Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The burial of Mrs. Dallas Owsley (Colored)


Grates on a nerve, doesn't it, that word "colored"? After some thought --- devious manipulation maybe to grab your attention --- I decided to use it in the header of this little piece about the Owsley family and one of its matriarchs, Jane. 

That's how the the editor of The Chariton Leader referred to his black neighbors back in 1904 when Mrs. Owsley was interred in the Chariton Cemetery, a form of casual othering that stated the obvious. There was no need for The Leader of May 12 to commence her obituary with the line, "Mrs. Dallas Owsley (colored), formerly of this city ...."

That was just the way it was.

Jane's grave is unmarked, so I've created a virtual tombstone for her (above). It's located on the approximate spot of her burial, the most southerly option among six spaces in the east half of Lot 5, Block 25, Old Division. Enter the cemetery's main gates and drive due west, take a left onto the second driveway south and look to your left. Mrs. Owsley is buried southeast of the big red granite stone commemorating Andrew, Hannah and Anna Hawkinson.

Jane is the only occupant of the lot, purchased by her husband on May 9, 1904, the day she was buried here. Dallas himself, who died in 1920, is buried in  Des Moines Glendale, where some of his children also rest.

There are several related stories centered on this gravesite, including an accounting of how the Owsleys came to be in Chariton in the first place, what they did here and why the decision was made to return Jane to Lucas County for burial once the family had moved on.

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Jane Young and Dallas Owsley both were natives of Cumberland County, Kentucky, born into slavery at Burkesville, Jane on Dec. 25, 1853, and  Dallas, on Sept. 15, about 1850. They were married in Cumberland County on June 2, 1873.

Dr. Joel Owsley, a Burkesville physician, and two of his sons, William F. and John Q., owned between them 35 slaves in 1860. Dallas Owsley and his kinfolk most likely were among them, taking their surname after emancipation from their former owners.

Dallas, Jane and their six eldest children still were living in Burkesville in 1880, alongside Henry and Martha Owsley and their family of four. Dallas and Henry probably were brothers, but I can't prove that. Both men were employed as laborers.

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During the early 1880s, the Whitebreast Coal and Mining Co., owners of the mines at Cleveland in western Lucas County, then among the largest in Iowa, began to recruit black miners, first from Kentucky and then from Virginia, to break strikes by their white labor force. That force consisted largely of immigrants --- from Wales, Scotland, England, Ireland and Sweden. The Welsh miners especially brought with them the concept of organized labor and when the mine owners figured out a way to cut wages dramatically, they went out on strike.

The Owsleys, Dallas and Henry and their large families, probably were among the first to reach Lucas County. All were living in the town of Lucas when the 1885 state census was taken. Later arrivals from Virginia would be housed by the Whitebreast company in an unincorporated area beyond the company town of Cleveland known as East Cleveland and that's where they are found in the 1885 census.

Although both men were miners, Dallas's occupation on the census sheet was given as "preacher." He would become a leader --- and preacher --- as Lucas County's black Baptists organized themselves into a congregation.

The brothers adopted differing spellings for their surname while living in Lucas. Henry's family generally styled themselves "Ousley"; Dallas and his family stuck with "Owsley."

Henry's wife, Martha, died at Lucas on June 9, 1895, and following services at the Methodist Church was buried in Fry Hill Cemetery. Henry and his family continued to live --- and work as miners --- in Lucas into the first decades of the 20th century. In old age, Henry moved to Aurora in Kane County, Illinois --- where some of his children had settled --- and died there on Nov. 28, 1922.

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Dallas Owsley, however, had decided early on that mining was not to be his career. By the autumn of 1886, he had moved his family into Chariton where he worked to organize a Baptist church, signed on as a farm hand for William B. Penick --- accompanying loads of livestock to market in Chicago now and then --- and took on any other job that became available to support his huge family. There were 13 surviving Owsley children of 15 born although all were never living at home at the same time.

Preaching services for his Baptist flock were held at the courthouse and elsewhere in rented quarters and, apparently, the Rev. Mr. Ousley had a reputation for being somewhat long-winded. The Chariton Herald of Oct. 28, 1886, reported for example that, "The Rev. Dallas Ousley, who is not overburdened with this world's goods, has had some sickness in his numerous family, and some friend, on last Sabbath, with his heart full of kindness, furnished him the material for a first class dinner of soup for his entire family. The zealous preacher however preached all day to his hearers and forgot to take the soup bone home."

