History of Black Hawk County, Iowa - 1915 - B

Black Hawk County >> 1915 Index

History of Black Hawk county, Iowa, and Its People
John C Hartman, supervising editor. Vols. I & II Chicago: S J Clarke Publ Co., 1915.


Unless otherwise noted, biographies submitted by Dick Barton.

HARRY B. BAHR is engaged in the real-estate and investment business at Waterloo, with offices in the Marsh-Place building. Thoroughness and energy characterize his work in all connections and have been the means of bringing to him substantial success in this field of business. He was born at La Porte City, in Black Hawk county, November 22, 1888, a son of Levi and Amelia Bahr, both of whom were natives of Pennsylvania. The mother died during the infancy of her son Harry. The father, who early learned the carpenter's trade, became a contractor and on his removal to the middle west prior to the Civil war settled in Wisconsin. Soon after the close of hostilities between the north and the south he came to Black Hawk county, casting in his lot with its pioneer settlers. He then began farming near La Porte City and devoted a few years to the work of tilling the soil but at the end of that time again turned his attention to the carpenter's trade, which he followed until his retirement from active business life. He now lives in La Porte City at the advanced age of seventy-eight years and throughout the entire period of his residence in this county he has ever enjoyed the confidence, good-will and esteem of his fellow townsmen. His family numbered six children: Samuel; William; Charles: Franklin; Ida, the wife of W. A. Lawrence; and Harry B., of this review.

The last named acquired his education in La Porte City, Iowa, under the direction of Mr. Lizer, mention of whom is made elsewhere in this volume. He attended the high school at Parkersburg and afterward was a student in the Cedar Rapids Business College and the Waterloo Business College. He was graduated from the College of Commerce during the first year of its existence in Waterloo. He was afterward employed in the Citizens Savings Bank and in the Waterloo Loan & Trust Bank, where he was the secretary of the president of the bank, Mr. Jamison, for one year. In 1910, in company with C. M. Allen, he turned his attention to the real-estate business but two years later dissolved that partnership and continued alone as a real-estate dealer, since which time he has maintained his offices in the Marsh-Place building. He makes a specialty of investments in timber lands and colonization tracts, handling property in the northern, southern and western states. He owns considerable property in different sections of the country and a good residence property in Waterloo. His investments are judiciously made, for he has thoroughly informed himself concerning realty values in the different districts in which he operates.

In 1912 Mr. Bahr was united in marriage to Miss Eva Christopher, who was born at Parkersburg, Butler county, a daughter of L. P. Christopher, whose wife died when their daughter, Mrs. Bahr, was but a young child. Mr. and Mrs. Bahr hold membership in the Presbyterian church. He gives his political allegiance to the republican party and fraternally he is connected with the Knights of Pythias. He has attractive social qualities and many sterling characteristics which have won for him warm friendship among those with whom business or social relations have brought him in contact.


Waterloo 's Pioneer Manufacturer

For many years, in fact from earliest Waterloo down through the years, one of the most active and prominent of our business men has been George P. Beck, Sr. The story of his experiences in Waterloo since he first appeared in the village in June, 1856, has been one of the most varied character. It is a story of trials and struggles; of victories won to be reduced to little good by subsequent misfortunes; perseverance undaunted and pluck which never gave way to despair, and of final triumphs which make his closing years of life on earth peaceful and happy.

George P. Beck was born in Bavaria on January 20, 1833; landed in Baltimore June 7, 1833. His father, Michael Beck, built the first canal in the United States, being the sub-contractor. It was the James River canal in Virginia. He made money and in 1837 went to Salina, Ohio, and built the reservoir five miles wide and fifteen miles long. This contract was completed in 1840, when he went on a farm, remaining until 1844, when he removed to Dayton, Ohio. George P. Beck was with him all of the time, but regards Dayton as his old home, as he was old enough at that time to form friendships and the strong links which bind the past to the present. He came from Dayton to Waterloo in 1856.

