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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.    

Absalom H. Gale 

A scion of one the honored pioneer families of Iowa, it has been given Mr. Gale to achieve prominence and influence as one of the representative business men and influential citizens of Cerro Gordo county, where he is now vice president of the City National Bank of Mason City and where he ahs other important capitalistic interests. He has been a valued factor in public affairs in his city and county and is a former member of the Iowa state senate, in which he made an admirable record.

Absalom H. Gale was born at Iowa Falls, Hardin county, Iowa, on the 28th of February, 1863, and is a son of Thomas K. and Ann (Attwool) Gale, both of whom were born and reared in England where their marriage was solemnized. They had maintained their home at Portland, England, for some time prior to their removal to America, and they took up their residence in Iowa Falls, Iowa, in 1858. Thomas K. Gale was a mason contractor and in England had been associated with his brother in the handling of large and important contracts of this order. They constructed the fine break water in the harbor of Portland, England, and the brother had charge of the building of a portion of the extensive breakwater constructed by the British government on the Nile, in Egypt. Thomas K. Gale became one of the leading contractors in the line of mason work in Iowa, where he erected a large number of public buildings, including the old court house at Hampton, Franklin county. In 1870 he removed with his family to Mason City, where both he and his wife passed the residue of their lives. He constructed the bridge of the Iowa Central Railroad and he also carried to successful completion many other important contracts here and in other sections of the state. He was a man of fine business and technical ability and his sterling integrity in all the relations of life gained to him the implicit confidence and high regard of all with whom he came in contact. He was a stanch adherent of the Republican party and both he and his wife were devout and zealous members of the Methodist Episcopal church. In the church of this denomination in Mason City he held the office of class leader for a period of about thirty two years. Here he died in 1905, at the venerable age of seventy-four years, and his cherished and devoted wife attained to the same age ; she was summoned to the life eternal in 1907. Concerning their children the following brief data are entered : Jennie is the widow of James Rule of Mason City, of whom mention is made on other pages of this volume ; Harriet became the wife of M. M. Bradley and she died in this city in 1909 ; Absalom H., subject of this review, was the next in order of birth ; George is a resident of Mason City ; Rev. Thomas K. is a member of the clergy of the Methodist Episcopal church and is resident of the city of Chicago at the time of this writing, in 1910 ; and B. A. is engaged in looking after rentals, buildings, etc., for his brother A. H., to whom this sketch is dedicated.

A. H. Gale was a lad of about five years at the time of the family removal from Iowa Falls to Mason City, and here he was duly accorded the advantages of the excellent public schools, after leaving which he entered the University of Iowa at Iowa City, where he completed the course in civil engineering and was duly graduated. For the ensuing two years he devoted his attention to his profession in the employ of the Union Pacific Railroad Company, and in this connection he had charge of the erection of the fine union passenger station at Ogden, Utah. After severing his connection with the railroad company he returned to Mason City, and here, in 1886, he assumed a clerical position in the City Bank, which was later reorganized as the City National Bank and which is one of the substantial and popular financial institutions of this part of the state. He has been consecutively identified with the affairs of this bank and has been its vice-president since 1905. Mr. Gale is also an interested principal in corporations engaged in the lime and cement business in Mason City, and is the owner of a large amount of valuable realty in this city and also in other parts of the county. He is one of the broadminded, progressive and loyal citizens of the county and is ever ready to extend his influence and co-operation in the furtherance of all measures tending to advance the material and civic prosperity of the community.

In politics Mr. Gale is found arrayed as a stalwart in the camp of the Republican party, and he has been active as a worker in its cause. He has held the offices of city clerk and treasurer of the board of education, and in 1904 he was elected to represent his district in the state senate, in which he was a valued work during four sessions and in which he was influential in the deliberations of the body and those of the committee room. He is affiliated with the local organizations of the Masonic fraternity, Knights of Pythias, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Modern Woodmen of America and Modern Brotherhood of America, in which last organization he has been supreme treasurer of the Iowa state body since 1903. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, as was also his wife.

On the 8th of October, 1893, Mr. Gale was united in marriage to Miss Mabel Emsley, who was born and reared at Mason City, Iowa, and who was a daughter of the late Thomas G. Emsley, an honored and influential citizen of Mason City at the time of his death. His biography is found on another page of this work. Mrs. Gale was summoned to the life eternal of the 26th of July, 1904 and is survived by one son, Cecil, who was born in the 21st of July, 1895.

