Engle, G. J., far., Sec. 17; P. O. Cedar Rapids.
Transcribed by John C. Engel
Engel, John G., farmer, Sec. 17; P. O. Cedar Rapids; owns 120 acres, probable value $4,200; he was born Oct. 3, 1845, in Baden, Germany, and came to the United States in 1856, with his grandfather (Martin Kohl), arriving in New Orleans about the month of February of that year; came up the Mississippi River to Muscatine, Iowa, with a view of locating in Linn Co., and eventually settled in Clinton Tp., April 9, 1856; he hired out and worked for $4.00 per month for a period of three years; he continued in this way (working for his father between times on a rented farm) until he was in his 23d year. He was married April 2, 1868, to Eva, daughter of Andrew Keller, of Baden, Germany; she was born Sept. 25, 1846; they have three children -- George, born Jan. 12, 1869; Charles, Aug. 1, 1872, and Ida, Aug. 8, 1875. Mr. Engel is Independent in politics, and is a member of the Lutheran Church, of which denomination Mrs. Engel is also a member.
The Barto family has been represented in Cedar Rapids since 1872. Daniel Barto was born in Millersburg, Pennsylvania, but removed to St. Louis prior to his marriage. It was in that city that he wedded Mary Blumenberger, a native of Germany, who came to the new world with an aunt and uncle in her early childhood days. Mr. and Mrs. Barto began their domestic life in St. Louis, where they lived for several years and then removed to Illinois, where Mr. Barto conducted a hardware business until 1872. In that year he removed with his family to Cedar Rapids and did not become actively interested in business affairs here but spent his remaining days in the enjoyment of a well earned and richly merited rest. His death occurred in 1883 and for about seventeen years thereafter his wife survived him, passing away in 1900. They had but two children: Miss Carrie Barto, whose name introduces this review; and Mary, deceased.
Miss Barto acquired her literary education in the schools of Rock Island, Illinois, and later went to Cincinnati, where she completed her musical studies in the College of Music of Cincinnati. Returning to Cedar Rapids in 1884, she established here a conservatory of music and has since been teaching in this city. She stands as one of the most prominent representatives of the musical art here and is regarded as a most capable instructor. She now owns a handsome apartment building called the Barto Flats, at Nos. 117-119 First avenue, West. She is deserving of much credit for her ability in the management of financial and business interests, while in her art she has made continuous progress by her study of the works of the greatest composers and also by her study of advanced methods of instruction. Moreover, she has displayed considerable originality in her teaching as she has planned to awaken and hold the interest of her pupils and promote their progress in the study of music.
Jay Wallace, who devotes his time and energies to the operation of a farm of one hundred and sixty acres on section 14, Marion township, was born in Indiana on the 6th of November, 1850. His parents, James and Eliza Alls (Wheeler) Wallace, both of whom were natives of New York, removed to Indiana about 1844, there purchasing a tract of forty acres of timber land. After residing thereon for twelve years they made their home in Black Hawk county, Iowa, for two years, on the expiration of which period they went to Benton county, where they bought land and spent the remainder of their lives. The demise of James Wallace occurred in 1876, while his wife was called to her final rest in September, 1904, when she had attained the age of eighty-four years. Unto this worthy couple were born nine children, five of whom are still living.
Jay Wallace attended the common schools in his youthful years and remained at home until after his mother's death. He then devoted his attention to the operation of a rented farm for two years and in 1907 bought his present place of one hundred and sixty acres on section 14, Marion township, Linn county. He not only engages in general farming but also makes a specialty of the raising and feeding of stock, which branch of his business adds materially to his income.
In October, 1895, Mr. Wallace was united in marriage to Mrs. Sarah J. (Baker) Hook, whose birth occurred in Wapello county, Iowa, in April, 1860, her parents being William and Mary (Colwell) Baker, both of whom are now deceased. By her first marriage Mrs. Wallace had nine children, as follows: I. N., a resident of Laporte City, Iowa; Jason M., who also lives at that place; Walter L., who has passed away; Mary May, the wife of David Gilbert, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Maud L., at home; Clinton S., who lives in California; Newton, who is also still at home; Minnie, who is attending business college at Cedar Rapids; and Theresa, deceased.
In politics Mr. Wallace has always been a stanch democrat and keeps well informed on the questions and issues of the day. He has capably served in the office of road supervisor. Fraternally he is identified with the Masons, belonging to the chapter and commandery at Vinton. He is likewise a member of the Odd Fellows lodge at Mount Auburn, Iowa, and has filled some of the chairs therein. Both he and his wife attend the Methodist Episcopal church and their religious faith is undoubtedly a permeating element and influence in their lives.
A student of history need not carry his investigations far into the records of Linn county before he recognizes the fact that the Gillmores were among the early pioneer settlers and that through the ensuing years the representatives of the name have been loyal to all that is best in manhood and in citizenship. George A. Gillmore needs no introduction to the readers of this volume for he has always lived in this county and was born October 31, 1875, on the farm which he now owns and operates. At the usual age he began his education in the common schools and through the periods of vacation he worked in the fields, his labors being directed by his father, a man of sound judgment and of enterprise. The son early learned the value of industry, perserverance, economy and business integrity and those qualities have since characterized his life. After attaining his majority he rented land for a number of years or until 1889, when he purchased one hundred and twenty acres situated on section 11, Marion township. This constitutes a part of the old homestead farm and since it has come into his possession he has made further improvements on it, bringing the fields under a high state of cultivation and adding a number of equipments that are found upon the model farm of the twentieth century. In addition to his agricultural interests he is connected with the Bighead & Marion Telephone Company, of which he is now the president. He is interested in all such progressive movements and cooperates in many projects which are of value to the community.
On the 2nd of March, 1897, Mr. Gillmore was united in marriage to Miss Lydia Williams, who was born on the 27th of January, 1877, and is a daughter of George and Ida (Ford) Williams, the former a native of Pennsylvania, and the latter of the state of New York. They became residents of this county during the period of its early settlement and the father devoted his attention to farming for many years, but his life's labors were ended in death in October, 1899. His widow still survives and is living on the old homestead in Linn township. Their family consisted of six daughters, including Mrs. Gillmore, a lady of liberal education, who completed her studies in the high school of Marion and afterward engaged in teaching for two years.
Unto Mr. and Mrs. Gillmore have been born two children, Ethelyn and George I. The parents hold membership in the Methodist Episcopal church and are also members of the Country Club, No. 3. In manner genial, in deportment courteous, in spirit kindly and genial, they have won many friends and neighbors and acquaintances speak of them only in terms of goodwill and high regard.
John Perly Messer
Prominent among the business men of Cedar Rapids is numbered John Perley Messer, who has been engaged in real estate and loan business for some years, with offices located at present in the Granby block. Mr. Messer was born at Bow Center, in the town of Bow, New Hampshire, on the 9th of December, 1843, and is the second son of Silas and Nancy (Hadley) Messer, who are also natives of the old Granite state. His father was a farmer in early life and later was a railroad man but is now living retired in St. Paul, Minnesota, at the ripe age of ninety-one years. The mother died in that city in 1894 and was buried in Oak Hill cemetery, Cedar Rapids.
