Friday, May 25, 2018

Stop at the Shelter if you visit Chariton Cemetery

Just a reminder, as the Memorial Day weekend approaches, that the Chariton Cemetery shelter house will be open and attended from 11 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Saturday through Monday, thanks to the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission and friends.

This little building, probably designed by Chariton architect William Lee Perkins, was added to the cemetery grounds in 1929 and is for the most part unchanged. Even the original furniture, donated by the Chariton Women's Club, remains in place.

We'll be serving lemonade and cookies and the front porch is great place to just sit and visit for a while. Karen Patterson, Dorothy Allen and Sue Terrell will be there from 11 a.m. until 1:30 a.m. every day and late afternoon attendants will vary. I'm scheduled to spend Sunday afternoon there.

We'll also do our best to help visitors locate graves --- but that's not always possible, especially with newer burials. If the person you're looking for was buried prior to 1981, chances are we'll be able to help.

Keep in mind, too, as you visit the cemetery that it is a National Historic District, recognized as such in its listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Among the contributing factors is the cemetery's park-like design, the assemblage of local luminaries buried there and their monuments, the shelter house, the Baby Heart immediately south of the shelter and the fieldstone gateway, added as a WPA product during 1937.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Firefighters carry Memorial Day tradition forward

Memorial Day traditions have come and gone in Chariton as the years passed. The practice of strewing flowers on the surface of Spring Lake to commemorate those lost at sea, for example, disappeared when Spring Lake did --- its waters drained into the Chariton River by a breech in the dam.

Patriotic and other organizations no longer gather for their own memorial services in area churches --- even a city-wide Memorial Day program is a thing of the past.

But the Chariton Volunteer Fire Department carries on, donning dress uniforms on the Sunday morning before what now is Memorial Day Monday for a march to the cemetery and a brief program at the firefighter memorial, above, dedicated in 1963.

And departmental flags bearing the image of Old Betsy, the department's 1883 Silsby Steamer, still are placed in custom-made flag holders not only in the Chariton Cemetery but also in nearby rural cemeteries where veterans of the department are buried. 

This is the tombstone of Elias Wren and his wife, Elida. Elias was an English-born coal miner who located in Lucas when the mines opened there in 1879, then eventually settled in Chariton --- where he joined the fire department. He died of heart failure on April 7, 1900, at the age of 56. Although his descendants have moved on, he still is remembered annually by descendants of his fellow firefighters.

Back in 1908, a crowd estimated by The Chariton Patriot at 2,000 gathered in the Chariton Cemetery on the Sunday afternoon following Memorial Day to witness the annual firefighter memorial --- crowds are somewhat smaller these days. Keep in mind that a crowd of similar size had gathered at the courthouse, cemetery and Methodist Church the previous day for community Memorial Day services led by the Grand Army of the Republic.

Chariton's 35 firefighters began their 1908 Sunday observance at 10:30 in the morning --- meeting in dress uniform at the engine house and then marching to the Swedish Lutheran Church behind the Lucas Martial Band, which had taken an early train into town from the west to participate.

At the church, "a splendid memorial sermon was preached by the Rev. O.A. Elmquist. Beautiful music was rendered by the choir and a solo sung by Miss Minnie Lindquist." Pastor Elmquist had chosen for his subject, "Death Brings Glory" based on the text John 12:23-24.

In the afternoon, the firefighters reassembled at the engine house at 1:30 p.m. for the march to the cemetery, led again by the Lucas Band with the crowd following on foot or in buggies.

Not far inside the cemetery gate, the procession stopped at the grave of Ed Penick where a brief program was held featuring numbers by the band, two selections by a male quartet and another memorial address by the Rev. Mr. Elmquist, who had been made an honorary firefighter for the occasion.

Then the following graves of fallen brethren were decorated: Ed Penick, M.A. Hatcher, James Ogelsby, Robt. Coles, Calvin Bradrick, Ed. Q. Douglass, Charles Johnson, Mill Manning, George Storie, S.B. Tinkham, Wm. Lane, George Sydebotham, Henry Helms, John E. Bently, Wm. Culbertson, Henry Hervey, Stant Howard, Ely Wren, Robert Larson, Frank McMains, Ellis Lyman and Dan Mickle.

Memorial flags were placed at these same graves --- and many more --- when firefighters gathered at the cemetery on Monday evening, this week.

