Iowa: Its History and Its Foremost Citizens
Original Edition. 3
Vols. Des Moines, IA: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1915-1916.
Unless otherwise noted, biographies submitted by Dick Barton.
The Garst Administration
Warren Garst - Merchant and Banker - Senator - Legislative Dispenser of Millions - Chief Executive - Industrial Commissioner
Warren Garst was born in Dayton , Ohio , December 4, 1850 . His ancestry on his father's side were Hollanders; on his mother's side they were Irish. When he was eight years old he came with his parents to Illinois , and at the age of nineteen he entered upon a business career in Boone , Iowa . Thence he and his brother went to Coon Rapids , Carroll county, where they opened a general store which has ever since been the merchandising center of an extensive and rich agricultural region. In time, they engaged in local banking and real estate. In 1889, Warren Garst and Clara Clark were married in Boone. The union was blessed with three children, and was in all other respects an event assuring the contracting parties years of happy wedded life.
Having mastered the financial problem, and having become deeply interested in Iowa and national politics, in 1893, the Coon Rapids merchant, banker and farmer, became a candidate for the State Senate. His career in state politics began with the Twenty-fifth General Assembly and continued with uninterrupted success until the close of the Thirty-first. During his long career in office, Senator Garst was an influential member of the more important committees. During five legislatures he was chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. There has never been a chairman of that important committee whose grasp of the finances of the state and the needs of the several departments of state activity was firmer than his, whose interest in the outlay of the state's funds was keener, and whose insistence that they be placed where they would do the most good to the greatest number, firmer.
In the Republican Convention of 1906, Senator Garst was nominated on the Cummins ticket for lieutenant-governor. His vote exceeded that of the head of the ticket by over four thousand. He was inaugurated January 17, 1907 , and proceeded at once to preside in person over the Senate in which for fourteen years he had been a leading member.
The election of Governor Cummins to the United States senatorship in January, 1909, left a vacancy in the office of governor, which by constitutional direction elevated the lieutenant-governor to the vacant seat of authority. we now find Lieutenant-Governor Garst occupying the chair of state for the remainder of Governor Cummins' term. With thorough knowledge of the business of the state and with extensive acquaintance with the public men of Iowa , the new governor entered upon his new duties with an all-around equipment which few chief executives have had; and during the brief period of his administration he evinced the qualities which count for most in a chief executive, namely: shrewd intelligence, business method, directness of approach to public questions and continuity of purpose.
The message read by Governor Garst to the incoming Thirty-third General Assembly was an exhaustive review of conditions and of the needs of the state. It referred in congratulatory terms to the partial regeneration of political methods and the duty of the Legislature to complete the work. It pointed with satisfaction to the eighteen state institutions under the board of control, and urged due attention to their steadily increasing needs. It urged a liberal policy toward schools and higher institutions of learning, also a careful revision of the school laws. It pointed the way to further restriction of the saloon evil. It urged generous treatment of the department of justice, the department of agriculture, the new department of insurance, and other avenues of the state's activities. It treated the railway question with fairness and yet with a view to the best interests of the state. It gave due attention to highways, urging the desirability of the state's expending to better advantage its four million or more annually in road building. In fact, there is not a single vital interest of the state which was omitted in the message.
The retiring governor evinced deep interest in "the matter of providing a suitable setting for our magnificent state capitol." Iowa could "never pay its debt to Finkbine, Dey, Foote, Wright, Foreman and others of the Capitol Commission. . . . Partly in their honor and partly that we may complete what they so well begun," he felt a moral obligation rested upon the present generation that it "make the surroundings and approach to this great structure comport with its dignity and beauty." He recommended "a commission authorized to purchase land adjacent to the capitol grounds, with the right of condemnation where necessary, and with funds sufficient to secure such land as may be deemed necessary to provide a beautiful boulevard of approach and surroundings." He urged that the state should make the building and its grounds beautiful - "to make the whole an object of pride to all our people, something that will be an inspiration to better citizenship and that will give Iowa higher standing in the family of states."
Friends were so insistent that his resultful fraction of a term deserved a full term, that Governor Garst finally decided to place his name before the republicans of the state as a candidate to succeed himself. Meantime State Auditor Carroll had entered the field as a candidate for the nomination for governor. The contest was spirited and the result in doubt until the last, when it was found that Carroll received 88,834 votes; Garst, 63,737; and John J. Hamilton, 29,292. The appearance of Hamilton as a candidate divided the opposition vote, giving Carroll a plurality of 25,097, or 4,195 less than a majority of the votes cast.
In July, 1913, ex-Governor Garst was appointed industrial commissioner of Iowa and entered on the great reform of administering the new law for indemnifying workmen against the results of industrial accidents. He early took ground in favor of an assumption by the state of the insurance phase of the matter, on the ground that as the law enforces the provision for insurance the expense thereof is really a tax and is in its nature a governmental function which should be taken over by the state and not left to private corporations operating for profit - a
proposition he has since steadily maintained against vigorous and thus far successful legislative opposition.
Among the new senators seated in the Thirty-second General Assembly were William D. Jamison, of Page, afterwards member of Congress from the Eighth district; Edwin G. Moon, of Wapello, author of the "Moon law" restricting the number of saloons I cities; Charles F. Peterson, author of he "Peterson law" regulating foreign corporations; Joseph H. Allen, of Pocahontas, a leader in several subsequent Legislatures and in 1915 prominently mentioned as a possible governor of Iowa . Among the holdovers were Senators Gilliland, Jamison, (J. H.) Warren , Saunders, Lambert, Stuckslager, Newberry, Smith of Mitchell, and Bleakly. Smith was at the head of Ways and Means; Dowell, Judiciary; Maytag, Appropriations; Hopkins , Railroads; Dunham, Suppressions of Intemperance; Whipple, Insurance; Warren , Incorporations.
