Monday, April 20, 2015

Bleeding hearts & annual meetings

This fine specimen of Lamprocapnos spectabilis, known more commonly as bleeding heart, is located at the southwest corner of Clark's Greehouse & Gifts. I spotted it there Thursday, headed inside for a meeting, and came back between showers Sunday afternoon to take a closer look.

Omniscient Wikipedia tells us that this lovely spring bloomer is native to Siberia, northern China, Korea and Japan; and probably was introduced to English gardens ca. 1840 by Robert Fortune, a Scots botanist and plant hunter.

From England, it crossed the Atlantic with hardy pioneer gardeners and has been a staple in old-fashioned flower beds ever since.

The "bleeding" part is the droplet-shaped projection at the base of the heart-shaped flower.

The term bleeding heart sometimes is used, too, in a dismissive sort of way to describe people perceived to be too compassionate --- but that usage most likely is related to depictions in religious art of the Sacred Heart of Jesus rather than to the springtime flower. Even though the guy to whom the heart belonged originally most likely would never have suggested that one could be too compassionate.


Don't forget the Lucas County Historical Society's 50th --- yes 50th, this is our birthday year and we'll be celebrating a little later on in the summer --- annual meeting this evening in the Lodge at Pin Oak Marsh. Here's a flyer to remind you.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Appalachian Spring ...

The neighbor's ornamental cherry tree, a thorn in my side while mowing lawn because it straddles the lot line, redeemed itself by bursting into full bloom yesterday --- a mild and misty day.

And then, getting ready to come downstairs this morning, I spotted the small finely detailed figure of a pioneer woman in long dress and flowing apron fashioned from corn husks, picked up many years ago at a shop in Georgetown called Appalachian Spring. So called, I'm sure, after Aaron Copland's 1944 orchestral suite. But also because everything in the shop had been fashioned by crafts people from Appalachians.

So what else could I do this morning other than share a cherry blossom photo --- and the "Simple Gifts" theme from Copland's masterwork?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Wild plums and pussytoes

Wild plum blossoms are frosting roadsides and woodland edges here in the south of Iowa as April advances --- and I spent some time yesterday admiring this thicket --- located along the quarter-mile lane that leads back to Strong Cemetery.

I'll have more to write about some of the people buried at Strong another day --- it's an interesting place. But the lane back to it is interesting, too --- one of those places where you should exit your vehicle and actually walk for a while.

Back when I was a kid and my granddad brought me here to talk about people he had known --- Molesworths, Byers, Moons, Askrens and others --- and poke around among fallen tombstones, the cemetery was a different sort of place. The grass was shaggy, and so were the fence rows.

That's all changed now --- the graveyard is neatly fenced, the maintained area has been enlarged and squared off and fallen tombstones uprighted. But the lane looks pretty much like it always has --- and I like that.


Headed back to town across country, down across English Creek and beyond, I turned into the lane to Brownlee Cemetery --- once a through road, now a "dead end" --- to revisit Isaac Renfro, another of my War of 1812 veterans. This was a shaggy place when I was a kid, too --- shaded by big pine trees that long since reached the end of their life spans and were taken away.

For some reason, we don't plant trees nowadays and I miss them here. On the other hand, there would have been no trees here 150 and more years ago when the first burials were made.

The grass is aggressively clipped nowadays, but I was happy to see a remnant of the natural landscape reasserting itself --- colonies of field pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta) popping up in circular patterns here and there in the short grass.

These prairie natives would grow taller were it not for periodic encounters with sharpened steel blades --- but they're doing the best they can.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Franks a lot!

Hundreds of volunteers put in thousands of hours to help Lucas County move forward --- and a good percentage of them turned out at Carpenters Hall between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Thursday for "Franks a lot," an annual volunteer appreciation luncheon put on by Chariton Area Chamber-Main Street in cooperation with partners that include Lucas County Health Center Volunteer Services.

That agency, headed by Linda Baynes, coordinates many volunteer efforts in our communities and also logs volunteer hours --- useful totals to have available when non-profits are calculating local matches while applying for grants. All volunteers in the county were invited to attend.

