Saturday, September 29, 2018

Cemetery Tour 5: Margaret Stanton Larimer

This is the fifth (and final) presentation made last Sunday during the 15th annual Chariton Cemetery Heritage Tour, "Where the Women are Strong and the Men are Good-looking." Brenda Blong portrays Margaret Stanton Larimer.


FIRST OF ALL, ladies and gentlemen, I am gratified to have been asked to welcome you to my family’s cemetery this afternoon. I am Margaret Stanton Larimer --- Margaret STANTON Larimer. Not just any Mrs. Larimer. 

A careless writer for The Herald-Patriot, reporting upon a Lucas County Republican Womens event during the spring of 1952, wrote that “Mrs. Larimer” had been involved in the organizing. I demanded a correction, duly published on May 8 on the front page. It read, 

“Among those aiding at the Republican women’s meeting here last Wednesday was Mrs. Margaret Stanton Larimer. In the report last week, her name was just given as Mrs. Larimer.” 


AS YOU MAY KNOW, my grandfather was Dr. James E. Stanton, a physician who brought his family to Chariton from Ohio in 1862 and during the next year joined other investors to found this beautiful cemetery. He bought out the other investors and by 1890, it was a family business, beautified by my grandfather. 

Dr. Stanton had two sons, both physicians. Dr. Theodore Parker Stanton was my father; Dr. John Henry Stanton, my uncle. My father had no interest in the cemetery, so upon Grandfather’s death in 1908, it passed to Uncle John. 

All of that branch of the family was interred in the Stanton Vault, built in 1888 northeast of here --- and demolished after decades of neglect during the 1950s. 

My parents found the vault unappetizing and selected this pleasant hillside for our burial site. It was a wise decision. We still rest here in orderly rows, our tombstones indicative of our status. My relatives once interred in the vault, now rest unceremoniously in a heap where it once stood.


I WAS MY PARENTS’ first child, born during 1896 to Dr. Theodore and his wife, nee Helen Marcy. When I was in my second year, we moved to the big square frame house with classic Italianate detail that still stands on East Auburn Avenue and still is known by some as the Stanton House. 

I was raised there with four younger siblings --- sister Louise and brothers Edwin, Lucian and James. Louise married Harold Leonard, a leading Chariton lumber merchant; my brothers were professionals, Dr. Edwin and Dr. Lucian, dentists, the former practicing in Chariton and the latter, in Newton. James Stanton, M.D., practiced until his death in Bakersfield, California. 

As a young lady, I was talented musically --- as a noted pianist; and academically, too. I graduated from Chariton High School with the Class of 1913 in second place academically behind a hard-working Swedish Slattengren girl. 

After graduating high school, I attended Lake Forest College near Chicago, but my heart belonged in Chariton and to the young man I had grown up next door to, Robert E. Larimer. I was anxious to marry and assume my rightful place in society. 

Robert was a year older than I, a son of George W. and Emma Larimer. George, “Buzz” to nearly everyone, was rough around the edges but among the most worthy of men. Having begun his working life a tinner’s apprentice, he had risen through determination and hard work to become one of Lucas County’s leading merchants, financiers and entrepreneurs. The Larimer home at the corner of Auburn and Fifth was --- and is --- one of Chariton’s finest. 

Robert graduated from Stanford University during 1916, then returned to Chariton and, with the advent of World War I, enlisted in the U.S. Army. We talked of marriage, but decided to wait.


FACED BY THE UNCERTAINTY of war, however, we decided to wed on June 15, 1918, as the war in Europe accelerated. Robert, a lieutenant, was granted leave from Camp Pike, Arkansas. The ceremony was held in the Stanton House parlors, decorated in red, white and blue and embellished with flags. As the Herald-Patriot noted, it “united two of the oldest and best-known Chariton families.” 

Of me, the Herald-Patriot rhapsodized, “Full of vivacity and life, always enjoying herself and always contributing to the enjoyment of others, with intelligence and refinement and many lovable traits of character, she was a lovely bride and will be a loving and helpful wife.” Of Robert, “He is a fine type of the splendid young men whom this country is contributing to the fight for the preservation of the liberty of the world, Clean-cut, capable, well-informed and intelligent he is well equipped to serve his country and to win a place for himself in the world.”


ROBERT AND I established our first home in rented quarters in Little Rock, Arkansas, but following the war’s end, he was discharged and we returned to Chariton to live during January of 1919. 

We built a pleasant house in the latest style on Osage Avenue, just northwest of our childhood homes, and our two daughters were born there, Barbara Helen during 1921 and Roberta, during 1927. 

It seemed an ideal life during those years between the wars. Robert carried his father’s entrepreneurial enterprises forward and became a leading figure in Chariton civic, business and fraternal affairs. I attended to civic affairs, too, and was kept busy with countless social obligations. 

The outbreak of World War II changed everything, however. Robert distinguished himself as Lucas County War Bonds chairman, but he also strayed --- and our marriage did not survive the war. 

Our daughters were both nearly grown and off to college, so I disposed of the house on Osage and in 1945 returned to the big house where I’d grown up, living there happily with my mother and bachelor brother, Edwin, for the next 10 years. 

I continued to be as busy as ever, but now traveled much more frequently to visit my daughters, married and living in other states, my brother, James, in California, and many others.


APRIL OF 1956 was a dreadful month. On the 9th, our childhood friend Clayton Stewart, whose former wife, Marie, now was married to my former husband, Robert, killed himself at age 58 in his room at the Hotel Charitone. On the 17th, my mother, Helen Stanton, died at our home at the age of 92. And 10 days later, on the 27th, my brother, Edwin, died at a Des Moines hospital where he was receiving treatment for what had been thought to be a mild heart attack. 

In order to settle the estates of my mother and brother, the family home had to be sold as did the Stanton Building on the west side of the square where Edwin’s dental offices had been located in our father’s former medical offices. 

I began planning a new home for myself in the neighborhood where I had always lived, but before moving served as hostess for one final grand social occasion in the old Stanton House --- an afternoon reception for 200 women co-hosted on Oct. 24 by my sister, Louise, in honor of Mary Louise Hoegh, now Iowa’s first lady. 

As if to add a punctuation mark to this period of great change, my former husband, Robert, dropped dead of a heart attack at his home in Chariton on March 24, 1957, at the age of 62.


LET IT NEVER BE SAID of me that I ever allowed discouragement to deter me. I sailed through the final 10 years of life with flags flying, traveling extensively, meeting my social and civic obligations --- especially to Chapter N, PEO, the United Methodist Church and to the new Lucas County Hospital Auxiliary, organized by my sister, Louise. 

I died at age 72 on May 26, 1968, after an illness of only four days in that wonderful new hospital of ours, an institution that would have amazed my pioneering physician father and grandfather, and was brought here to rest with my beloved family.

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