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Prominent among the representative farmers and highly esteemed citizens of Franklin township is numbered George H. Easterly, whose home is on section 2. He was born in Kosciusko county, Indiana, May 18 , 1844, and on the paternal side is of German descent. His grandfather, Lawrence Easterly, Sr., was a native of Pennsylvania, and not only worked at the blacksmith's trade but also engaged in preaching as a minister of the United Brethren church. At an early day he accompanied his parents on their removal to Richland county, Ohio, where his father entered a tract of government land, and he assisted in the arduous task of clearing away the timber and placing the land under cultivation. He erected a church on the farm and also laid out a cemetery, which became his resting place, as he died in Richland county.

Lawrence Easterly, Jr., the father of our subject, was born in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, June 1, 1814, and grew to manhood on his father's farm. He married Miss Rebecca Hammon, a native of Rockingham county, Virginia, and continued to reside upon his father's farm until 1842, when he removed to Kosciusko, Indiana, where he bought one hundred and sixty acres of land, only five acres of which had been broken, the remainder being timber land. After clearing about fifty acres he came to Iowa in 1861, and spent three years in Cedar county. He then bought a farm in Greenfield township, Jones county, where he made his home until 1870, and he came to Linn county and purchased a farm on section 2, Franklin township.

There he continued to reside throughout the remainder of his life, his death occurring February 11, 1888. In his family were six children, namely: Mary Ellen, wife of Henry Towns, of Hamburg, Fremont county, Iowa; George H., our subject; Albert, a resident of Mechanicsville, Cedar county, who first married Louisa Coleman, and after her death wedded Catherine Noos; John, who married Nancy Robinson and resides in Defiance, Shelby county, Iowa; Catherine, who died at the age of one year; and Emma, wife of George Miller, a farmer of Franklin township, Linn county.

In the spring of 1861 George H. Easterly came with the family to Iowa. He had previously acquired a good practical education in the schools of Indiana, and had also gained an excellent knowledge of agricultural pursuits while aiding his father in the work of the home farm. Buying a threshing machine and breaking plow, he started out in life for himself in 1868, and for five years after his marriage he engaged in farming upon rented land. He then purchased forty acres of land from his brother, and his father gave him a tract of similar size, to which he added by subsequent purchase until he now has one hundred and sixty acres of rich and arable land on section 2, Franklin township. He has a good modern residence and substantial barns and outbuildings upon the place, and the neat and thrifty appearance of the farm plainly indicates his careful supervision and good business ability.

On the 14th of March, 1870, in Jones county, Iowa, Mr. Easterly was united in marriage with Miss Catherine Ann Spade, who was born in Marion county, Ohio, September 9, 1848, and is a daughter of Jacob and Catherine (Moyier) Spade, both natives of Pennsylvania, where they continued to make their home until after their marriage. From that state they removed to Ohio, where the father first worked at the millwright's trade, and also engaged in the marble business, and later followed farming. In 1852 he brought his family to Iowa and located on a farm in Jones county, two and a half miles east of Fairview, where he made his home for some years. He then came to live with his daughter, the wife of our subject, where he died very suddenly a few weeks later.

He had ten children, six sons and four daughters, namely: Elizabeth, wife of Emanuel Newman, of Martelle, Iowa; Passa, deceased wife of Daniel Moyier, of Adair county, Iowa; Rosina H., wife of Robert Hester, of Texas; Catherine A., wife of our subject; Elijah, who died at the age of sixteen years; John, who died in infancy; Ami, who married Rose Underwood and lives in southern Kansas; George, a resident of Martelle, Iowa; William L., who married Alice Rudisil and resides in South Dakota; and Jacob, who married Emma Brown and makes his home in the same state.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Easterly were born eight children, as follows: Ida E., born in Jones county February 25, 1871, is the wife of Samuel Doubenmier, who lives on a farm near Alburnett, Linn county, and they have one child, Fay; Esta, born in Linn county October 2, 1873, died January 21, 1893; Vadie, born February 24, 1875, is at home; Roxie, born February 27, 1877, is the wife of Charles Hill, of Mt. Vernon, and they have one child, Mary May; Willard, born October 3, 1882, is at home with his parents; Clemence, born August 10, 1881, died June 7, 1886; Huldah, born July 10, 1884, is also at home; and Delbert, born October 2, 1889, died March 9, 1897. Mrs. Easterly is a member of the Lutheran church, and the family are people of the highest respectability, who have a large circle of friends and acquaintances in the community where they reside.

Source: Biographical Record of Linn County, Iowa. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1901, p. 975-976.

CHARLES H. EASTLACKCharles H. Eastlack, who resides on section 25, Franklin township, owns and operates a valuable farm of one hundred and fifty-eight acres, whose neat and thrifty appearance well indicates his careful supervision. Substantial improvements are surrounded by well-tilled fields, and all of the accessories and conveniences of a model farm are found.

