Cedar County Historical Society & Museum

 1094 Hwy 38 * Tipton, IA * 52772

The Cow War

Here is a story from the 1998 Cedar County Historical Review on the Cow War of 1931 where farmers and the government were at odds on bovine tuberculosis testing.  And martial law was declared in Cedar County by Governor Turner.

What the Cedar County Cow War Means – Harry Clarke

As a boy I delivered the Des Moines Register. The best place to wait on cold mornings for the delivery truck was inside a large cardboard box that sat on the Tipton Post Office loading dock. The box held unused newspapers, and I often read one of the old ones wile waiting for the truck. Some of those long ago stories really struck my imagination.

One of my paper customers was a retired veterinarian named Dr. Banks. He sparked my interest in history with his tale about a statewide cattle epidemic, also known as the Cow War. He encouraged me to search for what the story meant. At the age of twelve I never thought that I would be the one to tell the story.

I try to imagine what the mood was like in Cedar County in 1931, when babies and young children became sick from drinking diseased milk. And wat “sick” meant was “tubercular,” not just headachy. In 1931, TB was a truly awful affliction, and nationally 5% of all cases were traceable to bad milk. Twenty-five percent of children under age 5 incurred diseases traceable to the milk. And 13% of vigorous young Naval Academy cadets fell prey to similarly tainted milk from other sources. Children are more susceptible to bovine tuberculosis than adults because they consume more milk, and are less resistant to disease.

Still, there were refusals to comply with orders to test cattle for the disease and to destroy those found infected, but I can imagine the stress of a farmer who was afraid that the mere testing would harm his cows, destroying his livelihood. “My cattle look fine,” he might say. “Leave me be.”

Now imagine that farmer listening to the voice of Norman Baker on Muscatine radio station KTNT. Baker and others claimed that the station’s call letters stood for “Know the Naked Truth.” Baker drove a purple convertible and wore purple clothes; he was a colorful and flamboyant person. He encouraged cattle and dairy farmers to resist voluntary testing of their herds. About this time, seven cows from the Larsen Brothers herd of West Branch were slaughtered as a way of showing farmers that even healthy looking cows contained the TB virus. One of the animals was caked with lesions and pus sacs, enabling the West Branch men to see for themselves the actual disease that they had been passing on to their own children and others, while they had been convinced that their cows were well because they “looked healthy.”

Mrs. Curtis Frymoyer says that nevertheless, Cedar farmer Jake Lenker, who was later sent to prison, had been influenced by Baker’s constant harangue of resistance. Jim Fulwider, who worked with Sheriff Foster Maxson in the early 1940’s, says the sheriff told him the level of tension in Cedar county was so great that he had adapted his sidearm for a quick response. It was on Lenker’s property where 300 farmers, armed with crude weapons, ambushed 63 law officers and 2 veterinarians. 

Fortunately, serious injury on either side was avoided.

But it was the Lenker rebellion that led Governor Dan Turner in late September of 1931 to order Cedar County to be placed under “military rule”.” As Iowa National Guard troops jumped off crowded rail cars in Tipton, they heard cries of “Here comes the Army!” and “You farmers better run!”

Youngsters like Gerald Hartog hurried from the bakery his father Walter owned, just to catch a glimpse of the looks on the soldiers’ faces. I bet those kids later got a kick out of the pig that Captain J.F. Currel gave to guardsman Raymond Darling. Darling carried the grunting mascot in his arms most of the day and shared his scanty lunch with him at noon.

Clothier Merle Clark was elated to see the soldiers because he did not believe that the community could solve the conflict on its own. As the troops marched past storefronts, some business people were afraid to side with them for fear that farmers would boycott their stores. It Is clear that some store owners, as well as a portion of county citizens, did not want to become involved in the conflict. These people were fence-sitters, perhaps understandably. Once peace was restored, Guard troops aided law officers and veterinarians in administering the bovine tuberculin test. If a cow was shown to be carrying TB, it was destroyed.

Paul Moore and Jake Lenker were sentenced to a term in the state prison at Ft Madison for resisting testing procedures, although they remained in prison only a short period of time. Because the United States Department of Health wanted to prevent anyone else from falling victim to tainted milk, they encouraged military leaders to protect the rights of citizens. By doing so they were maintaining the right of government to intervene in disastrous situations.

