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Honor Charles John Alfred Ericson


Posted By: County Coordinator (email)
Date: 4/12/2010 at 14:12:11

America is often spoken of as the land of opportunity. That it is so is a fact which finds proof in the history of such men as the Honor Charles John Alfred Ericsn, men whose privileges in early life were limited, but who found in the conditins of the new world the chance to work upward. While success came to Mr Ericson in large measure, the attainment of wealth was never the ultimate aim of his life and as he prospered he gave freely of his means for the benefit of his fellowmen, for the upbuilding of schools and the dissemination of knowledge in various other ways. Few have recognized more fully the duties and obligations of the individual toward his fellows, and the news of his demise carried with it a sense of personal bereavement to the great majority of his fellow citizens in Boone county and among his collegaues in the state senate.
Mr Ericson was born March 8, 1840, in Sodra VI parish, near Vimmerbi, province of Calmar, Sweden. His father Erik Nilson, was born August 2, 1804, and his wife, Catherine Clemetson Nilson, was born October 9, 1803. They had three children: Nis P Peterson, who was born in 1825 and who learning the paper manufacturer's trade, adopted the name of his employer as was the custom of that time, Gustaf Adolf, born in 1829, and Charles John Alfred, born March 8, 1840. The father was a farmer and freeholder in his native province, where he remained until 1852, when he came with his family to the new world, settling near Moline, Illinois, where he engaged in farming and fishing, as he had done in Sweden. Subsequently her removed to Webster county, Iowa.
Charles John Alfred Ericson was a youth of twelve years when the family came to the United States and his education, begun in Sweden, was continued in the public schools of Rock Island county, Illinois. It was in 1845, that the first Swedish immigrants left Calmar for the new world, and in 1849 S P Svenson, and uncle of Mr Ericson, became a resident ot New Sweden, Jefferson county, Iowa.The following year another uncle, O Clemetson, took up his abode at Andover, Henry county, Illinois, and both wrote glowing accounts of the opportunities on this side of the Atlantic. The father, Erik Nilson, was further induced to come to America by the reports sent back by his two sons, Gustaf A and N P, who had settled near Moline. As stated heretofore, the father with his family made the long voyage, bidding adieu to home and friends on April 4, 1852. They crossed the Atlantic in one of the oldtime ships, on which were 150 immigrants. They were to pay twenty dollars passage for each member of the party and furinsh their own food. The fresh water was carried in huge wooden casks and every morning about a quart was measured out to each person. The came in sight of New York on July 19. One of the first experiences of Mr Ericson was getting lost in New York. He and his father, with others from the ship, started out to see the city. At length, attracted by the music of a brass band, they followed on and on, thinking to remember the turning points in their course by certan signs, such as a lion and guilded clock, but they found that they could not make their way back to the ship and wandered around for hours. At length a kind hearted man, understanding something of their dilemma, led them to one who could speak their language and within fifteen minutes they had been escorted back to their ship-tired and wary, for they had walked miles inlinsey-woolsey clothing on a hot July day without anything to eat. The next morning the family proceeded up the Hudson river to Albany and thence went by rail to Buffalo, where they boarded a steamer bound for Dunkirk. From that point they continued by rail to Chicago and by a canal-boat went to Peru, Illinois, where they hired teams to take them to Andover, twenty miles from Rock Island, where they found the first Swedish settlement. The trip, especially across the country, was a very hard one and it was not until August 1, 1852, that they reached their destination near Moline, joining the the two elder brothers of Charles J A Ericson.
