Thursday, August 28, 2014

Adam and Steve and my family tree

One of the oddities of Genesis is that early editors of that venerable book sustained a computer crash early on and while improvising recovery dropped the "s" and the "t," obscuring the fact it really was Adam and Steve.

As some scholars will tell you, the Big Guy just wanted a little company; and with the guys he had that. Conversation sparkled, the decor excelled, the garden flourished and the cooking was superior --- think Fabulous Beekman Boys.

It was Steve who turned out that Apple pie --- and got the rest of us into trouble.

But it soon became evident that this was too one-dimensional and more than a little boring, so the Creator got to improvising again and pulled a whole new group of people out of his hat --- based on the original models but with variety. There was Max and Helen, Mildred and Sarah --- and quite a few more, other names lost in that formational digital disaster.

This helps to explain why two creation myths, both incomplete, are embedded in holy writ; and also clarifies the messy business of incest that sometimes troubles those who become overly involved with scripture.


In any case, same-sex marriage is back now --- and I've been wondering how my genealogical software was going cope. I use Family Tree Maker synced to

So far as I know, no same-sex couples in my immediate family have tied the knot yet --- and I'm getting a little impatient. It looks like Family Tree Maker will support same-sex marriage with a little jiggering, but I can't be sure how well this will work until a marriage occurs. Unless FTM gets busy, however, it looks like blessed events still will have one parent labeled "mother" and the other "father" --- although both can be of the same gender.

I've thought of creating a mythical couple, then sending it from PC-based program to Web-based program --- just to see what would happen. But there are quite enough imaginary people and invented relationships floating around out there in cyberspace already --- thanks to hack family historians --- and I don't want to risk adding more.

You can get some idea of how the various genealogical programs will cope with same-sex (and other) types of relationships by checking out Wikipedia's comparison charts, here. Just keep in mind that "support" and "accurately reflect" relationships are two different things, so more research will be required.

Also keep in mind that a good deal of the genealogical infrastructure is involved in one way or another with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whose aged hierarchy is not at all amused by same-sex marriage (polygamy, on the other hand, remains a pleasant memory and future --- eternal --- possibility). So LDS-generated or intimately linked genealogical programs are unlikely to support same-sex relationships.


Whatever the case, it'll be fun to watch family history software develop as it tries to keep up with "non-traditional" family structures. I'm sure there are developers out there tearing their hair out. In the meantime, just remember that virtually all programs allow notes to be added and documents to be attached --- and these remain the best routes for clarifying relationships and such until the software catches up.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Putting the tall in tallgrass

So I spent most of Tuesday afternoon holding the lawnmower's hand as we chewed through a mix of grass and other growth that had gotten out of control in the back yard because of persistent rain (encourages growth) and extreme heat and humidity (discourages me).

My dream for the back yard involves tallgrass prairie, which neither the neighbors nor the fire department would be likely to approve of (rather than mow it, I'd just burn it every year or so; outbuildings on nearby lots be damned).

So I settled, after putting the mower to bed, for a quick walk around the marsh at sunset to admire some of the grasses that put the "tall" in tallgrass. Excess moisture this year has caused everything down there to shoot for the sky, too, giving credence to the old stories told by pioneers of native prairie grown taller than settlers on horseback.

I'm a big fan of cord grass, displayed here against the sky and then fronting for the first of the maximilian sunflowers, grown strikingly tall this year.

Big blue stem was shooting for the sky along the trail, too.

After the grasses came a spectacular sunset. Not a bad way to end the day.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rebridging the Blue Grass gap

I'm trying to remember how many years it's been since it was possible to drive directly into and out of Chariton on the Blue Grass Road, which follows the Mormon Trail's route into town from the southeast. Established by Mormon pioneers during the summer of 1846-47, this was the only road into town when Chariton came along during 1849.

The Blue Grass part of this transportation sandwich closed a good many years ago when the old wooden bridge across the Union Pacific railroad tracks failed and was condemned. Detours were established and  a whole generation grew up barely aware of the barricaded bridge.

But now, at last, the bridge is being replaced.

