Saturday, June 18, 2016

The rise and fall of Thomas T. Anderson's fine home

You need a lot of imagination these days to conjure up an image of what this once-proud home at the intersection of Linden Avenue and South 13th Street must must have looked like in 1907, when it was built by Thomas T. Anderson and his second wife, Adda. 

It's been barely hanging on for years, but within the last few has become derelict --- many windows broken, volunteer trees springing up from its foundation, big front room askew as it settles at a rate faster than the square block of the main building.

I've been thinking I should go take a few photos of it before it's gone and finally did that late yesterday afternoon after four descendants of its builder --- Carolyn Meyer, Ann Davis, Barbara Ates and Marsha Davis, all of Colorado --- visited the museum. They told me who built the house, sad about its condition.

Later on, I drove out to the cemetery to visit Anderson's grave, freshly decorated by his granddaughters, in the Grand Army of the Republic section. A veteran of the 18th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, he once commanded Daniel Iseminger Post No. 18, which established the plot in the first place.

According to his obituary, Thomas was born Nov. 4, 1848, at St. Clairsville in Belmont County, Ohio, and came to Lucas County about 1858 with his father, Joseph B. Anderson, and stepmother, Orpha. They reportedly settled in Otter Creek Township, but by 1860 were living in adjoining Liberty Township, Warren County.

Anxious to enlist when the Civil War broke out --- but too young --- he reportedly served as a drummer boy until he was old enough to pass for 18 and on Feb. 24, 1864, actually age 16, he was able to enlist as a private in Company G, 18th Iowa Volunteer Infantry. He served honorably until the unit was mustered out on July 20, 1865, at Little Rock.

Thomas returned to Iowa and on Jan. 1, 1869, married Hulda Ann Smith of Liberty Center. They became the parents of eight children before her death on Dec. 3, 1889.

About 10 years later, on June 14, 1898, he married Adda Willoughby, of Chariton, who was some 25 years his junior, and they settled in Chariton.

The Chariton Leader reported on June 20, 1907, that "Our friend T.T. Anderson has torn his house down, just west of the south school building, and has commenced to build a new structure on the site. It will be a large two-story building to cost about $2,500 and will be modern throughout. Mr. Anderson is to be complimented on this show of enterprise and determination to have a good home."

Thomas became very active in Daniel Iseminger Post No. 18, Grand Army of the Republic, during his years in Chariton and  was serving as its commander during the time the Civil War monument on the southeast corner of the square was planned and constructed. He and Adda also headed an association of 18th Iowa veterans, organizing reunions in Chariton and opening their home to the old soldiers.

After more than a year of ill health, Thomas died at home of a stroke on Nov. 6, 1917, having just turned 69. The Andersons were communicants of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, under whose direction funeral services were held; and burial was made in the Grand Army of the Republic section of the Chariton Cemetery.

Newspaper reports suggest that Thomas and Adda were hoping to move to California and join members of her family there before he became seriously ill and unable to travel. 

After Thomas's death, Adda did indeed move west, establishing her home in Covina. She died in Covina on March 10, 1927, age 51, and was buried there.


Threaded Needle said...

The beautiful trim that was on this house still in the 50's is long gone. My grandparents lived "catty corner" from this house and they always called it the Gurwell house. I thought it was one of the most beautiful houses that I had ever seen.

Anonymous said...

I remembered this house immediately when I saw the photographs, although I haven't seen it in person in at least 20+ years. I remember passing this house while walking "uptown" from my grandmother's house on South 17th when visiting for the summer. I'm not sure I ever remember the house being lived in, but I can remember walking by and wondering how it must have looked when it was well kept. It's always sad to see beautiful old homes in this condition.