Sunday, August 20, 2017

About those Iowa Confederate monuments

Davis County raid monument south of Bloomfield.

A few references have appeared here and there during the last week to Confederate-related monuments in Iowa. There actually are two --- and both were erected early in the 21st century. Neither is likely to stir controversy, but it is interesting to note that both were sponsored or co-sponsored by the Iowa Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, organized during 1996 by a few older white Iowans, quite a number of them re-enactors, who could claim an ancestor who fought for the Confederacy.

If you read the introduction to the group on its website, you'll discover that its members, while hardly rabble-rousers, do subscribe to and actively promote the myth of the glorious cause that sprang up in the South during the 19th and early 20th century: "The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South's decision to fight the Second American Revolution. The tenacity with which Confederate soldiers fought underscored their belief in the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. These attributes are the underpinning of our democratic society and represent the foundation on which this nation was built. Today, the Sons of Confederate Veterans is preserving the history and legacy of these heroes, so future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause."

Reputable historians would disagree and suggest that some mention of slavery might be appropriate, but that's beyond the scope of this post.


The closest actual memorial to the Confederate dead is a 2005 obelisk with a carefully worded inscription erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the Confederate Cemetery on Rock Island --- in Illinois, actually, but just off the Iowa coast. 

This cemetery contains the remains of some 2,000 Confederate prisoners of war who died while incarcerated at a Union camp on the island where conditions were so unhealthy that it's sometimes called the "Andersonville of the North."

The inscription reads, "In memory of the Confederate veterans who died at the Rock Island Confederate Prison Camp. May they never be forgotten. Let no man asperse the memory of our sacred dead. They were men who died for a cause they believed was worth fighting for and made the ultimate sacrifice."


One memorial sometimes cited as Confederate --- a bronze plaque in Mallory Cemetery near Toolesboro in Louisa County --- actually isn't. The plaque, erected in 1994 by Jefferson Township trustees and the  Louisa County Cemetery Commission, deals with unmarked mass graves reportedly located there, one containing victims of an 1859 "plague" at the ghost town of Burris City and the other, the remains of "Confederate prisoners-of-war who died while being transported to the federal prison on Rock Island" that were brought ashore at the Toolesboro landing and brought to Mallory Cemetery for burial.


One of two actual Confederate monuments, erected by the Iowa Sons in cooperation with Texas Sons and a chapter of the Military Order of Stars and Bars, consists of a plaque on a boulder along the Des Moines River at Bentonsport. It notes that Confederate Gen. Lawrence Sullivan Ross was born at Bentonsport during 1838. The inscription claims Ross as a "native son" of Iowa despite the fact he moved with his family to Texas when only months old and never set foot in the Hawkeye state again. Although historical significance seems a trifle overstated, there's no controversy here.


The largest of the Iowa monuments is located four miles south of Bloomfield in Davis County and commemorates what is described on one plaque as the "Confederate invasion of Iowa" and on another, as the "furthermost north of any Confederate incursion during the Civil War." The latter inscription should include the modifier "in Iowa" since Confederate forces most certainly penetrated farther north east of the Mississippi.

The three plaques mounted on three boulders were donated by the Iowa Sons of the Confederacy, Iowa Sons of Union Veterans and the Davis County Civil War Guerrilla Raid Society.

There's no particular reason to quarrel with the monument, although it might have been appropriate, since it is located in Davis County, to name the three Davis Countyans brutally murdered during the raid.

The 12-hour spree on Oct. 24, 1864, was led by bushwhacker James Jackson, a former Texas Ranger and an especially nasty piece of work widely known for lynching freed slaves. He had risen through the ranks of other guerrilla organizations, including John Hunt Morgan's operation in Kentucky and  Clifton Holtzclaw's Missouri raiders.

By the fall of 1864, Jackson had his own band of a dozen bushwhackers who launched a circuit raid perhaps intended to destabilize the Missouri-Iowa border region during October, as Confederate Gen. Sterling Price was attempting to "retake" Missouri south of the Missouri River. The raid, which was launched at and ended near Macon, Missouri, reached the Iowa border on the 24th when the bushwhackers, dressed in Union uniforms, crossed into Davis County.

Dozens of rural homes were terrorized and robbed and a number of prisoners taken, but it was the brutality of Jackson himself as he cold-bloodedly killed three Davis County men that perhaps should be remembered.

