pub American Biographical Publishing Company.

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

. (page 3 of 125)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

palmetto for the old Granite State, where he en-
gaged for several years- in farming.

In 1847 he moved to Tamworth, New Hampshire,
where he embarked in the mercantile business in
company with a brother. In this, as in all his in-
dustrial enterprises, he was quite successful. Not
being satisfied with the limited resources of north-
ern New England, he determined to try his good
fortune on the broad prairies of the new and more
fertile west. Accordingly, in 1856, he turned his
face toward the setting sun. He made a final set-
tlement at McGregor, Iowa, where he established a
branch house of the old firm.

During all these years of business Mr. Merrill
took an active but not a noisy part in politics. In
1854 he was elected as an abolitionist to the New
Hampshire legislature, at the same time General N.
B. Baker, ex-adjutant-general of Iowa, was governor
of the state. In 1855 he was returned a second
term to the legislature.

In Iowa he was equally fortunate in securing the
good-will of those who knew him. His neighbors,
and those who had dealings with him, found a man,
honest in business, fair in his dealings, social in his
relations, and benevolent in his disposition. He
took an active interest in the prosperity of the town
and ever held an open hand to all needed charities.
These traits of character had drawn around him,
but not realized or intended by himself, a host of
personal admirers. This good-will resulted in his
being nominated for a seat in the state legislature,
and the only one elected on his ticket.

The legislature met in extra session in 1861 to

provide for the exigencies of the rebellion, in which

Governor Merrill rendered effective and unselfish

" service in providing for the defense and perpetuity

of our nation against the hand of treason.



He continued in business at McGregor until the
summer of 1862, when he was commissioned as col-
onel of the 21st Iowa Volunteer Infantry, proceed-
ing immediately to Missouri, where active service
awaited him. Marmaduke was menacing the Union
forces in central Missouri, which called for prompt
action on the part of Union generals. Colonel Mer-
rill was placed in command of a detachment of the
2ist Iowa, a detachment of the 99th Illinois, a por-
tion of the 3d Iowa Cavalry and two pieces of artil-
lery, with orders to make a forced march to Spring-
field, he being at Houston, eighty miles distant. On
the morning of the nth of January, 1863, they hav-
ing come across a body of rebels, found them ad-
vancing in heavy force. Colonel Merrill immedi-
ately made disposition for battle, and brisk firing
was kept up for an hour, when the enemy fell back.
Colonel Merrill now moved in the direction of Harts-
ville, where he found the rebels in force under Mar-
maduke, and from six to eight thousand strong, with
six pieces of artillery, while Colonel Merrill had but
eight hundred men and two pieces of artillery. This
was the first time the 21st had been under fire, and
considering the number engaged was one of the
most remarkable engagements of the war. Says
Lieutenant Colonel Dunlap in his report, " I make
mention of no one as having distinguished himself
above another. Every man was brave, cool, active
and a hero. Too much praise cannot be accorded
them." In this engagement the rebels lost several
officers and not less than three hundred men in
killed and wounded. The Union loss was seven
killed and sixty-four wounded, five captured and
two missing. The conduct of the officers and men
engaged elicited the highest praise of General War-
ren. The regiment performed severe marches and
suffered much in sickness during the winter. At the
proper time it moved to take part in the campaign
of Vicksburg. It is sufficient here to say that it was
assigned to the thirteenth corps. General John A.
McClernand; that it fought gallantly at the battle
of Port Gibson ; that while the impetuous charge of
Black River Bridge was being made Colonel Merrill
was severely, and reported fatally, wounded. The.
battle of Black River Bridge, the last of the series
of engagements during the campaign of Vicksburg
in which the rebels fought without their fortifica-
tions, was a short but bloody combat of the 17th of
May. The rebels were posted in a strong position.
The west bank of the river here consists of bluffs
rising abruptly from the water's edge. On the east

