Sunday, January 24, 2021

A New Testament with a Civil War story to tell

I love a good puzzle and this small New Testament, a recent arrival at the Lucas County Historical Society Museum, offered several. Part of a collection of photographs, original documents and memorabilia from mixed sources and vague provenance, it offered lots of opportunities for minor detective work. So I gathered some of my favorite tools --- Ancestry.com (general research) and Fold3 (military records), both subscription databases, Find a Grave (free to all) and Google --- and went to work.

It was published during 1861 in Nashville by the Southern Methodist Press, a publishing house established during 1854, some 10 years after the Methodist Episcopal Church, North, and Methodist Episcopal Church, South, split over the issues of slavery and authority.

The name "Eli Vance" is written on the front cover and just inside is an inscription that identifies his home as "Strawberry Plains" and suggests that he might have been a Civil War soldier at the time it was given to him. It contains a lock of dark brown hair bound in string.

It didn't take long to figure out that Strawberry Plains was (and still is) an unincorporated area in East Tennessee served by a post office of that name. Using Fold3, I found a four-page Confederate Civil War service file that told me that Eli, age 21, had enlisted on March 5, 1862, for a 12-month term in Company E of Capt. W.M. Bradford's Regiment of Volunteers, 31st Tennessee Infantry (later Company H, 39th Tennessee Mounted Infantry).

Then, sadly, that he had died while in service about four months later, on June 25, 1862. I was unable to find any indication anywhere of the cause of death or of where his remains might have been interred.

+++

Moving on to family histories, I discovered that Eli was one of 10 children of John M. and Rebecca (Branson) Vance, born at Strawberry Plains on Oct. 10, 1840. 

Then I discovered the record of a marriage uniting Eli and Miss Mary E. Phillips, 18, at Dandridge, Tennessee, by John H. Branner, a Methodist minister, on May 20, 1862, just a month before his death.

I had known that the vintage New Testament might have belonged to Miss Peggy Sones who, when she died at age 92 during May of 2020 and was buried with her parents, Donald and Bernice (Manley) Sones in the Norwood Cemetery, was rich in friends but without an immediate family.

So I followed her lineage back and discovered that Mary E. (Phillips) Vance was Peggy's great-grandmother. So here's the rest of the story:

+++

Mary was in the first stages of pregnancy when Eli Vance died and gave birth on March 7, 1863, to a son she named Eli Branson Vance.

Some five years later, on Jan. 1, 1868, also in Tennessee, Mary took as her second husband another Civil War veteran, this one of the Union cause --- Benjamin Houston Manley (1st Battalion, Tennessee Light Infantry).

Mary and Benjamin had a total of eight children, including Samuel B. Manley, Peggy's grandfather, who was born during May of 1874, a few months before the family moved from Tennessee to Lee County, Iowa, then onward before 1880 to the neighborhood south of Woodburn in Clarke County,

They were living there when Eli Branson Vance died at the age of 21 on Sept. 8, 1884, and was buried in Bethel Chapel Cemetery, Liberty Township, Clarke County.

Benjamin H. Manley was killed at the age of 81 on Oct. 22, 1925, when he was struck by a train in Woodburn, his retirement home. Mary, age 82, died a year later while living with her son, Walter Manley, on the old home place. Ben and Mary also are buried at Bethel Chapel.

+++

So who does the lock of hair belong to? I'm guessing Eli Vance Sr., but there is of course no way of establishing that for sure. Whatever the case, we'll leave it in place folded neatly into John's Gospel.

This image of Benjamin H. and Mary also was among the recent arrivals at the museum, identified on the back in a decisive hand by Peggy herself.


Saturday, January 23, 2021

A "dismal death bell on a stormy day"

I came across a clipping yesterday, from The Leader of Jan. 18, 1879, noting that this magnificent Italianate structure --- the second of three incarnations of Chariton's Columbus School --- had just opened to students, homeless since its predecessor burned, most likely because of a faulty flue, during October of 1877.

That building, a massive and astonishingly ugly slab of brick constructed during 1868 on a hilltop southwest of the square that previously had served as the city cemetery, had been the Chariton's pride and joy. It's demise finally convinced city fathers (mothers, of course, hadn't been consulted) that Chariton needed a volunteer fire department, duly organized on Dec. 5, 1877.

