Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More things in heaven and earth, Horatio ...


This rock southeast of Chariton along the Blue Grass Road, erected by the Daighters of the American Revolution, marks the southeastern limit of Chariton Point and is not far from the tiny lost 1846-47 Mormon settlement of that name.

I feel an attack of Mormon Trail fever coming on, so don’t be surprised in the coming weeks if I drag you off to the Locust Creek camp site in Wayne County, Garden Grove in Decatur County, Mt. Pisgah in Union County and heaven only knows where else.

I’ll start by posting here in a few days something I did a while ago for another purpose called “Becoming Lucas County” that attempts to put into context briefly, among other things, The Mormon Pioneer Trail (Wayne County) and the Mormon Trace (Lucas County). The Trail was blazed by Brigham Young and the earliest party of Saints as they headed west across Iowa to the first major way station at Garden Grove; the Trace was the route used by a majority of the first round of Utah-bound pioneers because the first Trail proved too difficult and dangerous.

I grew up on a farm between the Trail and the Trace, even closer to two trail short-cuts also traveled by many of these pioneers, one across northern Wayne County and the other cutting west from Greenville along a route south of Russell to rejoin the main Trace at Salem Cemetery, where much of my family is buried.

Then there’s a family connection that makes the Mormon experience even more interesting to me --- and I’ve written about that before. My mother’s family, the Millers, along with dozens of their neighbors in Ohio, were among Mormon prophet Joseph Smith’s early converts there and followed his imperative to resettle in northwest Missouri during the 1830s.

After the Saints were driven from Missouri by their neighbors there in 1839-40, my family and their friends came up into Van Buren County, Iowa, rather than crossing the Mississippi to Nauvoo; then when Monroe County opened for settlement in the spring of 1843, resettled there --- and stuck.

As we start to enjoy beautiful spring weather I like to remember what happened here 164 years ago. The first Saints to flee Nauvoo headed west crossed the still iced-over Mississippi on Feb. 4, 1846; and reached Wayne County during April. William Clayton wrote the great LDS anthem “Come, Come Ye Saints” at Locust Creek Camp in southeastern Wayne County on April 15, 1846; and Brigham Young’s party reached Garden Grove on April 24.

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A major factor in this renewed case of trail fever was Michael Zahs’ exceptional presentation at the annual meeting of of the Wayne County Historical Society in Corydon last Thursday evening. It was fun to be there, to visit with that fellow Dry-Flatter and other friends and reintroduce myself to a cousin, David Mason, and his wife, Patty, who catered the event and fed us all exceedingly well (Patty’s the caterer; David, I suspect, the labor --- no slight intended).

Zahs’ topic was “Wire Mapping the Mormon Trail,” although his lively presentation actually was more about wire mapping in general and less about the trail.

Zahs, of Ainsworth, is a highly-decorated but now retired social studies teacher who also collects old buildings and other Iowa artifacts of more convenient size, maintains rural cemeteries and does countless other things that catch his interest. He’s also an amazing speaker, holding our attention for the duration of quite a long presentation by sheer personality with very few props --- if you get a chance to hear him, go for it!

Wire maping is the term Zahs uses for what also is called “witching” or “divining,” an ancient practice involving forked sticks and other implements (straightened coat hangars are now the favored tool) to located everything from water to graves.

I have a number of wholeheartedly admired friends who are practitioners of witching --- and believers, but supposed I’d have to say I’m an agnostic --- neither believing nor disbelieving. There’s a lot of room in the field for magic thinking and in cemeteries, at least, the proof lies in digging --- ill advised since excavating a cemetery without good cause and permission from the courts is illegal.

On the other hand, I’m in solidarity with Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (Scene v).

So --- are you listening Darlene, Mary Ruth? --- I want to borrow your coat hangars one of these days and give it a try. I suppose I could straighten two hangars myself and head out into the back yard --- but what would the neighbors think?

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Another aspect involved in remembering the Mormon experience is the reminder it carries with it of just how thin the crust of civility that we tip-toe along on really is. While the LDS church was founded on a vision, it was forged in the fire of mob violence --- in Missouri and in Illinois especially.

These are uncertain times again and goodness knows there’s enough out there to divide us --- economic distress, health care reform, the tea party movement, in Iowa specifically the first anniversary of the court decision that legalized same-sex marriage. Everyone’s entitled to his or her opinion on all of these and many other issues. What none of us is entitled to do is engage in or encourage violence against those who do not share our views.

Quite often violence has something other than the intended effect, too. The mobs who drove the Mormons out of Missouri and Illinois into the arms of Iowa 146 years ago, and then to Utah, thought they would destroy the emerging faith. Instread, they strengthened it. It never hurts to remember that the LDS grew into and remains one of the largest, strongest, most unified and fastest-growing religious expressions in the world at least in part because of violence directed against it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A funeral, a birthday and that Old Rugged Cross


"The Old Rugged Cross" has appeared in countless hymnals since it was first published in 1915. This is "The Radio Hymnal," compiled by the Henry Field Seed Co. for Radio Station KFNF in Shenandoah and first printed in 1927.

It’s amazing what you can forget during a busy week.

Like there I was Saturday morning seated in a comfortably padded pew at the Albia Baptist Temple anticipating, after half an hour or so, the end of the funeral of a distant cousin who also was the mother of a friend.

The preacher had just completed an eloquent and moving tribute to the deceased, a good and much-loved soul whose eternal destination was not in question, and the gospel quartet had finished up a credible rendition of George Bennard’s classic, “The Old Rugged Cross.”

What I’d not anticipated, however, was the fact the song, rather than summation, was just a break in the preaching and that the main event lay ahead.

So it seemed like a good time to read the funeral program --- not that I intended to ignore the second half of the sermon. But the truth is that only one sermon (with slight variations) is delivered at all Baptist funerals when the preacher decides to pull out the stops. I’d been down the road that stops just short of altar call before and figured my attention could be elsewhere for a while without losing the theme.

I glanced down at the program and after trying to figure out which grandchild went with which daughter noted that the service was being held on Saturday, March 27, a date that seemed familiar. As well it should. It was my birthday. Hmmm.

Like nearly everyone else born in Lucas County from the 1930s through the 1950s, I was delivered at Yocom Hospital by Dr. Albert Yocom himself. Since it had been an early spring in 1946, my paternal grandfather appeared shortly thereafter with a bouquet of violets and other wildflowers he had gathered in the woods. Wouldn’t have happened this year.

After getting home, there were phone calls and other pleasantries and I didn’t feel neglected at all, only mildly sheepish about going through the week without thinking once of the impending anniversary.

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Speaking of “The Old Rugged Cross,” there’s a big sign at the south entrance of Albia --- noted again as I drove into town Saturday morning --- that makes a big deal out of the fact its composer, George Bennard, once lived there.

When it comes right down to it, however, Lucas County probably has the better claim to Bennard as a native son, but you’ve got to hand it to Albia for putting up the sign while Lucas County just kind of ignores the whole thing (although George is noted briefly on the Web site of the John L. Lewis Memorial Museum of Mining and Labor at Lucas).

So here’s the deal.

Bennard (left), whose father was George Bennard Sr., was born Feb. 4, 1873, in Ohio. His mother’s name frequently is given as Margaret Russell, but she appears in the 1870, 1880 and 1885 census records of Ohio and Iowa as Christina, also a native of Scotland.

George Sr., who was a miner, is listed as a steerage passenger from Glasgow to New York aboard the good ship Iowa, arriving on the 7th of June 1869. It seems likely his family arrived a few months later since the reunited Bennards, George, Christina, and daughters Christina, 10, and Jane, 2, both born in Scotland, were living in Weathersfield, Trumbull County, Ohio, when the 1870 federal census was taken. George’s occupation was given as coal miner. George Jr.’s birthplace, when he came along three years later, usually is given as Youngstown.

By 1880, the family had arrived in Albia after apparently following the mining trade first into Pennsylvania for a few years and then west. Their daughters Agnes, born ca. 1875, and Margaret, born ca. 1877, both were born in Pennsylvania. While living in Albia, the final Bennard child, a daughter named Mary, was born ca. 1880-81.

The 1880 census of Monroe County gives George Sr.’s occupation as grocer, however, so he apparently had been able to work his way out of mines and into a less taxing and less dangerous line of work.

Very soon after 1880, the Bennard family came west to Lucas in Lucas County, then with its adjacent twin Cleveland jewels in the crown of Iowa’s coal mining industry. George opened a saloon in Lucas and moved his family into a house adjacent to it. He was in business in Lucas by the 22nd of February 1882 when The Chariton Patriot reported his arrest for providing liquor to an habitual drunkard.

Disaster struck the Bennards a year later, during February of 1883, when a fire destroyed both the family saloon and home in Lucas.

That fire forced George Sr. back into the mines and led to his death seven years later, during Feburary of 1890, of injuries sustained in a mining accident. The Chariton Herald of Feb. 13, 1890, reported that George Sr. had been buried in the Cleveland Cemetery, now known as Fry Hill and high above the ghost town of Cleveland, but there is no marked grave for him there. It seems unlikely the Bennards could afford a tombstone.