John P. Messer was reared on the home farm and received his education in the public schools. At the age of sixteen he left the farm and went to work as a locomotive fireman on the Concord Railroad. At eighteen he was promoted to the position of locomotive engineer, and at that time was the youngest man who had ever been entrusted with an engine on that road. He continued in that employment until 1862, when he resigned to enter the service of his country as assistant engineer (staff officer) in the United States navy, and was ordered to the United States steam frigate Colorado, on which he served for nearly three years. He participated in both bombardments and in the capture of Fort Fisher. (About forty-three thousand shot and shell were thrown at the fort in this bombardment.) At the first battle Mr. Messer had charge of the fire department -- a department of sixteen men to extinguish fires -- and at the second battle he served as aid to B. F. Garvin, chief engineer, and as one of Commodore Henry K. Thatcher's staff officers. Admiral George Dewey, then Lieutenant Dewey, was executive officer of the Colorado, and with Commodore Thatcher, Chief Engineer Garvin and Mr. Messer was stationed at the bridge. In these engagements the Colorado suffered severely and was ordered to the New York navy yards for repairs. Mr. Messer was then transferred to the U. S. S. Trefoil. He was on that vessel when she "accidentally" collided with and sunk the Confederate privateer Florida in Hampton Roads off Fortress Monroe; also at the capture of Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely in Mobile bay; and continued to serve on her until the close of the war, when he resigned and received an honorable discharge from the United States navy.
At Bow, New Hampshire, September 1, 1866, Mr. Messer married Miss Carrie E. Evans, who was also a native of that state and a daughter of Stephen W. and Emma (Veazey) Evans. Shortly after their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Messer removed to the then new state of Minnesota, the journey occupying a full week and requiring twelve changes of cars and boats. They are the parents of three children, namely: Walter S., who died April 5, 1881, at the age of eleven years; Emma Evans, who married James W. Clark, who died at El Paso, Texas, May 10, 1910; and Florence V., who is at Wellesley College. They also have two grandchildren, Charles A. Clark, Jr., and Perley Messer Clark.
On his removal to Minnesota Mr. Messer at once entered the employ of the Minnesota Valley Railroad as locomottive engineer and ran the engine to pull the
Caption: J. P. Messerfirst passenger train into St. Peter and Mankato, Minnesota. He was with that road about two years. From that state he came to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1869, and has made his home here ever since. He was the first regular engineer and master mechanic at Cedar Rapids in the service of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Minnesota (now Northern) Railroad, and he remained with that road for about ten years as engineer, master mechanic and passenger conductor. As engineer he was in charge of the first regular train into each of the towns along the line from Cedar Rapids to Rockford, Iowa, as the road was completed to those points.
Mr. Messer resigned his position with the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad in 1879 to take the superintendency of the Memphis, Kansas & Colorado Railroad, then in course of construction and built some twenty miles of this road besides opening about forty-five miles from Parsons to Messer, Kansas. This road was an enterprise of the late Judge Greene of Cedar Rapids and was sold to the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Gulf Railroad, at which time Mr. Messer resigned. As superintendent of the City Street Railway Company, of Cedar Rapids, he built the largest part of their road (at this time 1881), building the first line across the Cedar River to West Cedar Rapids and collected the first fare on the west side.
After about twenty years in the railway service, Mr. Messer entered the realestate business in Cedar Rapids, in 1881, and is still actively engaged therein. He has met with well deserved success in this business, as he had formerly done in the railroad business, and has acquired a comfortable competence. For thirty-nine years Mr. Messer has been affiliated with the Masonic fraternity and has taken the various degrees, while in his life he has ever exemplified the beneficent spirit of the craft, which recognizes the brotherhood of mankind. He holds membership in the First Presbyterian church and is in sympathy with all the movements which tend to uplift humanity and advance the race to a higher civilization.
Robert William Waite
Robert William Waite, a leading, progressive and enterprising young citizen of Palo, is identified with financial interests as the cashier of the Palo Savings Bank. His birth occurred in Wyoming, Jones county, Iowa, on the 29th of May, 1883, his parents being John William and Janette (Inglis) Waite, who were natives of Iowa and Scotland respectively. The mother was brought to this country by her parents when but a year old, the family home being established in Hale township, Jones county, Iowa, where she was reared and married. For many years past John W. Waite has been one of the prominent and representative citizens of Wyoming and Jones county. He has always been an active and influential worker in the local ranks of the republican party and served as postmaster of Wyoming for several years, while for six years he ably discharged the duties devolving upon him as treasurer of Jones county. He was likewise one of the leading merchants of Wyoming for several years and is numbered among the most prosperous and respected citizens of his community. Fraternally he is identified with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Masons, having attained the Knight Templar degree in the latter order. Both he and his wife still survive and make their home in Wyoming.
Robert William Waite was reared at home and in the acquirement of an education attended the grammar and high schools of Wyoming and also the Anamosa high school. Subsequently he pursued a commercial course in the Cedar Rapids Business College and when a young man of twenty years embarked in business as a merchant of Wyoming. At the end of five years he abandoned merchandising and went to Cambridge, Iowa, where he was engaged in the grain business for a year. On the expiration of that period he came to Palo, Linn county, to accept the cashiership of the Palo Savings Bank and has since had the management of the institution. His courteous, genial manner has won patrons for the bank and much of its success is due to his untiring and well directed efforts.
On the 18th of June, 1908, Mr. Waite was united in marriage to Miss Alda E. Kranbuehl, of Dysart, Iowa. Mr. Waite is a republican in politics and now holds the office of city treasurer. He is a member of Keystone Lodge, No. 206, A. F. & A. M., of Wyoming, and both he and his wife are identified with Wyoming Chapter, No. 397, O. E. S. They also belong to the Methodist Episcopal church and are deeply interested in its work. Mr. Waite is widely and favorably known here, having those qualities of kindly consideration and deference for the opinions of others which always give rise to warm friendship and esteem.
Joseph S. Anderson
The history of Cedar Rapids would be incomplete if omission were made of the life record of J. S. Anderson, who in large measure left the impress of his individuality upon the public life and development of the city. Coming here in pioneer times, he was not only a witness of its progress but an active participant in those projects which led to its substantial growth and upbuilding, his high character and sterling integrity constituting influencing elements in all the movements with which he was associated.
Mr. Anderson arrived in Cedar Rapids in 1853, being at that time a young man of nineteen years. He was born in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, August 10, 1834, his parents being James A. and Elizabeth (Johnson) Anderson. His father was a wheelwright by occupation and died in 1845, while the mother survived until 1867. In the year 1853 she came with her family to Iowa, settling in Cedar Rapids. The journey westward from Pennsylvania was made by boat down the Ohio and up the Mississippi rivers to Muscatine and thence overland to this city. Joseph S. Anderson was a lad of eleven years at the time of his father's death and a young man of nineteen when the family came to Iowa. They took up their abode in a log cabin on the farm of Thomas Gainor, a part of which is now included within the site of Linwood cemetery, and the last resting place of Mr. Anderson is within a few feet of the spot on which the old log cabin, his first home in this county, was built in 1838. The land belonging to Mr. Gainor in the early days was set apart for a family burying ground and the first interment there made was one of his children, a cousin of Mr. Anderson, in 1840. The cemetery was private until 1880, when the Linwood Company was organized and incorporated. Mr. Anderson was prominent in the formation of the company and was afterward active in the control of its affairs.
