This highly esteemed citizen of Mt. Vernon is one of the adopted sons of America whose
loyalty is above question, having been manifested by his valiant service in the Civil war.
He was born in Cumberland county, England, March 13, 1839, and was two years old when
brought to this country by his parents, John and Nancy A. (Beaty) Thompson, also natives
of England. His father was the only member of the Thompson family to come to America. His
mother's youngest brother, Andrew Beaty, emigrated to the United States, and is
represented on another page of this volume. John Thompson and his family located on a farm
in Cortland county, New York, where he died March 23, 1847, his remains being interred in
Truxton, that county. His wife died January 15, 1854, and was burnied in Daysville,
Illinois. In their family were five children, namely: Elizabeth, who married George Reed
and died in Daysville, Illinois; Sarah, a resident of Mt. Vernon, Iowa; George, our
subject; Hannah, wife of Samuel Gray, of Oakland, California and Jane, wife of James
Malarkey, of Oregon, Illinois.
The subject of this sketch was reared in Cortland county, New York. Going to Illinois
in the winter of 1852, he worked on the farm of J. W. Edmonds of Ogle county for a short
time, and in 1854 and 1855 worked for that gentleman during the summer months, while he
attended school in winter. In 1856 he came to Mt. Vernon, Iowa, the trip being made by way
of the Northwestern Railroad to Fulton, on the Mississippi river; from there to Rock
Island, Illinois by stage coach; by railroad to Iowa City; by stage to Cedar Rapids; by
another stage to Marion; and on foot to Mt. Vernon. During the summer of that year he
worked on the farm of Irvin Wilcox, and the following winter he attended school in Mt.
Vernon for about six weeks. In the summer of 1857 he was employed on a farm in this
county, but in the fall he returned to Illinois, and lived near Light House until the
summer of 1859, when he commenced farming on the shares, operating the William Clemens
farm in Ogle county, near Franklin Grove. In the fall of 1859 he went to Chariton county,
Missouri, and engaged in cutting timber on "Old Jack Harris Island" in the
Missouri river, three miles from Glasgow until the following March, when he went to work
for Judge Salisbury, near Keatsville, that state. While there the town of Salisbury was
laid out on the judge's farm. Our subject continued there until May, 1861, when he came to
Columbus Junction, Iowa.
In August of that year Mr. Thompson enlisted in Company M, First Iowa Cavalry under
Captain William Ankney, of Clinton, and Colonel Fitz Henry Warren. He was mustered into
the service at Davenport and then went to Burlington, where he joined his regiment then
proceeded to St. Louis. While there was taken ill and given a furlough which he spent at
home. In the summer of 186? he rejoined his command at Butler, Bates county, Missouri, and
participated in the following engagements; Prairie Grove, Dripping Spring, Van Buren, St.
Francis River, Bayou Metre, Brownsville, Little Rock, Newtonia, Prairie D'Anne, Camden,
Mars Creek, Price's Raid, California, M---River Bottom and others.
On being mustered out of service, March 1866, Mr. Thompson returned to Mt. Vernon,
Iowa; and resumed farming. In the fall of 1867 he purchased a partially improved farm of
seventy acres in Franklin Township, which he placed under a high state of cultivation, and
to which he added to, he now has one hundred and seventeen acres. He continued to
successfully engage in agricultural pursuits until November, 1893 when he bought a home in
Mt. Vernon and has since lived a retired life, enjoying fruits of former toil. Mr.
Thompson cast his first presidential vote for John C. Fremont, the Republican candidate,
but is a supporter of the Democracy. Fraternally he is an honored member of W. C. Dimmitt
Post, No. 400, G. A. R.; Mt Vernon Lodge No. 551, I.O.O.F.; and Mt. Vernon Lodge, No. 112,
A.F. & A.M.
At Mt. Vernon, September 6, 1866, Mr. Thompson married Miss Adelia Willits, to them
were born four children, named Allison, born July 12, 1867, died September 30, 1883; John
J. born February 27, 1870, is now traveling in the west; Horace G., born December 25,
1872, died February 17, 1887; and Grace E., born October 9, 1877, is now attending Cornell
College. The mother of these children died October 4, 1889 and was buried in the Sumner
district cemetery two miles west of Mt. Vernon.