After the 1908 program at the cemetery, the crowd dispersed but the firefighters and the band regrouped and marched to the home of Ephraim Badger in southeast Chariton to pay their respects. Ephraim, a charter member of the department, had been ill and was unable to leave his home. He died later on that year, on Sept. 22, 1908, at the age of 71. and his grave was among those decorated by his comrades a year later --- and every year since.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wars, remembrance & the Black brothers

I took a short walk last evening in the Chariton Cemetery, a busy place these days as Memorial Day 2018 approaches --- firefighters planting departmental flags in holders marking the graves of fellow volunteers, hikers and bikers and, here and there, a few bearing flowers. The flags on veteran graves will come later in the week.

Looking back 120 years to 1898, I stopped at these tombstones on the southeast hilltop marking the graves of the Black brothers, Sgt. William T. "Tom" Black and his younger brother, Walter, a drummer, both of whom died that year --- two of Lucas County's Spanish American War losses.

And I thought about this front page --- of The Chariton Herald of June 2, 1898 --- featuring side-by-side reports. One focused on the past, looking back 30 or more years as Civil War sacrifices were acknowledged and aging veterans of that great conflict honored. The other, a dispatch from Tom Black --- written just two months before he was cut down by typhoid fever, focusing on the uncertainties generated by the war fever that had engulfed America in the days after the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor on Feb. 15, 1898.

Here's the dispatch from the Memorial Day observance:

Chariton Does Honor to Her Soldier Dead
Col. Moore's Address
A Beautiful Day, an Interesting Address, A Large Crowd Characterize the Exercises Here

The day dawned bright and clear, one of the most beautiful of days to decorate the graves and do homage to those who laid down their lives for home and country. The town was gay with floating flags and bunting, and the number of people that thronged our streets attested their show of appreciation and loyalty to their beloved country and friends.

At 1:30 the procession formed at the court house, being called there by the Myers & Best martial band. The G.A.R. first formed in line and were followed by the W.R.C. Then came the Chariton High school chorus club followed by the school children. A beautifully decorated wagon then followed bearing those soldiers who were unable to walk. After this came the citizens in carriages and on foot, making in all one of the largest processions ever headed for the cemetery on Decoration day.

After reaching the cemetery the graves were decorated by the school children and G.A.R., and a Decoration day hymn was sung by the club, after which they returned to the opera house, where Col. S.B. Moore addressed the people.

After the song "Our Banner" by the club, the audience were led in prayer by Rev. W.V. Whitten. Col. W.S. Dungan then introduced the speaker as "the silver-tongued orator of Iowa," and he is well worthy of the praise given him. His address was brilliant, touching and entertaining, and every one was sorry when he concluded. His closing remarks were to the G.A.R. in particular, and were of such a nature that they carried a lasting impression to all those who were present. He revived the war of 1861 with all its past horrors and cruelties, and spoke comforting words to those who were left and whom we honor and revere.

America was then sung and the audience dispersed.

One feature of the day's exercises which we think deserves special mention is the faithfulness and patriotism shown by the members of the martial band. They never fail in their efforts to please and their promptness to act on any occasion their services are required. All praise and honor is due them, and may they live long to head many more processions as they led Monday is our sincere wish.


On Memorial Day in previous years, the men of Chariton's Iowa National Guard unit, Company H, 50th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, would have been there to march in the annual Decoration Day procession. This year, however, the men had been activated and just a couple of weeks earlier deployed to Florida to await an uncertain future.

Quartermaster Sgt. Tom Black, 25, who had worked as a newspaper editor in Chariton before  his unit was called up, had taken it upon himself to send regular dispatches home. The dispatch published on June 2 covers Company H's journey by train from Cincinnati --- first destination after leaving Camp McKinley in Des Moines --- through the South to Jacksonville, Florida:

The Fiftieth Iowa at Jacksonville, Florida
Sergeant Black's Regular Interesting Letter. Patriotism High in the South. A Pleasant Journey.

Special to the Herald: Headquarters, Fiftieth Iowa Vol. Inf., Camp Springfield, Jacksonville, Fla., May 26.

Your correspondent is situated something like a thousand miles from where the last communication was mailed to your paper.

We arrived at Cincinnati Sunday evening and the train stopped for about three hours. The boys were allowed to leave the train in charge of non-commissioned officers. They took in the town in great shape. The Kentucky vernacular is the prevailing dialect in that city --- on every side, "Where be yous goin'?" and "When be yous all goin' away?"

