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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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families destitute, and* the heroes of " many a well-
fought battle-field " found it quite difficult to keep
the " wolf" from the door of their humble dwelling.

At the age of fourteen years he began not only to
earn his own living, but contributed liberally to the
support of his father's family. At the age of nine-
teen years he made, with his father, a profitable in-
vestment in the purchase of a lumber lot, devoting
the proceeds arising from this property to the ne-
cessities of the parental home. He continued as
a laborer in lumbering and farming, in various ca-
pacities, until the age of twenty-two, when he left

Having determined from observation that mechan-
ics enjoy many advantages over other classes of the

laboring community, he resolved to learn a trade.
An old friend advised him to learn 'the carpenter
trade, which he did, but soon exchanged it for that
of a wagon-maker. In this vocation his peculiar
mechanical tastes and his wonderful inventive and
constructive talents enabled him to make and finish
completely an entire wagon during the first week of
his apprenticeship.

In six months he relinquished this occupation and
embarked as a contractor in building saw and grist
mills, and continued in this business till 1843.
During the latter year he and his father's family
came west and located in Carroll county, Illinois.
In this locality he continued, improving and culti-
vating the farm until 1850.

In 1847 he invented and built the self-reaper
known as the Manning inachine. Having, however,
been anticipated in his invention, he was compelled,
to avoid litigation, to forego the benefits resulting
from his own genius.

In 1850 he engaged in the lumber business in the
State of New York, and continued in it until 1856.
He then returned to Iowa, and during the following
winter, with very limited means, built a saw-mill and
run it during the three subsequent years, »when it
was destroyed by fire, leaving him at the time penni-
less. The disaster may have been a blessing in dis-
guise, as it brought forth the latent strength and ca-
pacity of his nature. The same yAr (1869) he re-
built his mill with renewed hope and energy ; but
the failure of his partner, early in i860, involved
him again in temporary difficulty. In due time, how-
ever, his indomitable energy and perseverance ex-
tricated him from embarrassment, and enabled him
fully to discharge his obligations and completely re-



establish his business, and to some extent repair his
broken fortune.

In 1865 he enlarged his business in the same lo-
cality. He built a mill of several times the capacity
of the former, and continued to enlarge and extend
his mill enterprises till 1868, when he bought the
entire property known as the "Lamb and Byng
mill," in the vicinity of Clinton, Iowa, one and one-
quarter miles distant from his other works, and one
of the largest and finest in this section or state.

The capacity of the above mill is over two- hun-
dred and fifty thousand feet of lumber, one hundred
thousand feet of shingles, and fifty thousand feet of
lath. The planing mill is likewise of immense ca-
.pacity. The entire business has increased to up-
ward of fifty million feet of lumber annually manu-

In summer he employs in his mills about one
thousand men, exclusive of a large number engaged
at labor in his lumber regions in other localities.

Mr. Lamb's wonderful intuitive knowledge of me-
chanics has enabled him to successfully introduce
many valuable improvements in saw-mill machinery.
He was the first to introduce and put into practical
operation in the State of Iowa the gang-mills, he hav-
ing made the application of a gang of saws in his
own establishment in 1859, being the only one be-
low Stillwater, Minnesota, on the river.

In his steamboat enterprises he has been equally
successful, having built and launched several for
river traffic.

In all his undertakings he has manifested public
spirit, and has contributed materially to the improve-
ments of the city and county in which he resides.

His talent for invention seems to have exhibited
itself in every step of his business career. When-
ever he observed a defect in any mechanical con-
struction, his mind involuntarily would suggest some

improvement, and he could not rest until the hand
had put in tangible form the idea mentally con-
ceived and entertained. Many of these valuable in-
ventions, after having been patented and applied to
use in his own establishment, he has generously be-
stowed on some deserving individual for his exclu-
sive benefit. His benevolence and generosity are
proverbial. Having himself experienced the vicissi-
tudes of life, his sympathies are not withheld from
the unfortunate, nor his charities from the children
•of poverty. His success in life is attributed to his
being as true to all as it is possible to be, — never
making a promise that he cannot perform, and al-
ways keeping his word if once given.