Mrs. Thompson was a daughter of Allison I. and Elizabeth E. (Julian) Willits. Her
father was born near Green's Fork, Indiana, and as customary in those early days, his
boyhood and young manhood were spent working on the farm and attending school when there
was no work to be done. Of his early life no great amount of reliable data can be secured.
Perhaps the best is that taken from a booklet written by his wife, in which she describes
his early career in the following words: "His youthful labors and hardships, making
farms in the forests of Ohio and Indiana, his sufferings on the inhospitable prairies of
Illinois, in 1836, tending cattle that terrible winter, which froze most of the herd to
death, barely escaping himself; his swimming the Mississippi frequently by himself or by
the side of his horse; his arrival in Linn county, Iowa, in 1839, where he married a young
wife, who died in a year; his return to Indiana; his second marriage; and back again to
Iowa; the blight of his fondest hopes in the loss of his children and almost constant
moving from cabin to cabin and from country to town and from town to country; the numerous
journeys from the east to the west and the north to the south by wagon or horseback, all
of which now in retrospect seemed like a disturbed, unhappy dream. Only on one point in
his restless and checkered career could his mind rest with entire satisfaction - the hour
in which he gave himself fully to God and felt his sins fully forgiven. Turning away from
these saddening memoirs of toil, sorrow and disappointment, the eye of faith was more
intently fixed than ever before upon a better country."
In 1842 Mr. Willits married Miss Elizabeth E. Julian, whose family resided in the
vicinity of Green's Fork, Wayne county, Indiana. She was born in that county, July 15,
1819, and was a daughter of Isaac and Rebecca (Hoover) Julian, natives of North Carolina,
and of Quaker descent. Her parents were married about 1809 and settled near Centreville,
where six children were born to them - four sons and two daughters. In 1823 Mr. Julian
located near what is now LaFayette, Indiana, where in a short time he died. The young
mother at once returned to Wayne County, Indiana, and finally took up her residence on a
small farm at Green's Fork, where she reared her children.
The first of the Julian family to come to America was Rene St. Julian, who emigrated
from France. (The name was abbreviated and Anglicized prior to the American Revolution)
His nativity is accredited to the city of Paris. His parents died in his infancy or
childhood. While but a youth he enlisted in the army and served in various foreign ports.
In the wars of the English Revolution, 1688, he served for a time in the armies of James
II, holding to the Roman Catholic faith. Later he, with many others, deserted to the
standard of William III, under whom he served at the battle of Boyne, July 1, 1690, having
become a Protestant and no doubt classed as a Huguenot. He continued in the service of
King William and his successors during seventeen years. The precise date of his emigration
to America has not been ascertained, but it was early in the eighteenth century, en route
he stopped at the island of Bermuda, where he married a lady named Margaret Pallock. He
was then forty years of age. He first settled on the coast of North Carolina, where he
resided for some years and had two sons born to him, both of whom died early. Deeming the
country unhealthy, he left it shortly afterward and settled on the western shore of
Maryland, where he leased land for some years, when he purchased an estate in Maryland or
Virginia. He had six sons, Stephen, George, John, Peter, Isaac and Rene. The particulars
of his subsequent life do not appear to have been preserved, but his closing years are
believed to have been passed at or near the site of the present city of Winchester,
Virginia. His son also resided in that part of the state.
