Yesterday’s business that was stored for at least 80 years in a house in Blanchard. Exactly where the chewing tobacco poster joined the lot is questionable.  Be it known that the keeper of the original records would have never indulged in a chew.

By Beverly Clinkingbeard

Recently Brownfield Bros., a company that pushes Iowa dirt every which direction and drains water too, cranked up some of their equipment and took down several dilapidated houses in Blanchard. Old photos show a once vibrant town that has undergone numerous adjustments and changes; changes often forced upon a citizenry due to events quite outside of their making, such as this COVID thing we are all dealing with nowadays–hiding behind masks and keeping distance from one another. Years from now our offspring will be able to look at a photo or news item and tag it as before or after COVID-19 of 2020. The telltale article will be the face covering. Eventually we will look back and know the ways COVID has changed us as a society, and possibly, as a family.

In an old house that was felled, there were records, the paper kind. Receipts, letters, bank statements, and the evidence said originally all was organized and kept in good fashion. It also shows how different business is now versus then. For instance, need to write a check and don’t have one on your bank?  Simply use another bank’s check, cross off name and any other pertinent information, and write in the bank name that will be handling the monetary exchange. The record years are spotty, the earliest being 1914, but most are during the 1930’s and the great financial depression that your grandparents or parents lived through and never forgot.

In a letter dated 1932, The Inter-State Savings Bank of Blanchard, Iowa, had closed their doors, as did many banks of that era. The letterhead listed as President, Hugh Doyle; Vice President, L.M. Hensleigh and J.M. Whigham; Cashier, Alvin A. Clark and Asst. Cashier, Roy McNaughton. The letter was to W.H. Huston, Trustee of the Long Branch Congregation of the Reform Presbyterian Synod. The letter was from an Examiner in Charge [name not legible]. “We enclose herewith the $196.00 note of the R.P. Church…this was recently approved by the court.”

The R.P. Church that received their funds was known as the Blanchard Church or “the Covenanters,” but officially certified as the Long Branch Congregation, Blanchard. Their membership was made up of dedicated Believers who settled and carved out of the prairie, farms surrounding Blanchard. They built a church on the prairie six miles south of Blanchard, now State Road M, and there is an abandoned Long Branch Cemetery immediately north of the bridge spanning Long Branch Creek. Shortly after the “Covenanters” built a church and homes, a tornado ripped through taking the church and their homes.  The congregation decided to build a new church in South Blanchard, Missouri. Meanwhile, new pioneers were arriving and being of Presbyterian faith and abolitionists politically, they could take advantage of a land offer made by Amity College located in Amity, Iowa (now College Springs, Iowa).  The college had a 7000 acre land grant (the land was in IA and MO). They sold land to underwrite their college endeavor. Stipulation for buying land from them was the prohibitive use and/or making of alcoholic drink and the keeping of slaves.  (True, the law for slavery freedom had passed, but the practice and mind set for or against the matter continued despite the law.) Those who bought land from the college could also send their sons or daughters to Amity College free of tuition.

That is a bit of background information for the records rescued before the excavator began its work on the house.  A former owner of the home had served as secretary and treasurer of the Long Branch Congregation. Her personal records were also mixed in with church business, something that she would not have done, but apparently over the years, a succession of tenants dumped and stuffed everything in the back of a closet. The old cardboard suitcase and boxes were ignored, and by 2020, very dirty.

But, they give a glimpse of a church and town prior to and during WWII. Many receipts were pinned together with a small straight pin, bank envelopes bound with string. W.H. Huston was trustee during those years.  Maryville Power Company provided electricity in the 1930’s to the Missouri side.  In 1914, records show Lee Light & Power, Clarinda, would provide electricity for residents and street lighting on the Iowa side of town. Prior to that Blanchard had their own carbide street lighting with a lamp lighter who opened the globe and lit the lamp each evening.

There are many receipts with business names imprinted. Ridgeway & Thurman were the equivalent of Burke’s (Rock Port) or Snodderley Lumber (Clearmont) businesses. Ridgeway was the lumber side of the business and Thurman the coal seller. However, a 1940 receipt from Farmer’s Coop Elevator of Blanchard, shows the sale of a year’s supply of coal at a cost of $37.17. This also included delivery.

Postage in 1936 for a letter was three cents. In a mission drive for old stamps many envelopes had the stamp corner neatly snipped away. In 1940, the church solicited for a new pastor and the salary offered was $800.00 annually. This included a parsonage (it was in Iowa and recently removed). The church’s method of giving was with small envelopes (3” x 1 ½”) and the giver wrote their name and amount on the outside of the envelope.

In 1946, James Crooks delivered a half truck load of corn cobs for $3.00. “Labor for putting back in bin 1.00 for a total of 4.00.” (For the younger reader, the cobs were often kept in a can of kerosene and when a fire was lit or needed encouragement to come to life again, popped in the stove on a few cobs and then coal or wood added once the fire was burning nicely.)

March 11, 1940, W. Huston ordered a communion service from Montgomery Ward catalog for $8.00, postage .17 cents.

Insurance for the church was from Farmers’ Mutual Fire Insurance Co. and sold through H. Charles Cox.  The building was insured for $2,000. (The church may have been mindful of the danger of fires, for when they built the church after the tornado, the town’s Main Street was engulfed in flames. Embers from the fire were carried to the new church building and while they were fighting the fire on Main Street their church burned to the ground. The church was only two years old and they rebuilt the church exactly as they had the first time.)

A letter to the church from the insurance company (no date) began, “America is at war. To win, all must help conserve all resources…Metal is important. The government has taken over most metals for war purposes.  Metal roofing will probably not be available for repair purposes…” The following paragraphs encouraged their clients to check their metal roofs for security against winds and closed with, “Please bear in mind that your agents and adjusters cannot buy tires either…” and suggested trying to limit calls.

On the personal side of business, a farm of 99 acres was valued for taxation at $5520.  State tax 8.28; County Tax 16.56; Road & Bridge Tax 5.52; school tax 13.80 for a total tax $57.96. W.S. Walker was collector for Atchison County.

A bushel of hybrid seed corn from Henry Fields charged out at $7.95 @ bushel.  December 15, 1945, pasture land rented at 4.50 an acre. Kerosene sold from Standard Oil Company for 10.1/cents a gallon.

Mutual Telephone Company of Blanchard was a pre-cursor to IAMO Communications, Coin, Iowa, and Burlington Junction, Missouri. It was a cooperative company and served Coin and College Springs at one time. By 1943, Coin and College Springs were marked off and East Lincoln Township and Elmo, Missouri, added to their service area. There was an assessment of shareholders for $8.00 annually with a Federal Tax of .80 cents, State Tax of .16 cents for a total of $8.96. Long distance calls were billed separately.

Sadly, the Long Branch Congregation closed the church in the late 1950’s.  Other congregations tried development, but eventually, the church only looked forlorn and derelict to passersby and it was razed. Time moves on, buildings disappear, but come spring, the iris and peonies remind us that once upon a time, someone dwelt at a location or there was once a church where folks worshipped and served together. Time marches on and our kids come up with new ideas and leave the old behind. It’s the way it’s always been and who are we to stop it?

’Til next time.