauled away. Mine buildings were constructed and equipment installed.

The Chariton Leader, in its edition of Feb. 5, 1876, reported, "The air shaft of the Whitebreast Coal & Mining Co. is located 1 1/4 mile east of Lucas, and to the main shaft, which is 850 feet south, about one mile. The main shaft is to be driven 150 feet from the railroad track. They intend having one main switch with three branches for the three grades of coal (slack, nut and lump), making the most complete mine in the state for advantages and facilities of loading."


+++

A year later, the mine was fully operational. The following is part of a longer report published first in The Burilington Hawkeye, then reprinted on Jan. 17, 1877, in The Chariton Patriot:

The mine is worked from the principal shaft, which is 7 x 14 feet, very strongly walled with timbers, and protected from surface water inflow. It is ventilated by the aid of another shaft, the two forming an up-current of air through the principal shaft. The mine is remarkable dry and free from either moisture or foul air. We tramped through the myriad galleries as if over a dusty road, and no sign of moisture presented itself; in fact, the visitor comes out as dry externally as when he entered upon his subterranean explorations....

The underground work is in charge of Thomas A. Francis, a skilled and experienced miner, by whom, also the prospecting was done under the supervision of Mr. Haven, the general superintendent. Mr. Francis is "pit boss," and takes an especial pride in the "underground city," which he is rapidly constructing. The progress of the work is something creditable to Iowa enterprise. One thousand yards of main and side entries have been driven and a large amount of preliminary work done, which now puts the company in position to turn out 50 car loads of coal per day, or more by working day and night. The equipments have cost altogether about $35,000 and are as complete and efficient as capital and modern invention can make them.

The buildings consist of engine and boiler house, tower and coal shutes, blacksmith and carpenter shops, etc. The coal passages are all equipped with iron tramways along whose smooth tracks mild mannered mules drag a ton of coal at a time. It is raised to the surface on a car in the quick time of 12 tons in 10 minutes as timed by the watch. Twelve tons make a carload, and at this rate the mine would turn out 60 cars a day, or one hundred cars working double time. The coal is weighed on a 60,000 pound Fairbanks track scale, 32 feet long and double beam. It is in charge of Thomas Watson, weighmaster, who handles the monster scales with all the ease and accuracy with which a postmaster weighs a letter.

+++

As what was known as Mine No. 1 was developed, the demand for professional miners grew --- and they arrived by rail, primarily from the East, at a steady pace, some unattached but many with wives and children. With the exception of Swedes, nearly all were immigrants from the British isles or the sons of immigrants.

William Haven platted the original village of Cleveland for White Breast Fuel & Mining during June of 1878, but there had been building on the site since shortly after No. 1 was opened. Now growth would begin to accelerate and the village would be added to twice before it began to decline. Lots were for sale, and many bought, but the mine company built most of the early houses --- rented to miner familes as they arrived in town, then often sold to them later. Lucas was experiencing a building boom, too.

When the 1880 federal census was taken, 891 people lived in Lucas; 380 in brand new town of Cleveland. The Welsh were best represented among Lucas County's newest citizens, but the English came in second. Then in declining numbers, Scots, Swedes and Irish.

Labor giant John Lewellyn Lewis was born in Cleveland on Feb. 12, 1880. His father, Thomas H. Lewis, who left Wales during 1869-70, apparently had worked in mines in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois before heading to the Black Hills in search of gold. He arrived single in Lucas County during 1876 to work in the new White Breast mines --- and married Anna L. Watkins, daughter of another Welsh miner, here on May 20, 1878.

Cleveland was a "dry" town --- White Breast Coal & Mining did not allow the sale of intoxicating beverages on its property and the deed for each lot it sold contained a covenant also forbidding the sale of liquor. It was in some ways, a model family village.

Lucas, however, was not dry --- nor was a stretch of open territory between the two towns before annexations to both closed it. There was a rather famous saloon named "Last Chance" in that gap in the beginning.