The bell tower of the 1868 building had survived and as the shell was taken down, the bell was removed --- intact but badly damaged by the intense heat of the blaze. Arranged within a temporary cage, it still was in use when the new building opened as that Leader report makes clear:

"The new school house on the site of the old burnt one was thrown open on Monday for the schools. The old bell that went through the fire still swings to and fro, but it's music's not the same, dear Tom, t'was a year or two ago. The peculiar way in which it is rung, coupled with its hideous sound, reminds us of a dismal death bell on a stormy day."

Before long, however, a new bell --- dated 1878 and cast by L.M. Rumsey & Co. in St. Louis, arrived and was hoisted into the tower of the new building.

That bell, in as good a shape as it was nearly 150 years ago, now sits on a plinth in front of the third edition of Columbus School. It was retired during 1964 when the new Columbus opened and the old Columbus was torn down, but the clapper has been removed for security reasons and is stored inside. So the bell is silent.

The name "Columbus," by the way, didn't come along until 1892. The building (and its predecessor) had previously been known simply as the "South School."

But overcome by nationwide excitement centered on the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas, those city fathers (again) decided to name the building in the explorer's honor. And thus it has been ever since.


Friday, January 22, 2021

The rise and decline of Russell's Keystone Mill

Long ago, when I was a kid and giants roamed the land --- before Russell's first water tower --- this building's successor, constructed during 1915 by the Eikenberry Grain & Lumber Co., dominated the skyline. Although long abandoned, it had endured more than a century when it was destroyed by fire during August of 2019.

The first part of this older structure had been built about 1870, three years after Russell was founded along the new tracks of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, at a time when the agricultural economy was substantially different. Wheat was a major cash crop in Iowa then and flour was not shipped to grocery stores by rail --- it was milled locally.

That all changed after 1870, when Turkey red wheat was introduced to the plains of Kansas by Russian Mennonite immigrants and Iowa's flouring mills for the most part became redundant in the years that followed, shifting instead to the handling of other grains.

Eikenberry & Stewart acquired the mill about 1890 and built the elevator additions, then 25 years later, during 1915, decided to replace it with an entirely new structure, as reported in The Chariton Leader of April 22:

+++

W.A. Eikenberry has commenced the erection of a new mill and elevator at Russell, similar to the one the firm has at Chariton, which is to be supplied with all modern appliances and machinery. The old mill and elevator there is to be torn down, having served their days of usefulness.

The main building was erected a little more than 45 years ago and was known as the Keystone Mills and for a time was conducted by G.C. Boggs and Frank Morgan, later Mr. Morgan retiring from the firm.

In the early days this mill did a big business, but when the system of agriculture changed and wheat culture declined the business at the mill fell off, and passed into other hands. Some 25 years ago, the firm of Eikenberry & Stewart came in to possession of the property and erected the elevator additions.

The original mill was built by Mr. Frye, a Pennsylvania gentleman of means and given to his son and son-in-law, Mr. Boggs, who afterwards represented Lucas county in the legislature and never has a better or more congenial man ever resided in Lucas county. The activities of the new country was attractive and Russell was selected as the site for this milling industry.

+++

The builder of that first mill was West Frye, a prominent and prosperous Washington County, Pennsylvania, famer. It was built as an investment and was to be managed by his son, Robert B. Frye, and son-in-law, George Craghead Boggs. The name was a nod to Pennsylvania, known then and now as the "Keystone State."

The Robert B. Fryes didn't stick around long, moving first to Kansas, then to Colorado, back to Pennsylvania and finally to Colorado again.

G.C. Boggs (left) remained in the grain business, with partners, in Russell until 1884, when he was elected to serve in the Iowa House of Representatives, where he completed two terms. After that, he settled in Des Moines and shifted his business interests to real estate before eventually departing for Texas. He died during 1927 in San Antonio at the age of 80 and his wife, Martha Etta (Frye) Boggs, during 1931.

The only reminders in Russell of the Boggs are the graves of two of their infant children in the Russell Cemetery, Mattie Mildred, born and died during 1873, and Harley, 1881.


Thursday, January 21, 2021

A day of history --- and hope

One more morning away from Lucas County-specific history --- but wow, what an historic day it was in Washington, D.C., and across the United States yesterday!

President Biden's magnificent inaugural address, the symbolism (and practical reality) of Kamala Harris as vice-president, the solidarity demonstrated by four former presidents (including Jimmy Carter, now too physically infirm to engage in such public pageants).

Then there was Lady Gaga's National Anthem and that magnificent poem by Amanda Gorman.

