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Dr. George S. Guernsey


Posted By: Fran Hunt, Volunteer
Date: 10/2/2001 at 20:16:27

From the Portrait and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties - 1890
Dr. George S. Guernsey, a retired physician who is extensively engaged in farming near
Lebanon, Iowa, his home being situated on Section 2, Jackson Township, has been a resident
of Van Buren County since October 1, 1848. Moving west from Rochester, Windsor County
Vermont, he here located and began the practice of medicine, which he followed until within a
few years, but he is now practically living a retired life, attending only to a few of his old
patrons who refuse, while he has health, to employ any other physician.
The Doctor was born in Rochester, Vermont on July 27, 1822, and is of English descent. His
parents were Newson and Ruth Jefferson Guernsey, the latter a relative of President Thomas
Jefferson; and his grandparents were Eldad W. and Sarah Perry Guernsey. His grandfather
was born March 20, 1770, and his wife on November 29, 1770. Their family numbered nine
children, the eldest of whom, Sarah, was born October 1, 1792; Newson, May 7, 1794; Hiram,
December 11, 1796; Lyman, July 12, 1799; Mary, October 1, 1801; Hannah, April 25, 1803;
Amanda, January 9, 1805; Triphena, January 4, 1807; and Gardner, August 22, 1810. The
father of this family was a tanner and shoemaker by trade, and in connection with those
occupations carried on farming. His death occurred December 20, 1810, but his wife survived
him thirty years, dying in 1840.
Newson M. Guernsey learned the tanner and shoemaker’s trade with his father, and continued
to engage in those pursuits as a means of livelihood until his move to Van Buren County Iowa
in 1857. He spent his last days in Bloomfield, where his death occurred April 21, 1879. His
wife had passed away some ten years previous. Their marriage was celebrated October 15,
1820, and unto them were born ten children, six of whom are living at this writing (in the fall of
1890): Louisa, born August 10, 1821, is deceased; George S. is the second in order of birth;
Joseph, born September 14, 1824, was drowned in a tub when a year old; Ruth, born July 23,
1826, is deceased; Elizabeth, born August 14, 1827, is now the wife of J.Q. Megrath; Clarissa
Jane, born September 31, 1830, is the widow of Orin Harvey of Rochester Vermont; Samuel,
born July 9, 1833 died in infancy; Julia A. born in September 1835, is the wife of John Warner
of Des Moines Township; Mary A. born November 8, 1838, is the wife of John Evans of Davis
County Iowa and Henry C. born January 14, 1842 is a resident of Bloomfield Iowa.
The subject of this sketch was reared to manhood in his native state and in his youth received
excellent school privileges, completing his literary education by a year’s course in the
academy of Potsdam New York. Having arrived at years of maturity, on December 11, 1845,
he was joined in wedlock with Miss Olive M. Hazen, daughter of Elder and Abigail Thomas
Hazen of Woodstock Vermont. Her father was of Scotch descent and her mother of English
extraction. Mrs. Guernsey is a descendant of very old New England families. On her father’s
side she traces her ancestry back by direct descent to Edward Hazen, who came to
Massachusetts Bay in 1639. Her mother’s family trace back to the landing of the Pilgrim
Fathers who came over in the “Mayflower”. The founder of the family in America was among
that group. Her great grandfather on the maternal side was a soldier in the Revolutionary War,
and her grandfather, Elias Thomas, built the first frame house in Woodstock Vermont. Unto
her parents were born nine children, two of whom died in childhood, and the following seven
grew to maturity: Ursula, a resident of Woodstock Vermont; Daniel T. a farmer of Michigan;
Edwin R. a practicing physician of Woodstock Vermont; Jasper, also a resident of Woodstock;
Laura W., wife of the Rev. Moses Kidder, of the same city; Jacob T., Who is engaged in
farming near Saratoga Springs New York; and Olive M. wife of our subject. Eleven children
were born unto the Doctor and his worthy wife, but only five of the number grew to mature
years, four of whom are still living: Julia, the eldest, is the wife of Harvey Dean, of Chicago
Illinois; Laura, George W., and Jasper are at home. Minnie became the wife of Charles Owen
of Toledo Ohio, but is now deceased.
The Doctor began the study of medicine in March 1842, with J.H. Phelps, M.D., of Rochester
Vermont in whose office he remained two years, after which he continued his reading under
the direction of Prof. B.R. Palmer, of Woodstock Vermont, a professor in the Woodstock
Medical College, and attended three courses of lectures in that institution, from which he was
graduated in June 1845. He first opened an office and hung out his shingle in Felchville,
Vermont but after practicing a year at that place he returned to his native city, where for two
years he engaged in the practice of the medical profession. Believing that the West would
furnish superior advantages to young men, he determined to try his fortune on its broad
prairies and started for the new State of Iowa, making the journey mostly by steamboat. After
four weeks of travel he arrived at his destination, finding on his arrival that the country was a
wild and sparsely settled region, the home of a few sturdy pioneers, whose dwellings were log
cabins, but who had come with a firm purpose of making homes for themselves and families in
the West. In 1849 the Doctor purchases twenty acres of land, which formed the nucleus
around which his other possessions have gathered. Meanwhile he engaged in the practice of
medicine and steadily built up a good trade. In the fall of 1858, he went to Keosauqua and
purchased an interest in a drug store, which he carried on until 1866, when he sold out. Six
years previous to this time he had bought a sixty-acre trace of land, that upon which the old
homestead now stands. On disposing of the drug business he made another purchase of one
hundred and twenty acres and other purchases have increased his landed possessions until
he is now the owner of four hundred and ten acres. In 1868 the Doctor erected his
commodious residence, one of the best in the township. Three years later he went to Council
Bluffs, where he purchased a drugstore and fine residence, moving his family thereto, but after
a year he sold his store, and devoted himself exclusively to the practice of medicine. His
residence in that city covered a period of six years, and on leaving Council Bluffs in 1878, he
went to San Francisco, California as one of the incorporators and stockholders of the
Continental Oil and Transportation Company. He was made President of that organization and
for some time served as manager in San Francisco, but after two years he returned to Council
Bluffs, where a succeeding twelve months was passed. About 1881 he returned to his farm
where he has since resided.
The Doctor and his wife have an elegant home in Jackson Township, which presents rather
the appearance of a city mansion than a country dwelling. It is commodious, nicely arranged
substantially built, but above all tastefully and comfortable furnished. Everything, which goes
to make life worth the living, is there found, and in the enjoyment of the fruits of former toil, the
Doctor is now spending his days. Large and beautiful trees of his planting, throw their
delightful shade across the lawn. The outbuildings are also in keeping with the residence.
Beside the fine, large barn there is a harness and buggy house, granaries and such other
buildings as are necessary for the care of the stock and grain grown on this homestead.
Through his practice and other business interests the Doctor has acquired his handsome
possessions which stand as monuments to his thrift and enterprise. Himself and family are
members of the Presbyterian Church of Lebanon, and he holds membership in Council Bluffs
Lodge, A.F. & A.M. His political views are in harmony with the principles of the Democratic
Party and he has served as Supervisor of his county, and for three years was President of the
Agricultural Society. The Doctor is very popular throughout the county, is an acknowledged
leader among his neighbors, and in public assemblies is almost invariable called up to act as chairman.
I am not related, and am posting this biography for those who may find this person in their family history.


Van Buren Biographies maintained by Rich Lowe.
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