In the House, the new members included these well-known names: Wallace H. Arney, Marshall; William L. Harding, Woodbury; B. T. Felt, Jr., Clay; Guy A. Feely, Black Hawk; Paul E. Stillman, Greene; John B. Sullivan, Polk; George C. White, Story; Charles W. Miller, Bremer; and Ernest R. Moore, Linn. Speaker Kendall placed at the head of Ways and Means Teter, of Marion ; Judiciary, Weeks, of Guthrie; Appropriations, Jones, of Montgomery ; Railroads, Meredith, of Cass; and Municipal Corporations, Sullivan, of Polk.
Among the bills passed by the Thirty-second General Assembly were several affecting railroads, insurance, primary elections, municipal corporations, public health, state institutions, military regulations, the marital relation, pure food legislation, traffic in intoxicants, etc. Also bills providing for the compilation of a roster of Iowa soldiers, sailors and marines; modifying the method of securing juries; prohibiting combinations among grain elevator men and corporations; providing for a uniform fire insurance policy; appropriating money for state institutions; providing for hunters' licenses, the fees to be used by the state warden; establishing a state board of health laboratory at Iowa City ; limiting the indebtedness of state and savings banks; providing for the examination and regulation of graduate nurses; providing for a document librarian; providing for a bronze statue of James Harlan in the National Statuary Hall at Washington ; abating the smoke nuisance; creating a commission to revise and codify the school laws; providing for a uniform system of bookkeeping by county auditors; strengthening the primary law; empowering cities and towns to regulate, tax and prohibit dance halls, skating rinks, fortune tellers, palmists, clairvoyants, etc.
Roy Dennis Gassner, grandson of Granville Dennis, was born in Red Oak in
1877, a son of Wilbur and Margaret (Dennis) Gassner. At the usual age he began
his education in the public schools, passing through consecutive grades to the
high school and thus becoming well qualified to take up life's practical and
responsible duties. His first business after putting aside his textbooks was in
assisting his grandfather on the home farm. He then turned his attention to the
banking business in Coffeyville, Kansas, and later he returned to Red Oak but
afterward removed to Worland, Wyoming, where he remained as cashier in a bank
for five years. On the expiration of that period he purchased a tract of land in
Greenwood, Missouri, thirty miles from Kansas City, and is now devoting his
energies to farming. At the age of twenty-one he enlisted for service in the
Spanish-American war as a member of Company M, Fifty- first Iowa, U. S. V., and
was mustered out at San Francisco, November 2, 1899. He married Miss Rose C.
Wilkinson and they have three children: Helen Emma, Wilbur and Mary. Their
friends in Red Oak are many and, returning on frequent visits to the city, they
continue their acquaintance there. Mr. Gassner is proving a capable business
man, ready and resourceful, and success is attending his efforts.
Thomas Francis Griffin, member of the state legislature and an active practitioner at the bar of Sioux City, belongs to that class of men to whom opportunity spells success. He has never been actuated by the spirit of vaulting ambition, yet he has never feared to venture where favoring opportunity has led the way. Fortunate in possessing ability and character that inspire confidence in others, the simple weight of his character and ability has carried him into important public relations. He was born upon a farm in Howard County, Iowa, April 19, 1865 , a son of Thomas and Rose (Downes) Griffin , both of whom were natives of Ireland , the former born in County Galway and the latter in County Westmeath . They were brought to the United States in childhood, were married in New York City and in the early '60's came to Iowa, settling in Howard County. Throughout his entire active life the father followed the occupation of farming but retired some years prior to his death, which occurred in 1910 when he was eighty-five years of age. For a decade and a half he had survived his wife, who passed away in 1895.
Reared in his native county, Thomas F. Griffin attended the country schools of Howard County and in June, 1888, completed a law course in Notre Dame ( Ind. ) University. He took up his abode in Sioux City in August of that year and has since been engaged in general practice in northwestern Iowa . He is an able member of the bar. He possesses perhaps few of those brilliant, dazzling, meteorite qualities which have sometimes flashed along the legal horizon, riveting the gaze and blinding the vision for a moment, then disappearing leaving little or no trace behind, but has rather those solid and more substantial qualities which shine with a constant luster, shedding light in the dark places with steadiness and continuity. He can hardly be termed an orator but has in an eminent degree that rare ability of saying in a convincing manner the right thing at the right time. His mind is analytical, logical and inductive. In 1893 he was called to the office of county attorney of Woodbury county and occupied that position for two years. Popular suffrage made him one of the lawmakers of the state in 1912, the fifty-eighth district electing him to the general assembly, in which he is now serving. His political allegiance has always been given the republican party and his earnest advocacy of its principles has been an element in its success in his district.
On the 30th of April of 1891, in Sioux City , Iowa , Mr. Griffin was married to Miss Rose Hartnett, a daughter of Daniel Hartnett, a native of Massachusetts . They have two children, James A. and Thomas J. The parents are members of the Catholic church and Mr. Griffin also has membership in the Knights of Columbus, the Elks lodge, the Commercial Club and the Sioux City Yacht Club. He has qualities that render him popular socially and, having carefully developed his talents as a lawyer through earnest, unremitting effort, he stands today as one of the capable members of the Sioux City bar.
LEGISLATURE - FATHER
OF IOWA'S STATE AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE - LIEUTENANT- GOVERNOR OF IOWA
- FOUNDER OF IOWA'S FIRST SUCCESSFUL FARM JOURNAL
There is something
of the unexpected - the unlooked for - in the life of even the most
staid. Who would have thought of connecting with the John Brown raid
two innocent, unworldly Quaker lads in far-off Iowa! In the Senate investigation
which followed the Harper's Ferry tragedy in 1859, the interesting fact
was developed that John B. Floyd, secretary of war under President Buchanan,
had been informed in August, prior to the raid on Harper's Ferry, that
an invasion of Virginia was in process of organization under the leadership
of one John Brown, and that Floyd had taken no steps to run down the
report. The letter itself was produced by a member of the Senate committee.
