Sunday, November 16, 2014

Chariton's First Hotel: 1860-1898

From an article written by Frank Myers:

   As the years passed, the old Chariton hotel acquired a false front and assorted additions, but continued to serve Chariton’s business needs until 1898. It had been acquired during 1866 by William E. “Uncle Billy” Lewis, who operated a grocery store in part of the building before moving across the street north a year or two later into a building later occupied by J.T. Crozier & Co and replaced, also during 1898, by the current two-story brick Richardson Romanesque building at that location.
   The Lewis family continued to hold onto the old hotel property, however, most likely renting it out to as-sorted tenants until it became virtually derelict.
   During 1898, Billy Lewis’s son, also William E. Lewis but known as Ed, decided to demolish the ramshackle old building and replace it with the current brick structure.
   The Chariton Democrat, on May 12, 1898, reported, “W.E. Lewis is tearing down the old building on the southeast corner of the square and in its stead will erect a nice brick structure. The building which is being torn down was an old landmark having been built about fifty years ago. It was then used as a hotel and as the stopping place of Col. Dungan, Jos. Braden, C.F. Temple (actually E.A. Temple), Dr. Fitch and other pioneers when they came to this country.”

Dead Body Found in Trunk

From the Chariton Herald – 02-11-1904

Chariton Officers Make a Gruesome Find in a Stranger’s Trunk in the Baggage Room.

   Chariton had a sensation and a tragedy all in one last Friday morning in a find that was made in the baggage room of the CB& Q Depot of this city. The horrible mystery has not yet been fully explained, but enough of it has leaked out to put it on record as one of the most sensational discoveries that the officers here have ever made.
   The climax of the discovery came about ten o’clock on Friday morning, although the officers had had suspicions for a day or two before that. An ordinary trunk had come to the baggage room Wednesday before, from Seattle, and no one had come to claim it. Nothing particular was thought of the matter until the city officers, happening in the baggage room often as they do, noticed a peculiar odor emanating from the trunk.
   Each hour, seemingly, the stench became stronger, whereupon the officers spoke to each other of their suspicions, and the fearful fact became fixed in their minds that the trunk contained a dead body, and was perhaps the culmination of some murder mystery.
   The fact that the trunk had come from Seattle made the theory seem all the more plausible, and after waiting until Friday morning for the trunk to be claimed and taken away, the officers determined to investigate the matter. Mayor Bowen was sent for at 4 o’clock a.m., and he advised the officers to open and
search the trunk. Accordingly the baggage room was closed and guarded from the inside after all loiterers had been excluded, and a search warrant was produced giving authority for the search. The lock resisted their efforts for a while, but they finally succeeded in picking it, and turned back the lid. The awful odor then almost over-powered them, and though there was nothing but clothing to be seen on top, they felt absolutely certain that a dead body in a state of advanced decomposition would be the gruesome sight that would meet their gaze when they removed the top layer of clothing. And sure enough, when the bravest of those present finally mustered up courage enough to lift off a bunch of lingerie and a dress or two, there lay a corpse, four large, juicy looking lobsters, spoiled beyond all hope of cooking, with their claws by the clothing in which they had been wrapped, and their bodies reeking with the odor that had peaked the suspicions of the officers and led to the investigation.
It was later learned that the trunk belonged to Miss Orpha Fox, who had come from Seattle, Wash., for a visit with her sister, Mrs. Fred Wood. She had put a few fresh lobsters in her trunk, but it was so long in transit that the varmints decomposed, with the sensational results above described. The question now is, is the joke on Miss Fox or on the city officers?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pictures from the Past by Ursula Bingham

Chariton Herald-Patriot, November 13, 2014
By Ursula Bingham

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pictures From The Past by Ursula Bingham

The bridge(s) of Lucas County
Sunny weather and fine fall temperatures made Sunday's CinderPath drive-through an ideal leisure activity.  Although the colors were a little past their prime, thanks to a bit of windy weather last weekend, local residents found the sites worth seeing.  Note:  This picture and story courtesy of the October 31, 1974 Chariton Herald-Patriot newspaper.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Pictures From The Past by Ursula Bingham

