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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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Indianola, Warren county, Iowa, in January, 1869.



In March, 1869, he came to Osceola. Cheney
and Likes having dissolved, Mr. Wilson made a co-
partnership with Mr. Likes, which continued until
August, 187 1, when he dissolved with Mr. Likes and
made a copartnership with Mr. Cheney, which con-
tinued until November, 1872. He was admitted to
the bar of the supreme court of Iowa in June, 1872.
He then commenced business on his own account,
which has grown into a highly successful practice.

Mr. Wilson has held the office of assessor of Clark
county, mayor of the city of Osceola, and justice of
the peace. He has always taken a lively interest in
all educational matters ; has been secretary of the
school board, and is now its treasurer. In 1873 he
was placed in nomination as a candidate for the
state legislature by the republican party of Clark
county. He failed, however, of his election by a
very small majority against him.

On the 25th of February, 1876, he was appointed
receiver of the First National Bank of Osceola,

which position he still holds, the bank not yet being

Mr. Wilson has always been a strong temperance
advocate. He was elected mayor of the city on that
issue, receiving two hundred and seventy-five ma-
jority over two competing candidates.

He has been a Mason since 187 1, and has been
connected with the Methodist church since 1867.

He is a radical republican in politics. Himself
and his father, being born southerners, were never-
theless anti-slavery men, and his adhesion to such
principles forms a marked distinction to the south-
ern race. W. M. Wilson verified his principles by
entering the Union army at the earliest practicable
moment, and served it gallantly for nearly three
years, when his health failed him and disenabled
him for active service in the field.

He has had born to him eight children, two of
whom (girls) are dead. He has now three girls and
three boys living.



forty years a medical practitioner in Iowa,
was born in Dayton, Ohio, on the 30th of July, 1816.
His father. Rev. John P. Findley, was for years pres-
ident of Augusta College, Kentucky, and his grand-
father, Robert W. Findley, was a Methodist minister
for sixty years, dying at Eaton, Ohio, in his ninety-
sixth year. An uncle of William was a missionary
among the Wyandots in northern Ohio. The Find-
leys are of Scotch-Irish descent, pioneers in North
Carolina, and a large number of them have been
clergymen. The mother of William was Sarah
Strain, and his grandfathers on both sides fought in
the revolution, his mother's father being with Gen-
eral Washington at the memorable crossing of the

John P. Findley moved with his family to Piqua,
Miami county, Ohio, when the subject of this sketch
was quite young, and died in 1825, when William
was nine years old, the Rev. Dr. Henry Bascom, of
Augusta, becoming his guardian. After spending
two or three years in the preparatory department of
the college, young Findley was obliged to strike out
for himself. He spent two years with his uncle at
the Wyandot mission, studying with the Indian boys

and becoming an interpreter. He read medicine
with Dr. Sabin, of Troy, Ohio; attended lectures at
Pennsylvania University, Philadelphia, and gradu-
ated in 1837.

After practicing one year in Shelbyville, Indiana,
Dr. Findley pushed farther westward ; crossed the
Mississippi river; located at the four corners called
New London, Henry county, Iowa; practiced there
until 1843, and then settled permanently at Bloom-
field, Davis county. There was neither city nor
village here then, hardly the embryo of a village.
Dr. Findley was therefore a pioneer in Bloomfield,
and soon became an extensive circuit rider, having
a range of thirty miles, sometimes fording streams
on his horse in order to reach his patients. On one
occasion he lost his saddle, but was thankful that his
life did not go with it. Several times he was lost on
the prairies, and was compelled to remain out over
night. Once or twice, when bewildered, he heard a
cowbell, started up the animals, and followed them
until they led him to a shelter and farm-house hos-
pitality. In those early days, while in the prime of
life, he spared no pains to respond to calls.

In 1863 Dr. Findley became surgeon of the 4th
Iowa Cavalry ; was in the Vicksburg campaign ;



with General Sherman as far as Atlanta, on his way
to the sea, and with General Thomas when he
whipped Hood at Nashville. After that he returned
to Chattanooga, and was in the surgeons' garrison
until the close of the war, at all times attending very
assiduously to his duties.

Dr. Findley has entered a great deal of land in
Iowa for himself and other parties ; has been an ex-
tensive dealer in improved real estate, and owns
both improved and unimproved land in Davis
county, and in several counties in the western part
of the state. He has five or six business houses
and other property in this city, besides his pleasant
homestead. He was president of the First National
Bank of Bloomfield, which closed in 1876.

