Monday, October 24, 2016

To every thing, there is a season ....

Can't identify this colorful couple and that pilot pooch.

But their Sunday afternoon Red Haw adventure brightened mine, and I'm grateful.

It was a grand day to be out, letting the poison drain away ...

... making room for the important stuff: colors of the leaves, the quality of light on water; sound of wind in the trees, turning of the seasons.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

A trip down Miller Ridge with Marjorie Miller Shaw

This post is primarily for members of my extended Miller family, but as always others are welcome to come along for the ride. It involves a small stretch of territory southeast of Albia in Monroe county on the Blue Grass Road that was (and still is by some) called Miller Ridge.

My (distant) cousin, Marjorie Miller Shaw, was born there in 1905 and 86 years later, in 1991, when she and her husband, Olen Shaw, still were living in Silver Spring, Maryland, I asked her to conjure up a trip down the ridge for me, traveling from east to west, and talking a little about who lived where.

Marjorie was a pioneering Miller genealogist, a hardcore boots-on-the-ground researcher of a type who would hardly be recognized by many of the sissified search-engine find-and-merge computer jockeys claiming the title today (the latter description now includes me, of course, although I never "merge.")

To reach Miller Ridge today, drive a short distance east of Albia on Highway 34 and turn right on paved 201st Street, also called Airport Road, and once that road turns to gravel, just keep going. You're approaching the "Ridge."


I've marked a few Miller family landmarks on a section of the 1875 Andreas Atlas map of Monroe County (top) so that I can, hopefully, provide a moderately coherent explanation of how one of the multitudinous Miller families that once populated Monroe County's Pleasant and Mantua townships hangs together. Miller Ridge snakes across the southern border of Mantua Township.

William and Miriam (Trescott) Miller, who were my great-great-great-grandparents, arrived in Monroe County from Van Buren immediately after it was opened for settlement during May of 1843. They had been early converts of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith Jr. in Ohio and had followed his directions during the 1830s to relocate to northwest Missouri, settling just north of Haun's Mill in what now is Caldwell County. When the Saints were driven out of Missouri, the Millers and dozens of their extended family members and friends came up into Iowa rather than going on to Nauvoo, Illinois, and parked themselves in Van Buren County to await the opening to EuroAmerican settlers of what previously had been territory of the Sauk and Fox, including Monroe County.

William and Miriam settled during 1843 immediately west of what now is Pleasant Corners Cemetery, not far southwest of Eddyville --- then the principal Des Moines River crossing point. They're buried there, in unmarked graves. Their enthusiasm for the LDS faith had long since waned and William reverted to Baptist, becoming a founding member of Pleasant Corners Baptist Church just to the south.

Joseph and Mary McMulin --- who had come to Van Buren County from Ohio during 1838 but were not Mormon --- also were among those May, 1843, first settlers. They claimed land just north of the now-ghost town of Fredric a short distance south of Pleasant Corners. Their affiliation was with the Church of the Brethren a short distance to the south, east of a place first called Fairview, later Cuba.

William and Miriam Miller's son, Jeremiah, married Joseph and Mary McMulin's daughter, Elizabeth, during 1849 and they brought their family west to English Township, Lucas County, during 1867. These were my great-great-grandparents.


Meanwhile, William Miller Sr. apparently wrote back to his kinfolk living in Ohio and during 1846, the first of his nephews, sons of Stephen and Lydia (Lamb) Miller, began to arrive in Monroe County, too. This is the branch of the family that settled some distance to the south on Miller Ridge. Stephen died during 1852 in Portage County, Ohio, and not long thereafter, Lydia (Lamb) Miller joined her children in Monroe County, becoming the matriarch of Miller Ridge.

Before all was said and done, the following children of Stephen and Lydia had settled on or near Miller ridge: Alpheus Franklin Miller, George Miller, John Miller, Harriet (Miller) Miller, Minerva (Miller) Walker and Alvin Miller. Of the Stephen and Lydia Miller children, only Lucinda (m. Ralph Dewey) settled elsewhere --- at Washington, Iowa.

Daughter Harriet added extra complexity to the family mix by marrying, in Ohio, her first-cousin, William Trescott Miller, son of William and Miriam (Trescott) Miller. One of their sons was the Rev. Ambrose Miller --- a great friend of my great-grandfather, Joseph Cyrus Miller --- and the source of the middle name of my grandfather, William Ambrose Miller.

The principal burial place of these Miller Ridge pioneers was Smith-Beebe Cemetery, just north of the old route of Highway 34, north of the ridge. This most likely is the oldest cemetery in Monroe County and one of the county's earliest settled places. When the original survey of Monroe County was taken, the Smith-Beebe Cemetery site already was occupied.

Got all that?


