Friday, July 20, 2018

Heal thine own family, Dr. Yocom ....

It's not likely that those who attended this ill-fated family reunion back in 1898 found the outcome as entertaining as I did --- but time heals all sorts of things, including upset stomachs.

The major player was Dr. Albert L. Yocom Sr. (left), who had relocated his practice and family from Newbern to Chariton nine years earlier, in 1889. It was his son, Albert L. Yocom Jr., who built Yocom Hospital and after whom Yocom Park is named.

Here's the report, from The Chariton Patriot of July 14, 1898:

"Dr. A.L. Yocom received the intelligence last Friday from his wife, visiting in Wapello, Ill., that she was going to attend a family reunion last Saturday. The doctor thought he might attend also, so he departed for the appointed place last Friday.

"He partook, with the relatives (about twenty-five in number), of an elegant and bountiful dinner. That night he was kept busy administering to the wants of about all who were present, he serving in his regular capacity as physician. The company was poisoned with cold meat that was served the guests, and all recovered from the effects of the poison.

"The doctor returned to Chariton, accompanied by his wife and two children, Monday morning."

He lesson here may be, if you're going to get careless about refrigeration when planning a family reunion menu, be sure to invite a physician.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Let's strike up again the Legion Junior Band, 1929-56

Chariton's American Legion Junior band was named official band for the Iowa Department of the American Legion in 1935 --- the year after this photo was taken on the front stops of the Legion post home. The band also placed second in competition at the National American Legion convention in St. Louis during 1935 and won first place honors at the National Legion Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1936. Band members shown here are (first row from left) Herbert "Buck" Johnson, band director, Benje Griffiths, Bill Snyder, Jay Whisenand, Charles "Chuck" Laing, Bill Kridelbaugh, Don "Red" Widener, Burdette Dunshee, Joe Ruddell, Jack Callahan, Marty Church, Paul Erickson, Hutchinson, Raymond Whisenand, Junior Hope and Oscar A. Stafford, drill master; (second row) Vivian West, Lois Ruddell, Lois Moore, George Chapman, Betty Plows, Marion Preston, Margaret Ferguson, Paul George, John Larson, Hutchinson, Paul Savely, Edwin Morgan and Johnny Ambelang; (third row) Charles Goater, Bob Bruce, Bob Box, John Freeburg, Ronald Puterbaugh, Dean Thompson, Keith "Spanky" McFarland, Kenneth Anderson, Dwight Oliver, Wendell "Jim" Fuller and Leland "Slim" Wright; (fourth row) Waldemar Peterson, Henry Hooper, John Ondus, Vern Clark, Matt Miletich, Leslie "Leck" Young, drum major, Jay Threlkeld, Jack Clark, Walter Eckerman, Garland Cross and Claire Gurwell; (fifth row) Dorothy Teater, Francis Doser, Harold "Pete" Peterson, Cloyd Carson, Bob Eckerman, Howard Johnson, Don Fuller, Bob Gaston and Mary Ritson.


It's hard to imagine a time when martial music and close order drill dominated the lives of 50-75 Lucas County young people --- and their parents --- year-around for years running and the Legion Hall was home to one of southern Iowa's most remarkable musical ensembles.

But that was the case during the years after 1929 when Carl L. Caviness American Legion Post No. 102's American Legion Junior Band ruled the music scene in Chariton and made a name for itself state- and nationwide.

Oscar A. Stafford (1893-1981) --- a World War I veteran instrumental in organizing the Legion post and a Chariton attorney for more than 60 years --- was a major force behind the band and its drillmaster for 25 years, aided by Herbert C. "Buck" Johnson, band director; and Leck Young, drum major.

Stafford prepared the following history of the band after it had been discontinued in 1956. A very precise man, Mr. Stafford titled his history, "A Brief and Concise History of the American Legion Junior Band of Chariton, Iowa." He also noted that if the history were read aloud, it should take no longer than five minutes to do so. Stafford's history as well as photographs and other band-related memorabilia now are housed at the Lucas County Historical Society museum. Here's the history:


In 1929, the Carl L. Caviness Post No. 102, of the American Legion, in Chariton, Iowa, established the American Legion Junior Band. This band was organized with a committee consisting of members of the American Legion Post who were parents of the Junior members of the band. Oscar A. Stafford wass chairman of the Band Committee and its drillmaster, and Herbert C. Johnson was the band director.

