MEN WHO MADE GOOD AND HELPED TO MAKE HISTORY
Small as the county is, she has furnished her full proportion of prominent men in the different walks of life. In 1864 John Pattee, a resident of Jackson township, whose farm was east of Janesville, was elected state auditor, and William Pattee was his deputy and succeeded his brother as auditor. The state was young at that time, and these two men formulated and put into practice the business of that important office. John never came back to the county to reside any length of time, and subsequently sold his farm and located in Iowa City, where he was at the beginning of the war. He married a sister of Ezekiel Clark, one of Iowa's largest capitalists in later years. Governor Kirkwood married another sister of Clark. - In the organization of regiments for the service, the governor appointed John Pattee as colonel of the 7th Iowa cavalry, which was sent west to a frontier military post in the midst of the Sioux Indian country, the place which is now the location of Fort Randall, S. D. The Sioux were on the war path and troops were kept in that country until the war closed. Col. Pattee spent more than 20 years in the military and civil service in that country and among the Indians. He remained in South Dakota until age and poor health retired him from the service; his wife passed away and he met with misfortunes in business, until last of all he came to the Soldiers' Home at Hot Springs, while I was commandant, totally broken down, and after about a year passed away. I buried him in the state cemetery and set a stone at his grave.
William Pattee returned to Bremer county and, as I have told in a former letter, was prominent in public affairs, among which was newspaper work, until age and infirmities caused him to retire. I don't recollect whether he is buried in the county or not. A younger brother of the family, Wallace Pattee, was a captain in John's regiment, and after the war was over he came back to his farm east of Janesville and, I believe, died there. The Pattee family was a prominent and forceful one in the early days of the county and prominent in all public affairs as well as leaders in social and business life.
Among the younger class of men who have hewed their way to prominence in the various walks of life and are distinguished more or less, many names come to me, all of whom stand as marks of honor to the county. Leslie Fisk was a barefooted school boy and in later days, succeeding the pioneer ones, he was noted for his studious habits and his ambition to reach success. In a competitive trial of candidates for a scholarship to West Point from the, then, Fourth congressional district in 1868, Leslie won out over a large field of boys from the various counties in the district, and was appointed a cadet to that famous school, where he graduated with high honors and entered the U. S. army in the artillery branch and later went into the engineering corps, where he stood high. Several years ago he went onto the retired list.
Will B. Wilcox, another Waverly boy, won a scholarship in the naval school at Annapolis, and became a paymaster in the navy of the. U. S. He will be recalled by many of your readers as a boy of irrepressible force and push, a leader in all games and athletic exercises among his colleagues in town. Never idle a moment, strong, brainy and vivacious. He told me he wanted to learn the printer's trade and asked if I would take him in the Republican office, so he might learn to set type. One morning, on press day, Will Tyrrell reported we were short a "devil," or roller. I thought of Will Wilcox and soon found him on the street, and he was more than willing to fill the place. When I introduced him to Will Tyrrell, the latter said, "What's the use to bother with him ? He won't stay here fifteen minutes." To the surprise of the ferocious foreman and all the rest of the crew, my boy showed a disposition to stay longer than fifteen minutes. In short, then and there he turned over a new leaf and had a vision he had not had before. He made good, and a year or so later, when the field was open for competition for the Annapolis scholarship, he asked me to procure the necessary papers for the study of the questions to be answered, which I did. Early and late he devoted his time to mastering the requirements, and at the try-out he led the field and Senator Allison appointed him to the school. He had a clear head, keen perception, and was tireless in his studies. He was the second Bremer county boy to win out in a mental contest and gain a prize. He died in the service some years ago. His elder brother, Charlie, took training in the banking business and, I believe, is now connected with a big concern in the steel industry in Chicago. He is a first-class man and a success.
Another Waverly man, Georgie Hoffman, son of H. J. Hoffman, has won his way to high banking circles in St. Louis thru the training of his uncle, Samuel Hoffman, a long-time leading banker of that city.
Among the leading financiers and bankers of the northwest, none have gained a wider influence or higher standing than Isaac Hazlett, son of John C. and Margaret Hazlett, very early pioneers in the county. When a boy, he was a student in school and a close friend and disciple of "Dutch" John Schmidt, the fisherman. It was Ike's very highest ambition to excel "Dutch John" in catching fish out of the Cedar. He did not care so much for the fish as for the reputation of being a more successful fisherman than his instructor and partner. I believe he is now connected with over twenty banks, as an officer of some grade, and is rated as one of the foremost financiers in Minnesota.
