The picture included
with this Chapter is: The Cardiff Giant
The Democratic State Convention met at Des Moines on the 10th of
August, 1870, and nominated the following candidates: Secretary of
State, Charles Doerr; Auditor, Wesley W. Garner; Treasurer, W. C.
James; Attorney-General, H. M. Martin; Register Land Office, D. F.
Ellsworth; Clerk Supreme Court, Wm. McLennan; Reporter, C. H. Bane;
Judges of Supreme Court, J. C. Knapp, P. H. Smythe and Reuben Noble.
The only resolution of importance relating to State affairs was the
following: "We assert the right of the people by legislative
enactment to tax, regulate and control all moneyed corporations,
upon which extraordinary rights are conferred by charters."
The Republican State Convention met at Des Moines on the 17th of
August and placed in nomination the following candidates: for
Judges of the Supreme Court, C. C. Cole, W. E. Miller and James G.
Day; Secretary of State, Ed. Wright; Auditor, John Russell;
Treasurer, S. E. Rankin; Register Land Office, Aaron Brown;
Attorney-General, Henry O'Connor; Reporter Supreme Court, E. H.
Stiles; Clerk, Charles Linderman. The resolutions endorsed the
administration of President Grant; favored a tariff for revenue;
favored legislation to protect the people from the oppressions of
corporations and welcomed to our State persons of every race and
color seeking homes in our midst.
The election resulted in the success of the Republican
candidates. The vote for Secretary of State was as follows: Ed.
Wright 103,377, Charles Doerr, 60,888, Wright's majority--42,489.
The votes for other candidates did not vary materially from this.
The proposition to hold a convention to revise the Constitution of
the State was defeated by the following vote: for a convention
24,846; against a convention 82,039.
There was an animated contest in the Sixth Congressional District
at the Republican Convention, where Hon. Charles Pomeroy was a
candidate for reelection. He had served but one term and strong
opposition in his nomination for a second time had grown up in the
district. In the election of delegates Webster County, his home
was carried by the opposition and several candidates appeared before
the convention. On the fourteenth ballot a majority of the
opposition united upon Captain Jackson Orr of Boone County, who was
nominated by a vote of one hundred and twelve to seventy-three
divided between Mr. Pomeroy and five other candidates.
In the summer of 1870 General N. B. Baker and Governor Merrill in
conjunction with several distinguished officers of the late Civil
War, planned a grand reunion of Iowa soldiers to be held at the
Capital of the State where the comrades of the long years of the War
of the Rebellion might meet and renew the friendships of the camp,
march and battle-field. The proposition met with universal favor
and was received with enthusiasm by the "boys in blue." General
Baker at once entered upon the formidable work of making all needful
preparations for the transportation, care and comfort of the grand
army of citizen soldiers sure to gather from all parts of the State.
The railroad officials were persuaded to grant free transportation,
General Sherman and General Belknap, then Secretary of War, came
from Washington to greet the Iowa soldiers. The time fixed for the
reunion was August 31st and it continued through two days. More
than 20,000 Iowa soldiers came together for the first time since the
war and 30,000 citizens assembled to see and give them a cordial
welcome. Five years had passed since the soldiers had been mustered
out of the service and this meeting of comrades who had marched,
camped and fought together in many campaigns, was an event never to
be forgotten. No such reunion had occurred since the grand review
at Washington in 1865, just before the close of the war. Most of
the distinguished Iowa officers who survived were present and took
part in the interesting exercises and again greeted their old
comrades. It was the proudest day in General Baker's life as he was
continually reminded of the warm affection entertained for him by
"his boys." Every soldier wanted to take him by the hand. It was
the first and last general reunion of Iowa soldiers.
In the month of October, 1869, it was reported in the newspapers
that the petrified body of a man of gigantic proportions had been
unearthed in digging a well near the village of Cardiff, some
thirteen miles from Syracuse, New York. Upon investigation made by
a reporter of the Syracuse Journal, who hurried to the spot,
the following facts were learned. In digging a well on the farm of
William Newell at a depth of three feet the spades struck what
appeared to be a rock of large size.
Mr. Newell cautioned the men to be careful and taking one of the
spades began to remove the earth until he uncovered an immense stone
giant. He directed the workmen to carefully excavate the earth
around the petrified man, as he called it, until the form was
entirely uncovered, disclosing what appeared to be a human body in a
state of petrifaction and of enormous size. The news of the
discovery spread rapidly and soon an excited crowd of villagers
gathered around the grave of the giant. The report of the affair
was soon carried to Syracuse and crowds hurried to Cardiff to look
at the wonderful discovery. Mr. Newell erected a tent over the
giant, made an excavation around the body and had the water pumped
out. He stationed guards about the tent and a doorkeeper collected
half a dollar from each of the rapidly increasing crowd of visitors.
