History of Cerro Gordo County,
Biographies submitted by Kay Ehlers.
Randall was born in Brookfield, Madison county, New York, on the 22nd of
September, 1818, and was a son of Elisha and Betsy (Brown) Randall, the latter
of whom was a descendant of Captain Daniel Brown, a member of the Society of
Friends, who settled at Stonington, Connecticut, whence, in 1792, at the age of
sixty-six years, he removed to Brookfield, New York, where he passed the residue
of his life. Betsy Randall died on the 20th of April, 1839. Her husband was born
at Petersburg, Rensselaer county, New York, and there their marriage was
solemnized. He was a son of Joshua Randall. The latter's father was Benjamin
Randall, the grandson of Matthew Randall. He was an influential citizen of
Elisha Randall Jr., was reared and educated in the state of New York and there was employed in his father's mills until about 1840. On the 31st of October, 1838, he was united in marriage to Lucy M. York, daughter of John and Nancy York of Brookfield, New York. The wife was born on the 7th of December, 1821, and she is still living in Mason City, hale and hearty, at eighty-nine years of age. Of their ten children eight are still living. In 1844 they removed to Edmeston, Otsego county, New York, where Mr. Randall conducted a grist mill and also manufactured hardware for the New York market until 1850, when he removed to Belmont, Allegany county, New York, where he was associated with his brother Adin in the conducting of a sash, door and blind factory until November, 1854, when he removed with his family to Iowa and located at Waterloo. In June of the following year he established his permanent residence at Mason City where , in association with Samuel Douglass of Benton county, this state, he erected a circular saw mill on Lime Creek, which was put in operation on the 31st of October of that year. Two years later they erected a gist mill with two runs of stones. In 1872 Mr. Randall obtained a patent for the Randall Lime Kiln, representing an improved process of manufacturing lime. In 1876 he sold his interest in the mill property to John T. Elder and in part payment for the same he took a farm two miles north of Mason City. He was originally a Whig in his political adherence and his first presidential vote was cast for General William Henry Harrison. He was a member of the first Republican convention held in Cerro Gordo county and was a very prominent factor in the local councils of the party. He served for a number of years as justice of the peace and after the formal organization of the county he served on e term as county judge and one term as county record, besides which he was one of the first board of county supervisors, in which office he also served one term. He held various other offices of minor public trust[,] was a director of the Central Iowa Railroad Company for two years and was otherwise prominently identified with the development and progress of his county and state. He and his wife were charter members of the First Methodist church of Mason City and he was the first superintendent of the Methodist Sunday School of Mason City.
Although in the quiet capacity of a private citizen the life and influence of George B. Rockwell was of great weight in the town in Cerro Gordo county, Iowa, which he founded and which bore his name. To quote from a tribute paid him by the local press at the time of his demise and which seems to voice the very unusual esteem in which he was held : “From the day he first set foot upon the virgin soil of this goodly land, George Byron Rockwell has been a potent, virile factor in the material, spiritual and educational growth of the community. For many years the impress of his master hand was felt on matters of public import throughout the county, district and state. It may be said of a truth that Cerro Gordo county never possessed a citizen of higher ideals or keener intellect than Mr. Rockwell.[”]
Mr. Rockwell was born at West Milton , Saratoga county, New York , December 6, 1828 , and died at Rockwell, January 7, 1908 , thus being nearly eighty years of age when he passed to the great beyond. His parents were David Judd and Ruth (Keeler) Rockwell, the former a native of Bethel, Connecticut, and the latter of West Milton, New York, in which latter place they were married. They lived out nearly all of the remainder of their long lives in Akron, New York, where the father engaged in farming. The founder of the family of Rockwell in America was John Rockwell, who was born in the vicinity of Dorchester, England, and came to America only a score of years after the landing of the Mayflower Pilgrims, first putting foot upon the Atlantic coast in 1641. The mother's family, the Keelers, came to America about the same time, their first representative, Ralph Keeler, emigrating from his native England. His descendants were some of them soldiers in the Revolutionary war.
