Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Ilion: A Grand Entrance

This photograph from the Lucas County Historical Society collection is date-stamped Jan. 5, 1955, but the name of the photographer is not given.

How many, I wonder, passed through the Ilion’s grand front doors during their 75 years? Thousands? Probably. Smith H. and Annie Mallory and their daughter and son-in-law, Deming and Jessie Thayer, were lavish entertainers and the house was designed to accommodate a crowd.

About 70 guests passed through these doors for the June 9, 1886, wedding of Jessie and Deming.

In more somber times, Deming coffin would have been carried into and out of the house through these doors for private funeral services in the drawing room after his 1898 suicide; and Smith Mallory himself would have exited here feet-first five years later, during 1903, before his funeral at St. Andrew’s Church.

This was the formal entrance. On everyday occasions, the family probably used a side door opening from the east into what, before it was removed to enlarge the southeast parlor, was a cross-hall that included a narrow secondary staircase. A third staircase, for servants, was located in the kitchen wing. Another set of stairs climbed the tower to an observation room at the top.

My guess is that these doors were hung sometime during 1880, after construction of the house had passed the point that risk to their leaded glass panels had been substantially decreased.

Work on the house, which began during the spring of 1879, moved slowly because the Ilion’s walls, both exterior and interior, were of brick. This was not a masonry shell around a frame interior. The walls rose slowly, as a unit, and by July of 1879 had reached the top of the front doorframe.

Consider the craftsmanship of the frame --- cut stone embedded in brick; and the elaborate lintel.

That lintel caused at least one near disaster. The Patriot of July 30, 1879, reported: “In raising the central arch of cut stone over the main entrance to Mr. Mallory’s new residence in the northwest part of town, on Monday week, the rope to the hoisting apparatus broke, the stone falling through into the basement, breaking several joists of the lower floor.”

There were no serious injuries, although the broken rope whipped around, bruising one of the workmen. The lintel seems to have suffered no significant damage.

Originally, these doors were not sheltered, but opened directly from the base of the Ilion tower onto a platform porch, then a set of steps to ground level. This would not have been especially convenient during inclement weather and the earliest photo of the house shows a canvas canopy rigged to provide some shelter.

Modifications to the house in 1896, to modernize it, increase convenience and facilitate entertaining, included installation of broad new porches along the south and west fronts of the house. When this project was complete, shelter stretched 30 feet straight south from these doors over porch, new steps and a porte-cochere.

Guests now could exit their carriages, climb steps and enter the house under shelter.

When those porches were added, however, a “beautiful stained glass window with art medallions, made in Berlin” was removed from the transom above the doubled doors and replaced by clear glass to allow more light into the foyer at the tower base.

During its long period of sleep from 1909 until 1949, those new porches began to collapse in part because they were not anchored to the house, and use of the front doors became problematic. Few of the farmhand tenants who occupied parts of the house during those years had need of a grand entrance anyway. Most centered their lives on the home’s large kitchen.

When Otto Brown restored the home during the early 1950s, he repaired the porches and made the front doors accessible again.

They opened for the last time to party-goers on April 13, 1955, when Chariton Rotarians brought the old house to life again briefly.

Hundreds, if not thousands, passed through them during an open house on April 17, then they were closed a final time, removed as the Ilion was torn down and sold to an unknown buyer as salvage. If any of the lintel survived, it, too, has vanished.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Deming: Cape Cod to Colombia

By Frank D. Myers, All rights reserved.

This poor-quality photo, lifted from an 1890s group shot, shows Deming Jarves Thayer and his wife, Jessie (Mallory) Thayer.

Deming Jarves Thayer, who by marriage became the fourth member of Chariton’s tightly-knit Mallory family, remains its most enigmatic figure.

He was born Oct. 3, 1852, on Cape Cod to Harlow Hooker Thayer and his wife, nee Mary P. Nye, according to William Ogden Wheeler’s massive “The Ogden Family in America,” published in Philadelphia in 1907. Annie (Ogden) Mallory’s lineage was included in this volume and it seems likely that either she or Jessie provided the information about Deming that appears on page 399.

Harlow Thayer, although well connected, was not a prominent man, so records of him are scarce and scattered. But George Adams’ “The Massachusetts Business Directory for the Year 1856,” published in Boston, does list Harlow H. Thayer as a lumber dealer in Sandwich in that year, when Deming would have been 4 years old.