Mr. Eastlack was born in Highland county, Ohio, October 10, 1852, and is a son of John and Jershua (McVey) Eastlack, who were natives of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, respectively, and were married in Ohio. They made their home in Highland county, Ohio, until 1854, when they came to Linn county, Iowa, and located in Franklin township, where the mother died in November 15, 1859, her remains being interred in the Mt. Vernon cemetery. In 1863 the father wedded Miss Mary Shattuck, a native of New York, who died December 18, 1893, and was buried in Cedar Rapids, while he died December 19, 1883, and was laid to rest by the side of his first wife in the Mt. Vernon cemetery. By the first union he had thirteen children, namely: Isaac E. died at the age of twelve years; Keziah, deceased, was the wife of George Hardy, who lives near Leesburg, Ohio; James and William both died in childhood; Abigail died at the age of seven; Sarah is the widow of E. H. Cole and lives near Jameson, Daviess county, Missouri; Catherine is the widow of Henry Ryan and resides in Clarke county, Iowa; Anna married Washington Shantz and both are now deceased; Susan is the wife of John Stine, of Cedar Rapids; Eliza died in infancy; Rachel is the wife of Thomas Robinson, whose farm adjoins that of our subject; John W. died at the age of four years; and Charles H., our subject, completes the family. By his second union the father had two daughters: Stella, wife of Lucius Walker of Cedar Rapids; and Josephine, wife of Edward Elliott, of the same place.

The subject of this sketch was only two years old when brought by his parents to Iowa, and he was reared on the farm in Franklin township, while his education was obtained in the district schools. He was sixteen years of age when his father sold his place and removed to town, and he then worked as a farm hand for some time. Prior to his marriage, however, he purchased one hundred and twenty acres of land three miles south of Cedar Rapids, upon which he lived for four years, and on disposing of that place he bought a farm in Franklin township, consisting of two hundred acres. In 1897 he sold that farm, and purchased ninety acres of land on section 25, Franklin township, and an adjoining sixty-eight acres in Cedar county, to the cultivation and improvement of which he has since devoted his time and attention with most gratifying results. He is also engaged in buying selling and shipping stock, and probably handles more horses than all the other farmers of Linn county put together. He is also interested in the breeding of Shorthorn cattle, and in all his undertakings is meeting with marked success.

At Mt. Vernon, December 22, 1879, was celebrated the marriage of Mr. Eastlack and Miss Olive Cordes, who was born on a farm in Linn township, north of that city, April 30, 1863, and is a daughter of Christian and Ruhy (Doty) Cordes, who are still living in that locality. Her father is a German by birth. His children were Lizzie, who died at the age of five years; Olive, wife of our subject; Carrie, wife of Lee Kleinecht, a farmer living west of Mt. Vernon; Addie, wife of Barney Peddecort, a farmer living near Greene, Iowa; and John, who is at home with his parents. Mr. and Mrs. Eastlack have three children: W. Roy, born May 3, 1880, assists his father in stock buying; and Clara, born January 26, 1883, and John Earl, born July 4, 1892, are also at home with their parents.

Politically, Mr. Eastlack has always been a stanch supporter of the Republican party, and for a number of years he has most efficiently served as school director in his district. He is a trustee and active member of the United Brethren church, and is a man highly respected and esteemed by all with whom has has come in contact either in business or social life.

Source: The Biographical Record of Linn County Iowa, Illustrated, Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1901, pages 197-8.

Submitted by: Carrie J. Robertson of Marion


Mr. Abel Eddy was another of our tradesmen who was well known in our early history. He was a carpenter and joiner, his residence being on the ground now occupied by the “Granby” building, corner of Third avenue and Second street.

He erected on his lot next to his residence a long, low building in which to frame the long timbers that were used in the construction of buildings which he had contracted to erect. This building was after-wards cut up into apartments and was rented to families, the row being known under the some-what mystic title of “Long Ornery.”

Mr. Eddy was naturally a kind hearted man but unfortunately liquor had gained the mastery over him and proved his ruin. He removed many years ago to Butler county, this state, where he died.

Source: Carroll, Rev. George R., Pioneer Life In and Around Cedar Rapids, Iowa from 1839 to 1849, pages 191-2, Times Printing and Binding House, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1895.

Contributed by: Terry Carlson


For over a third of a century this gentleman was prominently identified with the commercial interests of Marion, Iowa and was numbered among its foremost citizens. He was born in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, on the 21st of February, 1842, and came with his parents to Marion, Iowa, April 6, 1856, when fourteen years of age. When a mere boy he engaged in teaming between here and Muscatine, carrying grain and produce to that city and returning with merchandise for the stores in Marion, and later he was employed as clerk in the general store of A. Daniels & Company, acquiring a good knowledge of mercantile business during the few years spent with them.

In August, 1865, he embarked in the grocery business at Marion in partnership with his brother Milton, and continued to engage in that line of trade until 1884 when he retired from business until June 1889. He then turned his attention to the lumber business, which he carried on in connection with his son-in-law for several yers under the firm name of the Elliott-Davis Lumber Company. He was also interested in the Farmers & Merchants State Bank of Marion but during the last six years of his life lived retired from active business.

