Saturday, July 16, 2005

Traces: Smith H. Mallory

Smith H. Mallory's initials are faintly visible within the inlay on the top of his drafting kit, now at the Lucas County Historical Society museum. Click to enlarge and see them for youself.

As I've probably pointed out before, Smith H. Mallory was Chariton's richest and most prominent citizen from the time of his arrival during 1867 until his death during 1903. His home, Ilion, and the estate that surrounded it, were among the wonders of southern Iowa.

But a 1907 bank failure precipitated by the financial shenanigans of its cashier, Frank R. Crocker, drove Mallory's widow, Annie, and daughter, Jessie, from Lucas County to Florida. Held financially liable for the bank failure because they owned it (but trusted Crocker to manage it), the Ilion was turned over to bank receivers and most of its contents shipped to Orlando, where Annie and Jessie found refuge.

As the years passed, most traces of the Mallory family vanished from Lucas County. Their mansion was demolished during 1955. Even Smith Mallory's body and tombstone were removed from the Chariton Cemetery and shipped to Florida.

So small items become major finds. This little drafting kit belonged to Smith Mallory. He was an engineer and used those skills during his career as a railroad builder --- the career that built his fortune. The case appears to be made of walnut with a small inlay of lighter wood on its cover. The initials "S.H.M." are written in ink on that inlay. The instruments inside are made of ivory and steel.

Smith H. Mallory's drafting kit open. I worked and worked trying to get all the pieces into their assigned slots and failed entirely. 

The drafting kit was left behind when Annie and Jessie moved to Florida and passed into the hands of Henry A. and Emma Stroud, who had worked for the Mallorys at the Ilion from the time it was constructed 1879-81 and continued to work there for Eikenberry and Buselle after the mansion and estate passed into their hands.

The Strouds and the Mallorys seems to have had a unique relationship. They were friends as well as employees/employers. When Jessie (Mallory) Thayer/O'Neal died in Florida during 1923, she left the Strouds $1,000 "in token of my appreciation of years of kindly service and valued friendship."

The drafting kit passed from the Strouds to their grandson, Clyde Lamb, of Chariton; and eventually, Clyde donated it to the Lucas County Historical Society. It currently is located in the library of the LCHS museum..

I took these photos at a meeting of the Lucas County Genealogical Society, held at the museum complex last Monday evening. The program involved Betty Cross (left; museum curator --- in 2011, curator emeritus --- and also genealogical society corresponding secretary) giving us a guided tour of the John L. Lewis building, which serves as museum headquarters and Lucas County's attic. It would be possible to spend hours in that building alone.

I'm not quite sure how long it would take to tour the whole complex, which also includes the Stephens house, Otterbein Church, Puckerbrush School, a log cabin and the barn, filled with agricultural paraphernalia and other items.

It's one of Lucas County's treasures, so come on down!

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