ITS HISTORY AND TRADITION
G. H. CUMMINGS
George H. Cummings, for many years secretary of the Sioux City Seed Company
and widely known as an able business man as well as an effective reform worker, was in the sixty-seventh year of his age at the time of his tragic death on the 6th of October, 1917.
He was born November 25, 1850, near Uhrichsville, Tuscarawas county, Ohio, and came of pious Scotch-Irish ancestry. His parents, Stephen and Amelia (Mohn) Cummings, were both natives of Harrison county Ohio. The father, an agriculturist by occupation, died on the farm which had been home for many years.
George H. Cummings attended the common schools and subsequently pursued a
course of study in the Hopedale Normal College in Harrison county, Ohio. His improvement of superior educational opportunities and his strong natural mental qualifications well equipped him for educational work, and following his
graduation he came west, accepting the position of superintendent of schools at Seward, Nebraska, in which capacity he served for three years. The year 1884
witnessed his arrival in Sioux City, Iowa, where he made his home to the time of his death a third of a century later. At its organization he became identified with the Sioux City Seed & Nursery Company, which later became the
Sioux City Seed Company, with which he was officially connected in the important capacity of secretary throughout the remainder of his life.
On the 13th of March, 1877, Mr. Cummings was united in marriage to Miss
Evaline Rebecca Dunn, of Flushing, Ohio, daughter of Robert S. and Sarah A.
(Beatty) Dunn, the former a native of Fayette county, Pennsylvania, and the latter of York, Pennsylvania. Robert S. Dunn and Sarah A. Beatty removed to Ohio as boy and girl with their respective parents. Throughout his active business career Robert S. Dunn devoted his attention to farming pursuits with excellent success.
The accident which resulted in the death of Mr. Cummings occurred when a
rear tire of his car blew out near LeMars, Iowa, causing the machine to turn a complete somersault. Mr. Cummings was crushed about the head and chest and death came within a few minutes after the tragedy occurred. He was a Christian by inheritance and throughout his life he showed the predominating characteristics of his forefathers; an intensity of purpose manifesting itself in many lines of useful activities and impelled by a deeply religious motive. In 1874 he made a profession of his faith in Jesus Christ and united with the Beech Spring Presbyterian church in Ohio. Henceforth his life was devoted to the service of God and the church. He touched lives everywhere; he was a member of many worthy organizations; a leader since the days of Haddock of the temperance movement; a strong tower with the Gideons, the great Christian Traveling Men's Association; a trustee of Buena Vista College of Storm Lake, Iowa, and most generous giver to and stanch supporter of Christian education; president of the Presbyterian Alliance and eager for greater things for Christ and
presbyterianism in Sioux City and regions beyond; the one who was used of God to build the Sheldon Jackson Memorial Monument on Prospect Hill; an earnest Sabbath school worker all his life; Sabbath school superintendent of the Third Presbyterian church of Sioux City for a quarter century, and glorying in the opportunity to work with the young and for the young. But above all, he loved the church of God. For almost fifty years - in Ohio and Nebraska and chiefly in Sioux City - he had been an honored elder of the Presbyterian church. A member of the First Presbyterian church when he first came to Sioux City, he made the venture in faith and all the churches of Sioux City felt the impress of his life. He is the spiritual father of several, and the Third Presbyterian church is the memorial of his love, and his crowning work. Below are some
sentences from the appreciation of a former pastor: "In the local church he was a whirlwind for work. Through all the years he was treasurer of the church. For almost all the years he was superintendent of the Sabbath school,
besides teaching a class. He was general adviser and helper to the membership which needed just such a man. He was pastor's assistant without salary. He was untiring in securing jobs for men and women out of work, in stimulating young people to get an education. In order to have an orchestra in the church and help the young people musically, he gave an instrument to any boy who would learn to use it and play in the orchestra. He was never absent from a session meeting when in town, always at the session prayer meeting before the morning service, ever holding up the pastor's hands in prayer, and planning for the salvation of souls. As his business prospered and means multiplied he gave not only to the local church but was interested in everything that pertained to the kingdom at large; to colleges he gave largely, especially to Buena Vista, to Sabbath school missionary work, and to all causes of the church. His intensity of conviction and action often carried him farther than some of his friends could go with him, but this intensity was always on the right
The following article appeared in the Sioux City Daily Tribune under date of July 21, 1917, with the caption "Suggest Monument for Two Men Who Led Thirty
Years War Against Liquor Trade." "If you were growing old and could look back over the toil and moil of thirty years, wouldn't it be something of a satisfaction to know that ideas you had championed when everyone else scouted and
ridiculed them were now accepted by a great majority of the people? Such is the satisfaction which N. R. Hathaway, 709 Rebecca street, and G. H. Cummings, 1822 Court street, both pioneers in the anti-saloon movement, must feel in surveying the thirty-odd years which they have been actively engaged in temperance work in Sioux City. The agitation began about the time of the notorious murder, when a Sioux City minister actively engaged in securing evidence against the saloons, was shot down in cold blood at the corner of Fourth and Earl streets. Mr. Cummings was one of the first to ally himself with the movement and Mr. Hathaway joined the following year when he moved here from
Springfield, South Dakota. It is easy enough to be a prohibitionist after the state has gone 'dry,' but it was a different matter years ago when no one dreamed that it would ever be possible to put the saloons out of business.