The killing commenced near the home of Thomas Hardy, age 49. Hardy was not at home when the bushwhackers robbed his house, but they encountered him nearby driving toward his farm with a companion aboard a wagon pulled by a team of horses. The bushwackers demanded his horses, but Hardy demanded payment. "I'll pay you for them," Jackson reportedly replied, then fired a revolver at Hardy, reportedly striking him near the right eye. The shot knocked Hardy off the wagon, but did not kill him. He asked for mercy. Jackson then dismounted, pulled a smaller pistol from his belt and fired another shot into the man's head. When that failed to do the job, Jackson fired another revolver shot into the man's head, killing him. The leader then rifled the dead man's pickets, taking whatever cash he found, and rode away.

Somewhat later, the raiders rode up to the home of Eleazar Small, age 30, who had served honorably as a corporal in Company A, 3rd Iowa Volunteer Cavalry.  Because the riders were wearing Union uniforms, Small assumed that they were friends and approached them. By the time he discovered his mistake it was too late. Jackson drew his revolver and shot him in the face, then fired additional shots into his neck and chest.  Jackson reportedly dismounted then, took what cash he found in the dead man's pockets and rode away.

Capt. Philip Bence, 45, Co. F, 30th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, was on furlough with his family when the raiders rode up to his home near Springville later in the day. He was in uniform when the bushwhackers approached. Rather than killing him immediately, Jackson robbed Bence and forced  him to turn over his uniform and change into other clothing. Bence reportedly asked Jackson not to kill him in the presence of his wife and Jackson spared him for the time being, but marched him away from his home with other prisoners.

As nightfall neared, Jackson realized that he was not equipped to deal overnight with prisoners. Perhaps because Bemce was the ranking Union man among the prisoners, Jackson took aim and shot him off the horse he was riding double with another prisoner. As Capt. Bence lay on the ground, raising himself onto an elbow, Jackson fired another shot, this one fatal, into his head.

The other prisoners then were released on foot. They reached Springville about midnight. The bushwhackers fled into Missouri and, although pursued, never were located.


Jackson's story ended the following June. On June 13, 1865, near Columbia, Missouri, he surrendered  to Union forces under white flag, swore allegiance to the United States and was paroled. Missouri Unionist forces, recalling his brutality, were not inclined to let him get away with a free pass, however. Despite the parole, he was captured while heading for Illlinois and either shot or hanged in Monroe County, Missouri.


For those interested in reading more about the Davis County raid, a detailed report compiled by Col. S.A. Moore and based upon eye-witness testimony, was published in Annals of Iowa during 1922. You'll find it in PDF version here.

The photos here were taken from an excellent web site entitled "Iowa Civil War Monuments," developed and maintained by Iowa's Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. You'll find that site, which includes comprehensive listings by county of the monuments, here.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

In honor of a young man worthy of remembering

The young man here with a big grin is Gerald Eugene "Gene" Storie, native son of Derby, just 21 when he died  in the line of duty in Germany while in service to his country back in 1945.

His buddy Leonard Supinski's camera didn't quite catch Gene's entire face when the snap was taken and if you look carefully, you'll see why. Someone is standing behind Gene, pinning his arms and forcing him to pose. The grin suggests he really didn't mind --- but resisted a little anyway.

PFC Storie's story is one of considerable poignance --- from beginning to end. I told some of it during October of 2015 in a post entitled Gold Stars and PFC Gerald E. Storie.

I used this photo then, one that can break hearts if you think about it --- so young, so proud, filled with so much potential. The snapshot was taken near the railroad tracks in Derby, maybe by the grandmother who raised him, when  Gene was 19 or 20, not long before he shipped out to the battlefields of Europe. Was the depot nearby? Was he getting ready to board a train that would take him far from home?


I've been thinking quite a bit during the last few days about what those   young men who put their lives on the line during World War II --- and died --- to defeat the Nazi horror would make of Charlottesville and its aftermath,  including America's 21st century reincarnations of a devil these guys knew first-hand.

Up in Brainerd, Minnesota. Jeff Supinski had been digging through a box of World War II memorabilia left behind by his grandfather, Leonard --- including snapshots of many of the young men he served with in Europe.

Among them, was the snapshot of Eugene, partly identified by the note at left on the back: "Storie, driver for truck, drowned while swimming 7/14/45 at Schliersee."

Google turned up that October 2015 Lucas Countyan post about PFC Storie and the connection was made. Jeff very kindly shared scans of the snapshot with me.


