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Fayette County, Iowa  

 History Directory

Past and Present of Fayette County Iowa, 1910

Author: G. Blessin


B. F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana


Vol. I, Biographical Sketches



~Page 1216~


Joseph Hobson

Photo included in Source Book

One of the early settlers in Fayette county was Joseph Hobson, late of West Union, now deceased. He came to Iowa in May, 1855, and after a few months spent in Westfield township and vicinity, located upon a farm in Smithfield township. Here he built a residence, improved his land, and resided for about two years. He had for some years studied law as opportunity and leisure from other pursuits permitted, and in 1856, was admitted to the bar in this county. In 1857 he removed to Westfield (now Fayette), where he taught school, and later opened an office and engaged in the practice of law. In the fall of 1858 he was elected clerk of the district court, and in December of that year removed to West Union where he ever after resided until his death, December 15, 1893.

Mr. Hobson was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, October 17, 1823. He was the eldest son and second child of John Wainwright Hobson and Abigail Bishop (Scott) Hobson. His father was born at Peniston, Yorkshire, England, August 22, 1794, and was the son of Joseph Hobson, of that place.

The subject of this sketch traced his ancestry back to his grandfather, Joseph Hobson, of Yorkshire, England, who was born at nor near Peniston. In early life he was a woolen manufacturer, but later discontinued this business, and subsequently carried on business at Bullhouse Hall, at farming and colliery work. He was prominent locally, quite successful in business, full of enterprise, and something of a musician. Joseph Hobson was thrice married; his first wife was a Wainwright (the grandmother of the subject of this sketch), with whom he had one son and two daughters. He resided in that vicinity all his life, and died at seventy;-four years of age and was buried at Peniston church.

John Wainwright Hobson, son of Joseph Hobson, just referred to, came to America with his uncle, Joseph Wainwright, of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1816. He settled in Pittsburg and married Abigail Bishop Scott, in 1819. She was a daughter of Joseph Scott, a paper manufacturer, and a native of Massachusetts, who subsequently removed to, and was one of the early settlers of, Fayette county, Pennsylvania, and later located at Pittsburg, where he passed the later years of his life.

The mother of the subject was of Scotch-English ancestry. She was born in New Jersey, April 10, 1799, and crossed the mountains with her parents in childhood, when they removed to Pennsylvania. She resided in Fayette county, in that state, nearly all her life, and died at Connellsville in 1883.

John Wainwright Hobson was stricken with Asiatic cholera during the prevalence of that epidemic, and died August 14, 1834, at Pittsburg, after a sickness of a few hours.

The son, bereft of his father at the early age of eleven years, obtained such education as the times afforded and limited means could command. Public schools as we now know them being few in number, if any, at that time, he was compelled to depend upon such opportunities for securing an education as were afforded by private tutors and his own endeavors. He was always fond of reading, a good student, with a strong memory, and by the time he arrived at mature life had a wide range of knowledge, covering history, literature, politics, and general information. In early boyhood he was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker, but, not liking that avocation, learned the carpenter's trade. In the autumn of 1848 he removed to Connellsville, Pennsylvania, where he was employed at his trade, and was for a short time a partner in a foundry business. In the spring of 1853 he removed to Cleveland, Ohio, where he had charge of extensive building operations in connection with his brother-in-law, the late John B. Ingham, of Allegheny City. Between the time he located at Cleveland, and his arrival in Iowa, he resided for a short time in Sanilac county, Michigan.

A competent observer, who had known Mr. Hobson intimately for many years, said of him "that he never knew a man who excelled him in his ability to get along with men in his employ, or one for whom men would willingly do more for him." His varied experience well fitted him for his work in the future. He entered upon the duties of the clerk's office when the county was new, and many of our modern mthods and aids to officials were unknown, or even unthought of. During his incumbency of the office, extending from January, 1859, to January, 1869, he applied to the office that system which early gave to it the orderly and business-like methods which have ever since been employed, and which distinguish the clerk's office to the present time, as one of the best kept and managed offices of its kind in the state.

During the years of the Rebellion - 1861 to 1865 - there was no bank or railway in the county, and the express business was done by stage coaches, or by private messengers, between West Union and the terminal of the railroad. Mr. Hobson was during all this period designated by the soldiers in the field as the consignee of funds sent by them to their families at home and many thousands of dollars were sent to him for distribution, and by him delivered to the designated beneficiaries, without expense for services rendered by him. During this trying period he was ever active and vigilant in rendering such services as he could in befriending the families of the soldiers at home, in sustaining the soldiers at the front, and in upholding the government in its efforts to suppress the Rebellion. Next to the soldier in the field is the need of the loyal friend and supporter at home. Each in his own way equally important, although one is at the seat of carnage, and in daily peril, while the other, remote from the danger of disease and battle, by his cooperation helps to make the success of the soldiers possible. Few who have not given the matter thought, can conceive how necessary to the welfare and success of the soldier at the front is the earnest support of the great army of loyal men and women who by their voluntary efforts sustained and encouraged the forces in the field. Many were the acts of kindness performed, and numerous the sacrifices made, by the subject of this sketch, in that trying ordeal of which it would not be proper to speak; sufficient it is to say that at all times, by speech, act, and purse, he loyally upheld the efforts of the government to suppress the Rebellion.

