Palmer C. Tiffany (1809-1900) was a Henry County pioneer, settling in Mount Pleasant in 1838. He was a merchant, tavern owner and hotel keeper. For a brief time, Tiffany mined in California. In June and July of 1899, Tiffany wrote a series of articles sharing his memories and recollections of people and events of Mount Pleasant's beginnings. His series, titled "Reminiscences", was featured in "The Dial of Progress", an early newspaper managed by Rev. W.R. and C.T. Cole.

Part Six - “The Dial of Progress”, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, Thursday, July 27, 1899.

It begins to look as though these Reminiscences were to include, with considerable regularity, not only reflections upon conditions and affairs on the home making possibilities by emigration, and the relation of the true American principle to such individual as well as collective effort, but the reader may look with confidence for explanations, or corrections of something which was been stated in these papers, as well. This week it is a correction by an old and highly esteemed contemporary pioneer, James Richie, (now living at Eureka Springs, Arkansas) who located in Salem with his parents in 1836, thus ante-dating my arrival in Mt. Pleasant by two years. We give below a letter to the “Free Press”, in which it will be seen that he takes exception to my statement that Mrs. Tiffany and Wealthy took up the puncheons of our cabin floor and took them out of doors to scrub, one by one. It may be stated that the puncheons of our cabin were a little different from those of the ordinary cabin, which were thick slabs and flat on both sides. Ours were simply logs split in two, as Wealthy, who is still my faithful housekeeper, attests. The slabs were ordinarily pegged to handmade joice (sic). But ours were simply laid down; and the reason Mrs. Tiffany carried them out in this way was to save the dampness, which would otherwise come from the quantity of water used in scrubbing, going into the ground below and becoming foul.

Our friend also corrects the statement that most of the original settlers in Mt. Pleasant were from slave states. Some of the prominent pioneers in ‘33 and later were from localities as follows: The Saunders were from Kentucky; John Randolph was from Virginia; the Lashs were from Virginia; Bowen was from Maryland; Mrs. Bowen was from Kentucky, as well as the Grants and the Porters and John Wilson and many others; Tucker was from North Carolina, as well as a long list of others. Besides these, very many from the border northern states held pro-slavery sentiments and held scant respect for the individual rights of the black man.

Our friend also speaks of abolitionists, as the readers will see. In this connection, I will state that for a period of many years in this town and its locality, with the exception of the Quakers of Salem, Mrs. Tiffany and Samuel L. Howe were the only outspoken abolitionists. I was not very prominent one way or the other; but my wife, as in all things else, was positive, fearless and outspoken. Howe was especially and particularly active in awakening public sentiment by speaking in favor of freedom for the slave. Twice or more, he was assaulted while speaking, as was Wendell Phillips, with eggs that would soon have brought forth chickens. In 1850, he sent out a newspaper, also with the desire to awaken public conscience.

Salem maintained the “underground railway” for the escaping slaves, while this principle-loving soul worked with tongue and pen to bring others to perceive the enormity of the evil of slavery. I recollect the prejudice of men from the southern states who wished to place their sons in Howe’s school. Dr. Barrett, of St. Louis, had a son he wished to send away to school and had heard of Howe’s. He came to Mt. Pleasant and was a guest at my hotel. He was talking of the matter and expressed himself freely. I told him Howe taught his pupils science, and if they imbibed other ideas, it was because those ideas appealed to their reason, not because they were forced to entertain them. The young man came to the school. The father built the “Barrett House” in Burlington, known to so many Mt. Pleasant people who are still living as the best hotel in Burlington until well into the seventies.

In this connection I will state that when Samuel L. Howe died, the funeral services took more the form of a solemn public function, as of common loss to the community than that of any pioneer who has lived, labored, and died in Mt. Pleasant. To show how the colored people appreciated his interest in behalf of their freedom, young colored men asked the privilege of acting as pall-bearers and the funeral was held at Saunders’ Hall, then the most capacious in Mt. Pleasant, and it was filled to overflowing.

