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Chapter XV

When the Close brothers had once embarked up on their scheme of promoting northwestern Iowa, and by reason of their prominent connections in England induced Englishmen of wealth and position to act upon their representations, the news papers of Le Mars missed no opportunity to let the reading public know all about the enterprise to the last detail. Almost every week for a number of years they chronicled the arrival of immigrants from England and introduced them by name to the Yankee inhabitants of city and country. Thus, in the spring of 1884 came a "jolly company of young men": M., R., and H. P. Margesson, R. and E. Fullbrook, A. Bower, W. Edsell, G. Morris, R. Stanhope, and M. Farquhar. One interesting account, "Immigrants in Broad cloth", reads as follows:

     A rare sight indeed is the Lemars depot on the arrival of fresh accessions to the English Colony. The new comers confound all our knowledge and established traditions of immigrants, for immigrants in deed they are. They descend from the recesses of the Pullman palace cars dressed in the latest London and Paris styles, with Oxford hats, bright linen shining on their bosoms, a gold repeater ticking in the depths of their fashionably cut vest pockets and probably carrying in their hands the latest agony in canes. If ladies accompany the party their graceful forms are shrouded in the most elegant of cloaks or dolmans, their heads being surmounted by the most coquettish of bonnets and their fresh countenances beam with the ruddy glow of health and good nature. The children, too, look as if they had just stepped out of a band-box and nowhere among young or old is there a hint of travel-stained weariness or poverty.
     The scene at the baggage car is as peculiar. Stout Japanned and heavy leathern boxes and trunks are tossed on the platform by the inveterate. baggage-smasher, who seems to make a final effort to render their seemingly invulnerable joints. Box after box, trunk after trunk, (198) until a miniature mountain has been built on the platform. We recall an instance last summer of a single family that had eighty-two pieces of baggage, all of the strong and desirable variety.
     They are by no means so dainty as they seem. In a day or two the men are seen on the streets with the plainest of stout corduroy suits, with knee-breeches and leather leggings. Great, strong, hardy-looking fellows they are, and though most of them are fresh from the English schools and universities, they have plenty of muscle and snap. We doubt whether any little town in the great West, since its settlement began, ever received any considerable installment of such "immigrants" as may be seen almost any day dropping off at the union depot in Lemars.
     The question will be asked, What kind of settlers for a new country do these dainty and wealthy looking persons make? and the answer is, the best in the world. (199)

The Le Mars press faithfully chronicled the doings of the promoters and of the "colonists" them selves every time news items of the personal type could be discovered, nothing of interest escaping the vigilant local reporters even of that day; and since one paper boasted of a mailing-list that included England, Ireland, Scotland, France, and Germany, (200) its "colony" news gained some currency abroad, though, of course, not as much as in American journals. Newspapers throughout Iowa contributed plenty of publicity to the subject; nor were they careful to omit an element of exaggeration, as the following illustration bears witness:

So great has become !the importance of this exclusively English colony that an office both in Le Mars and London are necessary to conduct its business. The caste feeling is said. to be very strong, and none are admitted but the pure bloods of wealth and character. Any number of Lords are now scattered over Plymouth and Sioux counties. If they all have [the] energy and vim of the Close Brothers they will make northwestern Iowa blossom like the rose. (201)

A correspondent writing from Le Mars guaranteed that a visit to the English community (he does not state how widely scattered and indefinite it was, with American farmers and townspeople in the region at all times more numerous) "would almost convince one that he was in England, so completely do the customs of that nation predominate." (202) Another Iowa newspaper enthusiastically informed its readers:

A large proportion of the settlers are English - drawn from the great middle classes of the mother country - men of brawn and brains, of cash and credit, of labor and life. These people are settling here by scores, hundreds and thousands. They all have money, and are all enterprising, shrewd, and full of resources. In a short time they will own the whole country, and under their hands it will blossom like a garden. (203)