Camp Moffit, as the Cedar County Fairgrounds were called at the time, must have looked overcrowded on the day the military opened its gates to visitors. On a single Sunday, some 25,000 people gathered at the camp. Many of the southwestern Iowa troops who served in Cedar County were members of the Rainbow Division, a heroic division of the first World War.

For those sad and agonized months it became ever clearer that the contest was basically simple: While it is reasonable for someone to protect his financial wellbeing, when it means endangering the health of countless others, it seems to me there is no question what the responsibility of government should be. It is to protect, regardless of economic loss, the lives of defenseless people.

(Sources: Don and Dorothy Stout’s Cedar Land, Tipton Conservative, Des Moines Register, Cedar Rapids Gazette, Lyon Reporter).

Jacob Lenker

Norman Baker

Protest at the Mitchell Farm

National Guard in Tipton

The Great Canada-Frank's Railroad Show

In a previous newsletter I wrote about the Great Al Warner, contortionist, musician, showman, and beloved local sign painter. Al Warner became known to us with a donation of a large painting of the Smokey Mountains that was commissioned by the donor’s father in 1941. He had originally came to Tipton to join The Great Canada-Frank’s Railroad Show of Tipton. Learning that there had been a circus show originating in Tipton peaked the interest of local historian Mike Boyle and myself so here is the tail of Frank Myer’s, Tipton Entrepreneur, based on the information found by Mike.

Frank M Myers was born in 1861 to William Myers (from Indiana) and Margaret Ann (Wilhelm) Myers (of Ohio), who were married in Muscatine County, Iowa, in 1858. After they were married they lived in Indiana for 4 years and then moved to Rock Island, IL. William joined the Union side of the Civil War and Margaret moved herself and children to Muscatine County. After the war William returned to Muscatine County and farmed until his retirement when he and Margaret moved to Wilton Junction, Iowa. Together they had 5 children; George (1859), Frank (1861). Libbie (1863), U.G. (1866) and Lee (1872).

By 1900 Frank was a local auctioneer in Tipton, IA; advertising in the Tipton Advertiser that he would sell all kinds of property – everything from a Canary to a Threshing Machine. He remained in the Auctioneering business through 1902. It is in an April 1903 Tipton Advertiser we see Frank’s first advertisement for his Railroad Show for a performance in Tipton on the evening of May 2. He disbanded his show in 1907 with an intent to start again, however, the next we hear of Frank again is in an October Tipton Advertiser advertising his Auctioneering business again. By December 1908 he is inviting people to his Family Theater to view The Passion Play or The Life of Christ for just a nickel. In April 1909 the Tipton Advertiser has a short article on the Remodeling of the Family Theater and by May he has an advertisement in the same paper for his theater. In 1910 Frank closed the theater and shipped his equipment to Muscatine under the rumor that he would be starting his tent show again. The building he occupied was then let out to the Ketelsen Bros. for their shoe business. Another advertisement for his Auctioneering business pops up in the Muscatine Journal and News Tribune in 1918. In December 1920 the same paper carries his obituary and in January 1921 his funeral notice.

Below are a recreation of the Tipton Advertiser, The Tipton Conservative and Muscatine Journal and News Tribune articles that provided us this brief glimpse into the life of Frank Myers – the man who gave Al Warner his start in the circus and traveling show business. Please understand that I try to reproduce these as they appeared including typos, punctuation and grammar.

Canada Frank’s Show

The people of Tipton and vicinity ought to turn out en masse next Saturday evening and attend Canada Frank’s circus, which this season is to be bigger and better than ever. This performance will mark the opening of the season, and the show goes from here for an extended tour of the northwest. As a rule people need no urging to attend any attraction which shows under a tent, and we believe that this local enterprise will enjoys a splendid patronage on the opening night. (The Tipton Advertiser, April 28, 1903).

Canada Frank’s Show

Canada Frank’s railroad show opened the season here Saturday evening. The tent was all too small to accommodate those who attended, and standing room was at a premium. A desire to see the show and give Frank a good send off was responsible for the large turnout. The performance was a little late in starting, the delay being caused by the time it took Frank to count the receipts. It must be owned that the program did not go as smoothly as might be wished, but this is explained by the fact that it was a first performance and the company had only been together a few days. Then, too, the crowd swarmed over the ring and interfered with the various acts. The crowd seemed to be pleased with the entertainment offered, and generously applauded every act. What might have been a serious accident happened during the first part of the performance. The west tier of seats gave way with a crash, and the occupants were thrown to the ground. Fortunately the causalities consisted of only a few slight bruises, and the interruption caused but a trifling delay. The show left yesterday for Mechanicsville, where it appeared last evening, and went from there to Blastown. It is routed throughout the northwest, and will return to go into winter quarters late in the fall. That Frank may come home with a barrel of money is the general wish of all his Tipton friends. (The Tipton Advertiser, May 5, 1903).