Secretary Floyd identified it, testifying as follows: "I received
this letter last summer in Virginia. My attention was a little more
than usual attracted to it, and I laid it away in my trunk. I receive
many anonymous letters, and pay no attention to them. I do not know
but that I should have paid attention to this, notwithstanding it was
anonymous, as the writer seemed to be particular in the details; but
I knew there was no armory in Maryland, and supposed he had gone into
details for the purpose of exciting the alarm of the secretary of war
and have a parade. I was satisfied in my own mind that a scheme of such
wickedness and outrage could not be entertained by any of the citizens
of the United States. I thought no more of the letter until the raid
broke out. Then I instantly remembered it; the letter was hunted up
and published. The object in publishing it was to show that the raid
had more significance than a mere local outbreak, and that the country
might be put on guard against anything like a concerted movement. A
gentleman in Cincinnati, whom I knew, wrote to me for the letter, believing
that the handwriting might be traced. The writer was not discovered,
but they had strong suspicions that a certain person somewhere in Kentucky
had written it."
The letter itself
reads as follows:
Hon. Mr. Floyd,
Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.
Sir: I have lately
received information of a movement of so great importance that I feel
it my duty to impart it to you without delay. I have discovered the
existence of a secret organization having for its object the liberation
of the slaves at the South by a general insurrection. The leader of
the movement is "Old John Brown," late of Kansas. He has been
in Canada during the winter drilling the negroes there, and they are
only waiting his word to start for the South to assist the slaves. They
have one of their leading men (a white man) in an armory in Maryland
- where it is situated I have not been able to learn. As soon as everything
is ready, those of their number who are in the northern states and Canada
are to come in small companies to their rendezvous, which is in the
mountains of Virginia. They will pass down through Pennsylvania and
Maryland, and enter Virginia at Harper's Ferry. Brown left the North
about three or four weeks ago, and will arm the negroes and strike the
blow in a few weeks, so that whatever is done must be done at once.
They have a large quantity of arms at their rendezvous, and are probably
distributing them already. As I am not fully in their confidence, this
is all the information I can give you. I dare not Sign my name to this,
but trust that you will not disregard the warning on that account.
Had this note of
warning been heeded, the history of the United States would not have
included the painful chapter relating to John Brown's ill-advised and
insane raid. Indeed, it may even be surmised that the awful tragedy
of fraternal war which soon after deluged the South in blood might have
been averted, and the original hope of Lincoln might have been realized
in the emancipation of the slaves by peaceful methods, with compensation
to slave-owners as a return for the original complicity of the general
government in the sin and crime of human slavery.
But in such inexplicable
ways great conflicts occur.
and hand-writing experts were employed in the endeavor of the committee
to trace the letter to its author. The southern members of the committee,
Davis, Floyd and Wise, were sure the information contained in the letter
was obtained from "men higher up" - from leading republicans.
Leading republicans, conscious of their own innocence, invited investigation.
Hugh Forbes, who at one time had drilled Brown's men, was placed in
the sweat-box, but he came out untouched. Edmund Babb, an editorial
writer on the Cincinnati Gazette, was afterwards accused by Hinton,
in his "John Brown and His Men," but the accusation was not
sustained. Sanborn, in his "Life and Letters of John Brown,"
said the letter might have been written by a Cincinnati reporter, who
might have procured his information from a Hungarian who had fought
with Brown in Kansas; or, the information might possibly have come directly
from Cook, one of Brown's men, "who talked too freely." A
brother of the Coppoc boys was sure the letter in question was written
by poor Richard Realf, the poet, whose sad life ended in suicide (Rev.
J. L. Coppoc, in Midland Monthly, October, 1895.)
The mysterious letter
promised to go down into history, along with the authorship of the Letters
of Junius, and with the destroyer of the Maine, as one of the queries
of the ages.
after the tragedy of Harper's Ferry, there appeared in an obscure western
magazine (The Midland Monthly of February and March, 1897.) a paper
written by "B. F. Gue, ex-lieutenant-governor of Iowa," which
settled for all time the authorship of the letter and the motive of
its joint authors in writing and sending it. This first- hand contribution
to history throws so much light upon the temperament and character of
the subject of this sketch that it seems best to make extended extracts
therefrom. The author starts out with this fine pen- picture of John
Brown's advent among the Iowa Quakers:
"On the morning
of the 3d day of September, 1855, two men and a youth, with a canvas-top
one-horse wagon, crossed the Mississippi River on the ferry-boat from
Rock Island to Davenport. They purchased a few supplies at Burrows &
Prettyman's store on Front street, and drove up Harrison street to the
summit of the bluff. The elderly man with long white beard turned and
looked back at the landscape spread out beneath. Steamers plowing up
the great river, the old clock-house on the island, the broad river
sweeping down on either shore, the great valley extending far away on
the Illinois side to a blue range of hills in the distance, made up
a landscape of surpassing beauty. He gazed long and earnestly upon the
enchanting view, then slowly turned westward and followed his companions
over the great prairie. After a day's travel the party camped for the
night upon the banks of a creek on the north side of Round Grove, near
the old Kizer farm. The elderly man was nearly six feet in height, with
a slender but wiry frame; his muscles and sinews seemed to be woven
with threads of iron. His hair had grown gray with advancing years and
rose in a dense mass above a retreating forehead. Deep furrows, telling
of cares, toils and stern endurance, ran down between the shaggy eyebrows.
