Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Vegetables, flowers & genealogists

Although it's a kind of hard to discern the personality of a giant cabbage or a plate of green beans, I always enjoy the vegetable entries at the Lucas County Fair. Department superintendent Jim Secor was scrambling this year to find room to display all the entries --- a very positive development.

The entries were judged by Jill Beebout (left), of Blue Gate Farm, and Jim (right) had enlisted the help of two of his stepdaughters, including Dana Gall-Secor (center), to help him corral all of that vegetation.

This was the year of the giant cabbage --- really giant cabbage. There were at least four of these beasts. Here's the winner in the youth division.

I was gratified because my favorite pumpkin, at right in the first photo and standing alone in the second, was judged best of show.

I enjoy the floriculture division --- and there were lots of entries here, too.

Here are the two top entries in the arranging class, the first in the adult division and the second, in the junior.

The rest of the arrangements --- I just admired.

I would have taken some of the house plant entries home with me, but most likely would just have killed them off --- so it's a good thing that they'll go home with their developers when entries are released tomorrow morning.

Down in the middle of the open class building, Jay DeYoung was judging genealogical entries on Monday as Suzanne Fordell Terrell and other members of the Lucas County Genealogical Society looked on.

And here's a puzzler that won a ribbon but stumped everyone down in the antiques division. Anyone know exactly where Leonard Lumber Co. was located? John Pierce didn't know. Dave Edwards didn't know and I didn't know.

You've got one more day to catch the fair before entries are released on Thursday. This is a big day for beef in the judging venues and there will be plenty of pulled pork, beef and lamb sandwiches --- plus homemade pie --- in the 4-H stand.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Briley Atwell, her birds & the poultry parade

Beef is king (or queen) I suppose of the Lucas County fair --- there will be four classes of judging on Wednesday. But I'm passionate about poultry, so Monday morning's judging in that category was more to my taste.

The first person I ran into at the poultry barn, awaiting her turn with the judge, was Briley Atwell of the Russell Reivers 4-H Club --- or rather her granddad, Richard. The whole Atwell family was there to cheer on Briley and her birds.

Years ago, I started growing up just down the road from a lovely couple named Clara and Merrill Atwell. Briley is their great-granddaughter. How's that for continuity?

The birds shown here are of the Welsummer breed. They won blue ribbons and Briley herself, a showmanship award. She knows a lot about her birds and, among other things, was able to tell the judge when he asked how she could be certain that the eggs produced by her pen of three would be brown.

Here's the judge a little farther down the line working his way toward Briley.

And a whole bunch of other birds that I fancied. I wish I could tell you who won the top prizes, but the barn was too busy at the time to absorb that information. There were lots of entries this year, each as far as I'm concerned of championship quality.

There's more to poultry than chickens and I was quite taken by these two bobwhite quail entered by Grant Goering of the Liberty Flyers.

There were pigeons, too. This fine Homer was entered by Ruthie Storey, also of the Russell Reivers.

Here's an African Fantail entered by J.R. McDonough of the Shooting Stars.

Ruthie dominated the category that quacked.

Here's her Mallard hen and pen of three.

And a fine Muscovy.

These are a few other birds that caught my attention, including Zeb DeZwarte's (Chariton FFA) Americana rooster.

I don't think this Leghorn rooster won an award, but I liked him anyway. He did keep falling asleep, but I'm not sure the judge took that into consideration.

How could you not love a turkey with a face like this?

 A fine layer, but I'm not going to venture a guess on the breed.

One of the happiest birds at the fair, a Silver Spangled Hamburg.

I think this is one of Madallyn Gunzenhauser's prize-winning Red Stars, but am not exactly sure about that. Madallyn is a member of the Derby Blue Ribbon Winners --- and she won several.

This is Evan Langford's (Derby Blue Ribbon Winners) mixed-breed rooster: Buff Orpington and Crele Old English.

It was a great day at the fair --- vegetables and flowers another day. Here's lookin atcha ...

