On the election of Grant and Colfax, in
November, 1868, the Republicans of Monroe County held an enthusiastic
jollification in Albia. Wm. Davis, a negro barber who had been brought up from
the South at the close of the war, was called on for a speech. He mounted a
platform, and in the course of his remarks recounted his experience and
hardships as a slave on a Southern plantation. He spoke of his adventures as a
Union soldier, and, later, his experience as a citizen of the Union. His remarks
were loudly cheered by the crowd.
Several negro children were brought and sent to Monroe County in 1864-5. These first arrivals considerably ruffled the feelings of those who entertained pronounced scruples against the mingling of the two races. It is related that one day, while passing the residence of Wm. Welsh, just south of town, R. E. Robinson, a gentleman residing in Monroe Township, saw a couple of negro children playing in the yard. The spectacle was overwhelming to the honest farmer. It called up in his mind a long train of evil consequences resulting from the emancipation of the black race. The spectacle was premonition of the debasement and ultimate coalescence of the two races. It was a public day of some kind, and there was a long train of farmer's wagons behind. Mr. Robinson arose in his vehicle and addressed the crowd in an animated and eloquent oration. He called upon his friends to note the degradation which the emancipation of the slave had entailed upon a superior race, in the humiliating spectacle before them.
Hugh McQueen was another youth sent up from the South. He bore but a faint trace of African blood, which was seldom detected. He was something of a beau among the young ladies of Monroe Township, and it was not generally known that he was of African descent. Andrew Stamm, an Iowa soldier, in some way got possession of the boy while he was a slave in the South. He found him sitting on a fence and the boy either followed him voluntarily or was coaxed away.
On August 31, 1868, a hickory pole of
prodigious height was reared in Albia by the local Democracy, as a symbol of the
"Old Hickory" or Jacksonian type of Democracy. It was during the
campaign when Seymour and Blair were the Presidential standard bearers of the
Democratic party. It was jointed, and the sections secured by iron bands. A year
later one Davis, a Democrat who had invested a dollar in the pole, and who
therefore claimed to be a joint stockholder, cut the pole down for fire wood.
In the Sentinel of 1860, in an article descriptive of early times, J. T. Young tells the following incident:
"Standing in a small grove of timber near the east line of the township, and owned by old Mr. Gillespie, who sold it to its present owner, Thomas Hickenlooper, is a log cabin. The grove is composed of a thick growth of small saplings and underbrush. A long time ago, it is said, a panther made his home in this dark and secluded spot. His screams were heard at night by friend J. W. McIntyre, who lived about a mile from the grove.
"The animal would occasionally sally forth to some neighboring sheep pen, ten rails high (and such rails as Mr. Lincoln never split), take one of the fattest sheep, and make off with it as easily as a cat would carry a mouse. Mr. Panther went to Milton McIntyre's sheep pen one night, picked up a sheep, and made off with it, when he was beset by the dog. This raised Milton's spunk, and he gathered a club and made at the panther, which fled and was never seen again."
The legendary panther, or "painter," as it was usually termed in the vernacular of the pioneer settlers, was an animal the very mention of whose name spread terror in the hearts of children, a few housewives, and not a few timid men.
While it was generally regarded as an animal of great ferocity, there is no record of its ever having attacked any one. Nobody ever saw a dead panther, and the phantom form of the live animal was never calmly viewed by mortal gaze, save only by an occasional furtive glance while the "painter" crossed some dark, secluded path in the forest. In fact about the only tangible proof of the existence of the "painter" was the very abundant auricular evidence of hearing the animal's blood curdling screams by night. The scream is said to be not very unlike that of a terrified woman.
These screams, which terrified whole neighborhoods, can be heard
almost any night in the forests. They are uttered by a very small owl, between
the size of a screech owl and that of a large horned owl. It is about the size
of a pigeon, and has no "horns" on its head. The real panther does not
scream, but utters a sharp, prolonged screech. It is about the size of a dog,
and very shy and cowardly.
It is quite probable that there were a few of these animals passing through the forests at times, but it was the common wild cat that so often became confounded with the panther.
The wild cat is about the size of a small dog, and is of a gray color, marked with small specks. It has a large head, small ears, and a short tail. It is very destructive to young pigs, lambs, and poultry. It was abundant in the forests of Monroe County, but soon disappeared on the advent of settlers.
If the animal were a large specimen, and the beholder's imagination vivid, he raised the report that he had seen a "painter." The "painter," however, was a sort of Satyr of some utility to the settlers. If a settler knew of a fine patch of wild blackberries which he wished to save for his own use, he circulated a story that the "painter" had been seen or heard in the vicinity, and the berries would be unmolested.
The Canada lynx was another animal allied to the wild cat which occasionally passed through a neighborhood. It was a little larger that the wild cat, and had long, pointed ears and a short tail. Its fur was marked with larger spots. It was probably the real prototype of the "painter."
Wild game in those days was quite plentiful in Monroe County. Deer were quite common in the '60s, and up to about 1870 one or more might be seen passing through the county. They were the common Virginia deer of the West and South.
The bear and bison had been extinguished long before by the Indians, and the writer has no knowledge of any bears having been found by white settlers, save one, which was killed on one of the Avery creeks long ago, by Butler Delashmut and others, of Eddyville.
Wild turkeys were once abundant in the forests, but of late years have become all but extinct. Occasionally one is still seen in the woods, but probably within a half dozen
years there will not be one in the county. Twenty years ago the
fields and prairies swarmed with prairie chickens. They usually hatched in
Minnesota and farther north, and came southward in September and remained until
June. They congregated in immense flocks, and hunting them was a great delight
to the sportsman. Occasionally a small flock is still seen in the winter season.
Wild geese, ducks, and other water fowl are also transient guests, and alight occasionally in ponds, while passing.
Squirrels are still plentiful in some localities within the county, but they, too, are destined to go, forever, with the ultimate destruction of the forests. There are two varieties, the gray and the fox squirrel. The latter is a little the larger.
