CAMPAIGNING FOR A RAILROAD
S. F. Cass was another comparatively old settler, arriving and locating in Sumner township about 1865. The first time I met him was in the fall of 1866, when he came into the treasurer's office to pay taxes. James Fletcher and I were alone in the office when he entered. He had barely passed the threshold when he staggered and fell full length to the floor, without speaking. We rushed to him and on inspection he seemed to be dead. Neither of us knew him. Jim procured a cup of water and dashed some on his face, while I was feeling his pulse and manipulating his arms. After a long time, to us, he showed signs of life. We placed him on a couch in the office and kept up a vigorous rubbing of his person until he showed signs of life, but he was in a state of coma and remained so for several hours. In the meantime we wondered who he was, and what his mission was. Last of all we examined letters and papers we found in his pockets, which revealed his identity. In the meantime H. C. Moore, clerk of the courts, came into the office, and recognized him and told us who he was, which confirmed what we had discovered in the documents we had found on his person. After three or four hours he regained his senses and was soon himself again. He told us he had no recollection of anything after he left the hotel down town until he found himself on the couch in the office. When fully recovered, he said he never had such an attack before, and often, years afterward, said he never had such attack again. It was the beginning of a friendship between him and me that grew and lasted until his death some years ago. We often talked about the circumstance.
He located in the north part of the township and opened a store on his farm that became a center for the country all about, and where he did a large business and laid the foundation for a modest fortune. Steve Cass was no ordinary man in ability and was a born leader in all matters pertaining to the development and growth of all that part of the country.
When the Iowa and Pacific railroad enterprise was started he saw the importance of it and threw himself into helping to secure it with all his steam engine power. As will be recalled, the success of the enterprise hung on the voting of a five per cent tax by townships thru which it would pass. The people wanted a railroad most of all the things within their reach, but the farmers were opposed on principle to taxing themselves to build one. The work of carrying a tax by vote in some townships seemed to be a hopeless one. Platt Smith, of Dubuque, was the general who was intrusted with laying out the plans and managing the campaigns in several townships, of which no two were alike. He selected the men for each township and instructed them as to the methods of attack and work. To Sumner Cass and I were assigned. It was the first one in the county to be tried, and success there was regarded as of the utmost importance.
I went to the township and stayed with Cass for two weeks. We had some very determined opposition to overcome, if we succeeded, and to this work we applied all our best ability. Every man was seen, and the opposition was labored with many and many a time. We polled the vote often and finally we had a majority lined up. The day of election was a subdued and exciting one for us, but the result at night was a victory which insured the tax all along the line and best of all, insured the building of the road so as to bring the eastern and western parts of the county in touch with each other.
Then the spot where the prosperous town of Sumner now stands was a bare spot of prairie land, with a very sparsely settled country about it. Cass removed his store, in time, from its old location to the new town, and became the leader in its growth. He was well fitted for such leadership, and made his mark high up as a business man. Cass was a reliable and honorable man in all his business relations. As long as he lived, the friendship between him and me, which began as I labored to bring him back to life in the treasurer's office, continued without a flaw in any way. He left to the county and the state a family of boys who followed in his footsteps and have made reputations for themselves worthy of their ancestor, of which I may speak in another letter.
Last updated 4/13/15
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