image_pdfimage_print

Those Places Thursday: Newton Iowa and the Old Settlers Meetings

A Pioneer Dwelling from History of Jasper County, Iowa, Western Historical Co.,1878. Page 61, GoogleBooks.
A Pioneer Dwelling from History of Jasper County, Iowa, Western Historical Co.,1878. Page 61, GoogleBooks.

Every place has their old settlers- those who braved a hostile land and brought ‘civilization’: farming and ranching, churches and school houses, commerce and vice, as well as families and friends. Newton in Jasper County, Iowa, had meetings of these brave [some would say foolhardy] souls regularly in later years, and the original book recording those get-togethers is in the Jasper County Historical Society Library. The book may also be found online, at the Iowa GenWeb Jasper county page for Old Settlers of Newton, Iowa.

Wonderful records were kept by the Old Settlers Association, and they are a wealth of information for anyone whose ancestors were pioneers in the area. Even for those of us whose families were latecomers to the area, “Old Settler” groups recorded many stories of the life that was, and may have continued for some years after our ancestors moved to the area. Plus, these stories are just delightful reading!

Only those persons who were residents of the Newton area prior to 31 May 1855 were invited to the party held by Albert Lufkin, himself an early settler, at his home on 30 May 1885. Albert had arrived in the area on 31 May 1855, but since the 30th anniversary of that date fell on a Sunday, the gathering was held on the Saturday before. Albert invited about 50 persons, which was all he could entertain with the size of his home.

Of course, as the years went on the gatherings became smaller due to further migration, old age, and death of the members. They began to invite those who had come after 1855 in order to keep the party at about 50, and at one point, had over 100 people, the largest gathering in Newton to that date.

The Old Settlers Association met on 1 June 1891 at the Lambert House Parlors in Newton.

“The tables were lighted as of old Pioneer days with tallow dips and cotton wicks hanging out of saucers of Lard. All at once however, (as the eyes of the Company were not as good as 36 years ago,) the full blaze of the Electric lights – was turned on and the dainties disappeared in a manner to reflect – credit – upon the digestion of the company, and the skill of those who prepared the repast.”

What changes those early pioneers, some of whom may have been born about 1830, witnessed throughout the century!

One of my favorite stories from the Newton Old Settler’s Association:

“I might tell of some of our meetings; I will mention one that was dismissed without the benediction, in consequence of bees stinging the preacher and congregation, but enough for now.” B. Aydelott.”

There are newspaper accounts of the meetings, and those include many of the events of the meeting as well as the historical. Food was, of course, a primary focus of the event, with storytelling, songs, and speeches after, although sometimes, that good food was a problem:

“A. J. Osborn had eaten too much and didn’t feel much like talking.”

"Breaking Prairie" from History of Jasper County, Iowa, Western Historical Co.,1878. Page 63, GoogleBooks.
“Breaking Prairie” from History of Jasper County, Iowa, Western Historical Co.,1878. Page 63, GoogleBooks.

By the time my ancestors arrived, there was probably little prairie left to break, but farming was still a difficult task back then- even today. (What would our ancestors have thought of air conditioned, GPS-guided combines???) Our  families who took up residence in Jasper County were:

Sylvanus Rufus Benjamin and Sara Ann Palmer in 1865 or 1866

Jonathan N. Benjamin and Hannah E. Ford in 1867

John S. Roberts and Elizabeth Ann Murrell  by 1868

Robert Woodson Daniel and Margaret Ann Hemphill (between 1866-1870)

Frederick Asbury “F.A.” McMurray and Hannah “Melissa” Benjamin by 1870

 

Cynthia A. Benjamin (1841-1925), sister of Hannah Melissa Benjamin, married Reuben K. Lambert- perhaps she was the “Mrs. Lambert” who prepared such delicious repasts for the Old Settlers?

A handwritten note under the newspaper article for the [likely] 1896 Old Settlers Association meeting noted that $6.68 was collected, and the disbursements were listed. The reunion had been planned to be outdoors but because of rainy weather, it was moved to the Armory. Three dollars were disbursed to “Will McMurry for rent of hall.” William Elmer McMurray (1874-1957) was the son of F.A. and Melissa (Benjamin) McMurray. There was also a note that, “The drapage bill is still unpaid, and nothing in the treas.” (Drapage would be cloth hanging festively, such as red, white, and blue festoons/banners.)

 

The moral of the story? Even though I knew my family members were not early settlers in Jasper County, Iowa, reading through this booklet gave me information about times both past and present. One can do a search within the document to find family names, but sometimes it is just more enjoyable to read through and get a sense of what life was like for early settlers, and those same folks when they became “Old Settlers.” You never know what you will find- the payment to Will McMurray was quite a surprise in this booklet!