There are a few raccoons, and the skunk is still plentiful and keeps on amicable terms with man. The badger has become extinct, and the prairie wolf has about become so. The timber wolf was a larger species, but was never numerous.
The circular wolf hunt of thirty years ago was one of the grandest fete days in the county. The settlers would set out on some appointed day, and converge to some previously arranged center, designated by a pole. They would blow their horns, ring bells, and discharge fire arms as they traveled along, and a certain hour all would surround the pole in a solid phalanx. Here no guns were allowed, and any wild animals caught within the circle were dispatched by dogs. The usual catch of these hunts was a few skunks and occasionally a fox.
There are two varieties of fox, the gray and the red fox. They are few in number.
Rabbits are still plentiful, and as they are capable of rapid increase, they will remain a long time. The ground hog, or woodchuck, inhabits the woods and is quite plentiful.
The prairie gray squirrel belongs to the marmot or woodchuck family, and dwells on the prairie. A smaller species, known as striped squirrels, or chipmunks, infest the woods, and in the meadows are found still another variety, also striped. These two species are about the size of a small rat.
The pocket gopher is disappearing rapidly. The otter has long since disappeared, but the mink and musk rat are still denizens of the county.
The rattlesnake is the only poisonous snake
in the county.
There are still a few pheasants, and an abundance of quails. The wild pigeon, once so numerous, is now extinct.
In February, 1880, the coal miners working in
the Albia Coal Company mines, at Cedar Creek just west of Albia, who were out on
strike, were replaced by negroes.
Henry Miller, president of the company, conceived the idea of trying to operate the mines by negroes. He went to Missouri and secured a force of raw negroes, and put them to work in the mines. They learned the trade rapidly, and made a good livelihood for themselves and their families, and were less inclined to place the interests of their employers in jeopardy by strikes.
The striking white miners, however, on finding their places taken by the blacks, assumed a threatening attitude towards the latter, and doubtless blood would have been shed if the company of militia stationed at Albia had not appeared upon the scene to repress any outbreak. On Saturday night, of February 21st, the negroes were fired upon by the strikers. The negroes returned the fire, but no one was hurt. These were the first colored miners that came into the Monroe County mines.
The Deep Snow
"The deep snow" represents a period
in the chronology of pioneer times, from which all old settlers reckon
dates - as, for instance, three years before "the deep snow" the
contest over the county seat occurred; or, the first school house in the county
was built five years before "the deep snow," or in 1844. Likewise the
first marriage occurred in this year, being that of Nelson Wescoatt and May
Searcy. Three months later the bride died of fever. Or, if the settler wishes to
recall the period when horse stealing was prevalent in the county, he will say
that it was the winter after "the deep snow," or in 1850. The event
itself occupies the same relationship to local pioneer chronology that Noah's
flood does to Christian chronology, or the flood of Deucalion to the chronology
of Greek mythology.
The snow began to fall about the first of December, 1848, and continued until April 6, 1849. The snow was three feet
deep on the level, and it was very severe on both domestic as
well as wild animals. Large numbers of deer were caught when a crust had formed
on the surface of the snow, which impeded the speed of the animals, but enabled
the dogs to pursue them on the surface without breaking through.
In passing through the forest of the present day, one will occasionally meet with a decaying monument of this memorable snow, in the form of stumps of trees cut during the winter of the snow, when the axman walked on the surface, borne up by the crust. These stumps usually stand about six feet in height, and have often attracted curiosity in those who do not recall the incident of "the deep snow."
The first settlers of the county were mostly
of American birth; but not long afterwards a colony of Germans settled on Coal
Creek, in a locality sometimes alluded to as "Dutch Ridge." This
locality was originally one of the most barren and unpromising regions in the
county. It was composed of white oak soil, covered with underbrush and dense
growths of saplings. Just why the prudent, thrifty German should have selected
this region was always a mystery to the native settler. The German always had
plenty of money, and he could have had his pick of the land. What was still more
surprising, he thrived and prospered on this wild "Dutch Ridge."
laid up money and improved his farm, while the native settler, located in the
garden spots of the county, scarcely made a living.
There were the Hertzers, the Mertzes, the Wiemans, the Landsbergers, the Steinbergers, the Manleys, and others. They were a hardy, industrious, and law abiding community, and have transmitted to posterity an equally creditable class of citizens in the present generation.
For many years, Philip Hertzer, or "old Dutch Philip," as his many friends have affectionately styled him, was, by a sort of universal reverence, acknowledged to be the chief counselor of the colony, or a sort of "burgomaster."
These Germans never took any special interest in local politics, and during every political canvass in the county the "Dutch Ridge" became a much coveted vineyard to the stump speaker. They were fond of their beer, and when the State prohibitory law was enacted, the inhabitants of "Dutch Ridge" became disgusted with the Republican party, and withdrew their allegiance to it.
Whenever a party leader desired to augment
the strength of his party in the county, he considered it highly necessary to
establish diplomatic relations with "Dutch Philip." Then, on election
day, the Germans would be out in force. "Dutch Philip" would be their
counselor, and Judge Hilton and Tom Baldwin, each representing his respective
party, might be seen wreathed in seductive smiles, bestowing their blandishments
upon the apparently enraptured German voters, and incidentally setting forth the
merits of their respective parties. The good natured and sagacious German
usually listened with an expression of well affected interest and profound
deference, but before either party champion could get his man started towards
the ballot box with the proper ballot snugly folded within his vest pocket, the
latter could invariably be seen meandering behind the school house in company
with "Dutch Philip."
