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"Prairies of Promise"

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Chapter Five

Maxwell was laid out in 1881 and this same year the people of Iowa Center started moving to the new town. By the latter part of December, the Chicago Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad was crowding along fast and the rails were laid to Indian Creek west of town and the surfacers were only a few miles behind finishing the track. Freighting in a limited way was to start in a few days.

Mary Ellen and Jesse built a new hotel in Maxwell and moved their family of eight children and all their possessions there in 1882, traveling the three miles in a lumber wagon. There were no graded roads and the one hill on the way was very steep. Mary Ellen and Jesse with baby Esther, sat on the front seat. Kate and Curt were so small that they could not stay on the seats with the other children so they slid to the bottom of the wagon. There were three seats. The new hotel was not quite completed when the family moved in. Mary Ellen worried a great deal about the new baby, Esther. This hotel is the building which stands across the corner south and west of the Christian Church.

James Will remained in Iowa Center and from here he sent his two sons Lee and Fred to school at Ames. Mary Ellen had Sidney and John take turns staying with James while his sons were away from home. One time Fred Will sent a big dog to his father for a watch dog.

During the first year in Maxwell, the new hotel did a thriving business and was crowded to capacity.

On January 3, 1883 bids were opened for carrying the mail between Nevada and Maxwell, through Iowa Center, thirteen miles three times a week and back leaving Maxwell Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and Nevada on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays. Washington Boitnett was the driver of the stage and prided himself with his fine Percheon horses, which were built more for strength than speed. However, he seldom allowed anyone to go around him and with mud flying and water splashing, he would keep in the road and taunt the drivers of the other vehicles--that they had "better get another horse." It was on these stage trips that all the old timers talked over their pioneer experiences, told where they came from, what a time they had getting there and of their battle with the prairies and woods to make a home. Many were the stories of corn bread and molasses, wild crabapple sauce and early day victuals. Once red headed Mrs. Robinson, who lived on the creek bank with her husband and large family, took the stage from Iowa Center to Nevada.

On February 14, 1883, Sheriff Banks assisted by Dan McCarthy started for Ft. Madison penitentiary with Mrs. Elizabeth and John Porter. There were large but orderly crowds at the depots in Nevada and Ames to witness the departure of the prisoners. Mr. Banks remained a day or two with Warden McMillan.

In April, 1883, Maxwell voted to build a $2,700 school house. This was a good move and just what might have been expected of the enterprising town and township in which it is located.

This same year, the I.O.O.F. Lodge held its sixty-fourth anniversary. The social at the hall was enjoyed by the brethren, their wives and invited guests, and the supper at the Bowen House was par excellence.

On December 17, 1883, Maxwell was incorporated as a town. About two years after the Bowens moved to Maxwell, in 1884, James Will was taken ill. John Bowen stayed with him at the time he had his first stroke of paralysis. One morning John wakened and his Grandfather was standing in front of the mirror stroking his mustache, and saying, "I cannot run it." He mentioned something about going to Maxwell. When they reached the first corner south of Iowa Center, they decided to cut across the Jesse Wood farm and when they reached the edge of Maxwell, they met Jesse, Steve Cooper and Sidney going after trees to plant along the north and east side of the new hotel. John wanted to go along with Jesse and the others to get the trees, so James walked the rest of the way alone. He reached the hotel just as Mary Ellen was doing up her breakfast dishes. He went in and leaned over the dining room table and said to Mary Ellen, "I thought that I was going to [be] dead and I brought the boy home to you." Quickly, Mary Ellen fixed a bed for him in the sitting room where she could give him every care. This was quite a severe stroke of paralysis and it effected his speech, but after a short while he was up and around the house. He recalled that he had hidden some money at Iowa Center which worried him a great deal. As soon as he was able to make the trip, he was taken to Iowa Center, but the money was gone and his dog was killed. There was a feeling that he had been slugged and robbed, but there was not positive proof and he could not remember just what did happen to him. Shortly after this, his small tailor shop of two rooms was moved from Iowa Center to Maxwell and put just south of the new hotel. Just south of his shop was a millinery shop owned by the Brodie sisters Esther and Annie.

