Muscatine County, Iowa


Submitted by Roy J. Yeater, an historian/genealogist, for the Yeater Cousins. Much of this material is from Roy J. Yeater, "Yeater Beginnings in Muscatine" article. If you would like to contact Roy directly, here is his email link, Roy J. Yeater. Thank you Roy for contributing this article to this website!!!

by Roy J. Yeater

Cousin Irene Yeater Rife was an interested and interesting woman with a wry sense of humor who enjoyed living on her own in Mechanicsville, Iowa just down the road from her sister, Velma Yeater Taylor. Until her recent brief illness, which preceded her death on November 26, 2000 at age 103, she led an active social and family life and her wry wit was appreciated. At a Yeater family reunion in Muscatine's Weed Park recently, in an address to the group she attributed her longevity to never having had a serious ailment and to staying away from hospitals and doctors.

On one occasion I visited Irene at her home in Mechanicsville during one of Iowa's snowstorms. She wanted to take me out to lunch so we went. She told me that she would take me to the best restaurant in town. When we got there it was the corner bar-restaurant with wooden booths, high ceiling and wonderful hamburgers and French fries. She informed me that not only was this the best restaurant in town, it was the only restaurant in town. (It wasn't the only place in town but Irene really liked this restaurant.) Irene was a wonderful cousin to spend time with. At that time I had given her an I'M A YEATER COUSIN T-shirt which had on the front a picture of her father and his siblings (there were ten originally; my grandfather John Wesley Yeater was the oldest -rjy) with the spouses on the back. Irene indicated to me that she very much liked what she saw but that her mother had not been part of the picture of the Yeater spouses. I subsequently had her mother's picture digitally added and presented her with that new T-shirt.

This article includes information from notes that I have taken while spending time with Irene. Much of it is about her memories of life in Muscatine. Much of it is about her family of which she was proud to be a part. She had fond memories of Muscatine where she and my father attended McKinley School (899 Climer). Upon completion of the eighth grade Irene moved with her family to live on a farm near Clarence, Iowa. She would visit Muscatine on occasion for the Yeater family reunions but also to visit her parents gravesites in Greenwood Cemetery. Her parents were Samuel Willis Yeater and Margaret Salina Haigh. Three Yeater siblings had met and wed three Haigh siblings in Muscatine.

Irene enjoyed family events and was an unequaled source of family history. She told of her grandfather being in the Civil War and how her parents and her great-grandparents helped build the Dunkard Church at the Farmer's Grove Cemetery located not far from Mifflintown, Pennsylvania. Her grandfather died and was buried there, as were her great-grandparents and other family members. Her grandmother Elizabeth Geedy Yeater along with her ten children relocated to Flora, Indiana. Irene was born in November 1897 in Bringhurst, Indiana near Flora. In the 1890's Irene's father Sam and his brother John (my grandfather- rjy) and then some of the other Yeater siblings moved to the bustling river town of Muscatine, Iowa where woodworking was a thriving industry. The Yeater men were carpenters and that is what they did in addition to working at the always-busy Muscatine Sash and Door Company.

Initially Sam and John lived in houses on Lucas Street (called Lucas Grove Road at the time) until the other siblings arrived. At some point they started building houses on Bridgeman off of Fletcher and on Lowe off of Bridgeman and on Fletcher Avenue off of Lucas just west of Greenwood Cemetery. Lucas is the street in Muscatine that runs along the north side of Greenwood Cemetery. Irene's father Sam and mother Margaret built the first house at the far west end of Bridgeman on the left. Irene said that they lived in a woodshed nearby while her father Sam built a four-room house before winter set in. Uncle Cal built next to them (the third house built according to Irene). Uncle John built a house on Lowe next to Uncle Dave near Aunt Emma Pasdach whose house was and is located around the corner on a jut in the street that is Lowe. Uncle Dave later on moved to a house on Fletcher. Aunt Hannah (Chauncy Haigh) had a home near McKinley school where Irene Yeater Rife stayed for a time. Irene's father Sam bought the house built by John Fisher on the other side of Bridgeman at the end on the right.

