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Fayette County, Iowa
Past and Present of Fayette County Iowa, 1910
Author: G. Blessin
B. F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana
Vol. I, Biographical Sketches
Col. Charles W. Bopp
Photo in Source Book
The life of the eminent and successful business man, though filled to repletion with activity and incident, presents fewer salient features to excite the interest of the general reader than the man whose place in the public eye has been won through the glamour and display of military or political achievement. But to acquire distinction or great prosperity in the business pursuits which give to the country its financial strength and credit, requires ability of as high, if not higher, order than that which leads to victory on the field of battle. This will be readily appreciated by all who tread the business thoroughfare of trade. Ordinarily, merit may attain a respectable position and enjoy a moderate competence, but to spring from the common walks of life to a conspicuous place of monetary credit and power can only be the fortune of a rarely gifted personage. Eminent business talent is composed of a combination of high mental and moral attributes. It is not simply energy and industry; there must be sound judgment, breadth of capacity, rapidity of thought, justice and firmness, the foresight to perceive the course of drifting tides of business and the will and ability to control them, and, withal, a collection of minor, but important, qualities to regulate the details of the pursuits which engage attention.
Col. Charles W. Bopp, president of the first National Bank of Hawkeye, Iowa, affords an example of this talent, if not in its highest development, yet an extraordinary character, and notwithstanding the somewhat limited theater of his operations he has achieved a reputation which places him among the first of upper Iowa's eminent financiers and distinguished business men.
Colonel Bopp was born on the family homestead near Hawkeye, Fayette county, Iowa, on March 23, 1868, and he grew to manhood in this vicinity. After finishing the usual course in the country schools he attended Ainsworth's Academy in West Union, Iowa, for several terms and later spent several years in the Iowa State Normal School at Cedar Falls, where he was ever studious and enjoyed the confidence of the professors of the college, which in later years proved a valuable asset to him. At that time he had in mind the career of a professional teacher and took an active interest in everything pertaining to school work, both in its relation to the pupils and the parents.
Thus exceptionally well equipped for most any kind of a career, Charles W. Bopp began life by teaching, which he followed with remarkable success for a period of seven years in Fayette county, during which time his services were in great demand, he being popular with both pupil and patron. He found his experience as a teacher very valuable in the development of personal self-control, and in studying human nature, in its many sided ways, as it was presented by large numbers of pupils; these lessons were valuable in all his later life and aided greatly in the success of his business career. But believing that the business world held greater opportunities for him, and that his talents lay along commercial lines, he abandoned the school-room and in August, 1890, became associated with the Cary Safe Company, of Buffalo, New York, as a traveling salesman. He proved to be a phenomenal success as a sales agent, and by dint of industry, close application to business, and by applying the rudiments of saving inculcated in him during his early education, he saved considerable money and was regarded by the firm as one of its most efficient and trustworthy employees.
During his vacations while a teacher, the subject found employment in the sale of subscription books, in which he had unusual success and it was while he was showing up the merits of one of the books that he attracted the attention of president H. D. Cary of the Cary Safe Company, who insisted on his trying the larger and more difficult work. He started out on a salary of nine hundred dollars per year and expenses, which had been increased before the close of the first year to two thousand four hundred dollars per year and expenses. From that time on his advancement as a salesman was very rapid, until in 1900 his company made the claim that he was the most successful safe salesman in the world. At that time he was receiving a salary of seven thousand two hundred dollars per year and all expenses, and two months off during each year. However, he found that the strain was telling on his very strong constitution and he decided to gradually go out of the work. In 1898 he made an effort to enlist in the Cuban war, but was rejected on account of the loss of a small toe from an accident in early life.
