pub American Biographical Publishing Company.

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

. (page 5 of 125)
Online Librarypub American Biographical Publishing CompanyThe United States biographical dictionary and portrait gallery of eminent and self made men. Iowa volume → online text (page 5 of 125)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

eral of the state, to which he was elected in the
autumn of the same year by a majority of sixty
thousand votes. He is now the incumbent of that

For the past sixteen years he has held the posi-
tion of attorney for the Rock Island and Pacific
Railroad Company, at Washington. He was also
the first attorney of the old Mississippi and Mis-
souri Railroad Company, which in 1863 was merged
into the Rock Island road.

He is a Mason and an Odd-Fellow, a distin-
guished and prominent member of the Old School
Presbyterian church, and has been a republican
and an abolitionist all his lifetime.

Mr. Mcjunkin is a gentleman of very fine liter-
ary attainments, a superior classical scholar and an
elegant and effective public speaker, with pleasant



and agreeable manners and address, very genial and
friendly, and a general favorite among the people
of his county and state. In the practice of his
profession he is very zealous, as, indeed, he is in
everything which he undertakes. As a jury lawyer,
he has few, if any, equals in the county or district
in which he resides ; while, as a common-law prac- ,
titioner, he is second to none in the 'state. In short,
he has made the law his sole study for the last
twenty years, and in criminal practice, being gen-
erally employed on the defense, he is without a
superior in the valley of the Mississippi, his prac-
tice in this department extending not only over his
own state, but into several of the states west of Iowa.

The secret of his success with juries is to be
found in the courteous and gentlemanly manner
in which he treats the opposing party and the wit-
nesses, and impartiality with which he presents his

During his brief experience as attorney-general
he has given the utmost satisfaction to the author-
ities of the state, bringing to bear upon the ques-
tions submitted for his opinion or decision a ripe

acquaintance with the law and equity governing
the same, as well as a close familiarity with prece-
dents drawn from former court decisions in analo-
gous cases.

In his business transactions he is peculiarly trans-
parent and honorable, and hence has the unlimited
confidence of every one with whom he has any in-
tercourse. For the last twelve years he has been
associated in the practice of law with J. F. Hen-
derson, Esq., and during that period there has never
been the slightest disagreement or misunderstand-
ing between them; and it is the testimony of Mr.
Henderson that in all his acquaintance through life
he has never met a man possessing more of the true
instincts and characteristics of the gentleman than
John F. Mcjunker.

He was married on the 25th of May, 1864, to
Miss Eliza Jane, daughter of James M. Boland, Esq.,
of Martinsburg, Ohio, a lady of refined tastes and
domestic habits, whose life is devoted to making
home happy and attractive. They have three chil-
dren living, Sarah, John Howard and Mary, all being
trained for lives of honor and usefulness.



AMONG the older lawyers and eminent jurists
l\. of Iowa is Joseph Curtis Knapp, who settled
here three years before the territory became a state.
Through nearly all its history as a commonwealth
he has been conspicuous in its politics, as well as its
Jurisprudence. His name is thoroughly woven into
its annals, in all cases in a highly creditable manner.

Judge Knapp, a native of the Green Mountain
State, and a son of Ebenezer and Irene (Curtis)
Knapp, was born on the 27th of June, 1813, in Berlin,
Washington county. The Knapps were early settlers
in Massachusetts; the Curtises, in Hanover, New
Hampshire. Ebenezer Knapp was a farmer, a hard
working man himself, and reared his children in
habits of industry.

Joseph received a good academic education in
Montpelier; left his native state in 1833; came as
far west as Racine, Wisconsin, then a part of Michi-
gan territory ; read law at first with Hon. Marshall
M. Strong, and afterward with Hon. E. G. Ryan,
late chief justice of Wisconsin ; practiced a few years
in Racine, and in 1843 pushed westward across the

Mississippi river, locating permanently at Keosau-
qua. Van Buren county, in the southeastern part of
the state. He was for nearly a dozen years in the
noted firm of Wright, Knapp and Coldwell, his part-
ners being George G. Wright, late of the United
States senate, and H. C. Coldwell, now judge of the
United States district court, of Arkansas. Senator
AVright is an uncle, by marriage, of Judge Knapp,
and Judge Coldwell is a brother-in-law. It is not
often that the three members of a law firm rise to
such distinction ; a more conspicuous example, how-
ever, was found in Buffalo, New York, many years
ago in the firm of Eillmore, Hall and Haven. Mr.
Fillmore became President of the United States, Mr.
Hall was his postmaster-general, and Mr. Haven
went to congress.

