Thursday, July 20, 2017

John McCain, graciousness & statesmanship

It would be a grave mistake to write off U.S. Sen. John McCain, diagnosed this week with brain cancer. Still, it's a sobering time --- especially for those of us who remember the Vietnam War era with a good deal of clarity.

The photo was taken in Japan during 1973 after McCain (center) had been released by North Vietnam following five and a half years as prisoner of war. Torture, mistreatment and lack of treatment left him with physical handicaps that plague him still.

I saw a Twitter remark this morning that expressed the McCain experience well, then as many of those transitory posts do, it vanished when attention turned elsewhere and I can't find it now.

But the commentator began by quoting Audie Murphy, among the most highly decorated U.S. combat veterans of World War II: "No soldier ever really survives a war."

Then went on to point out that McCain, despite that, went on to give all he had left to his country as a U.S. representative, senator and presidential candidate.

His views and his positions certainly haven't suited everyone, including me --- but there's no doubt that he has given his all on numerous occasions, and will continue to do so as best he can.

The senator, then a presidential candidate, won my heart (but not my vote) during 2008 while campaigning at a Minnesota town hall meeting. Then, as now, there was a good deal of ignorance regarding Barack Obama on display.

McCain passed his wireless microphone to one woman who said, "I can't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's not, he's not uh — he's an Arab. He's not — " before McCain retook the microphone and replied:

"No, ma'am. He's a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign's all about. He's not [an Arab]."

After his loss during November of that year, McCain's response was a gracious call for support of the new president.

It's called decency --- and statesmanship. Qualities not displayed in abundance in politics as we know them these days.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Heroes among us: Capt. Helen Malony Talboy

Helen Malony Talboy's tombstone in the Chariton Cemetery identifies her as "daughter" rather than as a World War II hero. And the flag holder that once was embedded in the ground at her grave has  been broken and the stalk, relocated nearby.

So she rests here now largely forgotten --- a hero among us. Her parents, John H. and Orpha Malony, and her sister, Ruth Malony Thomas, are nearby.


Alyse Hunter, who chairs the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission, intrigued by the rarity of the surname "Talboy," mentioned Helen yesterday during a commission meeting as we talked about the 2017 Chariton Cemetery Heritage Tour, scheduled for Sept. 24.

This year, we want to gather in front of the shelter house and introduce a few of the interesting folks reposing in that immediate neighborhood. Although none of us knew anything at all about Helen, the distinctive surname was interesting, Alyse suggested.

So I came home and did a quick survey. Here's a part of what I found.


Helen was born during 1907 and moved to Chariton as a child with her parents --- her father was a dentist. She graduated from Chariton High School during 1927, three years before the early death of her mother, the first to be buried on the family lot. Her father later remarried and relocated in Corydon.

During 1934, she graduated from the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing in Burlington, then married in 1935 a traveling salesman named Willis E. Talboy. That relationship did not endure, but Helen kept the surname for the remainder of her life.

When World War II broke out, Helen was working as a nurse in Des Moines. She enlisted during November of 1942 and was deployed overseas during April of 1943, assigned to the 95th Evacuation Hospital, attached at various times to both the 5th and 7th armies.

This was a 400-bed mobile hospital staffed with approximately 40 nurses, 40 doctors and more than 200 enlisted men. When the hospital landed in Italy on Sept. 9, 1943, it was the first U.S. hospital established in Europe during World War II. Another amphibious landing --- at Anzio --- followed.


Maj. Gen. Norman T. Kirk, surgeon general of the U.S. Army, provided this account of Helen's service before Anzio after the war while writing about her for The American Magazine:

"When Lt. Helen Talboy went overseas, her convoy was attacked again and again by submarines. In the blistering or muddy days of the Tunisian campaign, she sometimes served within six miles of the front.

"She landed with the infantry at a beach-head in Sicily, followed the battle to Palermo, and went on to Italy, only to have her ship bombed in Salerno bay.

"Wet and bedraggled, wearing nothing but pajamas and tennis shoes, she was finally set ashore. Next day she was at work again in the surgical tent of her evacuation hospital unit, supervising the care of men upon whom the enemy's shrapnel and bullets had done all but their worst. It was enough to try the strongest men.

"But weeks later, after all her hardships, Lt. Talboy was one of the first to volunteer to land with the infantry at Anzio, just south of Rome, a maneuver that proved to be one of the most perilous flanking movements our troops have undertaken in Italy. Everybody knows now the bitterness of that furiously contested fight at Anzio. None knows it better than that woman from Des Moines who again offered her life for her country there."