The death of George Bennard Sr. left George Jr., whose occupation in 1885 when he was 12 or 13 was given as trapper, as the sole support of his mother and younger sister and he reportedly went into the mines to provide income for them. He would have been 17 at the time.

At some point, and there are differing versions of the story, young George became aware of his calling to the ministry during a Salvation Army revival meeting. By some accounts this happened in Lucas.

It may also have happened, however, at Canton in Fulton County, Illinois (not in Canton, Iowa, as sometimes is stated), where the family moved not long after George Sr. died. The Bennards apparently located in the little Fulton County mining town of Dumfermline, named after a counterpart in Scotland.

George met Araminta Beeler in Fulton County and they were married there on Feb. 25, 1894. Both enlisted in and served for a time in the Salvation Army, then resigned so that George could enter a different sort of evangelistic ministry. He was ordained by the Methodist Episcopal Church and devoted the remainder of his life to evangelism, music and the composing of gospel songs.

George wrote the first verse of “The Old Rugged Cross” in Albion, Michigan, in the fall of 1912 and completed it in time for its first public performance in Pokagon, Michigan, during June of 1913. Although Bennard wrote both the tune and the words, the renowned Charles H. Gabriel helped out with the harmonies.

First published in 1915, the song became widely known and wildly popular in large part because of another Iowa native son, the evangelist Billy Sunday.

Bennard, who died at 85 in 1958, wrote hundreds of other hymns, but “The Old Rugged Cross” is the one that stuck. It’s probably the most widely known and perhaps the best-loved hymn out there.

That doesn’t mean it’s universally admired. It’s often dismissed as hokey and overly-sentimental, won’t be found in high-church hymnals including that of The Episcopal Church and is frequently called theologically na├»ve or unsound by those who fuss about such things.

But my Lord that song has power --- and has been known to move grownups, including me, to tears without even trying.

John L. Lewis of United Mine Workers fame and a god in the organized labor pantheon, gets most of the glory out at Lucas and deservedly so. He was, after all, a true native son --- born in that ghost town Cleveland --- and of great historical significance. But I think George Bennard deserves a sign, too.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ecce Ancilla Domini: The Annunciation


“Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by His cross and passion be brought to the glory of His resurrection.” (Collect for the feast day of The Annunciation, Book of Common Prayer)

Robin Williams, actor, comedian and an Episcopalian, set off a tongue-in-cheek train of thought some time ago with his “Ten Top Reasons for Being an Episcopalian,” one of which was, “The church year is color-coded.”

Today, March 25, is a “white” or festival day in that color-coded year, the feast day of The Annunciation --- a celebration of the promise of Christ’s conception and a break from the purple of Lent, precursor to the red of Holy Week, then festival white again for Easter and the season that follows it.

The same color-coded year is operational to one degree or another in all liturgical expressions of Christianity, less so or absent among denominations that prefer to focus on the essence of the faith without the embroidery of tradition and tend not to have altars and therefore altar cloths and vestments that change seasonally.

You will note that March 25 falls precisely nine months before Dec. 25, or Christmas Day, when in fact we don’t know the precise date upon which Jesus was either conceived or born. So obviously tradition is at work. I’m an embroidery man myself in a distinctly Protestant way, however, and find the color-coding a useful tool.

Color-coded or not, the church high and low is united within what seems an increasingly post-Christian culture to celebrate the central points of the Annunciation --- God’s physical entry in human form into the messy and often dangerous flesh-and-blood world to offer hope and the promise of salvation; and the faithful accession of Mary the virgin to the will of God as announced by an angel.

As Christians, we confess that the Holy Sprit works in our lives and each day holds the promise of personal annunciations if we pay attention. It’s up to us whether or not we accede.

Intersting stuff to think about on a “white” day.

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The feast day of The Annunciation still is known sometimes as Lady Day, for obvious reasons, in England where it once marked the start of spring and also of the new year until 1752 when by an act of Parliament that was operative over here in the colonies, too, we switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.

That process involved losing 11 days and so those around at the time who went to bed on the evening of Sept. 2, 1752, awoke on the morning of 14th of September 1752 And we think the switch from Central Standard to Daylight Saving Time is confusing.

Genealogists are the folks most often plagued today by that darned shift from one calendar to another.

If you ancestor was born in Boston, let’s say, on what we would call the 5th of February 1730 you often will see that date expressed in print as Feb. 5, 1729/30, because at the time Feb. 5 fell during Julian 1729 while looking back at it from the Gregorian perspective, it actually fell in 1730.

Now how’s that for confusing?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The first crocus


Spring arrived here Saturday under a few inches snow. I could have taken a photo of that, but figured we'd seen enough snow. So I shoveled enough to clear the sidewalk, scattered a little birdseed and for too much of the day just watched.

All the usual suspects were back with a few additions --- red-winged blackbirds and grackles (or common blackbirds), now back from the South, among them. If there were not so many grackles they would be protected --- beautiful streamlined creatures with blue-black heads and necks, long beaks and striking yellow eyes.

The mourning droves, probably those that live in this neighborhood year-around, feed out front twice daily now. Fun to watch, too, somewhat smaller than pigeons and beautifully colored in a subtle sort of way. Looking down on them as they feed you can see why they might also be called turtle doves sometimes (although I'm not really sure this is the reason) --- they look a little like feathered turtles as they scoot around eating with wings slightly spread and feathers slightly fluffed.

Some states allow hunters to shoot doves for reasons I've never understood. There can't be that much meat on them, so it must be more in the line of target practice and that seems like a waste of life. Iowans have always had a collective fit when the hunter lobby proposed a drove season, so here at least they're still protected.

The doves also remind me in a way of those big boats were used to drive in the 1960s and 1970s, vast vehicles that look odd now as they perambulate on skinny little tires.

In the garden, the fist crocus bloomed Monday and more will be out today --- and that seemed worthy of a photo. The first daffodil installment will be out in a day or two and I spotted my first meadowlark down at the marsh yesterday afternoon. So spring apparently is really here.

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I get a kick out of playing history detective now and then and Betty Cross gave me the opportunity yesterday when she stopped in bearing a photoduplicate of a beautifullyl-framed panoramic photo of a couple of hundred people standing in front of an impressive Romanesque Revival building that a gentleman from Baton Rouge had sent, seeking an explanation (it had turned up in his mother's attic). The photo bore an inscription in white ink that read, "B-A-Yeoman-Conclave Mpls 1909." The frame was stamped "J.E. Holmbergs Pictureshop, Chariton, Iowa."


This is only the central portion of the panoramic photograph. The photoduplicate of the original was folded before mailing, hence the vertical line through it.

The owner's grandmother, Marie (Scheridan/Scherdin) Goodman, had lived in Lucas County, he wrote. And some newspaper references suggest their home was nearer Lucas than Chariton.

Deciphering the inscription wasn't that difficult. "B-A-Yeoman" is Brotherhood of American Yeomen" and "Mpls," Minneapolis. So the photo obviously was taken during a gathering of Brotherhood of American Yeomen members held during 1909 in Minneapolis.

Brotherhood of American Yeomen was one of many fraternal insurance societies that sprang up across the country near the turn of the century when the insurance industry was in its infancy (there are those who argue it should never have been allowed to reach maturity). Modern Woodmen of the World is another that comes to mind. There also were Foresters, etc., etc. The Yeomen society was organized at Bancroft in north central Iowa in 1897 but by 1909 had spread across the Midwest and onto the Plains and was headquartered in Des Moines.

Most were patterned after lodges at a time before the Internet when it was necessary to interact with other people face to face in order to socialize. Local Brotherhood of American Yeomen lodges were called homesteads, had an elaborate initiation ceremony, held regular lodge meetings and showered members with brightly colored membership ribbons and pins.



The nearest Yeomen homestead was at Lucas, near which the Scherdins apparently lived, so it seems most likely that family members were lodge members, attended the 1909 Minneapolis conclave and upon receiving a tube containing the tightly rolled panoramic photo of the group offered as a souvenir brought it into Chariton to J.E. Holmberg to have it framed.

Holmberg, identified consistently as a carpenter, probably had a sideline of framing photographs, lithographs and other decorative items for Lucas Countyans.

So that mystery was solved, or at least I think it was; and now I've written to the gentleman in Baton Rouge to tell him all about it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Alfred Goodwin's Russell


Iowa’s surviving pioneers, acutely aware of their mortality as the 19th century ended and the 20th began, drew together in increasing numbers to celebrate themselves and their accomplishments --- uncharacteristic in a way for men and women for the most part of great modesty. Old settlers’ associations sprang up in every corner of the state, including Lucas County.

The prime mover here was Col. Warren S. Dungan, a universally admired Chariton attorney, former lieutenant governor and genuine pioneer. For several years, the Lucas County Old Settlers Association sponsored annual get-togethers, usually day-long events featuring picnics, shared memories, oratory and displays of artifacts. As a rule, at least one pioneer was invited to write down his or her memories of the old days, then read the result to his assembled contemporaries during these annual celebrations. Dungan collected these accounts for his files.