'Be not the first by whom the new is tried, Nor yet the last to lay the old
aside,' said the poet, but where would progress be if everyone obeyed? In
those early days a 'dry' was looked upon as a 'crank,' and fingers were pointed
and sly smiles and winks were exchanged whenever he walked down the street.
Many deplored the liquor situation, but considered it a necessary evil. Few
imagined that thirty short years would compass the life of the booze
emporiums. And so the 'drys' were scoffed at and denounced as visionaries, 'the idle singers of an empty day.' To be scoffed at was hard enough, but the trials were often of a more serious nature. The 'wets' formed combines against the
prohibitionists and attempted to boycott them. At that time Mr. Hathaway was owner of the Blue Valley creamery. 'One morning as I was making my rounds,'he said, 'seven of my regular customers flatly refused to patronize me any longer unless I would cease to work against the saloon interests. Trade fell off for a time after each of these spasmodic "combines" of the "wets," but in the end I always gained more than I lost.'Anonymous threats to burn their
homes and businesses were often received by the antis.
"The organization with which Mr. Cummings and Mr. Hathaway were associated
began its work by simply trying to get the police to enforce ordinances
already in effect but universally disregarded. But progress along this line was
slow. The league employed an attorney and prosecuted offenders but the courts
for the most part were afraid to return a decision unfavorable to Sioux
City's powerful liquor element. The league promptly appealed to the supreme
court each unjust verdict. 'At one time,' declared Mr. Hathaway, 'we had twenty-one cases in the supreme court, twenty of which were decided in our favor, one being lost through a legal technicality.' In those days saloons were open for business seven days in the week and twenty-four hours in the day. There were laws on the statute books prohibiting Sunday opening and all night service, but such laws were regarded here as unwholesome relics of Puritanism and were consigned to oblivion. But when time after time the decisions of the inferior courts in liquor trials were reversed by the supreme court, Sioux City woke up and once the tide turned the reaction was swift and sure. Step by
step the saloons were crowded out and the public approved of their going. Many of the men who were actually engaged in the liquor traffic now admit that they would vote against the saloon if the issue should ever come before the
people again. The list of contributors to the Anti-Saloon league fund now boasts the names of many erstwhile supporters of John Barleycorn. And so by the inevitable and monotonous operation of the universal law of progress, the years have justified the 'cranks,' and the works of the pioneer prohibitionists, the 'visionaries,'have borne fruit. In his sermon Sunday morning Rev. H.A. Keck, of the Grace Methodist Episcopal church, spoke of the part played by Mr. Cummings and Mr. Hathaway in the prohibition movement in Sioux City. 'A monument,' said Rev. Mr.Keck, should be erected to those two men who were brave enough to stand out against the saloons in those early days when
everyone either tolerated them as a necessary evil or openly favored them. If such a monument were erected, I should engrave upon it the following simple tribute:
"Erected to the memory of two highminded citizens whose fearless espousal of prohibition in the early years of the anti-saloon crusade placed every citizen of the municipality under an everlasting debt of gratitude and respect."
The concluding three paragraphs are editorials from the local press:
"In the sudden and tragic death of George H. Cummings last Saturday, Sioux
City and Iowa lost a citizen of high ideals and genuine worth. Those who knew him intimately realized that no man was more active and devoted to business and the secular affairs of life, yet with all this, there was not a man of
the city more willing and ready to give time and money to the higher things. He was an enthusiastic almsgiver and rejoiced in the sacrifices he made. In Christian effort here he had come to be relied upon as a mainstay. He brought any projects to successful fruition by his energy, the influence of his optimism and his own cheerful contributions. Buena Vista College owes him a lasting debt of gratitude. In the past year's campaign for funds for the Storm Lake institution, the largest contribution among the many in Sioux City came from Mr. Cummings. But to the public he was most widely known as the president of the Woodbury County Anti-Saloon League. In the cause of temperance he was an courageous as he was tireless and disinterested. His work had but one inspiration, the common good. When others despaired in the long battle, he
cheered and gave and worked. For thirty years he labored with rare devotion for the prohibition of the sale of intoxicants. Within the past week he remarked at a meeting of his associates: 'The vote October 15 for constitutional
prohibition in Iowa is the culminating event of my life, and if we win, I will die happy.' The issue seems certain, but the glad news of it must be wafted to Mr. Cummings in another sphere where he has already met thousands and will
later meet other thousands who have here been brought under the saving influences of the great reform of which he was one of the pioneers. It is easy to imagine George H. Cummings sending an appeal for one more good day's work in
the temperance cause."
