Source: REGISTER OF OLD SETTLERS , BOOK One, page 260 & 263
submitted by Charlene Nichols Hixon, Aug. 29, 2007

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A Pleasant and Profitable Picnic Anniversary Meeting at the Fair Grounds.
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A Synopsis of the Speeches on the Occasion.

The Old Setters were favored with a fine day for their anniversary meeting on the Fair Grounds. Their President, J. P. Walton, had selected a beautiful shady knoll on the highest ground in the neighborhood, commanding a view of a large sweep of country to the north and east, where he had constructed a speaker’s stand and provided seats for several hundred persons.

The Old Settlers were slow in gathering, so that the regular exercises did not begin till 1130, when Dr. A. B. Robbins invoked the Divine blessing only as one could do it who had shared in the privations of pioneer life and who was in full sympathy with the early settlers and with those foundation principles which make happy homes and a prosperous people.

President Walton then made an address relating to the ferry at this place 40 or 50 years ago. He said it was appropriate just now, in view of the fact that the community is about to bridge the great Mississippi here, so that a ferry may no longer be a necessity. Inasmuch as a history of the ferry at this place that did not refer to Capt. John Phillips would be like the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out, much of Mr. Walton’s historical paper related to the maneuverings, bad and otherwise, (but mostly bad) of the said Phillips, to control the ferry in his interests, and of the numerous hostile collisions between him and the citizens who sought to take the ferry from him; some of these collisions involving charges of arson and one of murder, as at the culmination of the strife, on the 23d of May, 1849, a man named Nicoli (familiarly called “Old Nick”) was found murdered near Phillips’ house, on the opposite side of the river. During most of the years of this strife, Phillips had a charter for a ferry from the Illinois authorities, while others had a charter from the authorities on this side. Besides Capt. Phillips and his family, who were actively engaged in the ferry (for even his wife and daughters at times assisted in rowing his row-boat) Mr. Walton mentioned the following as those he recollected as being engaged in ferrying during the times of the troubles with Phillips: Sherman Brooks, Henry Reece, Bub Cullen, Capt. Dunn, Col. A. M. Hare, A. J. Fimple, George Bonsall, Giles Pettibone and Absalom Fisher. Of the different horse boats, he recollected the “Polly Keith” and the “Apex.” Capt. Phillips called his boat the “You and I.” The Apex was built in Rock Island. It was succeeded by a steam ferryboat built in Pittsburg and called Muscatine, or more commonly called “The Turtle,” because of its peculiar shape, Mr. W. read a humorous poem descriptive of the “Turtle,” published in one of the local papers about 1858, but said he did not know who was the author.

The next address was a chaste and thoughtful one by Judge D. C. Richman, entitled “Who is Responsible?” It urged the necessity of teaching the youth self-denial and especially the avoidance of extravagant and sinful indulgences. We copy its conclusion, as follows:

    In this demoralized condition is it any wonder that the laws on this as well as other subjects are with so much difficulty enforced? If we have not learned restraint, license will crop out on every available opportunity. We have enacted prohibitory laws and increased their severity from time to time, but the robust self-denial and the fixed determination to enforce them are wanting. We do not enforce our laws against Sabbath-breaking; the open store, the shop, the restaurant, are doing their work along side of the saloon. Profanity is heard on every street corner; we bet on elections and laugh at the loser of his wager as though it were a mere joke, not realizing that it may be the first step in a career of gambling that will bring blight and ruin on a whole family. We allow our gambling saloons to flourish and fatten upon the earnings of their victims without a thought of enforcing the law. The house of ill-fame pursues its hellish trade undisturbed in our towns and villages, and our young men are robbed of their manhood by the lewd woman who waits the coming of her victims beneath the shadows of the night. Do you wonder, then, that the enforcement of prohibition against strong drink is so feeble and uncertain? Take our own county; how few of its 25,000 people lift a hand or give a dime toward closing the grog shops! The great multitude are either quiescent or silent, or they are helping and cheering on the saloon keepers. The spirit of indulgence has demoralized the majority of our people and paralyzed not a few of those who believe in prohibition. Unused to restraint and self-denial themselves, how can we expect them to favor their enforcement in behalf of others? If the father cannot lift up his voice for restraint and prohibition, how can he expect his son to escape the wine cup and a drunkard’s doom? The power of indulgence, when once it gains the mastery, is fearful to behold.

