Every ambitious young man has his own notions concerning his future. In this case, the first real ambition was that some day he would be a teamster - a drayman with a splendid team of horses, a fine harness with many white rings on it - and a good well-painted wagon. Well, that ambition gave place to others - like business - banking, school teaching and if he had listened to some relatives and well meaning friends he would have been obliged to consider preaching - but he did not listen and that is another story.
During this summer the way into the immediate future seemed to point to the summer School Teachers "Normal" to be held at the county seat, Marshalltown, when Joseph C. Hisey was County Superintendent. Perhaps though his and others faith and generous attitude this young man aspirant obtained a certificate for teaching and was offered a school to teach. This school - old Number Six, was 8 miles south from his home and two miles north of the town of Gilman, but being in the very garden of the agricultural state of Iowa, yielding its great harvests of corn, the community did not favor schooling the youngsters until the autumn work was well completed, so there must be some two or three months before school would open.
Then came other decisions - hard decisions. He might follow another alluring lead - go to the city of Des Moines - to begin an course in the Capital City Commercial College. Yes that had a compelling appeal - only that required money far beyond his accumulations.
That splendid young horse could be sold. That was a hard decision - which only a lover of horses with a memory of his own first horse can understand. O! these princely, beautiful, affectionate animals, that challenge ones admiration and compel ones love. Some possessions can be easily sacrificed - but not a horse like "Dandy" - but the $100 would make other things possible. Then the beginning of the commercial course - then return to the county school for a four months term followed by a two months term.
The year 1887 was therefore something of an eventful year, the completion of the Academy course, the attendance at the County Normal, the enrollment as a commerce student in the Capital City Commercial College and the beginning of a teaching career.
However good home may be - however good and wholesome it really was , it is sometimes a great thing to get away from home, provided it is done in the right spirit and with high purpose. The few weeks in Des Moines were valuable both in school and out. The management and instructors were of highest order and the student group was of splendid type from Iowa's best homes. Friendships were made which have continued throughout subsequent years and a knowledge of city life was very beneficial to one who had always walked on the good soil or the country town type of board walk.
Teaching school that winter of 1887-'88 and two miles from ones boarding place was also something of a new experience for that was one of the "hardest" winters in the history of the middle west, especially the northern part of the middle west. Not a day of school in that little country schoolhouse was missed though the teacher was more than once warned by the town people of the danger of facing north in a sub zero blizzard. His anxiety compelled him however, - anxiety that some pupils might go expecting the teacher and expecting a warm school building, and in their disappointment there might be tragedy. On some of the coldest days four boys who watched for the teacher coming went along and formed the student group for that day.
A country school was a wholly new set up for the young educator for he had never attended that sort of school. He liked it from the very first and became very fond of every child who attended. Some were young while some were quite advanced but they formed a pleasant group with which to work. There seemed to be something of satisfaction on the part of the scholars and patrons and one of the patrons conveyed the item of appreciation by saying "that teacher can stay right here all of his life if he wants to." His contacts in the small town of Gilman were helpful for he found many choice people and profited by their friendship. From the young people there he acquired his first knowledge of the Christian Endeavor Movement then just becoming popular in church circles. From inspiration learned there he with other young people organized the first Christian Endeavor society ever in the home town of Le Grand. When the first four months term was finished he did agree to remain for the spring two months but that closed his country school efforts. No, in those days it was not so lucrative as to offer any great temptation. Board and room cost but $10.00 per month and the teacher was able to pay that from former savings and at the end of four months he received in one check his $30.00 per month salary - or the full amount of $120.00. He did grow extravagant with so much money and purchased a coveted watch - a columbus watch with gold filled case which served faithfully for more than 40 years - and would do well now with a small bit of oil and cleaning.
The spring term out - there was a return to the Commercial school until the autumn when his desire for teaching led him to accept a position in the home Academy as principal of a Commercial Department under Lewis Estes Kenworthy as Principal of the Academy. At the end of the winter term he resigned from the position to accept a more tempting one in a distant thriving western little city.