As a developer of the resources of the west, great
credit must be awarded to him. It is through the
agency of men of his nature and energy that the ma-
terial interests of our county are forwarded and ex-

At this time he is largely interested in the First
National Bank, of Clinton, Iowa, being one of its
heaviest stockholders and principal directors.

In politics, he is a decided republican, though not
a partisan. In religious sentiment, he may be re-
garded as orthodox. He is neither a skeptic nor
sectarian. He believes all religion relates to life,
and that the life of religion is to do good.

He was married in 1839 to Jane Bevier. They
have four children now living, and one died at the
age of thirteen years. In the family burying-ground,
in York, Carroll county, Illinois, are interred thirty-
one of his immediate relatives.

Mr. Lamb is now in the maturity of life, full of
vim and activity. The unswerving integrity which
marks all his transactions, and the kindliness of his
manners to the numerous employes in his various
enterprises, render him at once respected and loved
throughout a wide circle of acquaintances.



THE biogrd^hy of Hon. John Julian Smith,
presents one of the many examples found in
the United States of rapid personal progress from
a humble beginning to a substantial and honored
position. Mr. Smith was born at Akron, Ohio, on
the 15th of August, 1846. His mother's maiden
name was Sarah Glendower. She was born in Ire-

land, but moved to England at an early day. His
father, Bernard N. Smith, was a native of England.
Married Miss Glendower in 1841, and embarked
for America the same year, where he settled in
Ohio. He served in the Mexican war, and died
soon after his return home.

John's advantages of education were very lim-



ited. He attended the common schools of Wauke-
sha county, Wisconsin, but fourteen months. Being
left an orphan at the age of seven, he was taken to
the orphan asylum at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where
he remained two years, and was then adopted by
Thomas Burnard, a farmer, who was killed by the
falling of a load of wood the following year. Thus
thrown on his own resources, from that time till the
age of fifteen he worked among farmers for his board
and clothes. He moved to Iowa on the 9th of Au-
gust, i86i, and settled in Muscatine. Went to Clay-
ton county in 1866, and from there to Madison
county in 1867, where he now lives.

In religion, Mr. Smith was raised a Catholic ;
when he was fifteen he became a Universalist, and
at the age of twenty a Methodist, and is a member
of that denomination at the present time. Mr.
Smith has always been a staunch republican ; cast
his first vote at eighteen for Lincoln and Johnson ;
was ift active service during all of the late civil war ;
enlisted in 1861 in company H, nth Iowa Infantry;
reenlisted on the 7th of December, 1863, and served
till the close of the war. Among some of the engage-

ments he participated in were the following well
known battles : Shiloh, April, 1862 ; Medan Station,
August, 1862; Corinth, Mississippi, on the 4th of
October, 1862 ; Jackson, Mississippi, and at the
siege of Vicksburg; was one hundred and one days
without being out of danger; wounded at Atlanta,
Georgia, on the 7lh of August, 1864; was with Sher-
man on his march to the sea, and participated in
their last engagement, at Bentonville, North Carolina.
He was discharged on the 2d of July, 1865, and
returned immediately to his home in Muscatine,
Iowa. Mr. Smith has acquired an ample compe-
tence and is a public-spirited citizen, active in all
progress, enterprising and much esteemed ; an advo-
cate of woman's suffrage, he believes that a woman
should receive the same compensation as a man,
where the labor to be performed is equal. Mr.
Smith now holds the honored position as represen-
tative of Madison county, Iowa. Was married to
Mary A. McLa.ughlin, on the 21st of November,
1866, and has two children : Cora Minnie was born
on the 29th of August, 1867, and Estela Maud on
the nth of June, 1875.



DAVID SECOR, a native of Putnam county.
New York, was born on the 6th of January,
1836, the son of Alson Secor and Sarah Caroline
n^e Knapp. His paternal grandparents were Gidney
and Catherine (Strang) Secor. His father's family
is descended from the French Huguenots, and was
first represented in this country by Ambrose Secor,
who_ more than two hundred years ago emigrated
from France, prompted by a love of religious liberty,
and settled at New Rochelle, New York. Various
members of the family served as officers during
the revolutionary war. His maternal grandparents,
David and Abigail (Lee) Knapp, were of English
origin, and settled in this country prior to the
revolution. David Knapp, an uncle of our subject,
served in the war of 1812.

