pub American Biographical Publishing Company.

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

. (page 93 of 125)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

work at any time he liked. He stood not a moment
upon the " order of his going," but lay aside his coat
and " took hold " on the instant, and since then he
has never been without employment.

After working at the Hollibard establishment for
several weeks, he accepted a position at the Foster
Printing Press Works at nine dollars per week ; and
while in this establishment his employer discovered,
through drawings in his possession, that he was famil-
iar with the art of constructing gas works, to which
he had given some attention in England, and pro-
posed to him to undertake the building of a gas ap-
paratus with which to illuminate the workshops of
the company, which young Coverdale accepted, and
in a few weeks had the satisfaction of witnessing the
successful issue of his handiwork in the brilliant illu-
mination of the factory, to the no small delight of
his employer as well as himself Thus commenced
his career as engineer and contractor for the con-
struction and erection of gas works, which has made
his name famous throughout the northwest.

His next enterprise in this line was the construc-
tion and erection of an apparatus for illuminating a
large paper-mill at Louisville, Kentucky ; and soon
afterward he built the city gas works at Springfield,
Ohio, which was at that time (1853) the smallest
town in the United States operating a coal-gas sys-
tem, there being only thirty-seven private consumers
and seven street lamps. He remained in the em-
ploy of the company some eighteen months, during
which time the private consumers had increased to
one hundred and thirty-five, and the street lamps to
one hundred.

In 185s he was employed as engineer to superin-
tend the construction of gas works at Rock Island,
Illinois, at a salary of one thousand dollars per an-
num ; having completed which, he returned to Ohio
and secured a contract for the construction of gas
works at Piqua, in that state, this being his first ad-
venture as engineer and contractor on his own ac-
count. From that time to the present he has de-
voted himself exclusively to the building of gas
and water works, with the most satisfactory results,
having in the meantime constructed some thirty-five

gas works in various parts of the valley of the Mis-
sissippi, among which may be mentioned those of
the cities of Memphis, Tennessee ; Pine Bluff, Ar-
kansas; Bowling Green, Kentucky ; Lancaster, Belle-
fontalne, Circleville, Findlay, Lima, Piqua, Gallipo-
hs and Ironton, Ohio; Vincennes, Indiana; Rock
Island, Illinois ; Des Moines, Davenport and Mus-
catine, Iowa, and Topeka, Kansas.

During his residence in the United States he has
become thoroughly imbued with American ideas,
and even more enthusiastic in his admiration of our
institutions than many "to the manor born," even
in the northern states, — for having winced under
the cold shade of aristocracy in his native land, he
could entertain a more lively sense of the ennobling
qualities which spring from the principles of our
great " Declaration of Independence " than any one
without his previous experience could possibly do.
Hence no sooner did wicked hands attempt to lay
waste and yjrofane this glorious temple of Liberty
than he buckled on his sword in defense of the in-
stitutions of his adopted country. His skill as an
engineer, and his sound judgment and steady habits,
rendered him one of the most valuable and reliable
officers of the volunteer army.

In the spring of 1861 he recruited a company of
eighty-five men in the ctiy of Cincinnati at his own
expense, which were mustered into the 48th Ohio
Volunteer Infantry, in which regiment he was com-
missioned a second lieutenant ; and soon after leaving
camp with his company he participated in the mem-
orable battle of Shiloh, where his coolness and cour-
age were conspicuous. While on the road to Mem-
phis, a few days after, he was detailed and placed in
charge of a corps of engineers for the purpose of
rebuilding and repairing the bridges which had been
burned down or rendered impassable by the rebels ;
and the skill and vigor which he displayed in this
emergency brought him into prominent notice, and
he was accordingly detached from his regiment and
appointed on the staff of General Denver. After
serving with him for several months he was trans-
ferred to the staff of General Sherman with the
rank of lieutenant, where he*^ remained during the
Atlanta campaign and through the " march to the
sea," being on duty early and late, in season and
out of season, untiring and indefatigable, and yet
withal modest and unobtrusive. His devotion to
duty, however, did not escape the keen eye of his
vigilant chief, by whom his valuable services were
duly appreciated and fittingly rewarded by perhaps



the most signal and flattering compliment bestowed
upon any officer during that never-to-be-forgotten
struggle. On the morning after the capture of At-
lanta General Sherman sent the following telegram
to the President :

Atlanta, Georgia.
Abraham Lin'COLN, President of the United States:

I ask as a personal favor that Lieut. R. T. Coverdale, of
the 48th Ohio Volunteers, be appointed an assistant quar-
termaster with the rank of captain in the regular army, and
assigned to duty at my headquarters.

