Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Let him step to the music which he hears ...."

Had circumstances been different yesterday (like that foot of snow and impassable roads), I'd have driven out to Waynick Cemetery southwest of town to look up Jefferson Waynick. These photos were taken on Memorial Day a few years ago. Since then, the old graveyard has been taken in hand by the Pioneer Cemetery Commission and tidied up.

Not that I'd have been able to find a tombstone --- Jefferson doesn't have one --- but most likely he's buried near the marked graves of his parents, Solomon D. and Levisa (Wilson) Waynick, and sister, Ermina, so I'd have been able to come close. His brother, William, probably is buried here, too.

Jefferson, although almost entirely forgotten, seems to have been one of those guys who marched to the beat of a different drummer --- a familiar way of expressing Thoreau's well-known "If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away."

And Jefferson did that, even to the extent of retreating, like Thoreau, to a one-room cabin in the woods late in life --- where he died. We know he was born in Putnam County, Indiana, on Dec. 20, 1851, and came to Lucas County with his parents and older brothers, William and Henry, when he was a year old. Younger siblings Ermina and Dow came along later.

He died alone in that cabin some time during late August of 1926, but since his remains were not discovered for several days it's impossible to say exactly when. There was no suggestions of foul play --- all indications were that he just died --- in his 75th year.

I'll spare you the full obituary, which appeared in The Herald-Patriot of Sept. 2, 1926, in large part because newspaper writers of that era amused themselves by going into great detail about the condition of mortal remains when discovered in unusual circumstances. Sufficient to say, Jefferson was interred hurriedly in Waynick on the evening of the day his body was found.

But newspaper writers also went to the trouble, back in the old days, of exploring the characters of their deceased neighbors --- so we actually know a few things about Jefferson. Some of that comes out in the four-deck headline that introduced the story concerning his death and burial:

Jefferson Waynick Passed Away Alone in His Secluded Home in the Country
He Had Long Secluded Himself from Public and Found Pleasure in Playing Violin and Reading

Jefferson had worked on the family farm throughout his life and until several months before his death had shared the home there, five miles southwest of Chariton, with his maiden sister, Ermina, and bachelor brother, William.

But several months before his death, according to the Herald-Patriot report, "he had asked permission of Mr. Rex Bonnett to erect a cabin in the woods on the Bonnett farm, and there his last days were spent."

"During his lifetime," the report goes on, Jefferson "was something of a student and a great reader, especially of history and current events, and also a writer of no mean ability, and in his younger days was a contributor to various magazines and periodicals, and if he had a hobby above anything else it was to trace out quaint historic events and portray them on parchment. On such things as these and statistics he was an authority. He also loved to court the Muses and was gifted in music so far as his opportunities would permit, and was a composer, leaving many songs written and placed upon the scale as his personal work."

So far as I know, nothing that Jefferson Waynick created survived. I'm grateful that the newspaper editor of that time invested the time and trouble required to leave this faint record of him.


When I opened the cemetery book this morning to check Waynick burials, this article from The Chariton Herald of June 26, 1902, fell out. So here's a little history of the cemetery itself:


The old and well known Waynick cemetery, located about four miles southwest of town, is to be kept in first class shape in the future, as a company known as the Waynick Cemetery Association has been formed to take charge of it and keep it in proper condition. This old burying ground is one of the land marks of the county. It was laid out in 1854, by Peter Waynick and his son-in-law, Samuel Francis. It consists of two acres in Section One, Warren township, and until 1889 it was owned by the gentlemen named. In that year it was trasferred to J.T. Crozier, A.E. Dent and H.G. Curtis, who now deed their title and interest to the association just formed. Mr. J.T. Crozier is president of the Association, Miss May B. Waynick is secretary and H.G. Curtis is treasurer. By-laws and rules governing the cemetery have been drawn up, and everything will be done to keep the spot sacred and in good order.

Waynick also is the burial place of my Quaker great-great-grandmother, Eliza Jane (Brown) Dent/Chynoweth; her second husband, Joseph Turner Chynoweth; their daughter, Mary (Chynoweth) Collins; J.T. Chynoweth's parets, William and Bridget "Biddy" (Turner) Chynoweth, and a variety of other Chynoweth descendants.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Magic thinking and monkey business

The Chariton Herald-Patriot offered a little shelter from yesterday's storm and between bouts of shoveling I managed to read 1925 front pages from January's start to December's finish, looking for details about historic buildings --- but wandering off into other areas, too.

One thing you discover while reading through old newspapers is support for the theory that the more things change the more they remain the same.

It hadn't occurred to me that 1925 was the year of the Scopes "monkey trial" until increasingly detailed stories about that great battle for America's soul began to appear on The Patriot's front pages. These were not local stories --- there was no indication that The Patriot staff ever asked Lucas Countyans what they thought about the issues involved. But the syndicated coverage before and during the event published on front pages in Chariton was lengthy and fairly well balanced.

Here's one of the shorter (unbalanced) examples, published on June 18, 1925, as Christian fundamentalists moved around the country drumming up support before the trial began:

This Alludes to Theory That Man Came Up From a Lower Order
This Should Not Only Be Prohibited but the Propaganda Should be Stopped Altogether

Des Moines, June 17 --- If the teaching of evolution is accepted, man is a beast without morals, Rev. Henry Ostrom, evangelist of New York City, told members of the Kiwains club at their luncheon yesterday at the Hotel Fort Des Moines.

He branded the theory of evolution as dangerous and said the belief should not be tolerated by those who profess belief in the Bible.

"Many examples of the teaching are apparent today. A great many of the recent crimes committed may be traced to its influence. Loeb and Leopold are shining examples. They were highly educated and without morals.

"This teaching is one of the most dangerous points in modern education. Not only should the teaching of evolution be prohibited in schools, but further than that propoganda on the subject should be stopped. It tends to undermine the fundamentals of every institution of modern civilization."

(Nathan F. Leopold and and Richard A. Loeb were young Chciago men convicted of kidnapping and murdering 14-year-old Bobby Franks for no reason other than a desire to prove they could commit a perfect crime.)

The interesting thing about the Scopes trial, sometimes forgotten, is that it was a carefully staged event --- court theater. Tennessee had passed the Butler Act, prohibiting the teaching of evolution in public schools, during January of 1925. The American Civil Liberties Union (still the Great Satan among fundamentalists and Republicans) was anixous to challenge it. Civic and business leaders in Dayton, Tennessee, decided a trial that drew nation-wide attention would be good for the local economy and agreed to stage it. Teacher John T. Scopes (left) agreed to implicate himself in order to become the defendant. Fundamentalists, anxious to spread the anti-evolution gospel, joyfully signed on.

William Jennings Bryan, a Christian fundamentalist known by some as the great commoner and by others as the great windbag, was recruited as lead prosecutor. Clarence Darrow, an agnostic, led the Scopes' defense with substantial support from progressive Christians who saw no conflict between the concept of theistic creation and evolution as the tool kit. Fundamentalists insisted that the creation myths of Genesis should be taken literally.

