Source: REGISTER OF OLD SETTLERS , BOOK One, page 112, 115-116, 119-120 & 123
submitted by Neal Carter, Sept. 28, 2007


Celebration at Armory Hall, Muscatine, Iowa, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 1881

The Old Settlers who have passed their three score years and ten, are earnestly requested to join in the celebration of the annual festival, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 1881.

The hours before dinner will be spent in social intercourse and congratulations.

12 O’CLOCK, M.
Address of Welcome ……………….By the President
Prayer………………….………….Rev. J. H. Barnard
“Auld Lang Syne”……………..Led by Peter Jackson
The Pioneer Dead…………………….D. C. Richman
Address…………………………………….Pliny Fay
The Pioneer Parson……………A. B. Robbins, D. D.
The Pioneer Schoolmaster……………G. B. Denison
The Pioneer Bar and Bench………..J. Scott Richman
The Pioneer Merchant………………..John A. Parvin
The Pioneer Newspaper…………………John Mahin
The Pioneer Log Cabin………………….D. C. Cloud
The Pioneer Farmer………………………Suel Foster
Close of the Pioneer Period………..G. W. Van Horne
“The Sweet Bye and Bye”………….--------------------
Volunteer Speeches………………..---------------------
Benediction…………………….A. B. Robbins, D. D.

All speeches will be limited to from five to eight minutes.

All who contribute provisions are requested to have them at the hall as early as possible in the forenoon, so that the committee may arrange the tables. Those who cannot bring cooked provisions are reminded that sugar, butter, pickles, &c., &c., will be very acceptable for the table.


At the close of the speeches, Mr. P. Fay bade us a very affectionate farewell, intending to return to California in a few days with no expectation of ever seeing our familiar faces again.

On proceeding to election of officers, Hon. J. A. Parvin moved the election of the old officers J. Bridgman, Pres., Dr. Robins 1VP, S. Foster 2 VP, P. Jackson Secy. – adopted unanimously. The re-appointment of last year’s committee on dinner and refreshments – Mrs. J. R. Mauck, Mrs. Hollister, Mrs. J. Lindhoopes, Mrs. A. Smalley, Miss Jane Sinnett, Miss Allie Walton and the appointment L. H. Washburn, J. R. Walton, S. Foster to select committee on program for the next annual meeting and closed by a vote of thanks to the officers of the Society and committees for successful management. ---P. JACKSON, Secy.

*** article above was found on page 115, article below begins on page 112 ***

The Old Settlers


The Annual Reunion held to-day of the Old Settlers of Muscatine city and county eclipsed in attendance and completeness and elegance of arrangements, any former meeting of this ancient society.

Joseph Bridgman, Esq., President of the society, early determined upon a plan not only to bring together the largest assembly of Old Settlers since the Association was organized, but also to make this reunion a beauty and pleasure forever to all who might attend.

The elegant armory hall of Company C was engaged and the efficient committee of arrangements began at an early date to prepare for the reunion. As our reporter entered the hall to-day, the scene before him was one to amaze and delight. The great hall, with its recess and waiting room, had all their spare capacity severely taxed to accommodate the waiting throng. It was almost impossible to get a view of the elegantly spread tables which ran up and down the hall, and crossed the floor in diagonal lines, and when the crowd was seated it was voted to be the greatest family dinner party ever seen in the city.

The cross tables at the head of the hall were assigned to the Old Settlers who came to Muscatine prior to 1840, and the attendance of the old guard was so numerous that other places had to be found for the overflow.

At about 1 o’clock President Bridgman called the society to order and Rev. G. N. Power invoked the Divine Blessing.

The company being seated, they were again requested to rise, clasp hands and join the choir, led by Prof. Battey, in singing “Auld Lang Syne.”

Then the order of attack upon the viands was given, and it was royally obeyed. The tables were fairly loaded with delicately served meats, delicious cake, exquisite pastry and bon bons, jellies, preserves, etc. without end. Coffee and tea made up the complement of the banquet.

An hour and a half were spent at dinner, and then the President’s gavel descended and toasts were served. We wish that time and space would permit us to give the many admirable speeches which followed. Unwilling to mutilate these addresses by presenting them in the crude notes of our reporter, we can only mention the sentiments and the names of the speaker and leave the reader to imagine the eloquence of the responses, making only one exception to this rule, in the speech of Hon. J. Scott Richman, whose special visit from Davenport on this occasion would seem to call for this exceptional courtesy of the press.

“The Pioneer Dead” was responded to by Pling Fay, of Santa Cruz, Cal., now visiting his old friends in this city.

“The Pioneer Schoolmaster” was eloquently and humorously represented by Geo. B. Denison.

“The Pioneer Merchant” found his eulogist and historian in Hon. John A. Parvin.

The choir having rendered “America” with stirring harmony.