Judge Knapp was appointed prosecuting attorney
by Governor Clark, in 1846, and judge of the third
judicial district by Governor Hempstead, in 1850.
He was appointed by President Pierce United States
attorney for the district of Iowa in 1853 ; reappointed
by President Buchanan, and held the office eight con-

; y^yyi - €iyh^^^



secutive years. To the office of judge of the second
judicial district, which he now holds, he was elected
in the autumn of 1874, taking the bench on the ist of
January, 1875, the term extending four years. The
judge has had long experience ; is very learned in
the law ; has a naturally legal mind ; is independent
as a jurist, and with his innate knowledge of what the
law is or ought to be, his rulings are usually correct
and perfectly just. At an early day he was a circuit
lawyer in extensive practice, attending the courts in
Wapello, Jefferson, Keokuk, Mahaska, Marion, Mon-
roe, Davis, Appanoose and other counties. But as
his home business increased he gradually abandoned
his circuit practice, except in special cases. He made
criminal practice, to some extent, a specialty, and in
that had great success. His arguments to jurors in
defense of persons charged with crime were always
eloquent and frequently of tremendous force, but
deep pathos more than anything else made his ap-
peals to the jury remarkably effective.

Judge Knapp has always affiliated with the demo-
cratic party. He lives in a republican district as
well as state, and owes his present position to his
superior qualifications as a jurist. He has figured
very extensively in the politics of the state, and was
the democratic candidate for supreme judge in i86g,
and for governor in 187 1, and received the votes of
the democratic members of the general asseinbly for
United States senator at the session of 1872.

The judge is a Chapter Mason. He has been
a member of the Congregational church for many
years, and has never soiled either his good christian
name or the ermine. Two years ago the very dis-
tinguished honor was conferred upon him of ap-
pointing him a member of the commission of five
persons, whose duty it is to investigate the charges
brought against Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. The
committee met in the Fifth Avenue Hotel, New
York, on the 20th of July, 1876, organized, ascer-
tained that no charges had then been brought, and
adjourned to meet at the call of the president of
the commission. The names of the members are :
Nathaniel Shipman, judge of the United States dis-
trict court, Connecticut; Judge S. B. Gookin, Indi-
ana ; Judge Joseph C. Knapp, Iowa ; Jonathan E.
Sargent, New Hampshire, and Hon. A. Finch, Wis-

On the loth of December, 1849, Miss Sarah A.
Benton, of Keosauqua, became the wife of Judge
Knapp, and they have three daughters. Keo is the
wife of Hobart A. Stoddard, of Little Rock, Arkan-
sas ; lo is the wife of Fred. H. Hill, of Attica, Michi-
gan, and Hannah Benton is a student in Iowa Col-
lege, Grinnell. Mrs. Knapp is an active christian,
benevolent in feeling and in deeds ; a woman of es-
thetic tastes, and a great admirer and extensive cul-
tivator of flowers. Her summer house is a Centen-
nial "Floral Hall " in miniature.



JAMES HARLAN, for seventeen years a mem-
ber of the United States senate, and one of the
oldest statesmen that Iowa has ever sent to that
distinguished body, is a native of Clark county, Illi-
nois, and was born on the 26th of August, 1820.
His parents, Silas and Mary Conley Harlan, were
members of the agricultural class. The progenitor
of the Harlan family in this country came from Eng-
land, and settled in South Carolina, moving thence
to Pennsylvania. The maternal grandfather of Sen-
ator Harlan was a soldier in the great struggle for
American independence.

Silas Harlan moved with his family to Park coun-
ty, Indiana, when the subject of this memoir was
three years old, and there the son was reared on a
farm and made his home until his twenty-fifth year.

