Archive for the ‘Webster City’ Category


“Beecher Bible” Was a Rifle

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: Jan. 4, 1904

“Beecher Bible” Was a Rifle

Sharpe Rifle Was Given That Peaceful Name

Rare Specimen of First Breech Loaders Ever Made Found at Webster City.

Webster City, Jan. 5 – A “Beecher Bible” was found in Webster City a few days ago by a collector of old and interesting arms, who pronounces it as one of the most perfect specimens of its kind in existence. How it happens that this valuable relic should have found its way to this city might, perhaps, be an interesting story if the facts could ever be learned.

A “Beecher Bible” is a rifle, manufactured by Sharpe, the most famous of early gunmakers in the United States. The specimen now in this city was the property of George MacKown, the missing and much wanted embezzler, ex-manager of the Northwestern Felt Shoe company, and was sold in sheriff’s sale at the court house, when all of MacKown’s personal effects were disposed of on an attachment for debt. There was a long list of goods and much fine furniture, w hich caught the eye of the intending purchaser, and smaller articles were overlooked. Among the effects was a queer-looking gun, a sort of a cross between a rifle and a shotgun. It had a short barrel and a monstrous hammer. It caused a few jocular remarks from the auctioneer and the bidders.

“How much am I offered for this?” said the auctioneer. The first bid was a quarter, which caused a laugh. The rifle was finally knocked down to the proprietor of a second hand store for 75 cents. The second hand dealer placed the rifle in his store window and forgot about it. One day last week a man walked into the second hand store and asked to look at the old rifle. He examined it carefully, but let out no hint as to his value. The proprietor offered to sell the gun for $5, but the man said he would give him just $2 which was finally accepted and t he gun carries away. The second hand dealer had made $1.25 and was satisfied. Had he known the true value of the old rifle he would have hesitated before disposing of it to a stranger for even the sum of $200.

The man carried the gun away and then told what he had found. He said it was perhaps the finest specimen of the original Sharpe rifle in existence. They are very scarce and correspondingly valuable. It is the first practical breech-loader invented and created a reformation in the gun making business when it was manufactured. The gun was made by the Sharpe Manufacturing company at their factories in Meriden, Conn., and was invented shortly before the breaking out of the Civil war. They were first used to any extent in the Kansas-Nebraska war and were shipped to those states in cases marked “Bible,” and afterwards named “Beecher’s Bibles” from a speech made by Henry Ward Beecher.

The gun is a carbine with a 22-inch barrel and shoots the old-fashioned 56-caliber government paper cartridge. The cartridge is shoved into the breech of the gun and the paper end is cut off by the closing of the sliding of hte breech-block, thus exposing the powder which is ignited by a cap. This model was a top-notcher in the rifle building business for many years. In the Civil war they were largely used by the Union cavalry. The specimen picked up here is said to be the finest in the United States.

(Editor’s note: The correct name of the manufacturer is Sharps Manufacuring Company. The Beecher Bible is an actual gun. A modified version was used in “Quigley Down Under”, a movie starring Tom Selleck. An article from the Kansas Historical Society includes a three-page ad for the rifle. I was unable to find any online reference connecting a Beecher Bible and Webster City.)


Fish in the Farm Fields

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: Nov. 3, 1903

Fish in the Farm Fields

An Interesting “Fish Story” From Hamilton County

After Past Wet Seasons Fish Have Been Deposited on Drying Farm Meadows

Webster City, Ia., Nov. 3 – Catfish and bullheads are so plentiful in the ponds, marshes and low places in the southern part of Hamilton county that women go out in the fields to the nearest ponds and gather them up on their aprons as they would chips. This extraordinary condition of affairs has just been discovered by the farmers of the section and “fish gathering” within the past few days has become quite the order of the day.

The fearfully wet seasons of 1902 and 1903 has brought about this strange phenomenon. All the streams during these two years have been so high that the fish, in seeking the headwaters have followed up the creeks, drain ditches and even the drain tile, although it is averred in some parts that the natural evaporation and precipitation of water has been carried on so quickly that small fish and spawn have been lifted from the rivers and have fallen with the rain. Those which fell in the lower places have lived and begot their kind. Of  course this story is more or less discredited, yet the fact remains that the farms in the southern part of the county are well supplied with fish. When the waters receded the fish were unable to get out of the ponds and marshes and can now be easily caught. Many of these ponds have receded to such an extent that the fish can be picked out of them with their hands.

There is something very peculiar about the way the bullheads act as the waters begin to dry up. The other day Sam Varland, a prosperous farmer living near Radcliffe, was crossing one of his fields when he came upon a small pond almost dry. Thinking, perhaps, there were fish in it, he removed his shoes and stockings and waded in. He found it literally crowded with bullheads and cat. While engaged in throwing them out with his hand he felt something hard and slimy deep down in the mud. He ran his hand down and what was his surprise to pull out a big bullhead weighing about four pounds. He kept on digging about, and before he left the pond he had succeeded in pulling twenty-five big fish out of the mud.