We started from Cincinnati at 10 p.m., and all night we rolled through the state of Kentucky, and the rising sun found only a few more miles of that state to traverse.

Passing into Tennessee the scenery became mountainous. The "Queen and Crescent" road runs along the valley of the Tennessee river and on either side of the tracks are large bluffs and mountains; for several miles the track is just above the river. At Chattanooga we took dinner on Monday and stopped for three hours, which gave the men an opportunity to see the town and other interesting historic sights, among which was Lookout mountain, which lies just west of the town.

At almost every village and farm house the stars and stripes are displayed, and at Rome, Georgia, where we took supper, an immense crowd had gathered at the depot to see us. The primitive ways of the south are very noticeable to us who are accustomed to the northern progressiveness. Most of the farm and village houses are made of logs, or planks nailed up and down, with stick or stone fireplaces in one end. The largest fields of corn, cotton, tobacco or peanuts you can see along the Southern railroad do not contain over ten or twelve acres, and are cultivated by double-shovel ploows drawn by one horse.

The timber land of Tennessee, Georgia and Florida is full of "razorback" hogs that don't look like they belonge to anyone. In Georgia I saw one with a yoke on it. Oxen and mules are used almost exclusively and two-wheeled carts almost take the place of the four-wheeled wagon.

At Everett, the major of our battalion received orders to go into camp at Jacksonville instead of Tampa. This change of orders was quite welcome to the men, as we have heard so much about the heat and scarcity of water at Tampa that we didn't much want to go there. We arrived at Camp Springfield at about 2 p.m. on Tuesday and at 2:30 our tents were up and the whole battalion was as much at home as if they had been there a week. A regular army officer remarked, "There is nothing slow about those fellows."

We are camped in a pine forest about a mile from Jacksonville, and have an abundance of water, as the city water works have been extended to the camp. The water is warm though, as it comes from a well 900 feet deep. The soil in the camp is only about an inch deep and is covered with coarse grass and bushes four or five inches high. Beneath the sod formed by this growth all is sand and it is so loose it can be scooped with a spoon like sugar.

There are five regiments encamped here, one from each of the following states: Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and North Carolina. The Fiftieth Iowa is conceded by all to be the crack regiment in camp, and, in truth they can't be excelled in equipment, stature and behavior.

This morning I witnessed the guard mounts of the Wisconsin and North Carolina regiments. The Wisconsins did fairly well but the Carolinians have no idea of military movements whatever. Almost any private in Co. H has ideas superior to those of the officers of that regiment.

It is thought by the officers that we will remain here until October. It would be difficult to find a more pleasant place in the south in which to spend the summer. The thermometer stands at a little above 90 in the shade in the day time, and the nights are always cool, and one can sleep quite comfortably with their blanket wrapped around them.

The rations have been extremely short, today's dinner consisting of bad beef, coffee and beans, but no bread. At supper we had more of the same beef which had grown worse, one slice of bread and coffee. For breakfast we will have more of the beef and coffee, but no bread, potatoes or beans.

The timber in this country is composed chiefly of pine, cypress and palm, and looks quite tropical.

The population of Jacksonville is composed of whites and colored people in about equal proportions, with the colored people slightly in the lead.

Co. H bought a new mess tent last Wednesday. They found it to be a necessity in the burning sun, which shines directly overhead at noon.

There are black snakes, cottonmouths and rattle snakes in the brush and along the river. One was killed with twenty-six rattles on its tail. Lizards creep into the tents and gambol over the boys and crawl into the blankets and sleep with them, but such campaigners as we don't care for a lizard two feet long.

The health of the boys is splendid here.

Sergeant W.T. Black,
Co. H, Fiftieth Reg. Iowa Vol. Inf.


The Spanish American War turned out to be rather short, ending with the Treaty of Paris later that year, and the boys of Company H saw no action.

Instead, their talents were turned to building Camp Cuba Libre --- a poorly sited extension of Camp Springfield where the unit first was deployed.

During July of 1898, Sgt. Tom fell ill with typhoid fever and died on July 19 at Camp Libre. The photo here, taken in Jacksonville, is his funeral cortege, formed as his remains were being taken to the railroad depot for shipment home to Chariton on July 20.

Tom's younger brother, Walter, just 17, accompanied his brother's remains home, then returned to Florida where he fell ill with typhoid fever, too. The men of Company H were ordered home to Chariton on Sept. 12 and Walter accompanied them in a hospital car. He died on Sept. 28 at home in Chariton and was buried beside his brother in the Chariton Cemetery.