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Old Settlers of Newton, Iowa: http://iagenweb.org/jasper/history/OldSettlers/Newton.pdf

2) The “dainties” referred to in the 1891 meeting would have been small appetizers and desserts.

3) Old Settlers of Newton, Iowa, page 6.  Bee Sting- unknown date of newspaper article, unknown newspaper.

4) Ibid., 14. Eaten too much- unknown date of newspaper article, unknown newspaper. Probably between 28 Apr and 9 June 1896.

5) Ibid., Will McMurry- page 19, Secretary’s note of 09 Jun 1896.

 

Please contact us if you would like higher resolution images.

Copyright 2013-2015 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.

Wordless Wednesday: Views of the Skunk River near the Roberts Family Farm, Jasper County, Iowa

View on Skunk River near Newton, Jasper County, Iowa.
View on Skunk River near Newton, Jasper County, Iowa.(RPPC)
View on Skunk River near Newton, Jasper County, Iowa- reverse.
View on Skunk River near Newton, Jasper County, Iowa- reverse.
View of Skunk River near Newton, Jasper County, Iowa. Real Photo Postcard (RPPC).
View of Skunk River near Newton, Jasper County, Iowa. Real Photo Postcard (RPPC).
Skunk River Bridge near Colfax, Jasper County, Iowa. RPPC.
Skunk River Bridge near Colfax, Jasper County, Iowa. Vintage lithographic postcard  c1910, mailed 1917 in Colfax to Hancock, Iowa.
Skunk River Bridge near Colfax, Jasper County, Iowa. RPPC-reverse.
Skunk River Bridge near Colfax, Jasper County, Iowa. RPPC-reverse.

 

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Purchased postcards in author’s collection.

 

Please contact us if you would like higher resolution images.

Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.

Sentimental Sunday- Little Houses on the Prairie

Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls, 1975
Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls, 1975. Wikimedia Commons.

September 11, 2014, among other things, was the 40th anniversary of the television premiere of, “Little House on the Prairie” which was based on the beloved books of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The books were favorites of mine as a child- I would check out one after the other at the school library and the public library, devouring them even under the covers with a flashlight, over and over. I would dream of what it must have been like to be a pioneer in the olden days- that was probably the beginning of my (virtually) time-traveling, family history-loving self. Even though I was an adult when the series premiered, I just had to watch the programs, and they never disappointed- not a case here of ‘the-books-were-so-much-better.’ I loved seeing the settings and costumes, and sometimes-ornery, sometimes-sweet Laura, portrayed by Melissa Gilbert. (She made me think of how my grandmother would have been at that age. Grandma thought that too.) The series added characters and changed story lines from the books, but they did them well. They had the bonus of the very handsome Michael Landon, my favorite from his previous series, “Bonanza,” as Charles Ingalls, Laura’s father.  The programs from 1974-1983, plus movies from the series, still air around the world in reruns and are now being released as DVDs in their uncut and remastered versions, indicating their popularity through time.

Melissa Gilbert is releasing a cookbook full of “Little House” series recipes and memories on 16 Sep 2014, entitled My Prairie Cookbook: Memories and Frontier Food from My Little House to Yours. She also published, in 2010, an autobiography that includes stories from her “Little House” days.

The “Little House” books have an even more special meaning for me- I knew my boyfriend was THE one when he gave me the whole set of “Little House” books as a Christmas gift when we were starving college students. OK, they were just paperbacks, but it was a nice boxed set and invaluable because I loved the books so much. The fact that he thought of them for a gift- well, that was stupendous. We are still together 35 years later, and thinking of the stories, the books, and the gift (plus the extra hours he worked to earn the money for them on top of a full load of classes plus work), make this a very ‘Sentimental Sunday.’

Schoolhouse attended by the children of George and Ella Daniel Roberts. Image taken c1970 and building is now gone. The children attended c1900-1915.
Schoolhouse attended by the children of George and Ella Daniel Roberts. Image taken c1970 and building is now gone. The children attended c1900-1915.

It is also a ‘Sentimental Sunday’ because we had the same kind of pioneers in our family! Edith Roberts McMurray Luck told stories of how her family migrated to Illinois and then to Jasper County, Iowa in the late 1800s, just after folks like the Ingalls family pioneered farming and towns on the midwest prairies. The Roberts, Daniel, and Murrell families were originally from Virginia, Missouri, Kentucky and Indiana, and migrated to Roseville in Warren County, Illinois from their respective homes in the 1850s. They then traveled to Jasper County, Iowa, in 1858 with a large grouping of families and covered wagons full of household goods, elderly parents, and children.

