Recollections and Sketches of Notable Lawyers...Iowa - 1915 - R

1915 Index

Recollections and Sketches of Notable Lawyers and Public Men of Early Iowa
by Edward H. Stiles. Des Moines: Homestead Publishing Co., 1915.


Unless noted, biographies submitted by Dick Barton.

Lewis A. Reiley became a member of the Louisa County Bar and entered upon the practice at Wapello about 1870. He had received a liberal education in eastern institutions. He was a graduate of Troy College, New York, and afterward pursued a classical course of two years at Knox College. Before his admission to the bar, he had been a teacher, and was for two years County Superintendent of schools. He gained the reputation of being a good lawyer and built up a respectable practice. He was a man of varied accomplishments and learning.

Byron Rice was the second County Judge of Polk County. He succeeded F. C. Burbridge, who died before his term of office had expired. Mr. Rice was a native of Madison County, New York, where he was born in 1826. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in that State. In 1849 he came to Des Moines and entered upon the practice, in partnership with J. E. Jewett. In August, 1850, he was elected Prosecuting Attorney, and in the following year County Judge. He occupied the latter position until the spring of 1855, when he entered into an association with Judge George Green and John Weare, of Cedar Rapids, in carrying on a banking business, which was continued until 1859. Returning to the practice, he formed a partnership with D. O. Finch and continued in professional life until 1876, when he retired from active practice. In one of his letters to me, Mr. Finch of him says:

Judge Byron Rice was an exemplary man with a good classical and legal education. After retiring from the office of County Judge he went into the banking business, which he followed for several years; at the end of which he resumed the practice for a few years. He had a judicial mind and would have ornamented the bench. His name is certainly worthy of much honorable mention in making up the records of the profession. Do not hesitate to ask me any questions an answer to which may be of any use to you. You cannot be more thankful than myself that this correspondence has resulted, for I do enjoy talking with my old friends, and I have always counted you as one of the most cherished among them. So please do me the honor and give me the pleasure of an occasional communication, always believing me sincerely yours.

JOHN N. ROGERS was chiefly known as a lawyer; and was one of the best that ever graced the legal history of the State. He represented Scott County in the Eleventh General Assembly, in which we were fellow members, in 1866. It was then I first met him. He was as purely and distinctively a lawyer as any man I have ever known. He was not an orator in the popular sense, but his expressions were always well clothed, and so exact and logical that on every occasion he not only enlisted the closest attention of the court, but of every lawyer present, however dry the subject. In legal dialectics and luminous ratiocination, he had but few equals and no superiors. He was a forensic logician of the highest order and would have graced any bench in the world. In 1875 the governor tendered him the appointment of Judge of his District, but he declined that; he, however, accepted and for two years filled the chair of lecturer of Constitutional Law in the Law Department the State University, which he greatly exalted. Later in life he was elected Judge of the District Court of his District. He had the trained mind of the jurist without the tropes of the eloquent advocate, but his clear and strong analysis expressed in well chosen language never failed to carry conviction where it was possible for that to be attained. For the qualities I have attempted to describe, he became highly distinguished throughout the State, and was frequently employed in cases of the highest importance. One of these was that of the United States, on the relation of Hall and Morse, against the Union Pacific Railroad Company, begun in the United States Circuit Court of Iowa and carried thence to the Supreme Court of the United States. Mr. Rogers represented the citizens of Council Bluffs, and succeeded in establishing, against able lawyers and the strenuous opposition of the railroad company, that the eastern terminus of the line was at Council Bluffs on the eastern side the Missouri River, instead of at Omaha, and consequently the bridge between the two places was a part of the railroad and must be operated as such. The case involved some new and intricate questions, as well as the construction of several acts of Congress. The views of Mr. Rogers were sustained by the United States Circuit Court and finally by the Supreme Court of the United States.

His father was Edmund J. Rogers, a successful merchant in New York City, where John was born in 1830. His mother was a daughter of Judge Ebenezer Platt, of Huntington, Long Island. Mr. Rogers received his early education at Fairfield, Connecticut, and Northampton, Massachusetts, and graduated with the first honors of his class from the University of the City of New York, in 1848. He studied law at Northampton, and was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1852. In 1853 he accepted the chair of Professor of Pleading, Practice and Evidence in the Poughkeepsie Law School, which was afterwards removed to Albany and be came the Albany Law School. His fellow student, W. H. F. Gurley, then a young lawyer of Davenport, and subsequently United States District Attorney under President Lincoln, induced Mr. Rogers to come to Davenport in 1857. He and Gurley became law partners. In 1860 he formed a partnership with Charles E. Putnam under the firm name of Putnam & Rogers, which continued with great success for many years. His wife was Mary Norman Van Derveer, a daughter of the Reverend F. H. Van Derveer, of Warwick, New York. She died in 1867, leaving a son, Ferdinand. The accidental drowning of this promising son when he had nearly attained manhood was a culminating sorrow that Mr. Rogers did not long survive.

In disposition, he was rather shy and reserved, on account of which those who did not know him well, thought him cold in feeling, but he was quite the contrary to those who knew him well. He was both kindly and appreciative, as the following incident will show: It had been my habit as Reporter, to publish in condensed form in connection with the cases, briefs of counsel, when such briefs were of a superior order. Following this custom, I published in connection with one of Mr. Rogers' cases, his brief and a note which were so superior in form and substance, that I called attention to them. In recognition of this courtesy which would have passed unnoticed by most lawyers, he wrote me the following appreciative letter, dated December 15, 1869:

"I feel that it is due to myself no less than to you, that I should convey to you my sincere thanks for the very unexpected honor which has been done to my brief and note in the cases of Viele versus the Germania Insurance Company, in appending them to the report of the case in your 26th volume. That it has been thought worthy of preservation in this permanent form, and accompanied by so flattering a testimony to its value, is I assure you, exceedingly gratifying to their author, who begs you to accept his grateful acknowledgments of this very handsome compliment, and remains, your obliged friend."

In stature, he was slight and delicate of construction. He had a fine head, luxuriant dark brown hair, wore spectacles, and looked like a professor, and as we have seen, had been one in the Poughkeepsie Law School. J. W. Dixon, of the Ottumwa Bar, was one of his students at that school, and often referred to him in terms of the highest praise. He died some years ago.