On the 21st of March, 186?, Mr. Elliott was united in marriage with Miss Esther Primrose, of West Dryden, New York, who still survives him. Unto them were born three children, but Nellie, now Mrs. T. J. Davis, is the only one now living. Lavernie and George died of scarlet fever in 1878 within a few days of each other, the former at the age of eight, the latter at the age of three years.

Mr. Elliott died in Marion, April 17, 1899, and his death came as a loss to each individual of the community, as well as to his immediate family. He was one of the leading and representative citizens of Marion, as well as one of its most active and enterprising business men, ranking among its strongest men financially. He always took a prominent part in advancing any enterprise for the good of the city, and was preeminently public spirited and progressive.

One who knows him well said of Mr. Elliott that he did not lack in many of the virtues and excellencies which go to make up what is popularly termed a good man. He did not lack in any good business qualification. He was strictly and exclusively a business man, and his ambition was to make a success of business, which he did. He prospered in every undertaking and his labors were crowned with success. He disdained mean competition, low tricks in trade, which have ruined many another. He was always fair and upright; was genial, warm and cordial in his greetings in business relations, and it was a pleasure to do business with him.

Mr. Elliott did not lack in those qualities which command the respect, confidence and admiration of the people. He drew these as a merchant, citizen and man, from all classes in a marked degree. While he never held any office, he could have had any position in the gift of the people had he consented to their oft-repeated solicitations. He felt that one thing well done, one business well established and successfully built up, was far better for himself and his town than many things partially accomplished and nothing a complete success.

He liberally patronized every laudable enterprise for the improvement of the town and help of its needy. He was large and open hearted and was especially fond of children. In turn they loved him for he always had a smile, a word of cheer and a drive for all. No man was more companionable and entertaining, or thoughtful for the comfort and happiness of those about him, and he lacked in none of those qualities which constitute a good husband and father.

Source: Biographical Record of Linn County, Iowa. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1901, p. 874-877.


Ninety-three years of age, the most venerable citizen and patriarch of Cedar Rapids, no history of the city would be complete without extended mention of Robert Ellis. He came to western Iowa when this portion of the state was a great unimproved district and still a part of Wisconsin territory, the prairie covered with its native grasses, furnishing shelter to feathered game, while wild animals and Indians roamed at will over the district. Recognizing the natural advantages of the place Robert Ellis staked out a claim, and while other business interests drew him elsewhere for a time he has almost continuously resided in Cedar Rapids since that early day, or for a period of seventy-two years. It seems hardly possible that within the memory of living man this city has sprung up and grown to its present size, but the record of its development has left an indelible impress upon the memory of Mr. Ellis, who has always taken active and helpful part in the work of improvement and upbuilding here. Moreover, in this direction he has displayed marked ability and keen discernment, and success has crowned his efforts. lie is today one of the most prominent and honored citizens of Linn county.

A native of Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, Mr. Ellis was born January 20, 1817. His parents, John and Elizabeth (Cairns) Ellis, were natives of Ireland but in early life crossed the Atlantic, becoming residents of the Keystone state, where the father followed farming until his death in 1836. It was in this country that lie married Elizabeth Cairns, who died in 1840. Robert Ellis was the eldest child of that marriage and is the only survivor of his father’s children, John Ellis having had eight children by a former marriage.

In his native county Robert Ellis acquired his education and in 1837, when a young man of twenty years, started westward. He spent a year in Ohio and Michigan, and then crossed the Mississippi at Rock Island, Illinois, and followed an Indian trail through Iowa. lie spent six weeks in what is now Cedar county, but learning that there was a more beautiful section still farther west, he resumed his journey. He was then scarcely more than a boy and was without money, but he was blessed with health and strength, with courage and determination. On the 6th of May, 1838, he reached the house of Michael Donahue in Sugar Grove and there spent the night. Two days later, on the 8th of May, he approached the site of Cedar Rapids. As he drew near from the east he was charmed with the view that was presented. Not knowing the exact location of the men who had settled here he was unable to decide which way to go, but observing the signs of travel in the brush near him he followed the stream and suddenly came upon a rude shanty which showed every indication of recent habitation by a white man. No person, however, was in sight. A path led to the river and down this Robert Ellis walked with rapid stride, lie had gone but a few steps when he beheld a sight which thrilled him with horror. There at his feet in a patch of gardening which was being dug up for seeding, lay the body of a man apparently lifeless. Mr. Ellis says that he could feel his hair rise under his hat at the sight. The solemnity of the- place, the desolation, the distance from civilization and the surprise of the situation all tended to increase the horror to the lonely traveler wbo thus stood face to face with the spectre of death. He was no coward but involuntarily he shouted aloud. The shout was as startling as the discovery and with the first sound the body suddenly stood erect. The situation was certainly novel. “Hello, stranger! Well I swan!” said the man. Explanations quickly followed. It seems that the pioneer farmer had become weary and had thrown himself on the ground in the warm sunshine for sleep. Such was the introduction of Mr. Ellis to Cedar Rapids. The man proved to be Phillip Hull, one of the first settlers in this part of the state.

