Thursday, December 08, 2016

In honor of Sgt. Andy Knapp, 1918-1942

Andy Knapp holds a dubious, but significant, distinction as the first Lucas Countyan to lay down his life during World War II. But by now, he has been largely forgotten  and so far as I know, his name is inscribed in stone in only one place --- a Manila American Cemetery tombstone in the Philippines.

Through no fault of anyone, Roy Ellis and Lyle Morris --- the second and third to die --- are better remembered. That's in large part due to the fact that Chariton's City Council decided by resolution dated May 3, 1943, to name Lakes Ellis and Morris, still the source of our city water supply, in their honor.

Andy was listing as missing in action then, a year after the chaotic and tragic falls of Bataan and Corregidor, and it was hoped that he might still have been alive, confined in a Japanese P.O.W. camp somewhere.

As became evident once the war was over, however, the young man from South Main Street, Chariton, had died on or about June 2, 1942, just a few days before Roy, a radio operator, was killed on June 11. On that date, the Consolidated B-24 "Liberator" bomber that Ellis, of Williamson, was serving aboard was hit by Japanese anti-aircraft fire and exploded over Kiska Islands in the western Aleutians. Morris, of Derby, died four months later, on Oct. 26, 1942, at his battle station aboard the carrier U.S.S. Enterprise.

Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7, which marked the 75th anniversary of U.S. entry into World War II --- seemed like a good day to learn a little more about this fine young man of considerable promise and athletic ability who had earned his high school diploma during 1938 in the same building, considerably expanded by now, where members of the class of 2017 now are about to enter the second half of their final year of classes.


Andy was born July 11, 1918, in Shelby County, northeast Missouri, the eldest son of Joe Andrew and Ethel Mae Knapp, and moved to Chariton with his parents and younger brother, Robert E., prior to 1925. Two other brothers, Joe Jr. and Vernon, were born in Chariton.

Andy's given name was Theron Andrew Knapp, but "Theron" must have been a challenging name for a child to have. As a result, he was always called "Andy" and that is the name he grew up with; graduated, married, served, died and was buried as.

A member of the Chariton High School class of 1938 --- enrolled in the college preparatory program --- Andy was a good student and a stellar athlete. He played football during his freshman-senior years and concluded his career, during the fall of 1937, as co-captain of the Charger team with a fellow Andy, Andy Bradford. He was involved in a variety of other activities, including the school newspaper and yearbook, serving as athletic editor of the 1938 Charitonian.

He continued his education at Chariton Junior College, but money was scarce --- Joe Knapp worked at a variety of jobs during those years: laborer, deliveryman, grocery store clerk --- and jobs hard to find. By 1940, still living at home when not in camp, he was working as a soil conservation technician for the Civilian Conservation Corps.


During the fall of 1940, Andy enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He entered the service on Oct. 18 of that year and received his training at Chanute Field at Rantoul, Illinois, then the site of all Air Corps technical training programs. During 1941, he married Margaret Tessman, of Oskaloosa.

Upon completion of his training as an aircraft mechanic, Andy was assigned to the 21st Pursuit Squadron and deployed to Hamilton Field, California. He left California on Oct. 31/Nov. 1, 1941, with the 21st Squadron, bound for the Philippines, where the squadron had been assigned to the 24th Pursuit Group. His family heard from him the last time in a letter dated Nov. 9, 1941, posted during a stop in Hawaii.

It is almost impossible in the 21st century to comprehend the situation and conditions in the Philippines after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, as Imperial Japanese forces moved to take the islands.

Headquartered initially at Clark Field, the 24th Pursuit Group was ordered on Dec. 24, 1941, to retreat to the Bataan Peninsula and eventually to Bataan Airfield. During the days and weeks that followed, the 24th and all of its squadrons were destroyed. Survivors, perhaps including Andy, joined infantrymen to fight a deadly, losing battle to defend the peninsula.

On April 9, 1942, the United States surrendered Bataan. Corregidor fell a month later, on May 6. Andy was among an estimated 60,000-80,000 Filipino and American Prisoners of War forced in what now is known as the Bataan Death March to walk up the Bataan peninsula to a railhead at San Fernando, Pampanga, where they were jammed into freight cars and hauled northwest before being  forced to walk the final miles to prisoner of war camps. Thousands died.

Andy reached Camp O'Donnell at some point during May of 1942, starving, weak and apparently desperately ill. There was a hospital in the camp and a few surviving medics, but there was no food, no clean water and no medicine. The dying were taken there. Andy most likely was among them. He died  on or about June 2, 1942, the U.S. Military eventually determined. Both dysentery and malaria are given as causes in various records. It may have been both. He was buried in the camp cemetery.

An allied military tribunal eventually declared the Bataan Death March a Japanese war crime. Life (and death) at Camp O'Donnell was unimaginably harsh and cruel. Ellis and Morris died quickly in combat, hopefully with minimal suffering. Andy's death was hard and there is no doubt that he suffered.


