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Biographical review of Henry County, Iowa, containing biographical and genealogical sketches of many of the prominent citizens of to-day and also of the past .. online

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Online LibraryHobart Publishing Company (Chicago)Biographical review of Henry County, Iowa, containing biographical and genealogical sketches of many of the prominent citizens of to-day and also of the past .. → online text (page 1 of 85)
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(Henry Co.^

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''"Biographv is the onlv true h /story." — emerson





-Tlf^L.N t"l -.i'ATlU.NS



''The history of a nation is best told in ilie lives of
its people y — MaCAL'LAY.


The present age is happily awake to the duty of writing its own records, set-
ting down what is best worth remembering in tlie hves of the busy toilers of to-
day, noting, not in vainglory, but with an honest pride and sense of fitness, things
worthy of emulation, that thus the good men do may live after them. The ac-
counts here rendered are not buried talents, but of used ability and opportunity.
The conquests recited are of mind over matter, of cheerful labor directed by thought,
of honest, earnest endeavor which subdues the earth in the divinely appointed
way. "The great lesson of biography," it is said,^ "is to show what man can be
and do at his best." A noble life put fairly on record acts like an inspiration, and
no more interesting or instructi\e matter could be presented to an intelligent public.

In this A^lume will be found a record of many whose lives are worthy the
imitation of coming generations. It tells how some, commencing life in poverty,
by industry and economy have accumulated wealth. It tells how others, with
limited advantages for securing an education, have become learned men and
women, with an influence extending throughout the length and breadth of the
land. It tells of men who have risen from the lower walks of life to eminence as
statesmen, and whose names have become famous. It tells of those in every
walk of life who have striven to succeed, and records how that success has unsu-
ally crowned their efforts. It tells also of those who, not seeking the applause of
the world, have pursued the "even tenor of their way," content to have it said of
them, as Christ said of a woman performing a deed of mercy, "They have done
what they could." It tells how many, in the pride and strength of young man-
hood, left all, and at their country's call went forth valiantly "to do or to die," and
how through their efforts the Union was restored and peace once more reigned in
the land.

Coming generations will appreciate this volume, and preserve it as a sacred
treasure, from the fact that it contains so much that would never find its way
into public record, and which would otherwise be inaccessible. Creat care has
been taken in the compilation of the work, and every opportunity possible given
to those represented to insure correctness in what has been written ; and the pub-
lishers flatter themselves that they give to their readers a work with few errors
of consequence.

Yours respectfully,


July, 1006.

"A people that take )io pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors will

never achieve anything tvorthy to be remembered ivith pride

by remote generations." - MaCAULAY



4ftr«B. tJM»»X AMP







Captain Warren Beckwith, whose in-
tense and well directed efforts have
brought him into close connection with
many lines of activiy of far-reaching" ef-
fect so that it is almost impossible to de-
termine which has been the most impor-
tant chapter in his life history, is now
living retired in Mount Pleasant although
he yet has financial investments in a num-
ber of paying enterprises. He was born
at West Henrietta, Monroe county. New
York, January 21, 1833, and is a son of
George L. and Sarah E. (Winslow)
Beckwith. The ancestry of the family can
be traced back to 1635, when the progeni-
tor of the Beckwiths came to x\merica and
founded .one of the early colonial families.
In 1760 representatives of the name re-
moved to New Brunswick, but later gen-
erations of the family returned to the
United States. George L. Beckwith was
a farmer at West Henrietta and there re-
mained until the time of his death, devot-
ing his entire life to agricultural pursuits.

Captain Beckwith of this review, one
of a family of six children, was educated

in the common schools of his native town
until ten years of age, when he became a
student in Monroe Academy, at East Hen-
rietta, and subsequently attended Lima
Seminary, where he completed his school
life at the age of twenty years. Then en-
tering upon his business career he joined
an engineering party in the construction
of the Genesee Valley Railroad, now that
part of the Erie system extending north-
ward from Corning. In December. 1854,
on the opening of that state. Captain Beck-
with went to Kansas and entered the em-
ploy of a town company of which General
Lyons was the executive officer. For this
company he laid out Pawnee City, near
Fort Riley. Governor Reeder agreed to
make the new town capital of the state it
the company w(mld erect a Iniilding in
which the legislature elected in Novem-
ber could meet. The site of tlie town was
one hundred and twenty-five miles from
the Missouri ri\er. and the company cut
timber, quarried the stone and erected a
building which was completed in June,
1855. It was a two-story stone structure,
the ruins of which are still seen within the
reservation at b'ort Rilev. The rebel leg-



islature held a day session there but at
that tme the Kansas war ^^•as inaugurated
and the building was not used further.