Gene's mother, Lucy Hilliard, was only 15 when he was born near Derby. The father was a young man from the neighborhood named Lloyd Storie, at 26 some 11 years her senior. They were not married.

Gene, whose birth was not recorded officially, was born at Derby on May 2, 1924. His biological father,  who otherwise had no role in his life, had married another woman the previous day in Albia and they moved elsewhere.

Lina Hilliard, the baby's grandmother, assumed the role of mother immediately and raised him thereafter --- the only mother he really knew.

Lucy, not too long after Gene's birth, married a farmer in the Weldon neighborhood named Roy Neal, then had four additional children in quick succession. The youngest was only 14 days old when Lucy herself died on Nov. 27, 1935, at the age of 27. Gene was 11 at the time. Three years later, his grandfather, J. Buckson "Buck" Hilliard, died.

Gene continued to make his home with his grandmother and maiden aunts at Derby and graduated from Derby High School with the class of 1942. 

He seems to have moved soon thereafter to the state of Washington where he worked for a time, but was back in Iowa and living at Derby with his grandmother by the summer of 1943 when, on July 13, he enlisted in the U.S. Army at Camp Dodge. He was called to active duty on August 3 and after more than a year of training and stateside assignments, he was deployed to the European Theater on Oct. 30, 1944.

Assigned to Battery A, 575th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automotive Weapons Battalion, Eugene pushed with his unit during the final Allied offensive into Germany, was promoted to the rank of private first class and no doubt celebrated with his buddies when Germany surrendered.

Then --- on the evening of July 14, 1945, at Schliersee, Germany --- he drowned. I've not been able to find an account of exactly what happened, but the official record states that his death "occurred in the line of duty and was not the result of his own misconduct."

His remains were brought eventually to what is now the Lorraine American Cemetery at St. Avold, France, and interred with those of some 16,000 other Americans lost in the war. But his family was given the option of having his body repatriated to the United States and that mission was accomplished during 1948. 

PFC Gerald E. Storie was re-interred at the Keokuk National Cemetery --- Iowa's only national cemetery --- on Nov. 2, 1948 (Section D, Grave No. 129).

His grandmother lived on until 1960, when she died at the age of 87. His biological father, who contributed nothing to his honorable life other than a surname, died during 1979 in California.

It's our duty to remember Gene and others like him. Their lives of service and sacrifice bring honor to us whether we deserve it or not.


Note: Much of the detail concerning Gene's service --- including the ins and outs of his parentage --- may be found in his Iowa World War II Bonus case file. In order for his grandmother to qualify for the $500 payment offered by the state to beneficiaries, she had to prove that she legally was his next of kin. At the time of Gene's death, no one --- including his second family --- was sure of Lloyd Storie's whereabouts.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Thanks for a great evening!

What a peaceful way, in a time of some conflict, to spend an evening! Thanks to all who participated in Thursday evening's Lucas County Historical Society ice cream social.

To Margaret Coons, first of all, whose sweet music has the power to chase a lot of cares away.

To everyone who attended --- we're estimating 80-100 guests.

And to our board members, staff and volunteers --- represented here by board members/ice cream servers Helen Thompson and Fred Steinbach.

The drought, now broken we hope, has been hard on the gardens; but Kurt Prough was there on Thursday morning to cut two acres-plus of lawn so that at least we were neatly trimmed.

And I found these giant hostas blooming behind the barn, where plants have flourished for some reason despite many hot, dry days.

Our next event will be the Sept. 30 harvest festival, followed by lunch for our volunteers. In the meantime, we're open 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. You'll always be welcome.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Putting the "Christ" back in "Christian"

I think I'll just point the way this morning to the two most recent posts by a blogger I've followed for years --- not daily, but often: Richard Beck, who is a professor of psychology at Abilene Christian University down there in Texas.

Beck calls his blog "Experimental Theology." Both Beck, personally, and Abilene Christian are affiliated with the independent Churches of Christ, hardly as a general rule lighthouses of liberality on Christianity's rocky shore. I'm sure I've shared posts of his before.

The most recent post is entitled, "How the Church Summons Demons." By shifting the context slightly it also could be entitled "How a Nation Summons Demons." If you doubt that both do, consider Charlottesville and its aftermath.

The other post, actually a repost from last year, is entitled "America's Holocaust." Each is worthy as a read; combined, they add clarity to a confusing situation.