Very early in its history, the band was declared to be the official Junior Band of the Iowa Department of the American Legion, and was also elected to be the official Junior Band of the Fifth District of the Iowa Department of the American Legion.

The band consisted of young people from approximately 12-14 years of age to 19. The work of the band consisted of rehearsals, which took place in the American Legion Home, and field drills. The drills were based on the old infantry drill regulations for close order drill and as far as I'm advised, this was the only full band that ever attempted to do close order drill set to full band music.

The band was controlled by the drum major, who was in all respects a field general, and all movements were controlled with silent baton signals, which necessitated the origination of many signals not contained in any book of rules. The drillmaster created many routine drills, all fitted to the size of a football field, which was the area selected by the authorities for the contests.

The band was self-sustained by playing for different occasions around the state and attended all state conventions of the American Legion, where it was always declared to be the winner of all contests in its field. In addition, the band attended the National Convention of the American Legion in St. Louis in 1935, and was awarded second place nationally, and in 1936, attended the National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, where they won the title of National Champions in their field.

L. K. (Leck) Young led the band as drum major, and the band was accorded the honor of escorting the newly elected National Commander of the American Legion, Ray Murphy of Iowa, to his seat at the evening's proceedings.

In 1939, the band attended the National Convention in Chicago, and competed there, receiving second place, and they attended the National Convention in Milwaukee later, where they were not allowed to compete because officials stated there were no provisions for their entry.

In addition to the above, the band played concerts for the city of Chariton, under contract, for several seasons, and was the official band of the American Legion Rodeo at Sidney, Iowa, for several years, and appeared at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on a regularly yearly basis, entertaining the people in the Grandstand with marches and drills and --- in addition --- played concerts in the band stand.

The transportation used by the band for most of the trips consisted of private cars and trucks, for instance, on the trip to Cleveland, Ohio, for the National Convention held in 1936, we traveled in 32 private cars and 2 trucks. We stayed overnight in the American Legion Home in Logansport, Indiana. The American Legion Post in Logansport offered us the use of their basement for sleeping quarters, and also put on a banquet for us when we returned as National Champions. At Cleveland, Ohio, we rented an entire residence. The dining room was set up in the basement, and the girls housed on the first floor and the boys on the second, and at all times this band was completely chaperoned. The American Legion members and their wives at Logansport were very much impressed with the discipline of the band, for instance, they all stood behind their chairs at the banquet, and were seated at my signal.

The last two or three trips made by this organization were made in chartered buses; the largest buses that Trailway had, and I contracted with them, and they were under my command completely.

During the existence of this band, we organized under the name of "Parade of Champions," together with many of the Junior Drum and Bugle Corps in the state of Iowa, and went to regular contests periodically, first in one city, and then in another. These appearances consisted of a contest including all of the elements of a regular official contest, and for the greater number of events the band was the winner of the contests under rules of contests that were extremely severe for a full band, for they referred principally to drum and bugle corps.

During the approximately 25 years of the existence of this band, approximately 1,000 young people received training in both music and drill.

The band attended the National Convention of the American Legion in St. Louis in 1953. The organization was disbanded in 1956.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Old friends from Vietnam's CDEC --- "in exile"

If memory serves, it's been 48 years since I last saw or visited with any of these beautiful people, gathered at a restaurant in San Jose, California, for lunch on Monday. For the record, they are (from left) Chuong, Ngoc, Dick, Judy, Raymond, Nuong, Nhiem, Van and Ngoc.

Dick and Judy, of Little Rock, were visiting Nhiem and her family in Stockton and Niehm arranged this mini-reunion of veterans (in exile) of the Combined Document Exploitation Center (CDEC), Saigon. I had a chance to visit with both Dick and Nhiem on Tuesday and Nhiem very kindly shared this photo, taken by a restaurant staffer.