Pictures from the Past
by Ursula Bingham

Homecoming Queen Finalists:
   A special assemby was held Friday at Chariton Community High School to choose the five finalists for the title of homecoming queen.  Selected from 14 hopefuls by a vote of the senior class were:  (left to right) Beth Milnes, Michelle Connell, Lori Rhodes, Barbara Chandler and Cathy Amos.
   The girls will appear in the homecoming day parade Oct. 11.  The queen will also be named that day.  (photo by Rick Elliott) Note:  Photo and story courtesy of the Oct. 8, 1974 Chariton Leader.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pictures from the Past

Rene Julien's story

Homecomings: Rene Julien

     Here is Rene Julien's story as told by Bill Baer on Sunday during the Tenth Annual Chariton Cemetery Heritage Tour, sponsored by the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission.
     The first time I rolled into Chariton was during the late fall of 1853 --- and I was walking beside a prairie schooner, not riding --- the square was mostly covered by prairie grass and there was just a fringe of timber to see off south along the river.
     The new log courthouse stood on the west side and we passed between log cabin stores of the Hills and the Wescotts on the northwest corner headed out of town.
     The last time I rolled into town --- my bones in a crate on a flatbed rail car --- it was April of 1936 and Chariton was a busy and built-up town, not that much different from what you see today.
     I am Rene Julien and my name is an old and proud one. My great-grandfather was Rene St. Julien, a French Huguenot refugee to England who served in William of Orange’s army at the Battle of Boyne and married Mary Bullock in Bermuda before arriving in America during 1692. My father was Rene Julien, too, a solider of the American Revolution.

Lucas County Notes & Shakin’ the Family Tree Volume 19 Issue 2 April-May-June 2014  Page 29

     I was born during 1783 in North Carolina, but moved to Lawrence County, Indiana, as a young man, where I married twice and fathered 10 children.
     By 1853, however, I was 70 and considered to be a very old man. My wives were dead and my children were scattering across the West. And so on the 15th day of September in that year, I walked away from my Indiana home and with two of my sons and their families, and others, headed for Iowa.
     Our party consisted of six prairie schooners, two buggies and 20 people, young and old. I was by far the oldest.  My son Jacob and his family owned one of the wagons and my son Isaac, another. The Juliens had two teams of horses, a strong yoke of oxen, about 40 cattle --- and the family dog.
     We arrived in the eastern part of Lucas County on the 8th of October and the next day Isaac and his family traveled on to Chariton while I accompanied Jacob and his family up into Marion County where we spent a few days with my daughter, Leannah, who had married Thompson Woody and relocated to Iowa three years before.
     We soon headed for Chariton, however, and settled on claims north and west of town, open prairie fringed by woodland along White Breast Creek and its tributaries.
     I lived well and for the most part happy and healthy in cabins here until my 78th year, when I died on March 16, 1861, of the infirmities associated with age, surrounded by family and friends.
     My not-quite-final resting place was a pioneer graveyard in woodlands near the crest of White Breast Hill, not far north of what now is Highway 34 midway between Chariton and Lucas. A year later, my granddaughter, Mary Ellen Julien, daughter of Isaac and Lucretia, died in her third year and was buried beside me. Her parents bought this tombstone to mark both of our graves.


     As years passed, the first rail line west through this part of the country was built in 1868 just north of our
gravesite, known by most by now as the Watson graveyard. But our rest was not disturbed until the spring of
1936, when the decision was made to rebuild the railroad grade to better accommodate double tracks and make the ascent of the White Breast hill easier.
     The plan called for destruction of the Watson graveyard, in 1936 mostly under the new grade, in the interests of progress. Mary Ellen and I had the only tombstone that could be found there, but 12 other graves marked by field stones or otherwise evident were dug up by workers who placed their contents in crates and loaded them onto a flatcar --- along with the Julien tombstone --- for shipment to Beardsley Funeral Home in Chariton.
     A site in the far northwest corner of the Chariton Cemetery was selected for reburial of the dozen who could not be identified and the railroad paid for small markers inscribed “unknown” that remain there today.
     Because my son Isaac Julien’s family had a nearby lot in the cemetery and our bodies had been identified, our remains were reburied here on it and the old tombstone put into place again to mark their location. Other family graves are just to the south.
     And so, at last, the Julien family was reunited.