George B. Rockwell was the eldest of seven children. He was able, however, to secure a good public school and academic education and for a number of years taught school in his native state. During moments of leisure he studied law, and although not admitted to the bar he practiced his profession, and was predisposed to the independent, wholesome life of an agriculturist. In 1850, when a young man about twenty-two years of age, he became imbued with the pioneer spirit and pushed westward, locating in Walworth county, Wisconsin . Upon the frontier he again took up the life of a school master, his residence and activities there being of about a year's duration. He then came on to Allamakee county, Iowa , the date of his first identification with the state which was to prove his permanent home being February, 1851. He secured a position in the Iowa district schools, and invested his earnings in a tract of wild land. In 1853 he returned to New York state to be married and within a week after assuming marital relations started back with his bride for Allamakee county. Mrs. Rockwell was a delicate woman and she found the pioneer life both rigorous and lonely, and in consideration for her Mr. Rockwell sold his property and, after a residence of only four years in Iowa, removed to a farm of two hundred acres which he had purchased near Geneva, Kane county, Illinois, where he remained for the following eleven years.
In 1864 Mr. Rockwell sold his Kane county farm, and having for many years remembered Iowa as a desirable location he now returned there with his family, buying land in Geneseo township, Cerro Gordo county, from J. J. Rogers, one of the earliest settlers. Upon a portion of this property the city of Rockwell is now located. He did not bring his family to the new home until December of that year, and they were then installed in a building used for a school house, the fact that there was only one pupil at that time making its utilization as a dwelling practicable. As soon as he was able to do so, Mr. Rockwell hauled lumber from Clear Lake and Iowa Falls and built a frame house, a part of which is still standing and incorporated in the house standing upon the family homestead. With typical pioneer pluck he began upon the numerous monumental tasks which confronted him, breaking the sod, fencing the land and finally bringing the estate to a condition of high improvement. As an agriculturist and stock breeder he was extremely successful. In the latter capacity his specialty was Short Horn cattle, his Grasdale herd having the reputation during the ‘80s of being one of the finest in Iowa . Finally, however, he decided to give up the active life of a farm and to this end sold his farms, aggregating about six hundred splendid acres, closed out his herds, built the fine residence in Rockwell now occupied by his daughter, Mrs. McClelland, and removed to it, the year being 1887. Not suited to a life of inactivity, although of advancing years, he went to South Dakota in 1891 and purchased a large tract of land in Lincoln county, ultimately selling that and becoming the possessor of fourteen hundred acres in Moody county, South Dakota , upon which for a number of years he conducted extensive farming operations. He maintained his home in Rockwell, going to South Dakota in the summer to look after his affairs. He left a large and valuable estate.
He was always intensely loyal to the town which bore his name and energetic in his efforts to bring about its advancement. It was through his instrumentality that Rockwell became an incorporated town when it did, in order that drunkenness and kindred vices might be suppressed. It was largely through his influence that the route of the Iowa Central Railway was brought through the town, this proving of incalculable benefit. Mr. Rockwell was one of the directors of the above mentioned road.
George B. Rockwell was a man not only of untiring energy, but one of versatile attainments. For several years during the early ‘80s he conducted an agricultural department in the Rockwell Phonograph, the same being widely approved for the wisdom and practically [sic] of its views. He gave strenuous battle to intemperance and as some one has vividly put it : “For many years he was a veritable ‘enforcement league' unto himself.” A man of strong spiritual nature he found great pleasure in his church relations and was active, often initiative in the good causes of the church. When on April 26, 1873 , the Congregational church of Rockwell was organized with a charter membership of twelve, Mr. Rockwell was one of that number. He was elected on the trustees and later for many years served as one of the deacons, his heart, mind and means being devoted to its upbuilding and also to that of the Sunday school, in which he was the beloved Bible class teacher. He was captain of the organized endeavor, which brought about the building of the church edifice in 1879. Although he never sought office he was very influential politically, being at times a leader in this field.
Mr. Rockwell was married August 31, 1853, as previously mentioned, the lady to become his wife being Elizabeth Peninah Jackson, daughter of William and Mary Ann (Havens) Jackson. Mrs. Rockwell was born August 26, 1829 , at Clarence , New York , where she was the loved daughter in a home of refinement. To this union were born four children, only one of whom, Grace R., now Mrs. William F. McClelland of Rockwell, survives. A son, named David W., died in infancy. Mary E., wife of J. A. Felthous, died January 30, 1905 , aged fifty ; and Julia B., wife of A. A. Moore, died September 14, 1888 , at twenty-six years of age. There are three grandchildren : George R., Edith G., and Chester C. Felthous, of St. Paul , Minnesota .