In 1903, the Washington Township Auxiliary of the Lucas County Old Settlers Association was formed and its first meeting held in Russell on Oct. 18. Alfred Goodwin, then 70 and cashier of S.H. Mallory & Co.’s Russell Bank, was invited to be the principal speaker.

Goodwin, born during December of 1832 in Maine, had arrived in Russell in 1869, two years after it had been platted along the new Burlington & Missouri River Railroad line by Henry S. Russell, trustee for B&MR land interests --- and named for himself.

A jack of many trades, Goodwin had mined in California and Colorado, taught school and served in the Civil War (Co. D, 17th Illinois Infantry) before making a fresh start in Russell at age 36. He was the community’s second postmaster (reappointed later for two additional terms), its first mayor after incorporation in 1887 and a justice of the peace. He also was the husband of Ellen (Sweet) Goodwin and the father of several children.

Col. Dungan, as would be expected, attended that October 1903 meeting and brought home from it Goodwin’s hand-written script --- on sheets of Russell Bank stationery --- which he duly filed away.

As a rule, these old settler memoirs also were published in Lucas County newspapers of the day, and it seems likely Goodwin’s account of Russell history was published in the Russell newspaper that fall, but a 1922 fire destroyed all but scattered copies of its back files and we can’t be sure of that.

Not long thereafter, Dungan was instrumental in merging the Old Settlers Association, its Washington Township Auxiliary, an old soldiers association and other groups into the Lucas County Historical Society, one of the first Iowa county societies to be formally organized and incorporated.

The society did not last, however. Sons and daughters of the pioneers were not sufficiently interested to allow the organization to build momentum and it faded way. It would take 60 years, three (going on four) wars and the Great Depression for history to reassert itself and the current Lucas County Historical Society to rise in the 1960s.

After Col. Dungan’s death in 1913 at 90, his files were passed on to the Chariton Public Library for safekeeping and for many years maintained in filing cabinets in the library’s periodicals room. Upon organization of the new Lucas County Historical Society, these files were deaccessioned by the library to it, where they remain.

So here again, after more than a century, are Alfred Goodwins recollections of Russell as it was when he arrived there:


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In February 1869 Henry C. Goodwin, R.R. Fogg and Alfred Goodwin arrived in Russell. That event though unimportant is the first to be noticed. They found the town in the first stage of settlement. The dead prairie grass of the previous summer lay where it grew on the ground now covered by the business part of the town. The streets were known only by the stakes driven by the surveyor. Cattle and hogs run at large day and night to the disgust of fastidious people. Houses were few and scarcely sufficient to accommodate those already living here; and it was even more difficult then than it is now for strangers to find room to lodge in. Those who had houses were generous in sharing their scanty accommodations with the new comers and thus the difficulty was overcome.

The railroad accommodations were such as might be expected in those days when it was built only as far west as Afton. There were four trains a day, two going west and two east. N.B. Douglas was station agent. This railroad was then the B. & M.

In speaking of houses it is worth while to mention those that were in the limits of the town. On the north side of the railroad there was only one house, and that was occupied by Michael Kahoa. There were two railroad buildings, the depot and a warehouse, which about that time was occupied by temporary residents and sometimes for public meetings. It afterwards became the grain warehouse of Boggs & Plotts.

South of the railroad along Lowell Street were located the blacksmith shop of A. G. Tremaine, a dwelling house occupied by F.S. Morgan and H.W. Elliott’s store. On the north side of Short Street at the western extremity was the residence of F.M. Wimberly, and on the south side at the eastern extremity that of Levi Olmstead. Dr. J. R. Hatton’s residence was a little beyond in Smith’s Addition.

There were three dwelling houses on the south side of Shaw Street, namely Mrs. N.E. Van Dyke’s, Thomas Lynch’s and Denis Foley’s.

On the north side of Ames Street stood the Presbyterian and the Episcopalian churches, both unfinished, and the residence of M.L. Plotts, which was at the east end. East of Ames Street in Smith’s Addition was the Labagh House, the only two story building then in Russell. It was built by Rev. Mr. Labagh, an Episcopal minister. In that house lived the family of William N. Colegrove and three others. This included all the houses in Russell. The Labagh House was the principal resort of strangers and transient people. It stands now where it was then with very little alteration in the premises.

The Episcopal church bilding was afterwards moved a number of times and used for a variety of purposes. It now stands on the east side of Prairie Street between Shaw and Ames.

The Presbyterian church building was also moved away, and was finally converted into a dwelling house, the same in which Thomas O’Donnell is now living.

During the remainder of 1869 a number of other buildings were built, among them a dwelling house by A. G. Tremaine, one of D. F. Comstock, and one by Geo. C. Boggs, the Mill by West Fry, a small hotel by Alonzo N. Goodwin, and the two story building where the post office is now by Henry C. Goodwin.

The new arrival(s) that year besides those already named included Wm. G. Stearns and Granville A. Goodwin.

Dr. L. Sprague came in 1870; E. Powell, Dr. C.B. Powell, James H. Cook, Newton Howell and J.F. Sprague in 1871; J.B. Ferguson and Dr. W.A. Palmer in 1872; A.J. Woodman and Levi Wilson in 1873. Some of the earliest residents came from the neighboring country. Among them were John S. Blue, Elijah Allen, William Fulkerson, John Bentley and James Grayson.

Six persons are now living in Russell who were here in February 1869. They are Geo. W. Plotts, Mr. and Mrs. Kahoa, H.W. Elliott, J.D. Van Dyke and Alfred Goodwin.

N.B. Douglass, besides being station agent, was postmaster and justice of the peace. H.W. Elliott kept the only store, the first in Russell.

The first school was taught in the Presbyterian church building by Miss Julia Scott, now Mrs. G.F. Carpenter, commencing in April 1869 and ending about the first of July. The first preacher, Rev. Mr. Labagh.

In the winter of 1870 the citizens of Russell held their first public social gathering in the old railroad warehouse. It was in the nature of a picnic.

The Russell District Fair was held in the Fall of the same year. Mr. Elijah Allen was the promoter and President.

In December 1870 the depot was broken open and robbed. Mr. Douglas, the agent, had been there late at night, and on going to his home had taken with him all the money on hand belonging to the railroad company and post office, which he said amounted to about fifteen hundred dollars, and was taken from under his pillow while he was asleep. Although havoc was made of the papers in the depot, nothing of value was taken away except some postage stamps. Some of the citizens went out in search of the robbers, but no trace could be found. Mr. Douglas had been the most trusted of the company’s agents, and enjoyed the unbounded confidence of the community. After an investigation by the company, which was never made public, he left their employ.

In the beginning of 1871 Russell had assumed the appearance and dignity of a town. Hogs were restrained, but cattle run at large for years afterwards.

Goodwin Brothers had a store, there was a hotel, and also a place where beer and native wine were sold. The native wine seemed to have been made of corn and rye. The name of the firm of Young & Holman is probably remembered by only a few people.

In 1873 A.J. Woodman built his hardware store, which fronted on Lowell Street. Newton Howell commenced the business of harness making in 1871, and continued it as long as he lived, enjoying the exclusive trade of Russell in that line.

H.W. Elliott built his brick store in 1875, it being the first brick building in Russell.

The first Methodist church building and the first school house were built in 1872. There is no recollection of any further public improvements until about 1875 when some sidewalks were built, and a brass band was organized. The sidewalks have been succeeded by better ones; but not so with the band. It is to be regretted that the platters of the town or the early settlers failed to provide a piece of ground for the use of the public. A refined and cultured community cannot help feeling the want.

Washington Township had many settlers before 1869, but there were still large tracts of uncultivated prairie; and the woodlands bordering Chariton River could be traversed from east to west without the vexation of wire fences. They afforded a pleasant resort for hunters, and those people living in towns who felt the need of recreation.

Most of the settlers were found along the route leading from the south east through the central part of the township towards Chariton.

To the east of Russell the prairie was unoccupied for three miles, the nearest house in that direction being W. Y. Cowings. Along the prairie was seen an old road called the Mormon Trace, which was said to have been one of the roads traveled by the Mormons in their migration west.

To the south there were three houses within two miles, Isaac Van Gilder’s, John Jackley’s and Henry Wiltsey’s, and to the west that of William Nelson. Thus in a territory two miles wide and four miles long there were only four houses outside of Russell.

This completes all that is worth recording of the recollections of one who by force of circumstances remained here until he learned that there is no better place thatn Russell and Washington Township, where the people possess the best qualities of citizenship.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Looking for the green ...


That might have been “wearing of the green” had I not managed to overlook St. Patrick’s Day earlier this week, but what can you do. So many holidays, so little time. I would have been in big trouble in Melrose (and maybe Dougherty, too). Are you listening Rosann Cahalan Boyle?

