[Note from B. Horak, editor] Below are articles about H.C. Wheeler that give insight into the history of Odebolt's famous early farmer. "Wheeler's Ranch" was the predecessor to the famed "Adams Ranch", which was also known as Fairview Farm". Also see the Wheeler Ranch link at the bottom of this page.
1891 - Photo of Hiram C. Wheeler, Republican Candidate for Governor of Iowa
1891 - "Farmer" Wheeler's Home
1893 - Miss Bessie Wheeler married
1896 - Wheeler's 10,000 acre farm sold to Adams
1897 - Wheeler buys land in Texas for dairy farm
1909 - Wheeler now bankrupt
1909 - Odebolt groups give money for Wheeler hospital costs
1910 - Biography from the Annals of Iowa
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Hon. H.C. Wheeler of Odebolt, Sac County,
This is the home of Hiram C. Wheeler, the Republican candidate for Governor of Iowa. It is a prosperous country town of about a thousand population in one of the finest agricultural regions of the State. The business men and merchants seem to be doing a fairly thriving business, and within its unpretentious confines are many pleasantly-situated homes, with neatly-kept lawns and handsome shade trees, whose spreading branches afford a welcome retreat from the scorching rays of the fierce July sun that beat down upon this broad expanse of prairie.
…”Farmer” Wheeler, as the politicians of the Republican faith are pleased to call him, lives hard by the little town, in fact, the 160 acres which comprise the territory of its incorporated limits were originally part of the Wheeler Farm. Just west of the town plat and within plain view is the home of Mr. Wheeler, a pretentious mansion of the Queen Anne style of architecture.
Photo: The "Wheeler Mansion"
It is an elegant home. Its exterior, handsome and commanding as it is, furnishes but a fait idea of the elegance of its interior. It has all the conveniences of the mansions of the wealthy dwellers in the cities. The woodwork is veneered with foreign woods of an expensive kind, and the furnishings are of the sumptuous order. Bric-a-brac gathered in foreign travel and pictures possessing a moderate degree of artistic merit are strewn about in ample profusion. Luxury and ease pervade the entire premises, not a sign of the toil and privations which are supposed to be the lot of the Western farmer being anywhere visible.
Mr. Wheeler’s office building, near the great barn where he keeps his imported Percheron horses, has an air of luxury about it also. In the room which is devoted to his private use its occupant’s desire for the enjoyment of ease and comfort is everywhere seen to be gratified. A large Turkish rug hides most of the pine floor, bric-a brac encumbers the mantel, pictures hang upon the walls, and books apparently more for appearance than for use, rest generally undisturbed in their appropriate case. From the general manager’s room adjoining that of the proprietor, telephone connection is had with the offices of the three division superintendents upon different parts of the great farm. It is this arrangement that caused Mr. Wheeler to be know as “the farmer by telephone,” and made him the subject of a cartoon in Puck. [a magazine]
He has a find body of land. In compact form lie the ten sections originally purchased by him, and all of which he owns now except the quarter section given to the railroad for the town plat of Odebolt as an inducement to get the company to locate a station here. It is as nice a stretch of rolling prairie as one could find in this garden spot of agricultural Iowa. Mr. Wheeler bought this land from the Cedar Rapids and Northwestern Railroad Company, which held the title by grant from the Government in 1871, although he did not obtain and record his deeds until four year later. This was then a wild and sparsely settled country. Deer and antelope roamed over this broad expanse of prairie, nipping the succulent grasses and quenching their thirst from the clear and rapidly flowing streams.
… The railroad was then only thirty miles distant at Dension, yet it cost him but $3.50 per acre. If it had been bought at that price and held as wild land there would have been a great fortune in it, as the little unbroken prairie in this section is held at almost the price of improved lands, or at about $25 per acre.
… Aside from his house and the pretentious barn near it and the office in which he does his work there is nothing on the Wheeler farm of an expensive character—except the mortgage. It is divided into large fields by barb wire fences—an article cheaply constructed – and a few Superintendents’ houses and unpretentious abodes for the hired help.
… The records of the county tell the story. They show a conveyance to Mr. Wheeler on Oct. 6, 1875 of 3,365 acres of his present farm for the sum of $11,780.33. On Sept. 10 of the same year he purchased 2,810 acres for the sum of $9,836.75, making his present farm ofr 6.175 acres cost him $21,617, or a trifle less than $3.50 per acre.
… Farmer Wheeler belongs to a party that prates a good deal about the “home market.” He doesn’t practice his party’s precepts. Although a large consumer, he seldom buys anything in Odebolt. His supplies come direct from Chicago wholesale dealers, and are shipped in at advantageous freight rates. His farm machinery, his grocery, clothing, and general household supplies all come the same way. This way of doing irritates our home merchants and not a few of them of Republican politics will vote against him in November. None of our middle men ever get a dollar our of “Farmer” Wheeler. He markets his produce just as he buys his supplies, in Chicago. His corn and oats and wheat and live stock go by the carload to the Chicago markets, subject only to the tax of the commission man and the railway freight tolls. Probably the latter are no very heavy, for it is known that he has a “stand in,” particularly with the Chicago and Northwestern.