His work being completed in Kansas,
Captain Beck with came to Iowa in the
spring of 1856, and assisted in locating
the line of the Chicago, Burlington &
Quincy Railroad from Ottumwa to the
Missouri river, acting as transit man for
a year. He was in the service of the com-
pany in the construction and train depart-
ment until June. i860, and was thus a fac-
tor in the early de\'elopment of Iowa for
no interest is of greater value toward the
upbuilding of a state than railroad con-
struction for rapid transportation facili-
ties bring it into close touch with the older
east and make possible the securing of ad-
vantages and privileges known to the older
settled districts. At the date mentioned,
however, Mr. Beckwith withdrew from
railroad interests and with a partner pur-
chased two thousand sheep and some
horses, with which he started for Texas.
Driving across the country they reached
the vicinity of Houston in December,
i860, and remained there until July, 1861,
when Captain Beckwith sold his interest.
The venture, however, did not prove finan-
cially successful. He got out of it money
enough to bring him home, and to take
passage on a flatboat from Galveston to
New Orleans, where he landed on the 4th
of July, thence proceeding by rail to
Cairo, where he arrived on the 8th of the
same month. He was the first northern
man to make his way through for a month
for the Civil war had been inaugurated.

In September following, Captain Beck-
with responding to his countr\^'s need en-
listed for service in the Fourth Iowa Cav-

alry, and in November of the same year
was promoted to the rank of battallion
adjutant. In April, 1862, he joined Gen-
eral Curtis in Missouri and marched
with him through Batesville and Jackson
Port to Hannibal, Missouri, arriving at
the latter place in the middle of July. In
August he was made regimental adjutant
and in October regimental quartermaster,
and his promotion to the captaincy of
Company C came on the ist of January,

1863. The regiment went with Grant to
Vicksburg, crossing below Grand Gulf
and coming up in the rear of the city.
Captain Beckwith was thus in service in
Vicksburg and throughout the state, and
remained there until the ist of March,

1864, engaging in the meantime in various
raids including the Meridian raid and the
raid eight hundred miles to Memphis,
Tennessee, in September, 1863. After
being granted a veteran furlough he re-
turned to Memphis in May, 1864, and was
engaged in frustrating the advance of For-
est, w^ho attempted to approach in the
rear of Sherman's army then on the march
to Atlanta. He also participated in pur-
suit of Pierce through Missouri, the regi-
ment marching two thousand miles in
ninety days and following the rebel com-
mander from St. Louis w^estward to Kan-
sas City and on past Fort Scott, Fayette-
ville, Arkansas and the Arkansas river.
The Union troops then returned to St.
Louis, capturing two division generals,
Marmaduke and Cabel, also two thousand
prisoners in a grand mounted charge on
the prairie. After this event they then
joined General Wilson on the Tennessee
river, reaching Gravelly Plains in Febru-
arv, where the united forces formed a


guard of fifteen thousand mounted men.
They then started on a march southward
through Alabama, captured Selma, Mont-
gomeiy, Cohimbus and Macon and par-
ticipated in the last battle east of the Mis-
sissippi at Columbus, on the 15th of April,
1865. This was after Lee surrendered
and they reached Macon on the 20th of
the month, where news of the fall of the
Confederates was received. Following
the surrender of the rebel forces, the Un-
ion troops were stationed at Atlanta un-
til the last of August, when Captain Beck-
with and his entire regiment were mus-
tered out. He had the usual experiences
that are meted out to the soldier, taking
part in long, hard marches, difficult skir-
mishes and hotly contested engagements,
in which his valor was many times put to
the test.