The Irishman is always the first on the ground every where. There is no place under the sun where you will not find him. He forges to the front, not only in a geographical sense, but in a social and political one as well. If a public policy is to be consummated, and Irishman pushes it through; if a sortie or charge is to be made, or a forlorn hope led into the death valley of an enemy's guns, an Irishman is at the head. He has done everything for the advancement of other nations, and nothing for his own little down trodden isle. He is an Irishman for Ireland as long as he lives on the isle, but as soon as he steps ashore at Castle Garden he becomes and American citizen at heart, and really does not require the naturalization act of courts, which he avails himself of as soon as the prescribed term of residence is up. On landing, he immediately discards his nice, neat moleskin knee breeches and high hat, and dons a pair of blue overalls, takes up a shovel, a peddler's pack, or a policeman's "billy," and goes to work. He attends all political meetings, and votes the Democratic ticket as soon as he gets his naturalization papers - and sometimes before. When he becomes a citizen, he does not waste his energies in sentimental and equally futile attempts to redeem his own unhappy native isle from its thralldom. Deep in his heart he feels her unhappy condition, but he feels that his labors and statesmanship in the new world are of too high a value to be interrupted by a sentiment that cannot be realized, or a dream that can never be fulfilled.
The west half of Monroe County is largely
settled by Irishmen. Their farms are all well cultivated, and yield their owners
a comfortable living. Like the Germans, they selected a wild, broken region for
their homes; but this more readily accounted for by the fact that they came to
Monroe County with small means and were obliged to select cheaper lands. Most of
the Irish vote the Democratic ticket.
Notwithstanding the rural disadvantages which many of the neighborhoods of this Irish colony possess, most of the brightest young professional men of Monroe County are either Irishmen or the sons of Irishmen. The O'Bryans, the Carrs, the Richmonds, The Nichols, Ed. Morrison, Jas. M. Robb, and A. J. Cassady, and others, are of the legal profession; and Ed. A. Canning, while a prominent citizen and highly valued public official, may yet turn his attention to jurisprudence and become a successful lawyer with the rest.
The extensive development of the mining industry within the county has of late years invited other nationalities into our midst. A large majority of the miners - say three-fourths - are Welsh and English. The remaining fourth is made up of Americans, Swedes, and a few Italians, French, Scotch, and Belgians. There are no Irish miners, and but a few Germans. The Dutchman will not venture into the dark, and the Irishman always wants to be on top. The English and Welsh miners are the most successful miners, as for centuries the calling has been hereditary with them. There is but slight national distinction between them. The English are from Durham and Cornwall.
Methods of Farming
When the early settlers began to till the
virgin soil of Monroe County, each farmer adopted the methods of his own
particular State. The "Pennsylvania Dutchman," accustomed to the
rocky, loose soil of Pennsylvania, brought with him his monster cast iron plow.
It would not "scour" in our Western soil, so he discarded it with many
The New England Yankee's methods were quite unique, and greatly amused the "Hoosier," the "Sucker," and the Kentuckian. The prairie soil was decidedly different from that of the Eastern States, and it required several year's experience for the husbandman to get started on the right track.
In the earlier period flax was a staple crop. It was
cultivated exclusively for the fiber. About the time the plant
was in bloom, the farmer's wives and daughters would go into the fields and pull
up the flax by the roots. It was then soaked in water for awhile, to bleach.
Then it was hauled in and placed in larger bunches, where it was allowed to
"rot" - i. e., the woody part beneath the bark or fiber was
allowed to decay. The the farmer would "break" it. A
"flax break" was a rudely constructed appliance for breaking the woody
portion of the flax. It consisted of an oak frame five or six feet in length and
about two feet wide, and supported on four legs. Within this frame, and placed
parallel and extending the long way of the frame, were a series of wooden bars,
an inch or two apart, with sharpened edges. Then upon the upper side of this
frame, were a series of wooden bars, and inch or two apart, with sharpened
edges. Then upon the right side of this frame, and hinged to it, was another
frame constructed the same as the lower one, the edges of its bars mashing into
the space between the lower bars when the upper frame was shut down against the
latter. The farmer would then raise the upper frame with one hand, place a bunch
of flax crosswise on the lower frame of the "break," and then thrust
the upper frame or hinged lid down upon the flax. This movement was repeated
until the stalk of the flax was crushed and broken into small particles, the
fiber or bark remaining uninjured by the operation.
In this state it was passed to the housewife, who ran it through the "hackle" to remove the bits of woody material. The "hackle" was a board about ten inches wide and about fifteen inches long. Sharp pointed nails were driven through this board about half an inch from each other over the entire surface. The wife would draw the flax through this "hackle" handful by handful, when it was finally ready to be spun in thread or "filling." It was then ready for the loom. Every dutiful housewife could operate a loom in those days, and a young lady who was not accomplished in spinning and weaving was shunned by the matrimonially inclined young men, and usually lived an old maid.
Weaving was always a medium of exchange, and it was no uncommon thing for the young wife, in embarking on life's voyage, to do weaving for a yoke of oxen for her young husband. The writer's mother did weaving for a quantity of corn, at ten cents per bushel. She wove at the rate of about fifteen cents a yard. We are not quite certain but that she wove the cloth for her prospective husband's flax
wedding breeches, for the fabric showed that especial care had
been expended on it. The cloth thus made was very coarse, and of a greenish gray
color. The greatest objection to it was that it never wore out. If we mistake
not, our first pants were constructed out of a discarded pair of parental
trousers, doubtless those which did such excellent service on the marriage
occasion already spoken of.
After the lapse of a few years, the settlers began to raise sheep, and to convert the wool into cloth. If the cloth was constructed solely of wool, it was called "jeans"; but if the "chain" was composed of cotton or flax, it was called "linsey." The ladies preferred linsey for their wearing apparel, as it was of a little finer texture, say 700 threads of warp to the yard.
In 1860 John Young (father of Josiah T. Young) and sons started a woolen factory at Albia. A short time later they put in "carding" machinery, which was a great convenience to the settlers. The factory burned in 1862, but in 1866 it was rebuilt and operated by Wallace & Rambo for several years.