Monday, July 25, 2016

Ruffians, a balloon & death at the Lucas County Fair

Alas James Henry Brown, worthy English Township pioneer and innocent bystander. Having paid his dime (cost of admission to the fair grounds) and expecting to be entertained, he was struck in the head by a falling timber while awaiting the ascension of a hot-air balloon  at the 1878 Lucas County Fair and, 17 days later, died. 

If not the only fair fatality in Lucas County history --- and I can't say for sure that there haven't be others during the 138 years since --- he certainly was the first.

That's his tombstone in Oxford Cemetery, some three miles northeast of Chariton --- a short Sunday afternoon drive. The accident occurred on Friday, Sept. 27, 1878, but the unfortunate Mr. Brown lingered unconscious with a crushed skull for more than two weeks until early Tuesday morning, Oct. 15. He died at the Gardner House hotel, then located at the intersection of streets now named North Main and Roland, diagonally southwest of First Methodist Church.

Just a month short of his 49th birthday, James was survived by nine children and a widow, Elvira (Foster) Brown. The stone that bears both their names appears to have been erected after she joined him in death some 25 years later, on Oct. 12, 1903.


Chariton Leader editor Dan Baker and his crew were back at their office on the square when the accident occurred that long-ago Friday, just ready to put Saturday's edition on the press.

His report of the fair already had been set into type and was locked into the form:

"On Tuesday the county fair at our public fair grounds opened. A respectable number of entries was made in every department and the exhibition of stock was good, the floral department was good. The worst feature of the fair was the wretched weather. Wednesday was wet, cold and disagreeable. Thursday and Friday were clear and cold and many declined going on account of the disagreeable weather.

"An immense crowd visited the fair grounds on Friday, the balloon ascension being one of the principle attractions. A high wind, however, prevailed during the day which rendered the ascent too dangerous for any sane man to take. A great many went away cursing the society roundly because of the failure of the balloonist. The society could not force him to go up and he was not fool enough to break his neck simply to gratify a morbid curiosity."

Then, just before The Leader went to press, someone rushed into the office to report the change in circumstances at the fair grounds, then located in northwest Chariton, and the tragic accident. Dan tore up the form and added this:

"LATER --- Just before going to press, we learn that Prof Melville attempted to make the ascension, that while getting the balloon ready a long pole accidentally fell, striking Mr. Jas. Brown of English township upon the head, crushing in his skull; also breaking a little boy's arm, and injuring Wm. Powers. Mr. Brown was carried to town insensible, but his injures are pronounced fatal.

"The terrible accident put a stop to further attempts to make the ascension, which so enraged a number of cowardly brutal ruffians that they immediately became violent toward the aeronaut and threatened his life, and to cap the climax took possession of his balloon, ropes and material and cut the ropes to pieces with their knives.

"The honest law abiding citizens on the grounds undertook to check the infamous villains in their outrages, but to no purpose, and shameful to relate they were encouraged in their devilish work by some men whose age should have been a guarantee of decency and respectability.

"The baseborn scoundrels and drunken outlaws who perpetrated the outrage are many of them known, and it is to be hoped will meet with their just deserts as soon as possible. Their sole grievance was that they had been swindled out of ten cents by the ascension failing to go off, yet it was announced in the bills as a condition that the ascension would be made (only) if the weather were favorable."


George Ragsdale, preparing his report of the incident for The Patriot of the following Wednesday, had more time to gather his facts and, therefore, offered a few more details:

"Fully two thousand people visited the Fair Grounds on Friday, drawn thither chiefly by the announcement that a balloon ascension would be made on that day. A high wind prevailed all day, and it was evident to many that there would be no ascension unless the wind ceased blowing. After the hour had passed for the ascension the large crowd began to grow impatient, and a few drunken rowdies soon started a howling mob, and it was not long until it was found there would be serious trouble unless the ruffians could be pacified. They were determined Prof. Melville should make the ascension or they would destroy his balloon, and some went so far as to threaten his life. An attempt was made to inflate the balloon, but a heavy piece of timber which was used in holding up the balloon fell in the crowd standing around it and striking Mr. James H. Brown, an old and estimable citizen of English township, on the head crushed his skull in a frightful manner. He was picked up and brought to town, and is at this writing lying at Capt. Gardner's (hotel) at the point of death. In the evening Dr. Simmons, assisted by several other physicians, removed the broken pieces of the skull and dressed his wounds, but no hopes are entertained of his recovery. He has remained in an unconscious condition ever since the accident occurred.

