Sunday, February 18, 2018

Reuel R. Fogg and Russell's cathedral of lumber

Giant structures like this --- cathedrals of lumber if you like --- one stood in nearly every Iowa town of any size at all, but few remain.

That makes this grand old and somewhat battered building just south of the railroad tracks at the intersection of Prairie and Short streets in Russell a rare survival.

The line drawing dates from 1901, when it was published in The Chariton Herald on August 29 as part of a "Merchants' Edition." The fuzzy image of the building today was lifted from Google Map --- and the map mobile apparently rolled through Russell on a rainy day so the quality isn't very good.

The text that accompanied the 1901 drawing --- a paid-for "puff piece" --- is valuable for the information contained under the headline, "R.R. Fogg, Owner of Russell's Big Lumber Yard, Planing Mill, etc."

"One of the most important business enterprises of Russell  is that owned by R.R. Fogg, who conducts a large lumber yard and planing mill.

"This  business was started in 1879 as a lumber yard. A steady growth was sustained from the start until at the present time there are ten men employed steadily, besides occasional extra men, to handle the business.

"The lumber is housed in the building shown in the cut, which is 112 x 130 feet and 47 feet to the comb. It contains four stories, and has a large elevator running from bottom to top. Pumps, windmills, stock tanks and patent well refrigerators are also housed in this building. The yard is as complete as any in the country.

"Across the street west from the lumber yard and office is located the planing mill and the building where stock tanks are made. The planing mill is equipped with a 21 horse power Otto gasoline engine for power and with first-class planing mill machinery for doing all ordinary work. Mr. H.L. Hill is the foreman and his work has proven very satisfactory to customers.

"A specialty is made of cedar tanks, which are made from clear Washington red cedar lumber two inches thick. They are manufactured and kept in stock in all sizes from three feet diameter up. Those who have bought the Fogg tanks claim that they are the best on the market.

"Coal, brick, tile, etc., are kept by the side of the railway track, west from the big building.

Several hundred well refrigerators have been sold here during the past few years. This is inexpensive and most convenient and useful. It is the invention of W.H. Argo, who is manager of the yard and mill.

Those who patronize R.R. Fogg find him and his representatives very pleasant people to deal with and people can come as near getting their money's worth at this place as anywhere in southern Iowa."


Reuel R. Fogg (1843-1928) was a native of Maine who, following military service during the Civil War, married Eliza Jane Woodman there during 1869. 

Eliza Jane's brother, Alfred J. Woodman, moved west from Maine to the new railroad town of Russell, Iowa, after the war and established a hardware business that included an outlet in Chariton. 

The Foggs and their son, John, followed that family connection to Russell where Reuel established his successful lumber and planing business.

Sadly, not long after the Herald piece was published during 1901, Eliza Jane's health failed and they decided to move to Boulder, Colorado --- where son John had been living --- in the hope the climate there might improve her condition.

The planing operation was closed and during April of 1902, the lumber yard was sold to Eikenberry & Co. of Chariton, the company that would carry it past the mid-point of the 20th century. Later on, it was owned by the Arnold brothers and others.

The Foggs were visiting the Woodmans in Russell when Eliza Jane died during November of 1905. Reuel returned to Boulder, where he lived until his own death during 1928. Both are buried in the Russell Cemetery.

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