Following his arrival home Captain
Beckwith was immediately appointed as
roadmaster for the Burlington & Missouri
River Railroad, and served in that ca-
pacity until its consolidation with the Chi-
cago, Burlington & Ouncy system in
1872. He was then made superintendent
of the work of the consolidated road and
thus served until 1879, when on account
of ill health he resigned. In that year he
turned his attention to contracting and
manufacturing the famous western wheel
scraper, erecting a factory for this pur-
pose at Mount Pleasant. The business
had already become an extensive one and
Captain Beckwith was the owner of one-
half of the original patent. A company
was organized consisting of C. H. Smith,
Warren Beckwith and Dr. A. W. Mc-
Clure, and the manufacture was for some
years carried on in Mount Pleasant, and
was the largest enterprise ever conducted

here, and on the removal took about two
hundred families with it.

In 1892, however, the business was re-
moved to Aurora, because of the inter-
state commerce law. There an extensive
plant was erected and in fact it is the larg-
est factory in the world manufacturing
grading machinery, giving employment to
five hundred men for eleven hours per day,
while its output is shipped to all parts of
the world. At the present time the com-
pany is building cars for the Panama
canal. They also have a plant at Har-
vc}^, Illinois, employing four hundred men
in the same line. Captain Beckwith is
secretary and one of the directors of the
company which is a close corporation. It
is a splendidly successful factory, the busi-
ness having gained world-wide fame and
recognized as a most important and valu-
able enterprise. Its successful manage-
ment and conduct is attributable in no
small degree to the business sagacity, keen
discrimination and enterprise of Captain
Beckwith who has realized therefrom a
handsome fortune. He has likewise aided
in organizing the Inland Coal Company,
of which he is director and which is op-
erating a mine in Lucas county, Iowa. He
is a director of the W^estern Clay Ballast
Company and other important industrial
and commercial enterprises, making judi-
cious investment in business interests
which have yielded a paying return. He is
not active in the management of any of
these at the present time, but for his own
diversion and occupation he has a fine
farm of six hundred acres in Mount Pleas-
ant, on which are found about one hun-
dred and fifty head of pure-bred Hereford
cattle and standard trotting horses. He
employs a regular trainer and has an ex-



cellent track. His Herefords are consid-
ered one of tiie finest herds in the state,
and his interest in agricultural pursuits
gives him a pleasing source of recreation.
Captain Beckwith is likewise the owner
of a beautiful home on West Monroe
street. He was married in 1863 to Miss
Luzenia W. Porter, of Mount Pleasant, a
daughter of Colonel A. B. Porter, one of
the pioneer residents of this city, and
whose sketch appears on another page of
this work. Mrs. Beckwith passed away in
1880, leaving five children, who reached
mature years : Everett, who is now in
Chicago, connected with the Austin Man-
ufacturing Company; Orville, who is en-
gaged in the quarry business at Mount
Pleasant; Emily, at home; Florence, who
died in 1896; and Warren W., of Green
Bay, Wisconsin. In 1882 Captain Beck-
\\\\\\ was again married, his second un-
ion being with Miss Sarah E. Porter, a
sister of his former wife. She has become
well known as a member of the library
board and also as editor of the Mount
Pleasant Republican. Captain and Mrs.
Beckwith hold membership in the Episco-
pal church, in which he is serving as ves-
tr3'man and he also belongs to Mount
Pleasant Lodge, No. 8, Ancient Free and
Accepted Masons, and is a memter of the
commandery of Iowa, of the Loyal Legion
and of the Grand Army of the Republic.
In politics a stalwart republican, he has
been active in the work of the party and
has frequently attended its conventions
and sensed on its executive committees. In
1900 he was made a delegate to the na-
tional convention which met at Philadel-
phia, and nominated McKinley and Roose-
velt. He has, however, never been an as-
pirant for office himself, preferring to per-

form his public service as a private citi-
zen. His life has been one of signal use-
fulness and activity. He who formulates
a plan or institutes a work that has effect
upon the general welfare, the business de-
velopment, the political stability or the
social or moral progress is of use to his
fellow men and his value is reckoned by
the extent to which his services reach out.
Judged in this light Captain Beckwith
has lived a most useful life, being con-
nected with or promoter of business indus-
tries of far-reaching effect. In citizenship
being equally loyal and interested he
stands today as a representative of a high
tvpe of American manhood and his ca-
reer is an honor to the state and to the
people who know him.