"Like all mobs and rioters the men and boys engaged in this disgraceful affair would not listen to reason, but hooted and howled like madmen whenever any of the officers of the society attempted to say anythinig. Mr. Mallory finally gave them $15 to get them quieted. The bills announcing the ascension stated distinctly that it would not be made unless the weather was favorable. But like all mobs and lawless ruffians nothing would satisfy them and for nearly two hours they kept up their devilish work. It is a shame and disgrace to Lucas county that such a thing should occur within her borders. The brutal wretches cursed the officers of the Society, threatened the life of Prof. Melville, and did succeed in doing considerable damage to the balloon."

"Many of those engaged in this shameful affair are known and they should be arrested and made to suffer for their lawless acts," Ragsdale wrote. "If four or five of the ring leaders had been promptly arrested at the outbreak there would have been not more of it."


After that, the dust settled. No one was arrested and charged. And James Brown, too fragile to be moved home, remained under physicians' and family care at the Gardner House.

On Wednesday, Oct. 16, The Patriot reported: "Mr. J.H. Brown, who was so severely injured on the last day of the Fair, died at the residence of Capt. N.B. Gardner, in this city, where he has been ever since the accident occurred, on Tuesday morning about 5 o'clock. He lived seventeen days after receiving his injuries, most of which time he suffered greatly."

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A little Buddha among the beans ...

Thich Nhat Hanh, familiarly called "Thay," or teacher, is in fragile health now, approaching 90. 

Back in residence at Plum Village, the monastery and zen center he founded in the south of France following exile from Vietnam in 1973, he continues to live with the after effects of a major stroke suffered in 2014.

For some reason I started thinking about the teacher while picking beans (mindfully) in the museum vegetable garden Saturday morning, early enough to dodge the oppressive blanket of heat and humidity that settled down later in the day.

So here are a few Thich Nhat Hanh quotes, plucked from various online sources, and interspersed with snapshots of what was growing and blooming in the garden on Saturday morning.

Bean blossoms

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”


“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don't blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change”

"You carry Mother Earth within you. She is not outside of you. Mother Earth is not just your environment. In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer." 


"If you truly get in touch with a piece of carrot, you get in touch with the soil, the rain, the sunshine. You get in touch with Mother Earth and eating in such a way, you feel in touch with true life, your roots, and that is meditation. If we chew every morsel of our food in that way we become grateful and when you are grateful, you are happy."


"Fear, separation, hate and anger come from the wrong view that you and the Earth are two separate entities, the Earth is only the environment. You are in the centre and you want to do something for the Earth in order for you to survive. That is a dualistic way of seeing."


"True self is non-self, the awareness that the self is made only of non-self elements. There's no separation between self and other, and everything is interconnected. Once you are aware of that you are no longer caught in the idea that you are a separate entity."

Tomato blossom

"If you can feel that Mother Earth is in you, and you are Mother Earth, then you are not any longer afraid to die because the earth is not dying. Like a wave appears and disappears and appears again."


"You are a child of the sun, you come from the sun, and that is something true with the Earth also... your relationship with the Earth is so deep, and the Earth is in you and this is something not very difficult, much less difficult then philosophy."

“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The first Lucas County Fair

Lucas County Fair 2016 officially is underway as of today, so I thought it might be interesting to look back to the first county fair, held during October of 1868. That's 148 years ago, although county fairs haven't been held consistently every year since the founding.

