Saturday, June 23, 2018

Come one, come all --- to Peanut Day

So here's your invitation to attend this year's "Peanut Day" celebration at the Lucas County Historical Society Museum, scheduled for 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday (June 28).

We're really happy to have the Chariton Community Band back for another concert on the patio at 7 p.m. Doors to our seven museum buildings will open for tours at 5:30 p.m., however, and free hotdogs and chips will be served in the Pioneer Barn from 6 to 7 p.m. Everyone's welcome and the event goes forward rain or shine (the barn provides a handy shelter in case its damp).

The source of the name for this event --- the 1889 Royal peanut and coffee roaster, manufactured in New York by The A.J. Deer Co. that came to the historical society during 1985 from the late Bob Piper --- will be fired up and roasting just off the patio on the lower level of the Lewis Building. Free peanuts (courtesy of Hy-Vee, which provides the raw product) will be distributed, too.

The master roasters shown here are Bob Ulrich (right) and Jerry Pierschbacher; the photograph dates from a couple of years ago.

The machine itself was purchased during 1909 by Joe L. Piper and installed in Piper's Grocery on the northeast corner of the square. It was used there throughout the tenure of his son, Bob Piper. Piper's Grocery remains alive and flourishing, now owned and operated by Jill Kerns, but Bob passed the roaster along to the historical society rather than selling it with the grocery store.

The roaster is powered now by an electric motor and a propane canister fuels the heater, but the peanut product is still the same. It's been many, many years, however, since coffee was roasted --- and I doubt we'll be going there anytime soon.

The roaster comes back to life each year for Peanut Day, then again in the late fall when we roast peanuts for distribution during Chariton's annual DazzleFest celebration. Now and then, its used during other museum events, too. So come on down and see it it in action.

The museum is open May-September from 1-4 p.m. daily Tuesday through Saturday. Admission's free, but of course you're always welcome to drop a buck or two in the donation jar.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Seven deaths: Coal Creek's tragic toll, 1869-1946

From the 1875 Andreas Atlas of Iowa

It's smooth driving these days as you dip into the Coal Creek valley on U.S. 34 headed east into Albia from Georgetown. Once a ridge road after the landscape begins to buck and twist beyond the mighty St. Patrick's Church and its broad prairies to the west, all of this highway's kinks were ironed out years ago and the ribbon of concrete is well maintained.

Just before the Coal Creek bridge, you're presented with a choice --- continue up the Highway 34 incline for a mile and a half and enter Albia's southern edge on the bypass or hang a left and follow Old 34's twisting path into town, crossing the creek on a more modest bridge before the road rises sharply.

Here, as we approached the bridge on this old road, my dad always told the story of the two Georgetown couples --- Robert and Cecelia Stone and Lloyd and Laura Harris, all in their early 40s --- who perished nearby on a July night during the year I was born, 1946. 

Mr. and Mrs. Stone and Mr. and Mrs. Harris, close friends, had spent the evening in Albia and were driving toward home on U.S. 34 around midnight July 16/17, descending that steep hill which then had more of a twist in it before the bridge at its base. They were unaware that flooding on Coal Creek had washed the bridge out sometime after 10 p.m. Unable to stop in time, their car plunged into the creek and they drowned.

This was not the first tragedy that had occurred near this place and theirs were not the first lives that Coal Creek had claimed.

Almost exactly 77 years earlier, at dawn on the morning of July 14, 1869, and a short distance down Coal Creek to the north, three youngsters --- William Jr., Elizabeth Ann and Adeline Herriott --- were drowned when the rail car they were riding in plunged from a trestle into the flooding creek, mild-mannered under ordinary circumstances, deadly in times of heavy rain.


William Herriott Sr., Pennsylvania born, Ohio bred and a farmer by trade, was 39 that summer when he and his wife, Rebecca, decided to move their family of five from Bureau County, Illinois, to the land of promise in Taylor County, Iowa --- Bedford is the county seat. William Jr., age 12, was their eldest; John B., born the previous August, the youngest. In between were Emma, Elizabeth Ann and Adeline.

The family traveled together by horse and wagon to Monmouth, Illinois, where Rebecca and John stopped to spend a few days, planning to join the remainder of the family in Iowa later. William and the older children drove on to East Burlington, hired a ferry to take them across the Mississippi into Burlington proper, and there contracted with the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad for a boxcar to haul their wagon, horses and themselves to Russell, thereby avoiding the extreme hills and difficult creek and river crossings of southeast Iowa made more hazardous than usual by days of heavy rain.

From Russell west, the roads leveled out and the way became easier. Although by now the B.&M.R.R. had reached Creston, the Herriotts planned to unload their gear at Russell and continue southwest by horse and wagon.

William Herriott Sr. picks up the narrative here in the form of testimony given during an inquest over the bodies of his two daughters, lying then in coffins in the Monroe County Courthouse on Friday, July 16. Young William's body would be recovered later that morning and brought to the courthouse later in the day. All of the testimony from this inquest was published in The Albia Union of July 22, 1869.


In the matter of Adeline Herriott and Elizabeth Ann Herriott, two females found lying dead in Coal Creek, at the railroad bridge, on the B. & M. Railroad, in Monroe County, Iowa, on the 14th and 15th days of July 1869.

Inquest held before Thos. E. Peters, a Justice of the Peace, in and for said county, there being no coroner in said county, at the Court House, on the 16th day of July A.D. 1869 at 8 o'clock A.M.

William Herriott, a witness of lawful age, being sworn on oath deposes and says: "I have examined the corpses in coffins present, and find they are both my children; the oldest one is Elizabeth Ann Herriott and the youngest one is Adeline Herriott.

"We started from Bureau County, Illinois, to go through to Taylor county, Iowa, by wagon. We came to East Burlington in the wagon; there we found we could not cross the river by wagon. I agreed to pay $9.60 cents to be landed at Burlington.

