pub American Biographical Publishing Company.

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

. (page 29 of 125)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

delphia and acted as errand boy and assistant for
an extensive builder, and employed his time even-
ings working in a store, and later cut cordwood in
New Jersey, one winter, at forty cents per cord. In
1 83 1, with a capital of twenty-five dollars, he sailed
for a cruise on the coast of the Atlantic and adja-
cent West-India islands, and in the same year set-
tled in New Orleans.

During the winter of 1831 he made a trading voy-
age up the Yazoo river into the State of Mississippi,
landing where Yazoo city now stands. At that time
the improvements consisted of three small houses
and a cotton shed. Returning to New Orleans, he
embarked in the commerce of Jamaica, Sicily and
Cuba for two years, in which he was very success-
ful. After this he embarked in the building busi-
ness, and erected, as superintendent, contractor and
owner, a large number of the public and private
edifices now in New Orleans. A portion of said
buildings were erected on lands purchased by Mr.
Fulton (as the deed before us recites) from George
Louis Gilbert Dumottier La Fayette, a member of
the Chamber of Deputies, residing in the city of

Paris; in the kingdom of France, which tract of land
was originally granted to his father, the late Major-
General La Fayette, in pursuance of the fourth sec-
tion of an act of congress passed on the 3d of
March, 1803.

He prospered in all his undertakings, and was
able to purchase and pay eleven thousand dollars
for city property in 1836, which at that time was
considered a large sum of money.

During 1835, Santa Anna, Dictator of Mexico,
imprisoned within the dungeons of the capital the
representatives of the then Mexican State of Texas,
and issued his pronunciamento requiring all Ameri-
cans to leave Texas, under pain of death. He in-
creased his army and marched forth to carry out
his design.

Mr. Fulton, though quite a young man at the
time, called upon the friends of oppressed Texas,
through the press, to join him and march to the res-
cue. The immediate result was, a volunteer corps of
over three hundred young men was formed and put
under drill. The merchants and wealthy citizens of
New Orleans furnished arms and ammunition, a
vessel was chartered, and within ten days of the call
to arms the band of patriots were on the bosom
of the Gulf speeding their way to the battle-field.
They were known throughout the campaign as
the New Orleans Grays, and distinguished them-
selves at the storming of the Alamo under Colonel _
Milam, and its final capture under Colonel Burle-
son after the death of Milam on the field. A large
number of those volunteers fell at the massacre of
the Alamo, on the 6th of March, 1836, in which
General Travis and his one hundred and seventy
men were put to the sword, and also the far-famed
Colonel David Crockett, who was at the fort as a
guest of Colonel Travis. Then followed, on the 21st
of April, 1836, the capture of Santa Anna, and the



final triumph of the Lone Star of Liberty at San
Jacinto, and Mr. Fulton's undertaking was crowned
with success, and soon thereafter one more state was
added to our Union.

In 1839 the city of New Orleans instituted a suit
against him, growing out of the condemning of pri-
vate property for public purposes. He felt that an
unjust burden was sought to be placed upon him,
that equity and a proper interpretation of the laws
would siipport his views of the case. Under the
purchase of Louisiana from France it was stipulated
by the treaty that all laws then in force were to
remain unchanged until after 1833, consequently
the code Napoleon was virtually in force. The laws
favoring the empire or the state, not the people and
individual rights and interests, were ignored by the
courts. He applied to several eminent attorneys to
engage them to enter on his defense ; they, after
fully investigating the subject at issue in all its
bearings, unanimously declared it would be but
time and money thrown away, that they would de-
fend, but were satisfied from experience that no re-
lief could be obtained. Mr. Fulton resolved to per-
sonally enter the courts and test his rights. He
filed his answer to the suit, hunted up all decisions
that supported or bore on the case, compiled his
documentary evidence, and to the astonishment of
the bar, and especially of his opponent, one of the
most eminent attorneys of the state, obtained a de-
cree in his favor as prayed for. And the published
reports of the upper courts exhibit the fact that he
continues to possess the ability of defending him-
self at the bar.