For fashionistas, how about Michelle Obama's outfit and Bernie Sanders' mittens?

The programming produced by the inaugural committee and broadcast well into the night, Parade Across America then an evening of entertainment, set a standard that I hope future inaugurals strive to live up to, allowing anyone who cared to tune in an opportunity to be fully engaged.

It seems a shame to even mention the most recent incumbent, now living in Florida, but it did feel as he flew away as if an abusive significant other had just been neutralized --- at least for a time --- and that there was a chance that the sort of hysteria these creatures create could, with time and effort, be neutralized, too.

But it's important to remember the lessons of the last few years --- just how dangerous a demagogue can be when he (or potentially she) engages and channels ignorance, religious fanaticism, racism, nativism and  the ungovernable thirst for power.

Iowa, at the moment, continues to be governed and represented in Washington, D.C., by Trumpian disciples, so I'm sure we'll be reminded. But at least for a few days it should be possible to take a few deep breaths and relax a little.

 


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

New day ...

 As President and Mrs. Trump departed the White House's ground floor Diplomatic Reception Room door just after 7 a.m. (Iowa time) today, headed for the helicopter parked on the south lawn, a worker entered stage left carrying a stepladder and vanished behind the shrubbery, anxious I'd guess to begin the final tasks involved in de-Trumping America's house.

President and Dr. Biden will be moving in later in the day after the inauguration ceremony. It promises to be a great day.

We've learned a lot during the last four years about our country and its citizens, our families and our friends (some of them now former friends) thanks to our soon-to-be ex-president, an amoral little man with a talent for drawing forth the worst in people and gathering the worst around him.

Personally, I'm going to enjoy the day. But I'll never forget and I'll never forgive.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Sociability at Grinnie's Place on North Main

Meredith Willson's Prof. Harold Hill informed us of the hazards of pool, but in Chariton for roughly 30 years during the first half of the 20th century, Chariton's menfolk who patronized Grinnie's Place on North Main Street, just off the square, seemed to have few reservations about this gentlemanly pursuit.

Grinnie was Arlington "Arle" Curtis, who opened the establishment in 1916 after injuries forced him to give up a career as a railroad brakeman. The offerings were simple, cigars, candy, beer and --- through the doors in the distance --- pool. This image from the Lucas County Historical Society collection probably was taken not long after Grinnie's opened.

Mr. Curtis was one of the 11 children of John H. and Mary Ellen Curtis, who operated Chariton's Curtis Broom Factory. Among his siblings were Glenn Curtis, who continued to operate the broom factory after his father's death and donated this image to the society; Dr. Dean Curtis; and Jennie Curtis Yocom, married to Dr. Albert L. Yocom and longtime administrator of Yocom Hospital.

Three of the gentlemen in the photograph are identified, sort of. I'm guessing that Mr. Curtis is at left behind the cash register. The two men behind the bar then would have been Deacon Duckworth and George Palfreyman. 

Mr. Curtis died on Dec. 21, 1954, after a long illness, survived by his wife, Cora (Downard) Curtis, and two sons, Roy and Robert.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Patriotic frenzy, abduction and yellow paint in Albia

One of the least attractive aspects of the World War I era in Iowa involved waves of anti-German, anti-foreign sentiment that rolled across the state, targeting neighbors, strangers and former friends who used languages other than English and/or were perceived as "foreign" or insufficiently patriotic or "American."

Perhaps the most notable example of this came on May 23, 1918, when Gov. William L. Harding issued a proclamation banning the use of any language other than English in the state, a ban that extended to churches. Later in the year, up in Kossuth County, residents of Germania voted during October of 1918 to change the name of their town to Lakota. And there were many examples of violence directed at individuals across the state.

A widely reported incident of the latter occurred during March of 1918 when residents of Albia, Lucas County's neighbor to the east, targeted a young school teacher of German descent with pacifist inclinations named Leon Battig (left). He was abducted, stripped on the steps of the Monroe County Courthouse, doused in yellow paint and told to leave town if he valued his life. 

Born during 1893 in Milwaukee to parents who were natives of Germany, Mr. Battig was a 1917 graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, elected to Phi Beta Kappa and majoring in German with a minor in mathematics. The teaching job in Albia was his first after graduation. He had duly registered for the draft, but entered a claim for exemption based upon religious convictions.