Prior to his twelfth year David attended the dis-
trict school, but afterward waS employed on his
father's farm, there being eleven children in his
family, and his father being a man of limited means.

In May, 1856, being then twenty years of age, he
left home and, removing to Iowa, settled at Western

College, in Lynn county. Learning the masons'
trade there, he worked at it during the summers,
and for three years he spent his winters in the
college at that place.

Going to Mason City, Iowa, in the spring of 1859,
he had one dollar in his pocket upon his arrival,
and remained one year teaching and working at
his trade. In the spring of i860 he settled at For-
est City, in Winnebago county, and during that and
the following year worked at his trade.

In 1861 he was elected county treasurer, and
while holding that position purchased a farm ad-
joining the town, which he began to cultivate.

In October, 1864, he enlisted as a private in com-
pany C, 2d regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry, for
the purpose of recruiting the regiment whose term
of enlistment had expired. This company partici-
pated in Sherman's march to the sea, during which
march he was taken ill and transferred to New
York and thence to Keokuk, Iowa, where he was
mustered out of the service in May, 1865.

Returning to his home, he engaged in farming.



and soon afterward was again elected county treas-
urer, and also held the position of postmaster, hav-
ing been appointed by President Lincoln. In 187 1
he was elected to represent Cerro Gordo, Hancock,
Worth and Winnebago counties in the state legisla-
ture. He was returned to the general assembly in
1873, and in the fall of the following year was
elected register of the State Land Office.

Mr. Secor has become well known as a prompt
and thorough business man, and in all that he has
attempted has met with eminent success.

On the loth of December, 1862, he was married
to Miss Samantha Ellen Vancuren, a daughter of
Jacob Vancuren, of Cerro Gordo county, by whom
he had four children : Eugene Elsworth, born on
the ist of January, 1864; Fanny L., who died in

infancy; Stanley Sherman, born in May, 1868, and
Mary Myrtle, born in April, 1870.

Mrs. Secor died on the 13th of July, 187 1, and on
the loth of September, 1872, he was married to
Miss Jennie Gregg, daughter of Captain James
Gregg, of Des Moines, who died on the 15th of De-
cember, 1875, having born to him one child, Alvin
A., who died in infancy.

In 1875, though still retaining his farm, he re-
moved his family to Des Moines.

Mr. Secor's success is mainly due to his untiring
enterprise and energy of will. Governed by purity
of motive and honesty of purpose, he has faithfully
discharged the trusts imposed upon him, and by his
upright and manly dealing has won the highest re-
spect and lasting confidence of all who knew him.



WILLIAM G. DONNAN was born at West
Charlton, Saratoga county, New York, on
the 30th of June, 1834. His father was Alexander
Donnan, his mother Elizabeth McKindley Donnan.
His four grandparents emigrated from Scotland.
William worked on his father's farm until he was
seventeen years of age, attending the district school
during a small portion of each year. He prepared
for college at the Cambridge Academy; entered the
sophomore class of Union College in 1853, and
graduated fourth in his class in July, 1856.

The next month he moved to Iowa, selecting In-
dependence, the seat of justice of Buchanan county,
for his home. Here he studied law in the office of
Hon. J. S. Woodward, and was admitted to the bar
in April, 1857. Three months afterward he was
elected treasurer and recorder of Buchanan county,
and held that office by reelection until 1862.

Mr. Donnan entered the army in August, 1862,
as a private in the 27th regiment Iowa Infantry;
was promoted to second then to first lieutenant;
breveted captain and major for efficient service in
the field, and served until the glose of the war.

He was a member of the state senate four years,
the twelfth and thirteenth sessions of the general
assembly, and originated the bill locating the Hos-
pital for the Insane at Independence, and was largely
instrumental in securing the passage of the act.

