by Mary Burtch Hudson
(an unpublished manuscript found at the Osage Public Library)
(I copied only the pages which mentioned the author’s neighbors, the Dailey/Coon family. The copy was poor, so I transcribed them for ease of reading.)
The farm joining our Waltham eighty on the north belonged to the Coons. In this home lived Mr. and Mrs. Coon and their six children. When Mr. Coon married Mrs. Coon, she was a widow with two little boys, Jim and Will Daly. Mr. Coon became a real father to these young lads, and being a fine cattleman himself, he early taught his stepsons the secrets of successful cattle management. As time passed, four children were born to the Coons, two girls and two boys.
This was a remarkable family. On a Sunday morning, the whole family rode into Osage to attend church. Mr. Coon drove the the Catholic church where he dropped Mrs. Coon and her two sons off to attend services at the church of their choice. Then with the Coon children, Mr. Coon drove on to the Methodist church, where he was a prominent member. This procedure continued over the years while the children remained at home.
I frequently spent a night at the Coons and as a young girl, I sensed that here was an unusual home. At mealtime, Mr. Coon asked the blessing while, with bowed head, Mrs. Coon made the sign of the cross. Always after breakfast, we listened as Mr. Coon read a portion of scripture from his Bible and then kneeling at our chairs, Mr. Coon would offer a short prayer and Mrs. Coon, kneeling at her chair, would count the beads of her rosary. Indeed, here was a genuinely Christian family. The father and mother had different creeds and different church affiliations, but each respected the others’religion and what was most important, they were at heart both earnest Christians. They practiced their religion, not only by attending church on Sunday, but by living it every day in their own home. No wonder I found here such an extraordinary family.
Long before I knew the Coons, the Daly boys had gone to South Dakota where, thanks to their early training, they both became fine cattlemen and well-to-do Dakota farmers.
The two girls, Mary and Julia, were at home when I visited there. Mary was a very efficient young woman and her business-like way of keeping the records and looking after the business connected with her father’s cattle raising and feeding was a great help to him over the years. The other daughter, Julie, as the family lovingly called her, was a high school principal when stricken with tuberculosis, and she died in her forties. Dan and George Coon left home to attend Cedar Valley Seminary and later college. At college, George studied medicine and Dan attended a theological seminary. George became a prominent physician. He and his wife lived in Kentucky. Since they had no children, he did much to aid others less fortunate than himself. Dan was ordained a Baptist minister and years later he was pastor of our Osage Baptist church. Here, under his pastorate, Mary Coon, then Mrs. Blake Cole, joined the Baptist church and was a faithful worker there during the rest of her life in Osage. If any more proof be needed as to the worth of this family, I might say than when the Coon estate was settled and the Daly boys were offered their share, they said, “No, this belongs to the Coon children.” But thanks to the fine training in their childhood home, the Coons replied, “You boys deserve your share as it was your hard work on our farm that helped our father to succeed in the early days.” This unusual behavior shows clearly that true Christianity had been taught and learned in the Coon home. (pp 79 – 80)
The Cedar Valley Seminary was a Baptist school and many of its board members were also members of the Baptist church which closely linked the church and school. In fact, the founder of the school, Prof. Alva Bush, was for a time the pastor of the Baptist church. During Reverend Wilcox’s pastorate in Osage, differences arose between him and some of the school board and of course the church was drawn into the trouble. Reverend Wilcox, a very opinionated and outspoken person, didn’t hesitate to speak his mind freely. Some in the church agreed with him; others though him wrong. After a period of much unpleasantness for all, the disagreeing members asked for their letters of dismissal and it was noised about that they were about to found a second Baptist Church. At that time, they were holding services in the Seminary Chapel. Then it was that Reverend Wilcox came to Pa and said his usefulness here was over and he must leave in order to save the church. Pa was loyal to his pastor and yet ever faithful to his church. He felt deeply grieved to see Mr. Wilcox leave and the church divided without a pastor. Reverend Wilcox quickly found another place and with his family, left Osage. Then it was that the remaining members in the church felt so alone and helpless. Many of the dissenting members were the more influential ones and had been the leaders. so those left in the church had to cast about for a new pastor.