Robert Gibson, a retired farmer and dealer in poultry and cream, is a valued citizen of Rockwell and of Cerro Gordo county, where he has lived since 1875.  He is a Civil war veteran and belonging as he did to the Army of the Potomac, saw some of the hardest service. He was born in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, June 2, 1844, but he is Irish in extraction, both of his parents being natives of the Emerald Isle.  Their names were Alexander and Jane (Hammond) Gibson.  They came to the United States about 1838, bringing with them three children and the father, who was a farmer, almost at once took his family to a farm in Pennsylvania, where he and his wife lived during the remainder of their lives, he dying in 1872 and she, in 1869.  Mr. Gibson was the sixth of seven children, four of the family having been born after the emigration to America.  Of these Mrs. Margaret McDowell lives in Pennsylvania; George came to Iowa at the time of the war, settled in Bath township, Cerro Gordo county in 1875, and died in Rockwell in 1906, having retired some time previously; Joseph died at St. John while the family were en route to the United States; Mrs. Maria Austraw died in Pennsylvania, as did William H., the fifth member; the youngest child is Alexander D., who lives in Hansell, Franklin county, Iowa.
Robert Gibson received his education in the public schools of Pennsylvania and gave of his youthful energies to the labor on his father's farm.  On May 28, 1863, he enlisted for three months in the Pennsylvania state troop, which was stationed for a time around Pittsburg and then sent to Ohio in pursuit of raiders.  On February 24, 1864, he enlisted in Company D, Fourth Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry, the regiment being sent to Virginia and being incorporated in the army of the Potomac.  Mr. Gibson saw much fighting, at the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Spottsylvania, and Petersburg, not to mention many skirmishes and smaller engagements. While upon a scouting expedition in search of Mosby's Guerillas he was wounded in the left side and the right shoulder, (March 13, 1865).  He was sent first to the field hospital, then to City Point, Virginia, then to Washington, and was finally transferred to Philadelphia.  He rejoined the regiment at Lynchburg, Virginia, in the latter part of May, 1865.  There on the 2d of July he was mustered out and was discharged at Pittsburg July 13.
Upon his return to civil life Mr. Gibson engaged in farming and teaming.  He was married in 1867 and in 1869 moved to LaMoile, Bureau county, Illinois, where he rented land and devoted his energies to farming.  In 1872 he came to Franklin county, Iowa, and bought eighty acres of wild prairie.  He broke about half of this and built a house and there lived until 1875, when he came to Cerro Gordo county. He located in Bath township and bought land, ultimately coming to possess three hundred and twenty acres. Only the first eighty acres was wild land.  A frame house and barns were constructed and here Mr. Gibson made his home until 1895, when he came to Rockwell.  He kept one hundred and sixty acres of his holdings, giving his son eighty acres and selling him the same amount.  He bought a home in Rockwell with the intention of making it his permanent home, an intention which he has carried out.  For two years he conducted a meat market and has since dealt in poultry, eggs, cream and stock.  Latterly he confines himself to cream and poultry. He has Republican convictions and has served as a member of the school board in Bath township and Rockwell.  He has several fraternal associations, his membership extending to the G. A. R., the I. O. O. F. and the Mystic Toilers.  He and his wife belong to the Methodist church.
Miss Susan M. McDowell became the wife of Mr. Gibson January 9, 1867.  She is a native of Pennsylvania, as were her parents, Bar and Martha (Austraw) McDowell, the father being born on the old homestead where the grandfather also had his nativity.  Mr. and Mrs. McDowell lived upon this ancestral place for many years, the mother dying there in 1880 and the father remaining until 1895, since which time he has lived with Mr. and Mrs. Gibson, being now ninety years of age.  Robert Gibson and his wife are the parents of nine children:  William D. is a stock buyer; Bar died at the age of one year; Robert Elmer died at nineteen; Myrtie is the wife of C. R. Saylor; Gertrude is the wife of A. L. Saylor; Winnie married Frank Johnson; Hattie died in infancy; Jennie is the wife of Leo Zeidler; and Lu is a teacher at Rockwell.

Warner Gildner

Warner Gildner, who for twenty-five years has carried on his present farm on section 14, Falls township, Cerro Gordo county, Iowa, was born in upper Canada January 8, 1861. He is a son of Henry and Annie (Moch) Gildner, both born in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, in September, 1819. The father died July 7, 1896, and the mother in April, 1895. They were married in Germany and in 1846 emigrated to Canada. They were parents of five children, three of whom are living, namely : Henry, of Nora Springs, Iowa ; Elizabeth, wife of John Festel, of Nora Springs ; and Warner.

