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spot, and made up his mind that here a city must
rise, and here he would pitch his tent. He soon
had a house ready for his family, opened a law
office, and has since been in steady and successful
practice, doing a business second to that of no at-
torney in Cherokee county. With the exception of
some work in the city school board, where he has
made himself very useful, he has kept entirely out
of office, giving to his profession his closest atten-

tion, and to legal studies what spare time he could
command. Hence he is a well-read lawyer, good to
counsel in private, and strong before a jury. -He
would not be classed among the most fluent and
eloquent of speakers, yet he has great success, being
clear, logical and persuasive. He has a large amount
of criminal practice, and rarely fails to gain the
case. Probably no man in this part of the state has
a more remunerative practice. His standing at the
bar of the district is excellent.

In politics, Mr. Cowles is classed among the inde-
pendent republicans. He is a Royal Arch Mason,
and was master of the Cherokee Lodge three con-
secutive years. In religious belief, he is a Unitarian.

On the 8th of December, 1859, Miss Julia Potter,
of Jackson county, Iowa, became the wife of Mr.
Cowles, and they have two children, both daughters,
Eugenie and Hattie.

Mr. Cowles reached Iowa at the age of seventeen,
with very few dollars in his pocket, and every dollar
of his accumulations acquired since crossing the
Mississippi has been solely with his own hands ;
therefore he is a good representative of self-made,
successful men.



JOSEPH CHAPMAN, an early settler in Dela-
ware county, and still a resident of Colesburgh,
where he originally located, is a member of the gen-
eral asseinby, and among the most practical men of
that body. He is a man who does more thinking in
private than talking in public, and can always be re-
lied upon for prompt attendance and solid work in
the committee rooms. He is a farmer, as was also
his father, William Chapman, and was born in Ot-
sego county, New York, on the isth of June, 1821.
The maiden name of his mother was Mary Hextell,
of whose pedigree nothing is known. The Chap-
mans were from England, the father of Joseph com-
ing over in the year 1810. Joseph moved with his
parents to Fulton county. New York, when about
seventeen years of age, and enjoyed only limited
opportunities for mental improvement, such as a
common school afforded.

Mr. Chapman left Fulton county for Iowa in the
autumn of 1850. He has a farm of one hundred
and fifty acres adjoinmg the village of Colesburgh,

and under excellent itnprovement, and other lands
in the adjoining county of Clayton, and some also in
Mitchell county. He has always been industrious,
prudent and economical, and is among the many ju-
dicious and successful farmers whose lands lie along
the south side of the Turkey timber, just south of
the line of Clayton county. The writer speaks from
careful and extensive observation when he states
that it is doubtful if there is any better land in the
State of Iowa than portions of the township of Col-
ony, in which the village of Colesburgh is included.
More than one of the agricultural princes of the
commonwealth reside in that vicinity.

Mr. Chapman was justice of the peace for eight-
teen consecutive years at Colesburgh ; was a member
of the board of supervisors eight or nine years, and
has represented his county, constituting the fifty-
second district, in the last two sessions of the gen-
eral assembly held in 1876 and 1878. In the latter
session he was chairman of the committee on com-
pensation of public officers and on the committees



on county and town organization, private corpora-
tions, the penitentiary at Anamosa and tlie hospital
for the insane.

Mr. Chapman was originally a whig, and joined
the republican party at its formation ; is quite active
and influential in local politics, and often attends the
state conventions. He is a Master Mason and an
Odd-Fellow, having represented the latter order in
the grand lodge four or five times.

On the 17th o£ February, 1852, Mr. Chapman mar-

ried Miss Susan E Potts, of Colesburgh, and they
have had nine children, all living except two. Ida
May is the wife of James Balsinger, of Colesburgh;
the others are single. William P., the eldest son, is
a hardware merchant in Colesburgh. The youngest
of the four sons living, Morris, was a page of the
house in the seventeenth general assembly.

Mr. and Mrs. Chapman attend the Congregational
church, with which tlie latter is connected. They
are among the pillars of pure-toned society.