In the spring of 1900, in company with his brother, J. W., Colonel Bopp went to Europe, taking the southern route via Gibraltar and Naples. They made a leisurely tour of all the countries in Europe west of Turkey and Russia, excepting Spain, Norway and Sweden, returning home late in the fall of the year. They visited all the capitals, many important fortifications and nearly all the large cities, spending a month in Paris during the time of the exposition. They also visited the Passion Play at Ober Ammergau. During this trip Col. Bopp had an unusual opportunity to visit the art galleries, museums and places of scenic interest in all parts of the country, the trip including a passage across the Alps over the route taken by Napoleon, and a climb to very near the summit of Mt. Blanc. On this trip Col. Bopp visited the birthplace of his parents on the Rhine. He also spent several weeks in visiting places of interest along that historic river. His parents lived in the village where Napoleon's army crossed the river on their memorable retreat from Moscow, and he later spent a day on the battle field of Waterloo, which finished up the military career of the great Napoleon, whose fortunes Col. Bopp's grandfather, on his father's side, had followed for eight years, in almost continuous warfare.
Col. Bopp is a born traveler and has a very great faculty for getting the very best out of a trip and his first tour to Europe left him with considerable of a [sic] desire to go over some of the territory a second time. Accordingly, in 1902, the year of King Edward's coronation, he made a second tour of France, Belgium and Holland, and also visited the principal points of interest in Norway and Sweden, including a trip to the North Cape, where he enjoyed seeing the midnight sun. During these journeys, he made a large collection of paintings, works of art, with photographs and views of the principal places he visited. He was a careful observer and from the storehouse of his recollection, can bring up a very interesting and instructive conversation for his friends at any time. He has added to his own observations the careful reading of works on travel by others, and very few men have a more comprehensive knowledge of European countries, customs and conditions than he has. During his trips in Europe, he had the unusual privileges of going through the national banks of all the capitals which he visited, and inspected their vault work and their means for the protection of the national funds in case of war. These visits were nearly always made with four special guards, a turnkey and an interpreter, and it is not likely that a half dozen men in all America have ever had a similar privilege and experience. He has a peculiar faculty of mapping out matters so that nothing will be left undone to bring about the results he wishes to attain. This faculty was a great help to him in arranging for special privileges, during his travels, both in this country and abroad. In other words, he is a good fighter, not disposed to be put of on account of ceremony or special privileges. If he wants anything, he wants it, and generally manages to get it. He has made it a habit all his life of doing thoroughly whatever he took up.
This is illustrated in a measure by his standing as a Mason. After joining the order, he was not satisfied until he had gone well to the top, and for a good many years has been a thirty-second-degree Mason. He is also an Odd Fellow, and was instrumental with others in building a hall for the society in the town of Hawkeye. In 1898 he donated to the town of Hawkeye its present large, well-equipped public library, together with the books. This institution is now well established and has a large and intelligent patronage, and is being added to all the time in the way of new and interesting books. This library has a regular librarian and is governed by the rules and regulations applying to public libraries. It is a great credit to the town and is the only public library in any city or town in the county.
In 1894, Colonel Bopp, with his brothers, established the Bopp Brothers State Bank of Hawkeye, Iowa, with a capital of twenty-five thousand dollars, which they later converted into the First National Bank of Hawkeye.
After traveling in practically every state in the Union, Col. Bopp resigned his position with the Cary Safe Company and assumed active management it has become known throughout the entire country as "The Bank That is Doing Things." Its offers are Charles W. Bopp, president; Will E. Bopp, vice-president; E.L. Bopp, cashier. These officers seem to possess excellent business acumen and their bank is one of the safest and most popular of this section of the state. After building a handsome brick block for their bank, when it was established, he, with his brothers, also built a number of others of the best brick buildings now in Hawkeye, which added very largely to the upbuilding of the town. He, with his brothers, have done more for the upbuilding of their hometown than any other family that has ever lived in it. They have always been ready with time and money for every public enterprise or movement for the betterment of its business, its buildings, or its management.