Back in Iowa, Andy's parents and his wife learned during the first week of June, 1942, that their son and husband had been declared missing in action in the Philippines, but were told that there was a possibility he was in a Japanese P.O.W. camp. There was no way to know for sure, however, "pending the obtaining of a list of prisoners and casualties from the Japanese government." No such list ever was forthcoming.

During early summer 1945, Andy's parents received a letter dated June 13 from the War Department informing them that a declaration of Andy's presumptive death had been made --- the date set for a reason that was not explained as May 8, 1944.

Finally, during July of 1947, Joe and Ethel Knapp learned that their son's remains had been recovered from the Camp O'Donnell cemetery, identified and reburied in the Manila American Cemetery. A death date of June 2, 1942, had been established

By this time, Andy's widow had remarried and was moving on with her life. Here's a report, published in The Herald-Patriot of July 17, 1947:

Word from the war department this week is that the body of Pvt. (actually Sgt.) Andy Knapp, Chariton, has been identified. Knapp died in the Philippine Islands while confined to a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

He was in a group of approximately 1,600 prisoners who were buried in the Camp O'Donnell Prisoners of War Cemetery on Luzon, Philippine Islands. The War Department announced in May of this year the positive identification of 353 other soldiers who were among those buried in the cemetery.

All remains have now been disinterred and reburied in the United States Armed Forces cemetery, Manila No. 2, within the city limits of Manila.

Col. Quinn said that Maj. T.B. Larkin, the Quartermaster General of the Army, had notified all next of kin concerned.

"Evidence obtained from liberated prisoners of war, comparison of dental charts which were authenticated by a Dental Corps officer, and records of officers who survived the period of imprisonment at Camp O'Donnell under the Japanese, proved of value in making certain identification," Col. Quinn said. "in each case the facts which led to certain identification were passed on by the Army board of review before the identity of the unknown was certified as having been established beyond any possible doubts."


Joe and Ethel Knapp eventually moved from Chariton to Lovilla, where she died in 1980 and he died during 1982. Both are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery there.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Feeding the hungry ...

I swiped this illustration from the Facebook feed of a friend (thanks, Lois) a while back and set it aside, figuring in might come in handy one day --- then got to thinking about it yesterday after sitting in on the December meeting of the Interchurch Council of Lucas County.

End of the Month Meals, by the way, are not an Interchurch Council program, although they do have ecumenical support. It is a free-standing program of First United Methodist Church, which also is among the largest of the congregations supporting the Council.

The idea behind the meals, open to all without question although aimed specifically at lower-income Lucas Countyans, is that those who live on fixed monthly stipends are likelier to run short during the winter --- with fuel bills to pay --- so could be in need of one square meal a day as months wind down. The free meals are served at the church from 5 to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday during the last weeks of November-March.

First Church also is the coordinating agency for the Salvation Army in Lucas County, disbursing funds raised by those bell-ringers we're all seeing here and there around town these days throughout the year to those in various kinds of need. Many of the ringers come from other Council congregations.

So that makes First Methodist the best example I know of in Lucas County of an individual congregation using its resources to walk the walk as prescribed in Matthew 25:35-40. You can look that up.


Anyhow, I usually don't attend Council meetings --- too busy/lazy --- but the December meeting was held at St. Andrew's and commenced as our weekly Lutheran-Episcopal Bible session study concluded (we get together once a week to talk about the lectionary readings we'll be hearing or reading in church on the following Sunday mornings).

So it was a simple matter to just remain seated --- and besides, there was free lunch.

I counted 15-20 people, including clergy from First Lutheran, First Christian, Sacred Heart, St. Andrew's, Russell's Faith United Methodist and First Methodist as well as lay representatives from First Presbyterian and others. Community of Christ is another consistent Council participant and other congregations come and go as enthusiasm waxes and wanes. 

Much of the meeting was devoted to discussion of Ministry Center food bank operations --- the center and the food bank located there form the Council's major project and are staffed by Council-affiliated volunteers, including clergy.

The food bank serves more than 100 families made up of several hundred men, women and children every month and its services often mean that those who might otherwise go hungry don't. Matthew 25 again.

It is supported by a mix of contributions from Council member congregations, individuals and businesses (especially Hy-Vee), fund and grocery drives, grants, government aid and any other resource that can be located and utilized.


We also heard a little about a new program (not affiliated with the Council but not in any sense competing with the council's work either) operating within the high school and in part student-led that I'd like to know more about. It is not a "pantry" exactly, but more of a closet arrangement, offering useful items to young people who, for lack of a better term, might be called "misplaced."

These are students who due to varying circumstances have lost their homes and have been taken in by others. I asked for an estimate of the number of students who might qualify for this type of informal assistance and, as someone who grew up in a secure home with no doubts about where my next meal was coming from, was horrified. As we all should be. It's heart-breaking.


I'm still thinking about all I learned and heard while sitting through a meeting that lasted perhaps an hour and a half. Deciding to attend was one of the better decisions I've made as Christmastide approaches. 

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

A date that will live in infamy: Dec. 7, 1941

Here's a reminder, in the hope that you-all will take a moment tomorrow to remember the 75th anniversary of the day the world turned upside down for most Americans.

