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Cerro Gordo County >> 1910 Index

History of Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Ed. and comp. by J. H. Wheeler. 2 vols. Chicago: Lewis Pub Co., 1910


Biographies submitted by Kay Ehlers.  

Henry Daker

Henry Daker, a farmer in section 32, Lake township, Cerro Gordo county, Iowa, ploughed the first furrow ever turned on the land he now owns, and has lived and labored here ever since, contributing his part toward the development of agricultural interests in this locality. He was born in Delhi, Delaware county, Iowa, November 26, 1856, son of John and Mary (Pemberton) Daker, both natives of Yorkshire, England, the former born February 6, 1820, the latter, April 21, 1821. Both died in Iowa, on the farm on which their son Henry now lives, the father, August 5, 1895; the mother, January 22, 1892. They were the parents of three children, tow of whom are living, Henry and Benjamin, both of Lake township. At the age of fourteen the father was apprenticed to the trade of a shoemaker in England, and worked at that trade there until 1855, when, accompanied by his wife, he came to this country, landing in New York after a voyage of seven weeks. They spend one year in New York and the following year, 1856, came west to Iowa and settled at Delhi in Delaware county, where he worked at his trade until June, 1874. During that time the leather he used was brought by stage from Dubuque. Coming to Cerro Gordo county in June, 1874, he purchased the north half of section 32, then all wild land, for which he paid eight dollars and fifty cents an acre. With the assistance of his sons he improved the farm, and here he and his good wife made their home until their death, as above noted.

At the time of their removal to the farm Henry was about eighteen years of age. He had received a fair education in the graded schools of Delhi, and from the time of their settlement in Lake township up to the present time his energies have been devoted to agricultural pursuits. He now owns two hundred and forty acres all utilized for general farming purposes and being successfully operated. All the present buildings here were erected by him. After he had ploughed the first furrow on this land he stuck into it two cottonwood sprouts. That was on the northeast corner of the farm. These today are large trees. In speaking of his early experience here Mr. Daker says the first night he spent at Mason City he slept on the floor of the only hotel in the town, wrapped in a blanket. Clear Lake at that time was nothing but a small settlement on the lake shore.

On February 20, 1879, Mr. Daker married Miss Emma L. Brown, who was born in Livingston county, Illinois, March 12, 1857, daughter of Jonathan and Clarissa (Clark) Brown. Her father, a native of New York, born May 28, 1828, is now a resident of St. Paul, Minnesota. Her mother, born in Pennsylvania March 27, 1832, died in 1874. They were the parents of three children : Frank, of St. Paul, Minnesota; Mrs. Daker; and Mead, of Shell Lake, Wisconsin. Mrs. Daker's father settled in Livingston county, Illinois, in 1855, in 1868 moved to McHenry county, that state, and in 1872 came to Cerro Gordo county, Iowa, and purchased a tract of wild land in Mr. Vernon township, where he lived until 1900, when he retired from the farm. For thirty-eight years Mrs. Daker has lived on the same road. She and Mr. Daker have had three children, namely : Frank, at home, married Nina Parker, of Clear Lake, Iowa, and they have one daughter; Clara, wife of Walten Atkinson, of Lake township, Cerro Gordo county, and they have one daughter; and Charles, deceased.

Politically Mr. Daker has been a life long Republican. He has always taken an active interest in local affairs, and has filled the offices of township treasurer and school director, having served a dozen years in each, and still being the incumbent of the former office.


One of the leading physicians of Mason City, Iowa, is Dr. Channing E. Dakin, one of her native sons, his birth having occurred here July 8, 1876, his parents being Dr. James B. and Julia May (Church) Dakin, natives of Ohio and Pennsylvania, respectively. He laid the foundation of an excellent education in Mason City 's public schools, being graduated from the high school with the class of 1891. He subsequently entered the University of Iowa, at Iowa City, finishing there in 1896 with the degree of Bachelor of Science. Early in life he came to a decision to follow in the paternal footsteps in the matter of a vocation, and with this end in view he entered the Bennett Medical College in Chicago and obtained his degree with the class of 1899. After his graduation he further fortified himself for the work of his chosen profession by the position of interne in the Cook County Hospital in Chicago, in which institution he remained for about two years and in which he gained most valuable clinical experience. He then returned to his home in Mason City, and here he has been engaged in the active practice of his profession since January, 1901. He has won the confidence of all who have sought his professional services and he is generally recognized as one of the most reliable and enlightened of the local medical fraternity. He has successfully maintained the same high prestige gained by his honored father, the late Dr. James B. Dakin, to whom a memoir is dedicated on other pages of this work.

Dr. Dakin is affiliated with numerous of the organizations which have as their prime object the elevation and unification of the profession, among those being the American Medical Association; the Iowa State Medical Society; the Austin Flint-Cedar Valley Medical Society; and the Cerro Gordo County Medical Society. He is a particularly close student of his profession and keeps in touch with the advances made in both medicine and surgery. He served as health officer of Mason City in 1901-1906.

Politically Dr. Dakin gives his heart and hand to the principles of the Republican party and like all good citizens is interested in those matters which pertain to the general good of the community. He is a member of the board of trustees of the Carnegie Public Library of Mason City and fraternally he is identified with the local order of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

On the 6th of May, 1903, was solemnized the marriage of Dr. Dakin to Miss Norra Allin, daughter of T. B. Allin, a prominent citizen of Iowa City, and three children have blessed their union, named Allin, Shirley and Katherine. Mrs. Dakin is a member of the Twentieth Century Club.


Engaged in the active practice of his exacting profession in Cerro Gordo county for more than a quarter of a century, Dr. James B. Dakin gained prestige as one of the leading physicians and surgeons of this section of the state, and his success was tantamount to his fine ability. He continued in the harness until the time of his death, which occurred at his home in Mason City on the 1st of March, 1896, and both by reason of his high standing in his profession and as a citizen of utmost progressiveness and public spirit he is well entitled to a tribute of honor in this publication . He labored with all of zeal and devotion in the alleviation of human suffering and he also found time to manifest especial civic loyalty, having been called upon to serve in various offices of public trust, including that of mayor of his home city. He commanded the utmost confidence and esteem and proved himself worthy in all the relations of life.