Associated Press correspondent Kenneth Dixon, the only U.S. civilian reporter at Anzio, picks up Helen's story in this dispatch from Anzio, dated Feb. 8, 1944. This story was published nationwide on Feb. 9, 1944, and in the days that followed:

(The Combined U.S. Press)

"With Allied Invasion Forces South of Rome, Feb. 8 --- If the courage of American nurses ever is questioned, the story of Helen Talboy of Des Moines, Iowa, and her gang of spunky girls on the Anzio beachhead will supply the answer.

"One night a week ago a group of them left the nearby hospital tents for the correspondents building when falling flak shredded the tent roofs and shells screamed overhead.

"Before that they had been bombed and shelled and bombed and shelled again.

"The tension was beginning to tell on them. Helen was one of the most jittery. But they all went back to their hospital tents and went on with their work.

"The newsmen sat around talking after they left, saying they had about reached the breaking point --- that this beachhead was no place for women.

"A couple of days later, Jack Foisie of Stars and Stripes and I were at the hospital hunting the chief surgeon to get a story. Helen, who was first lieutenant in charge of surgery, volunteered to find him.

"Instead for half an hour she wandered indecisively out in the middle of the hospital area, talking disconnectedly about fear and recent close calls. She was trying hard to rationalize her growing fear --- she was not ashamed of it; nobody is ashamed of fear over here; she merely was trying to keep it from getting control of her.

"As I left, I said, 'Jack, she's in bad shape. She has been through too much. She is about to go to pieces.'

" 'It looks like it,' he said. 'But she's trying hard. I wonder what she would do in a sudden crisis?'

"Yesterday afternoon the crisis came.

"When German bombs hit the hospital, killing 27 and wounding more than 60 --- including three nurses killed and three wounded --- Helen was on duty in the surgical section, which was punctured by hundreds of shrapnel holes.

"Without a moment's hesitation she took charge. She collected the surviving nurses, gave them bandages and first aid equipment and started them caring for the wounded, lying crumpled and moaning over the bloody hospital area.

"She supervised the first aid, and saw to it that the dead were covered as quickly as possible, bringing some merciful semblance of order to the whole nightmarish scene.

"The same nurses who seemed so near breaking a week ago, were busy elsewhere. Late Monday night they were still working. Nurses from other units came up and volunteered to help, but these tired, stone-eyed veterans insisted on caring for their own.

"Nearby, I saw some men weeping, standing in small shaken groups. Some of the nurses were crying, too, but soundlessly --- the tears on their cheeks in the pale moonlight were the only sign.

"Eventually their grief would get the better  of them, for these dead and dying were not strangers but their comrades of many months. And their fears would return.

"But hundreds of soldiers who lay wounded in those tents never will forget how Helen Talboy and her gang of spunky girls discarded their fears, postponed their grief, and did their jobs when the chips were down."


I'll save the details of Helen's later life for September. Nothing else really needs to be written right now. But if you're walking in the cemetery on one of these hot July evenings and turn the corner in front of the shelter house to head east, look to your left after you've taken a few steps and give Capt. Helen Malony Talboy a salute.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ice cream social postponed ...

The following post, sadly, no longer applies. The forecast calling for extreme heat caused us to postpone the event. But we'll try again when it cools down a little. So stay tuned for details.

We're hoping for a good breeze on the patio Thursday evening when Margaret Coons joins us to celebrate summer during the Lucas County Historical Society's annual ice cream social.

Margaret's beautiful voice, wide-ranging repertoire and guitar skills are well known in Lucas County --- and we're delighted that she's agreed to join us for the evening.

All buildings on the historical society campus will open for tours at 5:30 p.m.  Free ice cream and ice water will be served in the pioneer barn from 6 until 7 p.m. and Margaret will perform, beginning at 7 p.m. on the patio.

Everyone's welcome!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lucas County's snakebite toll ....

Prairie Rattlesnake/Nature Conservancy photo

The Nature Conservancy is reporting that two varieties of endangered rattlesnake, the Massasauga and the Prairie, have been found alive and well at opposite ends of Iowa and it's hard to decide whether to be pleased (conservation-minded) or appalled (not fond of snakes).

Neither has been sighted in Lucas County so no need to make up one's mind this morning.

The Massasauga (or Swamp Rattler) was located in the Lower Cedar Valley Preserve in Muscatine; the Prairie Rattlesnake, expecting a brood of little slitherers, in the Broken Kettle Grassland Preserve near Sioux City.

The third variety of rattler known to occupy territory in Iowa --- but like the others in very small numbers these days --- is the Timber, once found with some frequency in Lucas County.