The following map, lifted from the 1906 Monroe County atlas, shows the ridge as it was occupied at the time --- nearly all of this has been swept away by now. But it is possible, if you're curious and patient, to follow along on Marjorie's little tour, using this map. This and the other map will enlarge if you right-click and open in new windows. Ignore the areas filled in in crayon (these were a feature of the copy of the atlas digitalized at University of Iowa Libraries).  I've marked "The 160" where the tour begins. Here is Majorie's tour:

"I will try to give you a picture of Miller Ridge as you asked me to do.

"To our family, it started about 5-1/2 miles east of Albia (slightly south) in the valley before the three Trimble Hills. To the left (north) as we travel east there was a lane which went back to what we called "The 160," which meant a mostly wooded farm of 160 acres with a house, barn, etc., which was owned by my father (Nelson Miller) and his brothers, Boyd and Wallace, in partnership or alone for many years. No one ever quite moved out of the house, leaving carpets, stoves and any furniture which was surplus to them. Any of the John Miller family could go there between jobs or farms.

"Proceeding east on the "Blue Grass Trail," at the top of the hills (two or three red clay hills with a house  on the left side at the top of the eastern-most hill) --- Before my time a big family, Trimbles, lived there. One daughter, I believe, was the first wife of James Miller, son of William and Harriet Miller. Another Trimble daughter was the third wife of Onie Piper, a Lamb descendant and cousin of the John Miller and his brothers' and sisters' families (Onie's mother, Gracia, was a Lamb descendant).

"The  next house east was the Lewis Parry farm with William Parry's family there in the first decades of the 1900s. Their only connection was the marriage of Lucy Miller (daughter of Harriet and William Miller) to a son of Lewis Parry.

"The next place east was through a lane which turned to the left, going north a short distance to the farm of Albert Miller and Lydia (Roberts) Miller. Later, a second house was built back there for their son, Elton, and his wife, Lola (Cornford) Miller. Elton later became a United Brethren minister, as was his father-in-law.

"The next place of Millers was the John Miller farm a short distance on the right, still going east. He and his wife, Amelia (Hoskins) Miller, came there soon after their marriage in Portage County, Ohio. The family belonged on the ridge, or at least a member of that family did, until about 1936 when Carrie Miller sold (Carrie was the last of the family "at home") it to Victoria Pickerell, a young teacher and a Lamb cousin coming through the Harrison Ames branch. Later, she married Emmett VanDalen. They are both deceased and, as far as I know, their two children own the place. I was born there in 1905.

"In 1909, Nelson Miller, my father, bought the Morgan place owned by Olive Tyrrell Morgan. Her son, Ren (Philander Lorenzo Tyrrell), and wife, Eliza, lived there with her. My father had a small cheese factory there until 1912, when we moved to Albia. After that, my uncles, Wallace and Boyd, owned the place.

"Just east of that on the right side of the road was the Harrison Ames home --- Lamb cousins. The next on the left side was the Frank Lindsey place. Mrs. Lindsey (Victoria) was a daughter of Harrison Ames.

"Just down a small hill was the Alpheus Miller farm (on the right). By my time he had died and his daughter, Adelia (Dele) and husband, Las (Lawson) Carlton lived there with his sister, Angie.

"Almost across the road was what had been the Lydia Lamb Miller home, whose son Alvin was single and living with her there when she came from Ohio. In the early 1900s and until probably the 1940s, Adolphus (Dolph) Carlton, son of Dele and her husband, and his wife, Elsie, lived there with their three sons.

"East of there, on the left side also, in the early 1900s, until probably 1930, Bertha Miller Sinclair and husband, Willie Sinclair, lived. Bertha was a daughter of Albert and Lyda (Roberts) Miller. They had Kenneth and Eva, their children, there with them. That was "the Duffy place" early, then Boyd and Leoti Miller owned it.

"The next two buildings were on the left side, too. These were the Miller Ridge Methodist Church and the Miller Ridge school.

"About a quarter mile east, where the road divides going north toward Avery and southeast toward Blakesburg and just at the north corner, was the Dyghton (Dyght) Miller and wife, Ann Tyrrell Miller --- with a foster son, Harold Riggs --- place.

"On that road north from there was the James Miller home with his second wife, Nellie Brady I believe, and a son, Jerry (probably short for Jeremiah). Then the Milt Walker and Ethel (Miller) Walker home. Ethel was the daughter of Ann and Dyghton Miller. They had two daughters, Violet Walker (later West) and Zella, who died young.

"A little farther north was the Clark and Kate (Roberts) Carlton home with Nora (Newman), Irwin, Alice, Ruth (Chrisman), Lina and Helen (Anderson). Kate was a sister of Lyda (Roberts) Miller, Albert's wife --- also it made Lyda her sister Kate's aunt!

"Just as you leave the Carltons on the road going east on the right side of the road was Llewellyn Ames and his wife, Annie (Tate) Ames. He was a brother of Victoria Lindsey, son of Harrison Ames. That was about the end of the Miller connections on that road.

