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The United States biographical dictionary and portrait gallery of eminent and self made men. Iowa volume online

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foremanship, was the Astor House, erected in 1835.

On the 1st of August, 1836, he resigned his position
with Mr. White, and with a certificate from this gen-
tlemen of which few carpenters at that day could
boast, pursued his way westward until he strftck the
forest site of the present city of Muscatine. At this
time Muscatine (then called Bloomington) had but
twelve white inhabitants ; it was better known to the
Indians, thousands of whom were making it their
camping ground. Mr. Gordon has lived to see the
twelve white faces multiplied to twelve thousand, and
to maintain his rank as the first carpenter to locate
in the place, nearly one-half of the city having been
built by his hands, or under his superintendence.

The most notable event connected with Mr. Gor-
don's pioneer life in Iowa occurred in 1839-40, on the
breaking out of the " Missouri war." This memora-
ble war had its origin in a dispute between the states
of Missouri and Iowa over a strip of land claimed
by Van Buren county, Iowa. In 1839 the governor
of Missouri sent the sheriff of Clark county to col-
lect the taxes assessed against the disputed territory,
and in November of the same year Governor Lucas, of
Iowa, ordered out his valiant militia to repel the in-
vasion. Colonel John Vanatta, at Muscatine, was



commissioned to enlist all the able-bodied men of
his county, and move them to the front, and on the
ist of December there were mustered at Muscatine
about a hundred of the bravest men that ever shoul-
dered a musket. At three o'clock, on a day early
in December, Colonel Vanatta's force formed into
line, and stepping off in the face of a blinding snow-
storm to the music of " The Girl I Left Behind
Me," began its perilous march. Of this command
Lieutenant William Gordon, in the sickness and ab-
sence of Captain Norman Fullington, was acting cap-
tain, and was only ranked by Colonel Vanatta.

On the third day the troops crossed Iowa river on
the ice, hauling the wagons across by hand. Soon
after ascending the bluff beyond Wapello the mail
stage was met, the driver of which handed a letter
to Colonel Vanatta. The colonel read and passed
it to his adjutant, John Marble, requesting him to
" read it to the brave soldiers who had fought, bled
and didn't die." The letter contained the glad tid-
ings that the Hon. Stephen Whicher, of Muscatine,
with his colleague, as commissioners appointed by
Governor Lucas to settle the dispute, had signed
articles of peace with the Missouri commissioners,
agreeing to refer the casus belli to the arbitration of
congress. The letter added that Colonel Vanatta's
army was to continue its march toward Burling-
ton, when it would be met by Captain Grimes (after-
ward governor and United States senator), and be
escorted by his company to the capital of the state.
The line of march was taken up, Captain Grimes and
his company were duly met, and under this escort the
Muscatine boys were proudly conducted to the city
and to the state house, where a bountiful spread was
laid for them by the ladies of Burlington. Lodging
in the capitol building that night, they vacated it the
next morning to make way for the legislature which
had been convened for that day. And now Mr. Hast-
ings exchanged his position, as volunteer staff officer
of General Fletcher, for his seat in the legislature,
the array turned its face homeward and the Missouri
war lived only in history. It may be added that
congress finally settled the bloodless dispute in favor
of Iowa.

On the 2 1 St of October, 1840, Captain Gordon
united himself in marriage with Miss Eliza Hannah
Magoon, daughter of Isaac and Hannah Magoon, of
Ware, Massachusetts, who emigrated to Zanesville,
Ohio, in 1827, and to Warsaw, Illinois, in 1837, re-
moving to Bloomington, Iowa, in 1839 ; of this union
there were issue one son and fourdaughters, namely,

William A., Addie M., Mary E., Agnes S. and Clara
Eliza. The son was wounded at the battle of Shi-
loh on the 6th of April, 1862, and died from his
wounds after years of intense suffering, on the 8th of
July, 1866, in the twenty-third year of his age. After
the partial recovery of his wound he served for two
years as postmaster of the seventeenth army corps.
Clara E. died on the 21st of January, 1863, at the
age of thirteen years. The other three daughters
are living, and married. Addie M. is the wife of
Captain John H. Monroe, adjutant on the staff of
General McPherson during the late war, and now
clerk of the circuit and district courts of Muscatine.
Mary E. is the wife of M. L. Mikesell, Esq., of At-
tica, Indiana, and Agnes Seleucia is the wife of Will-
iam M. Kincaide, Esq.

