Muscatine County, Iowa
Muscatine Journal & News-Tribune
Centennial Edition
31 May 1940

Section 5 - Page 21, Submitted by Mary M. Elizabeth, August 1, 2012

Days of 1860 Were Ominous Ones in U.S.
Year Fraught With Numerous Drastic Events

Compiled by the Muscatine Office of the Iowa Writers’ Program

Like a magic mirror – not only reflecting life in all its facts – but preserving it for a permanent record – are the files of The Muscatine Journal of yesteryear. And in the list of chronicled exciting events – taken from the printed record – are those of 1860 which stand high in the list of ominous ones.

The year dawned calmly enough, although one of the great topics of the day was the Missouri Compromise, describe later as “an effort to force slavery into Kansas.” It had, too, the fresh memory of John Brown’s disastrous raid on Harper’s Ferry, Va. For already slavery was one of the moot questions and newspapers all over the country commented one way and another on the various movements, plans and counterplots for the prevention or spread of the institution.

Events Moved Fast.

It was a year fraught with dire events – a year when the first sharp tongue of jagged lightning which was to follow the Mason-Dixon line and rend the union of America into tow warring factions was destined to become first evident in the deep south. That was in the latter quarter of 1860. Before then other events of national importance were to develop in the course of events.

Early in the year Abraham Lincoln, the tall, stooped, back-woods lawyer from Illinois was meeting the scholarly, fastidious Stephen A. Douglas in debate throughout the south and middle west, with the president’s chair in Washington the winner’s prize.

The white man’s civilization, which less than 30 years before had wrested its first strip of Iowa land from the Indians, was pushing westward, and linking its scattered outposts by other than river transportation. Muscatine, which 27 years before began existence as a trading post at what is now the foot of Iowa avenue, by 1860 was a station on the railroad from Chicago, had telegraphic communication with the rest of the world, took pride in its 20 year old newspaper which had grown with the town, and was the second largest city in Iowa.

Battled For Supremacy.

Further west the Pony Express came into being and river interests, alarmed at the inroads which rail lines made on commerce, were staging a bitter though losing fight to hold the supremacy they had so long enjoyed. September, 1860, drew to a close and the nation waited eagerly and tense for results of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. News was not as easily nor as quickly obtained then as now, but by Nov. 7 Virginia and Georgia had a premonition of the outcome.

The Journal, under the heading “Insurrection Threatened” printed the two following items – short but presaging future events:

    “New York – The World’s Washington correspondent says that Sen. Harney has left to assume command of the department west, in consequence of anonymous letters threatening insurrection in Virginia. Gov. Letcher has ordered troops to be ready to march at a moment’s notice!”

    Troops Take Over.

    “New York – The Times’ Washington correspondent says that at the special request of a number of prominent citizens of Georgia the governor has placed the arsenal at Augusta in possession of federal troops; and also that the arsenal at Fayetteville, N.C. is to be occupied by a company of cavalry.”

By Nov. 8 it was definitely established that Lincoln was to be the country’s next president. What would the South do? The answer was not long in arriving. Senator Toombs of Georgia and Senator Chertnet of South Carolina immediately resigned. At Charleston a crowd of about 2,000, not including the “Minute Men,” gathered in front of the Congaree House and cheered anti-Union sentiment; at Augusta secessionists met and passed resolutions among which were “That it is the sense of meeting that the only remedy for the election of Abraham Lincoln is immediate secession,” which was received with loud and prolonged applause.

Prices Soared.

Other meetings at Montgomery, Ala., and New Orleans had the same tone. On Nov. 13 a speaker at Charleston declared, “The Union is dissolved,” and his remark met with wild enthusiasm.

Throughout the country a man-sized “panic” was assuming even greater proportions, much to the consternation of far seeing men. In Muscatine flour was $5 per barrel and wheat 60 cents a bushel, which caused The Journal editor to declare there was “too great a discrepancy” between the two costs. Money issued in those days by state banks was not all acceptable at its face value and Iowa, which made extensive use of Illinois and Indiana currency, was feeling the pinch of financial troubles as monies of state banks in those two states was taken at less than par, if at all.

Hot head of the south cried for dissolution of the Union while calmer minds debated, in public and private, the folly of such a move. Hot heads of the north mocked the southerner’s threat of secession, while calmer minds sought to pour oil upon the troubled waters. But all, at times, forgot calmer methods and blasted out in impatience, more at what they termed disloyal persons in their own midst than those of other parts of the nation.

Editor Lashes Forth.

On Dec. 5 The Journal, in a full column editorial, headed “Boo-Hoos; Who’s Responsible,” lashed at “Sundry political dog-faces,” of the north whom it accused of “boo-hooing and slobbering” over fancied ills.

    “The ‘panic’ of today,” The Journal editor wrote, “is mainly attributable to the mischief-making of sundry political dog-faces who have their abiding places north of Mason and Dixon’s line, but who really belong at the extreme south thereof. Not knowing, or forgetting that they are despised by the independence and manliness of the south for their base subserviency and low cringing to the potent voices of command, as it echoes from the snap of the “drivers whip” they “catch up the song” of secession and northern aggression and “roll it along over hill top and valley as though it were a truth.

    More Boo-Hooing.

