Alonzo M. May

Alonzo M. May

Alonzo Martin May was born in the village of Scio, Allegany county, New York, on the 20th of March, 1838. He is a descendant of Sir Thomas May, of Mayfield, county of Sussex, England, located about forty miles south of London. In the family records the name has been written Mayes, Mays, Maies and May. Dorothy May, of this family, was the wife of William Bradford, who became governor of the Plymouth colony. She died on the voyage to America. The line of descent is: Thomas May, born at Mayfield, England, in 1590; John; Samuel; Samuel, second of the name; Eleazer; Theodore; Ellis; Philander Franklin; and Alonzo Martin. Theodore moved from Dedham, Massachusetts, to Washington county, New York, served in the Revolutionary war and was present at Burgoyne’s surrender. Ellis followed farming at Union Village, Washington county, until 1832, when he moved to Allegany county, New York. He married Mary Wells and their fifth child was Philander Franklin. In 1835 he married Laura Ann Matthews, of Wyoming county, New York, a descendant of one of the Pilgrim fathers and also of Revolutionary stock. To them were born seven children, the second being Alonzo Martin, of this review. When he was five years old his family moved west, the trip being made from New York overland in a prairie schooner, a covered wagon drawn by two horses. The party passed through Canada from Lewiston to Detroit, the Niagara and Detroit rivers being crossed on horse ferry boats. They reached Will county, Illinois, thirty-five miles south of Chicago, in August, 1843, and there with five hundred dollars in silver the father purchased a quarter section of land and built upon it a fourteen by twenty frame house, one and a half stories high, the lumber having been hauled from Chicago. In 1846 he moved to Rock county, Wisconsin, and engaged in the manufacture of steel plows at Janesville, the first steel plows in the country having been made by his brother Harvey H. May, of Galesburg, Illinois. Disposing of this business in February, 1851, the father went to Green Lake county, where he again turned his attention to farming. There Alonzo Martin May completed a common-school education when he was fifteen years of age, having begun his studies in a select school over a wagon shop in New York state. The first school which he attended in Illinois was in a house made by setting up small trees or bushes, ten or twelve feet high, around a space about fifteen feet square, the roof being leafy branches of trees. Mr. May afterward attended Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin, and from there went to Beloit College, completing the course in that institution in 1864. In April, 1861, when the news came that Fort Sumter had been fired upon by the rebels, he with a large number of other students tendered his services to the government under the call for three months’ men, and his company was assigned to the Second Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers. Under the call the regiment did not see service in the field and Mr. May was afterward sworn in as a member of a regimental band at Beloit. He was taken sick when this band went to the front and secured a substitute, being, however, held to fill a vacancy should one occur. At the end of a year the regimental bands were mustered out and he went to Janesville, Wisconsin, to enlist, failing, however, to pass the medical examination. Again, early in 1864, with a large number of students and professors in the colleges, he enlisted in Company B, Fortieth Wisconsin Volunteers, his regiment being widely known as the “Students Regiment.” Mr. May was at that time a member of the senior class, the seniors enlisting having passed their final examinations ahead of time for the purpose of going to the front and finding upon their honorable discharge their diplomas waiting for them at Beloit. Alonzo Martin May’s father also served for some months in the Union army and a brother, Isaac M. May, was for three years at the front, dying in a military hospital in Chicago while on his way home after having been mustered out.

In 1867, having completed the course of study in the Union Theological Seminary in New York city, Alonzo Martin May was ordained by Bishop Potter of New York to the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal church and came west, locating in Waukon, Iowa, as rector of St. Paul’s Protestant Episcopal church in that city. The membership, small at that time, was soon further depleted by removals and, Waukon being more than adequately provided for in the number of churches, Mr. May discontinued his services at the end of five years and transferred his membership to the Methodist Episcopal church, of which he has since been an active member. He has been leader of the music and a chorister for more than fifty years and occasionally has served as a substitute for other pastors. He has always taken an active interest in the cause of education and has done much to promote its spread in Waukon, especially during the year of 1868-9, when he had charge of the Waukon public schools.

In January, 1868, Charles B. McDonald brought a newspaper plant from Blairstown to Waukon and established in his city the Waukon Standard. Mr. May, being familiar with the newspaper printing business, at once became identified with it and at the end of three months bought the outfit and may, therefore, properly be called the founder of the paper. He continued its principal proprietor and its editor for thirty-three years thereafter, making it one of the greatest forces in the promotion of municipal progress and growth. At the end of that long period, on account of nervous prostration, he sold the plant to his son, Robert Bruce May. During the first year after Alonzo M. May assumed control his brother-in-law, R. L. Hayward, was associated with him in the business and afterward for nine years E. M. Hancock, who had learned the printing business in the office, was associated with him as a partner, taking principal charge of the operation of the journal, while Mr. May filled the position of official shorthand court reporter for the tenth judicial district of Iowa, comprising six counties. This office he resigned after thirteen years of capable service. During the last four years of this time his wife had principal charge of the editorial work and proved herself a capable and far-sighted business woman. Mr. May was admitted to the bar, having passed the required examinations in June, 1872, but never actively entered upon the legal profession.

At Beloit, Wisconsin, on the 26th of July, 1865, Mr. May was united in marriage to Miss Augusta Mary Hayward, the second daughter of Hon. Paul Davis Hayward, who was born at Port Hope, Canada, although his parents were natives of the United States. A member of the family to which he belongs served in the Revolutionary war and signed the Declaration of Independence. Paul Davis Hayward married on October 14, 1837, at Norwalk, Ohio, Miss Anna Langford, a native of Ireland, and in 1841 they moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin, and thence to Kingston, in the same state, where Mr. Hayward was register of the U. S. land office and also county recorder of deeds. He became very prominent in state politics and was afterward elected to the legislature, serving for two terms with great ability and efficiency. He was in the Civil war as a member of the Union army and died at the residence of his daughter, Mrs. R. J. Alexander, in Waukon, November 24, 1890. He had long survived his wife, who passed away in Canada, May 6, 1863. Their eldest son, George Washington Hayward, was born in Huron, Ohio, August 31, 1838, and was graduated from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1861. He served in the Civil war, attained the rank of captain and died while on duty at Alexandria, Egypt, January 16, 1886. Their eldest daughter, Anna E. Hayward, is now Mrs. J. S. Gray, of Detroit, Michigan. Mrs. May, the wife of the subject of this review, was born at Green Bay, Wisconsin, June 8, 1842. For seventeen years the family resided at Kingston, Wisconsin, where she attended the public schools, and she was also afterward a student at Ripon College. The next daughter, Ella M., was born August 5, 1844, and was for some time a resident of Waukon. She married Hon. D. F. Morgan, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, a member of the state senate for some years. Both have passed away. Richard L. Hayward was born August 5, 1846, and in the Civil war fought as a member of the Fortieth Wisconsin Infantry, and was afterward connected with the first Wisconsin Cavalry. In 1869, after a year as foreman of the Standard office and partner in the controlling company, he went south on account of failing health and died in Texas in 1882. Paul Davis Hayward, Jr., was born at Kingston, Wisconsin, in 1849, attended college at Beloit and in 1870 located in Chicago, where for twenty years thereafter he was prominently connected with a wholesale paper firm. He died in Brockville, Ontario, June 7, 1890. Emma E. Hayward was born August 15, 1851. Sarah V. was born September 25, 1852. They are now residing in Detroit, Michigan. Carrie L. was born June 30, 1857, and came to Waukon with her sister Mrs. May in 1867. She was a student of Cornell College, Iowa, and at Olivet College, Michigan. She married R. J. Alexander at Waukon, June 27, 1883. For more than a third of a century Mr. Alexander has been one of the most successful clothing merchants of the country and for many years has been an active member of the school board.

Mr. and Mrs. Alonzo M. May became the parents of eight children. Frank Hayward, the eldest son, was born in New York city, May 8, 1866. He learned the printing business and for some years was a partner in the Standard at Waukon. For the past twelve years he has held an important position with the Northwestern Newspaper Union of Chicago. Anna Laura was born in Floyd county, Iowa, August 4, 1867. She was graduated from the Waukon high school and afterward learned the printing business. She married, November 20, 1888, Rev. G. N. Keniston, of the Methodist Episcopal church, and she died at Elkader, April 29, 1890. Jessie Ella was born in Waukon, October 15, 1868, and acquired her education in the Waukon grammar and high schools. For ten years she has been confidential secretary to the New York manager of the United States Steel & Wire Company in New York city. Robert Bruce was born June 20, 1870. After completing his education in the public schools he learned the printer’s trade and for some years thereafter was associate publisher and editor of the Standard and is now foreman of the Iowa Falls Sentinel. He married, October 4, 1893, Miss Lucy Taylor Stoddard, of Waukon, and they have one son, Robert Bertrand. Winifred was born September 21, 1874, and after graduating from the Waukon high school attended the Nora Springs Seminary and Cornell College. She also learned the printing business. On the 5th of October, 1899, she married Ben D. Helming, one of the successful, progressive and substantial farmers of this county. He is a son of Simon Helming and was born on the home farm, three miles west of Waukon, January 29, 1874. Their children are as follows: Carolyn Elizabeth, born June 30, 1900; Dorothy Hager, born January 6, 1902; Paul Hayward, July 15, 1903; Benjamin David, Jr., August 10, 1905; Robert Bruce, February 20, 1907; Frederick, April 25, 1910; and John Albert, March 28, 1912. Paul Davis was born March 18, 1876, and after completing a high-school course was for some years connected with the Washburn-Moen Company of Chicago, after which he spent one year as purser of the United States ship Tacoma during the Spanish-American war. For three years he had charge of over three hundred miles of telegraph and telephone lines as a member of the United States signal service in the Philippines and he was for three years government clerk and storekeeper in the Panama canal zone. For a similar period of time he has been clerk in the United States adjutant general’s office in Washington. He married in 1908 Miss Caroline Hansen, of Chicago. Langford was born in Waukon, February 5, 1878, graduated from the Waukon high school and took a two years’ course at Cornell College. He was for several years in the employ of the Washburn-Moen Company at Worcester, Massachusetts, and upon leaving that connection went to Meriden, Connecticut, where he became associated with the Columbia Roller Shade Company, acting as supervisor of construction of plants for that concern in Chicago and in Oswego, New York. In the summer of 1912 he became superintendent of construction of an immense plant for the H. W. Johns-Manville Manufacturing Company at Finderne, New Jersey. He married at Worcester, Massachusetts, Miss Florence Scott, and they have two children. Marian, the youngest child of Mr. and Mrs. Alonzo M. May, was born March 7, 1880, and after graduating from the high school took a course in domestic science in Drexel Institute, Philadelphia. On the 26th of December, 1908, she married Dr. Einar Onsum and after residing for a few years in North Dakota they went to his native city, Christiania, Norway, where he has now a large practice. They have one son, Einar Frederick, born February 6, 1911, and one daughter, born January 19, 1913.

Politically Alonzo M. May came into the republican party “on the ground floor,” though not yet a voter when the first republican club, the beginning of the party, was organized March 20, 1854, at Ripon, Wisconsin, by Major A. E. Bovay. Mr. May has been in sympathy with the progressive element in the party represented in Iowa by such men as Larrabee, Cummins and Kenyon, and he has been at all times active and public-spirited in matters of citizenship. For some fifteen years he has served as clerk of the grand jury and at Des Moines was elected bill clerk of the house of representatives of Iowa for the 1906 session. During the session of 1911 he served as chief doorkeeper and was doorkeeper for the 1913 session, but these offices have been tendered to him without his seeking, for he has never been an active politician in this sense, although he has taken an active part in temperance work and in everything relating to the public welfare. Fraternally he is connected with the Masonic lodge and Independent Order of Odd Fellows, organizations of which he has been an active member for some forty-three years. In 1883 he became a charter member of John J. Stillman Post, No. 194, G. A. R., and has been adjutant of the post for about thirty years, thus keeping in touch with his comrades of fifty years ago. Throughout a period of residence in this section of the state dating from pioneer times Mr. May has firmly entrenched himself in the respect and confidence of his fellow citizens and has taken an active, helpful and worthy part in the work of upbuilding and development. He has steadily adhered to the highest principles of business, personal and public integrity and has behind him a record of service that has been varied in activity and faultless in honor.

-transcribed by Linda Earnheart

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