side there is an open bottom surrounded by a deep
bayou. Following the bayou was a strong line of
defenses, consisting of a series of works for artillery
and breastworks. The bayou served admirably as a
ditch. In rear of the principal line of works was
another line, shorter but strong, and both extend-
ed in something like semi-circular shape from the
river above the bridge, which gives the battle its
name, to the river below. The works were well de-
fended by artillery and infantry. McClernand was or-
dered to take them. Lawler's brigade, in which was
Colonel Merrill's regiment, was ordered to make the
charge. It did so with the greatest gallantry. The
rebels were driven from their works in a very short
time, leaving eighteen guns, fifteen hundred prison-
ers, and many of their dead in the Union hands.
The charge had hardly occupied more time than it
takes to tell of it. But along its track the ground
was covered with the dead and the dying. The
victims on the Union side, most of whom belonged
to the 2ist and 23d Iowa regiments. Colonel Kins-
man of the latter command being slain, numbered
three hundred and seventy-three. While Colonel
Merrill was leading his regiment in this deadly
charge he received an almost fatal wound through
the hips. This brought his military career to a close.
Suffering from his wounds, he resigned his commis-
sion and returned to McGregor, but was unable to
attend to his private affairs for many months, and is
still, at times, a sufferer from his " tokens of remem-
brance," received on the battlefields of freedom.

During the gubernatorial career of Governor Mer-
rill, extending through two terms, from January,
1868, to January, 1872, he was actively engaged in
the discharge of his official duties, and probably no
incumbent of that office ever devoted himself more
earnestly to the public good.

The thirteenth general assembly had provided for
the building of a new state house, to cost one mill-
ion five hundred thousand dollars, and made an ap-
propriation therefor of one hundred and fifty thou-
sand dollars; with this sum the work was begun, and
on the 23d of November, 187 1, the corner stone was
laid in the presence of citizens from all parts of the
state. On this occasion the governor delivered the
address. It was a historical review of the incidents
culminating in the labors of the day. It was re-
plete with historical facts ; showed patient research ;
was logical and argumentative, and at times elo-
quent. It is a paper worthy the occasion, and does
justice to the head and heart that conceived it.



Thus briefly has been reviewed the leading fea-
tures in the record of a busy life, and there can be
no more fitting conclusion than the closing words of
his last public message, on the eve of surrendering
the robes of office to his chosen successor. He says :

I cannot close this my last message without expressing
to the people of Iowa my grateful acknowledgment for the
geiiei-ous confidence they have reposed in me. During the
four years of my service to the state I have received from
them a support, a sympathy and an encouragement which
have greatly aided me in the discharge of my official duties.

While administering the office of chief magistrate I have
been filled with increasing respect for the institutions of the
state. No one, so well as he who upon this post of obser-
vation has been called to keep constant watch of the whole
field, can grasp in thought and feeling the history and
growth of our commonwealth. While discharging my

duty, to be diligent in aiding the development of our state,
to labor for the success of our schools and charities, and to
temper mercy with justice, it has been my privilege to real-
ize the intelligence, justice and humanity of our people.

In severing my connection with the state government I
cannot close this communication without bearing my will-
ing testimony to the fidelity, zeal and industry of the vari-
ous officers of the state, and those associated with me in the
different agencies of the government during my adminis-
tration of its affairs. I shall ever carry with me in my re-
tirement a grateful remembrance of the friendship and court-
esy which have always marked our official relations.

To have served the state at this time of its greatest pros-
perity, and to have been permitted to aid in an official sta-
tion in laying the foundations of her future greatness, may
justly be regarded as an honor. But there is an honor, too,
in being a private citizen of such a state; and as I pass
from the one station to the other, permit me to unite with
you in dedicating ourselves, our commonwealth and our
country anew to freedom and to God.



ONE of the most prominent lawyers and politi-
cians in southern Iowa, one of the purest-
minded men, and best type of a statesman in the
state, is James Baird Weaver, a native of Dayton,
Ohio. He dates his birth on the 12th of June,
1833, his parents being Abram and Susan Imley
Weaver. His father, also a native of Ohio, was for
ten years clerk of the court in Davis county, Iowa,
and for fourteen years clerk of the court in Atchi-
son county, Kansas, where he now resides, he being
in his seventy-fifth year.

