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1906 Biographies


The strong, true men of a people are always among their most fruitful and pronounced benefactors. They "impress the very age and body of the time," leading thought and action by their masterful personality, and molding the spirit of their day and locality into some likeness to their own. Whatever they touch they build up, improve or expand into greater volume or usefulness; and in addition to the direct and immediate productiveness from their own labors, they are more potential and far-reaching in effectiveness through the forces they awaken and vitalize in others, by the influence of their energies and their example.

Hon. James E. Bruce, State Senator for the Eighteenth Senatorial District, comprising the counties of Cass and Shelby, is a man of this kind. The people of Cass county are probably as much indebted to him as to any other one man who has ever lived among them for usefulness in many lines of activity, tending to the steady and continued development of the county's resources and the wholesome progressiveness that characterizes this highly favored region. Everything that has felt the touch of his tireless hand, or the influence of his restless mind, has bounded and boomed into greater magnitude and widened its benefits to the people. His long and successful business career, and his signal services to the whole State in his public life, mark him as a leader of men and altogether worthy of the rank. The Senator is president of the Iowa Trust & Savings Bank of Atlantic; of the Bank of Marne; of the Citizens Savings Bank, of Anita; of the Massena Savings Bank, of Massena; of the First National Bank of Exira, Iowa; and of the Farmers Supply Company, of Anita; and he is connected in a leading way with many other enterprises of value to the business world around him and to the comfort and convenience of the people.

Senator Bruce was born in Poweshiek county, Iowa, on April 14, 1860, a son of John and Sarah (Brock) Bruce. The father, who was a native of Ohio, enlisted in Company H, Twenty-eighth Iowa Infantry, soon after the beginning of the Civil War, and with characteristic devotion to duty laid his life on the altar of his country, dying at Helena, Ark., on May 14, 1863, from disabilities incurred in the service. Thus orphaned in his infancy, so to speak, the outlook for the future banker, professional man and stateman was not particularly promising in childhood, and what he has made of himself is therefore all the more creditable to his ability and force of character. He was educated in the common schools of his native county, and later attended the law department of the Iowa State University, from which he was graduated in 1881. He then located in Cass county and began the practice of his profession at Anita. He worked on the farm until June of that year, after leaving the University, then, with $100 of borrowed money he took up his residence at Anita and started his successful climb to the top of his profession. He was energetic and resourceful from the start, and soon had a business of considerable magnitude and value in insurance and real estate, in connection with his law practice. He was successful in every undertaking and in 1894 organized the Citizens Bank, of Anita. In July, 1903, he followed this with another venture of the same kind, organizing the Citizens Savings Bank, of Anita; and before that year closed he also organized the Famers Supply Company of Anita, with a paid up capital of $25,000 and about eighty stockholders. Early in the year 1904 he began negotiating for the purchase of the Commercial Bank of Atlantic, and having completed his negotiations he organized the Iowa Trust & Savings Band of Atlantic, as its successor, and of this institution he has been the president from its organization.

While the Senator is essentially a banker, he has not confined his energies to this one line of effort. He is a leader at the Cass county bar, and is prominent in almost every line of useful activity in his community. His success is neither accidental nor sporadic. It is continuous and general; and moreover, it is the logical result of his own ability, excellent business capactiy and superior judgement. Besides, he has illustrated the best attributes of an elevated and elevating citizenship in his public and private life, and so has easily become a representative and very useful man. In politics he is a strong Republican, and in the fall of 1901 he was chosen as the candidate of his party to a seat in the State Senate. The term of service he has to his credit gave him an opportunity to display on the loftiest forum in the State the ripened ability of his mature years, and the value of his extensive reading, accurate observation and wide knowledge of public affairs. In the Senate he was assigned to membership on a number of the leading committees of the body, among them those on Judiciary, Ways and Means, Banking and Insurance.

He met the expectations of his friends in a masterful way in the halls of legislation, and gave such general satisfaction to all classes of the people that he is now the candidate of his party for a second term in the body which was the scene of his appreciated and useful labors during the last four years. Fraternally he belongs to the Masonic Order, and in it he has filled the office of Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of the State. He is also a member of the Order of Elks, the Knights of Pythias, the Odd Fellows and the Woodmen.

In October, 1882, James E. Bruce was united in marriage with Luella Voorhees, a daughter of Peter and Hannah (Hoffman) Vorhees, natives of New Jersey. In the Senator's household there are three children, Clarence W., Anita and Edna.

As an evidence of Senator Bruce's enterprise and dispatch in the matter of business, it should be stated that when he organized the Iowa Trust & Savings Bank of Atlantic, the whole of its capital stock of $125,000 was placed and the bank was opened for business within two weeks from the time when the books were opened for stock subscriptions. His motto has ever been "If things don't move, push," and his career is an emphatic proof of the wisdom of it. In all matters pertaining to the welfare of the city, county and State, he is public-spirited and liberal; and in the movements for the development and improvement of his section of the country, he is ever foremost, progressive, and guided by wisdom and good judgement. Justly esteemed on all sides for every element of elevated manhood, he is one of the most representative, influential and popular men in the county.

From "Compendium and History of Cass County, Iowa." Chicago: Henry and Taylor & Co., 1906, pg. 278-280.

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