Thursday, September 03, 2015

The enigmatic death of William Wesley Demaree

This small mystery from Lucas County's past begins with a three-line news item published in The Chariton Herald of Thursday, July 21, 1887:

"A dead man, unknown, was found in Whitebreast creek near East Cleveland yesterday, with $45 in his pocket."

East Cleveland was an unincorporated area due east of the incorporated coal mining town (now ghost town) of Cleveland in west central Lucas County. The No. 1 and No. 2 shafts of The Whitebreast Coal & Mining Co. were located in East Cleveland. Many miners and their families lived here, too --- particularly black miners not welcome in the incorporated village. Cleveland was "dry" --- no liquor allowed --- so there were establishments in East Cleveland, too, catering to the drinking habits of miners both black and white and to many others.

The area ran east-west parallel to and north of the C.B.&Q. rail line, which crossed White Breast Creek twice at a broad bend beyond the settlement.

There were no further reports regarding the death in The Herald or other Chariton newspapers (that I could find at least) in the days and weeks that followed.

But The Humeston New Era, in its edition of the week that followed the death, provided a little more information:

"The body of an unknown man was found in Whitebreast creek near Lucas last week. From a memorandum book found in his pocket it is supposed that his name was W. Demaree, of Madison, Indiana. So far it is not known whether it was a murder or suicide."

Whoever examined the body did file certification of death with the Lucas County clerk. That entry identifies Wm. W. Demar (sic) as age 28, a farmer, born in Indiana, who died at Lucas of "injuries on head." The remains, according to this report, were shipped to Madison, Indiana.

Out in Indiania, The Jeffersonville Daily News published in its edition of Thursday, July 22, this brief item datelined, "Madison, July 21": 

"William W. Demaree, who left here Monday for Geneva, Neb., was found downed yesterday at Lucas, Iowa."

The final report I've found regarding Demaree was published in The Chariton Democrat of Sept. 29, 1887:

"A rumor was started (in Lucas) Monday that the murderer of Wm. Demaree, whose lifeless body was found in Whitebreast Creek near Lucas some two months since, was found --- that a man in Denver had confessed to the deed. As no authority could be given the report was doubtless false."


That's a photo at the top of this post of William's tombstone, located in Joyce Cemetery, not far from the Ohio River east of Madson, Indiana. it was added to his Find A Grave entry by Lori Case.

That entry states that, according to funeral home records, his remains were buried here on July 24, 1887.

The entry also identifies his parents as James and Mary (Hollingsworth) Demaree, buried not far away, and shows that he had a daughter, Wilhelmina Eva "Willa" Demaree Blinton, born postumously on Feb. 1, 1888, some months after her father's death.

A little more digging around online produced the information that he had married Eva Irene Comley on Dec. 6, 1881, in Jefferson County, Indiana, and that family stories contained the tradition that he had been "robbed and murdered in Iowa."


But how do you suppose William really died? Circumstantial evidence suggests that he was aboard a passenger train traveling from Indiana through Iowa to Nebraska just before he died, perhaps as a young farmer headed west in search of land to purchase.

There would be no reason to disembark at Lucas, the depot that also served Cleveland; and even if he had, White Breast Creek is a considerable distance away.

The most likely explanation is that he fell from the train as it crossed the creek by accident, assisted by a push or intentionally (although jumping from a train was not a guaranteed way to insure death). If the initial report --- that $45 was found in his pocket --- is accurate, then robbery most likely would not have been a motive. Unless the robber miscalculated.

Any official records of the investigation into William's death that may have existed have vanished. There are no indications that anyone ever was charged in his death and newspaper reports are scant.

So, as Fox radio news is so fond of saying, "I report, you decide."

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The day President McKinley came to town

Alaska's Mount McKinley --- North America's highest peak --- officially reverted this week to its originial native name, Denali, a cause for rejoicing in Alaska and consternation in Ohio, home to its 20th Century namesake, President William McKinley.

For the record, the name "McKinley" first was applied to Denali during 1896 by enthusiastic backers of the gentleman from Ohio's Republican presidential campaign of that year, then made official in 1917.

Although our 25th president no longer has a mountain named in his honor, he still holds the distinction of being the first sitting president to visit Chariton --- on Thursday, Oct. 13, 1898, during the second year of his first term.

This very brief "whistle-stop" appearance drew a late-afternoon crowd estimated at 5,000 to the C.B.&Q. Depot. This is the only decent photo of the event that we have in the Lucas County Historical Society collection --- taken as the presidential train pulled in from the northwest along the east side of the depot where it was greeted by daring boys and men who had climbed into and on top of cars parked on sidetracks to get a better look. All the oratorical action, however, came a little later south of the depot where a reviewing stand had been set up. 