“The Pioneer Newspaper” found its critic and memorialist in Hon. John Mahin of the JOURNAL.

“The Pioneer Farmer” had his champion in Hon. Suel Foster.

“The Sweet Bye and Bye” now filled the hall with its tender melody.

“Close of the Pioneer Period” was responded to by Geo. W. Van Horne.

This ended the regular programme and it was getting late; but the Hon. R. M. Buruett was seen in the company and he was called up to respond for the ranks of the “later pioneers” and acquitted himself with his usual eloquence.

The speech of Hon. J. Scott Richman to the sentiment of “The Pioneer Bench and Bar” was as follows:

Ladies and Gentlemen:

    The sentiment is a suggestive one; so much so that you will not expect in a five to eight minutes address anything but the merest outline of that which might well fill a small volume.

    The word Pioneer, in its general sense, is applied to those who go in advance to clear the road or to remove obstructions – not only for their own benefit but for the benefit also of those who may follow; and in this sense all the first settlers are pioneers. Hence we have pioneer farmers, mechanics, clergymen, physicians, merchants, lawyers and judges. And in the city we have the “Pioneer Drug Store.”

    The settlement of the territories of the United States has generally preceded their organization, and to this rule Iowa is no exception. It was first incorporated with and was a part of Wisconsin. In June, 1838, an act to divide the territory of Wisconsin, and to establish the Territorial government of Iowa, was passed. Officers were at once appointed for the new territory thus established, and, among others, three Judges were appointed. Charles Mason was appointed Chief Justice, and Joseph Williams and Thos. S. Wilson were appointed Associate Judges. The above named Judges, appointed by the President of the United States, constituted the Supreme Court of the territory.

    But the first judges were those appointed by the settlers to determine disputed rights to claims. This was done before the Territory of Wisconsin was organized, and, although no record was kept of the decisions made by those earliest judges, we have it by tradition that they found means to carry out their judgments, and that it was decidedly unhealthy to attempt to evade or disregard them. The Territory was divided into three districts, and a District Court was directed to be held in every organized county in each district, by one of the said Judges. So that the Judges, separately, were District Judges, and together they constituted the Supreme Court. Without naming counties, or going into particulars, I will say that Judge Mason presided in the Southern District, Judge Williams in the Middle District, and Judge Wilson in the Northern District. Judge Mason presided in Burlington, or near there; Judge Williams at Muscatine, and Judge Wilson at Dubuque. The Supreme Court was held at Iowa City, which was the Territorial seat of government.

    Of these Judges, it may be said, Mason had the most learning, or at least the best legal mind, the most dignity, and was the most industrious. Williams had the most experience, and was the most versatile, but was lacking in dignity and industry. Wilson was the youngest member of the Court; he was modest, had moderate ability, and was the best dressed member of the Court; he had some dignity, but was lacking in industry. So that it may be said Mason represented the solid learning and dignity of the court; Williams its comedy and versatility, and Wilson, its youth, beauty, and moderation.

    In support of what I have just said of the industry of the several Judges, I refer to Mason’s Iowa Reports. That book contains the reports of 218 cases decided by the Territorial Supreme Court. The decisions in six – possibly seven of those cases – were written by Williams, fifteen – possibly sixteen – by Wilson and 195 by Mason.

    I will not say that the number of decisions written by each judge represented his comparative legal ability, but I may be justified in saying that they did represent his relative industry.

    I have not time to speak more particularly of the early times, and I shall be unable to particularize the members of the bar, or to speak of them save in a general way. And for lack of specific personal knowledge I will confine myself to the general course of affairs in Judge Williams’ district.

    It was the plan for the members of the bar, generally, to travel around the district with the Judge. – Court seldom lasted more than a week in any of the interior counties, and each member of the bar who traveled the district was the owner of a pair of saddle-bags, one end of which would be stuffed with changes of clothing and the other with papers and a book or two. Besides a pair of saddle-bags, nearly every attorney owned a horse, and the district was traveled on horse-back.

    There were no libraries of consequence in any of the interior towns except Iowa City, which had the Territorial Library. The statutes and a few text-books constituted the libraries of the lawyers of those days. So when they started to go around the district each member would take with him the book which he considered the most useful. Some would have Swan’s Treatise, others Cowen’s Treatise; one an Ohio, the other a New York book; others still would have a stray volume or two of the digest of the reports of some State. And I must be permitted to say that cases seldom arose in the early times wherein the attorneys could not find something to enlighten themselves and the court in Cowen’s Treatise.

    Charges of the court to juries were given orally and it was difficult to agree upon the precise language used by the court in charging a jury, when it was desirable to embody the same in a bill of exceptions. We had no reporters in those days. Sometimes the attorneys would take notes of the testimony, but such notes were not official and the attorneys could not always agree upon what the evidence was. In such cases the Court, who usually remembered and knew less about the testimony than the attorneys, would have to decide between them. Cases were much more rapidly disposed of than they are now. There was not so much time spent in examining witness; and the speeches of the attorneys were not, on average, more than half as long as they are now. On the whole there was, perhaps as near an approach to justice in the disposition of cases as can be boasted of at present.

