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father was a Virginian farmer, and reared his family
in Washington county. He died in Jefferson county,
Iowa, in 1846, aged about ninety years.

His father, a gunsmith and whitesmith by occupa-
tion, died when William was two years old, leaving
him to the care of his mother, with whom he re-
mained until he was twelve years of age. Going
then to Kentucky, he lived with his uncle, John

Wells,' assisting him in his farm work, and attending
school. After five years he returned to Virginia,
and for a time attended a select school taught by
Mr. John Lowery. His purpose was to prepare for
college, but he afterward changed his plans, and in
1845 removed with his step-father, Henry Hite, to
Fairfield, Jefferson county, Iowa. There he worked
upon the farm about four years, and in 1849 began
clerking in a dry-goods store at Fairfield. In Decem-
ber of that year he accepted a clerkship in the dry-
goods store of Wise and Mathews, at Oskaloosa, re-
maining until March, 1852, when he formed a part-
nership with Dr. S. E. Reinhart, and conducted a drug
trade for one year, under the firm name of Wells
and Reinhart. The partnership then being dis-
solved, he conducted the business alone until March,
1862, when he formed a partnership with Mr. T. T.
Wright, which continued about seven years, the firm
name being Wells and Wright. He purchased his
partner's interest in 1869, and since that time has
conducted the business in his own name.

Being a man of fine executive ability, enterprising
and public-spirited, Mr. Wells has been called to
many positions of honor and trust. He has been



an earnest friend of education, and for a number of
years has been connected with the school board as
director and treasurer. For three years he was a
trustee of Oskaloosa College. Hfe served one year
as a member of the city council, and about ten
years as city treasurer.

In political sentiment, he was formerly a whig,
and is now a republican.

He has been especially active as a member of the
Masonic fraternity. He joined the order in 1852,
and has held nearly all of the minor offices. In
1864 he was grand king in the chapter; in 1865 he
served as deputy grand commander of the state,
and in 1866 received the thirty-second degree. In
1869 he was elected treasurer of the grand consis-
tory of the state, and is still serving in that capacity
(1876). In the fall of 1872 he was elected treasurer
of the grand chapter of the state, and served one

About 1862 he began serving as high priest of
Hiram Chapter, No. 6, and continued in that office
for ten years.

He was especially active in the organization of
De Payens Commandery, and was largely instru-
mental in securing its location at Oskaloosa, and
has served as generalissimo of the same since its or-
ganization in 1865. In 1863 he was elected, for one

year, right illustrious grand master of the Grand
Council of Royal and Select Masters of the State of
Iowa, and has served two years in Oskaloosa Coun-
cil, No. 7, as most puissant grand master.

Mr. Wells has been for thirty-five years actively
connected with the Methodist church, and for fifteen
years has been a member of the board of trustees,
and has also served in other minor capacities.

He was married on the 7th of September, 1852,
to Miss Elvira A., daughter of James L. and Eliza
(Beeks) Hogin.

Of the seven children 'who have been born to
them, Leona T. was born on the 22d of June, 1853 ;
James H., born on the i6th of May, 1855, died on
the 7th of February, 1856 ; Charles L. was born on
the 7th of December, 1856; Mary E. was born on
the 14th of May, 1859 ; William A. was born on the
3tst of August, 1861; Edward M., on the 30th of
June, i8'64, and Leonard H., on the 6th of May,

In business, Mr. Wells has been eminently suc-
cessful, and in all his dealings has rigidly adhered
to the strictest principles of honor and uprightness.

He is a man of fine personal appearance, being
six feet and one-half inches in height, with dark hair
and eyes and a full flowing beard, and weighs one
hundred and fifty pounds.



