Vernon Springs Herald 1854 Edition

Update 06 October 2004

Wedding Traditions

Many states still require public posting of the “banns” of the wedding for at least 3 weeks before the event.
White wedding gowns are a recent innovation, having become fashionable when Queen Victoria was married in 1840, but only wealthy brides wear a white gown. Most women, and certainly most pioneers, have sense enough to just wear their very best dress for the occasion.
Decorations of evergreen branches symbolize long life and lasting marriage. A symbol of good luck such as a horseshoe, dove, or wishbone may be hung over the spot where the couple takes their vows.
Weddings traditionally occur in the morning either in church or at the bride’s home. Little boys are not necessarily ring bearers. They may carry the bride’s train or carry sheaves of wheat as symbols of fertility. After the ceremony, the newly married couple is to walk out without looking around, in keeping with the dignity of their new position in society. Rice, grain, flower petals or birdseed are thrown at the couple as they leave the ceremony.
The wedding ceremony is followed by a “wedding breakfast” at the bride’s home or other appropriate location. The guests may have to be served standing with only the wedding party seated at a table, as space allows. In pioneer areas, the typical menu includes meats and wild game, apples, cider, cheese, coffee, and, of course, wedding cake.
The wedding cake is traditionally a dark fruitcake but white cakes and other varieties are starting to appear by the 1860s. Some fancy weddings
had three cakes – a large elaborate fruitcake, and smaller cakes for the bride and groom. The main wedding cake is cut and boxed to send home with the guests. The bride’s cake is a white cake, and the groom’s is a dark cake. These are divided among the attendants with favors baked inside: The ring for marriage within a year;
The penny for wealth, my dear;
The thimble for an old maid or bachelor born;
The button for sweethearts all forlorn.”
In pioneer communities, the men may fire guns, bang pans and make other noise after the ceremony to indicate the beginning of the wedding celebrations. Dancing and games follow the meal and may continue until evening. Shooting matches, foot races and other sporting events might be included as well.
In some pioneer communities, the friends of the bride and groom escort the couple to the bridal chamber. And the “shivaree” is sometimes also practiced (where friends and family encamp outside the home on the wedding night and create a commotion).
When the couple finally departs, generally only the closest family and friends are on hand to throw satin slippers and rice after the couple. If a slipper lands in the carriage it is good luck, especially if it is a left slipper.
Guests don’t generally bring gifts, but there are some special exceptions. A bride may be given a friendship quilt from her friends. A pair of cedar trees is a traditional gift meant to be planted on each side of the door as a symbol of longevity.
Echelbarger and Kies to Wed

Lisa Michelle Kies, daughter of James Leroy Kies and Judith Pope Kies of Cresco, and Russell David Echelbarger, son of Robert V. Echelbarger of Mason City and the late Shirley Lane Echelbarger, are set to wed today in an outdoor ceremony at the Kies family home in central Vernon Springs, the Reverend Joel Dahlen officiating.
Attendants are Sheri Kies Clements (sister of bride) as Matron of Honor, Robert L. Echelbarger (brother of groom) as Best Man, Madelyn Mary Clements (niece of bride) as Flower Girl, Joshua James Clements (nephew of bride) as Wheat/Ring Bearer.
Cody Williams and Chrisy MacDougall are given special recognition. They introduced the couple soon after they themselves had begun courting. (They are to wed on 6 October.)
The couple plans a short honeymoon tour before they make their home in Mason City where the groom works at City Hall and is studying for his bachelor’s degree at Buena Vista College, and the bride is finishing her medical training at Mercy Hospital.
11:30am Ceremony begins.

After the ceremony, guests may enjoy the grounds until the bell rings to indicate that lunch is served at the house.

After the meal, there will be an old-time dance.

Our music is being provided by the Clarks.

The Blodgett House

For many years, the current Kies family home has been known as the Blodgett House, but it was not obvious why. H. Blodgett is listed in some sources as one of the early settlers, but the house was built in 1854 by Henry Milder (aka Wilder or Melder), who was also proprietor of the Blue Store here in the valley. Review of property records shows that a Mary C. Blodgett owned the little stone shed briefly in 1859, which was then on a separate lot from the main house, but that hardly accounts for the lasting name of the home. One of the Howard County histories indicates that the first wedding that was performed

within Howard County was in the “Blodgett House” but does not give the name of the couple. Another source indicates that the first wedding in the county was when Henry Milder married Sarah J. Blodgett in 1856. Since weddings in the 1850s either occurred in church or in the bride’s home and there was not yet any church in Howard County, it seems probable that Sarah and Henry got married in her home, the house that Henry had built a couple of years earlier, perhaps hired by her family. The Blodgetts must have left the area soon after, because there is no record of their ownership of the property in the court records which start in 1856, and they are not in the 1860 census.
Chronology of Blodgett House

