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

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ings, when the ground was covered with snow, to
participate in the sport of sliding down hill, or
skating on the ponds, or competing for the prize in
the village "spelling bee," or the "speaking" of
pieces, etc. These are the days and the scenes



which memory holds dear, and which our subject
loves to talk about.

When Suel was ten years of age his father ex-
changed his farm for one located some twenty-seven
miles farther west, in the town of Unity, Sullivan
county, New Hampshire. This was a sad and sor-
rowful period in his history. The scenes and play-
mates of his youth were unspeakably dear to him,
and bitterly did he weep at parting with them ; so
deep was the impression made upon his youthful
mind by this sad change, that he has since his ma-
turity often counseled parents of families to fix upon
a home for life in the outset if possible, and not
part with their homestead on any consideration, but
encourage in their children a love of home, with all
the happy feelings and moral associations that be-
long to that blessed place.

At the age of twenty years he bid farewell to the
parental roof and removed to Rochester, New York,
where he worked one year as a farm-hand at a sal-
ary of eleven dollars per month. At the end of the
year he took his surplus earnings and bought a
small stock of goods, and peddled them in the sev-
eral towns and counties west and south of Roch-
ester, the country known as the " Genesee Valley."
He followed this business for three years with re-
markable success, nor was any period of his life
more pleasantly and profitably spent ; for, although
he did not accumulate money very fast, as the
phrase is now understood, yet he was daily receiv-
ing a practical and useful education, learning how
people lived and how they ought to live. The peo-
ple of the Genesee country, although humble, were
nevertheless intelligent, faithful and well-to-do farm-
ers. Many of the pioneers of that forest country
were still dwelling in their log-cabins, but most of
them had built good farm-houses and barns. With
unflagging interest he heard the oft-repeated tale
of the pioneer settler. Here he imbibed a love of
agricultural pursuits, and conceived the idea of im-
migrating to the west, and of making a new farm in
the "Valley of the Mississippi." Accordingly, as a
preparatory step, he resolved to spend a few months
at the Middlebury Academy, that he might acquire
a knowledge of bookkeeping and surveying, etc.
His older brother. Dr. John H. Foster, had been a
few years in Illinois previous to this period, and had
returned to the east on business in 1836, and on his
return to his western home was accompanied by our
subject, the journey being made in the early spring
of that year, via New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh,

the Ohio river and St. Louis, where the brothers
parted, the doctor going to Chicago and our subject
to Rock Island. In August of the same year the
doctor made a visit to Rock Island, and the broth-
ers proceeded down the river to Bloomington, now
Muscatine, Iowa, where they jointly purchased an
undivided one-sixth of the town site, as it then
laid off, from Captain Benjamin Clark, of " Clark's
Ferry," for which they paid the sum of five hundred
dollars. This included a tract of land half a mile
square. The town had been surveyed but a few
weeks previously, and at that time consisted of but
two log-cabins, though farmers were in that year
making rapid settlements in the adjacent country.
In February, 1837, he removed to Bloomington
(Muscatine), where, in 1842, he engaged in the
wholesale and retail grocery business in partner-
sliip with Mr. J. W. Richman, since deceased,
which continued until 1846.

On the 8th of October, 1847, he married Miss
Sarah J., daughter of Robert Collins Hastings, of
St. Lawrence county. New York, and sister of Hon.
S. C. Hastings, elsewhere sketched in this volume,
and continued his residence in Muscatine. Early in
1849, soon after the discovery of gold in California,
Judge Hastings made the overland trip to the Pacific
coast; and in the winter following, at his request,
our subject accompanied the wife and three children
of the judge, by way of the Isthmus, to the city of
San Francisco, arriving there in April, 1850, after an
arduous journey of three months.