Dr. James Briggs Dakin was one of the pioneer physicians of Cerro Gordo county, where he took up his abode in 1869 and where he continued to live and labor to goodly ends until the close of his long and useful life. He was born in Clinton county, Ohio, on the 5th of January, 1836, and was a son of Perry and Phoebe (McMannis) Dakin, whose marriage was solemnized in the year 1820. The father was a native of Dutchess county, New York, and the mother of Kentucky, and both families were founded in Ohio in the pioneer epoch of the history of that fine old commonwealth. Perry Dakin was reared to maturity in his native state whence he removed to Ohio when a young man, and he numbered himself among the early settlers of Clinton county, where he reclaimed a productive farm from the forest wilds and where he died, secure in the high regard of all who knew him. Mrs. Dakin died in Princeton, Illinois, at the age of ninety-seven years. They became the parents of five sons and five daughters.

Like many another sterling citizen who has attained distinctive success as one of the world's noble army of workers, Dr. Dakin was reared to the sturdy discipline of the farm, and he early began to assist in the various departments of its work, so that he grew vigorous in mind and body and gained a due appreciation of the value and dignity of honest toil and endeavor. After availing himself of the pioneer schools he was enabled to continue higher studies in a well conducted academic institution in his native state. In 1855 he went to La Porte, Indiana, where he began reading medicine in the office and under the preceptorship of his elder brother, Dr. George M. Dakin. In 1860-61 he attended a course of lectures in the Eclectic Medical College in the city of Cincinnati, Ohio, but he soon subordinated all other interests to tender his services in the armed rebellion on the part of the southern states. He enlisted as a private in the Seventy-second Illinois Volunteer Infantry, which gained reputation as the “Board of Trade Regiment,” owing to the fact that a large percentage of its members had been connected with the Board of Trade in Chicago . Dr. Dakin was with his regiment at the siege of Vicksburg and participated in other engagements. He was finally assigned to detached duty in the hospital at Benton Barracks, in the city of St. Louis, where he remained until the expiration of his term of enlistment, when he received his honorable discharge. After the close of the war he again took up his medical studies, and during the spring of 1866 was again a student in the Cincinnati college previously mentioned. From this institution he duly received his degree of Doctor of Medicine, and he initiated the active work of his profession at La Porte, Indiana, where he remained until 1868, when he went to Bloomington, Illinois, and in 1869, he came to Iowa and established himself in practice at Mason City, where he passed the residue of his life and where he laid aside his humane work only a short time prior to his demise. His sympathy passed beyond sentiment to be an actuating motive for human helpfulness, and his gracious personality as well as his able ministrations in his profession made him one of the most popular citizens of the county in which he so long lived and labored. He was a member of various professional organizations of representative order and he ever continued an enthusiastic student of medicine and surgery, so that he was able to avail himself of the best methods and facilities represented therein.

In politics Dr. Dakin was found aligned as a stalwart in the camp of the Republican party, and he ever took a lively and intelligent interest in the questions and issues of the hour. Whatever tended to advance the general welfare of his home city and ever tended to advance the general welfare of his home city and county was assured of his zealous support, and his elegibility [sic] and civic loyalty marked him for public office. Thus he served with all of acceptability, in the office of the mayor of Mason City and also as a member of the board of county supervisors. He was a prominent figure in various fraternal organizations and had the distinction of being the first man in Mason City to attain the thirty-second degree in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of the Masonic fraternity. He was the founder of the local lodge of the Knights of Pythias and was called to various official chairs in this and other organizations with which he was identified. He was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and ever showed a deep interest in his old comrades of the Civil war. His religious faith was indicated by his membership in the Disciple church.

In the year 1867 was solemnized the marriage of Dr. Dakin to Miss Julia May Church, a daughter of the late Rev. Jesse Church who was an elder in the Christian church and who passed the closing years of his life and died in Mason City while on a visit. Mrs. Dakin's brother, Judge Jarvis S. Church, was a pioneer of Mason City and one of the prominent members of the bar of Cerro Gordo county, where he presided for a number of years on the bench of the county court. Mrs. Dakin received excellent educational advantages and was graduated in Antioch College, at Yellow Springs, Ohio, as a member of the class of 1863. She is a woman of gracious presence and fine intellectual attainments, and she was twice elected to the responsible office of superintendent of public schools for Cerro Gordo county, where she gave a most careful and progressive administration during her two terms. She still maintains her home in Mason City, where she is held in affectionate regard by all who know her and where she has long been a popular figure in church and social circles. Dr. and Mrs. Dakin became the parents of six children, of whom only two are living—Dr. Channing E., of whom specific mention is made on other pages of this volume, and Amy Dorothy, who is the wife of Dr. Hardy F. Pool, of Mason City.


James W. Dawson has for years conducted a general blacksmith shop at Clear Lake, Iowa, and there are few men – if any – in the town who are better known or more highly respected than he.

Mr. Dawson dates his identity with Cerro Gordo county from 1870, when, a youth of fifteen years, he came here with his parents from Wisconsin .  He was born in Racine county, Wisconsin, October 27, 1855, son of Robert and Susanna (Everson) Dawson, natives of England .  In 1853, just two weeks after their marriage, his father and mother left their old home on the British Isle and came to America .  They spent two years in New York, then came west to Wisconsin, and fifteen years later came over into the neighboring state of Iowa and settled on a farm in Grant township, Cerro Gordo county.  Robert Dawson was engaged in agricultural pursuits all his life.  He improved a fine farm in Grant township where he lived to the ripe age of eighty-one years.  He died here November 8, 1907 .  His wife died in 1888, at the age of fifty-six years.  Both were worthy members of the Methodist Episcopal church.  They were the parents of fifteen children, of which the living are : James W., the subject of this sketch; Joseph H., a farmer in Grant township; Loren E., engaged in farming near Clear Lake; Fred, also engaged in farming in Grant township; Lillie, wife of J. H. Miller, living near Clear Lake,; Amelia, wife of J. H. Chadbourne, living near Vandalia, Illinois; Charles, employed in a store at Los Angeles, California; Lewis B., a California farmer,; Chester, of Lisbon, North Dakota, engaged in farming; and Carter of Heckla, South Dakota, employed as a mechanic.

