Growth and Development
A civil community in process of development pursues many lines of endeavor. These both express and mold its character and reveal it in the circumstances which arise and in the incidents and events which follow. In what is attempted as well as in what is accomplished is found the spirit of its people.
Upon the organization of the state, in 1846, both democrats and whigs nominated candidates for Congress. These were voted for at large. The democratic candidates won out and took their seats, but served only to the end of the session, as the federal law required that members of the House of Representatives should be elected by districts. Accordingly, in February, 1847, the General Assembly divided the state into the requisite two districts. The First District consisted of the counties of Lee, Henry, Jefferson, Keokuk and Jasper and the counties west of them. In May, both whigs and democrats held conventions at Fairfield for the purpose of selecting their respective congressional candidates. The whigs nominated Gen. Jesse. B. Brown of Lee County; the democrats, William Thompson of Henry County. Thompson was chosen. In 1848, Poweshiek County was taken from the Second District and added to the First. Again the congressional conventions were held at Fairfield. The whigs met on May 17th and nominated Daniel F. Miller of Lee County.. The democrats met on June 15th and renominated William Thompson. Although Thompson received the certificate of election, Miller contested his right to the seat. After an investigation, the House of Representatives refused to decide between the claims of the contestants and declared a vacancy in the office. At a special election, on September 24, 1850, the voters decided in favor of Miller. It was a personal rather than a partisan victory. At this time the rank of Jefferson County in population was fifth in the state and fourth in the district. In politics, its people inclined to democratic views and sentiments. Dr. Jacob L. Myers and W. G. Coop, two of its leading citizens, had actively participated, in January, 1840, at Burlington, in the organization of the democratic party. The democrats, recognizing its importance in the maintenance of their dominancy, chose for their congressional candidate at the regular election of 1850 Bernhart Henn of Fairfield. Henn waged a successful campaign. In 1852, he was returned for a second term. In 1854, he declined to stand again for the honors of the office.
The first courthouse was not long equal to the needs of the county. At the spring election of 1845, "the voice of the poeple" was taken upon building another and "whether to build it in the park or not." The main proposition was then denied; but, being again submitted to a vote at the August election of 1846, it was approved. Before the county commissioners -- who were Smith Ball, Albert Connable and William Judd -- took action, the Town of Fairfield was incorporated. Thereupon its officials assumed control of the public square and proposed to fence it, to sink wells, to erect scales, and to exercise the rights of ownership. In November, 1847, the county commissioners secured the issuance of an injunction to prevent the carrying out of these plans. A premium of $25, offered for "the best plans and specifications for a courthouse, to be 40 by 70 feet, to be built of brick, with good stone foundations," was awarded to George Craine. On March 25, 1848, the bids for the erection of such a building were opened. I. Semain was the lowest and lucky bidder. Col. James Thompson and Joseph Knott gave him 50 cents for his chance, and to them, on April 15th, the contract was let, at $7,000. John A. Pitzer proposing to lay out an addition to Fairfield and to donate one block in it to the county, it was determined, in such case, to place the courthouse thereon. Pitzer doing nothing in this direction, on January 13, 1849, Lots 1 and 2 in Block 3 of the old plat were selected as its site. The lumber was hauled from Keokuk; the brick came from M. T. Shelton's. On April 21st, Thompson's and Knott's contract was assumed by John Shields, who did not get on any better than his precedessors. On October 30th, a new contract, at $7,500, less the sums already paid for material and labor, was made with George Craine. On January 8, 1850, Cyrus Olney and others petitioned for a change of location. The prayer of these memorialists was not granted. The work dragged on more than a year longer. On May 2, 1851, the building was accepted. It was given into the keeping of the sheriff, who was instructed to keep it closed, except for the meetings of political parties and of religious societies who had no house of worship, for lectures of a scientific, moral or religious character, for plank-road and railroad meetings, and for medical conventions. Rent was to be paid when there was a charge for admission. It was used often for all these purposes.