He received his education at Asbury University,
Green Castle, Indiana, then under the presidency
of Bishop Simpson, graduating in 1845. He taught
more or less during this period, and did other kinds
of work to defray expenses. Mr. Harlan came to
Iowa and located at Iowa City, where he read law
and was admitted to the bar in 1847 or 1848. He
practiced there until 1853, when he was elected the
first president of the Iowa Wesleyan University, lo-
cated at Mount Pleasant. Two years later, in Janu-
ary, 1855, he was elected to the United States senate,
and consequently resigned the presidency of that in-
stitution, his term commencing on the 4th of March

Mr. Harlan's first speech in the senate was on the
admission of Kansas, made on the 27th of March,



1856. He had prepared it with great care, and it
deeply impressed the older members of the senate.
He was set down at once as an orator and a power-
ful logician. On the 12th of January, 1857, the sen-
ate, by a party vote, resolved " that James Harlan
is not entitled to his seat as a senator from Iowa."
This vote was based on the following facts : The
senate and house of representatives of Iowa agreed
to go into joint session to elect a senator. After
the joint session had met and adjourned from day
to day for some time, it was discovered that the
whigs were about to be successful, and the demo-
cratic senators absented themselves for the purpose
of preventing an election. A quorum of the joint
session met, however, and a clear majority of both
houses elected Mr. Harlan. Two years after, the
matter was brought up on the protest of the demo-
cratic members of the state senate, and Mr. Harlan
ousted. But he repaired immediately to Iowa City,
where the legislature was in session. He arrived
one day, was reelected the next. He returned to
Washington, was resworn, and resumed his seat on
the 29th of the month, a triumph worth all it cost.

Mr. Harlan was reelected to the United States
senate in 1861, and resigned on the 15th of May,
1865, to take the office of secretary of the interior.
Mr. Lincoln had appointed him to this office in
March, about a month before the President was as-
sassinated, but Mr. Harlan delayed taking his seat
in the cabinet until a month after the awful tragedy.
There was striking fitness in placing Mr. Harlan at
the head of the interior department. His previous
position on the committees on public lands, Indian
affairs, the agricultural bureau, and the Pacific rail-
road, having familiarized him with much of the de-
tails of his labor in the cabinet.

Mr. Harlan was elected to the senate for a third
term in January, 1866, and on the rst of September
following resigned the portfolio of the interior de-
partment. On the 4th of March, 1867, he took his
seat in the senate, and faithfully served his constit-
uents another full term.

When Mr. Harlan first went into the senate the
democrats had control of the committees, and he
held minor positions, being at first on the committee
on public lands, and at its bottom. A little later,
when the republicans had control, he became chair-
man of that committee. Subsequently he was chair-
man of the committees on Indian affairs and on the
District of Columbia. Of the former committee and
the committee on the Pacific railroad he was a mem-

ber more than three fourths of the time while in

After he became chairman of the committee on
public lands he exerted a powerful, we may say con-
trolling, influence in shaping the policy of the gov-
ernment in disposing of the public domain in such
a manner as to advance the public interests, the
interests of frontier settlers, and especially the cause
of education. His moulding hand had much to do
with modifying the homestead bill, making it a be-
neficent measure for the poor settler, without mate-
rially injuring the public treasury.

He did a noble work on the committee on agricul-
ture, strongly advocating every measure calculated
to develop and advance grand national interests. A
report which he prepared on this subject was marked
by great painstaking and solid scientific research.
Whoever wishes to see the breadth of Mr. Harlan's
views, and the range of his knowledge, muBt look
over the columns of the - " Congressional Globe ■'
while he was in the senate, and notice his inaugu-
ration of the proposition for the construction of a
ship canal from the northern lakes to the waters
of the Mississippi ; his opposition to legislation on
the Sabbath ; his introduction of resolutions on
fasting and prayer; his propositions for reform in
the chaplain service of the army and navy ; in aid
of foreign emigration ; the reconstruction of the in-
surrectionary states ; the improvement of navigation
of lakes and rivers ; the application of meteorolog-
ical observations in aid of agriculture to land as
well as sea; for the support of scientific explorations
and kindred measures; for reform in criminal jus-
tice in the District of Columbia and in the territories ;
and his remarks on such subjects as the bankrupt
bill ; the bill to reorganize the court of claims ; on
the bill to indemnify the President ; on the con-
scription bill ; on the conditions of release of state
prisoners ; on the disqualification of color in carrying
the mails ; on the organization of territories ; on
amendment to the constitution ; on bill to establish
freedmen's bureau ; on inter-continental telegraph ;
on the construction of railroads, and on education
in the District of Columbia for white and colored

Mr. Harlan was originally a whig, and as such
was elected state superintendent of public instruc-
tion in April, 1847. The term was for three years,
but by some political legerdemain the election was
at length declared void, and he was ruled out at the
end of one year. He was reelected in 1848, but



was counted out because some votes were cast for
James Harland, others for James Harlin, and the-
democratic secretary of state made out the returns
with such a variety of candidates that James Harlan
had not a majority over the democratic candidate.