Although there appears to have been a whispering campaign against the young educator in the Albia school system and perhaps the community at large, the final straw came when he declined to participate in a school-sponsored drive to sell War Savings Stamps and, as a result, resigned his position. What happened next was reported as follows in The Albia Union of March 15, 1918, with the Union editor serving as a cheerleader:

+++

Albia has dealt kindly but severely with its first pro-German inhabitant. Leon Battig of Milwaukee, Wis., was employed as instructor in the Albia high school in January and started out well, but as time went on he began to show his pro-German spirit. In teaching history, whenever Germany was mentioned he would give that country the best of it. This was so noticeable that it became common talk among the students and they put him down as a disloyal citizen.

From time to time little things developed to show that he was decidedly pro-German and on several occasions, Supt. Kies talked with him and advised him to support the government in the present crisis. He was a good teacher and Mr. Kies wanted him to get in harmony with the other teachers as the school would have much war work to do in the future. Monday, a campaign for the sale of W.S.S. was being arranged and Supt. Kies recommended that the teachers devote a part of Tuesday forenoon to this purpose. Mt. Battig refused to enter into the work, giving his religious belief as an excuse. However, as the church of which he is a member was supporting the government his excuse was not considered good. In his last talk with Mr. Battig, Supt. Kies very frankly told him that if he could not support the government his resignation was in order. He anticipated as much. the matter was laid before Fred D. Everett, president of the school board, and Battig's resignation was accepted.

Battig is of military age and he claimed exemption on account of his religion. His papers were sent to Auditor Peterson and the Wisconsin exemption board denied his claim and placed him in class 1.

The young man would have saved himself a lot of trouble had he left Albia before six o'clock Tuesday evening. We don't believe in mob-law, but these are extraordinary times and some times extraordinary measures correct a growing evil.

Tuesday night a committee of citizens went to J.W. Huston's home where Battig rooms to get him and transform him into a loyal citizen. He wasn't there, but on returning to the business portion of town, they found him in one of the stores attending a business meeting of the (Christian) Endeavor Society. One of the committee went in after him while others stood at the door to receive him. Battig saw what was in store for him and began to yell.

Someone yelled, "come on with that rope," and then his knees started up a-knocking like a tin lizzie. He was marched to the north steps of the courthouse and ordered to strip to his waist, which he did by the assistance of a dozen or more loyal citizens. A big bucket of yellow paint was held above his head and the pouring, assisted with a swab to reach the corners, proceeded slowly enough to allow the yellow liquid to thoroughly soak into his hair and was made permanent by the shampoo method and the flesh was thoroughly colored on the body. Then the waist band of his pantaloons were held out like a hoop and the paint poured on his person not exposed.

While this was going on he begged for mercy, but none was extended to him. After the painting process he was marched around the square, holding a flag above his head and at each corner of the square he was compelled to salute or kiss Old Glory, and when the crowd reached the northeast corner of the square he was given freedom and warned not to let the rising sun catch him in this county or he probably would not live to tell about it.

He walked quietly as far as the King theatre and then he used the conveyance the Lord gave him because he certainly showed the boys that he was some sprinter. Leon Battig's parents are German but he was born in the United States and was educated at the University of Wisconsin and is a La Follette sympathizer.

The last sight of him was but a glance as he was making the dust fly toward his rooming house.

+++

Mr. Battig returned to Milwaukee and within a few weeks, an FBI case had been opened against him as a potential draft-dodger --- a one-page summary of the case is available online. But by the time investigators reached the family home, Leon already had enlisted. He served seven months as a private in the 6th Company, 161st Depot Brigade, then was honorably discharged with thousands of others after the war had ended.

After the war, Mr. Battig returned to teaching and during 1929 earned his M.A. degree in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin. After that, he taught at Oberlin College in Ohio and the Kansas State Agricultural College before joining the staff of the University of Wisconsin Extension Division.

During 1936, he joined the faculty at the newly opened Sheboygan campus of the University of Wisconsin and remained a highly esteemed faculty member there, sometimes known as Mr. Math, until retirement during 1963. The library of the Sheboygan center is named "Battig" in his honor.

Mr. Battig died two years later, on Feb. 15, 1965, after a long illness. He is buried in the Belleville, Wisconsin, Cemetery where a standard veteran's tombstone marks his grave.