Fishermen explain this by saying that the bullhead, as soon as the waters begin to recede and freeze, will dig deep down into the mud, where it will live all winter and come forth again in the spring. Fishing in the larger ponds of the country has been common all summer but no one dreamed until recently that they were so full of fish as they now seem to be. All the farmers are now making a specialty of cleaning out their ponds and all the low places upon th efarm.

Much interest is manifest all over the county in the matter of fishing. It is likely that the farmers will get such a fill of fish that they will have no liking for the finny tribe after the present season is over.


Webster City Felt Shoe Factory Starts

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: Sept. 22, 1903

Webster City Felt Shoe Factory Starts

After an Idleness of Three Months Caused by the Late Fire.

Thirty Hands are at Work

Capacity of the Factory is Six Hundred Pairs Shoes Per Day.

Webster City, Sept. 22. – After having been idle for a period of more than three months, the Northwestern Felt Shoe company’s plant resumed operations Monday in the old wholesale grocery building. The full force is not yet at work, as there is not enough material on hand, but it is expected that within ten days there will be thirty hands working.

The company has a large lot of orders ahead. There are now three traveling men on the road, Messrs. Kelly, Derr and Porter. The capacity of the new plant is 600 pairs per day, but Manager Coppenall says that they do not expect to run over 300 pairs per day this fall. He also says on account of the larger number of orders ahead it is likely that the plant will run until about the first of December. It is customary to close plants of this kind fully a month earlier than this.

The new company is nicely situated. At present it occupies only the second floor of the wholesale grocery building with an office down stairs. With the expansion which will be made in the spring, the company will occupy the whole of the building. F.S. Currie is in charge of the office, while Mr. Coppenall is managing the plant. The felt now being used in the shoes is all new goods. There was no felt saved from the fire which destroyed the former plant of the company. It is the purpose to work the new plant up to the full efficiency of the former factory.

The cutters, lasters and fitters began Monday morning and will get the raw material in shape for the full force within ten days. However, all the machinery is not in operation.

(Editor’s note: The fire occurred on June 16, 1903, and there was a problem with the former manager on Sept. 14, 1903.)


Move House Against Live Wires

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: Aug. 14, 1903

Move House Against Live Wires

The Result Being That The House Catches Fire.

When Cause of Trouble is Discovered Superintendent Gives Movers 20 Minutes to Move.

Webster City, August 14 – “Shut Down! shut down! You’ll set my house afire,” frantically yelled a man as he rushed in the door of the power house. He spied Superintendent Cummings and waving his arms above to attract attention.

“Stop the plant, somebody’ll be killed.” The superintendent did not need any further entreating for just then the fuses all went out showing that there was something wrong somewhere.

“What have you been doing?” asked Cummings. “Somebody has short circuited us and caused a lot of trouble.”

“There’s a wire down,” said the man.

“I guess there’s one down anyway,” remarked the superintendent as the telephone signalled angry patrons who wanted to know what the matter was with the day current. “How did the wires get down?”

“Why, we ran into them,” replied the excited man.

Investigation showed that men, in moving a house north on Prospect had carelessly run into and broken a number of electric light wires at Bank street. The broken wires were spitting fire all around that vicinity to the danger of both the house and men. The superintendent took in the situation at a glance and then gave the men just twenty minutes.

“If you’re not out of there by then,” said Cummings,”I’ll burn you up.”

The men lost no time in dragging the house out of danger and the plant was started again with slight delay. There is a  penalty for running into and breaking electric light wires and it will be exacted if there is another shut down of the plant from this cause.

The Fort Dodge Daily Chronicle: June 28, 1913

M’Creight Tells of France Death

Was Riding on the Interurban Car When Accident Happened

Charles France Died Shortly After Accident

Operation at Mercy Hospital Fails to Save Man’s Life – Chest Was Crushed

That Charles M. France met his death thru no fault of the Interurban which struck him Saturday afternoon at the crossing of the Hawkeye highway at south 20th street, is the opinion of Dr. McCreight, who was on the car. “I was on the incoming three o’clock car when the acccident happened,” he stated to a representative of the Chronicle. “It stopped for the block of the Great Western road and had just started up again. It was going slowly and I remember hearing the bell ringing. Whether or not the whistle was blown I do not remember. As we approached the crossing road bed the car slowed down, but did not entirely stop; just then it was jarred and it seemed as if the car had gone off the track. Then came a regular shower of glass from the windshield. The interurban was stopped within its own length. I was in the smoking apartment at the time and it seemed as if the auto had hit the car near the baggage end.

