Herbert Quick Gives Early Grundy Newspaper History

Readers of The Register will be interested in a letter from Herbert Quick, the noted author who spent several years of his early life in Grundy county. Mr. Quick makes a contribution to The Register's pioneer history of this county and the readers of the paper, we are sure, will regard it as a special privilege to read a personal letter from one of the most widely known writers in the country.

Berkeley Springs, W. Va.
January 26th, 1924

Dear Mr. Vanderwicken:

I was very much interested in the "Personal Recollections" in the copy you were so good as to send me. They stirred old recollections. I was especially interested in Mr. Finlaysons' article. These old settlers have in their possession the facts which will be forgotten soon unless they are preserved, and I think you are doing a more valuable work than most of us are likely to appreciate in printing them.

I wonder what has become of the historical article which Mr. E. H. Beckman read at the celebration at Hickory Grove on our Centennial Fourth of July celebration? I remember as a boy of a dozen years old sitting in his audience and drinking it all in. If it could be found, I have no doubt that it would contain some very valuable facts. Of course Mr. Beckman could not at that time deal with such controversial matters as the long feud between Elias Marble and Coker Fifield Clarkson.

That year there was a new paper started in Grundy Centre (as we used to spell it) by Daniel Kerr. The older paper was the Atlas, and I remember the sharp exchanges of repartee, one side of which I read in the Atlas. "Posey Poisal" was on the Atlas then, in some mechanical capacity I suppose. I knew him after I was grown up in Mason City. I never knew what his first name was. He was called "Posey" in Grundy Center, and in Mason City, and was the typical smalltown newspaper man, with keen intelligence and a knowledge of many things hidden from everyone else. I think "Posey" was responsible for the crushing nickname which the Atlas gave to Mr. Kerr's Century. The Atlas called it "The Noosauce." Whether this appellation killed it or not can never be known, but it did not last long, under its original name anyhow. Then came the Argus, which was independent in politics. There was a very able man on the Argus who bore the title of local editor. His name was James Steen, and he was a highly educated Scotsman. When the new town of Holland started we had a little paper there called the Holland Journal. My first newspaper work was done for it as a country correspondent. I did not keep it up for more than a month or so. I think Mr. Kerr had some political object in view in founding the New Century, but I was not old enough to understand what it was. Mr. Kerr was a firm adherent of the machine, as we call it now, of which the elder Clarkson was the great figure. He was a Republican of the extremest type, while Judge Elias Marble was the great outsider in politics, and hated Clarkson fervidly. I remember he used to refer to Mr. Kerr as "Clarkson's Cur"--quite unjustly, but these old feuds are a part of history. I have seldom been so astonished as I was after I had grown up to meet Mr. Kerr at Des Moines where he was a delegate to the Democratic state convention where we were having our great free silver fights, and Mr. Kerr was in the free silver wing. While I was a radical in my general views, I was always opposed to free silver, and found myself on the opposite side.

One of our near and good neighbors out in Colfax township was "Tom" Brown, and he gave me another surprise in politics. He was a candidate for sheriff, and failing of getting the nomination, ran as an independent, and was elected and re-elected term after term. To think of him as a candidate against the regular nominee was always an astonishing thing.

The most remarkable newspaper in that part of the country in my boyhood days was the Eldora Ledger when conducted by "Bob" McBride. Many of the old settlers will remember the remarkably able and often obscene things published in it. McBride was quite reckless as to what he printed, and his paaper had about the same purity of diction as the conversation of a gang of threshers or a crowd of men working the roads of that day. I concede that now these gatherings never say anything improper--but it was different then. The wives and mothers of that day all said that the Ledger was not fit to enter any home; and the men insisted that they never got a chance to read it until their wives had finished with it. The paper circulated widely in Grundy county as well as in Hardin.

These and many other matters of no particular importance are recalled to my mind as I read your column of "Personal Recollection," and I thank you for sending the paper to me.

Yours sincerly,
Herbert Quick

--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 7 February 1924, pg 1, 6