The verdict --- Scopes was found guilty of violating the Tennessee statute, fined $100, then the conviction was overturned on a technicality --- was of far less significance than the rhetoric and symbolism, which still resonate now and then.

Even though Darrow had demonstrated during testimony that Bryan actually didn't know much about the Bible, "making a monkey" out of the great orator some said, Fundamentalists envisioned capitalizing on trial fever to continue their drive to embed anti-evolution language in state statutes and constitutions. Bryan was intended to be the flag-bearer, but expired a few days after the trial in his sleep in Dayton, leaving anti-evolutionists with a leadership crisis --- and momentum was lost.

None of this means either fundamentalists or the anti-intellectualism that they incorporate and represent has gone away. Heck, they've even managed to take over the Republican party. But the issues do change. Today, it's same-sex marriage. I'm wondering what the issue will be in 2113. It would be nice to have some assurance that there will be less magic thinking around in another 100 years, but none of us are going to be here to find out.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Farmers fail at mining in Benton Township

I happened onto a 1909 newspaper article the other day that offered a few details about my family's abortive coal mining enterprise --- something my dad had talked about but didn't experience personally because he wasn't born yet.

This happened midway through the period from roughly 1880 into the 1930s when coal was a growth industry in Lucas County and all sorts of people wanted a piece of the action. Here's the article from The Chariton Patriot of June 24, 1909:

New Mine to Start Development of Coal Field

The result of prospecting for coal in Benton township is the opening of a shaft on the farm of Harvey Whiteside. The shaft goes down to the depth of 83 feet where it strikes a vein of good coal that is two feet in thickness. A roof of rock is above the coal and there will be no trouble with water in the mine. The work of driving entries will begin at once. The company that will mine the coal is a corporation known as the Benton Coal Company. The company has leased the coal rights from Mr. Whiteside for a period of five years. He is paid one-fourth cent per bushel for the coal right. The members of the company are Harvey Whiteside, O.A. Scales, W.H. Holmes, Wm. Schreck, U.G. Berg, David Hupp, Ward Carpenter, Dan Myers, Irwin Myers. The endeavor will be to fully develop this field, but for the present the mining will be done on a limited scale, coal being sup pled as is now done at the Inland mine. The demand for this coal will come from farmers in the southern and southwestern parts of the county, which demand has heretofore been largely supplied by the mines near Bethlehem.

The shaft was located in the hills east of Wolf Creek about two miles south of Salem Cemetery on the old George Redlingshafer farm. George was an uncle of mine, some generations removed, and Harvey Whiteside, the Redlingshafer son-in-law who had purchased the farm when George died. With the exception of W.H. Holmes and Ward Carpenter, all of the investors were cousins. Irwin Myers was my grandfather; Dan Myers, my great-grandfather. They all lived along or just off the New York Road.

The good news here is that none of these guys lost much money. The bad news, they didn't mine much coal either --- perhaps enough to heat their own homes for a winter or two but little more. There were a couple of difficulties. First, the coal bed was not extensive enough to exploit commercially; and second, these men were farmers, not miners, and really didn't have too firm a grip on what they were trying to do.

Some years later, another group of investors sank a shaft just to the north --- west of the New York Road again, but north of the Chariton River. That enterprise didn't get off the ground either and pretty much marked the end of coal fever in Benton Township.

So when my dad was a kid, farmers in the neighborhood of Myers Corner still hitched horses to wagons and made the trek down to the mines east of Bethlehem for their winter supplies of coal.

I've sometimes wondered if, more than a century later, any trace of this modest mining enterprise remains --- a pile of dirt, perhaps, or a hole in the ground. I think, if approaching the Wolf Creek hill from the west, you crossed the the bridge across Wolf Creek and then walked south through the gap in the fence just the other side you'd be on the route to the old mine. But I have no idea who owns the Whiteside farm nowadays and lack the enthusiasm to ask permission and go exploring anyway.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Brick streets, hitching posts and bright lights

Chariton, by 1903 --- 110 years ago --- was modestly notorious among its peer cities for two reasons: None of our streets were paved and the town lacked a muncipal water system. It would take a major fire during January of 1904 to convince residents that a supply of water sufficient to prevent the square from burning down would be useful. But paving began during the late summer and early fall of 1903 after merchants and shoppers alike finally tired to the sea of mud that the square turned into after heavy rains and during spring thaws.

The photo here, which I've used before, was taken after paving had advanced more than half way from north to south on the west side of the square during 1903.

Other amenities accompanied all those new bricks, so The Chariton Patriot of Nov. 12, 1903, was able to report on the "New Hitching Posts" ---

"The new iron hitch posts and chains have been placed along the south side of the court house square, and the farmers hitched their horses thereto Saturday for the first time. The posts are being placed on the other sides of the square but it will take several days for the cement to dry. This will be a great improvement over the old way of hitching before the paving was done, when in rainy weather the horses often had to stand knee deep in water and mud and the farmers almost needed flat boats to get to their conveyances."

In addition to figuring out how to pay for these improvements, City Council now found that it had other issues to address. On the 7th of January, 1904, The Patriot reported that on the previous Monday night, "the council passed an ordinance to prevent the feeding of horses or other stock on the public square, under penalty of a fine not exceeding $10 or imprisonment in jail not more than 30 days."

Chariton did have a municipal light plant by 1903, located along the west side of what now is Yocum Park with much of the park area filled by a pond to supply water for steam generating equipment. That meant that, in addition to being paved, the square now could be brightly lighted --- although exactly how to do that involved experimentation. The Patriot of Dec. 8, 1904, reported as follows:

"An experiment is being made in placing the arc lights about the square. A large 30-foot pole has been placed at the northeast corner of the square; from this a twenty-foot steel arm projects, from which is suspended a two thousand candle power arc light. The braces are of solid steel; the guy wire which supports the light is insulated in a steel tubing. As it is now the lights are suspended on wires reaching diagonally from one corner building to another, and the constant swinging motion occasioned by wind wears the wire, the cable and guy ropes break and the lamps fall. If the experiment proves satisfactory, eight lights will be placed about the square instead of four, as at present --- one at each corner and one at each alley. Each corner post will have a twenty-foot arm and the alley posts, fourteen-foot arms, which will bring the lights all in perfect alignment."

Also during December, the City Council set a policy for monitoring --- and collecting for --- electricity used.

The Patriot also reported on Dec. 8 that, "the electric light committee was instructed to place meters on all places where more than three lights are used. The meter rate will be reduced to 10 cents per 1,000 watts after January 1, 1905. All meters will be sold to parties using the same at actual cost to the city, and where parties do not care to buy them they will be charged a rental of 25 cents per month."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Looking for Miss Catharine Moore

The Civil War-era patriotic cover (aka envelope) here was forwarded by Jo Porter after she read yesterday's blog entry about Wayne County's New York, a ghost town in Union Township. It is one of several covers from the collection of Jim Petersen arranged as a slideshow on the Web site of The Cedar Valley Civil War Roundtable.

