John ListerI think it was in the early summer of 1874 that our community at Felix Center had a real sensation of a rather unsavory character.
An aged widow, Mrs. Hanna Sutton, owned the northwest forty acres of Section 16, where she lived with her son, John Ecklor, who was perhaps thirty-five years of age, a carpenter by trade. They had moved from Wisconsin, where her second husband, Mr. Sutton, had died. That spring she had taken an orphan girl fourteen or fifteen years old, who was related to one of the prominent families of Marshall county living near Liscomb, to live with her and was making plans to adopt the girl. Doud Creek runs thru the small farm and in those early days some quite nice fish could be found in the stream. One June day John Ecklor persuaded the girl to go to the creek with him to fish. After some little time she rushed back to the house and reported that he had made an attempt to assault her. She got in communication with her relatives and friends in Marshall county and on Saturday night of that week a large crowd of men, supposedly mostly from Marshall county, came late in the night with a very large supply of tar. After dragging Ecklor from his bed to the yard they proceeded to apply the tar copiously. A large number of tar cans littered the yard on Sunday morning. Not much sympathy was expressed for Ecklor: most people thought he deserved the treatment he received but expressions of sympathy and sorrow were universal for his aged mother, who was a most excellent christian woman.
Ecklor disappeared from the neighborhood at once and was not seen for about two years, when he returned as suddenly as he had departed. A man who then lived about one mile from the Sutton farm and who was the first person to see him, had him arrested, claiming that he had discovered him sneaking in the grove with a gun near where he was plowing corn. This man had always been supposed to be one of the leaders in the tarring party. The arrest was made toward evening on Saturday and he was taken to a Justice of the Peace on the south side of the township several miles away. It was nearly night when the party reached the Justice of the Peace, too late to do anything about a hearing that night. He was sent back in the custody of the constable with instructions to provide a guard, and to return with the prisoner on Monday. Two young men, mere boys, were secured to guard the prisoner. The events that followed made it clear that those responsible for his arrest had timed the lateness of the hour purposely, to enable them to carry out plans already perfected.
Mr. George Nelson was the constable who had charge of the prisoner, Very late that night, in fact Sunday morning, four men appeared at the Nelson home, aroused Mr. Nelson and made a demand for Ecklor. The young man on guard were so frightened that they jumped out of the window on the opposite side of the house and ran to the nearest neighbor E. A. Crary, for assistance. When they returned the men had disappeared with Ecklor, taking him with nothing but his shirt on. There was nothing to indicate what their purpose was. They did not go out on the road, but went south through the field about a mile to near the David Spurlin home, where was a row of quite large cottonwood trees. They had put a strong rail up in the crotches of two trees. There they fastened their rope, adjusted it around his neck and supposed they had completed their task. The party from Nelson's and Crary's were coming south on the road and had searched some other groves and it was always thought that the lynchers hurried so that they bungled the job. Hearing the loud talk of the searchers, they hastened away and by some means their victim managed to free himself and escape.
When daylight came the tracks were followed and the rail and the rope discovered. The tracks showed Ecklor's bare feet marks with a man on each side of him.
Mrs. Sutton had a younger son by her second husband, P. M. Sutton, just then coming into prominence as an attorney in Marshalltown. He interested himself in the matter. Ecklor had a very close call; the mark of the rope on his neck was very plain. Later four men were indicted for the lynching, and quite late in the fall the case was to be tried at Grundy Center. A very large number of witnesses were subpoenaed for both sides. Four members of our family were called as witnesses (we never knew for what purpose). We all remained over night and there were so many that it was very difficult to get lodging.
P. M. Sutton was a very shrewd attorey, and later became very prominent both as a lawyer and politician, representing Marshall county in the state senate and being mainly responsible for securing the location of the Soldiers' Home for Marshalltown. Everyone was looking for the prosecuting witness to appear on the scene, but he failed to appear, and when the case was finally called the attorney for the defense moved that the case be dismissed. Mr. Sutton did not resist the motion. There was then, and always has been, a great deal of speculations as to what settlement was made. But those who knew Mr. Sutton well always surmised that he negotiated a very large money settlement, and induced his half brother not to appear. There were financial transactions and transfers of land to bear out this theory. With Ecklor's and the constable's knowledge of the parties who did the lynching it would seem they had a strong case.