History records the fact that one of his sons, Isaac Julian, a young married man, was
residing in tht vicinity in 1755. This fact is recorded in Irvings's Life of Washington,
chapter 18, in connection with the mention of an Indian panic. Braddock's defeat had
occurred on the 9th of July, previous, and the people were panic-stricken. Isaac Julian
was personally well known to Colonel George Washingon, aged thirty four, who, after the
defeat of Braddock, was made commander of the colonial troops stationed at Winchester,
Isaac Julian married Barbara White, daughter of D. Robert White, of Winchester, an
emigrant from Scotland of a wealthy and noted family. Her mother was the daughter of
another Scotch gentleman named Hoge, Barbara had two sisters, each of whom married a man
named Morgan, and both had children taken captive by Indians. A daughter of one of them
was released after a number of years, but a son, Ansiah Morgan, at about four years of
age, was adopted into an Indian family and would not leave them. After he had grown to
manhood he was taken in battle fighting against the whites and solicited to remain with
his kindred but was beguiled by his Indian wife into a corral and made his escape down the
river. The panic continuing and proving too well founded, Isaac Julian and all his
brothers save Stephen, the oldest fled the country. So great and imminent was the
anticipated danger that Isaac Julian who had a farm well stocked, left all save his
horses, - which he retained to aid his flight, - his farm, standing crops, sheep and other
stock, his house and most of its contents and with his family sped night and day
southward. They stopped in North Crolina, and he purchased a homestead of one thousand
acres in Randolph county. The original deed, still in possession of the family, bears date
1762, but he became possessed of the property some years previous. There he lived and
died, and his grave is still shown. The place, or part of it, remains in possession of
some of his descendants. The descendants of Stephen, the brother of Isaac Julian, who
remained in Virginia, are to be found in Ohio and other portions of the central west. the
other brothers are believed to have settled in the Carolinas and their descendants are
scattered over the south and west.
Isaac Julian (second) married Sarah Long, a native of Pennsylvania and a daughter of
Tobias Long. Her grandfather, Edward Long, came to America with William Penn's fleet.
Isaac Julian (second) removed to Indiana territory, where he died July 17, 1831. He had
six sons, Bohan, Tobias, Isaac, Jacob, Rene and Shubel, and six daughters, Zernah,
Elizabeth, Sarah, Elinor, Barbara and Martha. The two last named were twins. All of the
children save the two first named preceded their parents in removing to the northwest.
Isaac Julian (third) located in what is now Wayne county, Indiana, in 1808, and the
following year married Rebecca, daughter of Andrew Hoover, a leading member of the Society
of Friends and also an emigrant from Randolph county, North Carolina. John Scott, the
noted oldtime English Quaker evangelist, had visited that part of North Carolina in 1786,
in consequence of which a number of the people, including representatives of the Hoover
and Julian families had become members of the society. the name Hoover was originally
Huber, and the family, like the Julians, went by way of Maryland to North Carolina. Three
brothers, Jonas, Andrew and Christian Huber, settled on Pike creek, Maryland. The family
was of German descent, Andrew, of Pike creek, having left Germany when a boy. He found a
wife in Pennsylvania in the person of Margaret Fants. He left eight sons and five
daughters, all of whom had large families, while of course their descendants are very
numerous. His son, Andrew Hoover, was born in Maryland, and removed to North Carolina
about the time of the flight of the Julians from Virginia. He married Elizabeth Waymire,
whose father, Rudolph Waymire, emigrated from Hannover, Germany, after he had several
children. He had been a member of the famous foot guard regiment of Frederic the Great of
Prussia, none of whom were less than seven feet in height. He left one son and seven
daughters by his first wife and seven sons by a second marriage. Their descendants are
mostly to be found in the United States. Andrew Hoover (second) had ten children, four
sons and six daughters, as follows: David, Henry, Frederick, Andrew, Mary, Elizabeth,
Susannah, Catherine, Rebecca and Sarah.
Isaac Julian (third) and Rebecca, his wife, started in life in a region largely settled
by North Carolinians and other emigrants from the south. The Hoovers and Julians were
identified with the origin of Richmond, Indiana. Isaac Julian assisted in clearing the
heavy forest from a portion of the site and taught the first school in the township, while
David Hoover, a brother-in-law - later prominent in the public affairs of the country and
state - surveyed the plat and gave the name to the future city. For a number of years the
Quakers largely predominated in the place, which was known as the Quaker City of the West.
During the war of 1812 Isaac Julian's cabin was turned into a block house, where the
neighbors came for safety from the savage Indians, allies of the British. In 1818, 1822
and 1823 he was a member of the Indiana legislature then assembled at Corydon. He died in
1823 on the bare plains in Tippecanoe county, Indiana.
At the time of her father's death Mrs. Willits was in her fifth year. She had four
brothers and one sister, namely: John M. died at the age of twenty-three years. Jacob B.,
known as Judge Julian, was a noted lawyer, George W. studied law but drifted into politics
during the anti-slavery agitation and was nominated for vice-president with John P. Hale,
on the Free Soil ticket in 1852, and on that issue was sent to congress, where he served
several terms, becoming noted as a leading statesman. Isaac N. also studied law but later
entered the journalistic field, and lives at San Marcos, Texas; Sarah, who became Mrs.