Back in the good old days, however, rattlesnakes were common and back issues of Chariton newspapers contain dozens of reports about painful encounters between human and reptile, the most recent that I've located in 1941:

"Stepping over a coiled rattlesnake isn't healthy, but Ancil Whitlatch did it unknowingly a week ago and still lives though perhaps he hasn't gotten over it. With his brother, Clell, they went to see about cattle they have on ground rented south of Lucas. They parked by the gate and Ancil got out of the car, walked a short distance and stopped, saying, 'that sounded like a rattlesnake to me although I've never heard one.' Sure enough, they found the reptile, sporting five buttons, right behind him and killed it." (Herald-Patriot, June 5, 1941)


Rattlesnake bites have proved fatal to at least four --- all children --- and most likely a few more Lucas Countyans during historic times.

The earliest verifiable death was that of a young cousin of mine, Alonzo Miller, who according to family lore died during August of 1869 at age 7 of a rattlesnake bite on the farm in English Township where he lived with his parents, Sylvanus "Vene" and Adelia Miller, who had moved west from Monroe County during 1853. He is buried, reportedly, somewhere in Brownlee Cemetery. The mortality schedule attached to the 1870 federal census of Lucas County supports the family story in this case.


Twenty-six years later, on Sept. 20, 1895, The Chariton Democrat reported that, "Mr. Wm. Weller and family of Whitebreast township have been spending the past month with Mrs. Weller's parents near Lagrange. A week ago last Sunday their little four-year-old daughter, Hilda, was bitten on the foot by a huge rattlesnake while playing in the yard. Medical aid was summoned and everything possible was done for her relief, but all to no avail, and after several hours of intense suffering she died. The remains were interred near Lagrange. the grief stricken parents have the sympathy of many friends in their great sorrow."

Little Hilda's grave is located in Eldorado Cemetery, northwest Monroe County, where the inscription on her tombstone records that Hilda died Sept. 9, 1895, age 3 years, 5 months and 12 days. She's buried next to a sister, Vesta B., who died at the age of 2 a year later.


Victor Vawter was only 2 years old when he was bitten by a rattlesnake on the family farm in far northwest Lucas County 15 years later, during September of 1910. Here is part of his short obituary, published in The Chariton Leader of Sept. 8:

"Marion Victor Vawter, aged 2 years, 11 days, son of Virgil and Minnie Vawter, was born in Natoma, Kansas, August 22, 1908. In March 1910 he with his parents moved to a farm five miles southwest of Lacona, where he lived until the time of his death. After an illness of only four days from the effects of a snake bite, his spirit left the body at 7 p.m. Sept. 2, 1910, at the home of his great-grandparents, M. Davis, in Lacona, where he had been taken for medical treatment. Little Victor was a beautiful sweet spirited child, with a smile and kiss for everyone. To know him was to love him."

Victor is buried in the Arnold Cemetery southwest of Lacona.


An account of Lucas County's fourth snakebite-related death was published on the front page of The Herald-Patriot of July 27, 1922, under stacked headlines that read, "Snake bite proves fatal; Little son of Mr. and Mrs. Schaterick (Shadrick/Shadrach) Nelson, of near Olmitz, is the victim; Is bitten three times; Passes away after suffering several hours; Snake menace in southern Iowa becoming serious."

"One of the saddest events we have had to chronicle for some time is the sudden death of little Worth (Ellsworth) Eugene Nelson, four-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Schaterick Nelson, who reside a few miles east of Tipperary, near Olmitz, which resulted from being bitten by a large rattlesnake on his father's farm.

"On Tuesday afternoon the boy and his father were picking blackberries, and the little fellow, who was barefooted, stepped on the snake. The rattler struck him three times on the left leg, near the ankle, each bite going deep into the bare limb, and it was impossible to check the spread of the poison through his system. The boy's leg was soon swollen to three times its normal proportions. The accident occurred about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Dr. Fisher, of Tipperary, was hastily summoned, and later Dr. Hills of Russell, both of whom tried every method of relief possible, using whiskey, tourniquets, and other aids without any results, and in the evening it was decided to remove him to the Miners' Hospital in Albia. They arrived there in the evening at 9:30, but hospital officials were unable to give him any aid, and stated that the boy was so badly bitten that it is doubtful if he could have been saved if a physician had been right on the spot. He passed away on Wednesday morning at 2 o'clock. Right after being bitten, the lad said that the snake had gone into a hole in the ground. A large rattler was found about 30 feet away, however, and was promptly killed.

"The remains were brought to the family home on Wednesday and today will be taken to Centerville, where funeral services and interment will take place. The boy is survived by his parents and by two brothers and one sister. To them the deep sympathy of all good people will be extended.