"Going back to the place where the road divided, going southeast, right there William Miller and Harriet (Miller) Miller had lived. William was dead, but Harriet lived until 1915. Her son, Clifton "Cliff" and his wife, Eva, lived there with her. They had one daughter, Grace, and Harry Earl, Jamie, Maurice, Eugene and Mason "Teddy." By about 1910 they had built a house in their side yard for Minerva Miller Walker and her husband, William, who had moved from Albia in their older age to be near Harriet and the family to care for them. They had no children."


That's the end of Marjorie's tour. She concluded her letter of July 21, 1991, "I remember Alvin, Minerva and Harriet of Stephen's children, Alvin's wife and my grandmother, Amelia, John's wife, and Minerva's husband, William Walker. Any further detail you might like on these families, I might have it in my head!"

And of course there are days when I ask myself, "now why didn't I ask Majorie that?"

When they were in their 90s, Olen and Majorie moved from Silver Spring to Michigan, where one of their sons and his family lived. Olen died in Ann Arbor on Dec. 26, 1994, and Majorie, on Oct. 23, 1998, at Salem. They are buried in Worden Cemetery, near Salem.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Alfred E. Smith and Lucas County back in 1928

I got to wondering, as pundits pondered the performances of Clinton and Trump at the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner in New York recently, how the Democratic Party candidate for president during 1928 had fared in Lucas County. The short answer is, not very well, but that was the case in Iowa as a whole, too, not surprisingly.

Smith, a progressive four-term governor of New York, was Roman Catholic --- the first nominated for president by a major U.S. party. His nomination was the equivalent, in its time, of Barack Obama's in 2008 and Hillary Clinton's in 2016 --- all considerable shocks to the sensibilities of good old protestant white boys accustomed to running things.

Many protestants were outraged by Smith. While doing a little research, I pulled up a The Atlantic article from 1927 that was a mind-numbingly long open letter to Smith, carefully explaining why a Catholic could not be a loyal, true and red, white and blue American. It was the pope thing, of course. In fairness to The Atlantic, Smith was given space in the next issue to respond and did so eloquently. 

But religion certainly was a factor in the 1928 election, most likely in Lucas County, too, although I didn't find any locally generated anti-Catholic rhetoric in Chariton newspapers from that year --- granted that there wasn't time to look through them all.

Beyond the fact that Lucas County always has trended Republican, a major talking point for the Republican candidate, Herbert Hoover, was the fact he was Iowa-born. Despite the fact Hoover had been relocated to the West Coast when 11, his place of birth --- it was assumed --- would make him more likely to promote his home state's agricultural interests.

Then there was the issue of prohibition. Smith was not a fan of the Eighteenth Amendement, enacted in 1919, and favored its repeal. That distressed many in Iowa (and elsewhere), dominated by protestant prohibitionists who viewed alcoholic beverages of any sort as a tool of the devil, so much so that during the 19th century communion wine had been replaced by unfermented grape juice.

That view is kind of summed up in a little letter from Annie C. Smith, identified as "a former Lucas County lady now of Washington," published in The Chariton Leader of Oct. 11, 1928:

"I thought you might be interested to know how some of us in the east view the political situation. The Protestant ministers and their congregations generally, in this city, feel that it is not so much the religious issue as the wet and dry issue that is to be met by those who are interested in the future welfare of our country, and of course, as you know, this is the big question that is splitting both parties. We were quite surprised when we were driving recently through the Shenandoah Valley to see the number of Virginians with the Hoover and Curtis banner on their automobiles or the button on their coats. I think it is a very critical time, and that to attempt to change the 18th amendment, as Smith would advocate, would throw the country back to where it was 75 years ago and the sacrifices of those who have worked for prohibition all these years will have been in vain. Yours for Hoover and Curtis, Mrs. Annie C. Smith, formerly of Lucas County, Iowa."

A majority of Lucas Countyans apparently agreed with Mrs. Smith. When the count was final that November, Hoover had tallied 3,811 votes and Smith, 1,888. In Iowa as a whole, Hoover led Smith 623,570 votes to 379,011. The Eigteenth Amendment, by the way, was repealed in 1933.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Reading, writing, arithmetic --- and whippings

I found this little memoir again while moving school-related items from one archival binder to another yesterday at the museum and thought it worth reproducing. It is among numerous oral and written histories collected by Warren S. Dungan, founder of Lucas County's first historical society, then read at annual old settler reunions, held regularly during the very late 19th and early 20th centuries. This one is undated and typed (I recognize a product of Col. Dungan's typewriter when I see it). The heading reads, "Statement of George B. Tout."


George B. Tout was born Sept. 1st, 1853, at Danville, Hendricks County, Indiana, and came to Chariton, Iowa, June 4th, 1857.

The teachers in Chariton to whom he went were, to the best of his recollection, as follows:

Miss Nan Mitchell in 1858 in a little house on the square --- north side.