    The Judge and the traveling lawyers made it a point to stop at the same hotel when that was possible in the different county towns. Of course they had the best rooms and the best beds, though there were usually four or five beds in a room, and never less …

    *** continues on page 115 ***

    … than two in a bed; a room and a bed for one was a luxury unknown to those times. The beds were made of “prairie feathers” otherwise “prairie hay,” and were sometimes quite comfortable. In the evenings, after supper, the Judge and the lawyers, instead of studying their cases, and getting ready for the next day’s trials, would repair to the parlor or best room in the hotel, though there was usually a bed or two in the parlor, and had high carnival till near midnight. Judge Williams was a musician and played the violin and flute with considerable taste, and E. H. Thomas, Prosecuting Attorney, who resided in Louisa county, played second, or alto. After they had played all their best tunes, and the music had lost some of its charms, the time would be occupied in telling stories, and in singing songs. In all this Judge Williams was in his glory. He sang well and could tell a good story, and although some of his stories had been heard by the members of the bar 100 times – more or less – it was always in order to laugh when one was concluded. If the stories had been oft repeated and were stale to the lawyers they were new to the eager crowd of outside listeners, for on such occasions the hall, the door-way and the windows, when it was not too cold, would be filled and darkened by jurymen, witnesses and the inhabitants of the village where the court was being held. Sometimes it was the order for each, beginning with the Judge and including all of the attorneys, to sing a song or tell a story in his turn. Of course this would bring forth all sorts of stories and all sorts of songs. Stephen Whicher could tell a good story and S. C. Hastings used to sing a song.

    If I had time I could tell some interesting things about the pioneer bench and bar. I could say something about the peculiarities of the attorneys, but my time has expired, and I conclude by saying that the Pioneer Judge of this district was versatile and many sided and gave quite as much satisfaction to the general public in the discharge of his duties as could be expected. He had natural ability, but it was difficult for him to concentrate his attention for any length of time upon perplexing questions.

    Of the attorneys I may say that, taking them altogether, they compared favorably with the attorneys of the present time; and especially is this true when we consider the difficulties under which they labored. Books were few and cases could not be cited on every question which arose as they can be now. Among the Pioneer members of the bar who practiced more or less in this county, I may mention Grimes & Starr, David Rorer, Stephen Whicher, S. C. Hastings, William G. Woodward, R. P. Lowe, Jacob Butler, J. G. Deshler, J. C. Day, Jno. P. Cook and myself. Jacob Butler and J. C. Day are the only pioneer lawyers in this county who did not hold honorable positions as officers, either of the State or United States.

    Grimes was a strong man, though not so brilliant as Starr, his partner.

    As you all know, Grimes became Governor of the State and afterwards one of its honored United States Senators. Stephen Whicher was for a time Attorney General for the United States. S. C. Hastings was a member of Congress from this State and afterwards became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He removed to California and there held the office of Attorney General and also that of Chief Justice.

    William G. Woodward was one of the Judges of the Supreme Court.

    R. P. Lowe was Governor of the State and afterwards one of its Supreme Judges.

    Jno. P. Cook was a member of Congress.

    John G. Deshler was U. S. Attorney under Tyler, and I had the honor of being Judge of this District for nearly 10 years.

The reunion concluded by the re-election of the old officers, the re-appointment of the committee on tables, and the election of L. H. Washburn, J. P. Walton and Suel Foster to name a committee of arrangements.

*** continued on page 116 ***


Sentiments and Addresses at the Reunion, Oct. 5, 1881

The peculiarly romantic interest which attaches to the pioneer period of our local history, has caused a general demand for the publication of the addresses delivered at the Old Settlers’ Reunion on the 5th inst. This reunion was remarkable for its unprecedentedly large attendance from all parts of the county and for its numerous representation from the ranks of the original settlers of Muscatine and vicinity. Two hundred and twenty-five persons sat down to the Assembly Hall dinner, and in the assembly we noticed the following who settled in this county prior to 1840, some of whom came as early as the fall of 1835:

M. P. Pace J. Scott Richman John Headley
W. P. Wright Jos. Bridgman Suel Foster
Dr. James Weed S. W. Stewart P. Fay
J. P. Walton Richard Lord Hiram Gilbert
J. M. Kane Vincent Chambers A Smalley
S. N. Candee W. G. Holmes John Dodge
John Ziegler J. L. Husted A Nye
Isaiah Davis Peter Jackson M. Farnsworth
A.     Cone M. M. Berkshire Ben Matthews
J. A. Parvin I R. Mauck Vernot Tracy

*** this article was found on page 116 ***

“The Pioneer Dead” was the first sentiment in the order of the programme, and in the absence of Hon. D. C. Richman who had been appointed to respond, Mr. Pliny Fay, on a visit from California, after an absence of eight years, was introduced to the society.

