COL. W. V. LUCAS WRITES OF THINGS ALMOST UNKNOWN TO THE PRESENT GENERATION.
WAS VERY MUCH delighted to receive your letter, which told me of the good time and success of the Old Settlers’ Meeting at Waverly. I realize what a treat I missed by being absent. My mind and heart were with you all the day, and all that kept me from being present in person was a circumstance over which I had no control. It was my loss, and goes into the budget of disappointments that come to us in life’s journey. In fancy I can see the large crowd of old settlers gathered on the square in front of the old court house, enjoying a reunion as comes on such an occasion. I congratulate them, that they had such a pleasant time and got away safely, for I feared the old ramshackle court house might take a tumble down the hill and bury the whole caboodle of old settlers in a bunch. For sixty years it has stood in majestic silence as a monument to the honesty of its construction. It is made of native material of Bremer county, the timber cut from her forests, the brick from Lorenz Selbig’s yard on top of the hill, near where your father (Theodore Hullman) owned and operated one of the first stores in Waverly. (It was in that store I first met your father and mother, in April, 1856.) The lime came from a kiln up the river, north of town. The architect was Capt. Hinkley F. Beebe; the contractor and builder were George W. LeValley and H. F. Beebe; the brick-layers were three or a trinity of Georges—George Corey, George W. Briggs and George G. Evans, three master workmen whose hands never forgot their cunning, when doing a job with brick and mortar. The carpenter work was done by Sam Geddes, whose skill and genius as a prince in wood work was never excelled by any manipulator of the plane in Waverly. The only weak spot in Sam was his devotion to the god Bacchus, as dispensed by Dow Hinton from a jug and tin cup. Sam was ably supported in his work by “Mayor” Wood, who was an equal of the master workman in skill and speed, and who at a later date became a soldier in the old and gallant Third Iowa Infantry. My recollection is that he lived thru the war, but never came back to Waverly. Another thoro workman on the court house was William Reeser, who some years later returned to Pennsylvania, his native state. Roswell Keith and W. R. Hillis, and perhaps some others worked on the job. Sam Geddes made the seats and built the stairs. J. H. Brooks, Shadee Hinton, Jack and Joe Chandler carried the hods. No more faithful crew of men ever worked on a job. All were past masters in their line, and as faithful as the clock that kept time for them. Le Valley was tireless in his work and efforts to produce a building that would be an honor to all who had any part or lot in its construction.
When finished and turned over to the county it was the finest and most imposing court house in the Cedar Valley. Linn, Benton, Blackhawk, Chickasaw, Floyd and Mitchell counties were not in it in comparison with “Little Bremer” for court houses.
There is has stood for three score of years, as a temple of justice. Within its walls and at its bar, civil and criminal law has been construed and administered by such very illustrious judges as Wilson, of Dubuque; Fairfield and Reineger of Floyd, and our own lamented Ruddick, and still later by other able and clean men who honored the wool sack on which they sat. At the bar sentence of involuntary servitude has been passed upon men convicted for crimes committed.
In its auditorium such devout men as Elder Gould, Elder Burrington, F. X. Miller, C. M. Sessions, dear old Elder Swearingen and others preached the Gospel. Within its walls Plunkett, Billy Marble and Laughing Robinson held forth on the stage.
On one occasion Plunkett put on “Ten Nights in a Bar-room.” Dave Clark, Al Lawrence, Mayor Wood and Doc Pomeroy, the leaders of Waverly’s set of bright and mischievous young men, induced Sam Geddes, Dow Hinton and Joe Chandler to go and see the play. They were told it was one of great merit and high morals. They attended, chaperoned by a bunch of these teasers. At every point of striking interest they rubbed it in on Sam, Dow and Joe. When it was ended the three were nearly paralyzed as they straggled down town to Frank Kimm’s place, they commented on the scenes. When they reached Frank’s bar, they agreed that three rounds should be the limit, and after that a drought would set in, for danger lurked in the glass. At the close of the three rounds they shook hands and passed out into the darkness to go home. Dow and Joe lived up on the hill near the court house, and Sam down town in front of the mill. After they separated Sam concluded he would go back and see if Dow and Joe were in earnest about a drought. When he entered Frank’s place he found the boys lined up telling Frank they had no confidence in Sam’s promise to cut out all hard drinks, while Frank in his French-English, was telling them he was expecting Sam every minute, and for them not to hasten away, for Sam was certain to appear soon. While they lingered the door opened and Sam appeared. He expressed great astonishment that they were not in home and in bed. They in turn told him they had doubts about his sincerity and concluded they would not retire until they were satisfied he meant what he said when the covenant was made. Same assured them he was in dead earnest, and only because of a raging toothache was he there; he had dropped around to get some of Frank’s “Toothache Elixir,” which was a sure cure. At this Dow, the spokesman, replied, “We believe you, and we know Frank’s stuff never fails to cure the toothache, blues, rheumatism or anything else, except lying; set ‘em up, Frank.” After three more rounds they separated, the pledge renewed for a drought. Sam said afterward that he kept the pledge two days, but when he found that Dow and Joe stood out only one day he decided he would call the compact off.
This brings me back to the court house, for I am bound to say it has served its day, has done splendid service, is honored and loved for what it has been, but in the light of the progress of the times, the wealth of Bremer county, and the necessities of the hour, it is a disgrace to the county, a shame to its people, and some of these days will burn up or tumble down, and thus destroy records and archives worth more to the taxpayers than the cost of an up-to-date building. If I were running the Democrat, I would keep up such a racket and give so many sound reasons why a new court house should be built that something would be doing, if nothing more than railroading me out of the county. I know that the people of Bremer county are as proud and progressive as are the people in any other county, and have more wealth than the average county.
Another thing the people of Bremer county should do that would honor them and be a just tribute to the memory of her first citizens and a pioneer honored in many ways; and that is to erect a monument on the public square in memory of Lieut. Edward Tyrell, who fell on the awful 22nd day of May on the breastworks at Vicksburg, while leading old Company G, 9th Iowa, to reach the rebel flag inside the works. He is the only officer from Bremer county killed during the civil war. He was a model citizen of the county and a hero whose blood moistened the soil of his adopted country . He left a family who honor his name and the county. As a mark of patriotic devotion to country and respect for one of its foremost citizens, Bremer county can do no less than build a soldier’s monument in the square, with Edward Tyrell’s name chiseled in the granite, and below it put the name of Johnny Karker, from the same company, who fell at Pea Ridge in March, 1862. He was the first soldier from Bremer county who was killed in the battle. Johnny was a poor obscure boy, but a patriot who died under the shadow of the flag that has never touched the ground. Unknown in life, honored and loved in his unknown grave, it would be patriotic and typical of Bremer county to preserve the name of the first man from its borders who was killed in the war for freedom of a race.
I hope your readers will not think I am meddling or “butting in” among their affairs, for I am not. If my home were in the county I would have much more to say about a monument in the court house square. Nearly half of the counties of the state, or perhaps more than half, have creditable monuments to their soldiers of 1861-65.
Last updated 10/12/13
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