Miss Thorpe in the old M.E. church in 1859. She was red-headed and a terror to evil-doers. She was great for whippings. She sometimes whipped the whole school during one day. After whipping one scholar, she stood him on the platform to watch the others and when he discovered another scholar doing something forbidden, the scholar disobeying was called out, whipped and stood on the platform and the other relieved. And so the process went on until the whole school had taken their medicine.

Miss Emma Hosner was one of the pupils who was pointed out for a whipping. Instead of submitting gracefully, she darted out at an open window and made good her escape. He does not remember the finale to this little episode.

Miss Lizzie McCormick was his next teacher. Miss McCormick taught in the Pennsylvania House, so called, which was put up for a hotel on Lot 7, Block 16, where Dr. Perry's residence now stands.

S.D. Hickman and wife were also his teachers.

John Matson was next and then T. Park Coin, but the time he cannot remember. Charles H. Sorenson was another of his teachers.

J.P. Simpson was his last teacher. He taught in the basement of the Presbyterian Church.

John Matson was cross-eyed, and when Tout thought he was looking away from him he was looking directly at him. Matson had that advantage of his pupils.


Public schools were among the first things organized after Lucas County was settled, but it took a number of years for substantial buildings to be erected in Chariton. The big building known as "South School" on the current site of Columbus School (top), completed in 1867, was in fact the first.

Until then, schools moved from place to place. As Tout reports, the original First Methodist Church, located on the approximate site of Johnson Machine Works headquarters, was recycled into a school after the new brick church was constructed and he attended classes there.

Chariton High School did not graduate its first four-year class until 1878 and even then attendance was spotty because many families preferred to enroll their scholars in one of the private academies then operating. George Tout's narrative suggests that he completed his education in the academy operated by Prof. Joseph Parke Stout Simpson --- an uncle of mine some generations removed.

George was a son of William H. and Sarah (Kite) Tout. He eventually settled in Ottumwa with his wife and daughter, but died on Nov. 25, 1911, age 58, at the state hospital for the insane in Mount Pleasant of "softening of the brain" --- something we'd probably call Alzheimer's today. He is buried in the Ottumwa City Cemetery.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

George Fancher & Miss Daisy Dukes

This is kind of a sad tombstone tale, involving as it does middle-aged romance and a death bed marriage. But it also involves a real Daisy Dukes, one of the reasons it caught my attention in the first place. (Yes, I know that the Dukes of Hazard Daisy didn't have an "s" on the end of her surname; nor, I suspect, did our Daisy look much like, let alone behave like, the fictional Daisy.)

George Fancher, who is buried here with his wife, Daisy, and mother, Maria, was a New York native, born during 1864 in Delaware County, where his father --- Charles S. Fancher --- died during 1870 when George was only six years old. When he was about 11, his mother, Maria, moved west to Osceola, where her eldest daughter and son-in-law had settled, bringing her younger daughter, Charlotte, and young George along. 

As a young man, George entered the law office of renowned Chariton attorney Theodore M. Stuart to learn the arts and mysteries of the legal profession and eventually was admitted to the Iowa bar. He moved his mother and sister, Charlotte, to Chariton during that process.

Rather than establishing a general law practice, George became interested in real estate and entered into a partnership that operated an abstract, title and loan company that was the ancestor of today's Chariton Abstract Co., LLC, which continues to operate upstairs on the north side of the square.

There are some indications in Chariton newspapers that George was a bit of a wild child in his younger years, socializing (and occasionally getting into trouble with) the cream of Chariton's young manhood. 

In 1888, for example, he sought the office of justice of the peace and defeated the incumbent, the venerable E.L. Kendall, an honored Union veteran. The editor of The Chariton Democrat fumed editorially, dismissing George as "a rattling, rollicking, harem-scarem boy who has no more use for the office than a turkey-cock has for a duck-pond."

George settled down however and into what must have seemed to many confirmed bachelorhood, sharing a home on West Braden Avenue with his mother. He became a valued member of the Hook & Ladder Company of the Chariton Volunteer Fire Department and was initiated into a variety of fraternal organizations --- Masonic, Mystic Shrine, Knights of Pythias and Knights Templar.

Maria Fancher died during 1906, when George was 42, leaving him alone in the home they had shared and at some point thereafter, romance blossomed between George and his associate at the abstract and title company, Miss Daisy Dukes.

Daisy, born in Chariton during 1872, was in her mid- to late 30s at the time, a daughter of Harrison L. and Lucy (Wilson) Dukes. Daisy had graduated from Chariton High School, then during 1894 from a conservatory of music affiliated with Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant. But after that, she became the principal companion of her widowed father. He died during 1907, the year after George's mother died, and both perhaps were at loose ends.

George and Daisy, he at 47 and she at 39, were making plans to marry during the summer of 1911 when disaster struck. On or about June 9, George suffered an attack of appendicitis, the appendix ruptured and peritonitis set in. 

