Friday, January 01, 2021

Lindsay W. Stanley's notable Christmas bender

Jacob Myers, my great-great-grandfather, took the oath as a Lucas County supervisor on January 2, 1871, along with Henry H. Day of Chariton and Joseph W. Sprott, of Union Township. And one of the first matters of business during the new year was dealing with citizen unrest about the shenanigans of Lindsay W. Stanley, custodian of the Poor Farm.

There actually wasn't too much the supervisors could do, however --- Mr. Stanley was not exactly a county employee.

The county had purchased the 209-acre poor farm just northwest of Chariton (now the site of Hy-Vee's giant frozen foods distribution center) during 1870 with plans to finance its purchase in part by sale of the earlier farm near Russell.

Bids had been sought from all parties interested in leasing the 100 acres of farmland in cultivation at the new farm and Stanley had submitted the highest bid --- $3.63 per acre for the year. In return, the county allowed him use of the house and other buildings on the farm and paid him a few hundred dollars plus expenses to house, board and supervise those who found refuge there because they were broke, sick or mentally distressed.

The most public of Mr. Stanley's shenanigans had occurred just before Christmas 1870 and was reported upon at length in The Democrat of Jan. 3, 1872, under the headline, "Not Dead, but Drunk."


On the Thursday before Christmas, a man from the country and who is supposed to farm it for the benefit of the paupers of this county came to town with his team, and departing from the line of his wonted sobriety and religious beliefs, gave himself over to the control of some of the very worst whiskey to be found in the city.

He had some money about him ($150), and displayed and disbursed it quite freely. He was utterly oblivious to his duties as a public farmer, and not only that, but he left his horses standing in the street until far after midnight. In fact, all trace of him was lost about that time, although his team stood where he had hitched it in the morning.

Night came and the morning followed and his family and the paupers mourned the absence of their legal protector. A messenger came to town to hunt him up, but he was nowhere to be found. Some of those who knew him bethought themselves of the money and visions and cudgeons, knives and bloody trails upon the ice came before their eyes. The alarm was raised and our citizens congregated together and exchanged wise looks and expressions too fearful to repeat. \

The weather was as cold as the county's charity, but brave men braved it all and the search began. The prairies were scoured, horses, stables and outbuildings ransacked and the reservoir dragged, but all to no good, and the faces that before were long now became longer. Thus the search and anxiety continued for two days, and still no traces of the missing man, nor evidence of foul murder.

Saturday night, however, brought relief --- and the lost man. It seems that upon the night of his disappearance, he wandered up to the depot, and reaching there just as the Pacific Express train was going east, he climbed into the caboose, paid his fare to Ottumwa, and then went to dreaming.

In due course of time he waked up and now he says that the first thing he knew of the world he found the city of Ottumwa collected upon all sides of him. Seeing that there was an opening for a continued good time, he remained there until Saturday night, and then came home to relieve the suspense.

A wedding of his niece had to be postponed in consequence, a Christmas dinner was spoiled and many feet, noses and ears frozen, to say nothing of the disgust and disgrace that the guardian of the poor had brought upon himself. The county supervisors are in session and the Poor Farm will probably be put into other hands this year, and for all time to come.


There actually was little the supervisors could do to discipline Mr. Stanley at the time,  although his county-backed accounts in Chariton stores were cancelled and thereafter Supervisor Day, the only one of the three supervisors who lived in town, was placed in charge of procuring supplies needed by the county's poor and dependent wards.

Later in the month, the supervisors put the Poor Farm contract out for bid during 1871 and 15 offerings were submitted. Most likely, Mr. Stanley was not among the bidders. The contract went to Joseph Critchfield and the county agreed to pay him a flat fee of $500 for "keeping the paupers" as well as all products of the farm.

The supervisors also upped the job requirements a little, dispatching Mr. Critchfield to  Mount Pleasant to retrieve wards of the county with mental issues who had previously been housed in the asylum there, reckoning that this was an expense that could be trimmed.


Lindsay Stanley, Indiana born and a son of Robert H. and Nancy (Scott) Stanley, arrived at Chariton about 1858 with his wife, Mary, and two oldest children, Angeline and James, as well as his parents and numerous siblings. He served honorably during the Civil War in Company K, 34th Iowa Volunteer Infantry.

His first wife died during 1872, the year after that Christmas-time escapade, and was buried in the Chariton Cemetery. He then married Amanda Mercer and prior to 1880 they moved to Cameron, Missouri, where he died on March 14, 1884, age 52. He is buried there under a military tombstone. Amanda, who had no children of her own, then returned to Chariton and was absorbed by the larger Stanley family. She died in Chariton on April 12, 1914, age 74, and was buried near Lindsay's first wife in the Chariton Cemetery.

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