For a time, Dallas worked in Ottumwa to support his family in Chariton, but returned to live full-time in Lucas County during 1894. During of April 1897, he purchased one of the miner houses then for sale at Cleveland --- the village now rapidly disappearing after the Whitebreast mines closed --- and moved it into Chariton where it was re-erected for his family on lots at the east end of Braden Avenue purchased from D.Q. Storie.

About 1900, however, Dallas and Jane decided to move their family to Des Moines, most likely because there were more work opportunities there for themselves and their families. Four of their younger children still were at home when the 1900 Polk County census was taken. Dallas's occupation was given as day laborer and two of the daughters were employed as servants.

During the latter part of 1903, Jane Owsley became ill and cancer eventually was diagnosed. During early 1904, she underwent surgery at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines, then died at home overnight on Friday/Saturday, May 6/7.

The dramatic incident that resulted in Dallas's decision to bring her remains to Chariton for burial was reported upon in The Bystander, Iowa's pioneering newspaper for its black community, on Friday, May 14, as follows:

SAVES HIS WIFE'S BODY FROM THIEF

Unknown parties were interrupted and routed last Saturday morning in an attempt to steal the dead body of Mrs. D. Ousley, a colored woman who died Friday at her home at 981 West Second street.

She was lying near an open window, covered by a sheet, and the only person near the body was the husband. At a moment when the man's back was turned he heard a noise near the window. He started in that direction and a young man, hearing his approach, dropped from the sill to which he was clinging into the yard below. With his head ducked and his hat over his face he darted across the lot and had disappeared almost before the old colored man realized what was occurring. He was sharp enough, however, to get a glimpse of the face and he will know it if he sees it again.

Mr. Ousley told of the incident to friends, and in view of the circumstances preceding the discovery of the trespasser, he is positive that he interrupted a carefully laid plan to steal the body of his wife virtually from beneath his eyes, and sell it to a medical school for dissection by students and surgeons.

So positive in this belief is he that he yesterday decided not to inter the remains of his wife in a Des Moines cemetery. The interment will be made in another Iowa burial ground.

The nature of the illness of Mrs. Ousley and her condition during the the days preceding her death, were such as to make the body a desirable specimen for carving in the cause of science. For more than a week prior to her death, she lived without food, and physicians had no hopes of her recovery.

Three months ago, it was stated yesterday, she underwent an operation in Mercy hospital for cancer of the stomach. The operation is said to have been successful, and the effect of this ordeal had nothing to do with her death. She died because of a complication of diseases.

There has been no parallel of this case in Des Moines. It is a fact that is given no more circulation than possible, that there is a place for any dead body in any institution where the science of medicine and surgery is taught, and it is said that in greed for learning along this line, extreme measures are often taken for procuring the "stiffs" as they are called within the halls of science.


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Two days later, on Monday afternoon, May 9, the Owsley family brought Jane's remains to the Chariton Cemetery for burial, followed that evening by a memorial service with the Baptist congregation that Dallas formerly had served as pastor.

Her obituary was published on the front page of The Chariton Leader of Thursday, May 12, as follows:

MRS. DALLAS OWSLEY

Mrs. Dallas Owsley (colored), formerly of this city, died at her home in Des Moines on Saturday, May 7, 1904, after an illness of nine months with a cancerous tumor.

Brief services were held at the family home in Des Moines on Sunday afternoon at 5:30 o'clock and on Monday afternoon the remains were brought to Chariton and interred in the Chariton cemetery. In the evening at eight o'clock memorial services were held in the African Baptist church, conducted by Rev. Brewer of Osceola.

Miss Jane Young was born in Burkesville, Kentucky, on Christmas day, December 25, 1853. She was married there to Dallas Owsley on June 2, 1873. They came to Chariton about 1878
(actually during the early 1880s) where they resided until four years ago when they moved to Des Moines where they have since resided.

Mrs. Owsley was the mother of fifteen children, thirteen of whom, with the father, survive her. They are Tom of Logan, John of Iowa City, Wm. of Galesburg, Illinois, Leslie of Chicago, Mrs. Gertie Diggs, Mary, Beulah, Laura, Harry, Arthur, Ernest, Dallas and Albert of Des Moines.

