pub American Biographical Publishing Company.

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

. (page 39 of 125)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

He then listened to the advice of an older jour-
nalist, Horace Greeley, and came west, halting in
Boone county, Illinois, and teaching school three
years. Not having a thorough relish for this pro-
fession, in 1855 he came farther west, locating in
Hardin county, Iowa, selecting • the picturesque



little village of Iowa Falls for his home. Here
he pursued the business of land agent for several
years. In February, 1856, he issued the first call
for a republican cenvention in that county, and in
compliance with the call a meeting was held, and
the party was formally organized on the 22d of
that month.

In 1863 Mr. Woodruff purchased the "Sentinel"
newspaper establishment at Eldora, the county seat,
and managed it there for two years, when he moved
it to Iowa Falls, enlarged the paper, and conducted
it with increased and marked ability. In May, 1870,
he disposed of the " Sentinel," and, in partner-
ship with Charles Aldrich, purchased the Waterloo
" Courier," of which he was the sole editor most of
the time for nearly four years. In February, 1874,
he disposed of his property in Waterloo, purchased
one-half interest in the Dubuque " Times," and has
been its chief editor to this time. Though an
ardent republican, h* is courteous to contemporary
journalists of the opposite party ; is dignified in tlie
tone of his leaders ; is a clear thinker and an able
writer.

Mr. Woodruff was chief clerk of the Iowa house
of representatives of the twelfth general assembly
in 1868, and postmaster at Iowa Falls when he left
Hardin for Black Hawk county.

On the 7 th of April, 1861, he was married to Miss
Eliza E. Weller, of Norwich, New York.



JOHN FOLEY,

NEW HAMPTON.



IF there is a self-made man in Chickasaw county,
Iowa, that man is John Foley. He came to
this state a poor boy twenty years ago; worked hard
on a farm, and educated himself largely by studying
during the evenings, fitting himself for a teacher
and for general business.



Mr. Foley is a native of Ireland, and was born in
the county of Galway on the 14th of August, 1840.
His parents were Thomas and Catherine (Lyden)
Foley, who immigrated to this country when John
was a child. His father died in Baltimore, Mary-
land, in 1852, and his mother in Iowa in the spring



THE UNITED STATES BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONART.



259



of 1877. John came with her to this state in June,
1857, and settled on a farm in Jacksonville town-
ship, ten miles from New Hampton. There he
worked until 187 1, being very industrious in his
manual labor, and commencing to teach during the
winters as soon as he could fit himself. This he did
by giving to study hours which many young men
give wholly to amusements, and some to dissipation.
Six years ago he was nominated for the office of
treasurer of the county, and elected by a fair major-
ity. So well did he discharge his duties that he has
been three times reelected, each time by a vote which
showed that the people had an increasing knowledge
of his eminent fitness for the office. After he had
served the county nearly two years, the New Hamp-
ton "Courier" of the 4th of October, 1873, thus
spoke of his official work :

Attentive to the duties of this office, cordial in his inter-
course with the taxpayers, and correct in his business, he
has made scores of friends, and not a single enemy. It is
infinitely to his credit that, without fear, without favor, and
without prejudice, he has sought to perform the duties of
the place rather than to build up a clique who should con-
spire to keep him in office. A man of the people, he has
faithfully performed the people's work, with an eye single
to their interest.

He found the finances of the county embarrassed, its
credit depressed, and distrust of its financial condition and



management universal. When he took possession of the
treasurer's office county warrants had not been redeemed
over its counter for years, but had been hawked about the
streets, and peddled from hand to hand till they finally found
their way into the hands of the money brokers at a dis-
count, to the people, of from ten to thirty per cent.

His advent in the treasurer's office changed all this in a
single day. Public confidence rose as by magic. The
ability of the count3' to meet its obligations promptly was
no longer doubted. County warrants commanded their face
in gi'eenbacks on the street and in the treasurer's office.
They have continued to do so up to this hour.

The people of Chickasaw county owe Mr. Foley a debt
of gratitude. He has done their work ably, faithfully, and
for the compensation fixed by law. In his official capacity
he has known no friends, and no enemies. He has favored
no organized rings, and sought to build up no special inter-
ests; but with rigid impartiality has dealt honorably with
all. More than this, at the time of his election he was
perhaps the only man in the county upon whom all the
elements of opposition to treasury misrule could have been
concentrated. He accepted the office of treasurer at a posi-
tive sacrifice of his private business interests.

