Thursday, October 15, 2015

Chariton's "prince of caterers"

Thanks to Martin Buck for pointing me toward two other zinc tombstones in the Chariton Cemetery yesterday, including this small example marking the grave of S.D. Goodale off to the right, not far inside the main entrance.

"S.D." is Solomon D. Goodale, steward (or maitre d') of the Depot House hotel during the late 1870s and early 1880s, known  in his time as the "prince" of Chariton caterers.

You have to look at it carefully to see, inscribed onto the back, a feminine hand holding a handkerchief. I've not seen this symbol on a tombstone before.

The cast inscription also contains a major error. Sol, as he was known, was only 44 or 45 when he died --- not 57. The fact that his family lived in Chicago and Michigan and most likely never saw the monument may explain why a mistake that should have been corrected wasn't. He never married, so there was neither spouse nor children to look out for his posthumous interests.


David and Mary Wormley and their family arrived in Chariton during 1875 to take over food service  and hotel operations in the new C.B.&Q. Depot, which in addition to waiting rooms and offices contained a large ground-floor restaurant and second-floor hotel.

During the many years they were in charge, the Depot House (also known as the Wormley House) became the place to eat in Chariton, not only for passengers on the many trains then passing through but also for townfolk. It was a major Sunday dinner destination and also the site of many social gatherings, large and small.

Sol Goodale was third in command behind David and Mary, the owners, and the general manager of the operation, initially their son, Fred --- who moved on in 1881 to open a similar operation in the new C.B.&Q. Depot in Red Oak.

He appears first in Chariton Newspapers during 1879 when The Patriot in its edition of March 26 reprinted a puff piece from The Des Moines Leader celebrating the recent opening of a new branch rail line connecting Chariton and Indianola. The Wormleys, The Leader reported, "knew what they were getting when they secured S.D. Goodale for steward. He has a Frenchman's knack of pleasing the palate."

Later that year, the Wormleys celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary during a reception at their home for some 100 people --- the guest list reading like a "who's who" of Chariton at the time. "Later in the evening the company was refreshed with a delicious supper under the supervision of the prince of caterers, 'Steward" Goodale, which was pronounced to be one of the most pleasing features of the evening," according to The Patriot of Nov. 5.

On Jan. 1, 1884, the "gentlemen" of Chariton treated their ladies to a grand leap year reception for a couple of hundred at the Mallory Opera Hall. "The feast of good things was elegant and tempting," The Patriot of Jan. 2 reported, "and the ladies were profuse in their compliments on the taste with which the repast was arranged."

"Mr. S.D. Goodale, the popular steward of the Depot Hotel, was the caterer ... who, with the assistance of the Misses Jennie Murray, Bettie Johnson and Hilda Brown, had charge of the cuisine and arrangements of the table. Every body was pleased because Sol knows just how to please all tastes, and to minister to the inner man in a substantial and comforting way."

The social affair of 1884 in Chariton, however, was the grand marriage before some 200 guests of Miss Anna Gibbon and Ralph McCollough at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church during September.

"After the ceremony the company of two hundred repaired to the depot hotel where the reception was held. The spacious house was thrown open to the guests, and everything done by the genial proprietor, Mr. Wormley, to insure the pleasure and comfort of all. An elegant repast was served in the large dining room, prepared by that prince of caterers, Sol Goodale."


A year after this social triumph, however, Sol became ill suddenly and on the evening of Nov. 23, 1885, died.

The Patriot reported only that, "Sol D. Goodale, so long known to Chariton people and the general traveling public as the genial steward of the Depot Hotel, died last Tuesday evening after a very brief illness."

No obituary was published nor was his death officially recorded, so we have no idea what killed him or information about his funeral.

About all we do know is that Sol still is with us, buried behind that unique little zinc monument in the Chariton Cemetery.


Sol was a native of Michigan, son of Leonard Crandal and Phebe (Freeman) Goodale, and was raised with two brothers by their widowed mother in Ann Arbor.

He was recognized in Chariton as a Civil War veteran --- and there is a G.A.R. flag holder at his grave. A list of deceased Civil War veterans buried in the Chariton Cemetery was published annually at Memorial Day during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and it always was stated that Sol had served in the "Commissary Department."

By 1870, he had moved to Chicago where he was employed in hotels before coming to Chariton during the latter part of that decade to become the Depot House steward.

He was survived by two brothers, Edward and John Goodale, and several nieces and nephews.

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