John Ecklor was never seen in these parts afterward.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 27 March 1924, pg 4
I have been greatly interested in the early recollections of the pioneer settlers of fifty years or more in Grundy county, who have contributed for publication in the Grundy Register. If spared until April 1st this year I will have had 54 years continuous residence in the county.
I was born near Hanover, Jo Daviess county, Illinois, where my father lived on a farm twenty-two years. He bought his first land, 240 acres in Felix township, in September, 1868, paying ten dollars and fifty cents per acre, and purchasing through E. H. Beckman.
In 1869 my brother, George, came with three horses and broke ninety acres during May and June, returning to Illinois for the harvest and fall work.
In February, 1870, father and brother George came with five horses, two wagons and what furniture and household articles they could haul. They hauled lumber from Marshalltown for a small house, stable and for fencing. By the last of March they had the rough shell of a house erected and father returned to Illinois for the family. During the summer of 1869, the Iowa Central railroad was completed from Eldora to Marshalltown giving us a shipping station at Union and Liscomb, each about seven miles distant from our farm, a fact we found later to be greatly to our advantage in marketing our grain, as the buyers in each town would bid against each other, knowing that the highest bidder would secure the grain, as we could haul two loads a day to either town. About the time father started for Illinois for the family there was a very heavy snowfall, which soon melted and flooded the country. We had bought tickets to Union, and as we were getting off the train we found brother George on the platform to tell us we could not cross the river bottom and bridge east of Union, but must go on to Liscomb, crossing the river on the train. George had ridden a horse as near the river as he could and walked up the track to tell us of the high water. The trip from Liscomb to our farm was a trying one. Mud everywhere, and deep. Mother and my two sisters rode in the wagon, together with baggage and bedding enough so we could stay over night. Father and us three boys walked through the mud. We had to stop frequently to rest the team. When the frost was all out of the ground the worst handicap we had was the almost impassable condition of the roads. In fact there were no roads, mere trails. In Illinois, we had lived in a very hilly section, the roads all followed the ridges and such a thing as "sloughing down" was practically unknown. As newcomers we had many things to learn. The sloughs with their covering of long grass were always the last to thaw out. When the higher land had become quite solid it seemed the bottom would drop out of the sloughs.
Our lack of experience got us into much trouble that the older residents were able to avoid. I have never seen so much water on the ground as was visible that spring. The late summer and fall of 1869 was one of the very wettest on record. That was the season of the total eclipse of the sun. Whether that had any influence on the weather or not I do not know. Many thought it had. At any rate, the rain was incessant, and copious. The ground was completely saturated and flooded when it froze in the fall. When it thawed in the spring there seemed to be no bottom to the low places.
The account of our experiences in getting the first load of coal will illustrate somewhat the hardships we had to undergo at that time. When we had about half our wheat sown there was a rain that delayed us with the seedling. Father sent brother George any myself to Union for half a ton of coal. George was four years my senior and always took the lead in any undertaking.
We secured our load and started on the return trip a little before noon. When about three miles from Union just west of the Hardin and Grundy county line there is a deep draw. We had passed over it going and brother thought we could rush the horses thru with the light load, but failed in the attempt. The wagon sunk to the hubs, the team floundered, and we were hopelessly stuck. With some difficulty we unhitched the team, carried the coal to dry ground by hand, took the wagon box off, the gears apart, and by very strenuous effort got the wagon together again and reloaded. We got along fairly well until about a mile and a half from home, when we came to a slough on which no work had been done. It did not look bad to us but we were deceived, and half way across the team mired completely, the wagon sunk deeply in the soft, spongy soal and we could go no farther. Brother left me with the team while he walked home, got another team, doubletrees and log chain. Father came back with him. By hooking the log chain to the end of the tongue with the four horses on pretty solid ground we succeeded in pulling out. When about one-half mile from home to avoid another very bad place in the road we took a near cut across a piece of prairie. It was now getting rather dark and before we were aware of it the wagon was cutting through the sow, the four horses were floundering in the mire, the wagon sunk to the axles and we were sixty rods from the house.