Jo, who is affiliated with the Roundtable, had noticed it especially because it was addressed to "Miss Cathrine Moore, New York, Wayne Co., Iowa." The postmark city is Burlington, Iowa, and the date appears to be November 1864, although I'm not sure about that. The sender wasn't known --- and still isn't --- and no one had had much luck finding anything out about the addressee.

So I decided to take a look --- it's one of those areas in which I can't help myself. Had to do it. So I did, and wasn't able to prove much of anything --- so remember that everything here is in the realm of possibility, even probability, but hardly fact.

I started with a romantic notion --- that the envelope had once contained a letter written by a young Civil War soldier to his sweetheart back home in Wayne County. It was mailed during the Civil War, after all, in a type of envelope commonly used by soldiers (and by many others, too) and Burlington was the major Iowa staging point for Iowa troops from southern Iowa about to be deployed into the war zone on Mississippi river boats. I thought I had that one nailed a couple of times, but apparently not.

The first big problem was the fact no Catharine Moore seemed to be living near New York when either the 1860 or 1870 census was taken --- unless her family moved in and out of the area during the 10 years between.

I did, however, find the family of Burris and Julia A. (Gardner) Moore living not that far away --- in Lucas County's Warren Township (post office Chariton) during 1860. Five children were enumerated in the household --- Mary C., Rachel C., Joshua G., William and Cornelia.

Ten years later, Burris and Julia and three children (William L., Cornelia A. and Mary R.) were enumerated in Union Township, Wayne County (post office New York). So apparently they had moved during the 1860s.

Poking around a little more, I discovered online that Burris and Julia had a total of eight children, including two Marys --- Mary Catharine, born ca. 1841; and Mary Rebecca, born ca. 1859. Their two oldest children, Sarah, born ca. 1837, and Robert, born ca. 1839, were absent from the family home in both census years, perhaps already married and living independently.

It was not that uncommon for a family to give two children the same name, but in many instances this  implied that either one of the two had died and so the name had been recycled (both of these Mary Moores lived fairly long lives) or that one of the two didn't use a given first name, but was known by another. So I concluded, with no evidence remember, that Mary Catharine Moore was indeed the Miss Catharine Moore to whom the envelope had been addressed.

But who might have written the letter? I was still following my romantic inclinations and looking for a sweetheart.

The Goodell family stone at New York Cemetery

As it turns out, Mary Catharine married Lucien H. Goodell, who was indeed a Civil War veteran, after the war ended --- on Oct. 22, 1868, in Wayne County. He had served honorably in Co. C, 32nd Illinois Infantry, including a time as prisoner of war. He also was the first commander of New York's Messenger Post, Grand Army of the Republic.

Aha! I thought. Here it is. But as it turned out Lucien and his family did not move from Illinois to Wayne County until 1867, after the war had ended. So it seems unlikely that Catharine and Lucien were corresponding during the war.

I then started looking at Mary Catharine's family, thinking perhaps the letter might have been written by a brother. As it turns out, her younger brother, Joshua G. Moore, enlisted on Dec. 29, 1863 --- at age 18 --- in Co. U, 4th Iowa Volunteer Cavalry. But, unless I'm misreading the postmark, Joshua did not live long enough to write the letter. He became ill while traveling to join his unit and died at Vicksburg on Feb. 22, 1864, just two months after enlistment.

After all of this poking around, I'm still reasonably confident that Mary Catharine Moore, daughter of Julia and Burris and wife of Lucien H. Goodell, was the "Miss Catharine Moore" to whom the envelope was addressed --- but no closer to figuring out who might have addressed it.

Mary Catharine lived in the New York vicinity into her 80s, dying during 1922 at the age of 81, according to her tombstone. Lucien died the same year. They left two surviving children: Joseph B. Goodell (1881-1967) and Sophie A. (Goodell) Sloan. All are buried in the New York Cemetery as are Burris and Julia Moore and other members of their family.

The Goodell tombstone photos here were taken by Gwen Cottingham for the Find A Grave Web site. The photo of Joshua G. Moore's military marker at Vicksburg was added to Find A Grave by C & N Rasmussen.

Joshua G. Moore's tombstone at Vicksburg.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

New York, New York, it's a heck of a corn field

The sign that identifies New York is getting a little hard to read these days, so once you turn east off Highway 14 at Millerton when headed for Bethlehem or the Sunnyslope Church of Christ it's easy to drive right by without noticing. This has been especially true since the old Christian Church was picked up and moved to Allerton, its former location now a corn field.

But once upon a long time ago, this was a thriving village, platted on April 20, 1855, by Micajah Cross. It developed into a thriving neighborhood trading center with stores, two churches, both Masonic and Odd Fellows lodges, a Grand Army of the Republic post and from 1856 through 1903, a post office.

From the crossroads at the west edge of town, the New York Road led (and still does) north into Lucas County, then after a twist west into Chariton on the Blue Grass.

Although it took about 150 years for New York to vanish almost entirely (except for the cemetery some distance east of town), it seems to have been a major fire during early June of 1904 that pretty much sealed the little town's fate. Here's how The Chariton Patriot of June 9, 1904, reported on that blaze:

Wayne County Town Suffers a $15,000 Loss

New York, in Wayne county, about twelve miles from Chariton, suffered a serious loss from fire early Saturday morning, the 4th. The total loss is conservatively estimated at $15,000, five business houses being destroyed. The fire originated in the rear of F. Belknap's general store and burned everything in the building, consisting of a large stock of general merchandise valued at $12,000. Among the other losses are F.A. Burton, $175 on building; Odd Fellows room, $1,000; Charles Olmstead, $175; W.A. Pray, burilding, $300; and one other dwelling damaged. About one-fourth of the loss is said to be covered by insurance. There is no clue to the origin of the fire. It is a serious catastrophe to the enterprising town of New York but we trust through the well known energy and thrift of the business community all the ubildings will be at once rebuilt and the town resume its customary prosperity.

That rebuilding didn't occur. The post office was discontinued during the year after the fire, the Masonic lodge removed to Confidence, the old soldiers died and, during 1913, the village of Millerton was platted a couple of miles west along the projected route of the Rock Island Railroad.

There once were at least three congregations in and around New York. The New York class of the United Brethren in Christ was the "mother church" of United Brethren congregations surrounding it, including Otterbein in Lucas County.  It's unlikely this congregation ever had a church building, however. Its usual practice was to meet in school houses. The earliest records of this class are at the Lucas County Historical Society in Chariton.

The New York Methodist Episcopal Church, built about 1874, was discontinued when the Millerton Methodist congregation began and, according to the late Warren H. Burton, the building was torn down and its lumber used to build the Methodist parsonage there.

The New York Christian (Disciples of Christ) Church, organized by Morgan Parr during 1853 in the Bethlehem-New York neighborhood, built its first building at New York before 1871 and the second, after a fire destroyed the first building, in 1887. That building long outlived its congregation, but was conserved by one of its families and survived intact until a need for it arose when a lightning strike took out the church at the Round Barn Site east of Allerton. At that point several years ago, the old New York church was loaded on a flatbed and hauled to a new home.