Mr. Foster spent the suminer of 1850 as clerk in
the Sacramento post-ofiice, and in the autumn of
that year was appointed to take the census of the
east half of Butte county, California, embracing all
the mountainous country of Feather river to the
top of the Sierra Nevada mountains. He num-
bered some twenty-five hundred men engaged in
■'digging" for gold, all operating upon the sur-
face and in the bed of the streams, no blasting
of quartz rocks then being done. He found some
of the miners realizing from twenty dollars to one
hundred dollars per day, but the average of their
earnings did not exceed one dollar and a half,
and the cost of living was about one dollar per
day, so that the labor of mining gold in California
at that time did not pay as well as the same
amount of labor in the farms of Iowa, nor did he
consider the condition of the people of Califor-
nia, or other prospects, as equal to those of the
people of Iowa, and accordingly returned to the



Valley of the Mississippi in the winter of 1850-1.
The journey to and from and his seven months'
stay in California was one of the most interesting
periods of his life. The sea-voyage from New Or-
leans to Chagres, on the steamer Georgia, com-
manded by Commodore D. D. Porter; the horse-
back ride across the isthmus with the women and
children; the four weeks' stay at Panama awaiting
the steamer to come around the " Horn," and his
experience with the miners on Feather river, were
all thrilliiig and very instructive experiences.

On rejoining his family in the spring of 1851 he
settled down to the business of farming, and soon
drifted into the nursery business, horticulture and
fruit raising, in which he has been engaged success-
fully for the past twenty-five years. He has accom-
plished much good by the promotion of tree-plant-
ing, both shade and ornamental, orchards and small
fruits of all kinds, and has been instrumental in in-
troducing and disseminating many new and im-
proved varieties of fruit trees. He is a member of
the state and county horticultural societies, also of
the Illinois Horticultural Society, and a frequent
and very valuable contributor to the various pub-
lications and periodicals of the country printed in
the interest of horticulture and agriculture. He
was the first in Iowa to move in the matter of estab-
lishing and endowing an agricultural college for the
state, and for a number of years fought the battle
single-handed. In 1847 he became acquainted with
some intelligent Germans, who had been educated
at agricultural schools in their own country, and
who were much surprised to learn that there were
no similar institutions in America. He became
favorably impressed with their account of these in-
stitutions in Germany and other European coun-
tries,, and immediately commenced agitating the
question of establishing an agricultural college for
the State of Iowa, by articles in the public papers.
He made it the subject of public addresses at. agri-
cultural meetings, and, in short, made it a hobby for
years. At the outset he met with but little encour-
agement ; on the contrary, his views were generally
opposed as Utopian. About the year 1852, how-
ever, some western writers, among whom were Pro-
fessor J. B. Turner, of Jacksonville, Illinois, and
Hon. Adna Williams, of Michigan, began to adopt
similar views, and Judge Buel, editor of the Albany,
New York, "Cultivator," had long been a strong
advocate of agricultural education. In this way a
gradual change of sentiment was wrought, and in

1856 he found friends enough in the legislature to
introduce a bill providing for the establishment of
an agricultural college for the State of Iowa, to be
endowed and supported as other state institutions;
but there was not strength enough in that session to
enact it. Early in the succeeding session of 1858,
however, it became a law, Iowa being the second
state in the Union to provide an institution of this
kind, Michigan being about a year in advance of her.
The main feature of the discipline of the institution
contended for by Mr. Foster was a more thorough
education in the sciences pertaining to agriculture,
requirement of a certain amount of daily labor on
the part of the students. The reasons urged being
labor for health, for economy, for practical illustra-
tion of the studies, and for the great moral prin-
ciple of the dignity of labor. After seeing the
successful realization of the travail of his soul for
many years, he had the further satisfaction of serv-
ing as a director of the institution for six years, five
of which he was president of the board. The
United States land grant for the support of the in-
stitution was an after consideration, earnestly advo-
cated and promoted by our subject.