It is not often that a man with Col. Bopp's opportunities and accomplishments is willing to settle down in his hometown and give his time and talents for its upbuilding and the benefit of his old neighbors. However, he is philosophical about his life habits and has come to the conclusion that happiness does not consist so much in having unduly large possessions or extraordinary honors, but that it consists in doing well the work which comes to his hands, and being satisfied with the many blessings that surround us all, if we have the capacity to see them. He has seen the best advantages any state in the Union has to offer, and has a personal acquaintance with a very large portion of its public men, particularly those of the West, and has come to the conclusion that there is no exceptional honor without a sense of great responsibility and personal sacrifice in other directions. With that view of life, he aims to get as much good out of each day as good health, good spirits and congenial surroundings enable him to enjoy.
For many years he has taken great interest in politics from the standpoint of good government and with intelligent interest in public affairs, which should be a part of the duty of every good citizen. He has probably known more of the public men of Iowa than any other man of his age who has ever lived in the state. This acquaintance was largely acquired while traveling through the state in the interest of the Cary Safe Company. He has never had any desire for office, but accepted the complimentary position of aid-de-camp on the staff of Governor A.B. Cummins of Iowa for six years, with the rank of colonel. He has visited all the national expositions in this country, since the Columbian Exposition of Chicago, and is thoroughly familiar with the best that has been produced in this and other countries.
In 1904 Col. Bopp was married to Elizabeth L. Miller, a lady of culture and refinement, formerly of West Union, Iowa, being a representative of an excellent old family. She presides over her beautiful home with rare grace and dignity, and, like her husband, is popular with a wide circle of friends throughout the county. Col. Bopp is very fond of children, and has been a great favorite of the little ones wherever they have known him all his lifetime. He has always been ready and willing to contribute to their pleasure in the way of entertainment, instruction and amusement, and is a thorough believer in the best possible facilities in every public school. This comes in part from his training and experience as a teacher and in part from his sympathy with children. He is a great admirer of anything which is artistic and in all his undertakings, in the way of buildings and in any matter of public improvement, insists that the element of beauty and pleasing outlines are as important as actual utility. Col. Bopp is also a considerable writer of current literature and has prepared many articles on special subjects for papers and magazines. He is a clear and very forceful writer, with ideas generally in advance of the ordinary citizen. His wide experience and observation as a traveler have given him an unusual fund of material for comparison and suggestion, and if he has seen anything good at some other point, he is always anxious to have it adopted and made available in his local surroundings. He is rather outspoken in his manner of expressing himself, and has small patience with useless ceremony or that which has no real merit back of it. He gets that from the wholesome teachings of his parents, who also inculcated his habits of thrift and gave him a boundless energy, and who taught him that only the good and useful was worthy of serious effort. He is a great admirer of good music and good plays, and whenever possible is a liberal patron of first-class talent in that line. He enjoys anything which has real merit and is good, whether it is along his own particular line of activities or not.
A few years after leaving the State Normal School Col. Bopp had the honor of being referred to by the president of that institution as one of the most successful and enterprising students who had ever gone out from its classes, and he has been known by every public man in Iowa for a long time as one of the most successful of the remarkable family of Bopp boys. He has a wide circle of friends who find him loyal and liberal, and is a good illustration of the opportunities afforded to the boys and girls of this county if they have energy and good personal habits. He has always been in the habit of doing everything he had before him in a thorough and systematic way; when he plowed corn or made hay or fed stock on the old farm, it was done well; when he was in school and depending on his own earnings to get an education, he worked hard and did his work well; when he went out into the larger field of a traveling representative for a large house to carry out the most difficult line of salesmanship, which any young man can undertake, he did his work thoroughly and well. As a traveler under varying conditions, he observed everything carefully and closely with no waste time, and this habit has been characteristic of him in business, in politics and in all his works with his fellow citizens. What he does may be depended upon to be done promptly, thoroughly and well, and is an excellent example of a successful young man not yet in the prime of life, who has come up from a family of European immigrants, settling on the wild and cheerless prairies of what is now Fayette county, Iowa, and succeeding against many adverse circumstances, by the teachings of his enterprising and economic parents and his own boundless energy and determination.
~transcribed by Mary Thiele Fobian
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