pub American Biographical Publishing Company.

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

. (page 72 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 72 of 125)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

eventful and well spent life of more than forty-four
years as a soldier of the cross, bearing its banner
continually in the forefront of the conflict and upon
the high places of the field.

He was always an advocate of temperance and
abolitionism, and lived to see a part of his desire
realized in the overthrow of slavery in this country.



Rev. Gamaliel C. Beaman, and was born at
Burlington, Lawrence count)', Ohio, on the 22d of
November, 1838. He moved with his parents to
Montrose, Iowa, in 1846, and to Croton, Iowa, in

He was educated at Denmark Academy, Iowa,
and Oberlin College, Ohio, but did not take a regu-
lar collegiate course nor graduate.

After leaving school, and in i860, he entered the
employ of a railroad company as station agent, that
being at that time congenial to his taste.

He was married on the 31st of December, i860,
to Miss Luella A. Smith, daughter of Dabzell Smith,
of St. Louis ; granddaughter of Arthur Thome, of
Athens, Missouri, and niece of Professor James A.
Thome, of Oberlin College.

He removed in 1862 to Independent, Van Buren
county, continuing in the employ of the railroad
company until 1867. He then engaged in merchan-
(lising at Independent, in which he remained for

about two years. He began the study of the law,
with the intention of adopting it as a profession, in
1867, having prosecuted it during the time he was
engaged in other employment, being obliged to con-
tinue in business as a means of support ; was admit-
ted to the bar in September, 1869, at Keosauqua,
and has been engaged in constant practice since that

In November, 1874, he removed to Keosauqua,
and there formed a law partnership with Rutledge
Lea, one of the most reputable firms in this part of
the Des Moines valley. Their business is extensive
and extending, built on their high character as law-
yers and their integrity as men.

Coming from New England and Scotch ancestors,
Mr. Beaman was naturally a republican in politics,
and has always been an ardent supporter of repub-
lican principles.

Prior to engaging in the practice of the law he
had always taken a somewhat active part in politics,
but since that time his attention has been almost



wholly devoted to his profession. He has held several
minor offices and responsible positions. He was the
republican candidate for the legislature in Van Buren
county in 1875, but was defeated by a small ma-
jority. He attended the national republican con-
vention in Cincinnati in 1876, when President Hayes
was nominated. He belongs to the Masonic fra-
ternity, having joined in 1876.

Mr. Beaman is a believer in the truth of Christi-
anity, but is not a professor of religion. In moral
character he is above suspicion, and is active in all
commendable enterprises.

Mr, Beaman is a hard-working, methodical lawyer,
of good judgment and knowledge of the law. As 3,
speaker, he is conversational in style, but exhaustive,
aiming to cover the whole case and leave no point
of benefit untouched. In law, as in everything else,
he does no slipshod work. He has been a resident
of Keosauqua but three or four years, yet is thor-
oughly known by the citizens, and his usefulness in
the community seems to be well appreciated. The
firm name of Lea and Beaman stands in this com-
munity for a good deal of moral as well as legal



THE subject of this sketch was born in Una-
dilla, Otsego county. New York, on the 6th of
June, 1829. His parents were David and Ruth Ann
Finch, natives of Connecticut. His paternal grand-
father. Ransom Mallory, was a captain in the revo-
lutionary war, and, at its close, was married to Ruth
Ann Wooster.

At the early age of eleven Mr. Finch was de-
prived of the care and counsel of his father by
death. Prior to this event he had attended the com-
mon school in his own neighborhood, but shortly
afterward he was sent by his mother to the Dela-
ware Institute, at Franklin, Delaware county. Here
he remained four years, and after attending the Ox-
ford Academy, Chenango county, was qualified to
enter the sophomore class in college. At that period,
however, he gave up his hope for a classical educa-
tion and commenced the study of law. For two
years he remained in the office of Judge C. C. Noble,
at his native place, when he entered the Fowler Law
School, then at Cherry Valley. After graduating at
this school he went to Poughkeepsie and remained
there until November, 1847, when he left for the
west, locating at Monroe, Green county, Wisconsin.
The following spring he was admitted to the practice
of his profession, being then nineteen years of age.
Mr. Finch remained there for two years, diligently
engaged in his profession. In the spring of 1851 he
came to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where, in addition to
the duties of his profession, he edited a democratic

On the i6th of September, 1851, he was married
to Miss Ellen Maria Calder, daughter of Joseph

Calder, formerly of New York. Her parents were
natives of England, but were married after coming
to America. Her mother, whose maiden name was
Keeling, has recently celebrated her seventy-seventh
birthday. Mrs. Finch's grandfather. Keeling, was a
very successful farmer, and had attained the ad-
vanced age of ninety years when he was accidentally
killed by the fall of a tree. He was a man of much
influence, and owned one of the finest farms on
Otsego Lake.