"When we came across to Burlington it was still raining and the roads heavy, and we made contract with an agent of the B. & M. Railroad, at Burlington, to carry us to Russell Station, in Lucas County; to carry me, my wagon, horses and children, in the same car, for sixty dollars. We got aboard the car and started at about quarter past seven o'clock on the evening of the 13th of July, 1869. We came on the cars to the place of the accident; the wagon box was taken off the gearing and the gearing was taken apart and run over the wagon body, and the oldest, Elizabeth Ann and her brother, made a bed in the wagon box and laid down and Emma and Adeline layed down on top of the gearing on some boards, and went to sleep. I layed down by the wagon-box and came on in that way to the place of the accident.

"I was on the floor of the car and jumped up as the car commenced going over end-wise; I grabbed onto timbers and fell among the horses, and knew nothing till I felt the water in the car; the car then rolled over sidewise two or three times. I came up out of the water right under the side door. I got hold of side bars and the first I knew this little girl (Emma) came up by my side out of the water and I held her till she came to so she could speak.

"I told her to get hold of the bars and hold herself up as well as she could. I then looked about for the other children, but could see nothing of them. She hung to the door and hollered and we could see no way to get out and only heard one man asking for help. I found this door above us was not bolted and tried to slip it back, but the car was twisted and could not, and then she and I worked a long time and finally got the door pried up at one corner a little. I told her to climb up and see if she could get out, and she got out and then she took a stick and pried up the door and I got out. We set on top of the car an hour until people on shore made a flat boat and took us out; they brought us to the hotel.

"The children that were drowned at that time was William Herriott, age 13 years next August, Elizabeth Ann Herriott, aged 10 years next May, and Adeline Herriott, aged nearly nine years; don't recollect exactly.

"Yes, I was awake and was up a short time before the accident. I had no notice of high water before the accident; there was no conditions in the contract to take me to Lucas county. I have stated it in full. The car was washed down below the bridge; the boy, William, has not yet been found. The accident took place on a railroad bridge on Coal Creek as we were going west of Albia; it was just after daylight in the morning that the accident happened, a short distance west of Albia. the mother of these two children is living, and we left her at Monmouth, Ill., on last Monday morning. I don't know  the conductor or engineer."


Young William's body was found on the morning of the 16th, as the inquest was in progress; brought into Albia, placed in a coffin, brought to the courthouse and William Herriott was recalled to the stand where he testified as follows:

"I have examined the boy that has just been found and brought in since my first examination, and know him to be my son, who was drowned at the time of the accident on last Wednesday morning, 14th day of July, on Coal creek, on the B. & M.R.R. His name is William Herriott, aged about 13 years next August. The car when we left Burlington, it looked to be next to a passenger car as we could see light and men also behind. When we got to Ottumwa they hitched on other cars and then we could see no light or men after that. I was up when we passed through Albia and saw lumber in the car behind us. there was no offer by agents of the road or anyone else to take us or any of us into the passenger car."


Perhaps a dozen others, many of them railroad workers, testified during the inquest. Daniel Anderson provided the best picture of the scene at about 9 a.m. on the morning after the accident had occurred, reporting that "seven cars went over and one flat car hung." The passenger car, a sleeper and several other freight cars were left standing on the tracks.  The box car that the Herriotts were in was "virtually on top of the coal car," Anderson said, "and we cut the car open to hunt for the children."

The train had consisted of a locomotive, coal car, 12 freight cars, a baggage car, a sleeper and a passenger coach. The locomotive and coal car sank immediately after the bridge gave way, the engineer and fireman escaping through windows. The freight cars, couplings snapped, popped back to the surface, then rolled downstream until catching on debris.

The jurors questioned witnesses closely, attempting to determine how aware B.&M.R.R. officials were of track conditions before the doomed train was allowed pass beyond Albia.

There was general agreement among the workers that Thomas Potter, resident agent for the B.&M.R.R. and been warned on the evening before the accident occurred that neither the tracks nor the bridge were safe for heavy trains. It also was alleged that Potter had warned his superiors in Burlington by telegram of the adverse conditions.

Potter, when called to the stand, was evasive, occasionally belligerant and in some instances contradicted himself. He acknowledged warnings from E. Newman, a section foreman, but said he "paid no attention to Mr. Newman, or his report; he is not a reliable man." When asked if he had sent warning telegraphs to other officials, he replied, "I refuse to answer whether I sent telegraphs or not." 

In the end, the three inquest jurors --- Henry Miller, Thomas Craig and W.G. Atherton --- "upon their oaths do say that the above named William, Elizabeth Ann and Adaline Herriott, came to their death by drowning on the morning of the 14th day of July, 1869, by the giving way of a bridge on Coal Creek, two and one half miles west of Albia, while the westward bound train was passing over, and precipitating the car in which they were into the stream below, which was very much swolen at the time, caused by the late heavy rains. We further find from the evidence produced before us that the said B.&M. R.R.Company were too negligent in not making a more thorough examination before permitting their trains to pass ...."


The Albia Union editor, summing the inquest up with a bit of editorializing elsewhere, wrote "the facts elicited at the inquest held on last Friday over the dead bodies of three children of Mr. Herriott, who were drowned by the breaking of the Coal Creek bridge, proved conclusively that the sad disaster was caused by a careless indifference and neglect of the officers and managers of the B. & M.R.R. It was shown in evidence that the agent and employees of the company here were thoroughly cognizant of the dangerous condition of the road, and that telegraphic dispatches had been sent to headquarters at Burlington, warning them that it was unsafe for heavy trains. And yet in the face of these facts, and while the storms raged with increased fury, washing out the grades, a very heavy loaded train of from 15 to 18 cars was sent over the road to be plunged into Coal Creek, thus verifying the truth of the information sent to the officers of the road, but which they in their lofty dignity did not deign to heed."           


Frank Hickenlooper's 1896 history of Monroe County contains at least part of the rest of this story.

The Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, faced with the verdict of the inquest jury, was anxious to settle and offered William Herriott Sr. $1,700 plus expenses, which he accepted, according to Hickenlooper. With expenses, the total paid out was in the neighborhood of $2,000.