Mrs. Owsley was an industrious, kind-hearted woman, respected by all who knew her, and the family had many friends in Chariton who will sympathize with them in their great grief.



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Dallas Owsley survived Jane by 16 years, dying of typhoid fever on Sept. 11, 1920, age about 70, at the Des Moines home he shared with his daughter and son-in-law, Gertrude and Fennel Diggs. He was buried in Glendale Cemetery, although the grave seems not to have been marked.

During 1960, to reclaim unused burial spaces from purchasers long since vanished from Lucas County, the city of Chariton filed a general lawsuit against dozens of them, including Dallas Owsley, dead then for 40 years, alleging nonpayment of annual fees for gravesite care. In that manner, the five remaining spaces on the lot where Jane is buried returned to city ownership although they've never been resold.

There's a good deal of green space and relatively few tombstones in this small section of the cemetery. Others are buried nearby in unmarked graves, too. But now you know that Jane Owsley rests here among them and that she carried with her to the grave stories worth remembering.



Monday, October 22, 2018

Consider those towering red cedars


City Manager Joe Gaa told me the other day how many ash trees we're going to lose at the Chariton Cemetery before this emerald ash borer disaster is said and done --- an alarming number that I can't recall precisely.

That's caused me to pay more attention to the trees that still are flourishing out there, including quite a number of towering eastern red cedars (juniperus virginiana) that as a rule do not get that much attention --- they don't turn pretty colors in the fall, their foliage is not as widely appreciated as that of other conifers and their shapes, while interesting, tend not to be especially symmetrical.

We actually know where these cedars came from and when they were planted. The Chariton Herald of Feb. 15, 1900, reported that "John W. Mauk has sold his entire stock of cedar trees --- some three hundred --- to Dr. Stanton for use in the cemetery."

John and his wife, Alice, farmed two miles west of Chariton and he had been advertising red cedars for sale for some years --- grown "from seed" on his farm. In addition to use as specimen trees, cedars were popular for fencerows --- and fence posts. John's cedars have long outlived him --- he was laid to rest not far from several of them during 1926.

Trees, you see, have history, too.


Obviously, there are not 300 cedar trees in the cemetery now --- but some of Dr. Stanton's less well thought out and overcrowded plantings were selectively cleared during the 1920s when the cemetery board was working with a landscape architect to develop a planting plan for the grounds --- the sort of plan that's lacking now.

The red cedar is the only evergreen native to this section of Iowa and it is extraordinarily hardy, so much so that it's sometimes considered "weedy" because birds eat its fruit then spread its seeds and they germinate rapidly along roadsides and in untended and uncultivated areas.


Cedars grow at a moderate rate --- our Chariton Cemetery examples are about 120 years old. Elsewhere in the state, specimen trees in excess of 450 years old have been found.

I'm not suggesting that we plant more red cedars in the cemetery as all those beautiful ash trees fall, only that we appreciate the ones we've got.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

A career on stage cut short in the New York subway


Marvel (Best) Hamlin, age 29 and at rest in the Chariton Cemetery with her mother, Mabel, just to the north of this giant and somewhat enigmatic granite sphere, has the dubious distinction (most likely) of being the only person interred here whose death resulted from an encounter with a New York City subway train.

The story that accompanied her remains home to Lucas County during late March, 1924, was that while heading to her apartment in Manhattan on Tuesday, March 18, she disembarked from one subway car in order to catch another, but became dizzy and fell onto the tracks instead. The engineer saw her, but could not stop in time. She died at a New York City hospital on March 20, never having regained consciousness.

Whatever the circumstances, this fatal encounter cut short the career of a young woman and accomplished musician whose aspiration since her late teen years had been to become a star of stage --- and screen.

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Marvel was born in Chariton on July 17, 1894, to Mabel (Myers) and Harvey E. Best --- Mabel a daughter of Dennis and Anna Myers (of a Myers family unrelated to mine); Harvey, a son of one of Lucas County's pioneer families and by trade a professional photographer.

They had married in 1888, but parted soon after Marvel's birth. He seems to have had no hand in her upbringing, high-tailing it to Detroit about 1897 where he continued to work as a photographer. Although very much alive in 1924, he was not listed among the survivors.