Wm. T. Sherman.

Six hours later the following answer was received :

Executive Mansion, Washington, D. C.
Major-Generai, W. T. Sherman:

In accordance with your request just received, Lieut. R.
T. Coverdale is appointed an assistant quartermaster wilh
the rank of captain in the regular army, and his commis-
sion as such forwarded to you.

A. Lincoln, President.

This is perhaps an unprecedented instance of an ap-
pointment by telegraph to a captaincy in the United
States army.

At the termination of the " march to the sea,"
Captain Coverdale was placed on duty at Savannah,
Georgia, as post quartermaster, where he had charge
of all the military railroads and transportation cen-
tering at that point. On the evacuation of that cen-
ter of supply he was transferred to Atlanta, Georgia,
in the same position, where he remained until, at his
urgent request, he was honorably mustered out in
1865, having served his adopted country faithfully
for over four years.

But the greatest sacrifice of Captain Coverdale
on the altar of his adopted country is yet to be re-
corded : he gave his only son, the joy of his heart
and the hope of his house, dearer to him than his
own life, to the cause of freedom and humanity.

Our subject was married in England in the year
1841, to Miss Elizabeth Jewett. Four children were
born to them, two of whom died in infancy and two
hved to maturity, a son and daughter. The son,
John Thomas, was born on the nth of January, 1844,
carefully educated, and was one of the most prom-
ising young men in all the country; tall, graceful,
intelligent, his form cast in manly mould, and ani-
mated with a noble soul, he was the light of the fire-
side, the favorite of his companions and the life of
the social circle. He enlisted early in the war in the
Sth Ohio Infantry, and refusing many offers of pro-
motion, his talents and attainments qualifying him
for high position, remained in the ranks ; was a moral
soldier; fought in all the battles of Virginia until
that of Cedar Mountain, where he fell mortally

wounded, his right lung pierced with a minie-ball,
and died in hospital ten days after, at the age of
nineteen. His last words were, " Tell my father and
mother I die for the Union." His company com-
mander, Captain Symmes, in a letter to his mother
conveying the sorrowful tidings, employed the fol-
lowing language : " If he was as good a son as he
was a soldier, then you might well be proud of him."
His remains were interred in Circleville, Ohio. The
daughter and only surviving child, Mary Ann, is the
wife of J. J. Childs, Esq., secretary of the Musca-
tine Gas Works. The latter was born in Tyrone,
Steuben county, New York, worked his way through
Antioch College, Ohio, by teaching, and was gradu-
ated with honors in i860, and subsequently was
principal of the Franklin Schools at Saint Louis,
Missouri, for ten years, and afterward was engaged
for two years in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the book and
job printing business.

He was married on the 31st of December, 1863.
He is a distinguished Mason, a Knight Templar
and S.P.R.S. of the Scottish rite, 32°.

Captain Coverdale removed to Muscatine with his
family in the spring of 1877, and purchased a con-
trolling interest in the gas works of that city, of
which he is now president.

His wife died on the 13th of January, 1872.
He was brought up in the national church of his
country, and is now an adherent of the Protestant
Episcopal church of the United States, to the sup-
port of which he has ever been a generous giver.

Among the leading characteristics of Captain Cov-
erdale are great benevolence and deep and practical
sympathy for suffering. Not only does he divide
with the needy to the extent of his means, but often
to the inconvenience and embarrassment of himself
and the stinting of his family. He has never been
satisfied with the cold and nicely-balanced idea of
duty as bounded by circumstances. When he has
done all that is commanded him in the moral law,
and all that is expected of him by his fellow-men,
he still regards himself as an "unprofitable serv-
ant," and as falling far short of the requirements of
Christ's law of love and self-sacrifice ; hence he is
ever awaiting opportunity to do good to his fellow-
men. Such a man is not likely to amass wealth, and
Mr. Coverdale is not classed with the rich.