And so when Memorial Day 1899 dawned a year later and a procession once again made its way to the Chariton Cemetery, the graves of the Black brothers were among those decorated in remembrance.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Hail and farewell, Ray Wetherell ....

More days than not, what I write here before dawn relates to Lucas County and/or Iowa history. When that's the case, the practice for a couple of years has been to share a link on the page of a Facebook group, The Forgotten Iowa Historical Society.

When I joined the group, there were a few thousand members. Now, I see, there are more than 51,000.

The page was dreamed up by a man named Daniel Ray Wetherell, of the small O'Brien County town of Sutherland, northwest Iowa, population six-hundred and something, skyline dominated by the soaring concrete silos of a grain elevator.

Mr. Wetherell wore a number of hats, including that of director of Sutherland's Gen. N.B. Baker Public Library.

Motivated by a deep love of history and devotion to the state all 51,000-plus of us call home in one way or another, he recruited a team of talented co-administrators to help his page navigate the sometimes stormy seas of the social media.

They are extremely good at keeping "The Forgotten ..." on course without inflicting more than the occasional disjointed nose. Conversations are kept on topic, related to the purpose of the page. No aspect of history is off-limits, but discussion when it strays is steered into constructive channels. Those who meander into content areas better suited to other sites are nudged that way as gently as possible.

These are not simple tasks in these incendiary times. Someone posted a reference the other day to the time Richard M. Nixon was stationed at the Ottumwa air station. Kaboom! Calm was soon restored, however.

Mr. Wetherell set the tone for all of this and kept it on track. Only 41, he died early Sunday morning as the result of a one-vehicle accident in his hometown. Thank you, sir, for a life well lived --- and godspeed.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Congratulations to the Class of --- 1924

Chariton High School seniors received their diplomas Sunday afternoon and none, most likely, thought for even a second about the fact that the Class of 2018 was the 94th to graduate from the current high school building, completed during 1923 and still in use.

Class sizes were similar --- the Class of 1924 was made up of 83 students; the class of 2018, of 81.

The location of commencement exercises has shifted slightly over the years, however. Today, they're held in the gymnasium, a later addition to the building. Back in 1923, they were held in the auditorium, a space in the 1923 building that for the most part vanished as it was divided and allocated to other uses, then replaced by Johnson Auditorium.

Anyhow, here's a report on graduation 1924 --- the first in a venerable building that's held up well --- from The Herald-Patriot of May 29. 

Eighty-three Graduate in Class of '24
Commencement Exercises Held at High School Auditorium Last Friday
Krenmyre the speaker
Agency Man Gave Inspirational Address on "The Challenge"; Interesting School Statistics Given, Too

Eighty-three young men and women graduated from the Chariton high school and received their diplomas at the commencement exercises at the high school auditorium last Friday evening, May 23. Of the eighty-three, a large number will doubtless continue studies elsewhere while others will likely enter into the activities of life directly.

Last Friday morning was held the class day exercise at the high school building. This proved to be a splendid program which opened with a violin solo by Miss Dorothy Curtis, followed by a reading by Virgil Coughell. Then came the class song and some orchestra numbers by a musical organization composed entirely of seniors. Leo Grate gave the class prophecy, and Bill Swim read the last will and testament of the class of 1924. Each number on the program was a pleasant one. It was during these exercises that the names of the winners in the track meet who were entitled to "C's" were read. They were: Bill Swim, Virgil Coughell, William Langford, James Santon, Charles Soderstrom, Virgil Johnson, Clinton Moon and James McAloon.

At eight o'clock the same evening the commencement exercises proper were held at the auditorium, which had been prettily decorated for the occasion. Huge baskets of bridal wreath and purple flowers had been placed on the stage and the class colors, lavender and gray, were draped from the ceiling to the sides of the platform. The high school orchestra played a pleasing number, and as the processional was played on the piano the graduates took their places on the stage. The girls glee club then sang "Nightingale and Rose" in a very pleasing manner, following which the invocation was pronounced by Rev. J. A. Riggs, pastor of the Baptist church of Chariton. A charming vocal duet number, "In Springtime," was rendered by the Misses Darlene Calbreath and Pauline Smith. Then followed the address to the class by Rev. J.H. Krenmyre, of Agency, who spoke on the subject of "The Challenge."