It was late fall 1970, I believe, when I stopped for the last time at the office, located in a hidden compound just off a busy Saigon street behind a soccer field and sandwiched between cemeteries on the fringe of Tan Son Nhut Air Base, to finish up some paperwork and say goodbyes. A few days later, I flew out of Bien Hoa bound for Seattle, then Denver, Des Moines and home.

I've written about CDEC before, so there's no need for too much detail. This was a combined intelligence center --- Vietnamese civilian, Vietnamese military, U.S. troops and two wonderful and very tough  Koreans, the Sergeants Kim. We dealt with the documents captured by allied troops across Vietnam. 

Nhiem, Dick, others at the table and myself worked "Evaluation," where documents, as the title suggests, were evaluated for information of immediate or other intelligence value. There also were screening, translation and more sections, most staffed primarily by Vietnamese civilians. U.S. troops were considerably outnumbered and most of us formed close bonds with our Vietnamese co-workers. 

Five years after I left, Saigon fell --- and a majority of CDEC's civilian staff was evacuated to the United States. So that's why there's a "CDEC in exile" here. Nhiem carried with her out of Vietnam the telephone number of my friend and co-worker, Dennis; Dennis and his wife, Betsy, became her sponsors --- in Michigan.

Although Nhiem has lived in California for many years now, Nhiem, Betsy and Dennis continue to provide some of the the glue that holds this loose assemblage of old friends together.

There have been considerably larger CDEC reunions in California --- a majority of its former staffers live there now. But friends and acquaintances from those days actually are scattered all across the United States, including Chariton, Iowa.

In one way, all of this seems a very long time ago; in another, as if it were yesterday. But these faces are so familiar and Nhiem's smile is such a constant --- I'd recognize it anywhere. It all makes me a little homesick ...

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Horse & buggy days and some of the perils thereof

I saw some promotional material over the weekend for a Windsor Heights-based outfit called "The Wine Wagon," a specially equipped vehicle that travels from event to event dispensing, by the glass or otherwise, fermented fruit of the vine. Very trendy.

But Chariton holds the advantage in this game. Back in 1898, we had a Whiskey Wagon --- a step above in the ranks of intoxicants. Here's a report from a scandalized editor as published on Page 1 of The Patriot of July 28 that year, under the headline "Bootleggers."

"Our attention was called one day last week to a man driving a team, hitched to a wagon, into the alley running east and west of Block Seven (just north of the Post Office). Two men were also pointed out to us, who were following this teamster into the alley. They were afoot and were about two rods apart. We were told that this teamster was a 'boot-legger.' He had just arrived from the levee, and was ready to supply these wretched men with whiskey for money. In about ten minutes the two men reappeared and returned to Court Avenue. They were able to walk without staggering, but you couldn't say much else. Before night they were both in a beastly state of intoxication. What will be done, we wonder, in these cases, if these men are found in this state by the officers? Will they be arrested and thrown in jail, and the 'boot-legger' be allowed to go free?"

It seems unlikely that long-ago editor would approve of The Wine Wagon either. Block 7, by the way forms the north side of the town square.


Those were horse and buggy days and the July 28 edition of The Patriot was loaded with equine-related happenings.

In the market for a new carriage, surrey, phaeton or buggy? William Schreiber, then one of Chariton's leading manufacturers, could help you out at his production plant and showroom just a block north of the northwest corner of the square (in a building that still stands south of First United Methodist Church).

But horses, mules and the like presented a number of hazards, especially if their drivers were not paying attention. Early in the week of July 28, a pedestrian had prevented a disaster at the Foundry railroad crossing, just a block west of Schreiber's:

Shocking Catastrophe Averted

"An accident that might have ended in the death of Miss Florence Braden, but for the timely assistance of Mrs. Alfred Shelton, occurred at the Foundry railroad crossing last Monday morning. Miss Braden lives with her parents near Lacona, on the Wm. Butcher farm, and was driving to Chariton for her relatives, Thos. Patton and wife. She had almost arrived at the Foundry crossing, was in fact almost on the tracks, when Mrs. Shelton stopped her horses just in time to prevent No. 3 from running over them. As it was, the horses whirled, throwing Miss Braden from the buggy into the ditch. Her face was cut severely, her lower lip being badly torn in the fall, and she sustained other cuts and bruises about the body. Dr. T.P. Stanton dressed the wounds and reports her condition favorable to a speedy recovery."