Mr. Fay’s remarks were wholly impromptu, but were listened to with deep interest, personal to himself. He referred to his visiting the site of Chicago June 23, 1833, and of the best house then standing there being a log cabin. He settled in Alton, Ills., thinking it the principal place in the west, but changed his residence to Muscatine in April, 1837. The place numbered possibly 100 in population on his arrival. The pioneer came west to better his condition. With large ideas of the country and of his future, his plans involved the early building of the church and the school-house, and it was ingrained in his purposes to be an honor to the new commonwealth he was to assist in founding, and to make it an honor to the American Union. He would love to speak of the “pioneer dead.” Some could not be remembered for their many virtues, but as a mass, they were a kind, large-hearted people, and there were many whose lives were lustrous with noble example. For over 36 years he had lived in Muscatine, and here he would like to die. But he had been persuaded to seek his health in California and happily he had found it there. He described his new home as a place where crops are sown in November, December and January; strawberries picked from April to January; a country whose air is so pure that meat keeps without ice; where fruits of both temperate and tropical variety abound, and where Christian men and women are laboring successfully to advance the standards of the Golden Gate to the highest aims of the century.

He was greatly rejoiced to stand once more among so many associates and old friends of his pioneer days. It was probably his last meeting with them. In taking his farewell, he could but express his pleasure at the prosperity he saw manifest everywhere, and particularly at the splendid advances being made by the city he loved so well. Few around him could realize the difference between Muscatine as seen to-day and what it was eight years ago. He had left it a village and found it a city.

At the conclusion of the exercises of the day, opportunity was given those present for a farewell grasp of the hand with Mr. Fay, and this leave-taking was one of the most impressive scenes of the reunion.

The following poem was sent to the reunion to be read by the President:

Respectfully Inscribed to the Old Settlers of Muscatine County

The poet may sing of the “Old Oaken Bucket,”
And tell of its pleasures, unmixed with alloy;
But dearer to me was the Settlers Log Cabin,
That stood on the prairie when I was a boy.
That homely log cabin, with the spring flowing near it,
How the thought of its joys, doth my memory thrill;
In fancy I see the stout hands as they rear it;
Far out on the prairie, just under the hill.

And when from my toil upon the rude breaking,
(‘Twas planting the corn in cracks of the sods),
I haste to the spring, my fevered thirst slaking,
With a draught of the water, ‘twas fit for the gods.
Ah well I remember, as I bent before it,
The picture no well bucket ever could bring,
Of a bright ruddy face, with the sun freckles o’er it;
Whose lips rose to mine, as I drank from the spring.

That settler’s log cabin, the gourd that grew o’er it;
Its pendulous fruit, gleaming creamy and white.
The fire on its hearthstone, with skillet before it,
Sending roseate gleams far into the night.
That three-legged skillet, with coals heaped upon it,
The golden corn cake that within it was hid;
The fat bacon sizzing in the frying pan near it,
The teakettle steaming and puffing its lid.

That loft of loose boards, with pegs to climb to it,
Where often I rested when the day’s toil was o’er,
The roof made of clapboards, the stars shining through it,
The snow sifting down like white meal on the floor.
How often that cabin, from puncheon to rafter,
As jesting and mirth in the evening went round,
Resounded with song, and with life-giving laughter,
As gaily we romped in a merry go-round.

But alas! The Log Cabin, as well as the Old Settler,
To fashion and progress have had to give way.
Or if ‘tis standing, all lonely, forsaken,
Its walls and its clapboards have gone to decay.
But to the “Old Settler” no statelier mansion
Will ever the heart with such memories thrill,
As that old Log Cabin, with spring flowing near it,
That stood on the prairie, just under the hill.

The next sentiment was “The Pioneer School-master” and was responded to by Geo. B. Denison Esq. as follows:

    MR. PRESIDENT – Ladies and Gentleman of the Old Settlers’ Society.
    When the President informed me that he should call on me to respond to the “Pioneer School-master” my mind almost instantly reverted to my school boy days, and and some of my early teachers passed rapidly in review before my mind, as well as the old school house with its ample fire place, large enough to hold a quarter of a cord of wood; the play grounds, and the big boulder about 20 feet across, standing a few rods away, that used to trouble me so much to climb up when I was a little chap; and that little brook, near by, where we used to get slate stones, out of which we whittled pencils, for the stores kept no slate pencils then, nor crayons, but every one had to make his own pencils; and the fun we used to have catching “horned dace” on a pin hook, with a tow string of our own making for a line, and an elder stock for a pole. This was in primitive times, before there were any railroads, either in this country or in Europe; or before there were any steam boats plying up and down the Mississippi river; before there was any electro telegraph; before mowing machines, threshing machines, or sewing machines were invented. Then all the news papers, and nearly all the books were printed by hand. Then, it was a smart printer who could strike off two papers like the Muscatine JOURNAL, or the Tribune in a minute; while now, the large dailies like the Chicago Tribune, or Times are printed by a steam power press, on stereotype plates, at the rate of 240 a minute, running the paper from a roll, and which prints, cuts, folds, and drops them into a pocket, without any work by hand. Then we had no blackboards in our school rooms, nor maps, nor charts, except such as were drawn by the school-master on the boys’ backs with a birk or hickory rod, as many of these old settlers can testify to. Then we wrote on unruled paper, with quill pens; such a thing as a steel, or gold pen was entirely unknown; and we used to make our ink by steeping together witch hazel and soft maple, or dog wood bark. We had no heating stoves then, but each school house was provided with a large fire place; and as these were times which preceded the use of friction matches, it became necessary to be very careful about keeping fire, so as to have some to kindle with in the morning, for if we had no coals in the fire-place in the morning, then some one had to trot off to the neighbors for a brand, or a few coals.

    As I recollect the matter. It seems to me that the school-master of those times was very much unlike the school-master – excuse me, I should have said “professor” – of the present times. Then the schoolmaster used to play with the boys at noons and at recess, snow-ball, wrestle, &c., &., and didn’t we delight in getting down and rubbing his face with snow? But look out when school called; woe be unto the laggard!

    The “Pioneer Schoolmaster” generally worked on the farm in the summer, and “kept” school in the winter. Ordinarily he got from $10 to $12 a month and “boarded ‘round” and chopped the wood and built the fires, and swept the house, which was done with a birch broom, for corn brooms were a scarce article in those days. Things had improved a little before I commenced my pedagogical career. The first school I taught, I got $13 a month, and “boarded ‘round”, and built the fires, and swept the house, but the district furnished me with a modern broom, and the wood was already cut for the fire when it was delivered at the school house. But in my experience in “boarding ‘round” I recollect that a one place where I boarded about three weeks, I could lay in my bed and count the stars, and one morning woke up and found about an inch of snow on my bed, but that did not disturb me any at that time, for I shook the snow from my clothes and completed my toilet by drawing on my boots without socks; for socks, mittens, drawers and undershirts didn’t lumber up my carpet sack at that time, I had no need of such articles then.

    There was not as much expected of the “pioneer school-master” as there is of the modern professor. Any one who could read intelligently, write a fair hand, make a quill pen and cipher as far as the rule of three was considered ...

    *** continued on page 119 ***

    ...qualified to “keep school.” The modern school readers were not known in those days. I first learned to read in the spelling book, and well do I remember the first reading lesson in that old speller. It commenced with:

    “No man shall put off the law of God.”

    From the speller, we went to the testament, and then came the old English reader, which was considered a very great improvement.

    The only classes which the pioneer school-master heard were the spelling and reading classes. There were too few who were studying anything else to form them into classes. So each one studied on his own book, and recited to the master whenever he got his lesson. You could every once in a while hear some one sing out, “hear my lesson?” “Do this sum!” “M’I g’out?” “M’I got’ fire?”

    When I was a lad I got stalled on a sum and asked the master’s assistance, and after two or three ineffectual attempts, he informed me that he could not do it. Not wishing to give it up so, I worked on that example for two days, off and on, until I got it, when I walked proudly up to the master and showed it to him. Then I felt that I was a “bigger man than Gen. Grant.” The working of that example did me more good than all the instructions I got from that teacher all that winter, and has proved a valuable lesson to me all my life.

    Many a joke has been perpetrated at the expense of the “pioneer school-master,” but then he “beat the A B C’s into the little boy’s noodle,” as many of us can testify to. Many a time have I walked out onto the floor and held out my hand to be ferruled; nor did I go home and tell my parents of it, unless I had made up my mind to get another flogging at home. My parents used to say, “behave yourself, and you won’t get punished in school.” Some times the old time school-master was very cruel. But public sentiment was very different then to what it is now. Then it was supposed to be necessary to punish. The teacher who did not use the rod pretty freely, was set down as slack in his government. There was a strong belief then in “total depravity,” and nothing but the rod could govern a school. But the modern system has demonstrated that mankind can be governed and controlled by kindness.

    I wanted to tell you something about the old school house where I learned my A B C’s, built in 1809 – seventy-two years ago – it stands there now, on Floyd Hill, Oneida county, N. Y., and is in a very good state of preservation, or was one year ago, when I visited the old homestead, and is occupied by the Widow Jones as a private residence. I doubt whether there are many of the old school houses in New York that can boast of as great a longevity.