The nose was prominent and of Roman cast. A long full beard of many
years' growth could not hide the firm lines of a broad mouth. His eyes
glowed with the intensity of burning coals, changing their hues from
light blue to gray, and again to piercing darkness. His head bent slightly
forward and his steady gaze was downward as he walked with firm tread,
as though absorbed in deep thought. When he turned his eyes upon you
they seemed to pierce you through and through with the intensity of
their unflinching gaze; there was a power in them that chained your
attention and almost hypnotized your will. They impressed you as looking
out from a stern, relentless soul which could never be swerved a hair's
breadth from a life-long purpose. He was poorly clad in well-worn homespun
clothes, and had the manners of a rigid Puritan.
were a young man under thirty and a lad of fifteen. As they drew up
around the bright glow of the campfire they talked of the Kansas troubles
and of the three brothers of the lad who had made their homes in the
new territory. The elder man spoke with intense feeling of the invasion
and outrages of the 'border ruffians' who were swarming over from Missouri.
He clenched his fingers tightly around his Sharp's rifle lying near
him, as though impatient to take a hand in the struggle between the
free-state settlers and the invaders. Their talk continued late into
the night, but before stretching themselves out beneath the shelter
tent the senior member of the party read a chapter from the Old Testament
and commented upon it. Early in the morning, while the son and son-in-law
were preparing breakfast, the father sat in the tent writing a letter
to his wife and the children left in the distant eastern home."
This letter, the
first record we have of John Brown's tramp from the Mississippi to Springdale,
Iowa, in 1855, contains one significant passage throwing a flood of
light upon the predominant motive of this noblest of fanatics. He writes:
". . . If I
could in any other way answer the end of my being I would be content
to be at North Elba with you."
Governor Gue retells
the locally well-known story of Brown and his men among the Quakers
in Springdale, Iowa, the leader daily drilling his little band in preparation
for the inevitable tragedy.
Farther on he tells
the story of his own part in the incident of the letter. The Gues were
Hicksite Quakers and trained to abhor bloodshed. The two brothers, Benjamin
and David, were then living in a little log cabin on Rock creek, near
Springdale. David and a cousin from Buffalo, A. L. Smith by name, had
been told by a conscientious Quaker, named Moses Varney, the story of
Brown's little army in their midst, of the warlike intent of its leader
and the alarming extent to which he was winning to his cause the Quaker
youths of the neighborhood. They would all be killed - and to no purpose.
Something must be done to avert the tragedy. On their return the two
took the elder brother Benjamin into their counsels.
". . . We consulted
together long and earnestly, late into the night, and determined that
these heroic young men and their fearless and immovable leader must
not be left to march to inevitable defeat and destruction if it was
in our power to prevent.
had informed Smith that he and several other trusted friends of the
old patriarch had used all their powers of persuasion and entreaty to
induce John Brown to abandon a scheme so hopeless and so sure to end
in the violent death of scores of people. But no impression could be
made upon him. Brown had a prophetic faith that he was ordained to overthrow
American slavery; and that the time he had so long waited for - lived
for, prayed for - had come at last. The preparations of a lifetime seemed
to him to have culminated in this plan. He was sure that in some way,
not yet clearly developed, he was now leading his heroic band to an
assault that would result in the liberation of the slaves. Against such
a faith and such devotion no arguments or entreaty could prevail. His
youthful followers had implicit confidence in their leader, and were
imbued with the same spirit of martyrdom. The certainty of extreme personal
danger made no impression upon these devoted men. We realized that whatever
was to be done to prevent the impending tragedy must be in another direction;
that if anything was to be done, we must do it. We could not betray
the confidence of that noble and humane Quaker, Moses Varney, who, in
an agony of apprehension over the fate of his friends and neighbors,
looked to us to devise some way to avert it. We were young and inexperienced
in public affairs, but dared not consult older and wiser persons. The
night was wearing away, and we knew there was no time to lose. It is
likely a better plan might have been devised by wiser heads, but this
is what we finally determined to do:
"We would send
two letters to the secretary of war." . . .
The letters were
mailed at Wheatland, Iowa, one, written by Smith, was enclosed in a
larger envelope addressed to the postmaster at Philadelphia, the other,
the one which appeared in evidence before the Senate Committee, written
by David J. Gue (A landscape and portrait painter of prominence, still
living, in New York city.), in collaboration with his older brother,
Benjamin F., was addressed to John B. Floyd, secretary of war, and marked
"Private." This enclosed in a larger envelope, was mailed
from Big Rock, Iowa, to the postmaster at Cincinnati, with a request
that it be forwarded.
Having done all
in their power to avert the tragedy and save their friends and neighbors
from inevitable defeat and death, the three young Quakers patiently
awaited results. No news was good news. They congratulated themselves
that the letters had done their work. But, one blue Monday, late in
October, their weekly mail brought the New York Tribune and there, staring
them in the face, were the startling headlines telling them the dreadful
tragedy had been enacted.
Benjamin F. Gue
was born in Greene county, New York, on Christmas day, 1828. He received
a common school education and spent one academic term in Canandaigua
and another in West Bloomfield, New York. After a brief experience as
a school teacher, in the spring of 1852 he came to Iowa and bought a
land claim on Rock creek, in Scott county. On the 12th of November,
1855, he was united in marriage with Elizabeth Parker. Reared a Quaker,
he early developed an abhorrence of war and a detestation of slavery.
He was in at the birth of the republican party in Iowa, and had part
in shaping its policies.
Benjamin F. Gue's
public career commenced in 1857, when the republicans of Scott county
nominated and elected him to the Seventh General Assembly of Iowa.
The crowning work
of his legislative career was as one of the authors of a bill to establish
a State Agricultural College, and as the one selected to fight the bill
through the House against an adverse report of the powerful Committee
on Ways and Means. In 1859 he was reelected to the House, and in 1861
he was elected to the Senate.