In Germany Henry Gildner was a brewer and distiller, but on locating in Canada took up farming, which he continued there until 1866, then moved to Falls township and purchased eighty acres in section 14, then wild land. He improved the land, erected buildings and lived on it until he retired from active life. At the time of his arrival in Canada, after having spent eleven weeks on the trip, he had almost nothing, but died a successful and well-to-do man.

Warner Gildner was a small child when his parents located in Cerro Gordo county, where he grew up and attended district schools. After his marriage he began farming for himself in section 24, on rented land, but in the spring of 1885 he purchased his present farm, which was at that time unimproved. He carried on this place in connection with the farm he rented until December 1896, then erected a house and settled in it. He has brought about all the improvements and now has a fine farm, with modern equipment and appliances, and the trees it contains were planted by him. He now owns four hundred and twenty acres of land in Falls township, three hundred acres of which he cultivates. He is prominent in local affairs and for fourteen years has held the office of township trustee. He is a member of the Baptist church at Nora Springs and in politics is a Republican. He stands high in the estimation of his fellows and has a large circle of warm personal friends.

On September 27, 1885, Mr. Gildner married Catherine Brunner, a native of Ontario, Canada, born January 30, 1860, daughter of Jacob and Dorothea (Walker) Brunner. [T]he father born in Germany, March 9, 1831, died October 25, 1905, and the mother, also born in Germany, July 7, 1838, is now residing in Los Angeles, California. They were parents of fifteen children, of whom fourteen are now living. Mrs. Brunner was brought to Canada in 1834, when three years of age. His wife was eight years old when she was brought to the United State, and after spending one year in New York the moved to Canada, where she grew up and married. Mr. Brunner followed farming in Canada and in 1872 located in Floyd county, Iowa. In 1889 he retired from active life and located in Marble Rock, Iowa, where he died, and his widow removed to California in 1908.

Three children have been born to Mr. Gildner and his wife, namely: Elmer J., at home ; Frank H., of Mason City, and Cleo H., at home.

William E. Gildner 

Throughout northern Iowa the name of Gildner is synonymous with thrift, enterprise and prosperity, and standing in the front rank among the leading merchants of this part of this commonwealth is the firm of Gildner Brothers, who have mercantile establishments in Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Jones, Delaware, Hancock and Taylor counties. William E. Gildner was born in Cerro Gordo county, Iowa, January 6, 1877. His parents, Henry and Mary (Brunner) Gildner, natives of Canada, were reared and married in the United States. Settling in Cerro Gordo county, Iowa, in 1876, they resided here until 1903, when they located at their present home in Nora Springs. They are the parents of five children as follows : William E., the subject of this sketch ; John H., of Anamosa, Iowa ; Edward E., of Manchester, Iowa ; Alfred J., of Nora Springs ; and Lucy, living at home. William E. Gildner was brought up on a farm, and after leaving the district school took a commercial course at the Nora Springs Academy. Beginning life for himself in 1897, he became clerk in a clothing store at Nora Springs. At the end of six months, having made himself familiar with the details of the business, he bought a half interest in the establishment, for two years being junior member of the firm of Mitchell & Gildner. In 1902 he purchased his partner's interest in the business, and soon afterward removed to Manchester, Iowa, where he established another clothing store. He has since, in partnership with his brothers, all of them business men of ability, established clothing stores in various places, under the firm name of Gildner Brothers, their stores being located in Nora Springs, Manchester, Anamosa, Mason City, Charles City, Bedford and Garner. Mr. Gildner established his present store at Mason City in 1907, and has here built up an extensive and lucrative trade.

Mr. Gildner is emphatically a self-made man. He started in life with barely a hundred dollars of his own, received but eighteen dollars a month wages as a clerk, and when he purchased a half interest in the Nora Springs store was forced to borrow two thousand dollars. The Mason City store alone carries a stock valued at thirty thousand dollars, while the Gildner stores as a whole represent and investment of one hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars.

Mr. Gildner married, October 6, 1903, Anna Buckman, who was born at Nora Springs, Floyd county, Iowa, April 4, 1878, and they have one child, Eleanor C. Mr. and Mrs. Gildner are members of the Methodist Episcopal church. Mrs. Gildner belongs to the Rathbone Sisters, and Mr. Gildner is a member of the Ancient and Free and Accepted Order of Masons, and Knights of Pythias. Politically he is a Republican.


William Gray, postmaster of Clear Lake and who for the past fifteen years has been a prominent citizen of the place, was born near Glasgow , Scotland , June 24, 1856 .  His parents, Thomas and Agnes (Fraser) Gray, also natives of Scotland , came to the United States in 1873, bringing their children with them.