After receiving a good common school education James W. Dawson showed his preference for a mechanical rather than an agricultural life by going to Rockford, Floyd county, and entering upon an apprenticeship to the blacksmith's trade.  He spent three years there and then came to Clear Lake and opened a shop.  That was in 1879.  He soon had a firstclass, well equipped shop, which he has conducted for thirty years, with the exception of about three years when, on account of an accident, he was disabled for work at his trade and gave his attention to other matters.  At one time he owned a half interest in the Clear Lake Mirror and was its business manager.  Later he was interested in a hardware store at Garner, Iowa, which he conducted and which he sold in order to resume work in his shop.  Of recent years he has employed an assistant most of the time.

In 1881 Mr. Dawson married, in Butler county, Iowa, Miss Ermina Heritage.  She was born in New Jersey and was reared in Illinois, to which latter state she moved with her parents when a small child and from whence, in the early ‘70s, she came to Iowa .  Her mother, a resident of Greene, Iowa, and a well preserved woman, celebrated her eighty-fifth birthday on the 1st of February, 1910 .  Her father died when a little past forty.  In the Heritage family were seven children, of whom two died in infancy and five are still living.  Mr. and Mrs. Dawson have an adopted daughter, Daisy Dawson, now the wife of Harold L. Lake, of Clear Lake .

Politically, Mr. Dawson has always been a Republican.  He served as a member of the City Council and at this writing is one of the school board.  He is a Mason and an Odd Fellow and fills the office of secretary in both lodges, his incumbency of this in the Mason lodge dating back five years and in the I. O. O. F. lodge, fifteen years.  He and his wife attend worship at the Congregational church.


A prominent business man of Mason City, Iowa, and one of its most highly esteemed and respected citizens, Cyrenus G. Dayton, is widely known as proprietor of the Mason City Marble and Granite Works.  A son of Isaac and Mary A. (Patchen) Dayton, he was born August 1, 1851, in Delaware county, New York .  His parents migrated from that county to Wisconsin in 1865, locating on a farm in Columbia county, where both spent the remainder of their lives, the father dying at the age of seventy-six years, in 1891, and the mother in 1893, aged seventy-five years.  Of their ten children six are living, as follows : N. B., of Mason City; Cyrenus G.; Charles M., of Los Angeles, California; Emory S., of Randolph, Wisconsin; E. H., of Fall River, Wisconsin; and Ambrose, of Wisconsin .

Having acquired a practical education in the district schools, Cyrenus G. Dayton left the home farm when fifteen years old and served an apprenticeship at the trade of a plasterer and mason, which he followed several years.  He was passenger in the fall of 1869 on the first work train that entered Mason City, and he subsequently worked at his trade here summers, during the winter season being employed in a marble-cutter's shop.  In 1872 Mr. Dayton bought Mr. T. B. Gale's marble shop, and not only conducted that but was a contractor for mason and plaster work for a number of years.  He has the finest and most modernly-equipped marble shop in northern Iowa, and manufactures all of his monuments from the rough material, being an especially skillful and artistic marble worker.  He has acquired considerable property in the city, in 1893 having erected his present building.  He is independent in politics, voting regardless of party restrictions, and fraternally belongs to the Knights of Pythias.

On February 9, 1876, Mr. Dayton was united in marriage with Mary A. Elam, who was born in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, November 17, 1853, and they had four children, but Beatrice Dayton is the only one living.  Ruth E. married A. J. Kilmer, a druggist here, and she died at the age of twenty-seven years, leaving two children.  Jerald died at the age of two years, and Edgar died at the age of fifteen years.


One of the most prosperous and intelligent agriculturists of Cerro Gordo county, Arthur H. Dean owns and occupies a valuable farm of three hundred and twenty acres in sections twenty-five and twenty-six, Mason township, where he is carrying on general farming after the most approved modern methods, exercising great skill and good judgment in his labors. A son of Richard Dean, he was born in 1862 in Winnebago county, Illinois, and was there brought up and educated.

A native of England, Richard Dean was born in Yorkshire, where they days of his boyhood and youth were spent. Emigrating to this country at the age of eighteen years, he was for some time employed in the Rhode Island woolen factories. When ready to start in life on his own account he migrated to Illinois, and was engaged in tilling the soil in Winnebago county until 1885. Coming in that year to Cerro Gordo county, he purchased two hundred and forty acres of land in Mason township, and having placed the larger part of it under culture bought eighty acres of adjoining land. Here he continued to live and labor until his death, in 1902, at the venerable age of four score or more years. He was an unswerving Republican in politics. He married Ann Saunderson, who was born in Manchester, England, their union being solemnized in Providence, Rhode Island . She was a member of the Episcopal church. She [preceded] him to the world beyond, passing away in 1898, aged seventy-six years. They reared three children, as follows : Frank, residing at Victoria, where he has large holdings; Arthur H.; and Mary, who died in 1903, aged thirty-seven years.

Brought up in Illinois, Arthur H. Dean received a common school education, and after coming with the family to Mason township, Cerro Gordo county, assisted his father in improving the large and valuable farm which he now owns and occupies. A gentleman in the prime of life, active, energetic, with a clear head for business, Mr. Dean has long been a prominent factor in the industrial interests of this part of the county and is everywhere respected as a man of honor and worth. Politically Mr. Dean is a stalwart Republican, and religiously he attends the Methodist Episcopal church.

Mr. Dean married, in February, 1890, at Charles City, Iowa, Fidelia A. Elwell, who was born in La Salle county, Illinois, but was brought up and educated in Floyd county, Iowa . Of this union two children have been born, namely : Earl M., aged fifteen years; and Edna, aged thirteen years.