THE life history of John Milton Phillips, while
it has many phases in common with that of
many other men, is yet marked by an individual-
ism, and has an identity peculiarly its own. He is
preeminently a self-made man, and by his own inde-
fatigable effort has risen from comparative obscurity
to a position of high standing among his fellow-

A native of Rowley, Essex county, Massachusetts,
he was born on the 15th of March, 1820. His father
was a farmer by occupation, and in this same occu-
pation John passed his early life, receiving a com-
mon-school education. Finding farm life ill suited
to his tastes, he, while yet a boy, learned the shoe-
maker's trade, and later engaged in the manufacture
of shoes at Peabody, remaining there until 1858,
conducting at the same time a leather and shoe

Meeting with fair success in his business enter-
prise, Mr. Phillips accumulated a small capital, and
with a view of improving his financial condition re-
moved to the west, and after a long and somewhat
tedious journey and considerable prospecting, finally
selected Council Bluffs, Iowa, as his future home,
and established himself in business at that place.
His business career has been one of success, and by
fair dealing and persistent and honorable effort he
has accumulated a liberal competence. His is now
(1877) the oldest business in Council Bluffs, and he
is the oldest merchant in that city.

In all his intercourse with his fellow-citizens Mr.
Phillips has maintained a regard for uprightness and
for generous and fair dealing that has given to him
a character and reputation of the highest standing
and secured to him the unlimited confidence of all
with whom he has had to do ; and in consideration



of his fitness for official positions he has been made
the recipient of various trusts and honors at the
hands of his fellow-citizens. In i86o he was elected
alderman, and was continued in that office during a
period of ten years.

In public enterprises, and matters pertaining to
the growth and welfare of the city, he has taken an
active interest, and to his executive ability and good
judgment is largely due much of her prosperity.
During the time the court-house was building he
was chairman of the building committee. He is
actively connected with the paper-mill and a stock-

holder of the same. With a view to encouraging
manufacture, he formed one of a company which
erected the building used for the manufacture of
agricultural implements, a building which was after-
ward destroyed by fire.

At the present time Mr. Phillips is vice-president
of the Council Bluffs Savings Bank.

On the 4th of December, 1845, he was married to
Miss Olive N. Cressey, of Rowley, Massachusetts,
and by her has three sons and three daughters.
Mrs. Phillips is a lady of intelligence, and to her
influence is due much of her husband's success.



THE subject of this sketch, a native of Berlin,
Huron county, Ohio, was born on the 28th of
February, 1835, the son of Abel Montgomery and
Sarah ne'e Burgett. His, father, who is still living at
the age of eighty-six years, was formerly a black-
smith by trade, but for the most part followed the
occupation of farming. He had a family of nine
sons and three daughters, of whom five sons and one
daughter are now living. Of these, our subject is
the youngest son living. His paternal grandfather
immigrated from Virginia in 1801, and settled on
the present site of Olivesburgh, in Richland county,

Benjamin's purpose was to pursue a regular course
of college studies, and preparatory to this, after
closing his studies in the district schools, he spent
one year in the higher department of the union
schools of Ashland, Ohio. However, before he was
prepared to enter college his plans were broken up
by the financial embarrassments of his father, and
he was thrown wholly upon his own resources. He
subsequently engaged in teaching until 1857, and
contributed liberally to the support of his parents.
Although his early life was mainly spent in hard
physical labor, he had an ardent longing for mental
improvement, and early determined that he would
devote his life to the legal profession. With such a
purpose in view, he turned his attention toward the
study of law, and was admitted to the bar by the
supreme court at Columbus, Ohio.

After beginning life for himself, he settled at
London, Ohio; but leaving that place in i860, he
established himself in the practice of his profession

at La Crosse, Wisconsin. He continued there with
good success until 1868, when he removed to his
present home in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He soon
afterward connected himself with the " Daily Times,"
and continued its political editor for four years, and
at the same time attended to the duties of his pro-