The death of Mr. Rockwell followed a stroke of paralysis, the first affliction of this nature having come about three years previously. The funeral was held in the Congregational church, the services being conducted by Dr. L. F. Parker of Grinnell, Iowa. As a token of respect to the memory of the departed the business houses of the town were closed and the public schools dismissed during the funeral hour.Mr. Rockwell was survived only a few months by his devoted wife, whose death occurred October 20, 1908 . Never a woman of much endurance, she had been for nearly thirty years in a state bordering on invalidism, and for seven years was a helpless charge of the daughter who had given her best years to her constant care. She was a charter member of the Congregational church of Rockwell , and the last save one, Mrs. Caroline Felthous, to remain on the roster. To quote from a well deserved tribute published by the one who knew and loved her best, “Elizabeth P. Rockwell was a woman of superior intelligence and native refinement. In the home, which was her sphere, her judgment was not questioned. Here, her influence for true character and upright living was a most potent factor. She was a woman not swayed by every shifting wind, and was usually able to discern correctly the false ring of the counterfeit. In an early day she actively participated in the affairs of the community, which will be remembered by the few remaining pioneer citizens, although she may never have been seen outside of her own home by many of the younger ones of the present generation.” The last rites were conducted by Rev. L. D. Blandford, assisted by Mrs. Blandford, and she was interred in the Rockwell cemetery beside her husband, and her memory and example like his will long be one of the dearest heritages of the younger generation of the town. Mr. Rockwell is survived by a brother, Henry T. Rockwell, of St. Charles , Illinois ; and a sister, Mrs. Ruth Churchill, of Akron, New York.
In an individual chain the memory of this honored citizen and representative business man of Clear lake links the pioneer epoch in the history of Cerro Gordo county with the present opulent and progressive twentieth century, and he has played well his part in connection with the material and social development and upbuilding of this now favored section of the Hawkeye state, which has been his home since his early youth. He is one of comparatively few of the pioneers of the county who came here at as early a period and who still retain their residence within its borders, so that special interest attaches to his career not only by reason of this fact but also because he has ever stood exemplar of the highest order of citizenship and played well his part as a man of productive energy and sterling character. It was his to go forth as a valiant solider of the Union in the Civil war, and in the “Piping times of peace” his loyalty has been of equally impregnable character.
Francis M. Rogers, president of the First National Bank of Clear Lake, was born at Newstead, Erie county, New York, on the 20th of May, 1838, and is a son of Jarvis and Nancy (Green) Rogers, both of whom were born on Long Island, New York, both families having been founded in that commonwealth in an early day. The parents of Jarvis J. Rogers were natives of Long Island and there he himself was reared to maturity under the sturdy discipline of the farm. When he was a young man he accompanied his parents on their removal to Erie county, New York, where his marriage was solemnized and where he continued to be engaged in agricultural pursuits until 1851, when he removed to the city of Buffalo, where he conducted a market until 1855, in which year he disposed of his interests there and set forth to cast in his lot with the pioneers of Iowa. The long and weary journey was made with a team and wagon and by this primitive means of transportation the parents and their six children made their way to Cerro Gordo county. Of the children only one other than the subject of this review is living – Mary E., who is the widow of Elihu Brown and who resides in Mason City . Upon coming to Cerro Gordo county, Jarvis J. Rogers secured a tract of land upon which the town of Rockwell now stands, that section having been at that time called Linn Grove. He sold the property prior to the construction of the railroad to this point and before any village had been there established. He was one of the prominent and influential pioneers of the county and held at all times the inviolable confidence and esteem of the community in which he continued to reside until his death. He was a man of strong mentality and well equipped for leadership in the pioneer days. He was a member of the first board of supervisors of Cerro Gordo county and was called upon to serve in various other positions of public trust, including that of postmaster of Rockwell. He was originally a Whig in politics be transferred his allegiance to the Republican party at the time of its organization and ever afterward remained a stanch advocate of its principles and policies. He was the owner of a well improved landed estate of three hundred and twenty acres adjoining the town of Rockwell at the time of his death, which occurred in September, 1871, when he was sixty years of age. His widow, a woman of noble and gracious character, long survived him and she attained to the extreme age of ninety-five years, passing the closing days of her life in the village of Rockwell and having been held in reverent affection by all who had come with the sphere of her gentle influence.