Dr. Findley was always anti-slavery in his polit-
ical sentiments, and joined the republican party at
its formation, but does not, we believe, regard him-
self as a politician.

Dr. Findley is a member of the Methodist Epis-
copal church.

The wife of Dr. Findley was Miss Mary Bangs,
daughter of Captain John Bangs, of Cape Cod, Mas-
sachusetts, and was married in New London, Iowa,
on the 3d of October, 1839. Of seven children, the
fruit of this union, only three are now living: Anna
M. is the wife of John Duffield, a merchant in Bloom-
field ; John Bangs is a druggist, and Samuel Parker
is a jeweler, both of them married and living in



ONE of the most solid men that ever made his
home in Winterset was the late John Allen
Pitzer, many years a merchant and county officer
here. He was a man who, in form and character,
always stood erect ; who was kind to the poor, per-
fectly reliable and trustworthy, and whose whole life
impressed his neighbors with the correctness of the
poet's saying: "An honest man's the noblest work
of God." He was a native of Virginia; a son of
Frederick and Nancy Kimberland Pitzer, and was
born on the 22A of February, 1813. When he was
about a year old the family removed to Christian
county, Kentucky, where his father was an extensive
manufacturer, running a hemp factory and grist and
saw mills.

John A. Pitzer was educated in the common
schools, and began to teach when about nineteen or
twenty, continuing to instruct for two or three win-
ters. When he was about twenty-two he moved to
Morgan county, Illinois, farming a season or two,
and in 1840 removing to Fairfield, Jefferson county,'
Iowa, there serving as county clerk for four years.
In 1849 he settled in Winterset, trading in general
merchandise for thirty years, being the first merchant
here, and successful most of the time in his business.
A more straight-forward, fair-dealing man has never
stood behind a counter in Winterset.

When he first located in Madison county he did
considerable government surveying, sectioning, it is
said, one-half of the county. Though largely self-

taught, he was quick and accurate in figures, and his
mathematical work in the county was very satisfac-
tory. A little later he took the office of county
judge and held it six years, and still later was treas-
urer of the county, leaving a clean balance-sheet on
retiring from each office, and possessing the un-
limited confidence of the citizens of the county.

Early in 1863 Mr. Pitzer went into the army as
paymaster, with rank of major, and served until the
autumn of 1865.

In early life Judge Pitzer joined the Disciple or
Christian church, but a few years before he died
changed his connection to the Baptist church, in
which he died, the sad event occurring suddenly
on the i8th of May, 1876. He was passing along
a business street in Winterset, when he suddenly
stopped and complained of being tired ; he sat down
on a box by a store door, dropped his head, and fell
asleep, " like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
about him and lies down to pleasant dreams."

The services at his funeral were conducted under
the auspices of the Masons and Odd-Fellows, and
an immense concourse of people followed his re-
mains to " that bourne whence no traveler returns."

His life was a record of noble deeds. It is said
that during the financial panic of 1857-8 his store
was a "commissary of subsistence." He gave over
five hundred sacks of flour to poor families, without
the least expectation of any pecuniary reward.

Judge Pitzer left a wife and several children to



mourn their great loss. His wife was Miss Elizabeth
Jane Rogers, residing near Jacksonville, Illinois, at
the time of their marriage, which took place on the
3d of December, 1835.

Of ten children which Mrs. Pitzer has had, only
five survive the father. Of the deceased, the second
child in the family, Mary E., was the wife of Leander

M. Sprague, and died at Denver City, Colorado, in
November, 1871. Of the five living, all are married
but Clara May. William F. is a trader in McPher-
son, Kansas ; John M. and James L. are merchants
and partners, doing business in Winterset, and Meckie
is the wife of John McChaughan, a lawyer of the
same place.



HENRY OTIS PRATT is a son of Seth C.
Pratt and Mary nee Herring, and was born in
Foxcroft, Piscataquis county, Maine, on the nth of
February, 1838. He lived at home, farming and at-
tending school, until i860, receiving his literary edu-
cation at Foxcroft Academy, and his legal at the Cam-
bridge (Massachusetts) Law School, spending two
years in the latter institution. He was admitted to
the bar in Mason City, Cerro Gordo county, Iowa,
in June, 1862. Soon afterward a call was made for
six hundred thousand volunteers, to which he re-
sponded, enlisting as private in company B, 32d Iowa
Infantry. He became completely broken down in
health in less than a year, and was discharged in the
spring of 1863. The following summer, while re-
gaining his health, he taught a small school in Worth
county, Iowa, and the next winter settled in Charles
City, and there taught during one term.

