Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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Hon. Wilberforce P. Gaylord

The ancestors of the GAYLORD family originated in Normandy, France. The first name appears in Johnville's memoirs of Louis IX, in the thirteenth century. Some of the GAYLORDS moved to England in 1550 or '51. William GAYLORD was a native of Exeter, England, and came to Massachusetts on the ship Mary and John, arriving in Boston Bay, May 30, 1630, and settled in Dorchester. He died in 1673. Then followed four generations, thus: Walter, Joseph, Joseph Jr., and Samuel, W. P.'s great-grandfather, born in 1709, who had a son Agur, a grandfather born 1730, died 1818, aged 88 years, and who settled in Norfolk, Conn. His brothers and sisters were Justus, Anna Mamre, Joseph, Thankful, Samuel, Timothy, Giles, and Esther.

Agur GAYLORD had two wives, had two daughters by his first wife, and then married a widow JEROME, by whom he had three children, namely: Sarah, Esther, and Samuel. The latter was born Jan. 6, 1786, in Norfolk, Conn., and died in summer of 1861, aged 75 years. His wife's mother's maiden name was Betsey JACKSON, born in Brookfield, Conn. She died in July 1859.

Samuel GAYLORD'S children were eight in number, as follows: Jane, Lyman, J. Jay, Wilberforce P., Edson, Jackson, Harriet and Johnson. Deaths - Harriet, Jane, Wilberforce.

W. P. GAYLORD was born in New Milford, Conn. Sarah Elizabeth, his wife, was born in Stillwater, New Jersey. Their children were as follows:

1) Buena Vista, born Jan. 9, 1847, in Sussex County, N. J., died Sept. 25, 1849, in Green, N. J.
2) Mary E., born Feb. 18, 1850, in Green, N. J., died Sept. 29, 1871, in Nora Springs
3) Harriet Aurelia, born Dec. 25, 1853 in Frelinghuysen, N. J.
4) Buena Vista 2d, born Feb. 22, 1856, in Rock Grove, IA.
5) Laura A., born July 23, 1858, in Rock Grove, Ia., died Jan. 15, 1865 in Rock Grove
6) George, born Feb. 25, 1861, in Rock Grove
7) Chloe Irena, born Feb. 21, 1863 in Rock Grove
8) Jennie Bell, born Aug. 19, 1865, in Nora Springs
9) Minnie Elizabeth, born June 27, 1869, near Nora Springs.

Mrs. W. P. GAYLORD'S father's name was Joseph SLATER, born in Sussex County, N. J., September 1803, and died March 1, 1869. Her mother's maiden name was Eliza PRIMROSE. They had five children - Harriet, died Dec. 2, 1877; Sarah E.; James Britten; George A., died July 1869; & Sylvesta J.

In the spring of 1854 he came to Floyd County, stayed until early in the fall, when he went to Wisconsin, returning again in about a year. December 5, 1855, he was joined by his wife and family, whom he had left in New Jersey, and who came to share with him his Western home, and the vicissitudes of pioneer life in the wild region of Northern Iowa.

He located on the Shell Rock, near where Nora Springs now stands. Soon after settling there he commenced the practice of law, and was admitted to the bar at Mason City about the time of the organization of Cerro Gordo County. He was always a prominent actor in nearly all the history of the county. Being a man of great activity and perseverance, he was ever one of the foremost men in all matters affecting his county and its welfare. During the early days of the county a very bitter county-seat war was waged between the east and west sides. Prominent among the leaders was Mr. GAYLORD in the interest of the west side. After they had gained the victory, a celebration of the event was held at the geographical center of the county, to rejoice over the event. The speech of congratulation by Mr. GAYLORD was one of the wittiest and best of his life. So good-humored and jolly was the speech that it tended largely to disarm those of the other side.

Mr. GAYLORD, in his business life and relations, held a high position. In social life he was always the center of admiring friends. In many respects he was peculiar and odd, and yet in all his composition and nature he was the type of a true man. Noble-hearted and kind in his nature. Beneath his everyday life lay a substratum of good humor and love of jollity that bubbled out in all his writings and conversation. He was a good judge of human nature, and always formed an opinion of a person at the first meeting.

Last winter, while discussing physiognomy, he remarked that he rarely had occasion to change first impressions of a person. His firmness, when he believed he was right, amounted almost to dogmatism, and yet no man was more ready to yield to the proof of a fallacious position.

He was elected a member of the Eleventh General Assembly for Floyd and Cerro Gordo counties, and of the Twelfth for Floyd - the Eleventh Assembly, re-districting the State, severing Cerro Gordo and Floyd Counties. Of the Thirteenth General Assembly he was enrolling clerk.

