Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

Twomblys helped Pittsburg thrive

Pittsburg was a thriving village when Chloe Funk was married. Her father William owned a large 3-story flour mill that operated along the Des Moines River, and later built an even larger building that housed a distillery, where whiskey was manufactured at the time the couple were wed.

On May 1, 1866 Chloe married Captain Voltaire Twombly, who was born near Farmington. A veteran of the Civil War, she was the sweetheart he left behind when he entered service.

Voltaire was not even a year old when his father died. After that, he and his mother moved to Keosauqua and the lad attended Reverend Lane's Academy. Around December, 1867 or early January, 1868 Voltaire and Chloe took up residence in Pittsburg.

Voltaire was a bookkeeper for a while at his father-in-law's mill, which was built in 1856 and operated for over 50 years. Funk was the wealthiest man in the village, employing seven at the mill. Pittsburg's population reached 200. There were several coal miners, carpenters, teachers and blacksmiths, an insurance agent, a harness maker, coopers, a shoemaker, and a seamstress. The ferry operated until 1883 when a bridge was built. Three stores existed in Pittsburg's little business section, including a two-story brick structure on the corner across from the residence of Sam and Louise House. There were also several saloons.

A ferry operated across the river before the first bridge was erected. According to Pearl Reed, "a wire cable ran across the river and secured to trees on each side of the river. These cables were fastened to the boat by means of pulleys. The boat was propelled by the force of the current against keels located at each end of the boat. When the speed of the boat was to be changed, a large wheel in the center of the boat controlled the keels, which would change the force of the current on them, and would either speed up the boat or slow it down, as the pilot desired." Teams could usually cross for a quarter, but he charged as much as one dollar during dangerous high water crossings.

Chloe's husband Voltaire served as postmaster at Pittsburg in 1877 after he resigned his job at the mill. Later, they moved to Keosauqua where he became a merchant. The Pittsburg post office was closed in 1903 and Ben Stong, who had operated the post office in the back part of his father's general store, also moved to Keosauqua. Even when it thrived as a village, Pittsburg was always a kind of extension of the larger town of Keosauqua--more like a suburb. What Voltaire and Chloe contributed to the community helped it prosper.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick