Hon. Willard Chauncey Earle

Willard Chauncey Earle

Probably no man is better known and more highly respected and esteemed in Waukon and throughout Allamakee county than Dr. Willard Chauncey Earle, for he is not only one of the pioneer physicians of this section of the state, but throughout a period of residence here covering fifty-nine years has been one of the greatest individual forces in its financial, commercial, political and moral development. His activities have touched and influenced in an important way practically every phase of municipal and county advancement and his great success has rewarded a life high in its purposes, beneficial in its effects and upright and honorable in all its relations. Had he no other claim to the respect of his fellow citizens, his long and loyal service in the Civil war would constitute a valid and lasting one.

Dr. Earle has been a resident of Waukon since 1854 but was born in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, October 7, 1833. His family is of old English origin and the line can be traced back directly to a Saxon ancestor who lived in Great Britain before the Norman conquest. It is also of old American establishment, its firs representative in this country having settled in Newport, Rhode Island, as early as 1634. Members of the family were prominent in that state for a number of years, later moving to Massachusetts where Calvin Earle, father of the subject of this review was born February 1, 1790, his birth occurring in Hubbardstown. He there married Miss Betsy Foster and they later moved to Pennsylvania, locating in what is now Honesdale, that state. The father built the first house on the site where now stands a flourishing community of three thousand inhabitants. Calvin Earle made his home there until 1840 when he returned to Hubbardstown where he remained until he came west in 1858, joining his son Willard C.in Waukon. He here spent the remaining years of his life, dying in October, 1872.

In the acquirement of an education Willard Chauncey Earle attended public school in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts and later under a private tutor prepared to enter Brown University. He was obliged to abandon this intention on account of poor health, however, and instead joined his elder brother, J. W. Earle, and came west to Tiffin, Ohio, where both engaged in railroad work. In 1854, Willard C. Earle came from Ohio to Iowa and in June of that year located in Waukon, where he has since maintained his residence. His first investment here was in a sawmill and for some time thereafter he engaged in the manufacture of lumber in association with a partner. He afterwards purchased his partner’s interest and conducted the business alone with great success until 1860.

Dr. Earle was among the first to respond to President Lincoln’s call for volunteers for service in the Civil war and in October, 1861, joined Company B. Twelfth Iowa volunteer Infantry, being elected captain. The regiment was sent to Dubuque, where it was drilled for a time, later going to St. Louis and thence to the southern battlefields. He participated in numerous important engagements, among which were the battles of Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Jackson, Black river Bridge, Champion’s Hill and Vicksburg. After the latter engagement Captain Earle was ordered to raise a regiment of colored troops, the headquarters of which were to be with General Joseph Mower. He carried this work forward to successful completion and, much to his surprise, received the commission of colonel of the regiment, which was entirely unsolicited on his part. He afterward learned that it was at the request of Colonel J. J. Woods, of the Twelfth Iowa Infantry, and through the influence of General James Tuttle and General Mower that this honor had come to him. General Mower laid Colonel Earle under many and great obligations for advice and instructions in organizing this regiment, the general being a graduate of West Point, an ideal and efficient officer and a true-hearted patriot. The regiment participated in the battle of Natchez and in the campaigns along the Mississippi river and remained in active service until the close of the war. Colonel Earle has always found the greatest satisfaction in the thought and it is the sweetest memory of his life that he was able to help Abraham Lincoln to destroy the most powerful and infernal labor trust ever conceived by man and, moreover, he finds his reward in the thought that the black man continues in his upward development as the years roll on and that as times passes the civilized world will better and better appreciate the magnificent grandeur of thought and beauty of soul of that honest and remarkable man, Abraham Lincoln, as he expressed and exemplified them in his life and actions.

With a creditable military record marked by brave, able and loyal service in the Union cause, Colonel Earle received his honorable discharge and returned to Waukon, whence he went to Chicago in order to enter Rush Medical College. He took a course of lectures in that institution on 18665-1866 and during the following winter spent some time at the Jefferson Medical College at Philadelphia, where he completed his studies, graduating with the class of 1867. After receiving his degree he returned to Waukon and formed a partnership with Dr. I. H. Hedge, beginning the general practice of his profession in this city. His partner, who was one of the earliest physicians in Waukon, had built up an extensive patronage here and in the vicinity, and to Dr. Earle as the younger man fell a large portion of the long rides and midnight call incident to a country practice. The two physicians later established a drug store and conducted it successfully for some time. Dr. Earle later purchased his partner’s interest and in 1870 added to his stock a fine line of general merchandise, rapidly securing a lucrative trade. So steadily did this branch of his business expand that after several years he erected a fine brick business house, in which he continued to conduct a separate mercantile concern for a number of years. Even at this time, however, this was not his only business connection, for as early as 1867 he had formed a partnership with his brother in they buying and shipping of stock and grain. J. W. Earle remained the active manager of this enterprise until his death in 1885 when the business was taken over by the subject of this review who continued to carry it on for some years.

Ever since beginning his active career Dr. Earle has been one of the leaders in all work of public development and many of the most important business and public institution owe their inception and continued growth to his ability and enterprise. He was one of the promoters of the Waukon and Mississippi Railroad Company, which was built by subscription from Waukon and Allamakee county citizens. Dr. Earle gave largely of his time and means to promote this project and was one of the greatest individual forces in its successful completion. In Waukon he has built and is still the owner of a number of substantial business houses and has a comfortable residence in the city besides valuable holdings in Allamakee county farming land. All of his business interests are carefully and conservatively conducted and in their management he has met with that success which always results from ability, enterprise and well directed organizing power.

During his half a century of residence in this city Dr. Earle’s interest have not been confined to lines of business development, for he has for many years been active in local politics, his influence being always on the side of progress and reform. After the close of the Civil was he identified himself with the republican party and supported its principles and policies for a number of years. In 1884, however, he allied his interests with democracy and, representing that party, was nominated and elected to the lower house of the nineteenth general assembly, receiving a majority of five hundred votes over his nearest opponent. After serving one term he was elected to fill out an unexpired term occasioned by the Election of Mr. Larrabee to the office of governor, and he discharged his important duties with honor to himself and to the satisfaction of his constituents and friends. His political activity has always been of a constructive and progressive kind, and his public service has been beneficial and far-reaching in its results.

On January 1, 1860, Dr. Earle was united in marriage to Miss Ellen Augusta Hedge of Waukon, a daughter of Dr. Isaiah H. Hedge, one of the pioneer physician of Allamakee county and one of the best known practitioners in Waukon for many years. Dr. and Mrs. Earle became the parents of three children. The eldest, Minnie Charlotte, is the wife of Grant C. Hemenway, for some time a lumber dealer in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and now a resident of Paris, France. They have three children, Charlotte, Willard and Genette. Dr. Earle has one son Carlton Hedge, who is a prominent business man in Waukon, where is well known as cashier of the Citizens’ Bank. William Allison Earle, youngest son in this family, died April 21, 1866.

Among the forces which have directed the growth of Waukon, and which have been the greatest contributing elements in the general advancement, Dr. Earle’s fifty-nine years of continuous and well directed activity are of utmost importance, for they have affected politics, business and public morality and have elevated standards along all lines. Dr. Earle is well known and highly esteemed in the community where he makes his home and his name stands for all that is honorable and loyal in citizenship and upright and worthy in business relations.

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

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