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John Hempen


Posted By: Tammy (email)
Date: 3/20/2015 at 08:17:56

John Hempen of Stout is Iowa's Oldest Mayor

He Is 86 Years Old, But Is As Young In Action As Men Of 50

Was Sailor For 30 Years

Served With Admiral Farrgut During the Civil War Period

John Hempen, of Stout, is without a doubt the oldest mayor in the state of Iowa. He is eighty-six years old but is not a figure head in his town's administration. He is its head and men who are serving on the council who are young enough to be his great-grandsons honor and respect him and look up to his leadership. He is far from being an old fogy. The town of which he is mayor has as progressive an administration as any of them and it is one of the few towns in Iowa which is clean and well improved and does not owe a dime.

Mr. Hempen has had an unusually interesting career. We doubt if there is another man in Grundy county who has seen so much of the world as he and who has profited so well from this wide experience. He lived the life of a sailor from the time he was fifteen years old until he was forty-five. During that thirty year period he visited every important seapoint on the globe. Included in his interesting naval experience was two years with Admiral Farragut, with whom he served during the Civil War period.

Mr. Hempen has furnished The Register for its pioneer column a brief diary of his interesting life beginning from the time that he went to sea, and it is published below.

"During my first years on the sea I made many trips to the Black Sea and back again to England and many trips to Montreal and Quebec and back again to Liverpoor. One trip was made to points in India and Shanghai and around the coast of Africa. I came to New York in 1863 where I went into the navy and got drafted on the gunboat Magnolia, belonging to the Eastern Gulf Squadron Florida of which the chief commander was Admiral Farragut. In 1865 I sailed for Europe and was away from this country for five years. In 1866 I went to a navigation school. Later I spent my time in home ships. I was married in 1868 and my wife and I have now lived together for fifty-seven years. I had little trouble at sea but the unlucky time was when my Captain was taken sick at sea and later died in a hospital at Edinburgh, Scotland. We lost two ships. I went out to sea with my wife's brother as mate to the east coast of Africa about 200 miles above Sierra Leone. Some of the sailors got the yellow fever on this trip and my brother-in-law died the fifth day after we arrived at Amicor, where I got the fever. The Africans got me into a small boat and took me 200 miles on a river to Sierra Leone where I was in a hospital 17 days and got over my sickness. From Sierra Leone I went back to Europe. After this trouble I made several voyages to Rio de Janerio and Pernambucto. The last trip I made was to Yucatan, Mexico, and came home in 1883. In 1884 my family and I came to the United States and settled down in Grundy county as farmers. That was a big change from what I was used to, but I got along pretty good and now I am in Stout, coming here the first day that Stout became a town. I was on the first town council and for the past fourteen years I have been acting as mayor."

--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 5 February 1925, pg 1


Grundy Biographies maintained by Tammy D. Mount.
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