Monday, July 24, 2017

From Chariton to the Hotel Colfax in a 1910 E-M-F

The Hotel Colfax, "improved" to the tune of $700,000 between 1905 and 1909.

James P. Donahue's Hotel Colfax (offering hundreds of rooms, fine dining and access to the mineral springs and baths that city was famous for) was the talk of Iowa during the summer of 1910. And Chariton's Walter H. Dewey had a brand new automobile --- a four-cylinder E-M-F (later Studebaker) touring car ordered early in the year from Chariton Auto Co.

A 5-passenger 1910 E-M-F touring car (no, there was no windshield)
And so, during early August, Walter gathered four friends in his five-passenger vehicle on a fine Sunday morning and they set out --- on a lark --- to make the circuit from Chariton to Colfax to Des Moines and home again. Dewey was running (unsuccessfully as it turned out) for railroad commissioner on the Democratic ticket that year, but politics seem to have been secondary to a good time.

Walter, principal heir to the Branner fortune, was the eldest in the party at 38. Devoted to his mother, Victoria (Branner) Dewey, he would wait six more years to marry and start a family.

Along for the ride was his friend David Q. Storie Jr., 36, a popular young physician and family man. They had made this circuit together a number of times, testing the capabilities of whatever automobiles they owned at the time and reporting the results to Chariton newspapers.

John H. Kitselman, at 19, was the youngster in the party. Already married, the Kitselmans were expecting their first child that summer. He was a salesman and eventually would move to Mt. Ayr to open his own drygoods store.

"Stormy" Pickerell, age 23, was the chauffeur. He was a protege of Walter whose given name was Clyde, which may have been why he preferred Stormy. Stormy would devote his life to business in Chariton, sometimes in partnership with Walter.

Along for the ride, as scribe, was Howard Gittinger, also 24, and son of Chariton Leader editor and publisher Henry Gittinger. He would make a career of the newspaper business, affiliated with his father in The Leader, an employee of the Chariton Newspapers after the Leader was sold to that new corporation and, finally, in Louisiana.

The following account of that Sunday drive, written by Howard, was published under the headline "A Great Automobile Trip" in The Leader of August 11, 1910:


"On Sunday morning, in company with Hon. Walter H. Dewey, Democratic candidate for Railway Commissioner, Dr. D.Q. Storie Jr., Harvey Kitselman and chauffeur "Stormy" Pickerell, the younger member of this firm (The Leader) started on a prolonged automobile trip in Mr. Dewey's car, which we can truthfully say is a dandy, it making the trip of 170 miles without a "hitch."

"The weather was ideal and the roads supreme. The objective point of the journey was the Colfax health resort, not that our health was impaired, which we reached at one o'clock after a most pleasant journey through the level laying counties of Lucas, Marion, Polk and Jasper.

"At Pleasantville, our old home, we made a brief stop of fifteen or twenty minutes in order to get our bearings and to shake hands with our good old friends --- for we have several there. Finding here that the Des Moines river bridge was out we were forced to go in a northwestlerly direcion and cross the river at Ford, this causing us to travel some eight or ten miles further. Dr. Bare of Pleasantville, who is the owner of a fine Auburn car, escorted us out of town and showed us the route, for which kindness we were very thankful. Mr. Dewey said it was the first time he was ever escorted out of town by one of the prominent citizens and "Doc" is prominent, too --- but then it was a very friendly courtesy and not like escorting tramps and bums out of a fair city --- for we are not in the least obnoxious or undesirable --- the only thing we drank while there being a Coca-cola at Bare's Pharmacy.

"The road in the Des Moines river bottom was as fine as we found anywhere and it was but a short time until we were climbing the small hills into Jasper county.

"At Prairie City, we called on John McKlveen who, by the way, was just eating dinner, but we decined an inviation to stop and have dinner with him before he asked us, telling him that we expected to eat dinner at the new Hotel Colfax. John has a beautiful new home and is happy --- and we don't blame him.

"The scenery from Pleasantville to Cofax is most beautiful, especially in the river country. The road wnds around through the small hills with timber in the distance and the green tasseled corn waving in the breezes to your side. It is a beautiful country and one of which every Iowan may well be proud.

"We arrived at Colfax about one o'clock, being some four hours on the road from Chariton after having stopped at Pleasantville and Prairie City.