That included the cost of transporting the remains of the three children back to Bureau County, Illinois, where they were buried in Mount Bloom Cemetery, near Tiskilwa, where two Herriott infants already had been interred. The railroad also paid the costs of transporting William Sr., Rebecca and the two remaining children onward to Taylor County.


Find a Grave photo
Thomas Potter, the evasive Albia agent, continued to climb the corporate ladder and eventually was named first vice-president and general manager of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (C.B.&Q.) Railroad, which by that time owned the Burlington & Missouri River.

In 1887, the year before his untimely death at the age of 48, Potter was named first vice-president and general manager of the Union Pacific, becoming perhaps the most powerful railroad executive in America at the time. His remains were brought home with great pomp to Burlington after his March 9, 1888, death in Washington, D.C., and buried in Aspen Grove Cemetery where his towering obelisk is one of the most impressive monuments located there.


The Herriotts settled down to farm in Taylor County and appeared to prosper, but by 1880 were operating a restaurant in Lenox. Prior to 1900, the family relocated to Denver, Colorado, where William worked as a grocery salesman and died March 12, 1901, age 71. Rebecca died eight years later in Colorado Springs. Their tombstones are considerably more modest.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

So is this a Methodist Sunday school class?

This charming photograph of seven young ladies and, perhaps, their Sunday school teacher turned up in an unexpected place this week at the museum and I've been trying to figure out since exactly where to file it. For the record, its home henceforth will be one of the "Methodist" archival boxes in the library with other photographs and memorabilia related to Chariton's First United Methodist Church. 

I think it was taken in Chariton about 1895 and depicts members of a First Methodist Sunday school class and their teacher, but the evidence is circumstantial.

The photograph came into the collection during 1969, donated by Miss Mary White. She identified the seated subjects as (from left) Della Howsare, Ida Seward and Bessie Burgett; (standing from left) unidentified, Lulu Delay, Miss E. Murray, Sarah White (the donor's elder sister) and Mattie Larimer.

Both Miss Mary (1893-1973) and Miss Sarah (1883-1960) were daughters of Charles and Rachel (Graves) White. They devoted their lives to educating Lucas County youngsters, living together in the family home in Chariton. When Mary retired, she was the longest-serving teacher in the Chariton school district.

The women were born at Newbern --- and in death returned; Charles (1857-1937), Rachel (1860-1924), Sarah and Mary are buried in the Newbern Cemetery. But the family moved to Chariton during 1894 and immediately united with First Methodist. During 1900, Charles White's occupation was given as stock-buyer. There also was an older son, Willis, born during 1883, but he moved as a young man to California and never returned.

Mary was very small when the family moved to Chariton and far too young to remember the circumstances of this photograph, which probably belonged to Sarah. Her note on the back reads, "Sunday School Class?" And that makes sense.

Mary was the last of her family in Lucas County as she grew old and her sole heirs were a nephew and two nieces who lived in California and New York. So over the course of a few years, 1967 into the early 1970s, she donated a couple of hundred family-related items to the newly formed Lucas County Historical Society --- including this photograph.


Unrelated, but interesting (to me). I kind of collect unusual names and came upon two while exploring old newspapers, trying to identify this photograph more specifically. Della Howsare, one of those photographed, had a twin brother --- Mella Howsare, who operated a plumbing and heating business in Chariton. And one of my all-time favorite given names --- Miss Truthful Wing, daughter of a Derby family and also a Lucas County school teacher until she married and moved to Kansas. Names just don't come much better.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Take time to smell the --- lavender

The lavender is in full bloom this week in the museum garden, resulting in competition between the bees harvesting its nectar and the staffers who want to harvest some of it for drying.

You'll find it in the lowest of the terraced beds along the east retaining wall of the patio.

Elsewhere, there are roses, too.

A couple of varieties.

And lilies just starting to come into their own.

Remember that the museum grounds are open at all times and you're welcome to stop in to smell the lavender or just sit on a bench for a while and think about stuff.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The good old days at Lucas High School

A friend of the museum brought these three images of Lucas High School students in the other day to share. They're part of his collection, so we'll not be keeping them, but have added them digitally to the image collection.

The students who formed the Class of 1927 --- 91 years ago --- are (top row from left) Eva Vanscoy, Albert Griffith, Harriett Crow and Carl Woolsey; (second row) Everett Vanscoy, Evelyn Peterson, Wade Stark, Helen Halls and Raymond Spencer; (bottom row) Herman Polser, Henry Staffin, Supt. Paul Wells, David Evans and Clarice Phillips.

The 1923-24 Lucas High School girls basketball team consisted of these young women --- Ruth Skidmore and Eudora Cunion in the first row, Marie Skidmore, Freddie Jones and Vera Polser in the second; and Eva Vanscoy, Miss Dansdell (coach) and Bernice Reese in the third row.

The 1924-25 girls basketball team included (from left) Irene Woods, Helen Halls, Evelyn Peterson, Margaret Peterson, Clarice Phillips, Eva Vanscoy Opal Russell, Edna Johnson, and Mrs. Carolyn Pim, coach.

Lucas High School graduated its final class --- nine students --- during May of 1959. Thereafter, students in the Lucas district attended Chariton High School.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Albia to Chariton by rail, 1868: A hair-raising ride

Charitonians, accustomed for 150 years now to near constant train traffic, first heard that rumble and roar --- and warning whistle --- during July of 1867 when the first locomotive rolled into town on newly completed Burlington & Missouri River Railroad tracks. According to some stories, it was pushing a modified freight car that would serve as a temporary depot.

By spring of the following year, the B.&M.R.R., stalled at Ottumwa since the outbreak of the Civil War, had reached Osceola. But Mother Nature seemed to be doing her best to derail the operation.

