Blog Archive

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wayne County Is Timothy Seed
Capitol of America

The headline above was in Times Republican dated August 11, 1938 proclaiming Wayne county farmers planted more timothy than any other county in America.  In 1937 Wayne County produced 130,480 bushels of timothy seed according to government statistics. Iowa produced a total of 782,880 bushels that year, while the national production in 1937 was 1,565,760 bushels. This means that Iowa produced over one half of the national crop. According to 1937 figures, Wayne County produced almost nine percent of the national crop for the year.
The eight principal timothy seed producing counties in Iowa were Wayne, Ringgold, Decatur, Clark, Appanoose, Davis, Lucas, and Iowa counties.   Most of these counties are the rolling hills of southern Iowa where even today there are more hay fields and pastures than row crops.
The history of timothy in Wayne County was parallel to the history of the county.  It was thought that as early as 1844 timothy was grown in the area.  M.T. Kirk and Lewis Miles were both early pioneers; Kirk arrived in Wayne county in 1844 and Miles in 1852.  Each had a 1-acre patch of timothy, such a rare crop that visitors from nearby communities came to view the small fields.  William Kirk, son of M.T. made box-traps to catch prairie chickens that invaded the fields, some days catching nearly 100 birds.
An Englishman, Timothy Hurd, is responsible for the name applied to the grass called timothy that is harvested for hay. He is reported to have introduced the crop for farm use. Seed was eventually brought from England to the United States.
Probably the first timothy seed was harvested by hand. Later came mowing machines and then the harvester to cut the timothy hay which was later threshed with the old-fashioned horse operated threshers. By the late 1800’s and early 1900’s mid-summer found a “threshing crew” traveling from farm to farm with a steam engine and threshing machine to thresh or separate the seed from the straw.  Generally in each neighborhood one farmer might own a steam engine and threshing machine which he took from farm to farm. The “crew” was made of the local farmers helping one another to harvest the crop.

Prior to the threshing crew arriving the timothy, and earlier, oats had been cut down and wrapped in bundles ready for separating the seed from straw.  Below are some memories of threshing time written by Kathryn Hammond from the Seymour area.
Threshing was a hot, dirty time but we made the best of it.  There were two men on the crew for the steamer and separator, and sometimes they stayed overnight with us. We usually had them two or three days for the oats and again later for the timothy. You furnished your own stacker for the straw.
It took six or seven bundle wagons, which were loaded and pulled to the separator, one on each side. The men liked to set the separator so that there was no dirty side, but this wasn’t always possible.  There would be three or four field pitchers to load the bundle wagons.  It took many men on a crew.
Each family furnished their own water boy. My brother, Ralph Shoultz, usually followed the crew as water boy in our neighborhood. He was a good one, kept the water fresh, once around the crew and back to the well to get fresh water.  He had a wooden barrel type jug and the glass jugs were wrapped in a sack and sewed on jug. By keeping the sack wet it helped keep the water cool. He carried two jugs on his pony.
It kept us busy cooking all the food. We needed a lot of food- farm men had good appetites! Aunt Orpha Stamps helped us cook the dinner. We usually made the pies, or at least the crusts, the afternoon before. There were usually two tables. Everyone ate so much food and drank so much ice tea, it’s a wonder we weren’t sick.
As there was no electricity for refrigeration, Dad had to go every day to Seymour for the ice. It was wrapped in newspaper, a comfort and a small rug. It was placed in a washtub and put in the cellar when we got home.
When my dad, George Shoultz, was threshing it was dark almost every night when he got home. Mom and I had the cores done, Of course, no matter how late it was, the horses had to be unharnessed and taken care of.”
      James & Cameron Gibbs threshing crew are seen working near Cambria in 1897.  There are 16 men and 5 children in this photo.

      Although Wayne County is no longer considered the timothy capital it is still primarily a farming community where neighbor helps neighbor just as the early pioneers did

Friday, July 7, 2017

Wayne County Boys in World War I

 Soon after the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917 young men across America enlisted. A photo above dated September 19, 1917 in museum archives shows a large crowd on the courthouse lawn bidding farewell to the first group of draftees from Wayne County.  According to the Times Republican by 1918 there were 259 Wayne County men serving in France.  Iowa contributed 114,000 people to the war effort and of that number there were 3,576 causalities from disease, illness, or combat.

William Lem Dent

        William Lemly Dent was inducted January 16, 1918 into Fifth Division, Co. G, 60th Infantry of American Expeditionary Forces.  After a few months of intensive training the new recruits arrived in France on May 1, 1918 ready to fight.  Lem Dent was listed as a sniper.  The 5th Division insignia was a red diamond with a white center and the motto “to the utmost extent of our power.” The German forces called them “Die rote Teufel”- which translates to “Red Devils.” 