Dan Coon, whom I’ve mentioned in previous chapters, had at this time finished theological school and was an ordained Baptist minsiter. It was to him that the pulpit committee appealed. I think Pa had much to do with getting the committee to consider Dan as pastor of the church at this critical time. Our farm joined the Coon farm and doubtless as Pa had worked in his fields and the Coon boys in theirs, he had often visited with them across the fences and as the years passed, he had many opportunities to admire them and realized their worth. At any rate, he was much pleased to have Dan chosen to come to Osage to try to bring about a reconciliation. Knowing the situation, Dan hesitated to assume such a difficult task, but he did come and worked with both sides, acting as a peacemaker. I doubt very much if there were many who could hav stepped into the situation and accomplished what he did. Many a night, rather late, after Pa had dropped off to sleep after a hard day’s work in the field, he’d be awakened by a light tap on the screen door and a hushed voice would call, “Deacon Burtch.” Going to the door, he’d find Dan waiting there for him and Pa, clad in his night shirt, would step out on the porch where for long hours they’d discuss how a reunion of all the members could be brought about and the church saved. I remember how sometimes Ma would scold in the morning because Pa had been kept up so late after a hard day’s work.
But after laboring in a kindly way with both sides, the time finally came when Dan Coon saw the fruition of his prayers and advice and the dissenting members were reading to return to membership in their old church and those who had remained were glad to have them once again in their old accustomed places. It had taken days and days of (?)ing quietly from one faction to the other, dropped suggestions to each. In his kind, loving way, he was able, through prayers and counseling, to bring about what had at first seemed impossible. This verse of scripture was proved true here. “The things that are possible with men are possible with God.” Dan, or Reverend Coon, as I suppose I should be calling him, was surely an instrument of God reuniting our divided church.
In a recent letter from Dan Coon, he mentioned Pa as “distinctly a church man and one deeply respected. His industry, his care of his stepmother, his interest in his young half brother, Chauncey, won a commendation in my early recollection.” Dan then went on to related an incident which occurred during his pastorate in Osage. At a meeting of the deacons to church over the membership list with Dan, they came to a certain name and someone remarked, “We might as well cross that name off as he never comes or takes any interest.” Hearing this Reverend Coon said, Pa responded, “I think we better help Guy save his brother. And Dan added that the name was not scratched off and additional effort was given to help the brother Guy save his younger brother.
Reverend Coon remained pastor of the Osage Baptist church as long as we lived on the farm. Right here I’d like to tell a story that demonstrates the quiet, subtle way Dan proceeded on any venture. While Dan ws pastor at our church, there was always a half-hour service on Sunday evenings for the young people This was called the B. Y. P. U. and was followed by an evening church services. At the close of the church service, it was Dan’s custom to stand at the church door and bid each member of the congregation goodnight, accompanied by a hearty hand shake. As Kittie Bacon, the much loved Greek and Latin instructor at Cedar Valley Seminary came down the line, she received the same kindly greeting as did the others. But only one, or possible two (and those sworn to secrecy) knew that when the last person had left and the church doors were closed on another Sunday night’s service, Dan was soon on his way, (..me) ten or twelve blocks, to the home of his fiancee, named that same Kittie Bacon he had so recently bid goodnight at the church. These Sunday night calls continued over quite a period of time, but so clever and elusive were Dan’s movements that it was a big surprise to Osage people when their marriage was announced. After leaving Osage, Dan filled several other Iowa pulpits. Now. well past ninety, he and his good wife Kittie are enjoying life in sunny California. He often writes very interesting and newsy reports of the gatherings and picnics of Iowans who now live in California for the local paper, and we old timers greatly enjoy reading them.” (pp 204 – 207)