On May 4, 1868, a correspondent who signed himself "Albianian" climbed aboard a passenger car in Albia for a round trip to and from Chariton. A week later, on May 14, an account of his adventures was published in The Albia Union. It had been a hair-raising ride over tracks damaged by what some were calling the greatest deluge to hit the south of Iowa since the great flood of 1851. Here's the report:


Mr. Editor --- On May 4th, by paying the sum of 25 cents, I secured a passage through the rain and mud to the 7 o'clock P.M. train for Chariton. By the way, it's rather singular that Albia can't afford a free bus to and from hotels to railroad if Chariton and nearly every other town on the B. & M. can.

As we looked upon our way on the falling deluge, farms denuded of fences, carcasses of drowned stock, abandoned houses surrounded by the rising waters, bridges and railroad tracks carried away, huge piles of drift, and reflected upon the corruption of the times, it seemed the "bow of promise" had lost its prophetic assurance and that the heavens had opened its sluice to again cleanse the earth of its wickedness.

The B. & M. has suffered severely from 5 miles west of Albia to near Melrose. The east end of Bridge No. 85, across the Cedar is swung down the stream, still hanging by the west end. Passengers crossed a few rods above on a primitive pontoon, secured by cables. As railroads seldom manifest much regard for the travelers' comfort, it was certainly creditable to the B. & M. to find boards laid down to and from the pontoon over the deep mud. The road appears to be making every possible effort to keep the track in running order for the accommodation of the traveling public.

One of the section bosses said he had hardly slept any for several days, constant supervision of and repairing the track being necessary to prevent serious accidents to the passing trains.

The abutments of many bridges, and the filling about them, were washed away, and are supported by "cribs" of ties. Over one, the passenger car was disengaged from the locomotive and pushed by hand. In many places for several rods the road bed is washed away one to four feet deep, and the rails upheld only by crib-works of timbers. At the same places the rails are swerved four to six feet sideways. To ride over this cobble work resting on soft, yielding mud, and bridges propped up with timber, made one's blood chill. The train moved cautiously, often at a snail's pace, frequently halting to reconnoitre ahead.

 As we neared Melrose, we found the bottoms were covered with one sheet of water, extending to the bluffs on either side. Several dwellings were two to four feet in the water, the hotel only approachable by boat. The Cedar is said to have been 8 inches higher than in the great flood of 1851.

Most serious damage has befallen many farmers on its banks in loss of fences and stock. The appearance of the meadows and oat and wheat fields, however, promise abundant crops this fall.

WE MADE CHARITON at 9:30 o'clock P.M. and enjoyed the hospitalities of G.J. Stewart, our former fellow townsman, who holds forth on the south side of the Public Square, and who knows how to keep hotel. We found the rooms well furnished and clean. He has with him our old and respected fellow citizen, R.M. Hartness, ever ready to respond to call with his usual suavity.

Chariton is certainly a "smart little village" and evinces renewed life in her numerous new buildings, new sidewalks and fine stocks of goods. In 2 or 3 years, she may hope to attain the present size and trade of Albia. Like most western towns, I observed that a great majority of the new dwellings were one-story 6 by 9s.

The grounds of Mr. E. Temple (Edward Ames Temple) were a feast to the eye, covered with grapes, apples, maples and fruits. In a few years they will be a paradise gratifying to good taste and the pocket. Why will men expend every cent (and more, too) in the erection of palatial houses surrounded by bleak nakedness instead of embowering in shrubbery, fruits, and evergreens that will be a constant source of pleasure and profit more unpretentious structures.

The Court House is a disgrace to the town, is a dilapidated, rickety affair, illy proportioned outside and in.

We noticed at Russell on our return, a newly-built Episcopal Church that speaks well for the enterprise and intelligence of the people thereabouts.

We must commend the B. & M. for the good example it is giving the country in the extensive planting of shade trees about its depots. at Albia, Chariton and even at the small station of Russell it has set out long rows of maples. We certainly think no better evidence of the good sense of the superintendent could be given. May our citizens profit by it.

Our legislature offers munificent inducements for their planting and every consideration of good taste and sound sense dictates their extensive setting. Raising corn or hogs, the farmers should learn is not the only or best way of securing money or pleasure. Plant trees, and make your farms blossom with beauty.

AT 9:30 A.M. THE 5TH, some 40 seated themselves in the passenger car for Albia; including several delegates to the state and congressional conventions, and business and professional men from Albia, Centerville and elsewhere, to whom a few hours of delay was of importance. The little baggage was checked and we sat there one hour patiently awaiting a movement.

Suddenly there was a strange commotion on board, the few packages were thrown out upon the platform, the conductor saying the "train would not go," some a dozen rushed from the passenger to the baggage car, as if upon this precipitate transit hung issues of life and death, at the same time the latter was uncoupled from the passenger car and started at such speed that none but those secretly informed of the gentlemanly (?) conductor's intentions could get aboard. The comparative power of muscle and steam was thoroughly tested by some of the humbugged passengers, impressed with a dawning suspicion of being left, who tried to overtake the locomotive moving at 25 miles an hour. Their efforts were wonderful considering the sLipperousness of the track, but the locomotive won and one of the ten commandments was seriously outraged.

It was a matter of wonder among the "left" how the fortunate dozen were advised of the purpose of Mr. Morton, and many denounced his conduct in thus leaving the passengers without any notification (save to said favorites) as lacking all gentlemanly courtesy. A special train was sent down at 6 o'clock P.M. and we arrived in Albia thankful for our safe journey and indignant at certain railroad officials "clothed with a little brief authority," &c. (Signed) ALBIANIAN


It's kind of hard to figure out what's going on in those last three paragraphs, but it seems likely that railroad officials, due to track conditions, had decided that only the locomotive and freight car could make it safely to Albia. Rather than deal with 40 angry passengers, the conductor whispered invitations to a few favorites to scramble aboard the freight car, leaving the rest behind to sputter and cuss.