In his domestic habits, he is among the most so-
cial, genial and companionable men to be found.
He loves the society of the good and wise. His
mind is well stored with knowledge, and his conver-



sation is always instructive. He is charitable in his
judgments, ever seeking to put a favorable con-
struction upon the actions of others. His domestic
relations were eminently happy. His wife was one
of the best and noblest of her sex, and he was the
most mild and devoted of husbands and fathers.
He governed by love and example, guiding his chil-

dren with his eye, and keeping from them nothing
that would add to their happiness or well-being.

In some regards he was rather peculiar ; he has
generally waited on himself, rarely asking a servant
to do anything for him that he could do himself.
When the world shall be inhabited by men like Mr.
Coverdale, the millennium will be at hand.



J living medical practitioner in Poweshiek county,
Iowa, and a man of excellent reputation, is a native
of the " Old Dominion," and was born in Bucking-
ham county on the 17th of May, 1822. He is a son
of John and Elizabeth Price Vest, plain farming peo-
ple, who moved to Hillsboro, Highland county, Ohio,
when John W. H. was ten years old. Peter Vest, the
father of John, came from France ; the Prices were
from Germany. The maternal grandmother of John
W. H. died in Ohio on the day she was ninety years
old. John vest participated in the second war with
the mother country.

The subject of this sketch prepared for college at
the Hillsboro Academy when Professor C. Sams was
at the head of it, but went no farther with his literary
studies at school, teaching most of the time from six-
teen to twenty-two years of age. He read medicine
with Dr. J. B. McConnell, of Russellville, Brown
county, Ohio ; attended lectures during the winter of
1847-8 in Sterling College, Columbus, Ohio; prac-
ticed eight years at New Market and New Vienna in
the same state; attended another course of lectures
at Columbus, and graduated in March, 1856. He
then located in Montezuma the next month, and
here practiced steadily until the civil war had pro-
gressed one year.

On the 22d of August, 1862, Dr. Vest went into
the service as surgeon of the 28th regiment Iowa
Volunteers, and served until the 4th of December,
1864, when he resigned. Soon after going south he
was made surgeon-in-chief of the third division,
thirteenth army corps, on General McGinnis's staff;
when the thirteenth and nineteenth army corps were
united he became medical director on the staff of
General Ransom, and was subsequently transferred
and made medical director in the field on General
McClernand's staff.' Still later he was relieved of

this duty and placed in charge of General McCler-
nand, who was ill, taking him from Alexandria,
Louisiana, to New Orleans, and thence to Alton, Illi-
nois. He was on the operating board at Magnolia
Hill and Champion Hill, Mississippi ; also at Black
River, Vicksburg, and through the campaign in the
Shenandoah valley, making a brilliant record as a

While in the service Dr. Vest had fine opportuni-
ties for improvement in his profession, but does not
seem to have been satisfied, for directly after leaving
the service he went to Philadelphia, attended a full
course of lectures in Jefferson College, and received
a second medical diploma; also two private diplo-
mas, one in anatomy and the other in school prepara-

It is almost needless to say that the doctor has a
high standing among the medical men of the state.
He belongs to both the county and state medical
societies, and was president of the former body in
1875. His rides are quite extensive. He has a
partner. Dr. E. H. Sheafifer, a graduate of the med-
ical department of the Iowa State University, and a
young man of excellent qualifications.

In politics, Dr. Vest is a firm republican ; is a
council member of the Masonic order, and belongs
to the encampment of Odd-Fellows.

He married Miss Margaret Phibbs, of Adams
county, Ohio, on the 23d of December, 1847. She
has had six children. The eldest child, Mary E.,
was the wife of John McDonald, of Montezuma, and
died at the age of twenty-eight. The youngest of
the six children died in infancy. The other four
are living. John Watts has a family, and lives on a
farm in Poweshiek county ; the second son, William
E., is a medical student, and Martha and Fred are
school teachers.

Dr. Vest has a farm of four hundred and eighty



acres, one mile from town, two-thirds of it in timo-
thy. He has fifty head of horses, more than half of
them of the Bashaw stock. He has six hundred ap-
ple trees on his farm ; has a fine taste for horticul-
ture, and were he less popular as a physician, might
have more time to devote to fruit growing. He lets
nothing, however, crowd in upon his medical studies.

