Banjos and Booze - Part 2

But for the politicians there was another cloud on the horizon. The Rock Rapids Political Equity club was active and it was growing. The women were not only demanding the ballot, but they were holding meetings, studying government and voting, so they would be ready to intelligently carry out their duties when they won that right.

Two items of general interest which appeared in the Review of 1894 were in September, when an extensive write up was given to a grand old man, William H. Lunt. Lunt operated a line of elevators. He was credited with the starting of the town of Lakewood, and he was listed as one of the community's outstanding citizens.

Lunt was a New Englander and a great builder of businesses throughout Illinois, before he came to Rock Rapids. He had been caught in a business depression years before and lost everything, but had recovered, paid off all his creditors and gone on to success. He was a trustee of Cornell college at Mr. Vernon, Iowa. He had lived in Rock Rapids for 11 years and was universally respected.

Then at the end of the year it was reported that there were now 41 inmates in the children's home at Beloit, which had been started and was operated by the Lutheran churches.


Rock Rapids had been in existence for a quarter of a century and time began to take its toll of the men who founded the community. C.H. Moon, who had first come to Rock Rapids in 1869 had been in failing health and had gone to California for the winter, in hopes that it would benefit his health. He died at the age of 60. Moon had been born in Vermont. He had contributed greatly to the new community in many ways.

Churches were flourishing and the new Christian church was ready for dedication early in January. Many notables came for the big event-but it was not held. An argument had developed between the congregation and the contractor, John Olsen, over who was to pay for the window glad, and it could not be settled. Olsen got a lien on the property and locked it up-to the disappointment of many members.

Church affairs and church events were obviously very important to many of the people of the community. In August a special train ran from Rock Rapids to Orleans to Spirit Lake, for the great Sunday school picnic being held there. The train was full-adults were charged $1 for the round trip and youngsters got by for 50 cents each. The train left Rock Rapids at 7:30 in the morning and returned shortly after 8 p.m. The run took two hours each way.

Mid-August the Methodists decided to build a new church. They figured on spending $10,000 for the church and they made a deal with the Lutheran Society to buy their old church for $1,500. A big campaign was started to raise the money needed for the new house of worship.

On September 26 it was announced that work on the new Methodist church would start at once. Mason & Matteson, Sioux Falls, were awarded the contract for the stonework and had a big crew of masons at work at once. Their contract called for $1,825 for the stonework. The stones came rough, and were shaped by the workmen using hammers for almost all the work-and comment was made on the excellent job of shaping the stones being done. E. Miller of Cherokee was given the contract for the carpenter work in the new structure. His contract was for $1,000. He was said to have much experience building churches and to be an excellent contractor with skilled workmen.

In late October the corner stone for the Methodist church was laid. The Rev. Issac Joyce, D.D., one of the most important Methodist bishops came here for the occasion, and there were many notables from the area present.

There had been talk of a telephone system for Rock Rapids for several years. Several towns had such systems-some of them good and some not so good-so the council was being very cautious. In late January representatives of the Anglo-American Electric company, from Illinois, came here. They wanted to buy the tow mill and convert it to an electric plant and also install a telephone system. The council would not grant them a franchise so their proposal was dropped.

Early in February local people put in a small demonstration telephone system. It hooked up the clerk of courts and the sheriff's offices with the Green hotel and the Wycoff drug store. Backers of the plan said that if 50 customers could be signed up a system could be installed for $2,750. Nothing was done immediately, but the seed had been planted and there was much discussion of the possibilities and the need for a telephone system. Late in February Sheriff J.D. Wilson, got a small company organized-Wilson & Company, and they announced they were ready to put in a system if they could have a franchise. They planned to charge $2 per customer, per month, and would collect the first year's rent in advance to help finance the installation. They estimated cost at $2.000.

In April the council granted a franchise to J.D. Wilson & Company for a telephone system. Rates were set at $2 for a business phone, $1.50 for a residence phone. The company also agreed that if they built in other towns of the county-as they expected to do-there would be free service to those towns-except for a fee of 15 cents to be charged for calls made after 10 p.m. and before 5 a.m.

