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Floyd County >> 1882 Index

History of Floyd County, Iowa
Chicago: Inter-state Publishing Co., 1882.

The Bar of the Past
submitted by Kathy Gerkins


Attorneys at law who have been residents of Floyd County, and practiced their profession at the courts of the same, but who are now either deceased or moved away, are embraced in the following sketches:

Hon. David Wiltse Page 392

Judge of Floyd County for several years in early times, moved from this county many years ago, and in 1880 died in Illinois. He was a fair lawyer, an honorable man, and for a long time was a partner with Judge Fairfield. He was also County Surveyor many years.

O. P. Harwood Page 392

Was a member of the early bar of Floyd County, a resident of St. Charles City, and his name therefore appears in some of the early passages of this volume.

Wilson Lane Page 392

Came to Charles City from Southern Illinois, and was admitted to the bar at Decorah, Iowa. He located in Charles City in 1877, and practiced law and loaned money until 1881, when he removed to Janesville, Wis., to take charge of the estate of his wife’s father. He was an officer in the late war.

Irving W. Card Page 392

Became a partner in the firm of Reiniger, Card & Reiniger in 1858, and retired from it about three years afterward. In 1868 he was elected District Attorney on the Republican ticket, by 1,211 votes to 403 for W. A. Stow, his Democratic opponent. Mr. Card some years ago removed to Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, where he is now Postmaster.

J. B. Hunt Pages 392 – 393

Of Nora Springs, killed himself with opium, under rather peculiar circumstances. March 24, 1871, he went to Mason City, by special invitation, to deliver a lecture on “Beauty.” Some waggish fellows at that place, knowing that Mr. Hunt was weakened in his mental powers, received him into the village with a sort of mock ovation. During the delivery of his lecture he was observed to be considerably excited and frequently to take and eat something from a little box he had in his vest pocket. After the lecture he went to bed at his hotel, where he was found dead the next morning. The little box was found to contain opium. He probably had taken too much of the deadly drug.

G. G. Reiniger Page 393

Deceased, was one of the first lawyers of Charles City. He was a graduate of the Ohio bar; studied law at Tiffin, Ohio, then engaged in the practice of law in Charles City; was the most prominent and successful attorney in this part of the State. He was a partner with R. G. Reiniger, his brother, afterward with D. W. Carr, now of Mason City. During the hard times of 1857 he lost heavily, from which he never recovered, but continued the practice of law until 1865, when he removed to Franklin County, Mo., where he died. He was a German, and could not fully manage the English pronunciation; yet a man of fine legal ability and a sort of father to Floyd County bar, many of whom hold him in grateful remembrance for his kindness. He was a whole-souled gentleman, and an enemy to no one. He died Oct. 5, 1869, in Union, Jefferson Co., Mo., leaving a wife and five children.

Robert Nelson Mathews Pages 393 – 395

Was a native of New York, and was born in Clinton County, May 5, 1809. He was the son of John Mathews, a farmer and mechanic, who came from England, and settled near the line of New York, in Canada. Mr. Mathews spent his youth and early manhood at the East; married Caroline A. Horr in 1834, and in that year settled in Kane County, Ill., building the first frame house on the site of Aurora. He opened a farm and continued in agricultural pursuits until 1846, when, having read law at Aurora, he was admitted to the bar, and commenced practice at Little Rock, Kendall County, continuing in his profession there for eight or nine years. His practice was extensive and profitable. During four years of his residence in Kendall County, he served as County Judge, an office for which his sound judgement and administrative talent admirably qualified him. In 1853 he was elected to the Legislature, and was associated in that body with such men as John M. Palmer, S. M. Cullom and John A. Logan. Mr. Mathews introduced the first bill for the protection of wild game. About this time he became interested in Government lands west of the Mississippi, particularly in Iowa and Nebraska, where he prospected considerably, making entries and finally selecting his home at Rockford, on the beautiful Shell Rock, where he settled on the 1st of January 1857. Here for twenty years he toiled hard to build up a town, leading off in every enterprise which tended in that direction, up to the time of his death, which occurred on the 31st of May, 1877. Judge W. B. Fairfield, of Charles City, a long and intimate friend, pronounced his funeral oration, and thus spoke of Mr. Mathews as a lawyer: “As a lawyer, Mr. Mathews was well read, thoroughly versed in its principles, clear in his perceptions as to fact and law, and the relation of one to the other, lucid in statement, logical in reasoning. Although in his latter years he rarely conducted the trial of a cause in court, he frequently brought cases to the bar whose trial was intrusted to younger members of the profession. In all these cases, however, there was this that was noticeable – they were prepared. Not only was the law clearly defined and the authorities digested, but the preparation of the testimony insignificant in sequence was masterly. The introduction of witnesses and testimony was so arrayed that as fact after fact and incident after incident, was developed they constituted, in simple order of array, an argument at once clear and logical. No man at the bar in this district understood better the value and the weight of testimony.” The last eight or nine years of his life he was a banker, and was successful in this, as in every other enterprise in which he engaged. He left a large property in the village of Rockford, a farm of eleven hundred acres two miles south of town, another farm sixteen miles away, in the edge of Franklin County, and other property scattered here and there. Mr. Mathews was elected one of the supervisors of Floyd County, when the law establishing such an office went into operation, and while in that office was instrumental in freeing the county of very heavy obligations in the form of railroad bonds. He took pride in the accomplishment of this work, and the taxpayers felt that they owed him a heavy debt of gratitude.

