Friday, March 16, 2012

Elijah Lewis's "Thirty Years"

I've written earlier about Elijah Lewis and the commemorative article he wrote for The Chariton Patriot (which he then owned and published) on Feb. 18, 1897, to mark the 30th anniversary of his arrival in Lucas County on Feb. 18, 1867. Here it is.
The photo, generally dated 1869, shows the northeast corner of the square as it looked --- more or less --- when Elijah stepped off that stagecoach from Albia. You'll probably need to right-click and open in a new window to see it clearly. The northwest corner of Lucas County's second courthouse is at far right and roughly the east half of the north side of the square at left.
The large frame building with pitched roof to the right was the first hotel built on the current Hotel Charitone site --- although by no means Chariton's first hotel. Henry Allen's story-and-a-half inn and stagecoach stop at the southeast corner of the square was first, followed by the Hatcher House, at the southwest corner of the square.
This hotel had a variety of names as the years passed, but was known as "Opposition House" when this photo was taken. It's not clear what its owner was opposed to. Perhaps the Hatcher House. Smith H. Mallory eventually acquired the building and lot and rented it out to hoteliers, then this building disappeared and was replaced by a rambling business building for the Palmer mercantile operation, which burned; then by a temporary gospel tabernacle; and finally, in 1923, by the Charitone.
Although Elijah announced at the end of the article that he planned to "abide here to the end," that didn't quite work out. Blessed with a government appointment, he moved to Washington, D.C. Although he always returned to Chariton when Congress was not in session, his principal home was there until his death. He is, however, buried in the Chariton Cemetery.
By Elijah Lewis
The Chariton Patriot, Feb. 18, 1897

By a singular coincidence this number of the Patriot is issued on the 30th anniversary of the writer becoming a citizen of Chariton. Thirty years ago we came out here in a western stage coach from Albia, that town being the extreme western point reached by the railway at that time. It was a cold night and the roads were rough. The stage stopped at LaGrange for supper and arrived in Chariton some time in the night.

Dr. J.D. Wright, who piloted us out this way, bears the responsibility of bringing this vanguard of the Lewis family to Chariton, all of whom followed in due time. Perhaps he was not aware that we would stick to the place with such disappointing tenacity. Manuel Foster of English township came in the same coach that night and is still living on the farm then purchased.

In the morning after arrival we looked around the wooden village of nine or ten hundred people, but did not then know it was to be the home of all our future years. The truth is the town did not make a favorable impression. The low, one story wooden houses, a good many of them unpainted, and the temporary look of everything was not encouraging.

We had a letter of introduction from T.W. Newman of Burlington to Joseph Wilkerson esq., and Edward A. Temple. These were hunted up during the day and the letters presented. Wilkerson was a leading attorney and had his office in the old brick court house in the room afterward used as the Recorder's office, while Mr. Temple was cashier and manager of the bank of F.W. Brooks & Co. over on the south side of the lot now occupied by the Kubitshek block. Both extended a cordial welcome.

Oliver Palmer was just finishing his two story brick store on the east side, at that time the only brick building in town. W.C. Penick was doing a rushing business in the old frame building on the lot now occupied by Kennedy & Co.'s store. G.W. Blake was selling hardware on the north side, and is the only merchant selling goods then, who is still in business, unless it be possibly L.F. Maple and W.E. Lewis.

J.A. Brown was running a tinner's shop in the frame building where their brick store now stands, and laying the foundation of his substantial fortune. John A. Best, the genial traveling salesman, was running a dray. T.M. Stuart, Col. (Warren S.) Dungan and E.M. Thorpe, were prominent attorneys; while Doctors Fitch, Stanton, Kneeland, Heed and Gibbon looked after the afflicted.

Dr. McCormick was county Auditor, Gaylord Lyman, Sheriff, and Ca ptain Gardner, Clerk of the courts. Thomas Matson carried on an extensive harness business, and his son-in-law, Dr. Brant, was a prominent and successful dentist as he is now. Martin Schwarm kept a grocery on the south side in Judge Branner's building.

There wasn't a side walk off the square in the whole town scarcely, and in soft weather the mud, black, sticky and bottomless, was a terror to pedestrians.

Lewis & Brother (Evan) purchased the old flouring mill of Dr. Wright February 18, 1867, and went to work.

The July following the railway reached here and with it came a new rush of business. McGavic Brothers established a lumber yard opposite the mill on the lot occupied by the plow factory later on. Gilbert, Hedge & Co. with D.M. Thompson as resident partner, started the lumber business now carried on by McKlveen Brothers, while General David Remick represented bhe E.D. Rand Lumber Co. in a yard across the track just south of the passenger station.

S.H. Mallory was building the bridges west on the then B. & M. R. R. and laying the foundation of his ample fortune which he has used in so many ways helpful to Chariton and Lucas county. John Fitzgerald, who died a millionaire at Lincoln, Nebraska, some two or three years ago, was a sub-contractor on the new railway pushing west from Chariton in 1867.

So quickly have these thirty busy years passed that we hardly realize they have gone, and only partly compreend the wonderful progress we have made as a people. Sad changes, too, have come in that time. Many of the old pioneer friends have gone to their final rest, Dr. Gibbon, Captain McCormick, Anthony Mauksen, Samuel D. Houston, Daniel and Sarah Ragsdale, Ebenezer and Margaret Badger, Dr. McCormick, Joseph Wilkerson, C.F. Temple, with others not at this moment recalled, are names familiar and dear to many in Chariton and Lucas county. All have crossed over, leaving us standing yet a little while in the twilight, ere we enter the darker shadow into which they have silently passed.

The living also have found new homes in other places. Oliver Palmer is a ranchman and farmer in western Kansas. D.M. Thompson and W.L. Alexander are living in Denver. T.W. Fawcett in Westminster, California. General Remick at Los Angeles, Dell Stuart is practicing law in Portland, Oregon, and Channing Smith is living in Ottumwa.

These are only a few of the many whose friendship and kindness we remember. Thus nearly a third of a century has passed since we found a home here, and each year has added new ties of interest and friendship. We will abide here to the end, knowing that nowhere in the broad land could be found a kinder, more hospitable and excellent citizenship, than that which occupies the fruitful farms and thriving towns and villages of Lucas county.


Norm Prince said...

I seem to start my day with your blog and those you offer with a history story and pictures are always a pleasure. The small detail one can pick up from the pictures add greatly to the times of our ancestors as well as raises a few questions. I believe this is another photo which has fences shown at the court house and this one is most substantial and even with entry steps at least in two location. The reason for the fence I am not sure if to keep something out or in and I even wonder if that is a feed trough inside the fence in front of the hardware store. The small structure with the curved window is a mystery but I wonder if the other small building within the square might be a four hole privy ?? Thanks again for more insight to your town.

Frank D. Myers said...

Hi Norm --- The courtyard reportedly was fenced to keep livestock out. And it wasn't just horses. Many residents kept at least one milk cow as well as chickens and the occasional hog on their lots --- and these roamed the town (a frequent source of complaint along the lines of stray dogs and cats these days). I suspect those who arrived on the square on horseback or behind a wagon might have been tempted to graze the courthouse grass, too. I'm guessing that you're right about the four-hole privy and think maybe the other little building shelters a well. There were always watering troughs around the courthouse (two later versions still are at the court house and we have a third at the museum), but since this trough is inside the fence I'm just not sure.