Charmed with the country, Mr. Ellis secured a claim on the bluff overlooking the river where he now has his home. He marked out his one hundred and sixty acres by guess, as there was no surveyor here, blazing the trees to show the land had been taken. He made no improvements thereon, however, until it came into the market in 1840, in which year George Greene succeeded in having the government land office changed temporarily from Dubuque to Marion. In the meantime Mr. Ellis worked in different ways in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and other states, while his friends looked out for his claim for him, which cost him a dollar and a quarter per acre. There were indeed few families in this locality ‘when he arrived in Cedar Rapids in 1838. From that time he took an active and helpful part in the early development of the city and county. In 1844 or 1845 he purchased four thousand bushels of wheat for a Dubuque firm. He found it necessary to construct three flatboats near Palo on which to load the wheat, and then proceeded down the Cedar to Burlington. He found the firm unable, on account of the money panic, to meet their obligation in currency, so they gave him flour in exchange, which he took down the Mississippi to New Orleans. He found that city affected also by the panic and on the deal just came out even.

In 1849, while in the pineries of Minnesota, Mr. Ellis read Governor Mason’s report of the discovery of gold in California and resolved to make his way to the mines. He crossed the plains by way of Council Bluffs to the Platte river and remained on the coast for six or seven years, returning to Cedar Rapids in 1856 — the year in which the city charter was granted. He then secured a man to assist him in building a frame house, a part of which is still standing on his original claim. From that time to the present he has been closely associated with Cedar Rapids and her improvement.

On the 2d of July, 1857, Mr. Ellis was married to Miss Martha L. King, a daughter of William and Catherine (Ambrose) King. The mother was twice married, her first husband being a Mr. Listerbarger. Mrs. Ellis was born in Pennsylvania and died September 29, 1899. She was a member of the First Presbyterian church and was held in the highest esteem by all who knew her. There were nine children in the family, of whom the eldest is deceased, the others being: King W., Elizabeth, Herman R., Charles G., Ralph R., Amanda, Wirt N. and George W.

In his political views Mr. Ellis has been a stalwart republican from the organization of the party and has served as township trustee and as president of the school district, but the honors and emoluments of office have had little attraction for him. He has preferred to labor for the public interest along other lines and he has witnessed marvelous changes in the surroundings during the long period of his residence here. He is today the oldest resident in Linn county and he relates many interesting tales and stories of pioneer times, when the red men roamed at will over this section of the country, when deer and other wild game were frequently seen and when one could travel for miles without coming to a habitation or an indication that the seeds of civilization were being planted on the western frontier. In the early days he bought cattle and hogs and sold them at an Indian agency, also at Fort Atkinson and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. All who know him — and he has a most wide ‘acquaintance — have ever realized that he is a generous man and a liberal-minded citizen. As the years passed on he made investment in property and became the owner of valuable landholdings. In 1901 the city purchased from Mr. Ellis forty-seven acres of his original claim and converted it into a park which was named in his honor Ellis Park. Because of the use to which it was to be put Mr. Ellis sold it at half its actual value, thus making a most generous donation to the city. Ellis Park is now one of the beauty spots of Cedar Rapids and will forever perpetuate the memory of the man whose name it bears.

Source: History of Linn County Iowa From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Vol. II, Chicago, 1911. Pages 640-644.

Contributed by: Terry Carlson

George R. Carroll's biography of Robert Ellis


The coming of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander L. Ely, through the influence of Judge Greene, to our community in 1842, was an important event in our history.

Many long years have gone by since Mr. Ely passed from us, but I must be permitted to lay one little wreath upon the green turf that has so long covered his mortal remains. A kinder heart never beat in any man’s breast than in his. A more generous, purer or nobler spirit than his never animated any man’s body. He was always and everywhere the polished, courtly, Christian gentleman, and yet so modest and so gentle and kind in his bearing, that even the most timid child in his rustic, pioneer garb, felt at ease in his presence, and proud at his polite recognition.

From the time of his coming, a new moral and religious impetus was given to the community, which has been felt from that day to this, and which will continue to be felt, I doubt not, to the end of time.

Of his decided Christian character and his scrupulous regard for the Sabbath, the late Rev. Glen Wood wrote some years ago: “Brother A. L. Ely was a man of God, who did not leave his religion behind him when he came west, but came forward a pioneer of the Hosts of the Lord, to plant the standard of the cross, and take possession of the land in the name of the Lord Jehovah. When he had built his mill, which was a great event in those days, the tidings had spread far and wide; and the farmers came rushing in with their grists. Many of them thought to ‘take time by the forelock,’ and so made their calculations to arrive Saturday night or Sunday morning, that they might have their grinding done on the Lord’s day.

“What was their surprise when their sleep was broken at midnight by the ceasing of the music at the mill. Ah! There was a man of God running that mill; and when the Sabbath day had come, all work must cease there. No considerations could induce him to start up again until the whole of that day had passed. Here is one of the secrets of the success of Cedar Rapids.”

Added to the social and moral influence which he exerted was the new impetus which he gave to the business and commercial interest of the place. Mr. N. B. Brown had built the temporary dam across the river and had erected a small saw-mill and grist-mill; but his means were at that time quite limited, and his mills were inadequate to meet the growing demands of the country.

The erection of a more permanent dam and of the larger, more substantial and stately mills by Mr. Ely, with a capacity of the more extensive manufacture of lumber and flour, and of a finer grade, gave such an impulse to our business interests as we had not hitherto enjoyed, and the influence of which has ever since been felt in a marked degree. Mr. Ely’s mill, when completed, was the largest and best in the State.

If the erection of a common dwelling, such as the early pioneers inhabited, was very difficult to accomplish, how much more so was the erection of this splendid mill? True, they began to have saw-mills and lumber at that time, but there were so many other disadvantages to labor under in the erection of such a building, that it seemed, as it truly was, a gigantic undertaking.

In the prosecution of this great enterprise, there were obstacles to be encountered of such a magnitude as few at this day can have any just conception. To meet and overcome them required courage and determination such as few men possess. And yet Mr. Ely never faltered in his course till the work was accomplished and the victory fairly won.

There were times, not a few, during the four years in which this work was going on, when the entire force of mechanics were disabled by sickness and the work had to stop short. On account of this, months of precious time were lost each year, causing great discouragement and expense.

There was no railroad then nearer than Jackson the old capital of Michigan, and all of the heavy machinery for the mill had to be shipped from New York by water via New Orleans, and was landed at Bloomington, now Muscatine, from whence it was transported over land to this place.

Such were some of the hardships and sacrifices and heroic efforts that it cost to lay the foundations of our present prosperous city and community. It was the saddest day that this community had ever experienced, when this good man, this justly distinguished citizen, honored and loved by all, on the ninth day of July 1848 passed away from us to his home in a brighter and better world than this.

Source: Carroll, Rev. George R., Pioneer Life In and Around Cedar Rapids, Iowa from 1839 to 1849, pages 157-160, Times Printing and Binding House, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1895.

Contributed by: Terry Carlson

JOHN FELLOWS ELY, M.D. (from 1911 Linn County History)

Ely, John Fellows, M.D., is a descendant of Nathaniel Ely, who was one of Thomas Hooker's congregation, about 200 in number, that received a special permit from King Charles I to emigrate to the New England colony and there to worship God without restriction. They sailed from Ipswich in 1634 and settled in Newtown, now Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1636 Thomas Hooker, with about 100 others, including Nathaniel Ely, removed to Hartford, Connecticut. In 1649 , Nathaniel Ely, with others, laid out the town of Norwalk, Connecticut. He was selectman in 1656 and representative to the General Court the next year. He settled permanently in 1659 at Springfield, Massachusetts, and his descendants are now found in all parts of the country. They are generally distinguished as worthy and patriotic citizens.

Elisha Ely, the father of John F., was a native of Springfield, Massachusetts, and became one of the earliest settlers of Rochester, New York. He built the first flouring mill, and was also a member of the first mercantile firm in that city. In the war of 1812 he became prominent in the defense of the United States stores at Hanford's Landing, being a captain in the militia regiment of Colonel Isaac Stone. In June, 1814, this regiment, about 800 strong, encamped at the mouth of the Genesee river, and on the approach of the British fleet under Sir James Yeo the men were so maneuvered as to display apparently a very large force, and also to appear strongly fortified. This effect was produced by "Quaker guns" - huge logs of wood painted black and mounted on earthworks. The enemy were completely deceived and delayed landing until the near approach of Commodore Chauncy compelled them to retire. Thus were saved the government stores, valued at about $3,000,000. Captain Ely's company subsequently engaged in the battles of Lundy's Lane and Bridgewater. Captain Ely's brother, Alexander, was one of Major Andre's guards, and was present at the execution of the death sentence upon him. Dr. Ely's mother was Hannah Dickinson of Hadley, Massachusetts. She was descended from a long line of worthy religious ancestry, originally from England.

John F. Ely was born June 25, 1821, in Rochester, New York, and was the eighth of ten children. At the age of 11 years he was fitted for college at the high school. His mother dying of cholera in 1832 and the family being broken up, he was sent the next year to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he spent three years on the farm of Colonel Prentice Williams. His winters were devoted to study of civil engineering at Stockbridge Academy. Among his classmates were Cyrus W. and Henry Field, the youngest of the noted Field brothers. From school he went to the home of his father in Allegan, Michigan, where for several years his occupation was varied, being surveyor and deputy in several township and county offices. Before and during the Polk and Clay campaign he conducted a Democratic paper, the Allegan Record. During this period, under an able tutor, he prepared himself for entering the third term of the sophomore year at college. His health then failing, he was let to the study of medicine and surgery. In 1845 he went to New York and was for three years in the office of Professor Willard Parker, then one of the most noted surgeons of this country. In the last year he was the professor's office assistant, and selected patients for his college clinics. In March, 1848, he received his degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons. The summer of that year was spent at Holland, Michigan, in teaching the Dutch doctors how to treat properly the common bilious remittent fever, which was prevalent and quite fatal in the new colony. In October, 1848, he went to Cedar Rapids, his brother Alexander having died there three months before, leaving a large estate. This city was then but in embryo, having only about 150 people. Besides giving attention to his brother's affairs he became interested in the water power, and soon owned what was then considered the best flouring mill in the state, and also a fine sawmill. In connection with Greene Brothers and N. B. Brown, the other owners of the power, he built, in 1850, the first permanent mill dam across the Cedar river. In 1854 he became associated with H. G. Angle in the milling, real estate and mercantile business. This, together with medical and surgical practice, was continued till the summer of 1862, when he sold out to his partner and entered the United States service as a surgeon of the Twenty-fourth Iowa infantry. He was appointed brigade surgeon by General Clinton B. Fiske, then at Helena, Arkansas, and afterwards medical director of General A. P. Hovey's Twelfth Division, Thirteenth Army Corps. His most active service was in the Vicksburg campaign, participating in nearly all the battles leading up to the siege of that stronghold. He resigned June 9, 1863, in consequence of acute illness. For three years after he was unable to pursue any active business, and to the present time he has never fully recovered from the effects of this disability. However, his circumstances enabled him by frequent changes of climate to so conserve his health as to survive nearly all his contemporaries of the early days of Cedar Rapids, and nearly all of this associates in the subsequent large enterprises which have given to that city its present growth and prosperity.