Our McMurray and Benjamin ancestors were people of the frontiers, migrating west as the lines blurred between native and white settlements, sometimes being part of the casualties or captured during those hostilities, and eventually migrating to Iowa from Pennsylvania. Heinrich Horn immigrated from Germany (probably as a conscripted mercenary “Hessian” in the Revolutionary War and captured by George Washington’s forces at Trenton, then paroled when he became an American citizen); he settled in Virgina, then Pennsylvania with some of his descendants moving later to Iowa. The New England-born Paynes and Burnells became farmers and ministers in Illinois, Wisconsin, Kansas, and even took the train to settle out in California in the 1870s, when it still was a sort of ‘Wild West.’

The Lee family sailed from England to the Illinois prairies, going up the Mississippi from New Orleans, and although the Bunker Hill, Illinois area had been settled a while, the prairie was still a harsh environment to farm and have a business in 1875. Lee married-ins like the Lutz, Russell, and Aiken families had moved west through frontier Ohio and even into ‘Indian Territory,’ which has since become the state of Oklahoma.

The Helblings migrated to Pennsylvania from Germany, and lived on the unsettled outskirts of what is now the large Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania metropolitan area. The Springsteens were from New Jersey and watched the growth of the early Indiana prairie town that became Indianapolis, Indiana.

Edith Roberts said often to her family, “You come from strong pioneer stock. You can do anything you set your mind to.” That legacy has helped many of her descendants get through tough times, and appreciate the strong, determined pioneers that fill our family tree.

Stories to come about these families and their migrations!

 

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) “Little House on the Prairie” tv series information: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071007/

2) Wikipedia article about the TV series: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_House_on_the_Prairie_(TV_series)

3) Wikipedia article about the books: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_House_on_the_Prairie

4) “Little House” books- http://www.littlehousebooks.com 

5) Melissa Gilbert’s autobiography- Prairie Tale: A Memoir, Gallery Books, 2010, ISBN-13: 978-141659917.

.

 

 

Please contact us if you would like higher resolution images.

Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.

“A Maine Law Wanted”- Murrell Family Bible, Part 6

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Murrell Family Bible

A Maine Law Wanted, c1852, Page 1
A Maine Law Wanted, c1853,     Page 1 [Click to enlarge.]
This pamphlet printed on very thin paper was tucked into the family bible of Wiley Anderson Murrell and Mary Magdalen Honts Murrell. (See previous posts in this series.)

The latest date of statistics cited is October, 1852, so it must have been printed some time after that.

Liquor flowed freely in early America, whether to keep one safe from water-borne illness, to help warm up on cold winter days and nights, or to free one for a short while from the dreariness of the hard, constant drudgery of being a working-class man.

A Maine Law Wanted, c1852, Page 2
A Maine Law Wanted, c1853,     Page 2 [Click to enlarge.]
In 1851 the Temperance Movement in the United States was growing. A law  was passed in Maine that year that only allowed the sale of alcoholic beverages for “medicinal, mechanical or manufacturing purposes.” Twelve other states passed similar laws by 1855, although a number of those laws were overturned by State Supreme Courts- there were even riots over the laws in some states. Iowa lawmakers passed a “Maine Law” in 1855 and it was quickly ratified by Iowa voters that year. This pamphlet may have been provided by the Temperance Movement and churches to encourage Iowa voters to support a “Maine Law” in their state.

Temperance was very unpopular, especially among working class men. Many churches and women worked for the temperance movement, as they knew that women and children suffered the most (economically, psychologically, and physically) when alcoholism affected the breadwinner of the family. Mary Honts Murrell came from a broken family, and had a father who was often unreasonable and had a temper- could that be why this pamphlet was in her bible? Had her father, Henry Honts, been an alcoholic? That is a story that we probably will never know.

Women worked to get the vote during this time period as well, but with little success. ‘Big liquor’ and powerful politicians who bought votes with free liquor right before elections knew that women would tend to vote for any attempt to limit alcohol sales, and thus they banded together to keep the right of suffrage from women until 1922.

A Maine Law Wanted, c1852, Page 3 [click to enlarge]
A Maine Law Wanted, c1853,      Page 3
[Click to enlarge.]
 Interestingly, page 3 of “A Maine Law Wanted” states, “Four-fifths of those swept away in Buffalo, by the cholera, have been in the habit of using ardent spirits as a beverage.” (Italics in pamphlet.) Actually, in the 1850s, drinking “ardent spirits” instead of local water from a river or stream would have protected drinkers since the alcohol kills bacteria. Of course, at that time the germ theory of disease was not widely accepted, and it was not understood that fecal contamination of water was the cause of cholera. There have been numerous pandemics of cholera, including one in the United States and Europe from 1827-1835, which killed 150,000 Americans. Within a year or so of the (estimated) publishing date of this pamphlet, in 1854, John Snow of England recognized a clustering of cholera disease around contaminated water, thus beginning the science of epidemiology and successful steps to eradicate this lethal disease.