But let us go back
to another John Brown incident in which the subject of this sketch was
one of the central figures. The young man who would have averted the
tragedy which proved fatal to Edward Coppoc and others of John Brown's
Iowa followers was more successful in saving John Brown's faithful follower,
Barclay Coppoc, from the talons of the law. Young Barclay, almost a
skeleton through loss of food and sleep after his escape from Harper's
Ferry, arrived in Springdale on the 17th of December, 1859. His friends
in the General Assembly promptly organized for his protection. A few
weeks after Barclay's arrival, on the 23d of January, 1860, Representatives
B. F. Gue and Ed Wright, calling on Governor Kirkwood, found him in
conference with a representative of Governor Letcher, of Virginia, the
Virginian very much excited over the governor's refusal to grant a requisition
for Coppoc; the Iowa executive cool and calm. Continuing his tirade
and wildly gesticulating, the Virginian was reminded by the governor
of his formerly expressed wish to keep the nature of his business private.
The stranger heatedly
replied: "I don't care a damn who knows it now, since you've refused
to honor the requisition." He then proceeded to argue the case
over again with the governor, and the callers soon found that the stranger
was bearer of a requisition for the surrender of Barclay Coppoc. The
stranger remarking that Coppoc might escape before he could get the
defective requisition amended, Governor Kirkwood, looking significantly
at Gue and Wright, remarked: "There is a law under which you can
arrest Coppoc and hold him until the requisition is granted." With
that he reached for the code.
The Quaker representatives
didn't wait to hear any more. Hastily communicating with Cattell, Grinnell
and other anti-slavery members, it was decided that a special messenger
should be sent to warn Coppoc and his friends. A man named Williams
was found hardy enough and brave enough to undertake the ride of 165
miles on horseback to Springdale. The rider was given credentials which
passed him on "the underground railway" and secured him a
relay of fresh horses. This was on the 23d of December. On Christmas
day the messenger had relieved himself of his message, and Barclay Coppoc
was spirited away; and, as subsequent events proved, a bloody encounter
THE FOUNDING OF
IOWA'S COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE AND MECHANIC ARTS
Though a new member
in a General Assembly of far more than average ability; Gue was selected
by the little band of enthusiasts for popular education to lead the
forlorn hope on the floor of the House in support of a bill to establish
a State College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts. A bill to that
end had been turned down in the Sixth General Assembly, and there was
every indication that any bill carrying an appropriation to that end
would meet the same fate in the Seventh. But Representatives Gue, Richardson,
Wright, Foster and others held a secret conference and, after framing
a bill to their liking, they agreed to "push it through or die
in the attempt."
Not long after the
burning of the main building at Ames, Iowa, (in l900) - the building
first erected on the farm purchased by the state - ex-Lieutenant-Governor
Gue wrote for the Iowa State Register two articles suggested by the
occurrence. One of these, under the significant sub-title, "A 'Visionary
Scheme' of three young Legislators, forty-three years ago - What has
come of it," somewhat condensed, is as follows:
"On a February
evening in the winter of 1858 three young men were seated around a table
in one of the upper rooms of Alex. Scott's brick house, which stood
on the east bank of the river, in the then shabby frontier City of Des
Moines. The first general assembly that ever convened in the new capital
recently located at the 'Forks of the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers'
was then in session. These three youngsters were members of the lower
house, and were from the counties of Fayette, Cedar and Scott. They
were pioneer prairie farmers, living in log cabins, who had emigrated
from the far East five years before with little more than strong hands,
to seek homes in the new State of Iowa. By a singular coincidence they
had settled in the Hawkeye State the same year, 1852, were originally
'abolitionists,' prohibitionists, now republicans, and 'liberals' in
religion. The members from Fayette and Cedar had served in the House
of the previous General Assembly at Iowa City, while the Scott county
member of the trio was serving his first term, and was the youngest
of the three. The subject of their consultation on this winter evening,
as a fierce 'blizzard' shook the windows of the northwest bedrooms in
the Scott mansion, was a bill which had been prepared by R. A. Richardson
two years before, and introduced in the House by him, providing for
the establishment of a State Agricultural College. It had received scant
consideration, and was doomed to the legislative waste basket. How to
improve the old bill and secure for the substitute fair treatment was
the problem engaging the attention of the three log-cabin legislators
on that February evening. They had in boyhood experienced the grinding
processes and deprivations which poverty brings, and had longed in vain
for the means with which a liberal education could be obtained.
schools of that period in the rural districts afforded only the crudest
facilities for education; libraries were only to be found in the cities,
and the average country boy or girl who could be spared from the farm
and household labor, for a term or two at a village academy, was the
envy of the neighborhood. Some of the younger members of the Legislature
sorely felt the meager equipments which poverty had entailed upon them
as they attempted to meet in debate the educated professional gentlemen,
lawyers skilled by long practice in public speaking, with all the advantages
of a college education; and it raised the inquiry, why should land grants
and money endowment be given to enable the wealthy who choose the so-called
learned professions to get all the inestimable benefits of a university
education while the sons and daughters of the mechanics, farmers and
all grades of workers were deprived by virtue of scanty incomes from
participation in the benefits of a higher education? The unsophisticated
representatives of the manual labor classes could see none, and then
and there determined to inaugurate a crusade for equa1 rights and privileges
for educational equipment at public expense with the hitherto favored
candidates for the learned professions. They realized that it meant
a new departure in education, and that a long and hard fight must precede
the realization of their plans.
a substitute had been prepared, and R. A. Richardson, from Fayette county,
was delegated to introduce it in the House next day. It was ordered
'laid upon the table and printed.'
time had been given for the consideration of the bill, the member from
Cedar moved that it be taken from the table and referred to the Committee
on Agriculture. The chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means said
that as it contemplated a large appropriation of public money, it should
be considered by his committee, and there it was ordered by the House.