One of the first acts of the General Assembly of the State of Iowa was to incorporate the Town of Fairfield. On February 9, 1847, it received the approval of Gov. Ansel Briggs. By it, "the free male inhabitants of the village" were authorized to choose a mayor, a recorder, and three trustees. These officers were empowered to appoint a treasurer and a marshal and needful subordinates. The principal duty of the marshal was to collect any tax assessed. Barnet Ristine was chosen mayor; George Acheson, recorder. Ebenezer S. Gage, Joseph A. McKemey and Evan S. Thompson were chosen trustees. For some reason, there soon grew up a serious dissatisfaction. This may have been due to administrative policies, to the attempt to exercise jurisdiction over the public square, or to lack of authority to enforce ordinances. There is no clue to the cause. Relief from the trouble, or a cure for it, was sought in the General Assembly, which met in January, 1848, in extra session. The General Assembly enacted that the voters of Fairfield, "on the second Monday of March next," might vote for or against a repeal of "an act to incorporate the Town of Fairfield." Those voting for a repeal were to put in ballots with the word "repeal" written or printed thereon; those voting for a continuance of the charter were to put in ballots with the word "charter" written or printed thereon. The majority vote was to decide the issue. Notice of the result was to be published in the Iowa Sentinel. If the incorporation was continued, then the mayor from thenceforth was to be "ex-officio a justice of the peace." Whatever the difficulty, the new order of things prevailed.
On Saturday, June 12, 1847, was issued "No. 1" of the Iowa Sentinel -- the first paper published in Fairfield and Jefferson County. Augustus R. Sparks was its editor and proprietor. Its motto was: "Our party, when right -- our country, right or wrong." In size, it was an "imperial sheet;" in form, a folio. Its terms were "$1.50 in advance, $2 if paid within six months, or $2.50 at the expiration of the year."
The publication was "to be devoted to politics, literature, agriculture, education, miscellany, the general news of the day, &c," but was sufficiently partisan also "to advocate the principles of the democratic party with firmness and zeal, keeping in view the great interests of the nation, and especially the interest of the young and growing State of Iowa, which but a few years ago was inhabited only by wild beasts and the savage red man. Now the sound of the ax and hammer and the plowboy's gee-wo-haw are heard ringing cheerily all around, and her broad, beautiful, fertile prairies are made to yield a full recompense to the labors of the husbandman, and her great resources are just beginning to be developed." Despite the involution of the statement, the pride and loyalty pervading it must remain unquestioned. "The farmer, the merchant, the tradesman and the mechanic" are promised "matter that will be interesting." Somewhat idealistically, the editor proposes in the most provocative direction to remain free from acrimony. "In our political course," he ventures to state, "we shall be firm, independent, and uncompromising. Toward our opponents, we shall endeavor to be courteous, avoiding the low billingsgate which is too much indulged in by conductors of public journals. Keeping truth and justice ever before us as our guide, we shall battle against the doctrines of the whig party, believing that these doctrines, carried into practice, would prove detrimental to our free institutions and to the future success of our government."
The principal features of this issue of the paper are "The Tale of the Alamo," by a United States army officer; "Washington and His Generals," by J. T. Headly, copied from the New York Express; "The Locomotive," as described by Dickens in "Dombey and Son," and an account of the battle of Cerro Gordo in a letter to "Friend Sparks," written from Jalapa, Mexico, by Leonard F. Ross, a soldier in an Illinois regiment. A number of short articles and poems, the latter entitled "I Love to Live," "I Live to Love," "Died of Starvation," and "God Save the Plow," furnish variety. The "general news" relates only to Mexico and the war with that nation. The editorials consist of an announcement, "To the Public," explaining and in part justifying the venture "upon the broad ocean of public favor;" the endorsement of "Wm. Thompson, Esq.," the democratic nominee for Congress; a disparagement of Jesse B. Brown, the whig nominee for the same position; the commendation of President Polk and of Secretary of the Treasury Walker for planning and putting into effect the "Mexican tariff," as the collection of duties at Mexican ports by American officers was termed; approving comments on the "Death of the Protective Policy in Continental Europe," and reflections, tinged with anglophobia, upon the "Awful Effects of the Famine in Ireland." These topics signify no narrow bounds either of mental vision or of human interest.
There are no personal and few local items of the kind that now fill the columns of newspapers. The county is thought to contain between 7,000 and 8,000 inhabitants. Fairfield "exhibits a population of somewhat over six hundred," according to "a census recently taken." It is "a thriving and flourishing place -- perhaps the most so of any in the state off of the Mississippi River." Its healthfulness, is noticed. The deaths during 1846, adults and children, were nine -- a loss of but 1½ per cent.