Upon this sad occasion, it was my friendly privilege to support Mrs. Howe through the sad ordeal of the funeral of her husband. To explain the reason for the close friendship existing between the two families, I will state that at one time Mrs. Howe was very ill. She had a young babe. Proper care was impossible to find for the child and only neighborly help for the mother and her young family. Mrs. Tiffany, in addition to great loyalty in her friendships added intense sympathy and love for young children. The condition of these friends was such that if the mother lived, something had to be done. So, I told Mrs. Tiffany to have the babe brought over in its cradle to the hotel and we would see to it till the mother was well. When the mother recovered, Mrs. Tiffany tried to give it up, but the result was that the cradle and baby was carried back and forth, back and forth, between its father’s home and ours, until the final outcome was the “taking” of the child by us. The baby’s name was Samuel, for his father. He went a good deal by the name of Tiffany, although we never adopted him. He always called me pa, and Mrs. Tiffany, mother. Our experience with our little girl and this boy taught us that parental love may exist without people being actual parents.

For “Dial of Progress”.

I read with much interest the ably written “Reminiscences” by that venerable and famed pioneer, P. C. Tiffany, of Henry County. I knew him and his much-respected wife, Eliza, more than a half century ago. They enjoyed their own “Sweet Home”, living so long in Mt. Pleasant, not the visionary home they started in quest of when they left their New England home.

Mr. Tiffany is well qualified to write up graphic reminiscences of High Henry, he being one of the early pioneers of the Black Hawk purchase, also called Wisconsin territory, of which I became a pioneer May 19, 1836. So, I can enjoy reading the articles written by a contemporary pioneer, describing scenes and incidents of long ago.

I think the writer of pioneer incidents a little mistaken in some of his statements. In speaking of the Hon. Paton Wilson’s Fourth of July oration, he was described as from Kentucky, whereas he was from Indiana, has since been one of the honored representatives in the legislature. I think he was a native of North Carolina, as were a number of primitive Quakers who settled in and near Salem. But the majority of the Quaker population were natives of Indiana; some from Ohio. I have no recollection of any Virginia Quakers, except the Crew family, ever settling in Henry County. “Uncle Paton,” as he was often called, was popular with pioneers, and bold of speech, making himself heard on all great question(s) before the people, while a candidate for the legislature. Had he received a liberal college education in his youth, he would doubtless have ranked high among statesmen who seek congressional honors. But his education was limited, having little to no knowledge of grammar and hence had to rely on his strong natural talents when making stump speeches. As he was no grammarian, his remarks were much criticized. As prerequisite to success, let every young man who is ambitious to attain to the high honors of office, study English grammar most critically.

Our pioneer friend says: “Indians were plenty.” Yes, I remember seeing them. Some visited the house where my folks lived; they were quite friendly. One morning quite early some Indians, five I think, a man, his squaw, two girls and a boy, came to our house. As it was breakfast time, we gave them their breakfast. They preferred drinking buttermilk to coffee. The squaw explained that they were after seed corn, as it was in May. We charged them nothing. They had some calico with them for sale. My father bought a few yards of it to please them. I saw Indians at different times paddling their light canoes along the green shores of the “magnifishient Skunk,” so-called by a pioneer representative of Henry County. How much I enjoyed life in the wilderness.

Our pioneer writer speaks of puncheons as forming the floors of the first settlers. They were generally made of lin, or linden trees, the logs of which were nicely hewn by a broad ax, not an adz, and quite a good floor is laid that will last for years. I often helped to scrub or wash such floors, but I never knew of puncheons being taken up in order to scrub them the better.

I was a pioneer during five years in Pike County, Illinois, prior to moving to Iowa, (then Wisconsin), hence I am familiar with pioneer life. I have seen many Indians and wild beasts as habitants of the howling wilderness.

I remember hearing Rev. Hutton preach in 1838, and some time subsequent, I heard Rev. Walters preach at his cabin home on the north bank of the Skunk. The aged pioneer grew quite eloquent when speaking of Noah’s Ark. Both of these preachers were called Hard-shell Baptists.

