LYON COUNTY GENEALOGY
Banking Growth - Part 2--
A case which had been appealed to the supreme court the previous year, was that of the conviction of Edward Donlan of Little Rock. Donlan had been charged with seduction by means of hypnotism. He appealed the case, but lost and the high court said that he would have to serve the two and a half years at Anamosa.
The supreme court also got around to consideration of the appeal of A.C. Sheetz, Dale township farmer and school teacher, who had been found guilty of attempted rape on his pupils-girls as young as 7-years of age. His sentence was confirmed and he was taken to Anamosa by Sheriff Woodburn to start serving seven years, in July.
In March J.W. Ransey and J.M. Parsons were reelected to the school board-only 44 votes being cast in the election.
Early in May a bad storm hit this area. There was a tremendous rain followed by a heavy electrical storm. Lightning struck the bell tower at the school house and cut a gash in the tower and knocked down some of the brick of the building itself. Ed Tressler's ice house was hit and damaged. In other communities of the county many homes and places of business were hit and a number of head of livestock were killed.
The census reports were just being issued and while it was said that there was still some work to be done-the population of the county was placed at 13,500. Inwood was listed as the second largest town in the county with a population of 610 and Doon was third largest with a population of 563.
In July the Old Settlers picnic was held-but it proved unsuccessful. Heavy rains hit the community and only a handful of people could attend the festivities.
Accidents took their toll of lives in 1905. One Sunday in early June 7-year old Fred, the son of Mr. And Mrs. Henry Meester, living on the state line east of the German church went wading with some of his friends in the Kanaranzi. The stream was swollen because of heavy rains but the boys were keeping in the shallow water. Unfortunate young Fred stepped in a hole and the youngsters were not able to get him out of the water. A search was immediately organized, but it was a couple of days later that his body was found entangled in weeds and willows, some distance down stream.
Another distressing accident occurred in August. Harley Bell, the 18-year old son of Mr. And Mrs. R.A. Bell had been hunting southeast of town. A storm came up and evidently he started for home. When he tried to climb up on the Illinois Central bridge to cross the river his gun discharged and he was killed instantly. When he did not return home a search was organized, all the neighbors and most all the men of the community went out in parties looking for the youth. His body was found about 10:30 that evening.
Times were changing-the automobile had arrived in Rock Rapids. The Reporter said, that because of the increase in the number of cars and drivers, it was thought best that sections of the law regarding automobiles should be republished-which they did. One section provided that in any built up portion of the county the speed limit was 10 miles an hour. In incorporated but not built up area the speed limit was 15 miles an hour-and at no place in the county should a car be driven at over 20 miles an hour. Another provision was listed-that as to the procedures when a car met or passed a horse drawn rig. The provision was that the car should come to a stop, if the driver of the horse drawn unit raised his hand or otherwise signaled to the car driver. The driver must then render such assistance as possible if the horses were fractious. The car must remain stationary until the horse drawn facility had passed. If catching up with a wagon or buggy, the driver must again use extreme care, and he must render any necessary assistance to the party driving the horse or horses.
The last of September Dr. J.J. Maloney, who was captain of the militia, Company D of the Iowa National Guard, found that the work was taking too much time away from his dental practice so he resigned. Lieut. Vickers was named as temporary commander, and later he was replaced by C.J. Miller, who was chosen to head the local company.
There was a good flight of ducks in 1905. The first of November a party of Rock Rapids men went to Mud lake hunting. They spent the weekend and then returned with more than 300 ducks. Most of the ducks were mallards and blue bills, although there were quite a few red heads and canvas backs. In the party were Hoyt Thompson, Wm. Bordeno, Sheriff Woodburn, N.S. Handy, Dr. J.J. Maloney and W.R. McGuire.
In November a special election was held, because there was a vacancy in the Lyon County seat in the house of representatives of the Iowa General Assembly. C.B. Lamkin had held the post but was out-and C.L. Van Eaton was elected. Only opposition to Van Eaton was from F.R. Creglow, a socialist candidate. He got just about half as many votes as Van Eaten.
Lyon County's three banks were all doing well. In their statements of condition as of November 9, they showed total footings of almost a million dollars. The Lyon County National had footings of $401,032; the First National had $401,954 and the Iowa Savings band had $108,555. The Citizen's Savings bank of Lester had footings of $83,976.
Rock Rapids people were offered a special inducement to put in a telephone in December. The Rock Rapids Telephone company advertised that for only $1.25 they would install a telephone in any home in the community.
Some years of early history are notable for storms, others for industrial progress, others for news of violence and crime. Probably the most notable events of 1906 were tied up around crime and its many ramifications.
The first notable event of 1906 was not local-but had local interest. Everyone was agog about the trial in Rockwell City of Mrs. Jennie Pratt, charged with murdering her husband. James Parsons the famous Rock Rapids attorney was representing Mrs. Pratt in the trial. The case was based on the poisoning of Mr. Pratt with arsenic. The prosecution said that Mrs. Pratt had been carrying on with the hired man-and Mr. Pratt objected strenuously. She then, it was charged, went to the drug store and brought the poison. Two days later her husband died and his death was attributed to arsenic which was administered in his food.