    We had no “pioneer school-masters” in Iowa. The improvements that had been made in the Eastern States were introduced into the first schools in Iowa. I first saw Iowa at Keokuk, July 1st, 1850. Even the river counties of Iowa were then sparsely settled; but the first thing that attracted my attention is passing from Keokuk to Burlington by stage, was the fine country school houses. They were vastly superior to the country school houses of New York at that time. And when I reached Muscatine and saw the old No. 2, that was then being built, I was surprised. I had not seen in any town in the State of New York of the size of Muscatine, anything like such a public school house. It was that school house that brought me to Muscatine. It was the largest public school building at that time in the State. The next year Muscatine built the old No. 1 on the Ogilvie Hill; and Burlington built her North Hill school house. The year following Keokuk built her Central school building, now the High School building, and Davenport built her stone school house on the hill north of the Burtis House. In 1853 Dubuque built her Third ward school house, a building that eclipsed all the school buildings at the time. What do you think the “Pioneer School-Master” could have done in such school houses as these, furnished with blackboards, maps, globes, charts, &c., &c.? No, Iowa never had any use for the “Pioneer School-master.” He never migrated to Iowa, but remained down east where he originated. But let us not under-estimate him. The American people owe a great debt of gratitude, at least, to the “Pioneer School-Master.” He did missionary work, and he did it well, and may he long live in the hearts of the American people.



Sentiments and Addresses at the Reunion, Oct. 5, 1881

The Pioneer Bar and Bench – J. SCOTT RICHMAN
Mr. Richman’s report was reported in full last week.

The Pioneer Merchant – JOHN A. PARVIN

Mr. Parvin responded as follows:

    Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen: Col. Davenport, who was murdered at Rock Island on the 4th day of July, 18 --, was an Indian trader, and sent a man named Farnham to this place, then called “Sandstone Bluffs,” to start a trading-post. A log-cabin was built, early in 1834, on the river between the mouth of the Pappoose creek and Iowa Avenue, in which he kept some goods for sale, the principle article being “fire-water,” as the Indians called it, but civilized people knew it best by the name of “whisky,” and by many citizens is considered the greatest curse that our city and State have to combat with. This was the first house of merchandise, and we believe the first house ever built in what is now the great City of Muscatine. So Mr. Farnham was the “pioneer merchant” and the first white settler in this place. In 1835 a man by the name of Cole built a log-cabin under the bluff and sold whisky to the Indians, and in 1836 Breese and Higginbotham had a little store-house some distance below where the depot now stands. They sold flour, whisky, &c. In 1837 Edward E. Fay and his brother, Pliny, started a store, in which they kept a little variety of merchandise.

    The first merchant who kept a full stock of merchandise, in Bloomington, was Adam Ogilvie, in 1837, who remained selling goods until April, 1840, at which time he sold his stock of goods to J. A. Parvin who continued the business at the same place, on Front street, between the Avenue and Chestnut. Howland & Brady and Joseph Bridgman were early merchants, being here in 1839, and in a few years after a number of others; earliest among them was J. Bennett and John Ziegler. These are all entitled to the name of Pioneer merchants. They encountered difficulties unknown to the present merchants. Their stocks consisted of a little of almost everything. Dry goods, groceries, drugs, medicines, hardware, “seu to eppo;” all sorts, everything from a darning needle to a wheelbarrow.

    The want of a good currency, such as we now have, was one of the sources of their annoyance. No National banking law as we now have by which every note holder has surety that the note he possesses will be redeemed in gold or silver. We had the old State bank system, and when the merchant went to purchase goods he was taxed with a heavy discount to get such funds as would pass in the place where he bought his stock. We had no paper money equivalent to specie as our greenbacks now are. But we had one consolation we were not annoyed with “fiat” paper for a currency. But with all the difficulties of poor currency, hard times, rough population, almost without churches or scholls, the pioneer merchant had his fun and jokes.

The Pioneer Press – JOHN MAHIN

Mr. Mahin delivered the following address:

    Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen: According to Lord Bacon, Alonzo of Aragon was wont to say, in commendation of age, that it appeared best in these four things – old wood to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, old authors to read.

    *** continued on page 120 ***

    It was Webster who asked, “Is not old wine wholesomest, old wood burns brightest, old linen wash whitest. Old soldiers,” he continued, “are surest and old lovers are soundest!”

    Goldsmith said: “I love everything that’s old – old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine.”

    In the Antiquary is the question, “What find you better and more honorable than age?” Lord Lytton said: “It is a pleasure to grow old when the years that bring to decay to ourselves ripen the prosperity of our country.”

    This last sentiment is the best in the lot that I have quoted, and is one to which I think all of us whose locks are tinged with grey, or are becoming so, can heartily subscribe. The adulation paid to old wine cannot be fully endorsed in these days of tee-totalism, when so many of us can say with Shakespeare:

    “In my youth I never did apply
    Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood,
    Therefore my age is as lusty winter,
    Frosty, but kindly.”

