INTERESTING NOTES OF EARLY-DAY LAWYERS. CHARLES PLUNKETT AT HEAD OF THEATRICAL PROFESSION
Among the old-time lawyers I remember the names of W. P. Harmon, H. H. Gray, M. B. Dougherty, H. A. Miles, G. C. Wright, G. W. Ruddick, J. E. Burke, J. W. Woods, Charles Parsons, D. T. Gibson, the Smalley Brothers, W. A. Stowe, Frank Sterling, M. E. Billings, A. F. Brown and Ed Dawson. Harmon and Miles, altho admitted to the practice of the law, never "hung out their shingles" in the town. Harmon was really the founder of Waverly. He built the first flour mill, and I am of the impression that his brother Henry operated the first saw mill. W. P. Harmon, the lawyer, was an unceasing friend of the town. He gave liberally of his time and money for his advancement, morally, socially, and otherwise. He died in 1865. One of the great ambitions of his life was to have a railroad come to and pass thru the town. He died just as a work train of the old Dubuque & Sioux City appeared a-top the high grade, somewhere near the old Father Couse fruit farm.
Those who have served the "wear and tear" of pioneer life, are, as near as I can determine, the Smalley Brothers, W. A. Stowe, Frank Sterling, M. E. Billings, and Ed Dawson. The only one of the whole number now in active practice of the law in Waverly is my old-time and esteemed friend Ed Dawson, an ex-railway commissioner and one of the ablest and most conscientious men who ever filled the place.
To digress a little, it might be well enough to say that J. E. Burke, after accumulating considerable wealth, left Waverly for Chicago, where he became interested in the Cook County Bank, along with B. T. Allan, at that time said to be the wealthiest man in Iowa. Allan had been successful in the banking business in Des Moines. As I remember it, the Chicago bank was a run-down affair, and Allan took hold of it with the expectation of making it a sound financial institution. It lacked capital, so the management went about over the country "seeking whom it might devour." It found one victim in the person of Burke.
The lawyer of pioneer days was a pretty good all-around scout. He was liberal, his charges were reasonable, and never did I hear of any of them taking advantage when they had a chance to exact more than a reasonable fee. They generally furnished very much more advice than they were ever paid for. It appeared to be a natural thing then, as now, to place upon the lawyers all the blame for everything that went wrong, alleging that they were mischief breeders, trouble-makers, and all for their private gain, which, as a matter of fact, was not true in any sense of the word. It is well to remember that were it not for lawyers there would be no liberty in the country today, and property rights would not be safeguarded at all. I "hold no brief" for these professional men, but will be frank enough to say that they are genial, companionable, helpful and fine old scouts—the cap sheaves of all professions.
Lovers of the art dramatic were many in ye old times. Regularly, in season every year—the number of years the writer does not remember— Charles Plunkett brought his troupe to Waverly from Dubuque. He himself was a finished actor—an educated, genial gentleman. Some of the time he starred his wife, a young and beautiful woman, talented, and a very winsome lady. I thought at that time she was the handsomest woman I had ever seen, and, really, comparing her with alleged beautiful female movie stars of today, I am still of the opinion that she had them all skinned to the extent of several quarter sections of Iowa land. "Billy" Marble was also one of Mr. Plunkett's stars. In low comedy I have never seen his equal. He was a large man, and if he were now living the food conservation commission would certainly have him arrested for hoarding too much fat. He was like Old King Cole, "a merry old soul," and he led the merriest kind of a life. As an entertainer and a hilarious fun-making comedian, he was, in my opinion, better than the best. But he had one grievous fault that he strove very hard to overcome. Many another good fellow also has fallen for the same thing many times. It always appeared to me that he celebrated the New Year by taking a new wife. During the years I had known him he had been "blessed" with the companionship of five wives, and my early impression was that they were fine lookers, when they were fixed up with their best furniture, but whether they got on Billy's nerves or he on theirs, causing the dismemberment of their union, I won't pretend to say. However, he was never without a wife for any long-drawn-out time. During the war between the states he starred with his own troupe in the south, sometimes goingvery near the firing lines, for he was no coward, as his many matrimonial ventures prove. By his superb merry-making he brought smiles and forgetfulness to the war-worn boys in blue. He lived upon the theory that it's better to make people laugh than to make them cry. He has been dead for many a year, something like seventeen years, having seen nearly ninety winters. He made thousands upon thousands of dollars, but failed to save a single one of them, and when he "went out to sea" old-timers who had "drunk out of the same canteen" with him, listening to his inimitable portrayal of eccentric characters, felt that they had lost a fine old friend.
