Editor's note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared March 8, 2008.
WORTHINGTON — Mark Shepherd came up with a surprise. Mark was searching on the Internet when:
“I came across something curious. I noticed a reference on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Web site to an incorporation filed on June 20, 1891 for ‘The Young Men’s Christian Association of Worthington.’
“I went to the Nobles County Recorder … and discovered those 1891 Articles of Incorporation. The YMCA was founded in 1891 by some of the true pioneers of Worthington, including A. Nichols, George D. Dayton, James Ramage, Milton S. Smith, Peter Thompson, Frank Lewis, W.S. Webb, John Newton, D.L. Kenyon, E. Fish, F.H. Day, H. Palm.
“The county record states the YMCA was incorporated as of June 15, 1891, and the Articles were filed for record the following day, June 16, 1891.”
Who knew? Worthington’s YMCA has a root extending back 117 years.
None of the Worthington/Nobles County histories talks of a YMCA. If you read George Dayton’s biography (“George Draper Dayton, A Man of Parts”), there is a single sentence (Page 391) that gives a clue:
“George was in January (seemingly January, 1890) also elected for a two-year term to the board of directors of the local YMCA, adopting a continuing interest in that organization …”
What do you figure those old boys did?
You think they worked out with dumbbells and a medicine ball, building muscles and stamina?
I don’t have a clue. There really was no gym in Worthington of that era, not even in the school. I have an idea the YMCA of that time was like other fraternal clubs — the guys came together in a second-floor hall with carpets and comfortable chairs to hear lectures and to discuss issues of the day. They exercised ears and tongues. What do you guess?
The restoration of The Dayton House and activities there have brought the Dayton family into a new and closer focus. Mr. George Dayton — YMCA pioneer, “Man of Parts” — is turning up in unexpected places.
In 1888, when Sioux City opened its second Corn Palace, George Dayton went to see the sight. (Sioux City had the original Corn Palace, dating to 1887.) A bunch of the Worthington boys got on the train on a September Friday morning to see the sight.
George D. Dayton. George’s visitor, “Mr. Parker, editor of the Geneva, N.Y., Advertiser. George’s business partner, J.P. Moulton. Editor A.P. Miller of the Worthington Advance. “Rev. Mr. Fisk of the Congregational church and young Mr. Saxson of Indian Lake.”
(You must think the men were doing this only for their wives, so that the wives would have a personal, firsthand account of the wonder at Sioux City. Anyway, the sightseers were not only men. “Young Mr. Saxson’s sister” went along.)
It seems generous of Mr. Dayton to take his New York visitor on a round trip to Sioux City although, as part of the Corn Palace promotion, if you bought a train ticket for yourself you could bring a guest for nothing.
What the travelers saw at Sixth and Pierce streets in the heart of Sioux City nearly had Editor A. P. Miller sputtering:
“We … walked around the Sioux City Zion and counted its towers, and we must say —there never was anything like it except in Sioux City, neither on the earth nor in the air nor in the waters under the earth —
“We spent the evening inside this temple where Sioux City worshiped. (Count)ing the palace itself, with the map of Sioux County, the map of O’Brien County, the coat of arms of the State of Iowa and a number of similar things — all wrought out of corn, or corn and other grain combined, and Sioux City can claim to have shown more original and unique exhibits than were ever presented at any exposition in the world …”
A Sioux City history says, “… every square inch of the exterior was covered with grain. The only wood showing was on the flagpoles. Inside there was a roomy courtyard surrounded by display galleries. In the courtyard there were three daily concerts by the famous Elgin Band from Elgin, Ill.”
You can imagine George had much to tell Mrs. Dayton when he got home. “My dear — you should have been there …”