The Blue Grass, obviously, was the first layer established here. When the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad (later C.B.&Q. and now Burlington, Northern & Santa Fe) tracks were laid into town during the summer of 1867, the Blue Grass climbed over on a grade crossing. In 1912-13, the deep cut that the north-south Union Pacific (then Rock Island) tracks follow through town tunneled under both the older rail line and the road (the bridge that failed was built then).

Finally, when the U.S. 34 bypass that curves around Chariton to the south was constructed, the big bridge that soars over it all was built. 

It's going to be a while before the new bridge is complete, but when it is, I think Chariton and Russell should get together and throw a big party right in the middle of it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Temple Theatre and a civil rights lawsuit

The three-story Temple Building shows up here just beyond the Ritz in a photo taken in 1929 or early 1930, just before fire destroyed the Temple and gutted the brand new Ritz.

Goats are enjoying a renaissance in the south of Iowa, what with artisan cheese and all, so it was interesting to read the other day in The Chariton Leader of May 20, 1909, that their talents had been long appreciated. 

Editor and publisher Henry Gittinger had attended a performance at the Temple Theatre during the previous week and was able to report that, "The Temple Theatre, on the south side, had some exceptionally strong attractions at the last program. Last week the educated goats elicited great interest. This was the first exhibition of the kind ever seen in Chariton. It is said goats are very stubborn and hard to teach but this herd would do all manner of feats, such as walking tight ropes, rolling balls up inclines and back, forming tableaux, etc."

"The management of late have also been happy in its selection of films for the motion picture features and new attractions come with each change of program," Gittinger continued. "The theatre is large and well ventilated, which adds to the comfort of the audience. They have a new scenic curtain, which gives a tinge of realism to the aspect and which also represents some of the local enterprise of the city."

What's far more interesting about the Temple than its entertainment offerings, however, is that it was the setting for an incident that led to Lucas County's first civil rights lawsuit.

The Temple was located on the first floor of the three-story Temple Building, built jointly during 1902-1903 by Victoria (Branner) Dewey and the Knights of Pynthias on the current Court Street site of Hammer Medical Supply. The Temple burned during 1930. It had been designed by the same architects responsible for the recently burned Younkers Building in downtown Des Moines --- Liebbe, Nourse & Rasmussen.

J.L.H. Todd, of Des Moines, and P.G. Skaggs of Eureka Springs, Missouri, had leased the first floor of the building and opened the new Temple Theatre to the public on April 14, 1909.

Their tenure in Chariton was short-lived, however, most likely because they ran head-on into Iowa civil rights law. Todd, as The Chariton Patriot later described him, was "a southerner, a Virginian, and he has a rigid rule in his theatre against colored people mixing in with whites."

Some time before Henry viewed the educated goats, Chariton resident George "Shock" Knox "purchased a ticket and went into the threatre and took a seat in the audience," Gittinger reported in The Leader of May 13. "As he is supposed to be a negro he was asked to take a seat in that part of the room assigned to colored people. This he refused to do when an officer went to him and asked him to retire from the room, which he did."

Knox promptly filed suit against Todd and Skaggs, asking for $1,000 in damages and citing Iowa's 1884 civil rights act which expressely outlawed discrimination on the basis of race and other factors by a variety of businesses offering public accommodation, including theaters. So far as I know, this was the first civil rights case filed in Lucas County. Knox was represented by attorneys J.H. Campbell and E.H. Storie.

It's not clear what the outcome of the Knox suit was. Todd and Skaggs high-tailed it out of town during June, having sold the theater to Walter Dewey, son of building owner Victoria, and his business partner at the time, R.G. Hatcher. Most likely some sort of settlement had been reached.

It is clear, however, when reading these old Chariton newspapers, that their editors and publishers hardly were advocates for equality. There seems to have been a general acknowledgement that discrimination was justifiably illegal, but no indication that these influential men felt Chariton's black residents were in any sense equal.

Gittinger could be horrifically racist in his writings, for example, when he chose to be. Perhaps his most annoying parlor trick was to compose and publish doggerel about events involving black people in what he imagined black dialect might be. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Going to Graceland: Honoring Civil War veterans

Robert Killen and William Humphreys, both 96, died hours apart on Jan. 25, 1941. On Saturday, they were honored an hour apart, Killen at 9 a.m. at Graceland Cemetery near Norwood and Humphreys, at 10 a.m. at Mount Zion north of Oakley, as Lucas County's longest-surviving veterans of the Civil War.