The news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor would have reached Lucas County first via radio; then --- on the morning of the 8th --- via The Des Moines Register, then as now our principal regional daily newspaper. That's the front page, above, most would have seen that day. 

Weekly newspapers always were at a disadvantage when news was breaking, so it must have seemed a little odd to subscribers that the front page of The Leader of Tuesday, Dec. 9, consisted of a full-page announcement that the issue was the newspaper's annual Christmas edition, featuring 16 pages of previously sold holiday advertising. There was a mix of war and local news on the front page of the second section, obviously pulled together hurriedly.

By Thursday, Dec. 11, the Chariton Newspapers staff had regrouped and was able to announce that war had been declared on Germany and Italy, too.

The Herald-Patriot's principal local story was headlined, "County Gears Itself for War." Here's the text:

Lucas county geared itself to the national defense effort this week as the country at large fortified itself for what promised to be a long war.

Ray Shepard, county sheriff, received a letter from Gov. George A. Wilson, asking him to survey and report on the defense possibilities and structure of the county. This report is at present being completed by Shepard.

Lucas County pilots were present last night at a meeting of the state private fliers association in Des Moines, where new rules and regulations pertaining to private flying were discussed with them.

Those from Chariton who attended last night's meeting were: Helena Bradford, Bassel Blakesmith, Bill Murray, Joe Leisenring, Don Davison, Lloyd Moore and Al Smith.

Before private flying may be resumed in this country, the government is requiring fingerprints.

Credentials must be presented by the aviator when he appears before the Civil Aeronautics Authority.

Officials of the county selective service board today said that there have been no changes in draft procedure. The office in the courthouse has been stormed with questions from selectees and parents, but the board has not as yet been advised to answer the questions.

At the time the Herald-Patriot went to press today, there had been no change in national selective service rulings although many had been proposed. It is believed, however, that the present age limits of from 21 to 28 will be extended.

The newspapers have found it impossible to secure addresses of all Lucas county boys serving in the armed forces. The office would appreciate any names and addresses of youths in service, especially those on duty in the Far East or in the Pacific.

The newspaper already has pictures of all youths inducted into the army under selective service regulations. However, we would appreciate any pictures of youths in the navy; who enlisted in the army the marine corps or the coast guard for our files.

Several youths in the county have indicated that they will enlist in the near future in some branch of service. Five were reported as going to Ottumwa today to enlist in the navy.

The post office reports that sales of defense bonds have increased since Monday and that a special window is being provided for their sale.

Flags were placed in front of stores on the square at the time of the declaration of war Monday and have been displayed ever since.

Citizens who remember the entry of America into the World War I mentally compared it with last Monday's events. Although the radio this time created a tenser atmosphere, people appeared to take the action of Congress with a greater calm than 24 years ago.


Elsewhere on Page 1 of The Herald-Patriot was a short story headlined "No Word Received of Derby Boy on Ship Reported Sunk" that is especially poignant in light of later events. The text reads:

"Lyle Morris, son of Mr. and Mrs. O.W. Morris of Derby, was a member of the crew on the U.S.S. Enterprise torpedoed and possibly sunk somewhere in the Pacific ocean Tuesday following an attack by Japanese forces. Morris has been in the vicinity of Hawaii since last June, and was storekeeper on the Enterprise. His parents have been unable to learn anything more than that the boat was reported to have been attacked."

As it turned out, The Enterprise had been at sea on the morning of Dec. 7, but pulled into Pearl Harbor that evening in response to the attack to load fuel and supplies. She sailed early the next morning to patrol against future attacks and sank a Japanese submarine on Dec. 10. But she was not torpedoed and Lyle was fine.

Less than a year later, however, on Oc. 26, 1942, the young man from Derby was killed at his battle station aboard the Enterprise, then under Japanese attack elsewhere in the Pacific. He was one of Lucas County's first losses in that great war.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Time in Christmas light year terms

Took a turn around the square just after dark Sunday evening to admire the lights and got to thinking about what a different place it is now than, say, just four years ago.

Here's the view last evening through the Larry Clark Memorial Gazebo toward the northeast corner, Piper's on the left, Charitone on the right.

That big neon "Hotel Charitone" sign sprang to life for the first time in many years on the night after Thanksgiving, 2013, and tenants started moving in to new apartments on the upper floors on Jan. 1, 2014. The Market Grille opened later that year.

For many years before that, the Charitone was a gutted and boarded up hulk with an uncertain future.

Now this is the liveliest corner of the square almost any time of the year, an effect enhanced by the addition of new Upper Level Housing initiative apartments upstairs over Piper's and in the Iowa Realty Building, just south of the hotel.

Over on the northwest corner, I've been admiring the seasonal decorations installed by the staff at Chariton Vision Center. Those eight big windows facing the square had been blocked for many years, but opened their eyes this year as part of the historic district's Facade Improvement Initiative.

Now, holiday lights are shining forth from both levels of this grand old building.

And presiding over it all is the courthouse clock, reinstalled after restoration and set to running again just this fall.