Carl L. Caviness's story

Homecomings: Carl L. Caviness

     Here is Carl L. Caviness's story as told by Patrick Dittmer on Sunday during the Tenth Annual Chariton Cemetery Heritage Tour, sponsored by the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission. Other stories told Sunday were those of Maggie, Marko "Chicago Mike" Vucicic and Rene Julien. The script was written by Kylie Dittmer for her brother, Patrick. He is a third-generation nephew of Carl; and she, a third-generation niece.
     On May 20, 1918, while on patrol, Carl Leo Caviness was killed by enemy fire in France. His was one of more than 116,000 deaths suffered by the American forces in World War I, but he was the first from Lucas County to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
     Carl was born in Lucas County on May 6, 1896, to David and Minerva (Ballard) Caviness. He was the youngest of ten children. His father was a Civil War veteran and his mother was a niece of the first settler of Lucas County, John Ballard.
     When Carl was still young, he went to live with his sister and brother-in-law, Maude and John Frazier of rural Lucas County, due to the divorce of his parents, David and Minerva. He completed school through the ninth grade and after he left school he enlisted in the Iowa National Guard. During the next four years he 
served most of his time on the United States/Mexico border.
     In September 1917, Carl returned to Iowa and married Charles City native Ruth Cress before being shipped out to France to fight in World War I. Carl arrived in France in December 1917.  He was 21 years old. His first assignment in France was as a battalion runner. As a battalion runner, Carl was in charge of running messages from headquarters to the soldiers in the trenches. After a short time doing this duty, Carl asked for a transfer to battalion scout. As a battalion scout, Carl was sent on patrols of the enemy lines. It was a highly dangerous job and it was while doing this job that Carl was killed.
     Carl’s death was explained by Corporal O.D. Ewing, who was with Carl when he died. “We were sent out to investigate a section of the German first line trench. It was a very dangerous bit of work and the fact that Carl was chosen is evidence that he was one of the best men in the scout section. We left our trenches
about 3 p.m. in two groups of four men. Carl was in the group on the left, I was on the right. My group worked up with about 35 yards of the German trench before they discovered us. We had a little brush with them but managed to get back with our information without any casualties.
     “We had heard rifle firing to the left of us, but we didn’t think much of it. We retreated through heavy woods, trenches, barbed wire and over a hill, laughing as we had gotten to the German lines. It was then that we were approached by another soldier who was out of breath. He informed us that one of our men was still out there and had been hit. We did not stop to ask questions, we went back up over the hill to where two our men were guarding where he had fallen.
     “We went crawling through a shallow trench of the Germans until were close enough to get to him. Then while part of us fired to keep the Germans down, others left the trench and brought his body back to the shelter.   We then retreated back over the hill with Carl’s body under enemy fire.  “It was then that we learned (the circumstances of) of Carl’s death from the soldiers who had been with him. Carl and an officer had made their way up over the hill and into the German’s trenches. They started crawling further into the dugout when they were fired upon. Carl was hit right away and was killed instantly. The officer then stayed and guarded the body while another soldier went for help.”
     After Carl’s body was brought back from the enemy’s trenches, the soldiers buried him on a hill in France with a full military burial, including a firing squad salute.
     In 1921, at the request of Carl’s family, his body was disinterred and brought back to Lucas County, where it was laid to rest in another full military burial including a procession of over 100 service men and the Legion Band.  
     That day the flags soared and proclaimed, “the pride of America is in its defenders and their work will always be rewarded.”

     My name is Staff Sgt. Patrick Dittmer. I am the three times great nephew of Carl Caviness and I am a veteran of the United States Army. I graduated from Chariton High School in 1997 and went directly into the Army.  While on active duty I served in Germany, Texas, Kansas, Georgia and South Carolina. I have also served three overseas combat tours, the first in Albania, then Iraq and last Afghanistan. I left the Army in 2011, but currently serve as a communication specialist in the U.S. Army Reserves.
     I was honored to be asked to talk about Carl Caviness and get the chance to tell his story. To be able to do so is a rare opportunity to pay tribute not only to a great soldier but also to a member of my family. One of the most important things about being in the military and being a veteran is to remember the legacy of the soldiers who have fought for our country. Telling Carl’s story is a chance for me to remind people of his legacy and that of the soldiers who have gone before us.

Marko "Chicago Mike" Vucicic

Homecomings: Marko "Chicago Mike" Vucicic

     Here is Marko "Chicago Mike" Vucicic's story as told by Albert Butler on Sunday during the Tenth Annual Chariton Cemetery Heritage Tour, sponsored by the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission. Other stories told Sunday were those of Maggie Corbett, Rene Julien and Carl L. Caviness.
     They used to say, back in coal mining’s glory days, that if Chicago Mike saw a bird on a branch, he’d bet on the direction it would fly. That was me, Marko Vucicic, but known in Tipperary, Olmitz and Lucas County’s other mining camps in the teens and 1920s as Chicago Mike.