Thelma Saxton provided the hall, Hy-Vee provided the franks (served with potato chips, soft drinks and ice cream for dessert) and the various Chamber-Main Street divisions staffed tables that offered macaroni and cheese plus a big variety of toppings --- sauerkraut, chopped onion, cheese, chili, relish and fresh vegetables in addition to the usual condiments. 

That's Miriam Hibbs adding catsup to her frank at the Organization Division table, where I was sitting --- although my division is Design. Miriam is a regular volunteer at the Lucas County Historical Society and elsewhere.

Russell's Bud Moody (right) was honored during the luncheon with presentation of a President's Volunteer Service Award in recognition of years of volunteerism involving thousands of hours. The award was presented by Dan Minkoff, interim CEO at the health center.

Entertainment during the event was provided by student musicians from Chariton High School, who also joined the rest of the volunteers for lunch.

All in all, it was a great event --- and an opportunity to give a little credit where credit is due and say "thanks!"

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Fourteen War of 1812 veterans in no time flat ...

I bragged somewhere the other day that I'd be able to come up with 12 War of 1812 veterans buried in Lucas County in no time flat, then --- as rarely is the case --- was able to live up to and exceed the brag, in no time flat.

Known War of 1812 veterans are a little scarce here for a couple of reason, but primarily because these men were born in the late 18th century and already were in their 50s and less inclined to resettle by the time Lucas County opened to EuroAmerican pioneers in 1846.

In addition, many served in state militias, so records are scattered; some were brought west as old men by their families, died soon and then were largely forgotten; others lived in Lucas County for a time, then moved on west.

I was counting on my old friend Joel Lowder being buried in an unmarked grave at Bethel Cemetery, for example --- his son, Nelson, was the first to be buried there. Unfortunately, for my purposes, he turns up in Harrison County, age 81, during 1872 --- and so most likely is buried in an unmarked grave there. So he got away.

Nine of the veterans, four of whom I've already written about, turned up when we untangled old state veteran graves registration records at the genealogical society library (they had been alphabetized after being originally categorized, so the few 1812 veterans had become almost invisible among hundreds of Civil War veterans; we found an early set of records categorized by war). 

So here are the nine on record for the county: Nathaniel Goltry, Lagrange Cemetery; Joseph Howard, Newbern Cemetery; Aaron Kendall, Greenville Cemetery; Caleb Proctor, Chariton Cemetery; Jacob M. Taylor and Benjamin Tracy, Goshen Cemetery; William Tilford, Fletcher Cemetery; and Samuel Walthall and Henry Younkin, Chariton Cemetery.

I already knew that Isaac Renfro, buried in Brownlee Cemetery, also was a War of 1812 veteran and located Daniel Musselman at Mount Zion a couple of years ago. I confirmed service of the other three by locating the military bounty land warrants (for War of 1812 service) available via the federal Bureau of Land Management that they used to buy Lucas County land --- Joseph Mitchell, Chariton Cemetery; James Irons, Strong Cemetery; and John May, also in Greenville Cemetery.

That's Joseph Mitchell's tombstone (above) in the Chariton Cemetery. He died at age 67 on Nov. 14, 1861, after arriving at Chariton with his family during 1852 and using a military land warrant to claim 40 acres at the northwest corner of town. I'll have more to say about Joseph and his family another time, but here's the warrant he used. Note that it identifies him as a private in Capt. John Haden's company of Kentucky Mounted Volunteers.

I'm confident that there are other War of 1812 veterans scattered in Lucas County's cemeteries, but digging them out (figuratively speaking, of course) will take a while.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Get thee to a woodland --- soon!

The spring woodlands blog header is back this morning because it's that time of year --- rue-anemone and dutchman's breeches are carpeting the floor of established timber.

I got off to a late start on the Red Haw trail yesterday, headed for one of my favorite lazy-person's spots to view these springtime wonders --- the wooded bluff at the intersection of the southeast and southwest lake inlets. 

The flowering undergrowth --- redbuds, red haw and more --- is in full bud, but hasn't quite burst into bloom --- you can see a faint redbud haze in the background of the first photo here.

