Saturday, May 31, 2014

Prof. Goltry's scholars By Frank Myers

     I think I'm in love --- with this faded old photograph of Prof. Charles F. Goltry's scholars at Chariton  Academy, taken during 1896. (I was unable to get this photo.  If you wish to see it contact the Lucas County Genealogical Society at email: Wish it were in a little better shape. The surface is scratched and it has faded during the last 117 years. And of course everyone shown here is long dead.
     But unlike the content of many photos from this era involving many people --- subjects arranged with military precision staring into the camera like so many deer caught in headlights --- there's life in the faces of
the young people grouped rather informally here. Will Gookin (far left in the second row down from the top) looks like trouble, for instance, and Lillie Woods (fifth to his left) looks as if she had eyes principally for Will Gookin.
     Better yet, everyone in the photo, with one exception, is identified. It came to the Lucas County Historical Society from Carrie Williamson back in 1969, but who took the time to write all the names on the back isn't known. Here they are, beginning with the back row (right click on "open in new window" and enlarge for a better look):
     Back row: Nettie Troxel, May Hamilton, Lillie Douglass, Edith Walker, Maude Rickey, Margaret Taylor,  Lois Molesworth, Alice Powell and Josie Barger.
     Second row down: Will Gookin, Alfred Nelson, Adda Callahan, Ida Yont, May Huntley, Lillie Woods, Burdette Rodgers, Elsie Courter, Della Arnold Anderson, Ira Wells, Nora Teas, Mary Briles, Wilma Nelson, Albert Kennedy, Lloyd Courier and Emory Parsons.
     Third row down: Prof. Goltry, Bert Plotts, (unidentified), Virgil Scott, Thede Lemley, Fred Goltry, Joe Morrison, Enos Anderson, Emmet Carr, Jay Colegrove and Clarence Williamson.
     Fourth row down: Cora Buffington, Mrs. Goltry, Vernie Bond, Roy Douglas, Mable Black, Harry McNeely, Lilly Fain, Rena Logan, Oscar Stone, Ida Patterson, Adda Clouse, Carrie Hamilton, Sadie Dale and Viola Staker.
     Front row: Tom Black, Alice Howard, Jessie Hopkins, Cora Combs, Lizzy Troxel, Carrie Barger, Mable
Price, Dora Clouse, Mary Linstrom, Ina Champlain, Minnie Vannoy, Olive James, May Renolds, Bessie Whitcome, Lura Staker, Fanny Snuggs and Tessie Courter.


Lucas County Notes & Shakin’ the Family Tree Volume 19 Issue 2 April-May-June 2014 Page 33

     Charles Fitzgerald Goltry, whose students these were, was something of a renaissance man --- and I've
relied upon his obituary, posted at Find A Grave, and a biographical sketch in the 1896 A Memorial and 
Biographical Record of Iowa for details.

     Born during 1863 in Cedar Township to John and Barbara Jane (McGill) Goltry, he started teaching rural school in Cedar Township at age 20 after completing a course of study at an academy in Shenandoah, then in 1885 entered Drake University in Des Moines, where he excelled and earned his degree in classical studies during 1889.
     After three years as principal of the Russell schools, he enrolled in a special course in chemistry and chemical analysis at Indiana State University, then accepted a position as professor of ancient languages at Central Christian College in Albany, Missouri, and a year later moved to the Humeston Normal College to teach physics and chemistry.
     During 1892, Charles married Clara E Crim and two years later, during November of 1894, they established the Chariton Academy together. The academy was described as "a school for students desiring to fit themselves for teaching or for special business." By 1895, enrollment had grown from 11 to 62.
     During November of 1896 he was appointed to serve, too, as Lucas County superintendent of schools, then re-elected to two additional terms. He also served for a time as superintendent of Chariton schools.
     During 1902, however, Charles moved his family to Chicago and took up the study of medicine, graduating from the osteopathic physician program at National Medical College during 1907 and receiving his M.D. degree a year later from Bennett Medical College, also in Chicago.
     Dr. Goltry began his practice in Cody, Nebraska, then moved to Westboro, Missouri, and in 1922 returned home to Russell where he practiced medicine until his health failed during 1949, when he was 86.
     He died a year later and was buried in the Chariton Cemetery near his first wife, Clara, who had died during 1909. Charles had married during 1925 as his second wife the widow Effie (Anderson) Raines, some 20 years his junior. She lived until 1975, then was buried, too, in the Chariton Cemetery.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

60 years Ago

From the Chariton Herald-Patriot, April 10, 2014

First place in the "Teen Time" talent show went to Dayton Kendall of Russell, singing "Oh!My Papa!". Other placings were: Second place - saxophone quartet, composed of Beverly Brown, Mary Sullivan, Carol McDowell and Donald Gartin.  Third place went to Nancy Hayes with her solo, "Our Heartbreaking Waltz."  Fourth place went to John Kissinger of Melcher with a saxophone solo.  Fifth place went to the vocal trio of Myrna Slykhuis, Elba Poppings and Norma Friddington of Dallas.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Russell Centennial King and Queen

The pictures and stories are from Debbie Mascot on Facebook
Pictured below on the left:  Here is William Mason Conner and Julie's great grandmother, Leota Taylor, as the King and Queen of the Russell Centennial. 

Picture to the right - From Debbie Mascot : My third great grandparents, long-time Russell residents, Miles and Harriet (Markham) Price. I'm not sure when this photo was taken, but Miles died in 1916. I'm taking a guess that this was taken during a family reunion, as I received it from family far and wide who didn't know one another.

Friday, March 29, 2013

100 Years of Farming for Sellers

This appeared in the Chariton Herald-Patriot on March 21, 2013, by Sandra Knebel

Joe Sellers, the Beef Specialist at Iowa State University's Extension office in Chariton says
that farming had a big influence on his family.  Joe, his brother, Thomas, and his father all went to Iowa State University and majored in animal science.
There are two Century Farms in the Sellers family, both in rural Chariton.  Both were originally purchased by David Lewis in the mid 1800's.  In 1886, one of the farms was deeded to Joe's Great Grandfather, John P. Sellers, who married David's daughter, Weltha.  David Lewis (1819-1886) farmed the other with his wife, Lorilla.  Generations later, Harris and Twila Sellers had their farm certified as a Century Farm (1976).  In 1987 Harris and Mary Alyce Sellers, Joe and Tom's parents, had their farm certified.
Both David Lewis and his son, Frank, served in the Union Army during the Civil War, both returning to farming after the war.
Joe Sellers and his brother, Thomas, grew up in the house John P. Sellers built east of what was originally David and Lorilla's homestead.
John Sellers' son was the first of the next three generations whose first names were Harris - Joe's grandfather, his father, and Joe - whose actual name is Harris Joseph Sellers.  The last three generations, including Thomas, have specialized in livestock farming.
Both of the Century Farms are now owned by Joe and Cindy Sellers and Joe's brother, Tom.  After 158 years of the families farming the homesteads, Joe says when he and Thomas retire, it will be someone else's chance to carry on.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Werts Family Settle in Russell in 1864

The following article and pictures appeared in the Chariton Herald-Patriot on March 21, 2013, written by Sandra Knebel.

The Werts Family farm has been in their family for 118 years and was recognized and honored by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation in 1996 as a "Century Farm".