That princely half brother Benjamin H. McGrew has already been introduced in this review but other references should always be in order. He was a little more than 16 years older than his most unpromising half brother whose advent occurred a day when the older boy was away from home delivering a load of wheat to dealers in the little pioneer city of Grinnell. On his return he learned of the new arrival and laughed when he saw him because he looked so red. He laughed many times after the red color had cleared up for there seemed always something to laugh about. Being 16 years older the boys never did in the early days have much in common. The relationship was always that of a big brother and a little brother. The big brother was admired and fairly worshiped - and he was always worthy of emulation, while the younger lad could be tolerated, used, imposed upon and was always helped by all such wholesome treatment. Whatever pleased "Bennie" was "Eddie's" joy and it was always good for him, for some word of compliment or praise for some small favor or task was high reward. Often the older boy was away working for some neighbor, mingling with the young people of his own age on social occasions and he was a leader in any such group. He was always a gentleman, always attractive in appearance, always a leader in the games and he was endowed with one of the finest tenor voices ever known in that section of the state. Sometimes he was away to attend lectures or entertainments in the county seat some 9 miles distant. Often for extended periods he was away attending school at Penn College in Oskaloosa or in the State College at Ames or later at the State University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, from which he graduated from the Department of Law. At one time he made a most remarkable trip with a few other persons when he attended in 1875 the Centennial at the city of Philadelphia, then from there made a hurried trip through parts of New England. This Centennial opportunity caused the lad at home great mental distress for while he was glad for his brother's good fortune he realized with sorrow that it would be a hundred years before there could be a second centennial and the chances seemed then somewhat against his having his privilege then. As the years have come and gone and he has attended many such expositions at Omaha, St. Louis, Portland, Chicago, Buffalo and "believe it or not" - the sesqui-Centennial at Philadelphia, his sorrow of missing a few and a few that may be in the future has strangely modified.
Following the graduation from Ann Arbor this young lawyer and potential business man went into Nebraska and became a man of affairs in that new state. He was married on June 26, 1884 at Hinsworth, Nebraska, to Miss Mary A. Chaney, a very charming and capable young woman of that small Nebraska city. Shortly afterward they established their home in the new town of Crawford in the very northwest county of the state. The village was on the prairie of buffalo grass and cactus where in early days buffalo and antelope were plentiful but as civilization intruded they went to other parts leaving human beings, prairie dogs and rattlesnakes to solve their own problems. This new town, builded in part of native pine sawed from the pine trees on adjacent hills where majestic and scenic buttes stood high like feudal castles in sloping gardens of native pines. Near the town flowed the beautiful, clear, cold White River adding its contribution of beauty and utility. Another feature of special interest and of some economic value, was the fact that Crawford was located about as near as possible, just off the reservation of Fort Robinson and only three miles from the Fort residences and other improvements.
This town of Crawford, then was quite typically western and prompted the memory of that little jingle -
City of the west
Built up in a minute,
Hurry, hurry, hurry
Everything within it.
Every nook and corner
Filled to overflowing
Like a locomotive
When word came from the older brother that a position awaited the younger brother - in a real estate office, - bring the Remington Typewriter and come on, he was quite willing for adventure and he left home early in the spring of 1889 on a journey of 700 miles by way of Chicago and Northwestern Railway to Omaha and the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley to Crawford.
This was more definitely "breaking home ties" than was realized at that time for while at times afterward he returned for periods of time the home feature was never the same again.
When this young man stepped from the train that early spring morning he realized he was in a wholly different environment. He at once was in love with the wide open prairie country but never did quite appreciate the "wide open" towns and cities. There were many rattlesnakes out on the prairie 'tis true but even so they are less dangerous than human vipers that flock into some of the "wide open" towns.
At that time the 9th Cavalry was stationed at Fort Robinson and they were big colored men. Officers and management however were white men and the head of it all was a seasoned soldier, General Brisbin. The fort life was reasonably good and clean. No saloons or houses of prostitution were allowed on the Reservation. Crawford was just off the Reservation and but scant three miles from the fort activities and that made the small town a center for saloons, prostitutes and gamblers.
