Monday, November 19, 2012

Historical this, historical that

I've read a lot of Chariton newspapers on microfilm, even more digital images lately while scratching for information about historic buildings in the Main Street District. All sorts of other stuff turns up while doing that --- not really enough about any topic to base a blog post on, but interesting.


Take the following item from The Chariton Democrat of June 30, 1875, related to the engraved aerial view of Chariton (top) that appears on Page 349 of A. T. Andreas's 1875 Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa. The view is a wondrous thing for a couple of reasons. It's quite accurate, for one. Second, it was drawn before aerial photography was available and Google maps were online.

The artist who executed it worked from plat maps and his own observations while traveling around the city. But we've never known who the artist was or how its size and placement in the atlas were decided upon. This article headlined "View of Chariton" tells more.

"Mr. Boston, the view man for Andreas' Atlas, dropped in just as we were going to press, and reports fair success in his work here, but he fears the size of the view of Chariton will have to be cut down unless greater interest is manifested. This we learn is the case at Albia, not enough having been contributed to pay for a large view.

"We hope this may not be the case here. Certainly we ought to have a half page view at least. Let everybody do something and the view may be made a fine one and worth having."

As it turned out, the Chariton view is half a page, perhaps slightly larger (Albia also ended up with a half-page view, too, on Page 243, although the work is less satisfactory than that evident in the Chariton view). So we can be grateful those Chariton contributors did something.

If you're interested in more on the Andreas Atlas, there's an earlier Lucas Countyan post here entitled "A.T. Andreas and His Magnificent Atlas."


Tallahoma, a stage stop, post office and trading post in far northeast Jackson Township or northeast White Breast  from the early 1850s until 1875, has vanished physically and for the most part from Lucas County's collective memory, too. It was located on rising ground west of the Whitebreast Creek crossing on the main trail west from Chariton to Osceola, then Mount Pisgah, perhaps two miles northeast of Lucas.

The post office operated from 1853 until 1875, and Tallahoma (often misspelled Tallyhoma) was the westernmost stop in Lucas County for the Western Stage Coach Co., which operated depots in LaGrange, Chariton and Tallahoma until arrival of the railroad during 1867.

In 1870, Edwin C. Rankin, a friend, fellow Tennessean and colleague of Lucas County's first major entrepreneur, John Branner, was Tallahoma storekeeper, postmaster and justice of the peace, in addition to farming Branner land.

Specific information about Tallahoma is in short supply, but The Democrat of June 30, 1875, did report, "The Tallahoma post office, this county, has been discontinued, mail to come to Chariton."

Many years later, during 1911, John Branner's son, Napoleon Bonaparte Branner, sat down with Henry Gittinger, then editor of The Chariton Leader, to visit about the good old days, resulting in this little front-page article headlined, "A Bit of Ancient History." Note that N.B., Henry, or both were confused about the name of the place. It was named after Tullahoma, Tennsssee, but officially was Tallahoma.

"In the early days there was a post office in Lucas county, about 8 miles northwest of Chariton, called Tulahoma. A trading post had been located there by the late Judge Branner, father of N.B. Branner, who had a big tract of land out there secured by laying Mexcian land warrants. He and a partner had established a store but after the railroad was built the post office was discontinued and Lucas became the mart. In speaking of this early post office, Mr. Branner said hs father suggested the name from a place in Tennessee called Talahoma, but the department got it Tulahoma, and the error was never corrected. Other post offices in the county that were known in the early days in the east part of the county were LaGrange, in Cedar, and Greenville, in Washington."


A couple of times a year I get involved in a conversation that begins, "but there were no black people in Chariton," or something similar. But that's not the case at all. Chariton had a substantial, although not large, black population from after the Civil War through the heyday of the coal mining industry, enough to support two independent black congregations, one A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) and the other, Baptist.

While I've never found reports of racial violence or institutional racism, other than a 1920s dalliance with the Ku Klux Klan seemingly motivated by white Protestant discomfort with all "others," there were no long-term opportunities here for black young people, so they left --- and the older generations died. Early (and some more recent) newspaper reports tend either to patronize people of color, or to be overtly racist, and they probably reflect the attitudes of a majority of the white population.

So here's the obituary of Abe Prather, who died during January of 1905 after a long residence in Chariton:

"Abe Prather, the aged colored man so well known here, died of paralysis Wednesday, aged 57 years. He was buried today from the African M.E. church, the services being conducted by Rev. F.B. Palmer.

"Mr. Prather was born in Lynn county, Missouri, in 1847 and was a slave in that state. On gaining his freedom he went to Kansas and in 1871 came to Chariton. For nearly thirty-five years he was a familiar character about town and was well known to nearly every inhabitant of Chariton. He was a hard-working, self-supporting negro. His aged wife, known as "Aunty Mason," survives him. She is blind and in a helpless condition. She will live with the family of Wm. Martin."

And here is "Aunty Mason's" obituary, from The Patriot of Aug. 6, 1908:

"Priscilla Mason Prather was born in St. Louis, Mo., in 1818. She was married three times and was the mother of three children, who died in infancy. She was married to Abe Prather in Chariton in 1880 and her husband departed this life in 1905. She died at the home of Wm. Martin, Wednesday, July 29, after an illness of two days, aged 90 years. Those who survive her are three grandchildren, two sisters-in-law, Mrs. Rhoda Harris of Brookfield, Mo., and Mrs. T.J. Martin of Chariton. She was a member of the M.E. church. (Submitted by) Rev. L.A. Joplin, of the A.M.E. church."

The Leader, also of Aug. 6, 1908, reported the death, too, under a headline which reads, "Aged Colored Lady Dies." Editor Henry Gittinger apparently had little information to go on when composing the paragraph and perhaps tried to compensate by concluding with a sermonette, as he was prone to do.

"Priscilla Prather, the aged colored lady, died at the Jackson residence in this city, last Thursday. The funeral was held at the A.M.E. church, on Saturday, conducted by the pastor. She was perhaps 90 years of age, a native of Virginia and was born in slavery. For several years she had been blind, but now she is freed from human suffering and her sight is restored more brilliant than the possibilities of this life, for she was a devout Christian and ever happy in the faith of an eternity."

The Prathers are buried in that section of the Chariton Cemetery just northeast of the shelter house, and I intended to go out Sunday and find their tombstones, but didn't get around to it. Another day ....

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