Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dr. Gibbon, George French & Miss Mary Courtney

The principal characters here are George W. French, a young Benton Township farmhand who was among the first Lucas Countyans to enlist for service during the Civil War, and Dr. William H. Gibbon, a Chariton physician --- both combat and medical hero --- who tried to save his life, but failed. It's not a cheerful story, but does illustrate a few of the war-related hardships our forebears endured.

Sadly, there are no photographs or other memorabilia related to young French. He left no one behind to tell his stories and has been largely forgotten, at rest among the thousands buried at Chattanooga National Cemetery.

But Dr. Gibbon (left), a modest man by all accounts, left a number of reminders behind --- including his impressive family stone in the Chariton Cemetery (top), the building on the northeast corner of the square he constructed in 1879 to house his drug store (now the north half of Betty Hanson's Iowa Realty offices) and the family home --- the biggest house on South Grand Street.

We have no idea why George French ended up in Lucas County, nor is it clear --- other than New York --- where he came from. But by the 10th of July, 1860 --- when the federal census-taker called at the home of James and Martha Marsh in Benton Township --- he was living there, a farm laborer age 22.

Little more than a year later, five months after President Lincoln's first call for troops, George rode into Chariton and on 21 September enlisted as a private in Company C, 13th Iowa Volunteer Infantry. Company C was raised almost entirely in Lucas County and these young men would remain together until they were killed, wounded, discharged or --- the survivors --- mustered out. The Lucas County enlistees were enrolled at Camp McClellan near Davenport on 24 September and mustered there on the 28th.

Two months later, on 2 November, Dr. Gibbon --- although married to his distant cousin, Laura, just weeks earlier --- accepted a commission as assistant surgeon of the 15th Iowa Volunteer Infantry (he was promoted to surgeon the following year). Three of its companies were raised among Lucas County neighbors in Marion, Warren and Clarke counties. This unit was organized at Keokuk during February, 1862.

Both the 13th and the 15th were at bloody Shiloh, April 6-8, 1862 --- and it was here that Gibbon was breveted lieutenant colonel in recognition of his valor. When the Union forces protecting his tent hospital were driven from the field, Gibbon marshaled all the men he could find capable of fighting, formed a new battery with four pieces of abandoned artillery and held off advancing Confederate troops until Union forces could regroup and reclaim the guns.

Both Gibbon and French survived Shiloh (also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing; the 13th lost 24 men killed, 139 wounded and 9 missing), then moved on to Corinth and other engagements.


By late winter 1863-64, the 13th was deployed at Vicksburg and veterans of the unit were offered an opportunity to re-enlist --- with the promise of a month's furlough and an opportunity to return home if they did. 

George re-upped on 1 January 1864 and on the 7th of March headed home to Chariton, where on the 31st of that month he married Miss Mary E Courtney, age 20. They had only a few days together before George returned to his unit --- and they would never see each other again.

Gibbon also had an opportunity to take a furlough during early 1864 and traveled to Ohio to visit his wife, Laura, who was spending the war years there with her family. Their daughter, Anna, was born on 5 December of that year.


Both of these Lucas County men and their units joined Sherman's advance into Georgia, commencing during May of 1864, and fought their way toward Atlanta. On the 20th of July, after heavy skirmishing, Company C was encamped within three miles of Atlanta --- but George had sustained a gunshot wound to a knee and was not with them.

He had been carried to a field hospital manned by Dr. Gibbon --- and Gibbon amputated the wounded leg above the knee. A few days later, George was sent to a convalescent hospital in Rome, Georgia, to recuperate.

Three months later, Dr. Gibbon had an opportunity to visit George, who by this time had been transferred to the U.S. General Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee --- and what he found was discouraging.

There were no antibiotics then and sanitation often was neglected. By the time Gibbon reached young French's bedside, the stump left after the initial amputation had "mortified," or become gangrenous, and a second amputation had been performed. Then septicemia developed.

George died in the hospital at Chattanooga on 23 November 1864 and was buried in what now is known as the Chatanooga National Cemetery.


