Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Ephemera: Hatcher House

If you can't stand to throw away a scrap of paper that has something written or printed on it, bless your heart. Call it "ephemera" and consider yourself vindicated.

"Ephemera" is a good old fashioned word that encompasses hand-written or printed material that never was intended to be saved but thanks to packrats like you, was.

My grandfather, William Ambrose Miller, had a considerable collection of ephemera, including this little card from the Hatcher House, one of Chariton's earliest and most widely known hotels.

The Hatcher House was a rambling wood frame building constructed on the southwest corner of the square (where the U.S. Bank drive-up office is located now) during the fall of 1853. Rooms were available there, of course, but businesses also operated out of ground-floor locations and Perry's Hall, a popular meeting place during Chariton's second full decade, also was located here.

I'm not quite sure when this card dates from (probably the 1870s), altough it would be possible to figure that out because of the printed names of the proprietors --- Frank and G.W. Dungan. Benjamin Franklin Bates, who went on to build the city's premiere hotel, the Bates House, also managed the Hatcher for a time during the early 1870s.

I have no idea who collected the card, but it probably wasn't Granddad, born in 1875. By the time he had arisen from the cradle and was moving around the Hatcher House had been eclipsed by both the Bates House and the Depot House hotels. Granddad's father, Joseph Cyrus Miller, may have picked it up and first tucked it away.

The card certainly was printed after 1867 since it lists on the back distances from Burlington (where the B.&M.R.R.R. began) to other locations across southern Iowa along the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad, which reached Chariton on the 4th of July, 1867, then moved rapidly on to Council Bluffs.

You can see the Hatcher House, sort of, on the engraving below from the 1875 Andreas Illustrated Historical Atlas of Iowa. The view here is to the northwest with Lucas County's second courthouse in the middle of the square. Hatcher House is on the corner of the square to the left of the courthouse.

If you ever want to take a closer look at this map, we have several copies in various formats at the Lucas County Historical Society museum. This version was scanned from my own modern copy of the atlas, reproduced during the 1960s by the State Historical Society of Iowa and now something of a collector's item itself.

The map, which is remarkably accurate, is a tour de force. There was no aerial photography in the 1870s --- a balloon ascension is unlikely here. And no higher place to look down upon the town from. So the artist had to move around at ground level sketching buildings and putting them in context, then imagine what it all would look like from the air. Amazing.

So keep on saving those scraps of paper. Somebody somewhere down the line --- if you selected your ephemera wisely and tucked it away safely --- will call your name blessed.


Charles M. Wright said...

Who was the Hatcher that gave his name to Hatcher House? Could it have been Elijah J. Hatcher whose second wife was Martha B. Roseman, a sister of my Great-Grandmother Mary Ann Roseman Wright?

An item in The Chariton Herald Patriot of November 10, 1910 states: "E. J. Hatcher, who is one of the earliest settlers in Lucas County, having come here from Ohio in 1859 will have his first public sale since he came to Iowa, on his farm Tuesday, November 22, and the following day another sale at his farm five miles east of Chariton. He expects to move to either Russell or Chariton, and take life easy."

Aunt Mattie married Hatcher, a widower, on November 15, 1882 when she was 35 and lovingly reared his several children as her own. She died in Russell in 1930 at the age of 83.

Hatcher built a brick store in Russell in 1892 which is remembered by many Russell residents as the Ed Latham General Store and later Walter Greenlee's. The upper story of the building was Russell's Opera House for a time. Hatcher had operated a business in his store from October 1892 until 1902 when he sold it to Zedda Wiltsey. Hatcher also built a Victorian home in the western part of Russell a block north of the Woodman Funeral Home.

Charles M. Wright

Frank D. Myers said...

Hi Charles. I left this a little vague because I've had trouble sorting it out.

It appears that Elijah J. Hatcher's father, Mahlon B. Hatcher, purchased the hotel in the mid-1860s but it isn't clear if he operated it himself or bought it as an investment and a means of employing one or more of his children. His son, J. Gregg Hatcher, according to a newspaper report "closed" the hotel in 1868, suggesting that the family was inolved in its management. Obviously, it re-opened.

In 1869, during what later was ruled a family squabble between Mahlon, his third wife (Mary) and his children (none of them Mary's), Mahlon deeded the hotel to Elijah J. apparently to hold in trust for himself and several of his siblings. Upon Mahlon's 1876 death, this deed was challenged in court by Mary and the courts eventually ruled in her favor --- that she had been denied her dower right in the hotel property as part of a scheme by Mahlon and his children. So she got her share of the hotel.

The Hatchers were among several old Belmont County, Ohio, Quaker or formerly Quaker families --- including the Stantons, the Burrs and my own Chynoweth/Dents --- who came to Lucas County in the 1860s. It looks like Elijah came in 1859 with or followed by other siblings and Mahnlon B. and the troublesome Mary during the mid-1860s.

If you want to read the court proceeding that followed Mahlon B.'s death, go to Google Book and search form "Mahlon B. Hatcher." It should come right up --- and you'll learn more than you probably want to know about the Hatcher family. I'd send the link, but its very long and complex and probably would fly apart in this format.

I'll keep poking around and see if I can turn up more about the Hatcher House.


Charles M. Wright said...

Thanks, Frank.

Not to belabor the topic, but have you been able to learn the maiden name of Elijah James Hatcher's mother? One source tells me that Mahlon B. Hatcher's wife was Nancy Hatcher and that they may have been first cousins. She died in 1853.