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Sept. 12, 13, 14 and 15, County Fair in Decorah. A grand success; pronounced the best in this section of the country; and equal to many State Fairs. A magnificent display of cattle and other blooded stock. Receipts, $3,173.79.
Measures are being taken to largely develop the extensive stone quarries around Decorah, and also to bring into market profitably its wonderful fossil limestone for which there is a large demand for ornamental purposes.
DECORAH. Decorah, the county seat of Winneshiek county, the beautiful and famous gem city of northeastern Iowa, naturally comes first in importance in mentioning the towns of the county. It is romantically located in the valley of the Upper Iowa River, and about two miles from the exact geographical center of the county. The Upper Iowa River, being supplied by large, never failing springs all along its course, has a continuous water-power as it traverses a valley of great fertility, and romantic and varied beauty. Into the river at Decorah and its suburbs, flow streams from both sides-generally of cool, spring water. The city is sheltered from the storms of winter and summer by high, wooded hills, usually sloping up from the valley, but in some places standing out in precipices and rocky bluffs, which rise in tower-like masses, adding variety and charm to the picture. Though the hills surrounding Decorah are at their summits from 200 to 260 feet high-one of them thus giving a powerful head to Decorah's water works—the country about is reached by easy grades up the valleys by which the city is surrounded, and yet which are so circling, that the broad valley in which Decorah is located is fully protected, and seems surrounded by hills.
From some of the caves in these hills issue streams of water large enough to operate flour mills with two run of stones.
The most remarkable of these caves is known as Ice Cave. Its entrance is through an opening in a rocky bluff, overlooking the river and facing the city, about half a mile north of its business streets. In this cave ice forms in summer and melts away in winter, and many have been the theories and discussions by scientific men on the subject. As you enter the cave you go several rods through its successive chambers, down steep slopes, and at the lower depths of the cave is found the chilly atmosphere from the rocks which, it may be, have during the winter accumulated so much frigidity that they retain it till well through the summer, and freeze the water that comes down through the crevices from
the hills above; but by the end of summer generally lose their coldness so that the ice melts away as winter comes, before a new store of freezing .chilliness can be garnered up. However this may be the cave is a great wonder to multitudes of people.
Another great wonder which has been more particularly developed within a very few years, is the rich deposit of a fossiliferous rock, from which are obtained specimens of surpassing beauty. This region is a delight to geologists, who pronounce it one of the most wonderful in the country.
Add to these and other attractions to be seen on every hand, the charming and romantic drives that lead out from Decorah, and the magnificent views that reward those who climb the hills, and it is no wonder that the new-comer is delighted. The changeful scenes are so variedly beautiful that even the old resident never becomes tired of them. A visitor to Decorah a few years ago, in writing to an eastern periodical, thus expresses his or her appreciation:
“We know of no, locality where the picturesque, the romantic, the curious and the rural are so happily blended with the refinements, the elegancies, and amenities of city life, as in Decorah; nor do we know of any place where persons suffering from overtaxed physical and mental energies, or from billious or pulmonary complaints, can find a more delightful locality for recuperation, recreation, and restoration to a vigorous health; nor are we surprised to learn that many from the east and south are beginning to make Decorah a place of resort. The healthfulness of the climate of northern Iowa, and the peculiar freedom of Decorah from all malarial elements, makes her one of the best possible resorts for persons afflicted with the billious complaints of the south and the pulmonary diseases of the east.'
The continuous fall of the river as it seeks the Mississippi, in the valley hundreds of feet below, not only makes frequent water powers, but prevents ponds and sloughs, with their malarious influences, and the water of the large and small streams are unusually pure and sparkling.
The principal part of Decorah is on one side of the Iowa River. A broad tongue of elevated land reaches out into the valley, and yet low enough to be protected by the surrounding hills. On the most elevated ridge of this tongue is Broadway with the Court House and most of the churches, and on Broadway and the streets that cross it and are parallel to it are numerous pleasant residences. Slightly elevated plateaus in other parts of the city also furnish sites for many delightful homes and grounds.
Across the river is the very pleasant suburb known as West Decorah. Quite a number of Decorah's thriving business men have their residences there. On an elevated plateau, overlooking West Decorah, and a part of Decorah, stands, in the midst of ample and pleasant grounds, that important and imposing institution of learning the Norwegian Luther College.
But before we look at the institutions and business of Decorah, let us trace its history as far back as we can; and that is not far. For there are unwritten tales of centuries on centuries in the limitless remains of animal life in the fossil rocks, and impressive “'sermons in stone" in the rocky treasures that are scattered almost everywhere beneath our feet as we explore the hills and valleys, but let us come back again to the history that has been, or perhaps can be, written.
And how better can we take it up than in the words of Rev. E. Adams, for some years pastor of the Congregational church, Decorah, and afterwards State Agent for the Congregational Society. His Thanksgiving discourse, preached at the Methodist church, Decorah, November 28, 1867, was true to its title, "The First Things of Decorah," an extensive re-production from its pages will be of interest and permanent value. After appropriate and suggestive introductory remarks, Mr, Adams said:
Since the preceding paragraphs were prepared, it has seemed desirable, as a matter of record as well as for permanent preservation in historical records, to give the Thanksgiving discourse of Mr. Adams entire, and it is therefore presented as follows:]
THE FIRST THINGS OF DECORAH. Text: '4 Syrian ready to perish was my Father..-Deut. xxvii; 5th.'