Mr. Donnan represented the third district in the

forty-second and forty-third congresses, and, as his
record will show, was always at the post of duty,
being absent from roll-call only on four occasipns in
four years. While in congress he delivered but two
or three studied speeches; those he prepared with
great care, and there has since been frequent calls
for them. This is especially true in regard to
the speeches on " Cheap Transportation " and the '
"Reeligibility of the Executive." The latter effort
exhibits careful investigation, exhaustive research
and fine legal powers. It is the masterpiece of his
congressional life. We make room for a short ex-
tract, in which Mr. Donnan is replying to the argu-
ment that the patronage of the President has been
or may be used for his reelection :

During the first forty years immediately succeeding the
adoption of the constitution very little use was made of the
appointing power in a partisan sense; yet during thirty-
two of those forty years the executive office was filled by
Presidents who were reelected. One-fifth of that period
only was it filled by the two Adamses, neither of whom
was rechosen. Then came the democratic regime, which
inaugurated the system of appointing political friends of
the administration to the federal offices. This practice has
been followed more or less closely by the democratic, whig
and republican parties, when in power, up to the present
time. If the bad use of patronage elects Presidents, we
have certainly had splendid opportunities to test it during
the intervening forty-four years. I will not deny that
Jackson may have been thus aided to a second term, but
from Jackson to the present time but one only of the eleven
Presidents has been rechosen ; and who will say that any
spot of corruption was ever found on Lincoln's official
garments.'' No, sir, it is fidelity that wins. Gratitude to a
great and generous people, and a high sense of duty, are



strong cords which bind a Prebident to fidelity in the dis-
charge of his trust; yet who that stops a moment to consider
the springs of human action will not agree that should he
desire to obtain a continuance of this highest honor among
men, and is not debarred the hope, by legal prohibition,
then will interest and ambition itself combine to prompt
him, not to corrupt, but to faithful, honest, earnest adminis-
tration for the public benefit, with a sympathy which will
seek " to enforce no policy against the will of the people."

Mr. Donnan has been a member of the Presby-
terian chiirch more than twenty years, and has never

allowed his business transactions to conflict with his
religious profession.

He cast his first vote for John C. Fremont for
President in 1856, and has since been an unflinch-
ing republican.

He was married on the ist of October, 1857, to
Miss Mary E. Williamson, a native of Kentucky,
who was a very estimable lady. They have two



THE trials of a pioneer settler often test the
man. Sometimes they seem to unmake or un-
man him, but more frequently they develop his
cSurage and pluck (if possessed of them), and start
him on the high road to success. The subject of
this notice was among the early immigrants to
Black Hawk county, Iowa, and experienced many
of the hardships and discouragements of a frontier
life, but bravely bore up, and pushed on to fortune
and to independence.

George W. Miller was born near Williamsport,
Lycoming county, Pennsylvania, on the loth of
October, 1825. He is the son of John and Susan
Beaver Miller (the father now living and ninety
years of age). His grandfather, George Miller,
was a revolutionary soldier, and died at eighty-four
years of age. John Miller was a blacksmith by
trade, but exchanged his shop for a farm, when
George was about four years old. The latter lived
at home until he was nineteen years of age, alter-
nating between farm work and study at the common
school. He then taught four or five winters and
one entire year within three miles of home, and
part of the time in his father's district. In the
spring of 1852 he entered Dickinson's Seminary, at
Williamsport, and remained there eighteen months,
attending to such branches as would be most ser-
viceable to a practical businessman.

In the autumn of 1853 we find Mr. Miller in La
Porte county, Indiana. The winter following he
taught a district school three miles from La Porte
City, and in April, 1854, settled in Waterloo, Iowa.
Waterloo then contained about one hundred and
twenty-five inhabitants, all living in small log cabins.
On his way to Waterloo Mr. Miller left his trunk at
Dubuque, and the roads being almost impassable

for teams, he started on foot, walking all the way, a
distance of ninety-five miles. He selected a quarter-
section of land three miles southwest of Waterloo,
and went back to Dubuque on foot to enter upon it,
the land office being located in that city. Making
arrangements to have his trunk taken to Waterloo
by stage, he started a second time for the Cedar
valley on foot. Reaching Independence, twenty-
five miles east of Waterloo, his limbs and money
began to give out. There he undertook to nego-
tiate with the landlord and other parties for work,
but met with no success. While there, the stage
came along bearing westward, but his trunk was
not on board. This caused him some trouble, for
in that trunk was a small compass, and with that
instrument he would have had an bpportunity to
earn a little money. At length, with a small lunch
in his pocket, furnished by the landlord, he started
for his future home, reaching Waterloo with just
two dollars and seventy-five cents in his pocket.

