These two little stories of Lucas County-related passion and intrigue, one dated 1859 and the other a dozen years later, were plucked last week from newspapers published elsewhere. I was looking for references to Chariton that had been picked up and republished during years for which no back issues of Chariton newspapers have survived.
I'm not suggesting that there are any lessons here, other than perhaps that human nature really doesn't change although technology and modes of transportation do.
At the time the following four paragraphs were published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye & Telegraph of June 28, 1859, there was no way in or out of Chariton that did not involve a horse or a long hike. The Burlington & Missouri River railroad was inching westward through southeast Iowa, but construction would be stalled at Ottumwa by the Civil War.
I have no idea who J.E. McClung might have been, but there is no indication in other records that he returned to Lucas County and settled down after this report was published.
"An Elopement --- Mr. J.E. McClung, a farmer of Lucas County who has a wife and five children, had been for some time carrying on a love correspondence with a blooming young miss of his neighborhood when about a month ago Mr. M. drove to Minnesota a large drove of cattle for sale in that market.
"The day on which he left for Minnesota, Mrs. M. discovered the correspondence of her husband's lady love. On charging him with complicity in the affair, he stoutly denied knowing anything about the letters.
"The letters revealed a plot to run off. Mr. M. returned last week to Knoxville, where he procured the assistance of someone to aid him in getting the lady brought to that place which was successfully accomplished. Rumor says he tried to procure a license at Knoxville to get married, but there being no one to vouch for the lady's age the county judge refused the license.
"The two, we learn, traveled together in a buggy, under an assumed name, until they arrived at Burlington, where he recorded his real name at the Barret House. Mr. M. was a member of the Masonic fraternity, also of the I.O.O.F., and hitherto sustained a good character. Surely this is the day of Sickleism. (Chariton Patriot)"
The next report was published in The Chicago Tribune of Dec. 25, 1871, and credited to The Omaha Tribune. We have no way of knowing if Mr. and Mrs. "Man" returned to Chariton and repaired their relationship, or if one of the hometown papers picked up and republished this newsy little item, too.
The Burlington & Missouri tracks had been laid as far west as Chariton by July of 1867 and by 1871, it was possible to board a train here and travel in comfort to Council Bluffs and/or Omaha.
Its Disastrous Failure
From the Omaha Tribune
"Passengers on a recent west-bound train on the B. & M. Railroad, were treated to an immense sensation. The occupants of the sleeping cars and nearly everyone retired for the night, the travelers in their coaches were seeking rest as best they could on the seats, and the train was bowling along through the night westward to the Missouri.
"In a first-class coach were a man and a woman --- the former, judging from his appearance, was about forty-five years of age and evidently a working man; the woman was a really pretty girl not over twenty-one years old. These two took the train at Chariton, Iowa. Soon after leaving that station, they commenced gradually to lean toward each other, "and eyes looked love to eyes that spake again," and for while "all went merry as a marriage bell." She was reposing with her head on his shoulder, and their hands were clasped together, as if they feared they would lose each other during the night. Their overflowing affection for each other attracted the attention of every other passenger in the car. They slept sweetly, and all unmindful that Mr. Man's true and legal wife was in the first car ahead of the one in which they were riding.
"Right here we must say that Mr. Man was eloping with the handsome young girl. His neighbors in Chariton knew of the elopement before it came off, and they raised a sum of money, with which they purchased a revolver for Mrs. Man and a railroad ticket which would enable her to follow her runaway husband. So when they stepped into a first-class coach at the station, she walked into a second-class car, and they left Chariton on the same train.
"The situation can now be easily comprehended. Mrs. Man waited until the train had passed two stations, when she prepared for action, and firmly walked into the car where the elopers were firmly held by Morpheus. The first thing the guilty pair knew they were suddenly awakened, and there stood Mrs. Man, with a revolver pointed straight at her husband's head. The girl jumped up, and rushed into the sleeping-car, claiming protection from the Pullman conductor, who locked her up in a stateroom.
"At the next stopping place, Mrs. Man, who kept guard over her husband, walked him out of the train, and when they were on the platform of the depot, she actually kicked him, beat him, stamped on him, and thoroughly subdued him in much the same manner as a man gets a vicious horse under control.
"These facts were furnished to us by a gentleman who was a passenger on the train and we will vouch for their truth."