The president was returning to Washington, D.C., from Omaha where he had addressed crowds at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition, also known as the Omaha Worlds Fair, on Wednesday, the 12th. He had delivered an address in Creston before the train continued on to Chariton and would address residents of Ottumwa during the early evening.

So far as world events were concerned, Spanish-American War hostilities has just ceased during August and negotiations that would formally end the war when the Treaty of Paris was signed  on Dec. 10 still were under way.

Here's the report of President McKinley's visit from The Chariton Patriot of Oct. 13.


Today the people of Chariton and Lucas county were given the greatest honor that is recognized by an American citizen --- that of seeing and being addressed by the President of the United States. On two other occasions our town has been honored by men who have been elected to the presidency --- U.S. Grant and Benjamin Harrison --- but Wm. McKinley is the first to visit us while occupying the Presidential chair. The appreciation of the people and their friendship for this great man was proven by the immense crowd which gathered at the depot to greet him. The people began collecting about two o'clock and by the time the presidential train arrived there were present about five thousand pushing and crowding to get where they could see and hear.

A temporary stand was erected in the center of the platform just south of the depot. This was carpeted with beautiful rugs and was decorated profusely with flags.

The Russell-Chariton band was on hand and entertained the crowd while they stood shivering in the cold wind, waiting for the train. It arrived about 3:40 o'clock.

As the train pulled in it was greeted with cheers and waving of flags by the school children, and the appearance of the President at the door of the car was the signal for more cheering. He was quickly escorted through the crowd to the platform by Col. W.S. Dungan and Dr. C.T. Brant, and introduced by the colonel.

As the President stepped forward the crowd again broke into enthusiastic cheers. He spoke but a few minutes, and in his remarks he spoke of his appreciation of the patriotism of Iowa people and of his pleasure in being greeted by so many, particularly by the school children, to whom he addressed a few words. His short talk was confined mainly to the valuable acquisitions of territory made by the United States over which he said the flag would wave as a surety of humane and prosperous government for the people. Concluding, he introduced Hon. Lyman J. Gage, Secretary of the Treasury. As the President gave way to Mr. Gage, he was preseted with a beautiful bouquet by little Marian Whitfield, the gift of the senior high school class.

Mr. Gage made a brief speech saying that he had the honor to preside over a department of the Government which rarely receives the popular plaudits of the people. The public applause greets the Army and Navy because their heroic actions stir the hearts of the masses. But behind Army and Navy --- behind soldiers and ships --- stands the Treasury, representing the resources and credit of our country, those material resources which make an army and navy possible. It is said a stream rises no higher than its source and therefore the Nation cannot rise higher than than of the great mass of the people ....

"The time for the departure of the train," said the conductor, and the great ovation to the President and his party remain only a proud memory to all who saw and heard him.

As the train pulled out President McKinley stood on the rear platform, bowing and waving his handkerchief in response to the farewells from the people along the track.

Other distinguished members of the party who occupied the platform besides the President and Mr. Gage were Secretary of Interior Bliss, Secretary of Agriculture Wilson, and Miss Wilson, Mrs. Gage and Postmaster General Smith.

Mrs. Jessie Thayer accompanied the party from Creston, where the President delivered a fine address, taking about fifteen minutes.


"Fellow Citizens --- I do not think I ever appreciated fully the size and population of Iowa until my visit to your state. The vast assemblages which have so kindly greeted us everywhere on our journey have been very gratefully appreciated, as we meet the old and the young as they gather under the flag of the free and renew once more their devotion to their country.

"It gives me special pleasure to meet with the school children, the boys and girls; those whom in a little while must take up the trust that the older of us are carrying and carry forward their great work of American citizenship; for out of the school house in all our history have come the statesmen, the business men, the soldiers and the farmers that have done so much for this great country of ours. we have been very fortunate as a nation in the last six months. We have made much progress in a very little while. We have almost lost sight of the fact in talking of our war; we have acquired some territory, we have the beautiful islands of Hawaii that came to us free and independent (cheers) and asked to be annexed to the United States. Those lovely islands in the sea are now a part of the United States and I have no doubt that your teacher has told you all this and that they must soon appear in the new map of our country.

"My fellow citizens, wherever our flag floats, wherever we raise that standard of liberty, it is always for the benefit of humanity and the advancement of civilization. We do not go to war to acquire territory. Territory sometimes comes to us when we go to war in a holy cause, and whatever we may keep, the flag will float over it assuring peace and good government, and bring blessings to all those people.