Some of the prominent families of early days affected certain colors in homespun flannel. These family colors were a sort of "coat of arms" in the family. For instance, the flannel and jeans worn by the family of Elias Fisher in Urbana Township was a dark walnut brown interspersed with streaks of yellow, something like a tiger's skin. The house of Noland was represented by a butternut brown. All old timers will remember the long tailed butternut coat of Doster Noland, garnished with large white bone buttons. When this eminent veterinary surgeon moved to Missouri, he wore the big coat, and is doubtless wearing it yet, if alive. The Hayes, Baldwins, and Whites, all being related, had one common family color. It was a kind of checked arrangement, broad bands of red and narrow streaks of the same color, with a blue background. "Rich" Hayes still clings to this color. He is still alive, and some years ago sold his farm in Monroe Township, and moved to Missouri and got religion. The family color of the Haller family was a sky blue jeans color marked with still lighter colored bars or streaks. Mose Haller, the patriarch of the family, still lives at Selection, in Monroe Township. He has lost his eyesight, but can hear distinctly, and recognizes everybody by their voices. He keeps well posted on all that transpires in the neighborhood.
Probably the very first implement for tilling
the soil was the heavy hoe. Many of the early settlers, as we have before
stated, emigrated from Indiana, and Indiana was largely settled by Kentuckians;
hence many of the early settlers of Monroe County were of Kentucky stock. The
were proficient in the use of the hoe, and had to be, perforce of necessity, as
they were dependent upon it for their "Johnny cake." The Southern
pioneer could not "go wheat bread," and if placed on a diet of wheat
bread, he got all out of sorts, and lost faith in the country, and had no desire
The early farmers did not produce anything for market except hogs, and these had to be driven to Keokuk or Alexandria to market. The pioneer hog was vastly superior to the modern porker in intellect and correspondingly inferior in all other points. He was called the "hazel splitter," and was a long legged, big headed, sharp backed animal, that could run like a race horse and hold his own among wolves and wild cats. He was usually of a "sandy" color, and spent his time in the woods from May to December, and not unfrequently shifting for himself all winter. He subsisted mainly on roots and nuts, and late in the fall he fattened on burr oak acorns. All the farmer had to do, when his hogs grew fat enough for market, was to capture them, and this was sometimes as thrilling an experience as a wolf hunt in Siberia. One fall the writer's grandfather sold an old sow to Captain Wilson, who drove her, with several hundred others, to Burlington, a distance of one hundred miles. The next spring or summer the identical sow came home to see her pigs from which she had been heartlessly separated the fall before. She walked all the distance, and was lean and haggard when she arrived. She made her escape from Burlington. She was again delivered to Mr. Wilson, the drover.
Every farmer had his "ear marks" registered in the County Judge's office, and by means of ear marks every person was enabled to identify his own hogs from those of his neighbors. The "ear marks" of no two person could be alike, and he whose ear marks had been registered took precedence over others in a dispute.
The forests contained herds of wild hogs which had strayed from their owners or succeeded in evading capture.
These were hunted with dogs, and were exterminated in a few
Among the first plows used for breaking wild sod were the "bar share" plow and the Carey plow. The latter seemed to be the favorite. The "bar share" plow consisted of an iron plate lying flat on the ground with a wooden mold board slanting slightly from its middle. In the Carey plow the rear end of this iron plate turned up behind and formed a part of the mold board.
Then came the long beamed break plow, already described in a previous chapter, and which every person who has passed the residence of John Massey, south of Albia, during the last twenty five years, has noticed leaning against the front yard fence. Some months ago the writer, in passing, had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Massey's son, Ressie, plowing with this relic of a past generation. He was scouring it along the right of way of the railroad by way of preparing it for farming purposes.
After the ground had first been broken with the big prairie plow, the ground in later years was turned over by the "diamond" plow or "stirring" plow; and when the corn was planted and ready for cultivation, a small one horse "diamond" plow was at first used; then came the "single shovel," and next the "double shovel," and along about 1870 the modern "cultivator" was introduced. This plow required two horses, and actually plowed a row of corn in one trip, instead of going up one side of the row and returning on the other side, as was done with the "double shovel." The farmer doubted the utility of the "cultivator," it professed to do too much - plowed a row of corn in just half the time required by the "double shovel"; and when some fellow devised one on which the plowman could ride, the inventor was regarded as a wild dreamer or lunatic.
Reaping implements went through the same gradual transition. First came the small semicircular "reap hook." This was the implement of the mountains and hills of the South and of the East, where there were but small patches of grass or grain, growing among rocks an dim narrow valleys.
As the Western farmer's field of grass became larger, a speedier instrument was evolved, in the form of a scythe, and for grain the "cradle" was invented. These, too, were at length superseded by the two horse mower for grass, and
the old fashioned Manna and McCormick hand rake reapers for
grain; these were considered miracles of inventive genius. Finally the
"self rake" reaper and mower combined was brought out, and it was
thought that perfection was attained. A machine cost $175 or $200.
In about the year 1870 the Marsh harvester was invented. It was a ponderous machine, requiring four horses and three men to run it. It had a platform, on which two men rode and bound the grain as it was delivered from a canvas carrier, something similar to those now used on self binders. The machine proved a failure. It was too heavy, and if the ground was soft, it would not work at all. It was the antecedent of the self binder of the present day.
To see the modern self binder as it lightly sails around through the grain fields, doing its work to perfection in grain in all conditions, one naturally wonders if it, too, will in time be supplanted by a machine of higher perfection. It does not seem susceptible of further improvement. It is light running, and is constructed of steel, to insure strength and a reduction of weight.
The development of the live stock industry, and the consequent increase in the acreage of tame grass, has led to the adoption of superior machinery for the handling of hay. Most of the hay in the county is stacked and handled by means of stackers and loaders.
