Saturday, November 07, 2015

Dr. Tom Throckmorton remembers: Derby in 1856

Dr. Tom Throckmorton (1852-1940) arrived in what now is the Derby neighborhood during 1856 when he was four --- four years after "Pioneer," whose narrative of Union Township's earliest days was posted yesterday as "Between Derby and Goshen --- in 1852."

The Throckmortons, who went on to produce some of Lucas County's most notable physicians, were considerably more affluent than Pioneer's family --- and by that time, the mixed prairie and savanna of Union and Warren townships was beginning to take on a settled look. So while Dr. Tom's experiences were similar to Pioneer's in many ways, there also were substantial differences.

The physician, whose proper name was Thomas Morford Throckmorton, opened his medical practice in Derby during 1877, but moved to Chariton in 1888.

In 1907, Dr. Tom prepared the following address for presentation during the annual Lucas County Old Settlers' Reunion, held during September of that year. His script was preserved by Warren S. Dungan, president of Lucas County's first historical society, and now is part of the Lucas County Historical Society collection. Here's a transcript:


In the month of March, 1856, a four horse wagon followed by a (wagon pulled by a) single team was seen winding down a steep hill in western Pennsylvania, and entering a fork of Wheeling Creek, followed the stream for several miles, the water averaging in depth about one foot. Finally the team emerged from the stream and commenced the ascent of a steep hill. After one wagon had arrived at the top, a team was unhitched and brought back to help the other wagon up. After frequent doubling for steep hills and mirey places, the emgirants arrived at the wharf in Wheeling, Va., and took passage on the steam-boat "Lady Bell" down the Ohio River for that far away country called Iowa.

After several days steaming down the Ohio to its mouth, then up the mighty Mississippi, they came to a very small town known as Keokuk. There, these emigrants landed. The wife and three children took the stage for Chariton, while the father loaded in his wagon as many household goods as his team could well haul, leaving the rest in storage, and followed his family. By the way, he never got half of his goods on returning to Keokuk for they had been appropriated by other needy emigrants.

The stage coach arrived in Chariton about noon, April 16th, 1856, when I, a small lad, was introduced to this town --- or rather the town to me. My father, John Throckmorton, first came to Chariton in the fall of 1854, when this town was a land office, and entered several sections of land for himself and friends in Warren and Union townships. He returned in the spring of 1855 in company with his brother, Morford, and my mother's brother, Michael C. Lazear, and built what was known as a hewed, double log house. It was a monster affair for this country. There were two rooms downstairs each 14 by 16 feet, the same size upstairs only the ceiling was not so high; the roof was rived oak shaved shingles. He broke out and planted 60 cres of sod corn, returning to Pennsylvania in the fall after his family; the trip I have already described. This winter of 1855-56 is said to be by the old settlers as one of the severest known in Iowa history.

My mother was met in Chariton by her brother, whom she had not seen for over a year, who took us in a stiff tongue wagon with a scoop bed, ironed all over. You old fellows from Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia know all about a linch pin, stiff tongue, tar bucket, trace chain, sole leather back bands, belly bands, breeching, hamestring, rope lines and hickory withs --- don't you? (Will digress a minute and say that the breeching was soon discarded as a necessity in this level country, but was very useful in after years in weighing hogs with the steel-yard.)

Well, that's the kind of a rig that met my mother and her children at this place, that balmy sunny spring day, and took us to my uncle Morford Throckmorton's, the place now adjoining the town of Derby. We arrived there long before dark. He lived in a round log house, 14 by 14, puncheon door and puncheon floor, that is boards split out and hewed with a broad axe. the clapboard roof was held on by logs. You old fellows know what I am talking about! (Note: The cabin was not round, but the logs used to build it were --- logs used to build more permanent homes generally were squared off, or hewn. FDM)

We had supper of mush and milk, and then the cousins and we young ones went out and rode the wagon tongue, after which we were called in and the trundle bed hauled out --- the kids now days know nothing about a trundle bed, or a stuff tongue wagon and its wonderful hammer. Say, you young kids back there, aged about 60 to 80 years, where is that wagon hammer? What did you do with it? Your dad hitched up old "Mike and Doll" to go to the timber and he can't find that wagon hammer!! You all have had your jackets well tanned for swiping that hammer!

Well, we all slept in that one room and there was plenty of room to spare. The next day my uncle took us over to our own house --- the two story, double log house with a ladder for a stairs. A family by the name of Westfall was then living in it; and well do I remember a fat rosy-cheeked black-eyed girl --- Velossa Virginia Westfall --- who afterwards married a former townsman and old soldier, William Monroe Fisher, who has answered the Roll Call of the Great Beyond.

In a cabin nearby lived Joseph Garland, who likewise answered the Roll Call about a year ago. He had a blacksmith shop in a rail pen when he first came to Iowa. The cabin on the north was occupied by Wm. Cowden. Just east on Chariton Creek and adjoining Cowdens' was Alexander McMain's; no more hospitable people or better neighbors ever came to Lucas County than they; the old people have long since passed away; Alfred deceased was county recorder; Leroy, favorably known as Roy or Mac, was an auctioneer of no little renown, he too has passed away, his wife "Aunt Polly" lives in our city; and Miss Kate, a daughter, who married James Burley, an old pioneer. He, too, is gone. (Probably some of you here have heard Mr. Burley's story of going to mill, taking 3 months, yes 3 months, going to mill!).