"Reports from many sections of town state that there is an unusually large number of snakes this year, many of them of a dangerous nature, and people are advised to be cautious and keep a careful lookout. The greatest danger is to children, who seldom watch their steps closely, and who are unable to defend themselves if attacked. Snakes should be killed on sight."


Conservationists would remind us that snakes are our friends, most just want to be left alone and that kill-on-sight is not good advice. On the other hand ....

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Wild Goose chase & other Sunday breakfast links ....

I borrowed a photo this morning --- without asking permission --- from my Facebook friend Bill Kerns, a Chariton boy now gainfully employed as a Disciples of Christ preacher in Illinois. He's attending the 2017 edition of Wild Goose Festival, which wraps up today in Hot Springs, North Carolina.

Never heard of it? Well ...

The front page of the festival's web site describes it this way: "... an art, music, and story-driven transformational experience grounded in faith-inspired social justice."

The event, which I believe draws about 5,000 annually, has been held since 2011 and is modeled, as many good things are, after a British event called the Greenbelt festival. Although rooted in progressive Christianity, it's open to all --- believers in any faith tradition or in none at all.

Here's a blog post written by the Rev. Gwen Fry, a trans Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Arkansas, that talks a little more about the event and her experience with it.

I see from the lineup (and photos posted here and there online) that some of my favorite progressives are there this year in various capacities, including Frank Schaeffer, Brian D. McLaren and Nadia Bolz-Weber.

This is not an event that attracts much media coverage. I'm relying on Bill's occasional posts from the festival as well as other scattered dispatches. 

There are no good old boys sitting around down there in Hot Springs this weekend saying outrageous things about everyone they perceive as the unredeemed "other." Coverage of that sort of thing is what we've come to expect, and the media are glad to oblige. 

But the problem here is not so much the media --- as it is us, what we expect and how we interact with the result.


There was a modest kerfuffle out there last week in that place where faith and sexual orientation intersect when Eugene Peterson, now 84, pastor, pundit and producer of what I'm told is a popular paraphrase of the Bible entitled "The Message," came out for same-sex marriage, then reversed course a week later.

The initial endorsement came in an interview with Religion New Service columnist Jonathan Merritt.

Matthew Vines, author of God and the Gay Christian, offers his perspective on the whole affair here.

It would appear that the venerable Mr. Peterson caught holy hell from the religious right --- including a request for clarification from Nashville-based LifeWay Christian Resources, one of the world's largest distributors of what sometimes are called by some "Christian" books.

If the case earlier this year of another generally progressive Christian author, Jen Hatmaker, is any indication, positive statements about same-sex relationships are viewed by LifeWays as sufficient cause to halt distribution of an author's works.

Vines makes the point that Peterson's vacillation, whatever motivated it, is likely to cause damaging disappointment to LGBTQ people in search of affirmation.

Which is true up to a point, I suppose. On the other hand, a major part of the problem here, again, is "us." Affirmation of LGBTQ people from religious leaders certainly is appreciated, and helpful; but it's unwise to base self-worth upon the anticipation of it.


Finally, I liked this opinion piece from Miami Herald writer Leonard Pitts Jr. entitled, "Who cares what's wrong with Donald Trump? What's wrong with us?"

Discounting various theories about why folks voted for Trump last November, Pitts concludes "... people who dislike Mexicans and Muslims, people who oppose same-sex marriage, people mortally offended at a White House occupied by a black guy with a funny name, they voted for Trump. That’s the reality, and it’s time we quit dancing around it.

"This has been said a million times: Donald Trump is a lying, narcissistic, manifestly incompetent child man who is as dumb as a sack of mackerel. But he is the president of the United States because 63 million people preferred that to facing inevitable cultural change. So I am done asking — or caring — what’s wrong with him. Six months in, it’s time we grappled a far more important question.

"What in the world is wrong with us?"

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Iowa's most northerly log cabin tombstone?

This is my candidate for Iowa's most northerly log cabin tombstone, although I could be wrong about this. Further nominations invited.

Most northerly because it is located in Winnebago County just two miles south of the Minnesota State line in the oak-shaded graveyard that surrounds Lime Creek Synod Lutheran Church, northwest of Lake Mills at the intersection of 230th Avenue and 495th Street.

Lime Creek Lutheran is one of those gorgeous high-steepled Norwegian Lutheran churches that dot the north Iowa landscape and has managed to survive, in part I suspect because it is acknowledged as the mother church of the Mankato-based Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS). (Do not confuse the Evangelical Lutheran Synod with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America --- ELCA --- or you'll annoy a small group of hardy, conservative Lutherans.)