… One of the possessions of “Farmer” wheeler of which he is ordinarily very proud, but which has been laid aside probably until after election, is a gorgeous six-hundred-dollar diamond pin. It is a stone of genuine merit and brilliant enough to excite the envy of a hotel clerk. People here had observed its disappearance from the broad expanse of his immaculate shirt front …
Miss Bessie Wheeler, daughter of H. C. Wheeler, was married to Byron W. Mills of Chicago recently. H.C. Wheeler is now a resident of Chicago, having bought a fine house there some months ago. His son Paul manages his big Odebolt farm.
Hon. Hiram C. Wheeler, Iowa's biggest farmer, has been directing his energies
to dairying for several years, and has concluded to go into it in Texas. He has
sold his 10,000 acre farm near Odebolt to John Adams of Wheaton, Ill., for
$50,000 and purchased 10,000 acres close to Galveston, Texas, for his future
dairy operations. Mr. Wheeler will remove his family to Galveston next spring.
Mr. Adams will cultivate the Iowa property as a farm. About 7,000 acres are now
It is not so many years since the farmer king, Hiram C. Wheeler, was a well-known figure in Iowa politics. He was a candidate for governor in 1891, but Senator Hutchinson captured the prize. That was the unfortunate year when "Uncle Horace" pulled the democracy into power in the governor's office, and Mr. Wheeler felt, after it was all over, that possibly the fates had been kinder to him than he thought when he failed to secure the nomination.
Two years later matters appeared to look brighter for the republicans. Again Farmer Wheeler was a candidate before the republican state convention. This time he had practically no opposition, and was made the nominee. The democrats re-nominated Gov. Boles and it was the "farmer from Sac" against the "Farmer from Blackhawk," and "Uncle Horace" won. Mr. Wheeler then retired to his 6,000-acre farm, which, lying over against the town of Odebolt, Sac county, made a stable sort of back ground for the business of that lively little place.
HIS OWN SUPERINTENDENT
In those days there was oat fields on Farmer Wheeler's broad acres, the like of which were not seen elsewhere in Iowa. When the days of harvest came a battalion of harvesters was formed for an attack on the grain. Behind the line came Farmer Wheeler riding behind a well-groomed roadster and watching closely the work of the dozen or fifteen harvesters as they started abreast through the waving grain. The Wheeler farm comprised somewhat more than ten sections or a trifle over 6,400 acres. He purchased the property in the early 1870's, paying $3.50 per acre. The farm was divided into three ranches and was operated under the supervision of one general foreman with three sub-foremen. There was a system of civil service in vogue by which, when one of the upper positions was vacated, it was filled by promotion. Mr. Wheeler paid good wages and after remaining as a general foreman for three or four years a man who was at all saving was able to buy a farm for himself. The roads which passed through the farms were bordered on each side with rows of tall cottonwood trees. Each of the houses of the sub-foremen was connected with the house of the general foreman and also with Mr. Wheeler's house and office by telephones. There were wagon shops, harness shops, and blacksmith shops on the farm, so that it could practically be managed within itself.
TURNED HIS ATTENTION TO HORSES.
After a time it became apparent that there was a demand for strong heavy farm horses, and then the Wheeler farms were devoted largely in the handling of imported horses, heavy farm horses, which were sought after for strength rather than for beauty or speed. For four or five years importations of Shire horses from England and Percherons from France were made annually for the Wheeler farms. Large horse barns were erected and placed in the charge of a brawny Scotch groom.
Some three or four years ago Mr. Wheeler became satisfied that horse values were about to go into a serious decline, and he took immediate steps to dispose of his interests of that sort and turned his attention to dairying. Last season he began looking around for purchasers for his farms. At first he intended to sell them off in sections to suit the purchasers, but late in the summer a buyer for the whole tract was found in Mr. Adams of Chicago. The deal was consummated in September, but Mr. Wheeler is to retain possession during the present winter.
BUYING LAND IN TEXAS
For some time prior to the sale of his Sac county farms and since the
completion of that deal, Mr. Wheeler has been paying visits to Texas for the
purpose of finding a location which suited him. He has finally purchased between
5,000 and 6,000 acres of land in Jefferson county, Texas about thirty miles
northeast of Galveston. This land is unimproved and lies along the line of the
proposed railroad from Beaumont to Galveston. He already has enough for a fair
sized farm, but is not satisfied, and is in Texas now negotiating for more land
to increase his holdings to 10,000 acres. While he thus proposed, in effect, to
transfer his Sac county farm to Texas, he does not intend to become a citizen of
that state, at least at present. The large tract of land which he is negotiating
for will be turned into an extensive dairy farm, where it is expected that a
thousand cows will be domiciled to yield milk and butter for the Galveston and
other markets. His son, Paul Wheeler, a young man about 24 years of age will
have charge of the farm, and his son-in-law, Myron Mills, who is at present
chief clerk of the Chicago police department, will move with his family to
Galveston, and have charge of that end of the business. When all this is
arranged satisfactorily Mr. Wheeler will return to Odebolt, where he and Mrs.