Mr. Montgomery has never confined himself ex-
clusively to the practice of law, but since 1856 has
been to a greater or less extent engaged in political
matters. In political sentiment, he has always been
a democrat, but he has never allowed party preju-
dices to bias him. He supported Abraham Lin-
coln for the presidency, and during the civil war
warmly supported the Union cause. In 1866, while
a resident of Wisconsin, he was a candidate from
La Crosse county for the state legislature. His
opponet was the Hon. Mr. Cameron, now United
States senator, who was elected by a small majority.
During the administration of Andrew Johnson he
held the office of receiver of public moneys at La
Crosse. In 1872 he was the democratic candidate
for congress from the fifth district of Iowa, against
F. W. Palmer, now postmaster at Chicago, but the
district being largely republican, defeat was, of
course, inevitable. In the fall of 1875 he was de-
feated for the office of state senator by a majority of
ninety votes in favor of Hon. George F. Wright, the
present incumbent. He was a district delegate in
1872 to the Baltimore convention which nominated
Horace Greeley for the presidency, and again in
1876 was one of the four delegates at large from
Iowa to the St. Louis convention which nominated



Messrs. Tilden and Hendricks, and was appointed a
member of the committee from Iowa to inform the
candidates of the action of the convention.

In local enterprises, Mr. Montgomery has been an
active participant. In the winter of 1874-75 he was
president of a joint delegation from different points
in the Missouri valley, whose purpose was to visit
the State of Texas with a view to opening traded
relations, and thus reaching the sea- coast through
that section. The enterprise has proved a success,
and resulted in much trade being directed through
that channel.

Throughout his varied career Mr. Montgomery
has maintained a high character, and as a lawyer
has attained to an honorable standing among his
fellow-practitioners. His desire, however, during
recent years has been to retire from his profession

and from public life, and devote his time and atten-
tion to stock raising.

In his religious training, he was brought under
Presbyterian influences during his early life. Upon
attaining to manhood, however, he espoused more
liberal views, and now his religious sentiments are
more nearly allied to those of Unitarianism than to
any other creed.

Mr. Montgomery was married in the fall of 1857
to Miss Edetha Riddle, at Mitford, Union county,
Ohio. Mrs. Montgomery was a devoted wife and
mother, and contributed no small amount to the
success of her husband, and her death, which oc-
curred on the ist of Januar)', 1865, was mourned by
a very large circle of friends. Of the two sons who
were born to them the elder is now eighteen and the
younger sixteen years of age.



DAVID JOYCE, lumber merchant and capitalist,
was born in Berkshire county, Massachusetts,
on the 26th of February, 1825. He is the son of
John D. and Jerusha Jones Joyce, and came of the
old Puritanical stock of New England. His father
was an enterprising and successful business man,
engaged in conducting a blast furnace, foundry and
machine shop. His mother was a lady of great moral
worth, of amiable disposition and benevolent char-
acter. His paternal grandfather was a soldier in
the revolutionary war, throughout its entire dura-
tion, and in his day was highly, esteemed for his in-
tegrity of character and exalted patriotism.

The subject of this sketch had only the usual
advantages of education presented by our common
schools, and at the age of fifteen assumed the entire
charge and control of the books in the office of
his father's extensive business. His tastes being
decidedly mathematical as well as mechanical, he
acquired a knowledge of the machine and foundry
business during his minority in his father's establish-
ment. The science of mathematics being his favor-
ite study, he pursued unaided and unassisted its
several branches, and having constructed with his
own liands the necessary instruments, became one
of the best practical sur\eyors in that region, and
enjoyed the reputation of a first-class expert in civil
engineering. On attaining his majority he con-

tinned his connection with his father without any
definite understanding or arrangement, taking an
active part in all his business transactions until he
was thirty years of age. In 1848 he had embarked
in the mercantile business, and though still retain-
ing his connection with the parental establishment,
devoted himself almost exclusively to his mercantile
enterprise. In 1857 he purchased his father's entire
business, united all the various departments under
one head, and continued in charge of the same till