His early training fitted him for railway construction. His first experience in this line was in the summer of 1857, when he undertook the completion of the first section of the Marquette & Ontonagon railroad, from Marquette to the Lake Superior mine, seventeen miles in length, six of which had been constructed by Dr. Ely's brothers, Herman B., Samuel P. and George H. He was a director and prominent in the construction of the Chicago, Iowa & Nebraska railway from Clinton to Cedar Rapids. He was the bearer of $2,700, subscribed by himself and townsmen, to Clinton, which sum paid for the first grading at Clinton on this line. He was also a director in and actively engaged in building the Cedar Rapids & Missouri River railroad from Cedar Rapids to Council Bluffs. He was also largely identified with the construction of the Iowa Falls & Sioux City railway, and of a line from Hannibal to St. Charles, Missouri. In 1869, with his associates in Cedar Rapids and Burlington, he commenced the construction of the Cedar Rapids, Burlington & Minnesota railway, the main line of which extended from Burlington to Plymouth Junction. This with its branches from Cedar Rapids to Postville, from Muscatine to Riverside, and from Vinton to Traer, in all 369 miles, was completed in 1874. During this time he was vice president and treasurer of the company. The general offices and shops were subsequently located in Cedar Rapids. He served in the city council in its earlier days; and some years since, when the treasurer of the State Agricultural College became a defaulter, he was appointed by the Governor to fill the place. Prior to the war he was a Democrat. He has since been identified with the Republican party. For many years he has been an honored member of the G. A. R., also of the Society of the Army of the Tennessee, and of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion. He is a member of the First Presbyterian church of Cedar Rapids, and for many years has been its honored senior elder. He was married in January, 1853, to Mrs. Mary A. Ely, daughter of John Weare, Sr., late of Cedar Rapids. Of his three children there is now surviving but one son, John S. Ely, prominent among the young business men of Cedar Rapids.

Source: Biographies and Portraits of Progressive Men of Iowa; Leaders in Business, Politics and the Professions; Together with an Original and Authentic History of the State, Des Moines, Conaway & Shaw, 1899.

Contributed by Terry Carlson

John F. Ely, M. D. (From Carroll's book)

There is no man now living, of the early settlers in Cedar Rapids, who is more widely known, nor more highly respected than Dr. John F. Ely. He was born in Rochester, N.Y., June 25th, 1821. From his third year, his time was mostly spent in school, and he was fitted for college at the early age of eleven years.

It was then decided that he be placed on a farm in Stockbridge, Mass., where he remained three years. Thence he went to his father’s home in Western Michigan, and was there engaged in various pursuits up to the year 1844. He loved hunting and fishing, devoted some time to surveying and engineering, held several official positions in the town and county, and in the years 1843-44 was the owner and publisher of a democratic paper of some little note. From 1844 his attention was devoted to the study of medicine and surgery. He went to N. Y. in 1845, and graduated at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1848. After the death of his brother Alexander, in July of the same year, he came to this place to settle up the affairs of his estate, and from that time to the present he has been prominently identified with the growth and prosperity of Cedar Rapids.

Immediately on coming here Dr. Ely took position as one of the most scientific and well equipped physicians in the state, and his services were in great demand. In difficult cases of surgery and in many complicated diseases that prevailed, his counsels and advice were always sought, by his brethren of the medical profession. His large and growing business interest along other lines, interfered seriously with the practice of his profession, but his skill as a physician was so highly appreciated that he found it quite impossible, for many years, to lay aside his medical practice.

During the war he was commissioned as surgeon of the 24th Iowa Vol., Inf., where he served for about one year, when broken down in health by the exposures and hardships of the service, he was compelled to resign his commission and return to his home. The Doctor has been, in years past, largely interested in real estate, railroad construction and other public enterprises, but of late years his health has been such as to require him to lay aside all his business cares, his son John S. Ely, assuming these duties and responsibilities.