Following their divorce, Harvey married Ida Risk in Michigan during 1899; Mabel wed Harvey E. Means, of Russell and a real estate agent turned printer by profession, during 1901.

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During 1905, Harvey, Mabel and Marvel moved to Des Moines where he accepted the position of superintendent at a printing firm. After graduating high school there, Marvel studied music at Drake University and then, during 1909, graduated from the Kroeger School of Music in St. Louis.

During the next few years, Marvel seems to have made a modest name for herself as a professional pianist, composer and entertainer --- touring under contract to the Redpath Lyceum Bureau, a provider of chautauqua speakers and entertainers nationwide.

During 1913, for example, sheet music for the "Oak Leaf Shuffle," a ragtime piece composed by Marvel, was advertised for sale at Combs & Clouse Music on the west side of the Chariton square. During September of that year, Chariton newspapers reported that Marvel had signed a contract with Redpath for the 40-week 1914 chautauqua season.

During 1915, Harvey Means found a printing job in New York City and the small family moved there from Des Moines, perhaps mostly in the interests of furthering Marvel's career. Chariton newspapers reported during 1916 that Marvel was working as "a movie actress for a company in New York City." She also seems to have performed on the vaudeville stage --- at one point with an ensemble of six young women who played a variety of instruments, sang and danced.

During July of 1919, Marvel married in New York City a young salesman named Thomas M. Hamlin and they moved in with her parents at 601 West 164th Street, just off Broadway in Washington Heights.

The next reports regarding Marvel in the hometown press were published upon her death during 1924. Thomas Hamlin and Mabel and Harvey Means accompanied the remains to Chariton for burial. Thomas and his mother-in-law, Mabel, returned to Chariton a year later to observe Memorial Day. By that time he was living in Pittsburgh and I've not tracked him after that.

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At some point after Marvel's death, Harvey Means accepted a position with the Princeton University Press and the couple moved to New Jersey. They were living there, in Franklin Park, when Mabel died on July 29, 1931, of cancer. It apparently was Mabel's wish to be buried with her daughter in Chariton and her husband accompanied her remains to Lucas County to accomplish that task. He returned to New Jersey to live, but I've not tracked him beyond determining that he is not buried with his wife and stepdaughter in Chariton.

Mabel and Marvel have matching stones of the same red granite used for the massive sphere and it would be interesting to know the thought process that led to its selection and placement. That, however, is beyond us. There is no inscription on either the sphere or its base.

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Marvel's father, Harvey Best, seems to have been the longest lived of the bunch, and his career took the most interesting twist.

After selling his photography business in Michigan, Harvey and his second wife, Ida, eventually relocated to Kansas City and became affiliated with Unity, headquartered at nearby Unity Village. Eventually, they were licensed as Unity ministers and moved back to Michigan during the late 1920s to found the the Unity Church of Lansing, which they served until retirement in 1950. Harvey died in Lansing during 1955 and both he and Ida are buried there.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Hail and farewell, Kaye VanFleet

I've been kind of blue the last couple of days, after notices began to appear regarding the death of Kaye VanFleet, who died at age 71 on Wednesday at Mercy Hospital Medical Center in Des Moines. Kaye lived with respiratory and heart-related health issues, but had posted an upbeat note from the hospital earlier in the week --- she was doing well and planned to return home soon. Not to be, however.

I didn't exactly know Kaye, although we certainly greeted each other when we met. We graduated from high school at about the same time, but she was a Chariton girl and I was a Russell alumnus.  That's less an issue now, when everyone attends the same high school. And she and her family lived at Russell long after I'd moved on.

But we did communicate fairly often in the background of the Facebook groups she founded and administered, "You Grew Up in Chariton, Iowa, If You Remember ..." with some 3,000 members, and a similar Russell group, with about 750 members. Most often, consulting about this or that history-related footnote.

Because of those groups, the Chariton group more active than Russell's, Kaye became about as close as Lucas County comes to a social media star --- and thousands knew her through them.

Kaye and her groups proved that the social media and those who use them constructively can be unifying, too. There was neither politics nor religion and only the occasional disagreement, usually good-humored. We have shared countless vintage photographs, many stories, the occasional editorial, information about upcoming events, death notices and obituaries when someone with ties to these small Iowa places walks on. Celebrated together, mourned sometimes, too.