The Syracuse newspapers published glowing descriptions of the
"petrified giant" and day by day the throng of visitors increased.
No one was permitted to touch or approach the majestic reclining
form of the mysterious man. A syndicate was speedily organized in
the city which offered Mr. Newell $10,000 for his giant, but he
refused to sell. Scientists were puzzled by the discovery, not
questioning the statement of Newell that it was a human
petrifaction. Upon visiting the spot to make investigations, they
were not permitted to approach near enough to make satisfactory
examinations or apply tests to determine the character of the
alleged giant. Several of them were of the opinion that it was a
statue, chiseled from a rock. Among these was Dr. James Hall, the
noted geologist of New York, who was the first State Geologist of
Iowa and afterward of Wisconsin. He made as careful an examination
as the owner would permit and published a lengthy report of his
investigations. In that report he says:
"It is certainly a great curiosity
and, as it now presents itself, the most remarkable archaeological
discovery ever made in this country and entirely unlike any relic of
the past age yet known to us. It is clearly a statue cut by human
hands and is in no way connected with petrifaction * * * nor
is it a cast or model of any kind but an original. The importance
of the object lies in its relation to the race or people of the
past, formerly inhabiting that part of the country. The statue is
of a far higher order and of an entirely different character from
the smaller works of rude sculpture found in Mexico, Central
America, or the Mississippi Valley.
In regard to the question of the
antiquity of its origin we are compelled to rely upon the geological
and chemical evidence. That the statue has lain for a long time
where it now lies there can be no doubt. The entire length of the
left side and back of the statue is eroded to the depth of an inch
or more from the solution and removal of its substance by water
percolating through the gravel stratum in which it lies embedded.
Such a process of solution and removal of the gypsum, a mineral of
slow solubility in the waters of that region, must have required a
long period of years. Any theory of the recent burial of the statue
in this place is disproved by the fact of the extensive solution and
removal of the surface by water coming in by the gravel bed from the
southwest. The most extensive erosion has taken place on the left
side and beneath the back upon that side corresponding to the
direction from which the water came. You will see therefore upon
any theory of inhumation must have time for the gradual dissolving
of the stone. So long as the alluvial deposit was going on this
portion was covered by water and there would be no current along the
gravel bed and this movement of the water would only take place
after the drainage of the stream or the lake to a lower level.
Therefore so long as the alluvial deposit was going on and the
water remained above the level, there would be no current and
consequently no erosion.
This statement answers the inquiry
as to what are some of the evidences of its antiquity."
Thus an eminent geologist vouched for the great antiquity of the
Cardiff Giant and for the fact that it could not have been buried in
The mystery surrounding the whole affair seemed only to deepen
with investigation. Learned men differed widely as to what it was,
its antiquity and probable origin, but all agreed that it was one of
the most mysterious and remarkable discoveries ever made in America.
People came by hundreds and thousands, from all parts of the
country, looked with awe and wonder upon the giant and went away to
spread the news among their neighbors. The receipts had now reached
more than $1,000 a day and still the crowds increased.
One George Hull, a cousin of Mr. Newell, appeared upon the ground
soon after the discovery and took charge of the exhibition. P. T.
Barnum sent an agent to purchase the giant which was becoming a
serious competitor to his museum but a local syndicate had been
organized which had made a contract for the giant at a price which
was reported to be $40,000.
H. B. Martin of Marshalltown, Iowa, had recently appeared at
Cardiff and it soon developed that he was one of the owners of the
petrified man. A pamphlet was now issued by the owners showing a
portrait of the giant at full length, prostrate, as he was
discovered. He was named the "American Goliath" and described as a
Mr. Newell retained a quarter interest in the "Giant," and some
weeks later after thousands of people came and gazed with awe upon
the wonder, and the receipts were reported to be reaching fabulous
amounts, the value of the "Giant" was estimated at $240,000. Hull
and Martin about this time were understood to have disposed of their
interest in the "petrified man" to the syndicate. But the reader
will naturally inquire-what connection has all of this with the
history of Iowa?
More than a thousand miles westward, in the upper valley of the
Des Moines River, was the picturesque village of Fort Dodge. In its
vicinity are extensive deposits of gypsum which have been known
since the founding of the town. In the fall of 1867, one H. B.
Martin stopped several days at the St. Charles hotel and spent some
time in examining the gypsum formations. He seemed deeply
interested in the beautiful variegated stone which had been used in
the construction of some of the best residences in the village. On
the 6th of June, 1868, he returned in company with George Hull.
They made the acquaintance of C. B. Cummins, a prominent citizen
who owned a quarry on Soldier Creek. They informed him that they
wished a block of the gypsum twelve feet long, four feet wide and
from two to three feet thick for which they offered to pay well.