Wheeler and their youngest daughter will make their home. Mrs. Wheeler and Miss
Wheeler have been in Europe during the past season, but are in Chicago now with
Mrs. Wheeler's daughter, Mrs. Mills.
IMPROVED MILKING MACHINE
While Mr. Wheeler was engaged in farming he used the latest kinds of
machinery and since he has been interested in the dairying business he has been
experimenting in the use of machines to supplant the dairymaids. In his Sac
county dairy he has in operation a milking machine which seems to do the work
with the ease and dexterity of a hired hand, and while the hired hand can only
milk one cow at a time this machine can be used for from one to one hundred cows
at one "sitting.". It is an Iowa invention, too, and is made at Waterloo, the
home of the man who caused Farmer Wheeler to retire so precipitately from
politics to become rich and honored as the champion farmer of Iowa. Without this
machine it would take a small army of men to milk the 1,000 cows which 'ere long
will be browsing on the pastures of the Texas farm, but it is expected that the
work can be done with three of the machines and some twenty men. And the men
will have time to attend to the haying in season, as it is the intention to
devote much of the farm to meadow grass.
Des Moines, Iowa, May 4 - Hon. Hiram Wheeler, once republican candidate for governor of the state of Iowa, and owner of the biggest farm in the state, is ruined in health, bankrupt, and now lies in a hospital in Chicago. His wife is running a boarding house in Seattle.
The astounding news was received in the city today and was the cause of expressions of much regret on the part of the politicians and state house officials. All recalled the vigorous campaign between Hiram Wheeler, republican, and Horace Boles, democrat. It was the first time a republican had been defeated for the position of governor of the state.
Had Biggest Iowa Farm
The Wheeler farm, now known as the Cook place [editor's note: This is an error - should be "Adams" place] located near Odebolt, in Sac county, is the largest in the state today. The tract purchased remains intact, although sold many years ago by Mr. Wheeler. It is valued at a million dollars. Wheeler moved to Texas where he lost his money in various enterprises. He undertook the dairy business on a large scale and lost heavily on that proposition.
Letters have been received by old friends of Wheeler at Odebolt, asking for
financial help and small amounts have been sent him. It is now proposed to raise
some money in Des Moines and the effort will be started today. He is suffering
from heart disease and dropsy. He is in unfortunate shape. His nervous system
and mind are gone. He is a physical and mental wreck. He is a member of the
Masonic order and several members have under consideration plans for giving him
Wheeler, at one time, was president of the Iowa State Agricultural society. By persistent efforts he secured the republican nomination for governor. His canvass for the election was a failure in every sense of the word. He did not know how to make a canvass. He was nominated by a systematic writing of letters to the farmers throughout the state. There is probably no other instance in American politics wherein a man secured the nomination for governor by letter writing.
The Wheeler Hose company, which includes the members of the Odebolt fire department, has given $100 to help defray the hospital expenses of Hiram C. Wheeler, who is now in a Chicago hospital. Wheeler lodge, A.F. & A. M., of Odebolt, also gave $100.
[Editor's note: Hiram C. Wheeler died September 25, 1909.]
Annals of Iowa
By Samuel Storrs Howe, Theodore Sutton Parvin, Frederick Lloyd, Iowa. Division of Historical Museum and Archives, Sanford W. Huff, Edgar Rubey Harlan, State Historical Society of Iowa, Charles Aldrich, Iowa. Historical Dept
Published by Iowa State Historical Dept., Division of Historical Museum and Archives, 1910
Item notes: v. 9
Original from Harvard University
Digitized Jan 25, 2008
P. 318 (bottom) Hiram C. Wheeler was born at Hopkinton, N. H., May 10, 1835; he died in Chicago, September 25, 1909. He removed with his parents to Chicago when he was one year old, where he received his education. For some years he was a resident of California. He came to Iowa about the year 1866, purchasing some six thousand acres of land in Sac county, on which was laid out the town of Odebolt. He was president of the State Agricultural Society from 1886-89, during which time the present grounds were purchased and the fair located permanently on its present site. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress in the Eleventh District in 1882, and for Governor in 1889. In 1891 he was nominated for Governor by the Republican party, suffering defeat at the hands of Horace Boies. He was a man of fine presence, strong personality and great energy. Financial reverses limited his usefulness in his latter years, but his career ended as one of the most honorable.
(Transcribed by B. Horak)
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