Mike Rowley, clad in replica wool on what would turn into one of southern Iowa's hottest days of the summer, and Tom Gaard --- both of the Iowa Division, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, were down from Des Moines to present the honors. After brief remarks, small metal signs noting the two mens' longevity and service, commissioned by the Sons, were unveiled at both graves.

The simple ceremonies occurred after a night of extremely heavy rain across much of Iowa and White Breast Creek and smaller nearby streams would go out of their banks later in the day --- Highway 65 at Lucas was closed by flooding by evening. But on Saturday morning, rain had ceased, although under a flash-flood warning water had not yet risen and the two beautifully maintained cemeteries were for the most part high and dry. (Information posted earlier about Killen and Humphreys may be found here.)

Graceland, northeast of Norwood in Otter Creek Township, was the Killen family church, although Robert himself was not baptized until age 94. Graceland Church, an early congregation of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ) was organized at the turn of the 20th century as a mission of the Lucas RLDS Church, which dated from 1877; and the cemetery dates from 1901. The church, open by deed covenant to all who cared to use it when the congregation wasn't gathered, stood just to the north in the center of a quadrangle of catalpa trees planted many years ago by Kate Cackler, an early member. It was torn down during 1972.

Robert left many descendants, and two of his grandsons were present Saturday morning, Jerry Marker (left) and Larry Marker. Mary Sandy (far left) is a niece.

After the ceremony, the group gathered behind the Killen tombstone for a photo and were joined by Gaard, who has coordinated the effort to locate and mark the graves of the last surviving veterans in all Iowa counties.

After Saturday morning's observance at Graceland, Rowley and Gaard drove southeast to Mount Zion Cemetery, on a bluff above White Breast Creek north of Oakley, to place a similar sign at the grave of William Humphreys. Humphreys was an organizer of Mount Zion Primitive Baptist Church, which once stood in the center of the cemetery's circle drive.

William left no descendants, but Don Garrett, commander of Chariton's Carl L. Caviness Post, American Legion, was there, as was a neighbor, Terin Dittmer.

After the unveiling at Mount Zion was complete, Rowley and Gaard headed for Leon, where a similar ceremony was scheduled for Decatur County's longest-surviving veteran; then on to the Hopeville Cemetery southwest of Osceola, for the final program of the day.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

What's in a name?

It's gratifying to see that at least one of my names, Daniel, was among the top 10 male names assigned to infants during 2013 --- according to Social Security Administration data. That name has been a fairly consistent achiever, except in 2012 when it dropped to 11th; among the top 10 since at least 2000.

Frank, on the other hand, not so successful. It was 327th in 2013, continuing to slide downward (it was 208th in 2000).

I came by both of these names genealogically. My father was Daniel as was his paternal grandfather. And that grandfather's grandfather was a Daniel, too; although on the maternal side and therefore with a different surname, Dick.

Frank was one of my dad's names, too, honoring a Wyoming uncle, Frank Dent, who was in turn named for Franklin Dunlap, his grandfather and my great-great. It could have been worse. Had one of our mutual names honored my dad's maternal grandfather, we'd have had part of Cassius Marcellus Clay Dent to contend with.

Here are the top 10 male names for 2013, in descending order: Noah, Liam, Jacob, Mason, William, Ethan, Michael, Alexander, Jayden and Daniel. "Jayden" is the true oddity here. It appeared first on the Social Security list during 1994 and no one still is quite sure where it came from.

Here are the top 10 female names: Sophia, Emma, Olivia, Isabella, Ava, Mia, Emily, Abigail, Madison and Elizabeth.

The reasoning behind some of these names escapes me, but it may just be that parents have become increasingly reliant on Social Security data when naming their offspring.

If you want to play the name game yourself, the Social Security data is here.


It's raining, hard, for the third morning running here. I wish we could share with others who need it more.