Mrs. Pratt said the poison had been bought to poison mice, and denied everything else. The case went to the jury and after lengthy deliberation a split verdict of 10 for acquittal and two for conviction was turned in. Mrs. Pratt was released on bond and it was indicated that in view of the jury's stand, it would be dropped. Mrs. Pratt moved back to Rock Rapids, with her two young daughters, Cressy and Pearl, to make her home with her mother, Mrs. Peter Coons.
In March, Charles Rocker, who was charged with the murder of Adolph Schroeder, was sent back to Lyon County for a retrial of the case. The execution date had been set, but the supreme court reviewed the case and sent it back for retrial because Simon Fisher, who was the prosecutor as county attorney, had represented Rocker earlier when he sued Schroeder's brothers, when they had filed the original murder action against him. The court ordered a change of venue and said it was to be tried in Osceola County.
In April Rocker was reindicted and the case went to trial. The case was tried in September, with just about the same evidence as that submitted originally. Rocker was again found guilty, but attorney's demanded a new trial charging that undue weight had been placed on evidence which was not true. Judge Hutchinson, presiding at the case, agreed with the defense and another new trial was ordered. Rocker remained in custody in the Sibley jail.
The whole community was in an uproar when Burton R. Smith and his wife, Alpha, engaged in a shooting match in October. Smith was the janitor at the school house and lived across the street. He was quite a ladies' man, and was reputed to be "playing around with the school marms." He also had a friend in Minneapolis, whom he visited regularly.
Early in October he was in another row with his wife. They were in an upstairs bedroom, where he was standing at a dresser, looking into a mirror to fix his tie. She sat on the bed, and according to him, said, "is there nothing that will make you stay at home?" He replied "nothing but a bullet," and "I guess I got it."
The story was that she took a Smith & Wesson revolver, which she kept under her pillow, walked back of him, pressed the gun to his back and fired. He then pulled out his Smith & Wesson, followed her into another room, and shot three times at his wife, one of the bullets going through the fleshy part of her right arm.
Doctors were summoned and Smith was told there was nothing that could be done, and he would die. In her statement, Mrs. Smith said that she had asked him how to unload the gun and that in picking it up it was discharged and hit her husband.
Doctors operated but could not remove the bullet, but they put in drainage tubes and waited for him to die-he recovered.
In December there occurred a very tragic death which shook the community. Matt Priester was a county supervisor and there had been many rumors about irregularities in his accounts. The grand jury was investigating, and on basis of their early considerations Priester was charged with forgery, in that he had endorsed a receipt with the name of H. Bick, a farmer near Lester-in the amount of $24.50. He was arraigned, waived preliminary examination, and was released on $4,000 bonds.
A week later the grand jury returned 32 indictments against Priester, for various irregularities.
Priester seemed not too upset, had been down town and visited with friends at the courthouse. One morning he got up, told his wife he was going to the barn to do some choring and then down town. Later she went to the barn to get some coal for the kitchen stove, and was horrified to see a container next to the bin full of blood-she then saw the blood was coming from the loft above, dripping down the container. She called for help and neighbors went to the loft and found Priester's body with a knife in his lifeless hand-and a gaping wound across his throat.
In reporting on the tragedy the Reporter said: "Goaded by what he thought was the desertion of friends and afraid to meet the gazes of people among whom he had lived for many years as a respected citizen, and dreading an investigation of matters about which he alone know the full truth; suffering from a disease which tapped his strength, Matthias Priester took his case to the Almighty."
The middle of January Lakewood Farm had another big sale of registered Percherons at Sioux City. These fancy draft animals which were offered brought high prices-more than $16,000 worth of horses were sold in short order. The 25 mares sold at an average of $390 with the top mare bringing $505. Thirteen stallions were sold at an average of %525. The average overall was $436 per head.
The first of February businessmen and farmers of the community got together and organized a "Farm and Town Commercial Association" for the purpose of their mutual benefit.
The latter part of February, Eugene V. change in the ownership of the Review. P.H. McCarty who had bought the paper back from E.L. Partch, sold a half interest to P.F. Levins, and he moved his family here from Ellsworth to become active in the operations of the paper.
The latter part of February Eugene V. Debs, the high priest of socialism addressed a meeting at the opera house. There was an audience of 250 who listened intently while the national socialist leader told of how wonderful things would be when socialism was to hold sway. There was little applause. He spoke for two hours and studiously avoided any personalities during his address.
The first of March Anchor Concrete Machinery company shipped one of their machines to Mexico where it was to be used for the erection of a large building there. The company was also finding a good demand for the machines in the United States and production was expanding.
T.M. Flemming, who had been employed in several local stores went to Chicago to buy merchandise for a new general store he was going to open in Rock Rapids. He had not decided at this stage whether to put in groceries or not, but later decided to do so.
People all over the United States were shocked by the tremendous number of deaths and suffering following the earthquake and fire in San Francisco. In April a fund was collected to be sent to assist those in need and over $900 was collected in Rock Rapids for this purpose. Other communities in the county also send money to help out.
