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prosperity of Muscatine than any other family asso-
ciated with its history.

Vincent Chambers, the eldest of the brothers,
was born in Washington county, Indiana, on the 30th
of November, 181 6. His schooling was bounded
by the log school-house which was built through his
father's influence, and which he attended a few
winters previous to the age of twenty, when he
removed to Muscatine, Iowa, in company with his
father, but soon after returned to Indiana, where he
pursued the business of a carpenter and joiner for
twenty years. On the 28th of November, 1854, he
came a second time to Muscatine, and joined his
father on the old homestead, where he remained till

1864, when he became associated with his brothers,
W. and A. Chambers, in business, where he con-
tinued till the spring of 1877, when he removed to
Indianapohs, where he is now engaged in operating
a stone saw-mill.

William, the second of the brothers, was born on
the 26th of November, 1818, in Washington county,
Indiaaa; enjoyed the same school facilities as his
brother; came to Muscatine, Iowa, in 1836; farmed
till 1849, when he formed a copartnership with his
brothers, Anderson and Isaac Chambers, for the
manufacture of lumber, which continues till this

Anderson, the third of the brothers, named after
his mother's family, was born in Indiana on the 26th
of November, 1820; received less than one year's
log schooling all told; came to Muscatine at the age
of sixteen, on the nth of May, 1836; farmed on the
homestead for about ten years, and in 1847 united
with his brothers, William and Isaac, in the lumber
manufacturing trade. This was the first establish-
ment of the kind in Muscatine, and its early history
is well worth recording.

In the autumn of 1846 the brothers, accompanied
by six men, ten yoke of cattle, six horses, provisions
for six months, and a general outfit for logging,
started from Muscatine for Black river, Wisconsin,
and on arriving at their destination built a log cabin,
organized a camp, made sleds, and provided all the
appliances necessary for the forest campaign. They
spent the winter in cutting down the timber and
hauling it into the river, intending in the spring to
drive the logs down stream and into the Mississippi
river at La Crosse. But an unusual phenomenon
occurred at this period, whicli not only carried the
logs down stream, but came near extinguishing the
entire winter's work. A huge waterspout fell at the
head of Black river, which occasioned a rise in that
stream of twenty-five feet in less than twenty-four
hours, and carried everything before it. The broth-
ers, perceiving the danger which threatened them,
mounted their horses and galloped at full speed in
advance of the roaring torrent, threw a boom across
the river at White Oak Springs, at tire head of Black
river lake, which was secured before the flood and
the logs arrived. Had it not been for this timely
and energetic measure their whole winter's work
would have been carried into the Mississippi river,
scattered and lost. The river abated gradually
until the 19th of July, when the expedition left for



Muscatine with the first two rafts of logs ever taken
from the Black river country. The rafts, which
contained nine hundred thousand feet, arrived at
Muscatine on the 15th of August, 1849, the first ever
brought to Muscatine or to the State of Iowa. The
brothers rented two saw-mills which had been pre-
viously erected by John G. Deshler and Messrs.
Cadle and Reiley, which they operated for several
years; but in 1852 the business had so prospered
and increased that they were compelled to build a
mill of their own. In this year the firm was re-
organized, Messrs. Cornelius Cadle and D. Duns-
more being admitted as partners, the name of the
firm being changed to that of Dunsmore and Cham-
bers, under which title it carried on an extensive
and prosperous trade till 1862, when the partnership
was dissolved by mutual consent. In 1852 the
brothers connected with their extensive lumber
business a general mercantile house, which was also
conducted with success till 1862, when it was dis-

In 1862 the business was again reorganized, Mr.
Vincent Chambers being admitted, and a large pork
and grain establishment added, which increased
with such rapidity as to render the building of an
extensive packing house and grain elevator neces-
sary. The former was completed in 1864, and the
latter in i866. In the last named year they also
built an additional saw-mill on an improved plan.
The grain elevator, with a capacity of one hundred
thousand bushels, was the finest in the state, and
among the most complete to be found in the coun-
try, while the pork house had a capacity for the
handling of five hundred hogs per day, and during
the winter of 1864-5 disposed of twenty-seven
thousand three hundred head; but the sudden ter-
mination of the war in the latter year so reduced
prices as to entail a loss on the firm of one hundred
thousand dollars. In 1868 the elevator became a
total loss by fire, involving a net loss of twelve
thousand dollars. These reverses so discouraged
the firm that it was not deemed advisable to rebuild.

In 1870 Mr. John Servis, of La Crosse, was ad-
mitted to the firm, and the name varied to that of
Chambers Brothers and Co. The pork business was
discontinued in 1874, the saw-mill and pork house
having burned, causing a loss of seventy-two thou-
sand dollars. In 1875 Mr. Servis withdrew his in-
terest, and the firm is now known by the title of
Chambers Brothers.

But in the spring of 1876 a new and distinguish-

ing branch was added to the business of this emi-
nent and enterprising firm, destined to overshadow
their other enterprises, and to prove the most valu-
able and important "innovation" of the age — a
stone-sawing mill, the chief feature of which is a
circular saw, some sixty-six inches in diameter,
having some eighty-four diamonds inserted in its
periphery, and not inappropriately named " The
Stone Monarch," which rips up the hardest marble
with as much ease and speed as the ordinary circu-
lar saw will intersect an oak log. It is capable of
cutting at the rate of fifteen hundred feet per day,
or, to compare, it can do as much work at the same
expense in three hours as the old hoop-iron and
sand saw can do in thirty-six hours; and this being
the first saw of the kind ever invented, and the
principle still in its infancy, if it shall turn out to be
capable of the same improvements which have been
made in the rotary lumber saw, there is no esti-*
mating the value it will be to mankind, or the rev-
olution it is destined to accomplish in mechanics.
The facility which it affords for work enables the
proprietors to receive a bill of stone sufficient for
the water-tables, window-sills, caps, corbels, keys
and corner blocks of an ordinary house, and return
the same ready for setting on the following morning.
During the short time in which the " Monarch " has
been in operation it has sawed stones from the
quarries of eight different states of the northwest,
besides large quantities of marble from Vermont
and Italy. This most wonderful invention is the
work of Mr. J. W. Branch, of St. Louis, an English
gentleman, and like all really valuable inventions
and discoveries of the century, it had to encounter
at the outset not only indifference and apathy, but
actual opposition and hostility. It was laughed to
scorn by the stone men of St. Louis, Chicago and
other adjacent cities, not one of whom would even
afford it a trial. At last, knowing something of the
character of the Chambers Brothers, of Muscatine,
Iowa, for enterprise and intelligence, the inventor
applied to them to put its merits to the test, and
although they were not in the stone business, and
totally inexperienced in that line of industry, yet,
becoming strongly impressed with the feasibility of
the idea, they at once put the machine in operation,
with the results above stated. An improved saw of
the same pattern has since been put in operation
by Mr. Vincent Chambers at Indianapolis, Indiana,
with still greater results, every improvement seem-
ing to add to the speed and economy of the opera-



tion. John Chambers, the fifth of the brothers, born
in 1829, is also a member of the firm.

Vincent Chambers was married on the jth of
November, 1840, to Miss Nancy Peck, of Leesville,
Indiana, who died in 1853, leaving two children, a
son and a daughter, both since deceased. He was
married again in 1854, to Miss Margaret K. Neely,
by whom he has eight children, all living.

William Chambers was married in 1840 to Miss
Cynthia Long, a native of Muscatine county, Iowa,
by whom he has had thirteen children, only six of
whom are now living.

Anderson Chambers was married in 1841 to Miss
Susan Pace, also of Muscatine county, a Virginian
by birth, by whom he has had seven children, all
living; she died on the 27th of February, 1874, and
on the 28th of June, 1875, he was married to Miss
Mary Prosser, of Muscatine.
* John Chambers was married in 1854 to Miss Mary
Lakin, also of Muscatine, by whom he has had three
children, two sons and one daughter, all living; she
died on the 26th of December, 1874.

Of the sisters, two are still living; the third died
at the age of sixteen by a fall from a horse.

Amanda, the eldest, is the wife of Mr. M. P. Pace,
a farmer residing nine miles east of Muscatine.

Nancy Jane is the wife of Mr. Wm. Bagley, a
farmer residing near Tipton, Cedar county, Iowa.

The brothers all belong to the Masonic fraternity.
Anderson is a Knight Templar, William a Royal
Arch Mason, and the others Master Masons.

William and Anderson are members of the Bap-

tist chtirch, Vincent of the Methodist, while John,
though a regular attendant, is not united to any

All were raised in the democratic faith, to which
they have adhered through life.

We shall close the sketch of this remarkable fam-
ily with a few words of more general import.

In every enterprise that has had a tendency to
promote the interests of Muscatine they have always
been foremost. Their energy and activity have
passed into a proverb with their fellow-townsmen.
Possessed as they all are of tempers under perfect
control, no disaster or reverse has ever dismayed or
dispirited them ; but always looking forward with a
hopeful eye on the future, they have never let their
industry or zeal flag for a moment. Their spirit of
public enterprise is only equaled by their quiet and
unobtrusive private benevolence ; their charities are
innumerable ; neither want nor distress has ever
appealed to them in vain, and it is a matter of some
notoriety that they have frequently kept in their
employment, at their usual wages, men with families,
for whom they had no work, rather than see their
children suffer for want of bread.

Dickens presents us with the picture of a happy
household in the "Cheeryble Brothers." He could
have found in the Chambers Brothers living illustra-
tions of the virtues which his fertile pen has given
to us in the pages of fiction. Wealthy, as the term
is now understood, they are not, for wealth cannot
remain with men of such broad and generous natures
as the Chambers Brothers.



GEORGE D. WOODIN, attorney and coun-
selor- at-law, was born in Warren county, Penn-
sylvania, on the 27th of February, 1827, and is the
eldest of a family of seven children of David Woodin
and Parthenia nie Cobb, natives of Monroe county.
New York.

The Woodin family in America are descended
from Puritan stock, the original ancestor having
come over with the Massachusetts Bay Company
in 1628. The family does not seem to have been
prolific, nor to have produced many distinguished
men They have been mainly tillers of the soil, of
quiet, practical habits, virtuous and law-abidmg

citizens. The mother of our subject was of Irish
ancestry ; a smart, intellectual woman, of great en-
ergy and force of character, and from whom our
subject inherits some of the most valuable traits of
his character.

George D. worked on his father's farm, attending
the district school in winter, until the autumn of 1844,
when he attended one term at the Waterford, Penn-
sylvania, Academy, and the next winter taught a
district school. The next two summers were spent
at Jamestown Academy, New York, and the winters
were spent in teaching. In 1847 he entered Alle-
gheny College, at Meadville, Pennsylvania, with one



term of studies in the preparatory course yet to
complete; that institution very benevolently regu-
lating its curriculum of studies for the convenience
of those who had to support themselves by teaching
in the winter. The full course of one term in the
preparatory department and four years in college
was completed in four years, while at the same time
he taught school for three months each winter, and
made one year in law studies with A. B. Richmond,
Esq., of Meadville, Pennsylvania. He was gradu-
ated with honors, at the head of his class, in 1851,
having defrayed the entire expense of his education
by teaching, except ten dollars given him by his

After leaving college he taught in the academy at
Warren, Pennsylvania, for one year, reading law at
the same time in the office of L. D. Wetmore. He
was admitted to the bar in 1852, and for one year
tliereafter practiced his profession with his preceptor,
developing at the same time rare powers and genius
as a practitioner.

In 1853 he resolved to cast his lot with the young
State of Iowa, then coming prominently into notice,
and offering great inducement as a home to young
men of energy and enterprise in every capacity, and
after due inquiry he selected the then incipient town
of Iowa City as his future home. His entire stock
in trade consisted, on arrival, of a few books, a suit
of clothes, and four dollars in money. He soon fell
into practice, however, and was not long in establish-
ing a reputation. At that time the bar at Iowa City
was one of the ablest in the state, with Oilman, Fol-
som and W. Penn Clark at its head, the supreme
court then holding its entire session at that place.
Besides questions at issue incident to a new state,
there were many preemption cases tried, the United
States land office then being located at Iowa City.

In 1854 he became prosecuting attorney of John-
son county, and in 1855 was elected mayor of Iowa
City, and during the period of his mayoralty issued
fifty thousand dollars' worth of railroad bonds, levied
by an almost unanimous vote of the electors of the
city, to aid in constructing the Mississippi and Mis-
souri railroad, now the Chicago, Rock Island and

It is worthy of note that at that time Mr. Woodin
had serious doubts as to the validity of the security,
and was strongly inclined to refuse to issue the
bonds. His views in this regard, however, were
shared by but one man in the community, James H.
Gower, so merging his own opinions in the all but

universal sentiment of the community, he issued the
bonds. These were of the same class of securities
out of which grew the celebrated conflict between
the state and federal courts, the former holding them
to be illegally issued, and the latter to be valid.
The case was finally decided by the federal courts
in favor of the bonds.

In 1856 he was elected to the legislature from
Johnson county, and served one term, with distinc-
tion. In 1857 he moved to Sigourney, Keokuk
county, which has since been his home, and in 1858
was elected district attorney for the old sixth judi-
cial district, and served four years, during which
period he earned for himself the reputation of being
one of the most skillful, accomplished and successful
criminal lawyers of the state. Since his removal to
Sigourney he has been engaged on one side or other
of almost every case tried in the circuit or district
courts of the county ; and during a period of over
twenty years he has not been absent from the
court-house one full hour at any one time during a
session of court,— a fact well worthy of record, as
indicating his habits of industry and close attention
to business.

Mr. Woodin has had great success as an attorney.
He throws his whole soul and being, so to speak,
into his cases, and stands for the time being in the
shoes of his client. His addresses to the jury are
quick, pungent and exceedingly earnest, and he
rarely fails of success with either judge or jury. He
is a man of great penetration, forecasting things
almost by intuition, and seeming to know a client's
case before it is half stated. As a practitioner, he
has long since attained to the highest rank at the
bar of his county and district.

In politics, he has always been a republican, and
had he consented to serve, would have been in con-
gress years since ; but refusing all offices, save those
named above (which were mainly in the line of
his profession), he has sedulously devoted himself
to the duties of his profession, and may be emphat-
ically termed a man of one work.

As a citizen, his word is a synonym of certainty,
and he commands the respect of all classes of men
with whom he comes in contact. He is somewhat
cautious in avoiding misplaced benevolence, but has
a most generous heart when the subject is known to
be deserving. With strangers he is taciturn at first,
and does not open himself freely to new acquaint-
ances until he first discovers either moral worth or
mental wealth in them ; but when once secured as a



friend, he is found to be all that the word implies.
He loves a dry joke, and knows how to perpetrate
one with imperturbable gravity, always keeping the
expectation of the listeners at the highest tension
of excitement until the climax is reached in the last

In July, 1859, he was married to Miss Mary E,
daughter of Dr. Skillman, of Keokuk county, Iowa,'
formerly of Huron county, Ohio. At the date of
their marriage her age bore the same proportion to
his that eight does to sixteen; now their ages ap-
proximate as nearly as six does to nine. They
have three children, Link, Guy and Grace.

Mr. Woodin has in many respects a remarkable
history. During his whole life he has never been
sick enough to refrain from work a single day ; and
by diligence and success at his profession he has
accumulated a competence of this world's goods.

While practicing at Iowa City Mr. Woodin was
the partner of W. E. Miller, afterward judge of the
supreme court of the state. On the return of Col-
onel E. S. Sampon from the army in 1864 he formed
a law partnership with that gentleman, which con-
tinued until his elevation to the bench in 1869. In
1872 his present partnership with E. W. Mcjunkin,
Esq., was formed.



WILLIAM VANDEVER was born in Balti-
more, Maryland, on the 31st of March, 1817,
his parents being on a temporary sojourn in that
city. Their residence was in Philadelphia, Pennsyl-
vania, to which city they returned a few years after-
ward. The subject of this sketch was educated in
the latter place, at private schools, and there grew
to manhood. His father, William Vandever, a na-
tive of the State of Delaware, descended from a
Holland ancestor, who came with the first emigra-
tion to New Netherlands, and removed to the shores
of the Delaware about the time of the Swedish emi-
gration in 1635. His mother was a Ten Eyck, of
New Jersey. On both the father's and mother's side
his ancestors served in the army of the revolution,
and his father was a soldier of the war of 1812.