The family legacy began with John Jackson Werts (1831-1901) and his wife, Esther (1837-1912).  John and Esther were both born in Muskingum County, Ohio.  At the age of 21, John took a job as a farmhand for $13 a month.  He saved his money and the next year rented a 50-acre farm in an adjacent county.  By the year 1864, with six children and the loss of one baby, John and Esther could see the necessity of having more land in order to feed a growing family.  John made a trip to the new state of Iowa where his Uncle William Maple had homesteaded a farm on the prairie, paying the government $1.25 per acre.  He was favorably impressed with the land and the prospects for future settlement and growth.  He purchased 160 acres of prairie including 20 acres under cultivation and a newly built house.  He also bought 40 acres of timber for fuel, fence posts and lumber.  The entire package cost him $2,100.  The farm was half a mile north of "Ragtown", a village having a store, sawmill, and a few houses.  A school was added in a few years.  John hurried back home to Ohio to move his family and what possessions could be carried across the prairie to Iowa.  With the fall of 1864 came the big move to Iowa with six children and all the household goods they could pile on one
wagon.  The family rode to Iowa on a train.
John was proud of the flock of sheep he had in Ohio and was determined to move them as well to Iowa.  The sheep were driven from the farm to the railroad yard and loaded into a railway car.  During the train trip, John spent most of his time with the sheep, watering and feeding them and keeping them as comfortable as possible in order to prevent costly losses.
In Chicago, it was necessary for passengers to move from one railway station to another to board a train to Eddyville, Iowa, the end of the line and about 40 miles from their farm.  The carload of sheep, on arrival in Chicago, was most likely also switched from one road to the other.  At Eddyville, the two weary families crowded into a stagecoach which took them on another dirt road to Lagrange, Iowa, a village that was still a good 10 miles from their farm.  There they were welcomed by the Maple family who helped them make the final trek leading to the farm that would eventually become a Century Farm.  
The sheep were unloaded in Eddyville and the flock driven out on the prairie and on to the farm.  There was a trail they could follow during daylight hours.  John Quincy Werts was nine years old at the time and remembered that he went with his Uncle Alex McCurdy to get the sheep and bring them the remainder of the way to the farm.  They could not find the trail in the darkness and prepared to stay all night.  They eventually heard a dog barking and were able to find a house where a man showed them the trail and they completed the journey, arriving about daybreak.
Having arrived in the fall of the year, the first winter was a difficult one.  The men had to work hard to begin preparing the land for a crop the following year.  Prairie sod was deep and tough and their tools were primitive, but they were able to turn over a good-sized plot before the weather became severe.  The young boys worked along with the men and all were hungry.  Those were the days when neighbors helped neighbors and all worked together to provide for the needs of the community.  Labor was shared and food was shared.
There was no town of Russell for another three or four years.  The first store there opened in 1865.  Until then, staples of food and equipment were hauled from Eddyville to Chariton and the farmers drove their teams and wagons the six or seven miles to Chariton for their necessities.
In 1867 the railroad tracks were completed through Lucas County.  The first train came through in July of 1867.  Soon afterward a general store was built and women were able to buy cotton fabrics for dresses, buttons and thread.  The town of Russell grew and Ragtown, the village that had been a half mile south of the Werts farm, disappeared except for the schoolhouse.
In 1891, after 27 years of thrift and hard work, John and Esther built a house in the west end of Russell and retired, leaving the farm in the hands of their son Clifton Elmer Werts, whose name was on the original deed with his father.  Cliff had learned farming from his father and neighbors, but more than others, he learned to appreciate the advent of the mechanical age and used his ingenuity for the construction and application of farm machinery.
In 1905, Cliff mounted two gasoline engines on a horse-drawn wagon, the engines providing power for a threshing machine.  He then helped many neighborhood farmers with their threshing.  He assembled and built one of the first gasoline tractors in the county.  The equipment enabled him to farm more land and he added neighboring farms until he had 620 acres.
In 1932, Cliff invented a pipe-laying machine and used it to lay underground piping for farmers and other industries.  He built a motor home on an auto chassis about 1926.  A few years later he built a larger one.  Over more than 17 years he and his wife, Clara, used their motor home to explore the 48 states, Canada and Mexico, often in the company of family and friends.
From Cliff and Clara, the farm passed to their son, Richard Werts, who was born in 1899.  Richard attended Russell high School and learned farming from his father.  From Richard, the farm was purchased in 1964 by Richard's nephew, James Elmer Werts.  James, born in 1931, was the son of Ralph and Alice Werts.
After completing the public schools in Russell, James went into the Air Force, serving much of his four years in Frankfurt, Germany.  On returning home, "Jim" went into farming.  In September of 1952, he married Beverly Ann Pierce.  Jim and Beverly's daughter, Terry and her husband, Rick Elmore, now live on the farm.  Rick was born in Corydon.  He helped coach football and basketball at the Russell High School and farmed with his father-in-law.  Rick and Terry raise cattle, mostly Angus, and the usual crops found in Lucas County - corn, soybeans and hay.
Rick and Terry have three children.  Their son, Conrad, is currently involved with raising the cattle.  Their grandaughters, Alixis and Alivia VanRyswyk, are members of 4-H and raise their 4-H cattle on the farm.  In addition to their daughter, Kelly VanRyswyk (Chariton), son Conrad (Chariton), they also have a daughter, Kayla, who lives near Des Moines.

LaFavre/Buttz Family Century Farm

This article appeared in the Chariton Herald Patriot newspaper on March 21, 2013

For 111 years, the LaFavre/Buttz Family has farmed in Lucas County, building a legacy with hard work and family values.  "Century Farm" signs are proudly posted on farms throughout the state of Iowa.  These are awarded to those who have families that have farmed their land for over 100 years.  Of the 85 Century Farm families in Lucas County, the LaFavre/Buttz family is one.  Five generations of the LaFavre/Buttz family have operated their farm on S56 about four miles south of Russell.

In 1902, when Grant W. LaFavre purchased and founded the family farm, advanced agriculturists were talking about "scientific farming."  The improvements in which the farmers of 1902 took pride were indeed astounding when viewed in the light of their grandfathers' experiences.  Farmers had ceased to broadcast seed from a heavy shoulder bag.  No longer did they harvest with sickles and scythes. Horse-drawn grain drills and two-row corn planters, sickle-bar mowing machines, twine binders and steam threshing machines were beginning to appear in the fields.  Hay loaders were replacing pitchforks.  It was the beginning of a 50-year period when agriculture in America was becoming revolutionized.
Grant's only son, Kenneth remembered that his "growing up" years may have been easier, but they were not easy.  Farming was still pretty labor intensive.  His father didn't grow a lot of crops because he was still plowing by hand behind horses.  He raised cows and pigs and sheep.  The weather was challenging.  In addition to being Depression years, the 30's was the decade of dryness, with two years, 1934 and 1936, of extreme drought.  Corn yields that had previously average near 25 bushels per acre fell to 10, 5 or even 2 or less in some areas.
Kenneth told stories to his children and grandchildren about the many huge maple trees that gave the "Maple Grove" name to the homestead and lined the lane leading to the house.  The drought was so bad, in order to provide for the cows, Kenneth's father, Grant, cut down one of the huge trees each day to feed the leaves to his eight to ten cattle.  The wood was cut up to supplement the coal that the family used to heat the house.
Kenneth took over the farmstead in 1957.  He and his wife, Opal, raised their two girls, Evelyn and Alice, on the farm.  By the time Evelyn married Guy Buttz, the original house had been updated considerably with a new addition that substantially increased the size with a new kitchen and living room.  In alignment with the times, Evelyn had a large garden that provided fruits and vegetables for canning to tide the family over the winter.
The LaFavre/Buttz Family holding their Century Farm
Certificate at the Iowa State Fair in 2005.