It will thus be seen that Mr. Foster has been a
large benefactor to his race, and when it is consid-
ered that he has no children to reap the benefit of
his efforts in the matter of education, he must stand
prominently forward in the character of a philan-
thropist. He is a plodding and industrious man,
but enthusiastic in his business, in which he has
acquired large practical knowledge, being recog-
nized as an authority on subjects coming within the
scope of his observation. He is a voluminous
writer for agricultural and horticultural periodicals.
He is also much interested in weather statistics, and
makes- regular records of the atmosphere and its
various phenomena. He is very tenacious of his
views and opinions, and pursues a matter to the end,
regardless of the consequences to friend or foe,
although he is by no means vindictive. He is also
something of a reformer, and considering it his
duty, some few years since, to endeavor to bring
about a reform in the practice of the courts, he
wrote several articles for the daily papers, showing
that cases should be disposed of in some plain, sim-
ple manner without the aid of "lawyers' papers," as
he called them; and once he appeared in court and
read a petition to the judge urging more prompti-
tude and less delay in the disposition of cases, for
all of which he was ridiculed by others, precisely as



when he commenced agitating the agricultural col-
lege innovation ; but, in nowise disconcerted, he con-
tinues to advocate what he terms " law reform," and
in consequence " lawyers' papers '' have come to be
a byword in Muscatine. We could fill pages with
interesting reminiscences and anecdotes of the life
and manners of our subject, but shall close our
notice of him by copying the following maxims
which his own career has aptly illustrated : " Let it
not be said of us that the world is none the better
for our having lived in it "; "All essential labor is
equally honorable"; " To know how and where we
obtain the necessaries of life is more important than
all other earthly knowledge"; "There is nothing
worth our attention which does not tend to improve
our own condition, or that of others, in this life or
the life to come."

His marriage with Miss Hastings was blessed
with an increase of two children ; the eldest,
Charles, died in infancy, and the youngest, Miss
Adele, a most amiable and accomplished young

lady, died in her seventeenth year, in December,
1870. The following lines, written by D. C. Rich-
man, Esq., are a slight tribute to her worth and
memory :

" Tenderly, lovingly lay her away,

Beneatii the cold earth, with the dead ;

Trustfully, prayerfully leave there the clay

From which the sweet spirit hath fled.

Ye loved her, and fondly ye cherished the gift,

The dearest that heaven bestows,
To gladden and cheer the brief hour of life,

Whate'er be its griefs and its woes.

Too frail was the bud to blossom and flower

In earth's uncongenial clime;
But transplanted in heaven 'twill sweetly expand

And bloom with a splendor sublime.

Removed from the evil and care of the world,

Unfettered by weakness or pain,
The soul with its Savior, Redeemer and Guide,

Will never know sorrow again!

Then tenderly, tearfully, lay her away

In quiet beneath the cold sod ;
Hopefully, prayerfully leave there the clay,

And trust the sweet spirit with God ! "



AMONG the many self-educated professional men
/X of Iowa none has made a more honorable
record, or in a short space of time attained to
greater eminence in his profession than the subject
of this sketch ; born at Chenango, Broome county.
New York, on the 2d of February, 1832, his par-
ents being Ebenezer S. and Anna (Seward) French,
natives of New England, but among the earliest
settlers in that section of New York. He is of
English extraction (both parents being of that stock),
and descended from some of the early colonists
of Massachusetts. His mother was a connection of
the Sewards of Auburn, New York,, the late Hon.
William H. Seward being related to her. His
father was a farmer in moderate, but easy, circum-
stances, who gave his children the benefit of the
best schools which the country at that early day

Our subject was educated at the Binghamton
Academy, a literary and scientific institution located
at the county seat of Broome county. New York.
From his earliest recollections he desired to be a
physician. This was the one and only aim of his
life, and toward this end his reading and studies

were all directed. His father, however, was strongly
opposed to his plans, and desired him to follow
the business of agriculture, refusing to furnish him
the means to obtain a professional education, and
he was consequently thrown upon his own resources
at the age of fifteen years, at which period he left
the parental roof and launched out in support of
himself For several years his experience was va-
ried, and sometimes rough. He worked as a hand
in a saw-mill, as an agricultural laborer, learned the
art of daguerreotyping, which he carried on for two
or three years, and which afforded him not only
leisure for study, but means to defray his expenses.
He read the usual medical works, and studied the
science of healing under the direction of his uncle,
S. H. French, M.D., who was then and is still a dis-
tinguished practitioner in the town of Lisle, Broome
county. New York. In 1853 he entered the Berk-
shire (Massachusetts) Medical College, from which
he graduated with honors the same year, after which
he located in Hyde Park, Pennsylvania, where for
five years he piirsued the practice of his profession
with very satisfactory results. At the end of this
period his uncle, whose practice had grown to be



