Friday, March 9, 2012

Elijah Lewis's Chariton, 1867-1897

The following article was written by Elijah Lewis, then editor of The Chariton Patriot, for publication on Feb. 18, 1897, the thirtieth anniversary of his arrival via stage coach in Chariton during the early morning hours of Feb. 18, 1867. Written in very long paragraphs, I've divided it to ease the reading process.

By Elijah Lewis
The Chariton Patriot, Feb. 18, 1897

By a singular coincidence this number of the Patriot is issued on the 30th anniversary of the writer becoming a citizen of Chariton. Thirty years ago we came out here in a western stage coach from Albia, that town being the extreme western point reached by the railway at that time. It was a cold night and the roads were rough. The stage stopped at LaGrange for supper and arrived in Chariton some time in the night.

Dr. J.D. Wright, who piloted us out this way, bears the responsibility of bringing this vanguard of the Lewis family to Chariton, all of whom followed in due time. Perhaps he was not aware that we would stick to the place with such disappointing tenacity. Manuel Foster of English township came in the same coach that night and is still living on the farm then purchased.

In the morning after arrival we looked around the wooden village of nine or ten hundred people, but did not then know it was to be the home of all our future years. The truth is the town did not make a favorable impression. The low, one story wooden houses, a good many of them unpainted, and the temporary look of everything was not encouraging.

We had a letter of introduction from T.W. Newman of Burlington to Joseph Wilkerson esq., and Edward A. Temple. These were hunted up during the day and the letters presented. Wilkerson was a leading attorney and had his office in the old brick court house in the room afterward used as the Recorder's office, while Mr. Temple was cashier and manager of the bank of F.W. Brooks & Co. over on the south side of the lot now occupied by the Kubitshek block. Both extended a cordial welcome.

Oliver Palmer was just finishing his two story brick store on the east side, at that time the only brick building in town. W.C. Penick was doing a rushing business in the old frame building on the lot now occupied by Kennedy & Co.'s store. G.W. Blake was selling hardware on the north side, and is the only merchant selling goods then, who is still in business, unless it be possibly L.F. Maple and W.E. Lewis.

J.A. Brown was running a tinner's shop in the frame building where their brick store now stands, and laying the foundation of his substantial fortune. John A. Best, the genial traveling salesman, was running a dray. T.M. Stuart, Col. (Warren S.) Dungan and E.M. Thorpe, were prominent attorneys; while Doctors Fitch, Stanton, Kneeland, Heed and Gibbon looked after the afflicted.

Dr. McCormick was county Auditor, Gaylord Lyman, Sheriff, and Ca ptain Gardner, Clerk of the courts. Thomas Matson carried on an extensive harness business, and his son-in-law, Dr. Brant, was a prominent and successful dentist as he is now. Martin Schwarm kept a grocery on the south side in Judge Branner's building.

There wasn't a side walk off the square in the whole town scarcely, and in soft weather the mud, black, sticky and bottomless, was a terror to pedestrians.

Lewis & Brother (Evan) purchased the old flouring mill of Dr. Wright February 18, 1867, and went to work.

The July following the railway reached here and with it came a new rush of business. McGavic Brothers established a lumber yard opposite the mill on the lot occupied by the plow factory later on. Gilbert, Hedge & Co. with D.M. Thompson as resident partner, started the lumber business now carried on by McKlveen Brothers, while General David Remick represented bhe E.D. Rand Lumber Co. in a yard across the track just south of the passenger station.

S.H. Mallory was building the bridges west on the then B. & M. R. R. and laying the foundation of his ample fortune which he has used in so many ways helpful to Chariton and Lucas county. John Fitzgerald, who died a millionaire at Lincoln, Nebraska, some two or three years ago, was a sub-contractor on the new railway pushing west from Chariton in 1867.

So quickly have these thirty busy years passed that we hardly realize they have gone, and only partly compreend the wonderful progress we have made as a people. Sad changes, too, have come in that time. Many of the old pioneer friends have gone to their final rest, Dr. Gibbon, Captain McCormick, Anthony Mauksen, Samuel D. Houston, Daniel and Sarah Ragsdale, Ebenezer and Margaret Badger, Dr. McCormick, Joseph Wilkerson, C.F. Temple, with others not at this moment recalled, are names familiar and dear to many in Chariton and Lucas county. All have crossed over, leaving us standing yet a little while in the twilight, ere we enter the darker shadow into which they have silently passed.

The living also have found new homes in other places. Oliver Palmer is a ranchman and farmer in western Kansas. D.M. Thompson and W.L. Alexander are living in Denver. T.W. Fawcett in Westminster, California. General Remick at Los Angeles, Dell Stuart is practicing law in Portland, Oregon, and Channing Smith is living in Ottumwa.

These are only a few of the many whose friendship and kindness we remember. Thus nearly a third of a century has passed since we found a home here, and each year has added new ties of interest and friendship. We will abide here to the end, knowing that nowhere in the broad land could be found a kinder, more hospitable and excellent citizenship, than that which occupies the fruitful farms and thriving towns and villages of Lucas county.

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