During the night it turned very cold and froze the ground hard enough to bear up a team and wagon, which we drove along-side of the loaded one, transferred the coal, chopped out the mired wagon, and soon had the ten hundred of coal piled near the house.
We rented twenty-five acres for corn of older ground from our nearest neighbor, David Long. After our crops were planted the weather was fine for work and the higher land began to get dry. From corn planting until we had our wheat stacked there was no more rain than would settle the dust. The small grain made a very good crop, but the corn was the nearest to a failure that we have ever had, owing to the many grass roots in the newly broken soil, it dried out so easily. I recall that the rent corn we gave Mr. Long off the twenty-five acres was just three loads in a twenty-five-inch wagon box for his one-third. Our neighbor on the section north of us planted nearly forty acres on new sod, which he back set, as we called it. He did not get one ear off it. Most of it tasselled at about knee high. After our crops were in brother George broke prairie until July 1st. Father and I turned our attention to road making. The preliminary work all had to be done by hand. It was tedious and laborious work starting new roads across the sloughs. With a hay knife and a six-tined fork we would start the ditches to get rid of the surface water, making the first ditch across the road where the bridge was to be, then paralleling the road on each side, throwing the sod to the center of the road. Rubber boots were unknown in those days. We rolled our pantaloons above our knees and waded in. Having opened the ditches and drained off some of the water, we could soon get some straw or brush to support a team with a light load of sod for the foundation of the road. It was a number of years before any road work was done any place but in the sloughs.
From 1868 to 1872 most of the land in Felix and Clay townships was bought and improved. During May and June every one who had or could get the equipment was breaking prairie. About the 15th of May father had the house plastered and the chimney built. One nice clear day while George was tending the mason as he built the chimney top, he took a survey of all that could be seen from the housetop, viewing the horizon around the entire circle. He counted one hundred and twenty-five teams turning over the virgin sod. Those who were not at work for themselves were working for hire. While the season lasted good wages could be made. The price was $3.00 per acre. A man with three good horses could turn three acres per day. Many broke the prairie for the first crop. One great incentive for improving, especially the non-resident land, was the fact that it was usually valued much higher for taxes than the occupied land.
This came about from the desire to procure funds for the erection of new schoolhouses that were so badly needed, and for the improvement of the roads. Human nature was much the same in those early days as it is at the present time. When there was a chance to increase the taxes of the non-residents, thereby lowering their own taxes, those who had the power to levy local taxes were very much inclined to favor themselves at the expense of those who could not appear before the board of review.
Naturally, this stimulated the improvement and the occupancy of the land.
There were but three school houses in Felix township in 1870. One was near the north line of sub-district No. 2, on William Vinton's land. This served also for Dist. No. 1. On the line between Districts 4 and 5 was another. The third one was located in District No. 3. The school law required that a school must be maintained for six months, I believe, with an enrollment of five pupils before the school board could grant permission to vote a tax for a new schoolhouse. Many expedients were resorted to fulfil these requirements. Some borrowed children from relatives near to make up the quota required.
Many of the teachers in the southwest part of the county were very well qualified. Especially many who taught the long winter terms of four months when the older pupils attended.