In the summer of 1857 Captain Gordon stood as
the democratic candidate for sheriff in his county,
and was successful in overcoming the strong repub-
lican majority in the county, being elected by a very
complimentary vote. The principal incident con-
nected with his shrievalty, reflecting the highest cred-
it upon his sagacity and resolution, was his discovery
and arrest of the notorious counterfeiter William

In 1859 Captain Gordon received his nomination
for a second term, and was reelected sheriff by an
overwhelming majority. He continued in office until
the close of his term, and retired to private life with
the well-earned title of "the model sheriff of lowar"
Subsequently he has served his city and township in
three different terms as assessor, acquitting himself
with the praise of all honSst-minded citizens.

In the order of Free and Accepted Masons Mr.
Gordon has borne a distinguislred part. He became
a member of the order in 1850, and early won the
initials of W. M. In the winter of 1854-55, with
three other companions, he visited Chicago and re-
ceived the red cross and templar knighthood from
Apollo Commandery, No. I. The accolade was con-
ferred by Sir Knight J. V. Z. Blaney, then eminent
commander. On returning to Muscatine, Sir Knight
Gordon helped to organize the De Molay Command-
ery, No. I, the first commandery in the State of Iowa.
He subsequently filled important offices in the chap-
ter and commandery.

A darker shadow than had ever overcast the home
of William Gordon fell across its threshold on the
8th of August, 1872. On this day died his wife, a
leader and one of the most accomplished members
of Muscatine society,



In politics, Mr. Gordon has always been a democrat
of the Jeffersonian school. In his religious views, he
is a believer in the faith of the Church of Scotland.

In physique, Mr. Gordon presents a hardy Scotch
frame, powerfully knit, six feet in height, and present-
ing now, at the age of sixty-three, the elasticity and
vigor of robust manhood. The same flexibility mixed

with strength mark the phases of his character. Stern
and unyielding in the performance of duty, no one
delights more in the kind and social offices of life.
A devoted husband, an indulgent father, a steadfast
friend, a faithful officer, William Gordon well merits
the wide and deep esteem of his large circle of



ONE of the self-educated lawyers of Boone
county, and one of the best known men in
the same locality, is George Washington Crooks,
who first saw the light of this world in Vigo county,
Indiana, on the 22d of July, 1836. His father,
Jacob Crooks, was a farmer and soldier in the war
of 181 2-15, and his grandfather was in the first con-
test with the mother country. The Crooks ances-
tors were from Germahy, settling in Pennsylvania
prior to the revolution. The mother of George W.
was Hannah Croy, also of German descent, of whose
ancestors little else is known. When he was nine
years old the family imrnigrated to Iowa, and after
remaining on a farm two years at Fairfield, Jeffer-
son county, removed to Boone county.

George farmed until seventeen, and then worked
for several seasons in a grist and saw mill, earning a
little money and then spending it in securing a com-
mon-school education. He was quite studious in
boyhood, and picked up a good deal of knowledge
out of school during his leisure hours.

In 1861 Mr. Crooks was commissioned first lieu-
tenant of a company in an independent regiment,
which was finally mustered in as the loth Iowa In-
fantry, rendezvoused with the regiment at Iowa City,
and there became sick and was finally discharged.

He was elected sheriff of Boone county in 1863,
and served from June of that year to the ist of Jan-
uary, 1874, being reelected four times. Though
always a democrat and living in a republican county,
he usually had a fair majority. He discharged the
duties of this office very faithfully and to the satis-
faction of all parties.

Soon after becoming sheriff he began to read law
in the office of C. W. Lowrey, of Boonesboro ; con-
tinued to read more or less every year ; was ad-
mitted to the bar in December, 1873, and has since
practiced at Boone, being of the firm of Kidder and
Crooks. Their practice is very extensive. He was
elected to the general assembly in 1877, and is now
a member of that body.

Mr. Crooks is a sound lawyer, conscientious and
true, aiming to do what is exactly right and proper.
He has a good deal of force of character and indom-
itable perseverance, and is still pursuing his literary
as well as legal studies.

