My Civil War
Before, During and After
cotton already saturated with oil. Only a quick rush saved it, and us lots of trouble and delay. The next morning we marched over in a column of fours, our brass bands heading the regiments, banners waving and swords drawn. We put on all the airs we could. About the whole population turned out to see us, for this was the first time they (or the most of them) had ever seen the boys in blue, except as prisoners of war. This country from Selma to here had never been visited by our army in force, only by some hurried raid. We were new and a curiosity, especially so to the common or poor people and the Negroes. And, oh, how the last did sing shout and pray on their knees in the dusty road! "The day ob jubilee am come", "Lawd bless the Yankee soldier and the Linkum men" &c &c. They followed us in great crowds, just waiting for a chance to do something for us. It was really affecting and, in many cases, pathetic, but it meant freedom, life & liberty to them. We went into camp out on the edge of the city. We found it to be a fine little city of from 12 to 15,000 inhabitants in its normal condition. Of course, not half of these were here now, as any man or boy able to shoulder a gun had long ago been drafted into the Rebel army. Only woman, children, cripples, the lame, blind and old men tottering on the edge of the grave were left, and the hide away skulkers and deserters with the usual detail of soldiers to look after and guard army stores and enforce martial law were now seen on the streets. When they saw us capture Girard & its forts their last hope had gone. All that could get away left before we got over, taking with them what little they could get hold of in their haste, especially valuables of any kind. This was especially the case with the merchants, what few of them were still there. Their stocks were small and, in most cases, very poor. They too closed their stores and, gathering what little they could carry, fled in hot haste from the hated Yankees. So, our pickings were rather poor. But considering the deserted stores and the goods left in them our legitimate property, we soon had them opened up and appropriated whatever we found that we could use. One place was a bank and a jewelry store. The jewelry man had managed to get away with most of his stock, but what he left we got. A few cheap watches, finger rings, broaches and necklaces was about all there was. The banker had taken his books and gold & silver coin (if he had any), but had locked his vault or large safe. We soon had that open (for powder was plenty) and found it full, so to speak, of
Confederate money. Thousands & thousands of dollars. We stuffed our pockets full of it. I had lots of it. I never took the trouble to count it. We knew it was of little value even here, but we could buy a chicken for $50 dollars of it. In Macon, one evening while there, I went to the theater taking two comrades with me. The tickets were $120 in Confederate money, 50¢ greenbacks or 25¢ in silver. As I was flush with Confederate money, I paid our way with that. We respected all private property. The orders were very strict in that respect and very seldom were any complaints made on that account. We remained in Columbus two days. The last night we were there, details were sent out to all private houses near the river and near where several large buildings were filled with rolls of cut cloth for soldier's uniforms, thousands of them. They also held other Rebel stores and supplies, which we were ordered to set on fire and to see to it that they were burned up. We wanted to give them time to save what they could, as their places were very liable to burn with them. It was a trying job for us, for the people took it vary hard, of course. The lamentations and weeping of the poor women was very affecting to see and hear, but we had to carry out our orders and threat. A good share or part of the town was destroyed, but we helped them all we could. The next morning we marched on. That day our advance guard and their rear guard did some skirmishing, but to no harm. The next morning, I think it was either the 19th or 20th of April, sometime before noon and about 15 or 20 miles from Macon, Ga., a flag of truce met us. Gen. Cobb in command there and of the district informed our Gen. Wilson that Richmond had surrendered; also that Gen. Lee with his whole army had surrendered to Gen. Grant, and that an armistice was now in force between Gens. Sherman and Johnston. He asked Gen. Wilson to come to where he was and not to bring his command to the city (Macon), as he said he feared trouble between the soldiers. But Wilson told him he had brought his soldiers this far and that he was going to bring them to the city that day. He also told him that he could try and stop him and his boys if he wanted to. So, on we marched and that evening we arrived there and camped in a fine grove or park right in the city. We were soon surrounded by a curious crowd of all ages, sex and color, Negroes predominating, and all smiling and joyous. The white people looked sad and down hearted and lots of them scowling, but we were happy. We felt that the war was over and home sweet home was nearly in sight. The next day
we crossed the Ocmulgee River, a narrow sluggish stream that runs nearly through the heart of the city. We were told it was dangerous to bathe in it as alligators were often seen in it, unless we took several darkies with us, as they always preferred black to white meat. Right here it is proper to state that we lived well all through our long march. The foragers that were sent out in the morning came in every night with horses and mules loaded with hams, chickens, honey, corn meal and lots of other good things to eat, and almost always with some captured horses & mules. It was a rich part of the country, never before visited by our armies. Yes, we fared exceedingly well all through those days. This was forcibly called to our minds here and now. The rations now dealt out to us were scant and horrid. The bacon was full of maggots and the hardtack was old, hard as a stone and full of worms. We could get no vegetables. It was hard times. The excuse for this outrage was that there was now no government food on hand and this was confiscated from Rebel stores, that rations had been ordered by telegraph and would soon be on hand. No foraging was now permitted. Well, we had to put up with it, but it was hard to come down to this after the way we had lived the past 30 or 35 days. One day soon after our arrival here, we were ordered to saddle up & take everything. We were marched a mile or two from the city, then turned into a field, dismounted, and a detail of officers went along the line and searched every man for any gold or silver that he had. It had been reported to the General that on the march a number of private residences had been entered, robbed and, in several instances, the people had been treated very cruelly. I don't think they got much, if any, silver or gold. They should have searched the officers. They, if anyone, were the guilty ones. We were here a week or ten days, then our regiment was ordered to go to Atlanta to receive its surrender. It was in Rebel hands since Sherman left it last fall, but now of little importance to them. Here also lived Alex H. Stevens, Vice President of the Confederacy, on his plantation 12 miles in the country. On our arrival there a detail was sent out to bring him in. He expected them, and they found him sitting on his porch calmly smoking a corncob pipe. I happened to be on the street when they brought him in and had a good view of him; and also heard him talking to the officers. He surly was a queer looking man, bent
over almost humpback, nearly all legs, with long, thin, grey hair, face of a child in size, but old & wrinkled, with a piping, shrieking voice and past 60 years of age. He had been Georgia's US Senator for a number of years before the war and was their best orator and statesman. He was opposed to secession at the start, but finally went out with his state. He was released on his parole very soon and some years after was again a US Senator. Atlanta surrendered to us peacefully. We camped on the outskirts of the city in a shady grove and took it easy. One night, a request for a detail of 2 men from our company came to me. I did not know what for, but sent them at once. One of them was Thomas Wright, one our recruits and a fine young man. The other one's name I cannot recall. I soon found out what they were wanted for. It was rumored that Jeff Davis, with a regiment of cavalry as a body guard, was somewhere around these parts trying to make his escape into Mexico. They were to locate him and then report. They did so, and in a few days when the 4th Michigan, 1st Wisconsin and 5th Iowa were sent out to capture him, the 4th Michigan got in the lead and so captured him & his party, his wife, two children and two of his cabinet that were trying to get away with him. They located his camp in the grey dawn of the morning, quickly surrounded his camp and ordered them all to surrender. Mrs. Davis at the first alarm urged him to try to escape. She threw a shawl over his head and shoulders, put a bucket in his hand and he went out of his tent hoping to be mistaken for a servant going after water. But the shawl did not cover his boots, and they betrayed him to the guard a few yards from his tent. That is the true version of his attempt to escape. All the yarns about his being dressed up in women's clothes, hoop skirts &c are only sensational stories thought up at the time to tickle the northern people. They were taken to Macon. In a few days, Gen. Wilson sent him to Augusta, Ga. under a guard of 200 of our regiment, who delivered him to the naval authorities. The reward for his capture of $100,000 was divided amongst the 4th Michigan and the scouts that located his camp. A few days before we left Macon, we heard of the death by assassination of President Lincoln. It shocked and hurt us terribly, for we all loved him. It was well for the people of the south that the war was over, for I believe that in our rage and grief we would have otherwise burned every house in Macon and Atlanta. And also was it well when we had Jeff Davis under our guard. He would not have left that train alive, had we not all been sure he would be
executed very soon after he arrived at Washington. It was hard to restrain the boys as it was, and Jeff and his party I think feared it every moment. But it is better as it turned out, the country was all the sooner reconciled and the north did not have that constantly thrown up to them as a needless cruelty & outrage. While in camp here, I applied for and received a pass for myself and two men, (they were Tom Allen and L. V. Brainard) to go down to Newnan, Ga., 40 miles south of Atlanta. This is where the Battle of Newnan, so disastrous to our side and especially to our regiment, was fought and where my brother David with so many other brave boys fell on the 30th of July, 1864. The trains were all crowded and loaded down, inside and on top, with Rebel soldiers from Johnston's Army returning home. We had to ride on top and we were sandwiched in between them. They were a jolly lot of boys and oh, so glad the long agony was over. And happy in the anticipation of soon being home with father, mother, sisters, sweethearts, wives and babies. They were very friendly towards us, and never showed any but the best of feelings for us. But such was always the case between the private soldiers of both sides, even during all the war. Only the braggart or cowards skulking in the rear ever taunted or insulted each other. We arrived at Newnan late in the afternoon, tired, hot and covered with dust. We went to the only hotel in the town and, finding that the battlefield was from 4 to 5 miles south of here, we concluded to stay here overnight. So after a good wash and hearty supper, we sat down on the porch to enjoy a good smoke and rest. We soon attracted considerable attention, as Yankee soldiers always did. A crowd of citizens soon gathered to stare at us, and very soon a tall lanky fellow, dressed in half cowboy and half Texas Ranger, come swaggering along. He had a rifle and the usual Bowie knife with him. When he saw us, he commenced to abuse us and every other Yankee soldier, declaring he could whip any five of us with one hand tied behind his back, and lots of the usual bray and bluster of the coward and bully. He soon had the crowd worked up into a dangerous mood towards us. We tried not to pay any attention to him or them, but we began to fear trouble. As there were only 3 of us, and we only had our revolvers, it might have gone hard had a row been started. The landlord saw it also. He advised us to come inside and not show ourselves anymore. We did so, with the taunts and insults of the bully and crowd
following us. We soon went to our room, fastened and barricaded the doors and windows the best we could. We did not show any light. We soon lay down in all our clothes with our revolvers handy. In spite of all seeming danger and trouble, we were soon sound asleep and did not wake up until early morning. After a hasty breakfast we started on our way. We stopped at a house once to get a drink of water. An elderly lady came to the door. She gave us all we wanted and seemed greatly frightened by our presence. She informed us that her son was home, that he was badly wounded in the spine at that battle, that he would never get well and begged us not to kill or take him away. We gave her full assurance on that score, told her the war was all over and she would have no more trouble from the Yankees. We left her a smiling, happy woman. Towards noon we arrived at a road turning into the battlefield, now at hand. Right on the edge of the road was a dirt mound about 10 foot high. We saw bones sticking out here and there, and at the foot or base I picked up a skull, perfectly bleached and bare of hair or flesh. On the forehead was written these words: "I hope you are in Hell you d....d Yankee son of a b....". Written, no doubt, by some cowardly skulker or bushwhacker, as no true soldier would have done so mean and low a thing. This, then, was the grave of some of our brave boys that fell on this battlefield. I trembled. I felt, I can't say, how bad. Might not my brother's body be in this mound? And might not the skull I picked up have been that of dear Dave? We went on a few yards farther and came into a large field or clearing, a plantation on which the battle of July 30, 1864 had been fought. It belonged to a retired Presbyterian Minister who, with his family, was living there at the time of the battle and was still living there. Tom and Lute saw Dave when and after he fell, and so led us right up to the very spot, which proved to be beside a large tree that was yet full of musket balls high as I could reach. Near it were three graves neatly fenced in and covered with fence rails. We felt sure that in one of them was Dave's body, but which one was the question! We went up to the house, a typical southern log house of the middle class some few yards away. A venerable grey, bearded, old man met us at the door. On questioning him, we found him to be the Rev. G. W. Cook, the owner of the place and who, with his family, lived there at the time of the battle. He remembered it well, and had hardly yet gotten over the fearful fright and never would get over mourning over the loss of their little girl killed during the