"we have with us today the members of my official family and I suppose you would like to see and hear them, and with your permission I will introduce you to Lyman J. Gage, Secretary of the Treasury."


As footnote to the above, McKinley served out his first term, was re-elected, but then was assassinated by a deranged anarchist six months into his second term, during September of 1901.

Chariton would not see another sitting president up close and personal until September of 1948, when President Harry S. Truman made a whistle stop visit during the campaign of that year.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Mountains, molehills & the need for coffee

Wikipedia image

I've been busy the last couple of days writing scripts for the annual Chariton Cemetery Heritage Tour, scheduled for late afternoon on Sunday, Sept. 20. 

We'll be focusing this year on occupants of the Stanton Vault, built during 1887 by Dr. James E. Stanton --- who owned the cemetery at the time --- as upscale housing for the deceased. It contained 30 crypts, many of which still were occupied by a variety of interesting people less than a century later when it was demolished.

The occupants were removed at the time of demolition, then reburied in something of a heap in the footprint of the structure, their final resting places marked by funeral home markers embedded in strips of concrete --- now deteriorating. We'll focus on a few of these mostly forgotten people.

But that research effort has cut seriously into my time for outrage. Fortunately, others have carried on.


There seems to be a good deal of unrest in Ohio --- offset by celebration in Alaska --- now that President Obama has authorized a name change for North America's highest mountain peak from Mt. McKinley to Denali, the name applied to it by Alaska's original occupants.

Alaskans of all political persuasions have lobbied a long time for the change, but it has been stoutly resisted by Ohioans, most effectively by that state's congressional delegation, because that state was the home and now contains the burial place of President William McKinley, assassinated some six months into his term during September of 1901.

The McKinley name was suggested, however, during 1896 --- five years earlier --- by a gold prospector who also happened to be a political supporter of the future president.

Personally, I'm pretty happy about the change. But if I were a McKinley --- an old and honored name in Lucas County --- it's possible I might feel otherwise. So far as I know, however,  our McKinley delegation has not been heard from on the matter. If I were involved with the Chariton newspapers, I think I'd localize this story a little by asking.


Down in Kentucky, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis seems to have run out of legal options after the U.S. Supreme Court late yesterday denied her petition for a stay on lower court rulings that directed her to issue marriage licenses to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

Davis stopped issuing licenses altogether after the June Supreme Court decision that same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marry. To issue a license to a same-sex couple, she argued, would violate her Christian conscious.

The difficulty is, she's an elected public employee who has taken an oath to uphold the law of the land, whether she approves of it or not. 

This apparently is the morning she'll have to decide what to do next: Observe the law, quit or continue to resist and face fines and potential jail time. Which will it be?


There are all sorts of other things that have outrage potential --- the "save the cross" debate continues to simmer in Knoxville, for example.

But the most outrageous thing that's happened personally this week involves coffee --- I neglected to buy a new supply yesterday and am trying to get the day started with tea.

It isn't working, sun's up --- and I have to get myself to HyVee and quick or I'll never get anything accomplished today.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Let us entertain (and elevate) you ...

As we await the 2015-16 lineup for the Vredenburg Performing Arts series here in Lucas County, it's kind of fun to look back to 1903-04 and its equivalent, sponsored then by First Methodist Church's Epworth League, an association of young adults chartered nationwide by that denomination.

The five-event program for the December-March series was not explicitly religious but rather intended in a high-minded sort of way to entertain, elevate and inform, roughly in that order. Chariton's three weekly newspapers published many stories during late November and early December of that year encouraging the purchase of season tickets --- priced at $1.05 with a surcharge of 10-15 cents per event if reserved seats were desired.

The venue was Chariton's new First Methodist Church and season ticket sales had topped 300 by late November with the expectation that 400 would be sold since the program was described as "the best offering ever made to Chariton people." Without a season ticket, the per event cost would range from 50 to 75 cents. Tickets would be available through Dec. 9 at the shop of Rea & Beem on the north side of the square. A season ticket also would entitle its holder to discounted admission to a bonus event, organized by a couple of prominent Charitonians.

Most of the lecturers and performers spent their summers on the nationwide Chautauqua circuit, then were organized by agents into packages purchased by sponsoring organizations across the country during winter. The Epworth League probably was dealing with the Redpath Lyceum Bureau when it arranged the program.

Miss Ida Benfey, who described herself as The American Story Teller, was first on the 1903-04 program, scheduled to appear on Dec. 9. Without a season ticket, admission would be 50 cents.

Miss Benfey's performances mixed storytelling with dramatic readings --- her best reviews to date had been generated by recitation of The Book of Job during the 1899 Carnegie Lyceum in New York.

