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Jesse Mohn, Heytman's Hollow

MOHN, BOARDMAN

Posted By: S. Ferrall - IAGenWeb volunteer
Date: 3/3/2022 at 16:03:12

The following news articles were transcribed by S. Ferrall
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1914

Justice J.A. Powers married his first couple Monday morning and he says they will stick till death do them part. The contracting parties were Jess Mohn and Miss Lillian, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Levi Boardman, of Heytman's.
~Allamakee Journal, Wednesday, June 3rd, 1914; pg 2
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Jess Mohn, living south of Heitman's on the river front, appeared before Justice Ericson Wednesday afternoon of last week to answer to the charge of manufacturing and dealing in moonshine. He plead not guilty, waived preliminary examination and was bound over to the District Court. Bail was fixed at $1,000, which he furnished.

~Allamakee Journal & Lansing Mirror, Wednesday, July 30, 1914; pg 4

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1924
State Agent E.V. Baldwin and Sheriff Ben Davis made a trip to the river font Friday and seized a still and five gallons of moonshine at the Jess Mohn place, a short distance below Heitmans. The defendant is to appear before Justice Ericson for preliminary examination to day, Tuesday.
~Allamakee Journal and Lansing Mirror, Wednesday, July 23, 1924; pg 4
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Jess Mohn, living south of Heitman's on the river font, appeared before Justice Ericson Wednesday afternoon of last week to answer to the charge of manufacturing and dealing in moonshine. He plead not guilty, waived preliminary examination and was bound over to the District Court. Bail was fixd at $1000, which he furnished.
~Allamakee Journal and Lansing Mirror, Wednesday, July 30, 1924; pg 4

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1967

Jess Mohn's A Fresh Air Man
Where Better Than Ol' Miss?

By Robert C. Gehl (La Crosse Tribune Staff Writer)

Lansing, Iowa - Jesse (Jess) Mohn, 78, truly fits the description "river rat" aptly given people who live on the river most of their lives.

Jesse batches it in a one-room unpainted shack down in a hollow surrounded by high bluffs on three sides and open to the wide river under a railroad trestle on the other.

The hollow is downriver from Lansing about nine miles and has been his stomping ground since 1948, when he pitched a tent and called it home.

He lived in his tent about 12 years before buying the old shack - former railroad depot, a mile upriver at Heytman's Station - and moving it into the hollow.

He says his shack has only one window - which he covers with a blanket - and that it is almost too warm in winter. But, he says, "it needs a new roof."

His needs are simply satisfied: water from a nearby spring, chopped wood for his stove, kerosene lamp for lighting and fish ponds outside for food.

Jesse is a friendly bewhiskered fellow who dresses in blue denim overalls and jacket, bright wool shirt, brown hunter's cap and rubber encased shoes.

We found him sitting atop an overturned boat watching a couple of commercial fishermen ready their hooks and line.

He took a chew of tobacco before he began his story.

Jesse was born to parents of Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry July 5, 1889, on a farm in Indiana, where he grew up and completed eight years of schooling.

When he was about 19 his dad sold the farm and the family moved into town, "I didn't like it ... I'm a fresh air man ... So we left," he recalls.

The "we" to whom he refers were he and his brother, George, and the pair arrived in La Crosse in 1908 and immediately headed down the river.

"We camped awhile started fishing with some fellows, then I came back up the river to this point and have been here ever since," he relates.

He started commercial fishing in 1909 and has been at it until he quit about four years ago.

Jesse settled at Heytman's Station, where he met Lillian Boardman, whose father had an ice and wood business and carried on varied other ventures at the depot. Jesse and Lillian were married in 1914.

He recalls that it was a miracle no one was killed when a tornado ripped Heytman's Station in 1915, tearing up trees and tossing the depot right into the river.

Jesse then bought 40 acres up the valley from his hollow in 1916 and began farming a variety of crops and raising poultry. "I and another fellow put up the logs and a carpenter helped me build the log cabin where we lived," he says.

The couple had five boys and one girl, two of the children born at Heytman's Station and four in the log house.

The couple was divorced in 1939, and all the children, except one son who was killed in Italy in World War II, are still living.

Jesse lived in the log cabin for 32 years until 1948 when he returned to the shores of "his" river, where he spent the following 12 years living the year-round in a tent. "I spent about 14 years of my life living in tents in as many as five states," he says. He explains that his tents were large, 14 by 16 footers, and heavy so they retained the heat from his wood burning stove in the winter months. "I wore out two tents during that time," he says.

He bought the vacant Heytman's Station depot, had it transported to his hollow and moved out of the tent into the old building in 1960. His shack, by the way, is equipped with a foundation of heavy logs and in the event of high water, such as the flood of 1965, it merely floats upward high and dry.

Jesse plans on planting a little garden this spring. In addition to commercial fishing, Jesse said, "I trapped an awful pile of furs, too, and hunted a lot of coon, skunk, fox and civet cats."

He says that he has got to be so well known in the area that people have named his hollow and adjacent valley "Mohn's Hollow", and that two nearby lakes have also been given his name.