The telephone question which had seemed settled in April, wasn't. Troubles mounted for the Wilson group and in October the Clark Automatic Switch Co., of Sioux City approached the council with a proposal for the installation of one of their systems, which were said to be very advanced. Judge Van Wagenan, was one of the leaders in the Clark company, and possibly his influence locally had some bearing on the attitude of the community. The company said that it wanted to put in two systems in Iowa to demonstrate how good the service was, and these two would be done at especially favorable rates. The company suggested $2 per month rental for customers. The Clark system was automatic and it was not necessary to have a central station. The customers got the number wanted through the use of the "automatic switch."

The first week in December the council voted a twenty year franchise for the Clark company, and they started work the next day. They took over some of the lines already erected by the Wilson group, and set a rate schedule calling for $2 per month for business phones and $1 for residential phones.

Farming had not been very profitable for the past couple of years and there was some slackening of interest, at least in the farmers institute which was held in January. Attendance was very poor and backers were somewhat discouraged.

New farmers were coming to the area, obviously with high hopes. The Illinois Central brought in five cars of immigrants in January. Three of the cars were dropped off at George; one at Edna; and one at Rock Rapids.

In April hopes were hoisted when three inches of badly needed rain fell over the area.

It was a stormy spring, and early in May a disastrous cyclone struck in Sioux county. Ireton and Sioux Center were both badly mauled, there was extensive damage to property and nine people were killed-scores of others injured.

Late in May papers were filed on one of the largest land sales of history in the county. The land involved were those of the James estate. In all thirteen and a half sections were sold by Daniel Butterworth to the Northwest Farmland company. The transaction price was listed as $150,000 and involved land in Allison and Doon townships.

The deal wasn't entirely as it appeared and the following account of some of the aspects of the James case, as written by Lon Chapin, follow:

The petition of Edw. F. Janes, Dudley A. James, Ella E. James, Cornelius A. James, Judith C. Prescott, Chas D. Chase and Chas. S. Clark vs. Daniel Butterfield, Northwest Farmland Co., J.M. Parsons, H.G. McMillen and J.W. Dunlop had been filed in the district court by their attorneys, Boise & Roth of Sheldon. They claim together as heirs an eight-twelfths interest in the James estate lands, subject to Mrs. Butterfield's right of the revenue from one-half of the entire estate for life.

The extended and somewhat intricate history of the lands in question which had become familiar to most of our readers, is set forth in the petition. In 1879 F.P. James mortgaged to his wife and three days afterwards deeded them to Arthur George Wheeler, a minor of seven years, for the purpose of allowing the lands to be sold for taxes and redeemed within a year after Wheeler became of age.

F.J. James died in 1884 and left a will providing that the real estate owned by him should descend to his legal heirs, reserving to his widow a life interest in half of the income from the estate and the use of two homesteads in New York which she accepted in lieu of dower. She was also made sole executrix of the will.

Plaintiffs claim that the transactions since have been in pursuance of a plan to keep the heir out of their rights. The lands went to tax sale as contemplated, and 57 certificates were issued on the total of over $40,000 taxes. Daniel Butterfield then, the petition recites, came to Lyon County from New York with money furnished by Mrs. James from the estate, bought up the tax certificates. In October, 1885, having had the mortgage to Mrs. James foreclosed, they caused the lands to be sold on execution. Mrs. Harriet B. Storrs, a sister of James, buying them in and transferring title to Butterfield. He and Mrs. James were at the time engaged and the following year became husband and wife, soon afterward conveying the lands to W.W. Goodrich, Butterfield's confidential attorney and advisor.

The bringing of the suit by Arthur George Wheeler, the compromise of same and deeding of lands to the Northwest Farmland Co., are matters of recent occurrence. The petition alleges that the deed was without consideration; that J.H. and C.M. Swan and Dan'l Butterfield own all the stock in the Farmland Co., and that the senior Swan was attorney for both James and Butterfield and all the facts were known to him. Commenting on the case, one of the defendants stated to the Review man that the suit was really E.E. Carpenter's, he having obtained quit-claims from the heirs. It has never been believed by real estate lawyers familiar with the records in the case that the heirs had a shadow of title, the mortgages and deeds executed by James before making his will shutting them out.

