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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 1305~



(Photo in book)


To accurately and fully portray the life and character of a man of the prominence and influence of the late Hon. D. W. Clements, in the short space allotted to the writer in such a volume as this, is important and for this reason the task is not wholly inviting. It is undertaken, therefore, with a full realization of the fact that justice to the subject cannot be done, yet it is hoped that sufficient may be said to enable the reader to form at least a tolerance fair idea of a career which by the forcefulness of personality and mastery of one of the most exacting of the learned professions forms no inconsiderable part of the history of the bar of his adopted state, also of the country where his greatest service was performed and his most distinguished success achieved.


David W. Clements was an American by adoption, being a native of county Antrim, Ireland, where his birth occurred on the 9th day of July, 1846. His parents, Henderson Clements and Margaret Woods, both of Scotch-Irish antecedents, were born and reared in the Emerald Isle, but in the prime of life they immigrated to the United States and settled in Fayette county, Iowa, where the father engaged in the farming and stock-raising which he followed with gratifying success until his retirement from active labor after acquiring a comfortable competency for his declining years.


Henderson Clements was a man of sound, practical intelligence, who took an active interest in public improvements and to him belongs the credit of introducing thoroughbred draft horses into Fayette county, besides using his influence to raise the standard of agriculture to one of the most dignified and honorable of vocations. After a useful life, largely devoted to the good of his fellows, this estimable gentleman and representative citizen died at West Union, to which place he had removed on leaving the farm, his wife also dying in that town. He was a soldier in the late Civil war, having served with an honorable record as private in Company F, Thirty-eighth Iowa Infantry, which was subsequently consolidated with the thirty-fourth, remaining at the front until the close of the struggle and taking part in all the campaigns and battles in which his command was engaged.


Henderson and Margaret Clements were the parents of six children who lived to maturity, namely: Mrs. Phoebe Bartlett, deceased; David W., whose name introduces this sketch; James J.; William H.; Jennette, wife of Dr. William Jones, of Volga, Iowa, and Mrs. Marguerite PROBERT, of Nebraska; James and William being business men in the cities of Cedar Rapids and Des Moines respectively. Of the childhood and youth of David W. Clements little need be said as the tide of his early years flowed with comparatively nothing to disturb its current, his life, like that of the majority of lads, being without incident other than those included in the daily experience of home and school. In the year 1849 he was brought to America by his parents and at the proper age entered the public schools of his neighborhood where he pursued his studies until the completion of the usual course of study, sometime after which he became a student in the law department of the State University, from which institution he was graduated June 30, 1874, with the degree of Bachelor of Laws. Fortified with thorough professional training, he opened an office in August of the same year at West Union, where his abilities soon won recognition, as his rapid rise in his chosen calling abundantly attests, and it was not long until he forged rapidly to the he forged rapidly to the front among the rising young attorneys of the local bar and built up a business which grew steadily in magnitude and importance to the time of his death.


Mr. Clements' legal presents a series of continued successes such as few attain and for a number of years he was the recognized leader of the Fayette county bar, besides gaining wide distinction among the representatives of his profession throughout the state. Actuated by a laudable ambition to excel, he early laid broad and deep a foundation for future usefulness and distinction by thoroughly mastering the basic principles of the law, which, coupled with the ability and tact to apply the same in the practice, enabled him while still quite young to enter the arena with old and experienced attorneys and force them to recognize and appreciate his talents. By untiring industry and loyalty to his clients' interests, his business steadily advanced and ever since announcing himself a competitor for professional favors he numbered among his patrons many of the wealthiest and most substantial citizens of his own and neighboring counties, the demand for his services in intricate and important legal controversies being so great as to often cause a race between litigants as to who should be the first to reach his office. Mr. Clements had a broad and comprehensive knowledge of all phases of jurisprudence and, believing in the honor and dignity of his calling, he never stooped to anything savoring of cunning or trickery in the practice, his record being above suspicion and in the highest degree commendable. Every step in his career was the result of a well defined purpose. By his own courage and energy he has climbed steadily and stood firmly upon each round of the ladder until he could reach the next above and plant himself upon it.