There is an alternating law in agriculture by which prices of farm products rise and fall periodically, and the careful study of which enables the shrewd farmer to make money, even in times of financial depression. It cannot be better demonstrated than by a citation to the live stock industry. About the year 1892 the bottom suddenly dropped out of the cattle market. For some years a surplus cattle had been gradually accumulating. The famine of that time precipitated a crisis in prices, and the country was gorged with an overplus of unmarketable cattle.
Prices ranged so low that everybody grew discouraged and hastened to get rid of their stock at ruinously low prices. People quit raising cattle, and very few had the foresight to realize that at that particular time the farmer should be using his utmost efforts to replenish his herds in anticipation of a shortage. The shortage at length came, and prices were up, and are up at the present date. Just at the time when the cattle market had gone to pieces, horses com-
manded a fair price. The cowman then turned his attention to
raising horses, with the result that at present the horse market is as greatly
depressed as the cattle market was some years ago. The farmers have quit raising
horses, and in a few years there will be a brisk demand for good horses at fair
prices. Thus the markets are subject to a rise and fall as certain in their
recurrence as the ebb and flow of tides.
The farmers of Monroe County are in a reasonable degree prosperous. None are so poor but that they know where the next meal is to come from. None are so hard pressed that they have not the means to clothe themselves and their families and have a change of apparel for Sunday wear. Many are growing wealthy, and the vast majority of them live in comfort and enjoy the envious reputation of being honest, intelligent, and respected above all other vocations in life.
The farmer of the country constitutes the keystone in the arch of local prosperity. The dweller of the town feels an unfeigned admiration for him and his family, and although his exterior polish may not be so dazzling, or his wife's and daughter's dress so stylish as that of the city lady, his and their general esteem weighs as much as the attainments of the other in the social scale.
The farmer boy has outgrown those rural distinctions which once built a brush fence between himself and the social world. Better roads, the bicycle, the "covered buggy" and fast team, increased population, railroads, rural churches, the increase of country villages, and the later improvements in the common school system have all combined to bring him out into the open "clearing." When once out, and he gets his bearings, he forges to the front. It is a curious fact that most of our county officers were from the country. The same is true of the Monroe County bar. The country offers better encouragement to the growth and development of the mind. No checks are placed on its growth through idleness, social abstractions, or through the still more pernicious effect of evil associations and intemperance.
Roads and Road Working
The highways of Monroe County are at present mostly located on established lines. The first roads, like the "trail" of the Indians, ran straight, regardless of divisional lines.
The main design was to "get there," and with this very laudable end in view, the people traveled in as straight lines as the character of the surface would permit. At one time the settler respected the course of those pioneer highways, and did not deign to set the road out on the line, as long as all his land was not fenced. Later, when he found it necessary to do this, the changing of the road was attended by bitter remonstrances from his neighbors. Every man wanted the road to remain just where it was first located, except when it cut through his own farm, when he assumed the right to "throw it out" on the line. If the new route was rough and crossed a stream, the farmer making the change was expected by an unwritten code of honor to put in the bridge partly himself, and, with the friends of the new road, work gratis the route to render it passable for teams. Many of the highways throughout the country are but 40 feet in width, but of later years 60 feet has been prescribed as the proper width, and the Board of Supervisors will not establish a highway of less width.
The highways are kept in repair by means of public labor levied in form of a tax. Every able bodied citizen between the age of 21 and 45 years is required to perform two days' labor in payment of a poll tax of $3.00; in addition to this poll tax, he pays a property tax in labor, levied on his taxable property; and in addition to these, he is liable to a small cash levy, which tax must be paid in cash, with which to purchase material, implements, etc., for highway purposes. Of course he has the privilege to pay his poll and property tax in cash, or of employing a substitute to do the work.
Formerly the poll tax was fixed at $1.50, but it was doubled with the expectation that more labor would be expended. Notwithstanding the doubling of the time required, about the same amount of actual labor was bestowed upon the roads, until the advent of the grader. Under the old method, the roads were worked twice in a season, usually in May and September. The farmer was "warned" out on a fixed date, to appear with a team or some suitable implement at 8 o'clock. He put in his appearance anywhere between 8 and 12. Sometimes he came with an old hoe, an ax, hatchet, or anything that might be construed as coming under the head of an "implement." Sometimes he did not bring anything, and beguiled the time in holding the handle of a plow for a few moments between
long intervals, or in loading scrapers and sitting on the ground to await the return of the empty scraper. The squad was under the direction of the Road Supervisor, but whenever his official's back was turned, the men repaired to a shady fence corner to crack jokes, argue politics or religion, or talk horse; on the reappearance of the Supervisor, they resumed work. If a tree were to be chopped down, a grub removed, or a culvert to mend, the Supervisor had to do the work, while the men dropped their tools and gathered around to inspect the work and offer suggestions as to the proper mode of doing it.
If a man has any bodily infirmities, he is exempt from the poll tax, but not from the property tax. He appears promptly on the date set to work the roads, armed with a physician's certificate of disability. Being an invalid, he escapes the poll tax, but labors day after day until he has "worked out" his property tax at the customary rate of $1.50 per day, or $3.00 with a team.
Of late years road working as a diversion or source of social rural enjoyment has been greatly improved on by the introduction of the grader. Everybody now rides on the grader. The seat alone is wide enough to accommodate three men, and each may hold a pair of lines attached to his own team. Six horses pull the grader, and the Supervisor stands behind the drivers and operates the levers and otherwise commands the machine. One or two men usually act as grooms or footmen to accompany the equipage in case the teams do not act nicely, and two or three men with a road plow do a little plowing at the roadside at certain intervals during the day. One man holds the plow handles, another drives the team, and if there is a third one who could be accommodated on the grader, he "beams" the plow - i.e., sits on the beam to force the nose of the plow deeper into the ground.
Then the man with the hoe is supposed to get in his work. He traverses the entire length of the road district, and chops up noxious weeds, such as burdock, "bull" thistles, and cockle burs. If he runs out of these before quitting time, he chops dog fennel or anything he comes across, because his job is considered a "soft" one, and he may be assigned to something less congenial.