All Were There

It has come and gone. We refer to Canada Frank’s Great Railroad Show for which the public has been so anxiously waiting for a number of weeks. Saturday dawned cloudy and threatening and as the day wore on a mist began to fall and everything looked dreary indeed but when the Tipton people make up their minds to do a thing it takes something stronger than rainy weather to prevent them and they had decided long ere this to attend. When the doors were opened a crowd of men, women and children had gathered and were impatiently waiting and in a short space of time the seats were all filled and standing room even was at a premium. Every act was received with applause and every members of the company seemed to be a favorite. The audience was far from critical and in spite of many inconveniences caused by lack of room, was patient and good natured. Several acts not down on the bills were given by outsiders, a unmber of whom seemed to be in close communication with “good spirits” and did cake walks and other fancy steps in a second ring. These were growing quite popular and attracted considerable attention until the owner of the show grew tired of these “desciples of the snake” and ejected the star performer. There were fully seven hundred people present and we doubt not that they were well satisfied with the regular show given without counting the extras. The company left Monday for Mechanicsville after which they will continue to travel toward Minnesota and Dakota where Myers expects to spend the summer with his show and if there is anything in the first performance being an indication of what will follow, Canada Frank will return well pleased with the summer’s business and sheckles galore. (The Tipton Conservative, May 6, 1903).

Canada Frank Gets Home

Canada Frank arrived home last week after an exceptionally long season on the road with his railroad show. Late last fall he worked south and kept going long after the usual time for going into winter quarters. He has a prosperous season and expects to go out again after a rest of a few weeks bigger and better than ever. He disbanded his company in the south but brought his car home with a few of his performers. (The Tipton Advertiser, May 16, 1907).

New Family Theater

Having leased the large vacant room in City Hall building, will put in a fine up-to-date city show. This is no side line but all of my time and attention is always given to please the public. I solicit a part of your patronage. If you come once you will come again. Watch for the big opening which you will see date later on. Truly Yours, FRANK M. MYERS, Tipton, Iowa. (The Tipton Advertiser, October 15, 1908).

At the Family Theater

Christmas week for three nights commencing Dec. 24 Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

You will see the beautiful, colored, illustrated, moving pictures. Subject entitled The Passion Play or Thee Life of Christ. Also other fine extra features, subjects in connection, with no extra price. All for 5 cents. A cordial invitation extended to everybody. Don’t forget the place. F. M. MYERS, Mgr. (The Tipton Advertiser, December 10, 1908).

Remodeling Family Theatre

F.M. Myers, manager of the Family Theatre, closed a lease this week on his present location for another year, and is now at work remodeling the premises to comply with the moving picture ordinance passed by the city council. He is putting a steel booth to enclose the machine and operator, rearranging the chairs, making wider aisles, and lighting exits in the most approved manner. The stage s to be move back, and the seating capacity of the house will remain the same as before while it will be much more convenient for patrons. Frank wishes us to assure the public that he proposes to equip and maintain a first class moving picture show such as would be a credit to any city. (The Tipton Advertiser, April 22, 1909).

Frank Myers, better known as Canada Frank closed his Family Theatre here last week and will remove to Muscatine where there is a larger field. The room vacated will be occupied by Rube Swartzlender who will open a short order house to be known as the College Inn. (The Tipton Conservative, Jan 26, 1910).

F.M. Myers proprietor of the Famil threatre has closed that amusement place and the apparatus and fixtures are being shipped to Muscatine where a theatre will be opened and conducted by Bert Myers. Canada Frank has not announced his plans but it is reported that he will reorganize his tent shows and again take the road next season. (The Tipton Advertiser Jan 27, 1910).