After coming to Iowa Joseph S. Anderson supplemented his early education by two years' study in Cornell College at Mount Vernon. In 1860 he went to Colorado, where he was engaged in the stock business for two years, after which he returned to Cedar Rapids and then became connected with the army in a clerical capacity. At the close of the war he engaged in the grocery business and at one time was located in the old Angle block, while later he removed to Iowa avenue, conducting his store in the building which is now No. 120 First avenue. During the succeeding two years Mr. Anderson taught school in the Madison building in Kingston and also served as secretary of that school district. When Kingston was incorporated as a part of Cedar Rapids and the school districts united Mr. Anderson was elected a member of the board of education, in which capacity he served for over twenty-two years, being a strong champion of the cause of the public schools and putting forth every effort in his power to promote their interests and success.
In 1873 Mr. Anderson was elected justice of the peace and held the office for about twenty years. During that time he took up the study of law and was admited to the bar. His law practice was largely confined to probate matters and with the law of the probate courts he was thoroughly familiar. When the bankruptcy law was passed he was appointed referee for Linn and Cedar counties. In 1875 he turned his attention to the insurance business, in which he was engaged at the time of his death, conducting an extensive agency under the style of J. S. Anderson & Son, the firm being organized in 1885, when he was joined by his eldest son.
In 1859 Mr. Anderson was united in marriage to Miss Jennie Frazee, who was born in Herkimer county, New York, December 9, 1840, and in 1848 was brought to Cedar Rapids by her parents, Aaron and Nancy (Clapsaddle) Frazee, who made the trip westward by way of the Erie canal and the Great Lakes to Chicago and thence by team to their destination. Mrs. Frazee was a granddaughter of Major Dennis Clapsaddle, who was killed at the battle of Oriskany in 1777 when serving under General Nicholas Herkimer. She was also a granddaughter of Lieutenant George Helmer, likewise a soldier in the Revolutionary war. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Joseph S. Anderson were born three sons, Lew W., John B. and Joseph R. Mrs. Anderson has been a continuous resident of Cedar Rapids for sixty-two years and now makes her home with her youngest son at Vernon Heights. She has long been a devoted member of St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal church and her life has been a beneficial influence in the moral development and social progress of the community.
Mr. Anderson held membership in Crescent Lodge, A. F. & A. M.; Trowel Chapter, R. A. M.; Cedar Rapids Lodge No. 251, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks; the Iowa Legion of Honor; and the National Union. He had many friends in those organizations and wherever he was known he won high regard and lasting esteem. As one of the early settlers of Cedar Rapids he witnessed the development from a struggling village to a beautiful, prosperous city and in a high degree was instrumental in its advancement and improvement. His cooperation could always be counted upon to further any movement for the general good, and such was his worth as a man and citizen that Cedar Rapids felt the greatest sorrow over his death, and the pioneers regarded his demise as a personal bereavement. He never held narrow or contracted views, was just and charitable in his opinions of others and was kindly in spirit and generous in disposition. In all of his business affairs, too, he was conscientious and reliable and his activity brought him to a prominent position among successful men of Cedar Rapids.
Jens S. Nielson
Jens S. Nielson, who has accumulated all that he now possesses since coming to America twenty years ago, won prosperity through the careful conduct of his interests as a farmer and stock-raiser and is at present the owner of one hundred and seventy acres of valuable land in Marion township. He was born in Denmark on the 14th of April, 1870, and there acquired his education. In 1890, when a young man of twenty years, he resolved to test the truth of the many favorable reports which he had heard concerning the advantages of the new world and accordingly set sail for American shores. On arriving in the United States he made his way direct to Linn county, Iowa, and during the first two years of his residence here worked as a farm hand. He was then actively engaged in the cultivation of rented land for three years, on the expiration of which period his capital was sufficient to enable him to purchase a farm of his own. Accordingly he came into possession of a tract of forty acres and lived thereon for fourteen years, devoting his time and energies to its further cultivation and improvement with excellent results. In the meantime he had made an additional purchase of forty acres and in 1909 he bought another tract of ninety acres, on which he now resides. His holdings, therefore, embrace one hundred and seventy acres of rich and productive land in Marion township and in connection with the tilling of the soil he makes a specialty of stock-raising, which branch of his business adds materially to his income.
In 1892 Mr. Nielson was united in marriage to Miss Sine Jenson, likewise a native of Denmark, whom he wedded almost immediately after her arrival in this country. Their union has been blessed with seven children, namely: Lucy, the wife of Andrew Nielson; Martha; Oscar; Harold; Clara; Ida; and Otto.
Mr. Nielson exercises his right of franchise in support of republican principles but has never sought office as a reward for his party fealty. Fraternally he is identified with the Modern Woodmen of America at Springville, while his religious faith is indicated by his membership in the Lutheran church. The hope that led him to leave his native land and seek a home in America has been more than realized. He found the opportunities he sought -- which, by the way, are always open to the ambitious, energetic man -- and making the best of these, he has steadily worked his way upward.
John W. McClintock
From pioneer times down to the present John W. McClintock has been a resident of Linn county and here, through his business affairs carefully and honorably conducted, he has won excellent success and is now living retired in Palo. He was born in Fayette township, on the 31st of August, 1849, his parents being John W. and Sarah (Elliott) McClintock, both of whom were natives of Ohio, the former of whom was born in Ross county and the latter in Clark county. As children they removed with their respective parents to Indiana where they were reared and married. It was in 1840 that the father first came west and settled in Linn county, being followed somewhat later by his wife. After living about a year in Washington township he located in Fayette township where he spent the remainder of his life. During the gold excitement on the Pacific coast, however, he joined a wagon train which crossed the mountains and deserts to California in 1849 and remained in the far west for about a year. On his return to Linn county he resumed agricultural pursuits and so successful was he in his farming operations that he became the owner of over five hundred acres of fine farming land in Fayette township. Here his death occurred in 1886 when in his seventieth year. His wife died in 1893 at the age of seventy-five.
Amid pioneer surroundings John W. McClintock passed the days of his boyhood and youth and acquired his education in the public schools of this county. He remained at home associated with his father in his farming operations until the spring of 1875 when he began farming on his own account, operating rented land until 1882, when he was able to purchase an eighty-acre tract in Benton county. Upon that place he located and continued to reside for six years, making many improvements in the meantime. He then sold the farm and returned to the old homestead, his father having passed away in 1886.He purchased the place and has since added to it until he now owns over a section of land which is well improved and under a high state of cultivation. An energetic and progressive agriculturist, he met with excellent success and in 1908 felt justified in retiring from active labor, at which time he erected the handsomest residence in Palo, indeed, it is one of the finest homes in Linn county, and the following spring he took up his residence there, having rented his farm property.
On December 31, 1876, Mr. McClintock married Miss Rachel Filling of Washington township and unto them have been born four children, namely: Pearl, now the wife of Albert Railsback, of Fayette township; Ella, who married Clark Wright and died leaving one child, Leo; Alice, the wife of Ira Lewis of Fayette township; and Warren, at home.
