Saturday, January 02, 2016

Union Township Old Settlers gather in Derby

Two more things to do before heading back up the Mormon Trail toward Chariton --- share the Herald-Patriot's Sept. 15, 1910, report on the Union Township Old Settlers reunion held the preceding Friday and  Saturday in Derby, then on another day, the text of the paper read during that reunion's Friday program by J. L. Washburn.

It's helpful to put this all into context by understanding that Lucas County was a hotbed of history during the first decade of the 20th century. This was due in large part to Col. Warren S. Dungan (left), Chariton attorney, distinguished Civil War veteran, state senator and lieutenant governor, who during June of 1901 led the formal organization and incorporation of Iowa's first county historical society.

The society did not set out to build a museum, although it was granted during 1904 a small room in the new Chariton Free Public Library, but rather to collect the oral histories of Lucas County pioneers and organize or help organize old settler reunions in Chariton and elsewhere.

Dungan was relentless in his pursuit of local history and as part of the effort encouraged the formation of "auxiliary" old settler organizations in other parts of the county. This effort was especially successful in Union, Washington and English townships. The big reunion in Derby during 1910 was an outgrowth of all this.

Unfortunately, Dungan's death and those of his pioneer contemporaries also doomed the historical society and its auxiliaries. Their children and grandchildren weren't particularly interested. Eventually, the society went out of business and it wasn't until 1965 that the current Lucas County Historical Society was formed. Here's the story about the big Union Township reunion:

Perfect Weather, Large Crowds and a Good Program at Gathering Last Week

It might be a good idea for Chariton to merge her annual reunion with the people of Derby, and let them run it and hold it down there, as they are a live bunch. the gathering there last Friday and Saturday was a success from every point of view. The weather ideal, the crowds were magnificent, the well arranged program went through without a hitch or an omission, and all went home satisfied and with a realization of the live qualities of the men and women who so loyally devoted their efforts to making the meeting a success.

Besides the street exhibitions, a parade each morning of the reunion was a feature. Derby boasts of a good number of autos, and they were decorated for the occasion and met each morning train to escort the speakers and prominent visitors to the speakers' stand in the school house grove.

A mounted escort of handsome young men and ladies, with Bert Tansey's famous Leroy Band in the lead, made a parade worthy of a much larger town.

The program on Friday included Hon. F.Q. Stuart, Atty. Richmond of Albia and a number of local readers and musicians. J.L. Washburn, secretary of the Old Settlers' Association, read a most interesting and valuable paper on the early history of Union township. Mr. Stuart's address was largely devoted to the conservation of our natural resources, and was a scholarly address throughout. Mr. Richmond's speech was likewise highly appreciated.

On Saturday, Judge Towner, Hon. J.H. Darrah, Col. W.S. Dungan and H.W. Gittinger were the speakers. Judge Towner's address in the morning was a gem of oratory, and was enjoyed to the utmost by the large audience present. The afternoon addresses were shorter, but were also very pleasing and appropriate.

The vocal solos by Misses Barbara Nessen and Lois Robison were artistically rendered and highly enjoyed, and the reading by Miss Erma McMains showed to good advantage her marked talent in that line. Derby has more accomplished young ladies attending college than any town of its size that we know of, and there is never any lack of talent when a home entertainment is desired.

A full program of sports was provided for the visitors also. A series of foot races and other athletic contests in the business section was held each day, and on Friday afternoon the Derby baseball team took the Leroy team to a trimming with a score of 7 to 4, but on the following day Derby was defeated by Humeston by a score of 8 to 4. Both games were good ones, and well attended.

The number of old settlers attending the exercises on both days attested the great interest that is felt in these annual gatherings of people of Union township, and each year, as the reunion grows better and larger, the crowds increase in proportion and come from a greater distance. The other towns in Lucas county, though larger than Derby, will have to look to their laurels if they want to give a better old settlers' reunion than the one that was held in that lively town last Friday and Saturday.

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