One of the odd quirks of some Christian thought is the continuing effort to identify the Antichrist, a curious concept based upon a couple of mentions in 1st and 2nd John served up with a hearty portion of the book of Revelation. Back when I was a kid, fundamentalist protestants thought they had the pope cornered on this one; some still do.

But as the years have passed, I've concluded that the church itself is the most likely candidate since so little of Christ remains within so many of its expressions.

But folks like Beck, and a considerable number of others who are out there working to put the "Christ" back in "Christian," do offer modest hope.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Let's try that ice cream social again ...

Margaret Coons will be performing at 7 p.m. Thursday on the patio at the Lucas County Historical Society Museum. Free ice cream in the Pioneer Barn from 6 to 7 p.m.

You may remember that the Lucas County Historical Society's annual ice cream social was scheduled for July 20. And then it started to heat up and got hotter and hotter and thensome. So in the interests of eveyone's good health, we postponed.

Well, it rained yesterday and the forecast for later this week includes highs in the lower 80s and clear skies.

So come on out to the museum this Thursday evening, August 17,  for free ice cream in the Pioneer Barn and beautiful music on the patio, provided by Margaret Coons. 

Margaret's beautiful voice, wide-ranging repertoire and guitar skills are well known in Lucas County --- and we're delighted that she's agreed to reschedule and join us for the evening.

All buildings on the historical society campus will open for tours at 5:30 p.m. Free ice cream and ice water will be served in the pioneer barn from 6 until 7 p.m. and Margaret will perform, beginning at 7 p.m. on the patio.

Everyone's welcome!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A forgotten man: Jacob B. Cavett

Go to the Find a Grave site for Mount Pleasant Mental Health Institute Cemetery and you'll find an old photograph that shows graves there marked by metal stakes. No names or other information, just stakes.

In the intervening years, the stakes have been removed and the area adjacent to Forest Home Cemetery allotted to the state-owned graveyard now is an uninterrupted field of grass containing a collective monument inscribed, "Life for the Living and Rest for the Dead: In Memory of our Patients Buried Here."

The institute itself is gone, too, now --- closed on July 1, 2015, after then-Gov. Terry Branstad vetoed the funding needed to keep it operating. The Mental Health Institute in southwest Iowa's Clarinda met the same fate.

The Mount Pleasant institute, opened during 1861 as the Iowa Lunatic Asylum, was Iowa's first attempt to serve institutionally its residents afflicted with mental illness. The Clarinda Lunatic Asylum opened in 1886.

Both had been home during the last 30 or more years of his life to a forgotten Lucas Countyan, John B. Cavett, declared insane and institutionalized sometime in the early 1890s while living with his family and working as a carpenter at Zero, a mining ghost town near the Lucas-Monroe county line. He would have been about 40 at the time.

That's his Henry County death certificate at the top. After spending more than 30 years at Clarinda, he was transferred because of overcrowding to Mt. Pleasant, arriving on or about May 8, 1924. He died six months later, on Nov. 12, 1924, age about 72, and was buried in the asylum cemetery.

John would have been a joint ward of Lucas County and the state, so county officials were informed of his death and one of the results was an obituary on the front page of The Herald Patriot of Nov. 27, 1924, which reads as follows:

"A recent notice coming from the superintendent of the hospital for the insane at Mt. Pleasant, to Lucas county officials, gave information that John Cavett had died there on the 12th inst., and his remains were interred in the plot of the hospital grounds set aside for that purpose.

"Mr. Cavett was a native of Washington township, the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Cavett, pioneer settlers of the county, and was well over 70 years at the time of his death. Early in life he was united in marriage to Miss Barbara Treasure, who at the present time resides somewhere in Missouri.

"They resided at the coal town of Zero, where Mr. Cavett worked at the carpenter trade when his mental facilities broke down, and he was consigned to the hospital at Clarinda, where he remained for more than thirty years, when owing to the crowded condition there, he and other incurables were transferred to Mt. Pleasant. When he was in control of all of his faculties he was a just and conscientious man, and has passed out after a life of gloom."

As the obituary noted, John was the eldest son of Samuel S. and Eliza Ann (Higgins) Cavett. They came to Washington Township, Lucas County, from Indiana during 1854 with 2-year-old John. The senior Cavetts, who died during the 1890s, are buried in the Lagrange Cemetery.

About 1883, John married Barbara Ann Treasure, perhaps in Missouri, and they had a daughter, Lulu Grace. After John's committal, Barbara returned to Missouri to live with her parents, then moved with other family members to Kansas where she died during 1938. Lulu married and raised a family in Kansas.