In the spring of 1835, being eighteen years of age,
he accompanied his father upon a trip to the west,
and spent about six months in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The following winter he spent in Baltimore, and then
returned to Philadelphia. From this time till his
permanent removal to the west he was engaged most
of the time in study and teaching. He taught a
school for about a year in Chester county, Pennsyl-
vania, within five or six miles of Valley Forge.

His first settlement in the west was at Rock Island,
Illinois, in the spring of 1839. Here for a short
time he was employed as a clerk in a store; .but he
soon abandoned that business and commenced read-
ing law, diversifying this occupation with that of
land surveying. He executed public land surveys in
Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin at various times until

1844, when he was appointed clerk of the county
court of Rock Island. This office he held for a lit-
tle more than two years, then, in 1846, he assumed
the proprietorship of the Rock. Island "Advertiser,"
and continued its publication for several years.
While editing that paper he was an ardent advocate
of public improvements, and was the first man to
move in organizing a company for building a rail-
road between Chicago and Rock Island. A charter
was first obtained from the legislature to construct a
road from Rock Island to La Salle, the southern
terminus of the Illinois and Michigan canal. Gen-
eral Vandever became one of the first corporators,
and contributed much to the success of the enter-
prise. The charter was amended at a subsequent
session of the legislature, and authorized the road
to be extended to Chicago.

In 1847 General Vandever was married to Miss
Williams, of Davenport, Iowa, and four years later
removed to Dubuque. Here for a year or two he
was employed in the surveyor-general's office. He
then turned his attention to the law, forming with
the Hon. Ben. M. Samuels a partnership, which con-
tinued several years. Uporr the reorganization of
the supreme court of Iowa, in 1855, he assumed the
duties of clerk of that court; but finding that atten-
tion to the duties of that office interfered with his
law practice, he resigned the following year.

In 1858 he was nominated by the republican party
of the second congressional district, and elected by
about three thousand majority; and in i860 he was
renominated and elected by a greatly increased ma-



jority. His opponent on the second race was his
whilom law-partner, Hon. Ben. M. Samuels, the
leading democrat of Iowa. The whole northern
half of the state was still in the second district, and
the canvass was very extensive, very laborious, and
very brilliant. The overwhelming majority of votes
which Gen. Vandever received was an indication of
his strength in debate.

Immediately on the breaking out of the war he
abandoned his seat in congress, at the commence-
ment of his second term, and in a short time entered
the army in command of the 9th Iowa Infantry, a
regiment recruited in his own district, and largely
by his own exertions. By his valor at the battle of
Pea Ridge, Missouri, and on other bloody fields, he
was, in 1862, made a brigadier-general, and toward

the close of the war was breveted a major-general
of volunteers. He served in the field until the close
of the war, and participated in many important en-
gagements. At its close he returned to private life.
He performed important and very valuable services
in the organizing of the companies which subse-
quently built the line of railroad from Clinton to
Dubuque, and effected the first negotiation that
secured the funds for the construction of the whole
road from Clinton to La Crescent. He then pro-
jected the Iowa Pacific railroad, and was one of the
chief promoters of that enterprise. In 1873 Presi-
dent Grant tendered him the appointment of Indian
inspector, and that position he still holds. His
recent reports have thrown valuable light on the
Indian question.



ONE of the surest roads to success is industry
in a single direction. The man whose ener-
gies are thus put forth, who loves his calling or pro-
fession, and gives it his best days, rarely fails, unless
overtaken by misfortunes, or his health early breaks
down. The life of Hon. J. S. Woodward beautifully
illustrates what industry and integrity, aiming at a
single point, can accomplish in a few years. When
admitted to the bar he determined to know less of
everything else than of the law, and to know law as
perfectly as the closest application would enable
him to do it. Consequently, in his profession he has
achieved eminent success, and his life has its lesson
too valuable to be lost.

Jerome Southwick Woodward was born at Mid-

Online Librarypub American Biographical Publishing CompanyThe United States biographical dictionary and portrait gallery of eminent and self made men. Iowa volume → online text (page 41 of 125)