Pictured to the left are:
Back row - L to R - In parenthesis the generation number in the family:  Josh Flanders (5) holding Cruize (6); Linda Johnson (4), Lori and Scott (5) Johnson with their son, Garrett (6)  Front Row L to R:  Heather (5) and Cody (6) Flanders, Guy and Evelyn LaFavre (3) Buttz, and Mark (5) and Wesley (5) Johnson.  Not pictured in the Century Farm family photo are sixth generation Johnson great grandchildren:  Ava, Abby, Lucy, Kent, Ty and MaCayla and Elizabeth Buttz.

Guy's experiences of those days were similar to the LaFavre family.  "I remember riding the pony every morning about four miles to my Grandma's.  We cut down trees as well so we could feed our cows.  Farming was tough, hard work.  I hoed beans and corn by hand."  He added that his father, in order to make a living, was a coal miner in addition to being a farmer.
Guy said that his family's farm would also have been a Century Farm, had the county not come along and taken the land for a road and interrupted history.  His family farm was passed down from his mother's side of the family - the Kerns.  It was located about three quarters of a mile south of the Confidence cemetery.
Evelyn and Guy's son, Doyle, lived on the farm for a number of years, before their daughter, Linda, and her husband, Donald Johnson, took residence.  Linda and Don were the last family members to actually farm the homestead.  They raised crops, cows and hogs.  It was Linda and Donald who planted new maple trees to replace those cut down to feed cows in the 1930's.
Their son, Mark, now lives on the Century Farm.  He works in Chariton.  The land is leased out by Evelyn and Guy.  Since moving in, he has built a new house, it no longer being feasible to fix up the original home.  The original barn, built with pegs rather than nails, is still standing.  The family also still has two antique tractors, a 1984A and a 1968 40x20LP -that they use in the Russell parades.
While not a farmer per se, Mark and his wife, Jill, are into gardening, a carry down from both Kenneth and Evelyn.  His mother, Linda, recalled, "My Grandpa Kenneth was a very good gardener.  He always had a huge garden.  Even after we moved in and he moved into Russell, he would come out every day and garden and involve my kids in gardening."  Evelyn added, "My dad (Kenneth) would be very proud that his great grandson is living on the farm."
Across the road from the LaFavre/Buttz Century Farm is a farm owned by Linda and Don and farmed by their son, Scott, who is carrying on the farming legacy begun in 1902 by Grant W. LaFavre.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Phippen Family

The Phippen Family. Top Gerald, Pearl Randall Phippen & daughter Wanda Phippen Force. All Russell graduates. Bottom picture includes son Gary Phippen, he attended R.H.S. but they moved to New Sharon & he graduated from there.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Years and Years Ago by Ursula Bingham

The new bandstand in Russell was dedicated.  Among the men who worked on the construction were Chuck DeBok, Dean Thompson, Jim Andrews, Paul Force, Don Turbot and Homer Chapman.  Virginia Orwig had the privilege of formally dedicating the new bandstand.  Homer Chapman, who had been a band member since the age of 12, was the bandleader.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Years and Years Ago by Sanda Stump

May 31, 2012   Herald Tribune

30 years ago -
After 38 years Eileen Wright said good-bye to her elementary students.  Eileen, who was retiring, had taught kindergarten in the Chariton schools for 21 years.  She taught her first three years at Franklin School and then 17 years at Columbus School.

40 years ago -
Dewey Abrahamson, of Russell, received a citizenship award from the Iowa State Bar Association and the Iowa State Bar Foundation.

80 years ago -
Twenty-five diplomas were granted to the senior class of Russell High School.  Hazel Price, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Asa A. Price, delivered the valedictorian address.  Ruth Eloise Bowers, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Claude Bowers, delivered the salutatory address.  Carson H. Cobb was the superintendent.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Years and Years Ago by Sanda Stump

May 17, 2012 --  Herald Tribune

20 years ago -
Kathlene Penney, of Russell was chosen by Unit 308 of Russell to attend the 47th annual session of Iowa American Legion Auxiliary Girls' State.  Kathleen is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bill Penney of Russell.

30 years ago -
Nick DeBok, formerly of Russell and son of Mr. and Mrs. Jake DeBok of Russell, had his first play produced at the Atrium Theater in Chicago.  The original play, written by Nick, "Triple Word Score", was a comedy with a three member cast.  Nick received favorable reviews in two Chicago newspapers and was recommended for a Jeff Award.

60 years ago -
There were a lot of $2 bills circulating around town.  The Russell Produce was paying all its help in the $2 bills.   About $1,400 worth went into circulation, all brand new bills.

70 years ago -
Six high school commencements were held in Lucas County.  One hundred and nine graduated from Chariton High School, 13 from the junior college, 26 from Russell, eight from Williamson, 11 from Derby High School, Lucas graduated seven and 10 graduated from Norwood.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Coffee Drinkers of Russell

Here is one of the stories that appeared in the 2012 Russell History Book.

Russell Coffee Drinkers
Through the Years

   Russell Coffee Drinkers at Edwards Store  -  February 1978

From left:  Homer Chapman, Harold Hawkins (his back), Clare Collins, and Beverly Werts.

Russell Coffee Drinkers at Beverly Werts Store August 1985 (Table #1)
Picture taken by Gerald Blue.
From left: Lee Cottingham, Ted Smith, Hugh Moore, Lloyd Shore, Quincy Robb, Charlie Smith

   Russell Coffee Drinkers at Beverly Werts Store August 1985 (Table #2).
  Picture taken by Gerald Blue.
From left:  James Johnson, Bob Parker, Lloyd Shore, Paul Force, Don Turbot.

  This tradition began many years ago and it is still ongoing.  They met for years in the Russell Mall and after it closed, they moved to the convenience store in town.  Last Chance is now where the men meet from 8a.m. - 9a.m. and the women meet from 9a.m. - 10a.m. to drink coffee and visit.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Years and Years Ago

January 5, 2012

40 Years Ago

Russell firemen elected Jim Moore as fire chief, Bob Willits as assistant chief and Max Clayton secretary/treasurer.

January 12, 2012

30 Years Ago

Mona Coop retired after 28 years of service to the City of Russell as city clerk.

10 Years Ago

The first baby of the year was born to Steve and Karol Pollard of Russell.  The baby was named Jaxon Ryan.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Years and Years ago

September 8, 1980.  Russell Residents voted for a major tax increase in support of their schools at the polls approving an Enrichment Tax by 183 - 88. 

September 8, 1940.  Russell Schools opened with a total enrollment of 122 students in the high school and 94 in the elementary grades.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Dickerville Story

A former Dickerville School building purchased by Joseph N. Sanborn about 1870 and moved to this spot for a dwelling. It was moved on pole skids from about sixty-five rods north of Dickerville corner to about fifty rods east. Since it was built of native oak it was very heavy and required eight teams of horses to move it.  The building was 18 x 24 or larger. In those days they were concerned that the native trees were being used up too rapidly so the lumber measured 1½ inches thick rather than the standard 2 inches. The house was not boxed but had lath and plaster. The weather boarding was sawed thin like the white pine siding on the older houses of today and was oak. Men in the picture (taken about 1910) are: Bert Sanborn, Reece Davis and Lester Colver. The house was torn down about 1934. Joseph Sanborn died in 1919 and this was his home at that time. The trees surrounding the home are maple and weeping mulberry.