For a few years thereafter the last named worked for his brothers and relatives that his first lesson in English was to repeat, when sent on an errand to a neighbor, "Mr Erison sent me here to get you spade." He was afterward taught to drive three yoke of oxen to a breaking-plow and for two seasons he operated a ferry-boat across Rock river and also worked on a farm. He was afterward employed to run a stationary engine in a sawmill and flour mill and still later clerked in a store in Altona, Illinois. A brother, who had previously removed to this state, advised him to come to Iowa, which advice he followed. He was at that time in possession of about $400 dollars saved from his earnings, and this he invested in a stock of general merchandise, which he opened at Mineral Ridge, Boone county. The wholesale merchants with whom he first dealt, unaksed by him, offered him credit, recognizing in his face the stamp of honesty, which was current coin with him throughout life. In time his business at Mineral Ridge grew and further activities were manifest in service as postmaster at that town. In 1870 he removed to Boone and for some time continuted merchandising, building up the largest business at that time in the county. In 1872 he assisted in orgainzing the First National Bank of Boone, of which he was elected vice president, and upon closing out his store in 1875, he became cashier of the bank, which surrendered its charter and was reoragnized as the City Bank of Boone in 1878. Later he suceeded to the presidency of the institution and so continued until his death. He deserved great credit for what he accomplished in a business way. On one occasion he said, "What little success I have attained I attiribute to three things, first, honest and fair dealings with every man, second, refraining from speculations and investments in outside enterprises, but attending strictly to my own business, and third, making my word as good as my bond." These rules which he laid down for himself were stirictly adhered to and no one ever questioned the integrity of his motives and on no occasion did he ever attempt to over-reach another in a business transaction. His prosperity was the direct and merited reward of his labors, and his entire business career proved the fact that success and an honored name may be won simultaneously.
Aside from his business, there were many intersting features in the life record of Mr Ericson. He was married twice. In 1858 he wedded Miss Matilda Nelson, and they became parents of two daughterws, Alice and Lorena. In 1873 he was united in marriage to Miss Nellie Linderblood, who died in 1899. He had pleasant fraternal relations with his brother Masons, holding membership in Mount Olive Lodge, No 79, A F & A M, Tuscan Chapter, R A M and Excalibur Commandery, No 13 K T, in all of which he held prominent offices, serving as treasurer of the Commandery from the early period of his residence in Boone until his death.
In his political career that perhaps won Mr Ericson widest fame, yet who can say upon what line his life reached out in greatest helpfulness, for he assisted many philanthropic and public projects, was a friend to the poor and needy and gave hearty cooperation to many plans and projects for the public good.
The first office which Mr Ericson held was that of postmaster of Mineral Ridge, and he also served in other local positions, including that of road supervisor, school director, school treasurer and township clerk. After his removal to Boone he was elected to represent his ward in the city council, was elected for several terms to the office of city treasurer and was president and treasurer of the school board.
In 1871 higher political honors came to him in his election on the republican ticket to the fourteenth general assembly, in which he served during the regular session and through one extra session, which was called in 1873 to revise the code. Twenty-four years later, while a member of the senate, he also rendered aid in code revision. In 1895 he was elected sentor, serving through six regular sessions and one extra session. He did important committee work as a member of the ways and means committee and as chairman of the committee on claims in the twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh general assemblies. He was later made chairman of the committee on pulbic libraries and in the thirty-second general assembly he was chairman of constitutional amendments and suffrage. During the last three sessions he served on teh committee on banks. Many tangible evidences of this public spirit may be cited. It was he who introduced and secured the passage of the bill, whereby corporations are taxed twenty-five dollars for the first thousand of capital stock and an additional dollar for each one thousand thereafter, not, however, to exceed three hundred and fity dollars for any one corporation. In the twenty-seventh general assembly he introduced a bill reduction the interst on state warrants from six to five per cent. His efforts, however, concentrated largely upon the development and support of the historical departmant, public libraries and the Agricultural College through legislative enactment. He introduced the bill for the establishment of good roads, becoming a pioneer in inauguration that movement. Twice he introduced bills for the protection of birds, their nests and eggs. W C Hayward, secretary of state, sad: "During three of the five sessions that I served in the state senate, Hon. C J A Ericson was a member of that body. We were both members of the ways and means committee, and both lived, during the sessions, at the Savery Hotel and I then had an opportunity of becoming quite well acquainted with him. He was a large man in every way, physically and intelectually. He was of fine appearance and of the most kindly dispostion. He took a special interst in educational affairs and was a firm and steadfast friend of our educational institutions. He was a careful and considerate man, one of whom it could be said that he was safe and sane, at the same time he was in every sense of the word porgressive and an advocate and supporter of all porgressive measures along reasonable line. He was mild and pleasant in manner, but at the same time, firm and unyielding in support of what he deemed to be right. A splendid, big strong man. It was a distinct loss to the state he loved so well when he passed away." Warren Garst wrote of Mr Ericson: "My people moved to Boone in July of 1866. Almost from the first the name of Mr Ericson became a household word on account of the prominent position he held in that community. It was not strange, therefore, when I became associated with him in a legislation, always throwing his influence and vote to any cause the thought to before the betterment of society. He was especially active and exceedingly fortunate in formulating plans to increase the revenues of the state from sources that would not be burdensome and at the same time would be greatly renumerative. As I remember it, under the old law any incoporation organizing in Iowa was required to pay a mere nominal fee into the coffers of the state. Senator Erison introduced a bill that changed this and we now have had instances where very large corporations have paid many thousands of dollars in single fees.