E. Drown, chairman of the central committee, calls a convention of the "democrats of Jefferson," to be "composed of fifty-five members from each township," and to be "held on the 10th day of July next," for the nomination of county officers. In a very modern manner, "Many Citizens" announce the name of William Enness Groff as a candidate for recorder, subject to the decision of this convention.
A quaint cut, showing a flaming torch and a pair of hearts pierced with an arrow and encircled by a garland of roses, under the title "Hymeneal" and over the line "The silken tie that binds two willing hearts," introduces the marriage notices. Of one, the contracting parties came from Keokuk County. The other chronicles the union, on the 27th of May, by Rev. Joseph Brooks, of "Mr. John Gossage of Fairfield to Miss Mary J. Brooks of Locust Grove."
The state of the "produce market" at St. Louis, the commercial center at that time for southeastern Iowa, is given as "dull and drooping." The prices current locally are reported as 60 cents for wheat per bushel, 12½ cents for corn, 62½ cents for oats, 25 cents for meal, $2 for flour per 100 pounds, 4 cents for eggs per dozen, 5 cents for bacon per pound, 6 cents for butter, and 12½ cents each for coffee and sugar.
A petition for divorce is attested by C. Baldwin as "solicitor for complainant."
Bernhart Henn, register, and V. P. Van Antwerp, receiver, give notice of the public sales of the lands of several townships in July and August. Among these, to occur on July 27th, are those of Des Moines Township. They also advise preemption claimants that the land office has received the plats of Townships Nos. 68 to 75 North, inclusive, Range No. 19 West. This information was important for the protection of settlers' rights.
Evidence of efforts to secure distant trade and of the extent of territory then covered in business is discovered in advertisements of the Philadelphia Saturday Gleaner and of the Weekly Organ of St. Louis, "family journals;" of a firm of booksellers and of a merchant of fancy and staple dry goods, both of St. Louis, and of a dealer in general merchandise and of a dealer in drugs and liquors, both of Agency City. The home advertising carries a bold note. Charles David informs travelers that he has purchased the Eagle Hotel and that he has "a good stable, well provided with hay, corn, oats and currycombs." Augdeon & Lenberg announce that they are "prepared to make to order" all articles in the tailoring line. The professional cards are those of Slagle and Acheson, "attornies at law;" of Dr. William L. Orr and Dr. John T. Huey, "associated in the practice of medicine and surgery;" of Dr. J. C. Wear, and of N. Steel, "physician and surgeon." Dr. D. V. Cole, "druggist and chemist," manufactures pills and compounds an "Ague Tonic," the virtues of which are elaborately set out in prose and verse. One stanza will convey an idea of the rhymes:
So strong an argument must have proved irresistible to sufferers. To the efficacy of the remedy, James A. Cunningham, John A. Pitzer and James T. Hardin all testify. B. Ristine and J. T. Huey, wholesale and retail druggists and grocers, call special attention to their stock of "25 ounces of Quinine" and "10 pounds English Calomel" -- which would seem to be a quantity sufficient to satisfy any reasonable demand. They also enumerate this suggestive list of Thompsonian medicines: "Cayenne; Balmony; Bayberry; Hemlock; White Pond Lilley; Slippery Elm; Unicorn Root; Skull Cap; Cohash; Peach Meats; Bitter Root; Witch Hazel; Poplar Bark; Golden Seal; Composition No. 6." R. Irwin and H. P. Warren, who conduct a "cash store," deal in a varied assortment of goods, which are named at length. In the dry-goods department, for instance, they mention "Fashionable de Lain," "Balzarine Lawns," "Jackonets and Mulls," "Bonnet Lawns and Silks," "Summer Drills," French Cords," "Jeans and Satinets," "Fur, Wool, Palm, and Rough and Ready Hats," and "Cloth, Oil, Silk, and Monterey Caps." Merchants even then it may be noted, were quick to take advantage of the sentiment of the times. They close with this significant -- "N. B.: Wanted, in exchange for goods, County Orders, Dry Hides, Beeswax, Feathers, Tallow, &."
In 1848, the Iowa Sentinel was purchased by Ezra Brown (sic - Drown) and R. B. Pope. It remained under their management, or under the management of Pope, until 1851, when its publication was suspended. It was revived as a "new series" in 1852 by D. Sheward, who, with W. H. Sheward, issued it until June, 1857, when it was discontinued.
In December, 1850 (sic - 1849), Orlando McCraney established the Fairfield Ledger. At the end of its first year, he disposed of a half interest in it to A. R. Fulton. In 1853, in March, McCraney retired from the firm, and in June Fulton took into partnership W. W. Junkin. In August, 1854, Junkin completed the purchase of the entire plant. His energy and sagacity made the paper prosperous and influential to a marked degree.
Beginning in March, 1852, Karns and Thompson published a few numbers of the Iowa News Letter. It apparently came to an end with the passing of the April election, and doubtless was a political expedient, designed to promote the interests of democratic candidates for local offices.
In September, 1858, T. Buckey Taylor started the Fairfield Jeffersonian. He put out three numbers and sold to H. N. Moore and I. J. Tolan. Their ownership lasted but three months. The property then passed to Samuel Jacobs and H. N. Moore. After some ten months, Moore became the sole proprietor. He was soon succeeded by R. M. Hanna. In a few weeks Moore again came into possession. The paper was issued for the last time in September, 1860, after a precarious existence of two years.
On September 15, 1847, under a dispensation from the Grand Lodge of Iowa, Clinton Lodge, No. 15, of the Society of Free Masons, was organized by Jacob L. Myers, E. S. Gage, A. R. Sparks, James Jeffries, William Y. Head, Albert L. Connable and William P. Winn as charter members. Its officers were: Jacob L. Myers, W. M.; A. R. Sparks, S. W.; James Jeffries, J. W.; W. P. Winn, S. D.; W. Y. Head, J. D.; E. S. Gage, secretary, and A. L. Connable, treasurer. George Acheson and Barnet Ristine were the first candidates for initiation. The charter was not issued till June 7, 1849, at which time the lodge had twenty-two members.
In January, 1849, the General Assembly authorized the establishment of a branch of the State University at Fairfield. The original board of directors were Barnet Ristine, Christian W. Slagle, Daniel Rider, Horace Gaylord, Bernhart Henn and Samuel S. Bayard. They organized in May, selecting Henn as president, Slagle as secretary, and Gaylord as treasurer. A tract of twenty acres just southwest of town was purchased. A building was erected at a cost of $2,500. This structure was partially destroyed by a tornado in 1850, but was promptly rebuilt in more substantial fashion. Although this institution, in terms of law, was "placed upon the same footing in regards to funds" as the university located at Iowa City, it was destined to receive no aid from the state. What was accomplished was entirely due to local generosity. In January, 1853, its relation to the state was terminated at the request of the directors. It then bacame a private corporation. It was not long till a disagreement, springing from religious and political differences, arose among the stockholders over its proper management. Ward Lamson, using this strained situation as the occasion, on July 12, 1855, addressed them a remarkable communication. After setting out on his own desire for a policy of freedom of opinion and speech, he continued:
"There is another object which I would like to see accomplished in this school. It is that the young men of this agricultural state be taught the principles of agriculture, horticulture, and floriculture, as well as the sciences now taught therein. Every graduate, whether he follow farming, mechanics, medicine, law or divinity, should know how to cultivate and fill his garden with excellent vegetables and his orchard with choice fruits, that his table may be supplied with those helpful and cheap luxuries; and he should know how to fill his yard with beautiful shrubs and flowers, that his house may be sweet home without any homeliness."
He then proposed "to buy the stock and to conduct the school on the aforesaid basis; to add more ground to the domain, to place thereon a garden nursery and orchard, and, if necessary, to erect a chemical laboratory for the analyzation of grain, vegetables, fruits, plants and soil, that farmers may know how to adapt crops to localities." This offer, through a prophetic anticipation of the demands of a future generation, was not accepted. The university held to accepted and orthodox lines; and if for this reason it did provide less of the practical, for the same reason it compensated for it by supplying noble ideals and cultivating high aspirations.
In 1849, Rev. L. G. Bell, an educational as well as an "ecclesiastical engineer," opened the "Fairfield Female Seminary." To further his design, he had had erected a brick building, noted for its mansard roof. Its location was just without the corporate limits of the town and a short distance north of the present Logan schoolhouse. According to an advertisement in 1851, "a full board of teachers" carried forward "every part of a female education, both substantial and ornamental." Lessons on the piano were given by Mrs. A. Adams. Other instructors were Miss Condit, Miss Perkins and Miss Weir. Latin and French were included in the course offered. Bell, having become involved in financial difficulties, was succeeded as principal in 1852 by Rev. Charles H. Gates. In the fall of 1854 the direction of the seminary was assumed by Rev. Lyman B. Crittenden, who shortly afterward purchased the property. He conducted it until the summer of 1857, when he sold out to Robert S. Hughes, who took control. During these years there was a large attendance.
Between 1847 and 1860 the population of Jefferson County increased from 8,463 in the first year to 15,038 in the last year. This growth was reflected in efforts to establish new centers for the convenience of commercial and social intercourse. In August, 1849, Evin Fleenor, M. D., Lafayette Spurlock, William Spurlock and Thomas McCulloch laid out the Town of Abingdon, partly in each of Sections 32 and 33 of Polk Township. In February, 1851, the town of Buenavista was laid out in Section 13 in the present Township of Buchanan. Buenavista was supplanted in April, 1852, by the Town of Salina, laid out by Thomas Allinder and John Hoaglien at the common corner of Sections 12 and 13 of Buchanan Township and of Sections 7 and 18 of Lockridge Township. In December, 1853, the Town of Aaronville was laid out by Aaron Wright in Section 33 in Polk Township. In June, 1855, the Town of Absecum was laid out by Aaron O. Edwards in Section 8 of Des Moines Township. In March, 1856, the Town of Milton was laid out by Goodman Graves and Samuel Brown partly in Section 8 and partly in Section 9 of Des Moines Township. In April, 1857, the Town of Coalport was laid out by William Hopkirk in Section 34 of Lockridge Township. In the same month and year the Town of Lockridge was laid out by John R. Parsons in Section 25 of Buchanan Township. In anticipation of its need, a "strip 100 feet wide, for future disposal for railroad or other purpose" was reserved through the plat.
In 1850, there developed a noticeable sentiment against intemperance. Largely through the instrumentality of secret orders formed to promote and encourage it, this feeling grew in strength for several years. Jefferson Division, No. 11, Sons of Temperance; Yreka Lodge, No. 18, Independent Order of Good Templars, and Temperance Star Club of Watchmen, No. 19, were the local societies of such orders instituted in Fairfield during the progress of the movement. Some of the active members in one or another of these organizations were James F. Wilson, William B. Littleton, W. W. Junkin, I. D. Jones, C. E. Noble, C. W. Gage, T. S. Byers, O. P. Allen, W. R. Alexander and J. E. Cummings.
The trend of public opinion was manifest. A "mock legislature," convened in Fairfield in 1852, was thus advised in a "governor's message" addressed to it: "The traffic in ardent spirits I regard as a social, moral and political evil and should be prohibited and the most stringent laws pasesd (sic) for the punishment of those who would still persist in it in violation of law." Jefferson Division, No. 11, Sons of Temperance, in December, 1853, "Resolved, that, as men of all parties and no party, we will vote for no man to make and execute our laws who is not decidely (sic) and unequivocally in favor of the passage and enforcement of a law prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors as a beverage."
In January, 1854, Alexander Caldwell, a liquor dealer of Fairfield, convinced that his occupation was wrong, determined to give it up and engage in a worthier calling. Accordingly on the 27th he turned over his entire stock to the Sons of Temperance, who marked out in full regalia to receive it in a manner becoming so arch an enemy. Dr. J. D. Stark officiated as marshal of the day. After prayer, the contents of the barrels were poured out in the street gutter. Speeches were made by Rev. Joseph C. Cooper and Rev. L. B. Dennis. The enthusiasm imspired by the event led to proposals to buy the supplies of the other dealers, on condition that they also should quit the business. These overtures were rejected.
The general agitation culminated in January, 1855, in the passage of a "prohibitory liquor law."
On March 21, 1850, the "Union company"--whose members were James M. Slagle, James M. Rea, C. S. Shaffer, Alfred Calvin, George Wilkerson and David P. Ramsey--set out from Fairfield for California. This band, while possibly not the first one, was representative of the adventuous spirits of the county who, in the decade that followed the finding of gold there, were lured by deceptive visions of wealth to that western coast and to the mines of Colorado.
In February, 1851, the Legislature granted rights of way to the Mt. Pleasant, Trenton, Deedsville and Brighton Plank Road and Bridge Company and to the Ottumwa and Libertyville Plank Road Company. The latter company, which seems to have had a place in a pretentious scheme to connect Keokuk and Fort Des Moines, apparently did nothing. The former company built a bridge over Skunk River at Deedsville, but lost control of it in December, 1854, when it was sold by the sheriff on an execution for debt.