Lucas County Notes & Shakin’ the Family Tree Volume 19 Issue 2 April-May-June 2014  Page 26

     I was a gambling man, a bootlegger, a lover of fast cars and fancy clothes --- and I died too young, at age 34 --- driving too fast, I slammed into a streetcar in Des Moines. Buried first in Chicago, it was my brother, John, who brought me home to Chariton, thousands of miles from where we were born, so we could rest together.

     I was born in 1894 in Croatia near a town on the Adriatic Sea called Solin, an ancient place that was the capital of Roman Dalmatia and the birthplace of the emperor, Diocletian. My family owned vineyards there and made and sold wine to earn a living.
     But the work was hard, money was scarce and there were too many of us trying to live off the same small patches of land. So after hearing that in America all you had to do was get a scoop and shovel the money in, my cousin, Martin, and I made our way to Chicago during 1912.
     We worked there, moved to Colorado to work in the mines, traveled with a circus as wrestlers, landed in Iowa at the legendary Buxton mines and, in the fall of 1914, when the shaft was sunk at Tipperary out in Pleasant Township, I came there to work.
     I wasn’t much of a miner, but I was a heck of a wrestler --- and even better at gambling. Luck always seemed to be with me, until it ran out; I had the skill. And I knew how to whip up batches of home-brew, too.
     So gambling was how I made my living with bootlegging to tide me over between slow times at the mines. Come payday, I’d throw out a tarp and start a game, craps or whatever anyone wanted to play. I gambled at Tipperary, at Olmitz, up in Williamson, over at Melcher and on the levee in Chariton. I almost always won.
     When the action slowed around here, I went to Chicago and gambled there, too. That’s how I got the name “Chicago Mike.”
     All of this was against the law, so the sheriff was always on my tail --- but I moved too fast for him most of the time. I drove fast and fancy cars; dressed fancy, too.
     You’d have though those other miners and their families would have disliked me, but they didn’t. In fact I
developed a Robin Hood reputation, always kind and open-handed to those who had less. I only ran into real trouble once, when a gang held me up south of Newton one night in 1925, shot the windshield out of my car and robbed me.
     By 1921, I’d saved enough money to send for my baby brother, John, still in Croatia; drove up to Chicago to pick him up, then brought him home to Tipperary.
     In 1923, I met the beautiful Leona Duffy at a dance in Olmitz, and we married soon after and moved into a shack in Tipperary. But I was not a good husband; I roamed too much and wouldn’t settle down. In 1928,
she divorced me.
     We drove into Des Moines together on Sept. 26 of that year --- next week will be the 85th anniversary of my death, you know --- to sort out some of our business, and I was driving too fast on Dean Avenue when something distracted me and the car slammed into a streetcar. I was killed, but Leona recovered.
     Brother John and my cousin, Martin, had my body taken to Chicago for a funeral Mass and burial --- and the tombstone you see here, with my picture on it, stood there for many years.
     John finally settled down in Chariton, had a family, farmed a little and operated a bar called John’s Club. He lived long, and thinking of those last things in his later years, decided that he wanted to be buried here and that he wanted me with him. So he hired Mosher Funeral Home to negotiate with the Archdiocese of Chicago and oversee the move and reburial in Chariton.
     After John died in Arizona at age 100 during 2002, his remains were brought here and buried beside me.
It wouldn’t be fair to end this without saying “thanks” to Rose Marie Briggs, Her meticulous research and writing skills resulted in two books, one about Tipperary and the other about Olmitz. You can read much more of my story in “Tipperary: Gone But Not Forgotten.”

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Herald-Patriot, May 22, 2014
Years and Years Ago

20 years ago
   Pfc. Matthew K. Anderson was remembered at a special ceremony dedicating a memorial in his honor at Lucas.  He was the first Iowan to give his life in Somalia.  Several soldiers, as well as many of the 200 or so persons gathered to look at the memorial which featured a flagpole set into a brick with a marble slab in his honor.  Later that afternoon six Army helicopters made an impressive appearance at the park.  Flying low over the area in formation, one rose quickly and pulled away from the other, in the classic "missing man" formation.