    Selden tells us that King James used to call for his old shoes – they were easiest to his feet. Hence, on this occasion, we are calling up in an easy, conversational way, old reminiscences. It is made my duty by your committee to respond to the “Pioneer Press.”

    My first acquaintance with the Press of Muscatine dates back to the winter of 1843-3, when a member of the family of my uncle, Daniel Hare, in Cedar county, who lived on the Tipton road, about twenty miles from this place. I had an opportunity to read the Bloomington Herald. It was a weekly six-column paper, a sheet about two-thirds the size of dailies now published here and with less reading matter in each issue than in a single average copy of these dailies. The first page of the paper, as I now remember it, usually contained a story, which I read with intense interest. The editorials and original matter in the paper were meager and uninteresting, at least to me. The paper was then published by John B. Russell. Mr. Russell, I found on a subsequent slight acquaintance, was a man of more geniality than genius, who cared more for the society of boon companions than to apply himself to the severe mental and physical labor now required to compete successfully with the sharp rivalry in the newspaper field. Nevertheless, I doubt not that Mr. Russell made his paper worthy of the insufficient support it was possible to find for a newspaper in this place in these pioneer times, when produce would not command money as it now does, and while our early settlers found it difficult to obtain enough cash to pay their taxes.

    Mr. Russell’s connection with the pioneer press of Muscatine closed in 1845 when he sold the Herald to Dr. Charles O. Waters, now of Chicago, who being a scholarly and vigorous writer, put more force and dignity in the paper than it had previously possessed. Dr. Waters was succeeded next year by M. T. Emerson, a practical printer and skilled newspaper man, who made the paper more versatile and more interesting to the general reader than either of his predecessors. Death ended his editorial career after an experience of only a year, when the paper passed into the control of Nathan L. Stout and Wm. P. Israel. Mr. Stout’s duties pertained to the editorial management of the paper and Mr. Israel’s to the mechanical. The channel of thought in the minds of these two men was widely divergent. If I were expert in word-painting I would like to draw a picture of them as they appeared to me on a certain eventful Monday in November in the year 1847, when I was duly apprenticed to “the art preservative of all arts” in the Herald office. In the eagerness to enter upon my life work (for it had been my ambition to be a printer since I first learned to read,) I had gone to the office long before daylight and had it swept out and ready for my employers, who, however, did not make their appearances till the day had well begun. Seated on an old wooden chair at a rude table, on one end of which was a pile of exchanges, was the editor, Mr. Stout, a man of stout build, with a large head, prominent forehead and appearance generally of one of literary tastes. Mr. Stout was a good writer but lacked versatility. He was an intense abolitionist and, in that day a man should have not only a warm heart but a brave one if he could endure the obloquy of being an abolition editor in the Mississippi Valley. I remember how I used to set up editorials from Mr. Stout’s pen denouncing “Granny Ritchie,” of the Richmond Whig till I imagined the Whig was really edited by an old woman in spectacles. Whether the Whig ever designed to reply to any of Mr. Stout’s philipics I never knew.

    Mr. Israel, the counterpart of my picture, was seated on a stool, languidly setting type out of a dry case. I never knew a printer who had the ability to set so much type out of a dry case as he could. He always seemed tired, not that he was lazy; he was truly tired, because, as I soon found out to my surprise and sorrow, he did not improve his nights as he should in taking needed rest, but in the company of dissipating companions.

    There were some visitors to the JOURNAL office during my apprenticeship whose presence made an impression on my mind. One of these was a wagon-maker named Magraw, whose shop was on the Avenue about where Henry Young’s barber shop now stands. He was an intelligent and thoughtful man whose mind kept up with current events. His conversations were always with Editor Stout, and usually on the political topics of the day. I never knew what became of Mr. Magraw, but he always has had my respect, for I saw in him a man who, while he toiled with is hands, endeavored to enlarge his mind with useful information. Like Editor Stout he had a warm heart and was an abolitionist.

    Another visitor whose countenance was always sunny and seemed like a benediction, was Mr. Green Worsham. He came up occasionally for a short, pleasant chat with the boys, and was always brimming over with a sly sort of humor. One of his tricks was to come stealthily up stairs without going from the main hall into the office but going up the attic stairway and out upon the roof (the office was then in the third story of the building now occupied by Mr. Prosser) where we were accustomed to go to look for a steamboat, and imitating a steamboat whistle, cause some of us to hasten up there to see which way the boat was coming. This narration will show how natural it is for his son Dave to make a popular clerk, as he now does, down at the steamboat office.