The business community of Cerro Gordo county as a valued acquisition in the person of Jacob E. Decker, who is the executive head of the well known corporation of Jacob E. Decker & Sons. This corporation succeeded to the business of the Mason City Packing Company, of which John T. Richards was president and which initiated the business about the year 1897, when operations were instituted upon a modest scale. The present plant was largely erected and equipped by the present owners, who have found it necessary to augment the facilities from time to time to meet the constantly increasing demands placed upon the establishment.  The plant now has a capacity for the handling of one thousand hogs daily, besides about fifty head of cattle and a relative number of sheep and calves.  The firm represents one of the most important industrial enterprises in Cerro Gordo county and it affords employment to an average of more than one hundred men in addition to the regular office force and corps of traveling representatives, of which latter the number is usually about twelve.  Branch houses are maintained in Minneapolis and Duluth, Minnesota .  In the earlier stages of the business its functions were confined to the slaughtering and handling of hogs only, but with the development of the facilities for the handling of cattle, sheep and calves, the enterprise has inured greatly to the benefit of the stock growers of this section, as well as to those engaged in the retail meat trade.  All of the buildings of the plant, as at present constructed, were erected by Jacob E. Decker and they afford an aggregate floor space of nearly 100,000 square feet.  The corporation is absolutely independent in its operations and its products are sold directly to retailers in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota and Montana, besides which carload shipments are made to nearly all of the large cities in the United States, with especially large trade in Texas .  The export business of the corporation is likewise expanding in scope.  The company manufactures the celebrated Elk brand of ham and bacon.  The officials of this important concern are as here noted : Jacob E. Decker, president; Jay E. Decker, vice president; Ralph W. E. Decker, secretary and treasurer; Edmund R. Dunlap, sales manager.

Jacob E. Decker, president of the corporation of Jacob E. Decker & Sons, was born at Neuweid, Prussia, on the 1st of April, 1849, and in 1852 he came with his parents on their removed to America .  He is a son of Louis and Ann (Boecking) Decker, the former of whom died in the city of Chicago, in 1899, at the patriarchal age of ninety-four years, and the latter of whom died at Buffalo, New York, when sixty-two years of age.  After coming to America, Louis Decker established his home in the city of Buffalo, New York, where he engaged in the pork-packing and butchering business, in which he there continued until his final retirement from active labor.  The enterprise which he established so many years ago is still continued by his son Albert.

Jacob E. Decker gained his early education in the public schools in the city of Buffalo, but he early assumed practical responsibilities, as he began to serve as a driver on the towpath of the Erie canal when but twelve years of age.  Shortly afterward he ran away from home and began sailing on the Great Lakes, while later he followed sea-faring life on the ocean for a time.  During the season of closed navigation of the Lakes, he worked in packing houses and in the connection he recalled with no slight pleasure the fact that when he was thus employed by the Swift & Company of Chicago, they did not handle to exceed two carloads of cattle a day and that he was with the Armour Company when that great concern considered the butchering of four hundred and eighty head of cattle in a single day a large output.  Mr. Decker continued to sail on the Great Lakes during the summer seasons for a period of seventeen years and through his identification with the packing houses in the winter seasons he obtained a thorough knowledge of all the details of the business.  In 1873 he initiated independent operation as a provision dealer in Chicago .  He also began the slaughter of hogs and increased the scope of his operation as his capital justified.  It should be recalled that he was superintendent of a packing house before he had attained his legal majority and in view of his occupation it is also interesting to recall that his ancestors on the maternal side largely followed the sea-faring life and that his father's family were long identified with the butchering and general meat business in Prussia.  Mr. Decker developed his plant in Chicago until it had a capacity for handling five hundred hogs and one hundred head of cattle daily.  He disposed of his interests in the business in 1897 and two years later he came to Mason City, Iowa, to establish a packing plant and thereby provide a business opportunity for his sons.  The outcome of this plan is shown in the extensive and important business controlled by the corporation of which he is president.  In 1907, at a convention of the organization held in the city of Chicago, Mr. Decker was made an honorary member of the American Meat Packers Association.  He is a staunch Republican in politics, has served as a member of the city council in Mason City from 1901 to 1905 inclusive, and in the office of water commissioner he gave the most effective service in rehabilitating the local water system.  He is essentially liberal and public spirited in his attitude and is held in unqualified esteem in the city that now represents his home.  He is affiliated with the Masonic fraternity, including the commandery in the city of Chicago, where he also holds membership in the Ancient Arabic Order of the Mystic Shrine.  He is also identified with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the Royal League.  His wife and daughters are members of the order of the Eastern Star and his sons and son-in-law are all identified with the Masonic fraternity.  Mrs. Decker and her daughters are members of the Methodist Episcopal church.

In the city of Chicago, on the 24th of September, 1873, Mr. Decker was united in marriage to Miss Augusta Schram, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin .  They have two sons and two daughters.  The two sons are officers of the corporation of the Jacob Decker & Sons, as already noted; Maude L. is the wife of Edmund R. Dunlap, sales manager of the company, and Miss Gertrude is a cultured musician and conservatory graduate and is now an instructor of voice culture and music at the Normal School at Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Spelling correction: 
The name of Edmund R. Dunlap, mentioned in the biography, is spelled incorrectly; the correct spelling of the name is Edmund R. Dunlop.
Submitted by Ann Dunlop, granddaughter of Edmund R. Dunlop

Owen T. Denison  

O. T.

There is no need for conjecture or uncertainty in determining as to the value and success of the life of the late Owen T. Denison, who died at his home in Mason City on the morning of Thursday, April 7, 1910, for he realized in most sinificant sense that true success is not that gained through commercial pre-eminence or personal aggrandizement, but rather that which lies in the eternal verities of human sympathy and helpfulness. It was given him to attain large success in connection with the material activities of life, and none but worthy means contributed to this success, above which he left the gracious heritage of noble thoughts and noble deeds. He was a man of broad intellectuality and viewed life and its responsibilities in their true proportions. He was not given to half views or rash inferences, but was a man of strength and judgment and lofty motives. He was essentially the foremost citizen of Mason City and none has done as much to further the development and upbuilding of the city and of Cerro Gordo county along civic, industrial and commercial lines. Measured by its beneficence, its rectitude, it productiveness and its insistent altruism, his life counted for much in the city and county that so long represented his home, and it is most consonant that in this publication be paid a tribute of honor to one so worthy of confidence and esteem that were uniformly accorded him. His death was the result of an attack of pneumonia, and a pathetic and yet consistent incident in connection with his passing to the "land o' the leal'' was that his cherished and devoted wife, overpowered by her grief and loss, survived him by only a few hours, so that in death they were not divided.