Mary Ellen never left her father alone. When he left the house, some of the children always went with him. One morning he and John went for a walk through the woods, (now the city park) and to Indian Creek west of the hotel. When they returned, James went to his shop, where Mary Ellen was cleaning. He sat down in his big chair and when Mary Ellen looked up she saw that he had had another stroke of paralysis. She called for help and got him into bed. Dr. Goodman said that he was very, very ill and there was not much hope of his recovery. He made a very remarkable recovery, but about two weeks later he had a third stroke which left him perfectly helpless and speechless. However, in a short time he was up and around again, but he never entirely regained his speech. Mary Ellen taught him to walk and talk as though he were a little child. During the time James was in bed, little Esther had heat exhaustion and Mary Ellen used to keep her two patients in the same bed.

At this same time, Dr. Ephriam Bowen was also sick at the hotel. When he recovered sufficiently, he went to Nebraska to live with his daughter, Ruth Wells.

On 1885 (?), the Bowen's ninth child, a boy Glen arrived. In 1885, Mary Ellen and Jesse and their family of nine children moved to the Maxwell House, a new hotel that had been built in the south part of town near the Milwaukee railroad. The little tailor shop was moved for the second time and placed just north of the "Maxwell House." Here James lived until Jesse sold the hotel.

In April 1886, the coal prospectors struck a paying vein of coal at a depth of 108 feet southwest of the mill at Iowa Center. There appeared to be enough coal to supply the surrounding country.

Here in the Maxwell House on the 10th of November, 1887, Mary Ellen and Jesse's tenth and last child was born, a girl named Annie Laurie.

Once when Dr. Ephriam Bowen visited at his son Jesse's home, the Maxwell House, he went out in the timber south of Maxwell and came back with slippery elm which he used to fix a chair seat that needed repairing. He put the strands of elm in a tub of water and after they were thoroughly soaked he would weave them back and forth for the chair seat. When the elm dried out, it made a tight and firm seat. He had asthma at this time and every night before he went to bed he would put a powder in a saucer and touch a lighted match to it and then he would inhale the fumes. It was a great treat for the little children to watch their grandfather taking his medicine.

In the winter of 1887, Will Bowen of Marshalltown, brother of Jesse, wrote to Sidney and John for help in buying a stag hound for hunting. This dog's name was "Old Rube" and he was owned by a man named Hand. The Bowens had two sewing machines, so the boys traded one of them for the dog and then Will gave them $10.00 for the dog. He was a huge dog and was well worth the money as he helped catch several large wolves in Marshall County.

(Can put in two cute letters from Sidney to his Uncle Will Bowen)

Sidney and John were great pals. Sometimes the older boys would teach them dirty verses and when they recited them at home, Mary Ellen would wash their mouth out with soap. This seemed to be a sure cure for bad words, and was one of Mary Ellen's favorite remedies.

The "Maxwell House" was one of the old bowl and pitcher hotels and was heated by stoves. Of course, the choice sleeping rooms were those that the stove pipe went through. These were furnished the best and cost more per night. The outside toilet, which was a two roomed affair, one side for ladies and one for the gents with two holes in each room, was located almost at the back of the lot. Jesse felt sorry for his patrons so in the coldest weather he kept a small kerosene stove burning to warm the air a bit.

The children were one by one growing into young manhood and womanhood. Fred had married [Arnetta Earp] and moved to Eagle Grove, Iowa.

For a short while, the Bowen family lived in a store building just north of James Will's shop. It was the fall of 1890 and Sidney was working at the poultry house picking chickens. A chicken scratched his finger and it became infected. On Thanksgiving Day he hitched up his ponies and went for a drive and when he came home he said that John could put the ponies away as he did not feel well. He went to bed and was sick just about a week when he died of general blood poisoning. Everyone was so kind to the family, but it was the first death in this family circle and they felt it keenly. Kate and Esther stayed all night at the Morse home and the next day when they came home, Mary Ellen took them into see their brother. Mrs. Ferguson, the minister's wife took care of Annie Laurie.

James Will always had a little garden in back of his shop. It was just like a picture with the little beds built up and the paths between swept most every day with a broom. The garden was watered daily with the old sprinkling can. Sweet peas were always on a high lattice built with strings running up and down and across tied to posts. He was so proud of his vegetables and would gather and wash them ready for use. He loved to shell the peas. He used to sit on his little back porch with his straw sailor hat and glasses on sideways, shelling peas for Mary Ellen. He had a heating stove in his shop and used to roast apples on top of it for the children. These apples smelled and tasted like no other ones in the whole world. He used to pitch dollars at little stakes for his pasttime. Just like pitching horseshoes only he used silver dollars.

