THE DAYS WHEN WHEAT WAS THE PRINCIPAL CROP, AND MEN WHO BOUGHT IT. EARLY NEWSPAPER MEN
Who of the "old stock" does not remember the great fields of grain that waved to and fro in the glad sunlight of pioneer days ? About the time the grain was turning to its rich, golden color, it was a favorite pastime to crawl up into the cupola of the court house, now ancient and hoary, and, gazing east, west, north and south, behold what the rich and fertile earth could do for the man who tickled the soil well and faithfully. It always appeared to me that Bremer county was the granary of the world. For miles and miles, in every direction, the whole country appeared to be covered by one vast sheet of wheat and oats. It was a sight, insofar as Bremer county is concerned, that none of us will ever see again.
And there were wheat buyers in those days, too. There were 0. A. Strong, Bert Turner, Port Bement, George Bellamy, E. S. Case, Sam Beswick, and some others whose names have escaped my memory. I think that all whom I have named are gone "over yonder." Mr. Turner died at Verndale, Minn., Mr. Case in California, Mr. Bellamy at Nashua, Iowa, and Beswick in a charity hospital in Chicago. Beswick had been on the board of trade in Chicago for many years, was practically alone in the world, and something of a miser. After his death in the hospital, a large amount of money was found concealed in his cravat, one of the bills being of the denomination of $1000.
In those days, too, they had butter and egg buyers who haunted the streets and even went to the town limits to make first bids. "Penny" Wilcox, so named because he was always exact to the penny, wanting it if it came his way, and giving it if it went yours. He was a tall, slim man, somewhat noted as a great scrapper. He was the father of Charley and Will Wilcox, and no two brighter boys ever left Waverly.
And there were hog buyers galore, who strove to pry the festive porker from the farmer "with neatness and dispatch" and at prices that, should they obtain now, would be the wonder of the world. I think that the average price then was about three cents a pound, dressed, but now, in these piping days of civilization (I say "civilization" guardedly), we are compelled to pay a king's ransom for a measly little pound of pork.
Among the old-time newspaper men, I remember Tarbox Smeed, who ended his earthly career by drowning himself in the Potomac river at Washington, D. C., heart-broken because his party services were not recognized by the Lincoln administration, Heman A. Miles, Louis Case, G. C. Wright, W. A. Stowe, George Lindley, Chas. Mallahan, J. 0. Stewart, Dan Fichthorn, B. F. McCormack, postmaster for a time under Johnson's administration, E. C. Moulton, and J. K. L. Maynard, whom the boys named "Alphabetical" Maynard. He was also postmaster for many years and edited the Phoenix. My recollection of the Phoenix is that it was a poorly edited sheet, but typographically it was one of the neatest in the state, J. A. Stewart, a prince of good fellows and a fine printer, being responsible for that. In the Phoenix, about every other item was a notice of "Poland's White Compound." Lindley, of the News, dubbed him "Old Poland's White Compound." Of the entire list, I think, Lindley was the ablest of them all. He was a strong, graceful writer and had excellent command of the English language. His satire and invective were something to avoid. I think he was a graduate in the same department with Horace Mann.
While I have this subject in mind, is it not fair that Will Tyrrell should be placed in the class of old-timers ? The memory of man scarcely runneth back to the time when he was not manipulating the "leaden tongues." He commenced the art with J. K. L. Maynard, during the Civil war. People set their watches and clocks by his coming and going. He was never ahead or behind time—not even a minute. "What 'time is it ?" someone would ask. "I don't know, but Will Tyrrell just passed." "Well, then, it's two minutes after one," and that was the correct time, you may believe. His conduct of the Waverly Republican for so many years is of the highest credit to him. He is gifted with an abundance of dry wit, and is a ready, entertaining writer. He never dips his quill in gall. I don't think he ever wrote a line intended to cause anyone sorrow or anguish. As a master workman, he has few peers; as an all-around, conscientious citizen and friend, he nears the top. He, with his family, is now living at Los Angeles, Cal. And here is bully luck to him and his.
Who of the old pioneers does not remember early Bremer county agricultural fairs ? In fancy I can even now see Jim Kinney, Dan Dean and his brother George, John Knott and H. R. Wells speeding their horses for the top prize. My, but it was a great sight! And there was a prize for the best lady or girl rider. My recollection is that Miss Maria Avery always raked in the prizes. Speaking of John Knott reminds me that his brother George moved to Sioux Falls many years ago and established the first brewery here. His brother Harry is now living in this city. I meet him once in a while, and we talk over the old times. Another old Waverly boy living here is J. M. Hooker. George Knott died several years ago, but his widow is still living, and is hale and hearty. Bob Knott also lives in this state, but I've not been able as yet to grasp his right hand. This state is full of Bremer county people and if I am to judge from what I can learn, they have all made 'good. But I am frank enough to say, and to believe, that had they remained in good old Bremer county and used the same energy, push and nerve that they have shown here, they would have been better off even than they are. However, I don't know; it is simply a guess on my part.
Last updated 4/14/15
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