Wapsie Experience (11/10/16)

Ken Donnelly · Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Last month I promised my readers a column about the Chicago Cubs and their roller-coaster ride to the World Series championship. I was in Chicago on Saturday, Oct. 29, for about 10 hours to experience the frenzied excitement of the fifth game of the yearly classic known as the World Series; even though it only involves baseball teams from just one nation except for Toronto and Montreal.

I did not experience enough thrills and chills to write a full and interesting column, so I will just say "GO CUBS GO!" a job well done!

Two Cubs minor factoids:

1) The wife of Cubs outfielder Ben Zobrist (Julianna) graduated from Iowa City High School a few years ago.

2) One of the Ruess twins, sons of Bill and Vonda Fix Ruess, caught the home run ball of the Cubs shortstop Addison Russell during one of the National League title games in Los Angeles.

On to the election!

This column will appear in the West Liberty Index on Thursday, Nov. 10, a day after final results of our presidential election are hopefully announced. I asked myself the question: how have voters in Muscatine County and Wapsie township voted for president in the 28 elections since the year 1900? The answer follows below:


Believe it or not, the State Historical Library on the corner of Iowa Avenue and Gilbert street has no Index microfilm for the time period November 1898 to January 1905. The Muscatine Journal reported that William McKinley (R) had 3,850 votes and William Jennings Bryan (D) 3,150 (Remember that only men were voting; that all changed with a constitutional amendment in 1920).

Pike Township (Nichols) preferred Bryan 174-142; while Goshen (Atalissa) voted 162-63 to give McKinley a second term. The Journal had no totals available for Wapsie (West Liberty).


The Journal headlined: "The Avalanche Surprise Even To Republicans" "President Roosevelt Astonished at the Outcome.”

For Muscatine County: Roosevelt (R) 4,025 and Parker (D) 1,579. A landslide! Looking at the Electoral College map for that year, Iowa had 13 electoral votes (we now have 6); California had 10 electoral votes (today they have 55).

Remember: Electoral College votes are based on a state's population and then each state is given two more for their United States Senators. Iowa had 11 members in Congress then, today we only have 4!


Index headline: "Wapsie Gives Normal Plurality to Republican Candidates" William Howard Taft had a big victory nationally with a lead of 171 in the Electoral College. In Wapsie, Taft (R) 469 and Bryan (D) (running again) 176. The candidate on the Prohibition ticket received 12 votes and the Socialist 2 votes. His name was not Sanders!


Wapsie Township went for the third party candidate, Teddy Roosevelt of the Bull Moose Progressive party: Roosevelt (BM) 309, Woodrow Wilson (D) 184 and William Howard Taft (R) 150. Fourteen votes this time for the Prohibition and Socialist candidates.

Democrat Wilson was a Political Science teacher at Princeton and the son of a Presbyterian minister.


Index Headline: "Presidency In Doubt" Quoting further: "Tuesday night found practically every local man wide awake and at the end of a receiving line. Besides the crowd at the Masonic building, the Moylan restaurant and opera house were also well peopled for the returns. At the restaurant the crowd stayed all night."

With all the passenger train traffic in town those days, it was indeed a 24-hour location. No one gathered in any local bars to get the latest results as there were no bars and no televisions 104 years ago! Sports talk likely centered around the Chicago Cubs' World Series championship just eight years before. No local figures given, but our local paper did say: "Hughes was given a big victory over Wilson."


Index headline: "G.O.P. Sweeps Platter Clean" "Iowa Republicans by 400,000." 1,297 men and women came to the polls in West Liberty, the results: Warren Harding (R) 939 and James Cox (D) 193. That's an 83% to 17% victory for the Republicans in our town.

With women's suffrage now in our Constitution, Ruth Carlisle of Muscatine (D) ran for Muscatine County recorder; she was the only woman on the ballot. She was elected, however, Wapsie did not vote for her enough and she lost locally 708 to 535.