In the fall of the same year, having disposed of
all his mercantile and manufacturing interests east,
and believing that the west afforded better facilities
for a business man, he decided to migrate thither ;
and after casting his vote for Abraham Lincoln,
he departed the same day for Lyons, Iowa. The
first two years after his arrival he devoted largely
to dealing and operating in live stock, principally
in buying and fatting cattle for market. In 1861
he embarked in the lumber business, having in-
vested in the property known as the " Stumbaugh
Mill," holding it for the time being as mortgagee,
and afterward purchaser. Here he took his first
lessons in that business, which afterward he has so
extensively and successfully carried on. This estab-
lishment is now one of the most extensive of its
kind in Iowa, manufacturing over ten million feet



of lumber annually, and giving employment to up-
ward of eighty-five men the year round. A con-
siderable portion of the timber used is cut on lands
belonging to the firm, which affords employment
to many men during the winter. The entire estab-
lishment, including saw-mill as well as door, sash
and planing departments, cover an area of four
blocks of ground. Besides his regular business, he
is a director and large stockholder in the largest
bank in the county, located at Lyons, and has been
one of its most efficient officers since the second
year of its organization, contributing largely by his
energy and judgment to its success. He took the
first five-twenty bonds issued by the government
that came to Lyons, and by his personal character,
material aid and influence, greatly advanced the
interests of the national cause. A public-spirited
citizen, he has ever taken an active interest in every
improvement calculated to benefit his community.
His contributions for church edifices and the sup-
port of religious institutions exceed in the aggregate
five thousand dollars during the past few years.
He was president of the board of trustees of the
Lyons Female College while it was under the super-
vision of the Presbyterian church, besides taking an
active interest in the public common schools in his
vicinity. He was the most liberal subscriber for
the Lyons Masonic Temple, and was president of
the joint stock company and chairman of the build-

ing committee during its erection, although not a
member of that fraternity. He organized and con-
structed the horse railroad between Lyons and
Clinton, and has been its principal stockholder and
president of the company since its organization.
He was for the first three years of its existence
president of the Citizens' Association, the object of
which is to build up manufactures and to assist
strangers coming to the neighborhood in selecting
judicious localities, and in every laudable way to
adva,nce the general interests of the town. With
his employes he is very popular, and takes much
interest in their general welfare. Many young men
in his employ have been raised by him from menial
occupations to those of trust and responsibility.

Although constitutionally adverse to office, he has
held several public positions, having been elected
mayor of the city of Lyons without one dissenting

He has always been closely identified with the
republican party in this state, vindicating its prin-
ciples, and a firm advocate of its institutions.

In his dealings, being always prompt, he has ac-
quired a reputation for financial ability and business
capacity unsurpassed by any one in his locality.

He married Elizabeth F. Thomas, of Genesee
county. New York, in 1858. Himself, wife and one
child only, a son, are the sole surviving members
of his family.



AMONG the early settlers and most valued
L citizens of Decorah was Horace Spangler
Weiser, deceased, who was a native of Pennsyl-
vania, being born at York, on the 22d of October,
1827. His parents were Charles Weiser, merchant
and banker, and Anna Spangler Weiser, daughter
of General Spangler, a prominent citizen of Penn-
sylvania fifty years ago.

The subject of this sketch had excellent oppor-
tunities for mental culture when young; fitted for
college at New Haven, Connecticut, he entered Yale
in September, 1845, but was obliged to leave before
completing his graduating course on account of poor

Horace studied law in his native town in 1850
and 185 1; was admitted to the bar at York, and

began practice there in 1852. He was a reader of
the newspapers, became interested in the prospects
of the young country beyond the Mississippi, made
a trip to Iowa, was pleased with the opening which
Decorah, Winneshiek county, presented, and here
located in 1855. He immediately established a
private bank, united with it the business of real
estate, and continued both branches until his de-
mise. The Winneshiek County Bank, which he
started, and which became so popular and so emi-
nently successful under his management, is still
in operation, and is said to be the oldest bank con-
tinuing under the same name in the state. In his
business, to which he gave his undivided attention,
Mr. Weiser was very accommodating ; he would often
long before regular hours open his bank, and re-



open after hours if by so doing he could oblige any
person. Few people were ever more attentive to
their calling, or more punctual and prompt in the
discharge of obligations. So wedded was he to
business, that he paid little attention to politics
except to vote, and more than once refused to ac-
cept office. He acted with the democrats until the
rebellion broke out, after that with the republicans.

He was a member of the blue lodge in the Ma-
sonic fraternity, but rarely met with the order.