The area east of Cleveland, over the line into Whitebreast Township around the mines, developed into the unincorporated settlement known as East Cleveland. At times any thing that could go on there, did --- with the added complication of no law enforcement.

+++

Also during 1880, work began on a second White Breast Coal and Mining shaft some three-quarters of a mile east of Shaft No. 1. The Chariton Patriot of Oct. 22, 1880, reported that the new shaft --- Mine No. 2 --- was "nearly down to coal." It opened and was developed fully during 1881, increasing the need for miners. These two shafts more commonly were called "A" and "B" and as mining continued during the 1880s, their underground workings joined up.

1880 also was the year that the White Breast partners, including John C. Osgood and William Haven, opened the Western Supply Co. store in Cleveland. This was a company store, but also because of its scale and variety of merchandise served Lucas and the surrounding rural community. It was rather famous in its time.

About this time our friend William Haven, who began his career as prospector, then became president of White Breast Coal and finally, after passing the presidency on to Osgood, became general superintendent, slips out of sight briefly. Everything indicates Haven had marginal interest in completed projects, preferring to move along to something new. Thomas J. Phillips replaced Haven as superintendent of operations at Cleveland during 1880.

Most likely Haven remained on the White Breast payroll, but in another field, until 1882, when he sold out after agreeing not to engage in the coal business along the C.B.&Q. line for 10 years. We'll catch up with him in upstate New York, Omaha and St. Joe, Missouri, another time.

+++

The 1880s were the boom years for the White Breast field, and as many as 800 miners were on the payroll during those years. By 1890, Cleveland's population had grown to 807; Lucas, to 1,320. Cleveland actually had begun to decline by 1890, so its population may have been even larger a little earlier.

The first black miners arrived in Cleveland during the fall of 1881, recruited by White Breast Coal. I'm not going to tackle this topic now, because it's complicated and the record is muddled by misinformation, speculation and the overt racism of many of the newspaper men who filed reports datelined Cleveland during the 1880s. 

One of the potentially most interesting reports about these new Lucas Countyans, published in The Patriot of Nov. 2, 1881, is largely illegible because of careless microfilming (an original copy of the newspaper, if it exists, is not accessible in Chariton and damnfool state archivists destroyed the state's newspaper archive many years ago after microfilming it). But what little bit of it that can be read, follows:

"Yesterday afternoon we paid a brief visit to the camp of the colored miners near Cleveland, and found the colored men perfectly happy and contented. There were originally 140 men, but a few of them were dissatisfied and left, while a few miners were found incompetent, and discharged, leaving present number about 115 or 120. The houses for their accommodation are being built as rapidly as possible, and as fast as completed are taken possession of by the families of married men. From a conversation with Mr. William Freeman and others, we learned ...."  (balance illegible.)

+++

There were few clouds on the coal industry's horizon in Lucas County during the first years of the 1880s, but as the decade advanced Whitebreast No. 1 came near to being minded out and during August of 1887 it closed after a major "sqeeze."

The White Breast bed was mined using the room-and-pillar method. Coal was removed to form large rooms with substantial coal pillars left to support the slate roof. As areas were mined out, these pillars often were carefully removed and the chambers allowed to collapse. That apparently was going on below Cleveland when an unplanned chain-reaction "squeeze" commenced in the north part of the mine. Chambers began to collapse in domino-like sequence as pillars failed. Here's how The Chariton Herald of Aug. 25 reported "the squeeze" under a headline that read, "Good Bye to the Old Shaft."

"Last Sunday the northern part of shaft No. 1, at Cleveland, began to close up. The squeeze kept increasing so rapidly that the miners in that portion of the shaft had barely time to get out their tools before it was too late. On Monday, but five drivers out of the whole number employed could be given work. Tuesday evening shortly before dark, the squeeze again commenced, and the miners who had gone home from work were notified that if they wanted their tools they must make haste to get them out. A force of men was put to work to get out the cars and track as fast as possible, and at this writing (Wednesday morning) it is evident that the whole shaft will be closed up. Fortunately, all the miners secured their tools, as those in the mine Tuesday night took out all they could find, regardless of whether the owner was there or not.