As years passed, the event moved a few times and reshaped itself into various configurations, but the current fair grounds are not far south of the original 10-acre site, purchased for $1,000 during the foundational year. Eventually, the original grounds proved to small and in 1884, new grounds were developed in northeast Chariton. During the 1920s the Derby Fair became the county fair and finally, during 1954, the fair headed back to Chariton and the current grounds above Crystal Lake.

The first steps toward a county fair were taken during April of 1868 when the Lucas County Agricultural Society was organized during a meeting at the 1858 Courthouse attended by a disappointingly small crowd --- 10 to 15 people --- even though the session had been advertised for four weeks in Chariton newspapers.

"It was resolved to have a county fair the coming fall, and every effort be made to get ready and prepare for the same. There being no money, no grounds for fair purposes, and in fact, nothing to commence on, you can see at once the Society had taken upon itself a task of no small importance," association president J.D. Wright, looking back, stated in his annual report to the membership during 1870.

But officers were elected, committees appointed and work began immediately. In less than a month, the premium list for the 1868 fair was ready for distribution and two months after that, fair grounds were purchased.

During mid-July, Society officers and others got together to examine several locations proposed for the fair and selected a 10-acre field offered by Henry Close south of the Osceola Road about three-quarters of a mile west of the then city limits of Chariton. That description places the grounds somewhere in the neighborhood of the current Johnson Machine Works plant and the ag services office building to the west.

Close himself agreed to contribute $50 toward the $1,000 purchase price and the balance was raised through subscriptions and association membership dues.

Work on the grounds began immediately --- they were fenced, two wells were dug and a hall and livestock pens were built at a cost of an additional $1,000 or so. The first fair was scheduled for the first week in October.

By June, the Association had 288 members --- 140 from Chariton, 55 from Benton Township, 27 from Liberty, 21 from Warren, 32 from White Breast and fewer than 5 each from other townships.

Here's editor John Faith's report on the 1868 fair --- published in The Democrat of Saturday, Oct. 10. It's a generally positive report, although Faith did have his nose out of joint, as he always did --- in this instance because 76 Agicultural Society officers and committeemen were Republicans and only 16 Democrats. I've omitted his lenghty and pointless lament --- everyone who was active in bringing the fair about was a volunteer and both Republicans and Democrats had been offered equal opportunities to become involved.

"The first annual fair of the Lucas County Agricultural Society opened at the grounds of the Society, about one mile west of the city, on Wednesday. Owing to the severity of the weather on that day, nothing was done, but few entries were made, and indications seemed to point to utter failure. On Thursday, however, the weather was more favorable, and the attendance was quite large. A fair number of entries were made, and the displays, although not extra in their character, were numerous.

"We intended to make an extended mention of the most noticeable entries, but owing to their variety, we are unable to do so and do justice to all.

"The display of stock (horses, cattle, sheep, hogs, &tc.) was not good. A fair proportion of entries were made, but the grade was considerable below what we would expect to see at a county fair. Yet, we must remember that ours is a new county, and this is the first time that an exhibition of the kind has been invited.

"The collection of vegetables and farm products was larger than we expected to see, and was very good indeed, when we take into consideration the inducements offered to the farmers, and the imperfect notice that had been given of the fair.

"The handiwork of the ladies and housewives was well represented by a very good display of needlework, ornamental and plain. There were also several cases of artificial flowers, fruits, &tc., besides a very good display of preserved fruits, jellies, jams, pickles, preserves, &tc.

"The variety of fruits was not extensive (but the display of apples demonstrated) that fruit of an excellent quality can be grown in this country.

"In the way of agriclutural implements, the display was not very large, but would have been better had the fair promised to be a success.

"Taken as a whole, and considering all things, the fair was a success, beyond the expectations of the most sanguine.

"There have been many things connected with the orgnization of the society that have worked against it, and will continue to work against it until experience shall point out the errors that have been committed. Much fault has been found with the manner in which things have been carried on, and there was some reason for finding fault. But we need an agricultural society, and can afford to overlook many things which, otherwise might prove to be more serous objections. We think the society has good reason to congratulate itself, this year, upon its success and have cause to feel encouraged for the future."

