Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Bricks, free-range cattle & pretty girls in tights

Next time you're driving or walking along the south side of the square, wish this grand old building known originally as the Gasser Block a happy 140th birthday.

It was built during the summer and fall of 1875 by George Frederick Gasser (1840-1894), a baker and grocer by trade, and is the fourth oldest building in the Courthouse Square Historic District. Of the four, it is the one that looks now closest to how it looked then --- other than the battleship gray paint that now covers its brick.

The brick from which the building is constructed was manufactured at Chariton by George B. Routt and, as it turns out, there was a minor glitch in his operation during October of 1875 that affected this building.

The Chariton Leader reported in its edition of Oct. 23, 1875: "The workers on Gasser's fine new building on the South Side were compelled to stop work for the want of more brick this week. Work will be resumed as soon as Routt gets his brick kiln burned."

If you'd like to read more about the Gasser Block, here's a link to a post at my Chariton's Square Deal site.


October of 1875 also was the last month of unrestricted freedom for Chariton's milk cows --- many households had these to supply family needs --- allowed to roam freely since the city's founding in 1849, grazing at will.

But Chariton was growing up a little and in early October, the City Council passed a resolution requiring that as of Nov. 1, all cattle within city limits be restrained by a fence or otherwise.

"Look out for your cows!" The Leader warned in its edition of Oct. 30. "Saturday is the last day they will be permitted to steal their living. After the 1st, they must be kept up, or the cows will be fed and sold to cover expenses."


Also during October, Harden's Comedy Troupe entertained for three nights running in the new Mallory Opera House featuring, among other attractions, a number of young women dancing in tights. This shapely display seems to have set off a rush of hormones among some of Chariton's younger males and caused a degree of trouble. The resulting fines benefitted the city sidewalk fund, however.

Keep in mind that a glimpse of stocking was considered shocking at the time --- and an entire leg? Well ....

Here is editor Dan M. Baker's report, also from The Leader of Oct. 30:

"Rade Harden's Comedy Troupe exhibited in this city three nights last week and aside from the fact that it gave some really good performances, in the way of dancing in tights by the female performers, it proved a decidedly advantageous exhibition for the city. After the usual entertainment on Saturday night, a grand rush was made for the young ladies of the establishment by the young men of the city, who had more money than brains, and a grand melee ensued as to who should escort the fair and lovely damsels home.

"The successful youths who won the coveted honor carried their prizes to the Clinton House, escorted by a large and disgusted set of disappointed admirers, who were in turn followed by the Marshall and Sheriff. The girls having been safely deposited at the hotel and their crowd of enthusiastic admirers having become more boisterous, the work of putting them in jail began, and soon the jail was filled with the boys, who finally settled their share of the sport by liberal donations to the city for sidewalk purposes. None of the fair young damsels were arrested, though from all accounts they made more money out of the city than any one else.

"One of them remarked that she never saw such men in her life, while the Marshall promptly responded that he never saw such women, and strange to say both told the truth. It is possible that Rade Harden made no money out of his exhibition here, but it is settled, beyond a doubt, that some of his pretty dancers did. Rade's troupe takes with the boys."

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