Those extra hours in Chariton did, however, give our correspondent sufficient daylight time to assess the community, view the grounds of Edward and Elizabeth Temples' new home in the vicinity of the current intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and South Eighth Street and assess the condition of Lucas County's 1858 brick courthouse --- already "a dilapidated and rickety affair" just ten years after construction. That absurd and ill-fated building had 20 more years of life before it finally was condemned, abandoned, torn down and replaced with our current seat of county government.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

It's been a Romans 13 kind of week ....

In the interest of fair disclosure, I am not a huge fan of the Bible --- although I do enjoy quoting it out of context now and then. Everyone does.

So it was interesting last week to see U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions pluck the opening verses of Chapter 13, St. Paul's letter to the Romans, out of his Bible and use them in defense of the current administration's policy of loosing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stormtroopers on the land, confining brown-skinned asylum-seekers in concentration camps and ripping children out of their mothers' arms for separate interment.

Here are the operational verses, Nos. 1-5 (Revised Standard Version): "1. Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4. for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. 5. Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience."

These have long been favorite verses of Christian zealots, used to justify anything from slavery to genocide.

As a rule, Paul's further comments in Chapter 13 generally are not cited: "8. Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 10. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."

Dr. Martin Luther King, a saint whose words often are more relevant in today's world than those ossified utterances of Paul, did a good job of clarifying the distinction --- in his letter from the Birmingham Jail --- between obligation to obey just laws and to resist those that are evil:

"One may well ask: 'How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that 'an unjust law is no law at all.' "

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Murder, horse-thievery, Hopeville and Chariton ...

Lucas County's log courthouse.

Chariton's town square was a hot and dusty, rough-and-tumble kind of place back in the late summer of 1859. The city's first brick building of any size --- the new courthouse --- was rising in the middle of today's pretty park, but the old log courthouse just south of the east-side alley remained the seat of justice. There were no trees to speak of. The buildings around the perimeter of the square were a mix of log and frame; the rambling Hatcher House hotel, built in 1853 on the southwest corner, the largest.

Honest John Edwards had established Lucas County's first newspaper, The Patriot, two years earlier.

And public entertainment was in short supply. So when Clarke County authorities decided to park Joseph Jacobs, a 37-year old farmer accused initially of horse thievery and then of murder, in the Lucas County Jail --- all eyes turned to the courthouse and Honest John worked late into the night hand-setting extensive reports of court proceedings that commenced in May and continued into the fall.

Sadly, no copies of those early editions of The Patriot survive. Fortunately, down the road in Monroe County, the editor of the Albia Weekly Republican was reading his exchange copies of The Patriot and as the cases against Jacobs grew more interesting, summarizing Edwards' reports for his readers. So much of what appears here this morning was lifted from The Republicans of August 25 and September 15.


It's not clear why Jacobs was being held in Chariton in the first place, since the dastardly deeds he was accused of had occurred in the vicinity of Hopeville --- a small village built around an aspirational town square some distance southwest of Osceola. Hopeville is a ghost town now, but the square survives as a county park and is the site of a widely known annual "rural music reunion."

But Hopeville was a tough little town and reputedly the headquarters for a gang of well organized horse thieves. So it may have been simply that Clarke County officials felt that their prisoner would be more secure in Chariton.

Whatever the circumstances, the initial Albia Republican report, published on August 25, does a good job of outlining the circumstances that had led to Jacobs' imprisonment:


From the Chariton Patriot we learn the particulars of the murder of Dr. Wm. B. Lucas, of Hopeville in Clarke County, by Joseph Jacobs, near the residence of said Jacobs 2-1/2 miles from Hopeville, on the evening of the 9th inst. The circumstances connected with this murder, and leading to it, we condense from a more detailed relation of the particulars in the Patriot.

It appears that Jacobs was indicted by the grand jury of Clarke county at the term of court held last April on a charge of horse stealing, and was subsequently arrested and for want of bail was lodged in the jail in Lucas County.

The daughter of Jacobs was induced to make disclosures tending to implicate Dr. Lucas and a large number of other persons, and these disclosures so far as related to Dr. Lucas were confirmed by Jacobs' statements while in prison, and Jacobs was promised that if he would testify or procure testimony that would be sufficient to convict Lucas and others, supposed ring leaders in horse stealing, bail should be procured for his release from present confinement and influences would be brought to bear that would mitigate his future punishment.

Jacobs, therefore, filed an information before Esq. Starbucks against Lucas and others, upon which Lucas was arrested and held to bail. Jacobs was then arrested on a charge of perjury and was to have had his examination on the 9th of August, at which time Dr. Lucas was at Osceola. On the road home, the afternoon of that day, Dr. Lucas met persons who told him that the prosecuting witness had failed to appear and that the case had been dismissed. He also got into an altercation, being under the influence of liquor, and was taunted with being a horse thief.

This appeared to fret him satanic with rage and he declared that Jacobs should die, that he would shoot him and then shoot himself, that Jacobs had disgraced him and he could not live under it. In this frame of mind he proceeded as far as the residence of Mr. John Shields near Jacobs. There he stopped and again declared his intention to kill Jacobs. He had a Colts five-shooter which he handled in a menacing and frantic manner.

Mr. Shields succeeded by persuasions, &c., in detaining him about one hour, but could not prevail upon him to relinquish his purpose. Meanwhile two young men (William Clevenger and Abram Coon) had gone across the fields to notify Jacobs of the threats which Lucas was making.

The found Jacobs at home, who upon hearing the news exclaimed, "My God! What shall I do?" and requested them to come in and stay all night. This they declined and returned to Shields.

Lucas meantime had proceeded as far as the house of Mr. Abram Smith, situated on Jacobs' farm, accompanied by Mr. Shields, who still hoped to be able to induce him to desist from his purpose. Here he again declared to Smith his intentions toward Jacobs, and soon started across the field for Jacobs house. Smith went into his house, drew on his boots, and he and Shields followed, expecting, as they say, to overtake him and forcibly detain him; and when within about 75 yards of Jacobs' house they heard the report of fire arms, and the fearful deed was accomplished.