Friday, July 22, 2016

The dazzling whiteness in Cleveland ...

Mark Charles
No, I didn't watch the Republican National Convention. Nor is the Democratic National Convention on my schedule. Life is too short. I'm a Democrat. I know who I'm voting for --- and why.

But I did read a lot about the goings on in Cleveland. The fact that David Duke, former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, heartily endorses the GOP nominee, Donald Trump, just about sums it up. And of course there was Iowa's own U.S. Rep. Steve King and his stout defense of white manhood.

The whiteness of Cleveland, save for a token or two, was dazzling. You rarely see that these days in the real world.

Among the pieces I've been reading this morning is Mark Charles's "The Problem the Republican Party, and now the Nation, has with Donald Trump" at his blog site, Reflections from the Hogan.

It begins, "The challenge with Donald Trump is that he understands all too well what made America 'great.' And this has presented a problem for the Republican Party and now, with his nomination, will cause a problem for the entire country. America's 'greatness' is based on explicit, systemic, and dehumanizing racism."

Mr. Charles, who writes from a Navajo perspective, also is a preacher within the denomination Christian Reformed Church in North America. This is a theologically (and socially) conservative outfit. It's unlikely Mr. Charles and I would agree, for example, on issues regarding LGBTQ people.

But he writes compellingly from a Native perspective on many issues.

If you'd like to explore his work further, his blog, Reflections from the Hogan, is here; web site,, here; and the web site of an organization recently founded by Charles and his wife, Rachel, 5 Small Loaves, is here.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Democrats, Republicans & S.B. Tinkham's parades

Just in case you thought political squabbling was something new --- I'm here to tell you otherwise. A major difference now in the United States, however, is that 1886 Republicans (this little story is set in 1885 and 1886) would not recognize 2016 Republicans, nor would 1886 Democrats recognize those who identify with that party today. So there's no point in even trying to make a comparison.

I started to tell this story when writing about the 1886 Independence Day celebration in Chariton, then got side-tracked. At the heart of the political flap back then was the unfortunate Sylvester B. Tinkham --- that's his tombstone in the Chariton Cemetery above --- who I found out a little later was a relation of my cousin Justine Abrahamson and her sister, Betty Marker.

Anyhow, the combating parties here are the committee in charge of organizing Chariton's annual 4th of July celebration and members of Daniel Iseminger Post No. 18, Grand Army of the Republic, organized during 1879, all Union Civil War veterans.

Until 1885, the G.A.R. boys had marched proudly as a unit in the July 4th parade, but in 1885 the group boycotted --- refusing at the last minute to show up. There was a repeat performance of this boycott in 1886. In both instances, apparently, because S.B. Tinkham was chief marshal of the parade.

In its extensive coverage of the 1886 flap, the editor of The Chariton Democrat, looking back to 1885, reported, "It will be remembered that last year (1885) the procession formed and waited on the west side (of the square) for nearly half an hour for the G.A.R., who were then assembled in their hall, to join them. After thus waiting, the post adjourned and did not join. Two members of the organization told two members of the committee on arrangements that they refused to join on account of the person selected as marshal (S.B. Tinkham)."

Mr. Tinkham's major sin, according to the Democrat, was the fact that he was a Democrat --- and the G.A.R. Post was composed almost entirely of Republicans. 

When the G.A.R. boys didn't show up again in 1886 after S.B. Tinkham had again been appointed chief marshal by the committee in charge, the squabble was re-ignited. This year, the G.A.R. denied that Mr. Tinkham had anything to do with it; alleging that the committee in charge hadn't invited post members to participate. That allegation the committee in charge denied.

The Patriot --- Chariton's Republican newspaper --- reported, "So far as the (Democrat report) relates to the G.A.R. post here, there is not one word of truth in it. At the last meeting of the post the question was asked of the commander if there had been any arrangements made to attend the Fourth of July celebration in a body, and the answer was that no invitation had been received and no arrangements made, and there the matter dropped. It was not considered or known who was to be marshal of the day. This action of the post had not the slightest reference to Mr. Tinkham nor anybody else."