Several of John's siblings continued to live in Lucas County until their deaths, including Casandra (Cavett) Tinder, Rose (Cavett) Springer and George Cavett.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Ku Klux Klan & Lucas County: A few updates

Back in 2012, I wrote two pieces about Ku Klux Klan history in Lucas County --- blog posts that seem especially relevant now in light of weekend events in Charlottesville. Here's a link to the first installment; and here's another to the second.

The long and the short of it all is this --- one of the largest and strongest Klan organizations in Iowa developed in Lucas County during 1923 and flourished through 1926.

The snapshot at the top here shows "knights and ladies" of the Klan during that period entering the United Brethren Church --- now standing derelict and minus its bell tower at the intersection of North 8th Street and Roland Avenue, just north of Chariton Free Public Library. The occasion was the funeral of a Klan member. I do not know the date or the name of the deceased.

The United Brethren pastor, the venerable George J. Cornford, most likely was a Klan member.

The Klan's rise in Lucas County commenced with the arrival during the summer of 1922 of the Rev. Jesse David Pontius (1879-1955), called as pastor by the congregation of Chariton's First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The steeple of that church is barely visible in the background of the snapshot. It stood in what now is the parking lot of Pierschbacher Funeral Home. The Rev. Mr. Pontius previously had served Humeston Christian Church for five years and also had served as principal of Humeston schools during the last two years of his tenure there.

By the summer of 1923, Pontius and others had recruited a professional Klan organizer from Indiana, a personable young man named Wayne A. Blankenship. Blankenship moved to Chariton and went to work.

What seems to have been the first major public promotional meeting of the Klan in Chariton occurred on the courthouse square during April of 1923, featuring Dr. James Franklin Sanders, a former Baptist preacher then affiliated with Des Moines University.

I've included reports of that meeting from Chariton newspapers in earlier posts, but here's how The Union-Republican in our neighboring county seat town of Albia reported on it April 30, 1923, in a front-page story headlined, "Klan is Kluxing at Chariton Now" ---

"Our neighboring village of Chariton, the capital city of Lucas county, is now listening to the ku ku kluxing of the Ku Klux Klan. Last Thursday evening, Dr. James Franklin Sanders, he who is officially the financial secretary of Des Moines University, gave a street lecture on the subject "Principles of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Exposed." Exposed --- yes, from all prevailing reports, about all the exposing there was done was to laud the sheet-and-pillow-slip organization to the skies, and painting the organization as one of lily white principles.

"The doctor said that the Klan had nothing against the Jews, Catholics or Negroes. If this be true, then from all reports the local kluxers have an entirely wrong impression of their organization.

"In summarizing the principles of the Klan he said that they stood for protection of womanhood, just laws and liberty, closer relationship of pure Americanism, the upholding of the Constitution of the United States, the sovereignty of our state rights, freedom of speech and press, prevention of fires and destruction of property by lawless elements, the limitation of foreign immigration and law and order.

"There are just lots and lots of residents of Albia and the whole world in fact who believe in these things, too, but they don't have to hide themselves behind a sheet to let the world know what they stand for. And they don't have to slip down a dark alley to attend the kluxing of an order supposed to further these principles."


During April of 1924, the Lucas County Klan purchased for use as a meeting hall, headquarters and offices the former United Presbyterian Church at the intersection of North Grand Street and Auburn Avenue --- now the home of Truth Assembly of God. This was the first time an Iowa Klan chapter had purchased its own building.

Both Chariton newspapers reported briefly upon the purchase at the time, as did The Fiery Cross, the Indianapolis-based national newspaper of the Klan.

What was not reported upon locally, however, was the dedication of this building a year later. 

I found this report of that event in the June 11, 1925, edition of The Southern Iowa American, a Klan-affiliated newspaper published at Centerville:

"Chariton, Ia. --- About a year ago, six leaders in the Klan unit in this city got together and decided the local Klavern should have a home of its own.

"An abandoned Protestant church, together with a fine building adjoining, formerly used as the manse, were purchased at a very reasonable figure. Both buildings are very substantial, standing at a splendid corner, several blocks away from the public square.

"They meet the needs of the Klan. The church is used as the Klavern for the men and women, and the manse as offices for both orders.

"These six men underwrote the purchase price of the property until available funds for the liquidation of the debt could be met.

