Iowa: Its History and Its Foremost Citizens - 1915 - G

1915 Index

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.




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:

Cincinnati, August 20th.

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.

Skillful detectives 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.

Thirty-eight years 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.

"His companions 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.

"Moses Varney 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 was prevented.



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.

"The common 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.

"Before midnight 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.'

"After ample 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. . . .

"The known 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 Seventh.

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.

Governor Kirkwood 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 alumni.

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 tracer complete.


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 history.

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.

"The outbreak 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 numbers."

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 movement.

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 stain!