Thursday, January 15, 2015

The (Chariton) Iowa Patriot and the war

There was very little local news in the Dec. 26, 1862, issue of The Iowa Patriot (later renamed Chariton Patriot) that Tom and Joe Sellers donated recently to the Lucas County Historical Society. Some of this had to do with the labor-intensive nature of the business --- type was set by hand, character by character, and paid notices and other advertising paid the bills. So local news, unless it was of considerable significance, took a back seat.

Fort Sumter had fallen more than a year and a half earlier, during April of 1861, and everyone would have been interested in war news. So one Patriot page was devoted to a scattering of syndicated reports, but most Lucas Countyans would have been receiving their war news from newspapers printed in Burlington, Chicago, St. Louis and elsewhere that arrived at county post offices as horse- or ox-drawn freight from the rail head at Ottumwa or on horseback. Or by direct mail from loved ones who were serving.

A local war-related story in the Dec. 26 edition (top) involved 2nd Lt. Thomas E. Sargent, a carpenter who had enlisted for service at Chariton in the 18th Iowa Volunteer Infantry during July of 1862, but had become ill, was invalided out and had arrived home prior to Christmas. Thomas did recover, but his wife --- Clarissa --- died at age 30 during 1864, leaving him with young children to raise. He remarried and eventually moved to Grinnell.

Then as now, the financial cost of war was a concern and this somewhat speculative report of how much newly enacted excise taxes were going to cost Lucas Countyans also was published in The Patriot.

The U.S. Congress already had made some provisions  for the widows and orphans of those killed in the war --- and dozens and dozens of Lucas Countyans had died by now. Pensions also were available to the disabled. 

The law firm of (Warren S.) Dungan & (Theodore M.) Stuart used the columns of the Patriot to advertise its services to those in need of help in navigating the complexities of the pension/bounty application process. By this time, Dungan had enlisted and was actively serving so not actually in Chariton. Stuart, however, was not only practicing law, but also editing the Patriot.

Elsewhere in the Patriot columns was an advertisement from The Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, stalled in its progress across southern Iowa at Ottumwa by the war. Although Lucas County remained without access to any form of public transportation other than stage coach, the railroad wanted everyone to know that it was possible to catch a train east by using horsepower to bridge the 50 mile gap between Chariton and Ottumwa.

Finally, although it hadn't happened yet, The Patriot would break new ground during the new year of 1863 when it hired Lucas County's first female typesetter --- considered by many nappropriate work for a woman. The difficulty of course was that typesetters tended to be young men interested in launching themselves in the news business --- and most young men were now at war.

This brief account of Lorinda (Scofield) Dawson's pioneering effort was appended to the obituary of Frank M. Fairbrother, co-owner of the Patriot in the 1860s, upon his death in California during 1901:

Miss Lorinda Scofield, now Mrs. William Dawson, of our city (Chariton) has the distinction of being the first lady in the county to have learned and practiced the art of type setting. In spite of the strong popular opinion that type setting was a very improper occupation for any young lady, Miss Scofield entered the Patriot office and began her duties as a typo in 1863, boarding at the Fairbrother home down west of the railroad, near the jail, on 11th street, where A. Rosenberg now resides. In that early day ready made clothing was not to be had as readily as now, and so Miss Scofield put in the time mornings and evenings making buttonholes for the clothes of the editor, wife and three children.

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