Anyhow, it occurred to me that it was St. Patrick’s Day when I walked into HyVee and was confronted by a table of green bread --- nasty looking stuff, apparently the HyVee bakery’s standard white bread to which a more than healthy dollop of green food coloring had been added. I can identify with soda bread, corned beef and cabbage, green frosting and even green beer. But green bread? St. Patrick would have been appalled.

There certainly are Irish-Irish in Lucas County, but more of us here are Scots-Irish --- descended from Scots families exported to Ireland by those irritating English in the 17th century in large part to aggravate the Irish-Irish but treated no less badly. Because of that at least in part our Scots-Irish ancestors flocked in great numbers to American during the 18th century, arriving just in time to participate in the American Revolution. At least we got even with the English earlier than the Irish-Irish did.

The bigger Irish-Irish settlements here are concentrated a few miles down the road east in Monroe County, clustered around St. Patrick’s of Melrose and St. Patrick’s of Georgetown, churches with identical names but distinctively independent architecture. But it is a good idea when someone tells you the event is at St. Patrick’s to ask which one --- unless it involves a Curran, and we’ll all know that will be Melrose; or a Judge --- that will be at Georgetown.

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So I set off down the Cinder Path wearing brown, but looking for something green. The best I could do was the moss-covered log up top --- kind of pretty I thought and not something that would be noticed had it been surrounded by other green stuff.

The grass is starting to turn green and I expect to have daffodils next week, snow or no snow --- but it’s still mostly brown around here.

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I’m going to post a small piece of Russell history here after a bit and the thing that struck me most while reading an account of my hometown (I grew up seven miles south) is how sparsely it was populated in 1869, three years after its founding. That’s due in large part to the fact Russell was built along the brand new Burlington & Missouri River rail line on high prairie that continues for a mile or two farther south before breaking into the Chariton River valley.

If I remember correctly, there were fewer than a dozen houses in Russell in 1869 and only four houses in a four- by six-mile area surrounding it. Farming the prairie hadn’t quite caught on in 1869 and settlers still were heading for the timbered hills instead.

Driving southeast out of Russell this morning on my way to Browns Slough to view birds, it began to seem as if that sparsely populated status is returning.

Within the last few years both the Louise (Homer) McKinley and Bob Kells farmsteads have been bulldozed into oblivion --- once the homes of representatives of the two oldest families in the Russell area. Only the Warren Blue home still stands along that stretch of road and those of us who drive by landmarks now have to concentrate in order to avoid missing the corner south that our vehicles once turned into automatically after spotting first Louise’s house, then the Kells farm.

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The draw at Browns Slough was pelicans, which have settled in there for a temporary stay. Unfortunately for me, they had opted for privacy and were spending the morning almost out of sight around a headland that cut off my view of the western part of the big marsh pond.

But that was fine, there were plenty of other birds --- geese, ducks and gulls --- to look at on a morning grayer and colder that we’ve gotten used to this week.

There was a similar assortment yesterday morning down at Pin Oak, but the entertainment was provided by a pair of bald eagles who were using the trees that will be cormorant headquarters in a few weeks as home base for a fishing expedition. If you enlarge the photo below and look carefully, you can see one eagle soaring and the other resting. Sorry, but this is the best my camera could do.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Working Title: The Almighty Branners


John Branner (Above)
Subtitled: Cemetery Walk No. 6
First Installment of Several

The Branners lightly fictionalized could model for it if they made movies like that any more --- family sagas that stretched from the old South to the frontier, span the Civil War, plunge into the 20th Century.

There would be a husband and father strangely estranged from his family who leaves wife and children behind in Tennessee and comes north and west to found a fortune, then dies dissolute and in despair. And two sons who fight for the Confederacy, one of whom dies while the other survives, returns to the North and prospers; and a daughter of the South who despite her brothers’ sacrifice marries a Union general. Finally, a determined widow who moves her family to the North after the war to claim the fortune her estranged husband founded and stages in the end a family reunion of sorts around her grave in the Chariton Cemetery where the bones and ashes of all save the patriarch and the son lost to war are buried.

Heading the cast would be John Branner, and his wife, Jane (Cowan) Branner. Two of their children would be featured --- Napoleon Bonaparte Branner and Victoria Josephine (Branner) Dewey, both with names that say a good deal about the parents who named them. And in supporting roles, daughters Virginia M. (Branner) Palmer/Branner and Annis E. (Branner) Hoskins, and the lost son, Thomas W. Branner.

Bit parts might be played by Edwin Clenendin Rankin, George W. Alexander, John Faith and many more.

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John Branner, East Tennessean and something of a tortured soul, most likely also was the first Lucas Countyan who could have been described as rich. He was among the largest purchasers of Iowa’s public lands during the 1850s and 1860s, acquiring something in the neighborhood of 10,000 acres across a wide swath of the south central and southwest parts of the state. That land base allowed his small family to be counted among Chariton’s most affluent and influential residents for roughly a century although the Branners and the Deweys have been by now largely forgotten.

The oddest thing about the Branner lot in the Chariton Cemetery is that John isn’t buried on it, although he died in Chariton at about this time of year 139 years ago, during March of 1871. He is buried in Chicago, something that may have occurred more by accident than design.

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It’s quite a story and as good a place as any to begin is a remarkable obituary of the patriarch, published in The Chariton Democrat of March 16, 1871. They don’t write obituaries like this any more for weekly newspapers, rummaging into the private lives of the deceased, assigning blame for their falls, and perhaps it’s just as well.

But as you read it, consider the author --- John Faith --- standing amid drawers of type with a composing stick in hand, making it up as he goes along, hand-setting copy for The Democrat’s next edition.

Faith, highly talented and an accomplished writer but lacking a sense of proportion, had founded The Democrat in 1867. He was, as the nameplate of his newspaper suggests, a Democrat, rabidly partisan, dangerously outspoken and never a candidate for objectivity or fairness awards. He was on shaky ground during March of 1871, having made many enemies, and within months had fled to Osceola, taking The Democrat with him. He soon sold it, however, and John Branner’s son, Napoleon Bonaparte (known as “Bone” or “N.B.”) and others resurrected it as “The Chariton Leader.” Here’s the obituary:

Died, In Chariton, Iowa, on Friday, March 10th, 1871, after a protracted illness, John Branner, in the 56th year of his age.

John Branner was born in the State of Tennessee, where he was married, and in which state his family has since lived. He came to Iowa in 1853, locating at Chariton, and here he invested his means and lived until the time of his death. Before leaving Tennessee, his scholarly attainments, general intelligence and fitness to occupy distinguished positions, brought him into public notice, and he was for several terms, we believe, elected to preside over one of the courts. He came to Iowa at the time when everything was prosperous and when money would realize large profits from investment, and his means and good business qualifications soon brought him into prominence in a financial respect. He invested largely in real estate, and was at one time engaged in the banking business here, the firm being known as Branner & Braden.

The unfortunate circumstance of separation from his family, however, had its effect, both upon his social standing and moral character. Freed from the restraints of his family and perhaps disappointed with life, he formed relations which were destined to speedily throw about him their tolls and eventually undermine his better nature. He was made to suffer the consequences of the villainny of others who still live in our midst, and the persecutions and perjury which did much to discourage and distract him, were probably the main causes that brought upon him the habits which hastened his death. He was involved, from time to time, in litigation, the object of which seemed to be the possession of his money, and the prejudice of juries, and the love of money upon the part of his persecutors did more to make a moral wreck of John Branner than can be charged to the weakness of his nature. He became sordid, misanthropic, and in no small degree, lost confidence in his fellow man. He was a man who regarded his word as binding, and an assault upon his honor, in this particular, was more painful to him than anything else.

Just as surely as a man’s good acts die with him just so truly are his bad deeds remembered after he has gone hence. There are those who will speak of Judge Branner as an exacting and unmerciful creditor yet there are few that were his debtors who can truthfully say that he oppressed them them, so long as they showed a disposition to deal honestly and take no advantage of him. In many instances, he was even more generous than those who were under obligations to him than they had any right to expect. He did much to relieve the poor and needy from embarrassments and as the laborer is worthy of his hire, so, also, is a man’s money worth a fair return. He acted upon this principle, and the large amount of unsettled obligations remaining in his hands at the time of his death, which have been due for years, and upon many of which he did not receive even so much as the lawful interest, affords evidence that he was not an oppressor of the poor man. His life, since he came to Chariton was of an unhappy nature, yet he had a few warm friends who knew the better qualities that lay buried within him, and he appreciated their friendship, all the time protesting his unworthiness. The evil nature of man, however, had attained such control over him that he was seldom able to assert his better principles, yet those who knew him best knew that his own senses revolted at his condition. And now that he is dead, and gone, let us hope that the grave will shield him from the malignity of those who persecuted him while living.