We were wrong last week when we stated that the room in the City Hall block vacated by Canada Frank had been leased to Rube Swarzlender for a short order house. The deal did not go through and the room has since been let to Philip Ketelsen of this city and his brother A.C. Ketelsen of Dixon who will occupy the same as a shoe store. A full and complete stock of the latest in ladies’, gentlemen’s and children’s footwear has been ordered and the new firm which will be known as Ketelsen Bros. will open on or abut February 15. The senior member is well known here where he has been engaged in the shoe trade for several years and the latter who formerly was engaged in the general merchandise trade at Dixon has an excellent business training and will add strength to the firm. The new store is sure to be popular. (The Tipton Conservative, Feb 2, 1910).

The City Hall room recently vacated by F.M. Myers has been leased to Ketelsen Bros. who will put in a new shoe stock. The firm is composed of P.D. Ketelsen who has been in the show business here for several years, and A.C. Ketelsen. (The Tipton Advertiser, Feb. 3, 1910).

F.W. Myers

Frank M. Myers, 59 years old, died at Hershey hospital at 7 o’clock Tuesday evening, after an illness extending over a period of nine weeks. Hardening of the arteries was the cause of his death.

Frank Marion Myers was born in Indiana, June 8, 1861. Besides his wife, Mrs. Della Myers of this city, he leaves three daughters, Mrs. Winnie Johnston of Joplin, Mo.; Mrs. Maude LaDelle of Delight, Kan., and Frances, at home; one son, Bert Myers of Exeter, Mo., and one sister, Mrs. Frank Leimkuehler, of Moscow, Ia. Three brothers and one daughter preceded him in death.

Burial will be made at Moscow, but definite funeral arrangements have not been made. (Muscatine Journal and News Tribune, December 29, 1920).

F.M. Myers

The funeral of Frank Marion Myers, who died Tuesday at Hershey hospital, were held from the Moscow Methodist Episcopal church Friday afternoon. The Rev. Slack of Wayland, Ia., conducted the services. Burial was made in the Moscow cemetery.

The pallbearers were five brothers-in-law and one cousin. They are Ernest, Carl, Edwin and Harry Hagerman, Harry Biles and Lee Tharp. (Muscatine Journal and News Tribune, January 3, 1921).


Tipton Schools (Jan-Mar 2019)

Recently on the Cedar County Historical Society's page on Facebook an image of a postcard showing the Tipton grade school and Tipton high school brought up a round of conversation that left questions unanswered.  Having just found the article below I though I would share to help dispel some of the myths surrounding these original schools. Above are pictures that appeared with the article and one of the Union School from a postcard. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

First School in 1841 by Marcia Schmidt

Tipton’s first school was opened in a log house during the winter of 1841-42 (one year after Tipton was designated the county seat). This school was located where the Tipton State Bank (Present day -2018- US Bank) now stands and the only books were an arithmetic book and a McGuffey’s reader. Eight students attended this school when it was first opened.

A frame school was erected in addition to the log school during 1843-44. Both of these schools served until 1853, when a brick schoolhouse was built. This school was enlarged in 1856 when an L was built onto the west end.

C.C. Nestlerode can be given much credit for the building and the development of the Union school in 1856. Mr. Nestlerode was the first superintendent over a student body of 300 and was one of the first men to support and fight for free schools in Iowa (free education was established in Iowa during 1875). He also had the idea of building a separate school that would be Tipton’s first high school. He received his wish in 1866 when a small brick building was constructed to house the younger children.

The high school was abolished for a few years when a new building was built in 1879 that housed the entire student body. This one school was able to serve the entire student enrollment until 1895, when a new high school building was erected.

Tipton decided to build a new school that would house the grades and the Junior and Senior high schools in 1924. This building was badly needed because Tipton’s student enrollment had been increased by 450 students when the country school consolidated with the Tipton school in 1920. This building was one of the first in Iowa to have a gymnasium and auditorium for both the grades and the Junior and Senior high schools, an electric clock system and a ventilation system. The Tipton school became unique in Iowa when a Junior College was also opened in 1927. (This meant that our present school at one time held 15 grades ranging from kindergarten through Junior college.)

An elementary school was later opened in 1958 to accommodate the increased school enrollment. This school housed grades kindergarten through second grade until 1966 when an addition was built on that enabled the third and fourth graders to move from the old school.

Our present high school has been enlarged several times. The veterans memorial prided Tipton with a new gym, a swimming pool and new locker rooms. The most recent addition, the Commons area, was build in 1967 and added a new lunchroom, locker room and study hall. (Tipton Conservative December 10, 1968)

Tipton Union School - 1856

Tipton Grade School - 1879

Tipton High School - 1895

Tipton Consolidated School - 1925