    The reform needed is the rooting out of the false principle of indulgence, and the implanting of the true principle of self-denial. This is the new name to be written upon the white stone of blameless life, if we would shine as the stars of the firmament. Jesus of Nazareth was despised, rejected and reviled of men, but the one solitary, unscathed and unassailed fact in relation to Him is his perfect life of self-denial. This stands, and shall forever stand, high, pure, sublime and impregnable.

    The time will yet come when the grandest hero of the world will be the one that serves others. Like the Divine Master he will lay aside his garments, and, girding himself with a towel, he will wash the feet of his brother man. This is the heroism needed in the world to-day. Luxury and indulgence are the foundation upon which intemperance rears its dread prison walls. Behold its fruits in the record of needless suffering and misery; in the calendar of crime; in the jails, the workhouses, the hospital and gallows; in the unnumbered millions of its slain; in the wretched living, who are its helpless victims; in the unconquerable appetite that descends from father to son to blight the fair manhood of coming generations.

    But we look forward undismayed to the good time coming, when restraint instead of indulgence shall be the rule of life, when mankind shall be temperate in the use of all things that are good, and abstainers from all that will hurt and destroy. When the love of God and of man shall dwell in our hearts so richly that we shall be willing, for the sake of others, to deny ourselves, to take up the cross in our way and follow the Master. Let us rear the edifice of self-denial and humility, broad and high; its substructure of imperishable granite; its towering dome of pure gold, in which shall stand the genius of total abstinence with flaming torch, a beacon to the tempted, the lost and ruined victims of alcohol, and like the grand statue of liberty recently erected, which is to enlighten the world, may this other statue stand for the healing of mankind. “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.”

Judge Richman’s address was warmly applauded.

…..[some missing lines]….decided to have dinner. This was served in regular picnic style, the assembled company dividing off by families and in some instances several families joining together, spreading their lunch clothes under the shade of the various trees on the grounds. Several barrels of ice water had been provided and there was also warm coffee for sale on the grounds, so that no one laced for anything to eat or drink.

About 1:30 President Walton again called the assembly together. The number had considerably increased by those who came out from the city after dinner. By invitation, Mr. S. Magill, of Iowa City, who was a guest of Mr. A. Jackson, read an original patriotic poem, as follows:

    Iowa City, Ia., July 4, 1889.

    To God be all the glory, for, by His almighty hand,
    He planted freedom’s standard, on Columbia’s happy land.
    A nation rose in grandeur, as by magic, some would say,
    And a grand and glorious nation, was born in a day.

    One hundred years and more, has forever passed away,
    Since our good old flag first made a grand display.
    The Continental Congress declared we must be free,
    And formed this great republic, that will forever be.

    God in His great wisdom, raised up men of giant minds.
    To write and work for freedom, in those soul-trying times.
    Jefferson was inspired, to write the declaration,
    And Washington was spirit led, to save us as a nation.

    No power can subdue us, for God is on our side,
    As long as we can trust Him, this nation will abide.
    England tried twice to conquer us, but never could succeed,
    No other nation would undertake, so desperate a deed.

    The rebels in their mad career, tried hard to rend our flag,
    And in its stead they dar’d to raise, their vermon’d serpent rag.
    But they were met by patriots, a brave and noble band,
    Who saved this great republic, and from slavery in the land.

    Though conquered on the battle field, their spirit was not subdued, And by their serpent guile, and fraud, the battle has been renewed; In legislative halls, those rebels have dared to stand, And make onerous laws, to govern this mighty land.

    Thanks to a noble President, who used the veto power,
    To save this land and nation in a most trying hour,
    And in the future all will find, this nation can’t be fooled,
    This glorious republic, by patriots will be ruled.

    And now we are a republic, the wonder of the world,
    For, in every land and nation, our banner is unfurled;
    And now this Union firmly stands, some forty States in one,
    Though a century has passed, our glory has just begun.

    What will our future be! Can mind conceive the grand idea
    Of a thousand million in this land, and all those millions free,
    And room enough to make a home for many millions more
    Between the great Atlantic sea and the Pacific shore.

    America will live, our banner will float over every land
    Till all on this grand continent, on freedom’s soil will stand,
    And the destiny of this great republic will onward be
    Up till the sun is blown out, and time ends in eternity.