The first of May a Dale township farmer, Charles Peters and his wife, were in Rock Rapids. They had been in San Francisco when the quake hit. They told of arriving at the Golden West Hotel, just off Market street about 2 p.m., and the quake hit shortly thereafter. One wall of the hotel collapsed, but no one was injured. They staying in the city for two days after the quake, slept on the ground and lived on food which they secured from the government troops who were patrolling the city. The first night after the quake they slept in a cemetery-until driven out by the heat from approaching fires which swept the area. They finally hired an expressman to take their baggage a couple of blocks to the ferry house, to try and get away, but after a block he refused to go any further, even for the $15 offered. They made it alone after giving him $5 for his help for a block.
The Peters told local people that they thought the first estimate of the dead, 5000, was a lot more accurate than later figures publicized of 30 deaths. Bread they said was selling for $1 a loaf after the disaster, when you could find it and drinking water was almost out of the question because of the broken mains.
Charles Shade, local banker, returned to Rock Rapids the middle of May, after having spent the winter in Pasadena. He came by way of San Francisco and visited with some of the leaders there. He said the city was in terrible shape. It was his opinion that the community would never again become a beautiful city as it was before the disaster.
Late in May meetings were held aimed at getting enough support for a cooperative elevator in Rock Rapids. Those who had been raising funds were having good luck and wanted to move ahead. Farmers from the George and Doon areas, where farmer's elevators had been started were on hand and offered encouragement.
The middle of June a formal organization for the operation of a cooperative elevator was completed. H.B. Pierce called the meeting and H.S. Boomgaarden prominent farmer and feeder presided. A committee was named to raise additional funds. On this committee were John Poppingo, R.A. Kitchen, Henry Guyan, Chas. Wengert, H. Borman, H.J. Meester. In July the preliminary work was completed and the group bought the elevator, corn cribs and coal sheds owned by Peters & Penman, paying $3,000 for the layout. C.F. Smock was named as manager for the elevator and allied operations.
On May 10 it was reported that the city council had again been wrestling with a request for a fourth license for a saloon here. James Meyers was the applicant. The WCTU was very much opposed to the issuance of a license and the council finally voted it down again. At the same meeting the WCTU proposed that they erect a water fountain in the business district and the council approved this proposal and named a committee of councilmen to work with the WCTU in getting the fountain erected.
Weather conditions for crops had been good all spring, but a late frost the first week in May set things back. The mercury fell to 28 degrees on two successive nights. Fruit was damaged extensively, but farmers thought that the small grain was not hurt.
Rainfall was below normal in 1906. Corn planting was well along in southern and central Iowa by mid-May but was only starting in Lyon County. The season proved reasonably favorable and a good crop was harvested.
There were 11 members of the class of 1906, which was graduated from the Rock Rapids high school. Members of the class were R. Lawrence Blair, John E. Carlson, Lettie M. Gilman, Lottie W. Gilman, Ellen Olive Olsen, Katherine L. Penman, Nell E. Peters, Ida W. Wallace, Hermina V. Reihsen, Ludwina Reihsen, George C. Priester. Priester was the valedictorian of the class and Katherine Penman was the salutatorian.
There had been talk for several years about reestablishing a fair here-one that would replace the street carnivals held for several years. The fair would offer prizes for top farming and gardening products, for the best livestock-and in addition would offer a program of horse races. The first week in June a meeting was held at which there was great enthusiasm. It was announced that it would be possible to buy a 23 acre tract in the southeast part of Rock Rapids for $2,100. Prominent in the meeting and named to raise funds for the fair were Roach, Keck & Wold; Simon Fisher, C.W. Bradley, J.H. Harrison, W.G. Smith, P.G. Smith, J.W. Ramsey, J.F. Nagle, E.C. Roach, G.G. Macnab, Sam Riniker, J. Miller, H.S. Boomgaarden and H.B. Pierce.
The drive for money was started at once and the following week the Reporter said that $9,000 had been raised that first week. A formal organization was immediately formed to go ahead so a show could be held in 1906. J.H. Harrison was named as president; C.J. Locker, George, vice-president; P.L. Sheneberger, second vice-president; A.S. Wold, secretary; C.J. Miller, assistant secretary; E.L. Partch, treasurer. Named as directors were W.E. Dunklebarger, J.F. Nagle, S.D. Riniker, C.W. Bradley, J.W. Ramsey, M.A. Cox, H.S. Boomgaarden, Dan McGraw, John Roach, George Jeffers, Geo H. Watson and G.M. Anderson.
By the middle of July things were really moving for the fair people. The track had been graded. Officers were trying to buy a large amount of lumber to build a grandstand, sheds and buildings needed for the show. C.W. Bradley and J.W. Ramsey were sent to Chicago to try and get a favorable price for lumber and also to buy free attractions for the show.
The middle of August the association let a contract to W.T. Joyce company for the lumber and work on building the needed improvements was started at once. A.S. Wold, the secretary, was urging local people when they were out riding in the buggies, etc., to go down and drive on the track to get it in shape for the fair. He suggested if they were just jogging they should keep to the outside of the track, but those driving fast should stay to the inside of the track.
Dates for the fair were set as Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the third week in September. However, the weather did not cooperate and heavy rains the first of the week caused the fair to be set back one day-and it was held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Feature of the fair was the horse races of three heats each, each day. Large cash purses were offered the winner.