The bad years past were finally having an effect on prices. Wheat increased 22 cents per bushel in two months. Now 70 cents a bushel was offered. But the bins were empty, or nearly so, so the offer meant little to the settlers. It was hoped however, that when the next crop was harvested the price would hold up fairly well.

Early June saw more good rains, and optimism was growing. In July land sales showed that choice farms were selling at the price of $30 to $35 an acre. This is land that 25 years previously could be bought for $5 an acre-or less.

The community got a jolt in July when a frost nipped corn throughout the area. Corn was hurt, mostly in the east part of the county. Damage was listed as about a third. The small grain was coming fine and the harvest had started.

By August it was the same old story of drought. Things were dry, terribly dry. The river was the lowest it had ever been, so far as old timers could tell. There were only occasional pools of water left. In spite of the drought and poor crop conditions, prices for grain were dropping steadily since the harvest. The second week in August 134 loads of grain were weighed over the city scales. Wheat was bringing 42 to 500 cents a bushel; oats were down to 13 cents a bushel; barley was being bid at 18 to 25 cents a bushel and flax was bringing 81 to 86 cents a bushel. Corn was down to 35 cents a bushel.

On October 31, the Review said that wheat was being bought at 40 cents a bushel; oats, 12-15 cents a bushel; hogs were worth $3.15 cwt.; and butcher cattle were $1.50 to $2.50 cwt.

Rock Rapids was quite excited about the possibility of one of its leading citizens being named as department commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. J.K.P. Thompson was one of the candidates for that office, and many local organizations were involved. Resolutions were passed, political alliances contacted, and every means possible to advance his candidacy was taken. The first week in May the state convention was held, and there Thompson won out over strong opposition and was named head of the state GAR.

Plans were immediately started for the trip of Iowa GAR leaders to Louisville, Ky., where the national meet was to be held. Thompson was to head a delegation from the state, and it was to be a good one. Those attending were to carry corn stalk canes-and many were to wear ears of corn, swung around their necks as a canteen.

A special train was to start from Rock Rapids headed to Chicago, and later Louisville. The train from here consisted of three cars-a special luxurious parlor car for Thompson, his family, and a few close friends. Then there was a regular passenger coach and a buffet car. The train was decorated very extensively, and there was a crowd on hand when it pulled out of here on the Illinois Central at eight o'clock in the morning. Twenty-seven people made up the delegation from Rock Rapids. With Thompson and his immediate family was Miss Edith Carpenter, a friend of the family, whose wonderful voice was to be heard many times during the trip at the national convention. As the train went across the state more and more cars were added. From Cedar Falls a band and orchestra joined the group. There were over 600 people on the train when it reached Chicago. The veterans formed ranks and marched to the Palmer house where they were to stay over night. The next day the band played a concert at the Palmer house, and its lobbies were packed with people anxious to hear the group. Then it was on to Louisville, where the Iowa delegation was reported to be the outstanding state group attending.

In February Heaphy's store lit a huge candle, which was to burn until it was consumed. The candle was 54 inches high and guesses were made as to how long it would take to be consumed. Estimates based on the early days it was lit suggested that it might take 2016 hours to burn down.

The city election in March was a very quiet affair. Only 228 votes were cast. McQueen was elected as mayor.

Then came a world shaking event. In the school election women got to vote for the first time. They were not allowed to vote on the candidates for the school board, but could vote on the proposed school tax. Forty-two women went to the polls in a body to cast their ballots. They were required to give their names, and the ballots were segregated. There seemed to be some relief for the men, in that the women's vote did not affect the final outcome in any way-they seemed to be voting about the same way the men did. It was a great victory for the Political Equality club which had been meeting and working for several years.

Early returns from the census indicated that Rock Rapids had a population of 1707. In July figures in the county census were released as population of that area was listed as 11, 690.

The town was trying very hard to improve its streets and alleys. A street program was outlined, the cost of which was to be $3,857.57. It would fix Main Street up, provide concrete crossings in many areas. The community was proud that the Lockwood block had installed curb and gutter.