Back home in Chariton, Mary filed application for a widow's pension on 27 January 1865 with Theodore M. Stuart, first of the Stuarts to practice in Chariton, acting as her attorney. All pension claims were investigated carefully --- and in the absence of instant communication, these investigations took a long time.

The claim still was pending during early 1867 and Dr. Gibbon, who had long since returned home, provided an affidavit sworn to on 8 March to bolster Mary's claim. War-related records had not yet been either consolidated or thoroughly organized and pension office personnel could find no document stating that George had died as a result of combat wounds. Gibbon's affidavit is at the end of this post (right click and hit open in a new window).

On the 28th of May, 1867, Mary's claim finally was approved and a certificiate was issued that entitled her to claim a pension of $8 per month retroactive to 24 November 1864 for so long as she remained unmarried.

Later that year, or early the next, Mary accompanied her parents and other family members west to Oregon, where during 1868 she married as her second husband, William F. Cluster. During 1871, they took up a claim near the town of Pomeroy in old Walla Walla County, Washington, became prosperous and remained there for the remainder of their lives. He died in 1915; she died on 6 November 1922. Seven children survived. William and Mary are buried in the Pomeroy City Cemetery.

It seems unlikely that Mary ever forgot the young man she had married in the midst of war, then lost. But as nearly as I can figure out after scouring various family and other sites --- nearly everyone else has. Except  for you and me now --- we'll remember.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Birthday boy ...

Thanks to all for the birthday best-wishes. It's great to be remembered --- and to grow older (especially when you consider the alternative). I've put the baby photo here this morning for Sue Terrell and others who gave me a hard time a couple of weeks ago. Yes, I once was a baby, too. Really.

Celebrated a little on the eve of the big day (to be brutally Frank, I'd forgotten the "big day" was upcoming until called forward to be blessed in church last Sunday). For better or worse, others keep track of these things more effectively than I do.

As expected, spent much of Friday playing obsessively with the new research toy --- and chasing Civil War-related minutiae. The big outing involved a trip to the Chamber office to sign a week's worth of checks. Then I ran into Harold and Dianne Mitchell at HyVee --- appropriate since Dianne and I go back together almost to the beginning of this operation. Yes! There will be another Dry Flat reunion, maybe come August.

Speaking of reunions --- and no thanks to me and classmate Dick Christensen (still cowering in Florida I understand) --- the RHS Class of 1964 will reunite this summer, too. Dick and I got together last summer, sat under a tree and talked about how nice it would be to have a reunion, then did absolutely nothing about it. It took Nancy (Allen) Moss, Gwen Cottingham and Steve Pierce to pull it together.

Part of the preparations for that event will be brief accounts of lives to date (excluding the first 18 years, of course, since we remember those together). I decided to be proactive for once and do mine first. It's an entertaining exercise, so go ahead an try it --- no matter where you are along the trail. A couple of rules: Allow youself no more than 10 minutes and don't think about what you should include. Just write!

Frank D. Myers …

…earned that B.A. degree in journalism at the University of Iowa during 1968, carrying a white “peace now” cross into the field house along with many others, then enrolled in graduate school to await the draft. Uncle Sam nailed me the following spring and after training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, then in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., dispatched me to Saigon. I worked a year as an order of battle analyst/editor at the Combined Document Exploitation Center --- a joint Vietnamese, American and Korean intelligence center where documents captured in the field were processed, evaluated and disseminated; living “on the economy” since we had no barracks (a hotel instead), mess hall or things like that. Saigon had great restaurants!

After returning stateside, finished a useless M.A. degree in journalism for lack of anything better to do, then went to work in a field I enjoyed, community (think weekly newspaper) journalism, editing weeklies in Winnebago County, Iowa. As the bottom fell out of weekly journalism, switched to daily and settled at the newspaper in Mason City, where I worked far too long but among wonderful people in various editorial capacities until retirement --- design editor, weekend editor, religion editor, front-page editor. Name it, I did it.