Harlow had been named after an uncle, Harlow Hooker, married to Betsey Thayer. Harlow's parents were Solomon Alden Thayer, Betsey’s brother, and Abby (Stutson) Thayer. As might be expected, Solomon Alden Thayer was descended from John Alden.

Abby (Stutson) Thayer was widowed quite young and seems to have bounced around a bit, although she never remarried. Fortunately for the Thayer fortunes, her sister, Anna Smith Stutson, married well --- to Deming Jarves, the source of Deming Jarves Thayer’s name.

Deming Jarves, a wealthy Boston resident and former agent of the New England Glass Co., founded the Boston & Sandwich Glass Co. at Sandwich with two partners in 1825. The operation he developed there as principal owner and manager became known worldwide for its pressed-glass innovations and the quality of its products. It also became widely known for its benign treatment of company craftsmen and their families.

Perhaps at the behest of Anna (Stutson) Jarves, several members of her family came to Sandwich to live and/or work, including her sister, Abby Thayer, and nephew, Harlow Hooker Thayer. The lumber operation Harlow acquired and operated had been founded by Deming Jarves as part of the Sandwich glass operation.

So it must have seemed honorable (and perhaps useful) to Harlow H. and Mary Thayer to name their firstborn in honor of his great-uncle in 1852.

Online tombstone inscriptions from Sandwich Mount Hope Cemetery show that Mary P. Thayer, wife of Harlow H. and mother of Deming, died June 28, 1859, at the age of 34, when Deming was 6 years old.

That death probably caused Harlow to break up his home at Sandwich and move to Boston, where he was enumerated in the 1860 census at age 35 as a coal weigher living at the Tri-Mountain House hotel. I have found no sign of Deming in the 1860 census, but it seems likely he was living with relatives.

Harlow’s mother and Deming’s Grandmother, Abby S. Thayer, was living as a boarder in Sandwhich when the 1860 census was taken, then died seven years later and was buried, too, in Mount Hope.

There are some indications that Harlow Thayer remarried as his second wife a woman named Susan, had two additional children, Ephraim H. and Josephine, and lived in Boston until his death during 1892. His professions as listed in various census and city directory entries range from surveyor to horse car operator. The degree of his involvement in the life of his son, Deming, is unknown.

By 1865, when Deming enrolled at age 13 in the Lawrence Academy, his residence was given as Groton, where the academy is located. The duration of his time as a student there isn’t known, but he probably graduated four years later. His obituary identifies him as a graduate of “Girton Academy,” most likely intended to be Lawrence Academy at Groton.

In the fall of 1869, Deming enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then located in Boston. He seems to have spent the academic year 1869-70 there.

During 1870, Deming applied to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., but apparently was not admitted. It seems likely that he began working then as a civil engineer.

Deming’s 1898 obituary states that early in his career he “was connected with engineering work in the building of some of the branches of the Burlington road,” suggesting that he came west to work in Illinois or Iowa or both. It is entirely possible the he first encountered Smith H. Mallory at that time.

His next appearance in public records, however, is in Central and South America as a full-fledged civil engineer during the later 1870s.

During November of 1877, age 25, he was identified by Francisco Javier Cisneros, a civil engineer, Latin America railroad pioneer and Cuban revolutionary, as his assistant on the Colombian Cauca Railway project.

That daring 85-mile project was designed to connect Buenaventura, Colombia, on the Pacific coast, with the inland Cauca River valley. Work on the project began in 1878 with Deming as resident engineer on the first section of the line, from Buenaventura to Juntas.

Deming may have joined the staff of the exiled Cuban some years earlier in the United States, where Cisneros had opened an engineering firm after permanent exile from his homeland.

Extant arrival records for the Port of New York show that Deming landed there on the ship Colon from Aspinwall, Panama, on the 18th of October 1876, perhaps returning to the United States between projects.

Another arrival in New York from Panama, this time aboard the City of Para, occurred on Oct. 18, 1882.

Deming was carried from 1881-83 in congressional records as a commercial agent attached to the U.S. Consulate in Buenaventura, suggesting that his employment on Colombian projects lasted several years, perhaps from the mid-1870s until 1883.