Even the New York Church of Christ, a much later building on the Fetters farm across the creek and uphill from the New York Cemetery, is gone now, its congregation removed into Chariton.

But those of us who remember some vestage of old New York still see sometimes the few scattered buildings that remained when we were kids --- and can take you on a tour (necessarily brief) at any time.

The New York Christian Church, now at the Round Barn Site.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Snow, minor disasters and a little history

Still a construction zone, but you can get an idea here of how the expanded version of Chariton's Hy-Vee grocery store is shaping up.

We seem to be enjoying the best of both worlds here this morning --- yesterday, the anticipation of a major winter storm; today, not that much snow and practically no drifting.

Traditionalists got to make the obligatory trip to the grocery store for provisions, kids got out of school at noon, many businesses got to close early and we all were spared evening meetings for various good causes (I'm sure those who had to drive any distance in it probably didn't enjoy the experience, however). It's not even very cold --- 21 degrees.

Today, everything should return to normal with minimal fuss. We could have used the moisture, though I'm glad we didn't get it in that form.


I held off on going to the grocery store until it started to snow seriously yesterday afternoon, not needing either bread or milk. Then couldn't stand it any longer and came home with confectioners sugar (for cream cheese frosting), polish sausage (jambalaya)  and ice cream. Probably should have stayed home.

As mentioned before, Hy-Vee is a constant source of entertainment these days. The biggest part of the new wing was opening up Thursday --- filled with coolers for dairy and processed foods and freezers for frozen stuff. Just like the big time. This was a little confusing because the sausage had moved but the luncheon meat I use as a locator hadn't. It all worked out though.

Produce was in transit from the east side of the old store, now the middle of the expanded store, to the west side of the store, where it will reside permanently --- although with new display cases and expanded selection I suppose. I don't see how the staff is managing to stay sane amid all the turmoil.

So this guy I didn't know from Adam came up beside me while I was practicing Zen and the art of ice cream  selection and started complaining at length that it was too messy to get to Wal-Mart so he had been forced to shop at home. This seemed to have something to do with the price of bacon. You want to say in situations like this, "well why don't you just move closer to your favorite Wal-Mart?" but all that comes out is, "golly."


I've already complained elsewhere about Wednesday at the museum when in a little under an hour, our main computer was pronounced dead and beyond resuscitation, the Stephens House furnace stopped running and a mouse was sighted in the library.

A new computer has been ordered and data will be transferred from one hard drive to another and a new furnace fan motor for the Stephens House also is on its way. But still no resolution on the mouse situation. We're patrolling sticky traps daily.


There are a number of small puzzles about the museum's Stephens House, constructed by contractor A.J. Stephens near the turn of the 20th century --- including exactly when it was built and why its exterior seems a little bit like a jigsaw puzzle put together of rusticated concrete block and blonde brick. I happened across a couple of brief newspaper articles recently that clarifies some of that.

The following appeared in The Chariton Leader of May 18, 1911: "Yes, I have decided to erect a brick residence to be occupied as my family home, on my grounds in the west part of town. You can see the place from the north side of the square. It heads the street (Braden Avenue) and is a sightly place. I have been accumulating brick from my building contracts at several points over the state and thought this would be a good time to build. Chariton is to be a better town than ever --- Andrew Stephens."

On 29 June, the Leader reported: "Andy Stephens is getting the work on his brick residence, in the west part of town, well under way and when completed will have one of the prettiest homes in Chariton."

And finally, from the Leader of Nov. 9, 1911: "Andrew Stephens will soon have his fine new residence in the west part of the city completed. This is one of the finest places in Chariton, pleasing in appearance and architecturally as near perfect as possible to make it. It is a veneered building, of cement blocks and Mr. Stephens has spared no pains in the construction of this house, which will soon be occupied by the family."

So now we know. Granted, it's an interesting old house and I like it --- but despite its position on the National Register of Historic Places "architecturally as near perfect as possible" is stretching reality just a little.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

1955 wasn't that long ago, folks

I scanned a couple of photographs yesterday from the historical society's Johanna Holmberg collection primarily because of the buildings that show up in the background, then decided this morning to tell a little more of the stories behind them. You can right click on these photos and open them in new windows for a larger view.

Both were taken on the south side of the Chariton square on the rainy late afternoon of April 13, 1955. The event was a parade in vintage vehicles of Chariton Rotarians as they made their way around the square before driving out to the northwest corner of town for the last grand party before its demolition at the Mallory mansion, Ilion. A public open house at the Ilion would be held on April 17 and then the old house was taken down. Dwight L. Oliver was the photographer.

Gov. Leo A. Hoegh is driving the buggy here with Frank Davis seated next to him. Mr. and Mrs. Les Chambers are in the back seat.

First of all, look at the street --- it's still brick (now buried under asphalt). The old Roush Drug Store is in the background, located where Cornerstone Christian Book Store is now, in a 1930 building built by Harry Cramer after the great southside fire of February in that year. To its right is the White Swan Cafe, a small but streamlined and entirely up-todate diner that opened under Roy Morgan's managership in 1940 --- after the lot where Hammer Medical Supply now stands had stood vacant for 10 years following the 1930 fire. The White Swan would be moved away and the Hammer building, constructed by Woolworth & Co. as a five-and-dime, was put into place during 1957.

The occupants of the vehicle in the second photograph, also taken by Oliver, are not identified --- but look at the Ritz still in full flower with Virginia Mayo and Paul Newman in "The Silver Chalice" (in color) playing and a bank night prize of $410 on Friday and Saturday.

The building still looks much the same, although the marquee has lost its "Ritz" and other decorative flourishes and the William L. Perkins trademark windows that front the apartment above have been replaced. It now houses the Connecticut Yankee Pedaller bicycle shop and the movies have moved to a new building off the northwest corner of the square. The theater itself was built in 1927, then reconstructed behind its surviving facade after the 1930 fire.

Note, too, that a Hy-Vee grocery store (there were two of these on the square at the time) occupied the building east of the theater, since obscured by a blue "slipcover" front and now occupied by Chariton Floral.

The remarkable Johanna, a substantial person who looked as friendly as she was, was Chariton's official welcome wagon hostess in 1955. There are several photographs in the collection of her on the job, including one with the automobile provided by a local dealership that she traveled around town in to greet newcomers with baskets of gifts. Chariton really tried to welcome new residents back then.

She also worked as a stringer, or local correspondent, for The Ottumwa Courier, occasionally The Des Moines Register --- turning in stories about and photographs of what was going on in Chariton. After her stories had been published, she reclaimed the photographs --- and perhaps 30-40 of them form the Johanna Holmberg collection, given to the historical society after her 1986 death. We'll be glad to show them to you next time you stop at the museum.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Envisioning Chariton in 2013

We had a great turnout Tuesday evening at Carpenter's Hall for community potluck and a visioning session that marked the first-year anniversary of Chariton's participation in the Main Street Iowa program. Our friends from Main Street Iowa headquarters in Des Moines --- Michael Wagler, state coordinator (first below), and Darlene Strachan, assistant state coordinator (second below) --- led the program.