His brother, Harry, is now a retired newspaper man. While Isaac took to dollars; Harry loved the smell of printers' ink and could never stay away from a print shop. He was an expert type setter, master of all the details of a country printing office, and one of the brightest and keenest localizers ever on a Waverly paper. He had a keen sense of the ludicrous, a raging taste for poetry of the sentimental sort, and was no slouch as a writer of rhyme to fit occasions when prose was not adequate. As an all-around newspaper man, he was far above the average. I knew him well from boyhood to manhood, employed him for years, and in company with him, purchased and run the Shell Rock News for a time. When I migrated to South Dakota, he accompanied me, but the wild west was too woolly for him, and he trecked back to Iowa and located at Baxter, as the editor, publisher and proprietor of a paper that ranked up well with the better class in the state. After a successful career there, he sold his paper, after the loss of his wife, and went on the retired list. He is now whiling away his later days among the lakes and streams of Minnesota, where it is reported that the "silver sides" and "chubs" flee to secret places whenever he winds up his line, shoulders his rod, and starts after fish. No fish can out-wind him in patience and waiting for a "bite," and if they get within 40 rods of his hook his hypnotic power is certain to draw them to their fate, which is dry land and the frying pan. Talks about "Isaac Walton" are idle words, when the tall form of Harry Hazlett casts its shadow over the blue and pearly waters of the lakes of Minnesota. No bigger hearted or more generous boy ever tramped the soil of Bremer county, and mighty few more brainy ones, if any, graduated from the old stone school on the hill than "Isaac Walton" of the gopher state.
Another boy that is as close to me as a son is Will H. Tyrrell, who is known to all the people of Bremer county. Left an orphan by the death of his gallant father, Edward Tyrrell, who fell at Vicksburg, Will fought his way up the ladder of life, until he reached a commanding position among the best young men of the state, and today he is taking life easy under the sunny skies of California.
Will and Charlie Cowles, who are very prominent architects in Chicago, are products of Waverly and her public schools. They are successful and prominent in the higher grades of business and progress of the great city of the lake.
Will Matthews is another Waverly boy whom the public schools of the town turned out, a manly man and one who is a leading financier in Minneapolis; honored, trusted and looked up to in all the big, business affairs about the Twin Cities of Minnesota.
Ed Nichols, a leading banker and financier of Staples, Minn., is yet another boy who was born and bred in Bremer county. Coming from good stock and running the gamut of the public schools of Warren township, he went forth to conquer the battles of life, and my information is he is succeeding splendidly.
Another Bremer county boy is Ed Martin, of Tripoli, a son of Pioneer John H. Martin and wife, who is a product of Wapsie soil and the public schools of Bremer county. Ed is a stalwart man of superior ability and model manhood. As a citizen and business man, he is the equal of the best. He is particularly looked up to as a financier and safe counsellor in all business matters, as well as a leader in every movement for the uplift of Bremer county in particular, and the country in general.
Among the pushing and irrepressible young men Bremer county has produced, none excel the trinity of Cass boys.—L. S., J. F., and C. D. They are the sons of S. F. Cass, of whom I have spoken. They are "chips from the old block" in all ways, and well rounded out by the steady hand of an extraordinarily good mother. Products of the Wapsie, as they are, and trained in the home and business life as they were, the result is what might be expected. As I hear and believe, they are extra good and successful business men, and reflect honor on the pioneer element of the county.
Another boy who has made good and can be claimed a contribution of Bremer county and of Waverly's schools is Bruno Hosteller, of Nebraska. He was born on a farm west of Waverly and was reared by sturdy and exemplary parents. The strain of German, or Dutch, blood in Bruno told under every test. Industrious, rugged and ambitious, he figuratively ate up all the books he could get hold of. He migrated to Nebraska and entered the practice of law at Kearney, where he soon forced himself to the head of the bar. His sincerity and integrity marked him a leader, and his colleagues and the people called him to the wool sack, from which seat his fame went out to such a degree that he could have been made governor of the state with hands down, but he had the good sense not to be seduced from his chosen profession, and declined to consider the tempting office, honorable as it is, and stuck to the seat of justice. He is rated as one of the just and great judges of the state. Well may Bremer county and the Waverly schools be proud of Bruno Hostetler, the chunky "Dutch" boy, now a giant and trusted man.