Returned to Chariton and became active in the community where I currently serve as president of the Lucas County Historical Society, on the Historic Preservation Commission and as a Chariton Area Chamber/Main Street board member as well as trying to be an active member of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and the Lucas County Genealogical Society.

Had the great good fortune to share my life at times with a few good men, nearly all of whom I’ve disconcertingly outlived, but continue to advocate in a well-mannered sort of way for LGBTQ equality on all fronts. Lived through the AIDS pandemic, but expect old age will get me. A yeller dog Democrat, although of course some of my best friends are Republicans.

I write and shoot photos daily for a blog called “Lucas Countyan,” for practical purposes a full-time job that I find highly entertaining, striving to be informative, amusing and, when the opportunity presents itself, annoying --- and continue to anticipate and appreciate each new day.

Respectfully submitted ....

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fold3, Freedom Rocks, &tc.

I have this love-hate relationship with --- the biggest online subscription research tool out there for those of us interested in family history or engaged in other research projects that involve tracking folks to their origins and digging out the details of their lives. I use it nearly every day.

But it is kind of expensive and most likely will become moreso --- and they keep fiddling with its search aspects, allegedly to make it more user friendly and for the most part failing. 

And then there are all of those add-ons --- "for just $39.95 more ...." 

Despite the carping, I did give myself an early birthday present this week and finally sign up for Fold3 --- named after I assume the tri-corner shape into which U.S. flags generally are folded for presentation or storage. This site incorporates a huge variety of digitalized military records, many in custody of the National Archives and Records Administration.

I've been working a little this week on a roster of Lucas County's Civil War dead that I started back in 2011 and have been fiddling with (very slowly) since. I've rounded up what I believe to be most of the names, but fleshing out their lives takes a long time. Here's an example of one entry, completed yesterday:


FODGE, DAVID. age 39 at enlistment, of Argo, Union Township; Private, Co. G., 34th Iowa Volunteer Infantry; enlisted at Chariton 10 August 1862; mustered at Camp Lauman, Burlington, 15 October 1862; died 19 February 1863 at the Convalescent Hospital, Benton Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri, of pneumonia and pleurisy; buried Benton Barracks National Cemetery, Section 50, Site No. 626.

David was an Ohio native, born 24 November 1822 in Lawrence County. By 1844, he had moved to Delaware County, Indiana, where he married Martha Jane Mansfield on 28 November of that year. Martha and David became the parents of five children while living in Delaware County --- James M., Eliza Jane, Rebecca Ann, John Riley and Eolina Ursula. During the fall of 1853, the family moved west, first to Allamakee County, Iowa, and soon thereafter to Giard Township, Clayton County, west of McGregor, where they were living when the 1856 state census was taken. Their youngest child, Charles W., was born there.

During 1857, the family moved to southern Iowa, locating near the Iowa-Missouri boarder in Howard Township, Wayne County, where they were living when the 1860 federal census was taken. Their daughter, Rebecca, died there on 6 June 1859 and was buried in the Medicineville Cemetery. Soon after 1860, they relocated again, this time to Union Township, Lucas County, where their post office was Argo.

David was 39 and described as 5 feet, 8 inches tall with fair skin, blue eyes and dark hair when he enlisted as a Private in Co. G, 34th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, at Chariton on 10 August 1862. Somewhat confusingly, a Union Township neighbor with a similar name, David M. Fudge, had enlisted in the same unit a few days earlier. David Fudge would survive the war; David Fodge would not. 

The unit mustered at Camp Lauman in Burlington on 15 October 1862 and David served honorably during engagements at Chickasaw Bayou, Mississippi, in December of 1862, and at Arkansas Post, Arkansas, during January of 1863. He reportedly became ill near St. Louis while escorting Confederate prisoners upriver after their surrender at Arkansas Post and was taken to the Convalescent Hospital at Benton Barracks, where he died.

