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

Section 8 - Page 21, Submitted by Phyllis Hazen, August 2, 2012

Theodore Parvin Held Important Civic And Educational Positions
Photos of Mrs. Parvin & Mr. Theodore S. Parvin

Theodore S. Parvin, who lived in Muscatine from 1838 to 1860, was one of the leading jurists and educators of his time in the Iowa territory. He founded the library of the territory of Iowa and was the first man appointed superintendent of Public instruction in Iowa.

Born in Cumberland county, N. J., Jan. 15, 1817, he was graduated from Woodworth college in Ohio in 1833, and from the Cincinnati Law school in 1837. Between these dates he made for himself a reputation in Ohio as a successful educator.

He came to Iowa with Governor Lucas in 1838, and served the governor as private secretary. Later, he was appointed territorial librarian and as such was the founder of the state library of Iowa. After serving as United States district attorney for “the middle district” of Iowa, he willed three terms as probate judge. From 1846 to 1856 he served as clerk of the United States district court. In 1857 he was elected register of the Iowa State Land office.

He was one of the first trustees of Iowa’s State university. For 10 years he was professor of natural sciences in that institution. For a time he also served as university librarian. He was one of the organizers of the State Historical society and for several years edited the “Annals of Iowa.” He was one of the founders of the Masonic order in Iowa and for years was its grand master. He then became grand secretary, and held that office until his death. A monument to Professor Parvin is the Masonic Library at Cedar Rapids, founded and built up by him, to which he gave the best efforts of his declining years.

Parvin’s brief career as private secretary to Gov. Lucas, and as acting librarian of the Territory of Iowa, covers the period between July 30, 1838, when he decided to accompany Gov. Lucas to Iowa, and April 10, 1839, when he was formally appointed librarian of the territory.

On Oct. 18, 1839, having been appointed United States district attorney, he resigned the librarianship. While serving in that capacity he not only assisted the governor in the selection of books which formed the nucleus of the present state library, but also, unassisted, catalogued and shelved the books. Much credit is given Mr. Parvin for the standards he established in bui9lding up the territorial library and also for the value of his work in collecting books for the Masonic Library of Iowa at Cedar Rapids, regarded as unique among the great libraries of the world.

A biographer of Mr. Parvin said:

    “In a large minority of the states of the union, including several otherwise great commonwealths, the institution known as the state library is little more than a receptacle for law books and documents. It is a matter of pride and satisfac-- to Iowa’s first territorial governor had the farsightedness to call to his aid as librarian a student of both literature and the law, and that the pioneer library of Iowa included not only law reports, but also standard works of literature, science and the law. It is possible – though hardly probable – that but for this trend, thus early established, Iowa’s library might now be classed with the non-progressive state libraries of Missouri, Arkansas and other states in the middle west and south.”

The Parvins moved from Muscatine to Iowa City in 1860, that the professor might be near to his work at the state university. In addition to his professorial work in the chair of natural sciences, he was a trustee of the university and custodian of the state’s property.

In the winter of 1888-89, Professor Parvin contributed to the annals of education in Iowa by putting forth a “History of the Early Schools and Education in Iowa.” In 1896 he issued a historical work, “Who Made Iowa?”

Mrs. Parvin was Agnes McCully before her marriage to Mr. Parvin, May 17, 1843. She died Nov. 20, 1896, at Cedar Rapid. The death of Professor Parvin occurred on June 28, 1901, at the age of 84. The funeral services were conducted by the Grand Lodge of Iowa, of which body he had been grand secretary for 58 years. The grand and many of the past grand officers were present and participated in the ceremonies, and many telegrams and letters came from all parts of the country evincing the unusual regard in which the oldest Mason in Iowa had long been held.

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Y.W. Will Note 35th Year of Service Soon

Muscatine’s branch of the Young Woman’s Christian associttion is considerable younger in years than the local Y.M.C.A., but its scope of activity is equally as broad and as beneficial to girls and women of the community. This association experienced none of the early hardships of its kindred organization, the Y.M.C.A. Not once did it cease to function after its organization at a meeting held June 6, 1905 in the lecture room of the First Baptist church.