On the last day of March, 1851, W. H. Wallace as president, Barnet Ristine as treasurer, and George Acheson, A. R. Sparks, J. T. Huey, John B. Crawford and John McCormick incorporated the Fairfield and Mt. Pleasant Plank Road Company. The route was surveyed by Samuel Jacobs.
The plank road between Burlington and Mt. Pleasant being completed in December, on the 24th a festival was held at Mt. Pleasant to celebrate the event. which meant in all seasons "an outlet to the river" and assured a prosperous future It was the connection with this road which gave value and importance to the road to Fairfield (sic).
A bridge across Skunk River was put under construction, but progressed slowly, on account of lack of funds. On March 11, 1853, Charles Negus, the president of the company, crossed it with horse and buggy and opened it to travel. It was a substantial structure, a quarter of a mile long, and so much of a curiosity that it attracted numerous visitors. Travelers went out of their way to see it. At its west end sprang up a settlement called Bridgeport. For a time, receipts from tolls were $50 a month.
An agitation for the building of a railroad capturing and engrossing public attention, many stockholders in the plank-road company neglected or refused to pay their subscriptions. The directors, in the hope of "keeping faith" in their contractual obligations, were constrained to threaten a resort to the processes of law against the delinquents. The effort was ineffectual. The outcome was the abandonment of the project.
The year 1851 was memorable for storms and floods, for a failure of the corn crop, and for a visitation of cholera, which happily was limited in the county to one neighborhood. In one family the plague was particularly destructive. On July 2d, Michael Shafer, a young man who had just returned from a trip to Keokuk for merchandise, was taken down with the dread disease at the home of his parents, some miles north of Fairfield. His father (Solomon Shafer), his mother, his brother, James K. Haywood (an uncle), his wife, their three children, another uncle (Elijah Stevens) and his wife, were all stricken in quick succession with the contagion. All these died within a fortnight, save Elijah Stevens, who from a condition in which he was prepared for burial revived to live to a ripe old age. Michael Shafer recovered.
By the close of 1851, Fairfield had become quite a manufacturing center. A cooper and a gunsmith practiced their respective callings. A considerable number of persons were employed in blacksmithing, tailoring and making boots and shoes. I. N. Brown built wagons; Irvin Shamp, carriages; and Vorce and McGowan, and J. M. and D. Strong, fanning mills. G. W. Jenkins and P. Myers were each chair makers; and B. Parker, C. E. Noble and R. Beach and Company were cabinet makers, John Snook conducted a sash and blind factory. E. H. Wetmore ran a carding machine and fulling mill. C. Burroughs manufactured plows and advertised an output of 500 for the next season. In 1852, Gray and Rea began the manufacture of the Manny's reaper and mower. In 1853, McFee and McCormick established and operated an oil mill; and John Shartel, a foundry. In 1855, Rahm and Maginly erected a steam flouring and grist mill, which attracted custom as far away as Fort Des Moines. Before this date, the nearest reliable mills for grinding wheat were on the Des Moines River. In 1857, Anthony Demarce opened a machine shop. His chief product was cane mills.
There appeared in the Fairfield Ledger of January 29, 1852, an editorial favoring the establishment of a public library. It was inspired by the offer of a "fellow townsman" to contribute $50 toward the purpose. The suggestion took root slowly. December came before any definite action resulted. As a preliminary step, Ward Lamson then circulated a subscription paper to ascertain what means could be secured. Mrs. Bernhart Henn was the first subscriber. By the last of January, 1853, some four hundred dollars were pledged. The amount was sufficient to warrant proceeding with the plan. On Friday evening, March 18, a body of "citizens of Jefferson County" met at the courthouse and being desirous of increasing their fund of knowledge organized the "Jefferson County Library Association."
At this meeting, Rev. Charles H. Gates acted as chairman, W. P. Brazelton served as secretary, and W. E. Groff, for an unnamed committee, reported "Articles of Associations," which were amended in several respects before adoption. "Article IX" expresses the seriousness of the participants. "The funds of the association, so far as relates to the purchase of books, are to be invested exclusively in historical, biographical and scientific works, thereby excluding the purchase of novels and romances, also theological works. But theological works of every sect and religion are to be received by donation and placed in the shelves of the library for circulation upon an equal footing with other books." The officers chosen were Robert McElhinny, president, and Ward Lamson, W. R. Wells, John Davis, H. O. Gibson, W. E. Groff and C. E. Noble, directors.