    “Last winter sundry of the above class gathered together in our city and boo-hooed and slobbered over “Helper’s crisis.” Today they are boo-hooing about “Northern Aggression – personal Liberty Bills” and when they have proceeded thus far down the catalogue, they pause for breath to hatch up other aggressions. They talk loud, boo-hoo, and wipe their eyes and when they have done “Northern Aggressions” are summed up and stated in those “Liberty Bills of your abolitionists.”

The editorial continued with a defense of the Personal Liberty laws of Iowa, which prohibited removal of persons from the state without an order from some constituted authority, and continued:
    “On the statue books of no state is there a sentence which prevents the lawful return of a slave to bondage. There are laws, however, as we have seen for the willful and unlawful imprisonment and carrying away of any persons.” It ended with: “Who is responsible? Is a question every northern democrat should ponder well.”

Slavery Big Topic.

The question of slavery was one discussed from every angle. Most northern people did not want to go out of their way to aid the Negro, but they did believe in enforcing the nation’s laws. Such typical sentiment is expressed in a letter from John Foster, then in Chicago, to his brother, Suel, of Muscatine which was published in the Journal of Dec. 6. In part it follows:

    “I am in favor of enforcing all laws – Fugitive Slave Law and all. Of what use is it liberate slaves and have them spread broadcast over the northern lands – a set of lazy, pilfering vagabonds? Better remain where they are; we have too many of them here now for our own good or theirs.”

Churches took up the question and among the ministers speaking on the subject was the Rev. E.L. Belden of the Presbyterian church. In a sermon on questions of the day he declared that “thirty years of anti-slavery agitation had done no good for the oppressed.”

Despite the tense situation and stirring upheaval, the holiday season drew on apace. Christmas was only a few days off and Christians throughout the nation made preparations to observe the time of “peace on earth – good will towards men.”

Then on Dec. 22, 1860 South Carolina’s state convention passed a secession ordinance and announced to the world that she considered herself out of the Union. The Journal comment was:

    “This is the point reached in Jackson’s time. O’ that we had a Jackson for president now.”

That was about the same attitude taken by other northern editors. South Carolina was out of the Union. So what? An on that note the year of 1860 drew to its historic close.

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Jackson Prominent in Early Business History

Photos of Peter Jackson, Mrs. Christina Jackson and Mrs. Nancy Jackson ~ Attracted by the favorable reports which were heard in Scotland of the advantages offered in America, Peter Jackson, born in Scotland in the year 1816, crossed the Atlantic when 21 years of age, in the year 1837, landing in New York, where he spent the summer.

He arrived in Muscatine, then Bloomington, a small village, in 1838, made arrangements to purchase land and established his permanent home here in March, 1839. Starting as a clerk in Adam Ogilvie’s store, he was later admitted into partnership in the firm and in addition to conducting a general mercantile enterprise they engaged in the commission and forwarding business, being agent for one of the packet companies.

In 1845 when Mr. Ogilvie retired, Mr. Jackson continued the business alone until the spring of 1856 when he disposed of his mercantile interests. In the spring of 1865 he joined with several prominent business men of Muscatine in organizing the Merchants Exchange bank, which in the following November was reorganized under the national banking system, as the First National bank. Mr. Jackson became its first president. Later he retired from that position but continued as cashier for 14 more years.

Mr. Jackson was twice married. His first wife was born Nancy Cox in Indiana in the year 1822. She was the mother of George B. Jackson and lived until the year 1856. The second wife was the former Christina Sinclair, a native of Canada. Judge D.V. Jackson is a son of the second marriage. She died on Oct. 30, 1915. Mr. Jackson’s death occurred in the year 1901.

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Mrs. P.M. Musser Served as First President of Home

Aged ladies of Muscatine, and vicinity have had access to the comforts of an Old Ladies home, now the Julia Elizabeth home, since late in 1894, due largely to the beneficence of P.M. Musser and the tireless efforts of a group of Muscatine church members. The move to open a home for aging women of the community was started in that year by a group of Christian and philanthropic women. On Dec. 6 of that year on organization was affected for the purpose, but nearly a year passed before the organization became incorporated with the following board of managers:

Mrs. Musser, Mrs. E.L. Jayne, Mrs. Emma Dean, Mrs. L.E. Giesler, Mrs. R.A. Foulke, Mrs. Mary Weed, Mrs. W.S. Robertson, Mrs. Ellen M. Brown, Mrs. Anna Lee Mahin, Mrs. J.S. Braunwarth, Mrs. I.O. Horton and Miss Susan F. Stone.

Mrs. P.M. Musser was elected as the first president of the home, and continued in that office for many years. Mrs. W.S. Robertson was elected vice president, Mrs. Henry Jayne, secretary, and Mrs. Alfred Brown, treasurer.

Soon after the move started, funds were secured to furnish the home. But not until 1896 did the city have a permanent Old Ladies home. In that year, P.M. Musser purchased a residence property at 1119 Mulberry avenue for $5,000 and presented it to the board of managers. The site of the home has not been changed since.

First person to apply for entrance to the home was Mrs. Kate F. Stone, who was admitted on Jan. 17, 1897. She gave $500 as an entrance fee. Prior to that time, the entrance fee had been set at $200, but was increased when the latter fee was found to be inadequate.

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