Very few people outside of the County Superintendent of Schools office knew where Cedar Grove No. 5 was but nearly everyone could direct you to Dickerville.
In the time era of the Civil War there was an early settler (farmer, blacksmith) whose shop doors opened upon the edge of the road. He would rather trade in the local commodities of that time than work at his custom blacksmithing. Anyone who stopped in his shop or perhaps was only passing by, would be stopped by the settler who would proceed to barter with him for anything. His expression was “try to get a dicker out of them.”
His shop and possibly his dwelling was approximately thirty rods east of the Cedar Grove No. 5 school corner and must have been sort of a central gathering place for the neighborhood. It is understandable how from his eccentricity that Cedar Grove No. 5 was always known as Dickerville School. Like many schools, the nickname was known and the official name appeared only on teacher contracts, tax levies, pupil certificate awards, etc.
It is quite likely that this farm, (blacksmith’s) name was John Maydole and the blacksmith shop apparently disappeared about that time. Mr. Maydole could well have been the first settler on that tract. We wonder about the name, Dickerville, how much longer will it survive since there are no more visible signs of a building or of Cedar Grove No. 5 on that corner.
NOTE: the above is from the Lucas County History Book of 1978.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

John P. Sellers, Lucas County's Oldest Settler

Lucas Counties Oldest Settler Here for Homecoming
J. P. Sellers of South of Chariton Was Born 84 Years Ago in Cedar Township.
Is Still Hale & Hearty

From the Russell Union Tribune of Oct. 10, 1935

Click on picture to enlarge
An interesting visit with Lucas County's oldest native citizen, J. P. Sellers of Benton Township was our privilege during Homecoming.  Mr. Sellers was born in Cedar Township on the farm now operated by his nephew, Mark Sellers, about ½ mile from the original Lucas County home of Wm. McDermitt, the first settler.

Mr. Sellers, a well-preserved old man, will be 84 on his next birthday and the oldest living resident born in Lucas County.  Fifty-five years ago he married and moved to the farm in Benton Township upon which he still resides.  Mr. Sellers was accompanied to our office by Mr. Bill Woodall, the originator of Lucas County’s Old Settlers Picnic that was held south of Derby. The picnic, which was held each year until the last few years and which he hopes to reestablish as soon as conditions will warrant.

Mr. Woodall lived south of Russell on the Isaac Wiltsey farm known later as the Bob Lewis farm. Thirty-eight years ago and moved to his present location south of Derby which he has made into one of the picture farms of Southern Iowa.  Both gentlemen were thoroughly enjoying the renewal of acquaintances at the Russell Homecoming here.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

John P. Sellers
Long Life Ended – Had Lived in Lucas County All His Life
Prominent Farmer Dies at Home South of Chariton – Saturday, Rites Are Held Monday
Born in Log Cabin – He Helped Build Otterbein Church in Benton Township.

From the Chariton Leader – Feb. 23, 1937
John P. Sellers, 84, prominent Lucas County farmer, died Saturday at his home in Benton Township, south of Chariton.  For years he had been recognized as the oldest native resident of Lucas County.  Born in a log cabin in Cedar Township, October 16, 1852, he grew to manhood on his father’s homestead. 

Following his marriage in 1880 he established the home in Benton Township where he lived until his death.
Funeral services for Mr. Sellers were held Monday afternoon at two o’clock at the Otterbein Church, conducted by Rev. Talbott. Burial was in the Chariton cemetery.  At his request the scripture lesson for the rites was read from the ninety-first Psalm, and the text was taken from the third and fourth verses of the twenty-fourth Psalm.

Before his death John P. Sellers requested that the text for his funeral sermon be taken from the third and fourth verses of the twenty-fourth Psalm. 

The verses are:
Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place?
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.

Surviving Mr. Sellers are his wife; three sons, Clifford and Harris Sellers, both of Benton Township and Thomas Sellers of Des Moines; three brothers, including Nathan Sellers of Norfolk, Va., a twin, William Sellers of Des Moines and Thomas Sellers of Lucas County; 17 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Mr. Sellers became a member of the United Brethren Church in 1885. He helped build the Otterbein Church, not far from his home, and was absent from service only when poor health prohibited attendance.  Mr. and Mrs. Sellers celebrated their golden wedding anniversary seven years ago and the observance still holds a prominent part in the history of the community.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Citizens Bank Safe

Linda Wycoff of Chariton looks at a large old safe at the Lucas County Historical Society Expo.  This safe was once used at the Citizens Bank in Russell.  From the mid 1920's to 1983, it was used at the Lucas County Treasurer's Office from the mid 1920's to 1983.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Historic Blue Grass Road Regains its Identity

This article appeared in the Chariton Leader dated April 26, 2011, written by Sandra Knebel, Staff Writer

When the new 911 system was put into effect in Lucas County, the Blue Grass Road lost its name and became a number (#235), but never it's significance.  This historic county route was registered with the Iowa State Highway Commission on December 1, 1917, as the Blue Grass Road.  It started in Burlington and ended in Council Bluffs, a distance of 310 miles.  This east/west route was considered of military importance.  On Saturday, April 23, 2011, the Bob Sims family, from Russell, gave back to the road its identity as a historic road by erecting four signs along its route.
Click on picture to enlarge
The first sign is located near the dirt road that runs a few hundred yards from the Douglass Pioneer Cemetery on 235th Trail.  There is one at the corner of 235th Trail as it turns onto 455th Lane.  The third is at 455th Lane as it turns into 270th Avenue.  The fourth is by the Baptist Church in Russell on Smith Street.

The signs were a gift to Bob Sims from his sister, Mary Lou Bingaman and his children, Steve, Mike, and Toni.  Bob and Mary Lou's grandmother bought a farm on the Blue Grass Road in 1947.  She never lived on the farm, but her son, Charlie and his wife, Eulice, did.  They were Bob and Mary Lou's parents.  Mary Lou bought the farm and lives there in the home she built.  Bob and his wife Gwen lived on the farm during their early-married years.  Both Steve and Toni were born while their parents lived there.  Bob had often mentioned to his family that he would like for everyone to remember the original name of the road.  So, for a Christmas present, his family presented him with the four signs that were put in place Saturday between Chariton and Russell marking the "Historic Blue Grass Road."

Bob Sims said that without the help of Mary Ruth Pierschbacher, the surprise of the signs and permission to put them up would never have happened.  Mary Ruth guided them through the maize of requests and approvals needed to get the signs in compliance with regulations.

According to the Iowa Department of Transportation website on historic routes in Iowa, the history of the Blue Grass Road began in April 1913 immediately following passage of the 1913 Road Law.  The Iowa Blue Grass Road Association submitted a check of $5 to the Iowa State Highway Commission (ISHC) with the objective of protecting their existing route markers and registering their rout.

The goal of the Iowa Blue Grass Road Association was clearly stated -- "an organization for the purpose of maintaining a model dirt road across the state of Iowa thru the heart of the Blue Grass Belt and giving encouragement to the 'Good Roads' cause in general."

As testament to their dedication, Secretary Frank Nimocks wrote to the ISHC stating that they were extremely interested in being the first to officially register their route, having already received "quasi" approval from democratic Senator Charles H. Thomas, also known as the "father of the Blue Grass Road."