The job next in degree of "softness" to that enjoyed by the man with the hoe is the hunting up of the road scraper
or plow. These are always at the other end of the district when the men want to work, and some man has to go after them with a team and wagon. It takes at least a half day to find them, as they have to be tracked from house to house, and, when found, usually have to go to the blacksmith shop for repairs, at the public expense, as they have been passed around among the farmers to serve in scooping out ponds, scraping up manure, etc., until some fellow breaks them, when they are left on the spot to be hunted up by the Supervisor in road working time. The Road Supervisor is forbidden to loan these implements, but the order is seldom, if ever, strictly obeyed. If, however, the Supervisor declines to allow his neighbors the use of them, his refusal is looked upon as a high handed usurpation of official power.
Within recent years there has been considerable talk of improving the public roads, but there is no feasible way of doing so, other than by the efficient use of the grader and proper drainage. Paving is out of the question, as there is no available supply of material within easy reach.
The iron bridge has not yet been introduced, but doubtless will be ere long.
Fashions, Dress, and Love Making
Monroe County was never so far outside the pale of civilization as to render wearing apparel superfluous, although it is said that many of the children of the "Hairy Nation" ran naked in the summer time and barefooted all the year round. Every one who was not afraid of the rattlesnakes went barefoot in the summer. The young ladies turned their feet out to grass, say the last of May, and kept them on it until about the middle of September or the first of October, and from then on throughout the winter wore their Sunday shoes. When they walked for miles to "meeting" on Sundays, those who were most careful and prudent took off their shoes and stockings and cooled their shapely white feet in the dust until nearing the meeting house, when they would slip to the roadside, give their feet a few "swipes" in the tall grass to remove the dust, and replace their shoes. Many a stately dame in the county today could testify to this from experience if she would - and why should she not? It was no discredit.
The men and boys began to go barefooted a little earlier in the season, say as soon as grass came. Shoes were
not worn by the men at that time, nor for years later, as articles of dress. The coarse boot was worn throughout the week, and the more fastidious young men indulged in light calfskin boots, with high, narrow heels, for Sunday wear. If these boots had attractive fancy tops, the dude of those days wore his pants stuffed inside of them, and sat on the front row of "puncheons" at meeting, with his legs crossed at a conspicuous height, much to the admiration of the fair sex.
Among the "mashers" of those days were Colonel Dan Anderson, Anson Rowles, Wm. Webb, Jake Webb, Bob Gordon and others. Gordon finally became insane, and one day disappeared and was never again seen.
Colonel Dan Anderson lived to attain considerable distinction in after years as a public man, in both civil and military capacities, as well as a successful attorney, and at one time he was favorably mentioned in the local papers as a gubernatorial candidate. But with all the gallant Colonel's fame and prowess in later years, he was not "in touch" with the good graces of his sweetheart's parents, at the time when, like Daniel of old, he began to receive visions (visions of the matrimonial state). The girl was willing, but the old folks were not. In Missouri they could get married without a license, and without the expenditure of the unavoidable license fee, which in all cases had to be paid in advance. The young Adonis procured a "covered" buggy, at that time a rare luxury, and his sweetheart rolled up her "Sunday go to meetin' dress" in a bundle, together with her "hoops," and doubtless other bleached muslin articles of female apparel essential to a bridal trousseau. The bundle was concealed in the prairie grass near the roadside, on the outskirts of the village, and the lovelorn swain drove round, ostensibly to give the girl a short buggy ride. They then made "lickety split" for the Missouri line, were married, and had the license fee saved with which to go to housekeeping.
While the prevailing fashions in dress, in those days, would appear quaint now, they were no more outlandish than at present. While the dame of thirty years ago incased her lower limbs in a prodigious hoopskirt, the belle of the present day lavishes this same superabundance of material on her arms, and lets her legs get along as best they can, with nothing of greater consequence than a mere skirt. Like inflammatory rheumatism sometimes does, the style has simply
shifted from legs to the arms, and it cannot very well be helped. The big sleeves of today do not appear to be sustained by means of hoops or a wire frame work; neither are they stuffed. The material is starched stiffly, and their puff is preserved by means known only to the wearer.
The "sky scraper" bonnet was an institution of a little earlier antiquity, but was worn by some as late as the pioneer period of Monroe County. Then came the "shaker" made of straw or palm leaf. It somewhat resembled a calico sunbonnet in form, except that it was narrower. It looked a little like a sugar scoop. They did not have any tails on them when purchased, and the first thing the purchaser had to do, on buying one, was to sew a tail to it, composed of cloth. Its beauty was ephemeral, as it soon lost its whiteness. The ladies kept it pretty well bleached by frequent baptism in a jar of buttermilk. Another way to bleach it was to place it near the top, inside an inverted barrel; then they smoked it all day with sulphur fumes. The odor of the sulphur remained with the "shaker," but this was not objected to in society, as sulphur and the odor from it was reckoned a safeguard against the prairie itch in those days. From that day to this, the bonnets, both great and small, have come and gone, each year witnessing some strange mutation in style, and bringing with the change fresh joys and gladsome smiles to the wearer.
After the linsey period, came the woolen mill, which enabled the settlers to exchange their wool for cloth manufactured at the factory and of a little handsomer appearance. Casinet was a heavy cloth for masculine wear, composed partly of wool and partly of cotton. It wore like buckskin.
A calico dress was the one thing altogether lovely in the eyes of the pioneer maiden. It cost from 25 to 50 cents per yard, but most of the well to do ladies managed to secure one for Sunday wear, or in which to array herself when circus day came. Many a poor girl, as noble and handsome as the fairest queen of earth, has wept until her eyes were red because she did not have a nice calico dress to wear to meeting, or in which to entertain her beau on Sunday night.