AMONG the Covenanters of Scotland who fled
t\. to the north of« Ireland at the time of the per-
secution, was the Smyth family from which the sub-
ject of this sketch descended. He was born in
Tyrone county, near Londonderry, Ireland, on the
26th of February, 1814, his parents being Jeremiah
Smyth, a farmer, and Nancy McElhenny. The
family on the mother's side were also Covenanters,
and driven out of Scotland Robert was reared
on a farm, with ordinary common-school education ;
at twenty came to this country, and was employed
as a clerk six years in Bedford county, Pennsyl-
vania. On the ist of April, 1840, he settled on land
in Franklin township, one and a-half miles west of
Mount Vernon, Linn county. He bought a claim of
a quarter-section, and three years later, after his
parents had come to this country, the land was
entered and divided, and Robert had one fourth,
eighty acres, of it. Here his parents lived until their
death, the remains of both lying in the Mount Ver-
non cemetery. They were most estimable people.

Robert Smyth has added to his lands from time to
time, and the original farm now embraces two hun-
dred and eighty acres, most of it under superb cul-
tivation. He has also another farm of a little more
than one hundred acres, in Linn county, and other
lands in Story, Calhoun and Woodbury counties, all
in this state. Though a resident of Linn county
since 1840, he has not been on the farm all of that
time. From 1852 to 1866 he was a resident most of
the time of Marion, the county seat, the greater por-
tion of it being in a land, banking and law office.
On going into the real-estate and banking business,
he commenced reading law with his younger brother,
the late Colonel William Smyth, who came to this

country in 1838. On the 22d of December, 1870,
Senator Harlan, of Iowa, pronounced a brief and
well-merited eulogy on Colonel Smyth in the United
States senate, and from his remarks on that occasion
we make the following extracts :

His rapid advancement in liis profession, and his early
elevation to the highest positions of honor and trust in
the various departments enumerated, notwithstanding the
severe competition and earnest rivalry which must always
be encountered by a young man without wealth or family
influence in a new and vigorous community in a frontier
state, sufliciently attest his capacity and sterling qualities of
head and heart. These qualities did not attract attention
so much on account of striking brilliancy as for the har-
monious blending of superior mental capacity, moral force,
and purity of character, resulting in a high order of prac-
tical ability, which crowned his efforts with almost uniform
success. His great qualities and marked success seemed to
be more the fruits of correct early training, honest industry,
severe study, careful reflection, and persistent effort, than
of extraordinary native endowment. Hence the contem-
plation of his career may be more useful to the youth of
the country than that of men of unequal«d genius and na-
tive brilliancy. The former are self-made, the latter God-
created; the former invite, the latter forbid, imitation.

He was modest and retiring almost to a fault; he did not
think of himself more highly than he ought ; and yet he had
that self-respect and confldence in his own capacity which
prompted him to undertake to do whatever was necessary
to be done without inuch regard for the character of the
obstacles in his pathway. But this confidence seemed to be
the outgrowth of an abiding faith in the capacity of hu-
manity, as a common endowment of the individuals of the
race, rather than self esteem. He seemed to expect a large
degree of personal success as the legitimate reward of per-
sistent and well-directed effort, and the confldence and ap-
proval of mankind as the just reward of merit.

He was not inordinately ambitious, nor yet was he insen-
sible to the good opinion of his fellow-men and the public
honors which marked his career. It is said that he ex-
pressed in his boyhood an earnest desire one day to obtain
a seat in congress. He, however, seemed rather to ac-
cept than to seek preferment, and more on account of the
wider fleld for usefulness which it afforded than on account
of a desire for personal distinction. We have no evidence
that unchaste desire for preferment among his fellow-men
ever illured him from the pathway of virtue, or caused him
to swerve a hair-breadth from the line of duty. He reached
the goal of his youthful ambition in the meridian of life;



his neighbors had freshly crowned him with honors more
desirable to an American than a royal diadem, when he
was cut down in the midst of his years and usefulness.