Jacobs says that upon being notified as before stated, he took a rifle already loaded, ran down two additional balls, locked all his doors, and stationed himself at the northwest window of the upper story, with his gun resting upon the window sill and waited the doctor's approach. That he saw him when he emerged from the corn field, some 150 yards from the house, that he came walking very fast, that the moon shone bright and full upon him.

That his white shirt bosom shone very plain between the lapels of his dark vest, that it was a pretty mark to shoot at, that he waited till the doctor crossed the fence and when within about fifteen feet of the house, took as cool and deliberate aim as if he had been shooting a prairie chicken and fired.

The Dr. fell instantly exclaiming, "Oh Jacobs! My God!" and died without a struggle.

It appeared upon examination, that the three balls had entered at the same place, passed through his heart and two of them entirely through his body. As Lucas fell, the pistol which he held in his hand was discharged, the ball penetrating the earth to the depth of six inches. Jacobs gave himself up to the authorities, and was brought up for examination on the 11th, when, after a patient and thorough investigation he was fully committed.


The Republican's next --- and final --- report on the case was published on September 15, as follows:


A writ of habeas corpus was issued out in the case of Joseph Jacobs, confined in the jail at Chariton, for the murder of Dr. Lucas, and the case was brought before his Honor, John S. Townsend, one day last week during a called session of the court at this place. Messrs. Perry, Dashiell and Baker for Jacobs, and Kelsey & Kelsey and Clark for the State.

It will be recollected that Jacobs on the 10th of August shot Dr. Lucas of Hopeville, in Clarke County. This action was brought to ascertain whether the evidence before the common magistrate was sufficient to hold the defendant --- Jacobs --- to arrest.

The evidence is briefly that on the night of the 10th of August, the deceased --- Dr. L. --- went to a neighbor of Jacobs and told him he designed killing Jacobs that night; this neighbor sent word to Jacobs to inform him of the fact, which word was communicated to him --- Jacobs --- by Messrs. Clevenger and Coon. Jacobs fastened all his doors, went upstairs, stationed himself at a window. Prior to stationing himself at the window he put two additional balls down his rifle, which had been previously loaded. 

Jacobs saw Dr. L. approaching the house when about 160 yards distant. When the Dr. crossed over the fence two dogs attacked him at which time he said "D--n him, I will shoot him." Dr. L. approached as if intending to enter the porch, and when he was 13 feet from the house Jacobs shot him through the heart. Directly after Jacobs' gun was discharged, Dr. L's pistol was discharged, which he was holding in his hand. The bullet out of the pistol entered the ground about 8 inches from the head of Dr. L. and his face was powder burned, showing that the pistol was not discharged till he fell. Jacobs afterwards stated that he took as deliberate aim as he ever did in shooting a prairie chicken and that he was unembarrassed. He also stated that Dr. L did not see him and could not have killed him till he had broken into the house and come up the stairs, which was all in one room.

The counsel who argued the cause for the state took the position that Jacobs was not acting in self-defense and that if he was justified in killing Dr. L, he would have been justified in doing so at any time after he made the threats. The counsel for the defendant, Jacobs --- took the position that Jacobs was acting in self defense.

The court remanded Jacobs to the Lucas County Jail and refused to admit him to bail.


There seem to be no reports to tell us what happened next, although court documents may be buried somewhere in a dusty courthouse vault.

However, when the 1860 federal census was taken, Joseph Jacobs was enumerated as a convict at the State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, age 39, a farmer by trade, serving time for manslaughter. His family had by that time vanished from Clarke County.

The mortality schedule attached to the 1860 census also records the death of Dr. Lucas, noting that he was 45 years old, married, a native of Pennsylvania, a physician by trade and had perished during August of 1859 from a "shot." A footnote reads, "Intentionally killed by a gunshot from the hands of Joseph Jacobs."

When WPA workers transcribed the inscriptions on Clarke County tombstones during the 1930s, they found Dr. Lucas's stone in what was known as the North Hopeville Cemetery. It has since vanished.

It would appear that at least some of his family remained in the Hopeville vicinity.


Joseph Jacobs' outcome is less clear. He apparently was released from prison later on during the 1860s, but some suggest that he was arrested and charged again with horse thievery during 1867 in Wayne County and returned to the penitentiary.

And sure enough, the 1870 federal census taker did indeed find Joseph Jacobs, now age 49, cooling his heels in the penitentiary at Fort Madison. This time, however, the offense that landed him there was not reported.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Columbia, the May Store & George W. May

Say "Columbia" to many Lucas Countyans these days and they'll think "McCorkle Hardware," a widely known business that calls this little Marion County town --- just north of the Lucas County line and to your right off Highway 14 on the road to Knoxville --- home. 

But back in the day, George W. May's "The Right Place" --- or simply the May Store --- was just as widely known and when Mr. May threw a 50th business anniversary party for himself during August of 1929 an estimated 5,000 people came.

My own ancestors first settled in the Columbia neighborhood during 1847 when my maternal grandfather's great-grandparents, William and Mary (Saunders) Clair, parked their somewhat disfunctional family just east of where the village would be established 10 years later. During February of 1871, my maternal great-grandparents, Joseph and Chloe (Boswell/Prentiss) Brown, relocated from Corydon into the town proper and my grandmother, Jessie (Brown) Miller, was born their during 1875.

Her much-older brother-in-law, Alpheus E. Love, was among other things Columbia's resident photographer for quite a number of years and I've been sorting through some of his images lately and sharing them elsewhere. Among them is this image of the George W. May family, taken about 1906.

Mr. May and his wife, Harriet, are flanked by the twins --- Helen (Wirene) and Harold. Son Thomas is standing between them and son James is standing. I cannot figure out which of the older daughters is which, they they were Erato (Wood), Beneti (Bridgman) and Cleo Whitlatch.