In his oration already referred to, Judge Fairfield thus spoke of the character of Mr. Mathews: “As a man, he was of large brain, large heart and generous impulses. He had a will that would have been imperious, if there had not lain back of it a rare kindliness, and a quick sympathy. Little children liked him, and dumb animals never feared him; both certain indices of a kindly and sympathetic nature. He was a man given to hospitality in its broadest sense, and while he was not munificent in his giving, he was, according to his convictions of right, very generous. No person ever went hungry from his door, and the waif and the wanderer found at his table food, and under his roof shelter, cheerfully and unquestioningly given. To the poor, and those who by force of untoward circumstances or the chariness of nature, had been placed in position inferior to him, he was kind and gentle; to his equals, courteous, though sometimes brusque; to his friends he was sincere, reliable, unswerving; toward those who disliked him, he was independent, and often-times defiant; as a neighbor, kind and obliging; as a creditor, lenient and forbearing, and as a counselor, shrewd and safe.”

Mr. Mathews was in feeble health for two or three years before he died, and for five or six weeks took not enough food in the aggregate for an ordinary meal. How he could live so long as he did is a mystery even to the medical scientists. He was a member of the Masonic order, and was buried according to their ritual. The number of people in attendance was so large that no church in town could hold one-third of them, and services were held in the open air. Between 150 – 200 members of the Masonic fraternity were in attendance. It was by Mr. Mathew’s request that Judge Fairfield officiated.

The wife of Mr. Mathews died on the 29th of August 1853. She was the mother of three children, only one of them now living. A daughter, Annie R., died in infancy, and Oscar, when about ten years of age. Ralph C., the only surviving member of the family, was born Dec. 13, 1836, at Aurora, Ill., and is now nearly forty-six years old. He was trained to business in his father’s office at an early day; was in the mercantile trade several years, commencing in 1860. For the past eleven years he has been a banker, for a portion of the time in partnership with his father, and latterly in company with O. H. Lyon. He has a wife and one child. His wife was Jennie E. Lumley, daughter of Edward Lumley, of Michigan. Their son Oscar L. is nineteen years old. Mr. Mathews is now of the firm of Mathews and Lyon, his partner being O. H. Lyon, many years a merchant in Rockford, and afterward a member of the Legislature. Floyd County had very few better business men than Mr. Mathews, who inherits from his father the elements of success, namely: honest, energetic industry.

D. W. C. Hayes Pages 395 – 396

Attorney, was born an educated in Watertown, Jefferson County, N. Y.; was admitted to the New York bar, and afterward practiced law in Wisconsin; located in Charles City in 1868. He practiced law here one year, then went to Winnebago County, until in 1874, he returned to Charles City and practiced law until he removed to Chicago in 1879. In 1879 he became a strong temperance worker, and was elected president of the Tribe of Jonathan. He made a successful and useful canvass of Floyd County, in 1879; is at present engaged in the grocery business in Chicago.

J. Evans Owens Page 396

An attorney of high standing, was born April 21, 1847, at Unadilla, N. Y. After graduating at the home high school, he entered Hamilton College, Clinton, N. Y., when eighteen years of age. A year afterward he took charge of the Rome Academy, as principal. Not long after this he left that position to study law with Hon. D. P. Loomis of Unadilla. He was admitted to the bar in 1869, and in the next year, having married Eliza, daughter of the late Josiah E. Owens, he came West and settled in Charles City, which was his residence until his death. His career was an open book, to be read by all men; and a purer more unselfish, honorable record is rarely spread before men. He held office as City Attorney, member of the City School Board and Alderman. As a lawyer he stood high, as a public officer he was faithful, and as a citizen he was worthy of the highest place in the affections of the community. Being a man of principle, he was a thorough going reformer, or, if you please, leader in philanthropic enterprises.

During the first week of December 1881, he went to Minneapolis on business, where he was struck down by that dreadful disease, typhoid pneumonia, and died on the morning of Dec. 23, following. He was buried in the Charles City Cemetery, the funeral being attended by the members of the bar in a body, the city officers, and a large concourse of other citizens.