For many years the doctor has been a ruling elder in the First Presbyterian church, and his activity in all its various branches of benevolence is well known in the community. His deep interest in Home and Foreign Missions has always been one of the marked characteristics of his life. He was united in marriage to Mrs. Mary A. Ely in January, 1853. Of Mrs. Ely, it seems almost superfluous for me to speak here. She is probably more widely known, and more universally esteemed than any other woman that has ever lived here, whether in early times or in later years. No one has done more to mould society and to establish benevolent and Christian institutions in our city than she. Being a member of the First Presbyterian church, her influence and her labors of love were never confined within the narrow denominational lines of her own church, but every church, and every good cause has always found in her a ready and efficient helper.

Many of her benevolent acts have been too important and too far reaching to be concealed, but multitudes more of her kindly and helpful acts, performed without display, have never come to light. The sick have been ministered to, the sorrowing have been comforted, the poor who have had to struggle with poverty, have been assisted, and the desponding have been encouraged, and yet so little show was made of it that one can tell the extent of these benefactions. Many a young man, and many a young woman have been helped in their endeavors to obtain an education, when failure would have been the result without her timely aid.

Mrs. Ely is still a resident of our city, although much of the time she is absent during the extremes of heat and cold, in climates better adapted to her somewhat infirm condition of health. That her life and health may long be spared is the earnest wish and prayer of her hosts of friends, all over the country.

Dr. and Mrs. Ely were the parents of two children, John Stoney, and Mary Dickinson. The last named, a young lady of great promise and rare attractions, died November 6, 1880. Mr. John S. Ely is one of our prominent young business men, well and favorably known in our community where he has always lived.

Source: Carroll, Rev. George R., Pioneer Life In and Around Cedar Rapids, Iowa, from 1839 to 1849, Times Printing and Binding House, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1895. p.130-133.

Contributed by Terry Carlson


John S. Ely is one of the public spirited citizens of Cedar Rapids to whose energy and enterprise the city is indebted for many improvements. While Mr. Ely, as a prosperous business man, has given close attention to his private affairs, he has never forgotten or ignored that bond of common interest which should unite the people of every community and is a liberal supporter of all philanthropic work.

Mr. Ely was born in Cedar Rapids on the 18th of November, 1853, and is a son of John F. and Mary A. (Weare) Ely, who are represented on another page of this volume. His elementary education was obtained in the one school house afforded during his boyhood. Later he entered Princeton College, where he pursued a classical course and was graduated in 1877, with the degree of A. B. During the following two years he was engaged in mining in Utah, and at the end of that time returned to Cedar Rapids, where he has since made his home.

For a time he held a position in the office of the Williams Harvester Works, and has since engaged in various lines of business, in which he has been quite successful. At present he is devoting his time and energies to the real estate business, and is also serving as vice-president, secretary and treasurer of the Cedar Rapids & Marion City Railway Company, with which he has been connected since its organization and has always held some office in the company.

In 1881 Mr. Ely was married in Cedar Rapids to Miss Bessie E. Shaver, a native of Vinton, Iowa, and a daughter of I. H. Shaver, of Cedar Rapids, and to them have been born four children, namely: John M., Mary Esther, Frederick S. and Martha W., three of whom are either attending the public schools or Coe College of Cedar Rapids.

Politically Mr. Ely is identified with the Republican party, and takes an active interest in its welfare, while fraternally he affiliates with the Sons of Veterans and the Loyal Legion. He and his wife are both connected with the First Presbyterian Church, and she is a very active worker in church societies, and also in the Ladies' Literary Societies of the city. Mr. Ely is truly benevolent, and the poor and needy count him among their friends for no worthy one ever sought his aid in vain.

He has always been especially active in philanthropical work, and was instrumental in organizing the home for aged women, of which he is now trustee. He is also a trustee of the Young Men's Christian Association and of Coe College, giving the latter institution his special care. His private interests must always give way to the public good, and thus he has become honored and esteemed by all who have the pleasure of his acquaintance who have met him in a business way.

Source: Biographical Record of Linn County, Iowa. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1901, p. 927-928.


Among the enterprising and successful business men of Marion must be numbered Charles W. Emery, a prominent contractor and builder residing at No. 1137 Ninth avenue. He was born on the 14th of June, 1851, in Maine, of which state his parents, Gilmore and Elizabeth (Challies) Emery were life-long residents. His paternal grandparents were Jeremiah and Rosilla Emery, the former of whom was born in England and came to this country with his father about 1790 and located in what is now known as Emery’s Mill, North Shapley, Maine. This village was built by them and named after them. The father also bore the name of Jeremiah. Our subject’s maternal grandparents were Sumner and Susan Challies. The father was a molder by trade, but followed the occupation of the Union during the Civil war, enlisting in 1863 in the Second Maine Cavalry. He participated in the siege and capture of Mobile, and remained in active service until hostilities ceased, being honorably discharged in September, 1865. Fortunately he was never wounded nor taken prisoner. Both he and his wife were members of the Freewill Baptist church, and were highly respected by all who knew them. He was born in 1829, and died in 1894, while she was born in 1828, and departed this life in 1890.

