22 - IOWA
When I was ready to go I started out in a one horse buggy. When I arrived at Mitchell a storm overtook me. It was very cold and blustery so I shipped the little driving mare, and the buggy, to Nora Springs, Iowa. From there I drove to Waterloo, which was just a couple days drive.
We stayed with our son and daughter until the day before Christmas, when we moved into our own home that we bought. It was nearer the railroad than we should have preferred, but it was a good home and very cheap - twelve hundred dollars, just what we had received for the hotel property. That winter we rested, as the saying goes. Lottie attended the business college.
We had real democratic times in 1894. No one quit their jobs until they died, or were fired. A man who had a steady job at fifty dollars per month was to be envied, or heartily congratulated, I should say. Yes, one who had a job in a grocery store at forty dollars a month was happy. Of course the cost of living was altogether different than it is today. Porterhouse steaks cost twelve cents per pound, pork chops; eight cents, good chickens; about twenty five cents each, the best kind of turkey for Thanksgiving; about a dollar apiece. Potatoes were twenty five cents per bushel. The best brand of flour at one dollar a sack, and sometimes only ninety cents. Hard coal was seven dollars per ton. So it may be understood that we could live in our own home, paid for on thirty dollars per month pension.
The following summer I made a few extra dollars by taking care of the baseball park. Ed Towne; mothers son, and Tom; my son, were in the house moving business when we went to Waterloo, and remained in it for several years. So I occasionally helped them. My other son, Joe, was in the furniture and undertaking business in La Porte. He and his wife had two children, Jay and Daisy. So we had relatives handy enough that we never needed to weary for company of our own flesh and blood. Tom and Ed both had fair sized families.
Waterloo was an old city, as far as "old" in this part of the country is considered, about forty years old. Of late years this growth was not very encouraging. Those who had lots of money held a very tight grip of it, fearing that in some way, someone might get hold of some of it. But one could appreciate the situation of the city upon such a valuable stream. And there were those who could see that the place had a better future.
I was very thankful that the asthma did not come back upon me after our change of climate. I stayed indoors very little. There were very few days of the entire year when I was not out quite a part of the day. I got acquainted with many people in much of the city and took a real interest in all that affected the city. So life never was monotonous to me. There was always something new to absorb my attention.
Though I deeply regretted to leave Dakota, and the happy associations of there, our new home soon found me enjoying life, though somewhat differently than out on the prairie. There were many conveniences of the city, over the country, which we thoroughly appreciated, especially that we were getting less able to rough it. After becoming acquainted some, I took quite an active interest in the political affairs of the city and the county, and though having no ambition for office for myself, I really worked hard for my favorites. In this work I became acquainted with many more active men of the city than if I had not taken a real interest in the political welfare of the community. It gave me a great deal of pleasure. Mother was ambitious to be doing something and she soon had the opportunity in taking care of roomers and boarders. We had several rooms to spare for that purpose and it added to our income very appreciably. She was always so prompt and otherwise efficient, and also kind and motherly in her household affairs and associations, that all who would act honorably felt as though being under the care of a good mother.
We had experiences with dishonorable and dishonest people, of course. One instance we shall never forget - A young man by the name of Carlson, apparently a nice young man who was a tailor, had been out of employment considerably during the time he had been with us. Finally he and a friend of his started a shop of their own in a nearby town. Before long his partner absconded with the proceeds of the business. This left him penniless, so he left his trunk with us, which contained a good overcoat, and other clothing which was worth considerable.
Some time after he had left, a couple of men came to the house and explained that Mr. Carlson had bought a life insurance policy from them, but hadn't paid for it, so now they had came to get his trunk to make good the payment. "Oh no, his trunk is in my care and I intend to keep it right here" said mother. "Well you can't do that madam, we have the law for it" the spokesman said emphatically and impatiently. "Oh yes, you have the law, but I have the trunk" mother promptly returned. They didn't argue any further. They went to their lawyer to see what could be done and we heard that he advised them to let the trunk be just where it was. This incident was characteristic of her quick decision and firmness when she thought that she was in the right.
By my generous pension and the income we had from our rooms, we managed to save something all the time by our frugal habits. Lottie got a position in a newspaper office, the leading daily in the city, as it was the oldest also, I believe. We were very much interested in her accounts of newspaper work. Life did not become monotonous to us for we kept ourselves interested in the happenings of the day. We took an interest in the development of the city, just as we had in the country we had left, where we had had many real pleasures as well as real trials. We felt happiest in being a part of the pulsating life of where we were, so to speak, as far as our limitations would permit. And I believe this disposition helped to kept us younger in body and spirit than had we been more indifferent to our environment.
As time went on we gave ourselves the pleasure of visiting the land of our younger days, and stirring times of the war, and etcetera. We had many friends there whom we had a real joy in meeting again. And later we took a trip to Oklahoma to visit mother's daughter, whom with her husband and family, lived on a good farm in the land of cyclones and cotton. This country being entirely different to any we had ever seen. We had saw lots to interest us for quite a while.