Down in Warren Township, an unfortunate farmer had experienced a painful encounter with the hoof of a mule, and that duly was reported upon in The Patriot of July 28, too:

Kicked by a Mule

"John Fisher, living on Capt. S.S. Arnold's farm in Warren township, was kicked quite severely by a mule last Thursday. He was knocked senseless, and the kick came with such force that a rib was broken on the right side. If it had been the left side Mr. Fisher undoubtedly would have been instantly killed. His wife dragged him out of the stable and he was carried to the house. Dr. T.P. Stanton was called and made his patient as easy as the existing circumstances would allow."


Out in the country, the small grain harvest was progressing nicely --- a process speeded considerably by new-fangled threshing machines. But in order to thresh, you needed shocks of oats and wheat and to create them, horse-drawn binders were increasing in popularity.

The Patriot's Cedar Grove correspondent reported on July 28 that, "There have been six new binders bought in this neighborhood this season and still busy cutting grain, two McCormicks, two Dearings, one Osborne, one Champion. Just to think a few years ago harvesting was done with cradles, or the old 'Arm-strong' machine as it was styled."

And life on the farm then as now could be hazardous, especially if you lost control of what you were smoking while atop a load of hay. Here's that happened to one of Robert Wadsworth's farmhands:

"One day last week one of Robert Wadsworth's hands was hauling hay. He had just passed the gate into the road near Frank Wadsworth's when he descended from the load with great agility just in time to save himself from cremation. The load and wagon were a total loss. No insurance. He explained that an axle had got dry and set the load on fire. But neighbors said, 'cigarette.' "

Monday, July 16, 2018

Fatal lightning strike and a fatal obsession

Lightning still makes the news in Iowa now and then --- as it did on Friday afternoon when a bolt struck two men on the Twin Acres Golf Course at Colo knocking one unconscious and sending both to a hospital. Their injuries apparently were minor.

That was not the case in Chariton on Wednesday, July 27, 1898, when an early-morning strike proved fatal, claiming the life of little Laura Roberts.

Thunderstorms apparently rolled across Lucas County for much of that day and further strikes in the afternoon caused consternation, but no permanent damage. In the afternoon, for example, "the chimney on the brick building of D.Q. Storie's drug store (on the west side of the square) was struck by lightning. Soot was thrown down the chimney, completely covering G.J. Stewart, who happened to be standing in the drug store."

And, "Ben Darrah was on the pavement in front of the store of J.H. Darrah & Co. yesterday afternoon when that sharp flash of lightning came. He was overcome or slightly shocked by the stroke and was unable to attend to his duties for a short time."

The deadly strike had occurred very early in the day on west Woodlawn Avenue in a small house not far from my southwest Chariton neighborhood. Here's the report from The Patriot of Thursday, July 28:

Little Laura Roberts a Victim of the Elements

Lightning struck the house on West Woodlawn Ave. occupied by Tom Roberts and family, early yesterday morning, instantly killing his little seven-year-old daughter, Laura. The bed the little girl was sleeping in was standing against the north wall of the one story structure. A boy, younger than the girl, was sleeping at the foot of the bed. His right leg was burned but otherwise he escaped uninjured. 

The lightning tore a hole in the roof of the house near the chimney, knocked the plastering away from the north wall and tore weatherboarding from the outside of the house. Some of the boards were found two hundred feet north of the house. The house is old and contains but three rooms. Other members of the family were shocked by the lightning but soon recovered. The parents worked with the little girl for a time, trying to bring back the life so lately extinct, but their efforts were futile. Her body was burned horribly by the lightning.

Funeral services were conducted at the Roberts home on yesterday afternoon at four o'clock, Rev. H.W. Tate of the Baptist church speaking words of comfort to the sorrowing family.