70 years ago
   Pearl Harbor was the scene of a reunion for brothers, Ralph Lewis of Chariton and Bobby Rutan of Chamberlain, S.D.  Their mother died when Bobby was just five days old and he was adopted by the Rutan family.  The C.E. Lewis family then took Ralph who was two years old, into their home.  They had been separated for 19 years and were reunited by the United States Navy.

Memorial Day 1944 honored the dead of five wars:  Roy Ellis, Walter Eckerman, Gerald Gathercole, Arlie Hanks, Lyle Mosbey, Lyle Morris, Loren Nusebaum, Howard Oden, Eugene Peterson, Paul Pantovich, Robert Smith, Henry Thompson, Vernon Wells and Floyd Zimmer.

Pictures From The Past

Thursday, March 6, 2014

60 Years Ago

Chariton high school senior, Duane Hibbs, was awarded the state's highest honor for heroic deeds, the valor award.  Governor Wm. Beardsley made the presentation at an open house held by the Chariton schools.  Hibbs and a companion, Bill Thorne, were skating at the West Lake when suddenly Thorne broke through a weak spot in the the ice.  Seeing the plight of his companion, Hibbs, aware of the usual procedure in such emergencies started for shore to get a rope or plank.  He saw that it was too far and feeling that Thorne dressed in heavy clothing and in cold water, would be gone before help could arrive.  Hibbs lay down on the ice and reached his hand to Thorne and tried to pull him out.  This didn't work as the fringe ice kept breaking. Then the rescuer backed off, stretched at full length, dug in his skates and reached out to Thorne, who then pulled himself over the edge.  Duane tended to minimize his heroic action and didn't even tell his parents of the incident.  The first they knew of the rescue was when Thorne's parents called to thank him for saving their son's life.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Chariton City Hall and Fire Station

Here is a description of the building, published in The Chariton Leader on 23 February 1932, as those who toured that day would have seen it:


From the outside the building presents a charming appearance, being finished in variegated colored brick. On the left from the front is the large folding doors of the fire station, behind which is stored Chariton's fire fighting equipment. These doors are mounted on tracks and instantaneous opening is always assured.

The city hall offices occupy the right half of the lower floor. A huge double door, framed in columns of stone, presents a picturesque view. Dorinthian (sic) architecture is the predominate note of the simple decorations. In the center of the decorations over the door is the date of the building etched in stone, "1931."

A pier lantern of statuary bronze surmounts the building. Panes of circular glass enclose 6 100-watt bulbs and when the lantern is lighted a yellow glow is shed over the building.

Entering the door the impressive offices of the city are located on the right, diagonally from the door. The first door to the right is that which leads into the office of A.C. Riebel, Mayor.

A huge grilled window has been installed in the window of the clerk's office and all city business is transacted through this grill. Furniture in the city clerk's office is of light oak and includes a flat top desk for the deputy clerk, Mrs. Effie Peterson, and a roll top desk for Theo Rosa, city clerk.

The mayor's office opens off the east end of the city clerk's office while on the west doors open into the council room.

The council room is one of the most outstanding rooms in the building with an admirable color scheme providing much beauty. The mural decoration is in a pastel shade of green while the ceiling is finished in cream. A ten foot table and ten chairs of solid walnut, with the chairs upholstered in sober blue leather, add a delightful contrast to the mural colors.

Opening off to the south is a 12 by 14 foot vault where official city records are kept. This vault is completely equipped with steel shelving and cabinets by the Lyon Locker company through their agent, C.C. McCormick of Des Moines.

A door in the west wall of the council room leads into the furnace and work shop room of the building. The city water department has its workshop in this room.

An oil burner, Century make and type 2, furnishes the heat for the building, while a Kewanee boiler, type C, is included in the installation. The oil burner was installed by Dean Ferguson of Chariton, while C.B. Ensley sold the boiler. Ensley also held the plumbing contract on the building.

Reverting back to the lobby of the building, just within the front door, a sweeping flight of steps built of terrazzo may be seen on the left. The steps lead to the second floor of the building.

At the top of the stairs the auditorium of the building is the first room to be seen. The auditorium seats from 300 to 400 people and has already found a useful place in furnishing a meeting room for the various organizations of the city and county.

Leaving the auditorium along the corridor that parallels the steps, and walking west the city treasurer's and the cemetery board offices may be found. In this room, George Carpenter, A.C. Riebel, J.H. Curtis, I.L Guernsey and E.H. Best, the members of the cemetery board, hold their meetings. Miss Maggie Beem, city treasurer, has her office in this room and O.E. Lamb, cemetery superintendent, also has offices there.