His health being restored, Mr. Pratt commenced
the practice of law at Charles City in 1864, and has
continued to practice since that time. As a lawyer,
he is very candid in the trial of a case ; never tries
to defeat the ends of justice ; never resorts to clap-
trap, and never forgets the dignity of his calling.
He is a fluent speaker, and excels as a jury advo-

In the autumn of 1867 he was elected county su-
perintendent of schools, and served two years ; was
elected to the lower house of the general assembly

in the autumn of 1869; reelected in 1871, and re-
signed in February, 1873, in order to take a seat in
congress, where he represented the fourth district.
He served in that body from the 4th of March, 1873,
until the 4th of March, 1877 ; in the forty-third con-
gress he was on the committee on private land claims
and the committee on expenditures for public build-
ings and grounds; in the forty-fourth congress he
was on the committees on claims, on expenditures
on public buildings and grounds, and on a select com-
mittee called the real-estate pool committee, raised
to investigate the operations of the so-called real-
estate pool of the District of Columbia, and of Jay
Cooke and Co's indebtedness to the United States.
This committee was afterward empowered to inves-
tigate any official misconduct not under investiga-
tion by any other committee. He made a highly
creditable record while in congress.

Mr. Pratt has always cooperated with the repub-
lican, party, and has usually been very active as a
public speaker. During the campaign of 1876 he
spent several weeks in the field, speaking mainly in
New Hampshire, Maine and Indiana.

Mr. Pratt is a Methodist in religious sentiment;
was converted in April, 1877, and for the last few
months has given his time mostly to lay preaching.

On the 2ist of October, 1865, Miss Mahala Wood-
ward, of Charles City, became his wife, and they
have five children.



HERMON C. PIATT, nearly twenty-five years
a resident of Tipton, is a native of Lycoming
county, Pennsylvania, and was born on the 24th of
March, 1824. His father, William Piatt, a tanner

and farmer, was a representative to the legislature
from the Lycoming district, and associate judge of
Lycoming county for several years. His ancestors
were early settlers in New Jersey. The mother of



Hermon was Hannah Brady Piatt, a sister of General
Hugh Brady and of Hon. Jasper E. Brady, once a
member of congress from Pennsylvania. Young
Piatt was employed for some time on a farm ; wrote
awhile in the county clerk's office ; prepared for col-
lege at Mifflinsburg, Union county ; entered the sopho-
more class of Jefferson College, Canonsburg, Wash-
ington county, in 1847, and graduated in 1850 ; taught
one year in an academy at La Porte, Indiana ; read
law in the office of Joseph L. Jernegan, of South
Bend, in the same state ; was there admitted to the
bar in November, 1852, and in the spring of the next
year located permanently at Tipton. He has been
in the steady practice of the law for twenty-four
years, is now of the firm of Piatt and Carr, and one
of the leading lawyers in Cedar county.

Like most young professional men settling in a
new country, Mr. Piatt came to Iowa with more en-
ergy and ambition than pecuniary means, not hav-
ing even one dollar in his pocket ; and that he has
made his profession a success will be seen from the
fact that, besides his home in the city of Tipton, and
other property here, he has four farms under good
improvement, in Cedar county, and three thousand
acres of wild land in Sac, Sioux and Lyon counties.

Mr. Piatt has a taste for stock-raising, and indulges
it not only in blooded horses, cattle and hogs, but

also in fine poultry. At county and other fairs he
can make a good show, and delights in getting up a
spirit of emulation among farmers and stock raisers.
He understands the nice points in a horse as well as
in the law. He is president of the Cedar County
Fair Association, and has held that position at sundry
times, in all, at least ten years.

Mr. Piatt was elected treasurer of Cedar county
in 1854, and was kept in the office between five and
six years, leaving it with an unblotted record. He
was on the local school board a long time, and for
some years at its head. He is one of the trustees
of the Iowa College for the Blind, at Vinton.

lyir. Piatt has always acted with the democratic
party, and has long been one of its most influential
members in Cedar county.