I took these photos many years ago, so don't expect things to look exactly the same, but Google Map suggests that relatively few changes have occurred.

And please don't confuse this Lime Creek Lutheran Church with the other Lime Creek Lutheran Church, just across the state line to the northwest. The latter church building no longer stands, although the cemetery is still there and nicely maintained. Two Lime Creek churches developed when the original congregation split during early 20th century Lutheran wars and neither would give up the name.

The cabin marks the graves of Christen C. Anderson (1818-1906) and his wife, Synueva Pedersdatter Anderson. Their individual information is inscribed on small stone "logs" nearby.


These log cabin tombstones --- scattered widely across the Midwest and the South --- were the topic of conversation this week on a Facebook group I subscribe to: Old Iowa Cemeteries: The Last Great Necessity.

I already knew that there was another of these stones in Decatur County's Metier Cemetery, north of Garden Grove, marking the graves of Samuel and Julia Metier. I've visited that one, too.

Via Facebook, I found out that there are more examples in Oakwood Cemetery at Oelwein, Green Bay Cemetery in Clarke County, Oakwood Cemetery in Independence and perhaps others, too.

All of the Iowa examples that have turned up to date appear to have been carved from a similar variety of limestone that has held up remarkably well --- the detailing remains sharp and clear. But they were not mass produced --- each is different.

It's quite possible local stonecutters turned these out, working from pattern books shown to grieving families as they made their tombstone selections. The symbolism was bound to appeal to the sons and daughters of Iowa and other pioneers. The latch-string always is out.

Although both Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Montgomery Ward & Co. --- the Amazon.coms of their day --- marketed tombstones by catalog, cabins do not appear to have been among their offerings.

The style is sometimes called Victorian rustic and involved stone tree trunks, logs, limbs, oak leaves, acorns and more as media for remembering deceased loved ones.

The fraternal benefits organization Woodmen of the World, based in Omaha, and its auxiliary favored this type of symbolism for some of the stones that were among benefits offered to members from ca. 1890 until the mid-1920s. But the cabin is not a Woodmen design and only a couple of examples in other states bear the Woodmen insignia.

So exactly how this tombstone design spread across the country is a minor mystery to ponder while you're navigating old Iowa cemeteries looking for more examples.

Friday, July 14, 2017

July 1927: Summertime entertainment & edification

We're tempted sometimes to conclude that our ancestors led more relaxed lives in part because there were fewer options --- including in the field of entertainment.

Which is not the case at all, at least during July of 1927 --- as indicated by the various options promoted in The Herald-Patriot of July 14.

The big front-page news was the fact Chariton's brand new Ritz Theater was nearing completion on the south side of the square.

The latest update on the Ritz appeared under the headline, "Start Work on Front: Masons Commence Laying Brick at the New Ritz:"

"This morning masons started work laying brick and stone for the front of Harry Cramer's new Ritz theatre. The front will be of cream colored brick layed with black mortar and with the stone trimmings will make a very attractive front.

"On the interior of the building the work of plastering and putting up the metal work to hold the same is progressing at about the rate one should expect. As soon as the plastering and painting is completed work will likely commence on pouring the floor and rounding out the finishing touches to the building."

Although we now view the latest films at the new Vision II Theater northwest of the square, that cream-colored brick facade still is with us, although modified, and the building itself filled with the stock of one of Iowa's finest bike emporiums, Connecticut Yankee Pedaller.

The Ritz reported upon during 1927 was heavily damaged during the big southside fire of 1930, but rebuilt immediately behind the 1927 facade, which survived with minimal damage.


As The Ritz progressed, the venerable Lincoln Theatre, just two doors west on the ground floor of the three-story Temple Building --- destroyed in the 1930 fire --- was advertising Friday "fun night," Sunday screenings of Rod La Roque in "The Cruise of the Jasper B" and Clara Bow in "Children of Divorce" on Monday and Tuesday (above).

And, yes, there had been a minor skirmish some years earlier about whether or not the city should permit Sunday screenings of Hollywood films. Hollywood won.


Commencing on Monday, July 18, according to The Herald-Patriot, the Dixon "theatrical aggregation" would pitch its big tent for a week's run on the then-vacant lot just across the street south  of the Bates House hotel west of the square. That lot now is filled with the new building of Chariton True Value Hardware:

"Beginning on next Monday, July 18, the Dixon theatrical aggregation will open for a week of play here. This is one of the best theatrical organizations in the country at the present, so it is generally asserted. The bills include dramas, comedies, and the very best there is in vaudeville. The tent will be pitched early on Monday and everything will be in readiness for the exhibitions at the regular show time that night. The big tent will be spread opposite the Bates Hotel. Read the announcement and see what it says about admitting the ladies free on Monday night. The hum-drum of the summer will be enlivened for a week by the coming of Dixon and his artists. Make your arrangements to attend, enjoy good acting, be edified, entertained and amused. There is variety and all can be suited."