Other buildings north of the tailor shop were Mr. Cook's shoe repair shop in the same building and next to it the Wilcox's store. Mrs. Cook was a fat woman and wore mother hubbard dresses with a belt around the waist which made her look like a sack tied in the middle. Many times the children watched her smoke her clay pipe and listened to her stories and talk.

Mr. Jennings was a big man with a heavy beard and he was a cobbler of the old school. He sat on a little low bench with compartments for different sizes of nails and other supplies he needed. He used to give the children shoe wax to chew, which was black and tasted like tar. He was very jolly and a great story teller and was very friendly with everyone. Once Esther was out of school on account of an infected toe, but she hobbled over to call on the Jennings family. She was visiting with Mrs. Jennings when Mr. Jennings came in the room and acted as though he was going to kiss her. As she jerked away he stepped on her sore toe which sent her home in about one jump.

Mr. Wilcox had a little grocery store in the next building and the youngsters spent their pennies there and used to buy chewing tobacco for James and Jesse. James' favorite brand was Climax and Jesse's was Piper Heidseck (?). Mr. Wilcox had a wonderful assortment of penny candies but the children were his daily customers and managed to get two or three varieties for a cent. He had tiny tin skillets filled with candy eggs and little tin spoons with which to eat them. There were also yellow marshmallow bananas, stick candy with rings on it and squares of white gum on which were lovely pictures.

Easter was a big day for the younger Bowen children. They usually spent Saturday afternoon making a rabbit nest outside of the bedroom window hoping the Easter bunny would find it. The first thing on Easter morning they would look out of the window and the nest never failed to be filled with beautifully colored eggs. Certainly Mary Ellen was a marvel to do so many lovely things for her children when she lead such a busy life in the hotel.

At the back of the lot was a fine barn with a driveway through the middle and stalls on either side. Three was a rope swing in the driveway and the children were permitted to play here with the understanding that they were not to go into the hay mow. One day Kate and Curt wanted to take little Esther up into the hay loft so she could see what it was like. They got her to the top round of the ladder when she loosened her grasp and fell backwards into the manger, striking the back of her head on the edge of it. She screamed and cried and of course the other two children tried their best to quiet her as they knew their mother would never allow them to play in the barn again if she learned of the accident. But Mary Ellen heard the commotion and then she took a butcher knife, marched to the barn and cut down the swing.

Mary Ellen had some very good friends in the country by the name of Cliff and Clara Funk who had a daughter Velora. Every Saturday they came to town as was the custom of all farmers. They had asked Esther many times to go home with them, but she always refused. Finally Mary Ellen persuaded her to go and as evening drew near, Esther started feeling homesick. She could not eat nor sleep and finally burst out crying. The Funks finally hitched up their team and late that night took her home. She was just about the happiest little girl in the world.

One summer, Mary Ellen, Maude, and Edna worked very hard to get Esther's clothes fixed up so that she could go to Eagle Grove to visit Fred and his wife [Arnetta Earp]. She made the trip with John Will and his wife Hattie who were making the trip there to visit Fred and his wife. Esther started getting homesick almost the minute they reached their destination and again she could not eat nor sleep and when she finally started crying, her brother Fred decided she should go home. So she returned home with John and Hattie and again she was a happy child when she saw her mother.

Esther and her girl chum, dressed in their best "bib and tucker", decided to walk to Iowa Center one beautiful Sunday afternoon. They dilly-dallied along the way until they reached a bridge. Here they stopped to rest and upon looking below, saw a calf stuck in the mud. Shooing and shouting at the critter did no good so then hailed the first passerby who happened to be Clark McClain. He and the man with him rescued the calf with straps from the harness.

The old slough east of the old red brick school house in Maxwell was always a menace to the teachers. It was there that Willie Kyle got his tape worm and Harry Scott the pneumonia.

After the Scott boy's demise, as a lesson to the rest of the pupils, school was dismissed early and the children all went over to see their school mate who had left them. They entered the side porch and filed through the house and out the back door. Right next door lived an old blind couple and the children could see them sitting on their back porch. All in all it was a gala day for the youngsters, having seen a corpse and a blind couple all in one day.