battle. She had somehow gotten up out of the cellar where they had all taken refuge. I asked him about those 3 graves. He told me that he and his help (colored) had buried them after the battle was over, but the next morning had buried them deeper and better and railed it in as we now saw it. I asked him if he thought he could remember or recall any of their faces. He studied a few moments, then said he thought he could by the fact that our men (as he called them) had taken off all the clothes to the undershorts of one of them. From neither of the others did they take anything. I could understand the cause of this, as I had (when the regiment left us at Camp Patrick July 8, 1864) given Dave a complete, new outfit from boots up to hat. As these must have been fairly new and good as yet, the Rebels stripped them off his body as they were all in rags of all colors and kinds. I had no doubt now that he could show us Dave's grave. I then showed him a small photo of Dave, which he recognized at once. He then went with us went to the spot, and said the grave in the center was the one Dave was resting in. It was an affecting moment for all three of us, and we long remembered it. Mr. Cook gave us a nice smooth board, on which I carved with knife and pencil his name, company & regiment, his age, time of death, his city and state. I asked Mr. Cook to care for it, that I would see he was well paid for it. He promised to do so, and faithfully kept it up to the time the government took charge of it. Our Dave now sleeps in the Iowa division of the National Cemetery at Marietta, Georgia. Our son John, while attending the National Dental Convention in 1907, rode back with Mae to Marietta and took some photos of his grave, some of which I sent to our boys that knew him best and loved him most. So bidding Mr. Cook and family good-by, we started for Atlanta, which we reached the evening of the same day. We were well satisfied that we had found Dave's grave, saw the battlefield and had met with little trouble and no harm. A few days after, orders came to prepare for the march to Nashville to be discharged, mustered out of service and go home. That was the most welcome order that came to us in four long and weary years, and it was promptly obeyed and that with no grumbling. So one fine morning we mounted our horses, turned our backs to Atlanta and the South and our faces to the north and home, sweet home. We marched slowly, taking it easy, starting late mornings and camping early evenings. We were a happy crowd, and nothing worth mentioning happened until we came in sight of Chattanooga. There we
saw soldiers turned out as for battle, and soon a squad arrived to find out who we were. They, on first sight, took us to be Rebel cavalry coming in to surrender, as we had no chance to draw any clothing since last March. We were a motley looking crowd, dressed in all kinds of style and colors, half of us in butternut, most of us in rags. They were soon undeceived and we went into camp. We stayed there two days. Why so long, none of us knew. At last, about the 10th or 12th of June, we arrived in Nashville, Tennessee. We camped at Edgefield. After about 8 or 10 days of impatient waiting, I applied and got a furlough and left for home, where I arrived the last part of June. The regiment, a few days later, suddenly got quick marching orders, boarded the cars and arrived in Atlanta, wondering what it meant and mad as hornets. They hardly left the cars when orders again came to go back. It seems the regiment was to be sent to New Orleans to Gen. Sheridan, who was there ready to go to Mexico to kick out the French, but the French went away by themselves. Napoleon III did not care to face or match his soldiers against Sheridan and his veterans. At last muster out rolls and discharges were made out and given to the boys. On the 11th of August they were at last again private citizens, all but for being paid off. Now for home was the glad word and they arrived in Clinton where I was now waiting for them. I had been, for a day or two, in Adj. Gen. Baker's office helping to make out muster rolls for the returning regiments. While at home on this furlough, a telegram from Gov. Stone arrived at headquarters appointing me 2nd Lieut. of Company E. Col. J. M. Young at once issued an order assigning me to duty as such but, as the war was now over, I did not think it worthwhile to muster in as such. This I have regretted ever since. I received my commission & the rest of the papers at Clinton, Iowa when the regiment arrived, and I have them all now. Perhaps someday our children & children's children of future generations will prize them and these sketches (or whatever they may call them) more than the present generation seem to. Well, in a day or two all was ready. We were paid off and those living farther up the river (of which were Co. E and H) boarded a boat. At midnight we landed in Dubuque amongst a crowd of our friends waiting for us. The war was over. We were home. Thankful to God for our safety, but grieving for those dear boys left behind to fill southern graves, the penalty they paid for their patriotism and devotion for their country and its flag, the glorious Star Spangled Banner.
My brother Otto was at the levee, and I went home with him. He and the folks were surprised to see me with shoulder straps. I did not want to wear them, but my friends and the boys of the company forced me to don them in spite of all I could say or do. I had not told my folks anything about my promotion, as I now could not use my office, I considered it an empty honor. When we arrived home I found another glad surprise: my sweetheart, dear Nellie, was there and shouted me a welcome from her bed. She and sister Mary were in bed together the first few days of my arrival home on my furlough (two weeks before this). I soon discarded my uniform of Orderly or 1st Sergeant and bought myself a suit of citizens clothes. I then went over to Dunleith and took the stage for Platteville, Wis., the home of my Inmoretta, which I reached after a warm, tedious ride of about 5 hours. I had not told anyone of my intended visit, so no one was there to meet and greet me. I was an entire stranger to the place, so I was puzzled as to what to do or where to go. There happened to be a circus in town that day. I went down to it (but not in it), thinking I might by some chance meet my girl there. I did see a young lady walking around that looked like her to me, but as I had not seen her for about seven years, I was not sure of it. But as she showed no sign of recognition after following her a few moments, I decided it was not her. So I went to town again and finally mustered up the courage to ask for Mr. Vanderbie. I was directed to, and was then very near, his place of business. I went in the store and met a man (Joe Meinhart) who told me Mr. V. was not in. As I had never seen him, I would not have known him if he had been there. He directed me up to his house, 4 or 5 blocks farther up the street. I soon found it and, upon being ushered in, I found myself in a room where there were 3 or 4 women sitting around sewing &c. Now this was a fine fix to be in! I never before felt so embarrassed. I was a total stranger to them and they to me. Finally one of them spoke to me and asked me if I was not Mr. Conzett. When I said I was, they all came and took me by the hand asked me to take a chair and were very friendly. The lady that asked me that question was Mrs. Vanderlass, wife of the pastor there. She said she thought I was a Conzett, as I looked like my brother Jacob. The other one was the wife of a German doctor in Hazelgreen, Wis. and the last one was Mrs. Vanderbie herself,
Nellie's stepmother. Her daughter Annie was there also, a girl of 6 or seven years of age. But where was my Nellie? I could not summon up courage enough to ask, when all at once a man came rushing in. He came up and cordially greeted me. He said Nellie was out, but would soon be in. This was my Nellie's father, Mr. Engel Vanderbie. He at once sent the girl Annie out to find Nellie, and she met her coming home. Annie ran to her shouting "Uncle Joe is here! Uncle Joe is here!" She soon arrived, blushing like a full blown rose. She only shook hands with me then, but in a few moments she called me into another room, closed the door, then she threw her arms around my neck and, well, I will leave the rest of our interview to the imagination of lovers and sweethearts parted for years & years. We were happy, yes, this was the Nellie of my photo and my early love. We had known each other for 10 years while she was 10 and I was 14 years old. We saw each other seldom, only when she came over on a visit. We corresponded, but that hardly counts. At last we were together, and it was a sweet, joyful week or ten days we spent together. The reason Nellie was not at home when I came, was that she was living out. Her stepmother was harsh and cruel to her and she could stand it no longer. Her father seemed indifferent to it, but did not want her to live out and tried to keep it a secret from me. I had to leave to meet our regiment, which I did, as I have stated all the particulars of here before. After my arrival, the next morning I, of course, had to tell all about the war, Dave's death and my visit to his grave and so on. Nellie and I then went downtown and to Washington Park where the whole town, it seemed, were gathered to see Gen. Grant, who was to be here on a visit. When he arrived in the park, the cannon on the hilltop fired a salute which so scared Nellie that I thought she would jump over the fence. After a few more days visit, Nellie decided to go home and I had to go with her. And nothing would do but I had to wear my shoulder straps. She wanted to show me off to her girl friends. I did not at all relish it, but of course had to obey orders. And so another happy 8 or 10 days passed by, the last time I went to see her before I went to work. I went out to my brother Jacob's, who was then preaching in Sherrill's Mount. I spent the night there, and in the morning I took his pony and started for Platteville via Specht's Ferry &c &c. I did not remember that this was not a cavalry horse, so I made him get over the ground rather fast. I did not think I was riding hard or fast, but I had to return in the
stage. I had completely ruined the poor little pony. I don't know how Jake got him back or what became of him, but I felt bad and guilty. I arrived at Nellie's home about sundown. When Mrs. Vanderbie saw me she said to Nellie: "There is your fellow again." She did not love me very much. I was going to rob her of her Cinderella. I think on that visit we decided to marry on the 1st of January, instead of May as we first made it out to be. This was mostly on account of the treatment she received from her stepmother. I had to tear myself away to go home and go to work. A family had to be provided for in the sweet by & by, so a fond farewell and I returned home.
Sept. to Oct. 19th
My old boss, Mr. F. W. H. Sheffield, asked me to come to work for him. He was now in the wholesale dry goods business on Main St. between 7th and 8th. The firm was Sheffield Wood & Co. On the 1st of Sept., 1865 I entered my work, but I did not know that I was not wanted by the rest of the firm. They had selected one of their relations for the place I had, and they soon made me feel it, too. When Mr. Sheffield was east, which he was a great part of the time, they tried hard to make a drudge of me and put all the hard & dirty work they could on me. So things went along. I was living at home at the time. One day I filled a box full of dry goods, such as I knew Nellie needed, and material for a wedding dress, some trinkets and notions, and sent them to her (some 50 odd dollars in value). A few days after, I received a letter from a lady friend and neighbor of the Vanderbie's, begging me to come over and take Nellie away, as her stepmother was treating her so badly. One Sunday morning about the 14th or 15th of October, I thought I would ride over and see how it was. I went to John Steiner, a friend of mine, and asked him to go with me, and he said he would. I had neglected to tell my folks of it, which I should have done. I, however, rode up and told Mr. Sheffield of it. On the way over John asked me when we intended to get married. Upon telling him he said "Why don't you get married now and bring her over?" I thought it a good idea, and told him I would see. That same day I asked Nellie if she was willing. She said yes, if she could get ready the next morning. She went to her dressmaker and found she could be ready by Thursday. Her father and mother objected at first, but finally gave in after we told them it had to be. I told John Steiner, asked him to tell my folks, and then waited for Thursday.
We had quite a wedding, as I had to pay for all of it. It cost me about $250. We spent our bridal night at Mrs. Hammond's, and early the next morning we took the stage for Dubuque. When we came to bid good-by, Mrs. Vanderbie fell on her knees before Nellie begging her pardon for treating her as she did, tears streaming down her face. At home, my folks gave us a cool reception. Steiner had not told them as he said he would, nor did they get my letter telling them of it & to come over. Mary went after the letter, and then everything was all ok. So ended, as we hoped, our troubles. Our wedding was on Thursday evening, October 19th, 1865. The first winter we boarded with my folks. In the spring we went to housekeeping in 2 rooms upstairs at our house.
