BREMER COUNTY'S FIRST FAIR
I am not quite certain who taught the first term of school in the stone school house which served the town so long as an educational Mecca, for i4 addition to the public school there were held church services, political caucuses, literary club meetings, railroad meetings, debating society meetings, and all others of a public character. My belief is that Mrs. B. F. Perkins was the first teacher in the new school house, in the winter of 1855-56. E. C. Moulton taught the school in 1857-58-59. Later on after the war, B. F. McCormick was principal of the schools in the old house. It was the center of all educational efforts until the court house was completed in 1859, when all religious services were transferred to it by those having no meeting house of their own. In it church services were held, traveling theatrical shows, political meetings of all parties, fairs, big socials, etc.
Both these buildings served the wants of the people when public meetings were held.
The first county fair was held in the court house in October, 1859, at which a wonderful display of vegetables, grains, cookery, needle work, old family relics of a curiuos sort, as well as several coops of poultry and a few choice pigs were on exhibition. My contribution to the show was a head of cabbage weighing 38 pounds, that I sold to G. W. LeValley for five cents. The court house was crowded with people who rejoiced over what could be produced in Bremer county. It was a meeting of people who got acquainted with each other and it tended to cement them together in developing the resources of the soil and the industries of the people. The weather was very bad, rain with snow fell and the temperature was low, but all cheerfully faced the weather, as they did the hardships of pioneer life. I recollect a discussion between Mace Eveland, Horace Wallace, Samuel Lease, Parker Lucas, Samuel Case,' Solomon Renn, John Wile, W. P. Harris and others, as to whether or not timothy and clover would ever grow in the climate and soil of this section. Each one of them was a paragon of wisdom on the subject and the general belief was that they had passed out of the timothy and clover belt and they must depend upon the prairie grass for hay, of which they all agreed there would always be enough, for the prairies would never all be settled and farmed. If these wise old farmers' foresight had been as good as their hindsight was, when mowing heavy swaths of timothy and clover a few months afterward, they would have been better prophets, and when some of them had lived to see every acre of prairie land under cultivation and teeming with ripe crops, they would have tried to forget their predictions.
The fair was a success as a beginning, and it was agreed that it was the starter of an organization that would be permanent and be the means of advertising Bremer county. But the rapid changes that came because Of the election of Lincoln relegated the fair project to the scrap pile for a good many years, and for more than four years the one thought in the minds of the people was the salvation of the country. To this work the young men rushed without a thought of pay, emoluments, or pensions, until very few were left, and the work on the farms was left for the older men and women to do. Scores and scores of the young women went into the fields to do men's work. Some of the grandmothers of today who still reside in the county were the girls then whose faces were browned and sun-burned while working in the harvest fields, hay fields and corn fields, and they are none the less healthy and grand now because of their industry and courage then. A sunbonnet then was an - ornament admired because it sheltered a rosy face that teemed with loyalty to country and to the men who stood between them and a divided government.
The first hotel in Waverly was a log house that was located on the river bank on the east side between East Water street and the river. It was kept by Samuel Ritter and wife, who came from Williamsport, Pa., in 1854 or the year following. The necessity for a hotel was so great that they involuntarily became "Bonifaces" because they had the biggest house then in town and could not very well help becoming hotel keepers. They did a satisfactory and good business until better quarters could be provided.
The Bremer House (now Fortner) was opened to the public July 4, 1856, with a good deal of ceremony and a ball at night. Ezra Williams was the leading violinist and Bill Reeser had a cornet horn, with one or two violinists whose names I have forgotten. I danced my first set in Iowa that night with Mary Hullman, the mother of the present editor of the Democrat. She was quite an artist and kept me from getting lost in the mazes of the cotillions. For a change George Corey reeled off several jig dances during the night to the entertainment of the crowd. He and Mrs. Wm. Reeser gave a "Jupiter" dance, to the merriment of the crowded dining room. She was equally as expert in the terpsichorean art as was Corey; they were the artists of the occasion.
Last updated 4/13/15
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