Prior to holding the oflSce of treasurer Mr. Foley
had been a member of the board of supervisors for
one term, and was for nine years connected with
the school board of his town. He is an ardent
friend of education, and labors assiduously for its
advancement.

Mr. Foley was reared in the Catholic faith, and
steadfastly adheres to the religious teaching of his
ancestors.



HON. JOHN D. HUNTER,

WEBSTER CIT1-.



AMONG the self-made men of Iowa, whose edu-
^ cation was acquired largely at the printer's
case, and who have risen to considerable promi-
nence in the state, is John D. Hunter, of Hamilton
county. He was born at Knoxville, Jefferson
county, Ohio, his father being a farmer, and now
residing in Mahaska county, Iowa. His mother,
before her marriage, was Nancy Day. The son
spent his early youth on a farm, devoting but a
few months yearly to attendance at school. At
fifteen he became a printer's apprentice in Ashland,
Ohio, completing his education in the "art preserv-
ative " at Bryan, in the same state. On the day he
was twenty years of age he started a paper, in part-
nership with another man, at Angola, Indiana. That
town was then small; the paper was not well patron-
ized, and at the end of one year, without having
essentially replenished his exchequer, he returned
to Bryan.

In the autumn of 1856, Mr. Hunter came to
j6



Iowa, halting a few weeks at Marion, Linn courity,
and settling at Eldora, Hardin county, in Decem-
ber of that year. For a short time he worked as
a journeyman printer on the " Sentinel," then the
only paper in the county. He soon after pur-
chased a half interest in the office, and in about
two years owned the establishment. He con-
ducted the paper until the ist of January, 1864,
when he sold out to M. C. Woodruff, now of the
Dubuque "Times."

In 1865, in connection with other parties, he
opened a store in Iowa Falls. Eighteen months
later, in December, 1866, he removed to Webster
City and purchased the Hamilton " Freeman," a
paper which, with the exception of one year, he
has continued to publish, and wliich he has made
the leading journal in the Boone valley.

Mr. Hunter was chosen treasurer and recorder
of Hardin county in 1863, and, after serving eight
months, resigned to enter the military service. He



26o



THE UNITED STATES BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONART.



was in the commissary department of the seven-
teenth army corps, and served until the war closed.

In the autumn of 1867 Mr. Hunter was elected
to the lower house of the general assembly, and was
reelected two years later. During the four years
he was in that body he served on his fidl share of
committees, and shirked responsibilities in none.
During his second term he was chairman of the
committee on compensation of public officers. Mr.
Hunter originated the bill authorizing the governor
to appoint a special committee to visit the charita-
ble and other state institutions ; though the bill,
introduced very late in the session, did not pass
that year.

He has been postmaster since February, 1873.
He was appointed to the same office at Eldora in



1861, and resigned through inability to attend to
its duties while editing the paper.

He is not a member of any church, though he
attends the Congregational.

Mr. Hunter has always been a republican.

On the 23d of December, 1852, he married Miss
Sarah A. Gates, of Mansfield, Ohio. They have
had four children, three of whom are living.

During the ten years that Mr. Hunter has been
editor of the " Freeman," he has made it a powerful
agent in advancing the interests of Webster City
and Hamilton county, and it is gratifying to him to
know that the citizens of both fully appreciate his
valuable services. The political party, also, to
which he belongs is partially indebted to him for
its local strength.



ROBERT N. MATHEWS,



ROCKFORD.



ROBERT NELSON MATHEWS was a native
of New York, and was born in Clinton county,
on the 5th of May, 1809. He was the son of John
Mathews, a farmer and mechanic, who came from
England, and settled near the line of New York and
Canada.

