Albert D. Bender

Albert D. and Lydia (Smith) Bender

Albert D. Bender needs no introduction to the readers of this volume, having been practically a lifelong resident of Allamakee county and closely associated with its agricultural and commercial interests for many years. He relates many an interesting tale concerning the early days and the changes which have occurred as time has passed on. He was born in Clayton county, Iowa, near Monona December 14,1858, a son of Charles Wesley and Anna (Calkins) Bender.

The father was born April 18, 1832, and in early life became a carpenter, following the trade for a number of years. In fact, he was connected with that pursuit much of his life, although at different times he engaged in farming. The family was established in this section of Iowa by the father, David Bender, who secured a tract of government land. Not a furrow had been turned nor an improvement made upon the place. In June the prairie was starred with a million wild flowers and in December was one dazzling and unbroken sheet of snow.

Charles W. Bender related a many an interesting tale concerning the early days and the experiences of the pioneers. The family had come from Wisconsin to Iowa and after nearly a week spent at the new home the boy, who was acting as the party cook, began to feel very homesick. One Saturday his father called him: “Charlie, bake up something today and we will start home tomorrow.” The thought flashed across his mind, “I’ll make some fried-cakes just like mother used to.” He knew she put eggs in them, but where to get eggs was the problem as there were no hens within several miles. Just above the Pagin spring was a slough and wading in he found blackbirds eggs on the grass. He used the eggs but years afterward described the friedcakes as “just about as blue as the line on the paper which my pen follows and as heavy as lead... By main strength I fired them on the prairie.”

Mr. Bender in later years also described the first Fourth of July celebration held on Washington prairie, say that as the national birthday of 1852 approached patriotic feelings thrilled in the breasts of the pioneers and a few made arrangement to celebrate the day. Mr. Bender, with a yoke of oxen, went to a grove of pine trees, cut two, peeled them and made a flag pole between sixty and seventy feet high. At Moneek red and white cloth was purchased and a yard of blue cloth and the mothers of the neighborhood cut out white stars and made a fine flag, the first that ever floated over Washington prairie. This was hauled to a high ridge and everything made ready to raise the pole and unfurl the flag on the Fourth. The program was carried out as planned and someone proposed: “Now let us name our beautiful prairie Washington prairie.”

After some years spent in Allamakee county, C. W. Bender again became a resident of Clayton county. He also lived in Nebraska for a short time--and after about a year spent in Clayton county he again came to Allamakee county, settling in Franklin township. He soon afterward became a landowner and remained upon his farm for a number of years. Subsequently he removed to Dickinson county, Iowa, near Milford, where he continued for about five years. On the expiration of that period he returned to Allamakee county, making his home in Franklin township until his death, which occurred March 16, 1913. He was one of the best known pioneer settlers of this part of the state, honored and respected by all with whom he came in contact. He had long survived his first wife, who was born November 21, 1837, and passed away November 21, 1865. For his second wife he chose Miss Mary Jane Young, who lived near Monona, Clayton county, and who died May 9, 1903. In early life the father engaged in merchandising for a short period at Frankville, but during the greater part of his life had been connected with the building business and had also been numbered among the enterprising farmers of his district. By his first marriage there were four children: Arthur, who died in 1908; Albert D.; Honora, the wife of Louis Monty, of McGregor, Iowa; and Flora, who died September 14, 1903. There were seven children of the second marriage: Henry Ward, who was born July 28, 1867, and is a farmer, residing in Luana; Welthy May, who was born April 1, 1869, and died May 16, 1869; Orlen Bert, who was born in November, 1872, and passed away December 6, 1875; Owen L., born April 9, 1874, residing at Forest Mills, where he follows carpentering; William Cressy, who was born May 8, 1876, and is a master mechanic of Waukon, Iowa; Elmer C., who was born June 25, 1878, and is a farmer and landowner, living at Forest Mills; and Percy Lee, who was born September 16, 1881, and makes his home at Forest Mills.

Albert D. Bender began earning his own living in the spring following the ninth anniversary of his birth. He was employed at trapping for two years. Pocket gophers were plentiful in those days and he received a bounty of ten cents a head from the farmers in the vicinity in addition to his board. In the winter time he worked for his board and the privilege of attending school. Subsequently he was employed as a farm hand and later engaged in clerking in a general store. When sixteen years of age he began contracting in a general way, employing men even at the early age. He posses natural mechanical ingenuity and in carrying on that business was following in the business footsteps of his father. He was thus engaged up to the time of his marriage, which occurred when he was in his twenty-fourth year. He rented a farm for one year and then purchased a small farm near Forest Mills, making his home thereon for two years. At the end of that time he sold out and removed to Dickinson county where he cultivated a rented tract for two years. He afterward spent a similar period in the herding business and later leased a ranch of ten thousand acres, on which he had fourteen hundred and fifty heard of cattle under his care, employing three men to assist him. Because of failing health he was obliged to sell his lease and then returned to Franklin township, purchasing a small farm which he operated. He also engaged in contract work and in 1898 he established a general store, of which his daughters took charge. He continued his operations there until the fall of 1910, when he disposed of his property and business interests at Forest Mills and purchased his present farm of one hundred and twenty-three and forty-two hundredths acres. He carries on general farming, but gives the greater part of his attention to the live-stock business. He also still continues in the contracting business, with which he has been identified from the age of sixteen years. He now handles contracts in road building and devotes the greater part of his attention to contract work, his son looking after the farming interests. His has been a very active, busy and useful life. He has accomplished what he has undertaken and his life work shows what may be done when energy and determination lead the way.

On the 12th of January, 1882, Mr. Bender was united in marriage to Miss Lydia Smith, who was born in Franklin township, December 18, 1863, and is a daughter of Robert and Clara (Clark) Smith, who were also natives of Allamakee county and of Scotch-Irish descent. The father, who was a farmer and landowner, is now living in Emmet county, Iowa, but the mother has passed away. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Bender were born four children: Edith K M., the wife of Frank Russell, who is engage in merchandising in Forest Mills; Clara A., the wife of Ernest Decker, a farmer of Franklin township; Arthur F., who married Dottie Gibson and is residing on his father’s farm in Franklin township; and one who died in infancy. Mr. Bender holds membership with the Modern Woodmen. He is a very prominent and influential citizen, having spent his entire life in this section of the state. The years have brought him success as a reward of his industry, determination and unabating energy. He well deserves mention among the leading citizens and worthy pioneer settlers, and few men are able to speak with more authority or accuracy concerning the early events which shaped the history of this part of the state.

-source: Past & Present of Allamakee County; by Ellery M. Hancock; S. J. Clarke Pub. Co.; 1913
-transcribed by Diana Diedrich

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