Following David's death, Martha and her children returned to Wayne County, locating in Warren Township near the current town of Allerton, then soon after 1870 moved west into Nebraska to exercise veteran homestead rights extended to Martha and to her eldest son, James, a veteran of Co. H, 1st Iowa Volunteer Cavalry. She died in Custer County on 21 August 1899 and is buried at Broken Bow.


I finally decided that if I was going to do this right, I needed access to the original documents from Civil War widow pension files, maintained by the National Archives. And Fold3 offers that, via digitalization of records previously available only on microfilm.

And so far I'm delighted with the results. The files generally contain a good deal of information about the service records of deceased military personnel as well as docoments related to the paths their survivors took in the years that followed.

I've noticed some carping online about "paying" for U.S. government records --- but as a long-time researcher I can guarantee you that we've always had to pay. The process used to involve placing an order directly with the National Archives for photocopies of file documents --- very time consuming and without guaranteed results. This is much quicker, far less expensive (if you're interested in multiple files) and there's no guesswork about what may or may not arrive in your mailbox weeks after an order is placed.

Revolutionary War pension file documents also are accessible via Fold3 --- and I expect to use those, too, as time passes.


My wonderful new subscription coincided with a visit yesterday from Earl Comstock, who is heading up an effort to develop the former county jail site into a veteran memorial. Organizers hope the site also will be the home as time passes for one of Ray Sorensen II's Freedom Rocks.

The property has been leased from the county and Earl and others have arranged to move the big flagpole from the former National Guard Armory in north Chariton to the site.

But there's an event scheduled at the site on April 9 that should be marked on the calendars of those interested. April 9 marks the end of the Civil War --- the 150th anniversary of Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Palm Sunday that year.

On the 9th, development of the memorial will begin with a tree-planting effort coordinated by Chariton Boy Scouts. There will be a little ceremony and I've volunteered to provide a list of the names of the approximately 125 men from Lucas County who died in that dreadful conflict. These may be read at the end of the program, before Adam Bahr plays "Taps."

And, by the way, if you happen to have a huge boulder languishing somewhere in the back 40 that you'd be willing to part with to provide the Freedom Rock canvas --- Earl would like to hear from you.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hostile signage & whatever happened to "welcome"?

I have this thing about hostile signage --- public notices, often quite large, that create a negative image of a place just by being there. This scabrous wreck is one of my favorites in Chariton.

It's the first big thing visitors see when headed into town from the west on Court Avenue after passing the truck stop --- also what potential users of the Cinder Path see first when they turn into its parking lot. It's certainly among the signs most viewed by strangers among us, who you'd think we'd want to feel welcome and also to impress with a classy best-foot-forward.

I suppose we could just add a line across the bottom, maybe in spray paint, that reads "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here." Alternately, it could be fixed, replaced or chopped down and hauled away.


And here's the big sign that's the first thing visitors see upon entering those wonderful main gates of the Chariton Cemetery --- a beautiful, well-kept place that among other distinctions is a National Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Now I'm not suggesting that rules and regulation don't have their place, but surely we can do better than this. Maybe just a tiny "welcome" somewhere?

Alternately, if we're determined to stick with this beast, we could get Prison Industries to churn out another sign to tack onto it that reads, "Just count yourself lucky we let you bury your loved ones here."

So if trucks aren't allowed --- how do burial vaults arrive at graveside? Wheelbarrow? Just asking.


Drive a mile or two east to city-owned Lakes Ellis and Morris, sources of our water supply and named after two young men who were among the first Lucas Countyans to die in World War II.

No indication of the latter (as I've complained about before), but billboard-sized lists of rules and regulations at both, most of which begin with "No!." There's also a beautiful trail along the west shore of Ellis, but nothing to point the way to it --- unless you know where to find the parking area where the signage is.

I'm thinking we could add a line to these signs that reads, "No good times whatsoever here --- and if it looks like you're enjoying yourself you'll be considered a trespasser and treated accordingly."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The north apartment upstairs at Piper's

Earlier in the week, I promised a tour of the north apartment upstairs in the Piper's building --- and here it is, commencing (above) with the doubled doors that divide its two central rooms. The finish on the side of these doors visible here probably was original to all of the upstairs woodwork in 1894, but everything else had disappeared under multiple layers of varicolored paint before restoration began. These surfaces survived for reasons I'll get around to later.