In religious sentiment he is a Presbyterian.

He is a member of the blue lodge in Freemasonry.

On the 3d of November, 1852, Miss Margaret
Eason, a native of Pennsylvania, then residing at
La Porte, Indiana, became the wife of Mr. Piatt, and
she has been the mother of five children, only three
of them, two daughters and one son, now living.

Mr. Piatt has been identified with all railroad and
other enterprises tending to advance the interests of
Cedar county and the city of Tipton, of which he
may be justly regarded as one of the live men.



DANIEL FINDI,EY is of Scotch-Irish descent,
his ancestors on both sides of the family be-
ing of that blood. His grandfather, Samuel Find-
ley, senior, was an associate judge of Butler county,
Pennsylvania, and a member of congress from that
state at an early period after the adoption of the
federal constitution. His father, Samuel Findley,
junior, D.D., was an Associate Reform Presbyterian
clergyman for about forty years, thirty of them pastor
at Antrim, Ohio. He died at Newark, New Jersey,
on the 22d of February, 1870.

The mother of David, before her marriage, was
Margaret Ross, an exemplary christian woman. She
died at Antrim, on the 22d of September, 1846, in
her fifty-fourth year.

The subject of this sketch, born in Washington,
Guernsey county, Ohio, on the 21st of August, 1830,
was educated at Madison College, Ohio; graduating

in 1853. He read medicine with Dr. William Ander-
son, of his native town, but before attending lectures
made a trip to California, starting in 1854 and re-
turning in 1856. He then finished his medical
course by attending lectures in the medical depart-
ment of Western Reserve College, Cleveland, being
admitted to practice in February, 1858.

Dr. Findley spent a year in his native town ; in
1859 came to Indianola, Iowa; in the autumn of
1 86 1 removed to Grove City, Cass county, and the
next year to Lewis, in the same county, then the seat
of justice, where he practiced ten or eleven years.
During the progress of the civil war, physicians in
this part of the state were scarce ; Dr. Findley's skill
became well known, and it was no uncommon oc-
currence for him to have calls thirty miles away in
every direction. His rides extended not only all
over Cass county, but into Pottawattamie, Shelby,



Audubon, Adair, Adams and Montgomery counties,
occasionally forty miles from Lewis.

In September, 1873, Dr. Findley removed to At-
lantic, the new county seat, where he was already
well known, and where he has had from the outset
all the practice he could desire. His rides he now
limits to the county, except in difficult cases, and his
main practice is in the city of Atlantic. He has a
large drug store here, and two farms in the county
which he cultivates by renters. Pecuniarily, as well
as professionally, he has been quite successful.

Dr. Findley is a republican, strong in his convic-
tions of right and wrong, fearless and outspoken, yet
no wire-puller and not active in politics. He is a
past grand in Qdd-Fellowship.

Dr. Findley is a man of very pure character; a

warm-hearted, active christian ; an elder in the Pres-
byterian church, and belongs to a family of eminent
preachers in that denomination. His brother, W. F.
Findley, D.D., is pastor of the Central Church, New-
ark, New Jersey; his brother, Samuel Findley, ju-
nior, D.D., is pastor at Carlisle, Ohio, and his brother,
J. R. Findley, is pastor of the First Presbyterian
Church in Rock Island, Illinois. He is also a broth-
er of Colonel R. D. Findley, editor and publisher of
the Xenia (Ohio) "Gazette."

The wife of Dr. Findley, married on the 19th of
August, 1856, was Miss Martha Jane Barr, of Mo-
nongahela City, Pennsylvania, and daughter of Col-
onel James Barr, who lost his life in the Florida war
while she was in her early infancy. She has had
seven children, all now living but one.



of New York city, and was born on the 12th
of September, 1820. His parents were Jesse Merritt,
a physician, and Harriet Hilton. His maternal great-
grandfather was from England. The Merritts were
early settlers in Connecticut. Jesse Merritt moved
to Ithaca, New York, when William H. was between
two and three years old, there merchandising and
studying and practicing medicine. The subject of
this brief memoir was educated at the Genesee Wes-
leyan Seminary, Lima, New York; went thence to
Rock Island, Illinois, and clerked a few months for
Naylor and Myers, who sent him to Ivanhoe, Linn
county, Iowa, about the year 1839, to manage a
branch store. He operated it for two years, with
Sac and Fox Indians for his principal customers, a
few white men coming forty and fifty miles to trade
with him. He was one of the first men who ever
sold goods in the interior of Iowa, except the licensed