In addition to all this the "B and M" railway was being built toward the north west, crossing the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railway at Crawford making it a junction city and an important center. This brought scores of contractors and their outfits of mules, plows, scrapers, etc., etc. to Crawford and hundreds of men to work on the grading of the new road. These men were recognized as the Genus Homo but were referred to as the Genus Hobo. They would work - get good pay then drink and gamble and completely dissipate until they were "broke" and after that go back to work again. Payday at the Fort and payday at the R.R. camps gave promise of a wild night on the streets and in the dives. Sometimes there was much shooting but usually no one was seriously hurt and in a day or two it was as calm as ever.
The first few months the Young Quaker worked in a Real Estate and Loan office of George P. Davenport associated with Fred Daniels then when an opening appeared in the Bank of Crawford where the older half brother was Cashier he accepted that opportunity. The position in the Bank gave better opportunity to contact people and to know much of the business activities of the town and community. While there he became somewhat acquainted with the officers at the Fort and with the contractors in railroad construction as well as with the best people of the town and with many of the rank and file of laboring people. There were some responsibilities. Often after the evening meal he would go the Bank and work until 10 p.m. on the books, and it was not uncommon on going out the front door to find a drunken, sleeping man retiring on the door step. He would step over the man's prostrate form, close the door and lock it leaving the uninvited guest to his dreams. Often the Bank had extra currency shipped in, perhaps $5,000 -by express. Sometimes the young clerk obtained said package at the railway station express office and carried it with apparently no concern when he knew he would meet a score of men as he returned to the bank who would not hesitate to relieve him of the little package if they had known what it contained. After the pay days the Saloon Men were the heaviest depositors - and there was never a lack for good stories of people who temporarily "well to do", and suddenly as poor as ever they were. But to review these everyday events would not be quite fair to the situation. With drinking and gambling and shooting there was sometimes a little excitement. Some of the finest people in the world however lived in all those western cities and this young man found many congenial friends and associates. His first good fortune was a home with his brother and his lovely wife. What a fine, cultured, lively, musical, hospitable home it was. All their friends were royal people. His second good fortune was that he found most helpful spiritual contacts in the Methodist church - the only church there for awhile until the Congregationalists organized another church.
The pastor of the Methodist Church was an old civil war veteran whose name was John Scamahorn. What a great soul he was and soon the young man was admitted into the activities of the Church, Sunday School and Midweek prayer meeting as if he really belonged. Those were good days with great opportunities to let ones light shine.
Yes there were some attractions in the town and many fine people.
At Fort Robinson there were many entertaining features - many of them of most interesting character. Band concerts of very high order were frequent. Once there was an encampment of many - perhaps 10 or 12 other similar forts. These visiting companies came in with cavalry horses and army paraphernalia and every day for a week there was much practice in Maneuvering and Sham Battles. How attractive their splendid horses - each company having its distinctive color of cavalry horses, some black, some bay, some sorrel, some white, or iron gray or roan and as they maneuvered on the field they presented a most beautiful sight.
The country all about on the prairie and among the buttes was an old Indian battle ground and much history concerning the Sioux and Crow Indians and of the Governments controlling them occurred here.
In those early days of Crawford the Fort at Fort Robinson was at its best in every way. It was the custom then for the Indians to come down from the Sioux Reservation in South Dakota for an annual encampment and pow wow, at the close of which was their great Indian War Dance and feast - after which they disinterred a few remains of ancestors who had been killed in battle and had been buried at the Fort. These remains were carried with great ceremony back to the Reservation and placed there in sacred and hallowed ground.