A much more moderate pen picture of Le Mars and its immigrant arrivals appeared at Dubuque, although the correspondent's eulogy of Germans and Teutons as a useful type of settler probably fits the Hollanders who had been going to Orange City in large numbers for at least a decade:

     The most notable feature of this place is the incessant flow of foreign immigration to it - English, Germans and some Hibernians, too. It is a sight as amusing as it is novel to our natives, who have never been abroad or spent any time in any of our principal seaport cities, to witness those people as they alight from the trains at the depot move through the streets in groups and congregate around the hotels and public places distinctly exhibiting "by the cut of their jib" their respective colors (nationality), with leather leggings of the Englishman, and the Teutons. I saw one of the latter, who had room enough in the seat of his pants, if such they might be called, to hold a fair sized balloon, and as he exposed himself to the fresh breeze that was blowing, I thought of him only as a balloon and the perilous ascent which he might suddenly be called upon to make, much against his will and far above his ambition. But his covering was too open all around for dangerous inflation so he did not go up but stood safely anchored to the ground with a monster pair of wooden shoes. With his toggery and the habiliments which covered his wife and four children he could furnish sail enough for a small sized ship, and I am sure their wooden shoes would answer the purpose of life boats in an emergency. Yet with all their grotesque appearance one of them is worth more in the market of utility than a ship load of your fashionable society folks who would not be taught the noble art of production while they are self taught and excel in the simple knack of consumption. Yes, these same Teutons are welcomed settlers here, and are just the kind of material to develop a new country.
     The English colony in town and country now numbers between four and five hundred against less than two hundred one year ago, and it is thought will reach a thousand before another year shall have expired .... The growth of this town is remarkable. Its population has increased over thirty per cent since the last government census was taken, and should it continue at this rate for another year, and, it is believed it will, the population will not fall short of four thousand. (204)

Outside the State of Iowa, the press of St. Paul, Minnesota, made its readers well acquainted with "the New England of the Northwest" not only by reason of rail connections, but also because the settlers of that part of Iowa were expected to look to St. Paul as a market for their cattle and grain and to its merchants for their supplies. The Pioneer Press (205) took especial interest in the tide of emigration to Le Mars, and its fame among the better classes of Old England which had contributed men of known character and large resources such as "Capt. the Hon. Reynolds Moreton, R. N., who is a brother of the earl of Ducie; Lord Hobart, the future earl of Buckinghamshire; the son of Admiral Sir Sidney Dacres, K. C. B.; the two sons of Admiral Farquhar of the Royal British navy; a son of Sir John Lubbock, the member of parliament for the city of London; the son of Lord Alfred Paget; R. Potter, the son of the president of the Cobden club, and others of equally honorable connections and high blood."

A New York paper called attention to the fact that the United States, besides being an asylum for the oppressed of all nations, was attracting at Le Mars the wealth and affluence of England "to our fertile lands and business advantages as ample opportunities for productive investments." (206) Be sides telling about the 500 young Englishmen, nearly all unmarried, who had settled near Le Mars, an organ of public opinion at Chicago published the address of Mr. Walter, member of Parliament and proprietor of London's greatest newspaper, after his return to London from a visit in the West. With his wife and daughter "The Thunderer ", as he was called,, had attended a party given at Le Mars by Fred Brooks Close on the evening of October 5, 1881, in honor of his marriage with Miss Margaret Humble. Speaking to English farmers on the occasion of the annual dinner of the Abingdon Agricultural Society, he mentioned the names of the gentlemen who had emigrated to Iowa because he was "firmly persuaded that America will become more a field of enterprise for thousands of young English gentlemen farmers and other classes of people." (207)

Under the heading, "Young Man, Go West", one of the most widely read and popular magazines (208) of the time published Poultney Bigelow's account of a visit to Le Mars in 1880 and the colony of about three hundred Englishmen who had undertaken, "with moderate capital and in- finite pluck, to build up their fortunes in this country." The writer had carefully examined northwestern Iowa, and he gave "the dollars and cents" of farming in that region as an evidence of its wonderful future. The Le Mars Sentinel in reprinting his article and referring to his "calm and judicial language" declared editorially:

Plymouth county is rapidly arresting the attention of men everywhere, and those who examine it most minutely are best satisfied that it is the most desirable region of cheap lands in America, for investment and settlement. When the leading magazines and journals in the world are presenting its claims on the attention of both capital and labor, we may rest assured that it has merits of no ordinary character. He who owns a farm in Plymouth county owns a fortune, and there are still fortunes in Northwestern Iowa for 100,000 enterprising families. But they are being rapidly appropriated and they who would have them, must secure them soon.