Jesse is not lonely, either, as quite a few fishermen, "clear from Texas and Missouri," come to his hollow, where they leave their cars and trailers and launch their boats onto the river.

He still fishes, of course; "I can't keep from fishing through the ice if the day is fit," he says.

He recalls that when he first arrived in the region in 1908 many people were living in tar paper shacks and little log cabins.

Jesse had three brothers, six sisters and a half-sister, but only two of the sisters survive. "Its got so I don't go much anymore," he says.

Jesse doesn't have a car, and adds, "I don't want one either, but I had seven model T cars in my time and used to run plenty on the old mud roads. The only car I could ever drive was a model T."

Then, after a long thought, Jesse said, "I feel like taking my tent and going down river and camping a little here and there. "I don't know if I will, though" he concludes, "at my age, anyway."

~La Crosse Tribune, ca 1967 (clipping - included the photo of Jesse on his porch at the bottom of this page)

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1969

'River Rat' Turns Back On City Life
by Robert Krotz (Register Staff Writer)

Lansing, IA. - Jesse Mohn shifted the wad of tobacco to his right cheek, looked out across the Mississippi River at the green bluffs of Wisconsin, and spat in the weeds. "I'm a fresh air boy," he explained, helping himself to another chew. "I tried living in the city once but I didn't like it. I don't like being holed up. Some people don't know enough to be out where the fresh air is."

Jesse, 79, is a self-proclaimed river rat. He's lived in a secluded hollow among the heavily wooded limestone bluffs 10 miles south of here for the last 61 years.

He makes his living by fishing and by telling other fishermen where the fish are and what they're biting on. He claims fishermen seek hi out from "purt-near every town in Iowa." "I only charge a quarter a head, but sometimes as many as 300 fishermen stop in here in a weekend, and it all adds up," he chuckles.

A wiry little man, his mottled green hunting cap, green plaid shirt and elfish face give hi the look of a leprechaun in bib overalls.

His home isn't the kind of place that will ever be written up in the slick magazines. He lives in an old, wheel-less mobile home. The trailer has no electricity, telephone or plumbing. "I could have electricity if I wanted it but I don't" he says "and why should I have a telephone? I hear enough damn noise as it is."

Jesse's refrigerator is a spring-fed pool that he keeps stocked with fish caught on throw-lines in the river. when he's hungry, he nets a catfish from the pool. When he's thirsty he drinks from another nearby spring.

The Mississippi River is his bathtub, and he washes his clothes in a slough. His only means of transportation is a weather-beaten old flat-bottom boat.

During the day he often passes the time by sitting in the shade and watching the tow-boats push their strings of barges up and down the river.

He also enjoys swapping fishing yarns. "I caught a 52-pound catfish once," he says, "Caught him in a trammel net. another time, I caught a 44-pound catfish. He swallowed a channel cat on a trot-line and the channel cat's tail was stickin' out of his mouth."

And old-timer tales: "When I came out here in 1906 from Indiana," he recalls, "there was Indians in these woods and there was outlaws in those islands out in the river." "I lived in a tent for the first couple years. then I built a log cabin up the road a piece here and raised a family of five in it. After my kids growed up and my wife left me, I moved back into a tent down here by the river and lived in it for 12 years, until it wore out."

He says he has no regrets about his life along the river. "Why should I live anyplace else?" says Jesse. "Everybody else comes out here."

~Des Moines Register, May 25, 1969; pg 15

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1973

'River Rat' Recalls 85 Years of World Change
by Gene Raffensperger (Resister Staff Writer)

Lansing, Ia - Jess Mohn was saying the other day that the striking thing about being almost 85 years old today is looking at what's happened in the world during that time.

Mohn recalls that when he was a youngster a locomotive occasionally would spook a horse. "People are walking on the moon now," he said.

Mohn is not in the habit of discussing matters of this sort. The Mississippi River, fishing and the virtues of not living in town are his strong suits.

Mohn lives in a landlocked houseboat about 10 miles south of here, at a landing along the Mississippi River. From this spot, not far from what once was known as Hiteman Station, several commercial fishermen, including one of Mohn's grandsons, base their operation.

Mohn himself was a commercial fisherman for many years, but failing eyesight and advancing years have ended that. He still talks about the river and fishing, listens to the radio and chews Peachey Chewing Tobacco.

A number of years ago a writer chanced upon Mohn and in his account told of Mohn shifting his chew from one side of his mouth to the other. "That's not true," said Mohn. "I always do all my chewing on the left side. What side do you chew on?"

"River rat" is a term often thrown about in describing one who spends some of his time on or near a river. Mohn said he has known at least one man who objected to the term, but that he himself accepts it. Mohn quipped: "Call me anything you want, just don't call me late for something to eat."

Mohn said it is his impression from listening to radio news (his eyesight does not permit him to read now) that the nation and word are "in a mess." Shrugging, he said, "at my age why should I worry about things like that. What I really wish is that I can get something done about my eyes. I would like to be able to see people like I once did."

~Des Moines Register, September 9, 1973; pg 5

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Photo accompanied the article from the La Crosse Tribune, clipping, ca1967

Mohn family album
 

Allamakee Biographies maintained by Sharyl Ferrall.
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