The USGenWeb Project
Benton County, IAGenWeb Project
The IAGenWeb Project

History of Benton County, Iowa
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1910; Luther B. Hill, Ed.

Pages 674-678

HAMILTON B. EDWARDS, owner and proprietor of a fine farm in section 19, Iowa township, Benton county, Iowa, was the first white child born in New Hampton, Chickasaw county, Iowa, his birth taking place September 7, 1857. He is a son of David and Rebecca P. (Lambourne) Edwards, the former born in Marietta, Ohio, September 13, 1815, and died in July, 1888, and the latter, who was born in Westchester county, Pennsylvania, January 18, 1822, died July 13, 1903. They were married February 2, 1841, and were parents of nine children, of whom the following four survive: Fidelia, widow of F. R. Coe, of Pueblo, Colorado; Lauretta, wife of L. J. Button, of Sheldon, Iowa; May E., wife of Theodore Prill, of Sheldon, Iowa; and Hamilton B.

David Edwards was a man of superior intelligence and attainments, was well read and kept himself well informed on all the issues and topics of the day. He was a great student of the Bible, being familiar with its every page. He was a great worker in the interests of the church and also became greatly interested in the cause of education, giving one thousand dollars from his own pocket to help in building the first college ever erected west of the Mississippi river, which was established six miles south of Cedar Rapids, and became known as the Western College. Later it was moved to Toledo, Iowa, and is now known as the Leander Clarke College. Mr. Edwards was a very devout member of the United Brethren church, and helped every good cause in which he had an opportunity to become interested.

The Lambourne family (of which Mrs. David Edwards was a member) trace their ancestry back to 1103, and the first one to emigrate to America was Robert Lambourne, born in 1697, in East Hampstead, Berkshire, England, one of the six children of Josiah Lambourne; the baptismal records show the parents to have been of the Episcopalian faith. Although no record is to be found of his early childhood or school days, it is apparent that Robert Lambourne was of an impressionable nature, as at the age of seventeen years he fell deeply in love with Sarah, daughter of Francis Swayne of Berkshire. Although advised by his parents against setting his heart on this marriage, the parents of both objecting to the attachment on the grounds of the extreme youth of both young people, his fervor was only increased by the news that the Swayne family intended emigrating to America, which they did, in 1711. Although he was not advised of their place of destination, and was unable to write to the young lady of his choice, he determined that at the first opportunity he would set sail for America and spend his time looking for her until he found her. He sought the permission of his parents to take this long journey, and though at first they would not listen, pleadings and tears prevailed in the end, and bidding a last farewell to his home and dear ones he set out in search of his sweetheart, who had by no means forgotten him. He reached America in 1717, traveled overland to Philadelphia, and in that city was overjoyed to catch sight of Francis Swayne in a store; he waited outside for the older man to come out, and was overwhelmed to receive a pleasant greeting, which showed that his presence was welcome to his old friend. He was invited to the home of the Swaynes, located in what is now London Grove, his host remarking, "I have but one horse, but we will ride and hitch." Robert would gladly have walked the entire distance, but found the journey conducted in a novel manner. One rode the horse until several miles in front of the other, who was afoot, would then tie the horse and proceed on foot himself; the other, coming up to the horse, would mount and ride until he was several miles past the one who was walking, in turn would hitch the horse and take his turn at walking. In this way the men were not overtired, and the beast, also, enjoyed respite now and again. Mr. Swayne managed to be the last one to ride, and on reaching home sent his daughter on to meet her lover. An affecting meeting took place between these two, and the objections of her parents were withdrawn, as both had grown older since their last meeting, and their youth had been the cause for the objections to their union. They were soon afterward married, by the ceremony of Friends, whose religion and customs the young man adopted. From the marriage of these two, who had had so romantic a courtship, there came a long line of Lambournes, many of whom have distinguished themselves.