We had bought most all of our things from Nellie's father to help him along, and so they cost us considerably more than to buy them in Dubuque. A Mr. Whittenheller hauled them over for us. It cost us considerable, over $600 for our simple outfit. The same things could, a few years later and even now, be had for $200, but war prices were slow in getting down to old time rates. In any event, Nellie and I were happy. In the spring, being dissatisfied with my situation and treatment, I engaged myself to Ackley, Skemp and Addinsell, who were then located on the Shine Block on Main St. between 4th and 5th. I had known Mr. Skemp before the war, he was with Sheffield & Scott about 2 years before the war. They paid me $75 per month. I now felt in my element. On the 2nd day of July, 1866, our first new joy came to us: our first child, a dear boy. We named him John Vanderbie Conzett. Now our happiness was complete. We had gone over to Platteville several times since our wedding. We always took them over some needed things such as material for dresses, which Nellie also made up, or towels, bed spreads &c &c. We had one of the little girls come and live with us that summer, I think it was Hattie.
After Christmas & New Years, I went over to Platteville with $3,000 to $4,000 worth of goods and opened up a store. I was quite successful. I had Mr. Vanderbie help me at lunch time, and we boarded at the house. All of which we paid for liberally, to say nothing of Nellie's doing their sewing for them. Early in March, 1867 Mr. John T. Hancock came to me and said I had been recommended to him by Mr. Sheffield. He wanted an experienced,
reliable man to take charge of a store he had bought out up in Trempealeau, Wis. A brother of his, whom they had not heard from for 18 years, had suddenly dropped in on him with a wife and four children. All these years he had been in Texas. They were very poor. The wife was one of the poor white class and, as her teeth showed, had the tobacco habit in all forms. His name was Granville Hancock, large in size, very profane and addicted to drink and gambling. In fact, he was at that time addicted to every vice in the catalogue of the southern bullwhacker. They were very ignorant. Such was the man I met at Freeport, Ill., to go with to Trempealeau, Wis. to work with. Had I met him before, I never would have accepted the situation. But it was now too late, he had his family with him. The next morning we took the train for our destination. The river was still frozen over, and the weather very cold. At that time there were no railroads north of Dubuque along the river. The Chicago, Clinton & Dubuque RR (now the C M & St. P) were just preparing the grading & surveys north of Dubuque to finally reach St. Paul, so we had to take a long, round-about railroad journey to La Crosse, Wis. We arrived there in the nighttime, and spent the cold long hours in the depot. In the morning, we took the stage on the ice, which was still hard and good, and went up the Mississippi 18 miles farther. In the early afternoon we reached the, then to me, dreary, strayling little town of Trempealeau, Wis. I will confess, I was heartsick and homesick at the dreary prospect and the looks of the store (half log and half frame and the stock of goods on hand). I had left my family in Dubuque. I wanted to see how things were before I subjected them to the unknown trials and hardships of a little village way up north in winter, and I was right glad that did so. Mr. Hancock and family at once occupied the 4 or 5 rooms over the store. I found board and lodging at a Mr. Chas. Utter's up in the village. The business part of the town was on the river bank. It consisted of one long street and had, besides ours, four other stores, country stores, two so-called hotels, several saloons and 3 or 4 little shops (cigar stores, dress maker &c). At the farther end of the street was the brewery, quite a pretentious plant for the time and place. It was owned and operated by Mr. Melchior. A typical German brewer of the usual type, ruddy faced, fat and jolly (weighing over 300 pounds), and his wife was just as large, just as fat and just as jolly. They actually had to have their bedstead & chairs made to order. The village blacksmith, Mr. Hoberton, was another one of the
substantial citizens. The lawyer Utter, Dr. Atwood and one or two other families with the rich Mr. (blank), who owned about one half of the village, constituted the bon ton and elite of the village. Such, in part, was our prospective future home. Before the arrival of the railroads it was a busy, thriving town from September to June. Farmers from 10 to 15 miles around (all or nearly so Poles, Swedes & Norwegians) filled the street, loaded with their produce, nearly all wheat. There were three grain buyers here, and great was the rivalry between them. They used to deposit the money to pay the farmers with us. We paid them when they presented their tickets from the buyers, and in that way we got their trade. They would always buy something, and then become regular customers if we pleased them. In April, when the river opened, I went to Dubuque to lay in a stock of goods (we needed them badly, too) and to bring up my family: my wife, our son & Hattie Vanderbie. I bought a good full supply of dry goods, groceries, boots, shoes &c; took my family and household goods aboard and, after a pleasant trip of two days, was home (so thought then) again. We rented 3 rooms upstairs from Mr. Utter, and soon were in fairly good shape to enjoy life. Nellie soon got acquainted with and made some nice friends, especially so a Mr. Simpson and his wife who had a room on the same floor we were. Mrs. Simpson was like Nellie: young, handsome and friendly. The two were taken for sisters for some time, and they thought the world & all of our Johnnie. Business picked up and we were doing real well, but there was a strong prejudice against the Hancocks, especially him. He was known as a drinking man, spending half his time playing cards or billiards. Every month I had to settle a beer bill for him. He was rough and very uncouth in his manners, and with women too intimate. In fact, his wife found him in a compromising situation with his hired girl. He came rushing in the store at the time and told me of it. Soon after he tried hard and long to make good with her. Right on our doorstep I saw all this, and he afterward had to support the girl. The situation was a trying one for me and I could hardly bear it. So the summer and winter of 1867 passed.
Business was getting better and, had all things been as they should have been, we would have prospered finally. Then too, Nellie was getting homesick and dissatisfied, no wonder. On April the 2nd, we rejoiced over
the arrival of a daughter: Mary Adelia. She brought sunshine and happiness to our home. We now moved into a new home on Water St., more room and more convenient with a large yard. When Mary was born in April, my mother came up and stayed with us a week or two. When she returned home, she took Hattie Vanderbie with her. Our family was now larger and Nellie needed help, so we got a girl and we had no room for Hattie. Mother was taken very sick soon after she got home. They sent for us, fearing she would not survive. But the Lord willed it otherwise and spared our mother to us. While there, I bought some goods needed for stock, then came back. Nellie stayed to care for mother and then went over to Platteville to visit her folks. She was away about five weeks and oh, what a lonely dull 5 weeks those were for me. I took my meals with the Hancocks during that time. We were now in a better location for the store and business. Early in the spring we moved the stock to the lower end of the town, into a neat 2 story frame building about 60 x 25 feet in dimension. We also hired a clerk, a Norwegian by name of Hanson. He was tall, lanky, not too energetic and an inveterate smoker. He was well liked by the Scandinavians. This summer, or sometime while here (it was in 1867), Nellie and John went up to Winona on a visit to the Rev. Jacob Conzett, who was then preaching there in the fall (1868). I went to Chicago to buy our fall and winter stock and stopped in Milwaukee to buy the boots and shoes. Hancock and his family now joined the M E Church, he turned a new leaf as he said. For a time it looked like it, too, but alas. We were now seemingly doing well. As I had threatened to leave them, they offered me 1/3 interest. And as Mr. Hancock had turned a new leaf, I thought it too good an opportunity to lose. I accepted much against Nellie's will and her tearful protest, for she could not reconcile herself to the place and people. That fall we had moved into a better house on the Main St. Mr. Booth (an old man) let us have it for his board and room. It was a nice home for us. We were, and had been, attending the Congregational Church, where they had a real fine young minister. We now had a new girl. Young, but good. A Norwegian by the name of Sena Severson. She took a strong fancy to our children and especially so to Mamie. So passed the fall and winter up to Jan. 1st.
On taking inventory, we found to our (at least my) dismay that we had lost money, instead of making any as I had good right to think we did. The
situation was embarrassing. We could not think or see how it came to be. I studied and pondered over it to no good. Finally one day, Mr. Hancock proposed that we make out a false statement showing a fair profit to send down to Mr. John T. Hancock in Dubuque. It was to him we sent all our money and statements, and he paid all our bills. This I absolutely refused to do, and told him pretty plainly what I thought of it. This made him very angry, but he saw his mistake. One day soon after, he came to me and accused me of underhanded dealings, saying it was my fault that we failed to make any money &c. I said very well, I would leave him. But I would telegraph his brother Mr. John T. Hancock to come up at once to settle matters. He strongly objected to this, telling me to remain and we could fix matters up. I was now fully determined to quit, but wanted to be vindicated. So I telegraphed at once and went home. I had Mr. Booth look over the books, he could find nothing wrong in them. Mr. Hancock came up in a day or two. They sent for me to come down, but nothing satisfactory could be arranged there. So I instead asked him up to the house, and he came. I then and there told him the whole story of our business, my suspicion of our failure, his brother's reputation and his doings; in fact, the whole unvarnished truth. It made him wince. He listened to me, and his eyes filled with tears as he said he could see it all and did not blame me, but exonerated me fully. I asked him what he would now do for me. He said he could do nothing. He would only lend me what money I wanted to return home with. That I refused to take. I told him that as he had gotten me up here, he should pay my way back. He would not do it, so I showed him out of the house. My friends advised me to bring suit, they would back me. I did not think it wise to do so, considering our different positions &c. Several friends came to the house expressing their sympathy and offered us help in money or any other way. They also predicted that Mr. Hancock would not last long after I left, a prophesy which came true very soon. His business dwindled down to nothing, and in about one and one half year he packed up what little he had left and left the town. His career up to his death 7 or 8 years later was a failure, and I think his brother had to come to his assistance. His wife died before he left Trempealeau. A short time later he married a widow from Dubuque, a Mrs. Cook. I knew her and her family (the Lockeys of Center Grove). They had one baby girl. She got a divorce
from him in two or three years. He is dead, his family is now scattered all over the country. I will not judge him more, but surly he reaped a rich harvest for his sins. As stated, we politely refused the aid of our kind friends. By selling our cow (we had a good one, too) for $350 and some of our heavy household goods (such as stoves &c), we got together quite a sum of money, sufficient to pay our fare and last us a little while. So, storing the rest of our goods until spring, we bid good-by to our friends who had gathered around us, and on the morning of the 19th of February, 1869, took the stage for La Crosse and soon saw the last of Trempealeau. We had to stay in a hotel there overnight. The next day we took the railroad, and in the evening reached Freeport, Ill., where we again had to spend the night. After a few hours ride next morning, we finally reached Dubuque. Home after a two year sad experience and poorer than when we left two years before. The next day I was again behind the counter of Ackley, Skemp & Co., in my former position. People then told me (especially Mr. Crocker of Sheffield Wood & Co. who knew the Hancocks well) that they knew the Hancocks would get rid of me in some way when they felt they could run the store alone. It did look like it, and I have always thought it was that way. A few day after, Mr. John T. Hancock saw me at the door of the A S & Co store. He stopped and asked me if I had a permanent engagement. I said yes. He then asked me why I did not come to him first. I told him that I was better pleased here (the old hypocrite).