"Several nights ago, the temple was dedicated with appropriate ceremony as the local Klan's home. The Klans-women had prepared a splendid program of music and addresses. Rev. J.D. Pontius, pastor of the Church of Christ, gave the dedicatory address. The Imperial Representative for Iowa was present and made a splendid address on what the Klan has done and what the future holds for it.

"After the services, lunch was served the Women of the Klan.

"The Klan is here to stay, and with a fine home to live in, it will forge ahead. The deed to the temple has been turned over and it is free of any debt. Too much cannot be said of the men who so sacrificed themselves and used their resources that the Klan could enjoy their own home."


During August of 1924, one of the larger "konklaves" of the Iowa Klan was held at Chandler Field in Chariton, followed by a night-time parade around the square. At the time, this was said to have been the largest public gathering ever held in Lucas County. Chandler Field was a baseball field equipped with bleachers and other amenities on the river bottom somewhere in the vicinity of the current intersection of U.S. 34 and the "dump road."

I've included local reports of that event in earlier posts, but here's a report that was published on Aug. 15, 1924, in the Indianapolis-based Fiery Cross under the headline, "Iowa Klans Stage a Big Ceremonial: 25,000 gather at Chariton for Parade, Speaking and Initiation" ---

"CHARITON, Ia., August 12 --- One of the most gorgeous parades ever held in the state was witnessed by 25,000 people at Chariton this week. A meeting for the women was held in the afternoon and a national speaker addressed the group on the organization's principles. Late in the afternoon the delegations from all parts of southern and central Iowa began to arrive, and the Des Moines band, fast obtaining a statewide reputation for its excellent music and gorgeous robes, came in a huge bus.

"Representatives of other counties came in decorated cars, which added much to the color and picturesqueness of the evening parade. In the preparation of the many beautiful floats the women of Lucas and Wayne counties spared no pains. One machine was intricately woven with hundreds of strands of brightly colored crepe paper. Another was done in an orange and blue effect with large flowers in purple. Special credit goes to the Lucas County Klan for this successful Konklave."

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Rededicating Chariton's "D.A.R. Rocks"

This is the centennial year for that giant boulder with bronze plaque attached, located at the southwest corner of Chariton's courthouse square park. Put into place during 1917, as World War I wracked Europe and not long after the United States declared war on Germany, it marks Chariton's place on the Mormon Trail. 

Part of the inscription reads, "Here upon the trail September 11, 1849, was located the townsite of Chariton."

The surveyor stake where commissioners met on that date to officially put Chariton on the map was just to the southwest. And the Mormon Trail itself, which carried thousands of Mormon refugees west from the summer of 1846 until the end of the decade, reportedly crossed the current courthouse lawn in a northwesterly direction near the monument.

The courthouse monument and its sister monument, located along the old trail just southeast of town near the site of Buck Townsend's Chariton Point cabin, were projects of Iowa Daughters of the American Revolution who had worked for several years in conjunction with the Iowa State Historical Department to locate and mark the paths of that historic trail across the state.

And on Dec. 13, 1923, some six years after the monument had been put into place, members of Chariton's Old Thirteen Chapter, D.A.R., along with state D.A.R. officials and Edgar R. Harlan, curator of the State Historical Department, officially dedicated both. 

So on Saturday morning, a century after those big rocks were moved into place, organizational descendants of those early 19th century Daughters gathered around the monument to rededicate it. In the intervening years, Chariton's Old Thirteen Chapter faded and then disappeared, but several Lucas County women now are members of the Creston-based Nancy McKay Harsh chapter --- and that chapter sponsored Saturday morning's program.

The Lucas County Historical Society Museum served as staging area for the event, so we were happy to welcome the Daughters Saturday morning as they arrived in town. After the program, followed by a flag retirement program at Veterans Memorial Park, the women returned to the museum for a business meeting, lunch and tours. It turned into a great morning.

I did not write down the names of everyone who attended Saturday morning's program, but I can tell you that Cindi Carter of Monroe, state D.A.R. regent, is standing at far left. Jane Briley, regent of the Nancy McKay Harsh Chapter, is seated to the immediate right of the monument and next to her is Jackie Beard, of Chariton. Other Chariton members of the Creston chapter are Char Asell, third from left among the standing adults; and Pam Marvin, third from the right. And fifth from the right among those standing is Russell native Dorothy (Wright) Hughes, of Mt. Ayr, also a member of the Nancy McKay Harsh Chapter.