On his arrival here in June he went to work for Hosford & Miller in their sawmill, where he worked three years. He then bought out a man named Pickett, who was in company with Detlef Kruse in the boot and shoe business. He was with Mr. Kruse for several years under the firm name of Beck & Kruse. They made money and at the time of dissolving partnership they divided equally the profits, $13,000. They thought they had done well. But while in the boot and shoe business, Mr. Beck continued to work in the same mill and other mills, practically on the same ground, until 1897. M. H. Moore had bought out Hosford & Miller's mill business and Mr. Beck, when he quit boots and shoes, bought out Mr. Moore. He associated with him Henry and John Nauman and opened the mill as a sash and door factory under the firm name of Beck, Nauman & Bros. in December, 1864. The business was fairly started in 1864, but they had a rushing business in 1865, and in that year they bought the lumber yard of Henry Goodhue.

He continued in the sash, door and lumber business, but in 1867 bought an interest in the woolen mill which was run by Blasburg & Otter, Mr. Beck buying out Otter. The Blasburg firm had been running business principally on a small scale, doing carding most of the time. The new firm had larger ideas which they were encouraged in by the sheep industry and the woolen mill craze, upon which people at that time were wild, to enter largely into the manufacture of woolen goods. As a preparation for this they built a four-story building and equipped it with $18,000 worth of mahinery, the whole costing them about $30,000. He was in this about four years, of which the last two years it was just barely kept running in hopes of selling.

In this firm Mr. Beck represented really the whole firm. While running the woolen mill their other business, the sash and door trade, was making great money. It was equal in profits to the losses of the woolen mill. The losses through the woolen mill enterprise were $64,800.

On March 4, 1883, the Daniel-Nauman Company was formed, Mr. Beck being the company part of it. The new firm lost money during the first year, one loss being the destruction of the Commercial College Building, for which they were contractors, by a wind storm which struck it when up and ready for the brick veneer. The furniture store and warehouse was destroyed by fire on January 6, 1884, loss $22,000. The old mill on the dam, used as the time as a mattress factory, was destroyed by fire a few days later. On June 2, 1898, they had their great fire, when the whole factory plant was destroyed. The loss was $40,000. On all of these losses there was but $18,000 insurance. But the spirit of the firm and Mr. Beck was not broken and again they tried their venture and were successful.

Mr. Beck is now living in retirement in Waterloo. He was married in 1853 to Albertina Shuler. Nine children have blessed the union. In speaking of his life, Mr. Beck says:

"The first big thing the year I came here was the Fourth of July celebration in 1856, held back of Charles Mullan's house. It was said that every house and cabin in the county was empty that day and all of the people were here. This could not exactly be true, for there were a few left in Cedar Falls. But you ought to have seen the picnic diner we had. Everybody brought a basket filled, some bushel baskets. There were roasts of beef, piles of chicken, including prairie chickens and turkeys, stacks of pies, cakes and bread. There must have been nearly five hundred people present. The Declaration of Independence was read and there were toasts, responses and speeches and, in all, such a celebration as is seldom witnessed.

"One of the most exciting events of 1856 resulted from the county seat fight. We all felt good here over the result of the election, which determined Waterloo as the winner. But gall and wormwood would have been sweet as honey compared to this dose to Cedar Falls. Our up-river friends were in a state of chronic excitement from the time the election was called until the records were finally delivered in Waterloo. It looked sometimes as if they would have to be taken by force and all of our young men were ready for the fun. But they submitted to the decision of the court and all trouble was averted.