In the spring, our stored goods arrived from Trempealeau and we were again fixed up in a modest way in the two rooms of father's house that we had occupied at first. So passed the spring and summer of 1869, without anything out of the usual happening to us. We visited the folks in Platteville once or twice, and they with Mrs. Weinhart came over once during the summer. In October of that year, I was taken very sick with typhoid fever, and for a few days my life was despaired of. But God willed it otherwise. So I recovered after nearly two months sickness. The firm (now Skemp Addinsell & Co.) was very good to us during all this time. Besides visiting us, they paid me my full wages for all this time. After invoicing our stock, I again went to Platteville with a stock of goods. I had two wagons loaded to the top. I went with the teams and, as it was very cold, I walked nearly all the way. I arrived at Platteville about midnight and, to be brief, I stayed here until the last of March. During that time, after the
days business was over about 5 pm, once every two weeks I would get a horse and cutter, take what money I had taken in (from 3 to $400) and ride over to Dubuque. Most all the way over it was night and dark. I was often warned of the danger incurred, as I was well known by this time and all were aware that I carried considerable money with me. However, I was never nervous or frightened over it and I was never molested. I will here speak of all my 4 seasons' experience that I spent in Platteville, and not refer to it again. The last time I was in Platteville as a storekeeper was the winter of 1873 to January, 1874. I was then with J and A Christman. I had a pretty large stock and had the entire family with me. We all rode over in the stage one cold winter day, we then had four children: John, Mamie, Olie, and baby Clarence. We roomed and boarded with a Mr. Squires as the folks had no room for us. I occupied father's storeroom and paid him $50 per month rent. I also paid him $50 per month to relieve me at lunch & supper time and once a week with my ladies auction sales which, by the way, were always well patronized and successful. I did all this with the full consent of the firm. But they thought Mr. Vanderbie was with me all day, instead of an hour or so, but he needed help so badly that I did all I could help to him. Towards the last of January I decided to go home. We had done real well and, as the banker there told me, I was his largest depositor. Some auction afternoons we took in $200 dollars. We had a good auctioneer, Tom Hughill by name. He was also city marshal and a scamp with a pretty bad reputation, but did well for us. So one day I told father Vanderbie we would pack up that evening, as we were going home. I saw he felt bad over it. When we got all packed he went home with us to our boarding place. Nellie and the children had come down to go home with me. The old gent was silent and gloomy all the way to the house. Then he broke down and said that every nail he drove into those boxes, he thought he was driving a nail in his coffin. Then he asked me if I could not leave the goods here for him to sell, as he thought he now got to know the goods and how to sell them &c &c. I had serious doubt about it, but felt sorry for him and wanted to help him. I said I would ride over in the morning and see the firm about it. I did so, and they said if I thought the old man was all right, I could leave the goods with him. So the next day Mr. A. Christman rode over with us to invoice the stock. We took back with us the most unsaleable part of it, leaving him
a fairly clean lot. Mr. Christman arranged the terms with him, and they were liberal. To make a long story short, in about 6 months time they sent over and took what stock he had left on hand, and it left him $600 dollars in their debt. It was bad and miserable, but it was as I feared. He left the store almost entirely to the management of his daughter Anna, then a young girl, and looked after other irons to put in the fire. It was very bad for him and also for me, as the firm always held one in a measure responsible for it. Although I was not with them at this time (being in business for myself), Mr. Vanderbie never was able to pay them a dollar of that debt and they frequently spoke to me of it. This was the last of my Platteville ventures for anyone else, and so ends this part of my tale and experience.
In the spring of 1870, I bought a little home on Ellis St., #70. I paid $900 dollars for it, $225 down and the rest in yearly payments. Nellie and I had saved the first payment during the winter. We at that time thought we had a fine home and were very proud of it, but it was a cheaply built 1½ story frame house of 5 rooms: 3 down and 2 upstairs with only a little hole for a cellar. We afterwards added a kitchen and a woodshed to it, and also a good cellar. In July, 1870 our daughter Olie was born in father's house, as we had not yet moved into our own. Skemp Addinsell were on the decline, trade had moved farther up town. So they sold out to a Mr. Chandler of Galena, Ill. He hired all the help on the usual terms, by the year, and boasted of what he was going to do. But he proved to be a loud, miserly little skinflint, and he soon saw he could not do any business in Dubuque in his way. He wanted to discharge us right away, but it was no go. When he spoke to me I told him as the rest had told me, that if he paid me up for the year I would quit, but not before. He was beat, and so gave it up for the time. One day about the last of July, I met Mr. A. Christman on the street. He asked me to come to work with them. I was glad, and said I would so the same day. I told Mr. Chandler that if he would pay me up to Sept. 1st I would leave him at once. He consented and paid me, and I left the same day. He sold out to a Mr. Duncan, and was glad to go back to Galena and his shabby stock and store. Sept. 1st I went to J and A Christman's. This was in 1870. They then had the largest and finest store, stock & trade in the city, located on Main St. between 6th & 7th Sts.
I was pleased with my situation and I think the firm was well satisfied with me. Amongst my fellow clerks were Phil Weigel, and Chas. J. Keeler, J. F. Stampfer was one of the errand boys. Our home life was happy and all looked well for a happy and comfortable future. Little did we them dream of the dark and unhappy years that were in store for us. In September, 1872 another dear baby boy came to us. We named him Clarence Augustus Conzett. He was a sweet, golden haired boy, but God wanted him for his Angelic Choir, so took him home. He died October, 1874. His death was our first great sorrow and was the forerunner of greater ones, if that was possible. I now come to the time of my greatest mistake, which affected my life and all my future prospects and made my dear family unhappy and miserable for over ten long, weary years. Years that I wish I could blot out of my life, and which I hope and pray the recording Angel has blotted it out of his book. I can only hope.
Pages 95 through 100 have been removed, by whom, it is not known.
her neck. It was my dear wife, my Nellie! Her surprise was as great as mine. She was trying to locate the hotel I was at. I had mentioned no hotel in my telegram, but she thought one was named. It was a very confusing message. So she was trying to find it by asking this man. He told her there was no such hotel, but offered to drive her around to all of them to try to find me. She was just accepting his offer when I came up. What the result of that midnight ride might have been, I even yet shudder to think of, this day being over 30 years ago. We spent the night and the next day here. It was Sunday, but all stores, saloons and business places were open for business. Our Col. Patrick lived near here somewhere (Omaha, Neb.) in his fine estate, he was very wealthy. I thought we could perhaps meet him at one of the hotels, but he was evidently not in town. We spent the time looking over the city until train time, when, at one or two pm, we went aboard and soon were off for home. Glad and happy was I, in spite of all my troubles. We arrived home safe and glad to get there early the next morning. We found the children well and glad to see us. Annie Meinhart was still there and had taken care of them. She went home a few days later. I rested a few days, when Mr. G. H. McDonald sent me word he would like to have me work for him. He was then in the retail dry goods business on Main St.
near 8th St., the old stand of Sheffield Wood & Co. I was glad to except, for now we were out of funds. So the next day I once more found myself behind a dry goods counter. I found, there at work, two old friends: Geo. Stark and C. J. Keeler. I was now again in my element, but my failure still rankled in my heart. One day Mr. McDonald told me that the grocer, John Melhop, came to him and tried to persuade him not to employ me. But Mr. McDonald was not that kind of a man, and I guess from his talk he told him what he thought. One day the same Melhop came into the store to try and quiz me about my business and failure, but he got short answers and little satisfaction. My old time friends and customers from city and country soon found me, and in a short time I had a fine run of trade. This to the satisfaction of Mr. McDonald, as well as myself. But Mr. McDonald's former wholesale business had been a failure and so involved him such that, although he was now doing a good retail business, he could not recover or stand the pressure of his creditors, the chief of which was the 2nd National Bank of Dubuque. One day late in the fall of 1875, its President D. N. Cooley and his cashier E. O. Guernsey came in and took possession of store and stock. I was very sorry, and sympathized deeply with Mr. McDonald for his kindness to me and his continued trust and friendship. But those were of no help. He had to go under. I at once went to the Christman Brothers and asked them for a situation, but the old Vanderbie trouble was still held against me. Especially so as Mr. Vanderbie had not paid them a dollar. So they would not hire me. My own failure had nothing to do with their refusal, as they intimated to me. John Vanderbie came to us again soon after we got back from the west, he would not stay at home. He was now 16 or 17 years old and pretty wild. I soon got him into the store with me. He was an errand boy and had only very small wages. Of course, he could pay us no board, neither did we ask it. Once in a while he gave Nellie a dollar. After being in charge of the McDonald store, Mr. Cooley sold the stock (I was still with them) to Keller & Moser. They at once took possession. I remained with them, but Mr. C. J. Keeler would not stay with them and left. George Stark had quit over a year before. Keller and Moser were astonished and more than surprised at the amount of business that came to the store. They had done a business of $3,000 or $3,500 in their store. They were both very close, conservative men and rather unpopular. I had known them for years, and had worked with both of them before the
war with Sheffield & Scott. Things went on in the usual way with us: the children were now growing up around us, were good and mama & I were proud and happy. John and Mamie were now attending the 3rd Ward School. On the 29th day of March, 1877 we were blessed with the coming of another dear boy. We named him Clarence Josiah Conzett. About 6 months after being with Keller & Moser, this was some time in the spring of 1879, Mr. Schroeder of Platteville came to me. He wanted me to come over and take full charge of his store, offering me very good salary and telling me how cheap and better we could live there than here &c. Thinking it over for a few moments, I told him I would give him my answer in a few hours or in the next morning. I had no idea of accepting it, if I could help it in the way I wanted. I did not want to bury myself and my children in that dull town and rob them of every opportunity to get along in the world, which is what it would have amounted to. I wanted to use this chance as a handle to get even with Keller & Moser and have them restore me my former wages, which they had cut down so much that we were pinched to get along. At noon I walked up the street with Mr. Moser on our way to dinner. I then told him of the offer I had, and said to him that unless they restored my former wages to me ($800 per year), I would accept it and leave at once. He got very excited, so much so as to surprise me, and said "You shall get your former wages, and that at once", that it was a shame they had been cut &c & so on. When I came back from dinner, Mr. Keller came to me at once and said "Why Joe, we intended to do this soon. We only wanted to see what you could do." And this after knowing me for years, knowing my abilities and the trade I controlled (the largest of any clerk in the city at this time and for years after). His hypocrisy disgusted me. But I said "All right, I will stay on then." The next morning Mr. Schroeder came in. I told him I had decided to stay here. He tried hard to change my mind but, as he could not do it, he went out. He was hurt and disappointed. A few months before Mr. McDonald's failure, my former clerk T. Hager wrote me, asking me to try and get him a place in Dubuque, saying he did not like it there. I don't know why I did it, knowing what he was, but I did speak for him to Mr. McDonald. He told me to tell him to come. He soon came, and for a few months when he left to board with Mr. Stoltz on Clay St. (at a 2nd hand tavern and typical German boarding house and saloon, the worst place he could have found) he got into his old habits.
On several occasions, if I had not shielded him, he would have lost his place. I told him of Schroeder's offer and said if he would promise me to quit his drinking and so on, I would recommend him to Mr. Schroeder. He promised, I gave him a good letter, he rode over and Mr. Schroeder accepted him. He then left us and he really kept his promise to me. He got married, and Mr. Schroeder was pleased with and kept him 6 or 7 years. He then went into business for himself. So passed the years up to Jan., 1880. One day in that month, I received a telegram from Theodore Schuitzler announcing the death of father Vanderbie. It was a great shock to me, as we had not known of his serious sickness. I dreaded to bring this news to my wife but, though deeply grieved, she took it easier then I thought she would. The next morning she took the train and went over, taking little Clarence along. She stayed there for some time doing all she could for the family. At that time Mrs. Vanderbie was sick in bed, from which she never arose. She died during the summer. On the 4th day of June, 1880, our 5th son was born to us, a fine, flaxen haired baby he was, too. We named him Vivien Eugene Conzett. One day in June also, Mr. A. Christman met me on the street. He said they would like to have me come to work for them. I said I would. Mr. Keller was now alone. Mr. Moser had sold out to him the year before. I told him at once I was going to leave him. He tried very hard to talk me out of it, but I told him that he had deducted $60 dollars out of my salary wrongly when we settled up in January. He said "Well, you drew out $15 every week, and I presumed that was your whole wages." He knew better. My wages were $800 per year, and I had left the balance as a little savings. At that time he would not allow it, but now, rather than let me go, he was willing to make it good. I did not like him nor his ways, so I told him I was determined to go, and go I did. He was so anxious to keep me that one or two days after I had left, he and his wife came to our house and tried hard to persuade me to come back to him, but I stuck to my determination. July 1st, 1880 I was again behind the counters of J and A Christman. Now is the beginning of those years that I have written of that I would oh, so gladly, blot out of life and memory. But it must stand, and I write it as a lesson to my children and all those that follow them, that they may take warning from my life's sad experience and so avoid the shoals and bad temptations that line the pathway of life. For our sins will surely find us out sooner or later and the
punishment will follow. For God will not be mocked and His judgment is just and altogether righteous. Oh, that I could blot it out. I will not mention my follies, vices and grievous sins of those ten years that caused my dear wife so many tears and heartaches, my children to hang their heads in shame and sorrow and nearly wrecked my life. They only remember all this too well. Willing would I give my very life could they forget it, forgiven it. I sincerely believe they have, as I hope and believe God in His mercy has forgiven me. So I will only mention events of that were of some importance to us during those unhappy years.