The photo below was taken during the December, 1923, dedication ceremony. As you can see, winter coats were not needed on Saturday morning.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Native son's rise and dramatic fall: Rev. John Goben

There's no doubt that labor giant John L. Lewis is the most famous native son of the once-thriving coal mining town of Lucas. But for a time in the 1920s, another John --- Assembly of God preacher John Goben --- gave Lewis a run for his money in the fame department, although in another field.

Like Icarus, however, the Rev. Mr. Goben flew too close to the sun --- in this case Aimee Semple McPherson (above), evangelist, media maven and founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. Overreaching himself, John crashed, died too young in far-away Los Angeles and now rests in relative obscurity in Fry Hill Cemetery.

A well-crafted obituary published on Page 1 of The Herald-Patriot of June 1, 1933, tells much of his story, glossing over as obituaries usually do, the rough spots.


A son of George M. and Elizabeth Goben, John was born Sept. 1, 1886, near Lucas (his tombstone gives the year as 1887). Somewhat precocious, apparently, he married Sophronia Lewzader on Feb. 24, 1903, in Lucas County. The marriage record gives his age as 18 and hers, as 17. In reality, John was 16 going on 17 and Sophronia, 18 going on 19. The couple had no children.

John was converted during a series of 1904 gospel meetings at the Presbyterian Church in Lucas and, "filled with the Holy Spirit," called to preach. After a couple of years of honing his skills near home and farming on the side, he entered field of pentecostal evangelism with Sophronia, a preacher in her own right, by his side.

After the Assembly of God denomination was organized during 1914, Goben was named a general presbyter and placed in charge of the new group's Iowa and northern Missouri district. He also launched an evangelistic organization that took him coast to coast. The advertisement at the top here was published in The Tulsa World during 1922.

In 1926, Goben shifted the emphasis of his work to Des Moines where he pulled several pentecostal missions together to form the Des Moines Gospel Tabernacle on East Grand Avenue.

And in 1927, John --- and the Tabernacle --- hosted a highly successful series of evangelistic meetings in Des Moines conducted by the famed (or infamous, depending upon one's outlook) Aimee Semple McPherson.

Goben became utterly enthralled by McPherson and followed her home shortly thereafter to Los Angeles where he was named an assistant pastor of her Angelus Temple and then, field secretary (or general superintendent) of the Foursquare organization, in charge of planting Foursquare churches nationwide.

The Des Moines Register screamed in a banner headline, "Goben is Aimee's Field Agent."

There is absolutely no question about the facts that John was a very effective preacher and a talented organizer and administrator. During his two years with the organization, John enlisted 148 branch churches --- including his own Des Moines Tabernacle --- which became the backbone of Foursquare International.

But during 1929, as his obituary states it diplomatically, he "withdrew" from the organization. In reality, he was cast out --- with a vengeance.

There are a couple of theories about why this happened. One is that Goben was romantically infatuated with McPherson, but spurned by her, and so set out to get even. Another theory holds that he became aware during his work at Angelus Temple of the moral and financial corruption surrounding his idol and set out to purify the organization --- and Aimee. The third suggests that he became entirely disillusioned with both McPherson and her organization and was interested principally in exposing their dirty secrets to public view and redirecting Foursquare back onto the straight and narrow.

Whatever the case, he hired private investigators and collected affidavits, then staged a confrontation. This was a huge miscalculation. Aimee fainted, as she was prone to do, then McPherson and her organization turned full fury upon him and he ended up, battered and bruised, on the street. Four Los Angeles-area Foursquare congregations followed Goben off the mother ship, but not enough to provide traction.

The confrontation seems to have broken Goben, however. By 1930, Sophronia was back in Lucas County, where she divorced him. His critics claim that during the next three years he deteriorated into a "homeless drunk." It was during this period that John published a pamphlet entitled, "Aimee: The Gospel Gold-Digger."


John died on Sunday, May 21, 1933, at a Los Angeles hospital and here's how his obituary describes his final months: "He suffered a breakdown in health and for a time was ill with pneumonia. He rallied from this illness and went to Joliet, Ill., where he conducted a very successful revival campaign. While there last January he was again stricken with double pneumonia. He improved somewhat and was able to return to a warmer climate in California but soon after his arrival there was again taken ill and was removed to the hospital where it was learned that he was also suffering with a cancer and other ailments."