The uphill procession of rue-anemones began just where the trail starts to climb as it heads up and over to the southeast; more and more dutchman's breeches began to appear as I climbed higher, marching off into the woods to the left and right, downhill to the lake and uphill to the point's highest ground.

I'm guessing wildflowers are found here in abundance --- and more varieties will bloom before long --- because, as aerial maps taken in the 1930s show, this point was wooded even then. And much of Red Haw wasn't back in the 1930s, when Civilian Conservation Corps workers arrived to develop it.

Before the dam was built and the small valley flooded, this wildflower point would have marked the intersection of two tributaries of the Little Whitebreast watershed.

Also spotted Tuesday evening along the trail --- turkey-tail fungi engaged in leisurely breaking down a fallen limb and returning it to dust. I'm told these aren't harmful to humans, but their leather-like consistency doesn't encourage consumption.

The morels will be along before long ,,,,

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Phineas F. Bresee & First Methodist Church

Lucas County has at least two links to the fascinating rise of the penticostal-holiness movement in American Christianity during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One is a series of holiness camp meetings at old Olmitz in Pleasant Township to which one of the nation's largest pentecostal denominations traces its roots. One of these days, I'll gird up my loins and write about that one.

The other is simpler. It involves a stained glass window at First United Methodist Church in Chariton that commemorates, among others, the principal founder of the Church of the Nazarene (left), now the world's largest Wesleyan-holiness denomination with some 2.3 million members, represented in Chariton by First Church of the Nazarene.

That window, in the southeast corner of the sanctuary, contains a list of ministers who served the congregation from its beginning in 1851 until the main block of the current building was constructed during during 1899-1900. Midway down the list is the name "P.F. Bresee" --- Phineas F. Bresee, who served the congregation from the fall of 1866 until the fall of 1868 (the date inscribed in glass is a little off).

I'm not even going to start trying to explain the theological and social factors involved in founding the Church of the Nazarene, but it's useful to know that more than a quarter century passed between the time Bresee and his family left Chariton in the fall of 1868 and 1895, when he founded the first Church of the Nazarene in Los Angeles.

Bresee went on to serve many other Iowa Methodist Episcopal congregations, including those in Red Oak and Creston, served as district superintendent and was instrumental in the development of Simpson College, all before departing the Midwest for California in 1883. He remained a Methodist preacher there until 1894.

His time in Chariton encompassed a highly significant event in Bresee's spiritual development --- Chariton's 1864 brick Methodist church, located where the current building still stands, was where he experienced what later would be called "entire sanctification" --- alone at the altar on a 20-below winter night while his small congregation hovered around the stove trying to stay warm. For that reason, Chariton had a special place in his memory --- even though he apparently had a few issues with the congregation.

I've lifted the following brief account of the years Bresee and his wife, Maria, spent in Chariton from one of his early biographies, Ernest A. Girvin's "Phineas F. Bresee: A Prince in Israel," published in 1916 by the Pentecostal Nazarene Publishing House, Kansas City. There are later and better biographies, but this one can be found in its entirety online at Google Book --- to read more, go here. Here are the paragraphs related to Chariton:


In the fall of 1866, Brother and Sister Bresee went to Chariton, the county seat of Lucas county. It was a pretty little city of about 3,000 inhabitants. The Methodist church was the strong church of the town, having a good congregation, with some wealth, and a considerable degree of worldliness. Brother Bresee, in narrating this chapter in his career, says that he kept about a quarter of the congregation angry at him all the time, but not the same quarter, as they took turns. He did this by preaching to them about their worldliness and needs, and, to put it in his words, "They seemed peculiarly adapted to not liking it very well." One dear sister said, "He will never get me mad," and the very next Sunday she went home feeling very much offended. He preached to them one morning on their idolatry, and told them that they were worshipping the world, and were without God. At the class meeting which followed this service, the local preacher, who had been a traveling preacher, but was broken down in health, said that it was very difficult for him to have things properly adjusted; that whatever he did, he did with all his might; and when he went to college, he studied with all his might; and when he preached, he preached with all his might; and now that he was a farmer he farmed with all his might. He concluded his remarks by saying: "If I don't get to heaven, I will be the worst disappointed fellow you ever saw."