Down the corridor to the east in the adjoining room is the Community club and the Woman's club meeting room. This room has just been furnished by the two organizations and has tables and chairs of walnut upholstered in leather.

Across the corridor is the firemen's club room. Two pool tables and shower baths are features of this room. The floor is composed of cork carpet.

All of the floors in the building with the exception of the auditorium, the firemen's club room, the fire equipment storage room and the furnace room, are made of terrazzo. This contract was held by the J. T. Ure company of Cedar Rapids.

The woodwork of the building is entirely of walnut although little wood has been used in the construction. The floor of the auditorium is of oak on steel joists.

The Pittsburg-Des Moines Steel company of Des Moines held the contract for all steel used in the building. Byron Blanchard of Chariton completed most of the wiring in the building.

State officers whose work has caused them to visit the city hall have expressed the belief that the city hall is one of the finest in Iowa, regardless of the size of the city. All Chariton may take a reflected pride in the structure.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pictures From The Past by MaLinda Travis

Stierwalt Reflects Back on Her Time
Chariton council members Joan Amos and newly-elected Mayor John Braida present Mary Stierwalt with a plaque in honor of her 30 years of service to the city of Chariton.  An open house was held in her honor.   Note:  This picture and story courtesy of the 2004 Chariton Leader.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Years and Years Ago

Arthur Chase of Russell was the winner of the 1953 Lucas County Alfalfa Award, Other alfalfa contest winners were Kenneth LaFavre, Ronald and John Stierwalt, Clair Throckmorton, Harry Calhoun, Ustel Mason, Karl Adamson, Clayton and Warren Blue, Lee LaRue and Jay Snook.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Historic Oakley was once a Thriving Community

In the early 1900's, Oakley was a thriving community and then came a gradual decline at the start of World War II.  The only places left today are a few houses, Gillaspy Machinery Salvage Yard, a little park and the community center.
Oakley was founded in the late 1870s.  The town received its name because the  40 acres it was located on were covered with oak trees.
Chariton residents Bob Niswender and Vernard Oxdenreider both lived outside of Oakley for many years.  They had parents and grandparents who lived in the town and some of them owned businesses there.