"A good man died tragically last Saturday afternoon when George H. Cummings succumbed after an automobile accident on the Sioux City-LeMars road. The community can afford to take a moment off to reflect in such a circumstance. Good men are not so numerous as to be spared indifferently. Neither in the community nor in the world. Most people who know of the life of George H. Cummings know of it as an existence devoted to whole-hearted interest in the cause
of reform, chiefly liquor reform. He was conspicuous as an enemy of the saloon and the things the saloon connotes. It would not be fair to speak of him as an opponent of liquor, for he never deteriorated into mere opposition. He was relentless. The presidency of the Woodbury County Anti-Saloon League was a minor matter. His hostility to the saloon was essentially individual, not official. So far as The Journal knows no one ever tried to attach to Mr.
Cummings in his reform activity the stigma of self interest. Even those against whose business he campaigned would doubtless have confessed a degree of respect for the man whom they fought. In this fact resides a clew to the
fundamental thing in Mr. Cummings' character. He did not court popularity. In the 'hale fellow' sense he never acquired it. He was too unequivocal for that. Possessing convictions of the most positive type, he acted in every case according to them. In the ordinary sense, he was not a tolerant man. His tolerance, that is, did not extend to the things or the people that he felt to be evil. But he was benevolent. He was in a large way generous of his
substance. He impressed folks with his genuineness. Mr. Cummings was a competent business man. As a member of the Third Presbyterian church in Sioux City he was
prominent for his leadership and helpfulness. He was a trustee of Buena Vista College, a Presbyterian institution, and on the occasion of the last campaign to raise funds for the school his was the largest contribution in Sioux City. Although nearly sixty-seven, he seemed youthful physically and was youthful spiritually. The last months of his life were associated unforgetably with the fight to make prohibition a part of the constitution of Iowa. He
sometimes said that if he could know the issue would be settled right at the election of October 15 he would die happy. There is no reason why the inspiration which his positive life afforded should not continue in its potency a long time after October 15 shall have become also a memory."
"George H. Cummings has finished his life work. How great that work has
been, only the generations to follow can estimate. A man of deep convictions,
strong, forceful personality, untiring energy. and withal a broad humanity
that called for personal sacrifice that good might come to his fellowmen. It
has been our privilege to be more or less intimately associated with Mr.
Cummings at times during the past thirty years, particularly in those days when he saw and followed a vision, far in advance of most of his coworkers. With
George Knox and Haddock he saw that temperance was only one phase of Christian living. He made it a life work to bring about, so far as in him lay, legalized temperance in the state and nation. The work then taken on was never laid
down; he died in the harness, so to speak, one of the foremost workers for constitutional prohibition. His vision taught him that prohibition was right. That was all that was necessary to urge him to his utmost to bring about the supremacy of right. Another vision that Mr. Cummings had was that the Christian field in Sioux City was ripe for the harvest and that he as a Christian owed it to the people to use what energy he could to propagate the cause of Christ throughout the city. An official member of the First Presbyterian church, he severed his pleasant relations there to go out into the field and garner the sheaves. The beginnings and struggles and early history of each of the Presbyterian churches clustered around the parent church in the city, speak eloquently of the man Cummings. The Second, now the Knox, Presbyterian church
was built around his personality. His personal effort and energy was manifest in the inception and starting of each of the other Presbyterian churches of the city, and particularly the Third Presbyterian church, east of the
viaduct, where he has spent his later years in building up a community, which many a man with less of Christian spirit would have avoided, as a field for useful activity. He was broad in his activities. A very busy man in the business of his life work, the seed business, to which he had devoted the past thirty years as secretary of the Sioux City Seed Company, he still found time to help the fallen, to show the path of light to those in darkness, and to
relieve beyond the measure of most men, the want and suffering around him. In his tragic death his family, his friends, his business associates, the community and city in which he lived, the state and nation, have lost a Christian
man, four square, dependable and faithful unto the last."
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