When I first saw France it was from back platform. He was lying but a few feet away with his head towards the car and his body down the embankment. As I was going towards him he gave a few gasping breaths and was still breathing when I reached him. We carried him into the shade and the first passing automobile was requested to take him to the hospital. We did this as it was far quicker than waiting for the ambulance. He was taken immediately to the operating room where examination took place. It was found that he had severe injuries on his chest, just as if he had been crushed by the steering wheel, and a punctured wound over the right eye. Everything was done to revive him and before his death he rallied enough to tell us his name. He did not realize what had happened or where he was. He was put to bed and died within fifteen minutes at 4:15 o’clock. The car was the most complete wreck I ever saw. It was carried not quite the length of the interurban and was squeezed between a telephone pole and the car. It was twisted twice around just as a towel would be wrung. The car was evidently a new one as the speedometer registered just three hundred miles. The crossing is very clear there and how it happened I cannot say. To avoid the car he could have turned down 22nd street.

Old Resident of Iowa

Charles M. France had lived in Iowa for a number of years, having settled on a farm near Webster City some years ago. He was born in Wisconsin in 1858 and since last March has been a resident of Woolstock, having moved there from a farm near Webster City. He is survived by his wife and one child, Mrs. E.A. Turner of Webster City. The funeral services will be held tomorrow from the house at 3 o’clock.

A photo of C.M. France as a young man

Photo of C.M. France as a young man is provided courtesy of Jane Curtis, the great-granddaughter of C.M. France.

The Fort Dodge Messenger: June 30, 1913

C.M. France Was Motor Accident Victim Saturday

Woolstock Man Succumbed Shortly After Hurt

Body Sent to Woolstock

C.M. France of Woolstock died at Mercy hospital Saturday afternoon a few minutes after he was hit by the 3:00 p.m. interurban car of the Fort Dodge, Des Moines and Southern. France was driving his automobile across in front of the interurban car at the east end of the city limits where the Hawkeye highway crosses the interurban tracks. He was rushed at once to the hospital and every effort was made to save his life but he injuries were of too serious a nature. The body was sent to Woolstock yesterday morning for burial.
The interurban car was just entering the city whent he accident occurred. France according to the motorman on the car, when he saw the approaching interurban speeded up his automobile until he was on the tracks when either the engine of the machine was “killed or he attempted to put on the brakes to back off. The car came to a dead halt on the tracks and was hit full force by the interurban.
France was a man of about fifty years of age. He leaves a wife and son in Woolstock. From the time he was hit by the interurban until he died, he was conscious only long enough to give his name.


That Sewing Machine War

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: June 29, 1903

That Sewing Machine War

Situation in Webster City Assumes a New Phase

Seven Wheeler-Wilson Agents, Arrested for Selling Goods Without a License, Jump the Town.

The sewing machine war in Webster City has assumed a new phase. Seven agents of the Wheeler-Wilson company who were arrested Monday evening, charged with selling goods without a license, jumped the town Friday evening.

The Freeman-Tribune has the following:

The wholesale arresting of the agents came out of the merry sewing machine war which has been going on in this city for three weeks between the representatives of the Singer and the Wheeler & Wilson companies. The Wheeler & Wilson men were arrested as they had no established agency here and hence were liable for the license. They were brought before Mayor Edwards Monday evening for a hearing. At their rquest the case was postponed until Wednesday evening. The matter of placing them under bonds until that time came up, but as the mayor had no blank forms at hand he allowed them to go on their own recognizance.

When the hour for the trial came, the agents failed to put in an appearance. The officers waited on them but they did not show up. As they were in the city yesterday afternoon they cannot have gotten very far away. Warrants have been issued for them and the city officers will make an attempt to have them served. It is the intent of the mayor to have the agents brought back to the city for trial and punishment, both for the breaking of the city ordinances and for jumping the city when they had been given their liberty on their own cognizance.

The Fort Dodge Messenger: June 23, 1903

Sewing Machine War is Spreading

Singer and Wheeler-Wilson Companies Now in Fierce Competition in Webster City.

Methods are Too Strenuous

Warrants for Arrest of Seven Over Officious Agents Have Been Sworn Out and Placed in Hands of Webster City Police.

The Singer-Wheeler-Wilson sewing machine war, which raged with violence in this city some time ago, has spread to Webster City, where arrest seems likely to follow the strenuous efforts of some of the sewing machine agents. Warrants for the arrest of seven of these ubiquitous gentlemen were issued on Monday.

The agents for whom warrants have been issued are all from Boone.

The Webster City Freeman Tribune gives the following particulars:

The sewing machine agents who have been flooding the city with the Singer and Wheeler & Wilson machines for the past ten days, will run up against some trouble this afternoon if the program of the city police force is carried out. Warrants have been issued for seven of them upon the charge of selling their goods about the city without a license.