Mr. Crooks is a member of the Masonic fraternity,
and of the Methodist church, and a man whose char-
acter is above suspicion.

His wife was Miss Rebecca Nutt, of Des Moines,
Iowa, chosen on the 19th of July, i860. Thpy have
lost one child, and have two children living.



JOHN HEREFORD KING, the only member of
J the seventeenth general assembly of Iowa born
in this state, is a native of Salem, Henry county,
and dates his birth on the 3d of October, 1845, He
is the youngest son of Samuel and Content Vernon
King, who belonged to the Quaker church, and edu-

cated their children, eight in all, in the strict dis-
cipline of that denomination.

Born in the Territory of Iowa one year before it
became a state, and living on the frontier, young
King had very limited opportunities for education,
these being confined to a common school and not



of the highest order, though as good perhaps as the
average in those territorial days. He had a strong
desire for knowledge, and made no inconsiderable
progress outside the school-room. Hard work on
his father's farm and teaming were his principal oc-
cupations until he had arrived at his majority.

In 1866 he married Miss Permelia A. Andrews, of
New Providence, Iowa, and commenced making a
farm of two hundred acres of prairie land near New
Providence, breaking it with his own hands, and
doing most of the fencing. For three seasons he
raised a large crop, and taught school during the

From early youth Mr. King had a desire to study
law, but was prevented by his parents. At the age
of twenty-four, however, he resolved to commence,
and he continued his legal studies with a mountain
of financial difficulties to surmount and a family to
support, being admitted to the bar at Eldora in No-
vember, 1870, at which place he commenced prac-
tice on the I St of January, 1871. He moved to
Hampton in 1872, and soon rose to prominence at
the bar. His progress in his profession has been re-
markable and brilliant.

Mr. King is a thorough and uncompromising re-
publican, and has never been anything else. . In the

party, he early began to show signs of great useful-
ness as well as activity, and his merits seem to be
fully appreciated at home, for in 1876 he was the
choice of his county for congress, his name being
strongly urged for nomination " by the Franklin
county delegation. In October, 1877, he was elected
by an unprecedented and overwhelming majority to
represent his county and Cerro Gordo in the popular
branch of the general assembly. He was made
chairman of the committee on judicial districts, and
was also placed on the committees on judiciary, fed-
eral relations, senatorial and representative districts,
state university, insurance and constitutional amend-
ments; was also made chairman of the standing
committee on courts and court expenses, and was a
prominent member of the special committee on re-
trenchment and reform.

Representative King was rarely out of his seat
during the hours when the general assembly was in
session, and took a prominent part in the debates,
as well as in the committee meetings. He gives a
question due consideration before attempting to dis-
cuss it, and on the floor shows a clear head and
splendid logical powers. Unless prematurely cut
off in life, it is not unlikely that the best part of his
history is yet to be written.



THE Gurleys of whom Harrison is a descendant
were from Scotland, the original settler in this
country coming over at an early day and locating at
Northampton, Massachusetts. Roger Gurley, the
father of Harrison, was a mechanic and farmer, and
resided in Mansfield, Tolland county, Connecticut,
where the son was born on the 14th of January, 1815.
The maiden name of his mother was Pamelia Bick-
nell. His father was a captain of militia in the war
of 1812-15, the youngest child in a large family. At
fifteen years of age Harrison commenced a commer-
cial life by entering a store at Willimantic, Windham
county, having previously been educated in common
and select schools. With the exception of one win-
ter, when he taught school, he was a salesman and
bookkeeper until 1840, when he went into business
for himself at Hartford, in company with Charles
Boswell, and afterward with Homer Hastings. After
a few years the latter firm dissolved, and Mr. Gurley

continued the mercantile business in the same place
until he removed to Iowa in 1855. In the autumn
of that year he landed at Grinnell with a stock of
goods and opened the first clothing store in that
place. In October, 1856, he moved his stock to
Chickasaw county and bought the first building, a
log hut, ever put up on the site of New Hampton.
It stood directly in the middle of the street between
where the Gardner or Dixon House and his second
store now stand. There were not more than half-a-
dozen buildings, huts and all, on the site of the town.
This humble log building Mr. Gurley used one year
for store and dwelling house. It was afterward used
for a postoffice, school-house and church, and was
torn down only a few years ago. Mr. Gurley bought
about thirty acres of land, which is now the southern
part of the city plat, Gideon Gardner having pur-
chased forty acres of the land on the north side. The
next year Mr. Gurley erected a two-story building,



which was used by him seventeen or eighteen years
as a store, and part of which, at an early day, was used
for a dwelling house. A county court was held in it
before it was completed, and for a short time the
county offices were in the front room on the second

Mrs. Gurley taught the first school in New Hamp-
ton, and had nine or ten pupils, taking them into her
own house, in the winter of 1857-58.