Later Catpain Beckwith died after a
brief illness, July 17, 1905, and was in-
terred on his family lot at Forest Home


George C. Van Allen, deceased, who
in the face of opposing circumstances and
unfavoring environment that would have
utterly discouraged a man of less reso-
lute spirit, advanced to a position of prom-
inence in the business world and was for
many years recognized as a leading and
representative citizen of Mount Pleasant,
was born July 6, 1830, on the north shore
of Pillar Point, in Jefferson county. New
York. He was descended from Holland
ancestry connected with the history of the
Empire state from colonial days, and he


claimed descent from three Revolutionary
soldiers. Increase Child, Robert Ackerman
and Cornelius Van Allen. His parents
were Cornelius and Lory Ann (Acker-
man) Van Allen, who in 1831 removed
from the birth place of our subject to a
farm overlooking the Black River bay,
across the waters of which could be seen
Madison barracks, where General Grant
was once quartered and the village of
Sacket Harbor, famous in connection with
one of the early battles of the second war
with England, occurring there in May,
1 8 13. The father purchased this farm
and upon the homestead there George C.
Van Allen was reared to manhood. He
was one of a family of eleven children,
nine of whom reached adult life : Martin,
who is now deceased; Sarah H., widow of
General D. B. White, also now deceased;
Lory Ann, the widow of George Hoover,
and a resident of Chicago, Illinois; Cath-
erine Grinnell, who married G. G. Grin-
nell, now deceased, and lives at Mayfair,
Cook county, Illinois; Mrs. C. M. Beck-
ford, of Hampton, Virginia, the widow of
Selwyn E. Beckford ; Cornelius A., for-
merly a real-estate dealer of Effingham,
Illinois, now deceased ;\\^illiam a surveyor
of Ukiah, California; and Florence O.,
the wife of J. J. Baulch, of St. Louis,

Reared upon his father's farm George
C. Van Allen attended the country schools
and at different times worked at the vil-
lage and in the ship yards. He was also
engaged at intervals at hauling heavy tim-
bers from the forests to the place of ship
building. He formed a strong attach-
ment for the water for it afforded him
pleasure as a boy and gave him opportu-

nity to earn a living as a man in the early
days before transportation by means of
the water ways was supplanted by the
railroads. While still quite a young man,
Mr. Van Allen engaged in teaching in
the public schools of his home locality,
and then, anxious to promote his own edu-
cation, became a student in Falley Semi-
nary, in Fulton, New York. He after-
ward matriculated in the old Wesleyan
University in Middletown, Connecticut,
where he was a member of a secret society
organized by a few congenial spirits, in-
cluding William and Andrew Roe, O. W.
Powers. Mr. Bailey and David J. Brewer,
the names of whom have since become
known throughout the countr}- in connec-
tion with successful accomplishment in
different lines. The last mentioned, then
a most modest young man, obtained ele-
vation to the bench of the United States
supreme court.

After having spent a little less than
two years as a student in Connecticut. Mr.
Van Allen was obliged to return home.
He had made a creditable record in his
classes, and moreover he was a close and
discriminating student forming his own
opinions as based upon the subject matter
before him, and his own intellectual dis-
crimination. A few weeks were passed in
recuperating at his old home at Pillar
Point and then, with the little capital at
his command, Mr. Van Allen started
westward by way of the Great Lakes. He
found the trip a delightful one, which gave
him broader ideas of the ways of the world
and its peoples than he had ever obtained
from books. Detroit and Milwaukee
were beautiful cities even at that time, but
Chicaqio was a dirtv little village with



broken sidewalks and muddy streets, yet
with a citizenship even then characterized
for remarkable enterprise and achievement.
Mr. Van Allen continued on his way to
Dubuque, Iowa, with the expectation of
securing employment as a surveyor there,
but failing in this he accepted the aid of
an old friend, George Rogers, who was
instrumental in obtaining for him a posi-
tion as bookkeeper in the office of the Du-
buque Herald, at that time published by
J. B. Dorr, aftenvard colonel of the
Eighth Iowa Cavalr}'. In the following
spring Mr. Van Allen obtained employ-
ment with the firm of Webb & Higby, sur-
veyors, and later was with Charles Smith,
local engineer of the Dubuque & Pacific
Railway, while in July following, through
the influence of his brother, Martin, he
secured a still better position in the land
department of the Illinois Central Rail-
road, which he represented in Wisconsin,
Minnesota and Iowa. On the ist of Jan-
uary, 1857, he was promoted and sent to
Effingham, Illinois, two hundred miles
south of Chicago on the Illinois Central
road to sell the company's lands, and by
the I St of October had disposed of realty
to the amount of tliirteen thousand acres.
The unsettled condition of the state at
that time is indicaed by the fact that in
an hour's ride on the cars one could hardly
see a dozen houses, save for the few at
the scattered stations.

