(Is the history of a fictional town in Iowa as told by one...)
Is the history of a fictional town in Iowa as told by one of its first settlers. Jacob Vandemark was a hand on the Erie Canal who caught "a breath now and then of the prairie winds," and eventually allowed the current to carry him to Iowa.
John Quick grew up having to do his full share of exhausting farm labor - something for which he was not sorry. "I was fortunately not recognized as an invalid," he wrote. That work also made him keenly aware of the physical and economic hardships of farmers.
When John Quick started teaching at age 17 in the local country school, he turned over part of his pay to his father. In 1881 the family moved to a farm in Cerro Gordo County, and he began teaching in Mason City. Popular and successful, he soon was hired by the county superintendent of education to teach in a summer institute for teachers. Carrie Lane (later Chapman Catt), who was then head of the Mason City schools, refused to take part because John Quick had no college degree, making him unqualified, she thought and lowering standards. Her reaction, John Quick said, "burned itself into my very being," and he tried for years to go to college. He even applied to West Point, because it was free, but was rejected because of his physical disability.
In 1877 John Quick attended a teachers' institute at Grundy Center and received a certificate of competence. From then till 1890 he taught in various schools in the state, finally becoming principal of a ward school at Mason City.
John Quick meanwhile studied law for several years in the office of John Cliggitt, who put him through a course of Blackstone, Kent, and J. F. Stephen before allowing him to take up the Code of Iowa and the Iowa Reports. More important to him than any law book was Progress and Poverty, which he read with intense excitement and growing conviction, and which became his economic and social Bible.
John Herbert Quick was admitted to the Iowa bar in 1889. At the age of twenty-nine years old, he had a varied career. From 1890 until 1908 he practiced law in Sioux City, Iowa. John Quick gained prominence by his successful prosecution of some municipal grafters, became a member of the Democratic state committee, was mayor of the city from 1898 to 1900 but failed of reelection, and was a nominee for the state supreme court in 1902.
At one time John Quick was a publicity agent for O. P. and M. J. Van Sweringen, and at another time he was involved in a flamboyant scheme to develop Palmetto Beach, Alabama, as a rival to Mobile. He also wrote much on behalf of dry-farming. All the while his real ambition was literary.
In 1901 John Quick sent a short poem entitled "A Whiff of Smoke" to the Century Magazine. The editor, Robert Underwood Johnson, published it in the February 1902 issue and urged John Quick to keep on with his writing. His first book was a volume of Indian folklore, In the Fairyland of America (1901), and was followed by several novels in which honest realism, an irresistible impulse to preach, and melodrama derived from his early reading of the New York Ledger, were strangely mixed: Aladdin & Co. (1904); Double Trouble (1906); The Broken Lance (1907); Virginia of the Air Lanes (1909); Yellowstone Nights (1911); The Brown Mouse (1915); and The Fairview Idea (1919). During this period he also published three volumes of non-fiction: American Inland Waterways (1909); On Board the Good Ship Earth (1913); and From War to Peace (1919).
John Quick was associate editor of La Follette's Weekly Magazine from December 1908 to July 1909; editor of Farm and Fireside, 1909-1916; a member of the Federal Farm Loan Bureau, on President Wilson's appointment, 1916-1919; and chairman of a commission to wind up the business of the American Red Cross at Vladivostok in 1920. John Quick returned from Siberia with his mission accomplished but his health irreparably injured.
During the short five years remaining to him he did, along with much else, the work by which he is remembered: a trilogy of Iowa novels, Vandemark's Folly (1921), The Hawkeye (1923), The Invisible Woman (1924), and his autobiography, One Man's Life (1925). Of the novels, The Invisible Woman is distinctly inferior to the others, but the trilogy as a whole was a distinguished achievement, and the autobiography belongs to it as an indispensable commentary. John Quick never mastered fully the craft of the novelist but in Vandemark's Folly and The Hawkeye he forgot about what he called technique and wrote sincerely out of his love of the soil, his pride in the character and achievements of the humble folk from whom he sprung, his passionate belief in democratic idealism. No one else has written so vividly and truthfully of the life of pioneer Iowa.
A pamphlet, The Real Trouble with the Farmers (1924), is his best essay in economic analysis. His other publications, aside from numerous magazine articles on a variety of subjects, were: There Came Two Women (1924), a drama in verse, revelatory chiefly of Quick's defective literary sense; We Have Changed All That (1928), an anti-Bolshevik novel, done, apparently out of pure kindness, in collaboration with a Russian woman, Elena Stepanoff MacMahon; and Mississippi Steamboatin' (1926), which was completed by his son Edward.
John Quick died of a heart attack in Columbia, Missouri.
John Quick believed in democratic idealism.
John Herbert Quick was a member of the Federal Farm Loan Bureau and of the Democratic State Committee.
A man with enormous energy.
Physical Characteristics: Stricken with poliomyelitis in 1863 that left him partially disabled.
On April 9, 1890, John Quick married Ella Corey of Syracuse, New York, whom he had met in 1887. They had a son and a daughter.