On April 14th, the board of directors elected C. E. Noble, secretary and Ward Lamson, treasurer. On June 29th, Dr. J. M. Shaffer's proposal to act as librarian for the year, "free of charge," was accepted. J. D. Paige was appointed his assistant.
Ward Lamson, having in view an eastern trip, was certified as "agent" and authorized to expend $415 for books "according to stipulations." He made the purchase in Boston and had the aid of E. P. Whipple, the essayist, in obtaining choice selections. For some reason unexpressed and unexplained, the board of directors in settlement excepted Emerson's Essays, first and second series, from the list furnished.
A room was secured in the Negus and Winn Block and fitted up with a few chairs, a table and shelves. Here, on August 27th, the library with 525 volumes was opened to use. It served at once twenty-seven readers, a number which increased almost to 100 within six months. Books were exchanged only on Saturday afternoons.
Effort did not cease with supplying wholesome literature. Early in 1855, the board of directors started a movement to provide a course of lectures through the fall and winter. Caleb Baldwin, James F. Wilson and Dr. J. M. Shaffer were charged with the duty of formulating a feasible scheme. It was still the age of stage-coaches, when intercourse with the outside world was slow and frequently difficult. In consequence dependence was placed in home folks. The arrangement adopted was for a lecture on each Friday evening at the courthouse, beginning in November and ending in March. In order of appearance, the lecturers and their subjects were William Duane Wilson, "The Triumph of Truth," Charles Negus, "Banking," Dr. J. W. Lewis, "Man as a Created Intelligence," Ward Lamson, "Education," Dr. R. R. Hall, "The Laws of Life," William B. Littleton, "The United States and Their Institutions," H. M. Austin, "--," Rev. Charles H. Gates, "Civil Government, Its Foundation and Authority," Rev. Joseph Gasner, "--," Wickliffe M. Clark, "Doctrines of Popular Government," Rev. Samuel C. McCune, "Necessity of Moral Culture," J. M. Carbaugh, "Mind and Its Powers," Dr. J. M. Shaffer, "The Sense of Smell," A. R. Fulton, "Man," James F. Wilson, "Who Are We?" Hon. Bernhart Henn, "Iowa and Her Resources," and Prof. J. Anderson, "--." Besides these, one Joseph Barker was engaged to appear "at his convenience." Accordingly, about the middle of January, he delivered three addresses on "The English Government," which were so acceptable that a fourth address by him on "The French Revolution" was added. On account of the inability of country people to attend these evening meetings, it was designed to have an "agricultural subject" discussed some afternoon for their benefit, but this laudable intent failed.
In 1863, James F. Wilson, then congressman, obtained for this library the most complete collection of Government records ever brought west of the Mississippi River. The consignment on arrival bore freight charges exceeding $60. It was necessary to raise this money by donations. Although an onerous task in that dark time of depression and discouragement, it was accomplished by the resolute endeavor that no obstacle daunts.
Such were the beginnings of this institution, which has so greatly influenced the intellectual development of the community. While it was planted upon firm foundations by the help of many, it received from Ward Lamson, Dr. J. M. Shaffer, James F. Wilson, C. W. Slagle, Dr. C. S. Clarke, W. W. Junkin, Charles Negus, and A. T. Wells, a special care. These men in fact and in deed watched over its destinies and guarded it in its weakness and distress.
In the spring of 1852, several persons in Fairfield and the vicinity exhibited the mysterious phenomena of spiritualism. They moved chairs and raised tables from the floor without any visible agency whatever, and by means of rappings and letter writing conversed with the spirits of departed friends. Charles Negus relates this characteristic incident which came under his own observation. The medium, a young girl said not even to know her letters, was provided with pen, ink and paper. As various spirits were summoned and interrogated, without paying any attention to her hands, she wrote down their replies quickly and as it seemed involuntarily. At last a woman desired to interview the spirit of Thomas H. Gray. This young man had died at her home. There was some difficulty in communicating with him. The responses were made with such hesitancy and so evident a reluctance as to arouse intense curiosity. To the inquiry, "Is there any place of punishment for the wicked in the spirit world?" he answered, "Yes." "Are you happy?" was the next question. At this query, the medium strangely disturbed "threw the pen in the most spiteful manner clear across the room." The spectators were amazed and referred to this conduct to Gray's professions of infidelity and his expressed belief that "death is an eternal sleep." There was a furor over the manifestations. A profound effect was produced upon many who came in contact with them. One young married woman through their influence lost her reason. The seances were soon condemned as a "curse" and discountenanced.