The Weavers were originally from England ; set-
tled in New York, and scattered thence over the
country. William Weaver, the grandfather of James
B., removed to Ohio when it was a wilderness, and
was a judge of one of the courts at an early day.
At one time, during the Indian wars, he had com-
mand of a fort at the foot of Main street, where the
city of Cincinnati now stands. He also participated
in the second struggle with England, and had good
revolutionary blood in his veins. The mother of
James B. belonged to an old and prominent New
Jersey family.

Abram Weaver removed with his family to Cass
county, Michigan, in 1835, remaining on a farm there
until 1842, when he crossed the Mississippi river,
and, after a little delay, settled in Davis county, on
the ist of May, 1843, that being the day on which the
whites were allowed on the reservation purchased of
the Sac and Fox Indians.

The subject of this memoir farmed until fifteen

years old ; then moved into town and reaped what
educational advantages he could in the rude school-
houses of that early day, spending part of his time
at this period in carrying at first the weekly and
then semi-weekly mail between Bloomfield and Fair-
field, his father having the contract on this route.
Caleb Baldwin, since a chief justice of Iowa, was
then postmaster at Fairfield.

About 1850 young Weaver concluded he would
fit himself for the practice of the law; commenced
reading in the office of Hon. Samuel G. McAchran,
of Bloomfield, afterward state senator; in a short
time entered the store of C. W. Phelps as a sales-
man, continuing his legal studies during the leisure
time which he could command; in 1853 drove an
ox team to California across the plains for a rela-
tive ; returned by water in the autumn of the same
year ; the following winter clerked for Edwin Man-
ning, of Bonaparte, Iowa, Mr. Manning urging him
to remain with a promise of increased wages and a
future partnership ; but increased love for his con-
templated profession induced Mr. Weaver to leave
'the store and resume his studies. He connected
himself with the Cincinnati Law School in the au-
tumn of 1854, and graduated in the April following
with the title of LL.B. The next month he opened
an office in Bloomfield, and has since been in steady
practice, except while in the military service.

In April, 1861, at the first call of the President for
troops, Mr. Weaver enlisted as a private in company
G, 2d Iowa Infantry, intending to go into the first



regiment, but the company was a little too late in
filling. He was immediately elected first lieutenant
of the company; served in that position until Oc-
tober, 1862, having passed through the battles of
Donelson, Shiloh, and the siege of Corinth. The
night before the battle of Corinth he received his
commission as major of the regiment, an honor un-
solicited by him. He entered that sanguinary battle
the next morning ; during that day Colonel James
Baker was mortally wounded ; the next morning
Lieut. -Colonel Mills was mortally wounded, and
Major Weaver was left in command of the regiment
throughout the engagement. Seven days afterward
he was unanimously elected colonel, and was duly
commissioned by Governor Kirkwood — a striking
example of rapid elevation, rising from lieutenant
of a company to colonel of a regiment in one short
week. He led the gallant 2d until the expiration of
the term of service, on the 27th of May, 1864, when
he was mustered out. He never missed a march, a
skirmish or a battle, and came the nearest to being
hit at Fort Donelson, when a ball passed through
the top of his cap, and plowed a furrow through his
hair. At the battle of Resaca, Georgia, he led the
brigade that crossed the Oostanala, found the ene-
my's position there, laid the pontoon bridges under
fire, and after crossing the brigade, jumped into the
rifle-pits and drove the enemy before him.

On the 22d of May, 1866, Colonel Weaver was
breveted brigadier general " for gallant and merito-
rious services,'' the brevet to date from the 13th of
March, 1865, the United States senate confirming
the well-merited honor. While in the army he never
shrank from the most perilous position, and seems
to have been always sanguine of success. His power
of command, voice, presence and magnetism, made
him a very fine officer.

At a soldiers' reunion, held at Des Moines a few
years ago, the members of the glorious old 2d regi-
ment met their gallant commander and gave him an
enthusiastic greeting.

In 1 866 General Weaver was elected district at-
torney of the second judicial district, and served
the full term of four years. In 1867 he was ap-
pointed assessor of internal revenue for the first
congressional district, and held the office until it was
abolished by law.