A Maine Law Wanted, c1852, Page 4 [click to enlarge]
A Maine Law Wanted, c1853,     Page 4
[Click to enlarge.]
Note the publication information on the last page: “Hoover & Co., 118 Nassau street, New York, office of the New York People’s Organ, a weekly Temperance and Family Companion, at one dollar a year.” Sadly I could not find specific information for this group online, but hopefully some scholars will find this post and add this pamphlet to other historical documents of the era.

 

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Murrell Family Bible, c1845?

2) Wikipedia article for “Maine Law,” accessed 2-8-14 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maine_law.

3) Wikipedia article for “Cholera,” accessed 2-8-14 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cholera

 

Please contact us if you would like higher resolution images.

Copyright 2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.

Treasure Chest Thursday: The John Roberts and Elizabeth Ann Murrell Roberts Family in 1900

The John Roberts Family, 1904.
The John Roberts Family, 1900 or 1904. (Click to enlarge.)

Eight years after their 1892 family portrait (see Treasure Chest Thursday: The John Roberts and Elizabeth Ann Murrell Family in 1892), the John S. Roberts family had another family portrait taken, this time at another ‘homeplace’ in Prairie City, Jasper County, Iowa.

Years ago I used the techniques discussed in the previous post to identify the persons in this photograph. I started with the known persons and then incorporated knowledge from other photos, censuses, etc. The date of the photo was estimated to be 1902-1903 due to the age of Edith Roberts, but since one of the babies was born in 1904, that definitely set the date later.

Here is the identification:
From left-

Mary Jane Roberts’ family: Mary Jane (Mollie J) standing holding her daughter Bernice Blount; son Samuel Harvey with hat and tie standing next to his father, Samuel H. Blount. Seated on ground in front are, from left, Florence, Helen J, and Harold M. Blount. Oldest son Harry R. is standing next to his father in a dark suit.

George A. Roberts’ family: Standing next to Harry R. Blount is Ella V. Daniels Roberts and in the (short) white dress is daughter Ethel Gay Roberts. Seated at her feet is Edith Mae Roberts. Their father George A. Roberts stands next to Ethel, with son George A. Roberts, standing next to him.

Jason Lee Roberts’ family: Oca Roberts, in a long white dress, stands next to George Roberts Jr. Her brother Guy L. Roberts stands in front of her and their father, Jason Lee Roberts. His wife Julia French Roberts stands next to him holding their baby Ralph Roberts. Sitting on the ground in front of them are, from left, Wiley Roberts, Willard Roberts, and Charley Roberts in white. The very short woman in front of Julia French is Orpha B. Roberts.

Elizabeth Ann Murrell and her husband John Roberts stand next to Julia French.

William Edward (W.E., or Ed) Roberts’ family: W.E. Roberts stands next to his father, John Roberts. His son Orville stands beside him, with the woman on the right probably Orville’s mother, Mary M. Main Roberts; his sister Edna is not seen in the picture. Seated on the ground in front of them are Maude & Clara, with Maude possibly having the lighter hair as seen in the 1892 photo.

In the last few years, we found an advertising page,

“Courtesy of
ROBERTS BROTHERS
Groceries, Bottled Gas Ranges,
Plumbing, Heating
Pumps & Windmills”

It contained the above picture and two others, with everyone identified plus information about John and Elizabeth Roberts’ lives. Sadly, the women and children were not truly identified, but it did verify that we had the families correct:

Left to right- Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Blount and family, Mr. and Mrs. George Roberts and family, Mr. and Mrs. Jason Roberts and family, Mr. and Mrs. John Roberts, Mr. and Mrs. Ed Roberts and family. This picture was taken of Mr. and Mrs. John Roberts, their children and grandchildren at their home in Prairie City in 1900 (now the Vande Kieft home). The fifth boy sitting down from the left is the Mayor of Prairie City.

The moral of the story is:

1) Use ALL your resources in a collaborative way.

2) Revisit your families- new information comes online and available every day.

 

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Family photograph, and page from a magazine or flyer.

2) Updated 12/2/16 with corrected identification of Oca and Orpha Roberts.

3) Some sources (like the Roberts family advertisement) state the picture was taken in 1900, some state 1904. I tend to agree with the 1900 date, as Edith Roberts was born 10 October 1899, so would have been 1-1/2 or 2 when this image was taken. That seems more consistent with her size, as if the photo was from 1904, she would have been 5 years old.

01/11/2017 UPDATE: However, if the baby being held by Julia French Roberts is their son Ralph Roberts, the date of the photo would be 1904, since he was born 11 July 1903. The baby could instead be one who died very young, as there is an almost 3 year gap between Ralph and his older brother Charley. We will have to leave this mystery to the Jason Lee Roberts and Julia (French) Roberts descendants to sort out.

 

Please contact us if you would like a higher resolution image.

Copyright 2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.