Concerning the journey from the Old Empire state to the wilds of Iowa it may be stated that the Rogers family made the trip from Buffalo , New York , to Warren , Illinois , by rail. At the terminus of the Illinois Central Railroad they purchased two ox teams with wagons and with his primitive equipment continued their journey to their destination. This trip was made in the spring of the year when the sloughs were soft and miry and in many places it was found necessary to double the teams in order to pull through. When the family had arrived within about four miles of the present village of Rockwell their heavy wagon mired and the oxen were unable to pull it out of the mud. To add to the discomforts and obstacles encountered a heavy rain set in, the wind grew tempestuous and darkness came one, so that the whole party of nine persons was compelled to remain in the wagon throughout the night. When morning dawned the sky cleared and the outlook brightened in every particular. Members of the family went to Linn Grove and secured wood with which to kindle a fire for the preparation of the morning meal. The father and son then constructed a conveyance called a “wizard,” made of the forks of a tree, and with this primitive outfit drawn by the oxen the family and household goods were finally brought to their destination, though several trips were made necessary to accomplish the desired end. The father selected his claim and in the first season broke twenty-five acres of sod, planting the tract with corn, potatoes and buckwheat. The closest neighbors were eight miles distant and there was not other settlement within fifteen or twenty miles. The nearest postoffice and mill was at Cedar Falls , fifty miles distant.
On the 1st of July, 1855 , Francis M. Rogers and his father set forth for Cedar Falls with their two yoke of oxen, the purpose being to sell one yoke and thereby secure funds for the purchase of needed provisions. Failing to make a sale at Cedar Falls they drove on to Cedar Rapids , where they succeeded in disposing of one yoke of oxen, though they were compelled to take in exchange two cows, in addition to which they received a small amount of money. A portion of this little fund was devoted to the purchase of the needed provisions and before the father and son returned home the family larder had been depleted to such an extent that the other members of the household had had nothing to eat for several days except wild game. The first summer in Iowa was a memorable one to the Rogers family. Until September they continued to live in their covered wagon, and they then took possession of their log house, which was twelve by eighteen feet in dimension and which proved very comfortable during the cold months which followed. In a reminiscent way Mr. Rogers stated to the writer that throughout the entire winter the family subsisted almost entirely on hulled corn, wild game and potatoes. The coming summer brought forth gracious crops and the family realized a considerable sum of money by lodging and boarding land seekers, who were courteously shown the section corners and given desired information in regard to land values. The winter of 1857-8 was severe in the extreme, snow falling to a depth of four feet and becoming heavily incrusted, so that it would uphold a man and sled. Under these conditions it was by the use of a hand sled that most of the family provisions were hauled during that winter from Mason City . In 1858 Jarvis J. Rogers, with the assistance of Lyman Hunt, who had settled about six miles south of Linn Grove, and John Whitesell, who with his family was living temporarily two miles southwest, built a log school house, which they pointed with mud and which they equipped with puncheon floor and roof of shakes. The rude structure was the first school in the southern part of Cerro Gordo county.
Francis M. Rogers, who had received his early educational training in the common schools of his native county, was seventeen years of age at the time of the family removal to Cerro Gordo county and it was his to live up to the full tension of the pioneer epoch of this section of the state. He assisted in the reclaiming of the home farm and here continued to be actively identified with agricultural pursuits until he felt the call of higher duty when the integrity of the Union was thrown in jeopardy through armed rebellion. In August, 1862, he enlisted as a private in Company B, Thirty-second Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and with this valiant command he continued in service until the close of the war, having received his honorable discharge at Montgomery , Alabama , in July, 1865. He participated in a number of severe engagements, including the battles of Pleasant Hill , Louisiana ; Nashville , and Tupelo , Tennessee ; and the siege and capture of Fort Blakely and the city of Mobile , Alabama , besides which he took part in a number of minor engagements with the enemy.