In spite of the bad start the fair was highly successful. There were 2600 paid admissions in addition to the large number who bought season tickets and the exhibitors. The fair made some money.
The first week in November there was a bad wreck on the Rock Island road nine miles northeast of town. The evening train was late and running fast to make up time, when something went wrong and cars left the track. The last car, a passenger coach finally left the grade and rolled down a 15-foot embankment. There were 28 passengers aboard and nearly all were injured. Special trains were called for from Ellsworth and Sioux Falls to take care of the injured. Those who were not headed for Sioux Falls or Rock Rapids, were put on the train from the east, taken back to Ellsworth and then switched over to another line and taken to the Spaulding hospital at Luverne. The injured headed here and to Sioux Falls, were brought in as quickly as possible. It was some two hours from the time of the wreck until the help arrived. Those passengers who were able got others on to makeshift cots made up of the seats from the car. Three Rock Rapids people were seriously hurt. Mrs. Helen Savage had a broken arm and several broken ribs. Mrs. W.H. Bowers suffered head and back injuries and was partially paralyzed for some time. Her son, five-year old Herbert had a skull fracture. Charles Shade was less seriously injured with several fractured ribs and many bruises. Others suffered less serious injuries.
The greatest moving picture of all times was brought to the opera house in June. It was a picture of the San Francisco earthquake and fire. It was said to be the only authentic picture of that disaster. Accompanying the showing, which was put on by D.W. Robertson's famous movie company, was Professor Struck, the master-mind of modern conjuring; Harry Willard, America's premier piccolo-banjo soloist; E.L. McIntosh the operator and lecturer and James J. Haack, the musical director for the show.
When the democrats met at Waterloo for their state convention in August, they signally honored a Rock Rapids man, W.D. Wilson, by naming him their candidate for state superintendent of public instruction. When the voting took place in November he failed to be elected. The state went solidly republican, but here in Lyon County two democrats managed to win election to county offices. S.A. Feay was elected state representative and Tru Gilman was named as county superintendent. Both men were said to be very popular personally which accounted for their wins in the face of a republican sweep.
At their November meeting members of the council discussed a proposal that the electric plant be operated 24-hours a day, instead of about half time, as had been the practice. They decided that if there were enough users who would use the electricity throughout the 24-hour period, the change would be made, and a committee was named to make a survey of the community with the change in mind.
In the mid-summer, 1907, the Reporter took a tremendous step forward in newspaper production. That summer it installed the first linotype to be operated in northwest Iowa. The machine-a "Junior" model, was a marvel to everyone and it set type at a tremendous rate. Where up to that time the Reporter had from three to six compositors to set the type each week-now the new machine did the job with one man, and there was plenty of time to spare. So much so that it was even setting type for its competitor and also for some of the nearby papers who "got in a hole" and needed help.
Rock Rapids Armory company which was organized to provide an armory for Company D of the Iowa National Guard and also an opera house in which musicals, plays and dances could be held, proved to be a very successful project. The annual meeting was held shortly after the first of the year and it was reported that the organization had a 14 percent profit for the previous year. A 12 percent dividend was voted and J.H. Harrison was re-elected as president of the group. W.E. Dunkelbarger was named as vice-president and H.B. Pierce was named as secretary.
The demise of company D did not dim hopes for continued successful operation and all spring there were frequent plays and dances at the armory.
In mid-September plans for another lecture course were announced. The program for the fall and winter was to be comprised of eight numbers, with season tickets selling for $2. The first number was presented on October 3 and was the Colonial Octet-four men and four women, from the finest soloists in Boston. There were under the direction of Ulmer H. Manning and their program was received with much approbation.
As a sidelight on the interest in dramatics in the country, Hal Barber, the local boy who made good on the professional stage and headed his company, the Londale Repertoire company, was expected in Rock Rapids on Christmas. His company was playing in Sioux Falls on Christmas Eve and on Christmas night they were to play at Estherville-which gave him a chance to visit with home folks.
One of the early day scandals was ended on January 24, when it was announced that County Attorney Riniker and Attorney Simon Fisher had worked out a compromise settlement to end the Priester affair. The estate agreed to pay $2500 to cover any irregularities in the supervisor's accounts, turning over all of his bank account and mortgaging a Minnesota farm to pay the balance. Priester had committed suicide when his activities as a supervisor were under question. The county had claimed something more than $4,000 had been improperly handled.
The third trial of Charles Rocker for the murder of Adolph Schroeder ended at Sibley the latter part of March. He was again found guilty and the jury recommended life imprisonment. Verdicts of death in two former trials had been set aside, once by the supreme court and the second time by the trial judge.
The latter part of April, Laura D. Stoltenburg was again taken to Anamosa to complete serving her sentence of three years on a charge of operating a house of prostitution. Mrs. Stoltenburg had been convicted in 1902 and had served about half of her sentence of three years, when she was pardoned by Governor Cummings. She returned to Rock Rapids, but so many complaints were received about her continued activities here that County Attorney Riniker took the matter up with the governor again, and the latter revoked the parole and she had to return and serve the balance of the sentence.