Looking ahead to early August, promotion of the 1927 Chautauqua season already had begun: "With one of the best programs ever presented the Chariton Independent Chautauqua will open the course the second week in next month. Cast your eye over the program and convince yourself of the quality of the talent. All arrangements are being made for this midsummer feature:

Monday, Aug. 8: 2:30 p.m. Concert by The Mason Jubilee Singers, a typical jubilee company; 7:45 p.m., concert by The Mason Jubilee Singers, plantation melodies, negro spirituals; 8:45 p.m., lecture, "Fiddling While the World Burns" by Dr. Ira Landrith, a fine lecture dealing with world problems.

Tuesday, Aug. 9: 2:30 p.m., concert by The Toys, Ernest Toy and Eva Leslie Toy, an artist company; 3:30 p.m., lecture, Pathways to Power" by Wm. Rainey Bennett; 7:45 p.m. concert, The Toys, vocal and instrumental; 8:45 p.m., lecture, "the Man Who Can" by Wm. Rainey Bennett, a popular lecturer.

Wednesday, Aug. 10: 2 p.m. Concert, the Howard Russell Collegians, featuring Howard Russell, noted Canadian baritone; 7:45 p.m. entertainment program featuring Tom Corwine, story-teller, humorist and polyphonic imitator; 8:45 p.m. concert, the Howard Russell Collegians, musicians, entertainers;

Thursday, Aug 11:  2:30 p.m., Afternoon play, "Other People's Money," the Inskeep Players, clean, clever and funny; 7:45 p.m. Great night play, "The Mender," the Inskeep Players, a rollicking comedy.

Friday, Aug. 12: 2:30 p.m., Concert, the G. Magnus Schutz Concert Company, a great mixed quartet providing the best in music; 7:45 p.m., lecture, "North of the Ears," by Strickland Gillian, one of America's greatest humorists; 8:45 p.m., concert by the G. Magnus Schutz Concert Company, every member a soloist.

Chautauqua events would be held in a big tent on the spacious and shaded grounds of Alma Clay School, north of the square, a space now filled by Johnson Auditorium and the Chariton Community Center. 


Manwhile down at Russell, that community had on Wednesday night celebrated the paving of its main street, reported upon in The Herald-Patriot as follows:

"There was a big street dance held at Russell, last night, under the auspices of the American Legion, dedicating their new paving to public use. There was a tent show in town and the dance did not begin until nine o'clock, and Shaw Street was filled with the many waltzers, and square dancers, in the rhythm of motion to the music of the orchestra. There was an enormous crowd present, and Chariton was in evidence in great numbers."

Thursday, July 13, 2017

John G. Davis and his famous old hen ...

It's kind of hard in this day and age to imagine that the Sunday Register would be interested in a story about an old broody hen who hitched a ride into Chariton and home again on a buggy top whilst sheltering her nest of eggs. Even though such a thing might still be possible, considering the mode of transport favored by our Amish neighbors.

But, as they say, the past is a foreign country and they do things differently there.

In any case, Benton Township farmer John G. Davis and his old hen did have their brief fling with fame back in 1937, when a Register artist picked up what by then was a 10-15-year-old story and illustrated it, then published it on a Sunday morning in July.

Chariton's Herald-Patriot republished the story --- and illustration --- in its edition of July 15, 1937, accompanied by the following text (giving rather carelessly two dates for the occurrence, 10 years earlier or 15 years ago). So I guess the famous ride of John's old hen occurred some time between 1922 and 1927.


"A buggy ride taken 10 years ago by John G. Davis, Lucas county farmer, provided the No. 1 "believe-it-or-not" for Artist Ken Eaton's "Iowa Oddities" in (the) July 11 edition of the Des Moines Sunday Register.

"Davis drove his buggy eight miles to Chariton through wind and rain before discovering that a hen had made her nest and was setting on top. Although she wobbled precariously as the buggy went lurching through mud on the trip back to the farm, the hen managed to keep her perch and protect her eggs. A few days later she hatched 10 chickens.

"The event occurred about 15 years ago, Davis recalled today.

"The buggy, he said, had not been used for two or three months.