Especially since this doesn't bode well for the ceremonies at Mt. Zion and Graceland cemeteries, scheduled for this morning to honor Lucas County's longest-surviving Civil War veterans.

We'll see how that goes, providing the crick don't rise --- and the White Breast is between here and both of the "theres."

Friday, August 22, 2014

"Suzanne," Leonard Cohen --- and Judy

The clap of thunder that accompanied the lightning strike that awoke me at 3-something carried the conviction of a bowling ball that had just rolled down the alley and crashed into the last pin, which is odd and disconcerting because I don't bowl and have never awakened thinking of myself as a bowling pin before.

After accidentally sleeping an extra hour because of that, the mind's blank. Which is why I thought I'd report on an unexpected Leonard Cohen attack last week. Which brought back memories of sitting around in Saigon with Mack, getting drunk and listening to Judy Collins sing "Suzanne," the Irish Rovers and whatever else it was he had on reel-to-reel. He was Irish --- we listened to a lot of Irish. When drunk enough, Mack would sing along.

Mack is dead. Cohen will be 80 on Sept. 21, in case you'd care to send a card. And Judy is 75. The clip at the top is of Cohen himself; the clip below, of Judy Collins and Bill Moyers talking about Cohen and "Suzanne."

There's no religious meaning in Cohen's songs, by the way; only masterful use of the imagery. He's a Jew devoted to Zen who practices what some have described as "Cohenism." But he sure can write a song.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A little Charitone history: Junkin & McCollough

I've had my nose to the grindstone --- sort of --- this week, trying to finish the text for a commemorative book about the Hotel Charitone that will be issued this fall by the Lucas County Preservation Alliance, non-profit partner of Hotel Charitone LLC.

That's involved a good deal of editing and considerable writing, bridging the gaps left by earlier pieces about the grand --- and now fully restored --- old hotel.

I'm not going to publish here, too, but thought it might be interesting to post one of the new chapters dealing with conditions that led to the Charitone's construction in 1923 and the men, William D. Junkin and Henry F. McCollough, who built it.


William D. Junkin
To understand why the Chariton square was a prime location for a hotel of the Charitone’s scale in 1922-23, it is necessary to know a little about conditions in Lucas County at the time.

The county continued to flourish agriculturally as it had since the first settlers arrived in 1846, combining livestock, grain and hay production in a traditional manner that continued to make it one of Iowa’s top producers.

In addition, the coal industry --- first developed near Lucas during the 1880s --- was booming.

Chariton’s population, which stood at 3,794 in 1910, had by 1920 increased 36 percent --- to 5,175. There was no reason to believe the upward trend would not continue, and it did just that until reaching its peak of 5,754 in 1940.

Henry F. McCollough
The north-south Rock Island Railroad line, completed during the summer of 1913, had turned Chariton into a major transportation hub. It provided both a direct route from the Twin Cities to Kansas City, thus giving the Rock an advantage over the Great Western, then dominant, and also allowed the vast coal fields of northeast Lucas County and southern Marion County to open.

The east-west C.B.&Q. line continued to link Burlington and Omaha, as it had since the late 1860s, and C.B.&Q. spur lines linked Chariton to St. Joseph, Missouri, and Indianola.

The Chariton square was located midway between the C.B.&Q. Depot just northwest of downtown; and the new Rock Island Depot, two blocks east. Much of the nation continued to travel by train. Those who didn’t drove and State Highway 14 and U.S. Highway 34 intersected at the southeast corner of the square.

The legendary Central Iowa Fuel Co. mines beginning just north of Chariton and continuing northeast to Williamson, Tipperary and Olmitz developed after the Rock Island and its spur lines to the mines were completed. In Marion County, Melcher-Dallas also developed into a coal mining center when the Rock Island was complete.

There was a housing boom in Chariton as dozens of compact, white, one-story homes for mining families were constructed --- some, such as those in the area of southeast Chariton known as White City, built by the mining company; many others built by private entrepreneurs.

There were no empty storefronts downtown, businesses flourished and the square was packed on Saturday afternoons and evenings.

As these developments occurred, Chariton’s two principal hotels --- the Depot House, built in 1872 on the second floor of the big C.B.&Q. depot, and the tree-story brick Bates House, a half block west of the square on Braden Avenue, built during 1873, were beginning to show their ages and decline.