But we're going to back up and begin the tour, as we did Monday, at the door leading into the hall that serves both apartments from the landing of the exterior stairway. Turn around and look in the other direction: The door to the left leads into the south apartment, but we'll turn right into the portion of the hall that now leads to the front door of the north apartment. Note the original corner guard at the turn, intended to protect plaster from collisions with people and whatever they may be carrying.

Look up --- out of snagging range --- and you'll see a huge coat hook (left), also original equipment in the Piper's Building, built during 1894 by the Daniel Eikenberry estate to house Fred Stanley's grocery store on the first floor; offices and apartments above (the original frame building was just moved east into North Grand Street so the business could continue to operate while its replacement was built). The Eikenberry Estate sold the building to Chariton's I.O.O.F. Lodge in 1904; then, in 1913, the lodge sold the building to Joe L. Piper, who had bought the Stanley grocery business in 1908. After two generations of Piper family ownership, Bob Piper sold the business and building to Jim and Anne Kerns; Jill Kerns now is the second generation of her family to own Piper's.

The hallway, once quite a bit longer as it continued to parallel the west wall of the buildng, now ends just beyond the door into the north apartment, its former space incorporated into the apartment. The shorter door in the foreground accesses a utilities room.

Here's the entrance door from inside the apartment, just south of the new kitchen. The small door to the left leads into a closet and, just to the left of the closet door, is the door into the south bedroom, where we'll go in a minute. The westerly part of the kitchen space has been borrowed from the former hallway.

Those doubled doors seen at the top lead north from the kitchen-dining room into the living room, with the master bedroom beyond. 

Two huge windows in the east wall light the kitchen-dining room. Remember that the specks of blue tape you'll see here and there mark dings inflicted during construction that will be repaired by the contractor before tenants move in.

OK, we're now in the south bedroom which, when I took the first photos of this area in August of 2012 was serving as a furnace room for the store below, connected by pipes through a blocked window to the air conditioning condenser parked on the exterior landing just outside. The furnace now is elsewhere and the condenser, on the roof.

The door, were it not fixed, would lead into the entrance hallway serving both apartments. The big closet with slider doors is new.

Like the kitchen-dining room, this room is lighted by two huge windows in its east, streetside, wall. Turn around and you'll be looking down the enfilade from south bedroom through the kitchen-dining room to the living room and master bedroom beyond.

Going back to the doubled doors leading from kitchen-dining into living room, when I visited this space in August of 2012, these doors were blocked, dividing the current four-room apartment into two two-room units. The opening from the most southerly of these two apartments had been blocked with plasterboard, which preserved the original finish on the woodwork. The doors were visible on the north side --- from this room --- and painted.

The living room just beyond these doors is about the same size as the kitchen-dining room to the south. The door at right, once the entrance to a two-room apartment, now leads to a half bath.

This rooms is lighted by a single tall window in its east wall.

The master bedroom is located at the far north end of the apartment and here, too, space has been borrowed from the original hallway for a big closet with slider door.

Another tall window lights the room.

The biggest bathroom in the apartment is located off the master bedroom --- sink, stool and shower in a large space with stacked washer and dryer tucked behind the door.

And finally, the enfilade again --- from the living room south --- I really like those doors!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Free soup at 6; bring your vision for Chariton along

I hauled out this poorly exposed photo (what was I doing?) taken almost exactly three years ago at the Freight House to mark the fact Chariton has been a partner in the Main Street Iowa program for three years now --- and to invite everyone to a "come-and-go-at-will" meeting from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. today, also at the Freight House.

Doors will open at 5 p.m., the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission will serve a free soup supper beginning at 6 p.m. and the discussion will continue until 8 p.m. --- the hardiest are welcome to stay for the whole event; others may come and go at will. But don't miss the soup. Facilitator will be Terry Poe Buschkamp, of the Main Street Iowa Staff.