"There were a great many strangers in town, here to look up investments or locations. They were continually coming and going and gave a lively appearance to Waterloo. I cannot recall a serious incident during the year, but memory dwells fondly on the jolly times which the boys had. An ox roast on the east side, not far from where the ice houses now stand, was the central attraction of the Fourth of July celebration in 1857. But there was an abundance to eat without the ox. In 1858 there were many exciting incidents connected with the high water. It was a year of flood. If I remember correctly, the first flood occurred in January following a thaw, the heavy snow melting added to the rains created a lively state of affairs. Then there was a freeze-up and a subsequent thaw, in April, I believe. The snow was deep and the rain fell in torrents. In June there was another flood, but July capped the climax. Water almost covered the face of the earth. There were a great many exciting incidents during the high water period and there was no lack of amusing ones. I cannot remember the particulars of any except the sad drowning of two young ladies which has often been described.

"The getting of the bridge excited much comment in 1859. We thought as much of it as the people do today of the Melan Arch bridge recently completed.

"The year 1859 was fair for business and the people felt good and showed it by the number and varieties of the parties and other forms of amusement. There was a New England festival, a New York festival, an Ohio festival, a German festival and many parties of less pretensions sandwiched between. Festival should always be read dance. The German festival was held in Capwell's Hall. They had the greatest time in the history of the town. Of all the men present at this festival, I alone remain. It would surprise people of this day who hold their big functions on a very light diet to have witnessed how solid the comfort was at the festival table of 1859. Tables were loaded with the best of everything eatable from meats down to delicacies.

"The most exciting time in the history of Waterloo was along in the early '60s, when recruiting for the army was the chief business of the people. I sometimes try to tell how it was and find that my listeners are incredulous, so I stop short. Think of three years of the tensest excitement. Always waiting for news from the front and glorifying at every victory. Other excitements pale before that.

"I do not remember of any excitement over a crime committed in the city earlier than late in the '70s. There were offenses of an ordinary nature committed, but none of a really exciting character."

JOHN P. BERRY submitted by Mary Eldridge

John P. Berry, superintendent of the Waterloo Waterworks, is a native of Canada, but when only five years of age was brought to this city by his parents, James and Mary (Pollard) Berry, both of whom were natives of England. They crossed the Atlantic to the new world in 1847 an d after living in Canada for nine years came to Waterloo in 1856. The father was first employed in the sawmill of Morrison & Wilson near the present site of the waterworks of Cedar Falls. He spent the greater part of his life from that time on in Black Hawk county and his last years were passed upon a farm which he owned in the vicinity of Hudson. There he died more than forty-four years ago. In politics he was a republican and was a well known citizen of early days, taking an active interest in all that pertained to the county's upbuilding and development.

John P. Berry was born in 1850 in Canada and was reared in Black Hawk county and is indebted to its public-school system for the educational oppor­ tunities which he enjoyed. He attended the district schools and also the Waterloo high school and began providing for his own support as a teacher in the schools of Black Hawk township, Grundy county. He afterward removed to western Iowa and later went to Dakota, but after one summer returned to Waterloo. He then married and took up his abode upon a farm, devoting two years to general agricultural pursuits. He then returned to the county seat and learned the ma­ chinist's trade in the foundry and machine shop of W. S. Robinson, where he spent two years. He then became connected with the agricultural implement business of Brubaker & Cascade, spending two years with that firm, and on the 1st of February, 1886, he entered into active connection with the waterworks department of the city as foreman, laying the mains and doing the construction work. When the present plant was built he was the second engineer and he has advanced through intermediate grades until more than twenty years ago he was made superintendent, which position he has filled continuously since with great credit to himself and to the benefit of the waterworks system and the satisfaction of the entire public. No greater evidence of his capability and efficiency could be given than the fact that he has been retained as superintendent for more than two decades and that his identification with the department covers twenty-eight years. He keeps in touch with improvements that are being continuously made in plants of this character and has made the waterworks plant thoroughly modern.