"While the cartoon pictures only one man in the buggy, there were two. And behind it were a mare and a mule colt.

"The other buggy occupant was Henry Davis, neighbor of John. Henry Davis had sold a colt for delivery in Chariton, and because of the storm did not care to ride horseback into town. So John Davis volunteered to take him in his buggy with the mare, which the colt would follow, hitched behind. In his hurried preparations for the trip John Davis failed to notice the hen before leaving home."


Chickens are notoriously short-lived, so that old hen most likely went to glory within a year or so of her adventure.

John, however, lived a long, full and sometimes adventurous life --- passing during 1982 when nearly 97. He is buried in the Chariton Cemetery.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The 1930 heat wave & a threshing disaster

We're having something of a heat wave here this week, as indicated by that big rust-colored splotch on this morning's national weather map. And it's dry in Lucas County. Nothing like the legendary 1934, of course --- but hot and dry enough.

Back in the 1930s, Lucas County had its own weather observer, Clarkson C. Burr, whose farm out in Warren Township was equipped the the latest in government-approved weather observation gear and who provided The Leader and The Herald-Patriot with weekly updates, routinely published on front pages in the days before forecasts and summaries were available instantly on any number of digital devices.

Here's his Leader report from July 15, 1930, the year that kicked off a grim decade in terms of  both weather and economic conditions:

The Weather Made People Hunt Shade

For a Week the Temperature Averaged More than One hundred Degrees and in Harvest at That

"July 14, 1930 --- The temperature for the past week was 100 or above, on five of the seven days, and it was the  busiest week of the year, as the grain harvest was in full swing; the wheat and barley were taken care of, and one of the largest and best oats crops ever grown in the county was saved. An immense amount of hay was put up, while others were giving their attention to the belated corn, and much of the replanting was given the last plowing, while the harvest of grain waited.

"Monday started in with a record of an even 100 degrees. This was followed by 102, then two days of 105, and as there was but little air movement, the heat became almost unbearable and resulted in many fatalities of both horses and men in the harvest field. Iowa and Nebraska appeared to get the full force of the heat wave and northern Iowa reported higher mercury than we had. The highest temperature reported was from a station in Missouri, 112 degrees. All of these records are from stations equipped with government instruments; in the best shade, or weather house shelter; to this we must add 20 degrees to find the average heat in the harvest fields where the field work is done.

"The sunshine was 100 percent until Saturday noon, when clouds appeared, with a trace of rain, and the mercury dropped suddenly from 101 to 66 degrees, to the relief of everyone.

"On Thursday when we were sweltering at 105, we were advised that Canada weather was only 42 degrees above, and the movement was coming south, and it required full two days to reach Iowa.

"To find anything to compare with last week we have to go back to the first week in August, 1918, when there was a heat wave of four days' duration, and the last day the mercury climbed to 110, and this was accompanied by a hot wind that wilted all vegetation and did immense damage in many states, and in Iowa some of the early corn that was in tassel was damaged  as to yield; this was followed by an old fashioned storm that broke the heat wave, while at the present time, our much needed rain has not appeared. On Monday morning the temperature was down to 52 degrees --- a very radical change. --- C.C. Burr"


As the heat accelerated in Lucas County that long-ago July, huge threshing machines --- some horse-drawn and others pulled by tractors of one variety or another --- were lumbering from oat field to oat field to perform their duties in stationary splendor.

One ran into considerable trouble on the Blue Grass Road just southeast of Chariton, as reported in the July 15 Leader under the headline, "A Burlington Train Created Sad Havoc: West Bound No. 9 Struck Burnett's Threshing Outfit, Completely Wrecking It."

"A somewhat unusual accident happened southeast of town on Thursday evening which may result in a court inquisition, as a few years ago there was a similar case happened on the Rock Island, northeast of Chariton.

"Now that harvest has well advanced and the threshing season is at hand, R.M. Burnett, who owns and operates the Bartholomew farm, later purchased by C.S. Hechtner, assembled his threshing outfit and was preparing it for service, soon expecting to get it into commission.

"He had attached the traction engine on the separator, and with all other things entrain, was proceeding down the road west of the Scott farm and undertook to cross the railroad track shortly before passenger train No. 9 was scheduled to go west. He claims there was plenty of time, but owing to the soft dirt on the crossing at the side of the track the drivers sank in such manner as not to gain the necessary purchase to cross over.

"Realizing the situation, he started down the track to flag the train on its approach, but it was near upon them and not being able to halt in time, suddenly crashed into the barriers with disastrous effect. 