But I must return to the Plunketts. Charley Plunkett, Jr., was a bright, capable young fellow, and at the time of which I write he was just merging into the role of an amateur comedian. As I have said, Plunkett, Sr., was a finished artist, an Englishman by birth, and had followed the business in London many years before coming to America. His troupe was especially strong in the delineation of Shakespeare's plays. No half-way work was ever permitted. Every person in the cast was expected to reach a certain standard of excellence, or he was "canned."
And, of course, there were amateur theatricals in those days, by "home talent." The only Waverly boy that I now recall to mind who appeared to meet with success was T. M. McCormack, better known to us all as "Pomp." Before going"upon the boards," Pomp learned (or learned at) the printing business. He finally quit barnstorming, purchased a printing plant, and published a fairly good newspaper. He, too, has gone the way of all flesh, and I hope the bleak winter winds and snows are treating his grave kindly.
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The first tannery in Waverly was operated by Abe Starr, father of Will and John Starr. It was located at the south end of East Water street. It was not a very large affair, yet for a time the business was a paying one. The business was finally given up, and the property fell into the hands of E. A. Woodruff, who fitted it up for a residence and who, with his family, lived there for many years. Uncle Abe Starr was a shoemaker by trade, and, I believe, worked with or for Charley Fosselman for a long time. He was a square man and as a citizen was always willing to do his part. It has just occurred to me that he was also the father of George Parson Starr, who was drowned in the old mill-race that fed the flour mill. The unfortunate boy was known as "Parse." For something like a year he had been engaged in the printing business in the Phoenix office, and he was a bright young man. The Starrs, Abe and his three sons, have gone the way of all flesh. They were all good workers, and straightforward people.
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It has been somewhere near thirty-five years since I have turned my thoughts back to Waverly and Bremer county to resurrect incidents and the names of those whom I knew in the early days. I do not suppose that very many pioneer farmers are yet alive, for many of them were well on in years when I was a boy. Of the farmers I recall the names of the Eveland, Stuifiebeam, Lucas, Oberdorf, Rew, Tyrrell, Roberts, Lehman, Johnson, Potter, Dailey, Carey, Knott, Neff, Case and Baskins families, Pat Boylson, Henry Harmon, Levi Nichols, Dick Bates, "English" John Smith (I expect his son "Bill" is tickling the soil of the old farm yet), Jacob Hess, Baker, Miller, Adair, Reeves, Findley, Johnson, Sewell families, Shephard, Jennings, Mc- Roberts, Sturdevant families, Cave, Keeney, Perry, Lashbrook, Harris, Wile, Winner, Wells, Thies, Case, Cruthers, Chittenden, Ingersoll, Heine, Harrington, Woodcock, Krieger', Briden, McCaffree, Farrington, Phillips, Bartels, Barrick, Loveland, Bloker, Rowen, Elder John Stone, Wm. and James Scully, Wm. and Tom McCoy, and "Old" Flynn, who lived on the Wapsie and who wrote the celebrated couplet:
"What a pity hell's gate wasn't kept by Old Flynn; Such a surly old cuss wouldn't let anyone in."
This couplet was published in the Waverly Independent, then owned by Colonel Lucas and Will Tyrrell, and "Old" Flynn was its Wapsie correspondent. His communications always invited most intense merriment among the office force. He was a fine old roughand- ready tiller of the soil, and I hope he is yet atop the earth.