Three years after celebrating his business anniversary, Mr. May was front and center when Columbia itself marked an anniversary --- its 75th. This was front-page news in The Chariton Leader of Sept. 6, 1932, and to prepare his preview of the event Leader editor Will D. Allender traveled to Columbia and sat down with George for a visit. Here's the text of the resulting article:


Pioneer Days Mark Columbia's Jubilee on 75th Anniversary
"Pageant of Progress" Will Be Feature of Fete Celebrating Columbia's 75th Birthday
"The Right Place," George May Store Is Center of History

George W. May
The town of Columbia will welcome its own on Wednesday when its more than two hundred residents are hosts to the thousands who are expected to join in the celebration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of the community.

The population of this small inland town in Marion county is expected to swell to more than five thousand when the city turns back the pages of history and lives again those pioneer days.

A program of speeches, entertainment and band concerts has been arranged by enthusiastic committeemen at Columbia and plans were completed Saturday for one of the greatest celebrations in the history of Marion county.

As an indication of the ability of Columbia business men to stage successful homecomings, residents here point to the anniversary staged by G.W. May, pioneer merchant, two (actually, three) years ago. At that time more than five thousand people attended the one-day celebration.

The comparison is apt for George May is typical of the spirit of Columbia. It might be said that George May and his store is Columbia, but the venerable, lovable merchant would not have that, he said. It is true that he has been the guiding spirit at Columbia for more than half a century, but he still refuses anything more than the distinction of being just one of the business men of that community.

The celebration program nowhere includes the name of George May although his sons and brothers are members of various committees. it may be relied upon, however, that May's kindly assistance will be available before the final address of the anniversary celebration is completed.

"The Right Place," as May's store in Columbia is known, is still the community center and any time of the day large numbers of residents gather there to converse. The big store furnishes chairs and boxes where conversations may be had at any time.

The May Store, "The Right Place." Photo courtesy Dennis Stotts.

In addition to being one of the two general stores in Columbia, the May store is the post office and George May is the postmaster. The people of Columbia come daily to the store at eleven o'clock to get their mail which is distributed by Mr. May through the assistance of his son.

He had just finished the distribution of the mail when I walked into the store one afternoon last week. He recognized me although he had met me but once before and that several months before. It is one of May's assets that he remembers faces and names even after a casual meeting.

From a shelf in the post office he pulled down several reference books when I asked about the early history of Columbia. Thumbing expertly through the books, he came to the name of Columbia and then, with the printed material available, began a sketch of the history of the community.

William Kent, an early surveyor of Marion county, was employed by Hugh S. Smith and his wife, Rebecca, in 1857, to plat the original town of Columbia. According to the original plat of the town, the survey consisted of fifty-eight lots and this deed was filed on May 2, 1857. On October 22, 1892, Murr's addition was added to the original town, the new plat consisting of twenty-two lots.

Outside of the home of the Smiths, the town consisted of nothing much more than a few scattered houses, built together to share the advantages of neighborhood and to fight against the dangers of the primeval forest.

One of the first houses in the clearing was built by James D. Steele and the structure was built of logs taken from the forest land. (Allender is engaging in a little poetic license here; Columbia was built on prairie --- the "forest primeval" was some distance to the south).

Shortly after the construction of the houses, John McEldering opened a general store and acquired the distinction of being the first merchant to sell goods in Columbia. New business additions followed in short order with Andrew Reed getting the first post office appointment. Clark and Williams opened a hotel and mill and operated them under partnership.

The first church was erected a few years after the town was built. Rev. P.H. Jacobs was the first pastor in Columbia and he is still remembered by many of the residents at Columbia although his death occurred many years ago.

The original post office at Columbia was located about two miles west of the town and had been located about 1854. Shortly after the town was laid out, the post office was removed to Columbia and Reed named postmaster.

The little town of Gosport had been previously organized about four years before and when the new town was platted, the residents of Gosport were intensely jealous of the new community.

A movement was organized in Gosport to attend the sale of the lots in Columbia and bid in the choice locations. Then, with residents of Gosport owning the best lots in Columbia, the lots were to be left idle, effectually throttling expansion. Patriotic Columbians heard of the scheme however and ran the price of lots up to such high figures that the "committee" from Gosport abandoned the project and the future of Columbia was assured. The growth of Columbia and the economic death of Gosport was the result.

George May did not come to Columbia until August 8, 1879, but with his coming the existence of Columbia was definitely settled.

May first opened a drug store in Columbia and on January 1 of the following year disposed of this establishment to a doctor and bought a partnership with W. Stotts.

J.T. Black was closing out his store on the present location of the May store and May's partner purchased the stock and opened the store.

The Stotts and May partnership existed until 1886 when May went into partnership with (William) Cloud, the father of Noel Cloud, of Chariton. This partnership existed until 1903.

At this time, May sold his building to a man named Yetter, but the new owner was burned out within a few months and May purchased the debris of the store and built the present store. He has been in his present location for the past 29 years.

As I talked to May, a farmer walked into the store and overheard our conversation. May was just telling about the early pioneers of the store and had mentioned the name "McCorkle." Without looking up, May said "That was this fellow's father."

Thus invited, J.E. McCorkle, living in Columbia, laid claim to the distinction of being the oldest living pioneer in Columbia. He came to Columbia in 1856 and has lived in that community continuously since.

May remembered humorously, "At one time we thought the McCorkles were going to take Columbia as more than eight families lived either in or near the town."

When the first mill in the town, operated by Clark and Williams, burned to the ground, May purchased the site and constructed a $6,000 mill, one of the finest in the county.

He operated it successfully for a term of years before it was destroyed and now nothing remains of it.

"There is no one now living in Columbia that lived here when I first came to town," George May said, half sadly and half proudly. All of his neighbors in those early days have either moved away or have passed away.

One of the features of the diamond jubilee anniversary Wednesday will be a pageant of progress, arranged by descendants of the early pioneers. Frank Elwood and E.H. Phelps will have change of this parade and plans already completed indicate that it will be the feature of the entire celebration.

Cleo May, who furnished most of the information in regard to the parade, said that Indians, pioneer wagons and equipment would be contrasted with modern machinery and automobiles in the parade.

