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

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.

JOSEPH B. TEAS and GEORGE W. TEAS were brothers.  Joseph B. was a member from Des Moines County, of the Upper House of the Wisconsin Legislature in 1836, while we were a part of Wisconsin, and Henry Dodge was Governor.  George W. Teas was a member of the House, from Des Moines County at the same session.  (There were then only two counties, Des Moines and Dubuque.)  Their names quite frequently occur in the early Reports.  J. B. and G. W. Teas were attorneys for the plaintiff in the first case tried in Washington County, which was that of Stonefield vs. Milo Holcomb; he was also the prosecuting attorney in the first criminal case tried in Des Moines County, that of the State vs. Richard Chaney, for stealing a barrel of eggs.  George W. became a resident of Washington County, where he died and was buried in 1863.  After some years of practice he abandoned the legal profession for that of the ministry and became a Methodist preacher of considerable local note.  Of this period, Hawkins Taylor says of him:


"He was always a man of decided ability and earnest in what he did. During the session of the legislature in the winter of 1837 and 1838, he took offense at the action of some of the brethren in the legislature and smarting under the supposed insult, he published in the Burlington Gazette:


'Be it known from shore to shore,

That I'm a Methodist no more.  G. W. Teas.'


"A few years later he again joined the church, and went to preaching in good, square, hard earnest, when someone had it published:


'Know ye from Georgia down to Maine,

That I'm a Methodist again.'


"And he has been faithful and true since."


As will be seen from his sketch, Theodore S. Parvin makes mention of both these men.  They were esteemed good lawyers and had quite a wide practice.


p 566:

The lawyers present and admitted at the first term of the Supreme Court which was held at Burlington on the 28th of November, 1838, were as follows and from the following places: ... From Mount Pleasant, George W. Teas and Joseph R. Teas ...


p 568:


I [Theodore S. Parvin] knew George W. and John B. Teas.  They settled in Mount Pleasant.  They had both been Methodist preachers.  George was in the legislature while we were a part of Wisconsin, the first session of which was held at Belmont, the second one at Burlington.  Both died some years ago, one of them, I think George, at Albia, in Monroe County.

Joshua Tracy

pp 306-308: Joshua Tracy came to Iowa in 1846, and settled in Burlington in 1850.  He was born in Belmont County, Ohio, in 1825, and died in Burlington, 1884. He studied law with M. D. Browning and was admitted to the Burlington Bar in 1852. He had been in the practice four or five years when I came to the State. I early became acquainted with him. He was one of the most lovable men that I have ever known. He was generally accredited as being one of the finest looking men in the State. In person, he was finely proportioned; his spacious head was well shaped; the contour of his face oval; his cheeks always ruddy with the glow of health. His eyes were large, black and luminous; his hair of the same color, a little inclined to be curly, if I recollect rightly, adorned and handsomely contrasted with a brow that was exceedingly fair in appearance. My observation has been, that, as a rule, so-called handsome men are lacking in virile intellectual and physical qualities. He was one of the exceptions. He was masculine in both. He was one of the most agreeable and good natured men to be met with. He was deeply sympathetic. His personality was exceedingly attractive. To every person, high or low, he bore himself with kindness and civility, and he always wore an unruffled and benignant face. He was eminently cheerful, and had the faculty of making others so. He loved the society of congenial companions; to hear anecdotes and incidents, especially those relating to Iowa men, that would make him laugh, and to tell some himself that would make the others laugh - and few could do this better than he. He has been dead, at this writing, for more than thirty years, but I can recollect and smile at some of the amusing things I have heard him relate, as I did when they were told. One of them I shall give when I come to speak of Leroy Palmer, of Mount Pleasant.

Among his other accomplishments, he was a splendid singer, and possessed a voice of great melody and power, which he was induced to give proof of, only on special occasions. I vividly recollect one of these. We had been attending a Republican State Convention at Des Moines. The projected railroad, from Keokuk to Des Moines, intersecting that of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy at Ottumwa, had been completed only to Pella. The remainder of the way - forty miles - had to be made by stage coach. In returning, we left Des Moines in the evening in order to make connection with the next morning train at Pella. Among the passengers were Mr. Tracy and John Van Valkenburg, of Fort Madison, and myself. The roads were heavy, the coach slow, and in order to soften the time, Tracy and Van Valkenburg, who was also a fine singer with a powerful voice, and between whom and Tracy a strong personal friendship existed, commenced singing in the most enlivening manner some of the olden songs. The favorite one with the passengers was "Benny Haven Ho," and this was sung by these two men in a manner at once so vigorous and inspiring as to arouse great enthusiasm. It seemed to me that I had never heard anything so perfectly stirring. And so the other passengers thought, for nothing would do but that they should repeat it time and again, with seemingly added resonance. A more enthusiastic musical audience was never seen. We lost all thought of the lumbering coach and bad roads.