In Chariton, she would present "A Tale of Two Cities," followed by a half hour comedy sketch from "The Mill on the Floss."

The bonus event of the season, arranged by Jessie Mallory Thayer and Mr. and Mrs. Howard E. Copeland, would be a performance on Dec. 29 by the University of Chicago Glee and Mandolin clubs. This 25-member ensemble traveled by private rail car and rarely stopped in cities so small as Chariton, so its booking was considered quite a coup. Since the group would charge $150, admission at the door would be 75 cents, but season ticket holders would be able to enter for a quarter (reserved seats extra).

Dr. Frederick E. Hopkins, a former minister from Chicago who had discovered that he could make more money on the lecture circuit, would present "The Golden Fleece" on Jan. 11, 1904.

Thomas Dixon Jr., one of the nation's most desirable lecturers, was scheduled to appear on Feb. 10. He was a Southern Baptist preacher, playwright, North Carolina state legislator, lawyer and author, best known for his novel, "The Clansman" that would serve as inspiration for D.W. Griffith's 1915 film, "The Birth of a Nation." Dixon was a huge fan of the Ku Klux Klan in its original incarnation and a renowned apologist for the South --- although considered otherwise to be quite progressive. Because of his fame, admission at the door would be 75 cents.

Dewitt Miller, New York-based educator, journalist, minister, librarian and bibliophile, was on the program for March 4. Miller was considered to be a humorous lecturer, although he insisted that he merely found some things amusing and that his goal was not to make audiences laugh.

The series would conclude on March 17 with the Mendelssohn Quartet Company.

So there you have the program for 1903-04. Now we'll wait and see of the Vredenburg Series can outdo it.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Don Hawkins' letter home from Vietnam

Were life fair, Don Hawkins would have been with us earlier this summer when the Russell High School classes of 1964, 1965 and 1966 got together for a reunion. He was, after all, president of the class of '65, intelligent, articulate, athletic, ambitious --- quite a guy.

Don was a year younger, so the only photo of him that I could find is the one at left, taken when he was a high school junior and lifted from my senior yearbook. But that's the way I remember him anyway.

He also was a veteran of the war in Vietnam, drafted during December of 1967 after completing (with honors) the two-year program at Indian Hills Community College.

I was reminded of that after plugging "Vietnam" into the search engine of the Chariton newspapers database that I use most often --- just to see what turned up; still fussing about a well-intentioned homemade memorial to veterans in Knoxville that has become the focus of a squabble about signs and symbols and religion that has drawn both statewide and a degree of national attention.

Don's letter home from Vietnam to his folks, Dorothy and Harold Hawkins, of Russell, published In The Herald-Patriot of June 19, 1969,  was among the items that turned up. I believe Dorothy was, at the time, Russell correspondent for the Chariton newspapers.

During the course of the months that followed Donnie's induction into the U.S. Army, he married Elizabeth Horstman, of Rathbun, during May of 1968 and advanced in rank to staff sergeant. During February of 1969, he was assigned to Vietnam as a rifleman with the 101st Airborne Division.

One way to honor veterans is to listen to their stories. Although Don died at age 51 during November of 1997, he left this part of his behind in public view. He was 23 at the time it was written.


Dear Folks,

Well, here it is another Sunday. I just woke up after a three hour nap. I don't sleep much during the night any more --- too much could happen. I'm well and fine and I have a real wild war story to tell you. It's a little bit weird so I'm going to try and write it up as good as I can so if you want you can send it in to the newspaper. I think it might give an idea to people back home just what we're going through here.

The early shadows of dusk cast a gloom over the room as I rolled my bedroll, tightened the straps on my rucksack and prepared my equipment for the patrol ahead. The platoon was using an abandoned Vietnamese schoolhouse here in Phu Loi for our day location.

The walls are of concrete, a veneer of blue paint has faded and worn away. Bullet holes pockmark the walls on which GI's have scrawled their names, their DEROS dates and the inevitable epitaphs of their thoughts of home, war and women. "Say it loud, I'm black and proud." "As the sun and the moon rotate, so shall I." Or, "Clem, Kentucky, 97 ETS."

The slabs of slate used for shingles are dilapidated and light filters through holes and cracks. I finish with my gear and walk down the porch to the room where the First Squad is located.

Glancing at my watch, I say, "Sgt. Kloeckner it's time to brief your men." Sgt. Kloeckner straightens up from his equipment and says with a low voice, "Hey, fellas, you want to come over here for a minute."

He stands beside the wall. a piece of chalk in his hand, and points to the diagram he has sketched on the wall. His diagram is right beneath a message scrawled by some forgotten yet throughtful soldier, "For those who fight for it, freedom is the taste the protected will never know."