In the spring of i86g the Hon. Silas A. Hudson,
cousin of General Grant, and then newly appointed
minister to Guatemala, Vice-General FitzHenry
Warren, undertook to control the patronage of the

first district of Iowa by reason of his relationship to
the President. Mr. Hudson resides at Burlington,
Iowa. General Weaver had from nine to twelve as-
sistants under him, for whose official conduct he was
responsible. They were appointed by the secretary
of the treasury on his recommendation. The as-
sumption of Mr. Hudson met with a most stunning
rebuke, as the following correspondence will show.
The correspondence had the widest possible range
of publication, being copied into all the leading
journals of the country. Upon the matter being
made public, Mr. Hudson took his departure for
South America, and made no reply. A copy of the
correspondence was forwarded by General Weaver
to the President through commissioner Delano. Be-
low are the letters :

Hon. T. B. Weaver ; Burlington, Iowa, May lo, 1869.

My Dear Sir, — On the first day of my arrival in Wash-
ington I secured your and Belnap's retention, and the
right to supervise such changes of officers as in my best
judgment would prove beneficial to the service. I let Mc-
Crary know this, and turned over to him that duty for all
the counties in this district but Des Moines. I have only
ordered one change here so far, wishing to take time to
make the others advisedly. You will therefore not make
any change here without first consulting myself, and if you
have sent forward any name recall it until you see or hear
from me. It is ^■ery natural that General Grant should trust
this duty to me, and look to me for its proper discharge.
Please answer immediately. I am suffering too severely
with neuralgia and rheumatism to be able to write more at
this time. Very truly yours, Silas A. Hudson.

Hon. Silas A. Hudson: Bloomfield, June 8, 1869.

Sir: — Your letter of the 2,i;th ultimo is received. The
appointment you ask will not be made. Your insolent and
dictatorial letter of the loth has been laid before the Presi-
dent and the commission. I consider it a gross insult to
myself and a libel upon General Grant, whom you affect to
be able to control because of your consanguinity. I scorn
your pretended influence, and regard your attempt to con-
trol my office 'as an effort to involve me in dishonor.

^ ^''"' ^'''' J- B. Weaver, Assessor.

General Weaver, as a lawyer, is strongest on con-
stitutional questions or those involving great results.
He has the power of grasping the main issues in a
case and concentrating his whole power upon them.
His clear distinctions of right and wrong, and his
deep sympathy for the injured or suffering, make
him especially powerful with both courts and juries
in pleading causes where he believes his client is be-
ing oppressed or his liberty unjustly assailed. A
question involving mere dollars and cents fails to
arouse him like one involving human rights. Dur-
ing his term as district attorney he prosecuted sev-
eral of the most important criminal cases ever tried
in the district, and his speeches in those cases are
remembered by all who heard them as brilliant and



overpowering. His antagonists always feared when
he spoke last to the jury. His power of repartee is
extraordinary, and it is dangerous to insolently in-
terrupt him. The audience never thins out while
he is speaking, but those who come within the sound
of his magnetic voice usually listen to him till the

General Weaver was a democrat until 1856 ; sub-
sequently was a republican for twenty-one years, and
is now a member of the national party. He is an
eloquent man on the stump as well as at the bar,
and a brilliant canvasser.

He was a candidate for governor, against his
wishes, in 1875, and distanced all the candidates in
the convention until a combination was formed on
Governor Kirkwood, a candidate suddenly sprung
upon the convention. A year earlier his name was
before the convention for congressional honors, and
he came within one vote of being nominated, his
defeat being caused by the delegates of one county

changing their votes against instruction, and in or-
der to support a man of their own county.

General Weaver is a Knight Templar in the Ma-
sonic fraternity, also an Odd-Fellow, a valiant worker
in the temperance cause, and an official member of
the Methodist Episcopal church. He was a lay
delegate to the general conference which met in
Baltimore in 1876, and is recognized by everybody
who knows him as a conscientious man and a sin-
cere and devoted christian.

General Weaver has a wife and seven children,
five girls and two boys, his wife being formerly Miss
Clara Vinson, of Keosauqua, Iowa. They were mar-
ried on the i2th of July, 1858. They lost their
third child. Their eldest daughter is an accom-
plished young lady, and their eldest son is a promis-
ing lad of sixteen. Mrs. Weaver is a woman of
more than ordinary talent and culture, and one of
the leaders of the state in the woman's foreign mis-
sionary work.