Mr. Finch was for some three years a member of
the law firm of Ware, Finch and Co., of which com-
pany Judge George Greene was a member. This
latter gentleman was the author of " Greene's Re-
ports," the first law book published in Iowa. In
the spring of 1853 Mr. Finch closed his business
affairs in Cedar Rapids, and the following summer
removed to Des Moines, then a place of two hun-
dred and fifty inhabitants. Here he at once engaged
in the practice of law, being associated with Judge
Curtis Bates. Mr. Finch was also interested in the
banking business. In addition to the arduous labors
these pursuits gave him, he found time to write
many articles, and for some time was editor of the
" Iowa Star." In 1855 Judge Bates left the firm, and
was succeeded by General M. M. Crocker. Since
that time Mr. Finch has been associated with Judge
Mitchell; Hon. J. A. Kasson, present United States
minister to Austria; George Clark, Esq., now of
Saint Louis; Byron Rice, and John D. River. His
present partner is W. S. Sickman.

During the campaign of 1856 he was on the elec-
toral ticket for Buchanan, and canvassed one half



the counties in the state. In i860 he was a dele-
gate to the national democratic convention held at
Charleston, and took an active part in the nomina-
tion of Hon. Stephen A. Douglas. In 1862 he ran
for congress in the fifth district, but was defeated
by a small majority. In 1864 he was a member of
the same convention held at Chicago, and supported
General George B. McClellan for the Presidency.
When the convention was held in New York, in 1868,
Mr. Finch was again a delegate, and an earnest sup-
porter of Horatio Seymour. In 1876 he was chair-
man of the Iowa delegation, in the national demo-
cratic convention which met at Saint Louis, and was
president of the democratic state convention in 1877.
Mr. Finch is one of the oldest law practitioners in
Iowa, having been engaged in his profession some
twenty-eight years. His practice, both civil and
criminal, has been large, and he has been very suc-
cessful. To his excellent oratory and earnest appli-

cation much of this is due. He attended the earliest
courts in more than fifteen counties, some of which
have since become the most populous and wealthy
in Iowa.

Mr. and Mrs. Finch have always been faithful
members of the Episcopal church, and have given
their children a careful christian training. Their
first-born son, Willie, died at the age of four years;
the second son, Joseph Calder, has prepared himself
for the Episcopal ministry, — he was born on the 8th
of January, 1855 ; the iiext son, Daniel Mallory,
born on the 17th of May, 1858, is at home and will
probably adopt the profession of his father; Edward
Douglas, born on the isth of October, i86t, is in
the Des Moines High School ; the youngest, Charles
Marcus, born on the 8th of February, 1864, is still
in the city graded school. The boys are all intelli-
gent and promise a good future, based on the train-
ing given them in early childhood.



COLONEL MILO SMITH, financier, soldier,
and one of the first railroad pioneers west of
Chicago, was born on the 25th of January, 1819, in
Shoreham, Addison county, Vermont. His ancestors
were among the oldest families of the state, and came
originally of a good old Saxon stock. He is the
son of James Smith, and grandson of John Smith,
a revolutionary hero, well known in his day for his
disinterested patriotism and sterling integrity. The
mother of Colonel Smith was a lady of great per-
sonal worth and benevolence, who was highly es-
teemed in all the relations of life ; her maiden name
was Sarah Cochran. The family estate descended
from the grandfather, who received it in considera-
tion of services rendered during the war of inde-
pendence. The original and only deed of the prop-
erty is dated 1798. The farm upon which James
Smith lived and 'died, at the age of eighty-five, was
given to him in his boyhood ; the domain is still
in possession of the family, the property having been
inherited by one of the sons. The longevity of this
family is most remarkable : of eleven children, all
but one attained the age of eighty-five. Colonel
Smith, like his ancestors, is a man of strong and
vigorous constitution, of a solid, compact organiza-
tion, and a clear and active intellect.