Sunday, January 17, 2021

Peter Gittinger's 1847 letter home from California

Peter Gittinger's introduction came last week, in a post entitled "A Landlocked Sailor at Greenville Cemetery," which you're welcome to read. But to make a longer story shorter, Mr. Gittinger --- born during 1820 into a German farm family north of Baltimore, Maryland, and a Lucas County, Iowa, pioneer --- enlisted in the U.S. Navy at age 18, in 1838, and continued to serve at sea for the next eight years or so.

By 1846, however, he was assigned, apparently as a U.S. Marine, to Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny's Army of the West during the Mexican-American war. Kearny and his men occupied New Mexico, declaring the territory to be part of the United States on Aug. 15, 1846, and then marched on to California where, once it was subdued, he eventually became military governor.

The following letter, added recently to the Lucas County Historical Society collection, was written by Peter to his mother, Sarah, from Monterey, California, during March of 1847 where, it would appear, he was assigned to Kearny's office staff. Although signed in Peter's own hand, he noted in a final paragraph that, having injured his writing arm, he had asked a friend to put his message on paper. Here's the text as best I can make it out:

Monterey (California), March 22d 1847

My dear Mother

I have now been absent from you for some time & would have written to you before this but had not an opportunity to do so. We have had no fighting yet. We were notified that we would be attacked one night week before last, and we were all prepared for an engagement, the night was rainy, dark  & disagreeable & I was on guard at the time. The Leader of the California Mounted Cavalry came in & gave himself up, stating he could not raise sufficient quantity of men to undertake it.

California is a beautiful & lovely country. The land is rich. The natives of the country are very hospitable but rather shy of the Americans. We have quite a Navy in Harbour, the U.S. Ships Independence, Columbia, Savannah, Warren, Lexington & Erie are in Port.

Vegetables are very scarce. Potatoes sell for 25 pounds for $2. Butter, $1 per lb. Eggs $1.25 per doz. A Bullock $5, A horse from 3 to 4$. When you hire in this place they tell you not to mind bringing back the horse, but not to forget the saddle. All the troops are well, both officers and Men. 

This is one of the most delightful climates in the world. Plenty of good land. All they want is men to cultivate it and the U.S. government would be foolish to forfeit it.

Five of our men got permission to go a hunting the other day and they have not been heard of since. They were either taken prisoners by the Mexicans or have deserted. The life of a Soldier, particular in an enemy country, is attended with may hardships. Many a night have I taken a piece of wood or a square shaped stone & laid my coat and blanket and slept delightfully. Our living is miserable. Consists of Fresh Beef & Pilot Bread, no vegetables as they are scarce and demand a high price. Ten oz. of Bread per day to each man. Consequently all hands are on short allowance.

I have been to one Fandango (a Ball) since I have been in this city, and to see the Mexican girls and the Curious stile of dancing seemed very singular to me. The are very fine of dress. It is Considered a great Compliment to brake shell of an egg over your head filled with Cologne water. They take an make a hole in an egg & extract the Contents of it & fill with Cologne & small & small pieces of Gold ribbon cut very fine and after it is broke over your head your hair has the appearance of Gold Stars, the egg shell thus prepared is enhanced in value & sells as high as $1. Any person who may happen to be on friendly terms with the possessor without any distinction of Age, Sex or quality. Clothing is very high. A Common Coat that Cost in the States $20 sells for $50 in this place. But of all my travels there is no place like home.

Gen'l  Castro of California has been deserted by his troops & obliged to take refuge in the Mexican Territory with a number of Outlaws with him, 300 of Col. Stevensons Regt. has arrived at San Francisco.  On their passage out a woman died in child bed, one man became melancholy & jumped overboard & four officers deserted in Valparaiso. The old Inhabitants of California have become satisfied with the change of government.

I am now attending to the office of Gen'l Kearny, Governor of California,  consequently have very little soldiering to do which pleases me as I do not like the life of a Soldier. 

The American Consul gives a Ball tonight & whilst I am writing this the Spanish girls are flocking in with their Spanish equipage on which gives a great display & the Band is now playing the Polka. Our office is in the same building as the American Consul & we are all the time in a State of excitement with music, Fandango &c. American callicoes sell in this place at Common kind 75 cts per yd, Common Cotton 50 cts, ticking $1 per yard, cheapest Broadcloth $12. Coffee 37 1/2 per lb. Flour $30 per brll.

This country is rich in mineral resources. Mines of Gold, Silver, Copper, Lead, Sulphur and quicksilver are being rapidly discovered. The Ladies of California ride on horseback, the Lady rides in front, the gentleman behind her as a support, she at the same time smoking a cigar.