Owen T. Denison was born at Brookfield, Madison county, New York, on the 28th of August, 1847, and was a son of Tracy and Mary (Randall) Denison, both of whom were likewise natives of Madison county, New York, where their marriage was solemnized on the 31st of January, 1836. The family finally moved to Clarksville, Albany county, New York, where they remained until 1857, when they emigrated to the west and settled as pioneers in Eau Claire county, Wisconsin, where the father secured a tract of government land and reclaimed a farm from the wilderness. There he continued to reside until his death, which occurred on the 25th of June, 1877. In 1881 his widow removed to Mason City, Iowa, to be near her children and other relatives, and here her death occurred on the 16th of February, 1884. She was a sister of Elisha Randall, one of the honored and influential pioneers of Cerro Gordo county and one to whom a special memoir is dedicated on other pages of this publication.

Owen T. Denison gained his rudimentary education in the common schools of his native state and was a lad of about ten years at the time of the family removal to Wisconsin, where he was reared to maturity under the sturdy discipline of the pioneer farm and where he availed himself of such educational advantages as were afforded in the locality and period. His was a mind particularly alert and receptive and in the broad school of experience and through wide reading and study in a private way he effectively supplemented his early training, thus becoming a man of strong intellectuality and broad and exact information.

In 1867, when but twenty years of age, Mr. Denison came to Cerro Gordo county, Iowa, and cast his lot with others of its sterling pioneers. He established his home in Mason City, and here he continued to reside until the close of his long and useful life. In offering an estimate of his life and labors no more consistent expression can be given than to perpetuate the statements mad at the time of his demise by those familiar with his career, and thus the following extracts are made, with slight elimination and paraphrase, from an appreciative tribute paid by Hon. John Cliggitt, of Mason City, a lifetime acquaintance and friend.

"Owen T. Denison is dead. The people of Cerro Gordo county and many others throughout the state mourn his loss. From the time of his first residence here he took a serious and practical interest and was very prominent in all that related to the growth, improvement and advancement of Mason City and Cerro Gordo county. In official capacity her served the county as deputy recorder in 1869-70 and from January, 1871 to January 1876, as recorder. From March, 1881, to March, 1882, he served as a member of the city council, and from March, 1885, to March, 1887, he was mayor of the city, and later he was a member of the board of county supervisors. These represent his share in the official life of the city and county. In all these positions he was active, diligent and faithful in discharge of the trust reposed in him-with him official station was not merely a matter of convenience, advantage or source of gain to the official, but a place of trust, requiring intelligent, faithful, honest and diligent attention to public duty. No man has held office in the city or county who had a higher or more exalted conception of the obligation and responsibility of the public official than he had, and no one has more seriously put into active practice those ideals of duty than he did in all the official positions he held. The most important public improvement that has yet been accomplished in Mason City was the construction of our fine system of waterworks. During the 1885, the first year of his term as mayor, the waterworks system became a successfully accomplished fact. During the entire time of the construction of these works Mr. Denison faithfully devoted his time and his intelligent and active energies in bringing the work to a successful conclusion. In conjunction with this work he brought together a company of active young men, who under the inspiration of his zeal and interest in the public welfare, organized themselves in a volunteer fire company, and in honor of and as a compliment to the mayor the organization was named the Denison Hose Company. It continued to serve as a fire company until the recent organization of a regularly paid fire department. All of Mr. Denison's services as councilman and as mayor, including his many days and nights of thought, study and labor in the const[r]uction of the waterworks, were done without pay or financial reward. The construction of the waterworks involved and expenditure of about forty thousand dollars, and to use this money to the best public advantage required much knowledge of materials and their value, and of the theory and practice of water systems and their construction, and he possessed himself of the necessary information. The public money was in this instance economically expended with the greatest resulting benefits reaching down to the present time.

"But while not so well know, Mr. Denison's thought, studies and labors as an enterprising, active citizen in private life have resulted in great advantage and benefit tot he people of this city and county. Very much of the improvement and advancement that have been made in agricultural, manufacturing and educational lines have been due to his zeal, energy and industrial activity in inspiring, encouraging and supporting them.

"For many years he was engaged in the banking business. In the winter of 1884-5 he went with a number of workmen to the quarries north of town and got out the stone of which the city bank building was constructed and personally superintended the construction of the building from the beginning to the completion thereof. While engaged in the banking business, he superintended the construction and operation of a creamery. He operated a farm on which he erected and put into use a silo.

"He had from early days studied the subject of grasses suitable for the locality and urged the sowing of clover and bluegrass in order to increase and improved the pastorage and feeding capacity of much of our fertile land that seemed to be neglected, or not turned to so profitable use as it might be. In later years he has been active and energetic in encouraging and promoting improvements in crop raising, and as necessary, thereto the matter of drainage, giving premiums to help stimulate the activity and ambitions of the younger generation of farmers to better and more careful and advanced methods. He had great interest in the matter of drainage, both of farm lands and of our public roads. In all this he was more concerned for the general public welfare that must result from such improvements than for any personal interest or gain that might result to him as a manufacturer of drainage material. He had studied very thoroughly the geological structure of northern Iowa and analyzed the soil, clay and rock formations of the country and so became familiar with their properties and learned their industrial value and the practical and profitable uses which they might be made to serve. He learned that brick and tile might be manufactured to an advantage here and an industry organized and carried on that would furnish employment to many workmen and much to the general prosperity of the city, and as the result of his foresight and enterprise we have the present prosperous Mason City Brick and Tile Factory and three others in which he was very largely interested. All of these works were constructed and their machinery purchased and installed under his immediate care and supervision. These works were the inspiration of and pointed the way for others to engage in the manufacture of brick and tile, with the result that several of these factories beside those with which Mr. Denison was connected are now in successful operation and Mason City now holds prestige as being the largest manufacturing center of these products in the entire world. To Mr. Denison belongs the credit of being the pioneer in establishing this important industry in Cerro Gordo county.

"Several years ago Mr. Denison studied and experimented with our rock and sand formations and found that they were suitable for the manufacture of high grade cement. He had so informed many of our people and had given prominence to the fact through newspapers and other vehicles of public information. His work along this line had very much to do in starting the movement which finally resulted in our large cement plant.