To resume then, outside of father's death and Vivien's birth nothing worthy of note happened to us. I forgot to state in its proper place that a year or so before leaving Keller's store we bought a parlor organ from Mrs. Cutler, paying $120 dollars for it on the installment plan. In 1882 we moved into Mr. Kemp's house on Eagle Point Ave. We were compelled to sacrifice our home on Ellis St. We still owed $600 dollars on it, and could see no way to pay for it. The family was growing up and our expenses were now heavier, but for this we did not care so much. We had lived there over eleven years and, counting taxes and what we paid on it and what we added to it, we could say we got it for $8 per month in rent. The house was getting too small for us, and the locality got to be very unpleasant for several causes. We did not grieve very much over its loss, so we moved, as I said. John had quit school in 1880 and went to work in an insurance office for a Mr. Plaister. He only stayed their a few months, and then worked for Dr. Peterson, the dentist. I did not like to see him leave school at his age (14 years), but he was tired of it and I knew there was no use to drive him. I knew that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. In 1883, I got a pension of $2 per month from the government. That, with the back pay amounting to $450 dollars, was a good help. It paid all our debts, organ and all, and allowed us to buy a new carpet and some necessary furniture for the parlor. The furniture we have yet, after 26 years wear. On the 12th of Feb., one more dear boy was added to our flock. We named him Chester David Conzett. When about 2 years old, we nearly lost him from a severe spell of croup. By the providence of God, and under the care of Dr. Staples, he was spared to us. In 1885 the firm of J and A Christman dissolved. It is not necessary to give the reason for this here. They divided the stock
as evenly as possible, and I was given the task of taking down the stock in 2 separate books, one for each party. It was no easy job and took us one whole day to do it. This crippled Mr. A. Christman financially, so he had to borrow largely from his brother in law, Mr. Schmidt the brewer, in order to replenish the stock. After everything was in order, he and his wife went east for goods. I went with them as far as Chicago and helped buy the staples and some carpets. It was hard to get a start, as Mr. J. Christman (the money man of the firm) had left the firm. The merchants were a little cautious. However, we got what we wanted. They went to New York and I came home, and business began to pick up. On July 5th, one more dear little son arrived. We named him after my first Captain in the Army: Charles Nott Conzett. We now had 7 children: two girls and five boys, and every one of them good as gold. John was now quite a fine young man and quite a musician. He was a leader in the Henderson Drum Corps, at that time quite famous, and one of the best in the west. Mamie's beaux, Ed Robinson, also was a member of it. They were once invited by a rich brewery firm to go with them to some reunion, I think it was to Savannah, Ga. They went, and they made a fine impression down there, and also saw and heard Jefferson Davis in a speech. Mamie was now a fine young lady. She was at our store now, and had charge of the paper patterns. Her ability as a sales lady and her growing popularity made the other girls so jealous of her that they combined together to annoy her. Of course, this hurt her and made me very angry. I told them and Mr. Christman what I thought of it pretty plainly, then told Mamie to quit and go home, which she did. Viola was growing up to be a fine, handsome girl and was still at school. So were Clare and Viv. In the fall of (blank), John quit Peterson to attend the Iowa State University. He had saved enough money to pay for one term. He came back at the close of it, and as he was so far advanced in his profession by the years spent with Dr. Peterson, he was granted a 1st class diploma. We now persuaded him to open an office and hang out his sign (which I had Mr. Van Brant paint for him). With the help of Dr. Staples, who had taken a great liking to him, we were able to fix him up in a real fine, cozy style. His office (the first one) was in a one story frame building of two rooms on Clay between 16th & 17th St., owned by a Mr. C. Junck. His first few months were rather discouraging, but shortly business picked up. In a few months time he moved into larger and finer rooms, where he prospered from
his first day. He now owns a fine home, a fine two story brick building on 13th St., and considerable outside property, as well as hearty & prosperous with a national reputation as a lecturer on dentistry and as an expert dentist. All this came to him because he loved the Lord his God, and ever tried to serve Him faithfully. In that cause he honored his parents, loved his brothers and sisters, and was our mainstay in our many hours of trial and need. He is that and even more to us to this day. He stands today at the head of his profession and is an honored citizen of his native city of Dubuque, Iowa. For all this, God has so richly blessed him in his home and his business. He is blessed with a good, loving wife who has been as God meant her to be: a true helpmate to him. They were married March 31st, 1891. She was Miss Mae Corrance, of Dubuque, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Corrance, who are old, honored and well known citizens of Dubuque. In December, the young couple were blessed with a dear little son who will soon be 11 years old. A dear, fine boy, the apple of the eye of his parents and a delight to us all. I have, in this incomplete notice of our dear son John, got in advance of these notes. But, as I got started with the opening of his career, I thought I would finish the larger part of it and then only add few of the later events in which he figured so well and conspicuously. To resume my story........
On the 5th day of March, 1888, our beloved mother was called home at the ripe age of 76 years and 3 months. She died at the old home on Almond St. Asthma and heart trouble was the cause of her death. The Lord, in whom she trusted, ended her suffering in two days, and now she sleeps in beautiful Linwood. In the fall of 1888 we again moved. This time to west Locust St., a 2½ story brick house with large yard, room and quite an orchard. This was the best house in which we ever lived in Dubuque. In June, 1899, our daughter Mary Adelia was united by marriage to Dr. E. G. Robinson at our home. The services were performed by Elder W. E. Robinson, father of the groom, assisted by the Rev. Dr. McCord of the M E Church. The rooms were pretty, but modestly decorated, and the refreshments served were of the same character: simple & good. Olie was her sister's bridesmaid, dressed in blue cashmere and trimmed in blue ribbon. She was beautiful to look at. The bride was dressed in cream white corduroy, which was very pretty. She was a lovely looking bride. John, our boy, was the groom's best man. He was dressed in the conventional style
of bridegrooms, as was also the groom. The whole affair was simple but fine, and to us very affecting. Our darling Mamie, our oldest daughter, was now leaving our home, yet not our hearts. The groom was her husband now, and Ed, as we familiarly called him, was a fine young man of a good old family. He had just graduated with honor as a D.D.S. from the Chicago Dental College and was now connected with Dr. H. T. Hanks. Their prospects were indeed bright. We bid them a tearful good-by and prayed to God to bless them in all things that was good for them for this life and the life to come. Our Olie had now graduated from the high school and was preparing herself as a teacher in the schools. But man proposes and God disposes was never a truer saying than in this, our case. I will go back a few years to help explain this. Mr. Christman's business was now in bad shape. Extravagance and mismanagement had made such inroads to his capital that he found it difficult to buy goods. We now bought nearly all in the city, and to me fell the lot to do it. Eastern houses shunned us and their agents passed us by. The consequence was that we lost our customers and business fell off day by day. The president of the German Bank came in now 2 or 3 times a week and worried him with statements and duns until he was nearly distracted. One evening at closing time he said to me "Joe, I wish you would come down after supper, I want to speak to you." I knew then that a serious time had come. When I came in the store he was sitting by a radiator, head on his breast, sad and dejected, the picture of woe. I asked him what the matter was. He then told me, the tears flowing down his face, that he was so deeply involved and so harassed by his creditors that he did not know what to do and was nearly crazy over it. He said he wanted my advice and help, if I could give him either. Poor fellow, I pitied him with all my heart. I had gone through just such an experience a few years ago. I felt the sting yet. I knew how he was suffering, and I wanted to help him. I then asked him how much it would take to pull him through. "Well," he said, "if we could take in $200 a day for a couple of months, we could get over it all right." I then said we would write out an ad for both of the morning papers this evening, so as to have it appear in the morning, advertising a bona fide closing out sale at positive cost and without reserve. Reason for this: that Mr. Christman was going west into some other business &c. Then I said "Now in the morning, tell all the employees that you would like them to stay with you until the stock
was closed out, or nearly so. But if they found a good situation before that time to accept it." I said "It must be kept strictly secret, even in the family, except of course from the wife, for if it got out or was even hinted at as a fake, it would be a failure." I saw at once that he was feeling easier. He then said "Joe, I put this in your hands. We will do just as you say to the letter. Now come and write out the ads so we can get them in the papers yet." I did so and we took the ads over. It was now 11 o'clock pm. This was, I think, in June, 1886. In the morning I went over to Keely the painter and had him paint two large signs in large bold letters announcing the sale, and I made it strong and convincing. When the clerks came in, Mr. Christman called them to the desk and told them just as had been agreed on. There were some long faces just then. They came to me to quiz me. I told them I could only refer them to the ad & signs, that was all I knew of it. They all knew Mr. Christman was hard up, and so finally took it in good faith. It took the town by surprise and Mr. Christman's special friends came in and wanted the why & wherefore for this move. They were told it meant just what the ads said, he wanted a change, was tired of the town and the business &c. Well, the first few days it did not seem to have any effect, but soon it got spread around and then people came in crowds & we got busy. We took in, on an average, $300 per day up to October. Mr. Christman was happy and on easy street, as the saying is. Nothing now was too good for me. I think he would, had I asked it, given me an interest in the store. He came up to the house and took me out buggy riding. In fact, I was for that time the whole thing, and my word was law. I did expect him to raise my salary without my asking. Surely it was my due after this. During all that time my work kept me on the jump buying goods. In October I advised him to say through the papers that he had changed his plans and would remain in business in Dubuque. He said "Oh, let it run. It will soon die out. People are on to it now." But people understood and it hurt the business, as the end will show. Eastern houses now were willing to sell him goods and he went east to buy stock, taking his extravagant wife with him. She was one great cause of his final failure. Things began to run in the old rut again. Clerks came and went at their pleasure, all helped themselves to their pay, sold goods any old way, cash or credit, to Tom, Dick and Harry. I now saw the end pretty plainly and tried to prepare for it. Mr. Christman forgot my services. I was now no better than the rest.
He transferred his trust to Mr. Billasch, a fellow Oddfellow, and they grew very confidential. I was ignored. Now I made up my mind to try and get a situation in a larger city. I was angry & discouraged. I had worked very hard to clear him, and that summer no one had reason to find fault at home or in the store. But now I grew reckless, threw discretion to the winds and ran my race. As I said, I wanted a change and was bound to get it, no matter how. In 1887 I attended the GAR in St. Louis largely with that end in view. I was not pleased with the place, so I did not make any effort. In 1889 I went to the Milwaukee GAR, stopped in Chicago to buy a few goods for the store, and came home with nothing accomplished. The 16th of July, 1890 was a memorable day, and really the turning point of my career. I never went back to A. Christman again. These months from July 16th to Sept. 14th are some of the darkest days of the humiliating terrible ten years. But the clouds were breaking, a light was shining through them faintly, as yet. In those two months I went to Chicago twice, in August and September, ostensibly to get work. Ed and Mamie were then living there. They did all they could for me, but I was set in my ways and went at them at a rapid pace for a while. But God had other things in view for me. He did not want me to live in Chicago, so each time I came home to my grieving family. On both these trips, I went at our now discouraged boy John expense. I will not here state the cost of it in money to him. I also lost my fine silver watch, which had cost me $240 a few years before, on one of those picnics. On the 14th of September, 1890, at 11:20 pm, I took the Burlington train for St. Paul, Minn. I arrived there on the morning of the 15th and rode up to John Vanderbie's cigar and candy store. John had been here 10 years, and was now a different boy: steady, sober and doing fairly well. They let me have a room over their store, and took my meals with him at a private house across the street for a time. On the afternoon of the 17th of September, I entered the services of Field Mahler & Co. on Wabasha 4th & 5th Sts. They had just moved into this large and beautiful store, the finest west of Chicago, and doing also the largest and best retail dry goods trade. I must not forget to say that John gave me ten dollars for my fare. Poor boy, I guess he thought to himself, there goes $10 more of my money to some saloon keeper! This is the explanation I spoke of and the reason for my actions and leaving Christman. I was not creditable, and I will not try to justify it. But who
will now deny that God works in mysterious ways or that He does not watch over and care for even the greatest sinner? Or, who will deny that His special providence guided me to this haven? I recognize His goodness and mercy to me and to those dearer than life itself to me. Through all these years of heavy trials, bitter grief and trouble, He has lifted the dark clouds and now we see the sun shining brightly once more. The crushing load is lifted from our hearts. The waters have been cold and deep, but by the grace of God we have reached this, our Canaan.