Index headline: "G.O.P. Sweeps Whole Nation, Wapsie Votes Straight." Total local vote, 1,240. In those days, the polls opened at 8 o'clock and closed at 7 o'clock; three hours less of voting than today. Again, no local vote totals provided, except to say "Wapsinonoc township in unison with the rest of the country, went Republican by a large majority."

Election central was again the Masonic dining room where H.J. Smith's radio was working to bring results. Imagine, no Bill O'Reilly, Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, Sean Hannity, Wolf Blitzer or Megyn Kelly to tell them what was happening! Refreshing, if you ask me.


Index headline: "Wapsie Goes For Hoover and Party" 1,290 voters cast ballots that Tuesday. Herbert Hoover (R) 958 and Al Smith (D) 298. A 76% to 24% Republican victory. Well, he, Hoover, was a former neighbor, after all, and Smith was a big city Roman Catholic and "wet" when it came to alcohol.  It was interesting to note that in this election, a total of 889 straight Republican ballots were cast and just 244 straight Democratic!


Index headline: "Wapsie Unbowed, The Democrats Sweep The Land" "Record Voter Turn Out To Repel the Invaders" Democrats maybe? Quoting the Index: Rolling up a record vote of 1,363, Wapsie emerged from the general election Tuesday as one of the remaining strongholds of Republicanism.”

Muscatine County as a whole gave New York Governor Roosevelt a majority. Wapsie had it Hoover (R) 837 and Roosevelt (D) 499. That's a 60-40% split, another landslide! It should be noted that the Republican party held a big rally at the Strand Theater just prior to the vote.


Index headline: "Wapsie still Republican" "Although showing the effects of the Democratic landslide....Wapsie stubbornly refused to leave the Republican camp."

Alfred Landon (R) beat Franklin Roosevelt (D) 811-550. This was a pickup for FDR of about 100 votes since the 1932 election. This election featured the largest number of voters in Wapsie ever, 1,406 to be exact.


Index headline: "Wapsie Still Republican" again. NO Third Term screamed several identical ads placed by the Republican Central Committee of Muscatine County.

This time 1,413 voters. Wendell Willkie (R) 927 and Franklin Roosevelt (D) 471. Of local interest, Elmer Merridith is opening a plumbing shop on Calhoun Street; Harold Keele, a young local attorney, was elected Justice of the Peace.


Index headline "Wapsie Votes Republican" "Wapsie township kept her slate clean and voted Republican even though the rest of the nation went Democratic.” There were 1,224 votes cast with the following result: Roosevelt (D) 418 and Thomas Dewey (R) 785.


I could find no Index results; from the Muscatine Journal, the result was Thomas Dewey (R) 6,003 and Harry Truman (D) 5,456. Commented the Journal: "Slightly more than 500 votes were all that saved Muscatine county from spoiling a long-time record of being one of the sure Republican strongholds in Iowa."

I am assuming, based on past performance, that Truman lost in Wapsie too, although maybe the presence of Mrs. Ruby Cline, mother of Bill and Bob, on the train with HST, may have helped the "Man from Missouri."


Wapsie liked Ike! Dwight Eisenhower (R) 1079 or 74% and Adlai Stevenson (D) 378 or 26%. There were 1,490 voters.


Eisenhower wins second term. Charles Anson was re-elected county sheriff; the only Democrat to survive the steamroller. In Wapsie, Eisenhower won 895-448 over Stevenson; for Goshen, it was Ike 185 and Stevenson 103, and Pike again showed it was Democratic, by preferring Stevenson by a 229-203 margin.


Exactly 1,400 votes cast here. Richard Nixon (R) 899 or 66% and John F. Kennedy (D) 465 or 34%. Muscatine County voted for Nixon with 8,555 and Kennedy 6135.


Index headline, and a rare one for our town: "Demo Landslide" Lyndon Baines Johnson (D) 613 and Barry Goldwater (R) 544. This time, only 1,192 votes cast.


Ken Donnelly, the new American Government teacher, conducted a straw poll at WLHS. The results: Hubert Humphrey (D) 147 and Richard Nixon (R) 126 and George Wallace (I) 61.