Mr. McClintock has not confined his attention wholly to agricultural pursuits but was one of the founders of the Palo Savings Bank and was made president of the institution on its organization. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Peoples Savings Bank of Shellsburg and is interested in the elevator and grain business at Palo. He has also bought and shipped hogs from this place and it is safe to say that no man in the community occupies a more honorable position in business than John W. McClintock. In all his dealings he has been found prompt and thoroughly reliable and the success that has come to him is certainly well merited. Although he has never been an office-seeker, he casts his ballot in support of the democratic party and its principles and as a public-spirited citizen takes an active interest in public affairs. His achievements in business are of a notable character because without capital he started out in life for himself and he stands today among the substantial and leading citizens of his section of the county, his beautiful home being a monument to his industry and success. Fraternally he is an honored member of Shellsburg Lodge, A. F. & A. M.
Contributed by, Tammy Jackson Wild
The Life of David Wild
Born 1836 - Whitehaven, Cumberland County, England
Died 1920 - Springville (Linn) IA
We are ever grateful for the book compiled by Edith (Edie) Grimes Alman in
1983. Much of the contents is from data gathered (apparently from 1949-1979)
by Russell & Elvera Smith. Edie and Russell are grandchildren of David Wild.
(The following excerp is from Russell Smith's 1949 "Story of the Life of
David Wild," newspaper articles and recorded in "History of Linn County,
Iowa" - Vol. II, 1911.)
David WILD was born in Whitehaven, Cumberland County, England, on September
15, 1836. The town was Whinney Hill on Cleator Moor. As a young man he was
apprenticed to his uncle,
J. SOUTHWARD, of Broad Oak, Waberthwaite, and under his uncles' training he
became a joiner and cartwright. When he became 21, he left for the United
States arriving in New York in 1858.
He eventually settled in Georgetown, Grant County, Wisconsin, where he opened
a blacksmith and wagon shop. On October 2, 1862, he married Mary Ann KAY in
Smeltzer, Grant County, Wisconsin.
David WILD entered the army of the Union Forces in 1864 as a foreman on
government work, he having been in charge of keeping the wagons of the army
in repair. Subsequently he volunteered as a regular soldier, to fight for the
emancipation of the slaves in the southern states. He took part in battles
where the Confederates were led by Generals HOOD and FORREST, the most
important of which battles was the one at Nashville in late 1864 or early
1865. This battle was generally conceded to be the bloodiest battle of the
Civil War, and I [R. Smith] remember Grandfather telling of it on one
occasion when he told about men being killed on each side of him and of the
many hundreds that were severly wounded. In fact, it was probably one of the
decisive battles of the war, for it enabled General SHERMAN to start his long
march from "Atlanta to the sea". At the end of the war, Grandfather was
mustered out and returned to his wife and children in Wisconsin, where he
again took up his trade a a joiner, cartwright, etc., and in the manufacture
of caskets. When a party died Grandfather would often measure the corpse and
make the casket accordingly.
Move to Iowa
In 1868 David decided to go west again with his wife and three young
children. They settled in Brown Township (one mile north of Whittier and
about one mile west), Linn County, Iowa. His first purchase made him owner of
80 acres, to which he afterward added another 80 acre tract. Beginning with a
small log cabin this enterprising pioneer built up a beautiful and valuable
estate. Shortly after the death of Fred WILD in 1927, it passed out of the
During those years ten more children were added to their family -- 13 in all!
David WILD took an active interest in the affairs of the community. He served
as Justice of the Peace, Supervisor of Roads, President of the School Board
and Secretary and Treasurer of the Horse Thief Detective Association. He also
took a lively interest in county, state and national politics. He was a
regular delegate to all political meetings in Cedar Rapids, and also a
delegate to the State Democratic Convention. He did outstanding work in the
development of good roads, and in securing in 1898 Rural Free Delivery of
mail for his community (although his own mail route did not go past his farm,
but a half mile from it).
Visits to England
While always devoted to his adopted country and its welfare (granted
citizenship in 1885), David never lost his love for England. He returned
twice to visit friends and relatives in 1904 and 1914. He was present at the
opening of the Ravenglass rifle range, when the first shot was fired by the
late Lord MUNCASTER. The WILD family can trace their history back to the days
of Cromwell and even today there are branches of the family in practically
every parish between Whitehaven and Barrow.
David was raised in the faith of the Church of England and was confirmed by
the Bishop of Canterbury. Since coming to America he attended the Methodist
Retirement in Springville
After the death of his wife Mary in 1909, David retired and moved to
Springville, where he purchased a home on Main Street. He brought with him
his horse, "Doc," and possibly a cow. His daughters Bertha and Leona lived
with him. His time was spent mostly in reading the political news, and
downtown with others of his age discussing the events of the day. He had a
large garden that he worked during the summer. He passed away August 31,
1920, exactly 11 years to the day after his wife's death.
Elmer A. Runkle
Elmer A. Runkle, secretary of the Williams & Hunting Company since 1900, was born in Lisbon, Iowa, August 12, 1863, his parents being Adam and Malinda (Sherk) Runkle. The father was born in Dauphin county, Pennsylvania. In 1858 he came to Lisbon with a load of dried apples and this was his introduction to the state in which he afterward made his home. He established a business as shoemaker and during the Civil war engaged in making shoes for the soldiers. Prospering in his undertakings, his increased capital enabled him to embark in another field in 1868 and he established a hardware store which he conducted up to the time of his death, which occurred in 1908. He was long numbered among the prominent, influential and reliable citizens of Lisbon and his business integrity was unassailable.
At the usual age Elmer A. Runkle was sent to the public schools where he continued until 1881. He then attended Western College at Toledo, Iowa, where he continued for a year. After putting aside his text-books he went to Tipton, Iowa, where he engaged in the hardware business until 1888 in partnership with J. S. Smith. In that year he disposed of his interests in Tipton and removed to Lisbon where he conducted a lumber yard until 1894. Seeking the broader business opportunities of the city, he then came to Cedar Rapids and entered the service of the Williams & Hunting Company as bookkeeper. In 1900 he was elected secretary and has since been active in the management and control of the business, his unfaltering energy and determination constituting an element in its growing success.
In 1888 Mr. Runkle was married in Lisbon, Iowa, to Miss Jennie L. Hershey, a daughter of John and Mary (Sweet) Hershey, and unto them have been born three children: Merrill, twenty-one years of age, who is now attending Iowa College at Grinnell, Iowa; Florence, sixteen years of age, now a pupil in the Cedar Rapids high school; and Evelyn, thirteen years of age, who is a pupil in the graded schools.
Mr. Runkle belongs to the Congregational church which finds in him a devoted and faithful member. His political allegiance is given to the republican party and his fraternal relations are with Crescent Lodge, A. F. & A. M., and the Hoo Hoo's, an organization of lumbermen. He also belongs to the Commercial Club of Cedar Rapids, taking a deep interest in everything pertaining to the business development of the city with the destinies of which he has allied his interests. Mr. Runkle finds great pleasure and recreation in automobiling. His business career has been marked by steady progress. Early recognizing the truth of the old Greek admonition "Earn thy reward; the Gods give naught to sloth," he has put forth earnest and persistent effort in the field of merchandising and his diligence and industry have been crowned with success that has brought him to an enviable position in business circles.
Horace G. Chalfant
Horace G. Chalfant, who at the age of six years became a resident of Linn county, within the borders of which he continued to reside until his death, was for a considerable period connected with contracting and building operations and built up a good business, receiving a liberal share of the public patronage. He is yet remembered as a reliable and trustworthy man and an upright and honorable citizen, and to his family he left the priceless heritage of an untarnished name. He was born in Chester county, Pennsylvania, November 17, 1858, and was a son of Bennett and Emeline Chalfant, who came to Linn county at an early day. The father died here, but the mother still survives and is now living in Chicago. Their family numbered five children.