The family of Judge Branner consists of a wife, three daughters and a son, all of whom, except the latter, live in Tennessee. Those whose acquaintance with his family enables them to speak knowingly always speak of them as occupying a position in the best society and commanding the respect of all those around them, rendering his prolonged separation from them all the more unaccountable and unhappy. It is painful to refer to these things in speaking of the subject of this sketch yet, it is necessary to do so, in order than things before stated may be made more plain.

On the day following his death, his remains were taken in charge by his friend, E.C. Rankin, Esq., and his son, N.B. Branner, who, have probably gone to his old home with him.


+++

The obituary introduces another player in the Branner story, E.C. Rankin, a fellow Tennessean and like John Branner, a Dandridge native although some five years younger.

According to a transcription found online at the Jefferson County, Tennessee, U.S. GenWeb site of records from the family Bible of Thomas Jr. and Caroline M.T. (Franklin) Rankin, who lived two and a half miles east of Dandridge, Edwin Clindinan (or Clendenin) Rankin was their eldest son, born Jan. 25, 1825. The Bible record gives his marriage date as March 31, 1853, but does not name the bride, identified as Elizabeth in census records. That marriage apparently occurred in Iowa.

Lucas County’s 1881 history identifies E.C. Rankin and another Tennessean, Adam S. Yoakley, as among the first settlers in 1850 of Jackson Township, and both families were indeed there in 1856, when a special Iowa census was taken on the 10th anniversary of Iowa statehood. That record shows, however, that Rankin and Yoakley had arrived only four years earlier, placing their permanent settlement ca. 1852.

Perhaps Rankin, Yoakley and John Branner came to Lucas County together in 1850, cited as the year of Branner’s first visit, scouting the land and entering claims. Branner returned to settle permanently in 1853, but Yoakley and Rankin seem to have come a year earlier.

Rankin was proprietor --- farmer, storekeeper, justice of the peace and postmaster --- at Tallahoma, located perhaps two miles northeast of present-day Lucas on hills rising to the west of White Breast Creek. This was from July of 1853 until the coming of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad after the Civil War the most westerly stop in Lucas County of the Western Stage Co. Tallahoma also is misspelled “Tallyhoma” sometimes and perhaps was intended to be “Tullahoma,” the name of a town in middle Tennessee. The Tallahoma post office also was established in 1853 and continued to be the place where most residents of that area came to get their mail until the late 1860s.

Tallahoma was on the decline by 1871, when John Branner died and E.C. Rankin was identified as his friend. The railroad had passed through Lucas to the south, the stage company had disbanded in 1870 and although the post office would continue until 1875, its volume had declined substantially. The Rankins and the Yoakleys would move west soon thereafter. But at the time of Branner’s death, Rankin remained an affluent and influential Lucas Countyan.

+++

John Faith thought, as he composed John Branner’s obituary, that Rankin and Bone Branner were headed home to Dandridge, Tennessee, with the body. And that may have been the case.

They did not make it there, however, and instead buried Branner in Chicago’s relatively new Rosehill Cemetery, where he still reposes. There’s no logical reason for Chicago as a final resting place. John Branner had never lived there, had no family or other connections there.

The most logical explanation is simply that Rankin and Bone, accompanying a body on moderating days when embalming still was a novelty, were invited to remove it from a freight car in Chicago, the switching point for rail transport southeast, and bury it as quickly as possible.

To be continued ...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Not too promising now, but wait ...


A mild but gray Sunday afternoon at Pin Oak Marsh, where ice remains but snow has vanished.

The snow vanished in little more than a week while I spent quality time with Edward Ames Temple, et. al. (last week’s posts), and in general chased my tail attending meetings and doing other stuff. The Chariton River, White Breast Creek and lesser streams rose but now are receding without major flooding. The marshes are full of mallards, but their numbers will decrease as water levels drop.

Lucas County judges the severity of flooding by the White Breast’s behavior at Lucas where in very wet times it takes out temporarily both Highway 34 and Highway 65 south of its intersection with 34. The water lapped at the edges of No. 65 last week, but didn’t overflow.

On the downside, the bottoms have gone out of most of our gravel roads, making travel a challenge for nearly everyone who lives in the country or wants to go there. There’s not much that can be done about this except patience pills and prayers that the county will unload gravel when an impassable mud hole develops. Lots of fog, too.

But I don’t think many regret the departure of a winter’s accumulation. Not that we won’t get more before all is said and done, but at least it will melt quickly now.

+++

The season seemed to turn late the week before last with return of the Canada geese. Now many of our snowbirds are back. I spotted male red-winged blackbirds staking out territory down at the marsh last week (the males always arrive first). Robins are stalking around the lawn looking for worms and when I went out yesterday afternoon to see how much two loads of gravel had improved the condition of the church driveway I had killdeer for company.

There have been large overflights of snow geese, but hunters are having trouble tracking them to ground, and many other varieties of waterfowl are assembling in the marshes now even through much of the ice still is in place. There was quite a variety at Pin Oak Sunday afternoon plus a good-sized bald eagle parked on the ice considering the possibility of duck for dinner.


After a snowy winter it’s always fun to check the garden to see what’s been happening out of sight under all that white stuff. Daffodils are up and budded on the east side of the house where snow was deepest, not quite so advanced on the west. Tulips are showing up, too. The parsley made it through the winter under the cover of snow and right now I could have a fresh garnish if I wanted it. Chances are, however, March cold will do it in and I’ll have to start from scratch as usual.

+++

I was lucky enough to get an invite to go down to Allerton Saturday night for supper and the annual Allerton comedy, an amateur presentation at the Centennial Building that was ending its three night run (counting dress rehearsal, to which the public is invited).

All of the 15-member cast of “Take Your Medicine,” a farce in three acts set in a 1950s hospital room, performed wonderfully I thought, but especially so Tim Kelly (as Henry K. Dobson) and Tom Hysell (as Jonathan Puckett), principal characters who spent nearly all of the play on stage without breaks dressed in hospital gowns. Tom Hysell’s wife, Joyce, however, kept stealing the show as Dodie, described as an “awkward nurse in training.” You’d have had to have been there to understand just how she went about doing that.

We did an informal count of chairs and bleacher space and decided the Centennial Building’s auditorium would seat somewhere between 400 and 500 people and every inch was filled for Saturday night’s performance. The kitchen crew provided seamless service to everyone who wanted hot sandwiches, chips, pie and coffee or soft drinks --- and that seemed to nearly everyone. The only downside was balancing supper on your lap since there wasn’t room in the auditorium for both people and tables (and I dropped my sandwich once, but recovered it).

Director Jackie Greenlee estimated that somewhere between 250 and 300 people --- equivalent to half of Allerton’s population --- had played some part in the production. And that’s just downright amazing, although of course folks from nearby Corydon and other parts of the county were among the players and helpers.

I got to bragging about Allerton last summer when the Moving Wall came to the Round Barn Site just east of town. If more Iowans could pull together as effectively as the neighbors in Allerton do perhaps we wouldn’t get into the fixes we seem to get ourselves into these days. (The absurdity of an Iowa Association of School Boards director being paid an annual salary in excess of $300,000 and other officials of that organization feathering their own nests with taxpayer dollars while attempting to set up insurance/consulting operations to compete with private firms is the issue du jour in this morning’s Register.)

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This is Monday, once laundry day according to practical traditions that once helped set the rhythm of life. Rounding up a load to shove into the washer to do itself this morning, I got to thinking about how much work that used to be for my mother and most other women. I’m not nostalgic about this, nor would my mother have been --- she appreciated her Maytags more that most of us do nowadays.

The soft water for laundry when I was small came from a cistern pump on the north porch and was carried bucketful by bucketful to a big boiler that stretched across two burners of a kerosene-powered stove in the wash house just west of the kitchen. After the water had heated, it was scooped into both the wringer washing machine and the nearby rinse tub.

By that time, rural electric cooperatives had brought power into the country so at least the washing machine was electric powered (gasoline engines had powered earlier models). After the wash cycle was complete, the wringer on the washing machine was moved into place and clean clothing wrung out into the rinse tub, then wrung out again after the rinse into laundry baskets carried out to the clothesline where everything dried --- hopefully in a good breeze with lots of sunshine (although freeze-drying worked fairly well in winter, too). The trick here was not to inadvertently run your arm through the wringer, too, as sometimes happened with those new-fangled electric machines.

Since laundry was a job that took at least the entire morning, dinner was something simple --- often bean soup that simmered away on the back burner of a two-burner coal- and wood-fired stove that stood next to the electric stove in the kitchen.

Tuesday was ironing day --- an all-electric operation as far back as my memory stretches. But my mother talked of earlier times when sadirons were heated on cookstoves, then of modern technology --- irons powered by gasoline under pressure that occasionally burst into flame. Once, before I came along and my parents were living in a tenant house on the Slater place, the gas iron burst into flame on a warm morning when the windows were open and Mother avoided injury and damage by throwing it out an open window onto the grass.