The Democrat --- obviously Chariton's Democratic newspaper --- responded, "This year a member of the post told a member of the committee, who is and always has been a Republican, that he hoped the committee would have better judgment than to select the same marshal this year, because the post would not participate. Another member of the committee is our authority for the statement that an invitation was given.

"It is to be regretted that Mr. Lewis (Evan Lewis, editor of The Patriot) in his contempt for truth should be led to make such reckless mis-statements. Of course, he knows nothing about the teachings of truth, never having gone through the experiences necessary to initiation among the veterans therein." (Lewis was a Quaker and a pacifist in addition to being a Republican.)

During the next week, Iseminger Post passed on July 16, 1886, a resolution condeming The Democrat which was duly published in The Patriot and read in part as follows: "Resolved: That it is the sense of this Post that the editor of the Chariton Democrat (S.S. King) is unworthy of the respect of any ex-Union soldier."

The Democrat responded by publishing affidavits from G.W. Ensley, a member of the organizing committee; J.E. Bentley, Chariton fire chief; and James Wilson, an Iseminger post member --- all stating that Mr. Tinkham had indeed been the reason why the veterans decided to sit the parade out.

Wilson testified in part, "A member of the Post told me that the Post would not march under him (Tinkham), and that he would rather march at his funeral."

And so it went. The Grand Army boys didn't participate in the 1887 4th of July parade either and during 1888, no parade was held --- instead the entire day was devoted to oration, music and socializing on the courthouse lawn. After that, things calmed down --- and the G.A.R. returned.

It's not clear exactly what Mr. Tinkham had done to infuriate the G.A.R. --- other than being a Democrat and 20 years along after the war Democrats in Iowa still were branded by some as southern sympathizers despite the fact most Iowa Democrats of the appropriate age had fought for the Union, too.

Editor King also speculated in The Democrat that it had something to do with the fact that Tinkham was not native to Lucas County --- in fact, had grown up in that wild and wooly area of extreme north Missouri just south of the Wayne County's stateline neighborhood of Medicineville. His parents, William M. and Sally (Campbell) Tinkham, are buried in the Medicineville Cemetery.

Whatever the case, Sylvester Tinkham came to a sad end later during 1886 and you've got to wonder if that G.A.R. post member who said he'd rather march at his funeral than behind him in the 4th of July parade had any second thoughts about his careless mouth.

Sylvester, born during 1849 near Columbus, Ohio, had moved with his family to Putnam County, Missouri, during 1856 and a had grown up there a mile or two south of the Iowa line. His father, William, was a union veteran of the Civil War and Sylvester, about 13 when his father marched off to war and the eldest of nine children, helped his mother hold together and support the family.

He later studied law in Chillicothe, Missouri, where he met Margaret Halsell, whom he married in 1878. 

Rather than practice law, he went to work for the McCormick Harvester Co. and after promotion to head a general agency for southern Iowa moved to Chariton about 1875. He was very successful and became extremely active, too, in his adopted community --- one of the major reasons why he had been named chief marshal of the July 4th parades.

Some time during 1885, Sylvester began to experience severe headaches, which were diagnosed as "neuralgia of the brain." As the months passed, the headaches became more severe and more frequent and eventually he turned to morphine for relief --- against the advice of his physicians.

On November 10, 1886, he took a fatal dose.

"He was a prominent and respected member of the Masonic fraternity, the Odd Fellows and the Knights of Pythias," The Democrat reported. "His funeral on last Sunday afternoon was by far the largest funeral that Lucas county had ever seen. More than two hundred members of the secret socities to which he belonged were in line, and the carriages, with sorrowing friends, filled the entire distance from the residence to the grave in the Chariton cemetery, where he was laid to rest, a distance of over half a mile."

S.B. Pinkham's final parade. It's likely that the G.A.R. boys really weren't invited to participate in this one.