There was much excitement at the school on a certain day Stella Grubbs who lived in the country on Schuyler Hill, did not get to school. While her mother was out of doors doing the chores and Stella was alone in the house getting ready for school, a tramp attacked her. As soon as word reached town, everyone was on the lookout for the assailant but he was never caught. Stella was quite the leading lady and center of attraction when she returned to school. She was a big girl for her age, with masses [of] light curly hair which made her look like a Fiji Islander. She always knew so much more than the smaller girls, that is so much about the mysteries of life etc. The girls would congregate in the "privy" which had a long seat and was about a ten holer, and here they would listen to Stella's wild tales.

J.W. Maxwell, after moving to Maxwell was returning from a trip to Des Moines and a certain young lady had to help him to his home. On his next trip to Chicago, he brought her a beautiful glass vase with her name etched on it. He was a kind old man and taught the young ladies Sunday school class at the M.E. church and he could mix a great deal [of] humor right along with the scriptures. [He] Was possibly helped by John Barley-corn, but never-the-less went over big with the young ladies. He and Mrs. Maxwell lived just across south of the school house. They had the entire block which was surrounded by a fence made of three flat boards lengthwise with a board on top slanting to the front. Their big wooly haired dog, Grit, was the pride and joy of their household. When the school children would lean on the high board fence, the front door of the Maxwell home would open and someone would send old Grit out to the fence to scare the kids away.

The F.M. Baldwin family had moved to Maxwell, but Mr. Baldwin still had the store at Iowa Center. He used to drive two mules hitched to a wagon, back and forth between the two towns and he used a prodding stick to hurry them along. This stick looked like a broom handle with a sharp nail in the end. Very often the mules would get a jab with the stick and would hurry along for a few paces, and then they would drop back to their slow pace. Esther and her friend, Grace Cooper, made several trips with Mr. Baldwin and they nearly laughed themselves sick at the mules getting punched in the rear.

The soldier's reunions were big events in an early day and usually lasted a couple of days. All the old comrades would assemble and the meetings would be held in the city park. They would have business meetings, and at night would have camp fires and they would all sit around telling stories and swapping yarns. They had campfire food and army food, beans and pork, coffee and bread. Different towns in the county would take turns entertaining the boys in blue.

Jesse was a member of the G.A.R. and Mary Ellen belonged to the W.R.C. These organizations would have such big gatherings for the families and children. These were always held in their lodge room which was over the hardware store on the corner north of the Maxwell House. Everyone would take food and it would be served on long tables running the full length of the hall, such food and such fun. Speeches would be made by different members and the children would speak pieces and sing songs. The drummer boy of Shiloh, Mr. Doty, was one of the chief entertainers, and he would end the evening's entertainment with a little drumming on his old drum. Everyone left happy and hoping that another such event would be held soon.

Decoration Day in Maxwell was always an event of note. School children would gather wild flowers and take them to the G.A.R. hall on the day before Decoration. There the ladies would make them into small bouquets for the children to carry and place on the ______ at the cemetary. The Decoration Day parade would form down town, with the Maxwell Cornet Band or Drum Corps leading. The school children would march from the school house to main street and fall in line there, each little girl dressed in a white dress and ribbon sashes and each carrying a bouquet. They would march all the way to the cemetary and if the day was at all warm everyone was pretty much worn out when they reached their destination. Esther had taken "elocution" lessons and her father always wanted her to give a "recitation." He was very proud of her ability and she never failed him.

Fourth of July was another gala day in the little town. The children would work for weeks doing little jobs to earn a few pennies "to spend on the Fourth." Early on the morning of the Fourth, a sunrise salute would be given. It was usually an explosion of powder of some sort, but sounded like the world was coming to an end. Everyone was up bright and early and dressed in their "Fourth of July clothes." Little girls in white dresses and colored sashes, shoes shined like a "nigger's heel" with their earnings in a little pocketbook or tied in the corner of their handkerchieves, would hurry up town to see the big parade which would march up main street and thence to the city park where the celebration proper was held. Many of the children rode in the parade on decorated hay racks.