Hon. John G. Patterson Pages 396 – 400

Was born in Clinton County, Penn., Sept. 3, 1831. His parents were Robert and Eleanor (Bowers) Patterson, both reared on the frontier and accustomed to the hardships and perils of border life. The Pattersons are originally from the north of Ireland, and are of Scotch-Irish decent. They settled in Pennsylvania at an early day. The Bowers were also early settlers there, from Germany. From his parents John inherited a strong and hea-- --dy, together with indomitable energy. When he was two years old, his parents removed to Seneca County, Ohio, where John, the third of a family of sixteen children, grew to the age of eighteen, with a grave experience of sold work upon his father’s farm. During this time he attended school winters, and picked up the rudiments of an education. From this time until he was twenty-two, he attended the spring and autumn terms of the Republic Academy, teaching during the winter months, and working on the farm in summer. In the autumn of 1854, with ten dollars in his pocket as his whole available capital, he commenced reading law in the office of Pennington & Lee, of Tiffin, Ohio. He was admitted to the bar in September 1856, and in June 1857 came to Charles City and engaged in the practice of his profession. Every old settler here knows the struggles of a young attorney, poor in pocket, but rich in ability and capacity for work, and how splendidly he succeeded; gradually accumulating a handsome property, and at the same time gaining a reputation as one of the foremost legal men of the State. In 1861 he formed a law partnership with S. B. Starr. In 1873 A. M. Harrison was admitted to the firm. In 1863, Mr. Patterson was elected State Senator; was re-elected in 1867, serving eight years. He was chairman of the committee on township and county organizations for three sessions, was on the judiciary committee three sessions, and chairman of the railroad committee the last session. He was sent to the Legislature especially to aid in securing a land grant for a railroad on the forty-third parallel of latitude. He labored unceasingly to effect that object; and to him, more than to any other man, is due the securing of that grant. An abler, or more industrious man never represented Floyd County in the Legislature, and he gained for himself while there a State reputation. After retiring from the Legislature he took an active part in politics, and was recognized as a power in the Fourth Congressional District. He was a staunch, uncompromising Republican, and his voice was always on the side of right. At home, he was ever alive to the interests of his city and county, and was always one of the foremost in devising means for their advancement. He took an active part in the formation of the Charles City Water-Power Company, working against all discouragement, sparing neither time nor money, until the success of the scheme to improve the Charles City water-power was fully assured. He was a large shareholder in the company, and held the office of its secretary till his death. Mr. Patterson was first married in 1856, to Miss Hester E. A. Quiggle, of Pennsylvania. She bore him eight children, six of whom survived her. She died in 1872. In 1874 he was united in marriage to Mrs. Sarah Smith McCann, daughter of Judge Elvin Kendrick Smith, of Northern New York, and niece of Governor Silas H. Jenison of Vermont. This wife survives him, and is guardian of the minor children. Mr. Patterson’s death occurred Oct. 29, 1878, from a railroad accident on the Iowa division of the C. M. St. P. Railway. He was instantly killed. Thus closed his early career. In the prime of life and full vigor of manhood he passed away. Selecting from the articles in the newspapers of the day, we quote the following:

“Mr. Patterson was no common man. In saying that in his death a great mind has fallen, we mean it in no trite or common sense, for he was great. He was great in the leading idea of his life; great in his convictions; great in the elements of his well-rounded character; great in his eloquence; great in his courage; great in his intellect; great in his capacity for work; and great, above and beyond all, in his abiding faith in the ultimate triumph of the eternal principles of right, justice and humanity. But who can speak of the virtues of his every day life, of the tender, almost idolatrous regard felt for him by his family; of the great heart, that always had a responsive throb of sympathy for all in trouble or distress? Who shall speak of him as a friend? Tried and true, when he put his hand to the helm, there was no going backward. He was so genial in his intercourse, possessed a sympathy so spontaneous, was so kind, affectionate and generous, there seemed combined in him all those qualities which challenged the love and admiration of those who best knew him, and endeared him to the hearts of all his friends. As a tinker he was vigorous and adhered tenaciously to his opinions; as an orator he had few superiors; as a companion for social house, his quick perception, and keen zest of mirth, made him pre-eminent; as a lawyer he stood at the head of the bar of the Fourth District, and in him Iowa loses one of the brightest stars in her diadem of brilliant attorneys. His loss is one that will be felt, not alone for today, but for generations to come.”

Of his six surviving children, Eleanor, the eldest, is the wife of Ray Billingsley, a leading attorney of Vinton, Iowa. The eldest son, William Robert Patterson, is in the wholesale house of Franklin McVeagh & Co., of Chicago. The second daughter, Minnie V., is the wife of Frank Harwood, of this city. The third daughter, Rosa, is wife of William F. Carter, a merchant of Clear Lake, Iowa. The two minor children, John Edward and Daisy Hester, are still at home.