I think our aged friend P. C. Tiffany, is a little mistaken in regard to the first settlers. He says “The people were mostly from the border southern, and southern states.” My recollection is that they were mostly from the free states, Indiana being largely represented, many of them being abolitionists.

Eureka Springs, Ark., June 27, 1899.

Mrs. Sarah C. Baldwin, of this city, a Salem pioneer of 1846, verifies all that friend Richie says about the Salem Quakers and their abolition sympathies and principles and draws our attention to the fact that they were so conscientious in passing the colored man along by means of the “underground road”, that never a colored man before or since, has ever made a permanent home in the village. This shows how ardent men may be for the idea of right abstractly, and fail to win or draw by personal attachment the persons involved by the principle; and also, that love of principle may not always induce love of person. She relates some remarkably entertaining incidents in connection with her first experiences in Salem. Her manner and conversation is that of a woman of 50, although 88 birthdays have been passed as mile stones on her mortal pathway.

She says Richie, the father of our correspondent, and his family, were in Salem and had the underpinning laid for the first two-story brick residence ever in Salem. Mrs. Baldwin’s husband finished it that summer, and also the second two-story brick building of the town, which was finally used as a place of business. Both the buildings are still standing. One good type incident which she relates is of the educational condition of Salem at that time. As all know, private schools were the first schools, and it is also a matter of history that Salem antedates Mt. Pleasant many years; these facts need to be borne in mind, as well as that these Quaker settlers came from the backwoods of Indiana, where public schools were also unknown, and that the first to come out were as far back as the twenties. The same summer that the Baldwins came from Newark, New Jersey, Reuben Dorland, of Philadelphia, a man of ability and education, emigrated to Salem and opened a school. He was a Quaker, of course, but was animated with the spirit of the educational missionary. Geography was taught by him and the children were informed that the earth was round. This startling information was recited by the children at their homes. The vigorous old deacons concluded it a matter of so grave importance that Dorland was brought up repeatedly before the church meeting to be dealt with - to be “churched” - for promulgating such heresies. The argument of one of them was: “Thee must know, that if the world turned over, Little Cedar would have been spilled out long ago.” And it is a fact that the conscientious, if ignorant of science, church members, worked for months to compel this teacher to reverse his teaching or be put out of the church, but he did not.

Another incident touching upon the temper and conscience of the early Salem Quakers was the using of the first name of all people, young or old; the term “friend” being the most formal prefix tolerated, and that to the given name.

It happened that the Baldwins were not Quakers, and their children had been carefully taught to address their elders as Mr. and Mrs. So, when they went to school, they called their teacher “Mr. Dorland.” This again aroused the Quaker conscience and wrath, and Mrs. Baldwin was visited with the request that her children address the teacher as “Reuben.” Those who know Mrs. Baldwin can easily imagine the substance of her response, which was: “My children have been taught to address their elders after that fashion. They will continue to do so. They will neither say ‘thee or thou’ or address their teacher as ‘Reuben.” They can stay at home. But they will do neither of those things. It is neither a part of my religion or my manners, and it cannot be a part of theirs.”

This settled that point, and the children went to school and continued to say “Mr. Dorland,” and to continue the use of the personal pronouns after the fashion of “the world,” rather than that of the Quakers.

She also relates that the first carpets in Salem were from her boxes in 1846 and were a source of wide-eyed curiosity and astonishment. She tells most entertainingly of the way her belongings were interviewed by the younger portion of the community, and her dresses, and the garments of her children were borrowed for patterns by the women. The first white bosomed shirt was carried there by her family. She was a daughter of a revolutionary army soldier, Cornelius Vanriper, and she needed all her inheritance of independence of character and love of personal liberty of opinion to live comfortably in the opinionated atmosphere of a community solid in its adherence to the cut and color of garments and the use of “thee and thou” as cardinal points of religious doctrine and personal conscience. She came to esteem them very highly as personal friends, and honor their integrity and probity as citizens. In a future issue we may relate more incidents of her reciting, as showing up prevailing conditions in the forties and fifties.