His early education was received in the public
schools, supplemented by a thorough and liberal
course of instruction in the Newton Academy, a sci-
entific and literary institution of some eminence in
his native town.

During the four years subsequent to the age of
sixteen his time was devoted alternately to laboring
on the farm in summer, and in teaching school in

At the age of twenty he left home, and, following
the star- of empire westward, reached Chicago in
1840. In this locality he devoted a few years, both
as teacher and likewise as land surveyor, and sub-
sequently settled in Belvidere, Boone county, Illi-
nois. In 1848 when the first railroad enterprise was
originated west of Chicago, he assisted as civil engi-
neer in the construction of the first one hundred
miles of the Galena and Chicago Union railroad.
In 1852 he was appointed chief engineer and super-
intendent of the Elgin and State Line railroad.
In all these responsible positions his sterling quali-
ties and marked ability have been conspicuously
displayed. In 1855 he came to Iowa, and was made
chief engineer and superintendent of the Chicago,
Iowa and Nebraska railroad. In this position his
ability as a financier, and his skill as an engineer.



were severely tasked. During the panic of 1 85 7, all the
directors having abandoned the road, Colonel Smith
carried the company successfully and triumphantly
through that financial crisis. To facilitate transpor-
tation, and utilize the entire line already completed,
he built a bridge across the east half of the Missis-
sippi river, and constructed, at the same time, a boat-
transfer to convey loaded cars over the west half.
The enterprise was crowned with entire and perfect
success. Although unprecedented and hitherto un-
known to the engineering fraternity, the impediment
to be overcome was the periodic rise and fall of
the river of more than eighteen feet. It was neces-
sary that the surface of the stream should be brought
(when needed) on the same horizontal plane with
the railroad track ; in short, it was a problem for the
engineer to bring into practical harmony or union
this rising and falling bosom of the river with the
land-track of the road. By a most ingenious device
Colonel Smith solved the problem, and was the first
to bring it into practical application. The under-
taking had been previously denounced by the oldest
engineers as an impossibility, and the president of
the road himself had so little faith in the success of
the enterprise, that he pronounced its author crazy.
The same opprobrious epithet, it will be remembered,
was likewise applied to Mr. Stephenson, the father
of railways. The world has too few such crazy men.
It is not easy, at this day, when the railroad system
is thoroughly organized and acknowledged success-
ful, to appreciate how onerous and responsible those
duties were. The respective rights of the public
and the road were yet undefined, and the immense
labor of organization had all to be performed with-
out the light of precedent or example.- Although
the company justly recognized that one mind must
control the whole untrammeled by its interference
or conflicting opinions, yet the bold and original
plan practically executed by Colonel Smith was by
many sound and cautious men deemed a hazardous
and even chimerical experiment, likely enough to
bankrupt its stockholders. In his broad and com-
prehensive grasp of railroad interests he has few, if
any, equals, and certainly no superiors. Hence for
years he may be said to have been the autocrat of
western railways, carrying his plans with little oppo-
sition, and using his influence with such discretion
that neither employes nor stockholders ever pre-
ferred just ground of complaint against his manage-
ment. It may not be inappropriate, in this connec-
tion, to call attention to a fact not generally known,

thai the American Zanzibar trade, on the east coast
of Africa, is almost monopolized by a Salem, Massa-
chusetts, man, Captain John Bertram, formerly pres-
ident of the Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska railroad,
at the time Colonel Smith held the position of chief
engineer and superintendent. It was chiefly through
the action of this gentleman himself that the trade
recently has been transferred to Boston, having been
many years controlled by him against all American
and foreign competition. Against the antagonism
of such masterly minds as this Colonel Smith carried
the Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska railroad through
the panic of 1857, and continued to superintend
the operation of the road after its completion to
Cedar Rapids until leased to the Galena and Chi-
cago Union railroad.