Unfortunately, the road association's application was found to be incomplete.  The group had failed to trace their route on the county maps provided by the ISHC.  Upon receipt of the check, ISHC Chief Engineer Thomas MacDonald sent the organization a blank registration form in hopes of facilitating a quick resolution.  That proved not to be the case.  After being asked to adequately fulfill the application requirement, correspondence mysteriously ended for the next three years, preventing the association from becoming the first registered route following passage of the 1913 Road Law.

In Sept. 1916, ISHC Chief Clerk F.W. Parrott received a handwritten letter from Indianola resident S.L. Loper.  Loper asked for the name and address of the president and secretary of the Iowa Blue Grass Association, along with information about other aspects of the route.  Loper was surprised to learn that the route had never registered with the ISHC due to the association's failure "to give the necessary information as to the location of their route" three years earlier.  Parrott acknowledged that the ISHC had not had any correspondence with the association for quite sometime.

In November 1917 a series of letters and correspondence rectified years of silence.  On November 8, 1917, Senator Thomas furnished maps of the traced route to the ISHC.  A week later, Parrott sent Senator Thomas a new application to register the Blue Grass Road with the appropriate signatures.  Thomas identified himself as president and James Bryan as the association's secretary.  Finally on December 1, 1917, after nearly four years of effort and inconsistent communication, the ISHC met and approved the Blue Grass Road.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

History of early Methodism in Lucas County

This article was written by Frank Myers in December 2010 for the Lucas County Historical Society Blog.  If you would like to read the entire article click on the following link:  History of Early Methodism in Lucas County

The recent closing of Bethel United Methodist Church in Cedar Township (to the right) has reduced the number of that denomination's congregations in Lucas County to three, a far cry from the days when there was at least one and in some cases more in every township. Today, only the Chariton, Norwood and Russell churches remain. And of the three, only the Chariton and Russell congregations began as Methodist; Norwood (and Bethel) became United Methodist in 1968 following merger of the Methodist Episcopal and Evangelical United Brethren denominations.

Lucas County owes its rich Methodist heritage to the work of a hardy band of circuit-riding preachers who arrived with the first settlers, preaching first at the cabin of the Xury West family at Greenville in Washington Township in 1849 --- the first formal religious services held in the county. As population expanded, dozens of Methodist preaching stations were established in homes, then schools and finally church buildings.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Russell 1924 Year Book "The Radio"

This year book is available to see at the Russell Historical Society's Museum.

Thelma (Hudson) Foster Family

Thelma Hudson, daughter of Burton B. and Myrtle L. (Phillips) Hudson, was born March 15, 1910, in Russell, IA.  Her maternal grandparents were Benjamin Franklin Phillips (b. 1860 near Centerville, IA - d. 1937 in Russell) and Mary Florence Hoover (b. 1863 in Chestnut, IL - d. 1935 in Russell).

Benjamin and Mary met and married in Chestnut, IL.  They later moved to Council Grove, KS, and this is where Thelma’s mother, Myrtle Lorraine was born on June 14, 1888.  The couple had nine children, (Effie, Ethel, Myrtle, Faye, Allie, Elizabeth, Katherine, Nor and Charlie), however their first child died in infancy.  Benjamin moved his family from IL to Russell in the 1890’s, crossing the Mississippi in a covered wagon.

Thelma’s paternal grandparents were, Isaiah Thomas Hudson (b. 1849 in Nashville, TN - d. 1929 in Russell) and Sarah Ann Dyer (b. 1849 on a farm in Lucas Co. - d. 1933 in Russell).

Isaiah and Sarah were married in Lucas Co., and had five children (Dell, Burton, Harry, Ida & Aura).  Thelma’s father, Burton B., was born on Sept. 13, 1883, near the Colyn area south of Russell.

It should be noted that at nine years of age, sand got into Sarah’s ears.  The treatment for an earache in those days was to put warm honey in the ear, which Sarah’s mother did.  Unfortunately the home remedy caused her to go completely deaf.  It is said that although Sarah was unable to hear any of her babies cry, she seemed to simply sense when they needed her.

Burton Hudson married Myrtle Phillips on Sept. 2, 1908, in Chariton, IA.  Their union was blessed with three children:  Thelma Lucille in 1910; Doris Hilma on Feb. 21, 1914 in Leslie, IA; and Leonard Thomas on July 25, 1916 in Russell.  All three graduated from Russell High School; Thelma in 1929; Doris in 1933 and Leonard in 1935.

As a child, when she wasn’t doing field work with a team of horses, Thelma (an avid reader), could usually be found curled-up in the hay mound with a book or on her secret grassy island, lying on her back and making pictures out of clouds.

In 1929, Thelma met Eugene Harold Foster (b. July 24, 1912 in Corydon, IA), while he was selling watermelons in Russell.  Gene, as he was called, was the son of George Bert Foster (b. Sept. 5, 1877 in Lucas Co. - d. Sept 27, 1960 in Albia, IA), and Mary Elizabeth Cooper (b. Aug. 16, 1876 in Monroe Co., IA - d. Sept. 21, 1966 in Albia).  He was the fifth of seven children - Lester, Lena, Evelyn, Eugene, Richard, and Maxine - a baby sister Wanda died in 1910.  At the time of his meeting Thelma, he was living with his parents, north of Russell, in the coal mining town of Tipperary.

Thelma Hudson and Gene Foster traveled by train to Indianola, IA, and were married on Mar. 7, 1931.  Gene, who was only seventeen at the time, printed the numbers 21 on a slip of paper and put it in his shoe.  When asked by the Justice of the Peace how old he was, he replied that he was “over 21”.

The couple set-up housekeeping in Russell and on Oct. 13, 1931, the first of two daughters, Phyllis Eilene was born.  Shirley Louise, also born at home, made her appearance on July 30, 1934.  Gene supported his family by doing various odd jobs, including serving as Russell’s night watchman.

In 1938, Thelma’s brother and sister both married.  Leonard on July 3rd to Wilma Duer, and Doris wed Lloyd “Red” Foutch on Aug. 6th.  Each couple had one child - Dale “Butch” Foutch was born on Mar. 13, 1939, and Sharon Kay Hudson on Sept. 25, 1942.

In 1942, Thelma and Gene moved their family to Rockford, IL.  While in IL Gene worked as an electrician until his retirement, in 1974, Thelma worked at J. L. Clark  & Co., retiring in 1967.

Phyllis was unhappy in IL and moved back to Russell to live with her maternal grandparents.  On Apr. 4, 1950 she married Darrell “Glen” Davis.  The Davis’ had three children:  Penny Lorraine was born Aug. 18, 1951; Glenda Jean on Apr. 17, 1954; and Michael Phillip on Aug. 26, 1959.

On Aug 28, 1952, the Foster’s younger daughter, Shirley, married Fredrick Connell in Rockford, IL.  On Dec. 3, 1953 they had a daughter, Robin Lucelle.  Shirley and Fred divorced and on Oct. 29, 1957, after moving back to Russell, Shirley married Duane Muril Elmore.  They had one child, Ricky Burton, born July 4, 1958 in Corydon, IA.

On Dec. 1, 1969, Penny Davis married Cary Moser.  Dorian Eileen was born on Oct. 29, 1974, and Justin Dale on July 23, 1976.  Penny and Cary divorced and she married Tony Hendrickson on Dec. 25, 1977.  She and her family live in Burlington, WI.

Glenda Davis married Daniel Jacobs on July 30, 1970.  Crystal Ann was born on Apr. 10, 1972, and Daniel Lee on Dec. 29, 1975.

Crystal married Nick Defillipis on Sept. 29, 1990.  Kayla Danielle, Thelma’s first great- great grandchild, was born Oct. 29, 1991.  Glenda’s family lives in Pocatello, ID.