I'd say we've got a lot to celebrate as Christmas approaches.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Sunday morning scandal: She said, she said, he said

Dan Baker (left), editor and publisher of The Chariton Leader during most of the 1870s, was a witty guy and a good writer --- personable and well-liked in the community he served. The Leader was the Democratic newspaper in Lucas County, successor to John Faith's Democrat. Other than a shared political outlook, however, the two editors could have not been more different.

Faith was an extremist on several levels and finally offended so many people that he more or less drove himself out of town. Baker, on the other hand, had the sense of proportion that Faith lacked and was highly successful.

Dan was, however, slightly twisted --- and couldn't resist poking and prodding sensitive issues upon occasion and engaging in gentle (usually) mockery.

During December of 1877 --- heaven only knows why --- he decided to publish a series of three letters from parties involved in what apparently had been a menage a trois involving three Chariton families that must at the time have been the topic of considerable discussion. We'll never know the exact circumstances, so are free to draw our own conclusions from the letters.

The editor of the competing Chariton Patriot referred to the whole affair as the "Hougland Muss" but kept his editorial distance.

The opening round was fired by Missouri (Hougland) Lott --- Mrs. G.D. Lott --- in a letter written during late November in Fort Scott, Kansas, and Published in The Leader of Dec. 1, 1877. Dan headlined the letter, "From Kansas: Hark from the Tombs."

Fort Scott, Kan.
November 26, 1877

Mr. Baker, Dear Sir:

I take this opportunity of addressing you a few lines which I am desirous of having my Chariton friends know (that is, if you will be kind enough to publish).

This is a very beautiful country. All kinds of fruits and vegetables are raised in great abundance. In fact everything but water; there is a great plenty of that but it is not very good. There is more fall wheat than can be used in three years, if there is a good crop.

I have received several letters from some of my friends in Chariton, and they say everybody is making a terrible blow about Mr. Moss being here in Fort Scott with us, and we understand that our relatives are saying more about it than anyone else.

There is a good many in Chariton, I presume, that remembers Mr. B.W. Hougland borrowing $30 to follow Mr. Moss and Mrs. Hougland. Joe Mitchell remembers it if no one else does. I don't deny Mr. Moss being with us here in Scott, for he was; he boarded with us two weeks and then went off without settling his bill. He said he was going home to bring his family to Scott.

He told me while he was here that he and Mrs. Hougland did go off together when they left Chariton; they met Alexandria. He said that he went with her to her brother Ben's in Missouri, but on hearing that Mr. Hougland was after them, the best thing he could do was to get out of there and leave her, because he was afraid of Mr. Hougland.

I never would have written this but for Mr. and Mrs. Hougland saying so much about Mr. Moss going off with me.

I intend to spend Christmas with my friends in Chariton, if nothing happens. This is not half what I can and will write if I hear any more from them. My daughter and Mr. Chadsey were married the day we arrived in Scott. I shall not bother you any more. With kind wishes to all I remain,

Respectfully yours, Mrs. G.D. Lott

Mrs. Lott did a good job of introducing the cast of characters in this little drama, but more could be said about all of them.

The author, Missouri Lott, was about 36 and apparently had been widowed earlier in 1877 leaving her with three children ranging in age from 7 to 18. She had married George D. Lott during 1858 in Appanoose County and the family had settled near Chariton about 1870. George was part owner of a Chariton livery stable and also farmed in Warren Township. Some say that he died during June of 1877, but if that were the case the death did not occur in Lucas County and he is not buried here. Missouri and her children apparently continued to live in Chariton until the later part of 1877 when they relocated to Fort Scott, Kansas. The circumstances of that move aren't known.

Mr. B.W. Hougland was Brannock W. Hougland, age about 43. His wife was Cornelia, age about 31. They had been married during 1867 --- she was his second wife --- and had arrived in Chariton during the mid-1870s. Brannock was a carpenter by trade. There were three daughters, two by his first marriage and one by the second, ranging in age from 9 to 16, and perhaps a fourth --- older and already married by the time her family moved to Lucas County. B.W. Hougland and Missouri (Hougland) Lott were related, although the degree of relationship isn't known. Upon arrival in Chariton, B.W. had formed a partnership as builder and carpenter with Samuel P. Moss.

Samuel, age 44, had arrived in Chariton, too, shortly after 1870 and in addition to working as a carpenter also served as town marshal. He also was active in the I.O.O.F. lodge. His wife's name was Anna and during 1877 they had seven children, ranging in age from 1 to 16 years.


Cornelia Hougland, having read Missouri Hougland's missive in The Leader of Dec. 1 sat down on Dec. 3 and wrote a response, published in The Leader on December 8. Dan headlined this letter, "Injured Innocence Vindicated."

Chariton, Iowa
Dec. 3rd, 1877

Mr. Editor, Dear Sir:

I notice in your last issue of your paper, a letter from Fort Scott, Kansas, signed Mrs. G.D. Lott, in which she made assertions against myself and husband that I deny. In the first place, it is a falsehood about Moss and myself leaving Chariton together, and second, it is false about him (Moss) meeting me at Alexandria, and going with me to my brother Ben's, or being there at all, and I feel confident that Mr. Moss never told her so.