The chairman of that committee was the recognized leader of the republican
majority of the House, an able lawyer, who had been one of the framers
of the new constitution which was adopted the year before. He became
in later years an eminent member of the United States Senate. The authors
of the bill were appalled to learn a few days later that it had not
a friend on that committee. What should be done? Should they accept
defeat without a struggle? They were young and enthusiastic and decided
to make a fight. Any experienced legislator could have informed them
that there was not one chance in a hundred to pass a bill appropriating
money, against a unanimous adverse report of the Ways and Means Committee.
. . .
friends of the college were called in, the situation explained, and
each of the authors of the bill was assigned some part in the coming
battle. Ed Wright was selected to engineer the bill through all of the
intricacies of parliamentary danger, and the youngster from Scott county
[Gue] being the only one accustomed to public speaking, was delegated
to combat the adverse report of the committee, and explain fully the
plan of the proposed college. Other duties were assigned to various
members of the House to brace them up, and strengthen the wavering.
On the 10th of March the chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means
reported back 'House File 129, a bill to establish a State Agricultural
College, with a unanimous recommendation 'that the further consideration
of the same be indefinitely postponed.' He briefly stated that the bill
contemplated an appropriation of $20,000; that the scheme was a visionary
one, and the state had no money to squander in such experiments. Following
him came the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who coincided with
all the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee had said. Then, to
clinch the last nail to be driven in the coffin of the Agricultural
College, the chairman of the Committee on Expenditures heartily agreed
with all his esteemed colleagues had urged in opposition to the scheme
to appropriate public money. The case seemed hopeless. But the youngster
from Scott took the floor. He started off with a visible tremor in his
voice, and was apparently going to break down, when looking over towards
the postoffice, he saw in the eye of the venerable ex-congressman, Daniel
F. Miller (who happened to be present), a look of sympathy and encouragement,
which nerved him to go on and fear not the odds. . . . I have often
thought that the look which conveyed so much at that critical moment
saved to Iowa her great industrial college. At any rate, the youngster
on the floor soon got the attention of the House. Members laid aside
their papers and began to listen as he warmed up to the work. He presented
an array of facts and figures to show how much money had been given
through grants of public lands, building and appropriations direct from
the state treasury to enable the young men at the State University to
equip themselves with a higher education for careers in the learned
professions, largely at the public expense, while not one dollar had
yet in the state's existence been appropriated to aid the industrial
classes to acquire a college education in the line of their chosen occupation.
They had year after year paid by far the larger proportion of taxes
which supported the State University, and that without complaint. He
spoke for about half an hour, explaining the principal features of the
bill under consideration, and the plan of the proposed college, closing
with these words: . . . 'We believe in higher education for all who
seek it; while you would extend it only to a few favored classes. We
shall demand the roll call on the report of your committee, and send
out to the people of the state the record there made by each member
of the House for or against equal favors and privileges to all the youth
of Iowa, confidently believing that in the end justice will prevail.
You may defeat this measure now, but we shall take an appeal to the
voters of the state.'"
The story proceeds,
with a picture of "a studious looking young member from Webster
county," Cyrus C. Carpenter by name, afterwards governor of Iowa,
who was the first to come over to the support of the measure. Others
followed. The three influential committee chairmen, James F. Wilson,
W. H. Seevers and John Edwards, gracefully reversed themselves. "Each
in turn disclaimed any hostility to the bill on its merits." They
were "not aware that a similar college had been established in
any state." They conceded "the claim urged by the young man
from Scott, that all classes should receive equal privileges from the
law-making power, and if the friends of the bill would consent to a
reduction of the appropriation from $20,000 to $10,000 at this session,
. . . they would withdraw all opposition."
Lundy, of Muscatine,
moved the reduction proposed; the champions of the measure accepted
the reduction and the bill passed the House with little or no further
opposition. It met with no serious opposition in the Senate, and was
promptly signed by the governor.
In the Eighth General
Assembly a formidable effort was made to repeal the act passed by the
The hard times and
the prospect of war gave strength to the opposition. An inquiry into
the expediency of repealing the act, resulted in two reports, the majority
against, the minority for, repeal. A bill was introduced for repeal,
and there was grave danger of its passage; but Representative Gue, chairman
of the committee on Agriculture, moved that the bill be laid on the
table for the present, "as its opponents were not quite ready to
act upon it." The motion seemed reasonable and was carried. But,
two weeks later, when the friends of repeal Sought to take the bill
from the table, the point of order was raised that a two- thirds vote
was required to call up a bill which had been tabled! The speaker sustained
the point of order, and the bill to repeal slumbered undisturbed. But
the friends of the college did not deem it wise to press the matter
of another appropriation during that session.
In September, 1862,
Iowa's General Assembly accepted the congressional land grant tendered
under the Morrill Act, and the Iowa College of Agriculture found itself
prospectively rich, with over two hundred thousand acres of land set
apart for its use.
In the regular session
of 186l, Senator Gue had a no less formidable antagonist than Governor
Kirkwood. A determined effort was made to divert the land granted by
Congress from the Agricultural College to the State University for the
support of a department of agriculture and an experimental farm at the
university. Representative Hildreth, Governor Kirkwood and President
Spencer, of the university, vigorously urged this "substantial
compliance with the law." The friends of the agricultural college
indignantly insisted that it would be a clear violation of the law,
and would also be a gross injustice, to divert the land to "an
institution already richly endowed." The excitement became intense.
Public discussion was held several evenings in the House of Representatives,
with Governor Kirkwood as champion of the university and Senator Gue
as champion of the agricultural college. Again the Quaker statesman
won the victory. The entire grant went to the agricultural college.
gracefully accepted his defeat, and we next find him cooperating with
Senators Gue and Clarkson in devising a plan of leasing the land until
such time as the price of land - then very low - should advance. The
plan was approved by the General Assembly and, in accordance with a
law enacted by that body, the trustees leased the lands for a term of
ten years. The plan worked so well that the rentals supplied the college
with what was then regarded as a generous maintenance fund.