Horace G. Chalfant was a little lad of only six years when his parents left the Keystone state and started on their westward journey to Iowa, with Linn county as their destination. Here he remained until his life labors were ended in death. In his boyhood he was a pupil in the public schools, dividing his time between the acquirement of an education and such duties as were assigned him by parental authority. He also took keen delight in games and sports in which all healthy boys indulge. When he left school he turned his attention to the carpenter's trade and when he had become a good workman and had acquired considerable experience in the employ of others, he began contracting on his own account and successfully built up a good patronage, for he proved himself competent and trustworthy. He ever faithfully executed the terms of a contract and as the years passed on became closely associated with building operations in this city.
In 1886 Mr. Chalfant was united in marriage to Miss Anna Langnecker, who was born in Independence, Iowa, in 1860, and is a daughter of Henry and Margaret (Kellerman) Langnecker, the former a native ofPrussia and the latter of Bavaria. On leaving that country they crossed the Atlantic to the new world and spent their last days in Independence, Iowa, where they reared their family of six children. Mr. and Mrs. Chalfant had but one child, Forest L., who was born May 10, 1896, and died April 9, 1897. The death of Mr. Chalfant occurred May 12, 1907, and thus his widow was left alone, for their only child had passed away about ten years before. His remains were laid to rest in Oak Hill cemetery.
In his political views Mr. Chalfant was always an earnest republican and greatly desired the success of the party, because he believed that its principles contained the best elements of good government. He belonged to the Methodist
Caption: H. G. ChalfantEpiscopal church, in its work took an active and helpful part, contributed liberally to its support and filled all of the offices in the church. That his life was permeated by his Christian faith and belief was manifest in his business record and in all of his relations with his fellowmen. Wherever known he was honored and respected and most of all where he was best known. His memory is enshrined in the hearts of those who knew him. So noble was his character that it constitutes an example which others may well follow. Mrs. Chalfant still owns a fine residence at No. 1274 Fourth avenue and also a dwelling at No. 1426 Bever avenue. She has a wide acquaintance in Cedar Rapids and her friends are many.
">Frederic L. Diserens
Frederic L. Diserens, with wide experience in the field of railway building and operation, is now filling the position of superintendent of the Cedar Rapids & Marion City Railway. Bending his energies toward the successful accomplishment of the duties which devolve upon him in this connection, he is giving to the public a satisfactory service and thereby contributing in large measure to the success of the undertaking. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, September 11, 1854, a son of Francois Henry and Mary Ann (Murdock) Diserens. The father was born in Lutry, in the Canton Vaud, Switzerland, and the mother's birth occurred in Brookville, Indiana, then part of the northwest territory. Her father, George Leonard Murdock, was a member of the constitutional convention that made Indiana a state and for a number of years thereafter represented his district in the legislature and aided in formulating the policy and shaping the destiny of that commonwealth. Her brother, Judge Charles Cone Murdock, was for years judge of the common pleas court at Cincinnati, Ohio, and thus the family history is one of distinguished connection with various sections of the country.
Francois Henry Diserens was reared in the land of his birth to the year 1814, when he came with his parents to the United States. After a short time, however, he returned to Switzerland to complete his education and became an expert mathematician. Once more he crossed the Atlantic to the new world and joined his parents, who had become members of the Swiss colony near Vevay, Indiana. His father was Francois Nathieu Diserens, who had served as a colonel in the Swiss war. His brother had been a member of the Swiss colony that came to this country and had acquired extensive landed interests in Indiana. It was he who persuaded Francois Nathieu Diserens to cross the Atlantic after he had severed his connection with the military department of France in the draft made by Napoleon on the Helvetian republic.
Joining his parents in the new world, Francois Henry Diserens engaged in building sugar mills and steamboat engines, with shops in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Civil war, with its widely felt influences over business, involved him financially and he was forced to discontinue in the line which he had established. After being connected with the naval service on the river for a short time he became the owner of and conducted a tobacco farm in Clermont county, where he spent his remaining days, giving his undivided attention to that business. He reached the Psalmist's alloted span of three score years and ten, while his wife passed away at the age of sixty years.
Frederic L. Diserens, reared under the parental roof, acquired his education in the public schools, passing through consecutive grades until he became a high school student in Cincinnati. Later he joined the sophomore class in the Massachusetts School of Technology at Boston, there remaining for a year, after which he received practical training in the city engineer's office in Cincinnati. He remained there as assistant for five years, and then entered the service of the Cincinnati Southern Railroad Company as assistant engineer, later coming to the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad. He was identified with the construction department of that road for a period of ten years and was also active in connection with the building of other lines in 1886, 1887 and 1888. He became prominently known as a railroad builder in the southern states, and in 1889 and 1890 was connected with Captain S. L. Dows in the construction of the Sioux City & Northern Railroad. In 1891 he came to Cedar Rapids and had charge of the building of the Cedar Rapids & Marion City Railway line, but following the completion of this road he returned to the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad, making the surveys preliminary to its construction from Forest City to Armstrong. In 1893 he returned to Cedar Rapids to accept the superintendency of the Cedar Rapids & Marion Railway as the successor of Mr. Elsom, resigned. He has served continuously in this capacity for seventeen years and is recognized as one of the able railroad men of Iowa, not only thoroughly understanding railway construction but also manifesting marked ability in management and control.
In 1881 Mr. Diserens was married to Miss Lucy Lemon, of Spirit Lake, Iowa, and unto them have been born two sons and a daughter, Frederic L., a student in the School of Applied Science at the State University; Albert J., attending high school; and Mary C., also a high school student. Both Mr. and Mrs. Diserens hold membership in the Grace Episcopal church and are interested in its various lines of work. Mrs. Diserens is also a member of the ladies' auxiliary board of St. Luke's Hospital and gives earnest and efficient aid in other charitable and benevolent lines.
Mr. Diserens belongs to the Linn County Historical Society, and to the Cedar Rapids Country Club, while in more strictly professional lines he is connected with the Iowa Engineering Society. Fraternally a Mason, he belongs to Mount Hermon Lodge, No. 263, F. & A. M.; Trowel Chapter, R. A. M.; Apollo Commandery, No. 23, K. T.; Iowa Consistory, No. 2, A. A. S. R.; and El Kahir Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S. His wife is connected with the Order of the Eastern Star. Mr. Diserens is also an Elk, his membership being with Cedar Rapids Lodge, No. 251, B. P. O. E. His course has been marked by steady advancement, resulting from well developed powers, broad experience and close application. His energy has enabled him to accomplish substantial results and the worth of his work has brought him to a position of prominence in industrial circles. In business, social and public relations he commands the regard and esteem of all who know him.