"When tractors are used as the transporting motive powers of grain separators it will be called to mind that the front of the separator extends probably two-thirds of the way over the tractor, so it all appears as one machine. The locomotive struck the threshing outfit about midway, completely cutting the separator squarely in two, leaving the severed and dead equipment by the roadside upon the highway. Both separator and tractor are now junk --- a heavy financial loss." 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The end of "Honest John" Edwards

Find a Grave photo by Anne Cady

This is the end of the line so far as posts here about the Southern Iowa Border Brigade and John Edwards' part in it are concerned. Earlier Posts were "Chariton and the Border Brigade,"  "John Edwards and the Border Brigade" and "Iowa border warfare and the summer of 1861."

John resigned his position as aide-de-camp to Gov. Samuel Kirkwood on June 20, 1862, as Iowa's home guard organization was being formally organized, to accept a promotion to full colonel and command of the 18th Iowa Volunteer Infantry.

He served in that position in a distinguished and able manner, leading the 18th through many engagements in Missouri and Arkansas, and at war's end was breveted a brigadier general. For better or worse, one of his biographers described him after the war as "able and honest" but "not a brilliant man."

Edwards ended the war in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and rather than return to Iowa, remained there after the war. In 1866, he accepted an appointment from President Andrew Johnson as U.S. assessor of internal revenue and served as such from August of 1866 until May of 1869.

During 1870, Edwards was prevailed upon by members of the liberal wing of the Arkansas Republican party to seek the Third District seat in the U.S. House of Representative, challenging incumbent Thomas Boles.

Although Boles seemed to have won the election by some 3,000 votes, Arkansas Gov. Powell Clayton, playing politics, declared Edwards the winner and issued a certificate of election to him. John assumed the seat in Washington, D.C., at the start of the 42nd Congress.

Boles challenged Edwards' election, however, and the House Committee on Elections ruled in his favor. Edwards accepted the verdict and turned his seat over to Boles during February of 1872.

After that, Edwards practiced law in Washington, D.C., and as the years passed accepted a variety of public appointments. The combination allowed him to lead a comfortable life in the nation's capital.


Years earlier, John had moved to Chariton from Indiana following the 1853 death of his first wife, Eliza Jane Knight. He brought with him seven children from that marriage, one of whom, Mary, died in Chariton during 1856 at the age of 14 and was buried in what we now call Douglass Pioneer Cemetery.

Soon after his arrival in Chariton he married Catherine Whisenand, some 15 years his junior, and they had three additional children, Nancy, Clarence and Edward.

Prior to 1870, however, that relationship seems to have broken down and Catherine had moved her children back to her native Indiana. She seems never to have joined John in Washington, D.C., and they were divorced in Indiana during 1879.

During April of 1880, John married for a third time --- in Washington, D.C., to Mary Ellen Burland Bevans, who was 20. John was 65 at the time. They became the parents of two daughters, Frances and Mary Ellen.


John Edwards died at his home in Washington, D.C., on April 8, 1894, at the age of 78, having outlived all but four of his 12 children and two earlier wives.

The circumstances of Edwards' death and burial at Arlington National Cemetery were shared with old friends in Lucas County in The Patriot, which he had founded 40 years earlier, via excerpts from a letter written by Jacob C. Peacock, another Lucas County pioneer who once had served under Edwards' command in the 18th Iowa and later accepted an appointment to the U.S. Pension Office in Washington, D.C. The letter was written to another old friend of both, Edward Ames Temple, then living in Des Moines and heading up the Bankers Life Association (now Principal Financial Group), which he had founded in Chariton during 1879.

"My Dear Temple --- I hasten to drop a line to let you know that Honest John Edwards departed this life so quietly (that his family did not know he was dead) on Sunday evening last (8th inst.) at 5 o'clock. Thus, one by one the old vets of the "blue" pass over in rapid succession. I was glad to be one, at least, of the boys of his old command --- the 18th Iowa Infantry --- in at his last on earth, and today at Arlington Heights, Va., the Masons and G.A.R. men laid the body of "old John" away forever, 'neath spring grasses, under sodden clods and coulds, for it has rained incessantly for the past 24 hours.... He leaves a wife, and two beautiful little girls, eight and eleven.... But 'so moves the world away. The old commander is gone, peace to his ashes.' it appears he enjoyed your visits and company more than any of the other Iowa people. Yours, J.C. Peacock."

John and Mary, who died during 1932, rest beneath an impressive stone in a section of Arlington that looks a good deal like a civilian rather than a military cemetery. Emblazoned across the top is "Patriot," which presumably was intended to characterize his life and not as a reference to the newspaper he launched in 1857 in Chariton, still published weekly although with "Herald" now appended to its flag.