Jesse Holman, resides at Mt. Vernon. The others are deceased.
Elizabeth E. Julian was twenty-two years of age when she gave her hand in marriage to
Allison I. Willits, and after spending a year at the home of his parents, they came to
Linn county, Iowa, in 1843, locating on a fine farm at Sugar Grove, Franklin township. Mr.
Willits had come to this county three years previous, and had purchased the farm in
partnersip with a Mr. Abbey, and on his return bought the latter's interest in the place.
Here he and his wife lived in true pioneer style. Eighteen months after their arrival here
a child was born to them but it died in infancy, and the second child only lived to be
seventeen months old. Adelia now Mrs. Thompson, was next in order of birth, and when she
was three years old George J. Willits was born. From 1848 to 1852 the family resided in
Mt. Vernon, where Mr. Willits conducted a store, and he also platted the town, in which he
owned a large interest. About this time Rev. George B. Bowman first visited this section,
and he and Mr. Willits became fast friends. The latter proposed that a school building be
erected on the present site of Cornell College. His suggestion, being approved, he and his
wife subscribed the first five hundred dollars for the purpose. He lived to see the
establishment of what is now one of the best colleges of the state. In 1855 he made a trip
to Missouri and a year later moved his family to that state. There it was that he carried
out his ideas of erecting a place of worship, that the common people could attend, but
soon the country became more settled and he returned to Linn county, Iowa. Shortly
afterward he was stricken down and passed away in 1858, in his forty-eighth year. He was a
strong and earnest Christian, and was a man highly respected and esteemed by all who knew
him. In 1859, Mrs. Willits married Andrew Beaty, of Linn county, and they resided on a
farm in Franklin township until 1879, when they removed to Mt. Vernon, where she died in
1889, honored and loved by the entire community.
Hon. William G. Thompson
In the last half century the lawyer has been a pre-eminent factor in all affairs of
private concern and national importance. He has been depended upon to conserve the best
and permanent interests of the whole people and is a reccognized power in all the avenues
of life. He stands as the protector of the rights and liberties of his fellow men and is
the representative of a profession whose followers, if they would gain honor, fame and
success, must be men of merit and ability. Such a one is Hon. William G. Thompson, of
Marion, who is now serving as judge of the eighteenth judicial district of Iowa.
The Judge was born in Centre township, Butler county, Pennsylvania, January 17, 1830,
and is a son of William H. and Jane (McCandless) Thompson, also natives of that locality,
the former born about 1790, the latter about 1796. Our subject's paternal grandparents,
John and Martha (Humes) Thompson, were natives of Perthshire, Scotland, as were also his
maternal grandparents, John and Mary A. (Smythe) McCandless, who on coming to America
located within two miles of where our subject's parents spent their entire lives. The
grandfathers both bought land and made for themselves homes. In the religious faith they
were strong Presbyterians. John Thompson lived to be ninety-eight years of age, his death
occurring in 1846. His land is now owned by the Judge's brother, Solomon R. The father,
William H. Thompson, was a farmer by occupation. He, too was a strict Presbyterian, and in
politics was first a Whig and later a Republican. He died in 1865, his wife in 1866,
honored and respected by all who knew them. In their family were three sons: John M. is a
very prominent lawyer and is now the head of the bar of Butler, Pennsylvania. He was a
member of both the state legislature and congress, closing his term in the latter body,
March 4, 1880, on the day our subject took his seat there. The Judge is the next of the
family. Solomon R. is engaged in farming in what is now Brady, but was formerly Centre
township, Butler county, Pennsylvania.
Judge Thompson's primary education was obtained in the common schools near his boyhood
home, and when not in the school room he assisted in the work of the farm. Later he
attended the Witherspoon Institute at Butler, Pennsylvania, going home to work during
harvest. He next read law at that place with William Timblin and was admitted to the bar
October 15, 1853, Hon. Daniel Agnew, afterward chief justice of the United States,
presiding at the examination.