Mr. Harlan was nominated for governor in 1849,
but was not of the age required by the constitution,
and the name of James L. Thompson, of Johnson
county, was substituted by the whig central com-

Mr. Harlan was a member of the so-called peace
congress of 1861, being appointed by Governor

The wife of Senator Harlan was Miss Ann Eliza
Peck, of Maysville, Kentucky. They were married
in October, 1845, and of four children whom they
have had, only one, Mary E., the wife of Robert T.
Lincoln, of Chicago, son of President Lincoln, is
living. Two died in early childhood, and William
A. at twenty-three years of age.



JOSEPH KECK, banker, was born in Hunting-
ton county, Pennsylvania, on the 29th of Novem-
ber, 1819, and is the son of Andrew Keck and
Rebecca nee Rottruck. His grandfather was a na-
tive of Bavaria, and migrated to Lehigh county,
Pennsylvania, about the year 1737, where he died,
and where a considerable settlement of his descend-
ants still reside.

Andrew Keck was a farmer, and removed to Ju-
niata county when our subject was but seven years
of age, where he lived for many years, and died near
Monticello, Indiana, in 1859. His wife, the mother
of our subject, was a native of Pennsylvania, of Ger-
man ancestry.

Joseph attended the common subscription schools,
taught a few months of each winter by the unlet-
tered pedagogue who " boarded 'round " with the
pupils, till the age of sixteen, though he can hardly
be said to have got beyond the three " R's," but he
was a man of wonderful natural gifts, and by the
constant study of men and things has attained a fair
general information.

At the age of nineteen years he removed to Dela-
ware county, Ohio, where he learned the cabinet-
making trade, at which he afterward worked for
twelve years, and was one of the best mechanics of
the period. In youth and early manhood his one
and controlling desire was to be a farmer, to own a
good farm, well stocked and thoroughly managed,
and with a view to the gratifying of this desire he
removed to Washington, Iowa, in 1842, then a town
of about two hundred inhabitants. Here he worked
at his trade for six months as a journeyman, after
which he opened a shop and continued the business
for eight years with very considerable success. In

1849 he purchased an unimproved farm near town,
intending to give his attention to the pursuit which
had been the dream of his early life, but other and
more promising fields of enterprise soon opened to
his vision. He had also become the owner of some
city lots, which soon increased in value ; several
tracts of unimproved land in other parts of the
county fell into his possession in trade, and he soon
found himself successfully engaged in real-estate
transactions which proved remunerative. He con-
tinued this business till 1857, but two years pre-
viously he had commenced to dispose of his prop-
erty and to contract his operations. In the last-
named year, previous to the '"panic," by which 1857
is painfully remembered by many citizens of our
country, he had disposed of his superfluous property
and made his collections, a circumstance of the ut-
most moment to him financially. In 1859 he be-
came the owner of some stock in a branch of the
State Bank, then being organized in Washington,
and was subsequently elected a director of the same,
and some eighteen months afterward, several of the
original stockholders withdrawing, Mr. Keck was
elected president of the bank, to which position he
was reelected each year successively till 1877, when
he sold out and retired. Meantime (in 1863) the
bank accepted a charter from the national govern-
meiit and became the First National Bank of Wash-
ington, and has since been one of the best managed
and most reliable moneyed institutions in the state.
In 1 87 1 he organized the First National Bank of
Sigourney, with a capital stock of fifty thousand dol-
lars, of which he has since been president.

He has never been an office-seeker, nor has he
had any taste for public positions, but in deference



to the wishes of his fellow-citizens he has accepted
some local offices of trust and responsibility, the
duties of which he discharged with scrupulous ex-
actness and to the best interest of all concerned.
His political views have always been republican, and
his time, means and influence were cheerfully given
for the benefit of his country in the late rebellion.