After the close of his long and meritorious service as a soldier of the republic Mr. Rogers returned to Cerro Gordo county and he was thereafter actively engaged in farming in Linn Grove township, until the autumn of 1868, when he was elected clerk of the district court. His service in this capacity was most acceptable, as was shown by the fact that he was chosen his own successor in 1870 and again in 1872, then serving for six consecutive years. Upon his retirement from office Mr. Rogers located in Mason City , where he entered into partnership with William E. Ensign and engaged in the clothing business. This alliance continued until 1886, and the firm built up a most prosperous enterprise, establishing a high reputation for fair and honorable dealing. After the dissolution of the partnership, in 1886, Mr. Rogers continued his residence in Mason City until the spring of 1889, when he removed to Clear Lake , where he purchased the Clear Lake Bank. This institution he conducted as a private banking house for a number of years and upon it re-organization as the First National Bank he became one of the largest of the original stockholders and the first president. He has since been executive head of this solid financial institution, and the other officers of the bank at the present time are here noted, Charles R. Hamstreet, vice president ; Francis L. Rogers, cashier ; and Ross R. Rogers, assistant cashier. Besides the president, vice president and cashier, the directorate of the bank includes John B. Heath, William H. Kimball, Albert Roenfanz and Elijah Tomkins. At the time of this writing (1910) the capital and surplus of the bank aggregate fully forty thousand dollars. Mr. Rogers is known as one of the substantial capitalists and progressive business men that has represented his home for more than half a century and in all relations of life he has so ordered his course as to merit and received the implicit confidence and esteem of his fellow men. In politics Mr. Rogers has ever accorded an uncompromising allegiance to the cause of the Republican party and he has given his aid and influence in support of all measures and enterprises tending to further the social and material welfare of the community. While a resident of Mason City he served six years as a member of the board of education and in 1877-8 he was a member of the city council. Since his removal to Clear Lake he has served nine years as a member of the board of education and in 1895-6 he was mayor of Clear Lake , in whose city council he later served for some time. Mr. Rogers has ever maintained a lively interest in his old comrades in arms and signifies the same by membership in the Grand Army of the Republic. In this organization he is past commander of the C. H. Huntley Post, at Mason City, and also of Tom Howard Post, at Clear Lake, with which latter he has affiliated since his removal to his present home city He is also identified with the Masonic fraternity and the adjunct organization, the Order of the Eastern Star.
On October 4, 1865 , Mr. Rogers married Miss Phoebe L. Richardson, daughter of S. M. Richardson. Of the seven children born to this union only three are now living, namely : Francis L., and Ross R., above mentioned as being in the bank, and Merle S., employed as a clerk in a grocery store in Clear Lake.
On other pages of this publication is entered a memoir to the late James
Rule, who was long one of the most honored and influential citizens of Mason
City and who was the father of him to whom this sketch is dedicated.
As ready reference may be made to the memorial tribute mentioned, it will
not be necessary to repeat the data in the present connection.
As one of the representative members of the bar of his native county,
Arthur L. Rule is well upholding the civic prestige of the honored name which he
bears and is engaged in the practice of his profession in Mason city, where he
is a member of the law firm of Blythe, Markley, Rule & Smith.
Mr. Rule was born in Mason City on the 4th of January, 1876,
and after completing the curriculum of the public schools he continued his
studies in Shattuck Military Academy at Faribault, Minnesota, in which
institution he was graduated as member of the class in 1895.
Thereafter he was employed for one year in the City National Bank of
Mason City, of which institution his honored father was president, and
thereafter he was for a time a student in the Northwestern University at
Evanston, Illinois. After leaving
this institution he passed six months in traveling in Arizona and California and
soon after his return to this native city he tendered his services as a
volunteer for the Spanish-American war. He
became first lieutenant and adjutant of the Fifty-second Iowa volunteer Infantry
and proceeded with his command to Camp McKinley, where he served as camp
quartermaster on the staff of General Lincoln.
His command was not called into active service in Cuba and at the close
of the war he received his honorable discharge.
Later he was honored with the office of inspector general of the Iowa
National Guard. In the autumn of
1898 Mr. Rule entered the law department of the University of Iowa, in which he
was graduated as a member of the class of 1900 and from which he received the
degree of Bachelor of Laws. He then
went to the city of Cedar Rapids, where he became an attache in the office of
Judge J. C. Cook, solicitor for Iowa for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul
Railroad. In October, 1901, he
accepted a position with Samuel K. Tracy, general solicitor of the Burlington,
Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad, with the law department, with which he
continued to be identified until August, 1902, when he became a member of the
firm of Blythe, Markley, Rule & Smith of Mason City where he has since been
engaged in the practice of his profession.
In politics Mr. Rule is a Republican and in a fraternal way he is
identified with the local organizations of the Benevolent and Protective Order
of Elks and the Modern Brotherhood of America.
He has served as exalted ruler of the Mason City lodge of Elks and as
chancellor commander of the Knights of Pythias.
On the 5th of June, 1901, Mr. Rule was united in marriage to
Miss Edith Brady, daughter of William P. Brady of Cedar Rapids, one of the
leading officials and executives of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern
Railroad, which is now part of the Rock Island system.
Mr. and Mrs. Rule have one daughter, Edith, who was born on the 5th of
In the view of the nomadic spirit which is growing to animate all classes
of American citizens to move restlessly about from place to place, it is most
pleasing to the publishers of this work to be able to incorporate within its
pages a sketch of the career of one who has passed practically his entire life
in the place of his nativity and who commands the confidence and esteem of those
who have been familiar with his career from the time of his birth.