Mr. Roberts is a poor, working man, he having moved with his family to Chariton from Virginia less than a year ago. He has a wife and six children, all of whom have the sympathy of this community in their recent bereavement.


There are a couple of mysteries here regarding little Laura's burial. Although a similar report of her death, published in The Democrat, states that she was buried in the Chariton Cemetery, cemetery records to not mention it --- nor is there a tombstone in the Chariton Cemetery or elsewhere in Lucas County, understandable because the family was quite poor.

Both of her parents were buried some 30 years later in the Goshen Cemetery in southwest Lucas County's Union Township --- so it is possible that she actually is buried there, too. Other family members were living in the Goshen vicinity at the time. Whatever the case, the parents' graves also are unmarked.


Laura was one of eight children born to Thomas Marion and Paulina (Stanley) Roberts. At the time Laura was killed, her surviving siblings were Sarah, Alfred, Marion, Vada and Marjorie. Another daughter, Charlotte, reportedly had died at the age of 14. Son Millard was born during 1903.

By 1900, the family was living on a farm in Jackson Township, not far from Goshen, but seem to have moved back to Chariton a few years later. Tom reportedly had vision problems that worsened to near blindness as the years passed.

Tragedy revisited the family during 1929 when Paulina took her own life, an occurrence reported upon in great detail in The Chariton Leader of July 30, 1929, when a complete account of her July 11 death in Canton, Illinois, reached Lucas County.

According to that report, Paulena and Thomas had separated late the preceding year and divorced during January of 1929. Paulena and their youngest son, Millard, then 26, moved to Canton in Fulton County, Illinois, where daughter Marjorie and her husband, Delano Portwood, were living.

Mrs. Roberts apparently had become obsessed with the safety and welfare of Millard, seeking to control nearly every move he made, causing conflict that resulted in arguments. He decided eventually to move to Peoria and live independently in the hope his mother would allow him to get on with life. Instead, she killed herself in the Portwood home.

Her remains were returned to Chariton and buried in the Goshen Cemetery. When Thomas Roberts died four years later at age 77 on Sept. 25, 1933, after a long illness, he was buried by her side.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A choir, a chorus & a when-pigs-fly moment ...

The photo and the video here this morning are from one of those "when-pigs-fly" moments, which occurred on June 25 in Mountain View, California --- a performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during which Dr. Tim Seelig, artistic director of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, was invited to conduct a number --- Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land."

The invitation included a welcome to several members of the Gay Men's Chorus, the granddaddy of similar organizations worldwide, to rehearse with the 300-voice Salt Lake City-based choir, most likely American's most widely known and admired choral group, on the afternoon of the concert. Those are chorus members Steve Gallagher (front) and Rocky Sharma, wearing "Love can build a bridge" t-shirts (above), interacting with members of the choir.

The video was taken during the evening performance at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View as the Tabernacle Choir continued its 2018 Classic Coast Tour.

The invitation does not reflect a thawing in the icy relationship between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a whole and the LGBTQ community, but it was, as The Salt Lake Tribune pointed out, "a potent symbol." And does demonstrate the ability of love --- and music --- to build bridges.

The Tribune reported that "Seelig agreed to the guest conductor invitation 'with eyes wide open. We have no delusions about changing the course of the Mormon religion. Nor does this wipe away the pain inflicted on the LGBTQ community over the years.' " Seelig said.

"Still, the gay musician reasoned, there could be 'a young closeted Mormon in the audience who finds out about tonight’s concert and may see a glimmer of hope.' "

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Jas. Willett, tuberculosis & the Oakdale Sanatorium

One of the original pavilions at Oakdale Sanatorium. Yes, that's snow. Patients slept outside on porches unless conditions were extreme.

Tuberculosis, often called consumption, was the great killer of young adults in Iowa and elsewhere at the turn of the 20th century. While many lived normal lives with the infection in its latent form, once active, there was little that physicians could do other than treat symptoms.

In 1904, acting under pressure from Iowa physicians, the state Legislature appropriated $50,000 to establish the Oakdale Tuberculosis Sanatorium near Iowa City --- isolated because of the infectious nature of the disease, near a railroad for transportation convenience and close to University Hospitals. The Sanatorium opened during February of 1908, expanded greatly during the years that followed and transferred its last patient to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in 1981.

