# History

More about Jim White’s judges

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

We Alexander Clark storytellers work hard at learning our facts and keeping them straight.

We can’t tell Muscatine’s best Underground Railroad story without Judge Hastings, but I’m afraid I got a fact or two wrong in the last column. And I ran into a shocker.

This much is true: “A writ of habeas corpus was obtained from Hon. S.C. Hastings, then acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of this state, who released him.”

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Iowa Supreme Court Justice Brent Appel retiring soon

Iowa’s State Judicial Nominating Commission is accepting applications to replace the longest-serving current Iowa Supreme Court justice.

Justice Brent Appel, who has served on the court since October 2006, will step down on July 13, when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 72. Since Justice David Wiggins retired in early 2020, Appel has been the only one of the seven justices appointed by a Democratic governor.

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A momentous year for Alexander Clark

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

The year 1848 was momentous in the life of young Iowa pioneer Alexander Clark.

On June 21, he and Benjamin Mathews purchased property on East 7th Street where their church would be built the following year. The Muscatine congregation became known as “the oldest colored church in Iowa.” (I’ll say more about the church in future columns.)

History reveals two other events of 1848: Alexander’s marriage to Catherine Griffin, and around the same time, his role—or maybe theirs—in a drama his eulogist will extoll in 1892, calling him “one of the Underground Railroad engineers and conductors, whose field was the South, whose depot was the North, and whose freight was human souls.”

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Doors swinging outward?

Kurt Meyer writes a weekly column for the Nora Springs – Rockford Register, where this essay first appeared. He serves as chair of the executive committee (the equivalent of board chair) of Americans for Democratic Action, America’s most experienced liberal organization.

I’m primarily of Nordic ancestry, somewhere between 62 and 83 percent. Let’s say, approximately three-quarters. Despite my Germanic name, my family tree is rooted in Norway, as is my wife Paula’s. Mindful of this heritage, Paula and I traveled to Norway with my parents in 1998, to visit locations from which our ancestors departed almost 150 years earlier to begin their new lives in the U.S.

One community we sought out was Grue, population 5,000. As we entered town, in the best Norwegian tradition, we made for a local coffee shop. The waitress asked if our visit was linked to the Grue Church fire.

Not really. But wait, what Grue church fire? (Clearly, we had not done our homework.) No, we were there mostly to gaze upon tombstones of distant relatives. But tell us a bit about this fire…

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