One of the more spectacular crimes of the year came to a head early in July of 1907, when after many complaints about a gang of 139 Italians, who were working for Jim Hill, on the Great Northern Railroad near Alvord, had been slaughtering all the birds in the area, brought action. Sheriff Wheatley organized a posse and went to Alvord to arrest the men. It was touch and go for a time, but finally all of them were arrested and brought to Rock Rapids. Before they were loaded on the wagons for the trip, 18 guns, many knives and razors, and many ugly-looking tools, all of them razor sharp, were confiscated by the posse. One of the men who had been deputized for the posse was Roy Rogers, 22 years of age, of Rock Rapids. On the way back he was standing on the back of a hayrack, loaded with the Italians. He had an eight-gauge shotgun, which he was holding. The gun slipped out of his hand, fell against the bed of the rack and went off. The charge passed through his left wrist and tore the lower part of the arm off.
Early in November E. C. Roach, who had defended Charles Rocker in his third trial for murder at Sibley, filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, asking that the verdict be thrown out. He claimed the evidence did not sustain the verdict. For example, he said the charge was murder by hanging, while the evidence showed that Schroeder had died of chloroform.
The first of December interest in Rock Rapids ran very high in a burglary of the bank at Steen. The crime was thought to have been committed by a gang of professionals. There were five men in the group-two worked inside the bank, while the other three stood guard outside. Three different explosions were needed to blow the vault open. The men got away with $2800. They took a velocipede from the Illinois Central section house and went south on it to where that line crossed the Omaha. Then they took to the Omaha tracks, went through Rock Rapids to Doon, where they left the vehicle under an elevator and disappeared.
Growth of the demand for electricity in Rock Rapids was constant, so the council finally called for bids for another engine. The Westinghouse Company was the low bidder with a bid of $1,277 for a generator and switchboard. It was to be a three-wire unit, 70 KW capacity. On February 10 the municipal electric light plant went on to 24-hour-a-day service. Several new motors were being installed in the business district and there was assurance that there would be a commercial load at hours other than when electric lights were to be burned.
The new engine at the light plant was installed and started up the first week in July. Early reports were that barring the fact that the engine was new, and some adjustments still had to be made, it was working well.
The community was saddened the middle of February when John Whitney, prominent Midland Township farmer, died of pleura-pneumonia. He had been seriously injured the previous fall in a railroad wreck on the Rock Island and had never fully recovered. Nevertheless he seemed in good spirits and there was no indication that his condition was so serious.
Progress was being noted almost every week. On February 28 the Reporter told of a new typewriter which had been received at the First National Bank and turned over to Ira Morain in the abstracting department. The machine was made by L. C. Smith & Brothers of Syracuse, New York, already famous as gunsmiths. It was the first machine of its kind in this area, and attracted much attention.
In April F. F. Watson, the restaurant man who was starting an ice cream factory bought a power ice crusher and a power freezer. The equipment was to be operated by a new electric motor that was on order. Watson expected to do a big wholesale business with his ice cream.
When the annual meeting of the Farmers Elevator Company was held it was reported that in its first year of business the company had made a good profit-12 percent-and that profit was voted into the surplus. Stockholders were told they would have to provide more space and equipment to handle the rapidly increasing business. At least $2,000 more in capital stock would have to be sold.
The first of October F. E. Barber started work on his squab farm. He bought a half block of ground in the Miller and Thompson addition, just north of the D. M. Mills residence. This was all fenced in on sides and top, and buildings were built for a squab operation. The pigeons were to be grown for the eastern market. The price of squabs was reported to be $3.50 per dozen and great hopes were held for the new industry.
Announcement was made in November that J. H. Harrison had sold his "big store" to Brockway-Cooper Company, who would take over the first of the year. Brockway was a man from Chicago, where he worked for Marshall Field & Company. Cooper was a local man who had been working in the Harrison Store. Brockway was to run the dry goods and ready-to-wear departments while Cooper would manage the grocery part of the business.
The week of March 10 H. S. Boomgaarden, who farmed west of town and was a big sheep feeder, shipped five or six carloads of sheep to the Chicago market every day. He had worked out a new system of putting feed in the cars for the animals, which then seemed to reach the market in better condition. He figured that just a little feed meant an increase of $8 a car in his return.
Temperatures were unseasonably cold the early months of 1907 and there was considerable fear that the crop could not be gotten into the ground soon enough. In April temperatures were dropping below freezing almost every night. Vegetables that had been planted were lying dormant. Fruits were damaged and early seeded cereals were in great danger. Some reseeding was being started.
A bad electrical storm hit the week of June 27 and many barns were struck, several destroyed. At the John Scherff farm the house and barn burned down as the result of lightning and five horses and a colt in the barn were destroyed.
Beloit, which had started out as the largest town in the county, finally was losing population at a serious rate and late in March, by a vote of 21 to one, the people of the community decided to dissolve that town's corporate existence.
A serious fire broke out in the business district in April. The W. J. Hannum Drug Store was totally destroyed. The fire is believed to have started from spontaneous combustion and had gained such a start it could not be contained. Loss was estimated at $12,000 of which two-thirds was covered by insurance. The fire started in the oil room, where paints and oils were kept. It was the worst fire in Rock Rapids in 15 years.