Niels S. Anderson
Niels C. Andersen, who has resided in Linn county since coming to the United States in 1873, is now well known as a farmer and dairyman of Marion township and owns one hundred and twenty-two acres of valuable land. He was born in Denmark on the 10th of June, 1844, and in that country his parents remained throughout their entire lives. There he acquired his education and spent the first twenty-nine years of his life. In 1873, actuated by a desire to take advantage of the opportunities of the new world, he crossed the Atlantic to the United States and located in this county. Finding immediate employment a necessity, he secured work as a farm hand and was thus busily engaged for five years. Having carefully saved his earnings, he was then enabled to invest in a farm of his own, coming into possession of a tract of forty acres, one-half of which was located in Bertram township and the other half in Marion township. As his financial resources increased, owing to his unremitting industry and good management, he extended the boundaries of his farm by additional purchases until it now embraces one hundred and twenty-two acres of rich and productive land. He conducts a dairy in connection with the cultivation of cereals and in both branches of his business has met with a gratifying measure of success.
In 1873, at Cedar Rapids, Mr. Andersen was united in marriage to Miss Christina Fredricksen, likewise a native of Denmark, who was a passenger on the same vessel which brought him to America. Since becoming a naturalized American citizen Mr. Andersen has supported the men and measures of the democratic party, believing firmly in its principles. The hope that led him to seek a home on this side of the Atlantic has been more than realized, for as the years have gone by he has prospered in his undertakings and is now in possession of a valuable farm property which yields to him a good financial return.
George H. Boyson
George H. Boyson, prominent in commercial circles in Cedar Rapids as a member of the Boyson Drug Company, is perhaps even more widely known through his recent efforts to secure legislation that will prevent the sale of intoxicants in drug stores -- efforts that are receiving the endorsement and approval of the great band of progressive citizens who recognize an attempt to check the evils of intemperance. Strong of purpose, resourceful and indefatigable in whatever he undertakes, he is leaving the impress of his individuality for good upon the public interests of Iowa. He was born in Jackson county, this state, on the 9th of January, 1874, a son of Hans J. Boyson, a native of Germany, who is a retired farmer living in Cedar Falls at the age of sixty-three years. In early manhood he married Catherine Lind who died about twenty years ago.
After mastering the preliminary branches of learning in the country schools, George H. Boyson continued his education in the Waterloo Commercial College and in the State University. He has been connected with the drug trade of Cedar Rapids since he was twenty-two years of age, at which time he opened up a drug store on Third street and First avenue, West, the new enterprise proving a success. Four years later, in order to meet the growing demands of the trade, more commodious quarters were secured by a removal across the street. After remaining in that location for two years he came to his present place of business which is one of the most commercially desirable locations in the city -- the corner of First avenue and Third street. The business was incorporated ten years ago under the name of the Boyson Company, his associates being his father, H. J. Boyson, and brother, H. N. Boyson. There is conducted one of the finest and largest drug stores in the state and the pay roll is as large as any four drug stores in the city.
Mr. Boyson does notsell liquor in any form whatever. Indeed, he is utterly opposed to such a course and has fearlessly announced himself in favor of abolishing the sale of intoxicants in all drug stores in Iowa. His standing in business circles is indicated in the fact that he has been elected president of the Iowa State Pharmaceutical Association. When he had filled the office for two years, in his annual address before the association, he resolutely and fearlessly attacked the subject of the sale of liquors by druggists. He made a memorable speech on that occasion. After saying that for twenty-nine years the presidents had spoken on the troubles which affect the retail druggist, attributing their lack of success to the scarcity of good clerks, to the sale of remedies by peddlers and to the non-support of physicians, many of whom prepare their own medicines, Mr. Boyson stated that it was his belief that the trouble lay in the fact that the druggists sold intoxicating liquors. His speech was a most forceful and earnest one, carrying conviction to the minds of many of his hearers. He spoke of the ill repute attached to the name of druggist because so many men not qualified to conduct the drug business had entered the trade merely for the purpose of selling liquors; that if a druggist improved his store, built a new home or gave other signs of prosperity, it was the general consensus of opinion on the part of the public that he had made his money in the sale of intoxicants; that legislators would not heed an appeal to put a stop to the sale of remedies from peddling wagons when druggists were infringing on the law concerning the sale of liquors. Mr. Boyson suggested as a remedy that a law be passed that any druggist who should sell intoxicants for medicinal purposes or as a beverage should be fined and incarcerated for ten days in jail. He does not believe that alcoholic preparations are ever required as medicine and he is working untiringly for a clean and honorable business in the field in which he labors. After making the address before the State Pharmaceutical Association, Mr. Boyson took the matter up before the general assembly, fathering the measure now under consideration for the absolute repeal of the permit law relating to the sale of intoxicating liquors by druggists.
His bill would repeal every section of the statutes relative to drug store permits and make it as much of a crime for druggists as for grocers to sell liquors. During the past winter he spent much time at Des Moines in the interests of his bill and he has in his possession a petition which measures nine feet, signed by the leading druggists throughout the state, to dispense altogether with the sale of intoxicants in the drug stores. It is well known that in many towns the citizens depend entirely upon the drug store for such beverages and the adoption of Mr. Boyson's bill would be of incalculable benefit as a factor in the temperance movement that is sweeping over the country so strongly.
Aside from his other interests Mr. Boyson was one of the organizers of the Peoples Savings Bank. He is a progressive business man, watchful of all opportunities pointing to legitimate success, his course characterized by close application and unremitting energy. As he has prospered in his undertakings he has made investments in property and is now the owner of lands in Texas and Minnesota and also considerable real estate in Cedar Rapids.
On the 12th of May, 1897, Mr. Boyson was united in marriage to Miss Sarah J. Larson, of Cedar Falls, and they have two children, Gladys and Gilbert, aged respectively twelve and seven years. Mr. Boyson belongs to the Odd Fellows Society, the Modern Woodmen Camp, and the Independent Order of Foresters. In manner he is ever genial and courteous and stands today a strong man -- strong in his honor and good name, strong in his ability to plan and perform and strong in his high and creditable purposes. He is a man of action rather than of theory and while working toward ideals, utilizes practical methods for their accomplishment.
Frank C. Byers
Frank C. Byers, a young attorney of Cedar Rapids, is working his way steadily upward and, although one of the younger representatives of the profession, has gained a creditable place in its ranks. He was born in Alden, Hardin county, Iowa, June 20, 1883, and is a son of Joseph and Annie M. Byers. The father was a native of Galena, Illinois, and on coming to Iowa settled in Hardin county, where he carried on general farming until 1878, when he turned his attention to the harness manufacturing business, becoming one of the prominent representatives of industrial life in Alden.
Frank C. Byers was a pupil in the public schools of his native town until graduated from the high school with the class of 1900. He afterward attended Iowa College at Grinnell, Iowa, for a year and in preparation for the practice of law matriculated in the University of Iowa, from which he was graduated with the LL. B. degree in 1904. He then came to Cedar Rapids and opened an office, since which time he has continued in the practice of law in this city and has made substantial advance in his profession. He was appointed assistant city attorney in 1908 and in that office capably defended the interests of the city in litigation. He is also a teacher of commercial law at the Cedar Rapids Business College. His professional career altogether has been a most successful one and many a lawyer of much older years might envy him the position which he has already attained.
On the 27th of October, 1909, Mr. Byers was married in Iowa City to Miss Myra Lyon. He is a member of the Masonic lodge. His political views are in accord with the principles of the republican party and his religious faith is that of the Episcopal church.