They claimed that they wished to ship it to New York to exhibit as
a specimen of the mineral productions of Iowa and thus interest
capitalists in the development of the gypsum deposits. They were
informed by Mr. Cummins that a block of such large dimensions would
be very expensive, that it would weigh five tons and that there were
no wagons in that region strong enough to transport it forty miles
to the nearest railroad station. They replied that expense was no
consideration and that they could provide means to convey it to the
railroad. Upon further conversation, Mr. Cummins came to the
conclusion that they were adventurers having some fraud in view and
refused to deal with them. They finally leased an acre of land
south of town on Gypsum Creek, and employed Mike Foley an
experienced quarryman to get out the block of gypsum of the desired
size. It was difficult to transport and had to be dressed down more
than a ton in weight before it could be drawn to the station.
When, in November, 1869, the papers of the country were
publishing sensational accounts of the wonderful "Onondaga Giant," a
new York paper reached Fort Dodge in which it was stated that
Professor Hall had pronounced the alleged petrified giant to be a
statue carved out of crystalline gypsum but that the gypsum was of a
different color and appearance from any found in that State. The
description of the gypsum as given corresponded with that found at
Fort Dodge and the people of that village took note of the
Galusha Parsons, a prominent lawyer of the village, on his way to
New York viewed the "Petrified Giant" and wrote to the editor of the
North West- "I believe it is made of that great block of
gypsum those fellows got at Fort Dodge a year ago." Syracuse papers
were sent for, one of the pamphlets giving a description and alleged
history of the "Petrified Giant" was procured and the name of George
Hull appeared among the owners of the giant.
The North West published at Fort Dodge, now conducted a
quiet but thorough investigation, tracing the movements of the block
of gypsum, quarried in 1868 by George Hull, to Boone, then the
nearest railroad station, from there to Chicago where it was carved
into the famous statue, thence to Union, an obscure station near
Binghamton, New York, from whence it was conveyed by wagon to the
vicinity of Cardiff where all trace of it disappeared. The chain of
evidence thus far was complete. A pamphlet was issued exposing the
fraud and copies sent to Syracuse where the "Giant" was then on
exhibition. They produced great excitement among the visitors and
consternation among the owners of the giant. The proprietors
promptly published a statement denying every allegation of the
exposure and for a time the public was in doubt, while the
controversy among the newspapers brought increasing crowds to see
for themselves. Newspaper reporters were sent to Fort Dodge who
followed the story of the pamphlet step to step from the quarry on
Gypsum Creek to the artist who carved it into the statue, from there
to Union, New York, and to Newell's farm where it was buried.
The controversy which arose over the remarkable "Giant" was not
by any means confined to the owners, the newspapers of the day and
people who had traveled hundreds of miles to view the "petrified
man"; but the Popular Science Monthly, The Galaxy, Silliman's
Journal and most of the magazines of that period contained learned
and critical articles upon the "remarkable discovery," presenting
many theories as to the origin, antiquity and character of the
colossal figure which was puzzling the scientific world.
The genius for deception displayed by George Hull, the author of
this the most successful fraud, was shown in the selection of a
block of gypsum lying partly in the creek where, for thousands of
years, erosion had been going on. In having the statue carved, Mr.
Hull instructed the artist to leave the portions of the block
showing the erosion on the back and left side of the giant to prove
its great antiquity. It was this erosion more than anything else
which deceived Prof. Hall and other scientists and proved to their
satisfaction that the giant gave evidence of "great antiquity."
Prof. O. C. Marsh of Yale College and Andrew D. White, first
President of Cornell University, were among the early visitors at
the Newell farm to investigate the famous "Stone Giant" and they
were not deceived. president White in an article on "The Cardiff
Giant," in the October (1902) number of the Century Magazine, says,
in writing of the examinations made by Dr. Woolworth of the New York
State University and Dr. James Hall:
"On their arrival at Syracuse I met
them and urged them to be cautious, reminding them that a mistake
might prove very injurious to the reputation of the regents and to
the standing of scientific men in the State; that if the matter
should turn out to be a fraud, and such eminent authorities should
be found to have committed themselves to it, there would be a guffaw
from one end of the country to the other at the expense of the men
entrusted by the State with its scientific and educational
interests. Next day they went to Cardiff; they came, they saw, and
they narrowly escaped being conquered."
Yet with this caution before them, the erosion so shrewdly
preserved by Hull convinced these eminent scientists. When such
high scientific authority was deceived by Hull's inventive genius,
it is not strange that the great public of America and Europe
insisted on believing it to be a "petrified giant."