Mr. Moss and Mr. Hougland worked together last spring and summer, consequently was at our house quite often, and has never acted anything but the part of a gentleman while in our company (only some times he got too much bad whisky) and I feel confident that he has never said aught about me to Mrs. G.D. Lott, and if he was so disposed to manufacture a falsehood and tell about any woman in Chariton that had any protection, he knows he is not so far away but what he would be hunted down and dealt with accordingly.

Now, Mrs. G.D. Lott, so far as talking about you or your conduct with Mr. Moss, I never have, and the neighbors will say that I have taken sides with you about the reports about you and Moss, and have frequently disputed the stories that was about you, when I had good reasons to believe them true. But I never like to see one of my own sex go down; but you have been talked to by your brothers with tears in their eyes about your conduct with Moss, and told what public gossip was. You have cut them off abruptly, by saying you'd discard the friendship of every brother and sister, before you would his. Now you see where it has taken you to, and in order to clear yourself of your own bad and disgraceful contact, have tried to put in on some one else.

Now Mrs. Lott, I have made a short reply to your public letter, and don't want anything more to do with you, whether public or private. You asserted in yours of last week, that if you heard any more you could say a good deal more. Now Mrs. Lott, be sure you are right before you strike. With these few words, and hoping the citizens will not think it wrong in saying what I have said, I remain.

Mrs. B.W. Hougland

The series of letters concludes in The Leader of Dec. 22, 1877, with a letter from the gentleman who seems to have been the principal focus of all this attention. Dan headlined this letter, "He Never Done It Either: The Last Blast on the Triangular Free Love Dispute."

Saline Co., Kansas
December 18th, 1877

Mr. Baker, Dear Sir:

In your issue of December 1st, I noticed a letter from Ft. Scott, Kansas, signed Mrs. G.D. Lott & in which she (Mrs. Lott) makes statements to which I would like to reply, if you would be kind enough to give it space in your paper.

I am not doing this in justice to myself, but to Mrs. B.W. Hougland. The Mrs. Lott states that when I left Chariton, that I left in company with Mrs. Hougland, which is not the case. She also states that I told her (Mrs. Lott) that I met Mrs. Hougland at Alexandria and went with her (Mrs. Hougland) to her brother Ben's, which is also false, and that I stayed with her until I heard that B.W. Hougland was on my  track so I up and lit out.

Now the fact of the case is this, that I never had one word of the conversation that she (Mrs. Lott) set up in her letter, neither in Kansas or anywhere else. But every word is manufactured out of whole cloth.

She also stated that she had not told half what she could and would tell if she heard any more. In that I think that she told the truth, for any one that can make up such a letter as that, out of whole cloth, could fill a newspaper the year round.

Now Mrs. Lott my advice to you is this, that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

Now Mr. Editor, if you will be kind enough to publish this you will greatly oblige.

Yours respecfully,
S.P. Moss


And that was the end of that so far as the Chariton media were concerned.

Missouri (Hougland) Lott married a widowed blacksmith named John F. Glazebrook during 1878 in Kansas and they moved to Pueblo, Colorado. The marriage did not last, however, and I found Missouri for the last time living in Pueblo as the widow of George D. Lott during 1907.

Brannock and Cornelia Hougland left Chariton and moved to Kansas, too, before 1880; then about 1890 relocated to Washington state. He died at Walla Walla during 1910 and she died there during 1922.

Samuel P. Moss settled down with his family near Seneca in Nemaha County, Kansas, where he died during 1912 having outlived Anna by two years. They are buried in the Seneca City Cemetery.


As a footnote to all of this, it's interesting that in the long run Lucas County owes a considerable debt to  Brannock Hougland. When he came to Chariton about 1875 he brought with him his young nephew, Oran Alonzo "Lon" Hougland, then about 16.

O.A. Hougland learned the carpenter's trade from his uncle and went on to become Chariton's first professional architect and one of the city's most prominent citizens before his death at the untimely age of 53 during 1912. His descendants continue to live in Lucas County.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Fire Department rises from 1868 school's ashes

 It would be entirely appropriate on Monday to wish the Chariton Volunteer Fire Department --- organized on Dec. 5, 1877, a "happy birthday" --- the big 139th. And maybe to show a little gratitude for this ungainly structure --- editor Dan Baker called its design "execrable" --- that had gone up in smoke as a good chunk of Chariton's population stood helplessly by a month earlier, on the evening of Monday, Oct. 29, 1877.

No doubt a fire department eventually would have been organized in Chariton, but that big blaze was directly responsible for launching an institution that remains a pride and joy of the community.

The building was Chariton's first substantial schoolhouse, built during 1868 to house all students in the Chariton district. The scholars, numbering some 500 from primary level through high school by 1877, previously had been scattered among various smaller structures scattered around town. It was the first of three buildings to have been located on what we now call the Columbus School hill, originally the site of a small cemetery evacuated 1863-65. The current low-slung Columbus Elementary is the third.

It was Chariton's largest public building when completed --- and only the sixth big brick building in town. The 1858 courthouse had been built in brick as had been, earlier in the 1860s, the Palmer Building on the east side of the square, the Matson Building on the west side of the square and the Methodist and Presbyterian churches on sites still occupied by later buildings serving those congregations.