In 1862, a call having been made for three hun-
dred thousand men. Governor Kirkwood, without
his knowledge or solicitation, commissioned him
colonel of the 26th Iowa Infantry. His military
career has been equally varied and honorable, and
characteristic of the man. He did not seek a posi-
tion, but his country claimed his services, and duty
and patriotism assigned him a place in the Union

His regiment formed a part of the first division
of the fifteenth army corps, and continued in service
until the close of the war. He was with General
Sherman in his movements in and around Vicks-
burg and Atlanta, and in his march to the sea; and
during eighteen months he was in command of the
first brigade of the first division of that corps. His
distinguished services have won for him just enco-
miums from his brother officers and government offi-
cials. Although his acknowledged military talents
and ability justly entitled him to promotion, yet the
marked modesty of his character induced him to
decline all advancement and remain with the men
he had led to the field. Prominent and foremost
in all civil enterprises, and equally so in military
undertakings, he led his men in all the services they
rendered, as three honorable wounds will ever bear
sufficient record and ample testimony. Since the
close of the rebellion he has been engaged in various
railroad enterprises, and in building up Clmton, the
city of his adoption. His energy, foresight, thorough-
ness of action, and ability to overcome all obstacles,
are proverbial. Nothing that he undertakes is a
failure. From the moment that he grasps an enter-
prise, be it regarded by other minds as a chimera, or
at best but of doubtful expediency, from that mo-



ment it acquires a life, a character and a success.
He has invariably declined every solicitation to take
office, preferring the reputation of a worthy and pri-
vate citizen.

In politics, Colonel Smith is a decided republican,
although not strictly a partisan.

His religious views are liberal, and although not a
member, is a regular attendant of the Episcopal

In 1847 he married Mary J. Dodge, of Shirley,
Massachusetts, who was lost on the steamer Atlan-
tic, on Lake Erie, in 1852. He was again united in

matrimony with Miss D. E. Oatman in 1854. After
a few years of conjugal happiness, this lady died in

1868. He is now living with his third wife, for-
merly Mrs. C. A. Baker, to whom he was married in

1869. He has no children living.

Colonel Smith is emphatically a self-made man.
He may be described as the embodiment of the
genius of young America. Bold and successful in
all his undertakings, by his never-questioned ability
and indefatigable industry he has secured wealth,
and at the same time maintained a high reputation
for integrity and benevolence.



THE oldest settler and first physician in Vinton,
Benton county, Iowa, is James Clarkson Traer,
a native of Knox county, Ohio. His birth dates the
7 th of September, 1825, he being a son of James
Traer, then a farmer in the town of Berlin, and Par-
thenia Fletcher. His paternal grandfather, William
G. Traer, a native of London, came to this country
prior to the revolution, and was a soldier in General
Montgomery's army when that brave commander
fell. At the close of the war he settled in Fayette
county, Pennsylvania, and lost his life by the blow-
ing up of a powder-mill. The Fletchers were of
Irish descent, settling at first in western Pennsyl-
vania, and after the second war with England mov-
ing into Ohio.

James C. remained in Knox county until twenty
years of age, working on his father's farm, with win-
ter schooling, until sixteen, and no education except
what he picked up after that date. He was not idle,
however, and by the careful husbanding of leisure
time prepared himself, as it will be seen, for a life of
diversified pursuits.

His father moved to West Liberty, Muscatine
county, Iowa, in 1844, and the son followed the next
year, aiding his father in breaking and improving
wild land one season. In the spring of 1846 he
commenced reading medicine with L)r. Henry Mer-
edith, of Rochester, Cedar county, continuing such
studies two years. Practiced at Cedar Rapids from
1848 to 1851, and in August of the latter year made
a permanent settlement in Vinton, "There was then
on the town plat one man, who soon left, and there
were not more than five hundred people in Benton.

county. At the election twelve months later the
county had only four organized towns, and cast one
hundred and twenty votes. Vinton had been desig-
nated as the county seat three years prior, and when
Dr. Traer settled there only three buildings of any
kind had been erected. John S. Tilford laid out
the town that year, and moved his family thither the
next year.

After practicing three years Dr. Traer opened a
drug and grocery store; in February, 1856, started
a bank, with George Greene, of Cedar Rapids, and
others, and has been in that business steadily for
twenty-one years. At first the firm was Greene,
Traer and Co., and afterward J. C. Traer and Co.,
and still later Traer and Williams; for the last few
years it has been Traer Brothers, J. W. Traer, a
prominent- railroad man being his partner.