In religious opinion, he prefers the Methodist
church, of which he is a regular attendant and a
generous supporter, though in this, as in most of his
charities, he is his own almoner, always dispensing
his bounty with his own hands and seeing it bear
fruit under his own eyes. In the same way he in-
tends to dispose of his large accumulations during
his lifetime.

Mr. Keck is a most cautious and safe financier.
His great success is the result of prudent foresight
and painstaking discrimination, together with a life-
long habit of spending less than he earned and
never going in debt. He is a man of remarkable
prescience, and hence all his investments and trans-
actions have been profitable. He has never "ground
the face of the poor,'' nor taken advantage of the
circumstances of those overtaken by disaster to drive

a close bargain, or obtain any advantage in trade.
■Every enterprise with which he has ever been con-
nected has been conducted in an honorable, trans-
parent and straightforward manner.

As a citizen, his neighbors call him "a No. i
man." He is temperate, amiable, courteous and
gentlemanly in all his ways. As an executive offi-
cer, he possesses the highest talents, and would do
honor to almost any position in the gift of the peo-
ple of his state. In social life, he is mild, unassum-
ing and agreeable ; he is a man of eminent good
sense, and this characteristic will be found to per-
vade his whole mind, character and actions.

On the 26th of March, 1844, he married Miss
Elizabeth Jackson, a native of Pennsylvania, of
Scotch origin, a lady in every way the counterpart
of her husband. They have five children, all living :
Irving Alonzo, Mary Caroline, Viola Isadore, Luella
Celicia, and Charles H. Irving A. is cashier of his
father's' bank at Sigourney; Mary C. is the wife of
W. G. Simmons, of Washington ; Viola I. is the wife
of Albert Phelps, of Washington ; Luella C. is the
wife of E. F. Crandall, Esq., of Spring Hill; the
youngest is still attending school.



WHEN one visits the city of Davenport to-day,
and stands a unit in the midst of thronging
hundreds, and beholds its wealth and influence, it
is difficult for him to realize that all before and
around him, including two cities in the vicinity, is
the growth of half a century. Intimately associated
with the early history and struggles of this enter-
prising city, which bears the name of his father, is
the one which heads this sketch.

George L. Davenport, pioneer, merchant, banker
and real-estate owner, was born on Rock Island, on
the isth of November, 1817, and is eldest son of
Colonel George Davenport, being the first white
child born in this section of the country. He^was
nursed by an Indian maid and his playmates were
Indian boys; he therefore learned to talk their
language about as soon as he did English. His
early education was gained at the school of an in-
valid soldier at Fort Armstrong, and at the age of
ten he was sent to attend school at Cincinnati, Ohio,
where he remained two years, and then returned

to the island, and was placed in the store of the
American Fur Company, of which his father was a
member, remaining until this trading-post was given
up upon the removal of the Indians, in 1837, to the
Des Moines river. During this time he was away to
school, part of the time at the Illinois College, at
Jacksonville, at the Catholic University at St. Louis,
and at the Winchester Academy at Winchester, Vir-
ginia. He was at an early age adopted into the Fox
tribe, and was called " Mosquake," and was always
a great favorite with them. In the fall of 1837 he
accompanied by request the Sac and Fox delega-
tions of chiefs to Washington, and visited other
large cities. They made a treaty with the govern-
ment, selling a large tract of land. He also attended
the several trea,ties with the Indians with Governor
Dodge, then U. S. Commissioner.

In 1832 he made the first "claim" west of the
Mississippi, and built the first frame house in the
territory. In the winter of 1837 and 1838 he was
actively engaged in trying to secure the location of



the county seat at Davenport, in which he was suc-
cessful. In 1838 he went into the store of Daven-
port and Le Claire. In 1839 he married and com-
menced business for himself, and continued till 1853,
during this time taking an active interest in all
public improvements, and contributed largely to ad-
vance the growth of the town and county, laying out
roads, building bridges, school-houses and churches,
and surveying for the improvement of the water-
power on the rapids of the Mississippi river for
manufacturing purposes. In the fall of 1848 he
leased a steam flouring mill with two other mer-
chants, for the purpose of breaking the system of

Online Librarypub American Biographical Publishing CompanyThe United States biographical dictionary and portrait gallery of eminent and self made men. Iowa volume → online text (page 5 of 125)