Marshall Swayne, a substantial farmer and representative citizen of Linn county, where he occupies a high place in the regard of his fellowmen, was born in Chester county, Pennsylvania, on the 24th of January, 1863. He was a son of David C. and Emeline R. (Walton) Swayne, also natives of the Keystone state, where their entire lives were spent, the mother passing away on the 2d of December, 1885, while the father survived until 1897. They were the parents of three children: J. W., a resident of Leonard, Pennsylvania; Marshall, of this review; and Anna, the wife of T. N. Pile, of Malvern, Pennsylvania.
No event of special importance came to vary the routine of life for Marshall Swayne during the period of his boyhood and youth, which was quietly passed in the Pennsylvania home, his education being acquired in the common schools of that state. When not engaged with his text-books he was busy in the fields, early learning the various phases of farm work and becoming familiar with the best methods of plowing, planting and harvesting. He remained with his parents until twenty years of age, when, desiring to enter the business world on his own account, he came to Linn county, Iowa, and, wisely choosing as his life work the occupation to which he had been reared, hired out as a farm hand, remaining in that capacity for three and a half years. He then went to Sac county, Iowa, and purchased a farm, his earnest labor, untiring industry and strict economy during the previous years making that step possible. There he remained for seven years, on the expiration of which period he sold the farm and returned to Linn county. For a period he rented the farm which later, in 1908, through purchase, became his own property and upon which he has since continued to reside. The place constitutes one hundred and twenty-three and a half acres of land, a large portion of which he has greatly improved anddeveloped. He cultivates the cereals best adapted to the soil and climate, and in addition devotes much of his time to his stock interests, raising and fattening all kinds of stock. This branch of his business is proving most remunerative, the high grade of his product demanding excellent prices and ready sale on the market.
It was on the 10th of March, 1887, that Mr. Swayne was united in marriage to Miss Emma Cook, a native of Linn county and a daughter of William and Mary C. (Swayne) Cook, both of whom were born in Pennsylvania. They came to Linn county in 1851 and here Mr. Cook entered a tract of land which he developed and upon which he erected a fine brick house which is still standing. He passed away March 22, 1905, his remains being laid to rest in the Oak Shade cemetery. He is survived by his wife and three children. Mrs. Cook, who is now eighty-three years of age, is a member of the Friends church and makes her home with her daughter, Mrs. Swayne. The latter, a high-school graduate, is an attendant of the Methodist Episcopal church, in the work of which she is deeply and helpfully interested, and she has many warm friends throughout the locality in which she resides who admire her for her many excellent traits of heart and mind.
Well known in fraternal circles, Mr. Swayne is a member of Osceola Lodge, No. 18, I. O. O. F., of Marion, in which he has filled all of the chairs, and he is likewise identified with the Mystic Toilers, acting as secretary thereof for the past nine years. Stanch in his support of the republican party, he was elected by his fellow citizens to the office of constable, and during his term of incumbency in that office he performed all duties that devolved upon him in connection therewith in a manner that not only reflected honor upon himself but called forth the commendation and respect of his colleagues. Aside from this instance, however, he has not sought nor desired office, preferring to concentrate his energies upon hisbusiness affairs, and by constant exertion, associated with good judgment, he has gained a place among the substantial farmers of Marion township and commands the high regard and confidence of all with whom he has business or other relations.
Louis Arthur Gerolamy
Although a native of Iowa City, Iowa, born in 1867, Louis Arthur Gerolamy was only six months old when brought to Cedar Rapids and during much of his life remained a resident here, always maintaining the deepest interest in the city and her welfare. He was one of her representatives who have gained wide distinction in the field of art, his name becoming known and honored. He was a son of William Gerolamy, who was born in Canada in 1824 and was there educated. Early in life he learned photography and after living for a time at Iowa City, he removed with his family to Cedar Rapids in 1867. Here he opened the first sewing machine establishment and sold the first machine in the city. He met with substantial success in the undertaking, enjoying an extensive and growing patronage up to the time of his death, which occurred in 1869. While in Canada in 1855 he had married Harriett Seymour Thorp and unto them were born eight children of whom only two, however, are now living: Alfred, a resident of Texas; and Mrs. Stella Defenbaugh of Cedar Rapids, who occupies the old home with her mother.
Louis A. Gerolamy acquired his education in the schools of Cedar Rapids and went as a young man to Chicago where he entered the employ of Mandel Brothers, leading merchants of that city. However, as his ability and talent for drawing became known and recognized, his skill being especially marked in portrait work, he was induced to study along that line in Chicago. His uncle, Francis L. Thorp, of that city assisted him as he pursued his course and at length he opened a studio in Chicago but later returned to Cedar Rapids. He afterward traveled in Montana where he did much work in copying and enlarging portraits, his superior skill in that field winning him a reputation that made him known throughout the country. He afterward spent several years in Old Mexico where he sketched pictures ofthe governor and other famous men of that country. His patronage was extensive and came to him from the old and prominent Mexican families. In 1904, returning to Cedar Rapids, he opened a studio which he conducted to the
Caption: L. A. Gerolamytime of his demise. Having prospered in his undertaking, he erected the finest apartment house in this city, at No. 616 Fourth Avenue, it proving thereafter a profitable source of income. Mrs. Gerolamy, the mother, always accompanied her son on his travels and was his constant companion. There was an unusually strong tie of comradeship between them for their tastes and interests were much in harmony.
Mr. Gerolamy not only possessed marked artistic ability but also considerable talent as a singer and always sang in the choir of the Episcopal church of which he was a communicant. He died May 27, 1909. He possessed the nature that commonly accompanies artistic talent and a keen appreciation of the beautiful in nature as well as art, a repulsion for all that was low or degrading and continually reached out for all that was uplifting. The best in music and art, therefore, made a strong appeal to him and his life, moreover, was an expression of those higher sentiments which are manifest in filial devotion and a generous response to the obligations and claims of friendship.
Charles H. Birdsall
Charles H. Birdsall, at the age of seventy years, is living retired from the active work of the farm to which he long gave his attention, but is filling the office of justice of the peace to which he was elected in 1905. He has served in other local offices and in all these positions has proved his loyalty in citizenship and his devotion to the general good.
Mr. Birdsall was born July 25, 1839, near Detroit, Michigan, his parents being Carey W. and Roxanna (Cross) Birdsall. The father came from New York to the middle west, settling in the vicinity of Detroit, Michigan. He was a carriage maker by trade, living an industrious life, but was called to his final rest when his son, Charles H. Birdsall, was only about four years of age. The mother reached the age of sixty-six years and passed away in Linn county.
Charles H. Birdsall acquired his early education in the public schools of the state of New York and afterward continued his studies in Illinois. He arrived in Linn county in March, 1866, and for forty-four years has been identified with this section of the state, lending his aid and support to every project for public benefit. During the first two years of his residence here he engaged in the cultivation of a rented farm, after which he purchased one hundred and thirty acres of land near Marion. With characteristic energy he began its further development and improvement and year after year carefully tilled his fields, bringing the farm under a high state of cultivation. He is still the owner of the property although in 1904 he took up his abode in Marion and has since left the active work of the fields to others.
In early manhood Mr. Birdsall responded to the country's call for aid and was sworn into the United States service on the 24th of May, 1861, at Rockford, Illinois. He served under Colonel Turner in the Army of the Tennessee and was a private of CompanyC, Fifteenth Regiment of Illinois Infantry. His first term of enlistment covered three months and he was honorably discharged in October, 1861, after which he reenlisted, becoming a member of the One Hundred and Forty-sixth Illinois Infantry with which he continued throughout the remainder of hostilities. He participated in all of the important engagements with his regiment and was discharged when the war was over, returning to his home with the most creditable military record.