A picture of Oakley main street, circa 1900, during the annual fall "Hog Day" celebration
Vernard was born in 1919 two miles northwest of Oakley.  HIs family moved south of Oakley when he was 1½ years old.  Vern lived there until he went into the Marine Corps in 1942.  He was in the Marines until April 1945.  After he came back from the service he lived there for 53 years.  Oxenreider had a 260 acre farm ½ mile north of Oakley.
Bob was born in 1925 and he lived four miles strait west of Oakley until 1949.  Bob's grandfather, George Niswender, had a farm west of Oakley and he owned a big livery stable in town.  The stable was located where Gillaspy's Salvage Yard is located now.  There was a community dance platform located behind the stable.  There was an ice building located west of the dance platform.
"They made ice to use in the summertime back in those days because they didn't have refrigerators," Oxenreider said.
The farmers would order kegs of whiskey and use some of them for medicine in the wintertime.  The reason for this is that they had families and the closest doctor was 12-15 miles away.  All they had to travel in was a horse and buggy so they were their own doctors.
When the stable was torn down a grocery store was built.  The bottom floor of the building was a grocery store and the top floor was the Odd Fellows Lodge Hall.  During the winter months there were dances, college classes and plays held in the lodge hall.
The Oakley Depot was located east of town and this is one place where the train would stop.  There were two branches of trains and one traveled north and the other went south.  The railroad was built by the Des Moines Railway Company and later it sold out to C.B.&Q.
Niswender's uncle, Harris McKeendry, ran the north branch of the railroad.  The north branch stopped at Oakley first followed by Lacona, Milo, Ackworth and Indianola.  The south branch traveled over where the Cinder Path is now and it made stops in Derby, Humeston and down to St. Joseph, Mo.  The depot was torn down in 1937 or 1938.  The Oakley train made the last trip to Indianola in December 1961.
"Traveling salesmen would come in on the train and they would rent a buggy with a team of horses.  They'd go to the grocery stores in Norwood and Jay and order their groceries.  Then they'd have the freight shipped to Oakley," Niswender said.  The salesman would order a variety of different things from the stores such as dried goods, shoes and hardware.
In order to ship the salesmen's freight George Niswender took two or four horses and a wagon and delivered it to Oakley.
There was a stockyard 200 yards south of the depot.  Farmers would haul their hogs and cattle over there, put them in stock cars and ship them to Chicago.  Cattle and hogs were shipped on Saturday of each week.
Some hogs and cattle were walked into Oakley.  Some were hauled in on wagon boxes and each wagon box would only hold eight hogs.
In the early 1900's Oakley was a heavily populated community.  There were about 75 people who lived there.  Farming was the chief industry and the main source of income.  "It was a thriving little town for 60 years or more," Oxenreider said. 
George Niswender owned several farms that all sat in a row four miles west of Oakley.  George gave each of his four children 80 acres of his land to farm.  One of his children, Orbin, was Bob Niswender's father.
Another industry that men worked for was the railroad.  Oxenreider's uncle, John Nussbaum, was the section boss of the C.B.&Q. railroad in Oakley at one time.
There were several businesses along Main Street in Oakley.  Along with the grocery store there was a general store called Mikesell Bros. that was run by Gail and Don Mikesell.  They started the store in 1917 and they sold a myriad of things such as dry goods, shoes, big old Cheese blocks, nails and bolts.  Another item that they sold was wolverine work shoes.
There was a post office located in the west part of town.  It was later moved to where the grocery store was located.  Vernard Oxenreider's dad, Taylor Oxenreider, was a substitute carrier there for many years.
Taylor and a man named Charlie Walls ran a hardware store in Oakley starting in 1911.  They sold windmills, pumps and water systems.  In 1917 their building was burned down by a fire along with another building.
A man named Jim Clark ran a blacksmith shop in Oakley during the early 1900s.  There were two churches in Oakley, a Methodist Church and a Christian Church.  The Methodist Church was located in the west part of town and the Christian Church was north of town.
The Christian Church closed in the early 1920s and the township bought it and put up a community center.  Oxenreider went to school here for half a term when the school he was attending had burnt down.
There used to be a fall celebration in Oakley every September through the late 1930s.  "They'd have a parade and everyone would bring in their biggest watermelon, potato or ear of corn," Niswender said.  Horse pulling was a big event at these fall festivals and so were footraces.
Oakley had a baseball team back in the early 1900s and they played on Sunday afternoons.  They played teams from surrounding towns such as Columbia, Lacona and Milo.  Oxenreider thought Oakley's team was one of the best in Iowa.  
Back in the 1930s Oakley had a lighted horse shoe court.  In the court there were two horseshoe stakes 40 feet apart and one light above them.  The farmers would come and pitch horseshoes every night until midnight," Oxenrieder said.
Oxenreider stated that the farmers quit work at 5 p.m. "They didn't work day and night like they do now," Oxenreider said.
There was also a hitching  post for farmers to tie their horses while they were in town.  The hitching post was located on Main Street.  There was a post about every 10 or 12 feet.
Oakley was thriving until the start of World War II.  Oxenreider said the reason for this was that every one who was of military age was either drafted or volunteered for the service.
After the war started there were no more dance.  The last one was in 1941.  Baseball also died in Oakley because of the men who entered the service.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dollar General Truck Stuck on Court Ave

Above is a picture of a Dollar General truck stuck on Saturday, June 15th, under the Court Ave. overpass with a train going over him.  Through the years many trucks have attempted this and had to back up and turn around in Graves and Son's driveway.  Drivers seem to think they know it all and "They can get through". It would sure be maddening to be behind the truck when it happened.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

War Veterans Living in Lucas County

This list appeared in the  "Shaking the Family Tree" magazine 20 years ago.  "Shakin the Family Tree" is the newsletter that is produced by Lucas County Genealogical Society .  
The following is a list of the soldiers of the Civil War who were living in Lucas County in January of 1927:  W.J. Graves, John Blackstock, John Potts, William Moxley, J.C. Cook, Nicholas Eswald, H. Duffield, John Johnson, Asa C. Callahan, W.F. Graham, J.M. Harrison, Martin Anderson, W.L. Clapp, James Twinam, J.W. Reece, A.D. Gray, Henry Milgles, Frank Smith, Joseph Landes, Henry A. Newhouse, Samuel Neptune, Alix Mitchell, Willis Adams, C.W. Callahan, William Bradley, Carl Baxter, John Stearns, George Barker, H.J. Finch, Lafayete Miller and Coleman Barber.