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

Section 6 - Page 4 - 6, Submitted by Shirley Plumb, May 29, 2012

Page 4
Dr. Weed’s Gift Brings Joy to Countless Throng Here

Photos of Park ~ Muscatine residents by the thousands, augmented by hundreds who arrive from cities and communities near and far, each year find Weed Park a place of restfulness and beauty, an ideal locale for picnic and family gatherings.

Since the year 1899, when Dr. James Weed gave to the city of Muscatine a tract of land which almost immediately was designated as Weed Park, the beauty spot has been utilized to the fullest extent. The front piece of this section presents one of the first pictures taken at the park, while directly below are shown some of its many present-day attractions. The shelter, designed to conform harmoniously with its surroundings, is shown on this page together with one of the playground areas, designed especially to entertain children guests.

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Page 5

Gave Park To City

Photo of Dr. James and Mary Swift Weed ~ Weed Park, Muscatine’s scenic beauty spot which each year attracts thousands upon thousands of visitors, is a perpetual memorial to Dr. James Weed who in the year 1899 gave to the city of Muscatine a tract of land which was converted into the park.

His record of attainments in the county of his adoption is an interesting one. For a time he engaged in the practice of dentistry here. He came here with his father, Dr. Benjamin Weed and a sister, Elizabeth, who later married Joseph Bridgman in the year 1839.

Dr. Weed continued his dental practice until 1842 when he purchased the farm later known as the Dr. James Weed farm on the graded road and engaged in raising nursery stock and fruit trees, calling the place the Iowa Pomological and Horticultural gardens. He also devoted some attention to dairying and was the inventor of a number of appliances which he later patented. He was one of the leading advocates of the Muscatine & Linn County Graded Road company, organized early in the ‘50’s.

Dr. Weed was born in Canton, Conn., Dec. 20, 1813 and married Mary Swift, born at Yates, N. Y., on Jan. 22, 1828. She was the daughter of Thomas and Marcia St. John Swift and their marriage took place here March 14, 1847. Mr. Weed lived until April 20, 1904. Mrs. Weed died Feb. 16, 1908.

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Natural Settings Are Utilized to Provide Attractive Play Sites

No city in Iowa can boast of a park system that exceeds Muscatine’s in natural beauty, adaptability to the recreational needs of the community or in the quality of maintenance. These parks provide facilities for outings not only for Muscatine residents but also for visitors to the city, many of whom come from many miles away. A variety of amusements are available at the outdoor playgrounds. There are facilities for baseball, kitten ball, swimming, tennis and picnicking, all in a setting in which natural beauty is emphasized.

Major parks in the city include Longview Park, which is situated on West Fulliam between Beuell and Logan; Musser Park on Oregon Street; Riverside Park; Weed Park, and Reservoir Park. All of these parks, with the exception of Riverside Park, are under the jurisdiction and control of the park commission. Riverside Park is controlled by the Muscatine Levee Improvement commission. Aside from the city parks, Muscatine is fortunate in having a state park almost at its very doorstep. Wildcat Den State Park, comprising 300 acres and one of Iowa’s outstanding recreational spots, is only ten miles east of the city. Of the city parks, Weed Park is by far the most elaborately equipped. A tract of land of about 63 acres in the northeast section of the city, it was donated to the city in 1907 by Mr. and Mrs. James Weed. At this time an organization known as the Weed Park association assumed the task of improving the grounds and shortly there-after the association and city co-operated in providing a caretaker. Later the Weed Park club was organized, having for its main object the beautification of the park.

One of the most popular attractions at the park is the swimming pool which is fifty feet wide, one hundred feet long and varying in depth from two and one-half to nine feet. Other attractions are the children’s playground the zoo, rustic bridges and benches, the hand stand, wading pool, Dutch windmill and picnic spots. The Muscatine Garden club has marked 18 varieties of trees found in the tract. Among them are white oak, burr oak, horse chestnut, hickory, red elm, red haw, honey locust, linden, cottonwood, silver poplar, box elder, red juniper and butternut. Throughout the summer, church, family and club picnics are held in the park and scores of people, both from Muscatine and surrounding towns, visit the place daily.

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Page 6

Chester Weed Active in Early Business Circles

Photo of Mr. and Mrs. Chester Weed ~ Many prominent positions in Muscatine business circles were held by Chester Weed, who is shown above with his wife, the former Miss Cora Chaplin. The picture above was taken on their wedding tour in Paris in the year of 1873.

Chester Weed, born in Canton, Conn., March 16, 1819, came to Muscatine at the age of 22 years. He took the first daguerreotypes in the west, establishing a gallery here and in Iowa City shortly after his arrival. In 1843 he associated with his brother-in-law, Joseph Bridgman in the general mercantile business.

During the 1940’s he raised well bred horses on his 320 acre farm then known as the Warfield Place and represented several insurance companies in this area. He was president of the Muscatine branch of the State Bank of Iowa when it was first organized in 1858, also served as cashier for a time, and was a president of the Muscatine Gas Light & Coke Co. on its organization in 1857. In 1856 he entered the pork packing business in company with others, at one time was the owner of the Commercial Hotel and acquired a half interest in the Muscatine Mills, formerly Bennett’s Mills.

Mr. Weed lived until Dec. 7, 1874. Mrs. Weed’s death occurred here Aug. 2, 1910.

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Old Chautauqua Park Was Popular Gathering Spot in Former Years

One of the Muscatine’s most popular spots during the early years of the present century was the Citizens Railway Park, otherwise known as “Chautauqua Park,” located on the northeastern outskirts of the city. It was there that Muscatine held its first chautauqua during the summer of 1906. And it was there also that citizens of the city continued to hold chautauquas and recreational events of all kinds during those early years.

The first chautauqua was the outgrowth of a movement started by a group of civic-minded Muscatine citizens at that time. After listening to an inspiring talk by Frank J. Sessions, founder of the Water Chautauqua assembly, these Muscatine town-people went to work on the Muscatine County chautauqua.

A guarantee fund of $ 3,000 was raised to start the move, and the election of officers followed. W. F. Chevalier was named as the first president, Z. W. Hutchinson was chosen as secretary, and henry F. Giesler, treasurer. Original stockholders were W. F. Chevalier, Z. W. Hutchinson, John F. Dewitt, S. G. Stein, G. M. Titus, E. S. Batterson, Henry F. Giesler, J. G. Van Lent, and Frank D. Throop.

Many years later, chautauquas became extinct in Muscatine, but during the years of their existence residents of the city and community made many enjoyable trips to the old “Electric Park” to attend lectures and performances by some of the nation’s finest entertainers.

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