And yet another Wapsie boy who was grafted into the Waverly schools, is Ernest H. Cooper. He will be recalled as a live and irrepressible boy in days of yore. He was a son of Charley Cooper and wife, and a grandson of Francis Harwood and wife, of Grove Hill, who furnished more good school teachers for Bremer county than any other one family in the county, as they also furnished soldiers for the Union army, including sons and sons-in-law. Ernest is a leading man in public affairs in North Dakota where he narrowly escaped being elected to a seat in the United States senate. He reflects all honor upon the old county and her schools.
Then there is Jerry Bacon, a son of "Lige" Bacon and wife, who will be recollected by all the people of thirty years ago in Waverly. Jerry was a typical American boy, noted for his lung power when a kid. He could cry louder and more gracefully on the slightest provocation than any other boy ever in the town. He was dubbed "cry baby" by his chums, and they often yielded to him in his whims of wanting his own way to keep him from alarming the lower end of State street. Today he is a rich man and the leader among hotel owners and operators in North Dakota. He owns and operates the finest hotel in Grand Forks, as well as other large holdings. Jerry is a product of the Waverly schools, starting in the primary department in the Fourth ward. One can never tell what sort or quality of leather there is in a boy by looking at him or hearing his "bawl." The right way is to give the boy a chance and boost him when you can.
Continuing the enumeration of men who made good that were furnished the public by Bremer county, Oliver J. Smith comes in the' list. He was the son of Philander Smith, who carried on a cooper business before the war began. When soldiers were called, Mr. Smith and his son, Charles E., both enlisted, leaving Oliver as the "man of the family" at about the age of fifteen. He had been a sort of happy-go-lucky boy, more fond of fishing and rabbit hunting or playing marbles than any sort of work. But the responsibility thrown upon him to "help mother" ironed out the wrinkles in the boy and he arose to the equal of the responsibility. At once he set about learning the printer's trade and became a success as an all around newspaper man. In 1864, when a call was made for 100-day men, he dropped everything at home and enlisted. When he was discharged, the officer signing his discharge used the same blank as was used for 3-year men. He wrote in the place for length of service, "One-Hundred" and failed to erase the word "years" and insert "days," thus making his discharge read, "One Hundred Years." At a reunion, held in Waverly some years after the close of the war, the question of length of service was being talked about, when Oliver asserted he had the papers to prove the longest service of any man present. Al Wemple, a veteran of the Third Iowa, replied, "It takes a lot of cheek for a whiffet of 100 days' service to make such a claim. The result was a bet of the cigars for the crowd that Smith could not prove his assertion of producing the documents. When Ol had Al well cinched on the wager, he reached into his coat pocket and presented his discharge. Al in great disgust said, "I might have known the little scamp had me cinched or he would not have made the bet!" The laugh and the cigars were on Al, who being a good sport, produced three boxes of "Key City," the best cigars then on the market, which was one condition of the bet. Ever afterward he was dubbed "Hundred Years Veteran Smithers" by all, and the name stuck to Oliver among his best friends as long as he lived.
He was a good printer and worked in the offices in Waverly for several years at the case. All the time he had the dream in his head that some time he would own and operate a paper of his own. While working for me, he conceived the idea of starting a paper in Janesville, which had no paper at that time, but was anxious to have an organ of that sort. Oliver had no money or credit then, but was not to be balked in his purpose. At his solicitation I loaned him material enough to set up his paper and the boys in my office did his press work. He established the Janesville Clipper and he worked hard to win a place for it and establish it upon a paying basis. But the disadvantages were so many and his support so weak he was compelled to give up his cherished ambition, and last of all to write "Failure." His last visit to his office in Janesville was humiliating to him, and when he returned to his case in my office he was heartbroken over the failure. To add to his perturbed and miserable state of mind, the boys in the office, under the cloak of sympathy for him, made many suggestions, improvised snatches of doggerel and sang them to him as solaces for his troubled mind. Harry Hazlett composed a funeral oration, which, he said, was delivered by Smithers on his last visit to the Clipper office. It was a gem, one of Harry's very best, in matter and expression. To appreciate it fully, one must have heard and seen Harry pronouncing it. It was vinegar and gall to poor Smithers, but he knew the crowd and knew they were all nagging him, while their hearts' sympathy was with him to the very limit. Therefore he stood it heroically. His dogged determination to have a paper of his own never failed, but he kept steadily at his work, with a watchful eye for the opportunity to offer when he might seize it and reach the stake he was working for. Like all such cases, he at last found the location and the field, and seized it. The opportunity came in Hardin county. From that time until he grew old and poor health came upon him he made good, accumulated a moderate competence, sold out and removed to Olympia, Wash., and there passed away.