Winter came on and they were in the midst of a protracted meeting, but the terrible doubt which tortured Brother Bresee during his Presiding Eldership, continued to plague him. To again quote his words: "There came one of those awful, snowy, windy nights, such as blow across the Western plains occasionally, with the thermometer twenty degrees below zero. Not many were out to church that night. I tried to preach a little, the best I could. I tried to rally the people to the altar, the few that were there, and went back to the stove, and tried to get somebody to the Lord. I did not find any one. I turned toward the altar; in some way it seemed to me that this was my time, and I threw myself down across the altar and began to pray for myself. I had come to the point where I seemingly could not go on. My religion did not meet my needs. It seemed as though I could not continue to preach with this awful question of doubt on me, and I prayed and cried to the Lord. I was ignorant of my own condition. I did not understand in reference to  carnality. I did not understand in reference to the provisions of the atonement. I neither knew what was the matter with me, nor what would help me. But, in my ignorance, the Lord helped me, drew me and impelled me, and, as I cried to him that night, He seemed to open heaven on me, and gave me, as I believe, the baptism with the Holy Ghost, though I did not know either what I needed, or what I prayed for. But it not only took away my tendencies to worldliness, anger and pride, but it also removed the doubt. For the first time, I apprehended that the conditions of doubt were moral instead of intellectual, and that doubt was a part of carnality that could only be removed as the other works of the flesh are removed."

Under the ministry of Brother Bresee, the work at Chariton was fairly prosperous. The Lord gave him more grace, liberty and blessing in every way. He held a good revival meeting with some fruits. It seemed, however, as if there was always a fuss in reference to something. The folks were stirred up about tobacco, or worldliness, or something else. But many friends rallied around them. They met with good success, and the church grew and prospered. As Dr. Bresee put it, "Nobody got sancitfied but myself, and I did not know anything about it." There was an uplift of spirituality, and one or two seemed to enter into the experience of full salvation. But, as Brother Bresee preached a more spiritual gospel, there was more antagonism.

The two years pastorate at Chariton was a trying time. When the Bresees went there, they found no proper conditions for a minister's family. As there was no parsonage, they moved into a part of a house, where they had the use of one room and a little bedroom, which had been changed into a kitchen. A young woman of the family lived in the other room, taught music, and played the piano to the point of distraction. The members of the family were fine people and the mother, Mrs. Mitchell, was a mother in Israel. Her son was a Methodist preacher, who in 1912, was still living in Northwestern Iowa. His name was Bennett Mitchell, and he was then Presiding Elder of the district in which Chariton was located. Often the mother and her daughters would take care of the baby while Mrs. Bresee went to church at night. The room occupied by the Bresees was their bedroom, study, dining room, parlor and everything but the kitchen. They were compelled to make beds on the floor.

Shortly before leaving Chariton, in the autumn of 1868, their daughter, Bertha, was born. At the beginning of their second year in this place, they secured a cottage with four rooms, where they lived very comfortably, so far as house room was concerned, but they were greatly tried financially, and as Doctor Bresee expressed it: "There never was a time when we had as much difficulty in getting along, and getting something to eat, as during our second year there. I do not know how or why it was, but there was not anything in the market, and we did not have money to get along with. We left the charge in debt. We didn't have butter, meat, or the ordinary things. We fared very hard indeed. I do not know that we went hungry, but we lived in the most frugal way. We were like old Brother Thayer, who said that he didn't know that the Lord had allowed him to go hungry, but he had allowed him sometimes to have a most excellent appetite."


Quite frankly, the Rev. Mr. Bresee comes across as a little whiney in these paragraphs, and that may be because I know something about two of the parishioners referenced specifically.

"Mrs. Michell," with whom the Bresees lived during their first year, was Eliza (Henderson) Mitchell (1808-1884), then in her late 50s. She and her husband, Joseph, had brought their family to Chariton from Indiana during 1852 and settled on the site just northwest of town where the HyVee frozen foods distribution center now is located.

By the time the Bresees arrived in town, her husband was dead, two of her sons, James and David, had died while in service during the Civil War and, in fact, only four of her 13 children remained alive. She was living on an $8 monthly pension awarded to her in the name of her late son, David. So she had known troubles that the youthful preacher --- then not yet 30 --- hadn't even dreamed of.

