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Hon. William Larrabee


Posted By: Sharon Becker (email)
Date: 6/19/2009 at 01:44:21

William Larrabee was born in Ledyard, Connecticut, January 20, 1832; he died at Clermont, Fayette county, Iowa, November 16, 1912. He was raised on a farm, educated in the common schools, and at the age of nineteen began teaching. In 1853 he removed to the town of Hardin, Allamakee county, Iowa, where he resumed teaching. For some three years he managed the farm interests of his brother-in-law, Judge E. H. Williams, whose agricultural interests lay chiefly in Clayton county. Mr. Larrabee became interested in the flour mills at Clermont in 1856 and soon became their sole owner. He also manufactured brick and tile, and later turned his attention to practical farming, acquiring large areas of good farm lands in northeastern Iowa. He established or had interest in several different banks at different periods. With remarkably close attention to personal business Mr. Larrabee nevertheless found time and sufficient patriotism to make himself the benefactor of his generation through a long, arduous, faithful and successful career as a public servant. A
tender of his services as a soldier in the War of the Rebellion was rejected because of deficient sight. He was elected to the Iowa Senate in 1867 continuing by subsequent election for eighteen years, resigning to accept the nomination for Governor. He was elected and served from 1886 to 1890. His service in the Senate was for the greater part of the time as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means. In the Executive office his great influence, industry and poise were factors in a pronounced general advance in state government and particularly in the adoption and effectuation of beneficial laws along the line of railroad regulation and suppression of intemperance. After retiring from the Executive's office he continued his active and efficient interest in public matters. Scarcely a public man in Iowa who had been or desired to be connected with the progress Governor Larrabee had headed, but was in constant conference or correspondence with him.
Largely from this constant call there was produced Governor Larrabee's volume, "The Railroad Question," which took place as and has remained an authority. Among the reforms that originated with Governor Larrabee or were early espoused by him was that of the placing of all the state institutions, except those for education, in the charge of a Board of Control. A law establishing this system was passed by the Twenty-seventh General Assembly and became effective on July 1, 1898. Governor Larrabee was appointed one of its three members and became its chairman, and his influence in the introduction of the system is apparent to this day in its simple and effective business methods. The strength and system in Governor Larrabee's life extended beyond personal pecuniary success and public political service. Rounded out as few Iowa men have caused their lives to be, Governor Larrabee early interested himself in matters of art and culture, his home life having
been shared almost continuously by leaders in educational and artistic pursuits. He erected monuments to the memory of the nation's heroes in his home town, and advised and encouraged Charles Aldrich in his early and late struggle for the establishment of the State Historical Department at Des Moines. He gave to the Iowa Commission at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis in 1903 a most unselfish and efficient service. He was chairman of the Executive Committee of this commission, and contributed largely of his personal funds. He selected and paid for a number of art objects that gave the building an interest that has never been equalled by any similar headquarters at any of the expositions. A more extended biographical account of Governor Larrabee will be presented hereafter.

~source: "Notable Deaths" Annals of Iowa. Vol. XI, No. 4. Pp. 232-33. Historical Society of Iowa. Des Moines. January, 1914.

~notes: although Gov. Larrabee lived in Clermont, Fayette co. Iowa he was closely associated with the southwestern part of Allamakee county, Postville & Harden vicinities, for many years. Mention of the Larrabee family can be found in many issues of the 'Postville Review', mentioning social events attended, and shopping trips in Postville.


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