Honest effort characterized his every advancement and all of his promotions were honestly earned. His success in his profession was due to a careful preparation, a high sense of justice, candor as a counsellor, regard for truth as well as law, fairness in his treatment of opposing counsel and courteous demeanor under all circumstances. As no suspicion of wrong doing ever tarnished his professional record, so no assault ever compromised his personal honor. His intercourse with all was marked by unaffected frankness and good will, and he was ever steadfast in friendship, modest in self assertion, firm in adherence to principle, providing in all the relations of life an honorable, upright gentleman with the welfare of his fellows at heart.


In his political affiliation Mr. Clements was a Republican and as such wielded a strong influence for his party in Fayette county, though he could hardly be termed a partisan in the sense the term is usually understood, neither was he a seeker after public honors or the emoluments of office. Not withstanding his indifference to public distinction, he was chosen, some years ago, county attorney, which position he filled with marked ability and credit for three terms. He was first of all a lawyer, thoroughly devoted to his calling and making every other consideration subordinate thereto, hence he never disturbed his quiet with affairs in any way inimical to his life work nor aspired to honors with, in the majority of instances, prove more illusory than satisfactory. One matter, however, aside from his profession, engaged his attention to a very marked degree, ie., the deep interest he manifested in the ancient and honorable order of Masonry, in which he long wielded a wide influence and in which he had also risen to the highest positions within the gift of the local lodge to which he belonged and the grand lodge of the state. He held membership with West Union Lodge No. 69, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons; Unity Chapter No. 62, Royal Arch Masons, at Elgin; Langridge Commandery No. 47, Knights Templar, West Union; West Union Chapter No. 110, Order of the Eastern Star; grand chapter Order of the Eastern Star, of the state of Iowa, in all of which he was honored from time to time with important official positions. In addition to serving as worshipful master of the blue lodge with which he was identified, he also held the highest offices in the commandery, chapter and Eastern Star, besides being elected grand commander, Knights Templar, of the state, in 1894, grand master of the Masons of Iowa in 1909-10, and a member of the grand encampment, Knights Templar, of the United States. From the foregoing it will be seen that Mr. Clements was signally honored by this old historic fraternity.


In all of the high positions to which called, he discharged his duties with distinguished ability, earned the confidence and esteem of his fellow craftsmen and his life affords a conspicuous example of the influence of the principles upon which the Brotherhood of the Mystic Tie id founded. Mr. Clements, on July 4, 1867, was united in the holy bonds of matrimony with Mary A. Bartlett, daughter of Henry and Caroline (Reed) Bartlett, of Fayette county, Iowa, the union being blessed with the following children: Willard B., Vida Ruth and Arthur. W. B., the oldest of the family, after being graduated from the West Union high school, entered the Upper Iowa University, in which he completed the classical course and received the degree of Bachelor of Philosophy, later graduating from the law department of the State University. After practicing several years with his father and serving one term as county attorney, he discontinued the legal profession to engage in the more healthful and satisfactory pursuit of agriculture, which he now carries on in the state of Wisconsin. Vida Ruth, the second in order of birth, became the wife of Arthur Lawyer, and died in young womanhood, just when life appeared most hopeful and promising. Arthur H., the youngest, died in his tenth year, thus leaving the parents with no children to gladden and make bright the home circle. Mr. Clements was a firm believer in revealed religion and for a number of years was an active and devoted member of the Methodist Episcopal church, being at the time of his death president of the board of trustees of trustees of the local church to which he belonged.


Mrs. Clements, who is also a Methodist, seconded her husband in all of his endeavors, professionally and socially, and for much of his success he was indebted to her kindly sympathy and active co-operation. Mr. Clements died at his home in West Union November 16, 1910, after an illness of but eight days, death resulting from a general break-down from overwork. He had been failing physically for several years and his collapse was not entirely unexpected. His funeral, held from the Methodist church on November 19th, drew from all over Iowa the largest company of prominent Freemasons ever seen in West Union. The service was in charge of Langridge Commandery, Knights Templar, West Union Lodge of Masons acting as escort. The local chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star also attended in a body, and the services were conducted by the grand commandery of Iowa Knights Templar. The floral decorations were rich and profuse. The funeral sermon, by Rev. L. A. Swisher, was largely an eulogy of Mr. Clements and a lesson drawn from his life of Christian service. Resolutions of respect were subsequently passed by the Fayette County Bar Association and the various Masonic bodies to which Mr. Clements belonged. 


~transcribed for the Fayette Co IAGenWeb Project by Ann Borden


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