"He also introduced and secured its passage through the senate, a bill to tax corporations through an annual fee. Senator Erison figured that if his bill became a law it would add to the revenues of the state from one hundred and fifty thousand dollars to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars annually. It is not my purpose to go into the discussion of this proposition as to its justice or fairness, but I was then and am now in thorough smypathy and accord with Senator Ericson's postion.
"While Senator Ericson was seeking every way to secure additional revenues for the state, through any of the then established means, he was liberal with suggestions as to distribution. He was anxious to see the great agricultural school at Ames become one of the leading institutions of this character, not only in this country, but in the world. His success along this line is best attested by what this great institution is doing and is. He always had a great interest in the history of the state, and perhaps it is more due to him and his untiring energy than to that of any other man that we have the magnificent Historical building, which is an asset of state-wide importance, for it seems to me that no man, woman or child can visit this elegant structure without having a greater pride and a greater love for this great state. I have no dispostion to go into detail as to Senator Ericson's legislative experience. I am indeed glad to have the opportunity to say to the people of Iowa that, while there have been men who have perhaps been more conspicuous, there has been no man who has done more along material and ethical lines than the Senator from Boone." Again we quote, this time from the Iowa Library Quarterly: "He was deeply interested in the work of the Iowa Library Association, having served as vice president of that body, and repeatedly on legislative commitees, attending the annual meetings regularly. His presence will be greatly missed, as well as his advice and counsel. Senator Ericson was a man of gentle character, with strong friendships and deep convictions. His place is not likely to be filled again in the library circles of the state or in the hearts of those whose friendship he had gained."
One of Mr Ericson's most generous gifts to Boone was what is known as the Ericson Library, erected and equipped at a cost of ten thousand seven hundred dollars. On the occasion of its dedication Judge Horace E Deemer said: "It is a proud day for Boone, and a pleasant one, I know, for the generous donor who has built a monument to himself which will outlive any mere creation of the builder's art, chiseled simply to perpetuate the memory of a name. Within the past few years at least three generous and loyal men within the boudaries of this state have made large contributions for the building and founding of public libraries, and it is my deliberate judgment that they have made the best possible use of their money. That the communities to which they have been given fully appreciate the generosity, I have no shadow of doubt, and that the people of this little city of Boone are filled with gratitude to their honored fellow citizen, Senator Ericson, is so plainly evident that it scarcely needs mention. I am not so sure, however, that any of these men fully appreciate the value and the full significant of his generosity. In this building rich and poor alike many meet the best and greatest thinkers of the age. Wealth gives no advantage, and social position counts for nothing. No matter how poor the boy or girl, no matter how thinly clad, no matter though the prosperous of their own town or time will not recognize them on the street, no matter thought they are excluded from the so-called best society, here they shall not pine for companionship or society. Here Milton will tell of Paradise, Shakespeare open all the flood gages of the imagination, Franklin give fourth his practical advice, Bryant sing of nature's beauties, Darwin and Huxley elucidate their theories, Proctor search the skies and Thackeray forget his snobbery. Here one may select his own associates from among the greatest thinkers and actors and writers the world has ever known. He may meet the most iminent statesmen and scientists, poets, and philosophers of all time. As said by another, "He that loveth a book will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counsellor, a cheerful companion, and an effectual comforter." But better than all, here, perhpas, may some spark set fire the smouldering fumes of genius, and a flame go forth that will illuminate for all time the pages of our western literature."
Mr Ericson always displayed the highest sense of honor in politics as well as in business and other relations of life and would never deviate from any course which he believed to be right. In July 1903, he was appointed chairman of the Scandinavian Relief Committee to assist the famine stricken districts of northern Scandinavia, and his success in raising funds for this purpose is indicated in an excerpts from a letter written by Governor A B Cummins: "The success of the plan must be credited, in a large measure, to your patiotic and intelligent labors. For this work, and in behalf of suffering humanity, I thank you."