Mr. Mathews spent his youth and early manhood
at the east; married Miss Caroline A. Horr in 1834,
and in that year settled in Kane county, Illinois,
building the first frame house on the site of Aurora.
He opened a farm, and continued in agricultural
pursuits until 1846, when, having read law at Aurora,
he was admitted to the bar and commenced practice
at Little Rock, Kendall county, continuing in his
profession there for eight or nine years. His prac-
tice was extensive and profitable. During four
years of his residence in Kendall county he served
as county judge, an office for which his sound judg-
ment and administrative talents admirably qualified
him. In 1853 he was elected to the legislature, and
was associated in that body with such men as John
M. Palmer, S. M. Cullom and John A. Logan. Mr.
Mathews introduced the first bill for the protection
of wild game. About this time he became interested
in government lands west of the Mississippi, partic-
ularly in Iowa and Nebraska, where he prospected
considerably, making entries, and finally selecting
his home at Rockford, on the beautiful Shellrock,
where he settled on the ist of January, 1857. Here



for twenty years he toiled hard to build up a town,
leading oft in every enterprise which tended in that
direction, up to the time of his death, which oc-
curred on the 31st of May, 1877. Judge W. B.
Fairfield, of Charles City, long an intimate friend,
pronounced his funeral oration, and thus spoke of
Mr. Mathews as a lawyer :

As a lawyer, Mr. Mathews was well read, thoroughly
versed in its principles, clear in his perception as to fact and
law and the relation of one to the other, lucid in statement,
logical in reasoning. Although he rarely in his later years
conducted the trial of a cause in court, he frequently
brought cases to the bar whose trial was intrusted to
younger members of the profession. In all these cases,
however, there was this that was noticeable — they were
prepared. Not only was the law clearly defined and the
authorities digested, but the preparation of the testimony in
significance and sequence was masterly. The introduction
of witnesses and testimony was so arrayed that as fact after
fact and incident after incident was developed they consti-
tuted, in the simple order of array, an argument at once
clear and logical. No man at the bar in this district under-
stood better the value and the weight of testimony.

The last eight or nine years of his life he was a
banker, and was successful in this, as in every other
enterprise in which he engaged. He left a large
property in the village of Rockford, a farm of eleven
hundred acres two miles south of town, another farm
sixteen miles away in the edge of Franklin coimty,
and other property scattered here and there.

Mr. Mathews was elected one of the supervisors
of Floyd county, when the law establishing such an
office first went into operation, and while in that



THE UNITED STATES BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY.



263



office was instrumental in freeing the county of very
heavy obligations in the form of railroad bonds.
He took pride in the accomplishment of this work,
and the taxpayers felt that they owed him a heavy
debt of gratitude.

In his oration already referred to, Judge Fairfield
thus spoke of the character of Mr. Mathews :

As a man, he was of large brain, large heart and gener-
ous impulses. He had a will that would have been imperi-
ous if there had not lain back of it a rare kindliness and a
quick sympathy. Little children liked him, and dumb ani-
mals never feared him ; both certain indices of a kindly and
sympathetic nature. He was a man given to hospitality in
its broadest sense, and while he was not munificent in his
giving, he was, according to his convictions of right, \ ery
generous. No person ever went hungering from his door,
and the waif and the wanderer found at his table food and
under his roof shelter cheerfully and unquestioningly given.
To the poor, and those who by force of untoward circum-
stances or the chariness of nature had been placed in posi-
tions inferior to him, he was kind and gentle; to his equals,
courteous, though sometimes brusque ; to his friend he was
sincere, reliable, unswerving; toward those who disliked
him he was independent and oftentimes defiant; as a neigh-
bor, kind and obliging ; as a creditor, lenient and forbearing,
and as a counselor, shrewd and safe.

Mr. Mathews was in feeble health for two or three
years before he died, and for five or si.\ weeks took
not enough food in the aggregate for an ordinary
meal. How he could live as long as he did is a
mystery even to the medical scientists. He was a
member of the Masonic order, and was buried ac-
cording to their ritual. The number of people in



attendance was so large that no church in town
could hold one-third of them, and the services were
held in the open air. Between one hundred and
fifty and two hundred members of the Masonic fra-
ternity were in attendance. It was by Mr. Mathews'
request that Judge Fairfield officiated.

The wife of Mr. Mathews died on the 29th of
August, 1853. She was the mother of three chil-
dren, only one of them now living. A daughter,
Anna R., died in infancy, and Oscar, when about
ten years old. Ralph C, the only surviving member
of the family, was born on the 13th of December,
1836, at Aurora, Illinois, and is consequently forty-
one years old. He was trained to business in his
father's office at an early day ; was in the mercantile
trade several years, commencing in i860. For the
last seven years he has been a banker, all but the
first few months in company with his father. He
has a wife and one child. His wife was Jennie E.
Lumley, daughter of Edward Lumley, of Michigan.
Their child, Oscar L., is fourteen years old.