1854 – built by Henry Milder.
1856 – obtained from U.S. Government by Judge G. Upton.
1857 – Sold to John Schoonamaker.
1862 – Sold to James Tibbetts.
1865 – Sold to Francis Tibbetts.
1868 – Sold to Samuel Hill.
1881 – Alma Hill sells to Sarah Patterson.
1923 – William Patterson sells to Joseph R. Patterson.
1920s – House used to store corn.
1944 – Sold to Margaret Patterson.
1957 – Robert Patterson sells to Tom Murray.
1960s – house abandoned and vandalized.
1970 – Sold to James L. Kies. House was in such poor condition that it was not considered in the price of the property.

Highlights of early
Howard County History

1851 – Hiram Johnson is first white man to build a structure in the county. Early 1850s – first circuit preacher, Charles Best, Methodist.

1853 – first white child born in Howard County – Frank Johnson, in New Oregon.

1854 – settlers in Vernon Springs

1854 – Henry Milder’s Blue Store set up next to the saw mill.

1855 – approximately 150 residents in the county.

Jan 1855 – William Woodward and Mary A. Siddall married in West Union because no minister or Justice of the Peace in the county.

Before Aug 1855 – Elections conducted through Chickasaw

County. Judicial and revenue business conducted through Floyd County.

Aug 1855 – county organized. James Upton, County Judge. Edmund Gillette, Clerk.

Winter of 1855-56 – Big blizzard. Many settlers give up and move back east.

Jan 1856 – Henry Milder marries Sarah J. Blodgett. Performed by Judge Upton.

Feb 1856 – Edmund Gillett marries Helen Barber. First marriage in some sources. One source says occurred at Auburn [sic] in Fayette County because there was no one available to marry them. Another source gives 1855 date.

1856 – first doctor, J.J. Clemmer, from New Oregon.

1856 – Rev. J.W. Windsor was first settled minister, served Vernon Springs and New Oregon, established Congregational Church in Vernon Springs.

1856-7 – another hard winter.

1857 – Road #1 laid out.

1862 – Minnesota Indian Scare. Howard County receives rumors and refugees from Minnesota. Situation passes before armed resistance can be organized. Many Iowa “Civil War” units actually served duty patrolling for Indians in northwest Iowa.

1866 – Railroad goes through Cresco, not the route laid through Vernon Springs.

1869 – Vernon Springs post office closed.

1879 – Vernon Springs plat is vacated except for selected streets (visible today).

History leading up to
the settlement of Howard County

1803 – Lewis and Clark expedition.

1804 – Louisiana Purchase makes land of Iowa part of United States.

1812 – Louisiana Territory divided. Land of Iowa is part of the Missouri Territory.

1836 – Battle of the Alamo.

1837 – Dicken’s Oliver Twist.

1837 – John Deere invents the self-scouring plow that could successfully open the prairie but could only make a few plows a year until his factory in Moline was opened in 1858. 1838 – Iowa Territory organized.

1839 – Daguerre invents photography.

1840 – Ft. Atkinson founded to protect Winnebago Indians from Sioux, Sac and Fox after they’d been forced to move to Iowa from Wisconsin. (We would have been in Sioux territory.)

1842 – Seminoles moved from Georgia to Oklahoma in “The Trail of Tears”.

1843 – The Oregon Trail starts.

1844 –Dumas writes The Three Musketeers.

1845 – Irish potato famine.

1846 – Iowa becomes a state. Capital in Iowa City. (Wisconsin and Minnesota are not states yet.)

1846 – Mormons leave for Utah after the murders of their leaders.

1848 – Winnebago Indians moved to Minnesota.

1848 – Gold discovered in California

1848 – Marx and Engels publish the Communist Manifesto.

1851 – Sioux give all land in Iowa to the US.

1851 – Isaac Singer patents the sewing machine.

1851 – Melville writes Moby Dick

1853 – Crimean War begins. (Ends in 1856.)

1853 – Franklin Pierce assumes the Presidency after Millard Fillmore, who’d taken over for Zachary Taylor who died a month after taking office.

1854 – Republican Party founded.

1854 – Thoreau writes Walden

The Fight over the County Seat of Howard County

Many counties in Iowa had heated battles over the location of the county seat and Howard County was no exception. The first white settlement in the county was New Oregon, followed by Vernon Springs, then other communities in rapid succession – Howard Center, Lime Springs, etc. County court business was first conducted in Vernon Springs. There was no courthouse at the time, and some of the court records/sessions may have been at our house. Then in 1856, a Town Hall was built just up the valley and served for court a short time.