In 1904 Senator Ericson was appointed a member of the Iowa Commission for the Louisiana Purchase Centennial Exposition and as such had charge of the dairy and apiary department, which was splendidly managed, not only as regards its exhibit in, but also its finances. He came to be one of Iowa's most honored, representative and distinuished men. Where he was best known, however, he was most loved and the regard entertained for him in his home town is indicated in a speech delivered on the fiftieth anniversary of his settlement in Boone county, when a banquet was tendered him by hisfriends, on which occasion C S Mason said: "Men often criticize, sometimes they flatter, Avoiding both, this my desire to speak the truth, for he who even roughly paints a picture, using brush, or pen, or lips, should first of all paint true. In such a spirit I approach the pleasing task I have undertaken, and happily, in this case there is little incentive to over-state the facts or over-paint the picture, for in the life and character and record of our friend, the truth is an all -suffiienty eulogy. Should I say he is a king of finance, you would not believe me, should I report him possessing, far above, his fellows, the qualities of great statesmanship, I would not believe myself, or should I picute him possessed of genius, he would perhaps laugh me to scorn, but with I say that in finance he is wise and just and with all mericful, I am sasying that which I suppose you now believe and when I say that he has brought to the performance of his public duties the same test of high manhood and good intentions that has guided him in business affairs, I am saying that which I believe will meet the approval of his conscience and win for me the smile of approbation.
"Is this man wise? I know of no better test than to apply the record. Born in a humble home across the sea, he left when young the confines of the old world that he might stand upon the shores of the new, where, looking out upon a splendid age, in a splendid republic, he might search for a place where he could struggle and perhaps achieve. Fate or some subtle influence that we cannot explain, led him to locate near this vicinity, and for fifty years he has gone in and out among, and been one of the people of this community. I think it fair to estimate that in all those years he has averaged ten business transactions daily, one hundred and fifty thousand business transactions with his neighbors and the people among whom he lives, and if about a single one there is a taint, or even a suspicion of dishonesty, then has my information been at fault. Surely such a business records as this is one of which he or any man may well be proud. Not only has he gained high reputation for business honesty, but in a larger way he has achieved success in that he has succeeded first in winning the kind regards, and in more recent years, the loving esteem of a great majority of the better class of people among whom he lives. To such an extent is this true, that the people have delighted to place upon him political honors and have asked of him the performance of important political duties. Not only has he gained a high reputation for business honesty, and gained the respect of the people in all the other matters of which I speak, but during these years he has been gathering together in an enterpristing way and without in the least injuring others, that which we believe to be a sufficient competency which has enabled him not only to meet generously the many , many requirements made upon men of reasonalble wealth, but has enable him in more recent years to do those things which he hopes, and which we believe, will redound to the benefit of this and other communites for many years to come. Surely such a record as I have briefly, and I trust, truthfully described, needs little comment.
"Is our friend kind beyond the average man? Upon this point I have testimony, and first I will place upon the stand yourselves, and ask if, in the few or many years you have known him, there has not been some one, perhaps many, occasions, when by kind words or some kindly act, he has won the affection of your heart and gained the confidence or your understanding. There are many witnesses I should like to call whom I cannot secure, for many of them are resting under the infirmaites of old age and living quietly in their declining years in the homes and upon the farms that the findness of our friend has helped to secure, while many more have finished their work and made their records and have gone home to their reward and rest within their graves in different portions of this country, and as I cannot present to you their testimony, permit me briefly to call attention to it second hand. First and last and at differnt times, and not by design, but accidentally or in a casual way, I have heard from the lips of at least twenty different men, the story of the help they have received from our find friend. Some have spoken of these obligations without any show of sentiment, while others have shown upon their faces that there was within them the spirit of gratitude. If in a casual way and without design, I have heard from the lips of twenty men of the assistance they have received form our kind friend, is it not fair to presume that there are in this vicinity, living and dead, hundreds who, could they speak to us, would add to the volume of our testimony? Permit financial tornado, the worst financial panic I have ever known, great business houses tottered and some fell, and, while the general busines interests of the country were to some extent palsied, the fierceness of the storm cnetered upon those engaged in banking business, for everywhere men seemed to have lost confidence in banks and in each other, hundreds of millions of dollars of depostis were drawn form banks and hid away in