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Frederick Mott


Posted By: Judy Wight Branson (email)
Date: 10/10/2004 at 12:09:59

“The History of Madison County, Iowa”
Union Historical Company, Des Moines, 1879

Frederick Mott, a Winterset attorney, was born in Montrose, Susquehanna county, Pennsylvania, January 14, 1828. The early part of his youth was spent with his father in a woolen factory. At the age of seventeen he entered Brown University, Providence, R. I., graduating in 1851, and for three years was principal of the Derby Academy, Vermont, and reading law at the same time. In 1854 he came as far West as Upper Sandusky, Ohio, where he had charge of the Union School two years. He came to this county in 1857 and engaged in the practice of his profession, having been admitted to the bar in Vermont.

In September, 1862, he was commissioned as quartermaster of the 39th Iowa Inf., and after serving few months was made adjutant. In 1864 he was commissioned by President Lincoln as assistant adjutant general and was assigned to duty with the third brigade, fourth division, fifteenth army corps, and served in that position until the close of the war. Returning to Winterset in August, 1865, he resumed the practice of law. In 1867 he was made cashier of the national bank in Winterset. In 1868 he was elected judge of the fifth judicial district of Iowa, serving the full term of four years. The qualifications of Judge Mott for the bench may be inferred from the tenor of the resolutions passed by the Guthrie county bar on his retiring, one of them reading as follows: “Resolved, that we recognize and appreciate the marked ability, impartiality and courtesy with which he has at all times presided over the circuit court of Guthrie county, and congratulate him on the extraordinary success which has attended his judicial labors; the fact that of four hundred and sixty-two cases determined in his court in Guthrie county, during his term of office, not a single one has been appealed, indicates an appreciation of his decisions on the part of the litigants in this court as exceptional and rare as it must be gratifying to the judge.” The bar of several counties in the district passed resolutions of a similar tone, all commending his noble traits of character and his qualifications as a jurist.

At the annual meeting of the Iowa Baptist Convention, held in Des Moines in 1870, he was elected its president, and the same compliment was paid him at the next three annual meetings. In 1873, the regents of the State University elected him to the professorship of pleading and practice in the law department of that institution, a position he held for two years, and then under the pressure of enthusiasm created by the Baptist denomination in favor of their higher schools of education, in connection with the centennial year of the nation, he accepted the presidency of the University at Des Moines. He held this position until the close of the centennial year, when, owing to the condition of his health, he resigned and returned to his old home and resumed the practice of law and banking.

In 1856 he married Miss Emma E. Dean, of Grayton, Vermont; she died in August 1858. He afterward married Miss Mary J. Best, in July, 1861. She was born in Ohio; has four children: Shelty, Lenny, Chester and Byram.

“A Memorial and Biographical Record of Iowa”
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1896

Transcribed and edited by Kent G. Transier, 10 Jan 2010

Hon. Frederick Mott. – Prominent in legal and political circles, a valuable citizen and honored Christian gentleman, no one perhaps is more worthy of representation in the history of Iowa than Judge Mott. A native of Susquehanna county, Pennsylvania, he was born at Montrose, on January 14, 1828, a descendant of a family of three French brothers who were settlers on Long Island, spelling their name De la Motte.

The grandfather of the subject off this sketch emigrated from Massachusetts to Susquehanna county, Pennsylvania, was a pioneer farmer in that section of the State, and for more than fifty years was a Deacon of the Baptist Church near his home, of which church he was largely the founder. Merritt Mott, the father of Frederick Mott, was a woolen manufacturer, and, like his father, was a Deacon in the Montrose Baptist Church for more than half of a century, the church having over 500 members.

From eight years of age to seventeen young Mott spent nine months of the year in the woolen factory and three months at school. Uniting with the Baptist Church at Montrose at the age of seventeen, he soon after entered Hamilton University (now known as Colegate University), at Hamilton, New York. Here he studied for two years and then entered the sophomore class of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, and graduated there in 1851. In the fall of the same year he became principal f a Baptist school located at Derby, Orleans county, Vermont, and known as the Derby Academy. Here he remained for three years, studying law a part of his time and finally being admitted to the bar at Irasburg in that State, under Judge Poland.

Coming west in the fall of 1855, he took charge of public schools of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, which position he occupied for two years. In the meantime some of his former Vermont friends had come west and settled at Pella, Iowa, and were interested in the young Baptist college recently organized there. In 1857, through their efforts he was invited to take charge of this college, but on reaching the place the financial condition of the State and the college was such that he declined the position.

At Winterset, Iowa, in the same year he formed the acquaintance of Hon. John Leonard, and in the fall of that year formed a partnership with him in the law business, which association continued until the year 1868. He allied himself at once with the First Baptist Church of Winterset, at that time a small body without a place of worship. From that day to the present, he has been a firm and constant supporter of that body, and has taken great pleasure in serving the same in almost all capacities. He recalls with pleasure that he helped break ground for the erection of the old stone church edifice that still stands, an old landmark, at the northeast corner of the public square, and that, when was laid the corner stone of the new brick edifice that now stands as a credit to the Baptist society and the town, he made the principal address, at the request of the church. He wrought with his own hands quarrying rock for the old church, and hauled sand for the same, driving an ox team. For four years in succession he was elected and served as president of the Iowa Baptist State convention, a body organized for missionary purposes. It is needless to say that the Judge takes both pride and comfort in being a Baptist.