In July, 1842, he moved from New Orleans to
Davenport, Iowa, bringing with him over sixteen
thousand dollars' worth of store goods, the largest
stock ever transported on the upper Mississippi by
one individual at one shipment up to that time, if
not since. This was soon followed by others, and
great joy arose among the people; goods went down
fifteen to twenty per centum and produce went up
twenty to thirty per centum.

In October, 1842, Mr. Fulton built, and freighted
with agricultural produce for the New Orleans mar-
ket, the first flatboat that ever cleared from the port
of Davenport. Whilst this work was in progress he
conceived the practicability of leading the waters of
the Mississippi river, at the upper rapids, by canal
along the Iowa shore, and creating a water-power
for mills and factories. With this view he employed
Mr. E. Gibbons, civil engineer of the Illinois State

Works, and with assistants after many days of labor
a survey was made, and the engineer's plats and re-
port exhibited a water-power in embryo equal to
Lowell, to perfect which it was necessary to pur-
chase adjacent lands. He purchased from Isaac
Vanausdoll and others, on the 6th of October, 1842,
Smith's Island on the rapids, since known on the
government plats as Fulton's Island; and also pur-
chased at various periods during the following year
the river fronts of several farms and strips of land
one hundred feet in width for the canal, through
and across other farms, all of which were paid for
in full and warranty deeds given. Funds grew
short, yet further purchases were necessary. All
further action was abandoned and the property sold
at a sacrifice. Now, in 1877, thirty-five years there-
after, appears before the Scott county district court
some of those farmers who sold canal grounds to
Mr. Fulton, asking the court to put them in posses-
sion, alleging that they did but sell for a particular
purpose, to which purpose it had never been con-

This year, 1842, Mr. Fulton, W. Bennett and D.
Lambert dammed the Wapsipinicon river at one of
its falls in Buchanan county, and erected a mill and
warehouse. At this time the two-roomed log house
near the mill contained just one-half the population
of the county, as well as Mr. Fulton when he visited
the works.

The Indian boundary line of 1837 lay twelve
miles north of the mil), where was then located a
large camp of Sacs and Foxes, which Mr. Fulton
visited, and spent a day with the chiefs. On a
homeward trip from the mill and Indian camp he
was caught in a severe snow-storm, on Sunday morn-
ing about eight o'clock, and wandered over the
naked prairie without food or shelter until the fol-
lowing Tuesday morning, when he reached a log
house in a grove. A portion of this time the ther-
mometer at Davenport stood twenty-five degrees
below zero. This was a trying ordeal for Mr.
Fulton, as he had not seen snow or ice during the
preceding twelve years, yet he suffered no incon-
venience or injury except the loss of his toe nails,
and a portion of his finger nails.

During his trips back and forth from the mills he
noted the favorable situation of the country for rail-
roads. In the fall of 1843 he took a trip eastward
to view the country between the Mississippi and
Chicago, and on his return he measured the river
above Davenport, took soundings of the depth of



water, and noted the formation of the bottom and
of the banks, after which he called the citizens of
Davenport to meet him at the town school-house
on Harrison street, and made known to them that
they possessed a favorable country for railroads,
that the Mississippi could be bridged at Davenport,
and that they would live to see not only an eastern
connection by rail but also a western one to the

In 1845 he published in the Philadelphia "Sun "
a report of his examination of this route, and advo-
cated the utiHty of a railroad between the Atlantic
and Pacific via Rock Island. We take an extract
from Mr. Fulton's report as published in the "Sun":

The most feasible point to bridge the Mississippi is at
Rock Island, where the river is narrower than at any other
point between its mouth and the Falls of St. Anthony, with
high rock banks and rock bottom; the channel of deep
water varying from one hundred and fifty to three hundred
feet wide, the remaining distance at low water varying from
eighteen inches to three feet. No low or inundated lands
in the vicinity. To reach this point through Illinois in any
direction by railroad will require less grading for the same
distance than zxiy other route or section of the Union.

In 1843 he removed to Philadelphia and went
into the dry-goods business, and remained there
nearly two years ; at the same time conducting his
Davenport store.