He was taken to Mercy Hospital in Des Moines for surgery, but the outcome was doubtful. As a result George and Daisy were married in his hospital room on June 13, the evening before surgery was scheduled. 

The surgery went as well as could be expected, but the infection by this time was so advanced that George could not recover and he died on June 19. Daisy brought her new husband's remains home for burial near his mother in a west central section of the Chariton Cemetery.

After that, Daisy took the helm of the abstract and title company and operated in successfully for a dozen years --- until she was successfully wooed by the twice-widowed Philip Rockey, some 14 years her senior and cashier of the Russell Bank. They were married during November of 1923.

Daisy moved to Russell, switched her affiliation from Baptist to Presbyterian and became principal pianist for her new husband's church and apparently lived contentendly with him for the next 20 years, until his death at age 85 on Oct. 11, 1943.

After Philip's death, Daisy invited Miss Jennie Haywood to share her home and the two lived companionably until Daisy's death on Sept. 4, 1956. Her remains were brought to the Chariton Cemetery for burial beside George, her husband of only a few days some 45 years before.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Chariton Suffrage heroes: The Branners, Part 2

I wrote yesterday about Chariton sisters Victoria (Branner) Dewey and Virginia M. Branner, leaders of the women's suffrage movement in Lucas County --- and Iowa --- incorporating a biography of Victoria found in the Iowa Women's Archives at University of Iowa Libraries and presented in a digital collection entitled "Women's Suffrage in Iowa." You'll find the cover page for that collection here with links to its various parts. The "Iowa Suffrage Scrapbook" provides a good overview.

The Branner sisters and their mother, Jane (Cowan) Branner, who died in 1911, had been active in the suffrage movement since the late 1880s, but progress was slow --- men were reluctant. Modest victory came in 1894, when the Iowa Legislature approved a measure allowing women to vote on "yes and no" issues --- a bond referendum for example, or a surtax --- but women were denied the right to participate in elections that involved candidates for a quarter century more.

The Branner women were among principal organizers of the Lucas County Suffrage Association and regional suffrage conventions held in Chariton during 1897 and 1898. Women and their male backers gathered during 1897 at First Christian Church and during 1898 at First Baptist Church to hear nationally known speakers, to strategize and to inspire each other.

Finally, during its 1916 session, the Iowa Legislature passed for the second time a universal suffrage amendment to the Iowa Constitution and scheduled a ratification vote for June 5.

At this point, the effort in Lucas County and elsewhere shifted into high gear. Public informational meetings were scheduled across the county --- in towns and in rural churches --- an effort organized by Victoria, Virginia and their many associates with Victoria's daughter-in-law, Ruth Leonard Dewey, leading the effort on the ground. All of Lucas County's newspaper editors were strongly in favor of the amendment and both The Herald and The Leader donated space for a regular column, written by Virginia, updating readers on campaign activities.

The June 5 vote resulted in disappointment, however, when the issue failed statewide by a margin of 173,020 "no" votes to 162,679 "yes" votes. The principal opponents of suffrage were liquor interests in the state and elsewhere who feared that granting women the right to vote would advance the prohibition movement in the state (the Women's Christian Temperance Union and its members were among the principal proponents of universal suffrage). Liquor interests were well organized and had deep pockets and were very influential, especialy in Iowa's "wet" counties. (Lucas County was "dry.")

The map at the top of the post, also from the Women's Suffrange digital collection, was compiled during a post-election investigation by the WCTU that found substantial voter fraud in many counties, too --- enough to tip the outcome toward rejection of the amendment.

Liquor interest opposition to the amendment was supplemented, proponents also felt, by opposition from those who shared conservative views about the role of women, most notably the Catholic Church and groups of recent immigrants, especially Germans.

Yellow counties backed the amendment, Lucas County by a 540-vote margin. White counties voted against the amendment. The "no" votes in Dubuque, Jackson, Clinton, Scott and Linn counties were enough to ensure defeat. The flags indicate election irregularities detected by investigators.

Although disappointed by the outcome, the Branner sisters and their colleagues in the Lucas County Suffrage Association were by no means defeated. A "note of appreciation" from the association published in the editions of Lucas County newspapers in which results of the vote were announced, singled out for "special thanks" the "pulpit and press for their most generous and kindly support, which was invaluable at the time" and promised, "We will enter another campagn immediately and with our past experience to guide us, and knowing where to look for assistance, we will buckle on our armor with more faith and courage and with more assurance of the final result."

Suffragist focus now shifted from state to national level and, during 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and passed it on to the states for ratification. Iowa became the 10th state to ratify the amendment on July 2, 1919; and on August 26th, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify, thereby enacting the amendment.

But suffragists had been active on the state level in Iowa, too --- although passage of the 19th amendment trumped state law, the Iowa General Assembly had during April of 1919 approved a bill giving women the right to vote in presidential elections.