Jesse was often honored with being Marshall of the Day. He led the parade, riding on a beautiful horse and he was the grandest person in the world in the eyes of his many children watching him. He always wore a blue suit with a big wide rimmed black felt hat and wore a beautiful red sash draped over one shoulder and across and tied under the other arm at the waist line. It was tied in a double knot with ends hanging. When the parade ended at the park everyone went his way, having fun and meeting old friends and acquaintances. There were all kinds of amusements, merry-go-round, games of chance and all kinds of stands where one could buy candy and soft drinks. There were barrels of pink lemonade and orangeade. There was Boston cream candy which a man pulled over a huge hook until it was creamy white. Then he would make it in long strips and cut it with scissors, into smaller pieces which were five cents each. It was a busy day at the "Maxwell House" as there was a rush there and the "hired girls" would be anxious to get their work done early so they could get off to do a little celebrating. Everyone in the Bowen family had their work to do that day and they did it without a murmur. Mary Ellen was always too tired to go to the park, but saw to it that all who wished could go.

When John and Hattie Will lived in Iowa Center they used to have a phaeton and a fine driving horse named Fanny. When they came to Maxwell to visit they used to hitch their horse to the hitching post in front of the tailor shop. The Bowen children were intrigued and explored the phaeton inside and out. There was a lap robe in it and they used to sit in the seat and cover themselves with the robe. There was a buggy whip in the socket and old Fanny always wore a lovely fly net.

In May 1891, Jesse Bowen purchased T.B. Smeltzer's interest in the "Maxwell House" and took possession at once. Jesse and his cronies used to play cards and chess at the little grain office which was just south of the Maxwell House. This gay little company included, besides Jesse, Joe Wells, Lucian Bartlett, and ......

The traveling show troups used to stop at the Maxwell House, and they were so attractive to the children. One company playing East Lynn lacked a little child to play the part of little Willie. Annie Laurie was engaged for the part and had her rehearsals and was all set for the big night when the leading man told here that at the end of the show he intended to throw her out into the audience. That was enough and she flatly refused to have any more to do with the show troup, and that on the very day of the performance. Esther was prevailed upon to take the part as she had helped Annie Laurie learn her lines and knew them almost by heart. She turned out to be a grand actress and of course received much applause.

One day, Jim Wood was riding his bicycle on the side walk, hurrying to make a train, when Annie Laurie ran out from between two buildings right in his path. She was knocked down and her left eye was out quite badly. Jim would not continue his trip to Chicago until he was sure that the child was all right.

Curt Bowen and Logan Ollinger took the job of cutting off an acre of heavy woods which was just south of the railway tracks. A fellow by the name of Pearl Gifford had also been hired to help with this work. One day Gifford had a large tree almost ready for the fall when a squirrel ran out of his nest and into the top of the tree. At once both Curt and Logan saw their chance for some fun so they suggested that Pearl climb to the tree top and catch the squirrel. Up he went and at once Curt and Logan grabbed their axes and started to cut the tree loose. Down it came with Pearl in it. He was badly scratched, but was not seriously injured. However, his temper got the best of him and he sure gave the boys a "blessing."

Curt and Logan were considered fairly good ball players, in fact were good enough that some of the surrounding town teams hired them to play. One time they were playing with the Sandrollers of Elkhart, Iowa, Curt as first baseman and Logan as third baseman. During the game there was a close play at first base which resulted in a near riot. Curt was the center of the mob which was gathering and was knocked or trampled down and Logan ran over to pick him up and get him out of the fray. While Logan was stooping over someone slugged him and he also went down. After order was restored, Curt and Logan were the dirtiest, most pummeled ball players one could imagine.

Aaron Bowen, Jesse's brother, loved to hunt and had a number of good hunting dogs. He took Curt and John Bowen and Logan Ollinger on a coon hunt. It was November, just after a rain storm which had caused a rise in Indian Creek. After chasing the coon three of four miles, the dogs crossed the creek and treed the coon some 300 yards from where the men were on the opposite side. The creek was starting to freeze over, and as they could find no logs on which to cross, John proposed that he take off his shoes and trousers and carry Logan, Aaron, and Curt piggy-back across the creek. He got Curt and Logan safely across with the lanterns and went back for Aaron. The boys got to laughing which annoyed Aaron a great deal and he yelled, "You boys hush that laughing, because John might fall down with me." At this John got to laughing and when about half way across the creek down he went. They both went under and just about that time, Curt and Logan grabbed the lanterns and ran back to their coon tree, leaving John and Aaron groping in the dark and with wet clothing. The weather by that time was considerably below freezing and John could not find his pants. Curt and Logan surely got a "blessing" and Aaron declared that was the last time he would take those two boys hunting with him. However, the very next day he relented and that night they all went hunting again. This time everything ran along smoothly.