The bricks were manufactured locally, perhaps at the kiln of A. MacFarland, who was advertising in August of 1868 that he had 100,000 brick available for purchase at his establishment five miles west of town. The timber frame --- milled locally --- was provided for $2,662.12 by Gilbert, Hedge & Co., according to a report in The Democrat of Nov. 14, 1868. The first trains had arrived in Chariton during July of 1867, so it seems likely that finish lumber came in by rail from more specialized mills elsewhere.

A finishing touch was a 1,200-pound bell, added during January of 1869 after scholars already had begun attending classes in the new building, just completed.

By the fall of 1877, when the building burned, improvements had increased the value of a structure with an estimated base cost of $14,000 to roughly $26,000. And during all those years, 1868-1877, the Chariton City Council and its patrons had been squabbling about whether or not the Chariton really needed to form a fire department and purchase up-to-date firefighting equipment. Those who said "no" had been in the majority --- until the city's pride and joy burned down.

Here is Chariton Leader editor Dan Baker's report on the big fire as published in his edition of Nov. 3, 1877. Baker had a sharp tongue, translated via hand-set type onto paper, and spared no one.


On Monday evening about half past eight o'clock, the alarm of fire was given, and ere long smoke was seen issuing from the roof of the large, fine brick school house in the western part of the city. In a few minutes a large crowd was on the ground with buckets and other appliances for fighting fire, but the fire being overhead and in the highest room, the smoke soon became so dense and suffocating, that it was almost impossible to check the progress of the flames, which slowly, but surely, made headway.

The old rickety fire engine, that has so long been a monument of Chariton's folly, was brought out to the scene of the fire, and carefully wrapped in its night clothes to keep from catching cold, but even its presence failed to inspire the people with hope, or served to check the blazing element. Two reasons, however, were apparent for its inefficiency. First, there was no water to throw on the fire, and secondly the engine couldn't have thrown it on the fire if there had been plenty. Good firemen and skillful judges pronounced the last reason to be amply sufficient without the first.

It was evident to all that the building was doomed, and the people went to work to save what valuables there was in the house. Both organs of the school, as well as nearly all of the books, seats and furniture of the lower rooms were saved in a tolerable fair condition, and then the vast assemblage of distracted and saddened people stood off at a respectful distance and watched the splendid structure gently yield to the melting heat.

A little after 10 o'clock all the floors had fallen in, and the walls in places had yielded, but the main walls on the north and east sides, including the bell tower, still resisted and will have to be taken down to rebuild with.

The house was built in 1868 by Mr. T.W. Fawcett, of this city, we believe, at a cost of $14,000, and was afterwards adorned and improved until the cost ran up to about $26,000. It was a solid, well built structure, and though the design, especially the roof part of it, was execrable, yet the house was really an ornament to the city, and just at the present time is a very serious loss, owing to the fact that it throws out of school over five hundred pupils, who must wait until the new school house is completed unless the directors can rent a suitable place for them.

The building was insured by good companies for $10,000, which money will doubtless be promptly paid, as the companies are the best in the United States.

Of course there are a thousand conjectures as to the origin of the fire, but the probability is that the old story of a defective flue settles it. Good advice is of course in order from every one, and doubtless the City Council and Board of Directors would be eminently grateful to the charitable public if it could impart some useful information on the question, first how to run the school, and second how to avoid future blazes of a similar character.

We herewith tender ours: To the Directors we say, rebuild on the same spot, and have your school running again in sixty days. You can do it, and without extra cost provided your insurance is paid. To the city dads, buy a good engine, no matter who growls or how much. You can do it, and you ought to do it, regardless of opposition.


The first order of business after the fire was to get the school running again and the school board met the day after the fire, as reported in The Patriot of Wednesday, Oct. 31:

The City School Board was in session all day Tuesday and arrangements were made to have all the schools running by Thursday at least. The various departments have been assigned as follows: High School in the Opera Block; Grammar School in Bradrick's Hall; 1st Intermediate in the Hatcher House; 2nd Intermediate in Gasser's Block; and the two Primaries in Palmer's Hall. The Courthouse bell will be used regularly for convening the schools. Persons having school books not belonging to them will please return to any one of the teachers of the rooms mentioned above. A good many books are known to be out and scholars may be saved inconveniences and parents expense by promptly returning the property.


The Patriot joined Brother Baker in solding the "city dads" for inattention to firefighting needs, noting in its Oct. 31 edition that, "Now is the time to organize a fire company. It will be remembered that at the time the present engine was bought so much interest was manifested that many of those desiring to join the company couldn't get into the courthouse. By the fourth or fifth meeting, a man couldn't be found who would take enough interest to even ring the bell."

As a result, the Chariton Volunteer Fire Department organized Dec. 5, 1877, when Engine and Hook and Ladder companies were formed. It was equipped with a Silsby steam fire engine purchased for $3,500, two hose carriers and 1,500 feet of hose purchased for $1,900 and a hook and ladder wagon and apparatus purchased for $625.