Field Mahler paid me $16 dollars per week to start with. I was in the dress goods dept. It was a new way to me, to remain or sell goods only in one dept., and the sales slips. In fact, everything was new. But it was the modern and right way to do business. I soon got used to it and liked it, especially as business was very good. I soon felt at home. My letter home announcing my having such a good situation was hailed with joy by my dear ones. I can well imagine how they felt after all these years of trials. But God was good to us, and all now seemed well & looked bright. In October ,1890, about the 11th or 12th, my wife and baby Charlie came up to see me. Charlie was yet in dresses and was 4½ years old. I met them at the train, and oh, glad I was to see them. John Vanderbie was also at the train, and he took them up to my room. We boarded at a restaurant under the, then, market store. We took breakfast together. They met me on the street to go to our other meals. The first Sunday she was here we took the train for Minneapolis to hear Dr. Burrell preach. At that time we had no electric street cars and no interurban cars to Minneapolis. It was either cable or horse cars. These were two of the happiest weeks of my life. On Mr. Mahler's telling me I could stay with them as long as I lived if I wished and advising me to move up, Nellie went right out and rented a house on Maria Ave near 6th St. Then they went home to get ready to move up. The goods they sent in advance, so that when they came up the house was prepared for them. In this work I was greatly helped by Rev. Jacob Kolb and his folks. In fact, I could not have had the house ready only for their kind help. On the 13th of November they arrived. After their first meal in St. Paul at Mr. Kolb's house, they gave the final touches to the rooms. We had a home again, were all together once more and devoutly did I thank God for His goodness to me and mine. No, we were not all together. Our dear boy John
was left behind, his business was now so good and well established that it would not do to give it up. And then there was another attraction that was too strong and precious to give up, but we did so miss him. I must not forget to say that John paid all the expenses of mama's visit and for their fare and the freight charges for the household goods. What would we have done without John!
The children were quite homesick at first. They were strangers in a strange land, but they soon got over it. When they got acquainted, they could not be hired to go back. Clare, Chet and Viv were now ready for school, but they had to be vaccinated. Mama took them to a doctor downtown and he did vaccinate them, sure enough. They had terribly sore arms and suffered awfully. We consulted a doctor, but they finally got over it and started to school. On the 31st day of March John was married to Miss Mae Corrance at her home in Dubuque, Iowa. This was 1891. They had a fine wedding and a great many handsome wedding presents. They arrived in St. Paul the next morning and spent their honeymoon with us. After a weeks sightseeing, they returned home. We were more that glad to see them. This spring mama, Olie and I joined the House of Hope Presbyterian Church, Dr. Christee, Pastor. On the evening of the 4th of July we received a telegram announcing the birth of a baby boy that day, at Dubuque Ia., the home of Mary Adelia's father in law, W. E. Robinson. They named him Rhea Benedict. We were all delighted. At the store we were very busy. I was now in charge of the lingerie dept., which had just been created and separated from the dress goods. At first I had only one assistant, but we got so busy that, before the fall, I had to have one more. So passed the summer and fall of 1891. John and Mae surprised us by coming up in Sept., state fair time. At that time, and several years after, the city, during fair week, illuminated 3rd St. from Selby to Wabasha with a grand electrical display. It was very fine. I think Clare quit school about this time. He had in some way been hurt in feelings, and no amount of scolding or persuasion could get him to go back. John always remembered us at Christmas time. This time he sent us a fine set of dishes and Mae, before this, painted and sent us two beautiful pictures. Our children did not forget us. Now comes 1892. In February we moved into what really was, in most respects, a fine, 2 story frame house on St. Albans St. We paid $20 per month for it. Clare and Viv were now cash boys at our store at $2 per week.
They teased so long to go, I thought I would let them try it. But it did not last very long. Clare was there the longest time. Viv left and went back to school. Charlie was going to school now, also. When we moved, it was very cold and the house was cold too. I caught a bad cold there, which now developed into acute asthma. I have suffered from it ever since and has made me an invalid, unable to work. John and Mae visited us during this summer. In August, 1892, our dear Olie got married to William Furst, a young man she got acquainted with at the House of Hope Church, where he was a member. He appeared to be a fine Christian young man, and the best people in church spoke well of him. Olie fell promptly in love with him, and he with her. He came and lived with us. After being with us a few months, mama and I saw some serious defects in him. He was not the young man we thought he was. We took rather a dislike to him and told Olie so, but she could not see it. So not to break her heart, or have them get married secretly (as married they were bound to be), we let it go hoping everything would turn out all right. She had taken a teacher's examination, was granted a teachers 2nd grade certificate and was teaching in a country school. Will Furst was also teaching school. The school Olie had and her boarding place were too hard and rough for her. She then went to Detroit, Minn., but was taken sick. Will, hearing of it, went to her and brought her home. Will had now gotten a better school. They did not want to be apart anymore, so about the 10th or 12th of August 1892, they were married early in the morning by a pastor of the of Methodist Church on Hague Ave. near Selby Ave. I have forgotten his name. They left on the first train for Appleton. Winter was now approaching and, as we found the house to be very cold and unsanitary (it had no sewerage, only a sink hole, and that was full and smelled horribly), mama went and rented a house of 7 rooms at $180 per month on east 4th St. between Maria and Bates Ave. Our landlord objected very strongly and scared her badly, but I soon cooled him off. I told him it was in such a condition we could not live in it, and if necessary, would have it condemned. He cooled off and said "Well, shut off the water and bring me the keys." So on the 13th of November we moved into our new home. Not so fine, but warmer, cheaper and better suited for us. Here in the same month my pension was increased to $8 per month which, with back pay, allowed us to buy some needed carpets and furniture and get in good shape once more. Clare was now
working for Young & Lightner at $4 per week, which helped us some. By Olie's frequent letters we were glad to hear that they were happy. So passed the winter of 1892. We were comfortable, and it if had not been for my bad health (I was suffering greatly with my asthma, I was using the Schiffman Cure, and it was using me up) we would have been comparatively happy. In the first part of April Olie came home to be confined. Will did not come with her as his school term was not out. One day during the summer, we were surprised by a visit from our Mamie from Chicago with her fine baby boy. She went home the latter part of July. Will was now home. On the 16th day of August, 1893, Sunday, our Olie was taken sick. Doctor McLaren (a woman) was called with her nurse. Olie's sufferings were terrible, so I took Chet and Charlie on the cars out in the woods so they would not hear it, hoping all would be over when we came back. The neighbors heard her sufferings and had gotten the police to stop all traffic and noise on the street. The poor girl suffered all day and night, until 12 o'clock, when a sweet little baby boy was born to her. Mama was now called to her bedside, but we all know what a mother will do and say to a loved one at such a time. I need not speak of it. She soon told mama to go to bed as she knew she was tired. As the doctor told her everything was all right and she herself was going home, mama came to bed. It seemed we had hardly got there when we heard an unusual noise upstairs. Mama rushed up and at once came running down crying "Olie is dying, Olie is dying!" I met Will rushing down to telephone for the doctor. When I came into the room, the nurse said "She is dying. Oh, how I pity you, Mr. Conzett." I went to Olie's side at once. I saw she was nearly unconscious. I took her head in my arms, raised her up a little and said to her "Olie, do not leave." I think she understood me and tried to answer me, but could not. I saw she was going fast, so laid her down gently. Just then the doctor came in. He began to work her hands and arms to try to revive her. Dr. McLaren now came running in. She too went to work vigorously, and worked for perhaps one ½ hour. But alas, the vital spark had faded. Our dear Olie had left us. She was now in heaven. Thank God we have every right to believe this, knowing what a lovely character she was and what a blameless life she led. But oh, it was so hard, and bitter were the tears we shed. But our Olie was not suffering anymore, nor would she ever shed any more tears.