Curt and Logan went to school together in the old red brick school house and Maude Bowen was their first teacher. They were more or less favored as they were allowed to carry water and go downtown for anything that might be needed in the way of supplies.

There was much excitement in Maxwell, one Sunday morning. Mr. Thos. Axley had hanged himself in his barn. They lived on main street on the west side in the block across from the two churches. The children were on their way to Sunday school when he was found and of course never did get to the church until the services were over.

The Maxwell House became a favorite stopping place for the traveling men, as the food was excellent and the house was run on regular schedule. Each child of the Bowen family had his own special duties and he knew he dared not shirk or the whole routine would be out of running order.

Every evening about six o'clock, the passenger train stopped in Maxwell twenty minutes for dinner and everyone was on the job. Curt and Glen "met the train" in order to carry the grips for the travelling men who were planning to spend the night there. Annie Laurie stood in front of the hotel and rang a brass hand bell for which she was paid five cents per week. Jesse greeted his guests. Maude was cashier and Esther "waited" on tables in the dining room. Mary Ellen was overseer and manager of the kitchen and all the help. Edna and Kate were away from home most of the time as they had learned to be milliners. It was a great organization and there seldom was a miss in the routine. It clicked along perfectly.

Many summers, John Will, who was an invalid and confined to a wheel chair, came to visit Mary Ellen. When storms came up, the first thing the children thought of was to get their Grandpa Will and Uncle John down in the cellar where they would be safe from harm. Such scurrying around and as soon as the storm was over they were brought out again. They must have gotten a great kick out of the youngsters worrying about them.

An Italian who had a dancing cinnamon bear, a hand organ and a monkey came to town just about every summer. Everyone could hurry up town and would gather around to see the great performance. Of course the audience was supposed to toss pennies in the circle or hand them to the monkey who would put them in a tin cup.

Across the street west of the Maxwell House, Aaron Bowen had his blacksmith shop. The children used to love to see him make horse shoes and fit them on the horses hoofs. One of the most fascinating things about this shop was the big bellow which, when it was pumped, kept the fire glowing. It was a great day when the youngsters were allowed to pump the bellows and make the sparks fly.

Every summer, the Indians from near ~Tama would travel through Maxwell on their way to Skunk River to hunt and fish and gather reeds for their houses. They often stopped to rest just south and west of the hotel.

Once a snake charmer with one of the traveling shows, had a room at the hotel. Mary Ellen was making beds and cleaning the rooms when she noticed a big bull snake coiled around the bowl of the commode. She was frightened most to death and she informed the charmer that she would have to keep the snake in its cage or leave the hotel.

The tent shows and circuses would arrive in the summer. Uncle Tom's Cabin came every year and the children worked harder than ever to make enough money to take in the big show and then the concert or "after show."

Mr. Ringston, a travelling man, used to bring his son, Ray, to Maxwell almost every summer and he visited in the hotel for two weeks. He was a grand boy and everyone loved him. He always came with some new ideas from Clinton, Iowa. One time he showed the youngsters how to make darts out of corks and horse-shoe nails. These were thrown up on the side of the house where they would stick. Then a fish pole was used to knock them down. Jesse put a stop to this as he was afraid that the children would break a window.

Right across the road south of the barn was a big red elevator and it was a great sport for the boys with Annie Laurie tagging at their heels to climb to the top and walk along the grain bins of this elevator. Little did Mary Ellen know that her children were doing such dangerous tricks.

East of the hotel about two blocks was a very old abandoned cemetery and one summer some of the bodies were moved to the new cemetery north of town. The children were right on the job to watch proceedings and one of them found a coffin handle. They hid it under one of the corn cribs across from the hotel and that night waited for the ghosts to appear. One of the older children knew of this so he wrapped a sheet about himself and came flying out from between the cribs. They younger children knew for sure that a ghost had appeared from the coffin handle.

A man and woman from the country came to the hotel to eat dinner and with them was their little yellow dog, Charlie. The dog fell in love with Annie Laurie and she with him and when they started to take him home, she cried so hard that they gave the dog to her to keep. Ever after these two were inseparable until Charlie was accidently shot by a man who had taken him hunting.

Each summer a band of gypsies drove into town in their wagons. They were such crafty thieves that they had to be followed and watched every minute, and at that they would leave or be driven from town with their pockets full of everything that struck their fancy.