On the prairies in those days were many things of interest to a young man unaccustomed to that type of country, such as very extensive horse ranches and cattle ranges with the real cowboys with their broncos, and saddles and spurs, with their lariat ropes and their guns. How interesting their lives, those independent, royal, reckless fellows, portrayed and misrepresented so often, but quite perfectly shown in some of the poems of our cowboy poet friend Charles Badger Clark. Of the Black Hills country who was once an Oskaloosa boy, he is remembered by many with great interest and appreciation. One poem, which is worthy, is as follows:
A Cowboy's Prayer
Oh Lord, I've never lived where churches grow.
I love creation better as it stood
That day You finished it so long ago
And looked upon Your work and called it good.
I know that others find You in the light
That's sifted down through tinted window panes,
And yet I seem to feel You near tonight
In this dim, quiet starlight on the plains.
I thank You, Lord, that I am placed so well,
That You have made my freedom so complete;
That I'm no slave of whistle, clock or bell,
Nor weak-eyed prisoner of wall and street.
Just let me live my life as I've begun
And give me work that's open to the sky;
Make me a pardner of the wind and sun,
And I won't ask a life that's soft or high.
Let me be easy on the man that's down;
Let me be square and generous with all.
I'm careless sometimes, Lord, when I'm in town,
But never let 'em say I'm mean or small!
Make me as big and open as the plains,
As honest as the horse between my knees,
Clean as the wind that blows behind the rains,
Free as the hawk that circles down the breeze!
Forgive me, Lord if sometimes I forget.
You know about the reasons that are hid.
You understand the things that gall and fret;
You know me better than my mother did.
Just keep an eye on all that's done and said
And right me, sometimes, when I turn aside,
And guide me on the long, dim trail ahead
That stretches upward toward the Great Divide.
All in all the experiences in Crawford were valuable and most interesting for there was there revealed a high type of the spirit of the west. Some things were bad of course, but even the evil was quite "open and above board." There was little of pretense and little of bluff. At one time a professional gambler was appointed as Town Marshal to succeed a man who desired to give more time to his saloon business. Some of the people of the town did not much approve of the appointment of the gambler who was the best dressed man on the streets, and might have at a distance been judged by a tenderfoot as a polished and cultured clergyman. One Sunday afternoon however a group of about a dozen ruffians who had taken refuge in a boxcar on the siding near the station in their drunken enthusiasm threatened to "do the town" and to use fire and guns "a plenty" in their onslaught, the young Marshal walked calmly to the refuge of the gang with repeating rifle in hand and two loaded revolvers in his belt and asked no help from anyone. On reaching the place he leveled his rifle in no uncertain direction and demanded the surrender of every man in the bunch. One by one responded to his orders and walked up the street in front of the Marshal who lodged the entire group in the jail and when he had securely bolted the cells, he walked quietly out to see what other cause needed attention.
Once when a prominent and influential citizen who was president of the school board was asked to call a meeting of the board so a group of citizens could lay hands on a morally unfit member of the school board and they would take said member out and hang him. The president refused to call the meeting of the board, but he said "I'll be one of three men to drive out to his place, take a rope along and have it over at once. That plan did not seem to work out though a somewhat more complicated one was definitely put in motion, it became "balled up" and possibly failed.
Another time when a young preacher was visiting the town for a few days his actions were found to be quite unbecoming the standards of clean wholesome manhood. A committee of leading business men - a sort of Vigilant Committee met and next day the visitor received a letter stating that certain irregularities in his conduct had been observed, that the evening train would leave the Crawford station at a definite hour and he would find it to his interests if he should be an outgoing passenger at that time. He went.
At times there were shooting events and general disorders occasionally followed by a funeral, but seldom there was anything of a serious nature. In the trials which sometimes must be carried on, the usual question to determine was whether the said victim deserved what he received.
There were in those early days as later, some of the finest of people, good neighbors, good business men, good church members, and many devoted, consecrated Christian people.
In the early spring of 1890 this Young Quaker from Quaker Lane, became a bit restless in the atmosphere of the west and responded to a longing to see something of the historic Black Hills country. A branch of railroad was being constructed from the Cheyenne River in the foothills of the Black Hills up through the Hills to Deadwood so his idea was to go by train to this siding seven where some former Crawford people had gone for business purposes and having spent a day or two with them to buy a saddle horse and necessary equipment and see this famous country from the saddle.