I turn my attention to Sgt. Kloeckner as he explains the situation to his men. "First of all we've really got to be alert tonight. Intelligence reports 40-50 VC with B-40 rockets and RPG's will be coming toward the village tonight." 

I let my glance wander around the other eight men standing there.

Joe, the blond-headed youth from Mississippi. He's a platoon favorite with his rebel flag and solemn promise that the South shall rise again. Next to Joe is Sherrill, the tall lanky kid with a big nose. Kurt is standing beside his ruck absently fiddling with his M-70 grenade launcher as he gazes intently at the plan for tonight. Frank --- we call him pathfinder because he went to pathfinder school --- tightens the strap on his M-60 machine gun. Rich, the assistant gunner, lights a cigarette as he listens to the Sarge. Tony, the other M-70 man, makes a wry comment to Roy, a three-tour man, something about all those gooks. Honaker, who just returned to the squad today, stands and listens.

Men, young men true, but men all the same.

With these squad members will go three of the CP (Command Post), SCF Dillon, platoon sergeant, me, his replacement when he leaves country, and McGrath, the Canadian who is RTO. "OK, let's get it on." Without word the men lift their heavy rucksacks to their shoulders.

Ammo, trip flare, hand grenades, claymore mine, insect repellent, I check off my mental checklist as I pick up my steel pot and weapon. We move out in a spread file, 7 to 10 meters between men. Down a small slope, turn right along the hedgerow, alert for the slightest sound or movement that would betray enemy presence. We quietly step across the small footbridge and slowly work our way down the trail.

I take a moment to go over the situation, We'll be in three positions. We'll be ambushing at a trail junction where a series of small trails merge into a main trail leading into the village. The terrain is real thick, our positions are a bit too far apart and the main trail runs right through the middle of our squad location and on top of this, it's dark --- so dark I am just barely able to make out the outline of the man to my front.

Not much sleep tonight. In a few minutes we're there. SFC Dillon, McGrath, Honaker and McClenden move off to the right. I slip off the trail to the left, Roy, Kurt and Sherrill following. Sgt. Kloeckner, Joe, Frank and Rich will set up in a machine gun position in the middle of the trail junction.

As quietly as possible we ease our rucksacks to the ground. Our standard procedure is to move into a position and listen intently for a few minutes before we pull out our trip flares and our claymores. Satisfied there is no movement around us, I send Kurt and Sherrill back down the trail we just came in on to set up a trip flare and a claymore as rear security. Roy and I move a few meters outside our position to set up another trip and claymore. 

Our security established we move back into position to sit out the night. We stand watch 100 percent til 10 o'clock and then each of us takes it an hour apiece twice til 6 in the morning when we pack up and move back to day location.

It was on the second guard about 11:30 when things began to happen. Without warning the trip flare on the trail to the village popped and for an instant the area was bathed in bright illumination. Sherrill automatically pushed the handle in the detonator device and the explosion from the claymore echoed through the night.

The blast from the exploding mine knocked the trip flare out and everything went black. The instant the flare had gone off I had been awake and reaching for my M-16. We all listened intently for the slightest sound. Nothing! Automatically, when a trip pops or when we blow a claymore we have to go out and check the area, but before you move into the trail, which is a killing zone for the ambush, you have to establish communication with the other positions.

Our platoon uses a pre-arranged whistle system for this and I immediately heard a reply to my first whistle. Slowly, nerves stretched taut, Roy and I moved across the trail to where Sgt. Kleockner was kneeling waiting for us. I quickly assessed the situation for him and we decided we must inform SFC Dillon because his position had the radio and he would have to radio the information to the company commander.

I moved down the trail a few feet and whistled softly; my whistle was immediately returned. I moved back to Roy and Kloeckner and whistled once more. The answer came back low and clear. A moment later Sgt. Kloeckner whispered, "Here comes Sgt. Dillon." It was still pitch black and I didn't see the shadow until he was almost to me.

The shadow glided up to me and a face was thrust inches away from mine and it began jabbering excitedly in Vietnamese. Shock blasted through my brain --- this was not Sgt. Dillon but a fully uniformed NVA soldier with an AK-47 rifle in his arms.

My reaction had to have been instantaneous, but in that fraction of a second a thousand thoughts raced through my mind. The enemy --- I couldn't fire in time --- all he had to do was swing his barrel and pull the trigger. I lunged at him and grabbed his weapon in my hands. We struggled violently, he lurched backward freeing himself from my grasp, stumbled, dropped his weapon, turned and ran. "Fire him up," I shouted. Roy reacted fast and fired six rounds point blank at the fleeing enemy.

