Yeoman Farmer - Fun Facts
June 23, 2020
Rummel wagon works.
Even stone sometimes has a voice. I was walking through the lovely town of Alden one evening,heading East from the Library. On the north side of the road stands a stone wall. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this wall but it is the first time that I truly wondered what it was. Is it the remanence of an old fort? Was it hastily built to protect settlers who dared ventured farther and farther west in search of prosperity only to find themselves trespassing on native lands? Did it go back further then this and serve as a trading post for Pre-Napoleonic French sent here by a King to claim this land and it’s fur and riches for a European power? Was it a hang out for those lawless River Banditos that traveled this land prior to settlement to escape the ever present hand of the law in the East after robbing gold and silver along the trade routes of the Ohio, Illinois,and Mississippi rivers? Could it have been a far reaching “suburb” of the great Native American city Cahokia (located just east of St Louis) which during its prime (1100 AD) rivaled European cities as the most populated place on earth? I had to know...the stones were begging to tell their story.
As it turns out, it was one of Aldens most prosperous businesses. L. Rummel came from Wisconsin. He settled in a little town called Alden Iowa and quickly set to work on his craft of building carriages. He founded the L Rummel Carriage Works sometime around 1865. The wooden frame shop burnt down that year.
I’m sure Mr. Rummel said to himself “stone doesn’t burn down”. Lucky for him limestone is plentiful around Alden. People have been quarrying limestone for years in this area. In the 1800’s this was done by hand. One. Block. At. A. Time. (Patience was a virtue then as well as it is now, probably exercised more judiciously then though). In 1869, the new wagon shop was complete. This building was built by a stone and brick mason named Franklin Draper who came to Alden in 1856. The building stood three stories tall and featured a store room and a framed addition that served as a paint shop. A ramp to the street was built to allow for easy access to the 2nd story storage room.
In 1884, the addition of sleighs and bobsleds (the original “snow mobiles” ) were added due to demand. In the later part of that year “foreign” buggies and wagons started showing up cutting into Mr. Rummel market share. The Alden Times editor deplored this “invasion”, urging people to buy locally made products. In January of 1887, Mr Rummel retired and his sons Albert and Louis continued the family trade into the new century.
So maybe the stone wall’s story doesn’t seem as exciting to some folks as tales of an early fortress offering settlers protection from would be harm. Or shelter for fur trading Frenchmen wading through a vast wilderness, braving disease and famine to provide European royals with fur coats, or a river pirate’s hide out to stash stolen gold or ancient native settlement on the outskirts of an empire. Ultimately though, it’s history is just as important. It was these everyday people and their industrious spirt that are the fabric of the nation and provide a solid, stone wall, foundation for us to continue to build.
-The Yeoman Farmer
May 18, 2020
Fenians in Alden
As westward construction of the railroad continued through Iowa, many Irish immigrants and veteran workers of the Civil War, were paid the average of a dollar a day. These were the pick and shovel men, the teamsters, blacksmiths, masons, carpenters, mechanics, and track layers. Workers could lay around 3 miles of track a day. They often worked 12 to 16 hour days. In their little free time they enjoyed drinking, carousing, and fighting.
Among these men were a group of Irish immigrants who belonged to a circle called The Fenian Brotherhood. The Fenian Brotherhood was a secret society who’s primary goal was to liberate Ireland from England through armed rebellion. What, you may ask, were a group of Irish Rebels doing in the middle of the United States laying track for a railroad? The answer to this question lies in two parts. First, they needed to make a living. Apparently being an Irish Rebel in the United States in the 19th Century just wasn’t enough to pay the bills. They had little else to do with the civil war being wrapped up. This something else was to work for the railroad (all the live long day).
Second, Canada. Yes, our friendly neighbors in the Great White North.
Canada was a Commonwealth Country of Great Britain until 1982. So the way the Fenians figured it, an attack on Canada was the same as an attack on Britain. They even landed an invasion force by crossing the Niagara River and briefly capturing the Canadian Fort Erie.
While this group was working on the railroad after a hard days work, they got to drinking at the local saloon in a little town called Alden, Iowa. After several drinks, a huge fight broke out. A young blacksmith in Alden by the name of Martin Pritchard tried to break up the fight and was quickly pounced upon and nearly killed. Afterward, Mr. Pritchard was a prominent merchant in Alden, and it’s mayor for several years. He wore the scars from this international attack for the rest of his days. So a word to the wise, the next time a group of drunken international rebels are fighting in downtown Alden, best to steer clear!
- The Yeoman Farmer
May 11, 2020
Did you know?
Spring has sprung for much of Iowa. With spring comes rain, green grass, blossoming trees and, of course, dandelions. Love them or hate them they grow prolifically throughout the area, providing a much needed food source for bees and other insects after a long hard winter.
Did you know that dandelions are not native to Iowa? That’s right, that yellow flower that grows everywhere is an invasive species! You may be asking yourself “how did they get here?” Well, my friend, I’m glad you asked.
You might be aware that dandelion greens ( and really the whole plant) are edible. I can remember going into a grocery store a few years back and dandelion greens were on the shelf. $2 for a bundle of them. Oh man if I could capitalize on this I’d be rich! A certain settler in Iowa loved the taste of dandelion greens so much that he brought some seeds with him from his home state of Massachusetts. Once planted in central Iowa’s fertile soil the seeds took off and grew like wild fire, spreading for miles around. Who was this settler? Henry Alden. The same Henry Alden who founded the town of Alden, Iowa.
So the next time you are in your yard cursing these yellow flowers and getting ready to spray them into oblivion. Remember they were put here for a reason and make darn fine eating, so let the little yellow flowers be.
-The Yeoman Farmer