Iowa History, a weekly column by Cheryl Mullenbach exploring Iowa history, will appear on IowaWatch on Saturdays. Mullenbach is a former history teacher, newspaper editor, and public television project manager. She is the author of four non-fiction books for young people. Double Victory was featured on C-SPAN’s “Book TV” and The Industrial Revolution for Kids was selected for “Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People.” Visit her website at http://www.cherylmullenbachink.com/.
When former Iowa governor Leslie Shaw was chosen by President Theodore Roosevelt as his secretary of the treasury in 1902, Iowans were prepared to see his name in the national headlines. He grabbed headlines, but not always because of his actions as the treasury department head.
Farmers in the Charles City area threatened to take their business to neighboring towns if the Improvement Association removed the hitching posts in the city park. But the 45 women who had formed the new association in 1903 weren’t about to back down. Before long the hitching posts were gone and only a fading memory. The hitching post removal had been a hard-fought victory for the women, but it was only one of many improvements they planned for the town over the next ten years. Number one on the list was to beautify the city’s only public park.
In May 1862 a group of 12 men from Clear Lake traveled to Cedar Falls to enlist in the Union army. Among the group who were willing to join the fight to preserve the Union during the Civil War were two brothers, Winslow Casady (W.C.) Tompkins and Caleb Tompkins.
No, the Red Cross would never solicit donations through chain letters. And the public should immediately destroy any of those bogus letters they received in the mail. Conditions at Camp Dodge near Des Moines, where thousands of boys from across the Midwest were training as soldiers were better than at many other military camps around the country, despite rumors. And that woman from southern Iowa who had helped spread juicy bits of scandal about the camp was headed for an appearance in front of a federal grand jury. The country was at war in 1917, and military leaders were busy tamping down negative press.
“They are simply awful. They left farm life to go on the stage and are raising larger crops than when tilling the soil. Beans, peas, turnips, carrots, eggs and cabbage literally rain down upon them whenever they shamble onto the stage.”
A Chicago arts publication gave the Cherry Sisters from Marion, Iowa, a scathing review for a performance at Davenport’s Burtis Opera House in spring 1893. Addie, Jessie, Effie and Lizzie were farm girls who were trying to earn a little extra money by showcasing their musical talents, but somehow their performances brought out the worst in Iowa audiences. Iowa History, a weekly column, appears at IowaWatch on Saturdays.
The Twelfth Iowa Volunteer Infantry had made a name for themselves in the Civil War. Formed in Dubuque in 1861, the company left Iowa in November to spend two months in St. Louis before taking part in battles all over the South. They saw action in Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama. They proudly represented Iowa at Fort Donelson and the Battle of Shiloh.
It was rumored that a wagon and team of oxen had disappeared from sight as its driver attempted to cross Purgatory Slough. They were never seen again. And the Marshalltown Evening Times Republican reminded readers about the rusty gun barrel and human skeleton that had been discovered in Hell Slough. Both sloughs were located in Calhoun County, but travelers in most parts of the state faced the dangers of the wet, marshy swamps that mired down wagons and caused headaches for human. Iowa History, a weekly column, appears at IowaWatch on Saturdays.
The Secret Service said it was his “unusually inquisitive” nature about military matters that tipped off personnel about a German man working as a waiter in the officers’ mess at Camp Dodge, according to the Des Moines Register in 1917. John Conrad Ebert, 24, was arrested by federal agents on Saturday, November 24, 1917, at the camp. The agents had him under surveillance for about six weeks. He was charged as a suspected spy for Germany. Iowa History, a weekly column, appears at IowaWatch on Saturdays.