        The greatest American battle of the war began September 26, 1918; it would last 47 days, extend along the entire western front, and end with an Armistice signed on November 11, 1918  bringing a close to “The Great War.”  There were 1.2 million American soldiers participating.  The Meuse-Argonne Offensive, as it was called, resulted in 28,000 German causalities. There were 26,277 American lives lost and 95,786 wounded.  William Lemly Dent was one of those causalities; wounded on October 14 and died from his wounds on October 17, 1918 at age 24.

         Communications from France took time and were sketchy at best.  Americans celebrated the Armistice banging pots & pans and marching before William Lemly Dent’s family knew he had been killed.  His remains were not returned to his family until 1921.  A large funeral was held on Wayne county courthouse grounds near the newly dedicated Solders & Sailors Monument. Pvt. Dent was one of only very few killed Servicemen killed in WW I whose bodies were returned to Wayne County for burial.
        Bearing the casket of Pvt. Dent were recently returned soldiers – Leonard Tuttle, Alvin Krouse, Arthur Gartin, Guy Tuttle, James Hart, & Charles Chester.
Bearing the casket of Lem Dent 

Funeral of Lem Dent was held on the Courthouse lawn

Alva F. Eaton 

      Alva F. Eaton of Humeston joined Company D of the Third Iowa on March 29, 1916. He served six months on the Mexican border. Later the Third Iowa was transferred to the 168th Infantry and arrived in France in early 1918.  It became part of the 42nd Division, commonly referred to as the “Rainbow Division.”

     Sergeant Eaton was killed in action on March 5, 1918 at just 20 years of age. He was the first causality from Wayne County and only the second in Iowa at the time. Merle Hay, a soldier from Carrol County, killed on Nov. 3, 1917, was the first Iowan and possibly the first American serviceman killed in France during WW I.  Eaton is buried at Flanders Field in France. The American Legion Post and a street in Humeston both bear the name of young Eaton in honor of his supreme sacrifice for American freedoms.

 Above the  Argonne Forest in shreds after the battle and  below can be seen German dugouts 
in the Argonne Forest. All photos are part of Prairie Trails Museum collections. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wayne County Schools' Mascots and School Colors Past and Present

Before consolidation, there were ten high schools in Wayne County. Frequently, people ask about the various school mascots and school colors of the past. According to information located in the Prairie Trails Museum library, here is a list of the schools, mascots, and school colors:

The Allerton school colors were blue and white, and the boys' mascot was Blue Devils; the girls' mascot was  known as Devilettes.

Cambria's colors were blue and white, and they were known as the Comets.

Corydon High Hornets were represented by orange and black.

Clio teams were clad in purple and gold. They were the Tigers.

Humeston teams were formerly the Wildcats sporting royal blue and old gold colors.

Lineville Eagles wore red and blue, but it is noted in the information in the PT library that in 1937, Lineville boys' mascot was Indians, and the girls' was Goldettes. Their colors were purple and gold.

Millerton was known as the Waves represented by green and white colors.

The Promise City Eagles wore blue and white.

Seymour Warriors sported blue and white uniforms.

Sewal Bulldogs featured red and white colors.

In 2013, Wayne Community School in Corydon claim the Falcon as their mascot, and their school colors are black and white. Mormon Trail School in Humeston and Garden Grove are the Saints sporting black and gold colors. Seymour Community students are the Warriors, and they wear red and black today.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

One-Room Schools in Wayne County

Photographs in this post were taken at Williams School now located at the Round Barn Historic Site east of Allerton, Iowa.

Early pioneer children in Iowa were often taught in their homes by mothers or older sisters. As
populations grew in areas of the state, citizens organized local schools called subscription schools.
Children could attend these schools as long as their parents shared the expenses for supplies and
teachers. In 1839, a law passed by the territorial legislature made each county responsible for
opening and maintaining public schools.

According to a letter written to the Wayne County Democrat in 1908 by James S. Whittaker, an early
settler and teacher in Wayne County, “The first school house built in Wayne county was built about 1
¼ miles east of where Lineville now stands, in 1842 or 1843.”Not all children attended school
because they were needed on the farm, and mothers, aunts, and friends would do their best to teach
children to read and write.

In 1858, another law was passed, and each township in Iowa became responsible for organizing schools. These new school districts built schools and provided tuition-free elementary education to all children between the ages of five and twenty-one. Nine schoolhouses were built in each township and students only had to walk a mile or two to school. Wilma West wrote in Wayne County History, “Over 100 rural schools dotted the hillsides and valleys of the county at one time.” A few of the names were: Calathump, Old Blue, Greenridge, Shane Hill, Nip and Tuck, Cockleburr, Jerk Tail, Clay Center, Hogue, Pine, Star, Oakdale, often called Wild Cat, German Center which became Liberty Center during World War I, Log Chain, and West Union.