When the Oakdale Sanatorium opened, James Willett, just 26, was a talented and hard-working Chariton machinist, struggling to support his young family. Although his skills were in great demand, his health had been failing for several years and as he grew weaker he became unable to work. For that reason, he became one of the Sanatorium's earliest patients.

James also was a young man with a gift for words and had a friendly relationship with Sam Greene, then editor and publisher of The Chariton Herald. During mid-July, 1908,, probably homesick and bored, James set pen to paper and wrote a letter to Sam that duly was published on the front page of The Herald on July 23. It's a rare, early, first-person account of patient life at Oakdale:

Oakdale, Iowa, July 14, 1908

Friend Greene,

Owing to my health failing I was compelled to give up my position and have now landed in the State Sanatorium of Tuberculosis at Oakdale, Iowa, about 6 miles northwest of Iowa City on the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Interurban railroad.

The institution has about 280 acres of land. There are several buildings. First the administration building. This is the main building and consists of offices, dining room, kitchen, reading room and also sleeping apartments for the employees. Second, the pavilions where the patients sleep. There are two of these (one for men; one for women), both of them facing the main building, one on the north side and one on the west. 

These buildings are about 220 feet in length and divided into 20 sleeping apartments, kitchen, bath rooms, wash rooms and closets. The rooms are about 10 feet square, partitioned off with heavy canvas. These rooms are used only when there are severe storms and it rains in on the porch. There are two long porches along the front of these rooms about 12 feet wide, all screened in. This is where we sleep. We do not pay any attention to drafts here like we did at home. It seems like nonsense after we are here a while. We certainly get drafts here through the big double door and window in our room. Of course we get all the cover we want. Each bed is equipped with 2 blankets, 2 sheets, 1 spread, 1 mattress and a pillow.

When a patient first arrives he is examined, weighed and put to bed for a few days. If his pulse and temperature are normal he is permitted to go to the dining room for meals. As soon as they get back they are supposed to go to bed. As they gradually get better they are permitted to stay up longer. Some of them do not go to bed at all but work most all day --- mowing weeds, hoeing in the garden, washing dishes, working in the laundry and most anything that is to be done around here.

Each man has his own towels, comb and brush and cuspidor box. This box is a tin frame with a lid on which contains a paper box. The paper box is exchanged every morning for a new one. Much care is taken with these. They are carefully wrapped up and burned.

There are several other buildings, such as barns, sheds, etc. They have 10 cows and 4 horses. The cows have all been tested for tuberculosis. They had one in the herd and she was killed. Our diet consists mostly of milk and eggs. We do not have any fried food. It is all stewed or boiled, such as potatoes, oatmeal, meat, hominy, etc. The only medicine taken is olive oil, and a medicine called tuberculine is injected into the top of the shoulder or back. This medicine is poison and acts the same as vaccination, as I understand.

Most every body that comes here gains in flesh in a few days. I was surprised to see some of them gain. Some gained as much as 6 pounds per week. I gained 5 pounds the first 14 days and the next 7 days gained 4-1/2 pounds. This makes 9-1/2 pounds in 18 days. I am certainly satisfied with this, if it just keeps up a while. I am up to normal weight now. There are lots of people that have this disease that do not suspect it. 

Yours Respectfully, Jas. Willett


James's treatment at Oakdale was a success in the sense that he regained strength and weight and was able to return home later that year. As was most often the case, however, without specialized treatment and plenty of rest, the disease quickly reasserted itself and proved fatal two years later, on Sept. 16, 1910. Here is his obituary, as published in The Herald-Patriot of Sept. 22, 1910:

James Willett Passes Away

The many friends throughout the county will learn with sorrow of the death of James F. Willett, of this city, which occurred at his home on Friday afternoon, Sept. 16, 1910, at 3:30 o'clock, after an extended illness with tuberculosis. Largely attended funeral services, conducted by Rev. C.C. Davis, were held at the Christian church on Sunday afternoon at two o'clock, after which the remains were laid to rest in the Chariton cemetery.