Last rites were held at a Los Angeles funeral home, then his remains were placed on board a train bound for Lucas, where funeral services were held on Sunday afternoon a week later. Still honored in his native land, the crowd of mourners filled the church and church basement, then spilled outside across the lawn where loudspeakers had been installed. The Rev. Archie Beals, pastor of Russell's First Baptist Church, was chosen to preach the funeral.

Burial followed on Fry Hill's beautiful hilltop, overlooking the Whitebreast valley, a considerable distance from the West Coast scenes of his triumphs and disasters.

Sophronia was listed among John's survivors, so it is possible that they had reconciled as the end neared. She continued to live in Iowa, apparently on good terms with the wider Goben family, until her own death during 1969. She is buried in Indianola's I.O.O.F. Cemetery with her parents.

Find a Grave photo by Linda D. Burton

Friday, August 11, 2017

Weeds, waste, wrangling & the public square ...

I'm a member of an organization that spends some of its time fussing about (and trying to clean up) messes that occur in the "public square," also known as the Chariton Courthouse Square Historic District. Messes these days include cigarette butts, weeds and the leavings of careless dog owners who do not clean up after their pets.

It's kind of reassuring to know that this sort of fussing (and activism) has been going on for as long as there's been a Chariton. 

During 1895, dozens of strong women frustrated by the casual approach to cleanliness adopted by the menfolk who, in that era, were expected to lead the way in all things progressive, formed the Chariton Improvement Association, devoting themselves not just to hard work but to constructive harassment as well.

As an illustration of the latter, here are "Improvement Notes" as published in The Chariton Democrat of Aug. 16, 1895. Although the piece is unsigned, it bears all the marks of Jessie Mallory Thayer, a prime mover in the Improvement Association.

The photo of the west side of Chariton's square dates from the late 1870s, and this was 20 years later, but the sources of some of the difficulties remained unchanged. At least today, we've got large dogs rather than large horses to contend with. And mercifully, there are fewer of them.


"Much has been accomplished already towards the betterment of our city, and ten times more can be done in another season, if the people who live in Chariton will devote a little time and thought to civic affairs.

"Subjects of hygienic value to every member of our community may well form a basis for a program of study, and there are few even among our most intelligent citizens who could not learn something on the subject of drainage, sewerage, house sanitation, improvements of roads, water-works, etc.

"The next regular meeting of the Chariton Improvement Association will occur on the first Wednesday of September, the fourth. The meeting should be one of great interest, as the work of the Association for the past six months will be reviewed, the reports of all committees heard, and plans made for the course of work for the coming winter.

"The committee on streets and alleys made a tour of inspection and report very favorably. With the exception of weeds there was but little to find fault with. Weeds are very much in evidence, but a few moments' work with scythe and rake each week and garbage cart to carry them off to where they could be burned would make Chariton a model of cleanliness, health would be improved and the value of property much enhanced. They found a few pig pens that needed scrubbing and in places the stable litter was too thick, but on the whole the condition was not bad.

The question has suggested itself to many of our observing citizens who have become interested in the attempt this summer to keep our little city more like a city and less like a gone-to-seed barnyard: why does the weekly cleaning of the filth deposited around our public square occur on Friday? Nine-tenths of the accumulation around the courthouse fence is deposited on Saturdays, when our farmers come to town and necessarily hitch their teams on the square. The manure, hay, papers and general litter then remain there, an offense to the eyes and noses of everyone who goes upon our public square, until the following Friday, when it is carefully cleaned up and we have a clean square for just a little less than twenty-four hours; and then comes the Saturday and a new accumulation, to be endured for another week. Why not clean up on Monday morning?

"I would like to be the Mayor and City Council for just about fifteen minutes," said a disgusted resident the other day. He was contemplating the attractive lawn which surrounded his house and the neat, carefully trimmed parking in front of his property. "Now I have put in my spare time for two years making this lawn. It adds 50 percent to the appearance of my place and to the attractiveness of the whole block. It is the same way with some of my neighbors, but there is one man in the middle of the block, who is too blamed lazy to even pull up his weeds. The result is that his ill-kept, weedy, mean looking yard spoils the whole block. You can go to almost any residence block in town and see the same thing. The most of the property owners will keep their places neat and attractive, but one or two will offset the whole effect by letting their lawns go to seed or choke up with weeds, or leaving up a tumble town, unpainted front fence. Now if I were the mayor and the council it would take me about ten minutes to pass an ordinance that would impose a penalty on property owners within a certain district who did not keep their property in decently good shape. It may be that it would not be constitutional, but it would receive the endorsement of three-fourths of the property owners of the city."