On the bench which he adorned for a number of years, his ordinary demeanor became changed. He seemed deeply impressed with the seriousness of the duties he was performing, and presided with a dignity and impartiality that gave a high character to his court, and inspired a general respect for his judicial course. He was a good lawyer and an able judge. His considerate and sympathetic nature made him exceedingly kind to young men who naturally felt some embarrassment. This encouragement is still lovingly remembered by those who felt its influence.

Judge Tracy was stricken in the prime of life and while apparently in the best of health. His illness lasted but a few days. As already stated, he entered upon the practice of his profession in 1852. In 1853 he was elected City Attorney of Burlington; in 1854, to the State Legislature, where he served during the sessions of 1854-55 and the special session of 1856. In the fall of 1858 he was elected District Attorney of the First Judicial District. In 1862 he was re-elected to the same office, and again in 1866. While serving in this office he was appointed District Judge of that District to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Judge Francis Springer, but owing to the meager salary, he resigned his position on the bench and entered upon the general practice of his profession. He soon acquired a large practice and became one of the eminent lawyers of the State. In 1863 he formed a partnership with Judge Thomas W. Newman, which continued until 1869. Upon the retirement of Judge Newman from the firm, Samuel K. Tracy, his son, took the place of Judge Newman in the partnership. For several years, he was General Solicitor of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railway. In 1880 he was elected President of this Company, and managed its affairs with such signal ability, that it became one of the most valuable and successful railroads in the West. He proved himself a competent railway manager and a financier of sound and ready judgment. Upon his election to the Presidency of that Company, his son, Samuel K. Tracy, succeeded him as its General Solicitor. This son served for many years as the legal representative of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railway Company and became one of the leading lawyers of Iowa.

H. H. Trimble during this period was, in my opinion, the best trial lawyer in Iowa; and this period was actively continued for an unusual length of time - for sixty years, and until near his death. He was born in Rush County, Indiana, in 1827, and died at Keokuk, Iowa, in 1910, at the age of eighty-three. He was always, from the beginning to the end, a Democrat of the old school, and upon him were often conferred the highest public honors of his party.

He studied law with the eminent Thomas A. Hendricks, of Indiana, and came to Bloomfield, Iowa, and entered upon the practice in 1850. He was the earliest lawyer of state-wide distinction in Davis County. He was among the first lawyers I became acquainted with on my admission to the bar, in 1857, and from that time, excepting the period of his military service in the War of the Rebellion, through the course of many years, there was not a session of our court at Ottumwa that he did not attend, and for the period of four years he was the Judge of our District. To look at Henry Trimble, as Judge Knapp used to call him, you might have failed to see amid the lines of that furrowed face, any signs of pathos or eloquence, but I have seen him on two or three occasions in the olden times, exhibit powers that would hastily change your mind. He was a soldier in the Mexican War; a colonel in the great Civil War, and bore on his face the marks of that conflict. He was one of the foremost judges forty years ago, though his chiefest distinction was that of a trial lawyer, rather than that of a judge. This was but natural from the fact that one role was so strong that it greatly overshadowed the other. Judge Trimble formerly lived in Bloomfield, in Davis County, but in later years he removed to Keokuk, where he ably represented the interests of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company and there was scarcely an important case in Iowa concerning that Company, in which he did not take part.

Judge Trimble was tall, spare, and a casual observer would likely think him somewhat delicate physically, but this would be a mistake, for scarcely any man possessed finer powers of endurance, and in the latter part of his life he wonderfully maintained his physique by out-of-door sports and exercises, which he had neglected in the early part of his life. In facial and general appearance, his son, Palmer Trimble, greatly resembles him.

Shortly after coming to Davis County he was, in 1851, elected County Attorney, and served in that capacity until 1855, and from 1855 to 1859 represented his County in the State Senate. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War he allied himself with what was known as the "War Democrats" and took an active part in the organization of the Third Iowa Cavalry, of which he became the Lieutenant Colonel. In a desperate charge at the Battle of Pea Ridge, he received a wound so severe that it obliged his retirement from the service. Upon his return he was elected Judge of his District and served in that capacity four years. He was twice a candidate of his party for the Supreme Court, once before the Legislature, and again before the people, in 1865. In 1858 he was the nominee of his party for Congress, against Samuel R. Curtis, and again in 1872, against William Loughridge. He was a delegate to the National Democratic Convention of 1880, which nominated General Winfield S. Hancock, and in 1884 was a delegate at large to the Convention which nominated Grover Cleveland for the Presidency. In 1879 he was unanimously nominated as the Democratic candidate for Governor of Iowa. The obstacle in the way of election to these offices lay in the fact, that during all these years his party was in a hopeless minority. He had a national reputation as a lawyer and political leader. He was well educated and knew how to use the English language effectively. He received his education in the State University of Indiana, and Asbury University at Green Castle, entering the Mexican War upon his graduation from the last named institution, in 1847.