All of this equipment, embarrassingly, went up on smoke on Sept. 13, 1883, when the fire house burned, but Old Betsy II --- still the CVFD's pride and joy --- arrived during the first week of December, 1883.


Construction of the grand Italianate school building, later named Columbus, that many of us remember commenced as soon as the weather was fit during the spring of 1878. It was completed in time to open the winter, 1879, term of classes within its walls on Jan. 13.

The bell from the 1868 building had been salvaged and rehung in the tower of the new school, but the fire had not been kind to it. Here's how Dan Baker reported the situation in The Leader of Jan. 13, 1879:

"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 its music's not the same dear Tom it 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."

The old bell was replaced later that year by a new one --- bearing the date 1878 and cast by L.M. Rumsey & Co., St. Louis --- that still stands in front the current school on Columbus Hill.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Natural selection and those "gay genes"

I came across this TEDx talk in my news feed yesterday, then "shared" in order not to lose track of it. This takes that "share" a little farther ---  in another post related to sexual orientation before moving on to other topics.

The talk was given by Dr. James O'Keefe, a cardiologist, during an October TEDx event in Tallaght, South Dublin. TEDx events are independently organized, but licensed (at no charge) by TED.

It is a fairly comprehensive presentation of current scientific thinking that concludes variances in sexual orientation --- the fact most humans are heterosexual but a significant percentage is not --- are factors of natural design, not an aberration. And that there are practical reasons for the design.

O'Keefe, of course, is not a geneticist and certainly is biased --- he has a gay son. But none of this undercuts the basic science.

I think there's a general consensus among most of us who are gay that the "Christian" right, having scented blood during the recent political campaign and dismayed that their superstition-based narratives regarding us increasingly have been discredited, will attempt during the Trump administration to reverse civil rights gains we've made.

Some degree of confrontation most likely cannot be avoided, but it helps to be informed when facing ignorance.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

"When We Rise" and World AIDS Day

Cleve Jones (above at right) begins his new memoir, "When We Rise: My Life in the Movement," with this sentence --- "I was born into the last generation of homosexual people who grew up not knowing if there was anyone else on the entire planet who felt the way that we felt." 

He is 62 now and I am 70, so we share that. But little else. He moved to San Francisco soon after turning 18, became a protege of Harvey Milk and an activist in his own right after Milk's assassination, co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and founded The Names Project --- AIDS Memorial Quilt.

He also has lived with HIV/AIDS for more than 30 years, most likely since the late 1970s although diagnostic testing was not available until 1985.

On the other hand, I'm a lifelong Iowan and in no sense an activist who stepped out of the closet --- beyond family and a few others who had known since college days --- voluntarily only when it became evident that acquaintances, friends and the occasional lover were dying of AIDS and it seemed that the least one could do to honor them was to become visible.


Actually, I hadn't planned to order the book --- but the stars aligned themselves this week: A conversation with a friend about the challenges gay children still face in a seemingly archetypal Iowa family; the news that an AIDS Memorial Quilt panel was being created for an acquaintance who died a year or so ago after living with AIDS for many years; renewed contact with another friend still recovering from the wounds inflicted by an aggressively "Christian" family.

And today, Dec. 1, is World AIDS Day, first observed in 1988 to warn, advocate for a cure and mourn.

So I ordered a copy yesterday, the day after it premiered in book stores, and am looking forward to its arrival (besides, I get a kick out of tracking Amazon packages --- a cheap thrill for someone who entertains easily).

The following interview with Jones, conducted by Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air, was broadcast on Tuessday. Feel free to listen.

Come February, ABC will broadcast an eight-hour, seven-part miniseries of the same title, written by Dustin Lance Black (who won an Emmy for his Milk screenplay) and directed by Gus Van Sant. I'll tune into that, too.


Now I'm going to go try to find the battered red-enameled brass ribbon that I wore on a lapel for many years and put it on again.

I've been thinking about candlelight vigils on cold December nights on the grounds of Hospice of North Iowa. 

And remembering for some reason the explosive gut-wrenching realization that came at me out of the blue while working at my desk one evening a quarter century ago that this guy I knew, who had been ill, was in fact dying of AIDS. Why that memory, among others, stands out I cannot say.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

'Tis the season ...

The big Lucas County Historical Society Christmas tree made a transition Tuesday --- from the town square (where it was part of a pre-Christmas display Friday evening) to the front porch of the A.J. Stephens House, where it will shine forth during the Advent and Christmas seasons.

The cans of Spam, used to decorate it Friday because the historical society honored the World War II service of Lucas Countyans (and marked the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor), went to the Ministry Center food bank on Monday and the small U.S. flags, which the wind would have scattered, were removed.

Rex, Bob and Jim loaded it it --- and I got to ride in the back of the pickup, holding it steady. It was colder than expected. Remember to wear a coat and gloves next time. This is a big tree.

We hope you'll enjoy tree --- and the season, too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

From Amity to Swede Hollow: All the news that fits

I got to reading the neighborhood news reports in The Chariton Democrat of Dec. 18, 1896, while looking for something else last week and was intrigued by the snapshot of a week in the life of rural Lucas County these brief columns offered.