What a bunch of sissies we’ve gotten to be --- not that I have any interest in going back to those good old days. I do, however, still use my grandmother’s wooden ironing board with “Bought new in 1942” written in pencil on the bottom. And my current project involves a very old pink linen tablecloth with a stain that still requires one more overnight immersion in Clorox 2 before it vanishes. Then I’ll haul out the ironing board and press that sucker --- and if you’ve ever ironed linen you’ll know just what a pain that can be.

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Daylight Saving Time is back with no noted disruption of life. I set all the clocks in the house an hour ahead yesterday and left the clock on the pickup dash alone. It remains on Daylight Saving Time year-around since I’m too lazy to pull out the instruction book and figure out how to reset it.

So spring seems to have launched a little before the official day. We’ll just sit here and wait now for the March snowstorm that will remind us that winter still has power.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cemetery Walk No. 5: Edward Ames Temple


Part One of Two Parts

Edward Ames Temple was, among many other things, a detail man. It’s not surprising, then, that the tombstone marking his grave and those of five other family members is among the most complex in the Chariton Cemetery, loaded with symbols, the centerpiece of a family circle where mortal remains are arranged like so many slices of an apple pie.

Buried here in addition to Edward, remembered most often when he’s remembered at all as founder of what now is the Principal Financial Group (17,000 employees worldwide, $72 billion in assets, headquartered in Des Moines), are his wife, Elizabeth Jane (Swett) Temple; their adopted son and nephew, Porter George Swett; little Porter’s mother, Matilda E. (Weaver) Swett, who died a few days after his birth; and Elizabeth Jane’s parents, Moses Porter and Abby Jane (Tillman) Swett.

It’s difficult to say when this unconventional arrangement was developed, but my guess is soon after 1880, when both Porter George and his adoptive mother, Elizabeth Jane, died --- he on April 30 of scarlet fever and she of “rheumatism of the heart” on Dec. 6. The white marble family tombstone with eight faces, six inscribed but now eroding, appears to date from the 1880s.

The current arrangement of graves cannot be original to the plot. Elizabeth Jane’s father, Moses Porter Swett, died on June 27, 1860, four years before The Chariton Cemetery Co. was organized and the cemetery ground purchased and platted. He, most likely, was buried first at the Columbus School site, then reinterred in the new cemetery. His wife, Abby Jane, died Sept. 28, 1865, when the new cemetery was in use. Matilda E. Swett died in 1877.


While it is possible the octagonal tombstone surrounded by octagonal curbing that apparently encloses the graves could have been set down atop graves aligned conventionally east-west, that does not seem likely. Initials engraved upon six of the eight stone posts that mark turning points for the octagon seem to indicate the precise locations of graves arranged in a circle around the center monument. In addition, it would have been uncharacteristic of a man so precise as Edward A. Temple not to ensure that what was underground matched the aboveground configuration.

So it seems likely that when Edward alighted up this scheme for the family plot, anyone interred upon it previously was uprooted and reburied to conform to plan. Excavation would prove the point --- but such a thing is discouraged by both cemetery rules and state law. On Resurrection morn, according to this arrangement, the family would arise to form a partial circle, perhaps facing the stone cross atop the central monument and each other. Not many would worry about such a thing in this day and age, but I suspect that Edward A. Temple did.

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Edward was, by his own account, born on Sept. 23, 1831, in Lebanon, St. Clair County, Illinois, to George and Sarah Forest (Deaton) Temple. Although there were nine children altogether, three died in infancy. Edward was third among the six survivors. The others were George Deaton Temple (born 4 March 1827), who spent much of his adult life at Fairfield but died in Burlington on Dec. 26, 1894; Cyrus Floyd Temple (born Feb. 4, 1829), who joined his brother in Chariton in 1855 and died here on 9 May 1894; Jonas “Joe” DeWitt Temple (born Jan. 28, 1838), who did not marry and died in Des Moines on June 28, 1898; Augustus Dodge Temple (born 8 November 1840), who lived at one time in Chariton but moved west and died at Kingman, Kansas, on 19 August 1889; and Cecelia Ann Temple (born April 11, 1846), who did not marry and was housekeeper and companion to her brother, Edward, until his death. Cecelia died in Des Moines on Sept. 10, 1919. George Sr. and Sarah Temple, one of the infants, Jonas, George and Cecelia are buried at Aspen Grove Cemetery in Burlington.

In 1837, when Edward was six, the family moved west to Burlington, then in Wisconsin Territory and next the Iowa territorial capital. A tailor by trade, George Temple Sr. became prominent in city, territorial and state politics, serving as Burlington postmaster during the Van Buren administration, as mayor and as a member (and twice speaker) of the Iowa Legislature.

Edward attended private schools in Burlington until he was 15, then went to work in what probably were a series of clerical posts for city and county officials, even serving as deputy Burlington postmaster. In 1849, when he was 18, Temple joined the staff of Fairfield-based entrepreneur Bernhard Henn and moved there. Edward's brother, George D., already had moved to Fairfield where he was employed in the U.S. land office.

In Fairfield, Edward met and on May 1, 1851, married Elizabeth Jane Swett, daughter of Moses Porter and Abby Jane (Tillman) Swett. Some years later, in 1857, Elizabeth’s sister, Julia, would marry Edward’s brother, Augustus Dodge. The Swetts had moved to Jefferson County from New York in the spring of 1845. Moses’s occupation when the 1850 census was taken was tinner.

These were heady times in Iowa both for land-hungry pioneers and hungrier speculators. As Iowa was opened for settlement, land was offered by the U.S. government for $1.25 an acre. In addition, military land warrants had been issued to thousands of veterans of the Mexican and other wars. These, too, could be sold to speculators by veterans who had no interest in moving west.

To take full advantage of the opportunities, Bernhard Henn and others had organized the firm of Henn, Williams & Co., and in November of 1851, Edward joined that firm. In 1853, when the U.S. land office was moved from Fairfield to Chariton, Henn, Williams & Co. opened an office here, too, and Edward was named its manager. He and Elizabeth arrived in Chariton during February 1853. Before the firm was dissolved in 1857, branch offices also had been opened in Fort Dodge and Council Bluffs.

The Temples bought and sold land independently, too. It is occasionally stated that Edward once owned Mount Ayr, the seat of Ringgold County, and that is true --- up to a point. When the newly-appointed commissioners of Ringgold County met in 1855 to select a county seat site, they selected property owned by Edward and Elizabeth Temple, which the Temples then sold to the commissioners for development.

When the Henn & Williams partnership was dissolved in 1857, the Temple brothers formed their own company to do much the same sort of business. The outlook seemed promising but the timing was awful. The brothers were caught up in the nationwide financial panic of that year and did not prosper. Roughly 90 percent of their liquid assets were lost in a New York bank failure and subsequent financial manipulations by the bank owners. Although the Temples did not walk away from their obligations, it took years for the firm to recover --- in part by selling land and other holdings at fire-sale prices. The Chariton office was closed and operations transferred to Ottumwa, where Edward and Elizabeth moved. Dreams of riches evaporated, but Temple Brothers were able to sell out during the early 1860s to W.B. Bonnifield, who in 1863 launched Ottumwa’s First National Bank.

Elizabeth’s parents, Moses P. and Abby Swett, had followed the Temples to Lucas County during the late 1850s and still were residents in 1860, when Moses’s occupation was listed as grocer in the federal census of that year. During May of 1860, however, he died; Abby followed him in death five years later. Both were only in their 50s.

In 1862, freed of business obligations in Iowa, Edward and Elizabeth with six others set out from Ottumwa to seek opportunity in the Salmon River country of Idaho, where gold had been discovered. A five-month journey in wagons drawn by mule teams took them eventually to Portland, Oregon, where Elizabeth remained with relatives. Edward returned to Idaho, spending parts of 1863 and 1864 prospecting for gold and dealing in just about anything that could be bought or sold.

This did not prove profitable, and Edward returned to Portland late in 1864. He found work as chief clerk in the Quartermaster’s Department at Fort Vancouver in Washington Territory and later served as Fort Vancouver’s chief quartermaster until the Civil War ended.

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In June of 1866, when he was 35, the Temples returned from the West to Chariton where he launched a new career. He entered as a minor partner in and manager of Chariton’s first bank, operated by the firm F.W. Brooks & Co. Francis W. Brooks also was president of the National State Bank of Burlington and his partner, William F. Coolbaugh, formerly of Burlington, president of Union National Bank in Chicago.

Upon F.W. Brooks’ death in 1869, the company that bore his name was merged into Lyman Cook & Co. (Cook also was a Burlington banker) and a year later, into First National Bank of Chariton, incorporated in that year by among others Smith H. Mallory, Chariton-based railroad entrepreneur and principal stockholder, Lyman Cook and Edward Temple. Mallory served as president of this bank until his deah in 1903; Edward, as vice-president and cashier until the mid-1880s.

It was during this period commencing in 1866 that the Temples began to prosper and became community leaders in Chariton, forming relationships that would endure until death, most notably with Smith H. Mallory, his wife, Annie, and daughter, Jessie. Edward and Elizabeth became members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and led an active social life.