The closing up of this shaft will be a serious loss, not only to the Whitebreast Company, but to the miners, and our town as well. There were about 200 men employed in the shaft, and while a large portion of them will probably begin work in No. 2 they will probably not have more than half time. The new shaft will not be ready for hoisting coal before Christmas, and while the miners have work enough to keep the wolf from the door, they will be obliged to use economy.

As mentioned, the "new shaft" --- for the White Breast No. 3 mine, located higher in the hills east of the No. 1 and 2 shafts --- was being readied for production as No. 1 closed itself down. This mine was highly touted, highly anticipated --- and quite likely its financing involved a bit of scamming of eastern investors by the remaining White Breast stockholders.

The town of Phllips was platted near the new shaft during June of 1887, and it was anticipated that it would develop as Cleveland had during the previous 10 years. The new shaft reached coal during October 1887.

Unfortunately, things did not work out as planned. Miners left underutilized by cutbacks at No. 1 and 2 went to work at No. 3, so there was no need for another town --- and Phillips died at birth. The coal taken out of No. 3 was not of the same high quality as that produced by No. 1 and No. 2. And the whole operation was plagued by accidents and other minor disasters.

By 1889, when No. 3 should have been the biggest producer had projections panned out, only 200 miners were working there. No. 2 remained larger, employing 300. No. 1 had been abandoned.

During May of 1890, White Breast officials directed that coal mined in No. 3 mine be brought out through No. 2 --- workings of the new mine had reached those of the old. That led to speculation that No. 3's days were numbered. 

The Lucas Ledger reported on May 29, 1890, that "quite a number of our miners are leaving Lucas and Cleveland. Some are going to Ottumwa, some to Centerville and others are going to Colorado; all are looking for a better locality for work."

White Breast No. 3 closed officially on July 12, 1890, and all of the equipment was removed to a new White Breast mine in Wapello County, Keb No. 2.

Almost immediately thereafter, the general offices of White Breast Coal & Mining were moved from Burlington to Chicago and a branch office was opened in Ottumwa. The manager of the Cleveland office was sent there to run it.

White Breast No. 2 was abandoned less than a year later, during May of 1891, and all equipment that could be salvaged and moved to other mine sites elsewhere in southern Iowa was. The White Breast Coal office in Cleveland was locked for the last time. Lucas County's first coal boom had gone bust.

A Patriot reporter visited the two Clevelands, one officially a village and the other, not, during 1894 and reported, "The Patriot representative, in his wanderings around the once busy town of Cleveland, unconsciously repeated the poetic story of Goldsmith, "deserted village." The great hive of industry, wherein toiled nearly two thousand men a few years ago, is now nearly silent .... The great coal deposits were practically worked out, capital pulled up stakes and the army of labor followed. The seven hills whereon the classic town of East Cleveland stood is now a common everyday corn field."

By 1900, Cleveland's population had declined to 202. Eighteen years later, after petition was filed in Lucas County District Court, the Cleveland plat was vacated and the little boom town officially vanished.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Water Department, the closet & me

The best photo opportunity of the week presented itself in my downstairs bedroom closet yesterday --- and darned if didn't occur to me that I should have grabbed a camera until a half hour after the moment had passed. That means I missed the chance to spin a yarn about this house being a stop on the underground railroad.

Not that anyone would have believed me (the house is only 20 years old), but I could have tried.

This all started the summer before last when two guys from the Chariton Water Department knocked at the front door, told me they needed to change out the water meter and asked to go to the basement. 

So I had to explain the facts of life --- there is no basement; the house sits atop a crawl space. It is a cadillac among crawl spaces, high enough to stand upright in, thoroughly insulated, vented, vapor-sealed and all the rest. But crawl space none-the-less.

And the only access is a trap door in the floor of the closet in the downstairs bedroom --- totally invisible under layers of padding and carpet unless you know where to look. In short, it would have been the perfect place to conceal fugitive slaves --- had it been built 150 years ago.