I'm not quite sure what will become of the groups, but for now we can celebrate Kaye's life and mourn, too. Here's a link to her obituary at Pierschbacher Funeral Home.

Friday, October 19, 2018

A village smithy (and knight) named J. French Smith


This fine tombstone in the Chariton Cemetery commemorates J. French Smith, a successful blacksmith at the time of his unfortunate death on Christmas Eve, 1879, due to carelessness with a gun.

Mr. Smith's surname, too, has been an accident victim. Back in 1981, when the Lucas County Genealogical Society published its book of tombstone transcriptions, the name was condensed as "Frenchsmith" and indexed as "French, Smith J." This was carried over many years later to Find A Grave, where there are two entries --- one for J. Frenchsmith and the other for J. French Smith, neither containing much useful information.

So here I am to see if I can clarify matters a little.

Mr. Smith and his wife, Ellen, appear first in Chariton during the mid-1870s when he was manager of the Hatcher House hotel, located at the southwest corner of the square. By 1879, however, he had returned to what probably was his primary profession, that of blacksmith --- and if the tombstone is any indication, he was a very successful one.


The Chariton Leader published the first report of the accident that proved fatal in its edition of Dec. 20, 1879, and sounded an optimistic note:

"SERIOUS ACCIDENT --- On last Sunday, Mr. J. French smith, an industrious blacksmith of this city, started with his wife and Mr. Harper on a visit to the country, traveling in a wagon. Mr. Smith laid his double barrelled shotgun in the wagon before starting, fully loaded, with the muzzle pointed towards the front end of the wagon. From some cause or other one of the barrels was discharged, the contents going through Mr. Smith's left ankle inflicting a terrible injury. After considerable delay he was brought home, where on the same evening his leg was amputated just above the ankle. Drs. Fitch, Cahey, McKlveen and McCullough performing the operation. The patient is in a fair way to recovery."

Sadly, The Leader report was too optimistic and on December 31, The Patriot reported, "We regret to learn of the death of Mr. J. French Smith which occurred on the 24th inst. He leaves a widow who resides in this city. The funeral took place on Christmas day under the auspices of the Knights Templars, the Osceola members participating in the mournful ceremonies."

I've not been able to find out more about the Smiths' background --- Smith is just too common a surname, we don't known what the "J" stood for and the couple seem not to have had children.

Ellen continued to live in Chariton, however, and during early May, 1883, married the recently widowed William C. Prince, a gentleman of roughly her age --- mid-40s --- with a 3-year-old daughter named Maggie. The Patriot reported on May 16, "Mr. W.C. Prince and Mrs. J. French Smith were united in the holy bonds of matrimony last week. They have both experienced the ups and downs of married life, and were well enough satisfied with its blisses to try it again. The Patriot extends congratulations."

The first wife, Elizabeth, actually had died only a month earlier, on April 4, and it would appear that Mr. and Mrs. Prince were friends of Ellen Smith. She was buried on the north end of the lot Ellen had purchased three years earlier as a burial place for J. French, whose remains had been placed at the south end.

Mr. and Mrs. Prince eventually, about 1891, moved to St. Joseph, Missouri, where Ellen died on July 20, 1899. William and his children returned her remains to Chariton and she was buried next to J. French, although there is no inscription for her on his grand tombstone. Instead, a small headstone just north of the big stone marks her final resting place.

Little Maggie Prince, age 3 when her mother died, did not remember her birth mother. But she dearly loved her stepmother, Ellen, and many years later when she died in Chicago on June 8, 1930, at the age of 50, she asked her husband, Walter W. Sneathen, to take her remains back to Chariton for burial between her mother and stepmother. That mission was accomplished two days after her death although no tombstone ever was erected to mark her grave.

Although forgotten --- even misidentified now and then --- 140 years after his death, Mr. Smith was until about 1900 one of only two members of Chariton's Immanuel Commandery, Knights Templar, buried in the Chariton Cemetery. As such, fellow knights dutifully visited and decorated his grave every Ascension Day. After that, his name faded into obscurity.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

"King" Solman exits life's stage after too short a run


Time and the elements have not been kind to this modest marble log in the oldest section of Chariton's cemetery that marks the grave of young Charlie Solman, who exited life's stage far to young during 1903, age 27.