stockings and in safety deposti vaults, and everywhere the depositors in banks were watching for the least sign of danger, that they might quickly pounce upon the banks that held their deposits and bring to them temporary disater, if not destruction. At such a time as this, the business firm of which I am a member needed funds. I spoke to a banker of this town about it, and quickly, almost fiercely, got his refusal. A little later I saw our friend and spoke briefly of our needs nad said, "I guess I will have to ask you for some money." He said, "How Much?" I replied that temporarily two or three thousand would answer. Drawing a long breath that was mighty near a sigh, and speaking in a tone of almost pleading, he said, "Keep it as near two thousand as you can." Any man can assist another when it is in his regular line of business and for his profit to do so. There are here and there some, perhaps in the aggregate many, who, upon some occasion, will assist their fellowmen even though the element of profit does not attach to the transaction, but there are mighty few men in all the world, nor have there ever been nor will there be in all the years to come those who, in time a storm and stress and danger, will weaken their own position that they may extend a helping hand to a business acquaintance. I presume the transaction I speak of was forgotten by our friend within an hour, for he had other important matters on his mind, butI did not so soon forget, nor have I yet forgotten, nor will I forget during all the years that are spared me, for I thought then, and it seems to me now, it was a bright spot in the midst of surrounding gloom, and an oasis in the desert of human selfishness.
"I have a grandson who bears my name. I hope through him the name may be continued, yes, in a broader sense, I hope thorugh him the family name I bear, and which is now held by so few living representatives, may be carried into futrue generations where possibly it may become an honored name among the people, so I feel for that boy great interest, and I would make for him great sacrifices, if thereby I could surround him with the influence and furnish him that training which would secure for him furture years the qualities of good citizenshiip, and I have often thought, and think today, that if, among all the men I know or have every known, east or west, I was obliged to select the one man of all others whose traits of character, of mind and heart and brain, and whose every quality, good and bad, the boy must emulate and at last attain to, my choice would fall on our kind friend. Surely no higher words of praise that that can I bestow.
"A pebble tossed upon the placid surface of a lake creates a ripple that broadens, widens, extends until it is said there is a ripple on the other shore. A man's good deeds live after him, broadening, widening, extending, losing perhaps their identity, but working in harmony with other good influences, working on and on and on, and who shall say that these good influences will not continue to do their office in the world until the end of time?
"Our friend has led a clean and many and useful life, worthy the emulation of young men, and in more recent years, he has been able to set in motion good influences which he hopes, and we believe will work for the civilization and the improvement of mankind when he shall have passed away, and who shall say that the good influences he hath thus set in motion will not continue in some way, working on and on until the records of time shall cease?"
Many were the words of praise written of him when death called him, for all felt that a good man had passed on, leaving behind a memory that is enshrined in the hearts of all who were his associates. he was broad mined and liberal, loved his adopted country and yet never lost his interest in those who came from his native land and to many of the Scandinavian birth he proved a most helpful friend. In his later years he greatly enjoyed traveling, and his success gave him opportunity to indulge his taste along that line. He had but recently returned from a trip abroad when he was stricken with the illness that terminated in death in 1910. He was a active member of the Presbyterian church, in which he served as treasurer and trustee for three decades. There was no occasionn on which he seemed to fall short of the highest standards. Not withstanding the fact that his school privilieges where very limited, he was a well informed man, for he learned life's lessons in the school of experinece, read broadly, thought deeply and listened attentively. He early made it his habit to associate with those from whom he could learn. In business he was guided by the old adage that , honesty is the best policy, but there were still higher principles manifest in his character and these sprang from an understanding of the obligations of man toward his fellowmen and toward his Creator. One of his biographers spoke of his career as that "of one whose Christian character has made the world better, one who enjoyed the esteem and love of all who knew him." One of his pastors wrote, "I have aways rejoiced when word came of some new benefaction which his generosity had provided in the way of school and library endowment, and his memory will always be one of my precious possessions. He was a great help and inspiration to me in my work-never obtrusive with counsel or critical in his judgements, but quietly helpful in every undertaking for the advancement of the work of our church." Still another wrote of him, "Loyal to his friends and to his city, he never had a thought that his large and growing competence made any chasm between him and his poorest acquaintance. He was a man to all men, honorable, considerate and cordial."

1914 Boone County History Book


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