*** continues on page 263 ***

Mr. Magill is 84 years of age, but read this poem with much vigor and patriotic fervor and was complimented with applause.

John Mahin was next introduced for an address. It was mainly made up of reminiscences of early times. He said it was a coincidence worthy of note that fifty years ago this month the first church was organized in Muscatine by the formation of a Methodist class of seven, all of whom are now deceased except Mrs. J. b. Hawley, and Mrs. George Bumgardner. The former was then present, seated only a few feet to the left of the speaker. Mr. M. euloguized decision of character and a courage to declare and maintain one’s convictions. He referred to John A. Parvin as a man of that kind. The speaker, identifying himself with the old settlers (having come to Muscatine in the fall of 1843) said:

    I hope that most of us can adopt the language of Longfellow when he said:
    …..“Age is opportunity no less
    Than youth itself, though in another dress
    And as the evening twilight fades away
    The skylight is filled with stars, invisible by day.”

    And that we can all realize with George McDonald that “Age is not all decay; it is the ripening, the swelling, of the fresh life within, that withers and bursts the husk.”

    George Bancroft says: “The man of many years can look before and after, and seated under the tree of life, enjoying ‘sweet rest with full content’ he finds that the leaves which have fallen from its branches have but opened a clearer vision of the eternal stars.”

    May we each be able to apply to ourselves these words of Longfellow:
    “Time has laid his hand
    Upon my heart gently, not smiting it,
    But as a harper lays his open palm
    Upon his harp to deaden its vibrations.”

S. W. Stewart followed in a graphic and witty address on the pioneer women of Iowa, incidentally descriptive of the privations and make-shifts of the early settlers, destitute as they were of many of the common place comforts and conveniences of the present day. He said:

    The pioneer women of Iowa were a select and royal company. This left the better settled portions of the country east of Iowa, where to some extent the comforts of life were to be obtained, to come to a place where even the necessaries of life were a luxury – where the Indian trail was the only sign of human occupation – where nature was undisturbed by human effort – where the Indian was the only neighbor, and not in a good humor at that. They knew they had to live in a camp until a house was built. Most of women will guess that cooking in the rain by a log heap without even a piece of bark for a cover would be rather trying on their religion – yet it was often done with no damage to the religion; and the woman as brave and cheerful as if she was by a kitchen range in the fall of the year. When the house was up and roofed, a table was to be made with no board to buy or beg in fifty miles – a cupboard for the dishes and the victuals, the family chest or a goods box, perhaps, was used as a table to set the victuals on. A clapboard or a score block from a tree close by did well placed on the lap for the plate and the tin cup. (Tea cups and saucers came in later.) For a time the bed was made on the ground, with perhaps some leaves or a little hay on the ground to begin with. Then came the puncheon floor. That was, perhaps, some smoother than the top of a pile of wood or the side of a rail fence. This the woman must sweep and keep clean with a bunch of hazel brush for a broom or the tall shoots of the blue sedge. It sometimes happened that the man had skill enough to make a split broom. With the first crop a patch of broom corn was raised. They tied a bunch of that together of the size to suit them, drove a straight stick into it for a handle, cut the stalks off to suit it, and then the broom question was solved.

    For a cupboard, some pins were driven into the wall at the right place some shakes or boards, as we called them, were laid on the pins; on these were placed the dishes and the eatables.

    After a time, a curtain to keep out the dust and flies. The door, perhaps, was closed and locked with the wagon sheet. All the Indian or the wolf who was out on an expedition had to do was to push the curtain aside and look in; the woman would set the dogs on the wolf or shoot him, and give the Indian something to eat, if he wanted it; she was afraid of neither. The wolves were so friendly and so careless of the rights of property that the good woman, in order to save the seed, had to divide what little room there was in the house with the chickens until a wolf-proof hen-house could be built.

    Then came in the one-posted bedstead – the greatest invention of the age. The upper part, in day-time, was used to store all the beds and bedding in the house and was covered with a nice counterpane or quilt or sheet; the lower part was made to hold the flour, meal-tub, soap, extra pots for cooking, the harness and other things too tedious to mention, among which would be the pet hen that was making her first brood of chickens. This wealth would often be hidden by a curtain. The joints and flitches usually would be hung about the wall, of bacon at the chimney end. With all this multifarious conglomeration, the pioneer woman, as a rule, managed to have her house look tasty and home-like.