That meeting during March of 2012 was to celebrate Chariton's admission to the Main Street Iowa program, to introduce it to the community and to encourage everyone who attended to  "vision" together about our city's needs and hopes and dreams as a plan for Chariton Area Chamber/Main Street's first three years of work was developed.

Those three years have passed and now it's time to review --- and to plan for the next three years. So everyone who attends will be given opportunity to address their concerns about their community --- especially the downtown Main Street District, now listed as an Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places after a joint Chamber/Main Street-city-Preservation Commission effort.

So please stop in to help us celebrate our successes, lick our wounds about projects that never quite got off the ground and --- most importantly --- tell us about what you'd like to see happen during the next three years.

Main Street Iowa is a division of the Iowa Economic Development Authority and part of the nationwide Main Street Program, developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to facilitate incremental progress in smaller cities with preservation of historic assets a key strategy. Chariton's Main Street District encompasses the square and approximately a block in all directions. Chariton Area Chamber/Main Street works to meet the needs of the entire city, however --- and beyond.

Monday, March 23, 2015

"My" Zen apartment upstairs at Piper's

This is the living room of "my" apartment, suspended above the northeast corner of the square on the second floor of Piper's --- in the sense that I like to fantasize about downsizing and living here.

A couple of youngsters are scheduled to move in as soon as it's been inspected and a certificate of occupancy issued, however. That means I get to keep fantasizing but don't have to go to the trouble of  actually chucking the accumulation of the ages and hauling the rest upstairs.

This apartment, probably intended to house professional offices when the Piper's building was constructed during 1894, is compact. Even the new tenants, not out of high school that long, are going to have to downsize to fit. But it is a wonderful space.

I call it Zen --- you'd need lots of discipline to live fully here. The north apartment, roughly twice as big, most likely always has been residential. We'll tour that another time.

That new exterior staircase makes a world of difference. I've hung on for dear life more than a couple of times while going up and down the somewhat rickety original during the last couple of years to check construction progress. Its beautifully engineered replacement makes both ascent and descent a pleasure.

Let's start with the door from the outside landing that leads into a hallway bisecting the building from east to west, then turns north to allow access to the big north apartment. The door we're going through is on the left. The door to the right now is fixed --- if opened, it would lead into a bedroom of the north apartment.

One thing you'll notice is that every scrap of original material in the apartments that could be reused was: Flooring was patched and polished, painted surfaces were repainted, doors were reused. You'll see bits of blue tape here and there along the way. These mark dings inflicted during construction, due to be repaired.

If you look carefully at the entrance door, you'll notice that at one point in its history it opened in the opposite direction --- an opening for an earlier knob and locking mechanism has been filled, but not obscured.

The front door opens west of the sink island into the kitchen-dining area.

This room, where there's plenty of room for a smallish table and perhaps four chairs, is lighted by two huge windows in the east wall.

The bathroom occupies a long narrow space behind the west wall of this room. There are two closets, too, in the southwest corner of the room --- one for storage and the other containing a stacked washer and dryer plus the water heater. The bathroom mirror has not yet been mounted, but that's the last of the major work still to be done.

The door into the apartment's living room --- a high light-filled room that is my favorite --- opens through the south wall of the dining area. Two huge windows face the Charitone to the east; the square, through double windows to the south. The projections on the east walls of both rooms are chimney breasts --- when built, Piper's was heated by stoves.

The views from this room are wonderful.

The apartment bedroom in the southwest corner is located behind the other double window on the building's south facade and is accessed through a sliding door from the living room. Had the original swinging door survived, it would have been reused. Since it wasn't found, the slide mechanism serves a new door and also conserves space.

Since space has been borrowed from this room for a commodious closet and one of the closets that opens from the kitchen-dining room, it's a small space, but large enough to fit bed, occupants and a couple of other bits and bobs. I was standing inside the closet when this photo was taken.