During the first winter in Chickasaw county Mr.
Gurley had occasion to pass back and forth on foot
between Bradford and New Hampton. The snow
was very deep, and on one or two occasions he came
very near perishing from exhaustion and cold.

During the eighteen years that Mr. Gurley was a
merchant at New Hampton he owned and cultivated
more or less land. He still has a farm of two hun-
dred and ten acres, one mile northwest of town,
under fine improvement, and has done his full share
to develop the agricultural wealth of the county. As
a merchant, he was a straightforward dealer, and at
an early day commanded the trade for eight or ten
miles around.

In May, 1876, in connection with other parties, he
opened the Bank of New Hampton, a savings insti-
tution, of which he is the president, and which, under
his direction, is quite prosperous.

Mr. Gurley has been a very active member of the
school board for a long time ; was influential in get-
ting a railroad to New Hampton, and is vigilant in
looking after every interest of the city and county.
He has been a member of the Congregational church
about forty years and an officer of the same no in-
considerable part of the time. He was one of the
founders of the New Hampton Church. His influ-
ence in every respect is healthful, and the high moral
tone of this young city is owing in a large measure
to such men as Mr. Gurley, Deacon Gideon Gardner
and Captain Powers.

Mr. Gurley is very liberal ; was originally an anli-
slavery whig, and then and now a republican.

His wife was Miss Isabella Hamilton, of Canaan,
New York. They were married on the loth of Sep-
tember, 1846, and have had three children. Only
one of them, Royal Harrison, aged sixteen, is living.
He is receiving a good education.



SAMUEL McNUTT was born near London-
derry, Ireland, on the 21st of November, 1825,
and is the son of Samuel McNutt and Hannah nee
Stuart. The family is of Scotch origin, and de-
scended from a long line of distinguished ancestors
not less conspicuous in connection with the history
of border chivalry than of the more stern and soul-
trying events of covenanter times.

Samuel McNutt, senior, was a man of great kind-
ness of heart and of the most generous impulses.
He emigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when
our subject was but a child, and finally settled in
New Castle, Delaware, where he died in 1836, leav-
ing a widow and seven children, three boys and four
girls, of whom Samuel was the eldest, unprovided
for. She never married again, but for forty years
devoted her life and energies to the education and
interest of her children, and had the happiness to
live to see them all comfortably and honorably set-
tled in life. Her second son, Robert, was an emi-
nent physician in Louisiana at the outbreak of the
rebellion, and her third son, James, a physician in

Missouri. Both joined the Union army. She died
in Iowa, on the 24th of December, 1874, at the ripe
old age of eighty-five years.

Working on the little farm in Delaware, Samuel,
our subject, passed his boyhood and grew to man's
estate. He had been taught, with his brothers and
sisters, to read the " Shorter Catechism " as soon as
he could talk, and by the time he was thirteen years
of age he had committed to piemory the catechism,
the psalms of David in meter, the proverbs of Solo-
mon, most of the four gospels, the " Scottish Mar-
tyrs," and Weem's "Life of Washington." At this
time his books were few, but those here named laid
the foundation of his character and influence all his

He first attracted attention by poetical composi-
tions published in the "Temperance Star," Wilming-
ton, at the age of sixteen, over the signature of "A
Harmony Plowboy," Harmony being the name of
his school district. Delaware College was located
in the adjoining village of Newark, and one of the
professors. Dr. J. S. Bell, offered the " Plowboy " lit-



erary assistance and the use of his library. He soon
after entered that institution, where he received a
liberal education. In those years he contributed to
" Peterson's Magazine," " Neal's Gazette," " Godey's
Lady's Book," "Saturday Courier," etc. Some of
his pieces had a wide circulation in their day.
Leaving college in 1848, he engaged in the profes-
sion of teaching, and was soon after elected presi-
dent of the New Castle County Teachers' Association,
which position he held for three consecutive years
by election.