The abundance of fruit appealed favorably to us, and they had a very fine large orchard. Their children were very smart and promising. We had a real joy in visiting them, though mother was rather sick for a time. Her son-in-law was a very intelligent and courteous man, and his wife a most kind and attentive daughter to us. The children were unusually bright. They did all in their power to make us enjoy our visit with them and we certainly did return home fully satisfied with our visit in Oklahoma.
The democratic times of 1882 to 1886 made me even more sick of the party than ever, if possible. So when that grand man, William McKinley, was elected President, my joy was complete. I got a new lease on life then, sure enough. The ensuing four years were to have no serious political disappointments for us, I felt sure then. But the political change did not have much influence on upon our Dakota real-estate. We kept the taxes paid not really being sure that we would ever be able to get it back again. Finally someone promised to pay the taxes for grazing and cutting the wild hay grass upon it. Probably, we did get some income from it that way. But if I remember correctly, the trouble in getting it paid was worth all we ever got in that way, however, we felt that some day the land would surely be worth more than the expense we should be put to in keeping the taxes paid.
We had the Dakota Chief, the Buffalo County weekly paper, come to us for many years after we came to Waterloo. We were very much interested in seeing what was taking place among our old friends upon the prairies. But before the new century reached us there were many new names mentioned in the locals. There were people going into the country for stock raising on a larger scale than most of the old settlers could do. Men from eastern South Dakota, and Iowa, realized the opportunities in cattle raising, and grazing, upon those cheap ranges. There were two young men belonging to the county who saw the chance to make a fortune in the quickly rising prices of cattle. So they bought over twenty thousand dollars worth in 1898. They went into debt for nearly the whole amount. In a few years they had each made a fortune. We old pioneer-settlers were not jealous to see them succeed, but it did make us feel rather sad for ourselves.
Those settlers who left the county went in all directions. Some went to the Pacific regions, some to the Atlantic, and others went as far south as Mississippi. One of the most prominent of the county, and our nearest neighbor, traded his land for land in this state. He had a fine herd of blooded cattle and many well blooded horses. The market prices were just commencing to rise when he decided to go to the sunny south. This was a most unfortunate move for this man and wife who had already suffered so much by their unsuccessful farming in Dakota. He later traded his property, which was estimated at but little, and some good horses, which he had luckily raised there from the stock he took from Dakota, for real-estate in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The boom was just then coming on in that city, so this was a fortunate move for these unlucky people previously. Here they were to have the pleasure of having their brother beside them. He had left Dakota before they did. But his land was so heavily encumbered that he realized little more than enough in the sale of his property to pay his debts. He now was a draftsman for the railroad company in Shawnee, Oklahoma. He had remarried unhappily. His first died of paralysis many years before in Dakota.
Mother and myself had made four visits to Oklahoma, staying all winter with our daughter and family there where we were most kindly, and thoughtfully, treated by all. Now all of the Cleveland's, the people whom we have just been speaking before our own people, had died. The last spoken of brother committed suicide because of ill health and discouragement generally. Those early Dakota settlers who were able to stay there succeeded much better than most of those who left the country after staying there many years. About the year 1899, prices advanced for both livestock and grain and creameries were established throughout the grazing regions. These changed conditions brought real prosperity to those who would be industrious.
In June of nineteen three, Lottie married and moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Since that time mother and myself visited a good deal of among our relations in Minnesota, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Cedar Rapids. Mother was afflicted with rheumatism for several years which prevented us from going about the country, visiting our friends, as much as we should have been pleased to have done. But we were very thankful to have the blessing of having the very happy visits we had.
I had the very great pleasure of visiting Dakota twice in recent years. Friends were still dear to me. It was with genuine joy that I was permitted to see many of the old friends and neighbors who had weathered the storms of the prairies and were able to be there with a friendly handshake, and a talk of old times, with one who was nearing the century mark.
Since returning from our last visit to Oklahoma, three years ago, we made our home with Lottie and family in Cedar Rapids. Here as elsewhere, we were blessed with the happiness of being surrounded by loving friends - those who had the time, and the heart and soul, to share with we two people who had gone so far beyond the allotted span of life. Its one if the greatest joys of life, to reach the fast declining side of life, and feel you are welcome to mingle with the young people, and have a real place in their affections. We have always had a strong place in our affections for them, so I suppose the old bible truth holds good here as elsewhere - "what ye sow, also shall ye reap".
My real interest in things political, I have still retained. I have always been an ardent admirer of Theodore Roosevelt. He hadn't been President long when I was convinced of his superlative quality of a chief executive, and a leader for righteousness in all that pertained to individual and national life. I consider him to still be one of the really great men of the world, in spite of the vilification of his political enemies. When he founded the Progressive party I was convinced that he was right in contending against the corruption and inefficiencies of the two old parties. I had been with the Republican party ever since its birth. But I had also realized that there had been evils crept into the machinery of the party since the time of Abraham Lincoln. And I was Glad that at last we had a big enough, and strong enough, man to declare against the things in the party which were against truly representative government. And the challenge of the new party for social service made a strong appeal to me.
