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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 1300~


C. J. Cooney, M.D.


There is no class to whom greater credit is due from the world at large than those self-sacrificing, sympathetic, noble-minded men whose life work has been the alleviation of human suffering. There is no known standard by which their beneficent influence can be adequately measured; their helpfulness is as broad as the universe and their power goes hand in hand with the wonderful laws of nature that emanate from the very source of life itself. Some one has aptly said, "He serves God best who helps humanity most." If the veracity of the statement is not to be questioned, the earnest and conscientious physician surely is entitled to a place of high honor among the professions and vocations which characterize what some are pleased to term modern civilization. Among the physicians and surgeons of Fayette county who have risen to eminence in their noble calling is the subject of this sketch, whose career has been that of the true worker in ministering to suffering humanity and who today stands at the head of his profession in the city of his residence.

Dr. C. J. Cooney is a native of Iowa and was born January 16, 1873, in Buchanan county, where his parents, Patrick and Honora (Costello) Cooney, settled as early as the year 1857. Both Patrick Cooney and wife were natives of county Clare, Ireland, and possessed many of the sterling qualities for which their nationality has ever been distinguished The former came to America in 1846 and located first in Vermont, where he worked for some time on a farm which belonged to Dr. Dewey, father of the distinguished admiral of that name, who bore such a conspicuous part in the late Spanish-American war, and to whom is due the credit of planting our flag permanently in the far east.

Mr. Cooney tells many interesting reminiscences of his early experience in this country, and his familiarity with the various places where he labored from time to time has made him anauthority on local geography.During his younger years he was employed in railway construction in the Green Mountain state, thence worked westward through New York and Pennsylvania, and for a while was head blaster in the construction of the great tunnel through the mountains. He was in the latter state in 1854, during the memorable drought, when no rain fell for several months, and food for stock became so scarce and so high that it could not be obtained at any price. Mr. Cooney states that he had a team conservatively valued at three hundred dollars, but owing to the impossibility of obtaining any kind of feed was obliged to turn the animals loose in the woods and abandon them. He also says that the ground cracked so badly that in certain localities pigs fell into the crevices and could not extricate themselves, the result being that many died of starvation ere they could be rescued. With the terrible drought came a plague of cholera, which spread over the country with frightful rapidity and awful results, it being difficult at times to find sufficient men to bury the dead. In this dilemma Mr. Cooney tendered his services, for which he received the sum of five dollars per day, or ten times what was then a laborer's wages.

Leaving Pennsylvania, Mr. Cooney went to Steubenville, Ohio, from which place he went by boat to the Mississippi river, up which stream he proceeded to Dubuque, Iowa, the trip requiring six weeks. He located in the eastern part of Buchanan county, the nearest town being Dubuque, to which he would sometimes walk in one day, starting very early in the morning and arriving late at night. He took an active interest in the growth and development of his part of the state, became an influential factor in local matters and in due time rose to a position of considerable prominence as an enterprising, public-spirited citizen. Mrs. Cooney, who arrived in this country in 1847, shared with her husband many of the vicissitudes of life in the early times, and, like him, possesses the strong vitality which has enabled her to meet and overcome obstacles before which the majority of men and women would have succumbed. Mr. and Mrs. Cooney still live in Buchanan county, he having reached the age of eighty-four and she in her seventy-ninth year, both retaining to a marked degree the possession of their mental and bodily powers. Dr. C. J. Cooney is one of eleven children born to Patrick and Honora Cooney, all but one living and all except the Doctor residents of Buchanan county. The Doctor grew up on the farm where his parents had lived so long amid the hardships and privations of pioneer times, and received his preliminary education in the public schools of the neighborhood. He subsequently completed a high school course at Winthrop and still later entered the University of Iowa, from which institution he was graduated in 1895 with the degree of Doctor of Medicine and Surgery. With a mind well disciplined by intellectual and professional training, he began practicing at Jessup, but at the end of six months removed from that town to Westgate, where he remained nine years, during which time he built up a large and lucrative patronage, and forged to the front among-the leading physicians of Fayette county. Desiring a more favorable field for the exercise of his professional talents, the Doctor, in 1904, moved to Oelwein, where he has acquired a very extensive practice in both city and country, being, as already indicated, one of the leading physicians and surgeons not only of the county, but in northeastern Iowa as well. ' In Doctor Cooney are combined two facts which more than anything else have been the 'contributing elements to his continued advancement and success, thorough preparation and a deep interest in the profession, qualities absolutely essential to the building' up and maintaining of an honorable career as a true healer. His knowledge of the kindred sciences' of medicine and surgery is broad and comprehensive and in his professional services he has shown himself 'well qualified to cope with the intricate problems which continually confront the practitioner in his efforts to restore health and prolong life. Always a close and critical student, be keeps in touch with the trend of modern medical thought and is fully abreast of the times on all matters relating to his profession, being a member of the Fayette County Medical Society, Cedar Valley Medical Society, the Austin Flint Medical Association and the Iowa State Association, in all of which bodies he is well and favorable known and before which from time to time he has read papers noted for depth of thought and thorough knowledge of the subjects discussed. He has been city health officer of Oelwein for two terms and as such his interest in behalf of the people has been untiring and fruitful of great and lasting results.

Though primarily a physician and making every other consideration subordinate to his professional duties, Doctor Cooney manifests a lively interest in the general welfare of his city, being active and influential in promoting the material progress and equally so in furthering all enterprises having for their object the social, intellectual and moral good of the community.

In politics he is a Republican and, though well informed on the questions and issues of the times and an earnest worker for the success of his party, he is in no sense a seeker for office, preferring to devote himself to his chosen calling and being content with the simple title of citizen.

Doctor Cooney's domestic life dates from the year 1897, when he was joined in the holy bonds of wedlock with Susan G. McSweeney, daughter of John and Bridget McSweeney, the father one of Fayette county's's pioneers, having taken his homestead directly from the government, when he settled many years ago near the town of Westgate. This early home still remains in the McSweeney family and is one of the old landmarks of the county. Doctor and Mrs. Cooney have five children, Rolla, Charles, Edmund, Paul and Iona, all at home with their parents, constituting a mutually happy and agreeable household. The family are faithful members of the Catholic church, in the faith of which both parents were reared, and the Doctor also belongs to the Knights of Columbus, the Bankers Reserve Association and the Modern Woodmen of America."

~transcribed for the Fayette Co IAGenWeb Project by Evie Lamb


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