Friday, February 02, 2018

The "oldest native male Hawkeye"?

There was a time among Iowa historians, professional, amateur and otherwise, when it seemed important to determine who was the first "white" child born in this or that locality, county --- even the state.

This, of course, discounted all the native children born during the millenia this land between two rivers has been occupied as well as youngsters born here in the early 19th century as the result of unions between Euro-American traders and native consorts. And no thought seems ever to have been given to who the first black infant might have been.

Still, in general, it was a harmless pastime.

In Iowa, the honor is most often accorded to Eleanor Galland, daughter of Isaac and Hannah Galland, born in Lee County on Feb. 4, 1830, although some have disputed that.

Lucas and Wayne counties entered the fray in an oblique kind of way when The Western Rural --- a weekly journal published in Chicago from 1862-1901 --- reported a claim made by John E. Carlton, farmer in Lucas County's Union Township, during early 1887. The Chariton Democrat of Jan. 27, 1887, picked the Western Rural story up and reported it under "Derby News" as follows:

"We see in the Western Rural that --- 'John E. Carlton, of Lucas County, Iowa, claims to be the oldest male white inhabitant born in the state of Iowa that now resides within its borders.' He says he was born Oct. 31, 1836, near West Point, Lee county, and wants to know who can dispute his claims. Wonder if this is our J. E. Carlton, who lives in Union township? Is it possible that we have the oldest native male Hawkeye, and no means of finding it out except through a Chicago paper?"

As it turns out the claimant was indeed John E. Carlton of Union Township, who had arrived in Lucas County from Illinois with wife, Rebecca (nee Fouts), and two oldest children in 1870. Before all was said and done, the Carltons would have four children --- Charles E., Orley E., Sarah Etta (married Seaman W. Lewis) and Robert F. (who died young).

We have no way of knowing if anyone turned up to dispute John's claim, but I went to his obituary in The Humeston New Era to see if more information might be found there. John died rather young, at the age of 58 during the fall of 1895 after having sold the farm and moved into Humeston. He is buried in the Humeston Cemetery where he shares a tombstone, upper left, with Rebecca. Here's the text of the obituary:

"J.E. Carlton died at his residence in Humeston, Sept. 15, 1895, aged 58 years, 10 months and 15 days.

"Mr. Carlton was born in West Point, Iowa, Oct. 31, 1836. His parents were among the first settlers in the west, his father having served in the Black Hawk war. His parents both died when he was young, and he and an only brother were thrown upon their own resources when mere boys. He served three years in the war of the Rebellion, enlisting from Springfield in the 7th Illinois Cavalry. Soon after the war he was married to Miss Rebecca Fouts, of Canton, Illinois, and after living there for a short time, moved to the farm near Humeston where he lived until two years ago. Mr. Carlton had the misfortune of losing his wife in December 1893, and he never was himself  again. After her death he sold the farm and moved to town where he lived until the time of his death. He was a generous, kind-hearted man and an indulgent parent, and it seemed to him he could never do enough for his children. He has been a member of the Masonic order for 35 years, and was also a member of the G.A.R. Post at Humeston. He became a member of the M.E. church about a year ago and died trusting in God. The funeral services were held at his late residence, conducted by Rev. Griffith, and he was buried with Masonic honors by the side of his wife and child in the Humeston cemetery."

Sadly, John's eulogist did not name his parents and I could find nothing online to tell me who they might have been. There seem to be a number of his descendants still roaming around out there however and so, perhaps, one of them will explore this --- if he or she hasn't done so already.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Frank, just spoke to Greg Carlton, who lives here in Chariton and this was his great-great grandfather! Thought you might be interested in knowing.