Upon retiring from the clerk's office, Mr. Hobson was elected to the thirteenth General Assembly of Iowa, and served as a member of that body in 1870. In that year he was, without solicitation on his part, appointed assessor of United States internal revenue for the third congressional district of Iowa, and served efficiently and to the entire satisfaction of the officials in charge of the department until May, 1873, at which time the office expired by limitation and the duties connected with it merged with those of collector of internal revenue. Upon the conclusion of his services as assessor he received from the commissioner of internal revenue, at Washington, D.C., strong commendation of the manner in which the office had been conducted during his incumbency.

Joseph Hobson was one of the founders of the Fayette County National Bank in 1872, and was its first and only president until his resignation as such in December, 1887. He also served as vice-president of the Fayette County Savings Bank, from its organization, in 1875, until December 1887. Much of the early success of each of these financial institutions was due to the business ability and integrity of Mr. Hobson, to his extensive acquaintance and to the personal confidence the people reposed in him after an acquaintance extending over so many years. He served as mayor of West Union for two years, and as a member of the school board in that town for twelve years. He was active in encouraging all public enterprises and liberal in aiding them. He had been a resident of the county many years before the advent of a railroad, and when a prospect of obtaining one presented itself, he was earnest in his advocacy of the measure and contributed liberally of his time and means to secure it.

The present generation knows nothing of the disadvantages of living in a county destitute of these necessities, but take them as a matter of course. The pioneers of fifty years ago obtained them by voting taxes and donating money to build them, and the community was satisfied if it could secure railroad accommodations by contributing liberally to their construction.

Politically, Mr. Hobson was originally a Whig, and later a Republican. He often alluded with pride to the fact that he cast his first vote for President for Henry Clay, and made a long journey by stage-coach to reach his voting precinct for this purpose. Upon his arrival in Iowa, he took an active part in politics. He had speaking talent of a high order and for many years was prominent in convention work and as a political speaker. Perhaps he made more political speeches in the county than any other man who has lived in it. His fund of facts, and acquaintance with history, literature, and politics, combined with the happy faculty of always being able to illustrate his point with an appropriate story, well told, enabled him to entertain and instruct an audience.

Mr. Hobson was married at Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania, April 15, 1847, to Elizabeth Baker, daughter of James and Rachel (Wigfield, sometimes erroneously written Wakefield) Baker. She was born at Bakerstown, Allegheny county, Pennsylvania, June 16, 1825, that village having been founded by her family, one of the earliest to settle in western Pennsylvania. Mrs. Hobson was a woman of strong common sense, unusual force of character, untiring energy and industry, an active worker in the Methodist Episcopal church, of which she was a life-long member, and an efficient laborer in societies connected therewith, and was highly esteemed where she so long resided. She was from among that best of human-kind, the intelligent home builder, the affectionate wife and mother, and in her life she proved an exemplar in all that pertains to the best and highest welfare of the family and the home. She died in her eighty-fourth year, on April 15, 1909, the anniversary of her marriage.

Mr. and Mrs. Hobson were the parents of eight children, six of whom grew to mature age. Leta, a daughter, died in infancy, and Loyd, a son, died in his eighth year. Joseph B. Hobson graduated at the United States Naval Academy with honor, and remained in the service until after he attained the rank of lieutenant, when he resigned. While he was in the navy he visited Japan, Australia, France, South America, England, Italy and other countries and many of the islands of the sea. Frank Hobson and Leroy T. Hobson founded the Argo at West Union, recently merged with the Gazette, and at this time conducted under the name of the Argo-Gazette, and published the paper successfully for many years. Frank Hobson had talent of a high order as a newspaper man, and was a public spirited citizen. The columns of the Argo will show that he zealously advocated every measure calculated for the upbuilding of the community and the city. The mechanical department was efficiently managed by L. T. Hobson, who was accomplished in everything necessary to the printer's art. Sickness in the family of Frank Hobson, in the person of his only child, and his subsequent death, necessitated the disposing of the property, and the removal of the father to Oklahoma, where he now resides.

The surviving daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Hobson are each married. Ella married H. I. McGuire, and resides at Cincinnati, Ohio. Fannie Elizabeth married C. W. Knickerbocker, M.D. and resides at Cedar Falls, Iowa. L. T. Hobson and A. N. Hobson reside at West Union, Iowa.

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