Mr. Mathews is now of the firm of Mathews and
Lyon, his partner being O. H. Lyon, many years a
merchant in Rockford, and now a member of the
legislature. Floyd county has very few better busi-
ness men than Mr. Mathews, who inherits from
his father the elements of success, namely, honest,
energetic industry.



STEPHEN B. OLNEY, M.D.,



FORT DODGE.



AMONG the medical pioneers of Webster county,
t\. Iowa, is Stephen Berry Olney, of Fort Dodge.
He has been in this city more than twenty years,
steadily attending to his professional duties, except
when in his country's service, and has a reputation
as a physician second to none in the upper Des
Moines valley.

Dr. Olney is a New Yorker by birth, and was born
in Moreau, Saratoga county, on the 13th of Octo-
ber> 1821. His father, Benjamin Olney, was a
farmer, and moved to Ohio when Stephen was about
thirteen years old. His mother was Mary Eliza-
beth Olney nie Berry. His grandfather, Stephen
Olney, was a revolutionary soldier. The grandson
worked on his father's farm from twelve to eighteen
years of age, attending a district school during the
winters; he then spent one year or more at the



Maumee City, Ohio, Academy, and at twenty began
to study medicine with Dr. Burritt, of Gilead, now
Grand Rapids, Ohio. He attended lectures in
Cleveland, and graduated in 1847. He practiced
the allopathic system until 1865, since then the
homoepathic.

Dr. Olney practiced medicine four or five years
at Damascus, Henry county, and Waterville, Lucas
county, Ohio, and in 1855 located in the Des Moines
■valley, on the spot where his old sign, " S. B. Olney,
M.D.," hangs to-day. During the last twenty-one
years the doctor has traveled many thousand miles
up and down this valley, and over the bluffs on
either side, giving relief to the distressed, prolong-
ing many lives, and affording comfort in many ways.
The first time the author of this brief memoir met
Dr. Olney was in January, 1859, when he had just



264



THE UNITED STATES BIOGRAPHICAL blCTIOtfAkY.



performed an operation on a man, now a lawyer at
Cedar Falls, by amputating the whole of one and
the half of another frozen foot.

While in the practice at Fort Dodge, Dr. Olney
acted a short time as first county superintendent of
schools, coroner of Webster county, a member of the
city school board, and is now chairman of the state
visiting committee for the insane hospitals.

In September, 1862, he was commissioned surgeon
of the 32d regiment of Iowa Infantry, and served
until January, 1865, when sickness compelled him to
resign. While in the field he was faithful and un-
tiring in the discharge of his duties, and overwork,
no doubt, contributed largely to his illness. As a
relic of war times. Dr. Olney retains the white horse
which he purchased in Dubuque in 1862, and which



he rode during all the time he was at the south, a
horse now twenty years old and in good order.

Dr. Olney is a member of the Masonic order,' in the
blue lodge, chapter and commandery. He has been
a republican since there was such a party, before that
time was a whig. He is a communicant of the Epis-
copal church, and, morally, a very exemplary man.

On the glh of November, 1849, Dr. Olney mar-
ried Miss Stella Badger, of Wood county, Ohio.
They have five children. The eldest child, Floyd
B. Olney, a printer by trade, is studying medicine
with his father.

Dr. Olney is much respected, alike for his skill as
a practitioner and his excellent qualities as a citizen.
His reputation as a surgeon extends far beyond
Webster county.



SAMUEL W. COLE,

FORT DODGE.



A CHRISTIAN landlord is neither an anomaly
nor a novelty. A landlord leading in chris-
tian enterprises is certainly a rarity, yet there is no
reason why it should be so. An inn-keeper, if so
disposed, can conduct his business to the glory of
God, as well as a person in any other respectable
calling. A bar is not a necessary adjunct to a
hotel, and every detail of business in a public
house is susceptible of being so conducted as to
develop more and more the qualities of the chris-
tian gentleman. The subject of this sketch, for
more than fourteen years a hotel-keeper, finds noth-
ing in his business to conflict with his religious pro-
fession, and is known for hundreds of miles around
as a model landlord and an earnest christian.

Samuel W. Cole was born on the 25th of Septem-
ber, 1822, in Panton, Vermont. His father, Samuel
Cole, a soldier in the war of 181 2, was suddenly
killed by falling under the wheel of an ox-cart,
when the son was only six years old, and at that
early age the child was sent to live with an uncle in
Westport, New York. He remained there until he
was nineteen years old, making the best use each
winter of the little time which he had for attending
school. He was studious, and became master of
all the branches ordinarily taught in a district
school thirty or forty years ago.