During its "boom" days Le Mars claimed the unique distinction of being better known in Great Britain than any other city of the United States. This resulted, of course, not only from the fact that the Close brothers and their fellow colonists were men of high social position in the old country, but also from the wide publicity given to their enterprise. The pamphlet (209) printed in, several editions by the Closes found its way to the best circles; while letters to the editors of well-known English newspapers and articles in; magazines gave the "Gateway", as Le Mars was called by its American denizens, a fame out of all proportion to the number of Britishers who had availed themselves of residence within its borders. All these writings, like Poultney Bigelow's article, had one characteristic in common: they described agriculture and the live stock industry in Iowa, buttressed with figures, percentages, and tabular outlines, thus constituting a convincing form of propaganda.

Writing for an English magazine, Robert Benson informed the English people of the success. of the community planted in Iowa, basing it not so much on the pleasures of the life as on the financial profits already accrued: he gave "an accurate account of the results obtained through four years' labour" in contrast with the estimates of others. After alluding to the university and public school men who had followed the lead of the Closes, Benson frankly pointed out some of the discomforts which necessarily attended settling in a new country:

It is not everyone, for instance, who can endure with equanimity the complete absence of good servants unless imported from England, or not to have his boots blacked except for an extra payment often cents, or to get nothing but tea and coffee to drink, and that none of the best, and only salt pork badly cooked to eat, when off the beaten track. Moreover, the natives of the country, when travelling, whether to inspect land or to buy stock, and stopping for the night, as the custom is, at the nearest farm house, for a charge of 25 cents, as if it were an inn, sleep two in a bed, and do not wash; and an Englishman would give great offence who refused to conform to the first part at least of the custom, if the lack of accommodation made it necessary. Nor again does Iowa enjoy the equable cold of the "isothermal" region. It does not matter how many degrees below zero the thermometer is, if only it is perfectly still, and the sun is shining. But Iowa is liable, occasionally in the winter, to wind and low temperature combined, and then if one be delicate, there is nothing f or it but to stay in houses which are well built and warm. (210)

C. W. Benson, a partner of the Close brothers in England, sent a lengthy communication to a Manchester newspaper (211) playing up the remark able advantages of English emigration to Iowa, his object being to illustrate what could "still be done by people who go out prepared to put their hearts and heads into farming in Western America." Articles such as these had a wide circulation in the British Colonies, and afforded excellent copy for the press in Canada. (212) Amusingly different, however, was a letter from Le Mars to Manchester composed by a young Englishman who, after relating his adventures as a duck-hunter, dashed "with refreshing kittenishness into the great hired-girl problem" and made "some surprising discoveries in social. science", when he wrote:

Now as to the "helps," though they don't call their mistress "Mum," yet they are kept in perfect subjection. Of course, among men the tinker and tailor call one by one's surname, or even by one's Christian name if he happens to know it. To that you get used. Also in hotels all dine together, the working man and the swell. To us English it is wonderful how civil all Yankees are, nothing could be too good for us. They opened doors for us, carried our bags and never took a "tip" during our travels; but there the English, as a rule, carry revolvers and now and then use them, which creates respect. (213)

A Le Mars editor asked if "the callow swell" was "a saphead, or is he only trying to come Mark Twain on his English friends?"