"He believed in a system of education that will make good, upright, useful and accomplished men and women of the boys and girls of the present and coming generations, and so had great faith and interest in our common schools for the poor children of the land well as for those of the rich. He believed in higher education and culture, but as the common schools are and will be the limit of opportunity for the large majority of children, he desired and used his influence so afar as he could to have provided in them courses of instruction in some of the works and arts that make up so much of the means of livelihood and add so much to the support and comfort of the people. He was interested in manual training and looked to it as a great means of developing the talents that often lie dormant in the young, but which, with some early stimulous, may be made to work out very useful and beneficial results. He encouraged and, so far as he could, aided all business, educational and charitable enterprises and was liberal in contributions to promote and sustain them. The Memorial University, the public library, all of our churches, have been liberally aided by him. In the cement and other public buildings or enterprises he was a liberal investor and in a business and financial way his life has been a great success."

Concerning Mr. Denison, Col. James H. McConologue, of Mason City, gave an estimate of his character, from which the following quotations are made : "Of all the noble characters who have had hand in shaping the destinies of Mason City from its earliest days no one has left his individual efforts, along moral and industrial lines, so permanently attached to the life of the city as Mr. Denison. Possessing a mind intensely active and well balanced by an exceptional judgment he forged his way, in an early day, through the unknown realms of industrial efforts and emerged from the darkness and unknown results into the broad sunlight of phenomenal success. Mr. Denison was possessed with a genius of a high order. In every problem he took up he sought the underlying philosophy and by indefatigable effort and energy he brushed aside the mists and haze that surround great problems and found the kernel and meat of such questions, after which he successfully worked out a solution. Not only was he great in the accomplishing of industrial and business enterprises but he was a leader in the moral affairs that make up our social life. He loved sobriety, he loved honesty, he loved purity in the home and individual life and all of these manfully practiced during his whole career. A dominant trait of his character was the beautiful virtue of charity; and his was the purest charity. It sought not the limelight, it never paraded gaudily to receive applause and commendation, but quietly, innocently and timidly, the angel of Mr. Denison's charity went to all, aiding and assisting where it could encouraging by good advice and often materially aiding wherever it was possible so to do. The years to come will bring to light the great good that was done along those lines by this great citizen of Mason City. He loved his fellow men of every creed and of every opinion and was glad when the individual advanced along the road of prosperity to the goal of well doing and well being.He was without ostentation or parade and was religious in thought, purpose and mode of living. In many ways of often and at different places he gave liberally to the aid of persons in distress or trouble. No one will every know how much he has done in this way because his many acts of kindness and beneficence were done quietly and privately."

In politics Mr. Denison gave his support in a generic way to the Republican party but in this, as in all other relations of life, he maintained an independent attitude and never lacked the courage of his convictions, giving his support to all men and measures meeting the approval of his judgment. He was a member of the Congregational church, as was also his devoted wife, and signal purity and fidelity characterized his life in all it relations. His devotion to principle was inflexible and better than this cannot be said of any man. It has become a trite saying to pronounce the death of a prominent citizen an irreparable loss to the community, but there is no impropriety in the utilizing of the expression in connection with this honored citizen of Cerro Gordo county, for the people of the community have given definite recognition of their appreciation of the fact.

The home life of Mr. Denison was ideal in character and in review of this order there can be no desire to lift the gracious veil that guarded the sacred precincts of the home. It has been noted that Mr. Denison died on the morning of April 7, 1910, and on the following Saturday night his wife likewise passed to the eternal life. She had been in precarious health for some time and her extreme grief over the death of her husband undoubtedly caused he death. On the 19th of December, 1871, at Waterford, Wisconsin, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Denison to Miss Orpha A. Willard, who was born in that place on the 24th of April 1848, and was a daughter of George and Mary (Ransome) Willard, who later established their home in Mason City, Iowa, where they passed the residue of their lives. Mr. and Mrs. Denison became the parents of three children : Mary, who is now the wife of Frederick E. Keeler, of Mason City; Lynn W., who is associated with his brother-in-law in the continuing of the various enterprises with which his father had been identified; and Willard, who died in infancy. Mr. Denison is also survived by three sisters, all of whom reside in Mason City-Mrs. Selah Allen, Mrs. Ella Stevens and Miss Libby Denison. Concerning Mrs. Denison the following statements are taken from the Mason City "Globe-Gazette", of April 11, 1910.

"Broken like a frail flower in the face of the storm of grief which came to her in the death of her husband but a few hours before, Mrs. Owen T. Denison pas[s]ed away at 11:15 o'clock Saturday night, after lingering since the first physical collapse when she saw the lines of death stamped upon the beloved face whose heart's devotion for a lifetime had been hers. "At no time in its history has Mason City been so stirred up as at this time. Sorrow struck deep when its foremost citizen was called, but today it comes with a force with all the proportions of a tragedy when the wife, whose share in the life work of Owen Denison counted for so much, passed beyond. Though the disease had made its inroads, of late the chances were for complete recovery and a long lease of life, till cruel disease struck down her husband; but from the first moment that hope fled the hope of living became nothing. 'A broken heart,' said the physicians and attendants, 'did its work.' "Distinctively a lover of the home-life, Mrs. Denison had a heart full of sympathy and love for others, and scores of friends, who knew her best and have been close to her in life, tell of the kindly ministry to the sick and unfortunate in scores of Mason City homes. Whatever is due to the memory of O. T. Denison as a man whose sympathies were broader than the daily routine of business [l]ife, is as much due to his wife, for her charities were sweet and were just as manifold and came with the tenderness of a loving woman.

"Their home was an ideal one. Love abounded, was nurtured and grew strong from the beginning. Married after a romantic courtship, their hearts were happily linked with a bond of mutual sympathy that went outside the four walls of their home. Through a mutual friend their first acquaintance was through a letter written by the husband, then a young man and a county official. This first letter resulted in a correspondence, later a visit to her home in Wisconsin and finally their marriage. With every recurrence of that date a wedding journey has been taken that years only increased in pleasures. The tie which was cemented by years of devotion could not remain broken long without being reunited."


The subject of this review took up his residence in Cerro Gordo county in the pioneer days and was prominently identified with the civic and material development and progress of this section of the state, so that he is well entitled to consideration in this publication.  Though he now maintains his residence in the city of Des Moines, where he is president of the Iowa State Mutual Tornado Insurance Company, to whose executive affairs he is now giving virtually his undivided attention, he long held a position of prominence and influence in Cerro Gordo county, where he is remembered with all of confidence and esteem by those with whom he was associated and by all familiar with his earnest and productive career.