quite large, offered him an equal partnership, which
he accepted, and accordingly returned to the town
of Lisle, where he had pursued his medical studies,
and continued there in active and successful prac-
tice for three years. In the autumn of i860 he
was induced to remove to the west, and located
at the town of Anamosa, then a rising village, in
Jones county, Iowa, where he soon built up a large
and lucrative practice, and took high rank as a
skillful and reliable physician. Soon after the out-
break of the late rebellion he joined the army as
surgeon in the 31st Iowa Volunteers, in which he
served with fidelity and great usefulness, part of
the time on the operating staff of the division, till
the 2oth of June, 1863, when a serious attack of
illness brought on by the incessant drudgery of his
position, obliged him to resign his commission, nor
did he recover sufficiently to reenter the service
during the remainder of the war. In 1863 he was
appointed, by the President, examining surgeon for
pensions for the district in which he then lived.
In 1865 he removed to the larger and more desir-
able city of Davenport, which has since been his
home, and where his merits as a practitioner have
brought him ample recompense. After the organ-
ization of the board of medical examiners for ap-
plicants for pensions in Davenport, he was elected
president of that organization, a position which he
still fills with ability and credit. The doctor has

never given himself to specialties, or taken up any
particular branch of the profession, but is a phy-
sician in the broadest acceptation of the term, treat-,
ing successfully the various ailments and accidents
to which fallen humanity is heir. He is, moreover,
a gentleman of great amiability of character and
urbanity of manners ; prompt in responding to the
calls of duty, irrespective of the social position of
the patient, his first and main concern being the
relief of suffering. He loves the profession for its
own sake, and the opportunity for doing good to
his fellow-men which it affords. He is a gentle-
man of high social position, enjoying the confidence
and esteem of all who know him.

He was brought up under Methodist influence, but
of late years has been an attendant upon the services
of the Protestant Episcopal church. In politics, he
has always been a republican. He joined the Ma-
sonic order in 1856, and continues his membership,
having passed through the master's degree.

In 1854 he was made a member of the Broome
County Medical Society, New York, and in 1865
became a member of the Scott county, Iowa, Med-
ical Society, of which he was president during the
years 1868-9. ^^ '^ ^^^^ ^ permanent member of
the State Medical Society.

On the 15th of April, 1868, he married Miss
Agnes Norval, of Iowa. He has one child, a daughter,
the result of a former union.



JOSEPH LAUGHREY REED, for many years
J the first business man of Wilton, was born at
Blairsville, Pennsylvania, on the 29th of December,
183 1, and was the son of James Reed and Hannah
nde Pomeroy, both natives of Pennsylvania, the lat-
ter of German origin. His parents removed to
Wayne county, Ohio, in November, 1832, and soon
after to Holmes county in the same state, where the
father died in 1841 and the mother in 1843, leaving
Joseph L. an orphan at the tender age of ten years.
The paternal grandfather of our subject was a na-
tive of the north of Ireland, of Scotch ancestry, and
emigrated in early life to Pennsylvania, where he
married and pursued the business bf farming until
his death. A few of his descendants still reside in
the Keystone State, where they are mostly tillers of

the soil. They are a superior race of men, of strong
religious convictions, — generally attached to the
Presbyterian faith — highly moral and industrious.

After the death of his parents our subject was
taken charge of by an elder brother, George, under
whose care he remained until the age of sixteen
years, when he placed him in a store in Nashville,
Ohio. Meantime he had received a common-school
education, and was a bright and promising boy.
After remaining a short time in Nashville he re-
moved to Dalton, in Wayne county, Ohio, where he
learned the saddler's trade, at which he worked in
Coshocton and various other places until 1854,
when he went into partnership with his brother
George in the stock business for about a year.