It was consumption that killed him down there in Pecos, Texas, just after Christmas that year --- this aspiring entertainer and and promoter of all things theatrical who, depending upon the occasion, also styled himself "King Solman," "Grundy Solman" and, now and then, "C. Antoine Solman." No deception was intended, Charlie was just experimenting with his persona.

Only the date of death, Dec. 28, 1903, is clearly visible now in late afternoon sunlight, 113 years later. His given name, Charles A. Solman, is badly eroded; and the central section of the inscription on the marble curve has for the most part washed away.

Charlie was born in Chariton on October 28, 1876, the first born of Maria Thorpe and her ne'er-do-well husband, Anthony Solman, who had eloped the preceding year --- much to the consternation of her family of respectable lawyers. The Thorpes eventually embraced Anthony, a somewhat exotic young man who identified himself as Austrian and appeared in Chariton during the early 1870s to open a furniture store, added an undertaking sideline, sold out, took to traveling as a salesman and then simply vanished, abandoning Maria and their four children. 

This happened sometime during the mid- to late 1880s, but Maria didn't bother to sue for divorce on the grounds of desertion until 1900. She was alone with her children, however, when her youngest daughter, Roselle --- known as Babe ---died at age 8 during November of 1890. Babe's grave is just south of Charlie's. There also was another son, Moses, and another daughter, the musically talented Juanita.

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Charlie was an artistic young man who went to work first in Chariton when he was 18 or 19 as a creator of posters, billboards, theatrical costumes and backdrops. A reporter for The Chariton Democrat visited his studio during July of 1895 and filed the following report: 

"By the brilliant colored litho-tints posted on our bill boards, we have been led to read the numerous advertisements of our business men. Charley Solman, more commonly known as "Grundy," is the originator of this novel mode of advertising. In many respects this boy is a genius. In his studio, as he calls it, one can find almost anything from stage costumes to patent medicines. Here his pictures are painted. To illustrate his ingenuity in overcoming obstacles in his line of business, the following is given: A rival artist put out some pictures which for a time Charley could not equal. Not disheartened he procured a magic lantern, and by throwing the pictures on a large sheet of paper he was able to trace them. Having the outlines he easily filled them with paint. Soon his competitor was compelled to quit business. The shadow picture is his latest idea. What will come next we are unable to conjecture."

What came next was Charlie's decision to take to the road as a front man, posting his own bills and drumming up business for some of the traveling troupes of entertainers that passed through Chariton on a regular basis, most performing at Mallory's Opera Hall, others bringing along their own tents and larger retinues. 

Sometimes this worked out for Charilie and other times it didn't. This report published in The Chariton Herald of May 6, 1897, illustrates some of the problems:

"C.A. Solman arrived home from Wichita, Kansas, Saturday evening, and hastened to give his friends the 'glad hand' in token of appreciation that he was once more permitted to get back into the land of the just where the price of a bed is not quite so hard to get hold of. He went to do advance work for a circus, the proprietor was shot in a brawl and died, the show busted; Solman drew on his reserve fund and hastened to retrace his steps to the beloved city of his birth."

A year later, things were going better and The Herald was able to report that fall that "Charles Solman, also known as "King Solman" and "Grundy Solman," who has been traveling in the capacity of advance agent for Terry's Uncle Tom's Cabin, arrived here last week for a visit with his mother, Mrs. Maria Solman. He expects to leave sometime this week for California, where he will make dates for the winter's tour. In the spring, Charley will return to this city and work bill board advertising, having purchased Frank Elliott's right for the same. He also intends the erection of new boards, with steel frames."

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By 1900, however, Charlie seems to have given up his promotional sideline and taken to the stage himself. During January of that year, he took to the Mallory Opera House stage to treat the hometown folks to a performance, reported upon in The Herald of Jan. 11 as follows:

