Thursday, November 25, 2010

Original Armory Building Also Serves As A Garage And Even As A Skating Rink

This appeared in the Chariton Leader, Tuesday, March 10, 1992, written by John Pierce

     Company H of the Iowa National Guard was organized in April of 1895.  Col. Warren S. Dungan was the driving force behind the placing of a Guard unit at Chariton.
     Col. Dungan came to Chariton in 1856.  A practicing lawyer, Dungan was active in many county civic and political affairs.  He was an eloquent speaker and was called upon whenever a crowd gathered.
    Col. Dungan also strived at every occasion to preserve history, requesting the citizens of Lucas County to send their family histories to the newly organized Lucas County Historical Society of 1901.
    This society was the first county historical society in the state, with Col. Dungan being elected president in 1902.
    Dungan was elected state representative in 1861, but resigned when the Civil War erupted.  He was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel, and served with distinction from September 1852 until May of 1865, when he was made brevit colonel of volunteers.
    Col. Dungan was mustered out of service in July of 1865 and returned to law practice in Chariton.  He was again elected to the Iowa Legislature as a Representative in 1880 and 1882.
    Dungan was elected state senator in 1889; and, while a member of the Twenty-third General Assembly, drafted the bill to place the battle flags of the Iowa Civil War regiments in hermetically sealed glass cases in the capitol.
    This bill was passed the next session of the Iowa Legislature.
Dungan Procures Guard Unit
    In 1893, Col. Dungan was elected Lieutenant Governor of Iowa.  It was during his term as lieutenant governor that Col. Dungan was able to procure a guard unit for Chariton.
    Dungan had tried unsuccessfully for several years to acquire the guard unit, but as lieutenant governor he was able to pull the right strings.
    H.O. Penick was the first commander of Company H and soon had his men drilling for the public to see.  Company H was usually requested to march in the Fourth of July celebrations.
    With equipment arriving from the state, plans were made for an Armory building.  A site was selected two blocks south of the square on Main Street.
    Now known as Main and Armory, the building sat on the southeast corner of the intersection where the Richard and Kaye Stout home is presently located.
    The Armory faced west, with the cornerstone being laid Sept. 19, 1895; and the dedication taking place on Dec. 20, 1895.
    One item of note concerning the temporary headquarters of Company H, it seems a bull was running loose on the square on a hot day in August of 1895.
    Upon turning a corner of the new courthouse, this bull caught his reflection in a basement window on the northeast corner.  The bull apparently took a dislike to this newcomer and promptly charged, breaking a window in what was described as the temporary meeting place of Company H.
    Company H was called to active duty in the Spanish American War, and also hosted two encampments in the Fifty-Fifth Iowa National Guard.
    Both encampments were held at the Burlington reserve grounds west of Chariton, now the Country Club area.  The first encampment was called Camp Lincoln and was held in July of 1909.
    The second encampment was called Camp Castle and was held in July of 1913.  Company H was mustered out of service in May of 1915.
    Should Company H cease to exist, the Armory was to be sold, with the money going toward the proposed Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
Armory Begins New Career
      With Company H now mustered out, the Armory began a new career.  It had always hosted dances and, later, basketball games, now it became a roller skating arena as noted in the ad, which appeared on this page in the newspaper.
    By the end of 1919, the Armory had become a garage with H.E. Gookin as proprietor, Ross Stevenson and Paul Laing were partners in the Armory garage by 1925, with Laing buying out Stevenson in 1926.
    Paul Laing then ran the Armory garage until Miller Ream bought him out in 1941.  Laing went on to become a deputy sheriff and then sheriff of Lucas County.
    Paul's brother, Dean, worked for both Paul and Miller Ream at the Armory garage.
    The Armory burned on Dec. 31, 1943.  The building was a total loss with damage estimated at thirty thousand dollars.  Miller ream lost 13 cars including six 1942 models.
    Others losing cars included Dr. A.L. Yocom, Juanita Cooper and Andy Bradford, all of Chariton, and H. Whitlatch of Columbia and Harold Ginsburg of Ottumwa, who lost a motorcycle and side car.

    John Pierce, who lives in rural Marion County between Chariton and Columbia, has been a history buff since his high school days.
    Born in Chariton, John has compiled an extensive collection of historical information on the Chariton area.  He also has direct family ties to the Lucas County Historical Society; his mother Marlene Stevenson , was the curator.
    He has given talks on local history to various area groups.

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