Dr. White in his history of the "Giant" above quoted says:
"At no period of my life have I
ever been more discouraged regarding the possibility of making
reason prevail among men. There seemed no possibility of suspending
the judgment of the great majority who saw the statue. As a rule
they insisted in believing it a 'petrified giant'.
There was but one thing in the
figure, as I had seen it, which puzzled me, and that was the
grooving of the under side, apparently by currents of water which
would require many years."
Dr. White Continues:
"The catastrophe now approached
rapidly as affidavits of men of high character in Illinois and Iowa
established the fact that the figure was made at Fort Dodge, in
Iowa, of a great block of gypsum and transported to the railroad and
thence to Chicago where a German stone-cutter gave it its final
When the evidence became too strong to be successfully combated,
and Hull had disposed of his interest in his "invention" for
$23,000, he became elated over the fame he had acquired, admitted
that he was the originator of the "Petrified Giant" and enjoyed
greatly the discomfiture of the scientists whom he had deceived.
Finally he made and published a full confession confirming in every
important particular the history of the deception as published in
the Fort Dodge pamphlet in 1870. This confession should forever
have settled the thirty years' controversy, but thousands of people
continued to believe in the "petrified giant" to the end of their
A graduate of the divinity school of Yale College, Alexander
McWhorter, after long study and investigation, a few years ago
evolved a new theory as to the "Onondaga Giant," that it was a
Phoenician idol, as proved by an inscription he had discovered on
the figure, and a crescent shaped wound on the left side. He said
in conclusion his investigations:
"We only know that at some distant
period the great statue was brought in a ship of Tarshish across the
sea of Atl, was lightly covered with twigs and flowers, and these
De. White continues:
"McWhorter's theory found one very
eminent convert across the ocean in a place where he might least
have expected it. While residing at Berlin, as minister of the
United States, I one day received a letter from an American student
of the University at Halle, stating that he had been requested by
the eminent Dr. Schlottmann, instructor of Hebrew, to write to me
for information regarding the Phoenician statue described by
Dr. White in reply gave the true history of the fraud but, as
incredible as it may appear, the learned Dr. Schlottmann declared
that he was not convinced, and that he still believed the Cardiff
figure to be a Phoenician statue bearing a most important
The original Cardiff Giant made from Fort Dodge gypsum was on
exhibition at the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo in 1901, and
though thirty-two years had elapsed since it was resurrected on
Newell's farm, public interest had not ceased and thousands of
persons paid admission to the enclosure to see the unique figure of
the "Onondaga or Cardiff Giant."
Fort Dodge and its gypsum deposits gained a world wide notoriety
from the "Cardiff Giant," but it was the enterprise of three of its
own citizens that developed from the gypsum ledges one of the great
industries of the State. For more than a quarter of a century it
had been known that extensive deposits of gypsum existed along the
Des Moines River in the vicinity of Fort Dodge, and the stone had
long been used in the construction of houses and foundations of
business blocks. But no attempt had been made to utilize it for
other purposes and little additional value attached to lands under
laid with the mineral.
In 1871, Webb Vincent, S. T. Meservey and George S. Ringland
formed a partnership for the purpose of grinding and preparing the
gypsum for plaster. They erected a mill near the railroad and began
to manufacture stucco for use in making a hard finish for plastering
buildings. for a long time but little demand was found for the
product, but by some ingenious experiments stucco was produced which
gradually found a good market. Theirs was the first mill for the
production of stucco west of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The new State
House at Des Moines, then being constructed, was one of the first
public buildings in which it was used. In 1880 the firm organized
"The Iowa Plaster Company" and a second mill was erected which had
five times the capacity of the first. The new mill was equipped
with improved machinery and the industry grew under the enterprising
direction of its managers until their trade reached the distant
markets of the world and became one of the most formidable and
profitable of the manufacturing industries of the State. Other
mills were erected until more than $1,200,000 of capital is employed
in the business, furnishing work for more than 1,200 men. The
deposits extend over a large tract of country and the supply of
gypsum is practically inexhaustible. So great has been the growth
of the business, that solid trains loaded with stucco are daily sent
from the mills conveying it to every part of the country. The
development of the gypsum has contributed largely to the rapid
growth of Fort Dodge in late years and must in the near future bring
auxiliary manufactures to that city.
The National census of 1870 showed the population of Iowa to be
1,191,720. Davenport was the largest city with a population of
20,141. Dubuque had 18,432; Burlington, 15,178; Keokuk, 12,769; Des
Moines, 12,380; Council Bluffs, 10,021; Iowa City, 7,009; Cedar
Rapids, 6,085. The State at this time held rank as fourth in
production of corn, fifth in wheat and sixth in live stock. The
assessed value of the property of the State was reported at
$302,515,418. The aggregate value of farm products was estimated at