Mr. Densmore was born at Riga, New York, on the 19th of September, 1829, and is a son of Orrin and Elizabeth (Fowler) Densmore. The Densmore family was founded in America in the early Colonial epoch and the records indicate that in 1720 representatives of the name established their home in the state of Maine, whither they came from county Antrim, Ireland to which section the family had immigrated from Scotland .  John Densmore was the founder of the family in America and from the old pine-tree state his descendents later located in New Hampshire, New York, and other sections of the Union .  Daniel Densmore, grandfather of the subject of this review, moved from New Hampshire to the state of New York, where he passed the remainder of his life.  When sixteen years of age the Hon. Norman Densmore, to whom this sketch is dedicated, moved to the state of Wisconsin and he made the major part of the journey with a team and wagon.  By attending Beloit College of that state he effectually rounded out his earlier educational discipline. He achieved prominence as a surveyor and ran a line for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad out of Chicago .  He then turned his attention to agricultural pursuits, with which he continued to be identified at Rock county, Wisconsin, until 1877, when he removed with his family to Cerro Gordo county, Iowa, and secured a tract of land in Bath township, where he reclaimed a productive farm and became one the representative agriculturists of this section of the state.  He accumulated a landed estate of about two hundred and twenty acres and he continued to reside upon this fine homestead until 1891, when he removed to Mason City .  Here he became an interested principal in the Cerro Gordo County Farmer's Mutual Insurance Company, of which he was secretary in 1905, when he removed to Des Moines, where he has since been incumbent of the office of president of the Iowa State Mutual Tornado Insurance Company.  While still residing on his farm, Mr. Densmore represented Cerro Gordo county in the state legislature for two terms.  He was one of the prime factors in the organization of the Farmer's Co-operative Association of Rockwell, Cerro Gordo county, and served as its president for about a decade, and he was otherwise influential in public affairs.  In politics he a stanch adherent of the Republican party and he attends the Congregational church, of which his devoted wife was a member.  She died in Mason City in 1898, at the age of sixty-five years.

In the year 1854, in the city of Chicago, Mr. Densmore was united in marriage to Miss Delia Webster, of Palestine, Illinois .  She was left an orphan at an early age and was reared and educated in Illinois .  Concerning the five children of this family the following brief data are incorporated : Ellis, who died at the age of thirty-one years, at Bingham, Alabama, was at the time identified with one of the leading iron manufacturing concerns of that state; Elsie is the wife of A. E. Joiner of St. Paul, Minnesota; Ray is an employe of the American Bridge Company of Chicago; Dr. Ora of Mason City is individually mentioned in this work; and Webb is a senior lieutenant in the United States navy, being now assigned to recruiting duty with headquarters at Cedar Rapids and with a branch office at Mason City.  He was graduated as an electrical engineer in Highland Park College and for several years thereafter held a position in the shops of the Pullman Car Company, but has been a member of the United States navy since 1897.


It is a matter of no slight significance to have achieved success in so exacting and so representative a profession as that of the physician and surgeon, and thus it is gratifying to the publishers of this work to be able to incorporate within its pages special mention of those who stand essentially prominent in the medical profession of Cerro Gordo county.  Among this number is Dr. Densmore, who is engaged in the successful practice of his profession in Mason City and who, in addition to thorough training the regular lines of medicine and surgery, is also a graduate in osteopathy.  He has a finely appointed suite of offices in the Commercial block and has been engaged in the work of his profession in Mason City since 1904.  He is a son of Hon. Norman Densmore, concerning whom more definite mention is made elsewhere in this volume.

Dr. Densmore was born at Emerald Grove, Wisconsin, on the 13th of September, 1872, and in 1877, when he was five years of age, his parents moved to Cerro Gordo county, where he was reared to maturity and where his early educational advantages were those afforded in the public schools, after leaving which he completed a commercial course under the direction of Professor C. P. Headington of Mason City.  He then entered Highland Park College, at Des Moines, Iowa, where he completed the scientific course and was graduated as a member of the class of 1895, with the degree of Bachelor of Science.  Soon afterward he went to Kirksville, Missouri, the headquarters of the osteopathic cult and there entered the well-equipped college of this school of practice, in which he was graduated in 1898 and from which he received the degree of Doctor of Osteopathy.  In 1901 he was graduated in the National Medical College, in the city of Chicago, from which he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine.  After leaving this institution he was for two years a member of the faculty of the school of osteopathy at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania .  The Doctor has been very successful in the work of his chosen profession, especially in the field of osteopathic work.  He is secretary of the Fourth District Association of Osteopathic Physicians and is one of the leading representatives of this effective school of practice in northern Iowa .  In politics he is a stanch Republican.  He is affiliated with the Mason City organization of Homestead No. 162, Brotherhood of American Yeomen, in which fraternity his is treasurer of the Iowa state conclave.  His wife is a member of the Congregational church.

On the 21st of December, 1901, Dr. Densmore was united in marriage to Miss Ella Perry of Storm Lake, Iowa, where she held for several years a position in the First National Bank.  Dr. and Mrs. Densmore have one daughter, Claire, who was born on the 25th of June, 1903.

Daniel Dougherty

It is a conservative statement to say that no one is more closely and prominently identified with the history of Dougherty township, Cerro Gordo county, than is Daniel Dougherty, pioneer and retired farmer now residing in the town of Dougherty. When it is known that he was the first permanent settler within this tract of the county it will be easy to see how Dougherty township received its name. During the early days he was the best posted man concerning land in the southern part of the county. He acted as land agent for years and was instrumental in getting many settlers to take up land here. He employed no half-way methods, and to secure the first family to locate in the township he went one hundred miles to Clayton county and moved them. He brought a great many people from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and often helped them to get started after they came. Daniel Dougherty is a self-made man, and his interesting life should be an inspiration to every youth whose ambitions to get on in the world are not matched by his worldly fortunes. As he graphically puts it, he landed on American shores with nothing but a pair of hands, good health, and the determination to win. And he has succeeded in every way. Before he partially divided with his sons he owned all of section 36. He enjoys the consideration of his fellow citizens and he has held various offices.