I will add this explanation to a statement just made. A young person who heard the reading of the story about Mrs. Baldwin’s children in school as it was being written, asked, “How old was she at the time? I don’t see how she should have children in school at that time, she looks so young now.” The answer to this is that Mrs. Baldwin was the second wife of her husband, who was much older than herself; his first wife being an older sister of his second. He had five children when she married him, after which she became the mother of six more. Who will dare say that to be a faithful wife and mother of a normal family begets disease and shortens life. Facts from the life of all nations of all times, confirms the truth of it. Normal conjugal and domestic life today would deplete the disease hospitals, cheat the divorce courts and prolong life. The women who live to be great-grandmothers are those who were helpmeets rather than “bread-winners,” between which there is a mighty distinction and difference, so far as the maintenance of the family and individualized home is concerned.

Emigration to, and in this country, since its discovery by Columbus, has been like ocean’s advancing and receding tide. Come and go; success and failure in permanence of settlements; stranded individuals drifted inland as the wreckage of these efforts; yet establishing points of civilization midst native tribes in primeval wilderness; the hardy, the adventurous, holding the threads of a nation’s birth, which were to grow to those resistless cables that would draw from all the people of earth, that blood which was to be the basis of mental conditions more perfect than earth had ever known, for the growth on this continent of an enduring Christian democracy.

The landing of the Mayflower, the spirit of heroic devotion to liberty of individual religious belief which fed the souls of those who came in it to the unknown “rock bound” coast, marked an epoch in the voicing and in the legalizing of man’s right of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And it may be claimed that “the pursuit of happiness covers legitimate effort to establish the individual home, and is a moving factor in the sweep of the human wave of emigration which commenced with the rising and will only end when the setting sun o’erlaps the point of starting. In America, it has been from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast and was carried rapidly forward by the “gold fever” and set human steps in a slow-moving army across the plains, never resting until Caucasian feet had pressed the length and breadth of this land.

A company which joined this army was organized in Mt. Pleasant in 1849. There were several for that matter, but one of them included “Tiff,” as I was known among intimates and the “the boys” in the early times, and am yet for that matter, when fate kindly brings me face to face with one of them.

Enoch Hill, from speculating in hogs and corn, and other things, had from the first, taken rank as the monied man of the town. When gold was discovered in California, he began to work his speculative gifts upon a company which he equipped and furnished, for half the gold the members of it would get. There were two heavy covered wagons with four yoke of oxen to each, and rations of flour and salt pork to last each crew of three men, two years. Wm. Lusk, John P. Grantham, Jasper Hill, son of Enoch, a man by the name of Rucker, Geo. Rice and myself, constituted this company. The hotel was doing well; I had made extensive additions until it was a creditable place and I could give my patrons their money’s worth in “creature comforts” and a good travelers home besides. But the craze was on me. The idea of picking up a fortune in a short time was alluring. Mrs. Tiffany agreed to run the hotel in my absence, and did it with great credit to herself and satisfaction to her guests.

The stage route was established from Burlington due west and “The Tiffany House” was the leading one on the route. During my absence she acted as stage agent as well as proprietor of the house. There are men today who were our boarders who bear living testimony to her care and attention to any of her household in sickness, for a sick guest was her boy for the time. She made it a home for them as well as (a) mere place of abode.

The journey to the gold fields took just four months and eleven days of untold hardships and privations. Our party was an extremely uncongenial one. Grantham, who was a gentleman and well educated, made for me a companion which kept hope and courage alive within. One of our party was a pugnacious, fighting, domineering fellow, and, as such men usually are, lazy and a shirk. There was another one who could have thrashed him good, and it was only the diplomacy of the rest that kept him from doing it many a time. Of this party, including the projector, I am the only one left to tell the stories of the suffering endured for the glittering gold. It seems, on reflection, strange that this glittering stuff should so lure men from good homes, profitable business and the amenities of life, to go houseless adventurers, often half frozen or starved for the hope of picking it up.