The last of May the J. K. P. Thompson heirs, who owned the drug store building, announced it would be rebuilt at once.
On November 6 the community had another disastrous fire. The livery stable on the river bank northeast of the Rock Rapids house, caught fire. The flames spread with great speed. The water pressure was so low that when the firemen arrived they could not get water on the flames. Nothing was saved. Four horses belonging to Pat Lawler and two belonging to Henry Wedland were destroyed, along with a lot of feed, harness and equipment. The old barn was a landmark, having been built 25 years before by S. L. Fairlamb and W. H. Hatten.
Mid-May commencement exercises were held for a class of 14 students. It was the 22nd annual commencement held by Rock Rapids schools. In the class were Lena Appel, Alfred Appel, Pearl Boone, King Brandt, Agnes Ewer, Maude Egbert, Hans Hanson, Edith Julien, Clarence Julien, Gertrude McKinley, Inga Olson, Erma Partch, Ralph Pierce and Ward Egbert. Maude Egbert was the valedictorian and Gertrude McKinley the salutatorian.
In May the word came through that Company D was being disbanded. The reason given was that at the last inspection the company had not made a good enough record. Actually, local people said the reason was that there were not enough new enlistments coming in to keep the company up to strength.
The first of June a group of Rock Rapids men announced the purchase of two Minnesota banks. J. H. Harrison, H. F. Thompson and A. S. Wold were the purchasers. The banks were at Ortonville and a nearby town.
Bids had been called for the construction of a new Odd Fellows Lodge building just west of the Reporter. When time came to open the bids the letting was called off as lodge members had decided they wanted to build of concrete blocks and they asked the bidders to refigure their estimates on that material.
Mid-July work was proceeding with the erection of more buildings for the fair grounds. New sheep and hog houses were built, an addition to the horse barn was under construction and the grandstand was being expanded. The fair opened on Wednesday of the first week in September, but opening day was rained out, so the whole event was set back one day-with the showing held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The second annual fair turned out to be a tremendous success. On Thursday there were 4,350 tickets sold in addition to the season tickets and the exhibitors tickets. The displays were outstanding and the horse racing excellent. A track record of 2:11 3/4 was made by College Maid. There was some disappointment because the machinery trust would not display their equipment, or help any of their dealers who wanted to show, with the loan of machines or in any other way.
School problems were of considerable interest in the summer of 1907. Superintendent Gilman of the county school system was very much upset. Under new laws examination papers for those wishing to get teaching certificates had to be corrected in Des Moines and the graders were very strict. About one-third of those from this county who took the examinations failed to pass-in many counties as many as one-half were failing. It took 170 teachers to staff the schools in the county and Gilman said that not more than 100 teachers had proper certificates.
The first of August the Bowers family, who had been seriously injured in the Rock Island wreck the fall before, started action against the railroad for $22,000. Mrs. Lucy W. Bowers was the most seriously injured. Her back was so badly hurt she was completely paralyzed for a time and since recovering could only get around with a cane and she could not perform her household duties.
The year 1907 brought the automobile to this area in considerable numbers-and as a result there were numerous accidents. On August 20 the big Rambler owned by C. H. Puckett went into the ditch and rolled over between here and Lester. There were six people in the car and all were more or less injured. Puckett was driving toward Rock Rapids. With him were his wife, Mrs. Bertha Ewer, Maude Egbert, Emma and Hattie Schooler. A dog owned by the tenant on one of the Zornig farms ran out and was hit by the car. The dog was so big the car couldn't go over his body and the steering mechanism was damaged. The car ran wild, went into the ditch and rolled over. All were imprisoned "under the box." Puckett was able to crawl out and with strength "born of desperation" was able, alone, to right the car and free the others. He was going about 15 miles an hour at the time of the accident.
In September S. D. Riniker started out in a car driven by Dr. Cottam, to go to Larchwood, where he was to deliver an address at a celebration there. When Cottam suddenly turned a corner in the west part of town, Riniker kept right on going straight and landed about a rod outside the road, bruised and shaken up. He was able to proceed and gave his speech.
In October Dr. Bartine bought the Handy and Macnab automobile and on Sunday he had his first experience operating the car. The middle of the afternoon he drove down to his office, but when he turned out to go around a buggy, "the critter wouldn't turn." He put his foot on the brake but instead hit the slow speed. "Dr.'s benzene buggy went right through the buggy" and wrecked it. The horse was not hurt but the rig was demolished. The rig was owned by Frank Florence, who lived on the D. W. McCarthy farm east of town. Mrs. Florence and the two children had driven to town with it. Dr. Bartine purchased another buggy and the Florences went home.
The council at Inwood, the Reporter said in its issue of December 5, had passed a new ordinance requiring that automobiles must not be driven faster than seven miles an hour in that town.
Bank statements issued mid-December, covering their condition as of late November, showed that the Lyon County National Bank had footings of $522,237; the First National had $526,617 and the Iowa Savings Bank had $138,288.