On the 2d of January, 1855, he arrived in the



State of Iowa, first stopping with his sister, Mrs.
McKinley, in Cedar county. From thence he re-
moved to Iowa City, and worked at his trade in the
shop of Mr. J. B. Daniels, of that place, for about
eighteen months. In the spring of 1857 he re-
moved to the town of Wilton, then an incipient
village of but a few houses, and commenced the
harness business for himself, with a very small capi-
tal, in a little frame shanty; but in a short time he
accumulated sufficient means to purchase a lot and
build a more commodious shop for himself. In the
new quarters he remained about seven years, pros-
pering and accumulating. Meantime he branched ;
out into other departments of trade, bought and [
shipped large quantities of grain, provisions, cattle
and hogs to Chicago; dealt in stocks and United '
States securities, and was for a number of years one i
of the heaviest operators on the stock exchange of
that city ; all his transactions eventuating success-
fully. In 1866 he built a large grain elevator on
the railroad at Wilton, and in 1867 he erected a
large brick building on Cedar street, in which he
organized a bank, — the first in the place, — which
was set in operation on the 20th of July of that
year, and continued with great success for about
nine years. Subsequently he added two additional
stores, which, with the bank, were burned to the
ground on the 20th of August, 1874. This great
disaster, which piled in ruins the business center of
the town, and paralyzed for a time its commercial
activity, produced but little effect upon Mr. Reed.
The next day his banking business was transferred
to a grocery store, and he received grain at the rail-
road warehouses ; and while the embers were still
glowing, his plans were matured for rebuilding on
a larger and greatly improved scale, and to-day the
beautiful brick block on Cedar street, the pride of
Wilton, remains as a monument of his indomitable
perseverance and liberal enterprise. During a period
of eighteen years his success as a business man was
uninterrupted; every enterprise which he undertook
brought a large return, and he amassed a fortune
estimated at one hundred thousand dollars.

On the 28lh of May, i860, he married Miss Maria
Herr, daughter of Christian and Susan (Stiver) Herr,
of Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, her father be-
ing of Swiss origin some four generations since, and
her mother of English ancestry. Mrs. Reed is a
lady of culture and refinement, a member of the
Presbyterian church, and a leader in every good
and noble work inaugurated in the community.

They have two sons, Charley L., born on the nth
of April, 1861, and Harry J., born on the 21st of
March, 1863; both young men of bright intellects
and large promise. The former is being trained for
the pursuit of business, and the latter for the medical

Mr. Reed was accidentally thrown from his buggy
on the 4th of November, 1875, and received inju-
ries from which he died on the morning of the 5th,
universally regretted. His death cast a gloom over
the entire community, and his funeral was attended
by an immense concourse of citizens, the procession
reaching all the way from the house of deceased to
the cemetery, a distance of a mile. He had been a
member of the Odd-Fellows society, which was
largely^epresented at his funeral.

In politics, he had been a Jefferson democrat
through life, but had never sought or held office,
except that of city treasurer of Wilton, of which he
was the incumbent at the time of his death.

He had never connected himself with any cor-
porations other than his bank, but had become the
owner of two large stock farms in Muscatine county,
numbering about six hundred acres, and also large
tracts of land in Nebraska, which remain in posses-
sion of the family.

Mr. Reed possessed rare business talents, was
gifted with a shrewd and far-seeing mind, which
seemed able to forecast the future with remarkable
accuracy, so that he rarely made a mistake in trade,
added to which was a character of unswerving in-
tegrity. He was never known to break his word or
violate a trust. He kept but few accounts, and was
wont to make all his calculations mentally, rarely
employing a pencil, and generally more acc'Urately
and expeditiously than th^most experienced ac-
countant. But while careful in business, and scru-
pulously exact in all his transactions, he was a man
of the greatest benevolence and generosity. His
gifts to the cause of religion and charity were noble,
while he was continually relieving the wants of the
poor and unfortunate, and so unostentatiously were
his benefits bestowed that sometimes years elapsed
before the donor became known. He was piously
educated, and continued through life to entertain
the highest respect for the cause of religion, his
preference being for the church of his fathers, the
Presbyterian. He was a very liberal supporter of
the Wilton church and Sabbath school of that de-
nomination, giving in a way characteristic of his

Online Librarypub American Biographical Publishing CompanyThe United States biographical dictionary and portrait gallery of eminent and self made men. Iowa volume → online text (page 43 of 125)