Washington Lewis (1841-1900)
Posted By: Karon Velau (email)
Date: 11/3/2022 at 22:51:38
(August 3, 1841 – June 5, 1900)
Fur twenty-six years Washington Lewis was an honored resident of Calhoun County and one of its most representative business men. He came here in an early day and cast his lot with the pioneer settlers of the community. People of the present twentieth century period can scarcely realize the Struggles and dangers which attended the early settlers, the heroism and self-sacrifice of lives passed upon the borders of civilization, the hardships endured, the difficulties overcome. These tales of the early days read almost like a romance to those who have known only the modern prosperity and conveniences. The pioneer of the early days was far removed from the privileges and convenience of city or town. Mr. Lewis was born August 3, 1841, in Steuben, Oneida County. New York. He early became familiar with all the duties and labors that fall to the lot of the agriculturist, and after obtaining his preliminary education he was a student in Whitestown Seminary in Utica. For twelve years he followed the profession of teaching and was a successful educator, imparting clearly and concisely to others the knowledge he had acquired. In the year 1869 Mr. Lewis was united in marriage to Miss Lois Meade of North Norwdch, Chenango County, New York, a daughter of Morris and Charlotte (Cole) Meade, both of whom were natives of the Empire state and spent their lives in Chenango County. In 1870 Mr. Lewis and his wife came to Iowa, locating in Tipton, where he was principal of the public schools for one year and where he engaged in merchandising for a year. In 1872 he came with his family to Lake City, then the county seat of Calhoun County, where he remained in business for five years. When Rockwell City was made the county seat he removed to this place, establishing a general store which he conducted alone for some time and then entered into partnership with J. H. Gregg and H. H. Hutchinson. On the 1st of August, 1884, he sold his interest to his partners and joined W. T. Smith and J. C. R. Layton in the organization of the Farmers Bank. At the end of eleven months he purchased his partners' interests and on the 1st of July, 1885, became sole proprietor of the bank, which he conducted with marked ability and success until May 1, 1899. when he sold to the First National Bank of Rockwell City, becoming a director of the latter institution, but taking no active part in its management. In 1897 ms health began to fail and from that time his business affairs were practically conducted by F. P. Huff, cashier of the bank. Previous to 1897 Mr. Lewis confined himself very closely to business. His father's extensive real-estate investments in this county were under his inclusive care and the steady growth of the banking business laid upon him burdens of responsibility that would have taxed the endurance of any one who interested himself so closely in the details of business as he did. His ability as a financier was marked and in the years during which this county was developing lie accumulated a large fortune and died one of the wealthiest men in the country. He at one time was the owner of thirty-six hundred acres of land. Of this he disposed of a part, but at the time of his death was still the owner of extensive realty holdings. He devoted his energies with untiring persistence to his business affairs and thus impaired his robust constitution. Although the best medical skill was summoned to his aid it was all of no avail and death came to him on the 5th of June, 1900. Mr. Lewis exercised his right of franchise in support of the men and measures of the Republican party. Although he never sought office for himself, he labored earnestly to secure the election of his friends and for the adoption of party principles. In an early day he was postmaster of Rockwell City and at different times was a member of the town council and the board of education. His tastes were strictly domestic and he considered no personal sacrifice too great that would enhance the happiness or promote the welfare of his family. He was always thoughtful of his wife and children and rejoiced to see them happy and contented in their beautiful home. One son and five daughters came to grace the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis, but two of the number died in early childhood. Four daughters survive, namely: Janette; Grace; Lois; and Jennie. The two eldest are very successful school teachers and the family is one of the highest respectability, its members occupying a leading posit inn in social circles. Mr. Lewis was socially connected with the Masonic fraternity. Perhaps no better summary (if his life and characteristics can be given than that which appeared in the Calhoun County Advocate at the time of his death, which reads as follows: "Mr. Lewis was a man of strong individuality, intense in his likes and dislikes and outspoken in his opinions. Occasionally he would become acquainted with a man with whom he could not affiliate in any way, but as a rule he took an active and friendly interest in every acquaintance. When he liked a man he could never do too much for him. and few are the business men of Rockwell City who have not at some time or other been benefited by his friendly interest. Though a shrewd and careful man where business dealings were concerned, he did many quiet acts of kindness that were never known to the world at large. He was no boaster of his benevolences, but it is the unanimous testimony of those that knew him well, that few men ever lived who would do more for the sick and suffering or who would go farther to oblige and help a friend than Wash Lewis. Faults? Yes, who does not have them? And in the hardness and competition of business life he was sometimes credited with faults he did not possess. But under the external demeanor of the successful man of business there beat the great, warm heart of a man who loved his neighbors and friends, his town, his family and home, his church and his God. The testimony of his confidential men of business is that in all the multitudinous transactions of all these years of business he never desired to wrong any man of a penny. He was especially desirous of the good of the community and every movement for the advancement of the moral or material
interests of the town had behind it the unqualified support of Wash Lewis, lie was the first to welcome strangers to the town and was especially friendly to young men starting out in life, often going out of his way to counsel and encourage them. Among those who have been cheered by his friendly words in time of discouragement the writer wishes to pay a tribute to his memory today. It is no empty platitude to say that he willingly took upon himself the mental burdens of others, and by his hopeful wisdom pointed out the path to success. He did this because he wished to see others succeed.
He had great faith in the people of Rockwell City. He loved to talk of the moral character of our people and the hopeful future that awaited this community. Nothing pleased him better than the incoming of any one whom he thought would help to keep up the moral standard of the town: and no one regretted more than he any lack of success among our citizens." [Source – Biographical Record of Calhoun County, Iowa, by S.J. Clarke, 1902, p.450]
Calhoun Biographies maintained by Karon S. Valeu.
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