It was into this setting that Junkin & McCollough stepped with sufficient backbone and funding  to commission the Charitone.

William D. Junkin, born April 19, 1864, in Fairfield, was a son of William W. Junkin, pioneer editor and publisher of The Fairfield Ledger. He married Vermont Petty during 1893 in Fairfield and they became the parents of two daughters, Kathryn, who died young, and Louise.

After the turn of the 20th Century, William D. and his brothers through various corporate arrangements acquired additional newspapers in Albia, Creston and Corning and added a share of The Chariton Herald to their holdings in 1908.

In 1912, William D. --- then editor and publisher of The Albia Republican --- purchased controlling interest in the merged Herald-Patriot and moved to Chariton to take charge.

The Junkins’ daughter, Louise, met the dashing Henry F. McCollough in Chariton and married him here on July 20, 1918. He was a son of Anna (Gibbon) McCollough/Copeland and her first husband, Ralph McCollough  --- a young man related both by blood and his mother’s second marriage to Josiah C. Copeland to some of Chariton’s most affluent and prominent families. Their marriage was a social highlight of the summer.

After 10 years at the helm of The Herald-Patriot, Junkin became interested in the financial potential of building and operating a modern hotel in Chariton. His interest in the Chariton newspapers became the basis for financing the new enterprise, first in 1922 when some shares were sold and again in 1925, when William D. and his brother, Paul, sold out of the newspaper corporation entirely. It seems likely that Henry McCullough’s family also backed the project, which required an investment in excess of $100,000, although that never was acknowledged publicly.

If contemporary newspaper reports are to be believed, Junkin and McCollough paid G.W. Larimer $24,000 for the hotel lot (including the White Front building), including as part payment another building on the square valued at $16,000.

The men selected as their architect William Lee Perkins, who had practiced in Chariton since 1917.

Perkins, a native of Ridgeway, Missouri, would go on to become one of southern Iowa’s most prominent architects, designing some of Chariton’s most familiar buildings in that process --- City Hall, the American Legion Hall and the Masonic Temple among others.

Junkins knew Perkins well since he had offered the young architect one of his first commissions, the then-innovative Chariton Newspapers building just east of the Charitone along Braden Avenue, constructed during 1917.

It isn’t known when Junkin and McCollough selected the name “Hotel Charitone” or exactly why. The most familiar explanation is that “Charitone” was believed in the 1920s to be the French version of “Chariton.” According to lore, none of which can be documented, a French trader named Chariton or Charitone established a trading post in the late 18th  Century along the Missouri River deep in Missouri, at the mouth of a river named Chariton (minus the “e”) in his honor. That river, of course, rises in southern Iowa, passes through Lucas County and is the source of the city of Chariton’s name.

Excavation for the Charitone’s basement began during late January, 1923, with the intention that the walls of the basement would be completed to ground level before spring rains began.

Some decisions apparently had not yet been made, however, including whether the hotel was to be three or four stories high. It was soon decided to build four stories, but not finish the interior of the fourth floor. An elevator shaft was installed as planned, but an elevator car would not be added until the fourth floor was finished.

As the building began to rise, Henry McCollough enrolled in a hotel management course so that he would prepared when the doors opened.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Shirley, Baby Jean and then (and now) Marilyn

This is my friend Marilyn Smyth Johnson, also curator of the Lucas County Historical Society Museum, who sat down last evening to tell her story --- or at least to talk about a few aspects of 80 years spent for the most part in Lucas County among fascinating people, doing interesting things.

The conversation is part of an historical society oral history project coordinated and conducted by museum intern Karoline Dittmer, who heads off to college this weekend and is finishing up this phase with a flourish that includes several interviews.

These interviews are, or will be, available on DVD at the museum for anyone who wants to look and listen and learn.

I've been especially fascinated for as long as I've known Marilyn by the story of how she came to be in Chariton in the first place --- and she talks a good deal about this in the interview. Her first months were spent at Iowa State University, then Iowa State College, as part of a program that would not even be considered today, but was thought to be quite innovative and progressive at the time.