I told the water guys that it would take a day or two to get ready for their descent, since the closet would have to be cleared, and they seemed dubious. So I invited them in to look, opened the closet doors, we looked in, they turned pale, then turned tail and ran, saying, "uh --- call us when you're ready."

I don't sleep down here, so the closet has been used for storage; lots of storage.

More than a year passed, then last week there was another knock on the door and a different set of Water Department personnel --- this time, it seemed like a good idea to make an appointment and finally get the job done.

So I spent the equivalent of a full day clearing that closet --- the biggest challenge was the big old battered trunk that had accompanied my paternal grandmother to new homes, boarding school, Simpson College and elsewhere after the untimely death of her mother condensed her belongings into it while her father, my great-grandfather, acquired a trophy bride some 20 years his junior named Maude and headed for Wyoming to ranch, drink, gamble and carouse.

But I was ready yesterday afternoon when the water guy returned with a ladder (it's a long way down), flashlight, tool kit and new water meter --- and he got the job done quickly and efficiently; a credit to the Water Department. 

It was a tight squeeze, mostly because it was a fat ladder, but he was relatively young, limber and not overweight. I'm still kicking myself, however, because I didn't get a shot of his upper half emerging from that trapdoor in the closet floor.

The trap door's back in place, the carpet down again and I've promised myself that I'm going to be more careful about what I cram in that closet from now on. Of course everything that had been there is now sitting in the upstairs store room --- and it was already hard to find a path through that mess. So there's still work to do.

Everyone in Chariton eventually will receive one of these fancy new meters that transmits its readings, as I understand it, to personnel who drive slowly by. So the days of meter-readers who walk from house to house are passing --- and that seems like a good thing. What can seem like a pleasant task when the weather's decent can turn nasty when temperatures drop toward or below zero and snow starts to fly.








Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ending the teaching of contempt ...



A YouTube version of Dr. David Gushee's Nov. 8 presentation entitled "Ending the Teaching of Contempt against the Church's Sexual Minorities" became available this week. So I sat down to watch what is seen by many as a strong affirmative statement from a noted evangelical protestant scholar that might aid efforts by LGBT people to find a place in that wing of the church.

Gushee, also a noted Holocaust scholar, is of Southern Baptist origin, but now would be better described as a moderate and serves as director of the Center for Faith and Public Life at Georgia's Mercer University, once a Southern Baptist institution, now independent although loosely affiliated in things theological with the more liberal Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The presentation was keynote during an early November conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Reformation Project, an organization launched by young evangelical LGBT activist Matthew Vines and others aimed at reforming the church's contemptuous teachings, advocacy and actions related to gay people.

I liked the presentation --- it is skillfully done, compelling and most likely will aid the causes of an increasing number of moderates within evangelical circles who wish to be seen as less hateful and more welcoming, even in some cases as affirming.

Gushee, like many others who have changed their hearts and minds, acknowledged that the simple act of getting to know LGBT people had been a major factor in his shift in thinking. He discovered that one of his sisters was gay, then became acquainted with LGBT people for the first time after moving outside the walls of conservative evangelical academia, theology and worship.

I was interested in some statistics that he cited --- not that many years ago, when queried, only about 22 percent of Christians acknowledged knowing someone who was gay; now, that percentage is up to something like 64. The most subversive thing gay people have done is merely to tell their stories and become visible.

Much of Gushee's presentation --- he is a Holocaust scholar, after all --- involves parallels between the experiences of Jews in relation to the Christian church and those of gay people --- locating a scapegoat, justifying its persecution with scripture, then building a two-millennia tradition of hatefulness. Those parallels have their limits, obviously, because the focus on gay people is far more recent and the results, far less apocalyptic.  

In the case of Jews, the Christian tradition was appropriated by the Nazi state, leading to the slaughter of millions --- as Christians for the most part merely looked on.