He takes nine or ten periodicals devoted to his pro-
fession, and is a progressive man.

The doctor has gray hazel eyes, gray hair, a par-
tially bald, large head ; is five feet and ten and a half
inches tall, and weighs two hundred and twenty-five
pounds. He is mirthful in disposition, well stocked
with knowledge and anecdotes, and is a good talker.



HIRAM T. SHARP, the mayor of Atlantic, is
a son of John Sharp, farmer, and Sarah n^e
Mather, and was born near Watkins Glen, Steuben
county, New York. The Sharps settled in New
Jersey at an early day, and one of this branch of
the family was General Sharp, who is buried at West
Point. John Sharp was a captain of state militia.

The Mathers are an old American family, Sarah
Mather being a direct descendant of Cotton Mather.
She is still living, her home being in Delavan, Wis-
consin, where her husband died in 187 1. He moved
with his family from Steuben county to Delavan
when Hiram was about twelve years old, settling on
a farm which the son aided in cultivating.

The mind of Hiram, however, was upon his books
more than on his manual employment, he carrying
a book in his pocket when engaged in plowing and
other farm labor. He received his education in the
district school and the normal department of Milton
College, Rock county, teaching for several years ;
having' charge, the last year of his teaching, of the
English department of the Delavan Seminary.

Mr. Sharp commenced reading law in 1863, at
Delavan, with A. S. Spooner ; continued his legal
studies for six months in Chicago, and finished them
at the law school in Albany, New York, graduating
in May, 1864. After practicing one year at Delavan

and two years at Burlington, Wisconsin, he came to
Iowa, prospecting awhile, and located at Atlantic in
December, 1868, still continuing his law practice.

Mr. Sharp was elected justice of the peace in
1873, and still holds that office. Since settling in
Cass county he has been county attorney and city
attorney one term each, and a member of the school
board three years. He was elected mayor in the
spring of 1877, and makes an efficient and popular
executive, filling that office to the entire satisfaction
of the people.

In politics, he has always been connected with the
republicans, and is active and influential in the party.

He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal
church, and a trustee of the same. He was the' first
Sunday-school superintendent in Atlantic.

On the 2d of May, 1867, Miss Sara T. Billings, of
Burlington, Wisconsin, became the wife of Mr. Sharp,
and they have had four children, losing one of them.

The subject of this brief sketch is a tall, sparely-
built man, being six feet in height and weighing
only one hundred and fifty pounds. He has gray
eyes, a sandy complexion, an easy carriage, and a
pleasing address. He is perfectly free from affecta-
tion, very cordial, and a good converser, using the
language of a scholar without pedantry, and having
the manners of a gentleman.



ONE of the pioneer farm-openers in Davis coun-
ty, Iowa, was Israel Kister, for the last two
years mayor of the city of Bloomfield. He was the
first county recorder when Iowa became a state, and
treasurer of state just after Iowa became a common-

wealth. He has been identified with the history of
the county from the day that the Indians vacated
this their reservation. He has an unspotted public
record, having discharged every duty devolving up-
on him with the utmost fidelity.



Mr. Kister is a son of John and Susan (Hutten)
Kister, the Kisters being of German descent, and
was born in York county, Pennsylvania, on the 4th
of February, 1810. His ancestors on both sides were
pioneers in that state. The parents of Susan Hutten
were Quakers, and she broke away from that anti-
war denomination by marrying a man who made an
effort to " take a hand " in the second fight with
Great Britain, though, on account of some physical
disability, he was not accepted by the examining
surgeon. When fifteen years of age Israel accom-
panied the family to Wooster, Ohio, where he at-
tended the village school, and subsequently learned
the saddle and harness maker's trade, following it
most of the time for several years. He was in- Texas,
prospecting and working at his trade, when the rev-
olution occurred there more than forty years ago.
He returned to the north through Tennessee, where
he worked a short time, reaching Ohio in 1837, and
spending some time as clerk in a hotel at Massillon,
Stark county. Soon afterward he taught school one
season near Rushville, Indiana.