Constant use of salt meat and fine flour bread unleavened, generated the terrible scourge called scurvy; a disease beside which, violent and uncared for fever is to be preferred.

I cured it by the eating of raw potatoes dipped in vinegar as cucumbers are prepared. A pound of potatoes, which cost me $1.25 eaten in this way arrested the disease and all signs of it left me.

Pretty much everything we got in the diggings was $1.25 per pound; steak, flour, vegetables, all $1.25. It seemed the unit of values, so to speak. A miner killed a big grizzly bear which weighed eight hundred pounds. He sold every ounce of it before noon to the miners for $1.25 per pound, realizing $1,000 for it.

When we started to cross a desert place, we always began our drive at dusk; as the temperature was more tolerable and the cattle suffered less from thirst. One reason for using oxen in making the trip, was, that they could go without water longer than horses. Water was carried in casks across the wastes where there was none. The oxen would often drop in their tracks with weariness and the suffering of their human companions was something fearful at times.

I was gone two years and got $2,000 in gold dust. Hill, however, was kind enough to take some lots I owned, instead of his share of the money.

I returned by way of Panama, being several days on board a sailing vessel, which we took because it was so much cheaper than steamer. Natives rowed us down the Chagres River in canoes. All the way I brought my gold dust in a bag wrapped in my blanket. We had no valises and trunks - just a roll of blankets with things inside. I took ship at the east side of Panama, the ship stopping at Havana to coal. From thence to New York and from there to Hartford to visit my friends. I remember my brother taking my gold dust and “lifting it and guessing how much it was worth.”

I got it minted in Philadelphia where I had a sister living. Her husband went with me to the U. S. mint where I got it in twenty-dollar gold pieces and brought it on my person to Mt. Pleasant.

There was one thing that struck me as curious. When up in the diggings, the camps would “chip in” and send one of their members to go to the post office, twelve miles away, for letters and papers, and when we came to read the papers, we would find exaggerated head-lines of great strikes and big finds; but never a mention of failures and famines and the disaster which actually befell a large majority of the prospectors. If both sides of the “gold discoveries” could be stated, many a man would have been thousands better off happier to have staid by his farm or studied his chosen business, whatever it might have been.

The worth of gold to the world which has came from the discovery of it in the Rocky Mountains and elsewhere in inaccessible places in American soil, has not been the value of the metal. The peopling of the plains, the occupying as homes of mountain fastnesses; the normal and peaceful settlement of states of uncomputed territory. In short, the homes which men made, the earth they caused to give food for man was the real work, the desirable point in the evolution of desirable point in the evolution of democratic civilization. So today. This wave of the ocean of human life has forcibly swept beyond the confines of our western shore; it has broken upon the islands of the sea, only to dash forward at the bidding of cable and steam to the feet of nations whose governments are (sic) efete with the decay of their false systems.

The contrast between the normal, peaceful method of displacement of the native American and the policy being pursued today by force of arms in Philippine soil is a question open to grave consideration by those who love the American principle of the right of men and nations to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Why this must needs be a part of the problem of the inherent evolutionary power of the principle of individual liberty, finding recognition by governments, and is not for the severe or narrow judgment of politics and its parties. Whatever the creative purpose which underlies race succession, is becoming the problem for Christian statesmen to study.

One point should be carefully considered. The American Indian was an untaught man, hence abiding in his instincts of savagery which disappears upon his learning his a. b. c. and all that mystical thought stands for. The Filipinos have taken their first steps toward national existence. Although the Spaniard could not subjugate him, he gave the Filipino the elements of a written language capable of grammatical construction, which is as essential to growth in independent national existence, as the awakened understanding of the principle of liberty which gives possession of self and home and a native land.

Resource provided by Henry County Heritage Trust; transcription done by Alex Olson, University of Northern Iowa Public History Field Experience Class, Fall 2022.

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