Miss Abbie McElroy, state organizer assisted with the work of forming the association, and Mrs. Ella L. Jayne played a prominent part in the early organization work. First officers, known as the board of managers, were: Mrs. J. N. Elliott, Mrs. F. S. Pentzer, Mrs. Laura Musser-McColm, Mrs. P. W. Francis, Mrs. Ella L. Jayne, Miss Winifred Giesler, Miss Mary C. Dean, Mrs. N. Rosenberger, Mrs. J. S. Kulp, Mrs. Celia Brigham, Mrs. Mary Hoopes, Mrs. Ida Brooks, Miss May Brown, and Mrs. W. F. Bishop. The new society affiliated at an early date with the Rest Room society. Its early meeting were held in the Rest Room Society’s headquarters, then located on Iowa avenue. Miss Elizabeth Hoopes was placed in charge of the rest rooms. Soon afterward, membership of the board of directors was completed by the addition of Mrs. J. W. Potter, Mrs. S. G. Stein, Mrs. J. Risley Reuling and Mrs. Lilly Brown.

In October, 1905, following the appointment and subsequent resignation of Miss Clara L. Darst, of Chicago, as general secretary, the rest rooms were abandoned and the association moved to the Stein building and became a departmental organization.

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Many Obstacles Were Faced by Muscatine Y During Early History

Like many another institution in the early history of Muscatine, the Young Men’s Christian association experienced innumerable “ups” and “downs” during the days when the city was still in its infancy. But it survived each one in turn, to become the strongest child-guidance institution in the city.

First steps toward the organization of a Y.M.C.A. in Muscatine were taken at a meeting of interested parties at the Congregational church parlors here on Nov. 10, 1855. At that time a constitution and by laws were drawn up, but the organization apparently failed to bear lasting fruit. There is no record of its existence in the city until the year 1868.

On Feb. 28 of the latter year, the association was reorganized at a meeting in the office of Allen Broomhall. Again a constitution was adapted, and the Rev. John Armstrong was chosen president, with D. W. Lewis as secretary pro tem. A short time later Henry Jayne was named as permanent secretary. But again the organization failed to take effect, and the county history book records nothing of its existence again until 1877, when the organization move was started once again.

Meeting at the First Methodist, D. C. Richman was elected president of the association at the 1877 meeting. Other officers were P. M. Musser, vice-president; William H. Woodward, corresponding secretary; William C. Betts, recording secretary; and A. K. Raff, treasurer. On the board of directors were Leroy McColm, O. G. Jack, W. H. Keating, Thomas Presser, Fred Giesler, and C. Heppe. But history again repeated, and this organization also dropped out of existence after several years.

Not until 1888 was the present association organized with the aid of W. M. Danner, then state secretary of the Y. M. C. A. This organization became permanent with P. W. Francis as president and G. W. Bawden as secretary. Two years later a move was started for securing a permanent home. Public subscriptions were taken, Governor Cummins of Iowa Came here to talk in its behalf, and the cause was aided materially by the receipt of a $10,000 gift from a former resident of the city, Thomas Irvine.

In the fall of 1902 backers of the move saw their way clear to purchase a lot on Iowa avenue, and ground was broken for the structure soon afterward. By that time nearly $30,000 had been subscribed for the purchase of the building.

Included among the officers of the association during the period from 1888 to 1910 were G. W. Bawden, T. B. Prosser, William Egge, Z. W. Hutchinson, S. T. Sinnett, I. E. Munger, S. M. Batterson, W. B. Engle, W. E. Bliven, G. D. Baker, S. E. Taylor, P. W. Francis, Fred Beach, J. L. Scofield, G. J. Ross, C. F. Nevins, J. A. Robbins, R. M. Chase, W. F. Chevalier, Hugh Jameson, J. G. Mitchell, J. E. Hoopes and J. B. McNiel.

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