Harold V. Rule was born in Mason City, Cerro Gordo county, Iowa, on the 4th
of February 1879, and is a son of General James and Jennie (Gale) Rule, to the
memory of the former of whom a sketch is dedicated on other pages of this work
so that further reference to the family history is not deemed necessary at this
point. Harold V. Rule received his
preliminary education al training in the public and high schools of his native
city and this discipline was later effectively supplemented by a course of study
in the Shattuck Military Academy, at Faribault, Minnesota, in which excellent
institution he was captain of his company at the time of his graduation in 1898.
In 1899 he was matriculated in Columbia University, in the city of New
York, where he spent one year in the electrical and mining department.
While home on his vacation he contracted typhoid fever and he never
returned to complete his college course. Prior
to his father’s death he as employed in the City National Bank for a time and
in 1909 he engaged in bookkeeping as expert accountant, being at the present
time (1910) employed by the order of the Modern Woodmen of America, at Mason
In politics Mr. Rules has ever adhered to that principles and policies of
the Republican party and though he has never manifested aught of desire for
political honors he has done all in his power to further the civic and material
profess of his home city and county. Fraternally
h is affiliated with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and both he and
his wife are devout members of the Episcopal church, in whose father they were
1904 was recorded the marriage of Mr. Rule to Miss Corry Bowman, who was born
and reared at Waverly, Iowa, where her birth occurred in 1880, and who is a
daughter of W. R. and Emma Winne Bowman. Mr.
Bowman is a representative citizen of Waverly, Iowa, where he is engaged in the
sugar beet industry, Mrs. Bowman is deceased.
Mr. and Mrs. Rule have no children.
A strong and noble character was that of the late General James Rule, who
died at his home in Mason City on the 28th of November, 1907, and
measured by its beneficence, its rectitude, its productiveness, its optimism and
its material success, his life, counted for good in its every relation.
He played a large part in the civic and material development and
upbuilding of Cerro Gordo county, where he took up his abode when a young man
and where he rose through his own forces and ability to a position of prominence
and influence, the while he ever commanded secure vantage place in the
unqualified confidence and high regard of all who knew him.
A life guided by high ideals and regulated by the strictest adherence to
principle was that of the honored subject of this memoir, and no man could be
more essentially human, more free from asceticism, more altruistic and more
ready to find good in “all sorts and conditions of men.” He meant much to Mason City and Cerro Gordo county, and they
meant much to him, so that in every publication purporting to take cognizance of
the lives and labors of the representative citizens of this county, must, if
consistency is to be conserved, accord a tribute to the one whose name initiates
“As the years relentlessly mark the milestones on this pathway of time,
the older generation slowly gives way to the new, and gradually there pass from
our midst the men who made our country what it is and who built up this western
empire for the men of now. In every
generation and every community some few men leave an indelible imprint upon the
history of that community and upon the memories of those who have known them by
the ability to fight and win, even against great odds, and by that kind of
character which wins lasting friends because of that innate quality which people
know as loyalty. James Rule, who
passed into the great beyond, was one of those.
“The life story of James Rules is one which is inseparably connected
with the history of our community and interwoven with all the important events
in our development. As a young man
he was strong, vigorous and self-reliant. He
trusted in his own ability and did things single handed and alone.
His intellect was keen, his personality was strong and forceful, he stood
by his friends with all his might to the last extremity.
He was an infallible judge of human nature and the deserving always
received help from him. Many young
men in this county got their start to prosperity through him, many a young
farmer now owns a farm because James Rule helped him to get started.
He was an active and intense worker and it was finally his terribly close
application to his duties that brought about his illness which has afflicted him
for the last few years.
“James Rule was a noble illustration of what independence, self-faith,
self-reliance and lofty ideals can accomplish in America.
He was absolutely self-made. No
one helped him in a financial way and he was self-educated.
His early education was gleaned from the district schools in Wisconsin in
the winter time. He worked in the
summer always to help the family exchequer.
