Some of the perilous stories of early pioneers
Tuesday, March 12, 2013 10:10 AM
Times have always been hazardous in one way or another, and stories of perilous lives of early pioneers include the bios of Elisha Rose and his son-in-law, Morris "Mott" Cowles.
Warners Livery Stable on West Main Street after 1900. Marty Ware and his team: Sam Cooper next to Ware; McFarland holding other horses; and the gent in the car is Mr. Knight, who owned the stable at the time.
Rose, born 1814, a native of New York, came to Spring Valley in 1857 by covered wagon. He and wife, Helen, and four children first lived in a home situated where the public library is today; he then built a house of hand-hewn timber near the school.
His daughter married Mott Cowles on Christmas Eve in 1868. Cowles had endured many hardships while serving in the Civil War as a member of the 16th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. He was sent home with many injuries, to die, having already lost a brother in the war.
Cowles lived, and for several years owned and operated a livery stable. In those days, horse stealing was common practice, and his fine driving team was kept in his home barn behind heavily barred doors. One night, thieves cut holes in the barn, trying to get in, but unsuccessful. However, George Schell, who operated a horseshoeing shop on South Broadway, lost his driving team to the rascals that night.
According to the local paper, Cowles had a fatal accident while taking a prisoner to the county jail in Preston. The original road ran through Forestville, heavily wooded on both sides. In the darkness, the team went off the road, bolted, and Cowles was seriously injured. His companions were city marshal Chet Lamson and friend Will Farmer. The two men were unable to rouse neighbors and had to walk all the way to Wykoff for help. Cowles died of his injuries at age 52. What happened to the prisoner was not mentioned.
In the accompanying photo we see the livery stable on West Main, located about where the Security State Bank drive-up is now, long known as Warner's Stable. Built by William Ewing, who built the hotel across the street, it is here owned by Mr. Knight, who also owned the hotel. Marty Ware stands front and center with a team of light colored horses used to pull the hearse that carried caskets to the city cemetery. It was said the horses never walked, but always pranced.
The marshal mentioned, Chester A. Lamson, was the city chief of police for 16 years. Born in New York in 1854, his family had moved to Wisconsin, where he lived until age 15. He then came to Spring Valley to live with his uncle and aunt, James and Angeline Wilder. James was a brother to his mother, Phoebe Lamson. Chet found work as a delivery boy for Hoxie's general store, then as a clerk at Washburn's Palace Grocery. He married Catherine McDonough and a daughter, Mabel, was born to this union. Lamson was active in community affairs, serving as village assessor, on the village council, and as mayor for several years. A side note: In 1895 Lamson presented a bill to the village for $12.50 "for feeding tramps and special police duty." In later years, Lamson managed Burgess & Son Lumberyard on Section Avenue, from which he retired in 1932 due to ill health, and died in 1934.
Mabel Lamson (1888-1982) was close to her Wilder cousins, and when Almanzo Wilder's sister, Eliza Jane (1850-1930) married Thomas J. Thayer (1832-1899), she was a flower girl at their wedding. Thayer's first two wives had died and he and Eliza Jane were in their "middle years" - Eliza Jane, age 43, and T.J. age 61. He had been a successful hardware merchant in Spring Valley and now had his money invested in rice farming in Louisiana. Research by local historian Sharon Jahn notes the Spring Valley Mercury carried this account: "Married, at the home of the bride's parents on Wednesday evening, Sept. 6, 1893, by Presiding Elder Chaffee of Minneapolis, Mr. T.J. Thayer of Crowley, Louisiana and Miss Eliza J. Wilder of Spring Valley. They are well known in the city where they lived for many years. About 50 guests were present at the ceremony, and many valuable presents bear testimony of the esteem in which the contracting parties were held. After a bounteous wedding supper, Mr. and Mrs. Thayer took the evening train for Chicago. After a few days visit in that city, they go to their future home in Crowley. Their many friends unite in wishing them a happy married life." They had one son, Walcott Wilder Thayer; unfortunately, T.J. died when Walcott was only 5 years old.
Speaking of perilous lives, Eliza Jane's folks, James and Angeline Wilder, sold their prosperous farm near Spring Valley and moved to Louisiana in 1898. After only four months, James contracted pneumonia and died; one week later E.J.'s husband also died, leaving her in dire circumstances. Louisiana law stated that a widow was entitled to half the property accumulated during the marriage, and since T.J. was "retired," she was entitled to next to nothing. The estate went to the children of his previous marriages, but her attorney managed to get "a child's tenth" for her son, and a measly "allowance" for E.J. as his nurse. Like her mother, Eliza Jane was a resourceful woman, and her story is a fascinating one, but too long to tell here.
Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, became a prolific writer, and she visited "the home place" in 1932, as well as calling on her Lamson relatives. When Rose wrote her best seller, "Let the Hurricane Roar," she sent a copy to Mabel, which caught the attention of the locals. Mabel was greatly bemused by her "connection" to the famous author, and no doubt was amazed when Laura's books of the Little House series became so popular. Mabel was a longtime bookkeeper at Marchant's car dealership, and is fondly remembered by the Marchants. The Lamson home remains on South Washington, and the adjacent barn is one of the few that still stand as reminders of an earlier time.