A. Manny's reaping and mowing machine was tried out in August, 1852, in Gage's field. This doubtless was the first departure in the county from the scythe and cradle. In 1853, Daniel Rider brought in a McCormick's reaper and mower. It was used that season upon his own farm and the farms of Robert McCoid, Mungo Ramsey, John Ramsey and J. W. Culbertson. The prices of $120 for the reaper alone and of $150 for the reaper and mower combined limited purchasers to a very few. In 1857, Richard Gaines introduced the Atkin's reaper and mower.
In January, 1853, the name of the Town of Creesville was changed by legislative act to "Botavia." The spelling has altered to "Batavia."
The Osage Orange tree was introduced in 1853 and cultivated for hedging. Growing it for this purpose was encouraged by the belief that it would make available the fertile lands of the open prairies which had lain unused because of the difficulty of enclosing the fields. Richard Gaines of Blackhawk Township was an ardent upholder of its utility. Seed in quantity was brought from Texas and found a ready sale. In the next few years miles of hedges were set out. The problem of fencing was thought to be solved.
Township seventy-two north range nine west was set off in 1856 from the townships of Lockridge and Fairfield of which it formed parts and established as a separate civil township. It was named "Buchanan" in honor of the democratic presidential candidate.
On June 30, 1860, T. B. Barnett, fishing in Cedar Creek, north of Batavia, found the bodies of a woman and two children, a boy and a girl. The sheriff, John F. Robb, and the coroner, Thomas Barnes, were summoned. The finding of the inquest was that the three "came to their death by some person." William K. Alexander, county judge, with commendable energy, at once offered a reward of $200 for the apprehension of the murderer. It was also announced that an additional reward would be raised by subscription among the citizens of Fairfield.
The sheriff and a number of other men took up the trail of an old man who, with two yoke of oxen and a covered wagon closed at both ends, had been noticed in that neighborhood. The pursuers soon learned that the suspect was exhibiting signs of excitement and haste. They caught up with him a few miles south of Upton, in Scotland County, Missouri. He gave his name as John Kephart, but neither denied nor acknowledged his guilt. The clothes of the victims, however, saturated with blood, were found in the wagon.
Kephart was brought to Fairfield on July 3d, given a preliminary hearing, and regularly committed. That evening he attempted to hang himself with a rope which he had secreted upon his person. He was discovered in time to revive him and was then heavily manacled.
On the morning of July 5th a report circulated that a mob was on its way to lynch the prisoner. This was quickly verified. The jail was surrounded, and the keys demanded. W. K. Alexander, J. F. Wilson, George Acheson, Charles Negus, C. W. Slagle and Ward Lamson addressed the crowd and urged submission to the orderly processes of the law. Their pleas were unavailing. The doors were forced. Kephart was carried out, put in a wagon and taken to the place where the bodies had been discovered. Stood upon the gallows erected in anticipation of his hour, he was urged to confess. Instead, he asserted his innocence. At once a white handkerchief was tied over his face, the noose slipped around his neck, and the rope which held the trap door cut. In such manner did he pay the human penalty of his crime.
That night the people of Fairfield assembled in the park and condemned the lawless proceedings of the day. At this meeting, over which Dr. John T. Huey presided, and in which D. P. Stubbs, A. R. Fulton, M. M. Bleakmore, J. F. Wilson, George Acheson, S. P. Majors, Ward Lamson, Samuel Mount, Samuel Jacobs and Charles Negus took part, it was voted "that, notwithstanding the circumstances attending the recent murder were calculated to excite all persons cognizant thereof, we do most heartily condemn the action of those persons who, by inflicting summary punishment on the said Kephart, trampled upon the majesty of the law -- which is our only source of secure protection." Some days afterward, at Abingdon, the people of Locust Grove and Polk townships deplored the lynching, but excused it on account of the "remiss administration of the civil law by our courts." At Pleasant Plain, the people of Penn Township voiced their "unqualified condemnation of mob violence in every form and degree."
This was one of those sporadic happenings, falling unfortunately to the lot of every community and illustrating the strength and vengeful passions once aroused, and how on such occasions the veneer of civilization drops away and leaves barbaric nature in its nakedness.
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