Confusion and panic reigned. "Watch our rear." Words can't describe my feeling those next few minutes. Our situation might be desperate. The enemy might be within our positions. They don't travel by themselves after dark. Perhaps Sgt. Dillon had been overpowered.

I steeled myself, waiting for the crash of rockets and the sharp cracks of AK's. Nothing. The seconds stretched into eternity. Finally we heard another whistle and Sgt. Dillon calling softly. At last we knew our positions were intact. We moved fast --- consolidated into two six-man positions and dug in to await either dawn or the coming attack. A lifetime later, the skies began to turn from blackness to gray. Grotesque dancing images turned slowly back into bushes and a squad of nerve wracked exhausted men very thankfully watched the dawning of another day.

It's kinda hard to believe it really happened just like that, but it did.

the next day the CO informed me, I had become a legend in the I Corps area. "The brave NCO who walked up to a NVA soldier, practiced hand to hand combat and took away his AK-47 assault rifle." Roy and I were put in for some kind of medal. We're not sure just what. I'm very lucky and very thankful. It hasn't bothered me as much as it might have. I just flinch a whole lot more now when I hear a sudden or strange sound and I don't sleep at night.

There are a lot of enemy in this area. The other night the gooks hit the ARVNS and killed two, wounded three and captured three plus some weapons. Intelligence reported that 100 enemy soldiers with B-40 rockets, RPG's and mortars were moving toward Phu Loi. We still set up in 12-man ambush patrols and tonight we're going out farther than ever before. Anything could happen.

Mom, I'd really appreciate if you'd send me a stationery tablet and some air mail self-sealing envelopes. Don't send too many. I don't have room to carry them.

Well, I'm still tired so I'll sleep some more. It's raining again. I've never been more homesick for Liz than I am right now. I break 279 days today. Take care.

Your son, Don


Don came home as 1969 ended and picked up the threads of his life. He graduated from Simpson College, again with honors, and began a career in banking at Indianola. He and his wife had two daughters before their marriage ended.

As his faith became increasingly important to Don, he enrolled in the Illif School of Theology, a United Methodist seminary in Denver. After graduation, he was assigned to a two-point parish in Oregon --- at Joseph and Wallowa.

During January of 1982, however, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Radiation treatments followed surgery, then during October, additional surgery. After that, while undergoing chemotherapy, he suffered a stroke that left his left side paralyzed. An additional tumor left him unable to speak.

During 1983, he returned to live for a few months with his parents at Russell, then entered a Chariton nursing home, then the veterans healthcare system --- Iowa Soldiers Home at Marshalltown and the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Knoxville. He died in Knoxville on Nov. 18, 1997, at the age of 51.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Rise and fall of Mt. Carmel Church

Photographs of Benton Township's Mt. Carmel Church are rare, so I was happy to find this battered image the other day in a box of photos waiting to be processed at the museum. It's postcard sized, torn, badly cropped and the emulsion has turned a muddy brown --- but at least you can see what the modest building looked like.

Affiliated with an outfit known as The Evangelical Association, later the United Evangelical Church, it was built in 1882 on land donated by the Myers family with, if the stories are to be believed, Daniel Myers Sr., my great-grandfather, as principal carpenter.

The Chariton Patriot reported on Nov. 1, 1882, that "The Evangelical associates will soon have complete, a fine new church in the Myers neighborhood; will be dedicated on the 19th of Nov. There will also be quarterly meeting held at the same time, commencing on Friday evening and continuing over Sabbath."

And on Nov. 29, 1882, The Patriot reported: "The good people in the Jacob Myers neighborhood in Benton township dedicated a new church last Sunday. John Clouser, of Lincoln, who was present, managed to exchange overcoats with some unknown person. He wants to trade back, as the one he got away with is too small." Jacob Myers was my great-great-grandfather.

Here's how the neighborhood looked about a dozen years after the church was built. The home of Daniel and Mary Belle (Redlingshafer) Myers was a quarter mile west and Daniel's mother, Harriet, lived just across the road west of that on land still tangled up in the Jacob Myers estate, which Daniel had been struggling to unravel since his father's death in 1883, going so far as to pursue one hapless creditor so far as the Iowa Surpreme Court. The Myers School was across the road south.

Daniel later would purhase the farms marked "Emma A. McCurdy" and that property became my grandparents' farm. And many others in the neighborhood were related. James Parsons, Clark Gookin and Charles Houck were sons-in-law of Jacob Myers (Sarah Houck, his daughter) and Abram S. Myers, his eldest son. Aaron Hupp was my great-grandmother's uncle and the Hills were Myers cousins.

