Cedar Rapids Gazette (Newspaper) - December 8, 1974, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
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Iowa News Features
SUNDAY, DEC. 8, 1974 • * *
Oelwein Chamber Shook Timbers; Now Out of Financial Difficulties
By Ari Hough
OELWEIN — “We shook the timbers and it worked,” said Norbert Jankowski, manager of the Oelwein Area Chamber of Commerce, following tip an announcement by President Myron Baum that for the first time in two years the organization is out of the red and will be in the black at least until January, 1975.
Such was not the case some two weeks ago when about half of the 203 members attended a meeting to which they were summoned by an urgent letter signed by Chamber directors and “laying it on the line.”
From a deficit of $2,400 in budget requirements, members and non members have responded with over-due dues, donations, and voluntary checks for 15 percent above their original assessments for the current year.Dues Assessment
A meeting of past presidents 30 hours after the general meeting resulted in the recommended assessment of 15 percent of dues — “to get over the hump and start the new year in the black,” Baum said.
“They have responded beautifully,” he said. “We have already had enough response so that we have the operating expenses covered for the year
“And, more to come in So we may be able to finish a couple of projects we wanted to.
“They came through like the really great people they are. It s a really great community.”
The general meeting a couple of weeks ago apparently cleared the air and shook the membership out of a complacency that can happen to one the top rated Chambers of Commerce in the country.
Baum attributes the organization’s high rating to “the things we do, the type of budget we’re on, and our alumni.Chamber Alumni
“Over the years, fellows have come out of our Chamber and have gone on to great heights nationally as Chamber managers or with the U. S. Chamber of Commerce.”
The Oelwein Area Chamber of Commerce had a budget of about $33,000 this year, with a membership of 203. It hopes to increase that membership back to over 300 in 1975, which would bt* about 90 percent of its potential.
“It’s a total realization that the Chamber is involved in many, many projects we don’t give ourselves enough publicity on,” Baum declared, “but it’s a vital element in the town and so recognized by the community as a whole.”
“We have to re-evaluate ourselves,” Jankowsky said. “and we have to take a look at programs we’ve had and programs that surround us and see what we can do.”
Baum pointed out that “One of our problems has been we haven’t tooted our horn enough about what we’re getting done. It has become kind of automatic. ”
“It’s a cyclical thing,” Jankowski added. “I think they’re aware of it now. Actually, it’s a healthy Chamber.
“I think that some of the people who are not in and have never been in need to be educated that whatever vou do in Chamber work you don’t have a tangible.”
“Here is another misconception,” said Baum "The Chamber of Commerce is not a business organization. Many members certainly are not retailers. A lot of them are professional men, clergy, individuals and farmers, certainly business men, but not retailers.
“It s a community organization. It is not strictly a retail organization or a commercial club. The budget for retail is one of the .smallest parts of the total budget.”Local Cooperation
In the long range picture is cooperation with West Union and Fayette in the Volga lake project.
The Oelwein Chamber and the community have met crises in the past. Orville Christophel park has been named after the man who was manager of the Chamber during the period of recovery following the devastating tornado a few years ago.
When the Chicago North Western railroad moved its central office from Oelwein to Chicago, the Chamber and one of its officials went to bat again. Baum said that as a result of their efforts the railroad has brought in the back shop and is rebuilding engines here.
Jankowsky cited the information center and Better Business Bureau, which receives upwards of KXI calls a week for community information and on major and minor complaints “which we usually are able to solve or at least get the two parties together.”
The United Fund is operated through the Chamber, Jankowsky said, noting that it has paid IOO percent of its pledges every year to the people included in the budget.Future Prospects
In prospect for ’75 are “some new projects and some fired up again,” Jankowsky said.
"There was no animosity, no antagonism, just a downward slant
“We just took a critical look and saw which way we were headed We nipped it in the bud and got it back up
“There’s too much pride here, too much at stake here
commumtywise to let a Chamber go defunct. This would never happen.”
Baum, an Oelwein clothier who has lived here 18 years, said.
Oolitic Photo bv Art HouQh
Oelwein’s Chamber of Commerce, rated one of the top organizations in the U.S., has snapped out of its financial problems. Manager Norbert Jankowski opens some more check-filled envelopes as President Myron Baum looks on. A little over two weeks ago, the Chamber was in the red financially, but response of members and non-members who were presented the facts at a general meeting has put the organization in the black for the first time in two years.