In 1839 Mr. Kister came to Van Buren county,
Iowa, where he taught the first school on " Chicken
Ridge," in the western part of the county; did some
farming and served as justice of the peace ; in March,
1843, settled permanently in Davis, the next county
westward, where he farmed for a number of years,

dealing also at times in live stock. It was during
this period that he held various offices of trust and
responsibility, some of them requiring his temporary
absence from the farm. He was elected county
recorder, as before stated ; commissioner's clerk in
1846, and treasurer of state in 1849. After the civil
war broke out he went into the pension agency busi-
ness, and has since been engaged in settling estates,
acting as administrator and guardian, being a busy
and a very useful man. He is very careful and ac-
curate, and has the fullest confidence of the com-
munity. He has made himself quite serviceable at
times in the local school board, and other official
positions in the municipality of Bloomfield, before
being placed at its head.

Mr. Kister has always been a democrat, and in
his earlier years was quite active in politics, attend-
ing county, district and state conventions.

He is a member of the Universalist church — a
man of generous impulses and pure life.

Mr. Kister has a second wife. His first was Miss
Susan Freeman, of Stark county, Ohio ; married on
the 4th of August, 1837. She died on the 26th of
August, 1853. His present wife was Miss Catherine
T. Douglas, of Bloomfield, formerly of Pennsylvania;
married on the 9th of February, 1854. Mr. Kister
has no children of his own; he has one adopted
child, a daughter, eighteen years old.



PETER. G. BALLINGALL, one of the most pub-
lic-spirited citizens of Ottumwa, is a native of
Scotland, and was born in Glasgow, on the 3d of
March, 1830. He came to America when about
seven 'years old; was in the province of Ontario,
Canada, three or four ye^rs, acting as errand boy for
a wholesale tobacconist, and selling matches made
by his step-father ; before he was eleven years old
he walked from Cobourg, seventy-three miles below
Toronto, to Chicago, by a roundabout way, a dis-
tance of seven or eight hundred miles ; at the age of
thirteen was a waiter boy in the New York House,
Chicago; after one season went into the City Hotel,
kept by Brown and Tuttle ; accompanied them to
the old Sherman House, and remained with them
seven years, serving in every capacity from bell-boy
at six dollars per month to that of steward at six

hundred dollars a year. At the end of this period
he was appointed by the Court of Chancery receiver
of the Lake House, at a salary of eighteen hundred
dollars a year, and managed so acceptably to the reg-
ular boarders that on leaving in January, 1855, the
guests presented him with an elegant hunting-case
gold watch. Among the guests were several men
who have since become quite prominent, such as
R. L. Wilson, E. C. Latned, John H. Kenzie, H.
Newhall, C. S. Dole, and John R. Palmer. Such
tokens of regard are a stimulus to a young man,
leading him to try to do well in the future.

Soon after leaving the Lake House Mr. Ballingall
traveled through most of the southern states ; sailed
from Charleston, South Carolina, for New York;
was driven back by a storm as far as the Bermudas ;
went from New York city to Boston, and there en-


/ //



gaged to return to Chicago and become steward
of the Briggs House. The following notice is from
the Chicago "Tribune " of the 10th of April, 1855 :

We are glad to learn that our old friend Ballingall, so
long and universally known and admired as steward of the
Sherman House, and lately connected with the Lake House,
will go into the Briggs House as its steward. There could
be no one step taken which would give the house more cer-
tain popularity than this. Mr. Ballingall's name is, in itself,
a tower of strength, and he will be sure to not let his already
acquired laurels rust in his new position.

A few months later he became proprietor of the
Haskall House, Galesburgh, Illinois; closed out his
interest at the end of one year, and in the autumn
of 1856 became manager of the Ivins House, Keo-
kuk, Iowa, where, on Christmas morning following,
he was the recipient of a silver service from his
guests. The next spring he removed to Benton's
Port, Van Buren county, forty miles from Keokuk ;
opened the Ashland House in a partnership, which
did not lead on to fortune ; removed to fairfield at
the end of a year, and a few months later to Agency
City, then the western terminus of the Chicago, Bur-
lington and Missouri River railroad, and opened the
Revere House. Moving westward as the railroad
progressed, in the summer of 1858 Mr. Ballingall
settled in Ottumwa, still running a hotel, and engag-
ing in many other pursuits. At one time he had
seventeen licenses for as many branches of business.
For nine years he was proprietor of a stage line
from Ottumwa to Bloomfield, and till recently run a
stage to Sigourney. The Ottumwa "Courier," on