    The early settlers of Iowa were religious. They were on hand at preaching, when opportunity offered. The women went to worship, the men to swap horses or make up a horse-race, or get an exchange of harvest work. The women were in the house; the men were out in the shade. The meetings were usually held in private houses. Our ministers were as a rule great on tobacco. When a pioneer preacher gets on a full head of steam, tobacco juice is apt to fly amazingly, and no matter how crowded, a space of about 8 feet had to be left in front of the speaker, and then on special occasions the flow would exceed the bounds.

    It was not to show off the nice dress or the fashionable bonnet the pioneer woman went to church. Her dress was blue calico and a sunbonnet, the calico costing 15 to 25 cents a yard. A good French print cost from 37 to 50 cents a yard. A bushel of wheat would not get a yard of calico of the best. Fortunately 7 yards made a dress of full size.

    Socially, we had to “sets.” All hands were in the same boat. Then the girl did not lose caste by helping a neighbor in the harvest or in case of sickness to cook or wash or do house work. Her wages were 50 to 75 cents, and sometimes one dollar a week, but that was big wages.

    Money, we had about none. We had to let wants wait. The women mended and patched until material gave out. The Sunday dress was kept for years. In summer we could go barefooted; in winter the feet could be wrapped in rags too badly worn for patches. In all the skimping and schemes to make little or nothing cover the case, women furnished the brains and skill. The pioneer woman was about able to make one do for 10 and two for a hundred. She could come as near working miracles as any thing that ever kept house.

    For years after Iowa was settled the ague was plenty. As settlers we had to make about as much arrangement for the ague as for winter. The wife and mother usually took the hard row. We have seen a mother shaking with the ague, holding a baby in her arms, shaking, and another at her knee, all of them shaking, at the rate of two miles a minute. We have seen a mother waiting on 8 others, lying about the floor, when she could not give a cup of water to a child, her hand shook at such a gait. She would set the water in a vessel close at hand, or two would hold the cup, and in that way manage not to spill any more than half of the water. The ague could be relieved or broken, as we termed it, but never cured. It came and went at its own good pleasure, quinine, Sapington’s pills and all to the contrary notwithstanding.

    At first milling facilities were scarce. Grain was plenty but few mills. The husband had to go to mill; it was winter time; he would get wood and prepare for an absence of two days, leaving the wife to care for the stock; no neighbors, perhaps, within half a mile; food for two days with economy; and the neighbors all short. When the man gets to mill he finds the water low; the mill thronged with grists, enough for four days at least; if he leaves he loses his turn; no bread at home; he must stay and let the wife work out her own salvation. The best of it is, she makes the riffle without a kink in her hair. The man would make home Saturday night and find things all right.

    My time is up. We want to say, in our opinion, when the pioneer women of Iowa were got up one of the best jobs was done that ever left the hands of a Boss Workman.

This unique description of early times was well received by the audience. Mr. Walton then announced that the regular programme was completed and it would be in order to call for volunteer speeches. Calls were made for Ben. Mathews, our old-time colored citizen, who responded by relating some of his early experiences. He said he landed in Muscatine from Maryland on the 10th of June, 1839. His first home was a 12x12 cabin in the woods on East Hill, near the old dwelling lately occupied by Mr. Hunt. He helped build that house and rived some of the shingles from an oak tree cut down near where the house was built. He also related how a company of Indians stopped one day at his cabin and he gained their good will by feeding them with bread and milk. He thanked god for all the progress that had been made in this country during these fifty years, and especially for the emancipation of 3,000,000 of his people in the South.

Mr. Walton announced that it would be in order to elect officers of the Old Settlers’ society, when, on motion of D. C. Richman, the former officers were re-elected. A vote of thanks was then tendered to President Walton for his pains-taking and efficient management of the society as its president.

The meeting was then dismissed, and all seemed well pleased with it. Among those present was Mrs. Laura L. Patterson, widow of R. H. Patterson, and daughter of Benjamin Nye, the first man who settled in Muscatine county. His home was at the mouth of Pine, in Montpelier township, where he settled in 1834. Mrs. Patterson, who was seven years of age when her father’s family moved to this country, is now residing in Sweetland township. She is said to be the oldest living settler in Muscatine county.

(hand written in margin) Pres. J. P. Walton, V. Pres. John Barnard, Secy. P. Jackson.

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