For several years he was Postmaster at Nora Springs, resigning the office to accept the position of State Senator for the Forty-sixth District in the Eighteenth General Assembly, where he served one session, with great credit. The bills which he originated and sustained to a passage, and the position which he promptly took on the woman suffrage question made his name familiar throughout the State, and the strictures of his brethren of the press on the latter point were boldly and ably met, and in a tone which promised animated discussion had he lived to again meet that subject in the Senate. At the re-assembling of the Senate, resolutions of respect and condolence, in honor of his sterling merits, were offered by Senator WHOLEY, as follows: "Resolved, as a further mark of respect to the deceased Senator, the Senate do now adjourn."

In all assemblies or gathering, when present, he would draw about him throngs of eager listeners to his fund of stories and anecdotes. Among his neighbors, he was a leader who was ever regarded as a safe counselor in matters of law, business, public policy and politics. For the past ten years, he has been connected with the newspapers of his county, either as editor or proprietor. For the past three or four years, he occupied the position of editor of the Nora Springs Telephone, and not for a salary or pay, but because he loved the work. His pen was racy, spicy and vigorous. When he applied the lash to an opponent, there was always a sting to it, and yet so tempered with good nature that he rarely made an enemy of his adversary. He was also correspondent for the Advocate, and Intelligencer, of Charles City, the Rockford Reveille and other papers. In style he was very easy and direct. Fearless in his criticism, severe in his denunciation, but always fair and just as to the right of persons - always condemning wrong and applauding right.

It is not known at exactly what date Mr. GAYLORD conceived the idea of publishing a history of Floyd County, but it is certain that he had for ten or twelve years previous to his death been interested in the early history of the county, and that he spent much of his leisure time during these years on the work. He also wrote many detached sketches, some of which were published.

October 18, 1874, he announced through the columns of the Reveille, of which he was then editor, that in the next issue he would begin the publication of a history of Floyd County. He did so, giving a brief sketch of Rock Grove Township, and then a sketch of the early settlers of the township. His history ran along through eight or ten numbers, but included only matter pertaining to that one township. He was dissuaded from publishing any more in the papers, on the ground that it would be better arranged, and more highly prized, if he would give his whole energies to completing the history, and then have it published in book form.

Mr. GAYLORD was always frank in avowing his opinion upon mooted questions, even at the risk of losing in popularity. In regard to his religious views, he was equally honest; and, however much others may differ from him, they must credit him with being perfectly conscientious in his belief. To show his stand on certain points, the following is condensed from an editorial in the Nora Springs Reveille, Sept. 11, 1874, at which time Mr. GAYLORD was connected with that paper as editor: "Last Sunday morning and evening, we heard two most extraordinary and impressive sermons, from Rev. H. W. BENNETT, of the M.E. Church. In the morning he welted and whaled the church members over the head with the gospel cudgel, till there was not a spot as big as one's hand, where a blow had not fallen. We should suppose that the members and backsliders would after a while learn to dodge the blows aimed at their heads; but probably each for himself thinks the language used applied to the others, and probably each to himself says: 'How Brother BENNETT gives it to the hypocrites and backsliders over in the other corner of the house.' "But none of these admonitory thunderbolts are ever aimed at our heads. We don't belong to that class of sinners spoken of in the words of the text. It is our neighbors. It is that old grey headed sinner over in the corner; that woman over yonder with pendants swinging in her ears, and streamers flying from her bonnet. "From all the preaching we have heard from our boyhood, we conclude that 'faith' is an essential article to have, and we sometimes wish we had it in larger quantities. We are willing to believe everything for the sake of eternal happiness, but we find it very difficult to believe anything of which our judgment is not convinced. We may shut our eyes and wish it were so; we may even say we believe it is so; and yet there is something that silently says to us, 'I doubt it." We would give all the old clothes we have, and divide the new ones with any one who will instruct us how to believe whatever we desire to believe. It matters but little whether what we would believe is true or false, so long as it brings peace and contentment. That is what we are after. To be a hypocrite we cannot. To pray when we have no faith that our prayers will be answered, we cannot. The future to us is still a mystery. We wish it were otherwise, even were it a delusion."

Another extract from GAYLORD'S writings, showing his religious position is taken from the Telephone: "We would not give a dollar to better know that there is a God; a supreme ruler; a designer; a God infinite in power, and wisdom, and goodness, and perfection, for we believe that now; but we will give one hundred dollars to any one who will convince us that there is or is not an individual hereafter for man; a hereafter where we shall know ourselves as we know each other here. To accomplish this, we are willing to read any reasonable amount of books, and listen to any argument in or out of the pulpit. We want to believe this, and have tried to believe it from our childhood, but our faith does not grow stronger with our years, and we cannot avoid it. However, we advised others who can, to so believe and act as though they were in earnest. This saying that we believe there is a God, a devil, or a legion of devils, a heaven and a hell, and then acting a though there were neither, will bring remorse sooner or later. When we are true to ourselves and our neighbors we shall be true to God."