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I suppose all the old pioneers—or "moss backs" as some name us—will remember M. W. Miles, better known as "Matt." In an early day he was called "Puss" Miles for short—for short he was. He was the son of H. A. Miles, a mayor of Waverly for one or two terms. Matt was deputy postmaster for several years, was accurate and courteous and a good mixer. He left Waverly many years ago, spent some time in Minnesota, and finally drifted out of the state of Oregon. He was something of a politician of the republican cult and aggressive when expounding his favorite doctrine. He was elected to the state senate and, if I am correctly informed, served two terms in that office. He was not particularly noted for brilliancy, but was one of the all-around fellows who "got there" by being a good fellow. He died while in his second term of office. Will Tyre11 and Matt were great chums, and it was fine sport when a lot of us got them together and pitted them against each other in a whistling match. As neither could "turn a tune," you may imagine the hilarious fun the crowd would have. During the war for the union, a company of boys was organized, of which Matt was elected captain. We drilled and drilled, and "fought nobody" among ourselves, and strange as it may appear, I do not now remember • the names of any of the boys who were members of the company. I presume that Old Time has sent the majority "out to sea." However, Matt was a fine citizen, charitable, genial and always willing to carry his share of a heavy load.
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It is always a hard matter to write for a newspaper about one's own relatives, for that reason the writer may be deemed egotistical and credited with a desire to give the subject more credit than he deserves; but as it has fallen to my lot to mention the old-time Waverly boys who have passed from that town into the world of business and otherwise, I may be pardoned for my courage in alluding to my brother, Isaac Hazlett. He was born at Janesville, Ohio, in the year 1852; went to Waverly in '53 or '54, being a little hazy as to the exact year. He attended Waverly schools, after which he clerked for T. C. Aldrich and various other persons. He, with his father, J. C. Hazlett, established a little store at the west end of the Bremer avenue bridge. From there they moved to Shell Rock, remaining there for some time, where they engaged in a general mercantile business. From thence they moved to Nashua, Iowa, where they engaged in the same business and were successful from the start. At last they sold their business, and the subject of this sketch moved to Verndale, Minn., and there went into the banking business, and in all the years since it has been his occupation. He is connected in one way or another with thirty-five different institutions in the state, either as president or director, but he makes his home in Minneapolis and maintains an office in the First National Bank building, in which bank he is a heavy stock-holder. He built and occupies a $40,000 home, but with all these evidences of prosperity, he is the same "Ike" to all his acquaintances. I don't know what he is worth, financially, because I have never had nerve enough to question him on this point; but I should judge that it is something like near a million dollars. For a boy starting with nothing, I call him a complete success. Before leaving Waverly he married a daughter of Levi Nichols, Esther G. They have one son, J. C., who is a partner of his father. He has been engaged in the Federal building for a long time, helping to push the War Savings project, being manager of distribution of the supplies, a place that requires hard and intelligent work. J. C. was also commandeered by the Federal authorities to assist in the last Liberty Loan, giving two-thirds of his time to the government without remuneration or any expectation of a cash consideration, to the neglect of his own business. His mother is every day at the Church of the Redeemer, where she devotes her time to Red Cross work. She has just received two crosses for continuous 72 hours' work. I speak of these things to show that the whole family, whatever may be their defects, cannot be accused of not being patriotic—giving their time and money generously for the cause of world democracy. Isaac has a fine summer home situated on the shores of East Battle lake, Minnesota, going there in May and returning in October. It is there that the writer of this pens his "Idle Thoughts of a Busy Fisherman" and enjoys the hospitality of this genial home. "Ike" is now 64 years of age, has the best of health, never strikes for an increase of wages or demands eight hours as a day's work, but is continually on the job, which is one of the many reasons why he has been so successful in a business way. I might say other things, but I won't. That would be egotism. He would not stand for that—neither would I.