In January, 1867,
the college board charged Governor Stone, Lieutenant- Governor Gue and
President Melendy, of the State Agricultural Society, with the duty
of studying methods in agricultural colleges in other states and so
informing themselves as to the steps necessary and those most desirable
in the organization of the Iowa Agricultural College; also to select
a faculty, fix salaries, establish a curriculum, etc. The pressure of
official duties prevented Governor Stone from serving. The responsibility
therefore devolved upon Messrs. Gue and Melendy. These gentlemen visited
several eastern colleges and exhaustively studied their methods. The
report, written by the lieutenant governor, filed in January, 1868,
was a valuable contribution to the cause of practical education; and
its conclusions shaped the organization and policy of the Iowa college.
When, on the 18th
of March, 1869, the Iowa Agricultural College was formally dedicated,
the honor of delivering the principal address of the day naturally fell
to President Gue of the college board.
In this connection
should be mentioned Judge William H. Holmes, of Jones county, who in
the Ninth General Assembly had cooperated with Gue and Richardson, and
who was the first president of the board of directors of the college
at Ames. To Judge Holmes was given the honor of driving the stake which
marked the location of the first building erected on the campus.
Retracing our steps,
we find that in 1864, after an eminently useful and successful career
in the General Assembly, Senator Gue became a resident of Fort Dodge,
Iowa, and the editor and publisher of the Iowa North West, a weekly
paper which for eight years thereafter was the strongest representative
of republican principles and policies in Northwestern Iowa. In 1865
Editor Gue was appointed postmaster of Fort Dodge, but soon after his
appointment a republican state convention nominated him to the office
of lieutenant-governor. He promptly tendered his resignation as postmaster
and took the stump for the ticket headed by Governor Stone. He was elected,
and the next General Assembly found in former Representative and Senator
Gue a model president of the Senate, requiring no parliamentary coach
and needing no suggestions as to the makeup of committees.
On retiring to private
life the ex-lieutenant-governor gave much of his time for a number of
years to the organization and upbuilding of the college which he had
been chiefly instrumental in founding. In 1868 he was elected to the
presidency of the college board of trustees, and for several terms thereafter
held the position to the general satisfaction of the college and the
An interesting "aside"
in the life drama here presented is Editor Gue's expose of "the
Cardiff Giant Humbug - a complete and thorough exposition of the greatest
deception of the age," first published in the North West, in 1869,
and later, in 1870, republished in pamphlet form.
Mr. Gue traced the
shipment from a station near Fort Dodge to Chicago, from Chicago to
Union, thence by team to Cardiff, N. Y., and thence, by night, to the
Newell farm. A score or more of affidavits procured by him made the
In 1872 Benjamin
F. Gue entered upon another career, one for which he was admirably fitted,
by reason of his early experience as a farmer, his services to the state
as a pioneer legislator in the interests of agriculture, and his long
connection with the executive department of the college at Ames. He
transferred his home from Fort Dodge to Des Moines and there assumed
the editorship of the Iowa Homestead, long the leading agricultural
and home paper of the Middle West. In 1873 he was appointed by President
Grant United States pension agent for Iowa and Nebraska. He held this
position for eight years. In 1881 he returned to the editorship of the
Homestead, in that capacity doing much to stimulate scientific farming
and kindred vocations in the Middle West. For years he took an active
part in Iowa politics, making speaking campaigns in every district in
Iowa. His editorial utterances, reaching much farther than any human
voice could carry, were potent forces in support of all worthy reforms,
in agricultural methods, in educational policies and in practical politics.
From 1892 to 1895
Mr. Gue rendered valuable assistance to Charles Aldrich in the organization
and systematic arrangement of the state's historical department and
in editorial work on the Aldrich series of the Annals of Iowa.
Mr. Gue was one
of the founders and active members of the Pioneer Law- Makers' Association.
It was on his individual initiative that the association was organized.
As a member of five General Assemblies he outranked all the former legislators
in the original body, except only John Russell and L. R. Bolter. The
first reunion was held in February, 1886. To him students of Iowa history
are chiefly indebted for the editing and indexing of the valuable early
proceedings of the Pioneer Law-Makers' Association.
A Hicksite Quaker
in his youth, in his later years Mr. Gue became a Unitarian, finding
much in common in the faith and tenets of the two denominations. He
was one of the founders, and long the treasurer, of the Iowa Unitarian
Association, and was for many years president of the First Unitarian
Church of Des Moines. He was a pioneer of liberalism in Iowa.
The crowning work
of Governor Gue's last years is the four-volume "History of Iowa"
on which he labored at first intermittently and afterward daily for
seventeen years or more. The gathering and preparing of the material
for this history was a work calling for patience, industry and judgment,
combined with first-hand knowledge of the subject. It is not too much
to say that he himself was part of the history of Iowa and, too, he
had witnessed nearly all the public events of greatest interest in that
On the 3d of July,
1888, occurred the death of Mrs. Gue, leaving four children, al1 of
whom survive, namely: Horace G., Alice, Gurney C., and Katherine. The
last named is the wife of Dr. Arthur C. Leonard, state geologist of
North Dakota, and dean of geology in the State University of Grand Forks.
The death of Benjamin
F. Gue occurred in Des Moines on Wednesday, June 1, 1901. On his way
home he suddenly fell, overcome by heart failure. He was carried home
and lived to utter a few last words. The funeral of Governor Gue occurred
from the family residence in Des Moines, on the Saturday following his
death. The funeral services were conducted by his pastor, Rev. Mary
A. Safford, and his friend, Judge Gifford S. Robinson. Judge Robinson's
part in the service was an outline sketch of the distinguished and eminently
useful career of the deceased and the great value of his public services.
The honorary and active pallbearers were personal friends of the deceased,
including Governor Cummins and others prominent in state affairs.
