Thursday, July 07, 2016

Brother Fulmer visits Henry Glenn's wagon shop

Henry S. Glenn (left), Civil War veteran and a blacksmith by profession, arrived in Chariton with wife, Maria, during 1869 and not long thereafter went into the business of manufacturing farm wagons, carriages, buggies, spring wagons --- and the occasional road grader based upon an original design.

By about 1880, when this battered tintype from the Lucas County Historical Society collection was taken, his operation was housed in a large building on South Grand a half block south of the southeast corner of the square in an area now occupied by a parking lot and the remnant of a gas station. The family home was located just across the alley to the east on a quarter block now occupied entirely by an apartment complex.

During 1880, the city of Hamburg --- as far southwest as you can get in Iowa and still be in Iowa (Missouri is just to the south; Nebraska, across the Missouri River to the west) --- found itself in need of one of Glenn's graders and dispatched William A. Fulmer, editor of The Hamburg Democrat, to Chariton to obtain the permissions and plans that would allow a local blacksmith to fabricate one.

Fulmer made the trip to Chariton by train from Hamburg via Red Oak, Corning, Creston and Osceola on the C.B.&Q. main line on a Friday night during mid-June of 1880, then having obtained a draft of plans and specifications returned home overnight Saturday into Sunday and wrote about the trip in his next edition. The next week, Dan Baker picked "Brother" Fulmer's story up and reprinted it on Page 1 of The Chariton Leader of July 3.

This the long explanation of why we have this fascinating account, laced with politics of the day and other observations by Fulmer, that is almost as interesting a snapshot of Chariton in 1880 as the vintage tintype. Here's how Brother Fulmer's account reads, under the headline "Bro. Fulmer at Chariton."


The editor of the only greatest family paper published in the Democratic county of Fremont, state of Iowa, packed a clean collar, a paper of pins, a bottle of water neutralizer, and a silk handkerchief made of Mississippi wheelbarrow cloth, in an old dilapidated grip-sack that used to do duty for the owner as a tract receptiable, and closing it with a snap directed his footsteps to the depot, where he arrived in plenty of time Friday evening to hear the merits of the truly loyal clan at Chicago discussed and cussed.

The train pulled out on time and he was snugly quartered in a comfortable seat and whirled away at the rate Republican campaigners will lie about our candidate for president this fall (Republican James A. Garfield would defeat Democrat Winfield Scott Hancock in that election).

Being an observant chap, he reports the crops looking well all along the route to Red Oak, where he interviewed a table in the Wormley Hotel dining room while waiting for the train on the main line going east. The supper must have been a good one for it took him half an hour to sample the bill of fare.

The train arrived and edging his way through the crowd, which was an easy matter for him, he reached the car and taking a seat was soon lost in perusal of an editorial on "Why Tilden should be nominated again for the Presidency," which appeared in a very influential eastern paper.

Darkness set in and continued as usual until he reached his destination --- Chariton --- where the shrill cry of a hotel runner attracted his attention as he made the still hours of 2:40 a.m. re-echo to the words, "Free bus to the Bates House." That free bus chatter had a charm for our editorial chief that could not be resisted. It meant the saving of 25 or 50 cents.

The hotel reached, he was given a room on the first floor next to the roof where he deposited himself for a rest and sleep, from which he was awakened for breakfast. (These free-bus hotels don't allow a guest to miss a meal.)

The appearance of the city by daylight had a charming effect upon the chief, who at once proceeded to business at the carriage and wagon shop of H.S. Glenn, the original maker of the best common sense street grader and leveler ever made. Mr. Glenn was found in his shop with apron on and sleeves rolled up hard at work, the true gentleman in every sense of the word, and by the way a thorough mechanic, hailing from the old Keystone state, where apprentices learn their trade and master them.

It was necessary to have a draft of the machine, and Mr. G's foreman, Mr. Phillips, went to work to accomplish the task, something new for him, but he made a good job of the same, and it is now being worked to by Dan Taylor in this city, and in a short time the grader will be at work on the track of the Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska Fair Association. Mr. P. worked until the middle of the afternoon, and Mr. Glenn took particular pains to show the chief everything connected with the machine, in fact, took up almost his entire time while there, but it was done so cheerfully that he was loath to leave even when through.

Mr. Glenn works nine hands, and makes a full one in the smith shop himself. Everything in his establishment works like clock-work and very quietly and smoothly. He makes the Glenn farm wagon, several of which we have seen passing through our city, and also fine buggies, carriages, spring wagons and sleighs. He buys his lumber in his native state and knows what he is getting and what kind of work he can make out of it. It does one good to see worth and merit recognized, and such certainly is the case in Chariton with Mr. G., for scarcely a wagon passes but you see in plain letters "Glenn Wagon."

The town of Chariton is beautifully located on high, rolling prairie, well built, both as to business houses and residences. There are three railroads in and out, one south to Kansas City, one northwest to Des Moines and the C.B.&Q., which gives it the air of a city. Her population is given at 3,500, and allow the guess, the figures are about right, probably low if anything, for her people are scattered pretty thickly over a large area of ground. They have looked after the beautiful as well as the comfort, for shade and fruit trees are planted and are growing in profusion. A remarkable feature about the streets is the fact that shade trees flourish on the sidewalks and red top cover and sweet scented white clover blossoms make the air fragrant, growng from the sidewalks to the streets; no hogs to root up the ground and no stock to climb into the trees and browse from the foliage as here. The entire city has an air of refinement and tidiness, the yards are filled with shrubbery, flowers and fruit trees, and the sidewalks lined with shade trees. The water is of excellent quality and the only draw back is lack of timber.

Calling at the Patriot office he (Fulmer) found several hands at work, but finding himself in the headquarters of Grant's king bees (The Patriot was a Republican newspaper), he took leave and hunted the Leader office whose paste pot is presided over, assisted by quill and scissors, by Best & Baker. Dan (Baker) has been on the sick list for some time, but is nerving up for the coming struggle. The offices are supplied with good material and the proprietors are making money --- only two in the city. School houses and churches stand out in bold relief as monuments of the moral, religious and educational tendencies of the people, and are a great help in building up the other interests of the city. All in all Chariton is a fine town, and her people, with whom he came in contact, were pleasant and obliging.

Returning home on Sunday morning he found a demoralized state of affairs among stables, fences, trees, roofs, etc., of the city, and has been ever since trying to find out how hard the wind blew by interviewing his broken and twisted trees (There had been a major summer storm in Hamburg during Fulmer's absence).


There is a sad postscript to this light-hearted report. At the time W.A. Fulmer made his trip to Chariton he was suffering from consumption, or tuberculosis.

The next year, in the hope a change in climate would improve his health, Fulmer and his business partner, Hubbard Patterson, decided to pack up their Hamburg newspaper operation --- printing press and all --- and move it to Gunnison, Colorado. 

Reports of violent encounters between white settlers and indigenous peoples in the West, however, resulted in a change of plan. The two newspapermen relocated instead to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where they founded The Sioux Falls Argus. Patterson published its first edition on Aug. 1, 1881.

Fulmer arrived with his family --- wife, Rebecca, and five children ranging in age from 5 to 16 ---  in Sioux Falls from Hamburg on Saturday, Oct. 22, 1881. The move proved to be too much, however, and Fulmer died on the Monday following, Oct. 24. He was 40.

Rebecca buried her husband in Sioux Falls' Mount Pleasant Cemetery and eventually moved on to Marshalltown, Iowa. During 1887, The Sioux Falls Argus and The Sioux Falls Leader were merged into today's Argus-Leader.

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