I knew him in his boyhood ; I watched his upward career
during his manhood, and rejoiced in witnessing his every
triumph. He was ray friend and neighbor. It was my
privilege to sit by his bedside and converse with him when
the icy fingers of death were feeling for his vitals. I knew
him to be a faithful friend, a generous neighbor, a confiding
husband, a tender parent, an upright citizen, an able ad-
vocate, a just judge, a brave soldier, a learned counselor, a
wise legislator, and a devoted christian. God has called him
to a higher life. While we drop a tear at his grave, may
we cherish his memory, imitate his virtues, and be able to
meet the great conqueror with the christian fortitude which
marked his closing hours when the Supreme Ruler shall
call us hence.

Robert was admitted to the bar about 1854, but
did only office business. From 1861 to 1866 he was
paymaster in the United States army, with rank of
major. Near the close of the civil war, some time
in 1864, he was breveted lieutenant-colonel. No
paymaster left the army with a cleaner record. He
receipted for more than ten million dollars.

He was a member of the territorial legislature in
1843-44, and of the first general assembly of the
state in 1846-7. During both of his terms there was
an extra session of the legislature which he attended.
He has also been a state senator during one term,
attending the sessions of 1868 and 1870. In this
body he was chairman of the committee on banks,
and was on the committee on public offices, acting
as chairman of that committee, also, part of the time,
the chairman proper being absent. He did a good

work in both branches of the legislature, his indus-
try cropping out there as everywhere else.

In politics, Mr. Smyth has been a strong repub-
lican since the party had an existence. Originally,
on becoming naturalized, he was democrat with anti-
slavery proclivities, and joined the free-soil party in
1848. In 1875 his friends persisted in bringing his
name before the republican state convention as a
candidate for gubernatorial honors, and he had a
strong support in that body, the popular old war
governor, Samuel J. Kirkwood, becoming the nom-
inee. Mr. Smyth has the ability to fill almost any
chair in the gift of the people of Iowa.

He is z. Presbyterian in religious belief, and an
elder in the Mount Vernon Church. The character
of no man in the county stands fairer. He was a
delegate from the Cedar Rapids presbytery to the
last general assembly of the IVesbyterians held in
Chicago. He is a wise counselor in an ecclesias-
tical as well as a political body. The answer to
Sir William Jones's sonnet, " What Constitutes a
State.?" would be, "just such men as Robert Smyth."

On the 2d of July, 1846, Miss Margaret Moffitt, a
native of north Ireland, but at that time a resident
of Cedar county, Iowa, became his wife, and has
been the mother of eight children, four of whom are •
now in the other world. One daughter, Anna, is
preceptress of a collegiate institute, Napa City, Cali-
fornia ; the other three children are at home.



ALEXANDER CLARK, Most Worthy Grand
. Master of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge
of Free and Accepted York Masons (colored) for
the State of Missouri and its jurisdiction, popularly
known as the "colored orator of the west," was born
in Washington county, Pennsylvania, on the 25th of
February, 1826, his parents being John Clark and
Rebecca ne'e Darnes. His father was born a slave,
yet the son of his master, an Irishman, who emanci-
pated both him and his mother, who was a mulatto.
The mother of Alexander Clark, who still lives, at
the age of seventy-one years, is a full-blooded Afri-
can, consequently our subject is two-thirds African
and one-third Irish. To his relationship to the last
named nationality is due in a great measure the gen-
ius and brilliancy which so much adorn his charac-

ter, for it must not be supposed that because the
Irish element in his composition is comparatively
small that its influence in the formation of his char-
acter is not very considerable. Scientific men are
familiar with the fact that the potency rather than
the quantity of an ingredient in any mixture deter-
mines. the general effect; and we have no doubt that
to the circumstance alluded to is mainly due the
existence of those elements of character which have
led to the success to which Mr. Clark has attained.

On his mother's side he comes from a robust and
long-lived stock. His grandfather, George Darnes,
died at the age of seventy-three, and his grand-
mother, Leticie, lived to the age of one hundred
and one, and her sister, Penda, lived to the age of
one hundred and four.