In the meantime he studied law under the direc-
tion of the Hon. D. M! Bates, then secretary of the
State of Delaware, and in 1851 was admitted to the
bar and came west to enter upon the practice of his
profession, but being offered a professorship in a
collegiate institute located at Hernando, Mississippi,
he removed to that state, where he remained some
three years. In 1854 he returned to the west and
located in Muscatine county, Iowa, where he after-
ward purchased some land. During the summer
.and fall of 1856 he was principal of one of the pub-
lic schools of Muscatine city, and at the close of the
term became editor of the " Muscatine Inquirer.''

In April, 1857 he became associate editor of the
" Dubuque Herald," then under the management of
J. B. Dorr, afterward colonel of the 8th Iowa Cav-
alry, and remained in that capacity until i860, when
Dorr and Co. transferred the " Herald " to the Ma-
hony company.

Up to this period Mr. McNutt had been a demo-
crat in politics, and during his connection with the
" Herald " had been a warm friend and supporter of
the late Stephen A. Douglas ; but when after the
election of i860 the southern states began to secede
and war seemed imminent, he announced himself as
strongly in favor of the administration and of every
means that could be used for putting down the re-
bellion. The course of the " Herald " (which had
lately passed into the control of Mahony and Com-
pany) dissatisfying many of its former political
friends (the war democrats), Mr. McNutt was in-
duced to start a war paper, the " Daily Evening
Union," at Dubuque, in which he denounced all as
traitors who opposed the administration. This
course brought down upon him the enmity of an-
other class of his former friends, and after a brief
and precarious existence the "Union" was discon-
tinued in 1862. , He was now one of the strongest
radicals in the state, and became one of the editors
of the Dubuque " Times," but in the fall of that year

he removed back to his farm in Muscatine county,
where he has since resided.

In the summer of 1863, while engaged in recruiting
volunteers for the 8th Iowa Cavalry, he was nominated
by the republicans of Muscatine county for represen-
tative to the tenth general assembly of the state, and
was elected by a handsome majority. He was also
elected to the eleventh general assembly, and like-
wise to the twelfth, thus being returned three times
in succession by the same constituency, an honor
never previously conferred upon any man in Mus-
catine county. In 1869 he was nominated by the
same party to the senatorship of the then sixteenth
district for the full term, and elected without oppo-
sition, receiving all the votes cast for senator, an
unprecedented compliment, and served through the
thirteenth and fourteenth general assemblies. In
both branches of the legislature he was a staunch ad-
vocate of all needed reforms, and left a record that
stands unrivaled by that of any other member. In
the house he was one of the pioneers in the advo-
cacy of measures for controlling railway corpora-
tions, and the author of several bills for that pur-
pose. The principles which- he so ably advocated
finally prevailed, and have recently been sustained
by decision of the supreme court of the United
States. He was the author of the act of 1864 (Ses-
sion Laws, chapter seven,) which really made Iowa a
free state of this union ; also author of the joint res-
olution by which Iowa ratified the amendment to
the federal constitution abolishing slavery through-
out the republic. In the senate he was the author
of many bills on various subjects, and father of some
of the most important sections of the code of 1873,
among which may be instanced the proviso in sec-
tion 866, and all of sections 1305 and 1306. He
was the first senator of Iowa who proposed amend-
ing the state constitution to allow women to vote
(Senate Journal 1870, page 113). In the summer
of 1872 he was a prominent candidate before the
republican state convention for the office of state
treasurer, and although unsuccessful, yet the strength
developed in his behalf shows that the hearts of a
large number of the loyal sons of Iowa are with him.
He was a conspicuous actor in the recent movement
on the part of the "Patrons of Husbandry"; was
master of a grange, member of the state grange, and
for three years president of the Muscatine county
council of the order. He delivered numerous pub-
lic addresses in connection with the organization
throughout his congressional district, all breathing



a tone of such true, broad and liberal principles that
their sentiments found universal favor.

Senator McNutt served ten consecutive years as a

Online Librarypub American Biographical Publishing CompanyThe United States biographical dictionary and portrait gallery of eminent and self made men. Iowa volume → online text (page 106 of 125)