The increase in the value of land was probably the basis for most of the early wealth of this area. Land which sold for $2.50 an acre in 1870 gradually increased in value as more and more people came to the area until 1908, when the first farm was sold at the $100 an acre price. The first land to bring that price, according to newspaper reports was an 80-acre tract owned by Cornelius Biteler, three and a half miles north of Rock Rapids. It changed hands the first of 1908 at $8,000 with C. F. Marr being the buyer. Biteler told friends that he thought he had sold the land "too cheap."
During the year there were a number of land sales with the prices running from $90 to $95 an acre, but it was not until fall when another $100 an acre sale was recorded. In December Ed McGuire sold his fine 240-acre farm in Liberal Township for $100 an acre. This farm, eight miles from Rock Rapids, was bought by O. Keck, J. H. Harrison, J. W. Ramsey and S. S. Wold-the price $24,000.
The community was entirely dependent on agriculture for its progress-but in addition to the corn, oats and barley which were the agricultural mainstay, there were a number of operators who were making good feeding stock-cattle and sheep, and also several who were widely known for the horses they raised and sold.
Lakewood Farm was one of the most famous horse farms in the country, but there were others in this line also. M. D. Shutt was a horse trader of considerable success. Early in January 1908, probably as a result of the highly successful sales, which Lakewood Farm had held at Sioux City, Shutt held an auction of Percherons at that place. It attracted much interest. The average paid for the animals offered was $432. a head. Shutt got $1210 for his top offering, the stallion, Dave. This animal was reported to be a typical Percheron, with outstanding appearance.
Late in January G. M. Gage of Lester had a big sale of livestock. His herd of blooded Shorthorns was widely recognized and there was a big crowd on hand for the sale. The top animal brought $250 while the average price paid was $93.
There was a lot of discussion early in 1908 about weather prospects for the year. The winter had been unusually mild and temperatures rarely fell below zero. The coldest mark for the year was recorded on February 20 when the mercury was five degrees below zero.
Early in March Lakewood Farm held another sale of horses at Sioux City. This sale was a big one-it took two days to sell all the animals. The top sale was a seven-year-old stallion, Olbert, which brought $1650. Olbert was an animal that had been imported from France. The animal weighed 2200 pounds. Average price paid for the draft animals was 4361 a head. A total of $41,690 was realized from the sale.
The latter part of April a bad storm struck the West End of the county. The tornado did its greatest damage in the Inwood area. There buildings were leveled and a number of people suffered injuries. At the Henry Hanson farm two and one-half miles southwest of Inwood not a building escaped damage. A schoolhouse a half mile north of the Hanson place was leveled. Fortunately the teacher had become alarmed at the way the sky looked and sent all her pupils home. There were no injuries. At the Ben Craft farm the family were gathered in the kitchen when the storm hit. A 4x4, six feet long was blown through the house and struck Miss Tilda Helgerson, a hired hand. She had several ribs broken and her lungs were seriously injured, however she recovered. The storm continued across the west end of the county and hit again with devastating force at the O.M. Parkinson ranch on the state line north of Larchwood, where it did great damage.
May was a particularly wet month. Predictions that it would be a wet season were born out. The rainfall all month was above normal and on the 24th two inches of rain fell in half an hour. There were also several periods of high winds during the month and small tornados did considerable damage. The storms followed pretty much the course of the Rock River. The Hunt ranch was badly damaged and here in town many homes and buildings suffered minor damage.
Probably because every farmer depended on horses for his farming power, there was also much interest in horses for their speed. In 1908 everyone in the area was interested in Mark Shutt's mare, Hazel Veach. She was said to be the fastest thing around and she had all kinds of fans. A large number of them went to Pipestone over the Fourth of July when a race program was held, to see the little mare race.
The track was heavy, and the mare came out with second place. Time of the fastest mile in the three-heat race was 2:19 1/2.
The 1908 Lyon County Fair was an outstanding success. It was held the last week in August and attendance for the largest day was over 7000-an all-time record. For the three days of the show 12,000 people attended. There were a total of 6,139 paid admissions to the grandstand for the free acts and the long program of horse racing which was presented.
Grain prices were good in September 1908. Dealers were paying 42 to 44 cents a bush for oats and barley was bringing 50 to 54 cents a bushel. The Chicago market for corn was 80 cents a bushel, but there was little corn around the area to be bought. Dealers were contracting some sale of new corn to be delivered at 50 cents a bushel.
October 15 the newspapers reported that corn husking had started in the section. They said the crop was never in better shape for gathering and that the county had never raised a better crop. For the first time several husking machines were being used to pick the crop. Those who had them said they were doing a good job. They not only picked and husked the corn but they also elevated it into the wagons.
Interest here continued high in the social graces. The lecture course presentation in late January was the famous Judge Ben B. Lindsey of Denver, considered the world's greatest authority on child welfare and juvenile correction.
On March 12 it was announced that Professor Tenoli, who had led the Rock Rapids band and taught instrumental music here for six years, was leaving Rock Rapids. Tonoli was a first-rate band man and had a national reputation. However, the amount he could be paid for his service was not to his liking, and his temperament was the cause of some friction. As a result he moved to Cumberland, Wisconsin where he was to receive $1,000 a year for directing the band at that place.
All during the spring of 1908 there were frequent road shows presented at the Opera House and the Sons of Hermann had frequent dinners and dances that were widely attended and very popular.