It was while thus engaged that Mr.
Van Allen was married on the 6th of Au-
gust, 1857, in Scriba, New York, to Miss
Jennie M. Wright, who had been his class-
mate at Fulton, New York. A ladv of
superior culture and innate refinement as
well as of intelligence, she made his home

a happy one and their married life was
most congenial. In October following
their marriage there came the great finan-
cial crash memorable in the history of the
country. Business was largely suspended
in all lines, land sales were discontinued
and payments were stopped, and many
who had attempted to establish new homes
in the west were obliged to seek their old
places of location. In this financial dis-
aster Mr. Van Allen's loss amounted to
about six thousand dollars and he found
it again necessary to take up the prac-
tice of surveying in order to provide for .
his family, but he was ambitious and de-
voted his leisure hours to reading law.
Removing to Watertown New York, in
the fall of 1859, he there spent two years
in the office of Judge F. W. Hubbard,
who had recently retired from the supreme
bench of the Empire state. Through the
succeeding two years Mr. Van Allen was
for a part of the time a student in the Al-
bany Law School, and was admitted to
the degree of counsellor at law before the
supreme court of New York at the regular
term in April, 1861.

Attracted by the west and its possibili-
ties, having become imbued with a strong
attachment for this section of the coun-
try, Mr. Van Allen soon afterward re-
turned to Chicago and thence went to
Kenosha but the progress of the Civil war
was detrimental to the establishment of a
new business, and after spending a few
months in the office of Judge Petti tt Mr.
Van Allen accepted the superintendency
of the high school in Plover, Wisconsin,
where he remained until July, 1862. At
that date he went to Burlington, and was
engaged on the survey of the Burlington



& Missouri River Railway, from Ottum-
\va to Chariton. At tlie close of the sea-
son he located in Mount Pleasant, where
he began compiling records for the exam-
ination of title, and from that time until
his death he maintained his residence in
this city, and was a factor in its business
life, giving his attention largely to the
abstract business, which is one of the im-
portant branches of the law. In 1883 he
suffered a loss of two thousand dollars
through a disastrous fire, but every ob-
stacle and difficulty in his path seemed but
to serve him as an impetus for renewed
labor, and he at once began the arduous
task of re-writing his books.

In 1 89 1 Mr. Van Allen was called
upon to mourn the loss of his wife, who
died on the 27th of Januaiy. leaving a
son, Alfred M. Van Allen, represented
elsewhere in this work. On the 26th of
October, 1893, the father was married to
Miss Anna L. Watters. In the social life
of the city he has occupied a position of
prominence that is always accorded in rec-
ognition of true worth, intelligence and
culture, w^inning his friends from among
the best citizens of Mount Pleasant. His
political allegience was given to the re-
publican party from the time of its organ-
ization and although without aspiration
for office himself, he labored quietly but
untiringly and efficiently for the interests
of others and for the party's success. Al-
though reared in the faith of the Metho-
dist church, he became a member of the
Presbyterian church on his removal to
Mount Pleasant, his wife being a commu-
nicant of the latter denomination As-
sociated with various lines of public inter-
est and activity he gave tangible support

to every movement which he believed
\vould contribute to the general good up
to the time of his death, which occurred
on the 4th of September, 1902. He was
a man of action rather than of theor)-, and
yet he took no important step in life with-
out due consideration. He held friend-
ship inviolable, the duties of the home sa-
cred and with a sense of conscientious ob-
ligation performed every task which de-
volved upon him in connection with citi-
zenship or public trust.


No biographical review of Henry coun-
ty would be complete without mention of
Dr. Wellington Bird, deceased, who for
many years was a leading representative
of the medical fraternity in Mount Pleas-

Online LibraryHobart Publishing Company (Chicago)Biographical review of Henry County, Iowa, containing biographical and genealogical sketches of many of the prominent citizens of to-day and also of the past .. → online text (page 1 of 85)