The morning following his arrival at siding seven however there came on the morning train a Mr. Lee Van Vorhes of the Hardware Firm of Van Vorhes and McNair of Crawford. This gentleman in a brief interview with the young Quaker said, "I have brought a carload of lumber with me on the train. It will be unloaded on a spot which I shall select and at once a building will be constructed here to house a branch Hardware Store and we want you to stay right here and operate the store." In response to the confession from the young man that he knew nothing about the hardware business came the question, "You can learn can't you?" So it was that the next morning instead of a saddle horse and mountain scenery, it was overall and work jacket and carpenter work on a store building - soon erected and equipped. Not many days passed until shelves and counters and a fine stock of pioneer hardware merchandise were all in excellent tho' primitive readiness for business.
The contract for service with this Hardware firm was simple and verbal and the employee imposed but two restrictions, namely, he would not keep the store open for business on Sundays and if trade would permit he might close up on Thursday evenings to attend the pioneer prayer meeting held by the handful of the decent in the schoolhouse under the auspices of Presbyterian Home Mission Board and directed by a McCormic Theological School (Chicago) student preacher out for summer vacation and seeking experience and practice.
There was provision in the new business building for sleeping room in a floored portion of the loft; provision for board was afforded at a primitive hotel, the description of which with the meals served had best remain unrecorded. This hotel was honored by the name of the proprietor and was called the Trueman Hotel.
All these adjustments having been made the young man was soon recognized as salesman and manager of the Hardware store where almost anything in that line could be obtained at a fixed and ample price.
It was indeed a wonderful summer, quite different in geography and religious standards from the old Quaker Lane.
When the Dakotas were admitted to the Union in 1889 they came in as Prohibition States. There were no saloons where liquor could be sold in the "Original Package" which gave rise to the Original Package Houses. At these places the customer must buy the full original package. Of course if he had but a dime to pay he was accommodated by a small amount being poured from "his bottle" - the dime paid - the small drink swallowed and "his original package" put on the shelf behind the counter to await his return. When the customer had gone his bottle was filled from another container and was ready to be sold again and again as "the original package" to other part payment purchasers. Drinking was awful. Travellers carried flasks and were most generous in their courteous offers to friends. Hardly a day passed that did not have some "kindly offer" to record.
Prostitution of a very debasing type was prevalent and gambling with every form of gambling device was on hand. In all this there were no attractions for the Pilgrim. His company was in most part with the few cultured Christian people or he spent his spare moments alone with reading or correspondence.
One pleasant gambler gentleman came into the store frequently for a chat. His name was Jim Hagerwood. One afternoon he came in to say he was leaving town on the evening train to be gone for two or three weeks - provided the Quaker could loan him six or eight dollars. The reply he received was "What is it you want this money for Jim? You know I neither gamble nor approve of it and would not loan money for that purpose." In answer he said, "I told you I was going down to Nebraska and would use it for that trip. I know your attitude toward gambling and if I wanted money for that I would respect your position and would not ask you for such a loan." The money was handed over to him at once and Jim was starting from the store when he stopped and returned to the counter saying - "The life I lead, you do not know that you will ever see me again" - "Well", said the clerk, "you said you were returning in about two weeks and your statement is all I care for." Reaching into his pocket Jim drew out a most beautiful and elaborate revolver, -pearl or ivory handle, gold and silver mounted all in perfect condition and loaded with deadly shells, and he said, "Lay this aside and if I do not return as I say the gun is yours and it is worth the amount I have borrowed." It was worth the amount and many times more but no remonstrance availed and Jim left his gun and took the money and in due time the money came back and Jim had his treasured gun. There is real honor sometimes where you would not expect it.