I call to mind B. F. Robinson, M. H. Steelsmith, G. W. Lister, Will Gray, C. W. Wood, A. D. Wiley, Miss M. J. Ralston, John Morrow, Jr., George Spence, E. Y. Ttitue and others. I might mention who gave real inspiration and practical training to pupils in their charge. Near the end of May I made my first trip to Grundy Center, going on horse-back. I took a northeast course, not giving much attention to section lines. There were few cultivated fields to avoid. The most prominent landmark was the Wilhelm and Lynn Grove, which had attained considerable size. Beyond that was the Livermore farm with some good sized cottonwood trees. Then passing between the John Lynn and the Lillibridge farms and diagonally across the old Koons farm, I came to the road leading from Hickory Grove to Grundy Center. About directly across the street from where H. A. Willoughby's house now stands was a blacksmith shop. When I reached this the blacksmith and another man were loading a couple of breaking plows into a lumber wagon in front of the shop. Stopping my horse, I inquired how far it was to Grundy Center. Both men straightened up to look at me and the blacksmith with a smile and a wave of his hand to the east said, "right over there is what there is of it." I was embarrassed, but relieved to know that I had reached the county seat. Approaching from the west at that time it was not easy to see more than the old building that stood where the Columbia Hotel now stands and about the north half of the court house. Some trees rather obscured the other buildings and I thought I was approaching a farmstead.
I carried some papers father sent to the Recorder. E. H. Beckman was both treasurer and recorder at that time. S. R. Raymond worked for him, helping with the duties of both offices. At the next election Mr. Raymond was elected recorder. While I was in the office a very nice looking man came in and greeted those in the office in a very cordial way. I was greatly interested when Mr. Beckman greeted him as Senator Clarkson.
Clarkson was one of the few men in the county of whom I had heard at that time and his distinguished bearing impressed me greatly. Mr. Beckman asked me to wait until he finished some business with Mr. Clarkson, as he wished to talk with me further. Father had bought his land through Mr. Beckman and he had many questions to ask as to how we were getting settled, what crops we had put in, etc. He seemed to know just how to put a bashful boy at ease. One of his strong characteristics was his unfailing courtesy, also that he never forgot a person who came into his office or had business relations with him.
I learned a little later that the man who was getting the plows at the blacksmith was Mr. George Wells. He was driivng one horse and one mule to a farm wagon and had just a board across the box for a seat. In later years I met him frequently, sold him cattle and can say he was four square to do business with. As a buyer of feeding cattle he was the shrewdest and the quickest to arrive at values I have ever known. When looking over a bunch of cattle, no mastter if it was one carload or a hundred head, when he had made one round of the yard he was ready to make his bid and he very seldom if ever raised it. If the quality suited him he usually made an offer sufficiently attractive to secure at cattle.
The second trip I made to Grundy Center was a memorable one. It was in December of that same year. On Saturday morning father said he would like for me to go that day, so as not to miss school. It was very cold, but perfectly still. No air was stirring and there was no snow on the ground. When I had gone about three miles the wind began to blow from the north and very soon it was a regular gale. Lacking experience with Iowa winters, I rode on, when I should have turned my back to the wind and returned home. Like most growing boys in the early "teens," there was quite a space between my shoe tops and my trousers. These spaces were an easy mark for the terrific wind. Fortunately there were a great many hay stacks built on the prairie. I would ride for one of these, stop on the south side, slap my hands around my shoulders, stamp my feet until I fained some warmth, then mount and ride on again. By repeating this again and again I finally reached Grundy Center with frozen ears, checks and frosted wrists.
When I opened the door to Mr. Beckman's office the hard coal stove, the first one I had ever seen, was a glowing mass of coals. He was greatly surprised and shocked that I had made the trip on such a blustry day. The contrast from the extreme cold outside and the heated room was so great that I came very near fainting. Suddenly I became sick and dizzy and would have collapsed had not Mr. Beckman assisted me and admitted fresh air to the room. I have been in many storms in the nearly fifty-four years since then, but the exposure of that December day was the severest I ever endured.
(To Be Continued)
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 3 April 1924, pg 4, 10
(Continued from Last Week)
The first three winters I attended the district school and assisted with the farm work in the summer. Our community was fast settling up with a fine class of people. Nearly every state east of the Mississippi, except the extreme southern ones, was represented in the newcomers. In the winter seasons there was a good deal of leisure and the young people met together in the evenings a great deal. We had spelling schools, literary societies and singing schools. Often we would go six and eight miles to attend. Always the school houses were filled to capacity. We had real joy rides going and coming.