King Solman

"Seldom has a Chariton audience been more agreeably surprised or more highly entertained than was the audience which assembled at Mallory's opera house last Saturday night to witness the exhibition of hypnotic power by 'King Solman.' Mr. Solman is well known to our people, this having been his home since childhood, and he has numerous friends here; but his acquaintances and friends were scarcely prepared to recognize in him a hypnotic wizard, for it is proverbial that one is never a prophet in his own country. While Mr. Solman has attained celebrity in this line in other parts of the country, this was his first appearance before a home audience. To say that the audience was entirely satisfied with the exhibition does not fairly state the verdict; it is scarcely overstating matters to say that the audience was astonished and delighted with his work. Chariton has seen some of the best hypnotists in the land, and those who saw Mr. Solman's work do not hesitate in saying that he is quite the equal of the best, and far superior to the most of those who make a business of giving public exhibitions of this mysterious power. He performed many of the principal and most difficult feats that have hitherto been presented here by masters of the power, and in addition he performed difficult feats that have never been seen here. Mr. Solman's lecture or talk on the interesting subject hypnotism was more interesting and instructive that that of any hypnotist who has operate here. Verily, Mr. Solman in this line of work is proving that the title 'king of hypnotists' may be rightfully claimed by him."

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Sadly, young Charlie's reign as king of the hypnotists was cut short as tuberculosis increasingly disabled him. He was living in Pecos, Texas, during the early winter of 1903 when, just after Christmas, death overtook him on Dec. 28. His remains arrived at the C.B.&Q. depot in Chariton on Dec. 31 and funeral services were held a day or two later at the home his mother, Maria, shared with her sisters on West Armory Avenue.

Charlie "grew to young manhood in this city," The Herald reported, "and his jovial, pleasant disposition won for him a host of friends who will learn of his untimely death with deep regret. For the past eight years he has traveled with theatrical troupes and has engaged in bill posting. He was a clever, generous hearted young man, kind to all."

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Ancestors anonymous ....



Everyone who deals with old photographs is required at least annually to deliver a brief sermon on the topic of identification. This is mine, based on the text provided by these images from the historical society collection.

We have no idea who these people are, where the tintypes originated, if they had any connection to Lucas County. They live, with their mates, in a series of binder boxes labeled "Unidentified" in the hope that someday someone will turn the pages and recognize an ancestor.

Based on clothing and hairstyles, I'd date the couple from the 1880s. Perhaps it's a wedding portrait. The images of the two young women most likely date from the 1870s. The tintypes are very small; the images here about the same size as the originals. There are no identifying marks other than the object numbers assigned when the three images were accessioned as a unit.

The donor no longer lives in Lucas County and had no family roots here when he did. I'm reasonably certain whoever accepted the photos back in 1980 asked where they came from --- but didn't write the information down (there are three paper records and one digital record of the accession). Even knowing, for example, that they were unknown family or purchased at a Lucas County auction or fell out of a found book would help.

So if you have a collection of images, inherited or otherwise acquired, write identities on the back when you know them. If you can't identify those portrayed, at least explain briefly how you came by the images. And if you acquire a falling-apart family album and decide to remove the images, at least try to keep them together. Context by association is useful information to have, too.

If you're in the practice of acquiring or collecting images, ask for their stories when you can and if that's not possible, at least note where they came from.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The man who caught the man who shot the sheriff


One of Lucas County's most oft-told stories involves the gunning down of Sheriff Gaylord Lyman just off the southeast corner of the square on July 6, 1870, and the subsequent lynching of his killer, a young horse thief from Missouri named Hiram Wilson. The deeds were done, respectively, on the morning and evening of that date.

We don't have photographs of Sheriff Lyman, or of his killer --- but we do have (in the Lucas County Historical Society collection) this small tintype of the young man --- Thomas Martin --- who caught the man who shot the sheriff.

Here's how the capture was described in The Chariton Democrat of July 12, 1870: "About four o'clock (on July 6, 1870), however, organization was secured and the company (searching for Wilson) started through the brush (in the hills east of Chariton) from south to north, in regular picket line, men being also stationed at regular distances to watch for the game. Mr. Copeland, the banker, was the first man to discover him, and while he started to find assistance and direct others how to proceed, two young men --- mere boys --- named Thomas Martin and Solomon Dawson, came upon him --- neither party seeing the other until they had come within five or six feet of each other. The thief and murderer was coming toward them in a stooping attitude, with his pistol pointed at Martin, and demanded of him in a sharp whisper to 'keep still.' Martin made for him, and when the man saw there could be no escape without a fight, he fired at Martin, the shot passing over his shoulder. With that, Martin struck him over the head with his gun, partially stunning him and almost knocking him down. He then sprang upon the desperado, threw him down, and in a moment more assistance had come, when the villain surrendered."

