One of my Sunday morning tasks is to light the candles in six big sticks that march across the back of St. Andrew's 1903 altar --- a challenge for someone who failed Acolyte 101. Hint: A step-stool helps although the process is not dignified and best undertaken before the congregation arrives.
We still use real, rather than oil-filled, candles --- they're about a third of the way burned down here. Even with the stool, it's a stretch when the candles are new.
Someone has been lighting candles in these sticks for more than a century by now so they represent continuity in addition to fulfilling the traditional candle role.
One aspect of the sticks that interests me is the fact that three faces are cast into the base of each, but who do they represent? At least one probably is Jesus. But how about the other two? Two seem to have receding hairlines. If this is a trinitarian gesture, who has been tearing out his hair? Your guess is as good as mine.
What I don't think many realize is that the candles in these sticks also burn "to the glory of God and in memory of" two people for whom they were purchased as memorials early in the 20th century --- Genevieve Argo Jones and Oran Alonzo Hougland.
Genevieve and O.A. are commemorated in inscriptions that circle the base of each stick, evident only if you work with them close up and personal on a regular basis.
Two sets of sticks, four in total, were dedicated in memory of Genevieve, one set by her mother, Mary Ann; the other set by her sister, Nellie. The Hougland pair was given by his widow, Harriet.
Genevieve was a Russell native, born there on Christmas Eve 1893. When she was 10, the family moved to Chariton, where she graduated from high school in 1911.
She was talented musically, gifted with a "clear, sweet voice," and studied for a year at the Drake University Conservatory of Music in Des Moines, then for another year at Monmouth College, Monmouth, Illinois, where she was soloist with the Monmouth Glee Club.
Back in Chariton, Genevieve met Kirk Jones --- a stellar Chariton High School athlete who, following graduation, had gone to work in his father's drug store.
Genevieve and Kirk were married secretly in Galesburg, Illinois, on Sept. 2, 1917. Neither families nor friends were told of the marriage, but when it became obvious that Genevieve was pregnant, she returned to Chariton to live with her parents. Still, no announcement concerning the marriage was made.
Kirk, facing the World War I draft, enlisted during January of 1918 in the 339th Field Artillery, headquartered at Camp Dodge, then was transferred to Company C, 326th Infantry, and sent with his unit to New York for final training before being deployed to France. His final pre-war visit to Chariton occurred during March of 1918.
A month later, Genevieve gave birth prematurely to their daughter, Betty Jane, on April 17, but the infant lived only 36 hours. Genevieve was ill with influenza herself at the time and her health deteriorated until May 19, 1918, when she died at her parents' home of pneumonia.
Funeral services followed before the St. Andrew's altar, then located in the congregation's 1903 building; little Betty Jane's remains were removed from the Stanton Vault, where they had been placed temporarily; and mother and daughter were buried together in the Chariton Cemetery.
Genevieve's parents, for reasons lost to time, had announced her marriage to Kirk only when she was desperately ill. Ten days away from being deployed when their infant daughter died, he reached France just before Genevieve followed Betty Jane in death.
Kirk survived the war, participating in both Battle of St. Mihiel and decisive Meuse-Argonne Offensive, but was so badly gassed that respiratory distress plagued him for the rest of his life. He also suffered from "shell shock," what we would call PTSD today. He remarried and had two sons, but was in and out of hospitals for treatment during the next 15 years.
He died at age 40 on Christmas day, 1934, at the hospital in Macon, Missouri, where he had been taken in critical condition after becoming desperately ill while being driven from Chariton to a veterans hospital in St. Louis for treatment.
O.A. Hougland was a native of Missouri, born Sept. 6, 1859, who came to Chariton about 1875 to learn the carpenter trade from his uncle, B.W. Hougland. He married Harriet I. Neff in Chariton on Oct. 15, 1877.
As it happened, O.A. was a gifted designer as well as a carpenter and soon was working as an architect, too --- designing commercial and public buildings in Chariton and elsewhere across Iowa. The long-since-demolished Lucas County Home was one of his early commissions and most likely several of the commercial buildings around the square that date from the 1890s into the first decade of the 20th century were his, too.
He designed many churches, including buildings in Humeston, Leon, Promise City, Grand River and Corning; libraries; homes; and commercial structures.
Although a professional success, in his personal life he experienced a good deal of sorrow. The Houglands had four children, all of whom predeceased him.
The youngest and last surviving, George Frederick, died of tuberculosis at his parents' home on July 14, 1912, at the age of 26.
Less than a month later, on August 8, O.A. suffered a heart attack while on a visit to Lenox in southwest Iowa, where he had been commissioned to design a hotel, and died instantly.
His remains were returned to Chariton for funeral services at St. Andrew's, which had been the family church since the Houglands married in 1879 and where last rites for all of their children had been held.
In addition to his widow, he was survived by one grandson --- Oren Hougland Blouse, son of the Houglands' daughter, Daisy, who had died during 1908. Hougland Blouse married Beulah Kendrick and they had two children, Jean (Blouse) Clore and Jim Blouse, who carried the family forward.