My dear mother, my health is good & I am in tolerable good Spirits. Take good Care of your health & if it is God's wish we will meet again if not in this world I hope in heaven. My love to Sisters & Brothers when you see them. I got an old Baltimore friend to write this for me as I accidentally hurt my arm a few days ago. I must conclude by wishing you health, happiness & prosperity. I wish you many Blessings & may God Bless & Protect you is the wish of your devoted Son, P. Gittinger.

Write soon (torn) Postmaster (unclear) and give him your letter for (torn) it is fowarded to me, as it is his duty to do so & I have no doubt he will when he knows you have a son so far away from home. Direct your letter (to) Peter Gittinger, Care of Capt. C. Q. (torn), U.S. Army, Monterey, California, Pacific Ocean.

My Respects to Wm. Garrison family and in particular to Susa (torn) man & Frances Rinehart.

+++

By his own account, Peter left California four years later, sailing down North America's west coast to the Isthmus of Panama during the fall of 1851, then traveling by land across to the Caribbean coast.

He eventually was assigned to Commodore Matthew Perry's East India Squadron, launched from Norfolk, Virginia, during November of 1852, and served during Perry's first expedition to Japan before giving up life at sea entirely.

At some point during 1854, and we have no idea what the circumstances were, Peter washed up on the shores of Iowa, about as far from the oceans of the world as one could get, and settled at Greenville in Washington Township, Lucas County.

There, on Nov. 30, 1854, he married Sarah Hawkins West (1820-1902), daughter of Greenville's founder and Washington Township's first settler, Xury West.

Both Peter and Sarah were in their mid-30s at the time.  They produced a family of four sons, James F. Gittinger (1855-1937), William E. Gittinger (1857-1908), George J. Gittinger (1859-1945) and Henry W. Gittinger (1861-1953), longtime editor and publisher of The Chariton Leader and the principal source for what we know about Peter.

Peter died of a heart attack at the age of 65 on Sept. 3, 1885, and was buried in the Greenville Cemetery after what could be described as an eventful life.





Saturday, January 16, 2021

A minor Red Cross volunteer puzzle

I've spent far too much time this morning trying to figure out where this group of apparent Red Cross volunteers fits into the World War I effort in Chariton --- and failed.

The photograph is battered (it's been pasted into a scrapbook at some point, then removed) and a source is not noted in the catalog.

I'm fairly sure it was taken during 1917 and the building in the background may be Chariton's First United Methodist Church. "For Mercy's Sake" was a phrase used by the Red Cross during fund-raising and recruiting efforts at the time.

All of the young women were in high school at the time, a majority in Chariton (but Dorothy Joy was a student at St. Joseph's Academy, Ottumwa).

If not school-affiliated, the best bet would be the P.A. Club, a young women's social club sponsored by the Methodist Sunday school and given to raising funds for worthy causes.

At least we know the names of group members, thoughtfully written on the back. They are (first row from left) Dorothy Penick, Stella Lutz, Esther Beem, Muriel Drake, Louise Junkin, Beth Drake, Louise Stanton and Margaret Stanton; (second row) Alice Custer, Evelyn Shields, Anna Laura Copeland, Margery Vail, Edith Abrams and Zora Stewart; and (back row) Virginia Custer, Marjorie Drake, Genevieve Harding, Dorothy Joy, Martha Stewart, Elizabeth Stanton, Katherine Copeland, Marjorie Johnston, Louise Johnston, Gladys Abrams and Harriet Goodsell.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Anyone recognize this version of the Derby Cafe?

This image of the Derby Cafe, operated by Gusta Flack on Main Street in Derby from 1958 until 2000 and most likely Lucas County's  best known place to eat, arrived at the Lucas County Historical Society  museum last year, given by a niece. 

It's what I'd call a folk-art piece, created from what appears to be mother of pearl against a painted background. Although it's a structurally accurate representation of the building you've got to look at it twice to recognize it --- in real life the building is part of a row of structures; the Derby Post Office just to the left.

The image was a gift of the artist to Mrs. Flack, but no one now remembers who the artist was. We'd like to know, so that credit can be given. So if anyone recognizes the style of work and has an idea of who created it, we'd like to know. Leave a comment.

Mrs. Flack and her sister, Marjorie, opened the cafe in Derby in 1958 and Gusta continued to operate it until retirement during 2000. She had marked her 100th birthday when she died in Chariton during 2014, survived by nieces and nephews.