In 1875 Mr. Berry was joined in wedlock to Miss Sarah Agnes Horn, of Waterloo, and they have seven children. Myrtle, the eldest, is the wife of George Gorson, superintendent of mail carriers in connection with the Waterloo post office. Oscar, who married Miss Myrtle Alexander, has been connected with the Black Hawk Spice Company for about fifteen years. Fred V., who wedded Miss Culetta Seibert, has been with the Iowa Dairy Separator Company for thir teen years. Claud C. is assistant cashier in the Security Savings Bank of Water loo, with which he has been connected for seven years. Ray O. is in the advertising department of the Daily Courier. Loren J. is a sophomore in the high school. Pearl is the wife of Edwin Laughtin, of Cedar Rapids.

Mr. Berry holds membership in the Commercial Club and Board of Trade. He is a Mason and is a past commander in the uniform rank of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and has served for six years as a trustee of the lodge. His religious faith is indicated by membership in the First Presbyterian church. He is serving on its board of trustees and as treasurer of the men's bible class, and he does everything in his power to advance the growth of the church and extend its influence. He also belongs to the Old Settlers Society, has been for three yeas a member of the executive board and may well be numbered among the honored pioneer residents of Waterloo, for he has made his home in Black Hawk county for fifty-eight years. He has therefore witnessed much of the city's growth and development as it has emerged from villlagehood to become one of the great metropolitan centers of the state, its population fast approaching the fifty thousand mark. He is very widely known and is most highly esteemed where best known, a fact which indicates a well spent and honorable life. He is one to whom there has been intrusted important public service and over his record there falls no shadow of wrong or suspicion of evil.

G. G. BICKLEY, M. D. submitted by Mary Eldridge

The student of history cannot carry his investigations far into the annals of Black Hawk county without learning that the Bickley family has been long, closely and honorably identified therewith. It is of this family that Dr. G. G. Bickley is a representative. He was born in Waterloo in 1886 and is a son of Dr. G. G. Bickley, Sr., now deceased, who was one of the pioneer physicians of Waterloo, where he practiced continuously and successfully for many years. His ability in that direction and his efforts in other connections made him one of the most widelv known and prominent citizens of the county. He died October 30, 1911. and in his passing the community lost one of its honored and representative citizens. His son and namesake was reared under the parental roof and received home training that tended to develop the best and strongest in him. His advantages for an education were those afforded by the public schools and ultimately he was graduated from the West Waterloo high school with the class of 1905. The succeeding two years were devoted to the mastery of a literary course in the University of Iowa and he then spent one year in study in the medical department of the State University. At the end of that time he entered Hahnemann Medical College of Chicago, from which he was graduated on the completion of the three years' course, receiving his diploma and his M. D. degree in 1911. He afterward spent eighteen months in Chicago in connection with the Baptist Hospital and his experience there was of untold value to him, as it enabled him to put his theoretical knowledge to the practical test and to gain that broad experience which only hospital service can bring.

Dr. Bickley returned to Waterloo in 1912 and has since engaged in general practice, forging forward constantly as the result of his ability, determination and laudable ambition.

In 1914 Dr. Bickley was united in marriage to Miss Lois Evelyn Storm, a daughter of E. M. Storm, of Waterloo. Both are widely and favorably known in this city and county, genuine personal worth winning for them the confidence anil good-will of all with whom they have come in contact. Dr. Bickley belongs to the Waterloo, Black Hawk County, Iowa State and Illinois State Homeopathic Medical Associations and he is a physician in attendance at the hospitals of this city. It is characteristic of him that what he undertakes he accomplishes and the more difficult the medical problem which confronts him the more anxious and determined he is to gain a successful solution thereof. He is constantly reading along broadening lines and keeps in touch with the advanced thought and purpose of the medical profession.


Industrial activity in Waterloo finds a worthy representative in D. W. Bovee, who is president and treasurer of the Bovee Furnace Company, which was incorporated in 1896. The secretary of the company is A. C. Bovee and the business is capitalized for twenty-five thousand dollars. This is a close corporation and there is a reserve fund of fifty thousand dollars. It was in the year 1894 that D. W. Bovee,, who is a native of Wisconsin, arrived in Waterloo and through the intervening period to the present he has been actively and successfully connected with business affairs.