Strange how things happen. I had lost all track of Oliver after he sold out in Iowa, and I did not know he was on this coast. I have a niece residing in Olympia and she became very well acquainted with Oliver and his family and when he passed away she sent me a paper with his obituary in it, and also a letter telling me what a grand and good man he was.
While I was in the newspaper business in Waverly I had a bunch of the brightest and best boys in the town with me. They were a wild lot at times, but true and loyal to me and my business. Sometimes they put me at my wits' end to know how to get along with them. I knew deep down in them were worth and mettle that were extraordinary, and I believed when their wild oats were all sown their real selves would place them as leaders and successful men. So it has proven. This is the list: W. H. Tyrrell, Harry Hazlett, Will Wilcox, Oliver J. Smith, Geo. E. Foster and Adelbert Cole. Six better citizens and men cannot be picked from Waverly's crop of boys. As I recall them as mischievous and irrepressible boys, and now consider them as men I am prouder of them than I will attempt to write in these lines.
The Bremer county boy who tops the lot and stands highest of all in civil life is Burton E. Sweet. He is not only an old settler, but a native born citizen of the county. His father and mother located in the 60's in the extreme northeastern corner of Fremont township, where Burton first saw the light. His advancement and success in life is an open and well-known book to every reader of your paper. His call by the people of the Third district to serve them in congress is a high compliment to him and an honor to the county, such a one as few counties in the western states produce.
The fact of his call in the district with so many able, ambitious and well-qualified men as the old Third has, is a certificate of extra ability and characteristics. To follow in the footsteps of Senator Allison and Colonel Henderson is of itself proof of his fitness and popularity. The Third district has always had extra strong men as her representatives in the lower house of congress, and my information is that Burton Sweet promises to be a worthy successor of the best of them. As fast as he gains the experience, his ability will keep pace with it, so that with the years of service, Allison and Henderson were awarded, he will be up to their standard of usefulness to his constituents and to the nation.
At this distance and with my information, it seems to me the district would make a mistake to dismiss him for the sake of a change or to gratify the ambition of a new and untried man. The charge of lack of patriotism that I read about against him is not only unfounded and silly, but is political rot, worthy only of cheap patriots. In times even of war, national law-makers should be conservative, and such conservatism does not imply indifference or lack of red-blooded patriotism, but does mean, "Be sure you're right, then go ahead." It is unbelievable to me that Jack Sweet ever reared a boy who is not loyal to this country under all circumstances; yes, loyal to the flag, whether "right or wrong." I know the stock from which Burton sprang, and I know, as Ed Knott used to say, "They are recorded in the hero book."
Iowa has four congressmen born in the state, Kennedy in Lee county, Sweet in Bremer, Good in Linn, and Dowell in Warren. Wood was born somewhere, but is such a cautious politician that he does not admit his birth place. All the others are products of other states. Sweet ranks up with the foremost of the lot, and yet lacks the experience of nearly all of them. It would be a mistake to dismiss him at the beginning of his usefulness as a representative in congress at this time for no other apparent reason than that another wants his seat. At this crisis in our country and in world affairs, politics should be relegated to the rear, and more certainly should untried men; the reliable and experienced men should be .kept in place until we have solved the problem we now face.
Far away as I am from "Little Bremer," I have a great big pride, personified by Burton E. Sweet, the native-born Wapsie boy.
In the whirligig of time and the roving spirit of people it so happened that two of Bremer county's old pioneers found their way to this section, as I did. Here we met often and visited furiously. All of us did our duty in the dark days of the early settlement of the county, and all of us forsook our homes when war threatened to destroy the nation. Charley Mallory and Billy Pelton served in Company G, 9th Iowa, with Edward Tyrell and I in the 14th. Together we often went over our experiences and hardships, as well as dangers and narrow escapes. First of all that the load of life and years became too heavy for was Charley, and he peacefully laid it down, with the request that I should officiate at his grave, which I did. Billy and I were pall-bearers and in sorrow we carried him gently to his rest. Then Billy and I drew closer together to close up the gap that Charlie left. Two years later came a telegram from San Jose, forty miles away, saying, "Billy Pelton died last night. Come to his funeral." Sick in bed at that time, I could only say, "Alone, yes, alone. Charley and Billy are both gone. Who will close up the gaps?" The gaps are still unclosed, but the comrades are not forgotten.
Both Charley and Billy located in Bremer county in 1855. They were there when I came.
Last updated 4/13/15
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