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I cannot cease my remembrances of old times and old workers in the newspaper vineyard, without alluding to my departed friend of nearly fifty years standing, the Hon. C. W. Miller. The last time I met him was something like a year before his death. He then appeared to be in the best of health and cheerful, and confided to me some of the future plans he had in view. The readers of the Democrat will remember that he was one of its founders—he and Frank Taber, an excellent, brainy citizen and a rattling good printer. As a writer Mr. Miller stood in the first rank of Iowa journalism. Many of his articles might have been termed "little classics." He had no superior as a paragraph writer. His Democrat was largely quoted by state and national press. His attacks upon the medical fraternity—whether just or unjust I will not say—attracted the attention of the whole country, which gave him something of a national reputation. He served two terms as postmaster at Waverly. His work in this place was clean and courteous. When he died he was in the fourth term of office as a member of the legislature from Bremer county. I met- him on various occasions at Des Moines when the law makers were in session, and always found him the same "Old Charley." On the legislative manual you will find that he gives his occupation as that of "printer," which reminds me that when Simon Cameron, who had been U. S. senator and a member of Lincoln's cabinet, was on his way to Russia as an ambassador, when registering in the office wrote, "S. Cameron, printer." His calling amazed the titled aristocrats of England, for it was far beyond their comprehension that a worker in the "art preservative" could ever attain such prominence. The legislative work of Mr. Miller is very familiar to the people of Bremer county. In the committee room he was an excellent worker, and upon the floor of the house he was the peer of any member in debate. His bills presented were always of merit, several of them becoming laws. Being a pleasant, companionable gentleman, and a thoroly good mixer, altho a democrat in a republican house, he succeeded in having some of the bills enacted into laws, when another democrat might have failed. He was keen and alert and roll call generally found him in his chair. He was a faithful, energetic, able and conscientious legislator, and Bremer county and the state lost a splendid type of American manhood and citizenship. And, as I write this, it occurs to me that few of the "old guard" printers still live—those whom I knew and associated with, which recalls to me a paragraph in Tom Moore's "Oft in the Stilly Night":
"When I remember all
The friends, so linked together,
I've seen around me fall,
Like leaves in wintry weather,
I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet hall deserted—
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all but he departed!
Thus in the stilly night,
E'er slumber's chain has bound me,
Sad memory brings the light
Of other days around me."
We shall no more see his face, but we shall always remember his generous disposition, his jovial, hearty greetings and his great love for his fellow men.
I do not know whether what I am about to say will be the proper thing to include in these early times notations. I remember the opening and the closing of the Civil war. I saw many of the boys going to the front, and I saw some of them after they had returned. Some of them had been wounded; some of them were the picture of health; while others were sick, sore and weary. They had marched thru mud, sleet, rain and blinding hot weather. At times they were athirst and hungry. Some of them had been in rebel prisons, and some of them were left sleeping in southern soil. Again, I saw many of the boys as they were entraining for the Spanish-American war, two of my employes among the number. And now, I have lived to witness the opening of the greatest of all wars. On every hand I see mammoth preparation going forward for its successful prosecution. On these streets I see the flower of young manhood, the young men who are being "whipped in" preparatory to taking their places at the front. Nearly every day I see a machine "flying thru the air with the greatest of ease." At the Dunwoody institute grounds I see every day over 700 young lads from the South, training for the navy. As I gaze into their young faces and imagine the hardships, the toil and strain which they will be compelled to endure, my thoughts turn to the large number of traitorous scoundrels who ought to be hanged, drawn and quartered, who are doing their level best to belittle the cause for which these boys have enlisted; and I say that those of our people who "give aid and comfort to the enemy" should be dealt with by an iron hand. If you are patriotic, say so, and say it in a tone of voice that may be heard over four countries. Do not wink at any kind of treasonable utterances. Let us drive treason out of every glen, dell and cranny, even if it be necessary to keep firing squads busy the whole twenty-four hours. Let us be ready at any time to sacrifice our all—lives and fortunes. Let us have cheers for the boys who march to the front, and "tears for the dead," but above all, let us smash the traitors in our midst. Do it now! "These are the times. that try men's souls." Are we equal to the emergency ? Without a doubt we are. Concert of action and a firm determination to win will give us world democracy and genuine liberty.
Last updated 4/14/15
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