He handled the subject in a masterful manner. He spoke of the needs of preparation --- in this scientific age more than ever before in order to make equal the battle. And here began the challenge. Strive for attainments, and as progress was made the stronger it became. No effort should be relaxed because again the voice was heard --- the laggard was admonished. And with it all there must be design. Everything was created to a plan. Character as well as achievement was in the test. Honesty of purpose and franklness in procedure. The world was challening. The youth who was dishonest in his sports would be tricky in business. Success in life did not mean that great accomplishments should result but that the modest attainments of life with due regards to the rights of others. Should abilities and opportunities lead one higher, the challenge should be to get into position --- impossible without the vantage point. And with it all courage and backbone counted.

The address of Rev. Krenmyre was followed by another selection by the Girls' Glee Club, "In the Time of Roses." Prof. F.A. Lunan, principal of the Chariton high school, then gave some interesting class statistics Of the eighty-three members of the graduating class 35 were boys and 48 girls. Of these, 44 were resident students and 39 (16 boys and 23 girls) were non-resident pupils. Twenty-five had taken the nomal training course; eighteen, the college preparatory; 20, the business course; and 20 general. A graduate from any course is eligible to enter college.

The hightest ten percent from the entire class with average standing for the complete course was as follows: Helen Bonnett, 93.52%; Jane Burkholder, 93.34%; Geraldine Roberts, 92.09%; Joseph Kardonsky, 91.83%; Kathryn Blanchard, 91.47%; Geveva Norman, 91.34%; Evelyn McKinley, 90.97%; Judith Koch, 90.62%.

In a brief but well worded address, Superintendent J.R. Cougill grew eloquent in presenting the class. They had labored together for four years and he had had ample opportunity to observe and judge of the quality and was glad to state that they measured up to the standard of good studentship and would go out into the world equipped to grapple with life's problems and take their places in affairs and citizenship.

In an equally eloquent manner, president J.H. Darrah, of the school board, accepted the high trust, and spoke a future hope for these splended young men and women, handing to them their diplomas as one by one they appeared upon the stage in front of the audience and possed in review. they were awed with a tranquil relief from the happy studious years, and those who looked forward saw visions of the splendid class separating into the various places to which they through circumstances were to be assigned.

The seniors united in singing their class song and the benediction by Rev. C.A. Johnson of the First Lutheran church closed the program. The recessional was rendered and the seniors of 1924 filed out and bade farewell to their Chariton high school life.

The class motto was "Honor before Honors." The class flower was the white rose and the class colors were lavender and grey. The following is a list of the graduates:

Clarice Ambelang, Earnest Ansley, Dorothy Badger, Walter Baldridge, Merrill Baxter, Ted Best, Elsie Blake, Kathryn Blanchard, Helen Bonnett, Lela Boothe, Helen Brownlee, Avancila Bryan, Jane Burkholder, Claude Byrum, Opal Callahan, Maude Carpenter, Virgil Coughell, Mary Clark, Marlene Cloe, Nina Connor, Jennie Coons, Bernice Cornford, Evelyn Cougill, Pauline Cowles, Dorothy Curtis, Ruth Danchenbach, Ulin Davis, William Engebretsen, Howard Frogge, Ada Gookin, Leo Grate, Loretta Griffis, Leota Hall, Lucy Heston, Luther Johnson, Joseph Kardonsky, Maude Keller, Jessie Kenney, Pauline Kestler, Judith Koch, Leorne Krutsinger, William Langford, Audire Laurie, Glenn Lewis, Edna Lugar, Don Maloney, Kenneth McCullough, Evelyn McKinley, Nellie McNulty, Cleta Miller, Loleta Mitchell, Clinton Moon, Albert Munday, Elmer Munson, Geneva Norman, John Norman, Nellie Norman, Dorothy Oden, Charlotte Primmer, Ralph Pim, Howard Piper, Steward Powell, Harold Powers, Marie Prevo, John Richard, Milton Risbeck, Geraldine Roberts, Lowell Scales, Lavelle Shelton, Burdette Smith, Edward Spencer, Mayme Spencer, Anne Stack, James Stanton, Louise Storie, Bill Swimm, Lloyd Waynick, Ted Wentz, Lysle Wirene, LaVar Wolfe, Pauline Yengel and Maude Byrum.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Love, sweet love ...

Those of us who are Episcopalian and head for church later this morning will --- after the lessons, sermon and Creed --- take to our kneelers and pray specifically for, among others, "Justin, the Archibishop of Canterbury; Michael, our presiding bishop ...."