Mr. Miller was now ready for business, and busi-
ness was ready for him; but his trunk containing
the compass was behind, and his two dollars and
seventy-five cents was growing painfully less. At
length he had his compass in hand, and sallying
out, soon had a small job, for which he received
one dollar. More than once Mr. Miller has been
heard to declare that that first dollar earned in
^^'aterloo made him happier than the reception of
any fifty dollars received at any one time since.

During his first autumn and winter in Iowa Mr.
Miller taught school in a little log house, built for
that purpose, still standing, and now used as a store-
room for agricultural implements. The few chil-
dren of school age in Waterloo at that time had
come from different states where different text-



books were used, and there were almost as many
kinds of spelling books, readers, etc., as he had
pupils. Under the circumstances, he did the best
he could, and has never abandoned the belief that
the children in that log school-house made some
progress up "the hill of science."

Mr. Miller acted as deputy surveyor of Black
Hawk county in the summer of 1855, and in the
following autumn was elected surveyor for the term
of two years, he meantime operating more or less
in real estate. This, for twenty years, has been his
principal business, until he has become, quite as
much of a real-estate owner as real-estate dealer.
He is among the wealthiest men in Waterloo, and
as an honorable business man, has been eminently
successful. He has not been wholly absorbed in
his own matters, but has looked after the interests
of the city of his adoption, lending his full share

of energy in building it up. He aided largely in
securing the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Minne-
sota railroad.

Mr. Miller belongs to no church, but is a Meth"-
odist in sentiment.

He has always been a republican.

On the 14th of June, 1858, he married Miss
Chloe Severance, of Waterloo. They have had
seven children, and six are living.

Where the few log cabins stood twenty-three years
ago, on the west side of the river, three thousand
people are living to-day, largely in elegant frame
and brick houses, Mr. Miller's residence being on
one of the finest sites and among the best ; while
on the east side of the river are as many more peo-
ple, engaged in the multipHed industries of life, and
like Mr. Miller, pleased to have a home in so pleas-
ant a city.



JACOB W. STEWART was born in Danbury,
J Connecticut, on the 21st of June, 1828. His
parents were Simeon M. and Susan Stewart. His
father was a man of moderate means, and gave him
the advantage of a good education, intending that
he should study medicine, but a longing for the study
of law had grown upon the son, and from early
youth he had resolved to make it his profession.
After closing his studies in the common schools he
pursued a collegiate course at Dennison University,
Granville, Ohio, a school of much celebrity at that
time. After receiving his diploma he began to read
law in the office of Hon. Edward Wells, a promi-
nent lawyer of Peekskill, New York, and was ad-
mitted to the bar. After some time spent in look-
ing around he decided to remove to the west, and
accordingly, in the fall of 1852, with a fewdollars
in his pocket, he settled in Iowa. He stopped the
first winter in Burlington, and engaged in teaching
school at that place, and in the following spring
moved to Davenport and opened an office. The
practice of a young lawyer for the first few years is
not very lucrative, and he found it necessary to
engage in various kinds of work. He taught school
one winter, and acted as clerk on a steamboat part
of one season, but kept his office open and did
what business came to him. Thus he gained a foot-

hold, and in 1856 was elected prosecuting attor-
ney, an office which he held for four years. In
1866 he was appointed, by President Johnson, inter-
nal revenue collector of the second congressional
district, holding the office but one year. In 1874
he was elected mayor of the city for a term of one

Mr, Stewart is in no way a politician, and has
never held an office when he could avoid it, and
takes just pride and an active interest in the wel-
fare of his adopted city and state. He is liberal in
his political views, although a republican till 1865.

In Masonry, he has taken every degree to be had
in this country, and is an earnest worker in the

Online Librarypub American Biographical Publishing CompanyThe United States biographical dictionary and portrait gallery of eminent and self made men. Iowa volume → online text (page 56 of 125)