SIDNEY S. SWEET. — With the history of Benton county and the city of Belle Plaine the name of Sidney S. Sweet was inseparably identified for a period of forty years, and through all the days to come there shall be here accorded to his memory a tribute honor as a man of sterling integrity, pronounced business ability and high civic loyalty, and as one who contributed in generous measure to the progress and material prosperity of the county of which he was a pioneer and in which he so long maintained his home. Through his own well directed endeavors he achieved distinctive success, and he was identified with the banking business in Belle Plaine from the time of his arrival here, in 1869, until his death, which occurred at his attractive home in this city on the 19th of May, 1909. He was president of the First National Bank of Belle Plaine from the time of its organization until a few months prior to his demise. His business career was characterized by courage, confidence, progressiveness and impregnable integrity of purpose; he was a dominating factor in public affairs in his county and held various positions of trust, including that of representative of Benton county in the state legislature, as well as that of mayor of his thriving home city. None had a more secure place in the confidence and esteem of the community than did he, and there is all of consistency in entering in this work a synopsis of his life history.
Sidney S. Sweet was born near North Granville, Washington county, New York, on the 29th of August, 1848, and was a son of Charles Addison Sweet and Eliza (Slocum) Sweet, both of whom were likewise natives of the old Empire state of the Union, where they passed their entire lives and where the father followed the vocation of farming throughout his active career. Both families were of English extraction and were founded in America in the colonial era. The subject of this memoir was reared to the sturdy discipline of the home farm and his early educational advantages were such as were afforded in the common schools of the locality and period. Through active association with men and affairs in the later years of his life he rounded out his mental discipline and became a man of broad information and mature judgment. As a young man Mr. Sweet left the old home state and went to Texas, where he remained about one year, at the expiration of which he came to Iowa. He made his advent in Belle Plaine, Benton county, in 1869, and in this village, which was then one of but small population, he engaged in the banking business by purchasing the bank established about two years previously by Samuel L. Bardwell. This was the first financial institution in the town and Mr. Sweet individually continued the business for three years, at the expiration of which, in 1872, he became associated with other representative men of the county in the organization and incorporation of the First National Bank of Belle Plaine. He became cashier of this institution and held this position until 1877, when he was elected its president. He continued as chief executive of the bank thereafter until January, 1909, when he resigned the office, about five months prior to his death. In 1877 his brother, Lewis T., became cashier of the bank, and for twenty-four years thereafter the two were associated as the active executive managers of the business of the institution, which now stands as one of the substantial and representative banking concerns of this favored section of the Hawkeye state. Lewis T. Sweet continued as cashier until his death, in 1900, and he too was long numbered among the influential and honored business men of Benton county. The presidency of the institution was resigned by the subject of this memoir on the 1st of January, 1909, by his refusal to become a candidate for re-election. His ability as a financier was of high order and to his efforts more than all else is due the stability and popularity of the bank over whose affairs he so long and effectively held sway. For forty years he was identified with the banking business in the same location, where the present attractive and well appointed bank building was erected in 1871 and remodeled in 1894.
A man of broad mental ken, of progressive ideas and of utmost civic loyalty, Mr. Sweet naturally became a leader in public opinion and action in his community, and though he never was ambitious for public office he never refused his services when called upon to assume positions of trust. He was an influential factor in the political affairs of his section of the state and was arrayed as a stalwart in the camp of the Republican party, of whose principles and policies he was a staunch and able advocate. He served as a member of the city council, was mayor of Belle Plaine for two terms, and for more than thirty years he served as secretary of the board of education. In 1885 he was elected to represent his county in the lower house of the state legislature, and in this body fidelity of purpose and his forceful personality were recognized. He was a member of the legislature that enacted the prohibition law of 1886, and three years later he was defeated for election to the state senate, in the turbulent maelstrom that swept the Republican ticket in the state upon the rocks of adversity, as a virtual result of the enactment of the previously mentioned prohibition law. For many years Mr. Sweet represented his county at the state and congressional conventions, and in 1904 he represented the fifth congressional district in the Republican national convention, which nominated Roosevelt for the presidency. He was one of the Benton county delegates to the state conventions of his party in 1901 and 1906, and he continued to manifest a vital interest in party affairs until the close of his life. He was identified with no fraternal organizations except the Masonic order, in which he attained to the thirty-second degree in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite. He never asked for public office for himself, and such positions as he filled in this line were accepted as a matter of party fealty and civic duty. In all the relations of life he "stood four square to every wind that blows," and upon his career as a business man and as a citizen there rests no shadow or blemish to mar the fair face of his escutcheon. Mr. Sweet was ever tolerant, loyal, generous and liberal, every ready to aid those in affliction or distress, but his personal modesty and quiet dignity made him entirely free from ostentation. He was essentially democratic in his attitude, placed true valuations on men and affairs and viewed life in all its phases in the correct proportions. His was a strong and noble personality, and his name has a place of prominence on the roll of the honored pioneers of Benton county.
In the year 1871 Mr. Sweet was united in marriage to Miss Katharine Brown, whose parents were numbered among the early settlers of Benton county, whence they removed to California many years ago. Mrs. Sweet died about a year after her marriage and is survived by no children. On the 17th of January, 1877, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Sweet to Miss Emma Richmond, who was born at Lyons, Wayne county, New York, and who survives him, as do also their two sons and one daughter, Sidney, Charles Addison and Eleanor. Charles A., the second son, is now cashier of the First National Bank of Belle Plaine and thus perpetuates the family connection with the institution of which his honored father was the founder, the while he is well upholding the high prestige of the name which he bears. Sidney is the owner of a box factory in the city of Denver, Colorado, and Miss Eleanor remains with her widowed mother in the attractive home in Belle Plaine.
Until about a year prior to his death Mr. Sweet was a man of exceptional vigor and strength, and his decline was the result of a paralytic nature, affecting the arteries. He was able to be about town until the day preceding his death, the immediate cause of which was a hemorrhage of the brain. He was distinctively the architect of his own fortunes, and his success was won by worthy means. When he came to Benton county his financial resources were very limited, but he pressed forward to the goal of success and prosperity and was one of the substantial capitalists of the county at the time of his death. His life record offers both lesson and incentive and it is a matter of gratification to the publishers of this history to be able to offer this brief review of his career.
Picture of Sidney S. Sweet