Previous to 1848, as the city of Davenport had no
flouring mill, and suffered many inconveniences in
consequence, a meeting was called at the post-office
to devise ways and means to secure one. Mr. Ful-
ton, although he was conducting two stores,' — ^one
in Galena, Illinois, and one at Davenport, — pro-
posed to furnish one half the capital to build and
put into operation a first-class merchant flouring
mill, if the citizens would furnish the other one half
This proposition'^as accepted, but when it came
to marking down the dollars and cents the people
feared the burden. The consequence was, he re-
solved that he alone would put a mill in operation,
and immediately purchasing the ground, erected a
large brick structure. After all was ready for the
machinery "Mr. Fulton sold the mill to Messrs. Bur-
rows and Prettyman, who completed it and put it
in successful operation. The citizens and farmers
expressed great sorrow that he had sold the mill,
and called upon him to make their feelings known.
He replied, " Get the owner of the adjacent ground
to sell to me at a fair value, and I will erect another
steam mill and operate it." "When shall we say
to the owner you will commence work 1 " " Tell him
I will commence digging the foundation and order

building material to-morrow morning." The ground
was purchased and the work commenced the next
morning, and a twelve thousand dollar mill erected
and put into operation three days before the first
mill was run. The citizens assembled on that day,
January 15, 1848, and gave a complimentary dinner
to him and his employes, accompanied with toasts
and well wishes. The mills, as a financial opera-
tion, proved a failure, as almost every shipment
resulted in a loss.

He was confined to his bed by sickness for many
weeks, and eastern as well as home creditors crowded
suits in rapid succession upon him. Goods had de-
clined, his farming operations did not pay expenses,
real estate that- he had purchased was unsalable,
except at a great sacrifice. On his recovery froni
sickness he resolved to pay up and yet succeed.
He personally attended to the many suits at law
against him, as every attorney in Davenport, and
others in Galena and Muscatine, held claims against
him ; he forced them off from month to month, and
some from year to year, in the meantime selling '
property and paying up until everything was ex-
hausted, and yet a large indebtedness existing. At
a meeting of his creditors he told them that though
heavily in debt and no resources, yet every dollar
should be paid ; that he had that day at his resi-
dence divided a barrel of flour between two of his
former workmen that he owed and himself, as he
had not one dollar in money to give them to pur-
chase food, and as he had no scales it was measured
by thrusting a stick into the flour and dividing the
stick into three parts, allowing for the bulge of the
barrel. And the indebtedness was paid, every dol-
lar, with ten per centum interest.

About this time he made a contract with Alfred
Churchill to build a tenant house on his farm near
Davenport. He personally worked at digging the
cellar and quarrying and hauling the stone, in the
meantime sleeping out on the prairie wrapped in
a blanket, until the building was put under roof.
After the completion of this work he secured a sit-
uation to survey and select lands at fifty dollars per
month, and was soon enabled to make a purchase of
eighty acres for himself. The day brightened slowly
at first, but the eighty was increased to seven thou-
sand acres.

In the fall of 1849 he called a. meeting of the citi-
zens of Davenport to take steps toward the con-
struction of a railroad between Rock Island and La
Salle, Illinois, Committees were appointed and



subscription lists were opened, and Mr. Fulton not
only subscribed to the stock to the extent of his
ability, but at the onset, almost alone and unaided,
held meetings to raise stock in every village and
school-house throughout Scott county, and at many
points in Illinois. A working fund was raised suffi-
cient to commence operations, and finally the work
was completed, and extended to Chicago. The
people of Iowa desired to have the line extend west
through the state. To accomplish this it was pro-
posed to send a memorial to congress asking for a
grant of land to aid in the construction. To circu-
late these memorials in a new and sparsely settled
country required time and money.- Mr. Fulton, as
ever, came to the rescue, and spent many days and
weeks in the. cause, holding meetings in the various
western towns and villages, visiting the farmers in
their fields, and at the same time had to combat
with opponents to the proposed line. He paid his
own expenses and in due time his exertions were
crowned with success, but instead of a grant for
one railroad, three obtained a like favor. " Many
reaping who had not sown." Work commenced on
the Mississippi and Missouri railroad, now the Chi-
cago, Rock Island and Pacific, on the ist of Sep-
tember, 1853, with proper ceremony, and he acted
as chief marshal of the day, and the bridge that he
called the attention of his neighbors to in 1843,
and the world to in 1845, was erected.