“I’m not a native. But, the people who find the most wrong with Oelwein have never lived any place else. The guys that have moved in here realize what a tremendous town we’ve got.
“We could have done just what we did last year, use next year’s dues to pay this year’s expenses.
“But, we said we’re going to take another route and we
“We wanted to make danged sure that they started next year absolutely healthy, instead of starting in the hole like we did this year.
“And we’re in the black!"
Sleuthing Old Cemeteries Uncovers Legends
B> Dale Ahem
DECORAH — A lone, weathered tombstone on a secluded and heavily-timbered bluff high above Bear creek marks the desolate grave of a pioneer Winneshiek county industrialist.
There is no other sign of civilization rn the bleak wilderness stretching out in all directions from John Munro’s grave.
Probably few people now living have seen the old, abandont»d burial site. Briar-and-brush thickets have almost obliterated this plucky pioneer s last resting place.
Some of the largest and oldest birch and cedar trees in
Iowa form an almost impenetrable tangle of branches with aspens and oaks.
The inscription on the aged tombstone indicates Munro died Nov. 19, 1881, at the age of 84 years and 23 days.
Although no remains of his proud little industry can be seen along the meandering course of Bear creek’s sparkling waters far below, it is not difficult to imagine that the music of the frothing rapids contains lingering sounds of the woolen mill.
Munro has no known relatives Even the miniature, barbwire fence surrounding his grave has nearly rusted away. It was my good fortune to be conducted through
pastures and woodlands to the grave recently by a man who had seen it only once before — IO years ago
The abandoned burial plot came to the attention of E J. Weigle, retired, long-time Winneshiek county extension service director, after he started his hobby of sleuthing out ghost cemeteries and abandoned graves in 1983.
After walking within a few yards of the grave without seeing it, Weigel and I explored a large expanse of timberland before making our discovery
According to the tombstone legend and old newspaper
by Dote Alw
Long time Winneshiek County Extension Director EJ. Weigle deciphers the inscriptions on the long lost grave of a Winnesheik county industrialist, John Munro.
files. John Munro was born in Aberdeen. Scotland, Oct. 26, 1817. He is believed to have learned the spinning trade in England.
Coming to Decorah as a young man, he found employment in the Decorah Woolen Mills. Because of his training and industry, he soon became superintendent.
In 1877 —at WI years of age — he founded his own woolen null beside the peaceful waters of Bear creek.
The Bear Creek Woolen Mill, started nearly KHI years ago by Munro, operated in a peaceful valley of the aimost-mountainous country between the remote little northeast Iowa villages of Highlandville and Quandahl.
Records indicate the mill was well equipped with special machinery for carding, combing, and spinning yarn, and for turning out sheets of wool for comforters.
Munro’s products were turned out in two colors — gray and white.
Sadly Mr Munro had the pleasure of operating his mill only three years.
According to an eariy-day newspaper, “Death overtook him, and he* was buried on a hill overlooking the valley.”
A son carried on the pioneer industrialist’s business for a while but later sold it.
Although abandons! and forgotten, Munro’s grave is an appropriate spot, commanding from the summit of the mourn tam like bluff an exquisite view of the pioneer's domain, the beautiful Hear (.’reek valley.
Far removed from human habitat, the longlost grave has shared its secrets with only the chickadees, nuthatches, and waxwings foraging on the frosted blue-and-green juniper berries abounding iii the area
With Bear creek's reminiscing rapids murmuring in our ears, Weigle and I left this restful retreat reluctantly.
This is only one of many fragments of Winneshiek county history uncovered by the former extension service director through his unusual hobby. The project has had
other interesting ramifications
For example, Weigel’s study has disclosed that the Old Moneek cemetery, recently restored by residents of Bloomfield township, was originally an Indian burial-ground. Later early settlers burled their dead there.
One well-known, long-time resident of Fort Atkinson, Phil Huber, told Weigle about an Indian burial he experienced when hi* was a little boy.
“One day,” he said, “an Indian procession came into the Fort Atkinson community, bringing the body of a young Indian girl for burial in their home territory.
“They buried the girl in land directly south of F *♦ Atkinson along the Turkic river, south of what is now the Smallest Church,”
According to Weigle, “Another very old cemetery in Winneshiek county is the Russell cemetery in Canoe township This was started by the burial of a transient man who dieel at the Russell home about five mile's north of Decorah in 1801.”