An example of their involvement in Chariton society is offered in a report published on June 10, 1871, in The Chariton Democrat and headlined “A Brilliant Affair.” The story described in glowing terms an evening party with approximately 240 guests that had been held at the Temple home and on its “extensive” grounds, lighted by lanterns “hanging from every tree” the preceding Thursday. While musical entertainment and “nonsense” occupied guests inside the house, eight sets of croquet and other games were available to amuse those outside. Refreshments were served at 11 p.m. --- sandwiches, various cakes, fresh fruit and lemonade --- and by midnight, festivities were winding down. Edward’s and Elizabeth’s party, according to The Democrat, was pronounced by their guests to have been “one of the most brilliant and extensive Chariton ever saw.”

Edward and Elizabeth had not had children, but sad circumstances during 1877 increased their family by three. Elizabeth’s brother, Moses Albert Swett, had married Matilda E. Weaver on April 21, 1868, in Lucas County, and they had produced three children: Harriet E., Sarah Grace and Porter George. Matilda died, however, on June 29, 1877, of complications from childbirth a few days after Porter George’s birth. The three small children were taken in by Edward and Elizabeth and so far as is known never lived with their father again.

In 1880, Edward’s world in one sense came crashing down around his ears. Little Porter George died on April 30 of that year of scarlet fever and Elizabeth, on Dec. 6, of “rheumatism of the heart.”

The Chariton Leader of Dec. 11 reported as follows: “Died, in this city, on Monday evening the 6th inst. Of Rheumatism of the heart. Mrs. E.A. Temple.

“The sad news of her death was received by all her friends with profound sorrow. For many years she has resided in this city, each year only serving to widen the circle of her devoted friends. Though blessed with no children of her own, a year or two ago she and her husband adopted into their family three little children left motherless by the death of Mrs. Temple’s sister (-in-law). The rearing and educating of them was to her a delight, while they added to her happiness by the cheerful light of their presence. The little fellows will lament her as a mother, and kind friends will miss her from their social circles. Funeral services were held at the St. Andrew’s church on Wednesday, after which the remains were deposited in their last resting place in the Chariton cemetery.”


Aided by his recently-widowed mother and maiden sister, Cecelia, Edward continued to father the two little girls, Harriet and Sarah. He never showed an inclination to remarry and seems to have been remarkably devoted to the memory of the late Elizabeth.

This devotion resulted in one of the odder census entries I’ve come across in many years of research. By 1900, Edward had moved his family to Des Moines and was living there on Ninth Street when the federal census was taken in June. Enumerated as a member of Edward’s household in addition to his sister, Cecilia, nieces Harriet and Sarah, and a servant named Alma Peterson was his wife, Elizabeth J. Temple, although dead now 20 years. According to the census entry, Elizabeth, born during May of 1830, was 70 years old and they had been married for 49 years. Few would have gone to the trouble of deceiving a census-taker in this manner, but obviously Elizabeth’s spirit still was very much alive in Edward’s heart.


Four years later, Edward ordered what would be Elizabeth’s final memorial --- a marble altar for the new St. Andrew’s Church in Chariton, an altar still in use in the parish although the building it was ordered for, in large part a monument to the Mallory family, has long since crumbled.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Edward Ames Temple Continued


Edward Ames Temple's inscription on the family tombstone states that he was born Sept. 23, 1831, and died on Feb. 12, 1909. Born in Illinois, most of his life was spent in Iowa. He died while on vacation in Orlando, Florida.

Part two of two

Life must have seemed good to Edward and Elizabeth Temple as Chariton and Lucas County prospered after the Civil War. The war, which had formed a dam against westward expansion, was over and new settlers flooded in, most in the market for land. Construction of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, stalled at Ottumwa when the war commenced, resumed and in July of 1867 tracks and trains reached Chariton. Chariton briefly became the jumping-off point for settlers headed farther west and the base for continued rail construction to the Missouri River.

The fact that rail entrepreneur and Temple’s banking parther, Smith H. Mallory, who had launched his fortune by obtaining contracts to build bridges on the rail line between Ottumwa and the Missouri, picked Chariton as his permanent headquarters meant the city would remain an important railroad town into the 20th century.

While basking in prosperity and filled with new optimism, Edward’s thoughts turned to a new industry then emerging across the country --- life insurance. Most of the companies then offering insurance where headquartered in the East and distrusted in the West with some justification. The industry was entirely unregulated and marked by abuse of both policy holders and investors.

While casting about for a way that Iowa bankers might obtain low-cost and safe life insurance for themselves and their employees, Edward began to consider the case of an Episcopal priest who upon arrival in Fairfield had boarded with the family of Edward’s brother, George. A year after moving his family to Fairfield, the priest died. It then was discovered that he had belonged to an informal association of 100 clergymen, each of whom had agreed to pay $10 to the survivors of any who died. The deceased’s widow thereby collected $990 in life insurance with nothing deducted for overhead or as fees and at minimal cost to the other members of the association.

That became the central idea behind what became the Bankers Life Association formed by Edward and a few banker associates. Edward obtained a charter for the association, to be headquartered in Des Moines, on July 1, 1879, and was named president, a position he held until his death 30 years later, during 1909.

Modest initial fees plus occasional assessments funded the association and smart investing allowed reserves to grow.

Tight restrictions on the insured minimized risk. At first, certificates were sold only to bankers and their employees although that later was modified so that people recommended by their bankers also could obtain insurance. Women were excluded (childbirth was considered too risky). Men prone to overindulge in alcohol or drugs could be booted from the association or denied benefits if lifestyle contributed to demise. Men in occupations deemed risky or in geographical areas considered high-risk (this included all states south of the Mason-Dixon Line) also were excluded.

In its early years, there was little overhead. There was no paid staff initially and Edward did not draw a salary himself until the 1890s (at the time of his death, he was drawing a $7,000 annual salary, a fraction of the average amount then being paid to similarly placed executives).

Bankers Life grew rapidly during Temple’s 30 years at the helm and reported assets of $13 million and more than $450 million in insurance in effect by 1909, a remarkable record. As the company became more profitable, however, pressure increased to shift its base to a fixed-premium system, but Edward resisted. That shift was made after his death, however, and the firm continued to grow. In 1985, it was renamed the Principal Financial Group and it continues as one of the nation’s major insurers and purveyors of financial services.

The 1880 deaths of Elizabeth Temple and little Porter George occurred just as the Bankers Life Association was taking off and, by Edward’s own account, that combined with increasing responsibilities to the company to change his outlook toward Chariton.


Elizabeth Jane (Swett) Temple's date of birth is not inscribed on the family tombstone. She was born May 23, 1830, in Little Falls, N.Y. Her death, caused by "rheumatism of the heart," occurred in Chariton on Dec. 6, 1880."


Porter George Swett, son of Moses Albert and Mathilda (Weaver) Swett, was adopted by Edward A. and Elizabeth (Swett) Temple after his mother died of complications from childbirth. He died on April 30, 1880, of scarlet fever.


Each inscription on the Temple family tombstone is matched by a symbol below it, Edward's, by an hourglass; Elizabeth's, by a cross and crown; and Porter George's, by a lamb. The tail end of my red pickup behind the stone represents careless parking.

He continued to balance his responsibilities at First National Bank and Bankers Life until 1884, spending at least part of each week in Des Moines. In that year, he resigned his banking position and thereafter devoted full attention to Bankers Life. He continued to maintain his home in Chariton until 1887, however, traveling back and forth by train.

In 1887, he moved himself, his two nieces and his sister, Cecilia, to Des Moines permanently A little less than 10 years later, he built a large home of surprisingly contemporary design for a conservative man on Ninth Street in what now is known as the Historic River Bend Neighborhood, north of downtown in a bend of the Des Moines River. That home, restored in recent years after falling upon hard times as the neighborhood deteriorated after his death, still stands.


The Edward A. Temple home in Des Moines' River Bend Neighborhood, has been fully restored after falling upon hard times after the Temples left it.

He transferred his church membership from St. Andrew’s in Chariton to St. Luke’s in Des Moines and became an active member of that parish.

His lifestyle during the closing years of his life is fairly well summed up in two paragraphs of a story reporting upon his death in The Chariton Patriot of Feb. 18, 1909:

“He was a deep reader, familiar with a wide range of subjects, fond of music, although not a performer. He kept in his den at home his favorite music and he idolized the home and its life. He had a large library and he was regarded as a man of splendid mental equipment.

“Religious activity took much of Mrs. Temple’s time during the past few years. He was senior warden of St. Luke’s Episcopal church and the vestry meetings were always held in his office. He was generous in charity, but modest concerning his benefactions and what a fortune he has given to the worthy will never be known.”

By 1909, when he was 77, Edward’s had begun to be troubled by health issues and had taken to spending time during the winters on the west coast, where relatives lived, and in Orlando, Florida, which had become the home of Annie Mallory and Jessie Thayer, widow and daughter of his old friend and business associate, Smith H. Mallory.