By the turn of the century, there were almost 14,000 one-room schoolhouses across the state.
Many rural schools looked alike. Most were built from wooden boards and painted bright red or white.
Students stored coats, boots, and lunches in the school entryway. Desks stood in rows in the
classroom. A wood burning stove blazed in the winter, and a student was lucky if he or she sat near
the stove. Students often shivered as they tried to learn in the cold winter months.

In a book of teacher memories at the Prairie Trails Museum, V. Lucile Riggs Patterson wrote, “The teacher was janitor, music teacher, arts or crafts or industrial arts teacher, (we did a little of each), supply clerk, and play director. It was customary to have a ‘program’ followed by a ‘box supper’ every fall, usually about Halloween time, another program at Christmas, and one at the end of the school year, sometimes
followed by a community picnic.” Other recollections in the book of teacher memories included reading Bible verses on Monday morning for opening exercises and reciting the Lord’s Prayer every morning.

Sometimes snow banks were so high students and teachers could not get to the school for a week with mules and sleds. Some walked railroad track when the roads were blocked by snow. Dirt roads often became impassable during the late winter and spring, and school had to be held in a home rather than have
the children miss weeks of school.

By 1958, because of consolidation, only two rural schools were in use in Wayne County. In 1965, the
legislature wrote the end of the story of the one-room school. It passed a law ordering all schools to
become part of legal school districts with high schools, and by July 1967, most of Iowa’s one-room
schools were closed.

Monday, April 15, 2013

PTM Opens Today!

 If you are longing for "the good old days" or just want to escape into the past, plan a visit to the museum. Today is opening day at Prairie Trails Museum.

You can read about the past in books or look at old photos, but wouldn't you rather see the past in person?

That is my favorite part of visiting the museum; one can stroll right into the past by strolling through the galleries. 

This is a place where you can literally walk through the past and observe all the details that your ancestors observed, in many cases, over one hundred years ago.

Volunteers at the museum hear time and time again, "This is the best museum I have ever visited " or "I can't believe you have such a wonderful museum here in a small town."

You really do have to SEE it to BELIEVE it, and I can safely say that you won't be sorry.

Plan to spend an afternoon enjoying your trip to the past, or better yet, buy a yearly membership to the Wayne County Historical Society for a mere $10 and get unlimited visits to the museum for that year. It is a great bargain!

New artifacts are always being added, and if it has been awhile since you have visited the museum, you won't believe the changes and improvements! 

If you are seeking information about your Wayne County ancestors, the genealogy library is an amazing resource filled with information about Wayne County residents, past and present.

Visit the Prairie Trails Museum web site here for information, and go to PTM's Facebook page and "like" it to receive updates about events and exhibits.

Open Daily April 15th - October 31st
Sunday-Saturday: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday-Saturday: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Monday-Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Jr.-Sr. High
Monday-Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
K-6th Grade
Monday-Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday-Saturday: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday-Saturday: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Promise City's Woman Barber

It is not unusual in this day and age for men to go to a hair stylist who is a woman, or for a woman to go to a hair stylist who is a man. That was not the case back in the 1920's, 30's, and 40's, but Promise City, Iowa had a barber who was a woman. Read her story from March 25, 1948 in the Centerville, Iowa Daily Iowegian:

Promise City's Only Barber Is Mrs. Myrtle Wolfinger

Like Topsy Her Trade Just Grew

Promise City's only barber is a very nice lady. She is Mrs. Myrtle Wolfinger and she has been taking care of the haircuts in this eastern Wayne county city for more than two decades.

It all began, according to Mrs. Wolfinger, when ladies first stated considering "bobbed hair".

"They just couldn't go into a men's shop to have their hair cut," she said, (although later it became a more or less common custom). At any rate the ladies of Promise City, who wanted some barbering done, found that Mrs. Wolfinger seemed to have a particular knack for such things. Thus it was that she started helping some of her friends with their "bobbing" problems.

"At that time," said Mrs. Wolfinger, "I didn't have any idea of operating the only barber shop in Promise City, but that is what it lead to."

The time soon came when some of the men and young men of the city sought to have Mrs. Wolfinger extend her trade to cutting men's hair as well as that of the women. With some hesitancy, Mrs. Wolfinger did establish a regular barber shop and she is now known for and wide for her ability.