On Oct. 12, 1974, Robin Elmore and Ron Thompson were married in Chariton, IA.  Tracey Danielle was born on Apr. 25, 1975, and Tucker Cullen on Apr. 25, 1978.

Trace was married to Shane Adolphi on Oct. 2, 1999 in Russell.  Cullen Warren, the most recent addition to Thelma’s family, was born Jan. 31, 2000, in Ames, IA.  Robin’s family resides in Russell.

On July 11, 1975, Ricky Elmore was married to Terry Werts, in Nashua, IA.  Kelly Jo was born Dec. 14, 1975; Conrad Duane on Sept. 17, 1977; and Kayla Ann-Louise on July 5, 1981.
Kelly married Dave VanRyswyk on Mar. 4, 2000.  A baby, Thelma’s 5th great-great grandchild, is due in July 2000.  Rick’s family lives in Russell except for Kelly who lives in Chariton.

Micheal Davis married Teresa Stoor on June 10, 1978.  They had a daughter Michelle in 1979.

Michelle married Tim Scroggins.  They were blessed with twin daughters, Tiffany and Alicia, in 1995.

Micheal and Teresa divorced and he married Winifred Domagula on Oct. 28, 1993.  They live in Las Vegas, NV.

Thelma has endured her share of heartache along the way: Her mother passed away Aug. 2, 1960, and her father on Apr. 15, 1974.  She lost her daughter Shirley on Apr. 8, 1977, and her daughter Phyllis on Jan. 7, 1997.  Also lost were her brother-in-law  “Red” on Aug. 15, 1981; her brother Leonard on Dec. 8, 1982; a nephew “Butch” on Dec. 29,1989; her son-in-law Glen on July 16, 1992; and a sister-in-law Wilma on Mar. 11, 1994.  Her husband Gene passed-away on Oct. 2, 1985, at which time she sold her home in IL and moved back to Russell.

Both Thelma and her sister Doris continue to live in their own homes in Russell, and on March 15, 1000, Thelma celebrated her 90th birthday.

Thelma Lucille (Hudson) Foster passed-away July 6, 2001.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Russell Fire of 1929

     The two photographs above show the ruins the day after the tragic blaze destroyed nearly the entire south business street.
     On Sunday, after the flames were subdued, a bountiful supper was served by the ladies of the Presbyterian Aid in the basement of their church.
     In its history, Russell has had its share of tragic fire.  The most spectacular of these blazes broke out on March 24, 1929, and destroyed nearly the entire south side of the town's business street.  Five buildings were totally destroyed:  the R.A. Plotts building occupied by McKinley's Cafe, the J.W. Thomas Harness Shop, a vacant building formerly occupied by Hepenstall's Store, the old bank building housing Stacy's Cafe and another vacant building where the Carpenter Barber Shop was formerly located.
     It was about 3:20 on Sunday afternoon that some of the young fellows of the town seated in cars in front of the Stacy Cafe noticed that smoke was emerging from the roof in the rear of the building.  The young men immediately ran to the firehouse for the chemical wagon and started the siren.  The telephone operator, not having been notified of the fire, assumed pranksters had started the siren at the firehouse and she turned off the alarm from her post.  A short time later, when the fire was reported to the operator, the alarm was sounded and plenty of help was soon on the scene.  But the local fire engine then failed and since water could not be pumped onto the blaze, volunteers immediately turned to removing contents of the buildings, which were in danger into the street.

Three Lives Are Blotted Out -1898

     Every community has its share of tragedies.  Nearly seventy years ago a particular incident shocked the quiet town of Russell.
    It was August 23, 1898.  Only a handful of Russell's senior citizens remember the day.  To the early morning riser word was spreading of a grim finding at the Newell residence.  William Newell, his wife and daughter Madge were all found dead, an apparent double murder and suicide.
    Newell was a local clothing merchant whose business was located in the west part of the building now occupied by Merle Chester.  In an ad in Russell's newspaper in 1897, Mr. Newell assured customers he would undersell everybody else on suits, coats, pants or vests.  He professed: "No firm offers such elegant goods as the ones I represent."

     Pictured at left is the Newell residence in the west part of Russell as it appears today.

    The newspapers gave dramatic accounts typical of journalism of that era.  In Des Moines The Iowa State Register was filled with the latest news of our boys in the Spanish-American War.  However, space was given for this account of the local tragedy:

                            Wm. Newell, A Merchant of Russell, Shoots His Wife, Daughter and Self. 
                                     Business Reverses Supposed to Have Deranged His Mind and 
                                               Caused the Rash Act Triple Tragedy At Russell

Chariton, Aug. 23 - Special:  William Newell, a clothing merchant, of Russell, shot and killed his wife and 8-year-old daughter, Madge, and then shot himself this morning about 2 o'clock.  His wife was in bed, apparently asleep, and was shot through the head.  The girl, in the other room, was shot through the heart.  He was shot in the eye.  Worry over financial matters is supposed to have affected his mind and caused the rash act, as he was always the most loveable husband and father.  Yesterday he gave a mortgage on his stock to a Keokuk firm for $300, when other creditors began to press him.  His son, who was in Omaha, came home today.
    Jerry Cadagan, a neighbor, and Mrs. J.F. Sprague, heard the shots and thought that they were fired by someone in the street.  This morning R.F.Huston and Pat Ford went by the house, went to the door and knocked, but receiving no answer, went in and found the bodies.  The coroner's inquest was held by Dr. J.H. Stanton, of Chariton.  The funerals will occur at 12 o'clock Wednesday at Melrose, Iowa, by the I.O.O.F.

    This large stone with accompanying smaller stones mark the resting place of the Newell family in the Russell Cemetery.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Short Story about the town of Zero, IA

Around 1880 a small mining village named Zero, owned by the Zero Coal Company was formed.  Zero’s life was short lived because the mine was plagued with too much water in its shafts.  Some time before the turn of the 20th century, the Zero experiment failed.  The coal mine was closed.  There are a couple of versions why the town was named Zero.  Some said it was named Zero because it was half way between Melrose and Russell, but others say the name was probably taken from the Zero Coal Co.  In 1881 a vote for a  five per cent tax for railroad construction from Chariton to Russell on to Wabash and Appanoose counties, was taken and it was defeated.  At one time there was a Post Office in town and it even had a broom factory in 1881.  Zero Coal Company had the town platted in 1883.  In 1882 Cook Bros. started laying out the lots in Zero.  By the time they finished there were 61 lots, five streets and three alleys drawn into the town.  By 1887, 20 more lots were officially added.  This small mining town once had a population between 500 and 600 hard working people.  In October of 1883 the Odd Fellows of LaGrange moved their hall to Zero.