John Harper, hunter and trapper, dug more wells than any other man in his day. Conrod Fisher, called "Coon," was snake bitten one morning when he went out to shoot a crow which had been trespassing on his garden. As he kneeled down in a fence corner to keep himself from being discovered by that wary bird, he felt what he supposed to be a thorn stick him in the thigh; keeping his eye on the bird and putting his hand down to remove the cause, he received a sting on the back of the hand. Looking down he beheld to his horror a large rattlesnake. He shot the head off the rattler and returning to the house, Granny Sacket, a neighbor woman who had quite a reputation as a doctor in various ailments, applied gunpowder externally to the wound, and a liberal amount of whiskey internally. "Coon" grew worse, his limbs and body became enormously swollen, and on the second or third day a profuse and alarming hemorrhage from the nose set in, which completely demoralized Granny Sacket. Dr. Chas. Fitch was then sent for, who staunched the hemorrhage and gave the necessary treatment and saved the life of Conrod Fisher. This staunching of hemorrhage from the nose --- plugging the posterior nares through the mouth, is quite a surgical procedure, and few doctors have done it or even seen it done.

It is with profoundest respect that I recall the name of Dr. Fitch. To my mind no other man who lived in Lucas County did more for the early settlers of this and adjoining counties than did Dr. Fitch. Long roads, dark nights, through storms, without a guide, an obscure trail, no bridges, only the sky and boundless prairies around him, the doctor traveled; many times not arriving on account of the distance to travel or the loss of the trail, until the patient was dead. Dr. Fitch was a character, his personality was his own. A man physically well developed, with an acute inquiring mind, keen intellect, not sluggish or lazy. endowed with a natural ability to see into the complex workings of the most wonderful handiwork of God --- the human body; and to interpret its ills. A man, in my opinion, who has never yet had a superior, or an equal, in the medical sense in Lucas or the adjoining counties thereof. He could not tolerate a pretender or sham. I made his acquaintance over 30 years ago as a medical brother, and I know whereof I speak --- that he was always ready to respond to ailing humanity, no difference how far distant, or condition of roads or that of the weather. Rich or poor, the doctor went the same. Doctors of the past 30 years know nothing of the hardships as compared with those of the time of Dr. Fitch.

Dr. D.Y. Collins was another pioneer; he pulled my first tooth and clipped my tongue as my mother thought it would make me eloquent in after years. The operation was a complete failure and a disappointment to my mother; but in the words of Happy Hooligan, "If me moither could only see me now."

Adam Fudge or Fodge settled in the timber on the Chariton River, also John Connor and Monroe Dooly. Jacob Taylor came in 1852 and settled on what was known as the Old Mormon Trail or Trace road, along with the Plymates, Charles and Banona, brothers; Joseph Mundell; Alfred Connor; Simeon and Boynton Chapman --- brothers and both noted fiddlers; Matthew Irvin, whose sons Jackson and Guy are now living on the old homestead. Jack tells a story of starvation, living three weeks on pumpkins while his father went to mill. 

James and Andrew Leech, America Risher, John Loper, Abner Fuller, James Roach, Stephen Low (known as Cap. Low), Milton Williams, John Hollingsworth, Alonzo Williams --- say, have you seen an erect spritely boyish looking little man on our streets? Well, that is Alonzo. Granville Westfall, Mark Mabry, Amos and Abraham Sayer, William Sanders, Peter Winegar (who built a mill), Martin Hood, Waitman T. Wade (who built the old courthouse), Isiah Robinson and Ann Robinson, my first school teacher, who afterward married William McKnight. All these were settlers in Union Township.

The names of Rains, Ballinger, Shamburg, Ezra Hipsher, Harrison Bowles, Benjamin Garfield and Jacob Rhodes are familiar. The homes of James Gilmore, a Kentuckian whose wife taught school, of John Murray, deceased (his widow still living in Chariton), and of Charles Oehlman were good places for a boy to go; they always gave him something to eat.

David Mercer, located on the creek east of Alex McMain's, was an early settler and always opened his home to preachers; his wife, whom everyone called Aunt Katie, was a sister of Eli Hammers who recently died at Russell, Iowa. Would time permit I could name many more who were pioneers in the true sense of the word.

One name more I wish to mention, Henry Finlay; when last heard of he was in California. He came from Ohio with his young wife who lived with us while they built a house on the prairie just west of Derby. She died within the year, and now is sleeping with her young babe in the Chariton Cemetery. Perhaps you have noticed the lone grave with an iron fence about it in the northwest corner of the cemetery; well, this is Mrs. Finlay's grave; the woman who was so cheerful, so kind to my mother, and won my boyish heart; she peacefully rests there, a martyr to the new country, waiting the resurrection and the gathering home of friends from far and year, yes, from the remotest parts of the earth.

the last few years have claimed many of these old pioneers and soon, perhaps before another Iowa winter has passed, many more will be taken.

Let us honor these men and women of the earlier days, who just as truly fought hard-won battles in conquering a new country as did those who are to meet tomorrow --- the defenders of our country and our flag. These two --- early pioneer and old soldier --- equally share our profoundest respect and homage.

(Note: "Tomorrow" in the final paragraph refers to Wednesday, Sept. 25, 1907, when a parade on the square featured among others 100 surviving Civil War veterans, many of them members of Iseminger Post, Grand Army of the Republic, who held a reunion of their own that year. The Old Settlers celebration and homecoming during 1907 was a multi-day affair. FDM)

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