Chapter 4: Barton's Work


Barton helped build several buildings in Dallas County, and some of them for the Dallas County government. He mixed the mortar for the carriage house, which still stands on the poor farm property, north of Adel. 

The poor farm was a place for the homeless, elderly, infirm and orphans.  'Destitute settled inhabitants', as Iowa Code labeled them. Barton visited with the folks that lived there. 

Sometimes the kitchen-help would bring lunch out to them. Back then, lunch was something you ate between main meals. Before humans had all this machinery to help them, horses and people did the hard work. Their bodies needed a lot of calories to do all that work. 
Farmers and laborers had to eat like Olympic athletes back then. 

Barton’s favorite lunch was farmer’s apple pie. It was baked on a shallow baking sheet with two crusts, and just over an inch thick. It was made that way so it could be eaten in the field with the fingers, without a plate and fork. 
That is why it's is called 'farmer’s apple pie'.  (the next page is the recipe, from my mother's recipe box.)

Barton also helped build two courthouses there in Adel. The first brick courthouse was built on the town square (before it was a real square) in 1858 before the Civil War, when he was a young teenager. He kept the barrels full of water used to mix the mortar to lay bricks. Barton also watered the horses and the men. There is a deep spring across the street from the courthouse that still runs today under a building on the town square. 

Well now, in the late, late 1800s, the 1858 courthouse became too small for the people of Dallas County. The good citizens of the county decided they needed a new courthouse. So they voted to build a fancy one. It was designed to look like an old French castle. 
There is an old castle in Loire Valley in the middle of France, called the Château Azale-Rideaux, which was the model for this courthouse. That castle in France is said to have the first 'grand staircase'. The Adel courthouse has a nice staircase too. 

The courthouse in Adel is a rectangle with eight turrets, and a clock/bell tower in the center. 
The outer walls were made of Bedford limestone, quarried of all places, in Monroe County, Indiana.
The photo above is of the actual blueprint for the 1902 courthouse. 

A couple of farmers were in town, watching the work one day. 

One farmer said to the other, “The new courthouse is so fancy, I wonder if I’ll need a new hat to wear when I visit.” 

The other laughed and replied, “Even if you don’t have to, you might want to. I reckon we’ll feel out of place if we don’t dress up a bit when we come to town now.” 

The construction project even had a railroad spur from the track a couple of blocks south of the square. 
(A railroad spur is a short railroad track, that brings the railcars closer to certain places or projects, like when building the courthouse. Many rural towns have railroad spurs, where harvested grain is loaded onto special graincars that go to bread bakeries and cereal factories in big cities.)

The courthouse project had a small locomotive, called a switcher. It was a 1880 Baldwin 0-4-0. It carried materials, especially the big limestone blocks, to the square. Boys were always trying to get the engineer to blow the whistle for them. 

He would tell them, “I can’t afford to scare the men up on the scaffold. We don’t want to startle them.” 

He would though, tap the whistle to signal lunch time. 

When Barton learned the limestone came from his home-county, he wished he could go back and help quarry the limestone, so he could handle the stone when it was brought up and when it was set down. He had a couple of vague memories of Indiana, and often wished for those days when all his kin were alive and together. 
None of his grandparents came along in the move, and he never saw them again, though his mama used to write back and forth to them while they were still alive. Once he learned to write, his mama would have him scribble a line or two on her letters when she wrote them. 
As an adult, he understood how lonely they all probably were for each other. 

Being an older man by 1900, Barton worked on the new courthouse as a night watchman, to keep things in order at night, and to keep kids away from the unsafe work site. He also kept a little heat on the boiler of the switcher and steam crane, so they didn’t take so long to fire up each morning. Not only did the construction site have a locomotive, 
it also had a steam crane to help lift the limestone blocks in place. 

And again, like in the 1850s, there were horses to keep watered. He warily filled the horse trough at the construction project and he also watered the men who worked there. Everyone on the job knew about Barton’s fear of horses, and they timed their movements to stay away from the trough while he was filling it, though occasionally a thirsty horse would push-in to the trough. 

One coworker named Patrick asked Barton, “I see that you will ride in the back of a wagon when you have a long way to go. How is that?”

Barton replied, “When I’m in the back of a wagon with my feet hanging out, if the horse goes crazy, he is going to go forward. If that happens, I hop out the back and watch him run away from me.” 

Barton never married and never had any children. Some people felt sorry for him because of this, but some didn’t. 

One local man with an unhappy wife and a lazy son said, “Barton has a better life than most men I know.” 

Barton wouldn’t agree; he saw plenty of happily-married folk, but life deals everyone a different hand that they must play as best they can. 

One thing that sparked the imaginations of people, was the old jail across the street south of the courthouse. When the new courthouse was built in 1902, the tunnel was built from the Sheriff's Office to the new courthouse. Then a private staircase went from the tunnel up to the third floor of the courthouse, where the courtrooms were located. People often talked about what might be happening in that tunnel. 

After the 1902 courthouse was finished and the old courthouse was torn down, the county hired Barton to be the watchman and night custodian at the new courthouse. This job suited him. He could be seen moving through the courthouse in the winter when it got dark early. While he did as much work as he could while it was light, winter sunsets found him looking after things after dark. He would do regular cleaning during the week, and special cleaning on Saturday, like wiping down the marble wainscot in the atrium.
Back then, most jobs were six days each week. 

Eric J. Rose
middlegrademysteries.com
photo: dallascountyiowa.gov
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