These two Anglican good old boys are, of course, the Most Rev. Justin Welby (right below), Archbishop of Canterbury; and the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. 

Those who watched yesterday's royal wedding festivities will recognize Archbishop Welby as the gentleman who actually married the now Duke and Duchess of Sussex; and Bishop Curry as the gentleman who electrified the congregation (and Twitter) with a stunning sermon on the topic of love.

I'll remember this pair from a Sky News report featuring the reverends on the lawn in front of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, talking like giddy schoolboys about the nuptials.

What the commentary did not mention specifically is that the Rev. Mr. Curry's sermon expressed as well as anything I've heard the aspirations --- not always met --- of our beloved Episcopal Church, which these two gentlemen lead, the Brit symbolically, the American preacher, actually.

These aspirations are the reasons many of us get out of bed on Sundays and go to church and remain active in the church at a time when the branches of Christianity with the loudest voices have turned ugly, exclusionary, even downright hateful.

Here, for those who missed it the first time around, is Bishop Michael's sermon:

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The sad demise of Chariton's Max Rothschild

I started out earlier in the week to tell the sad story of Max Rothschild's demise in Chariton during the fall of 1916 --- and then that project got sidetracked, as sometimes happens. That's Max's tombstone at left in Des Moines' Jewish Glendale, courtesy of Find a Grave.

So I wrote instead about Max's father-in-law, the venerable Rabbi Joseph Handler, of Oskaloosa, who with his wife, Anna, moved to what now is the state of Israel during 1905 to live out the remainder of their lives.

At the time the Joseph Handlers left Oskaloosa, 10 of their children and approximately 40 grandchildren also lived there. Their daughters included Sarah, who had married Max Rothschild in Oskaloosa during May of 1898.

Like Sarah, Max was a native of Russia, born there in 1869, a son of Moses and Anna (Cohen) Rothschild, and probably had gotten his start in business as a peddler, as had his Handler brothers-in-law.

By 1905, Max and Sarah had two children, Barney and Sarah, and a small store-front business in Oskaloosa. Soon thereafter, they moved to St. Joseph, Missouri, to start another business, and then during the spring of 1916 relocated to Chariton.

By that time, at least two of Sarah's nephews also were in business in Chariton. Ben Handler was managing for his Oskaloosa-based father, Simon, a store on the east side of the square called The Economy, which offered shoes and mens furnishings.

Frank N. Handler had two business operations --- a bulk flour and livestock feed store on North Grand Street, just north of the square, and a scrap metal yard on the levee in northwest Chariton.

Max and Sarah purchased a building on or near the levee that spring and opened a business they named the People's Grocery.

The Rothschilds seemed to be doing well, so there was considerable shock and consternation on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 30, 1916, when it was discovered that Max had taken his own life. Here's a report on his death from The Herald-Patriot of Thursday, Oct. 5:

Mr. Max Rothschild, who recently opened a general store near the C.B.&Q. depot, committed suicide sometime Saturday morning. He and his wife and son and daughter had been in Des Moines a few days attending the celebration of the Jewish New Year and on Saturday morning about 2:30 o'clock he and his son, Barney, returned to their home here, the son going home with a friend to stay all night. Mrs. Rothschild and daughter, Sarah, went from Des Moines to Oskaloosa for a brief visit.

On Saturday morning about 9 o'clock, a lady went to the store to make some purchases but failed to gain admittance. As she passed the window she noticed Mr. Rothschild sitting in a chair. Failing to rouse him by knocking on the door, she called the officers who effected an entrance to the business and found the room full of gas and Mr. Rothschild sitting there dead, in front of a gas stove, both burners of which were open. The cracks to the windows and door had been stuffed, so it was evidently a case of suicide, and the coroner's jury returned a verdict to that effect.

Mr. Rothschild was about 50 years of age and is survived by his wife and the son and daughter mentioned above. The family came here recently from St. Joseph, Missouri. 

Mrs. Rothschild and daughter arrived Saturday afternoon from Oskaloosa in response to a message conveying the terrible news, and with the son accompanied the remains of the husband and father to Des Moines Saturday night, where interment took place in the Jewish cemetery. No reason can be assigned for the awful deed. The sympathy of the community will be extended to the grief stricken relatives.