Just for instance one Centerville man will let no one else cut his hair and makes the trip to Promise City regularly. Mrs. Wolfinger lists among her regular customers people from Confidence, Corydon, Seymour, Clio, Allerton, and other points. She has some truckers who make it a point to stop for their tonsorial work although they may live as far away as Des Moines.

The barber shop is in the basement of the Wolfinger home and the barber chair is comfortably close to the furnace.

It is simple but adequate.

Mrs. Wolfinger does not shave anyone except to shave their necks. She believes that her customers can take care of their own shaving problems but few can do anything about cutting their own hair.

Mrs. Wolfinger will tell you that no two heads of hair are alike. She takes the woman's point of view. It isn't just a matter of cutting someone's hair and cutting it about the same as all the rest are cut. Mrs. Wolfinger studies each particular head and cuts the hair to suit the style of the head and hair.

"Now for instance," she says, "no one on earth can put your hat on for you satisfactorily. Really no one else can comb your hair. So far as barbering goes each person is very different from others and has to be considered that way."

And here is another little item. Haircuts at the Wolfinger barber shop are 25 cents each, believe it or not!

"Everybody says they should be higher," she says, "the state inspector really has a fit about the prices. But I get a large number of tips and I've never raised the price. I suppose they should be at least 35 or 50 cents tho'."

And what do men talk about in a lady's barber shop? Well, there is no swearing, no risque stories, and in fact according to Mrs. Wolfinger all of the men are perfect gentlemen. They really appreciate the shop in Promise City and they seem to enjoy the shop as much as they would an all men's shop.

Mrs. Wolfinger is also a housewife and carries on her activities just as any other wife might do, even to entertaining. The barber shop door is at the side of the house and there is a push button there. Anyone wanting service may push this button and go on into the basement room, which is quite apart from the rest of the home.

The house where Mrs. Wolfinger had her barber shop still stands. It is south of the Methodist Church across Highway 2. Mrs. Wolfinger was Anita Lord Wells' great grandmother, and Anita provided this article about Mrs. Wolfinger.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

George Allen

Thursday evening at Wayne County Historical Society's Annual Meeting, Enfys McMurry gave highlights from her latest book, Centerville A Mid*American Saga. Although the book is the story of Centerville, Iowa and its inhabitants from its founding up through World War II, there are some Wayne County connections.

One of the connections that Enfys highlighted in her speech Thursday evening and in her book, is of George Allen, an African-American gentleman who lived and worked and is buried in Wayne County. 

In Chapter 26 entitled Centerville's African Americans, McMurry wrote about the "earliest permanent County residents of African descent". The first was a child, Frank Wells, who was brought from Texas to Appanoose County.

According to McMurry's book, "The second permanent resident was also a boy brought north from the South. He was unsure of his age, estimated to be six, but sure of his name---George---and that of his family's owner, Mr. Allen. George Allen became his name. For the slaves of Jackson, Mississippi, emancipation reached them five months late. In the melee following that city's fall in May 1863, in the chaos of slave fleeing owners and jostling and wounded soldiers making for the river, George became separated and lost from his parents.

Appanoose County's Dr. Nathan Udell, an early Democrat but a convert to Republicanism and then a surgeon with Iowa's Seventeenth Infantry, found him crying and brought him to Centerville. George was passed on to several local families before being raised by John Conger, one of the County's earliest abolitionists. When Conger moved west into neighboring Wayne County, George went with him. Always hardworking and well-liked, George appears in a photograph, presented to the Prairie Trails Museum of Wayne County by Mose Sager of Seymour, with his white friends sitting at the front of a porch in full sunshine. George stands alone behind them..." 

In this photo from the Prairie Trails Museum, the caption reads:
Clyde Greenlee, Vanch Nelson, Ed Hart, Wm. Miles, Bertha Harper, Floy Freeland, Stella Mardis, Eva Tedford, Clarence Cark, Charles Miles, Bert Miller, and N----- George

According to a story published on June 14, 1934 in Centerville's Daily Iowegian and Citizen newspaper, "George Allen began farming for himself on the Jerry Evans farm 3 miles north of Seymour, Iowa. From here he farmed a few years on the Lew Donald farm northeast of Promise City, Iowa, then rented the Davis farm near-by and continued farming here until about 1921. Affliction overtook this generous colored man. He then made his home at the Wayne county poor farm. Here he was made superintendent over the gardens and truck patches, and made his time self-paying to the taxpayers of his county.

Geo. Allen passed out of life in February, 1934, and his body was layed [sic] to rest at his request, in the Promise City cemetery, along with the white people who had passed on before, to the unknown world."

 It was reported in September of 1960, that a group of Promise City women collected money to buy and place a stone at George Allen's grave, nearly 27 years after his interment in that cemetery.