I can just see myself sitting in a big leather chair in the southeast corner of the living room with a cup of coffee waiting for the sun to rise and light our venerable courthouse.

Fortunately, I don't have to go to the trouble of actualizing that fantasy.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Taste and see ...

I sat bolt upright in bed the other morning, convinced that today was Palm Sunday --- which of course it isn't (merely the fifth Sunday in Lent). This wouldn't be a big deal personally were it not for the fact I pick the hymns, play them with very little skill on Sunday mornings --- and do the bulletins, too. And Palm Sunday requires a major shift in both repertoire and liturgy.

So I got out of bed, checked a calendar, heaved a sigh of relief --- then went back to sleep.

But where in the world did Lent go to? We'll do Stations of the Cross, rather than Evening Prayer, for the last time this season Wednesday, then it really will be Palm Sunday, then Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday --- the Holy Week Express.


I've been listening this week to "Taste and See," a Eucharist hymn by Rob Leveridge (above), ordained a United Church of Christ minister and also a talented musician. There are other versions of "Taste and See," familiar to Catholics, Episcopalians and more, but all based upon Psalm 34. I think I like this new one best.

Leveridge is a former pastor of First Baptist Church of Iowa City (ABCUSA) who, until mid-June, was associate pastor at First United Church, Oak Park, Illinois. "Taste and See" is from a new album of worship music, "Dancing on the Mountain."

Some suggest that God, however perceived, becomes incarnate principally through love and service to others --- and one expression of that is the shared meal that Eucharist boils down to when all is said and done and squabbles about the nature of the elements, appropriate frequency and who is allowed to partake are laid aside.

So here's something to listen to as another Sunday morning launches. Leveridge talks a little about the song in a blog entry, which you'll find here.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The opening round of spring at Pin Oak Marsh

Spring arrived officially late yesterday afternoon (at 5:45 p.m. if you're a detail person), just as I was walking down the main trail at Pin Oak Marsh, toward water.

No green to be seen quite yet, but there were ducks on the west pond, pairs of Canada geese exploring coves on the east pond, red-wing blackbirds singing and soaring --- and the accompaniment of a chorus of spring peepers in the distance.

I do a lot of walking --- and picture-taking --- at the marsh, but not so much time is spent inside the Lodge. This week was an exception as my classmate Steve Pierce and I made arrangements with Skylar for our Russell High School class of 1964 to gather there on the afternoon of Saturday, July 11, to visit and enjoy the surroundings. We plan to join our friends from the Class of 1965 in Chariton that evening for supper and more socializing at the Freight House.

For those who may have forgotten details, the lodge was built during 2000 and 2001 to serve as an education and nature center as well as headquarters for the Lucas County Conservation Board staff. Conservation Director Skylar Hobbs and Naturalist Jodi Ogden have their offices here.

Funding came from the community --- support from Lucas County-based foundations, groups and individuals --- as well as other grant sources.

It really is a class act, one of the finest nature centers you'll find in Iowa --- especially notable in a rather small (population-wise) rural county.

Resources come in all shapes and sizes at Pin Oak and include the Jack Coffey Memorial Library through the door in the distance, just off the Lodge foyer. Jack was a long-time Lucas County naturalist and neighbor in my old neighborhood not far from the Chariton River south of Russell.

To the left is the main room with its amazing wildlife displays. Nature programming is held here, or starts here before heading outdoors, and non-profits also are welcome to use it for meetings and other small to moderate-sized functions (our Lucas County Historical Society annual meeting is held here every April).

The mounts in the main room are amazing --- some of them prize-winners.

I like the room where live displays are maintained --- and spent some time Wednesday communing with turtles.

If you'd like to visit, volunteers are on hand many weekday mornings to show guests around and the conservation staff, which is very small and because of the volume of work to be done not always in the building, will welcome you at other times, too. But the best bet is to call ahead.

The marsh itself, of course, is always "open." So go take a walk and enjoy the sights and sounds of an early Iowa spring.