The anniversary will be featured by the total absence of any games of chance that usually mark, or rather mar, one-day celebrations. Several concessionaries have asked to bring their games to Columbia for the anniversary but their requests have been denied. Only two booths will be constructed and both of them will be refreshment stands. No dance will be held in the evening.

Columbia is proud of the morality of their celebrations and not one of the residents of the town expressed any regret that these usually-so-necessary adjunctions of a celebration will be omitted.

Miss Parker, of the state department of public instruction at Des Moines, will speak to an assembly of rural school students and teachers in the school grounds at Columbia at 10:30 in the morning. The address will follow a parade of students through the community.

The Pella band, under the direction of H. Kuyper, and the championship drum and bugle corps of Knosville will furnished the music for the anniversary.

The speaking program will include addresses by C.S. Cooter, of Des Moines, democratic candidate for congress from the sixth district, and Governor Dan W. Turner of Iowa.

Horseshoe tournaments, contests and sports will furnish entertainment while a delightful program of vocal and instrumental music has been arranged.

Columbia awaits the coming of its friends and relatives Wednesday and when Governor Turner concludes his address as the final portion of the program, every guest may once again sense the wholesome spirit of Columbia.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

A teen-ager's tribute to "the dearest and nicest boy"

I picked up Hazel Baker's diary for 1905-1906 the other day while moving the contents of one archival box to another and started glancing through the entries.

This is one of many diaries and journals in the Lucas County Historical Society collection and was carefully maintained by Hazel, starting when she was 15 going on 16. The entries span her move with parents and sisters from Chariton to Santa Ana, California, where the remainder of her life was spent.

Much later in the 20th century, long after Hazel's death, the diary was left behind in California with other family memorabilia when the step-granddaughter into whose hands it had fallen moved to New Zealand.

The friend tasked with evaluating and dispersing the material left in her care read the diary, made the connection with Lucas County --- and returned it to the place where it was begun.


Hazel, among other things, was a niece of Dan M. Baker, pioneering newspaper editor in both Chariton and Santa Ana, about whom I've written extensively. She had her uncle's gift for words; the entries are well-written --- and revealing.

Her parents, Eugene S. and Mary (Campbell) Baker, were affluent people. He was a real estate speculator and landlord with retail business interests in both Chariton and Lacona. Born in Chariton during September of 1889, Hazel had an older sister, Marvel, and a younger sister, Frances.

Hazel still was attending high school when the move to California was made and there seems to have been no particular reason for it. Many other members of the extended Baker family already had moved there, however, the Eugene Bakers had visited many times and liked it.

Santa Ana, the seat of Orange County and now densely populated and identified as part of greater Los Angeles, at that time was a pleasant, largely rural place just 10 miles from the Pacific coast. It had drawn, along with nearby Garden Grove, many former Lucas Countyans, including several relatives of mine.


Hazel's diary ends with entries for 1906 even though quite a few blank pages remain --- but the last page of the little volume is filled with a tribute to Carl Van Dyke, just 15 when he died on April 2, 1905 --- a month older that Hazel --- and obviously a special friend. Most likely the entry was written just after Carl's death and I found it quite moving. Here's the text:

Hazel Baker
Chariton, Lucas County, Iowa

Carl Van Dyke took sick Jan. 22, 1905; was awfully sick with appendicitis, but finally got well. Even went to a dance --- took Marie.

Went to Chicago March 27, was operated upon and was getting along nicely when all at once he died; nobody knows how or anything about it. He died April 2nd, 1905, Sunday morning between 4 and 5 in the a.m.

We girls got some beautiful flowers; funeral was at the house.

Marie Bown has his opal ring, which he gave her to wear. She still has it but is going to give it to Ralph Van Dyke (Carl's brother). The funeral was Tuesday, April 4, 1905.

He would have been sixteen in August 1905. He was the dearest and nicest boy I ever went with. He was a favorite with most everyone. (signed) Hazel Baker.


Carl was the second son of Byron R. and Ella (Gardner) Van Dyke, who had purchased Chariton's Bates House hotel in 1887 and still were operating it as a first-class hostelry when their young son died. 

Carl's obituary, published in The Chariton Leader of April 6, 1905, fills in some of the gaps left in the  tribute of his friend:

With heartfelt sorrow, the Leader records the sad death of Carl Van Dyke, youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. B.R. Van Dyke, which occurred at Mercy Hospital in Chicago on Sunday morning, April 2, 1905, at 5:30 o'clock, as the result of an operation which he had undergone for appendicitis.

Two years ago last Christmas he suffered an attack of this malady, but apparently recovered. On January 19th of this year he was again taken ill with the same complaint and for some time was in a dangerous condition. For the past few weeks he had been able to be about but his system was very weak. The physicians stated that a third attack would probably prove fatal and it was deemed advisable to take him to Chicago. 

On Wednesday noon of last week, accompanied by his father and brother, Ralph, he left for that city. On Saturday morning he submitted to an operation and it was thought that he would get along all right, although it was found that there were other troubles which would retard his recovery, but early Sunday morning there was a change for the worse and he sank rapidly until his death occurred. 

The remains were brought to Chariton Sunday night on No. 1 and taken to the family home where funeral services were held on Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 o'clock, conducted by Dr. D.C. Franklin of the M.E. Church. The floral tributes were numerous and beautiful, tender messages of love and sympathy. At the conclusion of the services an unusually large concourse of sorrowing friends followed the remains to their last resting place in the Chariton Cemetery.

Carl Van Dyke, son of B.R. and Ella Van Dyke, was born in this city on August 9, 1889. He has always lived here and by his bright, manly countenance and pleasant manners won the admiration and regard of all with whom he came in contact. He has been taken away just as he was stepping over the threshold into young manhood and the funeral on Tuesday was pathetic beyond expression. All felt that a loss had been sustained for which there is no compensation. May time bring its resignation, and may the shores of eternity that receive his soul surround it with everlasting sunshine and flowers.