James Franklin Willett was born at New Amsterdam, Indiana, March 28, 1882. He came to Lucas county with the family in 1893, residing at Russell for a time, then removing to Chariton, where he grew to manhood and received his education in the Chariton schools. His father died when he was eight months old.

November 15, 1903, he was united in marriage to Miss Cora B. Mingles, who with three little ones survive him. He was a skilled machinist and his labor was in demand, so much so that long after he was unfit for work, he was unable to give up. For some five or six years he was in ill health. He went to the state hospital for treatment and was apparently bettered, but it did not prove permanent, and soon he was losing again. He continued to work at this trade, however, a part of the time until a few weeks ago, when he was compelled to take to his bed. From that time the decline was rapid; but many kind hands ministered to his wants. He suffered greatly, but was patient and grateful for kindness shown him.

He was a man of clean habits; in his home life he was kind and considerate, of affectionate disposition, and made many friends. At the last he expressed himself as prepared in mind for the great change we call death. His good qualities are to be admired and commended, his faults, if any, covered with the mantle of christian charity, as becometh those who hope in the mercy and forgiveness of God. May the father of the fatherless comfort the widow and orphaned children, and may all remember the sorrowing and the needy ones around us, for we may, all too soon, be in that class, too.


At the time of his death, James left three young sons --- Milford, age 5; Virgil, 3; and Frederick, 1 --- in the care of their mother, Cora. Tuberculosis, however, claimed her life, too, just three years later, on June 15, 1913, at the age of 30, leaving the children to be raised by others.

Friday, July 13, 2018

But will it rival Emily Braden's "Chariton Polka"?

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs on Thursday announced the recipients of more than $2 million in grants benefitting some 200 Iowa projects designed to "spark cultural and economic growth in historic downtowns, concert halls and, possibly, the studio of a future Grant Wood," according to Chris Kramer, acting director. "We’re proud to help Iowans make our state a culturally vibrant place to live, work and play."

The annual grants tap a pool of state and federal appropriations and help fund statewide projects ranging from public art through digitalization of newspaper archives to restoration of historic buildings.

One of the smallest ($1,000) grants --- but the only one directly benefitting Lucas County --- will go to the Lucas County Historical Society. We'll match it with $1,000 of our own funds to commission an original piece of music celebrating Lucas County's history. It will be composed for the Chariton High School band, but will belong to the historical society, and hopefully will premiere next spring.

This is new territory for us and we're learning as we go along about what's involved --- relying upon Daniel Scheetz, Chariton High School band director, who developed the concept and will coordinate the project.


This is not the first composition to celebrate Lucas County; it's a minor tradition that dates back to 1859 when Emily Braden's "Chariton Polka" was published in the September edition of Godey's Lady's Book --- a widely circulated magazine for women of that time. There were some 40,000 subscribers nationwide when "Chariton Polka" hit the stands.

The composer, nee Emily Waterhouse, was born Oct. 2, 1837, in London and received there and in France what would have been considered then an exceptional education. She was the eldest daughter of George Waterhouse, a prosperous watch- and clock-maker, and Massey Gosden, his wife.

When the 1851 census of England was taken, the Waterhouse family was living in Clock House, Cranford, Middlesex.

Emily came with her family from England to Dubuque County, Iowa, in 1852, but her father died soon after. She married in Dubuque County on Dec. 10, 1855, Joseph Braden, of Chariton, also a native of London.

Joseph had arrived in Chariton from Dubuque during 1853 as an employee of the U.S. Land Office, which had been moved west from Fairfield during that year. He had emigrated from London to Dubuque during 1851 and gone to work as clerk and bookkeeper for Thomas Hart Benton Jr., then Iowa's superintendent of public instruction, but had moved quickly to the employ of the U.S. Land Office.

Once located in Chariton, Joseph returned to Dubuque County to marry Emily and the couple immediately settled together in Chariton. Joseph continued his employment with the land office until 1858, when all of Iowa's district land offices were consolidated in Des Moines. He then went on to become one of Lucas County's leading businessmen and public figures, principally known as a banker. Chariton's Braden Avenue is named after Joseph and Emily as is the Braden Subdivision.