Mr. Gray enjoyed the advantages of a good education, attending the common schools in is native county and supplementing with a course in the University of Glasgow .  It was while he in attendance at this famous institution of learning that his parents came to their decision to try their fortunes in America .  Although Mr. Gray was only about seventeen years of age at the time he began about immediately to teach school in Grundy county, and from 1873 to 1878 he had the position of deputy county auditor of Grundy county.  In the latter year he purchased a one-half interest in the Grundy County Republican and for four years he edited and published this sheet, or until his removal to Washington D. C.  He spent ten years in the national capital in his capacity of special examiner in the pension department.  In 1892 he returned to Iowa , and after three years of unsettled residence he decided to locate in Clear Lake where he purchased a one-half interest in the Clear Lake Mirror.  Two years later he purchased the entire plant and conducted the same about 15 years.  He was actively interested in the newspaper until October 1, 1909 , when failing health compelled him to give up an occupation of such strenuous nature, particularly as he had at the same time of the position of postmaster.  His appointment as postmaster cam in 1905 and he now devotes his time to its duties.

Since the attainment of his majority, Mr. Gray has taken an active interest in politics and has given a stanch and unfailing support to the Republican party, although he is not personally attracted by the lure of office holding. He has given public served, however, acting as secretary of the school board for seven years and having the appointment of chairman of the Republican Central Committee. He is a past secretary of the Commercial Club and president of the Hawkeye Club, Clear Lake , Iowa .  He a past chancellor commander of Chivalric Lodge No. 82, Knights of Pythias.  He is progressive and well read and made an enviable reputation for himself in this section of the state as a newspaper editor.

Mr. Gray was united in marriage July 7, 1880 , to Miss Emma S. Elliott, who was born in Canada , in 1861.  They have two children, Mabel and Walter C., both of whom are at home.  The latter is deputy county treasurer of Cerro Gordo county.

Nelson J. Grummon

N. J. Grummon

Nelson J. Grummon, a pioneer and retired farmer, is one of those who belong particularly to Iowa by reason of long residence within her borders, having seen the country developed from raw prairie to its present high state of productiveness. Mr. Grummon was born in western New York, August 7, 1837, his parents being Horace B. and Caroline (Balcom) Grummon. The father was born in New Jersey in 1809 and died near Cherry Valley, Illinois, in 1888. The mother died in her native state, New York, in 1839, when Mr. Grummon was but two years of age, and the father took for his second wife Caroline Barton. In 1841 the little family set out for Rockford, Winnebago county, Illinois, passing through Chicago, which was then a very small town. This was in the winter time and proved a very long, cold trip. They lived near Rockford two or three years and then removed to Boone county, near Belvidere, where the father purchased eighty acres of unbroken prairie. He labored against the usual difficulties of the pioneer, and managed to build a frame house, break the sod, and here continued to live until his death. After the death of the second wife Mr. Grummonís father married a third time, Sarah J. Whitmore being united to him. She survives and resides in Alexander, South Dakota. Nelson J. Grummon was the only child by his fatherís first marriage. To the second three children were born: Sidney, who died near Cherry Valley; Lurana, who married Cyrus Ewing and died near Cherry Valley; and George, who is not a resident of Belvidere. There was no issue by the third marriage.

Nelson J. Grummon received his early education in the log school house in New York state and in the subscription schools of Boone county, Illinois. This education opportunity was of a limited character, but Mr. Grummon was naturally a student, and he has since remedied this deficiency by well-advised reading and culture. He remained under the parental roof until his twenty-second year, when he took unto himself a wife and farmed for two years on rented land in Boone county. On October 29, 1861, he and his wife and daughter started to drive through to Cerro Gordo county and on November 5 of that year they arrived at Geneseo township, locating on eighty acres of wild land which Mr. Grummon had purchased previous to their arrival. He soon after added to the prairie holdings ten acres of timber land. He thus had at hand material for a log house, which was erected and moved into by March 13, 1862. The snow was at that time three feet deep on a level and as the house was only "chinked" on the south side and the floor laid with common rough boards, it goes without saying that nobody was over-warm. The size of this house was fourteen by sixteen feet. The settlers were few and far between and there were but four families in Linn Grove which is no known as Rockwell. The prairie was practically uninhabited, the houses being built in the timber along the stream, and from eight to ten miles apart. The wolves were unpleasantly numerous and a few deer were occasionally to be encountered. Wild geese and ducks and prairie chickens were delicacies to be found upon the pioneerís table. What little trading Mr. Crummon [sic] did was at the little store in Mason City, kept by A. B. Tuttle. He had brought fifty cents worth of sugar along and this was made to last a long time. There were no tea and coffee. Grain was taken to Cedar Falls, Ackley and Waverly, fifty and fifty-five miles away, and four days were required for the trip. The family went eight to ten miles to covenant meeting, taking along a log chain with which to pull out the wagon when it became stuck in the mud.