His father at his death left a valuable farm and
other property in Pennsylvania to be divided equally
among his children. Mr. Fulton felt he was better
off than any of the rest of the family, so he deeded
and gave his portion to them, though all were well
situated in the world. Previous to 1854 the city of
Davenport did not possess a suitable cemetery. In
the fall of that year Mr. Fulton proposed to one
of the ministers and a few private citizens to unite,
and purchase a large tract of land for cemetery
purposes. The proposition was sanctioned and Mr.
Fulton appointed to select a site, which he did, and
entered into contract with part of the owners ; but
at this point the money expectations of two of the
number failed, and the others declined the risk.
Mr. Fulton fulfilled his contract, paid for seventy-
two acres of land, fenced and laid it out with four
miles of carriage road and eleven miles of walks,
and planted five hundred evergreen and other trees,
and many costly tombs now mark the resting-place
of the departed, and Mr. Fulton still remains the
owner of Pine Hill.

During this year Mr. Fulton, in connection with
two others, purchased lands and laid out the town
of Fulton, in Muscatine county, on the Rock Island
and Pacific railroad, where they built a hotel and a
steam flouring mill. Previous to this time there was
a town in the state called Fulton, and this created
many mistakes in the delivery of goods and letters,
and the name of the town was therefore changed to
that of Stockton.

In 1853 Mr. Fulton purchased a tract of land ad-
jacent to the city of Davenport, and laid out an
addition, and in doing so he dedicated grounds for
four churches, two of which have been erected.

In 1854 Mr. Fulton was elected to the Iowa
senate, by the anti-slavery whigs, by a large ma-
jority. He took the responsibility and organized
that body, after one week's dead-lock, by voting
for a democrat for president of the senate. He
also disobeyed the almost unanimous petitions and
requests of his constituents in supporting Hon. J.
Harlan as United States senator in preference to
their favorite candidate, and could have deprived
Iowa of that efficient senator in congress had he so
desired. In due time his constituents admitted that
they were wrong, and that the action he took was

After the breaking out of the rebellion he fur-
nished the Union army with a soldier in his son, a
lad of seventeen years ; he also drafted and fur-
nished the war department with maps of New Or-
leans and the adjacent country, embracing Fort
Jackson and the Mississippi river, with all timber
lands and overflowed and swamp lands, with the
depth of the water and the nature of the bottom,
also the public roads and bridges, location of city
and all surroundings, a great portion of which was
mapped from recollection, for which he received
the personal thanks of Simon Cameron, then secre-
tary of war.

In 1867 he through the press advocated the build-
ing of street railways in Davenport ; setting forth
the benefits to be derived, he induced others to act
with him, and organized a company and constructed
a street railroad east and west through the city of
Davenport, of which he was president until it was in
successful operation. In the summer of 1867 he
proposed to a neighbor of his, L. F. Parker, Esq.,
to join him and take a view of the country north of
Davenport, to select a line for a railroad to connect
Davenport with St. Paul. The view was taken and
considered favorable, and a report published, In



1868 he drew up a stock subscription, which he
headed with five thousand dollars, and after many
days' labor obtained subscriptions to the amount of
forty-seven thousand dollars. ' All action then lay
dormant until 1869, when a large number of citizens
entered into the undertaking with energy, and funds
were subscribed sufficient to put one hundred and
sixty-five miles under contract, and by the aid of
outside capital this portion of the road is now in
operation. Mr. Fulton was elected one of the di-
rectors of the road.
^ Mr. Fulton has erected thirty buildings in Iowa
for himself, and fenced and put two thousand acres
of land under cultivation. Although he has not al-
ways met with success, but rather with reverses that
would conquer most men, still with indomitable
energy and courage he has built up a second fortune
on the ruins of his first.

He possesses one of the finest farms in the country,
consisting of seven hundred and forty acres, besides
two valuable city blocks and many unimproved city
lots, and a fine suburban residence commanding a
beautiful view of the river.

