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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 1272~




Lucian Lester Ainsworth, the eldest child of Parmenas and Keziah Webber Ainsworth, was born in New Woodstock, Madison county, New York, June 21, 1831. His ancestors were of English descent, having settled in America in the earl colonial days. His grandfather moved to New York, where the father of Mr. Ainsworth was born, and where he continued to reside until his death, March 3, 1901. Mr. Ainsworth's great-grand father served in the Revolutionary war and died as a prisoner on an English ship, a martyr to the colonial cause.

Young Ainsworth received his early education in the public schools of his native state and subsequently attended Oneida. Conference Seminary at Cazenovia, New York.  At intervals during his course at the seminary he taught school and was said to be a very popular teacher and educator. After finishing his course at the seminary he commenced the study of the law in the office of Miner & Sloan, then the leading attorneys at De Ruyter, New York, and was afterwards admitted to the bar in Madison county in 1854.  Shortly after his admission to the bar he removed to Belvidere, Illinois, where for one year he practiced law with J. R. Beckwith, under the firm name of Beckwith & Ainsworth.

Thinking the newer West offered greater advantages to young men than those afforded in Illinois, he came to Fayette county, Iowa, in August, 1855, locating at West Union, and shortly afterwards commenced the practice of law. The country was then new and sparsely settled, the law unsettled and practice crude. Lawyers then traveled the circuit, following the court from place to place–a practice long followed, but now obsolete, as the growth of the counties in population and wealth has produced in each county its local bar, now equal to all usual requirements of the profession. Many of the earlier lawyers of the state became eminent locally through the practice here referred to, and none certainly in a greater degree than the subject of this sketch, who had an extensive acquaintance throughout northeastern Iowa, and the state as well.

Mr. Ainsworth at once acquired a large and profitable business and from his first appearance in Iowa was recognized as a lawyer of unusual strength, a position which he has ever since retained.  He was engaged in general practice and his name was connected with many important cases in which legal principles of great importance have been settled.  Well grounded in the fundamental principles of jurisprudence, a close student of the law, learned in the technical rules and practice, precise in his application of legal principles, a natural advocate, quick to perceive the point in issue and adapt himself to the situation, he was a lawyer of unusual strength and cleverness as a practitioner, and did by years of practice justify the estimate of his friends that he was one of the most successful advocates his portion of the state had ever produced.

A prudent and careful counselor, conscientious in the discharge of his duties as an attorney, advising against litigation when it could be avoided, Mr. Ainsworth possessed in a peculiar degree the confidence of the people among whom he lived and practiced, Possessed of unusual talent as a jury lawyer, a thorough tactician, full of resources, with an unusual knowledge of apt Scriptural quotations, and appropriate illustrations culled from his extensive experience and reading, with an active vein of wit and humor, he proved himself always a formidable opponent.

Mr. Ainsworth early evinced an interest in politics and in the fall of 1856 was a candidate for county attorney, but the county was overwhelmingly Republican, he a stranger, and was defeated as a matter of course. His defeat was expected from the start, but his candidacy gave him an opportunity to become acquainted with the people of his county and educated him in campaign work, which at a later date did him good service.

In the fall of 1859 he was nominated for state senator in the district then comprising Fayette and Bremer counties, and was elected over Hon. Aaron Brown, who had then served one term in the Senate and who was afterwards prominent as colonel of the Third Iowa Infantry in the war of the Rebellion, and subsequently as a member of the House of Representatives in the Iowa Legislature, and as register of the land office.

Mr. Ainsworth served during two regular sessions and also during two special sessions of that body. During this early legislative experience he served as a member of the committee on judiciary and railways, and was a very efficient member of each, but particularly the former, which then had charge of the revision of the laws of Iowa and the fruits of which labor was the revision of 1860.

