Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A.C. Barnes and his Washington Hand Press

This is a Washington hand press, similar to the one shipped west from Indiana to Albia and used to print south central Iowa's first newspaper in 1854.

This post is adjunct to two earlier posts, from last week, entitled "The Underground Railroad at Melrose: Part 1" and "The Underground Railroad at Melrose: Part 2." This is the story of Andrew Curtis Barnes (left), who became principal agent for the Underground Railroad in Albia during pre-Civil War years, and his family as they traveled from Indiana into southern Iowa during the early summer of 1854, undecided as to whether they would settle in Albia or Chariton.

Albia was the choice and Barnes retrieved that fall a Washington hand press and cases of type that he had stored in Versailles, Indiana; had them shipped to Albia; and, during October, launched what most likely was south-central Iowa's first newspaper, "The Independent Press."

The text is taken from an address delivered by A.C. Barnes' son and associate in Underground Ralroad activities, Alpheus R. Barnes, during a convention of southern Iowa newspaper editors during 1913 in Keokuk. There's more to the address, but it deals with Alpheus Barnes' later years and I've not included it.

There's all sorts of stuff here that interests me, but I was especially intrigued by references to the paper mill at Bonaparte, principal supplier during the earliest years of the broadsheets on which many of southern Iowa's earliest newspapers were printed. As you may or may not know, high rag content is an indicator of high quality paper, and this plant along the Des Moines River also served as one of our state's earliest recycling operations. Here's the text:


Alpheus R. Barnes
At a meeting of the Southern Iowa Editors at Knoxville last December, Editor Brandt of the Iowa City Republican told of his newspaper experience, and the comments I heard made thereon caused my thoughts to turn to my early days in newspaper work, with the following result:

Early in the spring of 1854 my father (Andrew Curtis Barnes) conceived the idea of locating in the "far west." He was foreman of the Brookville, Ind., American, owned by Coker F. Clarkson. Prior to occupying this position he published the Ripley County Whig at Versailles, Ind., and it is probably that thus Mr. Clarkson came to know of his competency as a printer and his ability as an editor, proofreader, etc. He ceased publishing the Whig, boxed up the type, and with the Washington hand-press, stored them away. It was while my father was foreman of the American, and at the close of a spring term of school, that Mr. Clarkson's sons, Richard P. and James S., and my brother, Wesley, and myself, entered the office and commenced to learn the "art preservative of arts."

Mr. Clarkson took much interest in "the boys," and made a standing offer of fifty cents for every galley of type set that did not contain an error. It didn't cost him many dollars, but it created some rivalry among "the boys" and of course stimulated the kids in the right direction.

My father had no faculty of accumulating money, but the anticipation of his trip "out west" caused him to lay by enough money to pay steamboat fare from Cincinnati on the Ohio river, and thence over the Mississippi river to Keokuk. Arriving at the latter place, he started on foot to go to Chariton, where the government land office was located. He arived in Albia in the afternoon, and concluded to remain over night and attend prayer meeting at the Methodist church. He was a faithful member of the Methodist church in Versailles and Brookville; was licensed as a local preacher, and being a constant and close reader of the Bible, he had always a reserved seat in the pulpit or amen corner. He was invited to give his "experience," and so he did. At the close of the meeting he was extended a most cordial welcome, and was urged to remain in Albia.

He walked on out to Chariton, and was impressed that it was a better business point, but it was in the days of the stage coach; and 30 miles further from the chief market places --- Burlington, Ft. Madison and Keokuk. At Chariton he found the hotels and boarding houses filled to overflowing with people who were there to enter land; but a good Methodist brother took care of him during his brief sojourn there. Such was the hospitality that then prevailed in the west.

He returned to Brookville, as he came, walked to Keokuk, and thence by boat to Cincinnati, and from Cincinnati to Brookville on foot. I remember the glowing accounts he gave of the wonderful country; of its vastness, of its rich soil, of the extensive prairies; of the deer and wild turkeys and the pheasants and prairie chickens, quail, squirrels, rabbits, &c.; so plentiful that a man could stand in the doorway of homes in the village and shoot prairie chickens, quail and rabbits. His description of the vast prairie fires he saw on his trip in Iowa was vivid and extremely interesting, and many people came to our humble home to listen and be entertained at the recital.

He acquired means to buy a horse, harness and single wagon; the vehicle large enough to hold bedding, wearing apparel and cooking utensils, and with a cow and a yearling heifer which he owned, we started on the long and tedious journey. My brother and I took turn about in driving the cattle. There were many people "going west," and in crossing the state of Illinois we fell in with some most agreeable company. At Springfield, a merchant who owned a small farm at the edge of town tried to persuade my father to go on to his farm. I have often wondered, if we had stopped there, whether we would have come to know the great Lincoln, and if our lives would have been in more pleasant places.

At Versailles my father had an ardent friend named Roberts, who was principal of the public schools, a Methodist class-leader, and he relinquished his position at the head of the school to become a book-keeper in a wholesale house at Quincy, Ill. They kept up a correspondence and when my father wrote him that he was going to southern Iowa, a reply came back urging him to cross the Mississippi river at that point and stop and enjoy a visit. The information was also vouchsafed that an Indian trail --- the Beetrace Divide, running from St. Louis to Sioux City and through southern Iowa, between Albia and Chariton, would be a good route to traverse. We took this route, enjoyed the visit and rest, and the genuine hospitality of the old friend.