Not to obsess about food or anything, but I haven't seen such a lavish display of casserole-filled crock pots in months. Swiss steak to die for, too. And plenty for the vegetarians among us as well. Wish I'd taken a photo.

The goal was to develop a vision of downtown Chariton in 2023. We provided lots of input, but the Main Street Iowa staff now will digest that information to produce the actual vision statement, so that will have to wait.

The process involved working as small teams with questionnaries to develop concise lists of opportunities, challenges, resources and dreams that everyone narrowed down by voting on at the end of the two-hour work session. That session moved remarkably fast, by the way, and kept everyone engaged and thinking.

The age range was fairly remarkable, too --- from a few months to I'd guess more than 80 years. So it was a good evening for everyone involved.

Plus, this great model of the Lucas County Courhouse put in its first public appearance in many years. We found it some months ago languishing in the Chamber/Main Street office basement. No one remembers who built it or exactly why, but we'll be working on figuring that out, too.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Street preachers: Watch out in Chariton!

Not to be entertained at the misfortune of others or anything, but this is funny, especially the last paragraph (Chariton Patriot, April 9, 1903). Sadly, there was no follow-up report on how Henry fared at Clarinda --- or thereafter.

Sidewalk Religious Exhorter Taken to Asylum

Henry Cooper was adjudged insane by the examining board Tuesday and taken to the asylum in Clarinda.

For sometime past Cooper has attracted much attention and made himself very obnoxious by persistently talking and arguing religion on our public streets in an offensive manner. On several occasions he disturbed worship in the churches by his outbreaks of religious fervor and has been ordered out of nearly every church in town. A week ago last Sunday he was forcibly ejected from the Methodist church for what was supposed to be insolent disturbance of services and on last Sunday night, at the Presbyterian church he interrupted the sermon and received a forcible request to keep silence. In addition to disturbing church services, he has annoyed people on the streets and in the stores.

It was thought by most people that he was an ignorant, insolent fool, hence the rough treatment he received. Now that he has been adjudged insane a more charitable opinion should prevail concerning his conduct.

Where did all those bricks come from?

There's a good deal of brick in Lucas County, although other than around the square and in public buildings and some houses elsewhere, much of it isn't evident any more. But once upon a time, all streets that were paved were paved with brick (still evident in a few places; more buried under asphalt). Brick was favored in new construction around the square after the Civil War in part because it was considerably more fire-resistant than wood. Early foundations and basements were made of brick, too, because limited amounts of stone were quarried here.

Later brick, certainly from the turn of the 20th century onward, was manufactured elsewhere and transported here by rail. Earlier brick was manufactured near Chariton, partly because there was no way until after 1867 to transport it efficiently. George B. Routt (1827-1906), who had brickyards on the Chariton River bottoms near town and later near Oakley, probably was the most prolific manufacturer.

All that was required was clay, sand and a kiln of some sort. Brick-making consisted of mixing clay with sand and water, molding that mixture into brick form, allowing the formed bricks to dry, then firing them until hard. The result was a "soft" brick --- not as durable as later, harder, brick --- but sufficient. Treated correctly, soft brick is exceedingly durable. Mistreatment involves coating it in another substance, like stucco, or using harsh methods like sandblasting to strip away its baked-on surface.

Anyhow, the first building of any size constructed of brick in Lucas County was the second courthouse, commenced in 1858 and shown here in a photograph taken during July 4 celebrations in 1876. And thanks to George H. Ragsdale, we even know that the brick for it was manufactured along the Chariton River southeast of town, south of Salem Cemetery.

George was a native of Indiana who arrived in Benton Township with his family in 1851, then served in the Civil War before settling down to edit and publish The Chariton Patriot. After selling the Patriot, he moved to Le Mars, then to Des Moines, where he achieved a degree of prominence as president of the Iowa Lithographing Co. and as official state printer.

The editor of The Chariton Leader ran into George at a press convention in Des Moines during 1916, then returned home to write this for The Leader of Feb. 17 under the headline, "He Grew Reminiscent: Geo. H. Ragsdale Told of His Lucas County Experiences."

"While attending the banquet tendered by the Iowa Press association at the Chamberlain Hotel in Des Moines last Thursday evening, the writer touched elbows with G. H. Ragsdale, a former Lucas county resident, and for years editor of the Chariton Patriot. He is a son of the late Daniel Ragsdale of Benton township.

"Said he, 'You remember the old brick courthouse. Well, I handled every brick in that structure. The brick was burned in Benton township, south of the Salem neighborhood, near the Chariton river. As fast as the mud was moulded into brick, my business was to carry them to the drying racks. I would carry fifty pounds at a load, and I had no time to spare during the long hours that we worked. I was only 14 years old at the time, and in looking back to that time I scarce can see how I got through with it. Those were crude old days.

'One winter, the late S.D. Houston taught our school and he told us that if we would furnish lights he would teach us writing without expense. The enterprise was about to fall through for want of candles. Finally two candles were sent me, by whom I never knew, but suspected that a relation who kept a grocery store on the corner was responsible. This started the enterprise.

'After my mother died I went to live with a relative. He told me that if I would remain another year he would give me a yearling colt, clothes and board. I said I would study the matter over, as the offer was mighty tempting. I went over to town (Chariton) in the afternoon where they were recruiting for the volunteer army. I decided immediately that I would go to war. They said I was too young, but finally took me.

'After I came home and had gone to school several years I concluded I would like to get in the newspaper business, so purchased the Chariton Patriot, giving $2,200 for it, part of the purchase price being my individual note. I had the "bumest" old office you ever saw. A lot of old type and a Washington hand press. But I sawed wood and increased the eqipment and influence, and finally, when I sold out to Elijah Lewis I received $8,000 for the plant and good will.' "

George, born 1844 in Indiana, came with his family to Van Buren County in 1849 and on to Lucas County in 1851. At age 16, he enlisted in Co. C. 13th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and was badly wounded at Shiloh. After the war, he studied at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, then returned to Chariton to buy The Patriot. In 1883, he sold out and purchased the Sentinel at Le Mars and, during 1888, moved to Des Moines after winning the appointment as state printer. He died during 1924 and is buried with his wife, Nellie, in the mausoleum at Glendale Cemetery in Des Moines.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Old sorrows: Death by fire at Tipperary

Pleasant Township's legendary mining camp, Tipperary, reportedly got it's name from the English music hall song, "It's a Long Way to Tipperary," that became widely popular among soldiers of the First World War.

It must have seemed to miners and their families as that war was winding down a long, long way indeed over dirt roads (and a rail spur) from Chariton, the nearest town of any size, to the harscrabble little village at the Tipperary mine site deep in the Cedar Creek hills.

Nearby Olmitz developed the reputation as a family place because mine owners built more housing there suitable for wives and children. Although there was some company housing at Tipperary, more of its homes were cobbled-together shacks scattered among the hills.