He traveled to Orland from Des Moines prior to Christmas, 1908, and became ill early in the new year. After apparently rallying, he died of heart failure on the evening of Friday, Feb. 12, 1909, with Annie and Jessie as well as another old Chariton friend, Miss Margaret McCormick, at his side.

The following Tuesday, his body was brought to St. Andrew’s Church in Chariton where funeral services were held, followed by burial beside his beloved Elizabeth in the Chariton Cemetery.

Edward left behind an estate of roughly $100,000, a fortune at that time but by no means as large a fortune as he could have accumulated had he taken full financial advantage of his position with Bankers Life and had not given so much away. About $50,000 was in the form of liquid assets; the balance, in real estate and other investments.

His will, dated Dec. 9, 1906, is of remarkable scope and precision, reflecting the detail man he was. The largest bequests, although by no means extravagant, went to his sister, Cecelia, and his two nieces, Harriet and Sarah. In addition, he left $1,000 each to 29 surviving relatives --- the widows and children of all his brothers as well as surviving siblings, nieces and nephews of Elizabeth.

Thousand-dollar bequests also went to the Iowa Children’s Home, the Riverside Settlement House Association, the Home for the Aged on University Avenue, St. Luke’s Parish and the Iowa Humane Society, all of Des Moines; the endowment fund of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa; and to St. Andrew’s Church of Chariton.

He also left $1,000 to the Historical Society of the State of Iowa to fund a bronze tablet for the wall of the old Historical Building (now the Ola Babcock Building) commemorating “delightful memories of William Salter, George Temple (Edward’s father), Levi Hager, William D. Remey, Bernhart Henn, Anthony W. Carpenter and William F. Collbaugh, pioneer residents of Burlington, Iowa.”

Edward made no provisions for a monument to himself, beyond ensuring that his name and dates of birth and death were inscribed on the family tombstone not far inside the gates of the Chariton Cemetery. Although acknowledged by Principal Financial Group as its founder, he has receded into obscurity. And I suspect that is precisely what Edward would have preferred. He was never a man to make a fuss.


Matilda E. (Weaver) Swett, mother of Porter George, is buried next to her son as graves continue south around the circle of the Temple-Swett lot. Her inscription is so badly eroded and encrusted with lichen that it is virtually impossible to read. Census records suggest she was born about 1845 in Ohio and the obituary of her mother, Harriet (Yergey) Swett/Larimer, states that the family arrived in Cedar Township, Lucas County, in 1850. She was married to Moses Albert Swett on 21 April 1868 in Lucas County and died of complications from childbirth on June 29, 1877, a few days after the birth of Porter George. Her father, George Weaver, had died Sept. 12, 1869, in Cedar Township and her mother, Harriet, had married as her second husband Hugh Larimer on Oct. 12, 1876. Harriet died Jan. 10, 1901, and was buried with George in the Allen Cemetery in Cedar Township. The symbol below Matilda's inscription on the Templle-Swett stone is a rose.

So far as can be determined, none of the three children of Matilda and Moses Albert --- Harriet, Sarah and Porter George --- lived with their father again after they were taken in by Edward and Elizabeth Temple. In 1910, Moses Albert was living with his sister, Abby (Swett) Freeman, and nephew, Albert Freeman, in Columbia County, Oregon. He died 29 Decenber 1918 in Columbia County (according to the online Oregon Death Index) and is buried with the Freemans (Abby's husband was Charles) in Bayview Memorial Cemetery at Scappoose.




The inscription marking the grave of Moses Porter Swett, husband of Abby Jane, next to that of their daughter-in-law, Matilda (Weaver) Swett, is easier to read. It shows that he was born May 13, 1807, and died June 27, 1860. The Swetts had moved from Ohio to Jefferson County, Iowa, in 1850 and on to Lucas County ca. 1857. The symbol below Moses's inscription is a shock of wheat.



Continuing the circle around the Temple-Swett stone, the final inscription is that of Abby Jane (Tillman) Swett, wife of Moses Porter Swett and mother of Elizabeth Jane (Swett) Temple. The dates on the stone were transcribed during the 1970s by members of the Lucas County Genealogical Scoiety as "Born, Feb. 27, 1810" and "Died, Sept. 28, 1865." While there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of this transcription, I've never been able to decipher the dates myself. The symbol below Abby Jane's inscription is a sythe.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Canadas are back!


That wouldn't be worth an exclamation point in an ordinary year, but considering the winter we've had and the relative nature of excitement, return of the Canada geese is a big deal.

Mary Ellen called last night to report that, driving home in late afternoon following a conference in Creston, she'd seen huge flights from Highway 34; and Darrin called this morning, reporting a goose brawl at Pin Oak.

By the time I got down to the marsh, fighting had subsided and only three peacable honkers were skidding around on the ice of the east pond; a few more on the west pond. More were flying over, apparently moving from pond to pond along the greenbelt.

In an ordinary winter with far less snow cover, the geese are with us year-around, grazing in harvested fields and elsewhere, often keeping patches of water open. This year, however, those fields have been buried under snow since December and the geese wisely became snowbirds and headed south.

Their return, of course, means the spring is just around the corner.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Church, State, Wicca, Etc.,


A Lucas County boy named Dale Halferty, educator for 20 years and for the last three industrial arts teacher in the Guthrie Center district, has ended up in hot water and has been suspended for five days. His offense? Telling a student he couldn’t build a Wiccan altar as an industrial arts project. Hmmm.

All I know about stuff is what I read in the papers, of course, so my source of information is The Des Moines Register --- and witnessing the bemused head-shaking the other day of one of Halferty’s teachers, now retired, in Chariton.

Wicca, by the way, is a neopagan religion whose practitioners often refer to themselves as witches, in the nicest possible way, practitioners of what they consider a benign form of white earth-centered magic. It’s a 20th century creation that claims ancient roots, sometimes acknowledges pagan deities and generally tries to operate outside the frameworks of the world’s dominant religions --- Secularism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hindu.

Aw shucks, you may be saying to yourself, aint no Wiccans in these parts. Well think again. Doing a Web search a year or so ago for Red Haw State Park I came upon a blog description of a Wiccan service at the old stone shelter house there. So there are Wiccans among us, although not many I’d guess.

And I’ve met and visited with a few Wiccans along the road and come away with a respect for their beliefs and outook although with no particular urge to share them. Some have been intrigued by Native American spirituality and its integrated approach to creation, but unwilling to intrude uninvited into the cultures in which that spirituality is rooted. Others have been turned off by the cavalier approach to the earth and its resources that have marked a culture identifying itself as Christian. Wicca is not Satanism and there seems to be about as many Wiccan as there are Baptist sects. Both can get mighty confusing.

Anyhow, according to Register reports, Halferty, who says he believes in the separation of church and state (amen to that one), had previously told another student he couldn’t built a cross in industrial arts class, but had allowed the student who told him that the table he was building would be a Wiccan altar to work on the project so long as he left religious materials at home. The rationale may have been that a cross has obvious religious meaning while a table does not. When the boy kept bringing a “book of witchcraft” to class, Halferty deep-sixed the altar project.

Administrators, responding to a complaint, declared that school, state and federal policy and law prohibit discrimination against students who express religious beliefs in school assignments and suspended Halferty for five days without pay for “insubordination.”

Talking to The Register, Halferty muddied the water by saying he “doesn’t understand why school officials are forcing him to act against his own beliefs as a Christian and allow the student to disrupt his class with a project based on a religion he believes is wrong and bad for youth.”

That implies that Halferty was discriminating against a student based upon his own beliefs, clearly prohibited, while occurrences preceding this sort of statement suggested he was merely attempting to be even-handed.

Truth be told, the relationship between public schools and religion is a minefield that I wouldn’t care to walk through as either an administrator or a teacher. Some of the rules are fairly clear --- no school-organized prayer, no school-organzed Bible reading or study sessions. But then it gets muddy. Students are not to be prohibited from sharing their religious beliefs so long as sharing doesn’t become harassment. But harassment often is tricky to quantify. While prohibited from teaching religion, Schools are allowed to teach about religion. But in Iowa at least, attempts to develop religion curricula have foundered when developers and parents failed to reach consensus.

Darned if I know the answers here.

But I do have two suggestions (and have you ever noticed how those of us who don’t have kids are just full of advice for those who do?).

If you’re worried about Wicca or any other unconventional spiritual path your kids might wander down, pick a church, synagogue or other conventional religious assembly, attend its services and enroll the kids in its religious education program and make sure they attend. There’s no guarantee they will follow the path you might prefer, but at least they will have a spiritual foundation. I’m always amazed at families that identify as “Christian,” but never darken a church door and depend upon television to instill values in the kids. What are they thinking?

And I’ve always thought, given kids, availability and an adequate supply of tuition money, I’d send the little devils to a parochial school, most likely a Roman Catholic one. Catholics seem best at offering enlightened curricula while sparing students whose parents don’t want it religious indoctrination.

Fortunately, I’m not a school administrator, not a teacher and don’t have kids. So I get to sit here and fire potshots without having too big a stake in the consequences.