But the town of Howard Center, now only an intersection along Highway 9, proposed that the county seat should be more centrally located in the county. Court was held there in October 1857 in the ballroom of the John F. Thayer Hotel which had burned down earlier that year (and later burned again). In 1858, New Oregon and Vernon Springs settled on a compromise that placed the courthouse halfway between them on a south-facing slope along the Turkey River, and the spot was officially designated the county seat. A basswood structure was built there that was declared unsafe by 1865. At that point the records were moved to the upper story of the Halstead building at Vernon Springs. Then the railroad came through in 1866. Both New Oregon and Vernon Springs pulled up roots and transplanted their communities two miles to the north to the upstart town of Cresco which flourished along the railroad tracks. In 1866-67, the citizens of Cresco arranged to build a new courthouse in Cresco. But the county seat officially remained along the Turkey River. So eventually the city limits of Cresco were extended 2 miles to the south to include the site of the old county seat along the Turkey River. The battle was over.

Excerpts from County Histories

H.D. Noble, published 1859
“The history of Howard County is but a change of names and locations in the history of almost any other part of the great west. Private enterprise, love of adventure, and hopes of building up a home and name of their own, were the great incentives in pioneers here as ever where else. Until the year 1855 but few settlers had found their way to the inviting prospects of this county. Then, as if by magic, “claims” were dotted with preemption shanties. Groves were ringing with cow-bells. “Prairies schooners” were dragging their slow length in every direction. Campers were halting at every spring-side; and half sections were hunted or hidden by every new comer. In 1856 the same rush continued and that year old settlers sold or gave to friends their extra quarter. That spring in addition to the general rush were seen the long breaking teams and the great plows, laying open to cultivation the rich, fertile, wealth-giving bosom of Earth, planting with axe and spade the little yellow Yankee corn for winter mush and Johnny-cake; sowing the bee-loved buck wheat for winter morning butter-melters, and hurrying up the “bloomer” fences of rails and popplespoles. The rush eastward being over, matters began to assume a more sober aspect. Still money was plenty and all seemed prosperous, though not heated by excitement, until the great commercial crash in August, 1857. The season of 1858 was one of peculiar discouragement to all bona-fide settler. The spring and

summer were the wettest ever known. The crops failed, and without money, credit or prospects, a hard year had to be lived through.”

New Oregon Plain Dealer, 1859
August - “Our energetic neighbors [in Vernon Springs] are making some substantial improvements in spite of hard times.” September - “Total destruction of the corn crop due to frost.”

A.T. Andreas, published 1875
“The severe winter of 1856-7, and the financial panic that was prevalent all over the United States, stopped, to a great extent, the influx of immigration to the county. In 1860 it revived again, but in 1861 the great civil strife came on. In 1866 the tide of immigration again turned westward...”

W.E. Alexander, published 1883
1856 –“This year proving dry, and herbage growing dry, the prairie fires, destroyed much property, for the pioneers, and the cold winter coming on, the coolest they had ever known, many being without shelter, suffered untold hardship.” “[When the Civil War broke out, this] county was just recovering itself from the financial panic of 1857 and the failure of the crops of 1858-9.” 1862 – “The summer breezes blowing down from Minnesota bring the fearful tidings of Indian massacre and butchery. Thousands fleeing for their lives, leaving their property to be destroyed by the red

fiends, came for shelter to Howard county, creating quite a scare. The county government asked the stated for arms, but before the “circumlocution office” had got round to it, the need had passed away and all was quiet once more.”

Rev. C.E. Brown, published 1893
“Vernon Springs was located in a beautiful little valley. Judge Samuel F. Gilcrest of Mt. Vern0n, Ohio, one of the early settlers, gave it the name, Vernon in remembrance of his Ohio home. Several springs sending out at the head of the valley a volume of sparkling crystal water sufficient to make a good sized stream winding prettily down for a mile to the Turkey river, suggested the balance of the name. At the foot of the little run was the A.H. Harris mill and pond, and a bluff on the opposite bank was covered by a handsome growth of fine timber. The surrounding country was prairie, rolling and fertile, flecked with groves of ash, hazel brush, and crabapple, making a landscape of rare beauty. Indian trails, well worn and deep from long use followed the banks of all the streams. The Turkey river, a considerable stream, ran across the foot of the Vernon Springs valley, and was skirted with handsome groves.”

C.J. Harlan, published 1930
“Judge James G. Upton is said to have preformed the first marriage ceremony in Howard county, in the Blodgett house at Vernon Springs, in 1856. The name of the happy couple is lost to history. But the old Blodgett house still stands.”