Beginning in late 1883 and continuing into 1884, Deming was working as an engineer for James B. Eads' Tehuantepec Ship Railway project, a proposed alternative to the Panama Canal that would have moved fully loaded ships from Atlantic to Pacific oceans by rail. From January until July of 1884, he supervised field engineering crews along the proposed route.

But about 1885, Deming returned for good to the United States, highly qualified to rejoin the rush to build new rail lines westward from the Missouri River and beyond.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Jessie: The Early Years, 1863-85

Jessie Ogden Mallory

Jessie Ogden Mallory, photographed as a young adult, appears serene and lovely, exquisitely dressed with brown hair upswept, looking directly into the camera with large and intelligent eyes framed by spectacles. She looks as you’d expect a privileged, accomplished and widely-traveled young woman to look during the last quarter of the 19th century.

But privilege does not ensure happiness, and Jessie had her share of troubles during a relatively short life of 60 years.

Jessie was born on the 26th of September, 1863, in Naperville, Illinois, during a period when her father, Smith Henderson Mallory, was engineer on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad from Chicago to Aurora, Illinois, headquartered in Chicago. Her mother was Annie Louise (Ogden) Mallory. Jessie would be their only child.

During 1867, when Jessie was four, the family moved to Chariton. They had camped comfortably in rented quarters in Ottumwa and Albia as the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad grade and tracks pushed west toward Lucas County with Jessie’s father as contractor for bridges on the line. The first train arrived in Chariton on July 4, 1867, but the Mallorys seem to have arrived a little earlier.

They moved into a new but modest story-and-a-half frame house on several lots at the south end of the block between North Grand and North Main streets where Chariton High School now is located. A barn was added to the property as well as an orchard and gardens.

Although Smith, Annie and their daughter would become Chariton’s informal first family, there is no indication that Jessie was raised in a manner that differed significantly from the way other children were in the small town planted on land that had passed from Meskwaki and Sauk ownership only 21 years earlier.

Their neighbors included several contemporaries of Smith and Annie who would become lifelong friends, most notably the McCormick sisters, Miss Maggie and Miss Emily, and Edward Ames Temple, who went on to found the Bankers Life Association, now Principal Financial Group.

The family traveled occasionally, most often to Batavia, Illinois, where most of the extended Mallory family lived, but elsewhere, too. The Chariton Patriot of Aug. 18, 1873, reported, for example, that the Mallorys and Miss Maggie McCormick “leave this week for Clear Lake, the new and popular resort of northern Iowa.”

A year later, Jessie, then almost 11, appeared in the offices of The Chariton Leader bearing a peach, an event considered significant enough to be reported upon.

“Miss Jessie Mallory,” the editor wrote on Sept. 12, 1874, “presented us the other day with a splendid, large sized free stone peach, which grew on her father’s lot in this city. Seven years ago she planted the seed that produced the tree that bore this peach, and informs us that the tree bore several of the same quality this year. If the proper care was taken of peach trees, this county could raise all of this excellent fruit that the people need for home consumption.”

Among the elaborate embroidery applied to Jessie’s 1923 obituary is the statement that she was “educated entirely abroad, chiefly in Germany.”

That is for the most part nonsense. Jessie was educated in Chariton’s public schools and was an 1879 graduate of Chariton High School — the same year construction of the family’s new home, the Ilion, began on Chariton’s north edge.

The Leader of June 7, 1879, reported that “last Friday evening the annual commencement of our city High School came off in the Opera Hall. A large crowd was in attendance, notwithstanding the threatening weather. There were ten pupils in the graduating class, consisting of Misses Lydia Hollinger, Lillian Brant, Clara Hollinger, Nellie McCormick, Helen A. Temple, Jessie Mallory, Bertha Martin and Jessie St. John; and Messrs. Charley Thorpe and B.H. Wilson.”

Jessie, not quite 16, apparently had not excelled academically since “the Salutatory was delivered by Lydia Hollinger and the Valedictory by Mr. Wilson.”

The Opera Hall, where commencement exercises were held, was in the Mallory Opera Block on the northwest corner of the square, the first major building project of Jessie’s father, completed during 1874. The high school at that time was located on the current site of Columbus elementary school in south Chariton.

During the spring of 1880, as work continued on their new home, the Mallorys embarked on a grand tour of Europe that, for Jessie and her mother, would last nearly a year. They were accompanied by Jessie’s first-cousin, Elinor Smith, of Batavia.