The Bradens had no children of their own, but raised as their own daughter a niece, also named Emily and also born in London --- to Joseph's brother, George, and his wife, both of whom apparently died when Emily was a child. Emily Jr. married at Chariton Howard Culbertson, and they had several children.

Joseph Braden died during 1906, but Emily lived on until Jan. 22, 1922, when she died at the home of her niece, Emily (Braden) Culbertson, in Chariton and was buried beside her husband in the Chariton Cemetery.

Here's a portion of Emily's obituary, published in The Chariton Leader of Jan. 26, 1922, which gives some idea of talents, outlook and nature:

"Mrs. Braden was a woman of refinement, talent and keen intellect. Her educational training enabled her to come in contact with the best in life. Among her accomplishments was that of composing poetry and music, much of which was published, but some of her best work she would not allow to be published, preferring to keep it for her friends. Her best productions flowed from her pen and her heart after the death of her mother (in 1877) for whom she had a devoted love.

"Her long and alert life witnessed the coming and going of firm friends who were attracted to her by her sympathetic understanding, her wholesome wit, her intellectual insight and her ability to help in every time of need.

"She is among the few surviving early citizens of Chariton and the community who were active in formulating the contructive plans and policies of the city. Being such a worthy helpmate to her illustrious husband, she was enabled to make her life count effectively in all that was good for the upbuilding of her home community.

"She was a longtime member of the Historical Society of Chariton. Up until the time of her marriage she was a member of the Episcopal church, but since that time has been a faithful and energetic member of the First Presbyterian church, of which she was a member at the time of her death.

"For several years she was the efficient organist of the church, composing much of the organ music herself. She also taught a Sabbath school class for years and in every way walked hand in hand with her husband in church activity. When the cornerstone of the present edifice was laid, one of her poems written for the occasion entitled, 'From the Land of the Dead to the Land of the Living,' was placed by the stone."


We have a number of artifacts in the historical society collection related to Emily, including the original published version of "Chariton Polka" and large bound volume of sheet music from the 1840s-1870s that was among Mrs. Braden's prized possessions.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The changing of the guard ....

I spent too much time yesterday staring at this great old photograph, trying to date it --- and couldn't. Based upon the automobiles kind of visible in the background, I'm guessing it was taken during the late 1940s, just after World War II, but can't be more specific than that.

Most likely, this is a 4th of July parade and the parade destination might have been what now is Yocom Park --- then East Park --- a venue secondary to the town square for Independence Day celebrations. The American Legion Junior Band and visiting parade units often performed in the amphitheater there after parades and fireworks always were set off there after dark. This would explain why the parade is headed east on Braden, past the Hotel Charitone.

The color guard and marchers behind them are Legionnaires, Carl L. Caviness Post 102. At that time, the Legion organized Chariton's July 4th celebrations. And not just the 4th of July parade. On Memorial Day, the Legionnaires, the Legion Band and others marched to the Chariton Cemetery. On Armistice Day, another parade was organized on the square.

Look at the men who are marching --- most of them younger men, most likely World War II veterans, but the flag-bearer is older, most likely one of the World War I veterans who had founded the Legion post more than 20 years earlier. So I see this as kind of a symbolic photograph --- marking a changing of the guard.

The photograph came to the historical society some years from the Legion post in an inexpensive frame, so it had some significance, long forgotten. In the interests of conserving the photograph, we've taken it out of the frame and now keep it with other Legion-related memorabilia.

It's a beautiful photograph in fine shape --- just wish that somewhere out there in Chariton's collective memory there was a little more information about it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Feeling combative this morning?

So you woke up this morning feeling combative, you say. Lord knows there's enough of that going around.

Here's a song that may have sufficient charm to soothe the savage in your breast, at least momentarily.

The song is familiar --- Sebastian Temple's 1967 paraphrase of a prayer attributed to St. Francis.

I couldn't track down the performers, but I believe this is a clip from the BBC television program, "Songs of Praise," --- the longest-running television program anywhere.

Peace, as they say, out ....