Mrs. Hiram Hammond barely had a chance to settle in to her retirement in the town of Postville, Allamakee County, Iowa, before an unfortunate event warranted her a mention in the local newspaper.1
As reported in The Postville Weekly Review on 29 May 1893, “Some miserable sneak thief stole some potted house plants from the residence of Mrs. Hiram Hammond, on Tuesday night. The most contemptible part of it was that those not carried off were mashed and destroyed. They were left out of doors without thought of danger. A man that would do such a dastardly act is not a safe member of society in any respect.”2
Well then! I can only imagine that poor Mrs. Hiram Hammond – born Eva Margaret Stoehr – must have been most distressed at this unexpected turn of events. She had likely only recently moved to town, while her husband prepared to put their farm up for sale.3 Hiram had turned eighty that year, while his wife was over sixty.4 After years of labor on their farm, they must have looked forward to a quiet life in town.
Postville was certainly not a large community, yet apparently large enough that a man (or, perhaps much more likely, a teenage boy) could get away with a destructive prank. However, if this was the worst that Postville had to report, it seems that things really may not have been all that bad! One can only hope that in the years to come, Mrs. Hiram Hammond was able to enjoy her potted house plants without further incident.
What is one of your favorite stories about an ancestor that you’ve found in a historic newspaper database? There are several excellent databases out there; so far, I’ve had positive experiences with Chronicling America (free) and NewspaperArchive (subscription). Be aware that different databases may offer access to different areas and periods of coverage. Also be sure to find out whether your local library provides free access to any useful newspaper databases, which can often be accessed from home.
1 “Local Review,” The Postville (Iowa) Weekly Review, 29 May 1893, p. 1, col. 4; digital images, Newspaper Archive (http://www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 18 February 2014).
2 “Local Review,” The Postville (Iowa) Weekly Review, 29 May 1893.
3 “Farm for Sale,” The Graphic (Postville, Iowa), 29 June 1893, p. 1, col. 4; digital images, Newspaper Archive (http://www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 18 February 2014).
4 Grave of Hiram H. Hammond (1813-1896) and Eva M. Hammond (1831-1906), Garnavillo City Cemetery, Garnavillo, Clayton County, Iowa; digital image 2007, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2014.