Most of the people named on the map attended Mt. Carmel because it was the neighborhood church rather than because of any strong commitment to a particular denomination.

The Evangelical Association, sometimes known as the Albright Brethren after the Rev. Jacob Albright who founded it about 1800 in Pennsylvania, was quite similar in theology and polity to the Methodist Episcopal church but most of its earlier members spoke German --- an ethnic group not served by English-speaking Methodists. 

By 1882, language no longer was an issue and all were welcomed. Some members of the Association, including the Benton Township contingent, broke away from the Association to form the United Evangelical Church in 1891, then reunited with their former brethren during 1922 to form The Evangelical Church.

Trinity Evangelical Church (later Center Community Church), organized in 1888-89 southeast of Russell, was Mt. Carmel's sister congregation and their joint pastor lived at a parsonage in Russell. When the mining town of Olmitz was founded in Pleasant Township during the "teens," a substantial church was built there and it became the third point of a three-point parish for a time, but died with the town.

The Evangelical Church merged with the United Brethren in Christ during 1946 to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church, then that denomination became part of the United Methodist Church during 1968.

Even before the first merger, however, Mt. Carmel had been doomed by declining rural population and the automobile. Although resurrected briefly as a community church, the building was abandoned when I was a kid. It later was sold to Walter and Edna (Reynolds) Relph, both cousins of my dad, and moved to their farm north of the Chariton River for use as a farm building.

Just a couple of years ago, a storm finally brought the venerable old building down and Keith Dachenbach, grandson of Walter and Edna and owner of their farm, brought the church sign to the museum, where it now is kept inside Otterbein Church.

This was never a grand church building, but it did at one time have a congregation that filled it. Here's a favorite photo of mine --- a Mt. Carmel Sunday School class dating from about 1905.

Boys in the front row are Newt Hupp (left) and Elmer Smith. In the second row (from left) are Nellie Redlingshafer, Daisy Myers, teacher Maggie Hupp, May Schreck and Minnie Hupp. Back row (from left) are Grace Smith, Addie Gookin and Harriet Myers. Daisy and Harriet were my great-aunts.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Transitions: Colors and computers

It won't be long now until the countryside is washed in gold, nature's penultimate big show around here as summer ends. The biggest show will come when leaves turn and autumn flames out, but that's still a few weeks away.

I spotted the first of the big sunflowers coming into bloom at Pin Oak Marsh while walking around the east pond Wednesday and the goldenrods have been showing for some time.

The difficulty with this is that I like to be able to name the varieties of whatever it is I'm looking at. That can be a challenge with goldenrod --- there are 100-120 varieties although of course not all of them flourish here.  And many of them are very similar. Sunflowers? Comparable issues but on a smaller scale.

That requires quality time with identification guides and online images --- I find that entertaining; others wouldn't. Then you run into annoying people who carry databases around in their heads and can identify varieties instantly. The really annoying folks, however, are those who don't even open their eyes and look around.


The transition from old computer to new seems to be going well. I like Windows 10 --- didn't care for Windows 8 at all.  

The old computer was still plugging along, but nearly everything about it was obsolete and that got to be an issue. I think this is my fifth PC. There was a laptop, too, but never really used.

Since I've no particular need to move the computer around and prefer working with a standard keyboard and large upright monitor, a PC seems to work best for me. Besides, I have access to a laptop if I need it.

The "towers" keep diminishing in size. This one is not that much larger than a laptop --- half the size of the new office PC installed a couple of years ago and maybe a third the size of the home PC it replaced.

I've lost my favorite basic photo processing program, good for instant fixes and resizing --- it came along years ago with a flatbed scanner. But will adjust. My favorite flatbed won't, and will have to be replaced, too, one of these days.

According to Tim, who transferred the data from old to new, I'm now a record-holder --- not for volume of stashed files but for the number of separate items that he'd been asked to transfer from one device to another. Yikes.

There are other advantages to a new computer. Upon picking up the tower to haul it to the shop, I found my "Hillary 2016" button underneath. I've been looking for that. 

There was a "Romney 2012" button there, too --- a gift from the ever hopeful Martin B. That one didn't seem to have much of a future, so I threw it away.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Gone to graveyards every one ....

I've been looking at images this morning of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial "Wall" in Washington, D.C., and recalling what an awe-inspiring --- emotional and healing --- experience it is to touch the names of those once known, alive and filled with promise, now gone to graveyards every one.

Thanks to Pete Seeger for that line, supplemented by additional lyrics from Joe Hickerson and forged into a folk classic.

