IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co.

Hugh Shepherd letter
ca 1935-1945

by Hugh Shepherd

This is the 21st day of November and no fog is visible on the river; the sun is shining brightly and millions of well-fed birds of the turkey family will be giving up their lives so "we can the better give thanks" to the Giver of all Good.

We as a people have many things to be thankful for in this great free land of ours.

Since starting this letter to you the sky has clouded over and we get some snow.  A few days ago some hunters saw a pelican trying to swim with a crippled wing, caused no doubt by a gunshot from a hunter's firearm.  So these hunters went out with a boat and brought the pelican ashore.  It weighed 30 pounds, a good-sized specimen and so the rescue party turned the bird over to the museum at Moline, Ill.  These birds winter in Louisiana and Florida and seldom are seen this far north, so it should make a fine addition to this museum.

I see by the last Herald that you are going to have a nursery in Postville.  The first nursery there was owned by James Mott, an uncle of Dr. John R. Mott.  It was located where the William Foels residence is and extended westward to the present location of the Bruce feed mill.

In those days there were no streets through that section of town and the land ran up to where the alley at Mrs. Frank Bollman's is located.  At one time Charley Bachtell owned all that ground.  It ran along Lyband road and Jim Mott turned the land over to his brother, J. S. Mott who owned the lumber yard on the corner; (J. S. was John R's father) 

I worked at the time for Mr. Mott, as did also William McAdam.  We cut hay on that land and the few apple trees that were still standing bore fruit at that time, but most of the trees had died and were cut down in time.  So we were told to cut down the rest and clean the place up.

Then a Mr. Canfield tried to conduct a nursery on the north side of the cemetery, but did not make a success of it.  After this for a long time Postville was without a tree nursery until Charley Ohloff, Sr., got into the venture and he came the nearest to making a success of it.  His place was on the north side of town.

Charley was a man who understood the nursery business and unless a person has ample capital and the love for the work, it seldom works out profitably.

I know of no better place or location in the northeastern Iowa than right there in Postville to start a profitable nursery and I hop the new man will fine it that way.

They may be cut down by this time but there were a few scrubby evergreen trees on the north side of the land where the Mott nursery was located.  (Ed. Note -- Yes, Hugh, that old nursery was located where we now live and those scrubby, but staunch old trees still grow there.  Our only shade until the young trees we set out a few years ago mature are two huge pine trees to the east of our house.)

It fills my heart with sadness when I look over the Herald from week to week and see the names of those who have passed on.  Some I have known since childhood.  But every day we see events passing before us and when we look back over the 84 years the changes have been many. 

And talking about changes, why I remember back in 1868 in going north on No. 51 on the left hand side of the road going north there you could not see the farms and homes on the road going north from the Lawrence Dresser place.  But on the last trip I made down that way, I could see the Highland school house, the old Henry Casten farmstead, the Carl Meyer place which was the former Enoch Hardin farm, and the Justin Press, the Cotton Place, and what was the old Rose home.

No doubt another 75 years will make many changes we cannot foresee now in this prosperous period.

As I go over the lay of the land so familiar to me, I stop to ponder where those people are who lived there in days of long ago.  Most of them, of course, have passed on.  Their children are scattered to the four corners of the earth.

I recall an instance only a few years back when a man came to town and set up a tent just south of the Herald office.  He had in his possession many relics of different kinds and he asked me about a man by the name of Lee who had died on the Abram Hart farm north of Postville.  This man claimed to have known him.  I told him we had buried him in the woods because he had died of small pox.  (Your readers will remember I wrote about this man's untimely passing in a previous article.)   The showman told me he wanted to visit and see the place because he thought he'd be able to recognize it, because he had been present at the time of the interment.  So on a Sunday afternoon I took him to the spot where the grave was located.  But the timber had all been removed  long since, only two or three trees remained standing there.  This stranger couldn't recall the spot.  I mention this to point out how time has wrought changes to help man forget the past and its familiar landmark.  Perhaps some of your readers will remember this man with his little show; I have completely forgotten his name, but he carried with him most every old relic imaginable and he stayed with us for about a week as did so many of the small traveling shows of that era now gone forever with its mode of living.

Until next time -----HUGH  


~source: newspaper clipping, likely the Postville Herald, the date is not known & but probably was written between 1935 & 1940
~contributed by Mary Durr

~note: Hugh Shepherd (1859-1947) was an early Allamakee co. pioneer. He lived in Postville. This letter likely was not written to any specific person, being written as an open letter in the local newspaper.


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