Another gambler came in one day much concerned about going into the "original package" business. He was known among his comrades as Tiger Jack and he could get liquor sufficient on time from some wholesale firms he knew but he must have $60 or $100 for some permit or license from the government. "Could the clerk furnish the money from his own account?" "O, yes, he could." "Well, did it not look like a good proposition for other men were making money out of it and if there was any trouble he would take the trouble on himself and go to jail if necessary" - for he "would rather be in jail than to be out of jail and broke."
Well it did seem to be a money making business and if by a small investment one might receive half the returns and be free from any dangers and complications so "Tiger Jack" said "I thought you would consider it and would go in with me." To this the youthful pilgrim said - "Now, did you really think I would do that?" A bit confused the ambitious gambler replied, "No - I did not think you would do it but thought I'd ask you anyway."
Many real "cow boys" came in frequently and were always most cordially welcomed - for they were fine company indeed.
Multiplied incidents and interesting stories might be recorded of those days and months in the busy trading center and R.R. construction head quarters. New experiences, new problems, new associates with a distinct atmosphere of depravity on every hand, but with many opportunities for helpful service to discouraged and despondent men. Railroad building in that rough country is a great task for an army of men and herds of horses and mules working at grading. Hardworking and hard headed contractors were our best customers and the amount of hardware, wagons and repairs, steel and picks and shovels, stoves and camp outfits was most appalling. Cutlery, guns and ammunition, rope, chains, locks and keys and everything in the line of common hardware as nails, screws, hooks, saws, hammers, planes - all, everything was much in demand. Business was good and the Firm made money.
Siding Seven became the town of Dudley and was later merged with the small city of Edgemont located on the opposite side of the treacherous Cheyenne River. As the summer months approached the young hardware salesman began to realize a distinct physical decline and sent for a member of the Firm, Mr. Robert McNair, to come and take over the business. There was no mistaking the symptoms which gave assurance of a tussle with mountain fever - similar to typhoid. Weary days, dreaded nights, the drinking of much strong sage tea - but no improvement. With remaining strength one evening he boarded the evening train for Crawford - to the brother's home, to loving care and the professional services of a skilled physician -and in due time slow recovery.
The trip to the Black Hills had been made but not as had been anticipated. While at Dudley the fine horse and buggy belonging to the firm was at the service of the clerk who with other duties had care of this property. At one time the brother from Crawford had a few days vacation and came to Dudley for the time. Arrangements had been made for the management of the store and the two brothers drove through some of the most attractive parts of this charming hill and mountain country. With the history of gold days and wild life much in mind the entire trip was most enjoyable. Hot Springs, Buffalo Gap, Wind Cave, Custer City, Hill City and many other places became more than mere names. The journey was helpful and stimulating and far more enjoyable than it could have been alone on horseback. At Crawford with prospect of recovery there was an increased longing to return to the loved ones in the dear old home on Quaker Lane in Iowa.
Best judgment of Physician, relatives, friends and even of the partially recovered patient would have delayed the journey perhaps for another week but the impulse seemed not to waiver. The train trip was without incident except for extreme weariness, but a good hotel bed in Marshalltown for the remainder of the night restored strength for the new day and about ten o'clock in the morning the traveler accepting the conveniences of a street car, was on the familiar Main Street of the County Seat.
It chanced most fortunately that the father and mother were in that same city at that time doing some trading. Meeting his mother at the entrance of a drygoods store then known as The Lee and Benedict Store, the young man greeted his mother with a cheerful "good morning", which was responded to in her quiet manner clearly showing she did not recognize the speaker. When with some feeling the young man said - "Mother" - the distant formality was at an end. When the father came up in just a moment he grasped his son's hand in hearty welcome and looking into his depleted face and weak eyes simply said, "Thee has had a hard spell of sickness hasn't thee?"
An accommodation train was going eastward near noon and since the baggage was still at the station and since the ride of nine miles in the open buggy was too great a demand on limited strength, the young man went by train meeting parents and sisters and some others two hours later at the dear old "home again."
How quiet, how restful, how care free were those days and weeks which followed. Home and homely care and wholesome nourishment were helpful but rebuilding from mountain fever is a slow process.