Julia & Amasa Tower
Members of the Congregational Church in Walnut Grove. Mr. Tower was also County Treasurer during the Plum Creek era.
Amasa Tower, County Treasurer, is in Walnut Grove this week collecting taxes. – The Redwood Gazette, January 23, 1879
Amasa Tower was born March 24, 1839, in Plymouth (Chenango County) New York, one of at least five children of Almon Tower (1804-1878) and Mary (Sexton) Tower (1809-1870). Before his marriage to Julia West on March 17, 1866 in St. Charles, Minnesota, Amasa was a school teacher. Julia Tower was born in Vermont on February 15, 1842, the daughter of Leander L. West and Alta (Davis) West. Julia and Amasa had no children.
In Pioneer Girl and On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura Ingalls Wilder writes that Mrs. Tower was her Sunday School teacher at the Congregational Church in Walnut Grove, and that Mr. Tower was one of the men who helps distribute gifts from the Christmas tree. The Towers had come to the Walnut Grove area from Fillmore County in the early 1870s, settling on a preemption claim in Springdale Township, the SE 10-109-39, paying cash for the land in September 1877. Their land was three miles from Walnut Grove and two miles west of the Ingalls family.
“My very littlest girl must have a very small lesson. It will be the shortest verse in the Bible.” In published On the Banks of Plum Creek (see Chapter 24, “Going to Church”), Laura is introduced to Mrs. Tower for the first time. During Laura’s first Sunday school lesson, Mrs. Tower reads the children a story, then gives each child a Bible verse to remember until the next week. Mrs. Tower tells Laura that her verse is the “shortest verse in the Bible” and that “It’s just two words!” The Bible verse is not given in the text.
In her handwritten Plum Creek manuscript, the story is slightly different. Wilder has Mrs. Tower say: “My very littlest girl must have a small lesson. it will be just three words, ‘God is Love.’ Can you remember that for a whole week?”
In the surviving typescript, Mrs. Tower says: “My very littlest girl must have a very small lesson! It will be the shortest verse in the Bible.” Then Laura knew what it was, but Mrs. Tower smiled deep into Laura’s eyes and went on, “It is just three words! ‘God is love.’ Now do you think you can remember that for a whole week?”
When On the Banks of Plum Creek was first published in 1937, the verse or lesson itself is omitted. The text is the same as in current printings, except that in early printings, Mrs. Tower says that the verse is the shortest in the Bible, and is “just three words.” Although it’s unclear when the change was made, someone must have pointed out that the shortest verse in the King James Bible is two words (‘Jesus wept’) not three words. Without having seen the manuscript, ‘Pray without ceasing’ is the verse readers assume Laura was asked to remember.
The book text was changed to “two words,” but Wilder herself clearly wrote that Laura learned “a little lesson” which contained three words: God is Love.
Amasa Tower was a member of the Minnesota Agriculture Association, secretary of the Redwood County Bible Society, Superintendent of the Sunday School, as well as Redwood County Treasurer from 1875 to 1880. In May 1879, the vault in his office in Redwood Falls was robbed of over $1000, much of it in cash and gold. As per the terms of his office, Mr. Tower was responsible for repayment of money left in his care, and he had neglected to put the money in the local bank instead of leaving it in his office. Mr. Tower sold everything he owned – including his farm – in order to repay the stolen funds. Prior to leaving Minnesota in 1880 to homestead in Dakota Territory, the church presented the Towers with two pictures to hang in their new home. Mr. Tower wrote that they departed “hoping we shall all one day join the glad choir above and together sing the song of the redeemed.” [March 4, 1880, Redwood Gazette]
Julia and Amasa Tower moved to Hyde County, Dakota Territory, filing on a homestead (the SW 23-113-71) and tree claim (the SE 23-113-71), located about five miles northeast of Highmore, South Dakota. On August 19, 1886, Amasa Tower was struck by lightning while on his farm, and instantly killed. Two years later, Julia Tower was drowned in a well on the farm in a supposed fit of insanity. She died October 16, 1888.
Mr. Tower / Amasa Tower (BPC 31)
Mrs. Tower / Julia Tower (BPC 21, 24, 31; PG)