Here's the biography of Virginia M. Branner, found in the Iowa Women's Archive. It is far less detailed than the biography of her sister, Victoria J. (Branner) Dewey, but probably written by the same author. That's kind of unfortunate. Virginia's efforts certainly equaled, if not exceeded, those of her sister. She was the "voice" of the suffragist movement in Lucas County and a foot soldier, too --- traveling statewide, even moving to Des Moines to work in the state suffrage office.


Virginia M. Branner, a pioneer suffragist in Iowa, was a native of Tennessee, born December 5th, 1852, in the town of Dandridge. She was the youngest child of her parents, Judge John Branner and Jane Cowan Branner, and a sister of Victoria Josephine Dewey. She was educated in the Brazelton School for Girls in Dandridge and in the Episcopal School for Girls in Dubuque, Iowa. Moving with the family to Chariton, Iowa, in 1873, she married Charles H. Palmer of that city from whom she was divorced twenty years later, when she resumed her maiden name of Mrs. Virginia M. Branner. No children were born to her.

Mrs. Branner was an adherent of the Presbyterian faith and a member of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union for forty years. She was an early member of the woman suffrage work in Chariton and identified in the state work many times in an official capacity. In 1908 in the convention at Boone, she gave a report as a member of the National Committee from Iowa for Peace and Arbitration, which indicates her especial interest in these questions. At the close of the convention at Corydon in 1910, she was elected treasurer of the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association with Mrs. H.E. Evans, president; she served through 1911 at the Headquarters of the state association in the Equitable Building. These headquarters were established after the death of Mary J. Coggeshall who left a generous bequest to the society for the suffrage work in the state.

Mrs. Branner gave generously of her time and energy to these causes and also gave liberally of her income, a goodly portion of it to Parsons College of Fairfield, Iowa. In 1920, she went to California in search of health, but becoming very ill, returned to her friends in Fairfield and finally to her old home in Chariton, where she died at the home of her sister, Mrs. Victoria Dewey, September 16th, 1921, beloved of her friends and acquaintances, which she numbered in many states.

Mrs. Branner and Mrs. Victoria J. Dewey were sisters living at Chariton, and the period of their labors for the cause of equal suffrage covered nearly fifty years. Before 1900 they had been largely instrumental in holding a three-day county suffrage "convention" at Chariton, which was very successful. In the state campaign for a "suffrage" amendment, in 1916, they organized a county caravan which was conducted by Mrs. Dewey's daughter-in-law, Mrs. Ruth Leonard Dewey, and which with national speakers, visited every town in Lucas county, which county gave a large majority for the amendment. In this period of work, they became acquainted with most of the state workers for suffrage, and many of the national leaders, Susan B. Anthony, Anna Howard Shaw, Mary G. Hay, and others had visited them in Chariton, and made addresses in that town.


Another point to mention is the fact that Victoria and Virginia played a major role in development of the Chariton square, too. Jane (Cowan) Branner and her children, Victoria, Virginia and N.B., had inherited the east half of the south side of the square from John Branner. As the years passed, Victoria built the Dewey Block on the corner, occupied until recently by Chariton Floral. Virginia built a triple-front structure known as the Branner Block just to the west on the lots now occupied by the Ritz Theater/Connecticut Yankee Pedaller building and the Harbor House Christian Bookstore building; and Victoria built the three-story Temple Theater Building, destroyed by fire in 1930, on the site now occupied by Hammer Medical Supply.

These were women made wealthy initially by inheritance from their father who were astute  businesspeople themselves, but strong-minded and community-minded --- determined to make a difference at a time when women's rights were not guaranteed.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Womens suffrage heroes: Chariton's Branner sisters

I've been thinking about the Branner women --- Victoria (Branner) Dewey and Virginia M. Branner --- as election day 2016 nears. These sisters were Lucas County's leading suffragists during the late 19th and early 20th century, yet a hundred ago, during the 1916 election cycle, they still could not vote.

In fact, the men of Iowa had just handed women of the state a crushing defeat on June 5 of that year.

After years of contentious debate, the Iowa Legislature finally had passed a universal suffrage amendment to the state constitution during two consecutive sessions. Men were called upon to ratify the amendment during a special June 5 election --- and refused to do so.

As a result, Iowa women could not vote until after the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified during 1920.

So politics aside, I'm certain that Victoria, Virginia and others who worked with them in Lucas County would be gratified by the fact that two women --- Democrat Hillary Clinton and Green Party candidate Jill Stein --- are contenders for president this year; that one of Iowa's U.S. senators is a woman; and that another woman is contending with the incumbent for the state's other Senate seat.


Victoria and Virginia as well as other family members are commemorated on the tablet atop this tomb in the Chariton Cemetery. The bones of the family matriarch, Jane (Cowan) Branner, actually rest here under the tomb but the remains of all the rest were cremated. The Branners were progressive on a number of fronts.

I've written about this interesting family before, focusing on the patriarch --- John Branner --- who arrived in Chariton from East Tennessee during 1853 with his young son, Napoleon Bonaparte Branner, the same year the federal land office was relocated here from Fairfield. He had purchased land warrants, primarily from Mexican War veterans, in Tennessee and parlayed them into a considerable fortune by using them as the basis for land speculation in southern Iowa. You can find a post entitled "Working Title: The Almighty Branners" here; and "The Almighty Branners, Part 2," here.

I found the following biography of Victoria among Iowa Suffrage Memorial Commission records in the Iowa Women's Archive at University of Iowa Libraries. There's a shorter biography of Virginia, which I'll post tomorrow. Both are accessible online through the University of Iowa Libraries' Iowa Digital Library.

The authors of the biographies are unknown and archivists guess that they were written during the 1920s, although Victoria's would date after her 1930 death. My personal guess, because of level of detail, is that they were written by Victoria's daughter-in-law, Ruth (Leonard) Dewey, a suffragist herself, or her son, Walter Dewey.

A couple of details are not mentioned in the biographies. The Branner sisters' parents, John and Jane (Cowan) Branner were estranged. John never returned to Tennessee for anything other than a visit after settling in Chariton during 1853. Jane did not move north from Tennessee to join two of her children here, N.B. and Virginia, until after his death. Victoria and Walter arrived during 1885. Victoria and Virginia saw Iowa for the first time during 1867 when their mother sent them north in the aftermath of the Civil War to live with their father for a time.

Here's Victoria's biography:


Victoria Josephine Dewey was born in Dandridge, Tennessee, April 15, 1850, the daughter of John Branner and Jane Cowan, and the great-granddaughter of Abednego Inman, a soldier of the Revolutionary war. Abednego Inman was the maternal great-grandfather of Victoria J. Dewey. She was a descendant of Casper Branner, who was born about 1729 and who settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, probably about 1750. Living in the border country of East Tennessee, as a child she endured the hardships of the Civil War. Her two brothers were in the Confederate army, and the younger, Thomas Cowan Branner, was killed in action when not quite nineteen years of age.

She attended school at the Brazelton school for girls, in Dandridge, and later at Lee Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, an Episcopal School for young women. Returning to Dandridge, she lived there, and on November 14, 1871, she married General Joel Allen Dewey, an officer of the Union army, born in Vermont, reared in Ohio, and who was, at the beginning of the war, a senior at Oberlin College. He was first Lieutenant in the 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, then captain, major and lieutenant colonel; in 1864 he was colonel of the 11th colored regiment, U.S. Volunteers. He was commissioned brigadier-general in the winter of 1865, when but twenty-five years of age.

Declining a captaincy in the regular army, he went to Albany, N.Y. Law School, and graduated from there in 1867, and settled in East Tennessee. In 1869, he was elected attorney general for the second judicial district of Tennessee, and re-elected in 1870 for a seven-year term. He died suddenly of heart disease, in the court room in Knoxville, Tennessee, June 17, 1873. Their only child, Walter Dewey, was born in Dandridge, September 5, 1872.

In 1878 Mrs. Dewey married John Beecher Meek, a lawyer of Dandridge, who died in 1881. Later, by legal action, she changed her name again to Dewey, and in April 1885, with her son, moved to Chariton, Lucas County, Iowa, which was her home until her passing, which occurred at Chariton, December 26, 1930.

During her long residence at Chariton, Mrs. Dewey was active in business, church, and other community affairs, and was reasonably successful in her financial investments. With her son, in April 1898, she purchased the Chariton Herald, which that fall was sold, and at the same time they purchased the Chariton Leader, and published it for six years. She was the financial founder of the Hawkeye Produce Company of Chariton, a wholesale poultry and egg establishment, conducted as a partnership and which had branch houses in four other southern Iowa cities. These houses were sold at a good profit to the Beatrice Creamery Company, shortly before Mrs. Dewey's passing. In 1899 she bought a five thousand acre ranch in the coast country of Texas, which was later sold at a profit.

Mrs. Dewey never had the opportunity of attending any of the higher institutions of learning, but she was a lover of books, and an omniverous reader. Her private library was probably the largest in Lucas county. Many of these books were given by her to the rural schools of the county, some to friends, and others to the city library. The remnant of her books, some five hundred in number, are now in the family home in Chariton. Her love of books and of good reading, naturally made her much interested in the Public Library, and in the library movement in general. She was a charter member of the board of trustees of the Chariton Free Public Library, and the second president of the board, and on April 23, 1904, she presided and formally laid the corner stone of the present library building at Chariton, said to have been the first time that a woman had ever presided at such a function. The "Victoria J. Dewey Memorial Fund" given to the library by the members of Mrs. Dewey's family, provides proceeds for the purchase of an average of one or more good books for the library each month.