In the aftermath, out of shame and most likely the impulse for self-protection, Christians of all varieties reinterpreted scripture, repudiated the old traditions and to one degree or another repented. To a lesser degree, the church has adopted similar tactics in regard to racism, enslavement and the oppression of dissenters, women, ethnic minorities and others.

That, Gushee argues, would be the appropriate response for Christians in relation to LGBT people, too, and a way to move forward.

It is a compelling argument --- but begs the question: When the church has finished repenting for centuries of wickedness will there be anything of value left to salvage?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Shadrack Fry and Fry Hill


A cemetery high on a hill overlooking the White Breast Creek valley was among the amenities added when the White Breast Fuel & Mining Co. developed Cleveland in the late 1870s to house its workers. 

Neighboring Lucas, founded in 1867 as the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad line was being built through the the valley, didn't have one. Rose Hill Cemetery was not far northwest of town; Grimes, to the east; and they had been considered sufficient.

The new cemetery was known first as just Cleveland, but after a young Welsh miner named Shadrack Fry died in 1880 and was buried there, some started calling it "Fry Hill" --- and that's the name that stuck, a permanent memorial to a young man otherwise --- for the most part --- forgotten.

Shadrack's death was reported in The Chariton Patriot of Wednesday, Dec. 8, 1880, as part of a brief but newsy dispatch from Cleveland and Lucas, signed by a correspondent who styled himself for some reason, "A Nasty Coal Miner."

"Shadrack Fry, a miner of this place, died last week of a lung complaint. He was buried in the new cemetery north of Cleveland," the report begins. Then the page is torn and a few words missing. The rest of the report commences, " He had no rela ...," presumably "relatives," then concludes, "... with him, however, in his last moments."

The missing words probably would have told us that friends were with him when he died. Shadrack did have a family, of course --- in Pennsylvania; and they most likely were informed and perhaps arranged for the tombstone that marks his grave.

Fry Hill Cemetery is a gorgeous place with views that go on for miles --- but not so much in winter when the wind cuts like a knife. So I didn't drive out this week. Instead, I'm using a photo I took during September of 2010 and borrowed the tombstone photo, shot by Doris Christensen, from Find A Grave. You can see some of the Fry Hill views by going here.

+++

Thanks to the wonders of computer-based genealogical research, we know that Shadrack was the second son of Charles and Jane (Werrett) Fry, born in Wales, where his father was working as a collier, or coal miner, in 1851.

Charles and his eldest son, Thomas, age 7, arrived in New York from Liverpool on the 25th of July, 1860, aboard the ship Chancellor. Jane, Shadrack (then age 6) and younger brother, George, age 2, came a year later, landing in New York on 22 August 1861 aboard the ship Dreadnought.

The family settled in Pennsylvania and Charles and Jane had another child, Charlotte, born during May of 1864, and then Charles died. The widowed Jane married another Welsh miner, David Morgan --- a few years her junior --- during 1870 and they settled down at Shamokin in Northumberland County, Pannsylvania, and had two daughters, Mary and Rachel Morgan.

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When the 1880 federal census of Cleveland was taken on June 28, 1880, Shadrack was boarding with another Welsh coal mining family, John and Sarah Watkins and two of their children, George, 18, also a miner, and Elizabeth, age 5. 

Four miners, all natives of Wales, were boarding with the Watkins --- Shadrack, age 24; David Hines, 23; John Clifford, 27; and Lewis Llewellyn, 61.

Shadrack, David and John all were listed in the census as "disabled" in some manner. Shadrack hadn't worked in three months. 

It's tempting to speculate that Sarah Watkins somehow specialized in caring for ailing miners --- and that some or all of these people were among those with Shadrack when he died. It seems likely that his death was caused by tuberculosis, then a great killer of the young and a disease aggravated by work in the mines.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Black Diamonds: Lucas County and Coal (Part 3)



What I want to do here today is allow William Haven to tell in his own words the tale of financial and physical adventures involved during the mid-1870s in locating and then sinking the first shaft to deep coal deposits under Lucas County. In doing so, he set off a boom-and-bust industrial-scale mining industry that didn't sputter out finally until 1950 when the last deep mine closed just north of Chariton.