Although most Tipperary legends are based on hard living --- fights, bootleg liquor and epic gambling --- one of its biggest tragedies was related neither to the hazards of vice nor coal mining, but to a faulty flue that resulted in the fire that killed Pete Stefeno and Sante Viterbo during the early morning of Jan. 2, 1919. Here's how The Chariton Leader of Jan. 9 reported the tragedy:

Two Miners Meet Tragic Death at Tipperary

Pete Stefeno, 46 years of age, and Sante Viterbo, aged 21, of Tipperary, were burned to death early Thursday morning about 1 o'clock, when their little house caught fire from a defective flue and burned to the ground.

The house consisted of one room with a cave at one end, where the younger man was found. He was supposed to have gone there for about $200 that he was known to possess. The older man was found near the door, where it was supposed he had gone to escape, but the flames cut him off before he could reach the entrance.

Both men were badly burned, and died from suffocation before help reached them. The night engineer saw the flames and gave the alarm, but too late to rescue them from the flames which were rapidly spreading.

The older man leaves a wife and nine children in the old country, in the war zone of Italy; and he had recently sent them $1,000 that he had saved from his hard earnings since coming here, and it was his desire to have them come to him soon, as they had suffered many privations and hardships during the recent struggle. He also lelft a sister, Mrs. Angelo Nickoleto, of Tipperary.

The remains were brought to the undertaking parlors of Davis & Baylor Thursday, and funeral services held from the Catholic church Friday afternoon, and interment made in the Catholic cemetery.

It is possible to locate Pete Stefeno's grave in Calvary Cemetery because of a small tombstone placed there, apparently some years after his death. The death year on the stone is off by one and his surname is spelled "Stefanon" rather than "Stefeno," as it appears both in published reports of his deah and Lucas County death records.

There is no sign of Sante Viterbo's grave, but it seems likely that he was buried by Stefeno's side.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Uncle Jerry and the Great War

My great-uncle, Jeremiah Miller

One of the bonuses of spending a lot of time nosing around in back issues of old newspapers is happening upon family information you didn't know existed.

The following appeared in The Chariton Leader of May 15, 1919, in editor Henry Gittinger's "The Mormon Trail" column, a weekly catch-all for items Henry had picked up when visiting with people or elsewhere but that didn't exactly qualify as news.

My great-uncle, Jeremiah "Jerry" Miller (1892-1986), had just been home for a few weeks when he apparently spent a few minutes visiting with Henry. The following was the result:

"Jerry Miller, of English township, has been at home several weeks. He was in the 30th division of our army which went overseas a year ago, and was in the hostile zone from the time they landed until the armistice was signed. The 27th and 30th divisions were on the Hindenburg line. Jerry was on the firing line continuously from Sept. 27th until Oct. 20th, when they were relieved for rest and recuperation, and were just ready to return when the armistice was signed and hostilities ceased.

"In their company there were 240 men and only 40 got back to camp --- balance either captured or killed. Even in their training and recruiting camp they were constantly subject to German shell fire.

"There were five Lucas county boys in his division, himself, Ernest Herndon, Ambrose Taylor, (   ) McNay and Arthur Johnson. However, only Ernest Herndon remained with him, the others being transferred to different service. He was with Ernest Herndon when he was shot, but he did not learn of the fatal results until he heard from home weeks later. After the day's battle he went back to look for Ernest but could learn nothing of him. He says that during the time he was on the line it was almost a constant shell fire day and night. Jerry says he shot no Germans --- all he had to do was feed the machine gun --- and the other fellows did the shooting."

Isn't that amazing? And does anyone out there in the family know if by chance Uncle Jerry and Aunt Fern named their oldest son Ernest in honor of Ernest Herndon? It seems to me I've heard this, but can't remember.

Uncle Jerry and Aunt Fern (Griffis) Miller, married June 4, 1919

Sunday morning breakfast links

The Associated Press's esteemed religion reporter, Rachel Zoll, wrote as 2013 dawned an interesting piece on Metropolitan Community Churches, asking "is a gay-centered Christian church needed anymore?" One of the penalties for not paying much attention to newspapers is that you miss stuff now and then, so I just found the piece last week. It's still available here, at Huff Post Los Angeles and elsewhere.

The Rev. Troy Perry, a refugee from pentacostalism, founded the MCC in his living room in 1968 --- the year before Stonewall, when I was still a pup. Back then, the universal Christian response upon detecting a gay person in the room was to pick up a stick (or a Bible) and beat him or her over the head while driving the aspiring believer out the door. The MCC offered a safe place, grew, transcended AIDS and still has some 240 congregations and ministries worldwide, according to Zoll.

In the years since, circumstances have changed a little, hence Zoll's article. Some mainline denominations and individual congregations of less-welcoming umbrella groups now welcome LGBT people (Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ, Episcopalian, ELCA Lutheran, Presbyterian USA). And we've also proved that aversion therapy works --- not that many of us, especially the younger ones, see the church these days as anything other than a crackpot threat to our happiness and wellbeing.

Back in the day, Des Moines supported two and sometimes more groups of LGBT believers, including an MCC congregation and a similar offshoot (even gay Christians find it challenging sometimes to get on with one another). I used to attend services occasionally at the offshoot --- and for the life of me I can't remember what it was called --- then meeting Sunday afternoons at the east-side St. Mark's Episcopal Church. It was so conveniently located, you'd even run into folks from Chariton there now and then.

The Church of the Holy Spirit MCC remains active in Des Moines, meeting at 11 a.m. Sundays in the chapel at First Christian Church, 2500 University Avenue. The Metropolitan Community Churches Web site is here.


One lesson a gay guy used to have to learn was to never trust a self-professing Christian any farther than you could spit, but I've always enjoyed atheists --- unburdened by the need to divide humanity into "saved" and "unsaved." And I still do, especially Hemant Mehta's "Friendly Atheist" site. Take a look.


And if you happen to be in Des Moines today, stop by the Cathedral Church of St. Paul (815 High Street) at 4 p.m. for a recital on the mighty Casavant that will celebrate the 20th anniversary of one of Iowa's finest musical instruments as well as the 25th anniversay at St. Paul's of organist David Raymond. Works by Buxtehude, Pachelbel, Bach, Vierne and Hebble will be featured. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Building Detective: Now and Then

This plain and practical building at 914 Court Avenue occupied by Hammer Medical Supply is not the most visually exciting structure on Chariton's square, but still has a story to tell --- the third bricks-and-mortar chapter in the built history of the scrap of land on which it stands.

Constructed during late 1958 and early 1959 to house the F.W. Woolworth & Co. dime store, previously located on the north side of the square, it brought back to retail life a site that had been underutilized since 1930.

The building, only modestly altered since, was the first post-war large-scale "modern" retail space built on the square. It reflected confidence by a then major corporation that the town square would remain the commercial center of the city. And there seemed to be no reason to think otherwise at the time --- the half block then housed from east to west the city's largest grocery store, the area's largest and most modern theater, a lively drug store and, now, the latest in five-and-dimes.