After one has lived for nearly a century, and has had the kind of experiences that I have had, one feels that greatest achievements are but those which contribute to the happiness and the welfare of the masses. They are the ones who are in need of all that can be done to lighten their burdens, and in all ways bring the kingdom of heaven all a little nearer to them while they are here on earth. We want a more equal distribution of opportunities to gain the things of this world which will enable us to live above a bare existence. In other words, as an illustration, I do not believe for a moment that it is right for the President of a railroad to have a salary of a hundred thousand dollars a year, and the section man, a dollar and thirty five cents per day. Or the President of an insurance company to have a salary like the railroad President, and the agent who has his life worried out to get business and receive six dollars per week as his salary, or work on commissions entirely as does the great Metropolitan Insurance Company of New York. Or a big department store declare twelve to fifteen percent dividends while they have dozens of girls working for four or five dollars per week, and give five thousand dollars to the new YMCA, or a like sum to a college endowment fund.
I rejoice more than ever when we see that Theodore Roosevelt, with all of his wealth, power, and influence, is fighting for these things which will, if allowed to come to pass, be great factors in elevating humanity.
Two years ago another great joy came into our lives when a little grandson was born to our youngest child, Lottie. He came just two hours late of being a Christmas present and he was indeed a great joy to his father and mother. We shall never forget the loving patience mother had with the baby. How happy she was in helping in the care of him. And never once did any one of us hear her say an impatient word to him, no matter what he did. Her love for baby was beautiful to behold. Though she was quite badly crippled with rheumatism, she insisted on being allowed to help in the many things of the household duties. She would say when we advised her to sit down and rest, or read, "Oh my no, I'm resting at this. I think I'm really getting lazy as I get older", and she would laugh quite heartily over it. Thomas Hileman Pirnie kept us all busy in turns. One had one thing, and the other had another thing to do for his comfort and amusement. He was so fat and white that he reminded us of his mother so much when she was his age.
Since we moved to the city, twenty years ago, there were very few days in which I did not take a walk, winter and summer. So since the baby came most of my walks have been in perambulating my pal over much of the east side if the city. The meat market had been quite been quite a favorite resort for us in the morning. Here he has been quite the center of attraction of the ladies especially. The shopkeepers wife always having time to take particular notice of my little pal. Many have asked his parents if they did not feel afraid to let me take him out for such long rides. But so far we have not had an accident that disturbed our peace very much. I have always loved little children very much, it had always been one of the joys of my life to demonstrate to them my affection. And my life has not been lonely to me, probably due, very much, to the interest the in the young people.
Bernice, our granddaughter, has made her home with Lottie and husband for the past seven years. And her progress in life has concerned me much. And I have taken pleasure in trying to do something to help her for her journey through life, which may be a long one if she inherits the longevity of the Hileman family.
Mother and myself derive pleasure of doing what we could to help others when we considered that the occasion warranted it. Mother was always first thinking of the needs of others to the extent of sacrificing her own comfort and bodily welfare.
Mother and myself were intending to visit daughter Nettie and family in Oklahoma in the late springtime. Nettie and her children, and grandson Nattie, had been bereaved in the loss of husband and father in the month of August previously. So we thought we might be able, in some way, to help them by our presence for a few weeks, as well as enjoying ourselves by the visit. But mothers rheumatism became so very bad, weakening her limbs so much, that all but she were very doubtful of our being able to go when the appointed time should arrive. She was happy in the anticipation of again seeing her daughter and family so soon, and everyday talked of our experiences of the winters when we had visited them.
When the time arrived that we had planned should be our time to be with them, she was taken seriously sick, and she did consent to remain in bed. The doctor told us, that on account of her advanced age, the disease would be very hard to overcome, but said it would be possible for her to recover for a time at least. For a few days we sometimes believed that mother would yet be spared to us, but she became worse, and we telegraphed for all of her children to come as soon as possible. And we were very thankful that she was able to know them all and to visit a little with them. And when death relieved her of suffering, less than three weeks later, he children were with her.
Ah yes, our grief was keen to lose a wife and a mother, who had loved and lived as she did, but we could not wish her back. She had lived her life well. We felt that she must be at rest and peace with her god. She always lived in the Christian faith. The immortality of the soul, she believed, was as sure as anything realized in this mortal part of our existence. A silent prayer of mine would be that all would have as much happiness in their wedded life as had come to us. Mother would have been eighty four years of age today, the thirtieth day of November, had she lived, this being the year nineteen fourteen.
I am still blessed with good health and strength, and my faculties are all sound, which is a great deal to be thankful for. And I feel a keen interest in all the things which affect the whole world. This awful war that is shaking the whole of Europe makes us wonder if our civilization has made the strides we imagined that it had. I feel sure that Germany, though it be the land of my ancestors, is in the wrong. And I hope that the allies will win in such a way that the menace of militarism will banished from the earth forever. I went through one awful war, and my prayer has always been that there would be no occasion for more war throughout the world. There is nothing truer than what General Sherman said of it. I feel that I have had a quite a share of the hardships of life. It has been fighting with one thing or another much of the time. But my life has been crowded full of happiness too. Yes, life is well worth the living, though I have had ninety four years of it.