The setting is the area just east of Lucas, in Jackson and Whitebreast townships, and the illustrations here are plats of the ghost town of Cleveland, the White Breast Coal & Mining Co. company town surveyed by Haven, which he first platted on June 26, 1878. This was some two years after coal had been located and the Whitebreast No. 1 mine had opened for production. The plats are taken from Lucas County's 1896 land ownership atlas.

At the height of this first phase of big-time mining in Lucas County several thousand people lived in Lucas and Cleveland as well as the unincorporated area known as East Cleveland that straggled off to the east. Many residents of East Cleveland were black and there was not always peace in the White Breast valley, but that's a story for another time.

By now, 2014, the Clevelands have disappeared and only a couple of hundred people live in Lucas. Nor would it be easy to locate the sites of the three Whitebreast mines, No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3, which were located just east of Cleveland, over the line in White Breast Township.

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The cast of characters who were among Haven's first financial backers is fascinating, but there isn't time to go into their lives and times, too. So here's a summary of the principals involved in the formation of the White Breast Coal & Mining Co., organized immediately after coal was struck.

John Cleveland Osgood, who would later rise to robber barondom in Colorado and elsewhere, was only 25 when the company was formed. He was born in Brooklyn, but came to Burlington with his parents at age 6. In 1874, after working as a bookkeeper in New York City, he accepted the position of cashier of the Union Coal & Mining Co. of Ottumwa --- also William Haven's employer at the time. That was how they became acquainted. By 1876, Osgood was cashier of First National Bank, Burlington.

Wesley J. Jones was a little older when coal was struck --- 35. He grew up in Burlington, and was mad for commerce. A modest book could be written about his retail and wholesale adventures in the mining towns of the old west before he finally settled down again in Burlington. There, he opened what was described in 1881 as "one of the most commodious and elegantly furnished book and stationery houses in the West." His exploits in the West, however, had destroyed his health and he died during 1885, age 44.

Lewis R. Fix, age 37 when the White Breast company was formed, was an officer veteran of the Civil War and a jeweler in Burlington when he agreed to back Haven. Fix had the grave misfortune to be found dead on railroad tracks in Chicago, where he then was living, during 1890, age 51, with a bullet hole above his left eye.

Haven's  fourth backer --- Tom Potter, age 36 --- had just accepted a position as assistant superintendent of the C.B.&Q. Railroad in 1876 and withdrew after his boss, Charles E. Perkins --- generally recognized as one of the most honest and upright rail entrepreneurs ever --- told him he didn't want company officials involved as investors in firms that might benefit from rail patronage. Potter eventually rose to the position of vice-president and general manager of the Union Pacific, then dropped dead on 9 March 1888, age 48, having literally worked himself to death.

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Now, here's William Haven's account of striking the first deep coal in Lucas County, contained in a letter dated Nov. 18, 1920, and published in the alumni newsletter of his alma mater, The Norwich University Record, on Jan. 8, 1921:

"The original agreement, made between Wesley Jones, J.C. Osgood (and) Lewis R. Fix of Burlington, William Haven of Ottumwa and an unmentioned friend (Tom Potter), represented by William Haven, was that the 540 acres under lease from Col. B.O. Carr by William Haven would be prospected to the extent of four holes by churn drilling, the only method then available, in 1875, to the total amount of $3,000 to be paid over to J.C. Osgood as treasurer of said fund.

"Jones, Osgood and Fix each paid an equal amount. Potter a less sum. I was to be credited with one-fourth the total for superintending all the work and if coal was found, transferring said lease to the company with $60,000.00 capital stock.

"At several locations, attempts were made to get through the quicksand just below creek level. Finally, close to the Carr west line, we succeeded and drilled to a depth of 138 feet when clay cavings made the progress so slow that it looked impractical to go further. At my suggestion, as we had passed through the two upper coal beds, showing uniformity of strata, the plan for four holes was abandoned and it was agreed that we would bank on the drill hole and sink a five-foot diameter shaft (in those days considered ample size for an air shaft).