Marilyn was born during June of 1934 in Des Moines to a birth mother who could not care for her, and so she was placed in custody of the state. Her birth name was Shirley, but that would be temporary.

At the age of three months, during September of 1934, little Shirley was placed in the Ellen H. Richards House at Iowa State College. This was a "home management practice" house where young women enrolled in the Department of Family Environment were expected to gain experience in running a household and raising children. There were four of these houses, each equipped with an infant, at ISU at the time. And Shirley was renamed "Jean" upon arrival.

Six to eight students were assigned to care for Baby Jean and the house on a rotating basis --- new students arrived every six weeks. They became, in effect, surrogate mothers.

Jean lived in the Richards House for a year, cared for by dozens of students, before she was adopted during August of 1935 by Porter J. and Joy Smyth of Chariton, brought home to their lovely and distinctive home on North Grand Street. Porter and Joy gave little Jean a new name, Marilyn --- and that name has endured.

Marilyn had a happy childhood as the treasured only child of older parents and, when she was old enough to understand, Porter and Joy told her that she was adopted and described the circumstances of her first 15 months. 

There was a scrapbook, too, maintained by the students and containing photographs of Baby Jean with her student mothers, at play and on her first birthday; details of her growth and development and the "scientific" schedule her mothers had been expected to adhere to; and some writings by the students themselves.

Marilyn, of course, doesn't remember her first months; only that as a child whose initial exposure was exclusively to young women she was for a time less comfortable with older women and men. 

One of the state workers who made home visits after Marilyn had been placed in Chariton told her parents that the birth mother had been a concert pianist and encouraged piano lessons. Porter and Joy complied, but Marilyn was less enthusiastic. Other than that, Marilyn says, she knows nothing about her birth mother nor has she ever had any interest in finding out more.

She did become interested some years ago, however, in locating other children who had been placed in the Iowa State program and as part of that process took her scrapbook to the University to be placed in its archives. She discovered then that she was the only "home management baby" ever to return or to contact the University. She suspects that most if not all of the other adoptive parents simply never told their children that they were adopted.

Marilyn has, however, visited with a few women who were involved as students in the program, including Charlene (Trumbo) Meyer of Chariton.

There's a good deal more to the interview than this, so stop in and take a look sometime once Karoline gets it processed. Or just stop in and talk to Marilyn.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Give me (and a few others) liberty ...

Note to the headline writers at "The Daily Beast" --- Missouri is not burning, although the situation in Ferguson is awful and no one seems to know what to do to avoid making it worse.

Like many others, I was thinking about Ferguson Sunday morning when one of those odd overprinted images with a message showed up in my Facebook feed. I suspect it was intended as a commentary on social welfare programs.

This one was of Patrick Henry (left), one of our "founding fathers," in an oratorical moment and offered up his famous "Give me liberty or give me death" line with the subtitle, "It wasn't free condoms, food, housing and make my neighbors pay for it."

Well of course it wasn't. I honestly don't know about the condoms, but Patrick had slaves to do his farm work, grow and prepare his food and keep his house tidy. The first six had been a wedding present from his father-in-law upon his first marriage.

It's not clear how many enslaved black folks Henry owned during his lifetime, but there are records of 78 purchases and his property at death included about 65.

Other founding fathers were slave owners on a grander scale, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

By the time of the Revolution, an estimated one-fifth of the colonial population consisted of enslaved black people (who really weren't looked upon as people at all) and the colonial economy south and north was fueled by slave labor.

When Henry arose to deliver his impassioned and famous line, he had white male property owners in mind --- not black people, not indigenous people and certainly not women.

When compared to the tyranny of the slave-based society and economy in which Henry and his counterparts moved, the offenses of the British were minor.

Some years later, roughly 620,000 young men north and south died in a great war that freed those enslaved by their forefathers, dying for their sins; other rights and privileges have been granted, in many cases grudgingly, by white folks as the decades have rolled on.

But we've never really dealt with our racist roots nor acknowledged that racial prejudice is as American as apple pie and in many cases embedded as deeply as it ever has been. Nor do we deal with our own racism, subtle or overt. Until we do, Fergusons will occur.

Lord have mercy.