^^^<^^ ^Z^^^^^





Alexander received but a very limited education
in the common schools of his native village, but he
was a bright and intelligent lad, and seemed to learn
by intuition. He read men rather than books, and
was continually absorbing from everything around
him. At the age of thirteen he removed to Cincin-
nati, Ohio, where he learned the barbering business
with his uncle, William Darnes, who also sent him to
school for about a year at different periods, where
he made considerable proficiency in grammar, arith-
metic, geography and natural philosophy. In Octo-
ber, 1841, he left Cincinnati and went south on the
steamer George Washington as bar-tender. In May,
1842, he settled in Muscatine, Iowa, which has since
been his home. Here he conducted a barber-shop
till 1868, when failing health, resulting from the con-
finement incident to the business, compelled him to
seek a more active occupation. Having by industry
and frugality accumulated some capital, he invested
in real estate ; bought some timber land in the neigh-
borhood of Muscatine ; obtained contracts for the
furnishing of wood to steamboats ; did some specu-
lating, which proved successful ; and the result is
the accumulation of a competence on which he lives
in ease and retirement.

In 1851 he became a member of the Masonic or-
der by joining Prince Hall Lodge, No. i. Saint Louis,
Missouri, then operating under a charter from the
Grand Lodge (colored) of Ohio, but which is now
No. 10, under the Grand Lodge of Missouri (colored)
of Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons. In
1868 he was arched and knighted and elected dep-
uty grand master of the Grand Lodge, H. M'Gee
Alexander being grand master. The latter dying
on the 20th of April, 1868, our subject became grand
master in his stead and fulfilled his unexpired term.
The jurisdiction then extended over Missouri, Iowa,
Minnesota, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.
He organized all the subordinate lodges in the last
three states, and assisted in organizing their grand
lodges. At the next annual meeting of the Grand
Lodge of Missouri he was elected grand treasurer
and appointed a delegate to the Most Worshipful
National Grand Compact of Masons (colored) for
the United States held at Wilmington, Delaware, on
the 9th of October, 1869. In June, 1869, he was
again elected grand master, and held the distin-
guished office for three consecutive years. In 1872
he was elected grand secretary, and in 1873 was ap-
pointed chairman of the committee on foreign cor-

In 1874 he was again called to the position of
grand master, and annually reelected to the same
position since, being at present (1877) incumbent of
the office. His jurisdiction now extends over the
states of Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota and .Colorado,
and embraces eighty-seven lodges and twenty-seven
hundred members. He is said to be one of the
most accomplished ritualists, and among the most
able and successful executive officers the order, in
any branch of it, has ever had.

In politics, he is a republican, both from gratitude
and principle, and being one of the most original,
eloquent and pungent orators of the nation, it will
readily be conceded that he exercises a controlling
influence upon his colored brethren wherever he is
brought into contact with them.

In 1863 he enlisted in the ist Iowa Colored Vol-
unteer Infantry, and received the appointment of
sergeant-major, but was refused muster on account
of physical disability in left ankle. He afterward,
however, became one of the most active agents in
the west in gathering recruits for the army and fur-
thering the Union cause. In 1869 he was appointed
by the colored state convention of Iowa a delegate
to the colored national convention which met that
year at Washington, and by that organization he was
appointed chairman of the committee to bring before
the proper committees of the senate and house of
representatives the claims of colored soldiers and
seamen to an equality with their white copatriots in
the matter of bounties and pensions. He was also
appointed a member of the committee from the same
convention to wait upon President Grant and Vice-
President Colfax, to tender to them the congratula-
tions of the colored people of the United States
upon their election to the highest offices in the gift of
the people, and on the first occasion was the mouth-
piece of the committee. In 1869 he was a member
and vice-president of the Iowa republican state con-
vention, and took a prominent part in its delibera-
tions. In the following year he was also a delegate
to the state convention and a member of the com-
mittee on resolutions, and on each occasion addressed
the convention with such power, enthusiasm and
effect as secured for him the title of " colored orator
of the west," and it is generally conceded that in this
regard he is second only to the redoubtable Fred
Douglass. He has '" stumped " the State of Iowa, as
well as most of the southern states, at every election
held since the close of the slaveholders' rebellion,
and is recognized as one of the most powerful, elo-



quent and sapient orators of the country. In 1872
he was appointed by the republican state convention
of Iowa a delegate at large to the national repub-
lican convention at Philadelphia which nominated
Grant and Wilson for President and Vice-President.
In 1873 he was appointed by President Grant consul
to Aux Cayes, Hayti, but refused the position, owing
to the smallness of the salary.