Following Max's death, Sarah continued to operate the grocery for two years --- until September of 1918, when she sold the operation to Frank G. Holmes and moved to Des Moines. Son Barney eventually settled in Los Angeles and the two Sarahs, mother and daughter, moved to the Chicago area.

Max, who was buried not far from his Handler in-laws in Jewish Glendale, has a nice stone --- but so far as I can tell retains the distinction of being the only Rothschild buried in Polk County.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Why I didn't call the cops or ICE or yell at Ukranians

Out in New York,
Manhattan lawyer Aaron
Schlossberg did threaten
to call ICE and was awarded
 asshole of the week
honors for his trouble.
I went down to Hy-Vee twice yesterday, once just after noon for lunch and again in the evening to fill water jugs and get paper towels. That grocery store probably is Lucas County's most diverse place so you never know who you're going to find there.

When I went in, two older women --- one wearing a babushka --- were standing by their carts in one of the produce aisles speaking some foreign language, Russian I think. Russian? In Chariton? Imagine that.

Anyhow, they seemed to be talking about the potatoes and not about me so I decided not to yell at them even though, if they live here you know, they should be speaking English.

Same goes for that Amish woman who wheeled her cart by just then. You do know, don't you, that these folks speak some sort of German dialect among themselves?

I wanted to eat Chinese so walked over to the deli aisle, but the guy standing behind the serving counter looked oriental and that gave me pause. I thought about telling him he should go back to where he came from --- but decided that if I did that I wouldn't get lunch and since this was one of the days when the American food didn't look very tasty kept my mouth shut.

There were two black guys in the store at the time --- one in a wheelchair and the other who seemed to have some kind of learning disability. I thought about calling the cops, but since neither would have been able to do me much harm, ended up not doing that.

Then when I was getting ready to check out in the evening, this Latino-looking guy walked over toward me with his shopping basket. Maybe I should have called ICE, but he looked like he had worked hard all day and I was kind of tired, too, and just wanted to get home. So I didn't.

Somehow I managed to get through the day and meet people of four different races and three different nationalities who spoke at least five languages --- without behaving like an asshole even once. Give it a try.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The devil du jour and Norwood's midnight rangers

The boys were fighting that war to end all wars on the battlefields of Europe and strong drink was the devil du jour across America back in September of 1918 when a bootlegger made the mistake of including the village of Norwood on his travel itinerary whilst heading from Chariton to Des Moines with at least 150 pints of whisky.

Here's how the Herald-Patriot reported in its edition of Sept. 26 what happened after Norwood's midnight rangers had given chase and recovered the whiskey, but lost the bootlegger:

"Last Friday evening an Overland car belonging to Gomer Evans was stolen from the public square in Chariton. Officers reported the theft to nearby towns, and late in the evening citizens of Norwood, in Ottercreek township, discovered a strange car approaching.

"They ordered the driver to halt, but instead he speeded up. Larb Harvey and several others started in an auto in pursuit and shot at the fleeing driver, who commenced to throw packages out of his car, thinking that when his pursuers stopped to pick them up, he would gain on them, and then he didn't want to get caught with the wet goods in his possession either.

"He was driving a Hudson 'Six' and was chased to the Des Moines city limits, where he managed to elude his pursuers and make his escape. About 150 pints of whiskey were picked up from the roadside and are now stored in the city jail.

"The following morning the stolen Overland was found near the county farm, minus one tire. While the fugitive did not have the stolen car, he had contraband goods in his possession that would have landed him in the locker."


The brief article also brings to light two given names --- Gomer and Larb --- that give the whole affair a vaguely hillbilly flavor although nothing of the sort would have been thought of at the time.

Gomer is Biblical (as in the eldest son of Japheth) and Gomer Evans (1878-1937) was a coal miner of Welsh descent who had moved his family from Lucas to Chariton during 1914 and gone to work in the expanding mines stretching northeast into Pleasant Township. He also was an active union organizer, a mainstay of the Latter Day Saints church (now Community of Christ) and active in a variety of community affairs. Badly injured in a mine accident during 1933 he died at age 59 in Gary, Indiana, where he and his wife had moved in order to be nearer four of their eight children.

Heaven only knows by this time where "Larb" came from, but it was borne proudly by Larb Harvey (1874-1944), remembered primarily as a Norwood-area farmer. In 1918, however, Larb was operating an automotive repair garage in Norwood and selling Jeffery automobiles. Whether or not the Norwood rangers took out after the bootlegger in a Jeffery I can't say.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Gene Storie, a Bavarian lake & Bletchley Park

Gerald E. Storie
The rewards of arising every morning to feed this beast include hearing from readers who find something useful, enlightening or entertaining. As a bonus, readers often share information that casts more light on a topic or a person.