Below is the one and only picture of the mine and its workers  -  Labeled - 1886
 This information was obtained from Chariton newspapers and Russell Union.
Some of the residents of Zero from 1882  - 1884

                                                   Mr. Allen                      James Hollenrake
                                                   David Barton                Jacob Gardner
                                                   Mart Barton                  Aquilla Kern
                                                   Mr. Cavett                    Jacob Lemley
                                                   Columbus Chambers     Peter Lemley
                                                   Mr. Comstock               S.G. Lewis
                                                   Wm. Conner                 E. Long           
                                                   Cook Bros.                   Mr. Lutes
                                                   G.R. Dawson                S.G. Morgan
                                                   Jack Dawson                D.W. Powell
                                                   Pat Ford                      R.H. Tabor
                                                   Henry Fuller                Frank Tinker
                                                   Peter Gardner              Thomas Walker
                                                   Mr. Gurwell                 Joel Whittlesey

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Earl Blue, Oral Interview

Earl attended Pleasant Mound Country School, where he completed grades one through eight.  When asked if he remembered any of his time at this school, Earl said, “I used to listen to the older children read their stories from their readers, when I should have been studying.”  Earl said he never did anything “ornery”, but the other kids did.  Charles Werts got up in the attic once and stayed up there while school was going on.  Once, after  the door was shut, the teacher rang the bell, and the kids wired the door shut with the teacher inside.  The teacher opened the window and started calling names for them to come open the door.  They all just said to each other, “Don’t you move, don’t you move”.  After grade school, he attended Russell High School for a while.  He got sick with measles and yellow jaundice and went to York to recuperate for about three months.  He stayed with Uncle Bert and Aunt Ethel and worked on their farm.  After he felt better he went back to high school in York.  He came back home after a few years, when his health improved.  Then the family went on a trip to the Western states and this was the first time he saw the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.  They had an old Dodge and traveled across terrible roads and barely made it.  When they came back home they left Earl in Lincoln, Nebraska so he could attend Lincoln Business College.

Earl’s parents were George Siglar and Avis June (Callahan) Blue.  George Blue was born December 25, 1867 and died December 28, 1946.  Avis Callahan was born near Oakley, Iowa on March 29, 1876 and died March 18, 1936.  They were married in October 1899.  They are both buried in the Russell Cemetery.  They had two sons, Earl and Warren.

When he finished Business College, he got a job with the C. J. Mosier Typewriter Company.  Not only did he do bookkeeping for this company, he also worked in the shop on the typewriters.  Ron asked him which he enjoyed the most and Earl said he like working on mechanical things better than bookkeeping.  While laughing, Ron asked his dad, “You mean to tell me, you don’t enjoy working on Income Tax returns?”  Earl said, “I sure don’t!”

Earl met his wife, Wretha Teater, way back when he was going to Pleasant Mound Country school when Grandma Teater was teaching at the school.  Wretha’s parents, Winona Mackey, born April 24, 1883, and Walter Teater, born February 14, 1879, were married on July 8, 1903.  Their only child, Wretha, was born on August 26, 1904 and passed away on April 18, 1986. 

Earl didn’t pay too much attention to Wretha in elementary school, but when they got to high school he started dating her.  There was a party at Wretha’s uncle’s house in Chariton, IA and that is where Earl’s interest in her started.  They saw each other off and on while she finished high school.  When she went on to teacher’s college in Cedar Falls, IA and he went to Lincoln, NE, they corresponded.  Earl couldn’t remember when he asker her to marry him, but he did give her a ring and asked her dad for permission to marry his daughter.  Wretha’s father just had one worry and that was, would Earl be taking her away from Russell and that is just what happened.  While they were corresponding, Wretha misunderstood one of the letters and sent the engagement ring back to Earl.  It seems he wanted to wait a while longer to get married and she wasn’t willing to wait.  He immediately wrote her back and told her he was serious and pleaded with her to take the ring back and marry him.  They got married in Russell at the Teater’s Valley View Farm on June 10, 1928.  They had decorated up the parlor and Rev. Archie Beals married them.  It was a double ring ceremony and it was the first one Rev. Beals had performed. 

After the marriage, Earl transferred to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to work in the shop for the Royal Typewriter Company.  He started with them as an assistant shop foreman, but soon after became the shop foreman. hospital. 

After eight years with Royal and during the depression, Earl told them he was quitting his job.  Earl rented a low rent building in the business district and opened his own typewriter sales and repair business in Milwaukee, called Blue Typewriters.  Repair and service contracts were his specialty.  A. O. Smith was one of the companies he provided service to.  They produced large grain elevators for farmers throughout the Midwest.  Harvester was another company he serviced.  So he had some large contracts.  This business grew to be a successful achievement.

Wretha taught school at Chariton, Russell, Corydon, Shell Rock, IA and Business College and Girl’s Provocation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

After Earl sold the business and joined his family in Iowa, they moved to Russell and moved into the Blue family home.  Earl bought Warrens half interest in the house by giving him part of the farmland in exchange.  

Earl sold typewriters and adding machines in southern Iowa and Missouri.  He also repaired and serviced them.  He also did some cash register work.  He had the Underwood Typewriter, Victor, and Smith-Corona dealerships and so business was good again.  He had more sales than he did in Milwaukee.  Earl did this business all of his adult life.  Even at ninety years old, when this video was made, Earl was repairing typewriters. 

Earl and Wretha decided to spend the winter of 1983 in Florida.  Shortly after that visit, Wretha discovered she had cancer of the stomach.  She passed away in 1986.  Earl faced a period of adjustment and grieving that no one could identify with.    Earl died in 2002 and is buried in the Russell Cemetery.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Russell Oral Interviews

Everlasting Life in Russell, Iowa

We all would like to live a very long and productive life.  Statistics show that people live longer now than ever before.  Russell residents are no exception.  There are only about 550 residents in town, but a large majority of them are over 80 years old.   The water in town must hold some special ingredient.  The Russell Historical Society did some oral interviews in 2004 with some of its residents and discovered that in 1930, fifty-two students enrolled in the Russell High School Senior Class and 34 of them graduated in the spring of 1931.  This is the largest class Russell has ever had in its school.  At the time of the interview these people were either 91 or 92 years old.  There were 12 former students from this class still alive and seven of them still lived in Russell, Chariton and Cambria.  Another lady lived in Russell and was 91, but she graduated from Chariton High School.  Four others lived away from Russell.  Dennis Drake lived in Colorado; Beulah (Cox) Huntley lived in California; Addison Wells lived in Minnesota; and Louise (Sanborn) Huff lived in Waterloo.

Daisy Chapman is the only one of the twelve we interviewed still living in December of 2010 and she was 97 this year. 
These interviews are in a book at the Russell Historical Society.  During the upcoming weeks I will be posting portions of these stories in this blog.  We hope you enjoy them.

Ivan Ford Oral Interview, July 23, 2004

Ivan was born in Russell, IA on October the 18th 1915.  He lived all his life, 89 years, in Russell, IA. 

Ivan’s Grandfather, Patrick Ford and his Grandmother, (Ivan could not remember her first name, she was always known as Grandma) came to America from Ireland during the Potato famine in Ireland, landing in the USA in 1877.  Why did they come to Iowa?  The saying on the East Coast at that time was “Go West Young Man!”  West they did go, landing in Russell, Iowa.  He, his wife, and two children all headed west.  His Grandmother, at this time, was pregnant with his father, Dennis Ford. 

Employment at that time was - work for the railroads.  He worked for the R.R. about 15 years as Section Forman at nearly every town from Ottumwa to Russell.  In about 1916 he took the examination for Rural Mail Carrier and passed it.  He then carried mail out of Russell for about 25 years.  The Model T. Ford car had not made it to Russell as yet and for the next three years he drove a team of horses 27½ miles, six days a week.  Roads were nothing but trails.  The first day he carried mail he got lost and never got back home that night.  It was out near Olmitz somewhere.  The trails were very hard to follow through the trees and he took the wrong road and went south.  After the Model T came along he still kept his team of horses as a backup to get the mail delivered in bad weather. 