On the 27th of November, 1853, Judge Thompson came to Marion, Iowa, traveling as far
west as his money would carry him. Marion at that time was a new town and larger than
Cedar Rapids. Here he was first engaged in the practice of his profession in partnership
with Colonel Isaac M. Preston, under the firm name of Preston & Thompson, this
connection continuing until 1858, after which the Judge was alone in business. In August
1854, he was elected prosecuting attorney and held that position for two years. He was
elected to the state senate on the Republican ticket in 1856 for a two-years' term, which
proved to be a very important year in framing the laws of the state that still exist, our
subject being a member of the judiciary committee. The code of 1851 was revised during the
session of 1856-7, and with additions is still in use.
On leaving the senate Judge Thompson was engaged in practice in Linn county until 1862,
when he helped to raise the Twentieth Iowa Regiment for the Civil war, consisting of five
companies from Linn and five from Scott counties, and he went to the front as major, but
the colonel, being a regular army officer, was detailed for brigade commander, and the
lieutenant-colonel being taken prisoner, the Judge was left in command of the regiment for
some time. He saw service in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Alabama, and was
commander of the post at Aransas Pass, Texas for eight months. He was in the siege of
Vicksburg, and at the battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, was severely wounded. Believing
that the war was about over, he resigned his commission and returned home in the fall of
1864. During the presidential campaign of tht year he stumped the state for Abraham
Lincoln, and was elected one of the electors at large. He takes a just pride in the fact
that he was able to cast his ballot at that time for the martyr president. Soon after this
Judge Thompson was elected district attorney for seven counties of Iowa, and after
creditably filling that office for six years he was tendered the renomination without
opposition, but refused it. Without his knowledge or solicitation he was then appointed
chief justice of Idaho by President Hayes, and held that responsible position for one
term, resigning in 1879, when he returned to Marion. That fall he was elected to congress
and took his seat in December. He was a member of the committees on privileges and
elections, which required much work, having twenty-two contested cases. He was re-elected
and served in all four years. For party reasons he was then persuaded to accept the
nomination for representative to the state legislature, and being elected was chosen
chairman of the committee to re-organize the courts of the state, which business he
successfully accomplished. In August 1894, he was appointed judge of the eighteenth
judicial district, and was elected to that position in November 1894, and re-elected in
November, 1899. His district comprises Jones, Cedar and Linn counties. He has won high
commendation by his fair and impartial administration of justice. His mind is analytical,
logical and inductive. With a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the fundamental
principles of law he combines a familiarity with statutory law and a sober, clear
judgment, which makes him not only a formidable adversary in legal combat, but has given
him the distinction of being one of the ablest jurists of the state.
On the 12th of June, 1856, Judge Thompson married Miss Harriet J. Parsons, a daughter
of Chester and Phoebe (Preston) Parsons, who came to Marion from New England in 1850. Mrs.
Thompson died February 27, 1897, leaving one son, John M., who was graduated from Coe
College and Law School of the State University, and has since been admitted to practice in
this state. The Judge has a beautiful home in Kenwood Park on seven acres of ground and
supplied with all modern improvements. He is a director of the Savings Bank and a
stockholder of the First National Bank of Marion. Socially he belongs to Robert Mitchell
Post, G. A. R.; the Loyal Legion of Des Moines; Marion Lodge, No. 6, F. & A.M., also
the chapter, council and commandery of the same order at Marion; and Osceola Lodge,
I.O.O.F., of which he is past grand.
The subject of this biography has for many years been prominently identified with the
agricultural and industrial interests of Linn township, and is numbered among its most
reliable and enterprising business men. He is the owner of a fine farm of one hundred and
ninety-seven and a half acres on section 17, and in connection with the cultivation of his
land he also operates a sawmill situated upon his place. Prosperity has crowned his
well-directed efforts, and he is now quite well to do.
Mr. Torrance was born on the 20th of September, 1837, in Fayette county, Pennsylvania,
of which his parents, Cunningham and Margaret (Cunningham) Torrance, were also natives.
they were of Scotch-Irish descent. After their marriage they continued their residence in
Fayette county until 1847, which year witnessed their arrival in Linn county, Iowa.