 This article from The Chariton Leader of April 21, 1959, gives an accounting of the new building and some of those involved in its construction:
Grand Opening Set
The Chariton Leader, April 21, 1959

The new, modernly designed F.W. Woolworth store on Court avenue will open its doors Thursday morning. A grand opening sale is scheduled to continue through Saturday.

Special advertisements on the opening and information of interest to shoppers appear today. Officials from the Woolworth company are expected to be in Chariton for the opening, according to Chariton store manager Virgil Wohlwend.

The grand opening will include giving away of several special prizes.

The new building is only the second location of Woolworth's in Chariton since it was established here in 1931. The building more than doubles store area available in the former store located on the north side of the square.

"We are extremely pleased with the new building and feel confident shoppers of the Chariton trade area will join with us in our satisfaction. The store offers the most modern shopping methods, accessibility to products, quick service and quality merchandise," Wohlwend stated.

Approximately 60 by 125 feet, the building offers year-around air conditioning, double check-out counters, self-sesrvice shopping, personalized service counters for special needs.

To the rear of the new store are the office areas and modern emplyees lounge room.

General contractor was Dave Halferty of Chariton. The building is being completed on the 28th anniversary of Woolworth's existence in Chariton.


The triple-front lot on which the new Woolworth building was constructed had been vacant or under-utilized since 1930, when a major southside fire destroyed the three-story Lincoln Theater building that had occupied the site since 1903.

During 1940, 10 years after the fire, a small but memorable streamlined diner building was constructed at the east end of the then-vacant lot. It opened during October of that year as the White Swan Cafe under the management of Roy Morgan. This was a memorable building both because of the food served inside and the bold "WHITE SWAN" sign that marched across the top of its facade, flanked by large molded swans sailing toward it from either end. Here's how The Herald-Patriot of Oct. 3, 1940, reported its opening:

White Swan Under Management of Roy Morgan Opens On South Side of Square in City

The White Swan, Chariton's newest restaurant, opened last night on the south side of the square under the management of Roy Morgan.

Completely modern and attractively finished, the restaurant is complete with modernistic fixtures. The building itself is painted white inside and out and has fluorescent lights. The kitchen proper is in the basement with the food being sent to the main floor on a special lift.

The White Swan had a useful life of about 15 years before it was moved away to make room for the new  Woolworth building --- first to the current site of the Chariton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and finally, some say, north on Highway 14 to Belinda, where it served as home to a cafe for a time before eventual demolition.


The glory days of the lots where the White Swan and Woolworth buildings were built occurred between 1903 and 1930 when the site was occupied by the three-story Temple (also known as Dewey and Lincoln Theater) Building. When constructed, this was the largest and grandest building on the square.

When built during 1902-3, the Temple Building (aka Dewey and Lincoln Theater block),  center in this postcard view of the south side,  was the largest and tallest commercial building on the square.

The lots themselves (the west three-quarters of Lot 2, Block 14, original city of Chariton) were part of the Branner inheritance, vast land holdings in Lucas County accumulated during the 1850s by Tennessean John Branner, who died March 10, 1871. The quarter block that forms the east half of the Chariton square's south side most likely was the site of the log cabin Branner built for himself and his son, Napoleon Bonaparte Branner, upon arrival from Tennessee in 1853.

After John's 1871 death, N.B. Branner was joined in Chariton by the other Branner heirs --- his mother, Jane, estranged for many years from John; his sisters Virginia and Victoria (widow of Union Gen. Joel A. Dewey); and Victoria's son, Walter Dewey. N.B. Branner had returned to Tennessee to serve the Confederate cause during the Civil War, returning to Iowa immediately thereafter; his mother and sisters had lived in Tennessee throughout the war.

Victoria Dewey, a visionary entrepreneur, had commissioned the double-front brick Dewey Block, which still stands in altered form, at the intersection of Grand Street and Court Avenue in 1890. By 1902, she had acquired title from other Branner heirs to the three vacant single-front lots at the alley end of the Branner holdings and decided to build another, larger, commercial building. This was announced in The Chariton Herald of April 17, 1902, as follows:


Mrs. Dewey will build a large business block on three of her vacant lots on the south side of the square, this summer, work to begin in a few weeks. The block will be 60x100 feet, or thereabouts, and two stories high. The first floor will consist of one 20-foot and one 40-foot room, and the second floor will be for offices. The Knights of Pythias are negotiating for a third story on the block, which they will use for their hall.

The Knights of Pythias and its auxiliary, the Pythian Sisters, were in 1902 the aspiring youngsters among Charitons three largest and most influential fraternal organizations. The Masons and the Odd Fellows had since 1881 maintained separate lodge rooms on the high-ceilinged third floor of the Union Block on the square's northwest corner. Although the Knights had, during 1893, built a single-front building on the east side of the square (still extant) with modest lodge rooms upstairs, now they wanted more.

By May 1, 1902, the Knights and Sisters had bought into the idea of adding far grander quarters to a third floor on Victoria's new building, a move that would set off a competitive building spree among the lodges. During 1904, the Odd Fellows built a grand new building of their own on the north side of the square, selling their former Union Block quarters to the Masons, which enlarged that building and expanded and improved their lodge rooms. The Herald of May 1, 1902, announnced the Pythian decision as follows:


At a large and enthusiastic meeting last night, the Knights of Pythias lodge, of this city, voted to build a third story on the new Dewey-Branner block to be erected on the south side of the square this summer, and use the same as their hall. The lodge will pay for the erection of the third story, and will have a 99 year lease on it in return for keeping the roof in repair. The building will be a fine one throughout, with stone front, and will be 60x100 feet. The Knights will have one of the finest halls in the state when it is completed.

Victoria Dewey selected the Des Moines-based and then-popular architectural firm of Liebbe, Nourse & Rasmussen to design her new building. That firm's building in downtown Des Moines, formerly housing the flagship Younker Brothers Department Store, probably would be most familiar of their still extant designs to today's Lucas Countians.

The call for bids went out in The Herald and other newspapers during June of 1902: "Plans and specifications for the Pythian Templle will be on file July 1 with W.H. Dewey and J.H. Collins, and at the offce of Liebbe, Nourse & Rasmussen, Des Moines, Iowa" (Herald, June 19 and 26, 1902).

On Aug. 7, 1902, the Herald reported that "the contract for building the large three story Dewey block and K.P. hall, on the south side of the square, has been let to Johnson & Best, for about $20,000."

By Oct. 30, 1902, the Herald was able to report that "the brick and stone work on the new Dewey business block on the south side is being pushed rapidly during this fine weather. It is said that the front of the block will be the finest in this part of the west."

Work on the structure slowed during the winter, but on March 12, 1903, The Herald reported that, "work on the new Dewey block was resumed this week with the arrival of warmer weather."

By midsummer, 1903, the building was complete, although considerable finishing work remained --- especially in the third-floor Knights of Pythias rooms.