A year after his arrival in Waterloo he established his present business and has won success from the beginning in the manufacture of hot air furnaces, feed mills and other devices. The output finds favor with the public as is indicated by the growing patronage. They employ about thirty people annually and handle their output through retail dealers. The Bovee furnaces have a national reputation and are shipped in large numbers into practically every state in the Union. This is but one phase of Mr. Bovee's business enterprise and indicates but one feature in the success which has made him one of the prosperous residents of Waterloo. He has made extensive and judicious investments in real estate and now has about sixty lots in the business district of the city together with a number of residence properties, from which he derives a substantial annual income.

In 1873 Mr. Bovee was united in marriage to Miss Anna Palmer, of Wisconsin, and they have become the parents of two children: Lulu, now the wife of D. L. Morrow, of Waterloo; and Helen, who is a senior in the high school. The elder daughter was graduated from the West Waterloo high school and then entered the Teachers College at Cedar Falls, in which she completed her course, while later she was graduated from the Waterloo Business College.

Mr. Bovee is a member of the United Brethren church and is serving on the official board. He takes an active interest in the work of the church, contributes generously to its support and does all in his power to advance its interests. He also has membership in the Chamber of Commerce and Waterloo Club, of which he has been a member from its organization. His name is likewise on the membership roll of the Town Criers Club. In the years of his residence in Waterloo he has become well known as a representative of that class of enterprising, progressive citizens who are bringing about the substantial and rapid upbuilding of the west. Early in his career he recognized the eternal principle of industry and throughout his entire career his industry has been the strong foundation upon which he has builded his prosperity. It also has been well said that integrity is the cornerstone of his character.

Jesse O. Burgess, one of the honored veterans of the Civil war who has lived in well earned retirement at La Porte City since 1908, was for more than four decades actively and successfully identified with agricultural pursuits in Black Hawk county. His birth occurred in Virginia on the 3d of December, 1835, his parents being Edward and Catherine (Pixler) Burgess, the former a native of Pennsylvania and the latter of the Old Dominion. They came to Iowa in an early day after residing for some time in Allamakee county removed to Waterloo, Black Hawk county, the father being here engaged in agricultural pursuits. Subsequently he returned to Allamakee county, where his demise occurred in 1894, while his wife passed away in 1884.

Jesse O. Burgess was reared and educated in the state of his nativity and was a young man of about twenty-two years when in 1857 he removed with his parents to Allamakee county, Iowa. At the time of the outbreak of the Civil war he enlisted for service with the Union army as a member of Company I, Twenty-seventh Iowa Infantry, and remained with that command for three years, holding the rank of sergeant. He participated in a number of hotly contested engagements and made a most creditable military record, never faltering in the performance of any task assigned him. Following the period of his army service he came to Black Hawk county and here carried on general agricultural pursuits continuously and successfully until 1908, when he put aside the active work of the fields and took up his abode in La Porte City, where he purchased an attractive residence and has since made his home. He also owns one hundred and sixty acres of land in Colorado and is widely recognized as one of the substantial and esteemed citizens of his community.

On the 23d of August, 1862, Mr. Burgess was joined in wedlock to Miss Mary L. Dibble, whose parents were natives of Vermont and New York respectively and passed away in Pennsylvania. The father devoted his time and energies to farming throughout his active business career. Mr. and Mrs. Burgess became the parents of six children, namely: Reuben A.; Lura; Otto; Cora, who is deceased; James; and Charles, a barber of La Porte City.

Mr. Burgess has always exercised his right of franchise in support of the men and measures of the republican party, believing firmly in its principles. In religious beliefs he is a Methodist, and he still maintains pleasant relations with his old army comrades as a member of F. M. Thompson Post, G. A. R. He has now passed the seventy-ninth milestone on life’s journey and enjoys the respect and veneration which should ever be accorded one who has traveled thus far on this earthly pilgrimage and whose career has been at all times upright and honorable.