He has not abandoned an active life, and we
found him directing workmen who are driving a tun-
nel through solid rock across and under a street
twenty-four feet below the surface, to drain his quar-
ries and furnish sewerage for his adjacent lots.

Mr. Fulton has perhaps done more for Davenport
and the country in the vicinity than any other man,
and is interested in all its enterprises for develop-

He is known as a man of decided character and
untiring energy, and possesses the confidence of his
fellow-citizens, and we trust we may find many who,
like him, declares " Resolution is omnipotent."



THE subject of this sketch, a native of Halifax,
Windham county, Vermont, was born on the
nth of September, 1813. His father was a native
of Connecticut, where his grandfather and great-
grandfather also resided. His-parents owned a small
farm, and were in very moderate circumstances ; they
had a family of four sons and three daughters, whose
opportunities for gaining education were very mea-
ger. Israel received about five months' schooling
during the year in early life, and assisted his father
the remainder of the time.

When he was eleven years old his mother died,
making the maintenance of the family doubly hard
for the father, who afterward married again.

He remained on the farm until 1830, and at that
time was apprenticed to learn the carpenter's trade
at Guilford, Vermont. His employer, however, soon
afterward failed, and young Hall went next to work
for a Mr. Gregory, a fine mechanic, with whom he
remained one year. He continued at his trade with
different builders until 1835, when he engaged in
business for himself, and continued with good suc-
cess until 1837. During the financial revulsion
that swept over the country during that year his
business was greatly interrupted and he lost most
of his previous earnings.

Mr. Hall had long had a desire to remove to the

west. Even while a boy at school, in studying the
geography of our country, he had thought that
somewhere near the junction of the Missouri and
Mississippi rivers would some day in the near future
be the center of commerce, industry and population,
and resolved that he would be one of the early set-
tlers of that region.

In 1837 he was married to Miss Rachael Brown,
then living in Brattleboro, Vermont. She was a na-
tive of Baltimore, Maryland, but her parents dying
when she was quite young, her home had been
with friends in Vermont. Mr. Hall's responsibili-
ties having now become greatly augmented, and his
•means of gaining a livelihood having been greatly
reduced by the continued hard times, resulting from
the panic of 1837, he decided that he would now
realize his long cherished hope, and become one of
the pioneers of that country of which he had
dreamed in his youth. Accordingly, in 1839, he
started with his family, but finding that fever and
ague was very prevalent in the region which he had
previously selected, he went northward, and on the
30th of April of that year reached Davenport, Iowa,

There were then a few scattered hamlets and not
many residents in the place, and one can hardly
realize the progress that has been working while it
has developed into the metropolis of Iowa, with its



twenty-five thousand inhabitants. Soon after his
arrival, Mr. Hall found employment with Mr. Asa
Green, well known among the " old settlers " of
Davenport. Subsequently he located his home and
place of business on the ground still owned by him
and occupied by Messrs. Thompson and Risley, Eg-
bert, Fidlar and Chambers, E. A. Day, and others,
on Brady street, between Third and Fourth streets.

Here he steadily pursued his vocation, helping by
every means in his power to build up and advance
the interests of his adopted home. The trials and
anxieties and privations of those days were many
and grievous. These we need not enumerate, as
they can be fully appreciated only by those who have
experienced the hardships of pioneer life. Suffice
it to say that sorest among these trials was the lay-
ing away in the grave of four loved ones. Three
daughters sickened and died, and a son, who fought
bravely in the defense of his country, died from
causes growing out of that bloody strife. A brief
history of his career will be found succeeding this

Notwithstanding all his discouragements, Mr. Hall
grew with the development of the city, and at the
earnest solicitations of friends and citizens began
the business of undertaking, keeping up with the
demands of the times, so that Davenport, in this
line, was -not at all behind her sister cities of the

In 1866, having secured a competency, he discon-
tinued his business and retired to more private life,
content to give room for others and live in the

enjoyment of what he had accumulated. He owns
a fine block on Brady street, besides farms and
other lands in the west, to which he has given his
attention during the last ten years.

From its organization, Mr. Hall has been a lead-
ing member of the Scott County Pioneer Settlers'
Association. He was its president in 1867, and