    The partnership of Stout & Israel and their ownership of the Herald office ended in the winter of 1848-49. A financial pressure proved too much for them. They were succeeded by a single specimen of the genus homo named Foreman, whose initials were F. A. O., making for him a sort of alphabetical handle. He came here from New Boston, Illinois, where he had published two papers – one with the backwoods title of “The Broadhorn” and the other with the classical name of Vade Mecum. The first was so named because the flat boats used on this great river before the era of steamboat navigation were called “broadhorns.” The other name, as you will find by consulting a Latin lexicon, means “a pleasant companion.” Foreman was a romance writer of the Ned Buntline style. He had published a serial story “to be continued” indefinitely, the chief events of which were located in the Mormon city of Nauvoo. It was a story of the kind desired by those readers who

    “In tales delight,
    That bolt like hedgehog quills the hair upright.”

    I was now a sort of fixture in the Herald office and went with it in the change of proprietorship. For some reason Foreman was not a success – chiefly, I think, because he made whisky his vade mecum. His patient and uncomplaining wife, who supplemented her household duties, which included the taking care of a baby, by setting type in the office, standing at the case with her deft fingers putting the telltale type in their places, while one foot was engaged in rocking the cradle under the stand, made a picture of a helpmeet, indeed, which is indelibly impressed upon my mind. How like a heroine she seemed to me, yet how unconsciously of anything like heroism she performed her part. Poor woman! The friendly hand of death in a few years after took her to that land where we trust the wrongs in this world are righted.

    Mr. Foreman’s control of the Herald lasted only one short winter, when he took Horace Greeley’s advice and went west.

    The office was again left with no one of its old habitués except the persevering apprentice. After a suspension of several months in the publication of the Herald, Mr. Noah M. McCormick came up from St. Louis and bought the material, reviving the paper and changing its name to the JOURNAL. This was in 1849. Mr. McCormick conducted the paper with indifferent success for about a year and a half when it became the property of the Mahin family, McCormick also following Greeley’s advice by going west to California. For the purposes of this address the JOURNAL then ceased to be a pioneer paper and is therefore unceremoniously dropped. All of those I have up to this point mentioned as proprietors of this pioneer paper are dead – except Dr. Waters and Mr. McCormick. Mr. Russell died of cholera in Keokuk in 1850. Mr. Stout died in Kansas during the war. Mr. Israel died in this city about the same time. Mr. Foreman died somewhere in western Iowa at a later period. Thus

    “A few more years shall roll
    A few more seasons come,
    And we shall be with those who rest
    Asleep within the tomb.”

    I should not neglect to notice among the pioneer papers the Iowa Standard, which was issued just a week before the appearance of the Herald, namely on the 23rd of October, 1840, as it was soon after removed to Iowa City, it cannot properly have much place in this record. The Iowa Democratic Enquirer established by H. D. LaCossitt, a scholarly and vigorous writer, made its first appearance in 1848. Mr. LaCossitt continued in charge of the Enquirer till 1853, when he was appointed to a clerkship at Washington, where he died. I will never forget a little unpleasantness I once had with him. I alluded to him in a communication I wrote for the JOURNAL, while Mr. McCormick was its editor. It was one of the first articles I ever wrote for the press. Like all beginners I had looked for a high-sounding signature and finally settled on “Adolesco,” meaning a young man. The communication severely criticized Mr. McCormick for ladling liquor from a tin bucket to a company of men and boys indiscriminately one evening at a celebration of a Democratic victory on Water street. Mr. LaCossitt was indignant and visited the office in company with the postmaster, Henry Reece, to demand the name of the author. I was at work behind the press with...

    *** continued on page 123 ***

    …after in my hands with which I was making the forms. Mr. McCormick, who was a great coward, turned pale when LaCossitt demanded the name of the writer of the obnoxious communication and with trembling hand pointed to me behind the press. LaCossitt looked at me for a moment in surprise and then muttering something about not being aware that he had ever offended the young man left the office. In his next issue he spoke of his visit and said that McCormick was the author of the article but had tried to palm it off on a boy in his office! These two editors carried on through their papers a personal controversy which would astonish the reading public of Muscatine to-day, so accustomed are they to editorial brethren dwelling in peace and unity. McCormick called LaCossitt his “pet lamb,” because the word cosset, as you will see by examining the dictionary, means a pet lamb, while LaCossitt paid him back in like coin.

    Allow me to say in conclusion, my pioneer friends, that I am pleased to meet so many of you here to-day and to see how well most of you bear your years and how happy you seem. Me. Emerson reminds us that—

    Spring still makes spring in the mind
    When sixty years are told,
    Love wakes anew this throbbing heart,
    And we are never old;”

    And though we are now in that season of the year known as “the sere and yellow leaf,” yet with most of us this sentiment of Emerson is true.

    We have all learned that

    ”It is not growing like a tree
    In bulk, doth make man betterbe,”

    But have endeavored to so live as we have advanced in years that we could solace ourselves with

    ”All that should accompany old age,
    As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends.

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