In those early days, in the Territory of Iowa, horse
thieves and other marauders were abundant and bold,
there being no local laws for their punishment. White
men took the matter in hand, and on one occasion
Mr. Merritt was in his saddle almost constantly for
several weeks, driving horse thieves out of the terri-
tory. His recollections of those days are very vivid.
He remembers, also, of being in New York city in
hisboyhood, in 1835 and 1836; of seeing Aaron Burr;

the great fire on the i6th of December, 1835 ; and the
bread riots.

On leaving Ivanhoe Mr. Merritt was purposing to
engage as clerk on a Mississippi river steamboat, and
was on the steamer John Shaw when she was sunk
in the rapids between Montrose and Keokuk late in
the autumn of 1840. The winter following he re-
ceived the appointment of enrolling clerk in the ter-
ritorial council, whose session was held in the old
Methodist church at Burlington. Meanwhile his
father had removed to Buffalo, New York, and at
the close of the session the son joined him there,
and went into the mercantile trade alone.

In 1847 Mr. Merritt returned to Iowa; took charge
of the "Miners' Express," Dubuque, and ran it nearly
two years; sold out and went on a government sur-
vey in the northern part of the state. On the istof
January, 1849, when the first news of gold discoveries
in the new El Dorado rea,ched Iowa, he started for
California by the Isthmus; returned in March, 1851,
having had fair success ; the same year, in connection
with William Ashley Jones, became once more pro-
prietor of the " Miners' Express," and at the end of
two years united it with the " Herald." While con-
ducting the newspaper, about 1852, he was appointed
surveyor of the port of Dubuque, the first officer of
the kind there.

In 1855 Mr. Merritt was appointed register of the
newly created district land office at Fort Dodge ; held



that ofiSce two years, selling about two million acres
of land, and in 1857 resigned in order to go into the
banking business, at Cedar Rapids, with George and
William Greene. That business he followed until
the President's first call for troops to suppress the
rebellion, when he went into the field as lieutenant-
colonel ist Iowa Infantry. Owing to the illness of
Colonel Bates, Colonel Merritt led that gallant regi-
ment at the hotly contested battle of Wilson's creek,
Missouri, showing much coolness and bravery on that
occasion, and standing within a few feet of General
Lyon when that heroic officer fell mortally wounded.
When the regiment was mustered out, at the end of
nearly four months. Colonel Merritt was appointed
on the staff of General McClellan, with the rank of
colonel of cavalry ; was stationed awhile at Fort
Leavenworth, and late in the year 1863 left the ser-
vice and returned to Iowa. Locating at Des Moines,
the colonel purchased the "Statesman," and con-
ducted it until 1867, when he sold out. The next
year he joined William Irving and Co. in building
the Rockford, Rock Island and Saint Louis railroad,
and since that date has been a railroad contractor,
part of the time in Illinois and part in Ohio, and is
still pursuing that business.

In politics. Colonel Merritt has always been a
democrat. In 1862 his party nominated him for
lieutenant-governor, but he did not agree with its
anti-war policy, and refused to run. Subsequently,
in the same year, Judge Mason, whom the democrats

had placed at the head of the state ticket, withdrew,
and Colonel Merritt finally consented to run on a
union ticket for governor. The republican party
had a strong majority in the state, and the colonel
was defeated, though not by the usual majority.

In 1 866, he was appointed by President Johnson
collector of internal revenue in the Des Moines dis-
trict ; but party spirit ran high in those days ; the
President's appointments were not acceptable to the
republican congress, and the senate refused to con-
firm Colonel Merritt, hence he held the office but a
few months.

On the 6th of January, 1846, Miss Marcia Maria
Sutherland, of Buffalo, New York, a distant relative
of Judge Sutherland, of the supreme bench, became
the colonel's wife, and seven children were the fruit
of this union, only three of them now living. The
other four died in Dubuque. Edward Sutherland
is in Colorado, William Hilton is a clerk in Des
Moines, and Douglas Dodge is about to graduate
from the high school in Des Moines.

Online Librarypub American Biographical Publishing CompanyThe United States biographical dictionary and portrait gallery of eminent and self made men. Iowa volume → online text (page 115 of 125)