Locating in Franklin township, the father took up government land on sections 21 and 22,
and at once commenced to break the land and place it under cultivation. He successfully
engaged in general farming and stock raising, and became the owner of six hundred acres of
rich and arable land, which he afterward divided among his children. He died on the 10th
of December, 1863, and his wife passed away June 21, 1883, at the age of eighty-five
years. Both were sincere and earnest Christians, holding membership in the Presbyterian
church, and he was an elder of the same for over thirty years. Originally he was an
old-line Whig and continued to vote that ticket throughout his life. His fellow citizens
had for him the highest regard, and he was called upon to fill some of the local offices,
but he prefered to devote his time to his business interests, in which he prospered.
Alexander Torrance is the tenth in order of birth in a family of eleven children, nine
sons and two daughters, of whom one died in infancy unnamed. The others were as follows:
James, a farmer of Calhoun county, Iowa; Sarah, who married George Smith and resided in
Linn county until after the death of her husband, when she removed to Kansas, where she
died March 4, 1890; Hugh, who was engaged in farming in Franklin township, this county,
until 1883, when he removed to Calhoun county, Iowa, where he followed the same pursuit
until his death in 1900; Mary Ann, who married Rufus Dike and died in Ohio, April 14,
1884; Samuel Wilson, who served three months in the Civil war and died a number of years
ago; Aaron B., who died September 16, 1859, at the age of thirty-one years; William S., a
retired farmer of Calhoun county, Iowa; John, who resided in Texas and Arkansas and died
October 15, 1889; and Boyd C., who was a member of Company F, Eleventh Iowa Volunteer
Infantry, in the Civil war, and died in the service September 8, 1863.
The subject of this sketch was a lad of nine years when he came with his parents to
this county, and grew to manhood upon his father's farm, receiving his education in the
district schools of the neighborhood. For about three years after starting out in life for
himself he worked by the day and month at various occupations, and then located on a farm
in Franklin township, near Mt. Vernon, given him by his father, making it his home for
three years, during which time he devoted his entire attention to agricultural pursuits.
In the fall of 1866 he removed to a farm of timber land on section 17, Linn township, on
which he has erected a sawmill and has since operated the same in addition to his farm
work, being connected with the Cedar Rapids Wood Working Company, a corporation for the
manufacture of furniture. He also carried on stock raising, and in all his business
affairs he has steadily prospered, becoming one of the substantial men of his community.
On the 1st of January, 1863, in Franklin township, was celebrated the marriage of Mr.
Torrance and Miss Henrietta Coleman, who was born in Knox county, Ohio, February 5, 1837,
and was a daughter of Elisha and Rebecca (Carr) Coleman, also natives of Ohio, and of
American and German ancestry. On leaving the Buckeye state in 1851, her family removed to
Henry county, Iowa, and in the spring of 1860 came to Linn county, locating in Linn
township. Later her parents removed to Kansas where her father died November 22, 1879, and
her mother passed away in Nebraska, November 29, 1885. they had nine children, three sons
and six daughters.
Unto Mr. and Mrs. Torrance were born two children, but the older, Edward E., born in
Franklin township, died in Linn township at the age of six months. Charles M., born in
Linn township, February 20, 1875, was educated in the common schools, and is now engaged
in farming and the sawmill business with his father on the home place. He is a Republican
in politics and a member of Mr. Vernon Lodge, No 551, I. O. O. F. The mother of these
chidren died December 4, 1898, loved and respected by all who knew her. In early life she
united with the Christian Church, but the congregation with which she was connected soon
afterward dissolved and she and her husband subsequently attended the Presbyterian Church
at Paralta. She was a good woman, a devoted wife, a loving mother and a kind, sympathetic
and appreciative friend, and her death was widely and deeply mourned.
Mr. Torrance has served as secretary of the Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company of Linn
township, and also of the Linn County Tornado, Wind and Storm Insurance Company. He has
filled a number of local offices, such as justice of the peace, township clerk and
secretary of the school board, and has always taken a deep and commendable interest in
public affirs. In politics he is an ardent Republican, and he is still serving as township
clerk. Fraternally he is a member of Mt. Vernon Lodge, No. 112, F. & A. M., and the
Ashler Chapter, No. 122, R. A. M., of Mt. Vernon, but formerly was a member of Marion
Chapter, No 10. He is a man of prominence in his community, and has the entire confidence
and respect of all with whom he comes in contact either in busines or social life.