At fourteen he had to give up his educational facilities and yet his
intellect was so keen and his purpose to become educated so persistent that he
mastered the German language with other studies and became so proficient in it
that he taught it to others as a tutor. He
loved literature and oratory and though not an orator himself he was a superior
judge of the divine gift. He was as
strong too, in body as in mind up till the day when he fell on the sidewalk of
Mason City, the culmination of overwork, and during his active life in his young
manhood and middle age, it can be said that there was no more forceful or more
resourceful character in the country. He
was a typical knight in his active days, entering all lists, dealing and taking
forceful blows with good nature, gallant in every political contest, chivalrous
to the one who needed help, fighting their battles for them and never asking
self-preferment. In the strenuous
politics of this county he was always endeavoring to help someone else and when
he became a financial factor he followed the same trait and many owe their start
in material prosperity to him. Defeat
was not in his dictionary, but optimism and courage were written large therein.
He mingled freely with all classes, he was an aristocrat in intellect and the
larger world of real culture.
“General Rule devoted much time to serious thought.
Especially was this true of the later days of his life.
He was a splendid scholar, much of it secured, as we term it, from the
universe of nature. He knew men and
he knew methods. He was
resourceful, possessing patience, courage, business sagacity and remarkable
foresight. He did not jump into the
prominence he held in the community and in the state.
He came to it by slow growth. He
was loyal to his friends and was not severe with those who politically or in any
way disagreed with him. He was
liberal-minded, yet with a conviction settled, he was unfaltering in defense.
He believed in humanity and he believed in a just and true God.
In life General Rule was an unassuming man.
He gave largely to public affairs. To
everything that had a tendency to help along benevolent of philanthropic
enterprises he was able and he willing contributed.
As a public-spirited man, Mason City owes more to the work of General
Rule than to any other of its residents. His
money he invested largely in city property, and at the time of his death there
were a number of monuments standing in honor of his faith in this city.
We have said that he did not come into prominence by leaps and bounds.
As Bishop Fowler says: ‘Greatness is of slow growth.’ General Rules grew slowly yet surely. In early days he was a stone mason, and a good one he was,
for that was one of the early principles he adopted: ‘Whatever is worth doing
is worth doing well.’ He was
popular and he stepped into official position in the county and he kept on
stepping, until he finally was made president of the City National Bank, one of
the leading financial institutions of this section of the state.
He was born with a military spirit deeply imbedded in him, and from a
private he rose to the rank of captain of the local company.
And still he was ambitious and finally he climbed to the highest office
in the Iowa National Guard—that of General.
General Rule possessed a big, warm heart.
He was a friend to a friend and a friend of the helpless.
No one ever turned toward that big warm heart in times of need but that
he found a cordial response. He
will be missed. The bells have
tolled his departing, but in the hearts of very many people he will live on and
General James Rule was born in Green Lake county, Wisconsin, on the 11th
of June, 1846, and was the son of James and Mary (Cameron) Rule, who were born
and reared in Scotland, where their marriage was solemnized and whence they
emigrated to America in 1844. In
his native county, the subject of this memoir was reared to maturity and his
early educational facilities were limited to a somewhat desultory attendance in
the county schools of the pioneer days. When
sixteen years of age, he went to the city of St. Louis, Missouri, for the
purpose of volunteering his services in the Union army, but on account of his
youth he was rejected. He was
determined, however, that he would in some manner show his distinctive loyality
[sic] and his pertinacity he was finally assigned to a position in the ordnance
department of the Second Division of the Army of the Frontier, under General
Herron. He served in this capacity
that last six months and came home with his company.
After received his honorable discharge he returned to Wisconsin, where he
followed farm work and other occupations until the spring of 1865, when he
accompanied his parents on their removal to Cerro Gordo county, Iowa, where they
located on a farm in Lincoln township. Concerning
his advancement from that time forward the following succinct statements have
been made; “he worked on the farm during the summer and taught school during
the winter, by way of getting a start. In
1868 he because a resident of Mason City, commencing to work as a mason and
contractor, forming a partnership with D. Farrell and later with his
father-in-law, Thomas K. Gale: In
1870 he was appointed deputy county treasurer under H. I. Smith, working at his
trade in the summer and the treasurer’s office in the winter.
In 1872, he was, himself, elected to the office of country treasurer, in
which he succeeded himself by re-election in 1874 and again in 1876, serving for
a total period of eight years. In
1880, General Rule became interested with T. G. Emsley and O. T. Denison in the
City National Bank, which was an evolution from a private bank, and he served as
vice president of this institution until 1890, when he was made president, an
office of which he continued incumbent until 1899, when he retired from active
connection with the bank on account of ill health and for the purpose of giving
his attention to his private interests.
In politics General Rule was a staunch supporter of the cause of the
Republican party, but was not a member of any church.