THE subject of this notice was born on the 2d
of October, 1828, in the town of Ellington,
Chautauqua county, New York. He was the eldest
son of Stephen and Eliza Aldrich, who settled in
Chautauqua county in 1826. The ancestors of Ste-
phen Aldrich lived for many years in Smithfield,
Rhode Island, and afterward in Yates county, New
York, where his (Stephen's) father and mother died.
Charles received only such an education as could
be obtained before he was sixteen years of age in
the district school, and one year at the Jamestown
Academy. While pursuing his academical studies,
he met with an accident, a slight wound in the knee,
which brought on an illness so dangerous as to
threaten his life, and so prolonged as to compel him
to abandon his studies. From the effects of this
difficulty he never fully recovered.

While at the common school, the branches of edu-
cation, pursued by him were those usually taught
there, and while at the academy he studied algebra,
geometry, chemistry, philosophy, and gave a brief
time to the Latin.

He commenced the study of the law with Hon.
William Pitt Angel, of Ellicottsville, Cattaraugus
county, but the study of this profession he was com-

pelled to abandon, after a few months, on account
of impaired health. In June, 1846, he engaged with
Messrs. Clement and Faxon, of Buffalo, Nev^ York,
in the office of the "Western Literary Messenger,"
to learn the trade of a printer, and having gained a
good knowledge of this vocation; worked at it in the
villages of Attica and Warsaw, New York, and War-
ren, Pennsylvania. In June, 1850, he established a
weekly paper, entitled the "Cattaraugus Sachem," at
Randolph, New York, and continued its publication
one year. Thence he removed to Olean, in the same
county, and established the " Olean Journal," and
conducted it between four and five years, when he
retired to his farm in Little Valley.

In May, T857, he removed to Webster City, Hamil-
ton county, Iowa, and started a weekly republican
journal under the title of the " Hamilton Freeman,"
now one of the oldest newspapers in the state. The
village in which he commenced this enterprise con-
tained only about three hundred persons, the county
but fifteen hundred, and the whole state north and
west of that point was even more sparsely populated.
It was a venture calculated to discourage ordinary
editors and publishers, but Mr. Aldrich had volun-
tarily sought this field, with a full knowledge of the




privations and hard work incident to a frontier life,
and his energy rose with all the demands which were
made upon it. This field of labor afforded a good
chance for any one disposed to "grow up with the
country," though it could hardly have presented
much of a prospect for immediate newspaper patron-
age. The county was only just organized, and the
official patronage was very meagre, while the mer-
chants and other advertisers in town were few in
number and possessed of but small means. During
the first year of the publication of his paper he had
no other assistance than that of an apprentice; but
his journal was always "on time" on publication
day, and soon attracted the attention of leading pol-
iticians all over the state. It was recognized as a
newsy, sprightly, able republican advocate. Its edi-
tor rapidly worked his way up among the leaders of
radical republicanism in northwestern Iowa. The
" Freeman '' was never dull ; it bristled all over with
sharp paragraphs, keen, incisive hits, and pungent
items. In those times Fort Dodge, a neighboring
town, was the headquarters of democracy for north-
western Iowa. Among its citizens were some of the
ablest politicians in the state, as, for instance, John
F. Duncombe, John M. Stockdale, A. S. White (the
latter " a born journalist," who sank into an early
grave several years ago), and Major William Will-
iams, all of whose names will go into the history of
those early days. These gentlemen controlled the
United States land office, wielded the federal patron-
age, and conducted the Fort Dodge "Sentinel," the
democratic organ for that section of the state. Some
of the fiercest political contests ever fought in Iowa
were waged by these strong men to sustain the wan-
ing fortunes of the democratic party in the north-
west from the vigorous assaults that were led against
it by C. C. Carpenter, long afterward elected gov-
ernor, Charles Aldrich and C. B. Richards, the re-
publican leaders in that section. In these political
conflicts the republican cause was so ably main-
tained by the eloquence of Carpenter on the stump,
by Aldrich with his wide-awake and vigilant " Free-
man," and Richards, as organizer and counsel, that
the trio soon became famous throughout the state.