Mr. Weiser was a communicant in the Protestant
Episcopal church, and much of the time an officer
in that body, and maintained an unblemished and
exalted christian character.

On the 14th of July, 1859, he was united in mar-
riage with Miss Louise M. Amy, daughter of John
and Cynthia (Smalley) Amy, of Fort Atkinson, Iowa.
She has three children : Amy Spangler, aged fifteen ;
Charles J., aged twelve, and Anna Louise, aged seven,
all bright and promising children. They became

fatherless on the 19th of July, 1875, while their
mother was absent from the state. Though not in
good health for three or four years, Mr. Weiser was
as well as usual that day, was quite cheerful in the
evening, retired at a late hour, and soon afterward
was found dead in his bed, the cause supposed to
be apoplexy.

Mr. Weiser early identified himself with the in-
terests of his beautiful Iowa home, took pride in
the growth and material progress of the place, now
a city of nearly five thousand inhabitants, and lent
his aid in every enterprise tending to develop the
wealth of the county. Few men more public-
spirited ever lived in Winneshiek county, and no
man here ever accumulated such a fortune. He
was thoughtful and considerate, lenient toward his
debtors, never taking advantage of their necessities;
heedful of the wants of the poor and destitute ;
kindly in his feelings toward all ; social and cheer-
ful in disposition.



AMONG the successful men of Iowa may fairly
. be placed the name of Edward Russell, Suc-
cess brings honor in every honest occupation, and
where is it better earned than by the earnest, honest
journalist and editor?

Edward Russell was born in London, England, on
the 6th of October, 1830. His parents, William and
Elizabeth Russell, were from good Scotch families,
and were both eminent in their circle for earnest
religious faith and activity in christian labor. His
father was an early adherent of the temperance
cause, and prominent in its advocacy among English
reformers, and was for several years the secretary of
the order of Rechabites, a temperance secret and
benevolent organization, strong in numbers and in-
fluence. From them Mr. Russell very early received
religious impressions, and the steadfastness of his
convictions, which is one of his strongest character-
istics, is largely due to the influence of the examples
and teaching he received during his youth.

His early education was obtained in England, at
the grammar school in London, and at Hill House
Academy, in Northamptonshire; subsequently only
such as could be obtained from evening and home
studies in New York and elsewhere in the United

States. He developed early a taste for solid read-
ing, was studious, and much interested in politics
and public affairs. His father's family removed to
the United States in September, 1845, and from
financial reverses which his father met with soon
after their arrival he was under the necessity of
laboring in aid of the support of the family. All of
his earnings up to the day he was twenty-one were
given to his father. After leaving school he engaged
as errand boy in a store, and after a short service
was apprenticed to a carpenter and joiner, on his
own choice. In the fall of 1847, his father having
bought a tract of native forest land in Callicoon,
Sullivan county, New York, he removed with them
there, with the intention to help make a farm there-
on. He assisted until March, 1848, aiding in build-
ing a small house and the clearing off of several
acres of land, when he went to New York, and be-
gan to travel through several states, selling goods as
a peddler for a mercantile house in that city. Al-
though young he was very successful, and gained
much knowledge of localities and men, and an
experience very useful in after life. Continuing his
travels he turned westward, and first placed foot on
Iowa soil on the 7th of September, 1848, at Le



Claire, Scott county, with the purpose of visiting an
old friend of his father's, Rev. W. Rutledge, having
been joined on his way there by his father and
younger brother. They were so well pleased with
the state that they resolved to make it their home.
To this end the New York land was sold, and the
family removed to Le Claire. After working a few
months on the farm he returned to his trade, and
continued, with a single intermission, until the fall
of 1858. About seven months were spent in 1850
in traveling through south and west. This added
greatly to his stock of experience and information.
He was much interested in the active discussions
of political affairs, resulting from the repeal of the
Missouri compromise in 1844 and 1845, and this led

Online Librarypub American Biographical Publishing CompanyThe United States biographical dictionary and portrait gallery of eminent and self made men. Iowa volume → online text (page 49 of 125)