The Methodist preacher-turned-farmer cited by Bresee's biographer was Asbury Collins. He left Chariton with his family not long after the Bresees did, moved to Red Oak, then onward to Nebraska where he was among the founders of Kearney, a principal organizer of its Methodist Episcopal church. In Nebraska, he returned to the active Methodist ministry and served as church planter, missionary and pastor to congregations scattered across the plains for many years thereafter.

Neither of these two good souls, however, founded a denomination.

Bresee had been, prior to and during the Civil War, an ardent abolitionist --- more or less driven out of an earlier charge in Pella because of his views. In Chariton, he incurred the wrath of some --- including the virulently racist publisher of The Chariton Democrat --- by inviting "Brother Lewis," a black preacher from Des Moines, down to conduct services.

Brother Bresee also appreciated the finer things in life, which may be why the living conditions in Chariton during those early years of his ministry rankled. Later on, he joyfully mixed commerce with preaching in order to acquire more of those finer things --- and didn't complain when he became one of the most highly paid clergymen in southern California. On the other hand, a principal motive in founding the Church of the Nazarene was his conviction that mainline Methodists were not ministering effectively to those less fortunate than they were.

So he was a character of considerable contradiction, and these guys of course are the most interesting.

The photo below shows the church the Bresees found when they arrived in Chariton. The parsonage to its right was built during 1868, but it's not known if Phineas, Maria and their children ever lived in it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Everything's coming up tulips, narcissus, &tc.

I had the museum grounds almost to myself late Sunday after an hour or two in the office, then stepped outside to view what was blooming, from "g" (grape hyacinths) to "v" (volunteer violets).

The tulips exploded into bloom late last week, and that led me to wonder how often the folks in Pella, our neighbor to the north, rue the day 80 years ago when the decision was made to link their principal festival, Tulip Time --- this year scheduled for May 7-9 --- to a bulb that despite the best of breeding has a mind of its own and is subject to the vagaries of weather.

Around here, we just enjoy the flowers when they appear and don't worry too much about the timing.

Elsewhere, the creeping phlox is  in full bloom.

And volunteer violets are emerging from the cracks.

We have hyacinths of the "grape" variety --- blue and white (with a few periwinkles, too)..

And two varieties, so far, of narcissus.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Now how do you suppose ...?

Exactly how this piece of vintage farm equipment worked was the issue facing Bob Ulrich (left) and Rex Johnson (center) Saturday afternoon as they reassembled an artifact that had arrived at the museum in pieces.

They knew it was a horse-drawn hay rake, but it was Kay Ulrich's memory that saved the day. She recalled an image in a book of vintage farm-related images at home that showed one of these devices in action in 1913, being pulled across a field by a single horse, scooping up hay, with the farmer walking along behind.

From that, we learned that it's called a "dump rake," and that helped --- although when I left the museum grounds there still were issues to be resolved.

It was a beautiful and busy spring day at the museum.

Jim Secor (right) was just offering input in the barn. His big project was rebuilding before spring planting a portion of the base wall of the terraced planter that climbs upward from the east side of the patio. This completed a project begun a couple of years ago when he rebuilt the second level of the terrace, which had begun to tip outward in an even more alarming manner.

Elsewhere on the grounds, Kay Brown and Kathy Willits were raking in a recently cleared area along the top of the bluff that forms the south border of museum property. 

Randy Paige and Co. had been here during late winter to trim our big trees and also to remove dead and dangerous trees and limbs from this woodsy border. We like the border because it provides a backdrop for the school and the cabin --- and birds like it, too --- but suspended dead limbs and a really active growth of poison ivy had turned it into a hazard.

So now we're going to extend the lawn south toward the trees a little in hopes of keeping the poison ivy under control, then after we've seen how that goes will consider adding new plantings here in future years --- redbuds perhaps.

Later this month, we plan to add a star magnolia between the school and church --- and a river birch in the valley to the west, where the ground is a little damp. 