In the spring of 1860 Leonard & Mott succeeded Cummings & Hutchings in carrying on a small private banking institution which they had established on the southwest corner of the public square. This was Mr. Mott’s introduction to the banking business, and to it reference will again be made herein.

In September, 1862, the companies that were to compose the Thirty-ninth Iowa Volunteer Infantry were about to go into camp at Des Moines, Iowa. Two of these companies were raised in Madison county, and Mr. Mott had aided in securing their enlistment. He also aided in getting H. J. B. Cummings, Captain of Company F, Fourth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, appointed Colonel of the regiment, and hence felt a deep interest in its fortunes, and when the regiment was finally organized, accepted the position of Quartermaster thereof, and received his commission from Governor Kirkwood September 14, 1862, going into camp at Des Moines, Iowa on the 20th of September of the same year. The regiment was assigned to the command of Major General G. M. Dodge, at Corinth, Mississippi. In the spring of 1863 he was appointed Adjutant of the regiment and served as such until the regiment reached Savannah, Georgia, in December, 1864. There he received his commission from President Lincoln and Secretary Stanton as Assistant Adjutant General, with the rank of Captain, and on January 1, 1865, was assigned duty to the Third Brigade, Fourth Division, Fifteenth Army Corps.

On the campaign from Savannah to Goldsboro, as executive officer of the brigade, Mr. Mott claims that he did some hard work. The brigade frequently complimented by General Corse, commander of the division, for obeying promptly all orders given. Though Mr. Mott was never wounded, this campaign brought upon him physical disabilities that have ever since attended him.

The Fifteenth Corps was disbanded at Louisville, Kentucky, at the close of the war. Thereupon Mr. Mott telegraphed his resignation to Washington, District of Columbia, which was accepted and he was discharged from the service July 10, 1865. He returned home and resumed the practice of law in company with Judge Leonard.

On the Atlanta campaign, hearing that they were about to organize a national bank at Winterset, he wrote home saying: “Take all the stock possible; it is as necessary to sustain the credit of the Government as it is to send soldiers to the front.” The First National Bank of Winterset, Iowa, was organized in 1865 and Mr. Mott has been connected with it from that time to the present, a period of thirty years. For four years he was cashier of the bank and nearly all of that time a director. This bank has been of great service to the mercantile and farming community.

In the fall of 1868 he was elected judge of the Second Circuit, Fifth Judicial District of Iowa, comprising the counties of Madison, Adair, Cass, Guthrie, Audubon, Greene and Carroll. For four years he held four terms of court per annum in each of these counties. This was at the time when railroads were being constructed through the State, bringing in a large new population and making litigation more prevalent, and consequently the dockets were heavy, and he was called on to try many cases. It was apparent to many observers that it was the ambition of Judge Mott to see to it that, as far as possible, substantial justice was meted out to all parties resorting to his courts. The result was that from a majority of the counties of his circuit there were no appeals whatever, and from the others but a very few.

In June, 1873, the regents of the Iowa State University elected him to the professorship of pleading and practice in the law department of that institution, which position he filled for two years, to the entire satisfaction of all concerned. He resigned this position at the close of the college year, in June 1875, at the urgent request of his Baptist friends of the State, that denomination having resolved to utilize the Centennial year, 1876, in efforts to more fully endow all schools, colleges and universities under its control. He accepted the presidency of the Des Moines College, which position he held until the 1st of January, 1877, when ill health compelled him to resign. During his connection with the college the main building was finished, rooms for the societies and library were provided, and a large addition was made to the endowment. Again locating at his old home in Winterset, Judge Mott resumed the practice of law.

We cannot better close this review than by quoting the words of an old neighbor and law associate of Judge Mott’s, who spoke of him as follows: “In all relations of life he aims to be true to the best interests of manhood, and his worth is widely recognized. He is pleasant in his manner, kind-hearted and charitable, ever ready with a kind word when a kind word will do good. He is an earnest Christian worker, public-spirited and an invaluable citizen. AS captain and assistant adjutant general in the army, he was prompt, courteous, efficient, and gallant. As a judge he was pleasant in his treatment of the bar and litigants, ever anxious to see that fair play and justice were accorded to all. Few appeals were taken from his rulings and in only two instances were his rulings reversed by the Supreme Court of the State.”

Judge Mott has been twice married. At Grafton, Vermont, in 1856, he married Emma E. Dean, daughter of Hon. Peter Dean, one of the foremost Baptists of that State. Miss Dean was a lady of talent and culture and marked amiability. She was preceptress of the Derby Academy of Vermont at the time it was under Judge Mott’s control. She died at Winterset, Iowa in August, 1858.

In July, 1861, he was married to Mary J. Best, daughter of Mrs. Minerva Leonard, wife of Honorable John Leonard. She was a student at the Baptist College, of Pella, Iowa, prior to her marriage. She has been a faithful companion to the Judge in all the vicissitudes of his life. She is a woman of marked individuality and of executive ability. Her home is always attractive to her friends, and the members of her household. Judge and Mrs. Mott are the parents of four sons: Shelton, the oldest, is a successful clerk; Leonard is a young farmer in what was lately an Indian reservation in Gregory county, South Dakota; the other two, Chester and Myron, are still boys at home.

Transcriber's note: The "Iowa State University" referred to herein is actually the University of Iowa at Iowa City, then known as the "State University of Iowa".


Madison Biographies maintained by Kent Transier.
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