He was affiliated with the Masonic fraternity and in the same was at one
time eminent commander of the commandery of the Knights Templars in Mason City,
where he also held membership in the lodges of the Knights of Pythias and the
Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
On September 27, 1871, was solemnized the marriage of General Rule to
Miss Jennie A. Gale, a daughter of Thomas K. Gale, who was long one of the
representative and influential citizens of Mason City.
Mrs. Rule was born April 4, 1853 in Portland, England, and was four years
old when she came to America, the family locating in Iowa Falls in 1857, where
she was educated in the high school and in Elsworth College of Iowa Falls.
In 1870 she came to Mason City and was an active worker in the Methodist
church. During this time she was
president of the Marshalltown district for five years of the Woman’s Home
Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal church. She was one of the charter members and officers of Unity
Chapter, No. 58, Eastern Star of Mason City and in 1895-6 was Grand Matron of
the state. She served as grand
treasurer of the state for eight years, and in 1902 was made secretary of the
Board of Trustees to locate and build and Eastern Star home, which was dedicated
October 18, 1905, at Boone, Iowa. The
edifice costing about $40,000, was built and maintained by the Eastern Star and
is the only one in the world. Mrs.
Rule and Mrs. Jennie E. Mathews solicited the first $3,000.
Mrs. Rule has been very active in the building and maintaining of the
above, she having devoted a great deal of time to the work.
Mrs. Rule survives her honored husband and of their three children, the
one daughter died in infancy. Two
sons, Arthur L and Harold V., still reside in Mason City, and concerning them
individual mention is made on other pages of this work.
The parents of General Rule continued to reside in the county until their
death , and of their children there are now living: Duncan, who is an attorney
and a resident of Mason City; Mary, who is the wife of Lyman Leach, of Mason
City; and Belle, who is the wife of George D. Taylor, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
At the time of the death of General Rule the following general orders
were issued from the office of the adjutant general of the state under date of
November 29, 1908, by the order of the governor:
“The death of the late Brigadier General James Rule at his home in
Mason City, Iowa, at nine o’clock p.m., November 28, 1907, is announced with
sorrow. General Rules has an
honorable record as a soldier in the Civil war and in the Iowa National Guard,
and his comrades mourn his death.
“The military record of General Rule was as follows: Driver of ordnance
train, Second Division Frontier Missouri and Arkansas from November, 1863, to
May, 1864; Sergeant, Company A, Sixth Regiment, Iowa National Guard, July, 1873;
second lieutenant, November 9, 1873; captain, July 11, 1884; major, September
21, 1891; lieutenant colonel, Fourth Regiment, April 30, 1892; brigadier
general, Second Brigade, November 23, 1894; term expired November 23, 1899.”
In conclusion of this brief memoir an extract is made from a long
appreciated estimate of life and services of General Rule, the same having been
written by his life-long and intimate friend, Hon. John C. Sherwin:
“I need but say little about Mr. Rule’s place in this community for
his place and position are manifest and speak for themselves.
Time can never efface the impress his ability, character and citizenship
has left. Until his physical power
was weakened by a serious illness some years ago he was easily the foremost in
everything touching the advancement and welfare of this city. His strength, courage and influence were manifest in all
matters of public interest, and no man gave more of his time or gave it more
unselfishly for the public good than he did.
But however great his achievements in other matters, they are not to be
compare with the wealth, strength and beauty of his friendships.
James Rule was a true friend in the fullest sense of the word.
No road was too long, no night was too dark, no weather too inclement to
deter him from needed service. His
friend’s cause was his own, and he championed it with the same vigor and
determination that he brought to the conduct of his own affairs.
He as once of the comparatively few men who friendship was so deep and
true that he never found it a burden. The
loyalty of such friendship is second only to loyalty to cone’s country.
Rule’s acute illness began a little over a year ago, and during all of the
weary intervening months there were frequent periods of the most intense pain
and suffering, yet through it all he displayed the same bravery and force of
character which were so characteristic of his active life.
His great and tender love for his devoted wife and children made him
tenacious of life, and even after he knew that recovery was impossible, he
battled on for the life that had been intrusted to him, as only brave men
battle. But the conflict had been
an uneven one from its inception, and a few days before the end came he fully
realized that he could stay with his loved ones but a little longer.
The end finally came as he had anticipated, and in the silence of the
quiet and beautiful Thanksgiving evening he heard the great waves breaking on
the farther shore and felt already upon his wasted brow the breath of the