It is interesting and profitable to trace results to their beginnings, especially if the results are great and the beginnings small. It serves to awaken gratitude and humility; sometimes to inspire new courage for the future. God was mindful of this in his dealings with His ancient people. That people, great and mighty, He raised up from a humble origin until established in the promised land. Here among the things which He appointed for them annually to observe was the Feast of Ingatherings, at which time they were to bring up to Jerusalem the first fruits of the harvest from all parts of the land,--every man with his own offering. It was then that each was to appear with his basket of fruits upon his shoulder, to be given into the hand of the Priest, by whom it was to be set down before the altar of his God, and then he was to say: “A Syrian ready to perish was my Father.” This was to remind him of the littleness of his people's origin, when one of his ancestors was a homeless wanderer and exposed to famine. Then he was to recount briefly the dealings of God with his nation through the past to the present, concluding thus:"And now, behold, I have brought the first fruits of the land which Thou, 0, Lord, hast given me." There and thus was he to worship, and then, tarrying yet awhile in the city, as he choose, was he to rejoice in every good thing which the Lord had given
him and his house, the Levite and the stranger. What a grand thanksgiving time that must have been; the whole city filled thus with grateful offerings and joyful hearts!
Our Puritan fathers, not by any direct command from God, but as a natural result of their heartfelt dependence on Him, fell into very much the same way as, from year to year, when the annual harvests were gathered in, they set apart a day for special praise and thanks, in which, after the public assembly, were the joyous family gatherings of the children and children's children, at the old homestead, where in the midst of the bounties of God, there was good cheer, praise and prayer; and we may add, too, of frolic and glee-a portion in due season for old and young. Hence came Thanksgiving Day, now national, as we are called upon by the highest authority of the land to observe it.
Thus are we convened to-day. The occasion naturally suggests to us a glance at our national origin—a brief reyiew of the course of Providence with us to the present time, till now there is spread out upon this continent a great and mighty people. Especially would it be proper to note the events of the past year, the discoveries of science, or achievements of art, the development of our national resources, additions to our literature, the spread of education and religion, forgetting not the bounties of the harvest and such blessings as being found in the narrower circles of our domestic and private life, are particularly calculated to put us in sympathy with the spirit and object of the day. Many a topic here might be found, but not here will we linger to-day.
We might again extend our vision abroad, and by contrast hold up the cause of national gratitude, setting the prosperous condition, on the whole, of our country, though troubled yet with the burdens and problems of a recent intestine war, with the unsettled condition of the European world: England disturbed by Fenian assemblies and Trade Unions; France lowered in the scale of her national greatness, with her people calling for more liberty, to be satisfied perhaps with a little more military glory; Prussia struggling for a united Germany; Spain with her internal corruption and weakness, and so on; each with something to annoy; the balance of power as uncertain as ever; taxes in some cases enormously oppressive; business generally greatly crippled ; the world looking on, not knowing what a day may bring forth. Here, I say, we might turn, but why not dismiss to-day the outside world for, we will not say a selfish, but a narrower view.
If to us it is pleasant to trace the origin of things, particularly of things prosperous that have started recently from small beginnings; and if again this pleasure is greatly increased even to joy and gratitude to God, who in all things is to be acknowleged by the fact that the things passed in review are such as we have been familiar with, a part of, or greatly interested in, why may we not find fitting employment for a few moments in so humble a theme as the history of our own town?
This, then, Christian friends and fellow-citizens is what I propose to-day-a task that has been found easier in conception than execution. To write history is a difficult work—a strictly truthful history can never be written, for history when made is life, and this life can never be re-produced by the pencil or the penonly imitations of it. The historian must gather such dry bones of dates, names and facts as come to hand, and clothe them with such semblance of life as he may. To write history, again, while the actors are still living must be, as you perceive, a delicate work.
Expect not then too much! be charitable. Overlook any omissions or inaccuracies that may at once appear to you—more familiar as some of you are with the scenes reviewed then am I. It is only by snatches of time that materials have been gathered and arranged. More time and care, I have no doubt would bring to light things just as worthy of notice as those which will appear, and correct some that do appear. All I propose to do, all I can do, is to turn you back to the beginning of our town, to note a few of its first things—more particularly in a few of the first years of its history, which I trust will so present to us the past, the present and future, as to fill us with emotions becoming the day.
We have to go back but a brief period of time. Less than twenty years ago, as the sun rose in the east to look down upon this quiet valley, where now are our dwellings, these streets and gardens and farms, no hum of business broke in upon the stillness of the morning hour.
The natural beauty of the landscape, ere marred by the white man's touch, must have been of exceeding loveliness. No wonder that for the red man here was one of his favorite haunts upon the banks of this beautiful river, fed by its springs and trout brooks, its bluffs now becoming so bare, then covered with their forest in which were the wild deer, the partridge and squirrel; these vales, now at times bare and dust-covered, filled with waving grass, plum trees, fruits and flowers. No wonder, 1 say, that from the outside prairies the Indian trails centered here, along which these, our recent predecessors of a former race, in accordance with their simple patriarchal government, by their families and their tribes, came in here for the burial of their dead; here to hunt and fish; aye, here, too, may we not say, according to their idea of the good and bad spirits above them, to worship also.
Often upon these bluffs, as the hunter's arrow, or in later times, the rifle missed its mark, has he cast upon the ground a bit torn from his blanket, or plucked a bed from his wampum, or scattered a portion of his ammunition, as an offering to appease the Spirit, through whose displeasure the failure had come, or to avert it in future. Here, often, no doubt, were the games and