On the 13th of March, 1866, Mr. Birdsall was married to Miss Sarah Harris, a daughter of R. H. and Mary Harris, of Winnebago county, Illinois. Four children blessed this union: Jessie O., the wife of George Bayley, by whom she has four children, Roy, Olive, Robert and William Howard, living in Seattle, Washington; Jennie M., the twin sister of Jessie; Nettie R., at home; and Roswell Carey. The family hold membership in the Christian church and take a very prominent, active and helpful part in its work, being closely associated with its various activities. Mr. Birdsall is one of the prominent members of the Grand Army post at Marion and has served as its commander. He has reached the Psalmist's allotted span of three score years and ten, but while he has retired from active farm life his thoughts are not retrospective but are in close touch with modern ideas and projects, and matters of public progress are of deep interest to him. His life has been well spent, commending him to the confidence and good will of all with whom business or social relations have brought him in contact.
Ninety-three years of age, the most venerable citizen and patriarch of Cedar Rapids, no history of the city would be complete without extended mention of Robert Ellis. He came to western Iowa when this portion of the state was a great unimproved district and still a part of Wisconsin territory, the prairie covered with its native grasses, furnishing shelter to feathered game, while wild animals and Indians roamed at will over the district. Recognizing the natural advantages of the place Robert Ellis staked out a claim, and while other business interests drew him elsewhere for a time he has almost continuously resided in Cedar Rapids since that early day, or for a period of seventy-two years. It seems hardly possible that within the memory of living man this city has sprung up and grown to its present size, but the record of its development has left an indelible impress upon the memory of Mr. Ellis, who has always taken active and helpful part in the work of improvement and upbuilding here. Moreover, in this direction he has displayed marked ability and keen discernment, and success has crowned his efforts. He is today one of the most prominent and honored citizens of Linn county.
A native of Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, Mr. Ellis was born January 20, 1817. His parents, John and Elizabeth (Cairns) Ellis, were natives of Ireland but in early life crossed the Atlantic, becoming residents of the Keystone state, where the father followed farming until his death in 1836. It was in this country that he married Elizabeth Cairns, who died in 1840. Robert Ellis was the eldest child of that marriage and is the only survivor of his father's children, John Ellis having had eight children by a former marriage.
In his native county Robert Ellis acquired his education and in 1837, when a young man of twenty years, started westward. He spent a year in Ohio and Michigan, and then crossed the Mississippi at Rock Island, Illinois, and followed an Indian trail through Iowa. He spent six weeks in what is now Cedar county, but learning that there was a more beautiful section still farther west, he resumed his journey. He was then scarcely more than a boy and was without money, but he was blessed with health and strength, with courage and determination. On the 6th of May, 1838, he reached the house of Michael Donahue in Sugar Grove and there spent the night. Two days later, on the 8th of May, he approached the site of Cedar Rapids. As he drew near from the east he was charmed with the view that was presented. Not knowing the exact location of the men who had settled here he was unable to decide which way to go, but observing the signs of travel in the brush near him he followed the stream and suddenly came upon a rude shanty which showed every indication of recent habitation by a white man. No person, however, was in sight. A path led to the river and down this Robert Ellis walked with rapid stride. He had gone but a few steps when he beheld a sight which thrilled him with horror. There at his feet in a patch of gardening which was being dug up for seeding, lay the body of a man apparently lifeless. Mr. Ellis says that he could feel his hair rise under his hat at the sight. The solemnity of the place, the desolation, the distance from civilization and the Caption: Robert Ellissurprise of the situation all tended to increase the horror to the lonely traveler who thus stood face to face with the spectre of death. He was no coward but involuntarily he shouted aloud. The shout was as startling as the discovery and with the first sound the body suddenly stood erect. The situation was certainly novel. "Hello, stranger! Well I swan!" said the man. Explanations quickly followed. It seems that the pioneer farmer had become weary and had thrown himself on the ground in the warm sunshine for sleep. Such was the introduction of Mr. Ellis to Cedar Rapids. The man proved to be Phillip Hull, one of the first settlers in this part of the state.
Charmed with the country, Mr. Ellis secured a claim on the bluff overlooking the river where he now has his home. He marked out his one hundred and sixty acres by guess, as there was no surveyor here, blazing the trees to show the land had been taken. He made no improvements thereon, however, until it came into the market in 1840, in which year George Greene succeeded in having the government land office changed temporarily from Dubuque to Marion. In the meantime Mr. Ellis worked in different ways in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and other states, while his friends looked out for his claim for him, which cost him a dollar and a quarter per acre. There were indeed few families in this locality when he arrived in Cedar Rapids in 1838. From that time he took an active and helpful part in the early development of the city and county. In 1844 or 1845 he purchased four thousand bushels of wheat for a Dubuque firm. He found it necessary to construct three flatboats near Palo on which to load the wheat, and then proceeded down the Cedar to Burlington. He found the firm unable, on account of the money panic, to meet their obligation in currency, so they gave him flour in exchange, which he took down the Mississippi to New Orleans. He found that city affected also by the panic and on the deal just came out even.
In 1849, while in the pineries of Minnesota, Mr. Ellis read Governor Mason's report of the discovery of gold in California and resolved to make his way to the mines. He crossed the plains by way of Council Bluffs to the Platte river and remained on the coast for six or seven years, returning to Cedar Rapids in 1856 -- the year in which the city charter was granted. He then secured a man to assist him in building a frame house, a part of which is still standing on his original claim. From that time to the present he has been closely associated with Cedar Rapids and her improvement.
On the 2d of July, 1857, Mr. Ellis was married to Miss Martha L. King, a daughter of William and Catherine (Ambrose) King. The mother was twice married, her first husband being a Mr. Listerbarger. Mrs. Ellis was born in Pennsylvania and died September 29, 1899. She was a member of the First Presbyterian church and was held in the highest esteem by all who knew her. There were nine children in the family, of whom the eldest is deceased, the others being: King W., Elizabeth, Herman R., Charles G., Ralph R., Amanda, Wirt N. and George W.
In his political views Mr. Ellis has been a stalwart republican from the organization of the party and has served as township trustee and as president of the school district, but the honors and emoluments of office have had little attraction for him. He has preferred to labor for the public interest along other lines and he has witnessed marvelous changes in the surroundings during the long period of his residence here. He is today the oldest resident in Linn county and he relates many interesting tales and stories of pioneer times, when the red men roamed at will over this section of the country, when deer and other wild game were frequently seen and when one could travel for miles without coming to a habitation or an indication that the seeds of civilization were being planted on the western frontier. In the early days he bought cattle and hogs and sold them at an Indian agency, also at Fort Atkinson and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. All who know him -- and he has a most wide acquaintance -- have ever realized that he is a generous man and a liberal-minded citizen. As the years passed on he made investment in property and became the owner of valuable landholdings. In 1901 the city purchased from Mr. Ellis forty-seven acres of his original claim and converted it into a park which was named in his honor Ellis Park. Because of the use to which it was to be put Mr. Ellis sold it at half its actual value, thus making a most generous donation to the city. Ellis Park is now one of the beauty spots of Cedar Rapids and will forever perpetuate the memory of the man whose name it bears.
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