Unto this worthy couple were born twelve children, namely: Alvira, who died at the age of a year and a half; Eugene, who died at the age of thirty-nine; Charles W., our subject; Anna, who died at the age of seven years; George, who has been foreman in an iron foundry at Lowell, Massachusetts, for twenty-one years; Ida, wife of a Mr. Eastman, of Lynn, Massachusetts; Ellsworth, a resident of Greenfield, New Hampshire; Nellie and Anna , residents of Boston; Agnes, who is married; Sadie, wife of John Marsh; and Frank, a conductor on the Boston & Maine Railroad. Of those living all reside in the old Bay state with exception of our subject.

Charles W. Emery received a common school education in Maine, and at the age of sixteen commenced learning the carpenter’s trade, which he had thoroughly mastered on attaining his majority. He was in the employ of the Boston & Albany railroad until the fall of the great Chicago fire in October 1871, when he left the road with the intention of going to that city, but finally decided to locate in Boston and worked on many of the best buildings of that city. In 1873 he helped refit the Boyleston Street Bank, then one of the most pretentious buildings of Boston, and also aided in refitting the old public library building. He was there when the Boston fire was raging, and well remembers what a wild night it was. On leaving that city in the spring of 1875, Mr. Emery came to Marion, Iowa, and in the employ of the St. Paul Railroad Company assisted in building the depots from Marion to Council Bluffs on the C. M. & St. P. Railroad. On the completion of the latter he left the employ of that corporation, and for fifteen years has engaged in contracting the building in Marion. He has erected some of the largest buildings in the place, including the Farmers & Merchants Bank, the electric light plant, and many dwellings. He does a large business and has had as many as twenty men in his employ at one time.

Mr. Emery was married in 1877 to Miss Ida E. Aldrich, a native of Illinois, and a daughter of Nelson and Hannah Aldrich, whose early home was near Worcester, Massachusetts. They now reside in New Jersey, at the age of seventy and seventy-two years, respectively. Their children were Sarah L., who died at the age of six years; Ida E., wife of our subject; Cora D., wife of William Frazier, whose home adjoins that of Mr. Emery in Marion; Lillie, who died at the age of twelve years; Edith, wife of John Gilligan, of New Jersey; Ina, at home with her parents; and Eva, wife of Ellis Farows. Mrs. Emery’s paternal grandparents were Acel and Phebe Aldrich.

The children born to our subject and his wife and Fannie; Ella, wife of Fred Whitehead, of Cedar Rapids; and Lizzie, a student in the Marion schools. Mrs. Emery and all the children are members of the Congregational church, and the family is widely and favorably known. Fraternally, Mr. Emery is a Knight Templar Mason. He is also a member of the Modern Woodmen of America, and has been head consul in his camp for six years. He has also been a member of the Marion Fire Department for eighteen years. He belongs now to the “G. B. Owens Hose Co.” one of the crack drill teams of the state. In his political affiliations he is a stanch Democrat. As a representative business man and highly esteemed citizen of Marion he is certainly deserving of honorable mention in the history of his adopted county.

Source: Biographical Record of Linn County, Iowa. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1901, p. 215-217.

Contributed by Terry Carlson


Linn county has many wide-awake and energetic business men whose early home was on the other side of the Atlantic, and prominent among them is John Engstrom, a merchant tailor of Marion, whose place of business is over the post office. He was born in Sweden April 14, 1853, and is the only one of his family to come to America. His parents were John and Ana Engstrom, the former of whom died in 1874, aged sixty-one years, the latter in 1894, aged seventy-seven. Both were earnest and consistent members of the Swedish Lutheran church. They had six sons, five of whom are still living in Sweden.

Mr. Engstrom, of this sketch, received a common school education in the land of his birth, and there learned the tailor's trade, which he followed as a journeyman for a time and later conducted a shop of his own. In 1883 he emigrated to the United States and first located in Chicago, where he worked one year. The following year was spent in Lacon, Illinois, and for over a year he lived at Storm Lake, Iowa. On the 21st of January, 1887, he came to Marion and has since engaged in business at this place as a merchant tailor. He keeps samples of all kinds and varieties of cloth from which his customers can select their suits, and his work always gives a high degree of satisfaction. He is therefore doing a thriving business and enjoys the largest trade of any establishment of the kind in the city.

At Storm Lake, Iowa, April 22, 1886, was celebrated the marriage of Mr. Engstrom and Miss Christina Magnuson, also a native of Sweden and a daughter of Magnus Ingeborge, who spent his entire life in that country. By this union have been born six children, namely: George, Anna, Gust, Norma, and Ruth and Rudolph, twins. All are now attending the public schools of Marion. Mr. and Mrs. Engstrom are both members of the Methodist Episcopal church, and he also belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Modern Woodmen of America, and the Masonic fraternity. In politics he is a supporter of the Republican party and its principles. He is an upright, reliable man and is held in high esteem by his fellow citizens.

Source: The Biographical Record of Linn County Iowa, Illustrated, Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1901, pages 59-60.

Submitted by: Terry Carlson

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