We telegraphed to John at once and he and Mae come up on the evening train. John stood all the expense, as usual, for casket, railroad fares and burial at Dubuque. Furst had no money, even for his and Olie's board. Olie did make him give mama $10 or $12 dollars one day. That is all we ever got out of him. $100 would not square his account, and in one thousand years can he ever repair the wrong he has done us and his dead wife. He married again a few years after Olie's death. He had graduated as a lawyer from the university, his 2nd wife paying most of his tuition. He is now a lawyer of some sort in Minneapolis. To get this wife, he had her write us under an assumed name for information. And she got it, too! Then Will and her wrote us the most scandalous and infamous letters I have ever seen or heard reflecting on Olie, his poor dead wife. It was well for him that he kept out of our boys' way. She herself had the gall to come and see me at the store to smooth things over. She wanted to go and see mama, that I would not allow her to do. They have received their punishment in part, but more is coming. They lived together like cats and dogs and have separated. His own people will have nothing to do with him. Oh, what a fearful mistake our poor Olie did make! Dr. Egbert preached her funeral services Tuesday, August 9th, 1893. Then we took her to Dubuque for burial, which we did the next day. We buried her on our lot in beautiful Linwood. Her baby boy Harold followed her in 6 weeks after. He was buried in his mama's grave. Mother and child are sweetly sleeping together, waiting the last call of their Savior. Our home was desolate for many a day. This summer I bought Clare a nice bicycle. He had a good time with it. John sent $20 to help pay for it. During the summertime, my brother Otto surprised us by coming in one day. Our hired girl, Annie Herman, took him for a tramp and would not admit him until Nellie came to the door. He only stayed a few days. During this time I was suffering greatly with the asthma, and several times had to remain at home for a day or two on account of it. We were very busy at the store. I now had three helpers. Some were no good, and for several years I had to keep changing them. So passed the year of 1893. In April, 1894, our boy Clarence (now 17 years old) was attacked with tuberculosis of the bone, beginning at the ankle. We called in Dr. Amos. For a few days he did not know what it was, but soon after found out. It was very painful and the poor boy's suffering was terrible. The doctor now went at it in full earnest. He
opened up the limb and washed it out every day. He came at all times of the night and day. No doctor could have been more faithful through all those days of suffering from the first days of April to the 13th day of June. Clare bore it all like a hero. It was a trying time for us all, but especially so for poor mama. He wanted her near him all the time, no one else could do hardly anything for him. She went through it all as only a devoted mother will or can. Dr. Amos had called in a number of the best doctors in the city in consultation, when at last it was decided to amputate the limb to save his life. This disease had now nearly reached as far as the knee, so calling 5 or 6 doctors to aid him or to see the operation, he amputated the limb above the knee on the 13th day of June, 1894. We had written John of the day the operation was to take place, and he came up and was in the room giving all the assistance he could. It was all done in a remarkably short time, and was commended by all the doctors present to be one of the quickest, best and neatest operations they ever saw. The doctor wanted to take him to the hospital, but neither he nor we would agree. So he had the room thoroughly sterilized and brought over his heavy operation couch. On that day Hattie & Laura Vanderbie and our hired girl carried bucket after bucket of hot water to the room, and in other ways did all they could to relieve mama, for now she was completely unnerved, and I was not much better. During the operation we went up to Kolb's to await the result. As soon as it was over we were called down. He was still unconscious, but soon came out of it. The worst was over, but for weeks he lay in bed suffering from it and the morphine, which he so manfully fought to conquer. In the fall we got him an artificial limb costing $100 (John, as usual, paid for it). Soon he was getting around as well as could be expected, and better than most cripples. So ended those painful, trying days. Trying for all, but mostly so for poor Clare. Dr. Amos was a confirmed opium and liquor fiend, we were not aware of this at the start. On several occasions he missed coming, but always sent some other doctor. We must give him credit for faithfulness and good work for Clare. He was really one of the best doctors and surgeon in the city and, had it not been for that soul and body destroying habit, he would have had all the practice on the bluff. As it was, he had the best part of it up to 2 years before his death, which I think occurred in 1899. He had lost house, furniture and all he had. His wife and two little boys were
compelled to leave him. He had been in the asylum and hospital several times, but always got out too soon. The last time finished him. Clare was with him in the office quite a while, but he had to quit. It got to be too dangerous to be with him. Indeed, the career of one who might have been the best in his profession and reached the topmost round of it was lost from that fearful habit. After the operation, on the same day John returned home, December the 4th, I was taken very ill with hiccups, asthma and a fever of some kind. I was very sick. Dr. Amos was again called in. I was delirious for a few days on several different occasions. Dr. Amos was just as faithful in attendance on me as he was on Clare, coming and going at all times day and night. One time it was thought I was dying. 3 or 4 lady neighbors were rushing to & fro with hot bricks and trying to do all they could for me. John Field happened in to see me just at that time, about 9 pm. Upon seeing my condition, he went and sent a telegram to John at once. John caught the late night train and was at my bedside in the morning. He at once took me out of bed and sat me in an arm chair, got me a cigar and in every way tried to get me out of the stupor I was in. He said I had too much medicine in me and they must rouse me up or I would die. He succeeded, and before train time in the evening he was satisfied that I would live and went home again the same day. I had several sinking spells after that, but got over them easier. In one of them, I had arranged my funeral with Rev. Mr. Bantley, and asked him to preach the sermon. He had called to see me, as he frequently did. One day in February, 1895, we got a telegram announcing the death of my father in Dubuque. This so excited me that I got out of bed, was helped downstairs and did not go back to bed again, but sat up in an easy chair. Oh, how I did suffer from the morphine! I fought it with all my will power, but it nearly got the best of me. One day after I was able to walk around a little, I met Dr. Day at the drug store. He questioned me about the after effects of morphine on a person. I told him it was far worse, or harder to get over, then the cravings for liquor after a long debauch. He then told me I would never get over it, as he never known anyone that did who had as much of it as I had. I was then yet suffering from it fearfully and fighting it as hard as I could. I told him I would quit or die. I never took any more of it, but it was the hardest struggle of my life. For several years I had a hard time to fight the liquor fiend, a desire for which the morphine created, but by the grace of God I conquered
both. I finally recovered, and on the 1st day of April went to the store again. This ended 3 terrible years for us. Terrible in suffering and cost, and how my dear wife ever stood it, I could never understand. Only God sustained her and mother, and her wife's love for me helped her bear up under it all. We sent Clare down to represent us at father's funeral, as neither mama or I could go. Through all these years of trial, our noble boy John aided us with money and also, we know, with his prayers. Without him it would have been hard for us to get along. The other boys were good and faithful and did all they could. Viv had taken Clare's place at the law office and gave us all he earned. Little as it was, it helped. Chet and Charlie were going to school, they were too small to work as yet. Clare, in his crippled condition, was a help and comfort to his mother, saving her many steps up and down stairs to wait on me. We know they felt all these troubles keenly & were full of sympathy. Few parents have been blessed with such noble children. We had to borrow money, $10, to send down Clare. She asked Mr. Mahler for it, and to our great surprise refused to do it. We owed them $30 for a coat we had bought for mama, intending to pay for it. I never forgot it, but mama got it from Mr. Converse. When Clare came back, he brought $75 that John sent us. Mama at once took $20 of it down to the store to pay on that coat. She refused to accept a bottle of wine Mr. Mahler wanted her to take to me. I know they felt cheap. When father's affairs were settled they sent us our share. It was a little over $500. With this we settled Dr. Amos' bill of $175 still due for $100 which he accepted in full for it. We paid the druggist, the grocer and all other bills and were square with the world once more. It took it all, and we were as poor as ever. We were very busy at the store, and when I got back I found things badly mixed. I soon got rid of 2 of the men. It was more than I wanted, but we were kept very busy. It was the best year we ever had or ever had after it. I was still suffering with the asthma. In 1896, the last day of it, Mr. Mahler sold out his interest. His going out hurt the business, as he was very popular and from that day on business kept decreasing day by day, even though the store had been enlarged. The firm now was Field Schlick & Co. On the 1st day of May, 1897, we moved into the frame house on the corner of 5th and Bates Ave., paying $18 per month. We hoped to there escape the sickness and bad health we had on 4th St. We did, all but myself. My trouble seemed to get worse, so bad that several times they
sent me home in a hack. All these years I had been using Schiffman's Cure, and it now was fast using me up. I found a remedy in the fall of 1897, Dr. N. Tucker's Asthma Cure. It is a liquid, it is more gentle and relieves quicker, but will not cure. In all these years John & Mae have come up to see us at least once a year. At Christmas time John sends us a check for $25, Mae sends mama a box of useful articles and I and the boys each one year's subscription to a magazine. This year Viv got a situation with Field Schlick as office boy at $4 per week. In the summer of 1898, I invented a patent bias board to cut trimmings in velvet or silk. We find it very useful. I applied for a patent for it through Mr. Cady of Dubuque who, by the way, greatly overcharged us for his services. I was greatly encouraged and thought we had now something that would make us comfortable in our age. As soon as we got it in the right shape, a Mrs. Blauvalt was so much taken with it (she was a dressmaker) that she at once ordered us to send her 50 of them at $2 apiece to New York where she was moving to. She paid us for them at once ($100), but alas that was the first and only order we received from her. She said she could not sell any of them. The Robinson family Ed, Mamie & baby Rhea, moved up here from Chicago in Sept., 1896, and lived with us until the next spring. I took him in as a partner and he and Clare made them at his house. He soon got tired of it, but to pay us for his board, he made me one hundred of them. We sold 40 or 50 of them around this vicinity, shipped about 60 or so more around the country and to New York, Chicago, Indiana & several other points. Even my old Capt. Chas. Nott ordered one for his wife. Then a Mr. Cook undertook the agency, his wife being a very good dressmaker (but he was an old blowhard). I thought he would surely succeed. He ordered a lot of material, had a carpenter make about a dozen, but never sold one. I sold 4 or 5 of them, then I took the material off his hands and since then have not sold more than 2 or 3. As it is a useful article for the purpose intended, I am still in hopes of its yet coming in use. I received a patent on it dated April 1st, 1900, good until 1907. It is good for 8 more years. Of course, John footed this bill also. On Feb. the 20th, Mr. C. R. Mahler died. The store closed out of respect for his memory during the funeral hours. This year (I think it was 1900), Chet first went out on a surveying trip to Montana for the Gt. Northern RR at $50 per month with board & shelter. He has been out every year since, up to this
day, and he is now out July 22, 1909. He is gone from 6 to 9 months at each time and sends us a good share of his wages. One winter day in 1897 or 1898, he fell on the ice while skating, hurting his back. For several years after it pained him terribly at times, we wondered how he worked. One day, now 3 years ago, on the advice of a doctor he went to St. Luke's Hospital for treatment and perhaps for an operation. After staying there 2 weeks and getting no benefit, he came home. Since then, although it pains him once in a while, he seems to be getting rid of the trouble. I must not forget that last winter he took a course of treatment from a Christian Science healer, staying with Ed & Mamie during the time. It must be admitted, for he says so, it did him more good then anything else. I think it was about this time Charlie went to work in the office of the Great Northern. He has since taken up short hand and typewriting. He has been in a position every day since, improving in his work and getting better wages as he improved. He is now at this date a first class stenographer, a notary public and attending a law school from which he hopes to graduate as a full-fledged lawyer in a few years. His present employer told me the other day that he was the best boy he ever saw. As we know he is, we fully agree with him. Last spring he met with a mishap that nearly cost him his life. He was not feeling well and, one early morning going into the bathroom (it was yet dark),as he tried to light the gas, he fell over in a faint before it was lit. The gas poured out and, as the door and window was closed, he was nearly gone when, fortunately, mama heard him groan. She quickly called us. We carried him into the bedroom and Chet rushed for a doctor. He at once went to work over him and in about 30 minutes had him safe. But, how sick he was all day! It was a very close call. 15 minutes more in that room and our Charlie would have been gone. A few days after, his boss seeing him still feeling badly, he advised him to go to Chicago. He was then working for the C St. P M & O RR, so he got a pass and left. His intention was to swing around a small circle taking in Chicago, Milwaukee and Omaha, but he was taken sick before reaching Chicago. When he got there, he took a cab and went to Burk's Hotel on Madison St. and there spent his vacation week in bed. Not hearing from him in all that time, we got quite uneasy about him. One morning we were glad to see him come walking in the door. He felt the effect of his experience for some time, but since then he has been real well, gaining flesh every day until
now July 22, 1904 he weighs 170 lbs. About this time too (1900), our Clare started in to learn telegraphy. He went to school for 6 months when his teacher told him he was through and could operate a machine, but when he tried it he found he was not yet competent. And he tried hard, too. He finally went into the office of a broker to get some experience. He was there quite a while, but did not catch on so he gave this up. He then went to a business college to learn shorthand & typewriting. He graduated from there, and is now a competent stenographer fit to hold most any position. He has not been able to get a steady job, but has had several temporary positions. The longest one was 4 months with the N P RR Dining Car Dept. He has had 2 or 3 others, but they were only for as a substitute as kind of a vacation job. He is now at one of those kind for two weeks, but as he is competent and faithful and well liked by all he works for. The day is not distant when he will get a good, permanent position. On June 19, 1903, mama & I went to Dubuque on a visit, one week for me. The Iowa GAR met there. I saw a good number of the boys of Co. E in the grand parade. I was in command of the 5th Iowa Cavalry. Then I returned home, having had the best visit to Dubuque I ever had. Mama stayed two weeks longer, the most of which she spent at her old home in Platteville, Wis., where she always has a good time. In October, 1903, we moved to 767 East 6th St., in a large, modern house renting for $27.50 per month. Here I had several bad asthma spells. The 1st & worst was in 1904 when I had to have the doctor several times. To see what a change would do, mama & I went to Mamie's out at Lester Prairie, where they now lived. It did me no good, so we came back in 3 or 4 days. In October of the year, our Viv went to Dubuque Iowa to marry Miss Edith Corrance, a sister of John's wife and a handsome, refined, Christian young lady. They had a beautiful wedding and a big lot of handsome, valuable presents. They lived with us until April, 1906, when they went to housekeeping in a cozy cottage at # 282 Maple St., where they still reside. In 1905 Mr. Harm and his wife came to board with us. They asked as a favor, but they soon overdid it by bringing up his old father to stay, and his sisters and brothers made themselves too free to suit us. We were glad when they left us. Business at the store was now so poor that half the time I had no help or only the poorest kind, young boys with no experience. It was pretty hard for me in my state of health and it laid me up several times. From then on nothing of note
happened to me or mine up to 1905. That is when we had a visit from my brother Jacob, who stopped over Sunday with us on his way to visit Mrs. George, his daughter. Mr. Geo. was with him. In May, 1906, I was taken very sick. We had a nurse for a week. It was feared for a time that I would not recover, but the Lord had still some use for me here, so I recovered. July 1st I was at work again, but it began to be hard for me. I now felt that I would soon have to give up. Time passed by until Oct., 1907, when they gave me a young lady, Miss Johnson, as a helper and my work was lightened. In October, 1908, I had another bad spell of asthma and hiccups, laying me up for 2 months. I now had Miss Dahl as a helper, and Miss Johnson was sent to another dept. Now comes 1909. After our invoice Jan. 1st, I felt that my working time was nearly up. I was getting too weak for a full day's work. On the 6th of March I was taken very sick again. It was then decided that I should retire from work, and I really was compelled to do so. On Monday of the following week, I went down to the store, told them of it and bid them good-by. It did not surprise them or anyone there. Knowing my condition, they expected it any day and were only surprised that I held out so long. They were all very sorry, hoped I would regain my health &c &c. So after a service of 18½ years with them, and all together 51 years behind a counter, I was at last laid on the shelf. At my age, it is hardly possible for me to hope to ever again do any hard work. I have been in, and still am, weak and in ill health. I would be glad to work, only too glad, but I must submit to God's will and humbly accept what He sends me.