He frequently discussed death and the future. Often did he say that the only thing he feared or dreaded was death. The future was a mystery to him, one of which he could not form a satisfactory opinion. His idea was that God is a part of man and man is a part of God. So closely connected that neither can get along without the other. He was a very decided believer in the pre-existence of man and at death he will return to his former habitation of the realms of God. His death was almost instantaneous and probably painless. In the quietude of his home and the bosom of his family the dread angel, who must sooner or later visit all mankind, came unannounced and unheralded. He was in robust health up to the very moment of his decease. In the midst of the strength and vigor of manhood, and in the rapid development of an onward and upward career, he was cut down.

On that day of his death, in his usual off-hand, friendly manner, he was meeting his associates, throwing a jest at one, wrestling with another, and exhibiting a vitality unequaled by most men. During the evening he was as well as usual, and at about half-past nine o'clock retired for the night. In fifteen or twenty minutes Mrs. GAYLORD also retired. Soon after getting in bed she discovered that something unusual was the matter with Mr. GAYLORD. Before she could procure a light and call for help, he was dead. An autopsy on the body by Drs. S. G., and T. D. BLYTHE showed that the cause of death was heart disease.

Senator GAYLORD was a self-made man; he was of the people, with the people and for the people in every enterprise, improvement and measure. His record we are not writing for the benefit of the living; it is engraved on the hearts and memories of all his fellow citizens. Like every public and prominent man, he had his friends, and he had his opposers - the latter on political grounds. To the former he was ever faithful, and the latter he fearlessly, and generally successfully, met. A New Englander by birth, he was of that stock from whose loins came the sturdy race who are the natural frontiersmen. As has been fitly said by Senator Hoar, the eminent statesman from Massachusetts, on a recent occasion: "It is no race of boors that has struck its axes into the forests of this continent. These men knew how to build themselves log houses in the wilderness; they were more skilled still in building constitutions and framing statutes; slow, cautious, conservative, sluggish, unready in ordinary life; their brains more quick, and as sure as their rifle's flash, when great controversies that determine the fate of States are to be decided, when great interest that brook no delay are at stake, and great battle that admit no indecision are to be fought."

As a pioneer he understood all the hardships of a frontier life, but his rugged honesty and close application to business, enabled him to cultivate his mind and qualify himself for the various walks of life. We find the language of another extolling the merits of one most lamented citizen; "It is one of the most beneficent results of our American institutions that we have ceased to speak of poverty and hardships, and the necessity for hard and humble toil, as disadvantages to a spirit endowed by nature with a capacity for generous ambition. When labor is honorable and where every place in social or public life is open to merit, early poverty is no more a disadvantage, than a gymnasium to an athlete, or drill and discipline to a soldier.

All he has was the fruit of his own labors, and the result of untiring industry and honorable frugality practiced through a busy life. He has a good farm and a pleasant home that he had put in excellent shape in which to enjoy his declining years. But such was not to be his pleasure. And as we write we are reminded of the frailty and weakness of even the strongest and the wisest. Life is indeed a panorama; men are the flitting object, death is the end of the scene, and eternity the great circle to which all feet are hastening.

We can close our sketch of Wilberforce P. GAYLORD with no more appropriate and merited words than were uttered by Senator WALEY preparatory to his offering resolutions of condolence and respect at the second session of the Eighteenth General Assembly at Des Moines. The able Senator said; - In his death his family mourn the loss of the kindest of husbands and fathers. His friends and neighbors mourn a kind, accommodating, courteous and ever genial friend. The farmers, lawyers, and editors, each feel that they have lost a representative man from their profession and ranks. The country and district mourn the loss of one whom they have often honored. In the person of W. P. GAYLORD this Senate Chamber, and the State of Iowa, have lost an able, prudent and wise legislator. His dust has returned to dust, and his spirit to the God who give it. Though he responds to the call of the Senate roll no more, yet may we not trust his name is enrolled in the Lamb's book of life, and while we mourn our deceased friend, may we be able, when we are called from the stage of action, to feel that we have done our duty as faithfully and well.

Senator Gaylord was interred at Rock Grove Township Cemetery,
Nora Springs, Floyd County, Iowa.

SOURCE: History of Floyd County, Iowa. Pp. 634-41. Inter-state Publ. Co. Chicago. 1882.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, April of 2011



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