After taking up his abode in his new log house, Mr. Grummon began to break his ground and put up fences. He also traded a portion of his original farm for the piece upon which his house now stands, this bringing his property to the road. It was sometime in the early Ď70s that he built his present residence. He has also built numerous barns and out-buildings and set out many trees. He was not afraid of hard work and privation and chopped wood nine hours a day and boarded himself for five shillings a day, thus saving sufficient money to pay his first taxes. He walked twelve miles to Mason City to make the payment. He was very active then as now and he consumed only five hours in making the round trip. He passed only one house on the way. In the spring after the removal of the family into the log house there was a stretch of three weeks when there was nothing to eat except the grain which was ground in the coffee mill. Those were the days of the tallow dipped candle and when there was any coffee molasses and sorghum were used to sweeten it. The mail was received once a week and was carried on foot from Mason City to Iowa Falls, by way of Owens Grove. Nearly all the houses in the locality were built of logs.

Mr. Grummon was married in Boone county, Illinois, October 23, 1859 to Miss Romelia Quackenboss, who had come to the county with her father when a child. She died February 20, 1888, and Mr. Grummon was a second time married, August 5, 1891, the lady to become his wife being Mrs. Mary M. Sherman. The first union was blessed by the birth of three children: Myrtie, born May 18, 1861, and died December 16, 1882; Charlie, born March 13, 1865, and died in Denver, Colorado, December 29, 1889; and William A., born June 2, 1868, now postmaster at Rockwell, editor of the Phonograph, and very active in Republican politics. Nelson J. Grummon, like his father before him, is a stalwart Republican and takes a keen interest in public events. He has been assessor for six years and several terms trustee. He and his wife have long been connected with the Baptist church, as well as the daughter who died. Mr. Grummon is the owner of ninety well-improved acres.

William A. Grummon

Among those citizens who play a live part and a useful one in the affairs of the town and county must assuredly be numbered William A. Grummon, postmaster since 1897, editor of the Rockwell Phonograph and one of the advisory editors of this volume. He belongs to the town by birth as well as by life long residence. He was born here June 2, 1868, his parents being Nelson J. and Romelia (Quackenboss) Grummon, a sketch of the former appearing in this history. He received his education in the Rockwell schools, finishing in the high school, and he devoted his youthful energies to the varied employments to be encountered upon his fatherís farm. In 1890 he entered the office of the Rockwell Phonograph, and under the efficient tutelage of the editor, Mr. W. L. McEwen, learned the printerís trade. On February 24, 1892, Mr. Grummon was united in marriage to the editorís daughter, Miss Florence M. McEwen, who was born in Floyd county, Iowa, August 9, 1869. Her parents were W. L. and Harriet (Rhinehart) McEwen. Her parents were married in the east about the year 1854 and came to Floyd county in 1856, owning and operating a farm there in 1886, in which year Mr. McEwen disposed of his land and came to Rockwell. In partnership with his son, Elmer Ellsworth, he purchased the Rockwell Phonograph and continued to conduct that paper until his death in March 1904. The mother survived until the fall of 1909.

After his marriage Mr. Grummon purchased an interest in the paper, and owing to the poor health of Mr. McEwen he shortly after assumed its editorship. He has continued in that capacity until the present time, and has given great satisfaction to his readers, being a student of current matters and keeping abreast of the times. Mr. Grummon owns the Phonograph in partnership with E. E. McEwen. On July 1, 1897, Mr. Grummon was appointed postmaster, his commissions being issued by President McKinley and Roosevelt, and his present term of office to expire in the spring of 1912. He has always been active in his support of the Republican party. He and his wife belong to the Congregational church, and as to his fraternal connections he is a member of the I.O.O.F.

On October 31, 1903, the first Mrs. Grummon died, leaving besides her husband two young sons, Stuart N. and Paul W. On May 14, 1907, Mr. Grummon was married to Miss Mary E. Bruce, a daughter of Albert and Sarah (Blodgett) Bruce. Her father was a pioneer merchant of Rockwell, having established his first store here and serving on the county board of supervisors. They have one son, named Howard E.