Early in August a Building and Loan association was incorporated, with a $1,000,000 limit. H.B. Pierce was named president of the association, A.H. Davison was chosen for secretary and E.L. Partch was the treasurer.

The interest in horse racing continued-and Miss Williams, owned by the McCoy brothers, was the hottest thing in fast horses. Miss Williams was a four-year-old mare. She was racing on the Illinois circuit, and won a purse of $900 after entry fees in one race, when she turned in a mile record of 2:09 . It was believed that in another year she would be the fastest horse on the Grand Circuit.

Business conditions were not good. Short crops and lack of farm income were hampering all business. Walt Andrews drug store closed and was taken over by the mortgage holders in February.

Economic conditions were responsible for the campaign for free coinage of silver. Lon Chapin, Review editor, said this would be the big issue in the elections of 1895 and he called for strong support of the move among people of the community.

In July H.G. McMillen, lawyer and farm operator, was named chairman of the republican state central committee and he went to Des Moines, to take up his duties. Local people-of both major parties-praised the selection of McMillen.

Republicans met in a four-county convention that month to choose their candidate for state senator to represent Lyon, Sioux, O'Brien and Osceola counties. There were several candidates, but the contest was between A.H. Davison of Rock Rapids, and Henry Hospers of Orange City. The convention went on and on-it was on the 1635th ballot that Hospers was finally picked as the candidate.

The next week Lyon County democrats met and took a strong stand for free silver. The campaign got under way in earnest. There were meetings, the Reporter for the republicans and the Review for the democrats kept up a constant attack on the other party, and feelings were strong.

When the elections were held in November republicans made almost a sweep. They won all offices except that of county treasurer, to which John Paulsen was named. He was a very popular Rock township man. Chapin was very disappointed with the results and said the only consolation was that the republican majority wasn't quite as large as it had been the year before.

Building of churches, interest in prohibition, social events, and there were lots of them, did not mean that the community had lost its frontier approach to things. There was a constant problem with tramps who were going through the country looking for work-or handouts. Petty crime was far too common.

In early April W.S. Duncan and his wife were arrested for keeping a disreputable house. In court Duncan agreed to plead guilty, if the charges against his wife were dropped. The deal was made and he was fined $15. The next morning, when he and his wife were boarding the train to leave town, they were taken into custody again-and held until they scraped up enough money to pay costs of the trial the day before. It was obvious that there was competition in this line of work-the Review demanded that the former C.T. Marsh dwelling be closed. It was reported to be a "Bawdy house." Chapin wrote, "A timely raid might disclose it and locate male as well as female offenders."

In May Charles Case, 22, of Doon was arrested. He was charged with rape by a 65 year old farm woman. There was a bitter trial, and the defense tried to get in evidence that the woman involved was notorious, but the jury found Case guilty, and he was sentenced to 15 years in Anamosa state penitentiary.

The first of June officers raided "The Club Room." There they arrested Chas. Ferris and Frank Butts and charged them with maintaining a place for gambling. They were found guilty.

Then H.B. Pierce got an injunction against M.C. Peake to keep him from operating a saloon in the Gillman building and selling liquor there. The property was within 50 feet of a lot he owned on Main Street, and under Iowa law his permission was necessary for the sale of liquors.

The Review said that while the new state law made it illegal to sell liquor on the Fourth of July and the saloons could not operate-someone rolled a barrel of "barley extract" to an old building near the bridge, and those who were thirsty were accommodated from that source of supply.

On November 2 Chapin of the Review again demanded that town officials take action against the prostitutes in town, who were evidently numerous.

The middle of April the school board voted to offer a contract to W.S. Wilson of Sheldon, to become head of the Rock Rapids schools, replacing Prof. Blanchard, who resigned. He was offered a contract at $125 per month-and he took the job. This was the start of a long period of service as superintendent of school here of one of the community's most beloved men.

There were ten pupils in the graduating class for 1895. They were Earl Merrill, Hiram Post, Forest Nichols, Frankie Flick, Nellie Sutter, Minnie Piele, Rose Wolf, Florence Carpenter, Linnie Dunlap and Maude Royce. Post was "elected" valedictorian.