Back in the day, many Lucas County townships and neighborhoods had correspondents who jotted down a few news items involving their neighbors every week or so, then mailed their reports into Chariton. As a rule, they were paid by the column inch --- the more news the more money. But space often was a premium, so there was no guarantee that everything submitted would be printed.

Here are a few of the neighborhood items from that issue. There were many others, of course, but I've not reprinted the accounts of who visited whom --- unless the visiting proved to be especially exciting. The advertisement also is from The Democrat of Dec. 18 --- as Christmas neared.


AMITY: Will Owens is baling straw this week; farmers have begun to plow since the frost has gone out of the ground.

The  Hazel Dell school will close Dec. 23rd; some of our young Amityites are attending the academy at  Chariton.

Some of the young folks were over at Samuel Neptune's Friday night tripping the fantastic toe.

Chas. Lott will saw wood over near Lucas for Dr. Kirby this week. He has forty acres to saw up into stove wood.

There was an insurance agent for a Des Moines company around in these parts last week trying to swindle some of our good people. Insurance agents and fruit tree agents ought not be allowed to come inside the front gate.

When coming into Chariton Saturday James Ruby came near having a smashup. He had a mule tied behind his wagon and when nearing the southwest corner of the square it became frightened at some dogs and started to run sideways of the wagon, upsetting it, but Mr. Ruby did not overturn with the wagon but sat firm on the seat and  managed the span of mules he had hitched to it and also succeeded in holding the front part of the wagon down. In a short time things were put in place again and James went on his way rejoicing that nothing worse had happened.

Don't forget that we have a Christmas tree at the chapel Christmas eve.


CEDAR: Henry Allen Jr.'s house is nearing completion.

R.B. Hemphill is under the doctor's care. We did not learn the nature of the disease.

The Methodists are holding a series of meetings at Germany. They will last for several days. Come one, come all.

Rev. Kephart filled his appointment at the Bethel church last Sabbath and will preach there again in two weeks from that time.


LINCOLN: The farmers in this locality are through husking corn.

Noah Moore and wife attended the corn husking at Newt Badger's last Monday.

Volley Watts and Lof Marsh are doing some trapping this winter.

Tillman McKinley is learning to be a professional cook since his sister was married a short time ago.

Leonard Baxter of Chariton is teaching the winter term of school at Highland. He has 34 enrolled. This is the largest school in the township.


DERBY: H.A. Younker has just completed a new barn for D.A. McMains. It stands 36x80 feet on the foundation.

Rev. Ormond of Chariton is assisting in the protracted meeting here this week. Will remain until next Sunday morning.

There is to be a literary society at Goshen on each Friday night this winter and all are invited to attend and make these meetings entertaining as well as instructive.

Billy Lazear, M.T. Grimes and Seaman Lewis arrived here last Wednesday morning with six car loads of sheep. They also brought with them five burros, three goats and a deer.

Frank Garland borrowed Billy Wyatt's horse last Sunday night to drive to see his best girl; he brought the horse back, but kept the halter. Billy says the next time Frank borrows a horse from him he will furnish his own halter.

Last Sunday some eight or nine boys whose ages range from 10 to 13 or 14 years secured a shotgun and went hunting rabbits. The result was the shooting of 11 rabbits and three boys. The gun "wasn't loaded," of course, after the rabbits were shot, but it went off just the same and one boy had his lower jaw mangled, another a part of his ear shot away, and still another severely wounded in one of is temples. A gun is a great thing in the hands of a lot of boys.


SWEDE HOLLOW: Mr. Grove Taylor sawed wood on Wednesday of this week.

On last Thursday morning about six o'clock Mr. Deed's house caught fire. There was quite a lively time for a while, but the fire was soon put out.


RUSSELL: A revival meeting is now in progress at the Baptist church conducted by Evangelist Chas. S. Dean, the pastor's brother. The attendance is increasing, and the interest is deepening from night to night. On Friday evening of this week the sin of intemperance and the effort now being made to establish the saloon in our county will be denounced. In this denunciation these respected gentlemen will be joined by all who love the cause of temperance and righteousness.


LIBERTY: Cyrus Prevo is hauling cord wood to Chariton.

The C.B.&Q. are putting a new roof on their bridge over the Whitebreast on the north branch.

Work on Larimer's new double corn crib is progressing finely. It will soon be ready to receive corn.

Several of Wm. Cottingham's neighbors helped him shingle his barn Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

Len Riebel, our postmaster, is moving into the Whitney building this week with both post office and harness shop.

There was organized at Oakley some time ago a literary society, at least there was an effort made in that direction, but according to the information we have received it has not altogether been a success.


NORTHWEST CEDAR: Prof. Goltry visited Dickerville school last week.

Somebody must be getting ready to celebrate Christmas on a grand scale, judging from the number of turkeys that are reported as coming up missing.

Not only do Lucas county farmers have to go to Marion county to mill, but some of them go there to get their winter supply of potatoes as well. Several went to the regions about Pella after them, thereby getting them much cheaper than nearer home.