And trying to relate the experience to that mess just up the road in Knoxville related to a piece of well-intentioned but kitschy plywood art --- soldier kneeling at a grave marked by a cross near a painted rock --- now the focal point of a lot of hollering --- online and otherwise. It's become "save the cross" and the rally, I'm told, is Sunday.

Somewhere along the line, the focus has shifted from memorial intent to collective outrage --- and everyone involved in the yelling bears a share of the blame, from fundamentalist atheist to fundamentalist Christian (a curse on both their houses) and quite a number in between.

The point has been obscured. It's not about you. It's about honoring in a peaceful and respectful way the memory of those who died. Calm down.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

That leaves broccoli salad ...

Never take seriously religion, sex, politics or 97 percent of the stuff your friends post to Facebook, Granddaddy used to say. That leaves broccoli salad. And I do take broccoli salad seriously.

Not naked broccoli. Raw broccoli on a relish tray is about as appealing as Donald Trump in a Speedo --- even with a good dip. But broccoli salad --- that's something else.

There are only two broccoli salad rules --- it must contain bacon and cashews and it mustn't squeak. Sliced bulk bacon from the meat case is helpful.


Florets from three large heads of broccoli (blanched)
6 green onions (thinly sliced)
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup cashews
6-7 slices bacon (roasted)


1 cup mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip if you like it)
1 heaping tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar.


1. Blanch broccoli in boiling water 2 to 3 minutes, then cool in a colander under cold running water or dump into ice water to stop the cooking process and drain.

2. Roast the bacon --- 425-degree oven, about 15 minutes, spread in single layer on a shallow foil-lined pan that has been topped by parchment paper. Then allow to cool and cut or break into pieces.

3. Combine broccoli, onions, raisins, cashews and bacon.

4. Mix dressing ingredients --- then dress the salad. Allow to stand for at least an hour for flavors to merge.

About the napkin used as a prop --- hand-embroidered with crochet edging. My mother used to do this sort of thing because she found it relaxing. All of the current presidential contenders without regard to gender or gender identity should learn to embroider or crochet. It would calm them --- and the rest of us in the process.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Face to Face with a hero: Lyle H. Morris

It makes me really happy to report that, come September, visitors to Chariton's Lake Morris will be able to come face to face with the man whose name it bears, U.S. Navy Storekeeper 1st Class Lyle H. Morris, of Derby, and learn more about him.

Lyle, 22, died on October 26, 1942, at his battle station aboard the carrier U.S.S. Enterprise, then under attack by Japanese forces off the Santa Cruz Islands, and was buried at sea. He had been honored during the August preceding for courage demonstrated in an earlier Japanese assault.

Lyle was among the first Lucas Countyans to die during World War II and, in 1943, the Chariton City Council named a new lake known until then as "East Lake" in his honor. At the same time, they named the other "twin" lake --- sources of Chariton's water supply --- Lake Ellis in honor of U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Roy Ellis, of Williamson, who died on June 11, 1942, when his B-24 Bomber was shot down in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska.

The commemorative sign that honors Morris will be placed at Lake Morris's north shore access during a program scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11. All will be welcome to attend.

Both Don Evans, Lyle's nephew, who lives on the Micronesian island of Yap in the southwest Pacific and is the prime mover behind the sign project, and Patrick Ranfranz of Wisconsin, founder of the Missing Air Crew project, will be present.

The Morris family, led by Don, funded the project and Ranfranz aided in research, then took the lead in design and production. He and his wife, Cherie, will drive the sign down from Wisconsin on the 11th. Don will arrive in Humeston, his hometown, earlier in the week. He is a son of the late Harold and Flora (Morris) Evans. Lyle's brother, Dale, now 89, still is living --- in Oregon --- but will be unable to attend. Other family members will be there, however.

As part of the Lake Morris project, Don and Pat also produced the design for a similar sign honoring Roy Ellis. But that is a project that would need separate funding in order to be realized.

Don and Pat, who have worked as a team on this, became acquainted through Pat's work with the Missing Air Crew Project, which he founded to search for his missing uncle, T/Sgt. John R. McCullough, one of 10 "Coleman Crew" members shot down by a Japanese fighter over Yap Island on June 25, 1944.

The project expanded to research, document, memorialize and locate all Americans missing in action near Yap Island --- hundreds of men assigned to 35 planes. The sign that will be placed at Lake Morris is patterned after interpretive signs placed on Yap as part of that project. You can read more about this project here. 

And here's Pat, holding the sign that soon will be installed east of Chariton.

I've written here earlier about Lyle Morris. including What's in a Name: Lakes Morris & Ellis, and Lyle Morris's Medals, Darold Braida's Combat Boots.