Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Summers on the Links: Chariton's First Golf Club

Jessie Mallory Thayer added golf links to the grounds of the Ilion (aka Mallory's Castle) during the summer of 1902, following the lead of the Chariton Golf Club --- which she helped organize --- whose new grounds were located alongside Spring Lake in south Chariton and opened during 1901.

Read the history of Lakeview Golf & Country Club in Lucas County's 1978 history and you'd think men were the pioneers here, marching bravely forward into a new field of sports and recreation. Founded about 1918, Lakeview was incorporated in 1921 by 14 men with 15 men as officers and directors. Nary a woman in sight.

The truth of the matter is, however, that women were the pioneers in this field, organizing Chariton's first golf club and commissioning its first course during 1900. So let's give credit where credit is due.

I wrote earlier this week about Spring Lake, South Park and the Spring Lake subdivision as well as William B. Penick, responsible for all three. First came the lake, ca. 1898; then, during 1899, the subdivision and the park.

The club came about during November of 1900 after William B. Penick offered 50 acres of land adjoining Spring Lake for a course, providing someone would organize a club. It would be located south of the Spring Lake Addition along the South Eighth Street link to South Park.

W.B.'s sister-in-law, Mabel (Wadleigh) Penick, stepped forward and the club was organized at her elegant new home on East Auburn Avenue by 13 women. An account of that meeting from The Patriot of Nov. 8, 1900, follows. Note that at that time women were not allowed to use their own names unless (a) they had the misfortune to still be single, (b) were divorced (heaven forbid) or (c), were in the same boat as Jessie Mallory Thayer, whose unfortunate spouse, Deming, had dispatched himself with a pistol two years earlier.


A Club of Fifty Members Organized; Links will be Laid Out Soon

Last Friday Mrs. H.O. Penick invited a dozen women to her home to talk over the advisability of organizing a golf club. The result was that a club was organized, with thirteen charter members, as follows: Mrs. H.O. Penick, Mrs. C.R. Kirk, Mrs. H.B. Stewart, Mrs. Jessie M. Thayer, Mrs. J.E. Wright, Mrs. F.Q. Stuart, Mrs. J.A. Penick, Mrs. T.M. Stuart, Mrs. F.R. Crocker, Mrs. W.W. Whitfield, Misses Sue Copeland, Margaret and Willie Brown.

W.B. Penick of Tingley has generously offered the ground free of rent in Spring Lake addition. The club is contemplating remodeling the old Rogers (sic. --- Rodgers) property and converting it into a modern club house. The membership fee is one dollar.

Mrs. Penick went to Burlington Tuesday and Will be accompanied home by Sherwood of Burlington, an instructor in golf, who has been connected with the Chicago Golf Club, and is thoroughly up-to-date in everything pertaining to that popular game. He will proceed at once to lay out the links, and the grounds will be ready in the course of a fortnight. The club starts in with a membership of about fifty, and hopes to double that number in a short time.

For the benefit of those who are interested, we will say that aside from the $1 initiation fee to those joining now, the expenses will be 6 balls at $2 per dozen. Set of clubs from $7 to $9, very good ones, and such dues as the whole club shall decide on later. The more members, the less dues, not over $12 for balls, clubs and all.

The golf club is an accomplished fact and does not depend upon the approval or disapproval of anyone. The gift of the Spring Lake property removes the largest expense in organizing a club.


On Nov. 29, The Patriot was able to report that, "Mr. Sherwood of Burlington is here laying out the golf links for the Chariton Golf Club in Spring Lake Addition."

The club's opening season commenced during late May of 1901, as reported by The Patriot of the 23rd under the headline "Hoot Mon," which I think was supposed to be a reference to the Scots origin of the game:

"The Chariton Golf Club will begin playing this week. They have finished their links, on the old Rogers (Rodgers) place south of the track, on a tract now owned by W.B. Penick. The tract includes about fifty acres of land well suited to losing the ball, and includes Spring Lake, which will undoubtedly prove a 'dampener' to many an ardent amateur golfer. There are fifty or more members in the club and they will be instructed in the fine points of the game by Mr. Sherwood of Burlington, who is now instructing a newly organized club at Ottumwa."

Earlier in the month, Rea & Beem --- located on the north side of the square --- had signed on as unofficial outfitters for members of the new club. Here is that firm's advertisement from The Patriot of May 2, 1901:

The year 1902 also seems to have been a success on the club course and early that summer,  Jessie Mallory Thayer added a second golf venue --- at her home. The Chariton Herald reported on July 17, 1902, that "Mrs. Thayer has had golf grounds laid out on the expansive lawns at Ilion, and enthusiasts from town are making good use thereof. The game is a very popular one in Chariton this season."

Although no photographs of play on the Chariton Golf Club grounds have survived, we do have a photo (top) of golf enthusiasts at play that summer on the front lawn of the Ilion, also known as Mallory's Castle.

After 1902, interest in golf waned in Chariton and for reasons that are not clear, the Chariton Golf Club vanished. Perhaps the game's time hadn't come. Mabel Penick's untimely death during 1903 may have been a factor. She had been prime mover in organizing the club. Or it may be that W.B. Penick, who had moved home to Chariton from Tingley during 1901 and began to market the Spring Lake addition aggressively during 1903, decided that donating 50 acres for a course didn't make economic sense. By 1906, efforts were being made to turn the grounds of the former course into a new Chariton subdivision.

Whatever the case, 1901 and 1902 seem to have been Chariton's first and perhaps only summers of golf until the Lakeview Golf & Country Club came along 20 years later.

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