Commencing at the age of nineteen, for twelve
winters he taught in different parts of Vermont and



New York, meanwhile spending the summers on his
uncle's farm, of which, in 1846, he came into full
possession. Prior to owning this property he spent
four years on Lake Champlain and the Hudson river,
serving the first season as waiter on a steamboat,
working his way slowly upward, and in every posi-
tion promptly and faithfully performing his duties.

In 1855 Mr. Cole immigrated to Iowa, purchased
a hotel at West Union, Fayette county, and was its
proprietor for ten years. He then engaged in the
book and drug business, changing from it, two or
three years later, to the hardware trade, and having
afterward the misfortune to lose heavily by fire.

In January, 1868, he was appointed superintend-
ent of the Soldiers' Orphans' Home, at Cedar Falls,
and the following year removed to Tama City, where
he was in the hardware business for five years.
Again we find him in hotels at Vinton and Ackley,
and he is now the proprietor of the Duncombe
House, Fort Dodge, to which city he removed in
October, 1875.

Mr. Cole was the first superintendent of public
schools in Fayette county, holding the office seven
years, and performing its labors with great zeal. He
held the office of postmaster two or three years in
West Union ; was a regent of the State University
for four years, and assisted in organizing the Iowa
State Sunday School Association, being its presi-
dent for two years.



THE UNITED STAT&S BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONART.



265



He is a member of the Independent Order of
Good Templars, and has held all the offices in the
lodge. He is an ardent, untiring worker in the
temperance cause, and has for years been engaged
in organizing " Bands of Hope " among the children.

In political principles, Mr. Cole is an unwavering
republican.

In religious belief he is a Baptist, and has been
an active member of the church since he was four-
teen years old.

On the 30th of March, 1847, he married Miss
Maria H. Lewis, of Lewis, Essex county. New



York, and has three children. Carroll, the only
son, is with his father in the hotel ; Clara, the eld-
est daughter, is the wife of A. H. Lawrence, an
attorney and land agent at Lemars, Iowa; the
youngest daughter is eight years old.

Although in his fifty-fifth year, Mr. Cole has been
so temperate, so regular and so careful in all his
habits, that he looks like a much younger man. He
has a spontaneity of cordiality which is truly re-
freshing, and his social qualities give him preemi-
nent fitness to preside over a public house, or to
, mingle with the young to do them good.



WILLIAM W. WALKER,



CEDAR RAPIDS.



WILLIAM WILLIAMS WALKER, son of
William Ames Walker and Sarah Williams
Ingalls Walker, is of strictly New England pedigree.
His paternal grandparents were natives of Vermont,
his maternal, of Connecticut. He was born in Mid-
dlefield, Otsego county, New York, on the 8th of
August, 1834, and reared on a farm until he was
fourteen years old. He then gave eight years exclu-
sively to study : three years at Cortland Academy,
Homer, New York; one year at Cherry ^'alley
Academy, New York; part of a year at Brown Uni-
versity, Providence, Rhode Island, and three years
at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New
York. He graduated from the last named school in
1856; when he was the valedictorian of his class,
and received the degree of C.E. He had this
pursuit in view during his educational course, and
hence his studies were mainly in the physical sci-
ences and mathematics. His history will show that
he has proved a thorough adept in this calling.

Immediately after graduating Mr. Walker started
for the west, with Wisconsin in his eye, but on reach-
ing Chicago changed his plans, and went to Clinton,
Iowa. He there obtained a situation as rodman in
a construction party on the Chicago, Iowa and Ne-
braska, now Chicago and Northwestern, railway.
He worked in that position, at a salary of one dollar
and fifty cents a day, about one year, until the grad-
ing of his division of the road was completed, his
headquarters being at Lisbon and Mount Vernon,
in Linn county. The financial crash early in the
autumn of 1857 suspended nearly all public works;
engineers had but little to do, and in September of



that year Mr. Walker accepted the editorship of the
Cedar Valley " Times," and removed to Cedar Rap-
ids. He made the paper a powerful agent in fur-
thering public enterprises.

In May, 1859, Mr. Walker and three or four other
enterprising men formed a plan for extending the
railway west of Cedar Rapids, which point the road,
approaching from the east, reached one month later.