"At a depth of about 200 feet the agreed amount of $3,000 had been expended and expenses were running about $500 per month. The other parties refused to go farther but finally agreed to go another month, viz., the month of December, 1875, if I would pay one fourth, or about $125. This being fair, I agreed.

"About the 20th in sending for some supplies to Osgood, I wrote: 'I hope to make ourselves a good Christmas present.' To which he replied: 'My faith gave out last Thanksgiving. I am not planning any trips to Europe on what we may find in Lucas County.' This letter I yet have and it has been read by John and George Verner and Will Frost.

"To resume --- the miners and myself well knew we were in a natural shale roof to a bed of coal, but how thick the roof or coal remained to be determined. I wrote Col. Carr that we had reached our limit, and he authorized me to draw on him for $100. Mr. Mabury Skidmore sought contributions, to be repaid in the event a working bed of coal was found, and here is where Dave Thompson comes in, for those who signed for future payment were Dave Thompson, $10; S.H. Mallory, $10; Elijah Lewis, $5 (total Chariton $25). Lucas --- Mabury Skidmore, $10; Baker Bros., $10; Bill Chase, $5; and one other, $3 (total $28), with Col Carr, grand total $153.00.

"I called a meeting of the employees, some are yet living, and stated I had $153.00, all of which would have to go for supplies. I wanted to keep on another month but had no money for wages. That it went without saying in the event we found coal they would have their choice of working places and if we did not, I would see that all got places in the Happy Hollow mine (between Chillicothe and Ottumwa, along the Des Moines River), where I was superintendent of mining operations. This was agreed to.

"We were down 238 feet. When the sun did not shine Jan. 1, but the rain descended, we had a 238-foot well of water, as it was getting all the side hill drainage from a three-inch bed of quicksand. We sunk a four-foot-square shaft a little higher on the hill drained with side ditches, cutting off the side hill supply, then raising the water by bucket, reached the shaft bottom January 10. We still had to raise so much water that progress was slow, but the following Saturday, I think the 14th, we reached the coal.

"All day Sunday was used in going through the 5-foot, 3-inch bed. Monday morning at Ottumwa I received the cypher message which I had arranged with Tom Francis, (who was) in charge, to send, and I knew we had over 5 feet (of coal).

"Arriving at the shaft early in the afternoon Tom and I went down in the bucket and sampled each foot of thickness. As I stepped off at the top I was greeted by Mr. Skidmore: 'I want to congratulate you, Mr. Haven, and to say that all those who subscribed have agreed to double their subscriptions.' To which I replied, 'I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Skidmore, for your personal efforts but if you have collected the money, I wish you would return it to my friends as I think we will not need it.'

"The following Wednesday the Articles of Incorporation of the White Breast Coal & Mining Company were filed.

"Now a few remarks about the stockholders. Tom Potter at once told me that he had informed Mr. (Charles E.) Perkins that he was interested in the venture as he thought that the easiest way to avoid my repeated talks. Mr. Perkins informed him that he wished no one in the operating departments of the railway to be in any way interested in coal or other business on the line.

"Osgood, Fix and myself therefore agreed to take it off his hands, and pay as soon as any market prices were established. Said stock was soon sold to Mr. (Smith H.) Mallory at par, who kept it about a year when the same three bought it back, paying him 10 percent for the time his money was invested. Mr. Wesley Jones thought going into the mining business too risky as he had more money that all the rest of us put together, he might have the empty bag to hold. So he was simply, much to his satisfaction, repaid the money he had invested and Fix, Osgood and myself each held one third of the capital stock which cost us each $6,666.66 plus prospecting expenses for Fix and Osgood.

"What thereafter followed is another story. I want to make it plain how much Lucas county is indebted to that little bunch of miners who agreed to work without any certainty of pay and coal 'only 15 feet away.' "