The following is an extract from a letter written by Mrs. David Edwards, mother of Hamilton B.: "In June, 1855, we left to make a prospecting tour west, tarried a while in Illinois to view the country, passed farther west, crossed the Mississippi and went one hundred miles farther west, when he set his stakes in Chickasaw county, purchased 1,360 acres of land, knowing or thinking, that in the near future the county seat would be removed to the center of the county, as Bradford, the county seat, on the Big Cedar river, was in the extreme southwest corner of the county, a beautiful location and a town of 1,300 inhabitants. He soon erected a small barn and house. He started on his homeward trip, part of the time on horseback, left a man, who with his family was living in their wagon, to put a door and two windows in, batten it up some, gave him the privilege of staying in it and pay him until our arrival in the coming fall; and he stayed as long as he wished, bought him a farm and left the little house just as it was. In September, 1855, we left home with my three daughters and wended our way over hills and glens, prairies, wide streams and rivers, many times deep and wide, having a covered wagon and carriage. After thirty-five days of weary traveling, both worn and tired, on the last day of October, drove up to the little house, expecting to see a door and windows. David jumped out and raised the quilt and said 'Ho, ho, hard at it!' The reply was, 'Hurrah, are you the man that owns this ranch?' David answered 'I guess I am.' But there was little show for us tired mortals; there was seventeen in the house, containing a mother, who lay on a bed with an infant a few days old. The man, in David's absence, had bought in a steam sawmill, and had gone in the little house with his work hands, also there had been a little log house put up to entertain land viewers, speculators, and so on. We got out and went in, sat down to some cold fried potatoes, cold fat meat and muddy coffee, unpacked our beds and laid them on the dirty floor of the kitchen (there being but two rooms, one above the other, entered by a ladder) and laid our tired bodies down to rest as well as we could. In about a week they had sawed lumber and made a temporary place to go into. A number of families had come in, some in hay shanties, some in board shanties. We went to our house and though it was poor indeed, we felt thankful to get into my hut, for we had no washing done since we left home. In about a week after we got in David returned to McGregor, one hundred miles, on the Mississippi river, for provisions. A few days after he started, it being so cold I took my girls into the log tavern to warm, for we would be near freezing, the thermometer down to 28 and 30 below zero, but quite comfortable in the log house, and while there a woman came in crying; I said to her, 'I am alone with my children, no door, no windows, no upper floor, and a loose lower floor, can see out between the boards, but you are welcome to come and share with me my hardships if any better than what thee has got.' Her husband worked in the sawmill, so through the blizzard snowstorm he brought their beds and laid them down beside mine, I lying on the outer side, my three girls next, their four children next, then the woman and her husband. The quilts at the door and two windows would tear from the nails as fast as nailed down. My sufferings I could not describe. After David's absence of ten days, as he was storm-stayed by a snow blizzard, wading rivers and streams as there were no bridges at that time, and breaking through the ice sometimes, he got home to find me near death's door. After Christmas we procured a door, two windows and boards to put overhead. We had a loose floor but nothing to batten the cracks, not even rags; got some poles to make bedsteads the length of the bedsteads being the width of the shanty, and many a morning my girls were banked over with snow and froze their ears and noses different times in bed, but David would get up and dress in the snow, shovel out the stove and start a fire. We bought two fat pigs at an exorbitant price, but having no warm place or building one froze to death, the other we skinned. We would chop it off with an ax, sit or stand around the stove, cook and eat it with pancakes made of flour and meal and water, as we had no milk, nor could we raise bread or keep yeast. But spring came once more and David went to work, secured help, as the prairies were growing white with covered wagons, so great the immigration. They blasted boulders scattered over the prairie, walled a cellar, hauled lumber a great ways and built a large house. David had a town laid out, sold one lot and gave one away, and by the next fall the county books were removed from Bradford to our town, New Hampton. The large safe, books (officers and all) went into our large front room, so I had them and the public to entertain till a court house could be built. We have had seven fat deer in our cellar at once. After seeing our town grow to a flourishing village, we moved ten miles west, purchased a farm, on it a large and flourishing sawmill. On it was forty acres of as beautiful a sugar maple grove as I ever saw; here David started an apiary."

As mentioned in the above letter, the family returned to Ohio, but were not satisfied, and again located in Iowa, in 1873. Mr. Edwards later removed to Tama county, settling in Salt Creek township, where he died. He was a well known and prominent citizen and one of the most highly honored men of his section of the state. His wife was an estimable lady, a woman of rare accomplishments, who bore the hardships and privations of pioneer existence with great fortitude, and became an influence for good in her community. She was a devout Quakeress, a well-educated woman, and the author of several poems which her son treasures as among his dearest possessions.

Hamilton B. Edwards was reared on a farm, received his early education in the district schools, and also attended Irving Academy. When seventeen years of age he began work on his own account, and engaged in buying cattle. When twenty-one he owned forty acres in Salt Creek township, Tama county, adjoining his father's land, and this he began working; when his father died he owned four hundred and eighty acres. In 1893 he sold out and purchased two hundred and forty acres of his present farm in Benton county, where he now owns three hundred acres, two hundred acres inside the corporation of Belle Plaine. He has a well improved farm, is an intelligent and progressive farmer, and has met with gratifying success. He is actively interested in public affairs and politically is a progressive Republican; he has served as a justice of the peace. He is affiliated with the Odd Fellows of Belle Plaine. Mr. Edwards is well read, and keeps informed on the issues of the day. He is much interested in history and literature, and has himself composed some excellent poems.

On January 21, 1880, Mr. Edwards married Ollie A. Coats, born in Iowa county, August 30, 1860, a daughter of John W. and Elizabeth (Adair) Coats, the former a native of Darke county, Ohio, and the latter of Mercer county, same state. To this union have been born children as follows: Florence, wife of James F. Hensel, of Elborn, Iowa; Lambourne A., of Marion, North Dakota; Minnie K., wife of M. C. Hedley, of Kewanee, Illinois; David M., of California; John H., Ralph N., William D., Mary, Elsie and Amy, at home; and three children who died young.

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