Carroll County IAGenWeb


A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement



Transcribed and donated by Vance Tigges.


Some one, who lived too long ago for his age and identity to be clearly established—perhaps a Greek, more likely a Phoenecian, or still more likely a venerable Hindoo—gave expression to the sentiment about to be repeated; a sentiment so instinct with truth that it has taken a place among the proverbs of all tongues comprehensive enough to admit of philosophic reflection and quoted here in the language of Carlyle:

"Happy is the country which is without annals."
The simple life among nations is the happy life.

 When nations begin to make history and set out upon a career of enterprise and ambition they may grow to be rich in the luster which is shed upon princes and thrones and the seats of the mighty—on conquest and military achievement—and yet be poor indeed in those substantial elements which make for the freedom of the individual to follow undisturbed the tranquil and dutiful life in which there is content, and in the sum of which there is found a nation whose existence is really worthy. History commonly so- called is in reality much more a record of the calamities of mankind than of the small and silent events which in their operation within themselves and upon each other have brought the human race from benighted savagery to the condition of the present tolerable advancement and civilization.

    To this point the world has grown in spite of "history," such as it is written, rather than by its aid, and the aid of those men and deeds which, while they crimson its pages, it enshrines for the admiration of the worshipful. The benign story of domestic quiet does not reach out and seize upon the imagination as do the tales of ambition, intrigue, passion and blood, but it sets the real landmarks of development—arrested but never quite suppressed under the historic bootheels which seek to force their way in to crush it!

    We trust it is not turning to the other extreme to quote from two facile thinkers what may appear to be a criticism of our native state. Have we, in our retreat from the asperities of history making, unduly clung to the ways of peace and abandoned the virtues of prowess and stirring ambition, and become, as it were, commonplace and mediocre? We trust not. However, Hon. Irving B. Richman, President of the Iowa Library Association, in his recent annual address, reads and quotes as follows:

    "But what, you will ask, with regard to Iowa? Let me not be thought ungracious when I say, that of all the states of the Union, Iowa has the least individuality, the least personality, is the least capable of being reduced to portraiture. More than any of the states, Iowa is a geographical expression merely. Some pointed things to this effect were said in 1900 by Rollin Lynde Hartt in the 'Atlantic Monthly.' Let me read you some of them.

" 'It is all one,' says Helen,—the way of a tourist in Iowa and the way of a sailor man at sea. You wake up (and here I detect literary dependence upon Charles Dudley Warner) 'you wake up morning after morning to find yourself nowhere in particular.'

" 'Happy the people who have no history.' From prairie grass to wheat, from wheat to clover, from clover to corn, such are the short and simple annals of the Iowans.

" 'The sober truth is, the Iowans are an effect in drabs and grays. The state is too young for quaitness, too old for romance. Its people are so uniformly respectable that they will attempt nothing quixotic or piratical; so prosily conventional that if by chance they do anything unusual, they undo it next day.'

" 'You have here a high level, but—as Helen puts it—a dead level.'

" 'To see the Iowans at their best, go to the national capital, where if fortune favors, you will meet their Allisons and Hendersons, their Hep- burns, Gears, and Dollivers. Sound judgment, judicial sense, and executive ability,—these are the talents that lift them to power, talents neither rare nor little prized among the Iowans.'

"This last paragraph by Mr. Hartt is meant as a guarded compliment but the compliment is not guarded enough. Iowa did, I believe, once make to Economics an original contribution; namely, her Granger legislation. But never since, (unless the present political situation constitutes an exception) has the state been more than commonplace;—serenely and prosperously commonplace, I grant, but still commonplace. In internal respects, Iowa,

" 'Along the cool, sequestered vale of life
Has kept the noiseless tenor of her way.'

"There was once a hint of trouble with Missouri, but it came to so little as scarcely to be worthy of mention. Iowa annals have been enlivened by no Bacon's or Shay's or Dorr's rebellions; by no Nullification or Hartford Conventions; by no conventions against the Chinese. And the same is true of the state externally. In the councils of the nation she has been decently prominent but not conspicuous. Her representatives have been of respectable ability, but none of them have been Thomas H. Bentons, Abraham Lincolns, Matt Carpenters, Andrew Jacksons or Henry Clays.

"But while Iowa as a political or social entity may not in its entirety be of any particular significance, and hence for historical purposes be little else than a geographical expression, Iowa as a bundle of localities bears a significance by no means to be underrated. Indeed, the state enters more completely into solidarity with the nation through its local than through its general history. The Black Hawk War, for example, and the Spirit Lake Massacre connect us closely with the great struggle between the white man and the Indian for the possession of the continent. The presence of John Brown at Tabor and Springdale, preparing for the descent on Harper's Ferry, brings Iowans into intimate relation with the tragedy invoking the

Civil War. The march of the Mormons from Nauvoo to Salt Lake has left in Decatur county an interesting memorial of a movement of large significance. Then again, the bandits along the Mississippi, with the murder of Colonel Davenport, give to the eastern counties a touch of that romance which in New Mexico, Arizona and California is associated with the desperado and the Mexican."

Ah! "Iowa as a bundle of localities bears a significance!" etc, etc.

For this sentiment we are abundantly grateful to Mr. Richman, for it is as one of this "bundle of localities" that this History of Carroll County is written. If in the kindly toleration of readers who from whatever motive are tempted to peruse this work, there is found in it such merit as will repay the effort, it is because one "out of a bundle of localities" contributes a part toward that which when fashioned into a whole by some one with the genius and grace of mind for which such labor calls, may relieve the grays and drabs of Iowa with a plentitude of riches in portraiture and color.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Return to 1912 History Table of Contents