Daniel Dougherty was born in county Donegal, Ireland, February 18, 1829. He is the son of Hugh and Mary (Maloy) Dougherty. His father died in his native land, but in 1884, when Mr. Dougherty was in Ireland on a visit, he persuaded his aged mother to return with him and she made her home with him until her death. There were eight children, two of whom are living. Mr. Dougherty and James also a resident of Dougherty township [sic]. The subject of the biography was reared on a farm in the Emerald Isle and received only a meagre education. Although circumstances were adverse the spark of ambition burned in his breast in 1851 he severed home ties and came to the United States, landing at Philadelphia after a voyage which had been of six weeks and three days duration. He probably did not foresee even in his wildest flights of imagination that when he went back on a visit in 1884 he would make the voyage in six days. For a short time after arriving Mr. Dougherty made his livelihood by working in a foundry, and in 1853 he moved to Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, and found employment in the iron works at that place. In 1856 he came to Decorah, Iowa, where the United States land office was located, and surveyed the northern tier of counties to Hancock and southeast to Cerro Gordo county and located one hundred and sixty acres in section 36, in what is now Dougherty township. He returned to Decorah and entered it and then went back to Montgomery, Pennsylvania, where he resumed his old work. In the fall of 1858 he returned to Clayton county, Iowa, where he farmed while there he was elected county supervisor and served two terms.

In the spring of 1863 Mr. Dougherty took up his residence upon his own farm in Cerro Gordo county. He began at once upon the work of improving the wild land and put up a log house, in which he lived until 1869. In the latter year he erected a frame house, hauling the lumber from Charles City. He prospered steadily and as said before at one time owned all of section 36. Although he had been warned that apples could not be raised in Iowa, in 1872 he set out an orchard of one thousand trees and has demonstrated that this lucious fruit can be raised here, for he has sold from twelve hundred to thirteen hundred dollars worth of apples in a season. He has also been successful in the raising and feeding of stock.

Mr. Dougherty brought all his influence to bear to have a railroad built through the township and when the Chicago & North Western came through he sold the company the town site for a mere song. The first school house was built in 1864 near Mr. Dougherty's old homestead and in 1869 was moved to its present location. All his life Mr. Dougherty has held aloft the Democratic standard and has taken an active interest in the affairs of township and county. He has held numerous offices, and upon the corporation of Dougherty as a town he was elected mayor and served in this capacity for two terms. From 1868 to 1871 he was a member of the county board of supervisors, was school director for twenty-five years, justice of the peace for an extended period and served at different times as township trustee and assessor. He takes great interest in the affairs and projects of the Rockwell and Dougherty Farmers' Co-operative Society. He is affiliated with the Knights of Columbus in the organization at Mason City, and he and his family are faithful members of St. Patrick's Catholic church.

Mr. Dougherty was married in Ireland May 9, 1848, to Miss Mary Gallagher, born March 29, 1829, (as her husband puts it) "just across the fence from him." About three years later they came to America. They have outdone even the usual pioneer record in the matter of large families, their union having been blessed by the birth of sixteen children. They are: Hugh, living in North Dakota; Margaret, who died in infancy; Charles, who makes his home in Dougherty; as do the four following, Patrick, Daniel J., James and Bernard; Edward J., pastor of the Holy Family church in Mason City; William and William, both of whom died in infancy; Joseph and John, who live at home; Mary, wire [sic] of John H. Wade, of Des Moines; Margaret, at home; Annie, deceased; and Theresa, at home.

In 1898 Mr. Dougherty purchased eighty acres of land near Rockwell, and here built a home and moved to it, this step being made for the benefit of the younger children that they might be nearer the Rockwell schools. In 1902 he removed to his home in Dougherty, where he now resides and enjoys the blessings of a fine old age.

Daniel J. Dougherty

Daniel J. Dougherty, son and namesake of the stalwart Iowa pioneer, Daniel Dougherty, is one of the county's progressive agriculturists, owning a well improved farm of three hundred and sixty acres located in section 36 of the township which bears the family name. He was born in Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, May 3, 1858, and was a lad five years of age when his parents came to Cerro Gordo county. Here he grew to manhood and received a good graded school education. He remained at home until his marriage in 1896, assisting in the affairs of his father's estate and he also engaged in the cultivation of land of his own which he had purchased when about twenty years of age. His home is situated upon a farm of two hundred and forty acres, all of which he as improved himself, and the place is very modern and attractive. He owns a hundred and twenty acres elsewhere and engages in general farming and the raising and feeding of cattle and hogs.

Daniel Dougherty like his father, gives and unfaltering support to the Democratic party. He has served as school director and has been secretary of the school board to twenty-five years. At the present day he holds the office of township trustee. He is a progressive agriculturist and belongs to the Farmers' Co-operative Society of Dougherty. He and his family are communicants of St. Patrick's Catholic church.

On September 23, 1896, Mr. Dougherty took as his wife Miss Mary M. Mullen, born in Franklin county, Iowa, February 28, 1872. A fine family of six children is growing to young manhood and womanhood beneath the home roof. They are by names, Cecelia, John L., Lewella, Robert, Edward and Daniel J. Mr. Dougherty's parents were Robert and Ellen (Monoghan) Mullen, the former born in Stephenson county, Illinois, August 13, 1841 and the latter in Ireland in 1846. Their marriage date was February 20, 1870.

Mrs. Dougherty is the eldest in a family of eight children, the other being, Ellen, wife of Barney Dougherty of Dougherty township; John, residing in Dougherty; Margaret, wife of Michael McGee, a resident of Floyd county, Iowa; Walter living in Aredale, Iowa; Sarah, at home; Charles, living in Kentucky; and Daniel, at home. In 1845 Mr. Mullen came to Green county, Wisconsin, two yoke of oxen constituting the means of transporation [sic]. He was educated in the graded schools and left home in 1869, coming to Franklin county, Iowa. He purchased one hundred and sixty acres of wild land, and not being in the least afraid of hard work soon had it in a productive condition. He is a man of high executive ability and a farmer who recognizes the value of employing scientific methods and he has come to be one of the large land owners of Cerro Gordo county, where he owns nine hundred and twenty acres. He also possesses one hundred and sixty acres in Bullen county and one hundred and sixty acres in Floyd county. In 1892 Mr. Mullen retired and came to reside in Dougherty. He is vice president of the First National Bank and devotes much his time to looking after his land.