Since the advent of these representatives of two rival companies in the city life among sewing machine agents seems to have become peculiarly strenuous. Their modus operandi has been to leave a machine at a home whether it was needed or not, provided only that the housewife would give it a trial. Things went along smoothly until competition began to grew fierce between the two companies when each started in on a crusade of making sales on almost any kind of a basis.

It was when this stage of the business was reached that the agents left a machine at the home of W.J. Biernatzki. They removed his old machine which they were to take as part payment on the new one should it prove satisfactory. The machine was not just what was wanted, so Mr. Biernatzki says, and he made a demand on the agents for a return of the old machine and a removing of the new.

Through some misunderstanding or other the agents refused to do this, in consequence of which Mr. Biernatzki informed on them and the warrants are now made out for their arrest and will probably be served this evening. The agents all hail from Boone, instead of Fort Dodge, as mentioned Saturday.


Webster City Meets Heavy Loss

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: June 16, 1903

Webster City Meets Heavy Loss

Northwestern Felt Show Company’s Plant Burned to the Ground Monday Night.

The City’s Leading Industry.

Company Was Capitalized at $100,000 and Employed 105 People – Insurance was Only $36,000, Making Loss Reach Fully $56,000.

Webster City, June 16 – The plant and stock of of the Northwestern Felt Shoe company burned here on Monday night about midnight. The fire started int eh basement and spread before effective work could be done by the fire department. This morning nothing but the smoking ruins remain of what was a prosperous industry employing one hundred thousand dollars of capital, using the labor of 105 persons in the plant, aside from several hundred who worked on the products of the factory in their homes. There was $36,000 ($862,181 in 2010 dollars) of insurance only, and the net loss will be about $56,000 ($1,341,170).

It was a most unfortunate blow to the leading industry of Webster City. The institution was getting on a splendid foundation and looked forward to a steadily growing business. It is too early yet to know what the policy of the stockholders will be in the matter of rebuilding the plant.

The company was working into a large and increasing business and had every prospect for a successful season. It had only recently raised its capital stock to $100,000 ($2,394,94) of which $75,000 ($1,796,211) was paid up. As a result of the fire, George (last name unreadable), who came from New York and invested his capital in the plant, is left practically without a dollar, and the loss is almost equally heavy upon other stock holders.

The loss is divided as follows:

On stock and leather $68,000 $1,628,564
On machinery 12,000 287,393
On building 12,000 287,393
Total $92,000 $2,203,352

The cause of the fire is a mystery. When discovered by the night watchman it had secured a good start in the basement. The building is situated across the river on the east side, and has no city water protection. The volunteer department did its best, but could not check the flames. The machinery fell thru from the third story to the basement, and the building was left an utter wreck. Only the books and a few minor articles could be saved. The company has $20,000 ($478,989) of shoes stored at other places about town, all of which are contracted to be delivered by September 1.

The loss which the fire will occasion to Webster City is evidenced by the fact that the weekly pay roll amounted to $700 ($16,764).

(Editor’s note: The inflation calculator converts the following amounts from 1903 dollars to 2010 dollars: $700 to $16,764;$12,000 to $287,393; $20,000 to $478,989; $36,000 to $862,181;$56,000 to $1,341,170; $68,000 to $1,628,564;$75,000 to $1,796,211; $92,000 to $2,203,352; $100,000 to $2,394,948. I have also put these amounts in the text in italics for easy reference.)



For All Trades

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: May 1, 1905

Tool to be sold by National Hatchet Company

This illustration provided courtesy of Directory of American Tool and Machinery Patents website.

For All Trades

Webster City Company Will Build Ingenious Tool.

Webster City, May 1 – Articles of incorporation for a new manufacturing company in this city have been signed. The organization is to be known as the National Hatchet company and will manufacture a patent tool which can be put to many uses. The officers of the organization are:

E.E. Valentine, Webster City, president; W.A. Norton, Marshalltown, vice president; G.A. Smith, Laurel, secretary; H.R. Dodge, Webster City, treasurer; J.R. Morris, Jewell, Kan., manager.

The company is capitalized at $50,000. The tool they will manufacture can be used as a hatchet, hammer, wire cutter, leather punch, nail puller, screw driver and has detachable jaws upon it. With a change of jaws the tool adds the following to its many uses: A hoof trimmer, pruning knife, bailing applier, stock marker, pipe wrench and some others.

(Editor’s note: I found a website with an illustration of the tool. It is posted with permission of the Directory of American Tool and Machinery Patents and Stan Schulz, DATAMP “Wrench steward”  & editor, Missouri Valley Wrench Club newsletter. You can visit this page for more information. )