When we were here a couple of years we had a very severe attack of sickness in our family. Three cases, one following the other, of typhoid fever, complicated with erysipelas. Dr. W. P. Penfield was the only doctor near. He used to cover most of the territory from Eldora to Marshalltown, Green Mountain and Grundy Center, riding horseback with well-filled saddle bags. My oldest sister was taken sick first, and was very sick. The doctor was coming regularly. One night after mignight we despaired of her life. It was misty, and I never saw a darker night. Brother George and I started horseback for Dr. Penfield. It was about five miles. It was so dark that we could not see each other riding side by side. A mile north of us there was a pretty well marked road east and west that led to the only bridge across Wolf Creek. Half a mile north was a board fence with a sixteen-foot gate that we must pass through. We knew the gate was open. We found the gate and passed through. Then we had to cross a half mile of new breaking. We rode for a long time, wondering why we did not come to the road leading to the bridge. Finally our horses ran up against something. George dismounted to feel what it was and found it was the fence we had passed through. Our horses were headed for home and were less than a rod from the gate we passed thru. To make sure this time we followed the fence east to where it crossed the creek, then by the noise of the flowing water we followed the crooked creek upstream until we came to the bridge and the road the horses would follow.
Reaching the doctor, he saddled his horse and directed us to follow him. Being used to night riding, as was also his horse, he had no difficulty in finding the way by a shorter route, fording the creek a mile south of the bridge. We were soon home and found sister had rallied somewhat.
Beginning with the winter of 1873 I returned each winter, for four years, after the corn was husked, to Galena, Illinois, our old home county seat, to attend the German English Normal College located there. My older brother and sister had attended there before we moved to Iowa. Many of the students were from Iowa. Dubuque and Delaware counties furnished quite a quota. Many of the students have been and are now prominent in the affairs of the state. Senator J. E. Wichman of Hancock county served ably in the House of Representatives. He is now one of the ablest senators, and is chariman of the committee investigating the insurance department and companies. We were classmates three winters.
Later the college was located at Charles City, Iowa, and a few years ago merged with Morningside College at Sioux City.
In the fall of 1877 I attended the Teachers' Institute at Grundy Center. G. R. Stoddard was county superintendent and Prof. Gaylord conducted the institute. He was a well educated man and possessed in an unusual degree the faculty of imparting inspiration and enthusiasm to the teachers. During the following winter I taught my first and only term of school in district No. 8, Felix. During the succeeding years I have maintained an active interest in our public schools. For more than thirty years I was continuously connected with the school board, first as secretary, then as treasurer for twenty years. In the fall of 1878 and early winter I made preparations to begin farming the following season. The first of February I returned to our old home in Hanover, Ill., to claim as my bride Miss Clara S. Edgerton, a former schoolmate. On February 13 we were married and for more than forty-five years we have shared together our lot in life, enjoying the pleasures and sunshine, and trying to be patient when the clouds overshadowed.
In my farming my ideal was the production of better live stock. All my energy was exerted along this line. As the years passed quickly by, the work become more and more fascinating. When one gets to where they can look back over the busy years spent in the attainment of an ideal, then and then only can they realize the efforts put forth and know what measure of success has come to them.
I had my first experience in court in the fall of 1870. I was assisting a neighbor with his threshing. One afternoon toward evening the deputy sheriff appeared on the scene with a subpeona for me as a juror on a special venire with instructions to appear at the court room the next mourning at eight-thirty o'clock. I had no help to do my work or chores. My nearest neighbor agreed to do the chores. I took my wife to my father's and reported to the Court.
It was a very busy session and had been in progress for some time and many attorneys were in attendance. Judge Bagg was presiding. The most important case was the trial of a young man indicted for stealing a team of horses. Some months before a very valuable team of young mares, nicely matched, had been stolen from Louie Hess in Melrose township. Mr. Hess lived a short distance south of the Ivester church. It was my fortune to be retained on the jury.