In the meantime the strife of civil war spread over the land and Hon. Samuel J. Kirkwood, the war governor, gave him—Mr. Ainsworth—commission as captain in the Third Iowa Infantry, which was then forming in Iowa. But as a special session of the Legislature had then been called he felt that he could be of greater use to his constituents by serving out his term in the Senate than by entering the army, so declined the appointment, but gave the commission to his former law partner, Hon. C. A. Newcomb, late of St. Louis, now deceased, who accepted the position and went to the war as captain of Company F.  Afterwards, in the fall of 1862, Mr. Ainsworth recruited a company for the Sixth Iowa Cavalry, then forming, and on January 31, 1863, he was commissioned as captain of Company C, Sixth Iowa Cavalry, under command of the late Col. D. S. Wilson.  The regiment was ordered to the west to engage in the campaign against the Indians, and was for some months stationed at Ft. Randall, Dakota.  On August 21, 1863, the command left the Big Cheyenne and on September 3d encountered the enemy at White Stone Hill, at or near the present site of Frederick, South Dakota. A sharp engagement followed. Captain Ainsworth was in command of Company C, and this company, with three others, were detailed as a scouting party. The troops, some two hundred and sixty in number, advanced and discovered a large body of Indians at White Stone Hill.  The Indians were engaged in parley until the main body of troops were notified and had an opportunity to advance.  Upon the arrival of the balance of the command the Indians fired upon the troops and then retreated. The fire of the enemy was returned with effect.  Under the cover of night the Indians retreated and the prairie was strewn with provisions, packs, tents and ponies, and the Indians speedily placed themselves beyond the reach of the soldiers.

The Sixth Iowa Cavalry in this encounter was detailed to surround the Indians and drive them in and the regiment received a flattering report of its action in the campaign.  The regiment took part in several other engagements, among others that of Tah Ka Kohuta, on July 28, 1864, and was finally mustered out of the service at Sioux City, Iowa, October 17, 1865.  Service on the frontier was largely confined to garrison duty, and only occasionally were the troops permitted to engage in conflict. The soldiers were just as brave and patriotic as those engaged in Southern service, but opportunity was lacking to most of them to distinguish themselves on the field of battle; but their service, while lacking these opportunities, was just as essential to the welfare of the nation, and was full of hardships and privation and fraught with dangers as great as other branches of the service. After leaving the army, Mr. Ainsworth returned to West Union and re-engaged in the practice of law with Capt. C. H. Millar, which engagement continued until July, 1873.

In the fall of 1871 Mr. Ainsworth was elected to the fourteenth General Assembly as a member of the House of Representatives, and served during the sessions of 1872 and 1873, and was, during his term of service, a member of the judiciary committee, rendering valuable service in the formation of the code of 1873.

In 1874 Mr. Ainsworth was elected to the forty-fourth Congress to represent the fourth district of Iowa, and served as a member of the committee on post-offices, post-roads and private land claims. At the succeeding election he declined a re-nomination, and enjoyed the distinction of being the first Democrat to represent Iowa in the Congress of the United States in a period of twenty years.

Since his retirement from Congress, he devoted his entire time to his profession, and held no other office except that of school director, a position to which he was elected for several successive terms. Mr. Ainsworth took an active interest in all matters relating to education, and for a number of years was a member of the school board of West Union, and gave this position the same thoughtful care that he did the greater offices held by him, and his work received the commendation of his neighbors by repeated elections to the position.

In addition to his work in behalf of the public schools he also took an interest in higher education, and served for several terms as one of the trustees of the Upper Iowa University at Fayette, Iowa.

Mr. Ainsworth was considerable of a student, kept abreast of the times in general reading, and had one of the largest and best selected private libraries in the county.  In addition to his legal studies he, as a branch thereof, made a special study of the subject of insanity, and, with the exception of two terms, occupied the position of a member of the commission of insanity in the county from the time of its organization to the time of his death.

Mr. Ainsworth was married on December 8, 1859, to Margaret McCool, who was born in Louisburg, Pennsylvania, November 20, 1833, and is a daughter of Joseph and Eleanor (Nerius) McCool. She came with her parents to Freeport, Illinois, in 1839, and subsequently came to West Union on a visit to her sister, and it was on this occasion she met Mr. Ainsworth. She is a woman of unusual force of character and energy and modest and retiring withal. Of superior natural ability, extensive reading, liberally educated, herself always a student, she was a fitting helpmeet to the subject of this sketch. Six children, five sons and one daughter, were born to Mr. and Mrs. Ainsworth.

Mr. Ainsworth was a member of the Masonic order, and a charter member of the West Union Lodge No. 69, and Langridge Commandery No. 47, Knights Templar.  Prominent in social circles, always welcome at the social gatherings of his neighbors and friends, always active in all questions incident to the development of a new country, he was a prominent character in the life of the county.  He died on April 19, 1902, leaving his widow; James W. Ainsworth, now of Princeton, West Virginia; Lester Ainsworth, now of Mason City, Iowa; Mrs. F. W. White, late a resident of Seattle, Washington; W. J. Ainsworth, who is engaged in the practice of law in this city; and Fred L. Ainsworth, who died at Newport, Washington, December 12, 1906.


By JUDGE A. N. Hobson
~~~ *** ~~~


~transcribed by Cheryl Walker