The entire school attended a big rally that was successfully orchestrated by the senior class; Gary Harmon was Hubert; Tom Heither was Richard; and Jaimie Heneghan was a memorable George. Aristotle Onnasis and new wife, Jackie Kennedy, honored the assembly in the presence of Julie Ruess and Bob Larson.

In Muscatine County, it was Nixon (R) 7,361; Humphrey (D) 4,726 and Wallace (I) 643.

Native son, David Stanley defeated Gov. Harold Hughes by nearly 2:1, but statewide, Hughes won election to the U.S. Senate by only 9,700 votes; Stanley carried 65 of 99 Iowa counties, but lost the big urban ones.


Index headline "Republicans Sweep Eastern Iowa" There were no local reports given, only this, "on the local scene, Muscatine and Cedar county voters followed the traditional Republican pattern." In Muscatine county, Richard Nixon (R) got 58% of the vote and defeated George McGovern (D). Newcomer Dick Clark (D) defeated a Republican incumbent for the U.S. Senate seat.


The Index reported: "a beautiful bright fall day encouraged 80% of the 1,529 voters in Wapsie township to take a trip to the polls" Gerald Ford (R) 663 and Jimmy Carter (D) 507 and Eugene McCarthy (I) 26 votes including mine. Jim Leach (R) garnered 724 votes, better than Ed Mezvinsky, a future father-in-law of Chelsea Clinton, with 463. Jan Torrance of Atalissa was elected to the Board of Supervisors and Ron Matthews to the Muscatine General Hospital Board.


A total of 1,176 voters in Wapsie cast ballots. I could not find local totals, but county-wide it was Ronald Reagan (R) 8,190 and Jimmy Carter (D) 5,516. Local Rural American party candidate, Dan Ehl, received 25 votes.


There were 655 votes in town for Reagan/Bush (R) and 440 for Mondale/Ferraro (D) and 7 for Lyndon LaRouche Jr. (I). Anybody remember this kook? 1,587 voted or 75% of those registered.


I only located county figures with the result: Michael Dukakis (D) 6,947 and George Herbert Walker Bush (R) 6,898; a 49 vote difference out of 13,845 votes cast. Given Wapsie's propensity to vote Republican up to this point in history, I am awarding Wapsie to George Bush.


William Jefferson Clinton (D) 7,708 and George Bush, the father (R) 6,076, followed by Ross Perot (I) 3,576. "A record high of 77% of the registered voters went to the polls" Chuck Grassley (R), running for a third Senate term, got 70% of the vote. No Wapsie township figures available.


Again, no local results. For the county: Dole/Kemp (R) 825 (38%), Clinton/Gore (D) 7629 (50%) and Ross Perot (I) 1692 (11%).


Al Gore (D) 49.65% in the county and George Bush (R) 46.12%. The Down Towner Restaurant offered Bush Breaded Pork, Gore Grilled Ham, and Hillary's Alimony Applesauce. The town of West Liberty results: Gore 459 and Bush 304. Rural Wapsie was Bush 151 and Gore 108. Goshen saw it Bush 121 and Gore 100. And Pike had it Gore 160 and Bush 137.


Muscatine County gave John Kerry (D) 9397 and George Bush (R) 8936. An unexplained number was the West Liberty voter turnout of just 857 or only 41% voting; for Muscatine County it was 65%.


Barack Obama (D) defeated John McCain (R) 57% to 41% in the county.


Barack Obama (D) defeated Mitt Romney (R) by a 57% to 43% margin in the county. I met Mitt and wife, Ann and one of their five sons in Moscow, Iowa at the Cove. I was wearing a baseball cap with a big R emblazoned on it and didn't want to tell them it was for Iowa City Regina, but Mitt asked. He had never heard of the school!

To sum up all these names and figures, West Liberty/Muscatine county voters picked the winning president 18 of 29 times or 62% from 1900-2012. I am predicting that voters of the town of West Liberty will give the majority of their votes to the eventual winner and that rural Wapsie township where I live will vote for the loser by a landslide majority.
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