There was and still is woods west of these houses that go down to Houser Street below. (I received most of this history information from Cousin Irene Yeater Rife. I have confirmed much of the timing and addresses of my family beginnings in Muscatine by means of the yearly city directories from that era that were made available to me thanks to the Muscatine Public Library. rjy)

Aunt and Uncle (that's what everyone called those Yeater siblings and their spouses and still do); Uncle John and Aunt Stella (Girls), Uncle Sam and Aunt Margaret (Haigh), Aunt Emma (Yeater) Pasdach and Will Pasdach, Henry Calvin called Uncle Cal and Mary Jane (Haigh) , Uncle Dave and Mary Jane (Jenkins), Chauncy Haigh and Aunt Hannah (Yeater) Haigh. (Of the spouses Chauncy, Mary Jane and Margaret Haigh were born in Muscatine, Stella was born in Illinois and Mary Jane Jenkins was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa but was from Muscatine when she married.) (Four Yeater siblings-Anna, Lewis, James Franklin called Frank, and Corabelle (Brock) remained in Indiana near Flora as did their mother Elizabeth. For years, the Muscatine Yeater siblings and their families would drive across Illinois to Flora, Indiana for their full family reunions. Mother Elizabeth Geedy Yeater (my great-grandmother; rjy) stayed with Aunt Emma Pasdach at 415 Lowe (changed to 415 Kemble) in Muscatine for a short time and died in September 1928 at her son Sam's home; in Irene Yeater Rife's parents home. An article on the front page of the Muscatine Journal at the time indicated that she was the head of a family of 103. Her body was taken back to Flora, Indiana for burial.

The Yeater families were of the Dunkard religion now known as the Church of the Brethren. When their houses were built, the families would meet at Sam and Margaret's (Irene's parents), home for services. They would place a wood plank over two nail barrels and have a cover over it for a pulpit. Uncle Dave was the leader for these Sunday sessions and would lead with bible readings and songs while the others would join in with whatever was the custom of the time. When the Yeater families in Muscatine were finished building their homes, they did what they had done before; they built a Dunkard Church. They bought a lot on Bridgeman and built this frame building. They would bring a Dunker minister down from Davenport, a town located some thirty-five miles up the Mississippi River north from Muscatine, to hold the services at a cost of some $25. Preacher Robinson was one such preacher. (This went on for a period of time until the Yeater families decided to leave Muscatine. They scattered in all directions seemingly in search of land for that is what they did. They went back to farming.) That frame building, that Dunkard Church, was then sold to the Rebecca Lodge and was moved across Lucas Street from the entrance to Fletcher Ave and across from Greenwood Cemetery. You can see it today for it is still there, rather ramshackle. Not many people know that this little Rebecca Lodge frame building which is seriously in need of paint and renovation was originally the Yeater-built Dunkard Church from the early 1900's in Muscatine. Irene Yeater Rife told me about that church and the Yeater family history and kept that image alive.

Irene told me about Ella Royer who was the Dunker Sunday school teacher from Des Moines. Ella took Irene to downtown Muscatine in the early 1900's to see Billy Sunday preach. She said that it was a "big building" and she never forgot the visual and sound image of that occasion. Irene said that they went to town on the streetcar, which was in place on Lucas out past Fletcher. The streetcar would go out to the end and turn around and would travel back to Muscatine. It cost a nickel or a dime and had tracks and an overhead line.

When the Yeater families split up to search for land and opportunity, Irene went with her parents (Uncle Sam and Margaret) to Clarence, Iowa. My grandparents, Stella and Uncle John, along with my father Roy A. went to a farm in Drury Township in Illinois. Uncle Dave and Aunt Mary Jane headed toward Tipton (They are buried at Clarence Cemetery) and Uncle Cal went by way of Wisconsin to the Rock Island area where Chauncy and Hannah Yeater Haigh were. Aunt Emma and Will Pasdach were lifelong residents of Muscatine at 415 Lowe (or 415 Kemble). This family of Yeater's from Pennsylvania came to Muscatine by way of Flora, Indiana and spread out over the land. They and their ancestors and descendants are part of what we call The Yeater Cousins (Yeater's and their Kin).

Irene told me about her son Clarence M. (Buster) Rife who left home on December 2, 1943 for Camp Blanding army base in Florida. She said that the parents were assured at the time that their young sons would not go into the front lines. Irene's son Buster was killed August 8, 1944 at Normandy. They never heard from him again after he left the states. Irene said that the "'I'm sorry's" didn't help. That story struck a note with me since my brother Vaughn E.Yeater of Muscatine trained at Camp Blanding and left for Italy in January, 1944. Vaughn was killed some thirty miles south of Rome on May 31, 1944 during the breakout from the Anzio Beachhead toward the capture of Rome on June 6. Buster was killed on his 20th birthday. Vaughn had just reached his 19th birthday.

I believe Irene would have enjoyed reading what I have written. She had good memories of her Muscatine beginnings. The rest of us have a better appreciation of our history because of her. Irene enjoyed family and that is what this is about.

Source: Written and contributed by Roy J. Yeater, Historian/Genealogist, The Yeater Cousins Association (Roy J. Yeater MHS '54, USN 54-58, MJC&r'59, ISU BSEE '62, Mpls-Honeywell ,was originally from Muscatine, Iowa and now lives in New Hope, Minnesota)

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