The acquirement of a pair of hoops was not so difficult a matter. If her father refused to invest in a pair of "store" hoops, the maiden went into the forest and selected a graceful grape vine, and improvised a pair of hoops, which, to all external appearances, were fully up to the highest pinnacle of the fashion.
About a dozen years ago the hoopskirt again made its appearance, but it had lost its old time rotundity, and was but the shadow of its former self. It soon disappeared; but some day it will rise again, to fly in the face of providence and tempt fate.
About twenty years ago the ladies conceived an infatuation for dress goods of a flaming color and marked in large figures like bed spread calico. It was called "Dolly Varden" dress goods. At another period, some years later, every girl wore spotted calico, called "polka dot," and a bevy of chattering, rollicking young ladies would look like a flock of guineas.
The "Mother Hubbard" is the greatest monstrosity of all. It haunts, like a specter, every lady's closet, but seldom walks forth in the broad light of day. For a while it made a bold, defiant effort to gain the street, but was soon relegated to the back yard, where it is occasionally seen scampering stealthily between the kitchen door and the wood pile or pump, but instantly vanishing within doors on the approach of an intruder. In appearance it resembles a bag of table salt of prodigious size, the gathering string at the top corresponding to the collar. Unhappily, the Mother Hubbard differs in one respect: it has no bottom in it, like the salt bag.
Courtship in those days was conducted under about the same underlying principles as now - i. e., the object to be obtained was marriage. The science was in a much more rudimentary state then, but the end seemed to justify the means. The process was sufficient unto the day, and every couple who were in the right frame of mind managed to strike up a match. They did it without buggy riding (there were no buggies then), without lawn tennis parties, without sipping lemonade through rye straws, or spooning at the ice cream table. They did not even have a sofa on which to sit on the veranda at late hours, when Cupid is supposed to lurk in the vicinity. The swain courted his sweetheart in the presence of her folks, because the cabin had but one room; and when the other members of the family wished to retire for the night, the lovers had to hold up a bed quilt between themselves and the beds, until the old folks were safely tucked in bed. The swain then told his story of love in the faint, wavering light of the tallow dip, and had to be brief about it, for the light was liable to go out at any moment. When they went to singing school, they rode horseback, if he had two
horses; if he had only one, and it carried double, he took her on behind and she hooked her arms around his waist to stick on. If they had to ride bareback, and encountered a steep hill to descend, they drew "Old Fan's" tail up over their shoulders, and, by holding on to it, avoided slipping forward over the animal's withers.
Thomas Smith, of Urbana Township, who died some years ago, used to relate his love making experience. He was fat and jolly, and it seems that the incident did not permanently blight his heart. He went by the irreverent appellation of "old Bean Smith."
He and old Sam Daal were rivals for the hand of the widow Vandever, who lived over the line in Missouri. It took a day or two to make the trip, and it was vitally important that both suitors should not make their calls on the same night, because there was but one room in the house, and the widow and her lover were obliged to sit up all night. There was neither straw stack nor a dwelling house near the widow Vandever's, and if both beaus called on the same date, one would have to go home, as there was no other place to lodge.
One night, a short time after "old Bean" had called, Daal shuffled in, not knowing that his rival was present. He was attired in his bare feet, as it was his custom to go barefooted on all occasions. There was a big rain that night, and the creek was up so high that the lover could not recross to return home. Both suitors sat up with the widow all night, but, as Smith arrived first, he held the "right of way," and did all the wooing, while Daal had to remain a silent spectator with his chin resting in his hands and his elbows supported on his knees. He was a "Pennsylvania Dutchman." About daylight he slowly raised his head and observed: "I like snapper better as c-o-o-n."
This confession seems to have been in conformity with the widow's own epicurean tastes, and as snapping turtles were abundant on the creek, the declaration went straight to her heart; for she married Dall shortly afterwards and the two subsisted happily on "snapper" for many years.
While in some respects the methods employed in pioneer courtship were of a tendency calculated to discourage the candidate, there were other phases of the process which in turn greatly facilitated the practitioners in ascertaining the "lay of the land," so far as any opposition from the girl's parents and brothers was concerned.
If the girl's father or brother put the young man's horse up and fed it, it was a tacit understanding all round that the matrimonial negotiations between the lovers had the hearty approval of the family; but if the poor animal was left hitched to the fence to shiver and freeze with cold, the young man took the hint, and either gave up the enterprise, or, in company with the girl, ran off to Missouri and got married in defiance of the old folks. Thus a young man did not have to encounter the modern disadvantages of uncertainty, and was able to lavish his affections and good money on the girl in an intelligent and definite manner. Nowadays he does not know which way "the cat is going to jump," until the invitation cards are out. He simply invests his money and affections and takes his chances, the same as when dallying with the wheel of fortune spindle.
After the young folks got married, the bride, if of a well to do family, furnished the feather tick and a quilted "comfort" or two, and usually one cow, which every girl on contemplating marriage "claimed" from her pa's herd as her property. The cow was usually well paid for by the young lady in the way of services rendered her pa by "dropping" corn, or hoeing sod corn, or performing some other field labor. The bridegroom usually supplied a horse, or, under more auspicious circumstances, a mare and colt. His mother usually gave him a pair of blankets, a straw tick, and sometimes a bedstead. These, together with a cook stove, a few dishes, and a pig or two, were about all a young married couple needed in the way of furniture for the first year; but invariably at or near the end of the year the young couple added to their collection of household utensils a rectangular box, mounted on the two semicircular halves of a barrel head, each placed transversely near either end of the box and nailed edgewise on the bottom.
The "wool picking" was a social event corresponding in some respects to the tea party of the present day, only the hostess did not resort to the preliminary formality of issuing invitation cards; she did not receive her guests in a satin gown, and the hour and minute when the guest were expected to depart were not stated, as on an invitation card.