In the July, 1904,
number of the Annals of Iowa Mr. Aldrich thus sums up the public services
of his old-time friend and associate: "While he was a modest and
unpretentious man, whose life was a quiet one, he had filled a large
measure of public usefulness. He came to Iowa in the midst of the great
anti-slavery movement which resulted in the civil war, thoroughly imbued
with the free-soil sentiments which prevailed in the North. He had also
grown up with very practical ideas relating to the laws which govern
towns, or townships, and counties. He was qualified by nature and education
to become a prominent and useful citizen. When he came into the Iowa
House of Representatives in 1858 the new constitution had but recently
been adopted and there was a necessity for much legislation to conform
to that new charter of our rights. His conception of these matters seemed
to be intuitive. He possessed the intelligence and the force of character
required to make him conspicuous in the radical majority.
of the Civil war also called for the services of patriotic and able
men. Those who survive from that period will recall the fact that Mr.
Gue was one of the foremost representatives in the seventh and eighth
General Assemblies, and a leading senator in the ninth and tenth. While
he served in the House there occurred one of the most prolonged and
earnest contests that have marked our legislative history. The issue
was upon the adoption of a representative system of county government
in place of the old county judge system which centered all local authority
in one man. He was one of the champions of the supervisor system, concerning
which he had brought clear and positive ideas from the State of New
York. In the war Legislatures, in providing for raising, provisioning
and arming troops, he always earnestly sustained the recommendations
of Governor Kirkwood and Abraham Lincoln. In the founding of our common
school system, in the work of securing friendly legislation for the
agricultural college, the state university and the normal school, few
men had such well-defined and positive ideas. Later on, strenuous efforts
were made by unprincipled speculators to acquire large tracts of swamp
lands in the northwestern part of the state. Gue, with others, fought
this effort, which was simply stealing, until they were overborne by
Benjamin F. Gue
was ever the fearless champion of the worthy cause that lacked assistance.
Many another man is influenced by the apparent success or failure of
the work with which he is identified, but to this man the relative success
or failure of the cause which he espoused made no apparent difference
in the quality of his support. He was a born-and- bred abolitionist
and no amount of sophistry could draw from him any compromise with his
conscience on the question of slavery. He had a Quaker's love of peace,
but when aroused to the necessity of struggle he was a formidable champion.
During his legislative career no other work is as likely to stand a
monument to his wisdom and persistence as the State College of Agriculture
and Mechanic Arts, of which he was one of the recognized founders and
upbuilders. In his presidency of the board of trustees of that institution,
with rare foreknowledge he prepared the way for the grand results to
which we of the new century point with pride and satisfaction. With
prophetic vision this man foresaw that the time would come when the
ambition of students would not be satisfied with merely memorizing the
wisdom of the ancients, but would reach out for the knowledge which
would enable them to do things. President Gue was far in advance of
his age in his support of equal educational advantages for women. One
of the severest of his several successful protests against ancient privilege
was his insistence on the admission of women to the new college. Against
the judgment of many, he protested against an amendment eliminating
"women" from the measure. In after years, as he watched the
upward career of Carrie Lane Chapman Catt, he took much satisfaction
in the thought that but for his insistence the doors of the state college
at Ames would have been closed to that great world leader of the suffrage
Governor Gue's freedom
from opportunism is illustrated not alone in his early identification
with a church then deemed dangerously heterodox, but away back in 1854,
before the free-soil movement found a home in any party, he was outspoken
in its support and in 1856 he was one of the few to organize the republican
party. His journalistic career was equally broad and aggressive. His
was the first newspaper in Northwestern Iowa to preach unqualifiedly
the gospel of human freedom and equality of opportunity. Later, at editor
of the Iowa Homestead, his was a clear, strong voice heard above the
tumultuous clamor of the period, urging upon the people and their representatives
the basic fact that the people have rights which corporations are bound
to respect. At the same time, he maintained with equal strength the
reverse of the proposition, namely, that corporations have rights which
the people are bound to respect.
The word "great"
is overworked and we seek in vain for a synonym which is not popularly
applied to the leader of a winning football team or to a general in
battle; to a hard hitter in a pugilistic encounter or to the president
of a great nation. But, going back to the old standards of greatness,
we do not hesitate to declare that among the many great men who "constitute
a state" and who have given Iowa its strength and individuality,
the name of Benjamin F. Gue is rightfully entitled to high place.
It would not be
just to close this "appreciation" without a word of comment
on the dignity of the last years of Governor Gue's life. At a time when
most men are willing to stand aside and let others take up the work
that needs to be done, this man, of active brain and willing hand, conceived
the purpose of writing the then unwritten history of Iowa. For seventeen
years or more he labored with that end in view. No amount of research
deterred him. Early and late, summer and winter, he toiled on, often
aided by the daughters who blessed his last years, until only a short
time before his death the history was finished and he was permitted
to look upon the completed work of his hands. He well knew that his
was not the finished product, though many of his friends in their partiality
wrote letters which might well have stimulated his vanity; but he also
knew that in all coming time many pages and certain chapters of his
work would supply possible material for future historians. Therein was
his ambition satisfied. Necessarily much of his later work was compilation,
but it was work which at some time some one would have been compelled
to do. The distinctive, original and independent strength of the first-hand
chapters of Governor Gue's history, covering the progress of events
in the '50s and early '60s, best reveal the author's capacity for description
and for historical grouping. Nowhere else can the subject matter of
these chapters be found so well presented.
Few indeed are the
men who can leave such a record as that which has been outlined in these
pages - a record of achievement, as a tiller of the soil and homebuilder,
as a pioneer of liberal thought, as a legislative leader, as one of
the founders of a great educational institution for the masses, as an
urbane, impartial presiding officer over the upper house of our State
Legislature, as an able and fearless editor, as an honest and capable
government official, as a valuable assistant in the creation of a state
historical department, and finally as a pioneer historian of the state
which he had done much to honor - and, withal, a record without a single