The case was very hard fought. The young man sought to prove an alibi. The evidence brought out the facts that he was a rough character. He had been working in a saloon and pool hall at Dysart and Reinbeck. The team had been harnessed, hitched to a buggy and driven away. He was positively identified as being seen near the Hess home near nightfall the evening before the team was taken. He was afoot, was seen by several, and seemed to be just passing time. The next morning early he was seen at Garrison, near where a brother-in-law lived and where a couple of days later the team was found secreted.
The chain of evidence as brought out seemed linked together conclusively. When the jury talked the case over and took the first ballet, it stood eleven for conviction and one acquittal. S. S. Beaman, for whom the town of Beaman was named, was a member of the jury, as was also Ransom Bailey. These two were rather aged; all the others were young men. It soon developed that Uncle Solon, as Mr. Beaman was usually called by those acquainted with him, had cast the lone vote. He proceeded at once to give his reasons, saying "we have none but circumstantial evidence, and I will not vote to convict any person on circumstantial evidence." He related a case he knew of when a young men living in New York state was convicted of murder and executed. Later it developed that he was innocent. Mr. Beaman said he made a vow then that he would never vote a person guilty on circumstantial evidence. The jury retired in the afternoon. When it came time for supper the bailiff, I. C. Mills, called for us. Mr. Beaman asked where we were to eat. Mr. Mills said supper had been ordered for us at the Slifer house. Uncle Solon said, "I won't eat there. I have said I will never eat another meal there, and I wont!" Mills went to the Judge for instructions. Judge Bogg sent him back saying, "Take the jury where the supper has been prepared for them. Do not separate them". Uncle Solon delivered his ultimatum, saying, "You will have to carry me there, but you can't force me to eat". So our good bailiff went once more to the Judge, who began to see the humor of the situation and told the bailiff to "go back and lock Beaman in the jury room while you take the others to supper. Then take him to the restaurant and order him a good supper, but see that he doesn't get any oyster stew". All this took time and it was late when we could again begin considering the case. Everyone tried to in some way persuade Mr. Beaman, but all to no avail. A little before midnight Uncle Solon stretched himself on one of the board benches, saying as he did so, "Boys, when you come over to my side, wake me up."
Before court adjourned the next day the jury were allowed to go to the courtroom and the foreman said the jury was unable to agree, that he did not think there was any possible chance of agreement.
After a few words the Judge sent us back to the same experience of the night before. Thus we spent two full days and two nights. Those who remember the old, straight-back benches with the narrow seat will realize our discomfort. A couple of the jurymen got quite peeved at Uncle Solon and were almost inclined to abuse him. We had one "live saver" at least in the number. D. J. Hawley connected with a hardware firm at Reinbeck. He was a real "wag" and kept the men in good spirits.
At the end of the second day the Judge called us in, the foreman again reporting no agreement and absolutely no prospect of agreement.
In dismissing the jury the judge said some very wise and pertinent things. He said "It is not the province of the Court to know just how a jury stands when there is disagreement, but it has come to me without my seeking that it is eleven for conviction and one for acquittal. If this be true, and I assume it is, I feel it my duty to express the judgment of the court before dismissing the jury." He then proceeded to lecture the one man who would set his judgment against eleven. We had spent a week on the case with large cost to the county, which must all be gone over again. You could see that the judge meant every word he said and if I had been the one man I should have felt like sinking through the floor.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 10 April 1924, pg 1, 4
(Continued from Last Week)
During the time the court was in session the county fair was in progress and the matter came up as to whether court shown adjourn one day. Enoch W. Eastman, ex-lieutenant governor, was in attendance interested in some of the cases and was anxious to have things rushed to get through. He had quite a "tilt" with the Judge, but was overruled. He did not take it with very good grace. We attended the fair, which was a new enterprise at that time. The jury was kept eleven working days after I was called and while it was very inconvenient to arrange matters at home it was a great education for a young man.