When the guests had all assembled, the wool was placed in bunches upon the chairs. Chairs were usually of the "split bottom" variety - i. e., the bottoms were formed of strips of hickory or lind bark interwoven. (There was
always a handy man in every neighborhood who bottomed chairs.) Then the wool was beaten with sticks until it was loosened up, and the grit and dirt dropped down through the chair bottom. The guests then took it by small bunches and "picked" it with their fingers until the fibers were all loosely intermixed. While doing this, they chatted and gossiped just as ladies now do over their tea.
After being "picked" the wool was ready to be washed. It was usually taken to some clear pool of water of some neighboring stream, and, when placed in tubs of hot water, was tramped by barefooted boys until of a snowy white color, when it was taken to the carding machine, greased, and run into "rolls," or long loose ropes about the diameter of one's finger. These were then ready for the big spinning wheel, which was to be found in every well regulated family.
This wheel was a wooden circle, about five feet in diameter, and in the center of its periphery was a groove, in which ran a band or cord, which, acting as a belt in connection with the spindle, caused the latter to revolve with great rapidity when the wheel was put in motion. The housewife would moisten the end of the "roll" with her thumb and finger, place it in contact with the spindle, start the wheel by means of a short stick held in the hand, with which she struck a spoke of the wheel with a propelling movement. The wheel was made to revolve with great rapidity. The spindle, humming cheerfully, would twist the "roll" into a strand of yarn the length of the roll, when another roll was spliced on, and a continuous thread was thus spun.
The Hairy Nation
When the Lord confused the tongues at the building of the tower of Babel, a small colony, finding that they could not babble with and degree of satisfaction, concluded they would follow Horace Greeley's advice and "go west and grow up with the country." They departed in eight small vessels, which were "tight like unto a dish," as the report says. They finally landed on the New England coast, in the State of New York, where they grew into a great nation. They inhabited America for about fifteen hundred years, and were finally all destroyed for their wickedness about six hundred years before Christ. The prophet Esther wrote
their history. He lived to witness their entire destruction, and deposited his record where it was afterwards found by a colony of Jews, who came from Jerusalem six hundred years before Christ, to repeople America. This last colony were descendants of the tribe of Joseph. They increased rapidly, and finally became divided into two might nations. One of these nations was called the Nephites and the other the Lamanites, Nephi being the leader of one branch and Laman of the other.
The Lamanites were dark skinned, and did not take much to civil pursuits. They wore feathers down their backs, and bear claws as ornaments around their necks. They were coppery colored, and became skilled with the bow. The Nephites were fair complected, and received enlightenment. They were highly favored of the Lord, and received visions and the gift of prophecy, and finally were favored with a personal appearance of the Lord.
The two tribes got along nicely for a while, and by close application to study soon learned to talk in a language of their own. The children of these pioneer families learned the A B C's rapidly, and multiplied on the face of the earth. The two tribes finally drew the color line, and fell out. They began a war of extermination.
The Nephites occupied the lower portion of North America and Central America. Here they built the cities of Ottulum, Gadiandi, Gimgimno, and others, in the reign of King Jacobuggath the Second.
The old sunken city of Port Royal, on the Nicaragua coast, submerged far beneath the surface of the blue depths of the ocean, was one of these ancient cities; for, as the prophet Coriantimer said: "Behold, the great city of Zarahemla have I burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof. And behold, that great city of Moroni have I caused to be sunk into the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof to be drowned. And behold, the great city of Moronihah have I covered with earth, and the inhabitants thereof, to hide their iniquities and their abominations from before my face. The city of Gilgal have I caused to be sunk; yea, and the city of Onihah and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Mocum and the inhabitants thereof; and waters have I caused to come up in the stead thereof."
Mormon was a gentlemen who lived at that time and
wrote a history of his people. When he died, his son Moroni continued the records down to A. D. 1820, and then deposited them in a vault on a hillside, called Cumorah, in what is now Oneida County, Manchester Township, New York.
Here the records remained until Joseph Smith, in 1824, was directed to the spot by an angel of the Lord. The angel showed Smith the locality, but would not let him take them up until he has spent four years in prayer and fasting. Then in 1827 the angel escorted Joe to the spot and told him he might dig. Joe dug, and pried open the vault, and found two tablets of beaten gold containing Hebrew characters. "And lo! the angel of the Lord, who had previously visited him, again stood in his presence, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and the glory of the Lord shone around him."
Smith claimed further, that with the tablets he found two clear stones, corresponding to the urim and thummim of the Bible. These he looked through and translated the inscriptions from which he devised the "Book of Mormon," which contains the foregoing narrative.
The Nephites were all exterminated by the Lamanites. The Lamanites were the American Indians. Smith had previously found a pair of very clear pebbles, and the thought occurred to him to turn them into some account.
At about that time a gentleman named Spaulding, having visited the country of the Montezumas and made a study of Aztec and Toltec archeology, wrote a fictitious sketch, purporting to be a history of the early settlements of America, prior to the times of Columbus. Joe Smith stole the manuscript before Spaulding got it printed, and as soon as the latter died, he, with the aid of Sidney Rigdon, dressed it up into what they called the "Book of Mormon," on which is based the religion of the Mormon Church.
Later, the Mormons, under the leadership of Smith, were driven from place to place; and when they were expelled from Nauvoo, Ill., after the assassination of their prophet in the Carthage jail in 1846, they, under the leadership of their new prophet, Brigham Young, began their long march for the Salt Lake basin. While en route many stopped along the way to rest and raise a crop before continuing their wearisome journey. Some settled in Davis County, Iowa, while others settled in Monroe County and at Garden Grove, Lucas County, and other places in the West.
Those who settled in Davis County were called the "Hairy Nation," and the same appellation was applied to those who settled in Monroe County, in Mantua Township. While they had been Mormons, they apostatized when Young, the new leader and prophet, began to inculcate the doctrine of polygamy. It will be remembered that polygamy was not instituted in the church until Brigham Young was selected as their leader. Hence the "Hairy Nation" were never polygamous Mormons.