CLARK: Aleck’s prize squash | Muscatine | muscatinejournal.com – Muscatine Journal
Did you know the Iowa State Fair was held on “the island” south of town in 1856 and 1857?
From the Muscatine Journal, Oct. 9, 1857: “A squash raised by Alexander Clark weighed 177 pounds, but as Aleck is a colored man, we presume the committee could not, according to the Dred Scott decision, award the premium to him in preference to his mule. It would be ‘unconstitutional.’”
From the Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Oct. 14: “Big corn, big beans, big turnips, big potatoes, big everything is the order of the day. There are radishes larger than Rutabagas ought to be, cucumbers whose length is measured in feet, beets half as long as a lamp post, and a squash weighing 177 pounds.”
No mention of Muscatine’s Black agronomist in the Burlington paper, but the same page told of hostilities in Kansas between Free State settlers and “invaders” from Missouri trying to “get possession of and control the election.”
The editor urged readers to reject any Iowa politician who will not “raise his voice or cast his vote for the protection and defence of the people of the territory of Kansas.”
People are also reading…
“There is no doubt that the Dred Scott Democracy of Des Moines County are in a minority. … We have but to rally our strength at the polls and see that every Republican vote goes into the Ballot Box and that every illegal vote is kept out. …”
Papers across the state bristled with allusions to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling announced in March. A bench dominated by Southern judges ruled unconstitutional the 1820 Missouri Compromise which had limited slavery expansion into new territories. The ruling said persons of African descent, free or enslaved, were not citizens, and upheld owners’ rights to treat enslaved workers as property.
On October 3, the Journal published a letter from county officers of the new party which had controlled state government for one year: “Are you willing to see our whole country prostituted to the embrace of slavery? If not, go to the polls, and see to it, that the whole strength of the Republican party in your neighborhood is mustered to the support of the ticket on election day.”
A negro suffrage measure had lost big in a state referendum in August, when voters just barely ratified an amended constitution.
Aleck Clark enjoyed no right to vote, but he and his allies had played a big part in the politics of the season.
He saw his name in print several times in 1857. A Sept. 19 city council report notes “the application of Alexander Clark for damages on account of changes made in the grade.” The same problem affected the so-called “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” church across the street.
“But, alas! in 1856, when …….