London's greatest newspaper opened its columns to writers interested in the Le Mars project; and its owner, Mr. Walter, after a visit to his countrymen in Iowa, did not hesitate to acquaint everyone with what he saw. In the course of an after-dinner speech Mr. Walter declared:

And what I want to impress upon you is that it is exceedingly desirable in the interests of agriculture generally that in all the English counties there should be a certain body of men able to advise neighbors who are about to start for that part of the world. [Hear, hear.] And I would like to exhort you who are not too old to try the experiment of my Lincolnshire friends, not to buy land - that is the last thing I would recommend - without twelve months' experience, but to go out first and see the country and become the fore-runners of others. If there be any here who would be the Caleb and Joshua, I should be very glad to give them hints. [Hear, hear.] Farmers couldn't do better than form an association in different parts of the country to enable people to go out and judge for themselves. That, I believe, is what Mr. Pell and his friends who went out to America a few years ago are doing. You may depend upon it that any Englishman going there who is a good judge of land, who is steady, and industrious, and not afraid of a rigorous climate, may commence a course of life which will make him prosperous and wealthy before he is 50 years of age. (214)

Had all the Englishmen whom he encountered at Le Mars stuck to their enterprise, Mr. Walter's prophecy would have come very near realization. 

England's weekly purveyor of humor, Punch, (215) saw its chance for a joke at the expense of the emigrants at Le Mars. It presented a half-page cartoon depicting two handsome maids in the midst of preparing a meal in the kitchen. One of them holds an uncovered steaming sauce pan and the other is tending a leg of mutton suspended in a high round stove which stands over hot coals on the floor. To the right are two athletic men just coming in from work, with shovels, picks, and spades upon their shoulders: one of them gazes hungrily at the food while the other, a man with heavy mustache and side whiskers, wipes the sweat from his manly brow. Under the cartoon heading, "Colonising in Iowa, U. S.", appears the parenthetical explanation, "A Hint to the Younger Sons of our Aristocracy, and eke to the Daughters thereof". The following dialogue ensues:

     Lady Maria --How late you are, boys: your baths are ready, and I've mended your dress trousers, Jack. So look sharp and clean yourselves, and then you can lay the cloth, and keep an eye on the mutton while Emily and I are dressing for dinner.
     Lord John --All right. How many are we to lay for?
     Lady Emily - Eight. The Talbots are coming, and Major Cecil is going to bring the Duke of Stilton, who's stopping with him.

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198 The writer forgot to mention high-backed tin baths which also found a place in many an Englishman's "luggage ".

199 The Lemars Sentinel, April 7, 1881, April 11, 1884.

200 The Lemars Sentinel, November 7, 1883.

201 Denison Bulletin, quoted in The Iowa Liberal (Le Mars), January 5, 1881.

202 Dubuque Herald, quoted in The Iowa Liberal (Le Mars), August 10, 1881.

203 Fonda Gazette, quoted in The Iowa Liberal (Le Mars), August 3, 1881.

204 Dubuque Telegraph, May 21, 1881.

205 St. Paul Pioneer Press, July 31, 1881.

206 New York Review, quoted in The Iowa Liberal (Le Mars), January 5, 1881.

207 The Chicago Tribune, December 12, 1881.

208 Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol. LXII, pp. 764-768.

209 Close's Farming in North-Western Iowa, pp. 1-32, with a map of Iowa.

210 Macmillan's Magazine, Vol. XLIV, pp. 65, 67.
Benson's article was recommended to English squires by The Lemars Sentinel, June 16, 1881. Robert Benson, a brother of Constantine W. Benson who was a partner of the Close brothers, is to-day the head of Robert Benson and Company, financiers in the city of London. He and Mr. Stickney of St. Paul financed the Chicago and Great Western Railway system.

211 Manchester Courier, quoted in The Lemars Sentinel, March 3, 1881.

212 Toronto Globe, quoted in The Lemars Sentinel, June 16, 1881.

213 Manchester Courier, quoted in The Lemars Sentinel, January 27, 1881.

214 London Times, quoted in The Lemars Sentinel, December 15, 1881.

215 Punch, November 12, 1881. 

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