Jessie and Annie left Chariton by train on May 20, 1880, perhaps to visit family in upstate New York before proceeding to New York City. Smith followed on June 1 to meet his wife and daughter.

On June 5, the reunited family left New York City aboard the steamer Britannica of the White Star Line, arriving in England on June 13 after an eight-day journey.

After touring England, the Mallorys traveled slowly by train across Europe to Germany where Jessie, Elinor and Annie settled in. Smith sailed home from Liverpool on the 17th of July, arriving in Chariton late in the month.

In was during this period that Jessie received her “European education,” primarily it appears in music --- she was an accomplished musician before leaving Iowa and returned home more accomplished.

During early January of 1881, after spending the rest of 1880 supervising rail construction projects, Smith embarked again for Europe and joined his family in Germany. They continued the grand tour until early April, when they arrived in London. Smith, Annie, Jessie and Elinor sailed home aboard the Germanic, arriving in New York on April 25.

The Mallorys returned to Chariton just in time to move into the now-complete Ilion. By this time, Smith Mallory’s increasing wealth and influence --- and his castle --- had cemented the family’s position in not only his hometown but across the Midwest.

The next five years would be filled, for Jessie, with socializing, travel  --- and romance, or so it would seem.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Jessie marries Deming Thayer

Jessie O. Mallory and Deming J. Thayer, a civil engineer and protégé of her father, were married on June 9, 1886, during a grand ceremony at the Ilion. She was 22 at the time and Deming, 33. The most complete account of the marriage was published in The Chariton Democrat, owned at the time by Jessie’s father, on June 10, 1886.

Nearly all of the guests were family members and associates of the Mallory family. No members of Deming’s family were present. Deming and Jessie never established an independent life. They continued to live with Smith H. and Annie Mallory at the Ilion until Deming’s death by suicide 12 years later, during 1898.


Married at Ilion, the home of the bride’s parents in Chariton, on Wednesday evening, June 9, 1886, Miss Jessie Ogden Mallory, only child of Mr. and Mrs. S. H. Mallory, to Mr. Deming J. Thayer, of Neponset, Massachusetts. Rt. Rev. William Stevens Perry, of Davenport, Bishop of the (Episcopal) Diocese of Iowa, performed the ceremony.

At eight o’clock about seventy guests, the majority of whom were relatives of the parties from abroad, had assembled in the parlor to witness the happy event. Of those from a distance were: Mrs. Jane Mallory, Mr. and Mrs. E.S. Smith, and their son Frank and daughters May and Jessie, Mr. and Mrs. W.M. Van Norwick and Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Van Northwick, all of Batavia, Ill.; Mr. Barnum Mallory, of St. Charles, Ill.; Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Harvey and their daughter Louise and son George, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Mallory, Colonel and Mrs. Swain, Mrs. G.G. Cooke, Miss Young, Mr. J.C. Turner, Mr. George Harvey, all of Chicago; Mr. and Mrs. W.H. Morehouse, Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Merrill and Miss Fessenden, of Burlington; Miss Florence Perry, of Albia; Rev. and Mrs. Wolcott and Miss McCormick, of Davenport; Clement Chase, Omaha; David Baum, Lincoln, Neb.; Miss Tuell, Lewistown, Ill.; Mrs. George C. Brownell, Frankfort, Kansas; Mr. and Mrs. Allen Mallory and their daughters Josie and Ruth, Creston; and Mr. and Mrs. A.D. Mallory, Lucas.

At half past eight the bride and groom, preceded by the bride’s parents, entered the parlor and took their positions beneath the canopy of beautiful foliage and flowers, from the center of which hung an immense bell of white roses. The bride was elegantly attired in rich cream satin en train, and the groom in full evening dress. Bishop Perry immediately proceeded with the beautiful and impressive marriage service of the Episcopal church, and the happy couple received the congratulations and earnest well-wishes of their friends, after which all partook of the wedding feast.

The house and grounds were tastefully decorated and illuminated, the weather was as delightful as could be asked, and all went merrily and happily.

The special Pullman cocah which brought the Illinois visitors yesterday noon, started homeward with them at midnight.

The bride and groom left on the night train for Southern Kansas where Mr. Thayer will immediately resume his duties as Chief Engineer of the E.M. & A.R.R. now building. Through pressed with the many duties of his busy position, he has learned that other duty: “Seek a good wife of thy God, for she is the best gift of his providence.”