On July 2nd, about noon, we reached the little town of Moravia, ten miles south of Albia, and being still undetermined as to whether to locate in Albia or Chariton, we turned west and went as far as Dodge's Point, three-fourths of a mile west of the present town of Iconium. We were privileged to drive into an enclosure where there was a good well, with a grape-vine pulley, and an old oaken bucket. It is now known as the Maiken farm, but he has long since passed to his fathers, and I do not now know who owns or occupies it. But I have not forgotten that the owner of the farm and a number of his neighbors came and talked with my father until nearly  midnight, when I was very tired and sleepy and was not interested in the clatter.

On the morning of July 3rd the horse was attached to the wagon, the cow and heifer were corralled and all were ready to start to the end of the journey. My father concluded he would settle the matter of destination by drawing cuts. He took his jack knife from his picket, cut a hazel brush in four pieces, two a little longer than the others. He named the long ones Chariton and the short ones Albia. My mother made the first draw and got a short one; my brother made the next draw and got a long one; I made the next draw and got a short one, and then we turned our faces toward Albia. We drove across the prairie in the most direct way, and the road had been little used. We arrived at the crossing of Coal Creek, three miles south of Albia, at about the noon hour. Water was flowing in the small creek, and by scooping out a hole in the sand, we could dip enough water to get our coffee supply, and the brutes could quench their thirst. When the dinner was over we started to the end of our journey --- only three miles away. It was my turn to drive Bossy and her offspring, and notwithstanding the roads were extremely dusty and the weather excruciatingly hot, I started joyously on the final march. At about 4 o'clock we stopped on the vacant lot two blocks from the southeast corner of the square. We stayed over night in the wagon and under it, and early on the morning of the 4th, we went to the northeast part of town, in quest of running water in the brook. The water was only running a small rivulet, and we retraced our steps. A lumber wagon, with seats alongside the box and loaded with young people, and with four horses attached, was going to Eddyville to attend a 4th of July celebration. The driver snapped his whip, the horses increased their speed, and the hat of one of the boys --- J. Henry Orman --- blew off, and the horses were making such headway that a considerable space was covered before they were stopped. I ran after the hat and gave it to him. Orman lost an arm at the battle of Shiloh; the G.A.R. Post in Albia was named in his honor. He was my m ost intimate chum before and after the war until his death.

Soon after we landed in Albia, the friends whom my father met on his former trip, encouraged him to send for his printing outfit stored in Versailles, and start a paper in Albia. I believe it was the first paper printed west of the Des Moines river. The outfit was hauled to the Ohio river --- Lawrenceburg, Ind., --- and thence by boat to Keokuk. Teamsters volunteered to haul the plant to Albia. The most available building in town was the log court house, sixteen feet square, story and a half, that stood on the east side of the square on the alley. The cracks in the building were chinked and daubed and made ready for the new enterprise. When the press and material arrived there were willing hands to help unload and put it in place. The press was nailed to the puncheon floor to keep it sold and steady. The type were unwwrapped and soon distributed in the cases and on Oct. 10th, 1854, the Independent Press made its appearance. The paper contained four pages, six columns to the page, and all of the type were set by my father, my brother and myself. We had no time to look after local items, but a few were handed in. We had no exchanges from which to gather copy, but my father was equal to the occasion. He secured copies of the Christian Advocate, the Methodist organ, and copied some articles from it, and then concluded to print a continued story. He secured a copy of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and he printed installments from week to week until all was printed. A cherished memory is of a little boy, who, through summer's sunshine and winter's storm, walked from his home, a mile from town, on each publication day, and knocking at the office door asked: "Is my ma's paper done?" with the sad thought that ere he had reached manhood's estate, he contracted fever and died, before he had mounted the editorial tripod or aspired to a post office commission, or a seat in the legislature or in congress. When his ma's paper was not done, he was given exchanges or other reading matter to last him a week.

The salutatory proclaimed the rigid independence of the paper, save only on two points --- it was utterly opposed to negro slavery and the liquor traffic --- the twin relics of barbarism. This led to a great deal of criticism on the part of some of the leaders in the community and the withholding of patronage. It was regarded as an interference with men who owned such "property" and was an abridgment of men's rights to drink and eat whatever their appetities craved. There was another element of citizenship who approved the editor's views on these two questions, but if all those citizens of the town and county had supported the money with paper and influence to the extent of their ability, the support would have been meager indeed. My father stood his ground and was the station agent of the underground railray in Albia, although the main route for slaves hunting their way to freedom, was through the town of Melrose, fifteen miles west of Albia. The father of the noted Chariton lawyers --- the Stuart brothers --- was the agent of the underground railway at Melrose.

As stated, my father had no faculty for accumulating money, but his nobility of character, generous impulses and consecrated Christian devotion to what he believed to be right, made him many warm friends among  the moral and religious people of the county. He could only buy small quantities of print paper and often the roads would be muddy for weeks at a time and he could not get a supply of print paper from the mill at Bentonsport, on the Des Moines river in Van Buren county. Each fall he would secure from some friend a horse and vehicle and go from village to village in quest of rags, and take them to the mill and exchange them for print paper. The reasons above caused the paper to be irregular in its publication, and there were no legal notices that required consecutive issues. But he was fortunate in another way. As a local preacher he acquired many friends, and he was called on to solemnize more than one hundred marriages and sometimes he was given a good fee.

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