Several chautauqua companies were bidding to provide the talent for the Rock Rapids Lecture Course that year, and in the fall the season's opener was the Bostonia Ladies Orchestra. This group of 20 young ladies from Boston was headed by Belle Eaton Renfrew. They presented an outstanding program of instrumental and vocal music for an appreciative audience.
There had been considerable friction between the community and the Water Company ever since the water system was established. It grew worse during 1908. At the first meeting of the council that year the company was fined $50 because it was claimed that when the Lawley livery stable burned down there was no pressure in the water mains so the firemen could not save the property.
Then in September there was much concern when a case of typhoid fever developed. It leaked out that the city had been notified 30 days earlier by the state chemist that Rock Rapids water was not fit for human use. Word was immediately put out that no water from the system should be used unless it was thoroughly boiled. A new test was made of the wells and it, too, was contaminated. It was believed that garbage that had been dumped near the wells was to blame for the situation and work was immediately started to clean this up. Tests of the water taken at the electric plant were even more seriously contaminated and the tests showed that the water contained typhoid germs-and had been contaminated by sewage.
Work was started at once on a new well-people were cautioned about using the company's water. The Illinois Central sent in a chemist to test the water in its well, which was located in the IC Park, just east of the station. This well was found to have pure water and people were urged to use it.
One of the early day landmarks here was an iron awning which covered the front of the Richards block. It was thought to be an eyesore so at their meeting in January the council ordered the awning torn down as a nuisance. There were still plenty of hitching posts on the street to take care of the farmers teams when they came to town--and livery stables where the horses and rigs could be sheltered.
The Rocker case which had been in the courts for years, came to an end the first week in January, when the Supreme Court affirmed the decision reached in the third trial of the case, and Rocker was to serve a life sentence at Anamosa. The case grew out of the murder of August Schroeder in 1900. Rocker was finally brought to trial for the crime, and was found guilty in District Court three times. The first time he was sentenced to death, but the sentence could not be carried out because of an appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ordered a new trial, and the results of that trial were thrown out for technical reasons. The third trial, held at Sibley under a change of venue, went against Rocker, but the jury recommended life imprisonment, which the judge agreed to. The decision was appealed but it was finally upheld.
There seemed to be less crime in the community after the turn of the century. Whether it was a difference in enforcement of the laws, or whether the people were more law abiding is a question-but things did seem to calm down somewhat.
When Mayor C. W. Bradley was installed as the head of the town government he notified those who were reputed to be operating gambling rooms that there would be no more gambling. He found out they were continuing to operate, so he sent Marshals Carroll and Penman out to raid them. The law officers went to the room over the Jesse Bell pool hall where they found a half dozen players and a couple of operators in a hot game of poker and arrested the whole bunch. Then they raided the H. G. Penney rooms over the First National Bank and arrested a bunch of players there. The players were let go, but the operators of the games were taken into mayor's court, fined $25 each or given the option of 30 days in jail. They paid.
Reports indicated that there wasn't so much irritation about the games as there was that the operators were getting farmers who came to town to sell their crops, or to buy supplies, into the games and got their money.
Rock Rapids got into the limelight on a celebrated-for that day-kidnapping case. Mrs. Harvey E. Fry of Lockport, New York had left her husband and came to Sioux Falls, where she was living until she could get a divorce. It seems Mr. Fry wasn't much against letting her have the divorce, but when she left New York she had, against court agreements, taken the two children, who were supposed to have been left with Fry. So Fry and a friend came to Sioux Falls, notified Sheriff Wheatley, who met the 4:40 southbound Illinois Central and arrested the two men and took the children off the train. The whole bunch was turned over to Sioux Falls authorities.
Late in November Mrs. Laura D. Stoltenburg was brought into court again and charged with operating a house of prostitution. Simon Fisher was appointed by the court to defend Mrs. Stoltenburg, and he moved there be a directed verdict of not guilty, because of insufficiency of evidence and further that it was not shown that there were other women in the house. Judge Gaynor, on the bench, agreed with Fisher, and issued the order freeing Mrs. Stoltenburg.
Rock Rapids people were always sports minded and in 1908 they had a girls' basketball team that was outstanding. The big contest was scheduled against Luverne the middle of January, so arrangements were made to run a special train on the Omaha for the game. Two hundred twenty people bought tickets on the train and went to Luverne. There the local girls defeated Luverne 19 to 10. Unfortunately the local boys, who also played a Luverne team, did not do so well; they lost 23 to 20.
J. A. Brockway and W. S. Cooper who bought the J. H. Harrison Store and took over that business the first of the year, were engaged in an extensive modernization program. New cases, counters, etc. were installed, new merchandise was added to the stock, and the store was being advertised as the finest in the whole area.
The Rock Rapids community was seeking industry and business people made a deal with James P. Younger of Illinois, that they would give him the triangular piece of land east of the Rock Rapids house and west of the river as the location for a new creamery he would build. The new plant was to be 50 feet wide and 125 feet long.
The new creamery was completed in July, the engines tested and everything was found to be in good condition for operation. Four men were hired to work in the creamery and routes were set up to collect the cream that would be processed in the plant. Operations were started the middle of the month.
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