The schools at Doon took a bad blow in November when fire broke out in the new building and it was burned to the ground, with all of the textbooks. The loss, coming in November, was particularly serious. Loss was estimated at $3,800.

Throughout 1895 many offers came to the council for the installation of an electric system. The community wanted the improvement, but they were reluctant to give a franchise to any outsider. In July Joel W. Hopkins of Peru, Ind., sought to get a franchise for an electric system. He had bought the Rock Rapids water works, and would operate the two in conjunction. He suggested that if the community did not want to give him a franchise they might want to buy the water works. It was, he said, appraised at $20,000, but he would sell it to the town for $12,500. No action was taken at that time.

For the past couple of years there had been reports of fires starting from wash water, to which gasoline had been added. This was evidently a means taken to get clothes cleaner-cut grease, etc. Mid-July Mrs. Lorenzo Ecker in Rock Rapids put some gasoline in her wash water-and it ran over, flamed up and she was enveloped in the fire. She lived for three hours, in intense agony.

That same week the six-year-old daughter of S.T. Albin was caught in a reaper. Her right arm was cut off and also the fingers on her left hand.

Accidents on farms and in the pioneer communities were frequent and they were serious. There were no hospitals-and while there were many doctors, it took time to get to the farm homes and care for the injured-and when the doctors did get to the patients there was a limited amount they could do.

Disease was always a serious problem on the frontiers-and Lyon County in 1895 was still a frontier. Much sickness was prevalent. The great fear was that diptheria, small pox and typhoid would strike, as they often did. At Sheldon an epidemic of diptheria developed in October. Schools were immediately closed. Eight cases were reported and there were two deaths.

The first week in November Rock Rapids was shaken when it was found that six cases of typho-malaria had been found at the Lyon hotel. It was believed that the source of the disease was from the cesspool at the back of the hotel. It was ordered to be cleaned and filled at once-but the owners just filled it, but officials insisted that it be cleaned out, sterilized, and then refilled. Dr. Vail commented on state reports that the Rock Rapids water supply was contaminated and said that this was not true that the water supply was good. Dr. Cottam joined in praising the local water, but suggested that it should be sterilized before being used, as a precaution. The first of November Dr. Cottam was appointed city health officer and the council ordered him to find out what the source of infection was and see that it was corrected.

The epidemic of "typhoid-like malaria" eased off without any deaths, but the first of December two small children in the John McGowan home came down with scarlet fever. The school was immediately closed and not reopened until the two classrooms in which the girls had attended school were completely disinfected.

In the fall of 1895 Rock Rapids had another lawyer come to town. He was Samuel D. Riniker, who had passed his state examinations and had been admitted to the bar. He was to go into practice with James Parsons, one of the state's most active lawyers.

There was a lot of interest in an announcement in late November that Mack and Bart Bradley, two Rock Rapids young men who were working as millwrights in Montana, had been hired to go to Johannesburg, South Africa, to help install a gold refinery there. The owners of the mine wired them money for the trip, they were to get big pay and large bonuses, if they would stay a year. The fare from Butte, Mont., was $154.00 each.

Business conditions were getting somewhat better. There were a few "good loans" being made by the banks, and in spite of another poor crop year and low prices, considerable optimism was present late in the fall of 1895. The Catholic ladies had a fair two weeks before Christmas and cleared $700 for their church. Chapin, writing in the Review, commented how popular the Rev. Father Dullard was, with people of all faiths in the community.

Early in December a meeting was held of all of the various temperance groups. It was recognized that their efforts had not been effective in stopping the sale of liquor during the years, and it was hoped that if all could get together and work on a united program, it would be beneficial.

The last week of the month another newspaper was started in Rock Rapids. This was the Lyon County Record-and it was to be the official voice of the Populist party, which was trying to get a hold in the farm areas of the middle west.

The year ended with a bit of bad news. The Bank of Lester closed its doors and made an assignment on account of slow collections. It was said that assets were double the liabilities, but M.A. Cox, who was the assignee, was dubious and had trouble making the books balance. F.S. Tewksberry of Parkersburg, and W.H. Pingrey were the chief proprietors of the band. Tewksberry was said to have a personal liability of $50,000 and he said that no one would lose a cent from the closing.


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