"The Epworth Assembly is in session here and the Epworth Park through which one passes to reach the Hotel Colfax, was crowded with people --- a great many campers --- who had come to attend the yearly intellectual feast.

"The Hotel Colfax is one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited. It is situated upon a hill about a mile east of town and is surounded by a hundred and twenty acres of beautiful parks and drives. It is needless for me to try to describe its splendor, but suffice it to say that it is worth going 170 miles to visit and enjoy its beauty.

"After we had unloaded and started to get ready for dinner, young Kitselman calls Dave Storie to one side and says, 'Gee Whiz, Dave, I feel like a needle in the ocean; let's get a sandwhich and beat it.'

"Dave only laughed at him and told him to go slowly and do as the rest of us. Harvey followed directions implicitly and did fine.

"Dewey was made master of ceremonies and ordered the dinner so as to save us the trouble, you understand. The dinner was the best we have eaten for many a day --- we only wish some more of you poorly fed people could have enjoyed it --- this is not meant insinuatingly either. One thing that we are not sure of yet is this: At the close of dinner Dewey told the waiter he did not need to bring us finger bowls. Why he did this is not just clear but I hardly think that he was afraid we would use them for drinking purposes --- but then that may have been the reason. We didn't like to ask him.

"Senator Cummins was at the hotel for dinner and Mr. Dewey introduced "Stormy" and myself, Dave and Harvey being Republicans couldn't stand it --- not meant insinuatingly either. The Senator said he was real glad to know us and we suppose he was. He is a pretty nice man apparently.

"We broke away from the beauty of the place and journeyed over Lafe Young's great river-to-river road toward Des Moines. The road is a fine one, but not any better than others we traversed, and we are not speaking depreciatingly of Lafe's efforts as a road instigatory --- he doesn't build it you understand.

"We arrived in Des Moines and there visited Stormy's grandfather, M.H. Allen, who lives just across the street from Gov. Carroll, and while there we saw the Hon. Governor hitch his horse to his buggy and he and his wife go driving --- not a great thing but quite a novelty to us. To say the least this is a democratic state --- not politically speaking until after the election his fall.

"Stormy's grandfather, Mr. Allen, told us he was almost 81 years old which is quite remarkable, he being in good health and quite spry, considering his age. During our conversation Stormy let it out that Dewey was running for railraod commissioner. Of course Mr. Allen did not commit himself but we are figuring on him just the same. We had a very pleasant visit with the Allens.

"We then drove out on Grand Avenue, the principal residence street in Des Moines' social leaders, to Greenwood park, which is a beautiful little loafing place for Des Moines inhabitants and others.

"On our way back we stopped down town to pay allegiance to the Tobacco Trust and while there ran across the Hon. Clint Price, candidate for Congress is the 7th district, who was also paying his allegiance to the trust, but he says when he gets to Congress he is going to make them get down to a smoking basis --- he didn't say that, but then of course he would

"We loaded Price in and took him back to Indianola to his wife, he having only been in Des Moines some two or three hours, although he said he had made two votes but Sunday votes were of a precarious nature and then he didn't want too many --- he wanted Prouty to have a few. He was going back to Colfax the next day to see Mr. Bryan, who spoke there, and when asked why he was going back home that evening said he was going back for more money from his wife; that she is making the living --- he was running for Congress. He also says he don't care what Alex Miller says about his collar.

"The trip to Indianola was fine, especially so because of Price as he is a funny cuss and we hope he gets to Congress. He invited us to go down and eat lunch with him, saying that his wife was clean about her cooking now, but we declined, not doubting him but we were in a hurry to get home.

"The trip from Indianola home was one filled with pleasure as the entire trip had been, and never did a crowd of five arrive home so completely pleased with a day's outing as were we.

"We passed through ninetween towns and traversed 170 miles of fine Iowa roads and are frank to say that Iowa is good enough for us. Here's hoping that the Hon. W.H. Dewey is the next railroad commissioner for Iowa, although in conclusion we will say that this was not a political junket as it was on Sunday. Some time in the future we make take the trip politically --- who knows?

1 comment:

J Hardy Carroll said...

Love stuff like this. We forget about ordinary life in the days before there was such as thing as a world war.