I will on this page, write down some happenings that I should have put in their proper place and date, but they slipped my mind at the time, so I will put them down here.
In August, 1890, I went to Chicago to attend the Natl. Encampment of the GAR. This was largely because Mrs. Van Vredenburgh, the widow of Lieut. Van Vredenburgh (the Battalion Quarter Master of the 5th Iowa Cavalry, captured on the 5th of May, 1862, in the fight on the Obion River, Tennessee), wanted my assistance to get a pension for her on account of her son by him. She sent me the money to pay all my expenses. I did all I could for her. I remembered him well, and all the facts connected with his capture. But she had waited too long, her son was now a full grown man. The pension was not granted. On the 10th day of February, 1896, Mr. T. C. Field died. He had
been in bad health and had been nearly retired, only coming to the store once in a while. He died suddenly, early in the morning of that day.
Here then closes these memoirs, biography or whatever they may be called. Those I leave behind, will now have to take them up, if they think them of interest or value sufficient to continue them on, and so transmit them to the farther generations.
In writing these memoirs, I have been actuated solely by the desire of letting my children know who and what their progenitors were, where they came from as far back as could be traced, how they lived, how they prospered or suffered and the reason of it &c. This, I think, they will be able to do by these writings.
I am fully aware of my limitations, and realize the errors and mistakes, in grammar, spelling, punctuation &c &c. As I am an uneducated man, these they will have to correct themselves.
I have herein told only the truth. Nothing is here said but what I have participated in, or witnessed. In mentioning persons I admit I have been harsh, and to those not aware of the facts, it will no doubt seem unnecessarily so. But it is the solemn truth, every word written. And the persons or people so referred to, they and their actions and work were in a large measure the cause of my failure in life. I am aware that I am to blame for being so weak and so trusting, and willingly I bear the fruits of it. But to write a true account of my life, I had or wanted to show all the reasons, the causes, the whys and the wherefores of a life that might and should have been a success, but turned out to be a miserable failure. If I have been harsh and seemingly unjust with others, I have not spared myself, as these papers will testify. If I have blamed, I have been willing to share the blame; but censured only where censure was due. So I leave it to be judged by those reading it, and I can only hope they will take a lesson from and profit by it for their good in this world and the world to come.
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These lines are written to be seen by our children or those of our immediate family, not to be seen, heard or read by even my brothers or sister or any of theirs. It is strictly a family paper and I ask them to respect it as such!
Memoirs Of My Wife And Her Ancestors
Of my wife Nellie Marguerite's (born Vanderbie) ancestors farther back then her grand parents, nothing is on record. Even of her grand parents we know only that they were all of Holland birth, staunch Protestants of the Calvinistic faith or doctrine. Her mother's maiden name was Hitye Oudyn, born Godsward, Holland in 1822. Her father, Engel Vanderbie, was born in Godsward, Holland on January 3rd, 1821. There they grew up to man and womanhood and received their education, which in both cases was good, as their parents were evidently well educated and realized the value of it for their children. Her father (my wife's) was by profession a cabinetmaker and architect. In both of which he was good. His greatest mistake was his ambition. He was never content to stick to one thing and so make it a success, but always had two or three other speculations on. In undertaking to do too much, and so did little, he made a failure in all until the last few years of his life. He then took up insurance and a sewing machine agency, which he made a final success of. Had he lived a few years more, he would have been able to retrieve his losses brought on by the panic of 1857 and the mistakes of his younger days and inexperience. For all his troubles and trials, he was an honest, upright, sincere Christian, an Elder of his church up to his death, a staunch republican, and an earnest supporter of all its policies during the Civil War. As a citizen of Platteville, Wis., he was loved, respected and trusted, and for years held or filled it's highest and most responsible offices, such as treasurer & trustee, and no breath of scandal ever tainted his name or honor. His trust in his friends and fellow citizens was such as often caused him considerable loss. He died of cancer of the stomach in January, 1880, leaving quite a large family by his second wife. My wife Nellie was the only child by his first wife. 7 or 8 of their children died in their infancy in Platteville where they were born. Nellie was the oldest, their first born, and the last of the old line. He died as he lived, in resignation to the will of the Lord his God, whom he all his life tried and did as well as sinful man can to serve faithfully. And so trusting to His infinite mercy, he entered into his rest.
I should have stated in its proper place, that Mr. Vanderbie married his second wife 6 or 7 months after the death of his first one. This, so to speak hasty marriage, so soon after the death of his first, was in a great measure caused by the now motherless condition of his 6 year old daughter & only child. At this time his business demanded all his time and attention, and so he could pay but little attention to his motherless, mourning child. Then too, a young woman, a Miss Mary Kolb, had been strongly recommended to him as a good Christian &c by Mr. John Bantley, the minister of their church at that time. He was told that she would make him a good wife and his daughter a good mother, so he married her. That was, we think, the one great mistake of his life. That she was a good Christian we hope and believe, but there her usefulness to him ends, except for the bearing of twelve children for him. And these to rear, educate and care for, kept him poor and consequently discouraged, for in rearing or caring for them she was of little help. She was entirely uneducated and could not write a word. She could manage to read her Bible. As she could not sew at all, all her own and the children's clothes had to be hired made until Nellie grew up, and she was put to work very young. She then made all their clothes up to her marriage, and lots of them for years after & gave them away, too. She tended and cared for them all as a mother, as the mother could not. Then too, she was unkind and very cruel to Nellie, hardly allowed her any clothes &c &c. In fact, her cruelty to her caused one of the neighbors to write me to hasten our marriage, which it did by 5 or 6 months. I am sorry to have to put this on record, but it is the actual and unpleasant truth. That she was aware of it, we know, as the morning after our marriage she fell on her knees before us, weeping bitterly and begging her pardon for her treatment of her. But we can to some extent overlook it, as she had always as a girl been a household drudge, and had never seen any of the outside world. Let us hope she now is happy. It is just to put this in record, for the sake of both Mr. Vanderbie and his daughter, my wife, born in Godsward, Holland, February 18th, 1845. My sweetheart and myself got acquainted or knew each other in our teens. She was 10 years old and I was 13 years old. It happened in this way. She came over from Platteville to visit Rev. A. Van Vliet, the pastor of our church and an old friend of her father and mother.
The young people of the church met every Saturday evening at out house (on Iowa St.) to sing, a regular singing society. She came up with them, and then and there we formed an attachment that has never wavered or grown dim all these 44 years. It was a case of love at first sight. She and sister Mary became fast friends, and that friendship has endured with nothing to mar it up to this time (1909). She remained in Dubuque for a year or two going to school. She went home after that time, but came over to visit us and the Rev. Van Vliet from time to time up to 1859 or 1860. After that I did not see her any more until after the war, for seven long years. We corresponded regularly until 1862. I was then in the army, stationed at Fort Heiman, Kentucky. Then by some meddling person and a misunderstanding between us, the correspondence was broken off. I think we were both at fault in this. I did not hear from her again until in February, 1865, while we were stationed at Gravely Springs, Ala. There one day, to my great delight, I received a letter from her once more. It seems she was on a visit to my sister a little before that time and my mother persuaded her to write to me. Mother as well as all my folks loved her and wanted to see us make up again. Well, I lost no time in answering that letter, as well as one from her father. We kept it up until we left Gravely Springs in March, 1865, to go on the famous Wilson Raid. During that time of 30 days, we were on the march constantly and outside of all communication with the north, so I could not reach her by any letter until we arrived at Macon, Ga., about April 20th. I wrote her at once from there, and once or twice more before I went home on furlough in July, 1865. While at Gravely Springs, she sent me her photo, which I carried through the rest of the war between the leaves of my mem book, in the left pocket of my cavalry jacket. We finally reached Nashville, Tennessee the last part of June to be discharged. We laid around there so long, I got disgusted and tired out. I applied for and got a furlough to go home and arrived there about the 10th of July. I at once got myself a citizen's suit of clothes, and in a day or two went over by stage on my first visit to Platteville and to meet my dear Nell. This visit I have spoken of in these memoirs before, so I will not repeat them here. I have also related all about my future visit, and the consequences resulting from them, so I will end these memoirs in a few more lines.
After finding out by seeing, from personal observation, and hearing from her friends as well as a strong letter from Mrs. Hammond the life she was leading at home and the cruel treatment and abuse of her step mother, we changed the date of our wedding from May 1st, 1866 to Oct. 19, 1865. On that evening we were married at her home, by the Rev. J. Vanderlass. We had quite a large party at the wedding and all passed off in fine style. The next morning we left for our future home in Dubuque by the stage, arriving there about 3 pm of same day. Our departure from Platteville and reception by my folks I have related before, so I will not repeat. Neither was pleasant. We have lived together all these 44 years, sharing each other's burdens, troubles and sorrows. Hers has been the lot to bear the heaviest burdens, the bitterest sorrows and pains, and mine the reason of the worst of them. But she has proved to be the loyal, patient wife, the loving, true and faithful mother. God sustained her through all these trying, troubled and bitterly painful years. She has, we hope, now reached the end of her severe trials, and I feel sure that the noble children God has given her will see to it that the evening of her life shall be passed in happiness, peace and contentment. For myself, I can only say that to me she has been all in all, and I shall always and ever thank God for giving me so true, faithful, loving and patient a wife. The years up to her 50th Birthday she suffered from stomach troubles, headaches &c. Once she was very ill, seriously so. I think it was in 1885. The years since then she has been fairly well, and now, thank God, she is enjoying good health.
My wife's mother's maiden name was Heltje Odyn. She came of God fearing, honest and very well to do parents. She had several brothers, one of whom emigrated to America and all trace of him has been lost. The other one came to Platteville, Wis., lived and died there. Her mother (my wife's) was a handsome woman, as all told me that knew her, and she was of unusual business ability, often taking her husband's place in his furniture store in his absence. They do say she was a better salesman than he was. Had she lived even to his age, all agree that their success in business would have been certain. She was a faithful and capable help to him all her short life. She was of well to do
parents. In fact, so well had her parents endowed her on her wedding day, that she was able to pay the passage across the ocean with her spare jewelry. She was married to her sweetheart on the 19th of October in her native town. A year or two after the birth of her child in the year 1849, she emigrated to America. After remaining in St. Louis Mo. two years, they arrived in Platteville, Wis., in 1849, where both herself, husband and 7 infants are now resting. She died in the golden age of her prime, at the age of twenty nine years, leaving a disconsolate husband and a loving, bereaved six year old daughter to mourn. As she lived, so she died: a sincere, pious, Christian woman, a faithful, loving wife and mother. She died at her home in Platteville, Wisconsin in 1851, and rests in the cemetery there.
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