The hotel "parlor" was furnished with one of the old fashioned "parlor sets", a love seat and two chairs, upholstered in blue and gold plush. Also there was one of the big square pianos which Mary Ellen in later years gave to a woman for doing the laundry. This piano was used by all the show troupes when practicing their songs.

One summer a fire burned the hotel barn, the livery barn and several other barns and shed. It was a great day for the fire department. Glen had some game cocks in the barn and they were burned to a crisp which almost broke his heart. All of the Bowen children ran all the way home from the school house, but Annie Laurie and the teachers thought she was too small to be at the big event. When she did get home, the buildings were still smolderilng. Curt was the hero of the fire as he poured water on the old comforters which were put on the roof of the wood shed which was attached to the hotel.

The Bowens kept a cow and it was Curt's duty to milk her. He always managed to have the children stand around and watch him and every once in awhile he would make a mistake and milk straight into someone's mouth or eye.

On the third floor of the hotel was a big unplastered room which had a big floor space. Here the children used to play on rainy days and here they used to put on all kinds of stage shows, sometimes charging pins and sometimes pennies for admission.

Just off of the kitchen was a little vacant room where the help used to do the ironing and ofttimes, Mary Ellen would allow the children to play here. They had everything from stage shows and magic latern shows to football and wrestling matches. Life was ever one round of activity in the old hotel and never a dull moment.

Many were the cooks and helpers that Mary Ellen hired as her assistants. Among them were Bell Tubbs, Belle Tracy, Nelle Faidley, Lena Bradke, Edith McClennehan and Barbara Meyers. Once, Mary Ellen hired a colored male cook from Des Moines by the name of Henry. She caught him hiding whiskey in his room in his slipper and she told him to leave. One famous colored male cook was old Sol who was a favorite with all the children. She showed them how he made the newspaper hats that he wore when he cooked and he always made extra fancy dishes for them.

Winter afforded great sport. There was skating every night after school on Indian Creek or Deer or Tucker Lake. There was coasting on Schuyler's hill west of town. The hill was so steep at that time, that one could start at the top and coast almost to the red bridge at the city park. One of the most thrilling of all winter sports was to hop bob sleds going out into the country and then hop a returning one. One had to be pretty agile to catch some of the bobs and the children got to be experts.

One winter, Glen and Annie Laurie found an old hen with frozen feet in a snow drift. They took her into kitchen and kept her behind the big cook stove in a box until she was nice and warm and thawed out. She became their pet and in the spring they put a setting of eggs under her and raised some little chickens.

One day, when Glenn and Annie Laurie were hunting something exciting to do, they decided to tie papers on the big Tom cat's feet. They cut four square pieces of brown paper and in the middle of each they put some molasses. Then they tied the papers with molasses toward the feet of the cat and turned him loose in the hotel kitchen. Many of the pans were hung above the long work table and some of them were under it. For a minute, the cat shook his feet and then he stared jumping. That cat hit every one of the pans and they rolled on the floor. It sounded like the house was falling and Mary Ellen and old Sol came hurrying in the see what it was all about. Needless to say the children had to pick up every pan and put them right were they belonged and besides they had to catch the cat and wash his feet.

Mary Ellen had the patience of a saint and nothing seemed to worry her as long as her children were home and she knew they were all right. If you have every tried to raise one child, then you can perhaps imagine what it would be to raise them and run a hotel. Mary Ellen allowed her children to have all sorts of pets. Once it was an old cat who had five kittens which were promptly names Dewey, Hobson, Sampson, Schley, and McArthur. Once it was a cage of white trained rats.

Jesse always had one or two good driving horses as he like to drive over to Skunk River, eight miles away, to fish and he also like to drive out where the mushrooms grew thickest.

Life in the Maxwell House was a gay one along with plenty of hard work, but everyone was happy and life was a song.

When Curt was about nineteen he went to Salina, Kansas to work for Lee Will who had a book and jewelry store and this left Maude, Esther, Glen and Annie Laurie at home.

In 1900 Glen who was years old, also went to work for Lee Will.

In 1904 Jesse's health began to fail so he traded the hotel for a fine old house in the southwest part of the town. It was once the farm house of Mr. Field and was later owned by John W. John, father of John Bowen's wife, Anne. John W. John sold it to A. Warner who in turn traded it to Jesse for the Hotel.

It was here that James S. Will had his fourth stroke of paralysis and died. He is buried in the cemetery at Iowa Center.

Copyright © - 1999 Curt Larsen

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