There were several prominent attorneys present, as well as Ex-Gov. Eastman. I recall Horace Boies, of Waterloo, also O. B. Courtwright, W. J. Moler and the elder attorney Huff, of Eldora.
Mr. Finlayson has written very fully about the trial of Chas. Halquist in 1878. My father was also a member of the trial jury that convicted him. The year previous, 1877, when W. P. Glendyon was arrested for the murder of Wypka Martin, my father was a member of the grand jury that indicted him for the murder. A rather unusual coincidence occurred when thirty years later as a member of the House of Representatives and a member of the Pardon Committee it became my duty to help resist the application of Glendyon for a pardon, and the recommendation for pardon was not then made to Gov. Cummins. But a few years later, Gov. Clarke did pardon him.
Mr. Finlayson has written very completely and accurately concerning the court house. There are just a few words additional that I feel like writing.
Owing to the very strenuous efforts of those who wished the county seat changed to Holland and also the fact that when the proposal to build a court house in Grundy Center was voted on in 1888 and defeated by ninety votes, there were very grave doubts in the minds of many when it was to be voted on at the special election that it would carry. There was also the fear, as Mr. Finlayson has pointed out, that the cost would be very much greater than estimated. In order to make doubly sure the proposition, a pledge was drawn up pledging the board that they would not contract for a building to cost more than forty thousand dollars. This was presented to each member of the board to sign, which they did much against their better judgment and inclination. This pledge was printed and distributed to all the voting places.
When the building committee was organized I was selected chairman and as the work progressed the committtee, I am sure, fully realized the great responsibility resting upon them and tried their best to protect the interest of the county. If ever there was a faithful officer Mr. Finlayson was entitled to that designation. He never spared himself and always tried to make it easy for the other members of the committee. We realized that we must make sacrifices and do the best we could. I have found it necessary to stop my harvester with ripe grain to cut to meet with the committtee. The delay in the work prolonged the duties of the building committee.
The only work that remained to be contracted when my term expired was the frescoing.
Too high praise could not be given to Mr. T. B. Seely. He was ever determiend that the work should be fully as good or better than specified even if it cost more. One illustration in point. As the specifications were drawn, the stone steps to the entrance were the same material as the wall construction, "Bedford Sandstone." Mr. Seely showed us that this would wear rapidly by the constant travel over it, and soon would be unsatisfactory. His firm was erecting a court house at Cherokee. He proposed to pay the expenses of the building committee to go to Cherokee to investigate the stone steps they were using there. This was done and a very hard stone from Keosota, Minn., was substituted.
I believe the most strenuous work the Board of Supervisors had to do while I was a member was the adoption of the uniform text book for the schools of the county. The law went into effect making that the duty of the supervisors in connection with the county superintendent of schools. The difficulty arose mostly from the fact that we were novices and we had a mighty shrewd bunch of bookmen to deal with, and they "were legion."
The meeting was in June. We farmers had just finished getting in our crops. For more than a month we had been receiving from the different companies samples of a full line of their books. I had a cart load of them. It was utterly impossible to give the books even a cursorary examination. When we met and organized for the work we had a dozen or more, as I remember, of men who were giving all their time and meeting new boards each week--had their talks all learned.
They tried to show up the peculiar merits of their company's book to us "bunch of farmers." Even our county superintendent was a farmer. We tried to look, and act, wise. Perhaps we did as well as the average board of education. It was amusing to see how the different agents studied the different members of the Board to see how they could influence them in their favor. One misguided agent offered a substantial bribe to my good friend Huntley: than whom no squarer man ever lived in Grundy county.
As I have thought over my early experiences in Grundy county, it has been no little task to determine what to write and what not to write. Others have covered many points of interest that have been perused with eagerness. There is satisfaction, however, in having lived in the county during its formative period, to have noted its development, to have had some humble part in shaping its progress and directing the facts that made it a better place in which to live. Best of all it has been to meet, and to know, so many of its splendid people, to have formed such intimate and lasting friendships, that are valued and cherished more and more as the years go by.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 17 April 1924, pg 1, 4