When completed, the Temple Block contained two commercial rooms on its first floor, one single-front and the other double, as well as the entrance to the staircase that led to the second floor, where apartments and/or offices were located, and to the third-floor lodge rooms. The second floor also contained a large room known initially as "Dewey Hall," perhaps intended to accommodate a commerical college that was projected for Chariton when the building was designed. This views from the west end of the south side shows how the building (at left) looked soon after its completion during 1903.

The first commercial tenant of the first floor was E. M. Press, a clothier who had been in business for roughly 20 years in the south half of the Manning & Penick Building on the west side. He rented the entire first floor of the new Dewey Block temporarily during September of 1903 to hold what was advertised as a  massive "clearance" sale, then leased the space permanently during October and moved his store to the south side.

Press and a variety of other commercial tenants, including operators of a skating rink, leased the commercial space in various configurations until March of 1909 when the entire floor was leased to J.L.H. Todd of Des Moines and P.G. Skaggs of Eureka Springs, Missouri, who remodeled the area into the Temple Theatre, designed to accommondae both moving pictures and vaudeville shows. The Temple opened to overflow crowds on April 14, 1909.

Chariton and Todd turned out not to be a good mix, however, in part because --- as The Patriot of May 13, 1909, put it --- "Mr. Todd is a southerner, a Virginian, and he has a rigid rule in his theatre against colored people mixing in with the whites."

Durng May, Chariton resident G.N. "Shock" Knox, who was black, sued Todd for damages after being denied integrated seating and during June, Todd sold the theater to Walter Dewey, whose mother owned the building, and R.G. Hatcher, his business partner, then moved along (reportedly to Keosauqua).

Dewey operated the the Temple until the fall of 1917 when he had the theater totally renovated, adding among other features an orchestral pipe organ and a marquee. The Temple re-opened as the Lincoln Theatre during late November, 1917, and the theater continued to operate until the building fell in 1930.

By the time this photograph of the south side was taken some time between 1927 and 1930, the Temple Theatre had been rechristened Lincoln and had acquired among other amenities a marquee and a pipe organ.

Throughout its lifetime, the third-floor lodge rooms held pride of place in the building. Here is how they were described in The Herald of Dec. 31, 1903, immediately following their dedication:

"The beautiful hall dedicated by the Chariton Knights of Pythias is said to be the finest in the state of Iowa. The hall occupies the entire third floor of the Dewey block on the south side of the square --- the largest business block in the county.

"There are four main rooms in the suite, besides several ante-rooms. Upon entering from the outside hall, one first finds himself in the ante-room, from which he passes into the reception room, 12x24 feet in size, which is fitted with rich rugs, mirrors, and golden oak furniture.

"Next comes the parlor, a large and home-like room 23x24 feet in size, from which fronts one of the large bow windows, and which is filled with comfortable rockers and tables, with heavy rugs and curtains and a library.

"From the parlor one can pass into the main lodge room, which is without doubt one of the finest lodge halls in the west. The main room is 36x46 feet, besides which there is a stage 18x36, built in a theatre style, with exit to the parlor. In the wings of the stage are the property rooms. To the rear of the room, half way to the ceiling, is a railed balcony for the use of the orchestra in case of a dance. The balcony also extends into the banquet hall, south of the large room, which was used for the ball last night.

"The ceiling of the lodge room is of embossed steel, with a dome sky-light, fitted with a myriad of electric lights. The ceiling is about eighteen feet high, and the tall windows are draped with heavy dark green curtains. On the hard wood floor is an immense Wilton velvet rug of solid green, about 30x40 feet square, which alone cost $250. The walls are to be artistically frescoed with Pythian designs, the immense west wall to be entirely covered with one mural. The Pythian colors, red, blue and yellow, are used in the ceiling border and the effect of the room as a whole is delightfully artistic and pleasing. The eight pedestals for the room are the work of Gene Holmberg, and are of golden oak, with the "F.C.B." monogram on the side. Four of them are marble-topped, and finer specimens of the cabinet maker's art were never turned out.

"The whole south end of the third floor is taken up by the banquet hall, which is vacant at present, and is to be rented to other local lodges that may want it. It is 34x58 in size, with ante-rooms in connection.

"Besides the rooms described above, there are cloak rooms, closets, ante-rooms, etc., in abundance, completing without doubt the finest suite of lodge rooms in Iowa.

"The electric lighting for the suite has been put in artistically, and the effect at night is thus to the very best advantage. The main lodge room was used for the program yesterday afternoon, the second floor of the building was used for the banquet, and the banquet room was used for the ball.

"To build and furnish this elegant suite of rooms the Chariton Pythians will have expended fully $9,000. Their share of the building cost $7,000, the furnishings cost $1,300, and other expenses will be fully $700. The lodge had on hand $2,500, and has borrowed $6,000 to pay the remainder. The expense has been heavy, but the members do not regret it, and now have a hall of which they can be proud for a lifetime and which can be equaled by very few lodges in the whole west."

For a variety of reasons, including the optimistic view that brick buildings were practically fireproof, an exterior fire escape was not included when the Dewey Block was built. That was remedied midway through its relatively short life when an exterior iron stair was installed from lodge rooms on the third floor past the second floor to street level on the alley side of the building. As it turned out, that fire escape would come in handy.

The end for the Dewey/Temple/Lincoln Theatre Building came on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 1930, when what was initially though to be a small and containable blaze was discovered at 5:30 a.m. in the basement. The 1917 renovation of the building had produced three commercial spaces, as well as the theater lobby, at street level --- the Lincoln Cafe, the Lincoln Barber Shop and the Lucille Vanity Shop. Fire broke out under the cafe.

Everything seemed to be going well and evacuated residents of apartments above the Lincoln were anticipating begin able to return home when at roughly 6:30 a.m. the fire department's big Pierce Arrow pumper truck failed and could not be brought back to life. That left the Chariton firefighters with only Old Betsy, the 1883 Silsby Steamer still going strong today, to fall back upon as calls for emergency assistance went out to Russell, Albia, Ottumwa and Indanola.

Between 7 and 8 a.m. the flames went entirely out of control, shooting 50 feet into the air above the Lincoln's roof and spreading rapidly first to the single-front building next door to the east and then into the new Ritz Theater, just completed during 1927. Brands from the burning buildings flew across the square, setting awnings and roofs alight --- flames extinguished by bucket brigades. Old Betsy performed well, probably saving the Dewey Block on the southeast corner and the Gasser Block, across the alley west of the Lincoln. Dynamite also was used to knock down walls in hope of stopping the flames.

Neighboring fire departments then began to arrive and by 10:30 a.m. the fire was under control, but the Lincoln building, once Chariton's grandest, was rubble, as was the building just to the east. Although gutted, the Ritz Theater's facade survived, allowing a new theater to be constructed behind it during the months that followed. Harry Cramer, who owned both the Ritz and the adjoining building, rebuilt both promptly.

But Victoria Dewey had died during the same year her grandest building burned and her son and sole heir, Walter, had neither the remarkable drive nor optimism that had powered his extraordinary mother and Aunt Virginia. As a result, he pocketed the insurance money and allowed the lots to lie fallow for 10 years.