After they got vehicles the routes were increased to between 53 and 54 miles, but there were only two carriers.  Now days the routes are as long as 75 miles.  Today, one of the Russell rural carriers delivers mail for Melrose.  Melrose has one mail carrier that goes east and ends up at Rathbun Lake.  The Russell carrier stops at Melrose and sorts his mail then goes out and delivers it.  He then returns to Russell and proceeds with the Russell route.

His mother, Sarah was born on a farm east of Russell.  Her father, Iven , came from Ohio, his wife having past away; he was left with 3 teenage daughters.  Spring came and he headed north, stopping at Russell and purchased a farm.  The original farmhouse is no longer there.  He then had to go back to Ohio and get the three girls he had left behind.  Grandfather Iven then built the farmhouse, which Jimmy Werts now owns, southeast of Russell.  Ricky Elmore now lives in the house Ivan’s grandfather built.   

Ivan had three sisters.  Oldest sister Carmen was born in 1905 and went to school in Russell.  She graduated from Russell High School and then went on to Simpson College, in Indianola, for two years.  Later, Carmen quit teaching at Britt and joined up with the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, in Washington, D.C.  She retired from the FBI. 

Phyllis, his middle sister, was a nurse. She went to Iowa City for her studies.  She was there for five years and worked in their hospital for a little bit after completing her studies.  

Josephine attended and graduated from Simpson College and then taught school.  She later married the Superintendent of Schools in Altoona. 

Ivan worked at Hahne Printing Co. for 3 years as a linotype (typesetter) operator.   Before living and working in Webster City, Ivan had worked at the bank in Russell.  When he was in high school, one summer, he met up with Homer Jeffries and Howard Smith in the bank down here on the corner.  Homer said to Ivan “Why don’t you come in and learn how to run the posting machine?”  So, that summer he did.  This just added to his education.  He even earned a whole $7.50 cents a month.  That was the amount they got for collecting the Iowa Southern Utilities light bill.  Those were rough times.  While there he did learn how to run a Burroughs posting machine and how to feed a press. 

Then the banks in Russell closed.  In the late thirties they reorganized.  Bob Parker worked at the bank from 1935 until 1943 when he became a Rural Mail Carrier.  Bob told Ivan they needed somebody at the bank, would he be interested?   Ivan’s first question was “How much do they pay?”   Bob had no idea.  Ivan wrote the head man in Chariton asking about the job.  He got a letter back from him.  A meeting was set up in Des Moines and Ivan went down from Webster City.  They met in some hotel lobby.    Ivan was hired right there on the spot.  He returned to Webster City to give his notice and then came down to Russell on December 1, 1943.  He worked in the Russell Bank for about ten years.  Then he went to Chariton and worked in that bank as a cashier for about twenty-four years until 1977 when he retired.  

Ivan attended Russell Elementary Schools and later graduated from Russell High School in 1933.  He then went on to college at Simpson College for one year.   

When he was a kid he lost his right eye in an accident.  Cleo Baughman and Ivan were playing in the old barn and had slingshots.  Green apples were about the size of the end of his thumb.  They were trying to shoot through the knothole in the barn wall.  Ivan peeked through the knothole and just at that time Cleo shot the apple right through the hole and hit Ivan in the eye.  He had sight in that eye for a long time, but does not have sight in that eye today.  At first he lost some vision, but eventually it came back and he was getting along with it pretty good.  It was never as good as the other eye, but yet it was his master eye, which he could never understand.  If you take your finger and point at something, one eye will make the object jump off while the master eye brings it back into alignment.  Well, it was his damaged eye that had that control.  He got by with his vision while he worked at the bank and he can drive a car just fine.  He has 20-20 vision in the good eye, today.  He has had no vision in the bad eye for the last 15 or 20 years. 

He was married in 1936 to Kathleen.  Her family lived in the first house south of Campbell Section off the southeast corner of that area.  Ivan was helping him get the mail delivered and took the South route through Bethlehem and New York back to Russell.  This is where he met Kathleen.

Ivan was on the town Council when the first load of free cinder was brought in from the round house in Ottumwa to be placed on the Russell streets.  The first street to get spread was Ames St. just south of the Phippen Oil Co.  They would bring them in the flat car and the men in Russell took the cars over on the sidetracks.  They took a teepee (two big telephone poles) and put it up on the side of the car.  Took a rope and made a pulley at the top of the teepee.  With a scoop they were able to haul the cinder to the streets where they dumped the cinder.  The cinders were only good for a couple of years before they were shot.  The city got tired of all that work just to have the roads last a couple of years.

After that the city got shale for the roads.  Shale was a little bit better than cinder. This shale came from out near the Olmitz mine.  The shale piles were as high as Russell High School.  The slag piles around the Olmitz mine and the mines near Williamson would burn for years and years, giving off a horrible sulfur smell.  Talk about pollution, this was it.

Marilyn was Ivan’s oldest daughter.  She married Cecil who taught school for a little while.

Judy, his next daughter, lives outside of Russell on a farm.  She married Dean. 

Ivan’s son, Gary lives in Cedar Rapids.  They had a business of their own.   He worked with hospitals and is now retired. 

Ivan was on the council when they brought the water into town.  Wells was their source for getting water.  There was a well and a pump right outside the Bank building, along with a horse trough.  There were hitch racks all over town.  At the churches and other locations in town.   The churches used to have outdoor meetings in the summertime, but after the horses were around for a while, they couldn’t have the meetings outdoors because of the flies and the smell.

The wells couldn’t have been too pure.  Ivan said the wells and the outdoor toilets were usually about 40 feet apart.  Even so, the taste of the water was better than the deep well water.  At first the deep well water tasted like sulfur.  Many attempts were made to get rid of the bad taste, including filtering.  They finally succeeded in getting the water to taste better.  But at the beginning it was pretty bad water.  They financed the new water system with bonds.  Lane Western out of Ames was the construction company who came in and constructed the water tower and deep well.   The first tower was constructed where the park is now.  They later constructed the tower that is in Russell today.  Ivan’s Dad always used to say, “Russell would never have water or sewers because they couldn’t afford it.”   

When a farmer came to town, he did two things; he brought a dozen old hens and a cow with him.  There used to be a barn behind every house.  Up and down the alleys you would find the hens and the cows.  Everyone had a little horse-drawn buggy.  In the early twenties, most people did not have a car.  The thought in those days was, “If you don’t buy a car, eventually everyone will go back to horses”.  When people first started driving a car, it was terrible.  The drivers really didn’t know what they were doing.  They were the worst drivers.  In those days the cars never traveled faster than fifteen miles per hour.  Some of them today still only go fifteen miles per hour.  A lot of people just pulled them into the barn in the winter, placed a blanket over them and waited until spring to take them back out of the barn.  The cars had to be cranked to get them started.  They didn’t have batteries in them in those days. 

Because he was a bank employee he ended up involved with the Homecoming activities every year.  The Commercial Club (local merchants) usually sponsored the Homecoming. 

Mr. Winsor ran a hatchery just outside of town near the cemetery.  Ted Smith had the best hatchery in town, but Mr. Winsor had his at about the same time and did just fine.  Ted would have his chicks during the three months of summer and would make as much in that three months as other merchants made in a whole year.  People came from a great distance just to buy Ted Smith’s chicks.  His annual income was $9,000. 

He went on to talk about the accident with his eye and about his hip.  About 20 years ago he was in the parking lot at the Chariton Post Office and he slipped on the ice.  During his stay in the hospital, doctors placed three pins into his hip to repair it.  

If you would like to read the entire interview, please visit the Russell Historical Society Museum/Library.