I own-.hip legends
According to a legend handed down from one Canoe township generation to another, a pioneer farmer, Thomas Russell, built a cabin and put in some crops on land about five mile's north of the young village of Decorah sometime around the year 1850
One night a stranger by the name of William Brazil, came along on horseback and asked to Ik* put up for the night The Russells fed him, let him bed down in one* corner of the cabin, and put his horse* in a log-cabin barn housing the Russell oxen.
During the night the stranger died, and the Russells buried him on a corner of their farm
He consumed a large quantity of honey iii the comb lie-fore retiring for the night, and the Russells speculated that a ball of wax may have formed in the stranger's intestine's ane! killed him.
Combing contents of his saddle bag, the Russells found $40 in gold and a letter from a woman living in the east.
Writing to her, they learned that Brazil was her brother. She thanked them for giving her brother food, lodging, and for properly disposing of his body.
She suggested that his horse and saddle be* sold to pay for burial and a marker and that the $40 in gold be sent to her. The Russells complied with her wishes.
So, the transient’s grave proved to be the be*ginmng of what has since become the Russell cemetery, one of Winneshiek county’s welldeveloped and well-maintained cemeteries
A tall monument, standing in Pioneer cemetery a few miles southeast of Decorah, is a perpetual reminder of a tragic epidemic that swept through the residents of the are*a in the late 1850s
A large number of early Norwegian settlers dud in the plague and were buried on a plot of ground that forms the corner of Glenwood. Frunk-ville, Springfield, and Decorah tow nstups.
Since no permanent markers were erected at the time, residents of the four townships later went together in erecting the large monument which now bears the names of all pioneers who lost their lives in the epidemic and were buried there
Another pioneer cemetery —* completely forgotten by most people now living but brought to light through Wei-gle n cemetery-research hobby — lies on the east outskirts of Freeport, small village three mil«*s northeast of Decorah.
Hidden from view in a heavily-timbered area of Woodland Acres, local Christmas tree plantation, this cemetery contains some of the first burials made iii Winneshiek county.
Time and the elements have played havoc with many of the graves and tombstones. Recently, however, the place has been fenced, and considerable clean-up work has been done on the graves.
The sandy road which wound along beside this old cemetery more than KHI years ago has been eroded by decades of wind and rain into
E J. Weigle notes the graves of two Winneshiek county brothers who died in separate wars—one was a prisoner at Andersonville during the Civil war and the other was killed in the Battle of Little Big Horn with Custer.
what today is a deep, cedar-fringed canyon.
Deer, red foxes, raccoons, and swarms of wild birds abound here
One grave is still plainly marked by a time-whitened slab that reads, “Daniel, son of J. II and M. Green, was killed by lightning July 8. 1855, in his 15th year "
Although Weigle’s work has not definitely identified the oldest burial site in Winneshiek county, among these are the Congregational Church Society's grave yard set aside between 1848 and 1849 and the St. Anthony of Padua (Smallest Church) cemetery established in 1849
Another lonely marker — standing alone on a high ridge owned by Pat Linnane in the Bluffton area — has been visited by Weigle and listed in his records,
From oldtimers Weigh* learm-d that the cemetery in which this lone marker now stands was the first Si Bridget's church cemetery for Bluffton community Catholics.
When the church was moved to its present ligation about one mile west of Sky-ndge farms on the Bluffton
blacktop, all bodies in the old cemetery were exhumed and moved to the new cemetery — except one. the body of Catharine Conners, wife of Timothy Kennedy, who according to the legend on the stone, died May 15, 1858.
Mystery surrounds the well-preserved gray granite slab marking Mrs. Conners’ grave There are no records to indicate why her grave was left alone unmolested “The only logieai explanation we have been able to come up with,’’ Weigh* says, “is that there were no living relatives to stand the cost of exhuming the l*wi> and mov mg the marker.”
The former extension service director's hobby-research has disclosed unusual cir cumstances which prompted establishment of the Ridgew ay
cemetery This burial grounds,
lying on the southern outskirts of the little village of Ridgeway IO miles west of Decorah, was started when the body of an unidentified man was buried there
This unfortunate individual was working its a member of the crew that built the rail
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