That happened again late last week when I heard from Thomas Boghardt, senior historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Leslie J. McNair, Washington, D.C.

Dr. Boghardt had happened upon a piece written back in August of 2017 about Derby's Gerald Eugene "Gene" Storie, one of Lucas County's World War II losses. Gene, just 21, drowned on the evening of July 14, 1945, while swimming in the Schliersee, a mountain lake south of Munich, just a few weeks after Germany's surrender during early May.

It was a tragic end to a poignant life story --- you can read more of Gene's story here, if you like.

But there's a little bit more to it, and Dr. Boghardt wanted me to know that the circumstances of Storie's sad death had been instrumental in a major Allied intelligence coup during that long-ago summer in Bavaria.


Raised in Derby by his grandmother and a graduate of Derby High School, Gene  enlisted in the U.S. Army at Camp Dodge on July 13, 1943. He was called to active duty on August 3 and after more than a year of training and stateside assignments was deployed to the European Theater on Oct. 30, 1944.

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

The exact circumstances of his drowning on the evening of July 14, 1945, at Schliersee aren't clear, but the official record states that his death "occurred in the line of duty and was not the result of his own misconduct."


Many Iowans by now are at least vaguely familiar with Bletchley Park, the estate in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, that was the central site for British and then Allied codebreakers during World War II. The value of the intelligence gathered there shortened the war, perhaps even ensured Allied victory.

Benedict Cumberbatch's performance as Alan Turing in 2014's The Imitation Game helped familiarize Americans with the facility and its importance..

What isn't so widely known is that as the war was entering end game, Bletchley Park also became the headquarters for a major and highly classified Allied intelligence operation to seek out and capture the cryptologic secrets of Germany as soon as circumstances permitted.

An Allied outfit code-named TICOM (Target Intelligence Committee) was formed for that purpose. Its aim was to capture, collect and process information about as well as the technology, devices and documents of Nazi cryptographic efforts, including those of the Supreme Command of the German Armed Forces --- Oberkommando der Wehrmacht Chiffrierabteilung, abbreviated OKW/Chi.

An historian named Randy Rezabek authored a piece about these operations entitled "TICOM and the Search for OKW/Chi" for the journal Cryptologia during 2013 --- and Dr. Boghardt was kind enough to forward a copy of it to me.


During early May of 1945, TICOM shifted its emphasis to targets that included the archives of OKW/Chi and received a tip from a captured officer that the OKW/Chi archives had been evacuated from Berlin to the Schliersee, a mountain lake south of Munich. More documentation came to light as the month passed and on May 21, investigators made a brief but fruitless stop at Schliersee, looking for traces.

During June, TICOM returned to Schliersee and intensified its search of the lakeside town by that name as well as the countryside around the lake. What they found was of limited interest, but an intriguing rumor showed promise --- on May 1 and 2 a train reportedly had rolled into Schliersee, then parked on a siding on the far side of the lake where it remained a day or two. During that time, German soldiers reportedly unloaded at least part of its cargo and threw it into the lake.

The lake, however, was too deep and too large to search without specialists and special equipment, so the team left at the end of June after recommending that a dragging operation be undertaken sometime in the future but with no guarantee that this actually would happen.

There was every possibility that the OKW/Chi archive might never have been recovered --- investigators were not absolutely certain it had been dumped into the lake ---  but then on July 14, PFC Gene Storie drowned while swimming in Schliersee.

Gene's body was not recovered immediately and so Army officials launched a dragging operation. During that operation, a waterproof box was snagged at the north end of the lake. It proved to contain part of the OKW/Chi archive.

Gene's body was recovered, too, and during August and September TICOM launched a major dragging and diving operation. Twenty-eight boxes of OKW/Chi-related material were recovered --- roughly four tons.


Everything recovered at Schliersee was sorted and condensed, then repacked into 19 containers for shipment home to England. Those boxes arrived at Bletchley Park on Oct. 5, 1945.

Gene Storie's 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. They remained there until 1948.

PFC Gerald E. Storie was re-interred at Iowa's Keokuk National Cemetery --- Iowa's only national cemetery --- on Nov. 2, 1948 (Section D, Grave No. 129), where he remains as Memorial Day 2018 approaches.