In January, 1876, he was appointed by a colored
convention of Iowa a delegate to the Centennial Ex-
position at Philadelphia, for the purpose of prepar-
ing statistics and gathering useful information for
the colored race. Later in the same year he was
appointed an alternate delegate by the Iowa state
republican convention to the national convention
at Cincinnati, Ohio, which nominated Hayes and

It will thus be seen that Mr. Clark is a gentleman
of national renown, esteemed and respected alike by
both white and colored citizens ; and his career,
overcoming as he has done the most serious obsta-
cles in the way of education as well as caste, and
attaining both to wealth and position, cannot fail to
be an ennobling example and inspiration to many
an ambitious youth of his race struggling to gain
a position of honor and independence. Like the
great apostles of freedom, Sumner, Goodell, Garrison,
Phillips and Fred- Douglass, he has struggled man-
fully for the emancipation and elevation of his race.
He had an undying faith from the earliest dawn of
reason that he would live to see the extirpation of
slavery from the United States, if not from the world,
and he has not lived and labored in vain. The
names of Brown, Lincoln, Lovejoy and Grant are
indelibly written upon his heart, and should be cher-
ished as talismanic by the African race for all time
to come.

On the 9th of October, 1848, at Iowa City, he
married Miss Catherine Griffin, of African and In-
dian origin, born in slavery, but manumitted at the
age of three years. She is a woman in every way
suited to his companionship, and worthy of her hus-
band, and is highly esteemed for her christian char-
acter by all who know her. She has borne him five
children, two boys and three girls, of whom two —
John and Ellen — died in infancy; the survivors,
Rebecca J., Susan V. and Alexander G., all inherit
their father's intellectual endowments, all severally
graduates of the high school of Muscatine, and give
promise of useful and honorable lives. Alexander is
.1 printer on the Muscatine " Journal," and quite

intelligent ; Rebecca is the wife of G. W. Appleton,
of Muscatine; Susan is the wife of Rev. Richard
Holley, a minister in the African Methodist Episco-
pal church.

Our subject became a member of the African
Methodist Episcopal church in 1850, and continues
in fellowship. He is superintendent of the Sabbath
school of the church of that denomination in Mus-
catine ; is also a steward and one of the trustees of
the congregation, to the support of which he is the
largest contributor. He is also generous with his
means for the support of charities and benevolent
institutions of the city of his adoption, and is, in
short, one of the best citizens of the place.

Alexander Clark is a man of unquestioned ability.
His Masonic addresses bespeak the soundest judg-
ment and the clearest intellect, besides thorough re-
search and acquaintance with the most ancient his-
tory, rivaling in many regards the orations of the most
famous craftsmen of the order, often ranging high in
the regions of the poetic and sublime. As a polit-
ical orator, he is clear, prompt and strong, and has
the rare merit of stopping when he is through ; and
while he is uncompromising in his principles, yet he
says things so straight, and in a manner so cautious,
as to excite no ill will from any one ; he is, in short,
a valuable citizen, of whom the State of Iowa feels
proud. His leading characteristic is a philosophic
turn of mind by which he analyzes everything claim-
ing his attention with reference to its usefulness. If
a matter will not contribute to his own good or the
good of his fellow-men, he will have nothing to do
with it.

As already mentioned, he is a republican from
gratitude. He appreciates fully the boon of eman-
cipation and enfranchisement, not because it has
been of special benefit to him, but because of its
numerous blessings to others. Striving, as he has
done all his life, against the prejudice of color, he
longs to see the time when a man will be esteemed
at his true worth without regard to circumstances
of race or birth ; hence he was never a sympathizer
with the principles of the "know-nothing" party.

Although he is a Methodist, both in principle and
practice, he cultivates a feeling of liberality toward
all other creeds. He is at the same time frank and
outspoken in his own opinions. In all departments
of thought and action he believes that honesty is the
best policy ; hence he is never in favor of resorting
to any expedient or to doubtful means in order to
insure a temporary triumph, or even a permanent

Online Librarypub American Biographical Publishing CompanyThe United States biographical dictionary and portrait gallery of eminent and self made men. Iowa volume → online text (page 80 of 125)