You know the rest of the story. Taken to the small house near the current location of Fielding Funeral Home where Sheriff Lyman was dying, Wilson expressed remorse and Lyman forgave him. That night, a mob entered the 1858 courthouse, where Wilson was being held, climbed to the second-floor room where he was imprisoned, "liberated" him, put a rope around his neck and threw him out a south-facing window. Sheriff Lyman is buried just inside the Chariton Cemetery's main gates; Wilson, in an unmarked pauper's grave at Old Douglass.

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Tom Martin, 19 when the capture occurred, was a Ragtown boy --- son of Samuel and Elizabeth (Henry) Martin, who had settled near that pioneer village in 1851, just before his birth. I'm guessing this tintype was taken at about the time of the capture.

He went on to marry Nancy Jane Murphy during 1874 and they became the parents of nine children, one of whom died young, while farming near Chariton.

About 1914, the Martins and a majority of their children moved to the vicinity of Absarokee in south central Montana, Billings to the northeast, Bozeman to the northwest. Nancy died here during 1917 and Tom, during 1925. Their remains were returned to Chariton for burial.

The tintype was given to the historical society during 1970 by Tom's granddaughter, Miss Martha Anderson (1903-1996), a long-time teacher in the Chariton schools.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Charlotte Hubbell and Ann Fields!


I missed the opening of Lucas County Democratic Party headquarters last week, so was happy to be able to stop in late Saturday afternoon to meet two intrepid campaigners --- Charlotte Hubbell (above), representing gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell, and Ann Fields (left), candidate for the Iowa House District 28 seat, representing herself.

The Hubbells, who met while students at the University of Iowa College of Law, have been married for 42 years and have three adult children. I'm really looking forward to having a Democrat in the governor's office again.

Fields is running in a district that includes eastern Lucas County, but not Chariton. Chariton falls in House District 27, currently represented by Republican Joel Fry of Oskaloosa. Richard Foster is the Democratic candidate in District 27.

The race this year in District 28 is an open one --- Republican incumbent Greg Heartsill is not seeking re-election. Fields' opponent in that party is John Thorup.

Fields certainly has one of the most inspiring backstories in Iowa politics at the moment. She didn't enroll at Iowa State University until age 40 after farming and raising two children, then went on to earn both master's and Phd degrees. After joining the faculty at William Penn University, Oskaloosa, she worked her way up to the presidency and served four years --- that institution's first woman president --- then returned to full-time teaching in 2014. She retired from the William Penn faculty in May of this year. She and her husband live on an organic farm south of Knoxville.

You've got to admire anyone sufficiently committed to seek public office --- and work hard to earn votes. Ann, for example, has been knocking on doors in the district four hours a day come rain, shine (or snow flurries) since winning the nomination.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Arts Council 25 (and 18) years later ...


It was fun to help the Lucas County Arts Council mark its 25 anniversary during a celebratory Gallery Night at the Freight House Saturday. I was there early, but a good crowd was developing to enjoy work by local artists and enjoy a glass of wine and snacks.

The principal space in the Freight House is used most often as an events venue, so this incarnation of its timbered walls as gallery space for regional artists is a rare event.


I had to take a closer look at this watercolor by Susan Baer, begun last summer during our joint Arts Council-Historical Society "Art at the Museum" event and finished off later. That's the Stephens House in the background.



There was interactive art, too. Angie Altenhofen created this work entitled "Hug" from synthetic fur and beadwork --- with a Braille text sewn into it --- to be, as the name suggests, hugged. Arts Council board member Lori Ghormley did just that.


The Arts Council also coordinates the Vredenburg Performing Arts series, so Adam Bahr was there to offer season tickets, and a community Jazz Band --- director Daniel Scheetz was on hand to distribute copies of its season program (performances, at the Freight House, are free).

The Arts Council began as discussion among interested parties during October of 1992 and formal organization followed during 1993.

During September of 2000, the Council obtained title to the near-derelict C.B.&Q. Freight House and commenced the massive restoration effort that returned it to active life in the community.


Just recently, the Freight House has been updated with new exterior lighting to facilitate evening events, new entrance steps, ramps and decking --- and new signage. So Happy Birthday!