Mrs. Dewey was a pioneer advocate of equal suffrage, a lifelong member of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, a devout Episcopalian, and a most progressive Democrat. She attended at least two of the national conventions of the Woman Suffrage Association, and many of the state conventions. She supported the Democratic party with her voice and purse for many years before she received the right to vote. She attended the Democratic National Convention at Denver, in 1908, and was present at every session of the historic National Convention at Baltimore in 1912. On January 31, 1920, she and two other women were chosen by the Lucas County Democratic Convention as delegates to the State Democratic convention to select delegates to the national conventions, these women being the first women chosen in Iowa as delgates to a state convention of Iowa Democrats. Mrs. Dewey was chosen as an alternate to the National Democratic Convention at San Francisco that same year, and in 1924, she declined a district delegateship from her own congressional district, saying she thought a man, younger and stronger physically, should be chosen.

Mrs. Dewey and Mrs. Virgina M. Branner were sisters living at Chariton, and the period of their labors for the cause of equal suffrage covered nearly fifty years. Before 1900 they had been largely instrumental in holding a three-day county suffrage "convention" at Chariton, which was very successful. In the state campaign for a "suffrage" amendment, in 1916, they organizied a county caravan which was conducted by Mrs. Dewey's daughter-in-law, Mrs. Ruth Leonard Dewey, and which with national speakers visited every own in Lucas county, which county gave a large majority for the amendment. In this period of work, they became acquainted with most of the state workers for suffrage, and many of the national leaders. Susan B. Anthony, Anna Howard Shaw, Mary G. Hay, and others had visited them in Chariton, and made addresses in that town.

To be continued ...

Monday, October 17, 2016

Art & the other half of the Freight House (Part 2)

Saturday's Lucas County Arts Council fall festival attracted more highly accomplished painters than ever before, I think, and yesterday's post, Half way around the Freight House, featured some of them. Working my way this morning down the east half of the exhibit hall, here are more.

This was the first time Patsy Murphy (top) of Knoxville had participated in the Chariton show and her work drew many compliments.

Murphy works in a variety of media, including fabric.

Just down the lineup, Terry Sue Cox displayed a couple of paintings I really liked --- genre works depicting people actively involved in the game of life.

The first represents the artist and her son on a northern California beach; the second, youngsters at play on a trampoline.

Next-door, Nash Cox, who has been making a considerable name for himself during the last couple of years, had a number of his highly detailed vehicular-inspired works on display.

Terry Sue and Nash are my neighbors, so I see that old pickup nearly every morning when I look out the kitchen window.

Susan Baer is is a regional and personal favorite, too --- and I would gladly bring home several of her works if I had (a) money and (b) available walls.

I especially liked this still life inspired by a visit to the basement of a family home.

Sara Palmer was on hand with her paintings in the background, tie-dyed works in the foreground, all displayed while knitting: a triple threat.

Although not a painter, Mary Parks of Still Water Fiber Farm, Pleasantville, is always a favorite at the fall festival in part because she brings along one or more of her Angora rabbits --- and spins directly from these patient creatures.

This is a guaranteed show-stopper.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Half way around the Freight House, Part 1

There was so much to see and do at the Lucas County Arts Council's C.B.&Q. Freight House yesterday that I'm only going to make it half way around this morning --- and even then, I missed several of the exhibitors.

The occasion was the council's annual Arts Festival, an event that features regional artists and craftspeople as well as the venue itself, an ideal backdrop.

Albia's Annette Jennings Scieszinski, a first-time participant in the Chariton event, was first on the left inside the exhibition hall. I had to ask, why "Aski?" --- her signature as an artist --- thereby overlooking the obvious. It's her first initial plus the final three letters of "Scieszinski." 

That, she told me, is one of the ways members of this big Melrose-rooted family refer to each other, "A-sky," "J-sky," "S-sky," etc.

Here's a view down the full length of the main room of the Freight House late Saturday morning as the crowd thinned a little over the noon hour.

A little farther down the hall I found fabric artist Meg Prange (left), visiting here with Kris Patrick. She had been working on a wall hanging depicting the Chariton Free Public Library, commissioned by Ray Meyer as a memorial to his late mother, Charlene (Trumbo) Meyer. When complete, it will hang in the library.

Here's another view of the hanging, unfolded.

Carolyn Shuff and her daughter, Espi, were up from Corydon with highly detailed pieces created with wood-burning tools.

Chery Woolsey (left) and her daughter, Tracy Cavin, of Chariton, brought painted gourd works to the show.

And veteran Chariton artist Steve Scott (with Lee to the left) displayed several of his highly detailed landscapes.

Steve enjoys talking about his art.

Here are closer views of one or two.

And Jeanette McGee brought photographic works to the show.

Out in the old freight office, the folks from Knoxville's Nearwood Winery greeted guests with wine samples and sales.

And the Chariton Free Public Library, using resources provided by a Dekko Foundation SPLASH grant, offered youngsters opportunitues to express themselves in color.

I'll be back tomorrow with more photos of artists and their art.