ELEAZER W. STOCKER — The name of E. W. Stocker is deeply engraved on the pages of the history of Benton county, which has been his home almost continuously from the earliest epoch of its record to the present time. He was born at Bath in Grafton county, New Hampshire, February 29, 1824, a son of Amos and Louisa (Snow) Stocker. His father was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1784, and died at the age of seventy-eight years, and the mother, born at Bath, New Hampshire, in 1794, died in the year of 1837. Amos Stocker by a previous marriage had four children, but all are now deceased, and E. W. Stocker is one of the four children by his second marriage to Louisa Snow and the only one now living. He descends from the Scotch on the parternal side and from the English on the maternal. His maternal grandfather was a lieutenant in the Revolutionary war and a graduate of Dartmouth College. Both Amos and Louisa Stocker died in Ohio, near Cleveland.
During the winter of 1833 E. W. Stocker was taken by his father to Piscataquis county, Maine, and there in the woods the senior Mr. Stocker began to carve out a home from the wilderness. In the fall of 1835 he moved to Cuyahoga county, Ohio, and that county continued as the home of E. W. Stocker until the spring of 1846, when he accepted Horace Greeley's advice to go west and located in Ogle county, Illinois. There in company with A. J. Snow he rented a farm with eleven hundred sheep, but two years later found him financially ruined, and in the fall of 1848 he continued his westward journey to New Diggings, Wisconsin, where he worked during a part of that winter in the lead mines at Schullsburg. In the spring of 1849 with three companions he had managed after laborious effort to get together a wagon and four yoke of oxen, with provisions to last a year, and on the 28th of March they started overland for California; They reached Nevada county of that state on the 5th of September, without provisions and with only two yoke of oxen and their wagon. In the following December Mr. Stocker went to Big Bar, on the middle fork of the American River, California, there having been twenty men at that camp during that winter from almost as many different states. Gold was plentiful there, but provisions high, for they were brought on pack mules from Sacramento City, seventy miles away. Flour was sold as high as a dollar and a half a pound, bacon at two dollars and a half a pound, potatoes at two dollars and a half a pound, molasses at sixteen dollars a gallon and eight penny nails for twenty-five cents a piece. Mr. Stocker paid twelve dollars and fifty cents for fifty-eight nails. There was but one merchant at the camp, and he sold mostly whiskey at a dollar a drink. In honor of Washington's birthday this merchant served a dinner at eight dollars a place, the menu consisting of boiled potatoes, fried ham, bread, butter, pickles, a boiled pudding, New Orleans molasses and dried apple pie.
In the spring of 1854 Mr. Stocker with five others and with pack mules journeyed from Placerville, California, to West Point, now Kansas City, in sixty-five days, and in September of 1854, he arrived in Iowa. After riding for four weeks over the state in company with W. S. and A. J. Snow, Mr. Stocker located in what is now Kane township, then a part of Iowa township, Benton county, and entered four hundred and eighty acres of land on sections 36 and 25. But going to Carroll county, Illinois, they spent the winter there, and in the spring of 1855, with W. S. Snow, he started for Iowa with a breaking team of four yoke of oxen, two horses and a wagon to open a Benton county farm. At Savannah, Illinois, they purchased one thousand feet of lumber with which to build a house, and this they loaded on their wagon, and their house was the second one built in Kane township. Mrs. Snow and Mr. Stocker's sister accompanied them, riding on the top of the lumber, and they camped out on the way, sleeping in or under the wagon. Mr. Snow built the house while Mr. Stocker put in some sod corn, but the crop proved almost a failure, owing to the fact that a neighbor four miles distant owned a drove of colts which ate the greater part of the corn. In the summer of 1856 their house burned to the ground, Mr. Stocker being left with comparatively nothing except a little money found in the ruins. Going to Ohio he borrowed money at ten per cent interest, built him a second home and moved into the dwelling in the following October, the lumber having been hauled from Davenport and Iowa City. Their nearest flouring mill was then in Cedar Rapids.
In the following year of 1857 Mr. Stocker was commissioned by Judge Douglass to organize and name the township. An election was called, there being then ten voters in the township, nine Republicans and one Democrat, and it was necessary to favor the one Democrat with office, as it required the entire number to fill the positions. Mr. Stocker named the political organization after the Arctic explorer Kane. In the spring of 1859 he was seized with the gold fever and started for Pike's Peak, but soon turned back owing to unfavorable reports. In company with a Mr. Bliss and James Sterling he in the spring of 1864 started for the gold fields of Montana, but hunting the precious metal there did not prove like the old California days and he returned after two months paying twenty-five dollars in gold for the privilege of riding in a freight wagon. On his return journey he witnessed a battle between the Blackfoot and Flat Head Indians one hundred miles north of Snake river. Their train consisted of thirty men and seven wagons, and they experienced no trouble from the Indians until they reached the Platte river, fifty miles below Julesburg. There one evening just after dark they were surrounded by the red skins, who attempted to stampede their mules, but failed owing to the fact that the party had taken the precaution to make a corral of the wagons, and the Indians did not attempt to take the train, although a small emigrant train three miles away did not fare so well, the Indians driving off their stock, killed one of the party and wounded three others. At Fort Kearney Mr. Stocker took passage on the overland stage to Omaha and thence to Nevada in Storey county, Iowa, and from there over the Northwestern railroad to his home in Benton county.
At the first regular election held in Kane township he was elected to the office of clerk, and he has also served as a road supervisor, as a trustee and as a justice of the peace. In 1860 he was elected a member of the Benton county board of supervisors, and was three times re-elected to that office. In 1858 he joined the Blue Lodge of Masons, in 1863 was made a member of its chapter, in 1867 of the Commandery and in 1872 was made a member of DeMolay Consistory at Lyons, and he is now the only charter member of Hope Lodge, A. F. & A. M., at Belle Plaine now living. He is one of the few real pioneers left in Benton county, and although he has traveled life's journey for eighty-six years he is hale and hearty, and yet lives an active life. He has always enjoyed the life on the frontier, and he has enjoyed many of the thrilling experiences which is the common lot of the pioneers. During his residence in California Mr. Stocker owned a half interest in a claim which he sold in 1854 for fifteen hundred dollars, and while sojourning in the Golden state in 1896 he found that five million dollars worth of gold had been taken from the mine and it was still being worked. He now owns a large estate of Benton county land, three hundred and twenty acres lying in Kane township and two hundred and forty in Union township. In 1892 he rented his farm and took up his residence in Blairstown, but growing tired of city life he returned to his homestead in 1905, He has just completed the erection of a corn crib there in which the seventeen thousand feet of lumber used was sawed from trees of his own planting many years ago.
Mr. Stocker married on January 21, 1858, Mary E. Van Metre, born in Pickaway county, Ohio, May 21, 1841, a daughter of John and Anna (Albertus) Van Metre. Her father was born in Berkley county, Virginia, and died in 1842 in Ohio, when a young man, and the mother born in that county in 1815, died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Stocker, at the age of seventy-four years. Mrs. Stocker was their only child, and the three children which have blessed her marriage union are: Mary L., the widow of George Kirk, of Montana, and the mother of four children, Eva Laraine, George, John and Clara Louise; Anna S., who married Edwin Wilson, but she is now living with her parents, and she has five children, Wheelock, Mary, Margery, Douglas and Donald; and Jacob P., whose home is in Oakland, California. The name of E. W. Stocker is ineffaceably traced on the pages of the history of Benton county from its earliest days to the present time, and it is a name that has stood for the deepest appreciation of the rights and privileges of citizenship and a name that is honored where ever known.