Mr. Traer read law in 1856 and 1857 ; was admit-
ted to the bar of Benton county in the spring of 1858,
and has done an extensive legal and collecting busi-
ness. In 1 86 1 and 1862 he was in partnership with
Colonel William Smyth, of Marion, Linn county, and
Buren R. Sherman, of Vinton, now auditor of the
state, the firm name being Smyth, Traer and Sher-
man. Latterly the firm has been Traer and Burn-
ham, the junior member being G. W. Burnharn, late
of Ohio. Their legal and collecting business is very
extensive, and constantly growing. Mr. Traer makes
a success of every branch he embarks in.

He has a stock farm near town, under the man-
agement of Thomas Wright, a native of England,
and an experienced cattle-raiser, who has an interest
in the short-horn cattle, the Berkshire, Poland-China



and Yorkshire hogs, and other blooded stock, on
this farm.

Mr. Traer was in the constitutional convention
which was held at Iowa City, January-March, 1857,
and was one of the youngest members of that body.
He represented the twenty-fifth district, embracing
Benton, Buchanan, Black-Hawk and part of Linn
counties, Hosea W. Gray, of Linn county, being
with him in the same body, representing the twenty-
fourth district, Linn alone. Mr. Traer was clerk of
the district court in 1852 and 1853, and has been
mayor of the city two years. He rarely seeks office,
is contented with private life and the honor of being
a straightforward, first-class business man.

He is a Freemason, and has been master of the
Vinton Lodge, No. 62, the last three or four years.

He is a Presbyterian, and one of the deacons of
the Vinton church.

In politics, he has been republican since the whig
party dissolved. He was a member of the conven-

tion which organized the great party of freedom;
has attended most of its district and state conven-
tions ; is an influential man in political circles, and
has helped many men to highly honorable offices,
which he did not covet liimself.

His wife was Miss Marcia W. Ferguson, of Cedar
Rapids, married on the 4th of November, 1849. She
has had eight children, five sons and three daugh-
ters, and all are living. The eldest child, William
M. Traer, the first person born in Vinton, has a fam-
ily, and is cashier of the bank of Traer Brothers;
George, another son, is also in the bank ; Glenn
Wood, a third son, is a telegrapher.

Vinton, which Mr. Traer saw laid out in 185 1, has
in twenty-six years grown into a city of between
three and four thousand inhabitants, and has three
banks, six or eight churches, two graded schools, a
flourishing Scademy and the Iowa College for the
Blind ; and one of the foremost men in making the
city what it is is John C. Traer.



MOST of the following sketch is taken from
"Andrea's Historical Atlas." The closing
portion, relating to his qualities and acquirements as
a lawyer, has been furnished us by one of his pro-
fessional brethren of the Ottumwa bar.

Mr. Burton was born at Waterloo, Seneca county,
New York, on the 17th of February, 1831. His
father, John Burton, was one of the earliest settlers
of Seneca county, and a prominent lawyer in that
part of the state. On the completion of his edu-
cation at Waterloo Academy, Mr. Burton engaged
in teaching school. He also devoted considerable
time to the practice of land surveying, of which he
had acquired a thorough knowledge. Subsequently
he studied law, first at Waterloo, in the office of his
brother, William H. Burton, also a lawyer of promi-
nence in the county, and afterward at the law
school of Professor Fowler, at Ballston Springs,
New York.

In June, 1855, Mr. Burton, turning his steps west-
ward, came to Lancaster, Keokuk county, Iowa,
where, at the following November term of the dis-
trict court, he was admitted to the bar. In January,
1859, he removed to Ottumwa, Wapello county, and
there entered into a law copartnership with Judge

Henry B. Hendershott, who had then just retired
from the bench of the district court. This copart-
nership he continued for a period of twelve suc-
cessive years.

In 1872 Mr. Burton professionally united in prac-
tice, in Ottumwa, with the Hon. Edward H. Stiles,
a gentleman widely and very favorably known to
the legal profession as the author of the new Iowa
Digest, and as official reporter, during several years,
of the decisions of the Iowa supreme court. Messrs.
Stiles and Burton have a large and increasing, as
well as a highly respectable and lucrative, practice,

Online Librarypub American Biographical Publishing CompanyThe United States biographical dictionary and portrait gallery of eminent and self made men. Iowa volume → online text (page 72 of 125)