Jim was talking of tilling the heirloom garden at the base of the big hill later Saturday, but I'm not sure that project was completed. The garlic and the rhubarb are up and flourishing down there and the asparagus should be along soon. Spring is definitely here!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Lunch, prairies, pheasants & War of 1812 veterans

It was fun to have lunch at the Charitone yesterday with Peggy and Dick Christensen and Steve Pierce, reliving the past --- and talking a little (attention, Gwen and Nancy) about our upcoming Russell High School class reunion. So thanks for the invitation!

If all goes as planned, we'll be getting together in July for an afternoon of reminiscing in the Lodge at Pin Oak Marsh, then joining our friends from the Class of 1965 for a meal and more socializing at the Freight House that evening. That should be lots of fun, too.


Speaking of Pin Oak Lodge, the Lucas County Historical Society's annual meeting --- open to anyone who would like to attend --- will be held there on Monday evening, April 20. We'll gather for a brief business meeting at 6:30 p.m., have a program at 7 and then enjoy coffee and homemade pie afterwards.

This year's program will be presented by Andy Asell, geographic systems information analyst for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (and son of Char and Lyle, of course).

Andy probably knows more than anyone about the landscape of prairie, savanna and woodland that greeted Lucas County's EuroAmerican pioneers when they started arriving in 1846. He lives and breathes prairie --- so I'm really looking forward to his presentation.


Since Darlene and I had spent Monday morning at the office wrangling envelopes --- getting ready to send annual meeting invites out to members --- I took the afternoon off and headed down to Derby to visit a couple of my favorite prairie remnants.

If you're looking for flash, the prairie is just waking up right now and it will be a while before colors other than green start showing in Lucas County at least --- but it was a beautiful day for a preliminary hike.

I was surprised by the number of pheasants. Iowa's pheasant population has fallen upon hard times during the last few years, but you'd never have suspected that along the Cinder Path yesterday.


Headed home, I stopped at Goshen Cemetery to take a photo of the tombstone (top) that marks the grave of War of 1812 veteran Benjamin Tracy. I'm trying to assemble a list of Lucas County's War of 1812 veterans, too, and am betting that before all is said and done I can come up with a dozen, although they are rare.

There are a couple of issues involved in tracking these guys down. In the first place, the War of 1812 was a scattered affair and its records are scattered, too. Beyond that, genealogists and patriotic societies have been fixated for years on veterans of the Revolution.

This Benjamin Tracy, who died June 18, 1875, at the age of 81, is the patriarch of Tracy families in both Lucas and Wayne counties and while members of my family managed to marry into his family in both counties, I'm not at all related.

Benjamin was a native Virginian who settled in Ohio after the war, living in both Belmont and Ashland counties; then moved on west to Iowa about 1853. He and his wife, Nancy, and assorted children were living near Farmington in Van Buren County in 1856; near Bonaparte, in 1860; and by 1870 had relocated to Marysville in the northeast corner of Wapello County.

About 1872, Benjamin and Nancy and other family members came to the May Church neighborhood southwest of Chariton where she died during 1873 and he died two years later.

Although their residence in Lucas County was brief, his War of 1812 service apparently was widely known. The Chariton Patriot, with a mixed record of covering events that happened some distance from town, reported his passing as follows in its edition of June 30, 1875: "Benj. Tracy died at the house of his son-in-law, I.H. Sigler, in Warren Township, on June 18th, at the advanced age of 82 years. The deceased was a soldier in the War of 1812. He was an upright man and esteemed by all."

I can come up with two records of service with Virginia militia units for Benjamin Tracys --- one with the 57th Regiment of Virginia Militia and the other, with the 56th. I'm guessing both records may be related to our Benjamin, but of course could be wrong about that.

Whatever the case, it was a beautiful day to chase pheasants --- and War of 1812 veterans.

The flag holder at Benjamin's grave is interesting, too. The initials F, C and L upon it stand for "Fidelity, Charity and Loyalty," stated (and often inscribed) principles of the Grand Army of the Republic, an association of Civil War veterans. So I'm guessing this flag holder, quite similar to the flag holder developed by the G.A.R. to mark the graves of Union veterans, was a G.A.R. product, too. 

Most likely this flag holder was installed a century ago by G.A.R. members and has been in place here on Goshen's west-facing slope for a very long time.