The Wapello Republican
June 18, 1981, Section B, Page 16

Transcribed by Shirley Plumb, July 13, 2018
(newsprint very faded in places and hard to read)


    In the early settlement of the Iowa towns, cities and villages, all were on or near the Mississippi river. From St. Louis to Dubuque, on either side of the river trading posts to ship produce down the river and goods back, were established, and near them the farmer located to raise the produce to sell and exchange. Land and other government offices were established to accommodate the settlers as they entered this new domain. In this strip of country bordering the river came, or sprang into existence, a race of legal giants of the highest order. Looking backward over this field, it would seem that this fair region by the “Great Father of Waters: was the conservatory to ripen great legal genius. Here sprang an immortal whose name will ever be revered until liberty shall perish from the earth. Glory enough to this valley that Abraham Lincoln lived, labored and grew to the full measure of his great manhood within the limits. Here too lived his young life, Stephen A. Douglas. Here the warrior orator and statesman, General Baker, who fell in the war of Balls Bluff, type of a great manhood, heroic soul. Alas! To perish all too early.

    Then came those other illustrious lawyers, Browning, Williams and Walker. On this side theWater, Dixon, Miller, Hall and Grimes and Starr, Mason, Woodard and Hempstead, who made the Code of 1851, a Practice Act, second to none, with a few additional amendments near perfection. From this Iowa region sprang Judge George Williams, afterwards Attorney General of the United States, Judge Hastings a great California lawyer, Judge John F. Dillon, the head and front of the bar of our great commercial and financial center, New York. As one in writing of him said: That magnificent example of the philosophical lawyer, the most splendid contribution the west has made to our bar, took his early lessons and wrote many of his legal productions on the west bank of the river at his home in beautiful Davenport. We have the right to be proud of our legal fathers the great lights of the profession.

    Louisa County was organized while we were of Wisconsin Territory in 1836, and courts were held as early as 1837 the legal business being transacted by lawyers from counties outside. There was no local bar until 1838, when came Francis Springer and Edward Thomas who immediately took a prominent part in law and other matters, so that a history of the county would be all incomplete without their doings and sayings. Louisa County was originally a part of the second judicial district and had for its judge, Thomas S. Wilson of Dubuque, who lives honored and revered to a ripe old age in the city of Dubuque.

    After Iowa became a state, Louisa County became a part of the first judicial district, its first judge being Hon. George H. Williams, since Attorney General of the United States, succeeded by Ralph P. Lowe, a noble, warm-hearted man, afterward Governor of the state, and chief justice of Iowa then able and brilliant John W. Rankin, then big, warm-hearted and generous John W. Claggett, succeeded by Judge Francis Springer, who may be said to be the first of Wapello lawyers. It is not the purpose of this article to more than briefly mention the lawyers who formed the bar and bench, who presided over and directed the differences they represented. Frances Springer came here in 1838. The first term of court after his coming here was in April, 1839. Springer and Thomas were retained in forty cases, contested by able lawyers from Burlington and other towns, a pretty good start and showing, ominous of a successful future. In 1840 Springer was elected to the Territorial Legislative Council and continued to represent this county in the territorial Legislature until Iowa became a state, when he was sent to the state senate.

    In 1849-50 he was special agent of the post office department to visit post offices in Wisconsin, collect government moneys and transfer them to St. Louis. In 1851 he was appointed Register of the Land Office at Fairfield, which office he filled until 1853, when he returned to his farm in Louisa County, near Columbus City, here he was elected prosecuting attorney of Louisa County in 1854, and then county judge, an office of great responsibility and power. Being probate judge, the county judge was also the tribunal in which roads were established, located or changed. It run the county finance and the county judge was really the guardian and almoner of the county treasury. So well and economically did he manage our county affairs that many of we old timers sigh for the good old economic days when F. Springer was county judge. Judge Springer was member of and president of the constitutional convention held at Iowa City in 1857, which convention made our admirable fundamental or positive law, known as the Iowa Constitution of 1857-58. He was elected judge of the district court in 1858 and 1862 and 1866 but resigned in 1869 to accept the office of federal collector of internal revenue which office he held until 1876, when retiring, he spent the evening of his life in this county amid scenes he loved so well in early manhood, was gathered by the Great Gleaner like a sheaf well ripened for the harvest, respected and loved by the people of the entire state.

    Judge Spring was a thoroughly read well-read lawyer, read the law as a science before admission to the bar of his native state, and in the few years of active practice at Wapello, was a thorough trial lawyer, doing the full measure of a lawyer’s duty to either court or jury. He was most scholarly in all his tastes, fond of Shakespeare, Byron and all good literature. He was well educated in history, not only of this country and England, but the great domain of ancient, medieval and modern history. He remembered the wise sayings of Bolingbroke, about the vantage ground of his profession, and early sought to climb the advantage ground.

    A student of politics and economics it was an intellectual treat to hear him converse on these subjects. He was a great, well-rounded man, in manner a gentleman of the old school, and was, the acme of true gentility. His sons are all gifted and strong men. His son Charles we know little about, except we know him called a model business man, and one who dominates in this locality.

    Frank Springer, the oldest son, is the biggest, brightest lawyer in our south western domain. It is said “Nothing succeeds like success,” and he has been successful, and battled against some of the strongest lawyers in his region ??? after cases of vast magnitude involving large properties, pushing them in the local courts and then in that greatest of human ???, the Supreme Court of the United States coming out triumphant and with approval of all its judges, as a great lawyer. It was with pride that his father heard of and witnessed the triumph of his son. Arthur, we all know as the brilliant, social, affable lawyer, a ready writer, fluent talker, with all this, good legal judgment. He is now in Texas and ought to be foremost among its men of power.

    The next lawyer to locate in Wapello was John Bird, in 1811, a very trust worthy and successful lawyer and financier, and living a long and useful life in the county.

    In 1856 he took as partner D. N. Sprague, then a very young lawyer, a man who had learned his profession in the State of New York, admitted to the practice shortly after his majority coming to Wapello formed this union which continued until the sixties. Was at the front in volume and importance of business, adhering to the principle, solicit no man’s business by personal request, be ready to take those who needed you and fight for their rights to the best of your ability. John Bird enlisted and served in the war of the Rebellion in August, 1862, going in as Captain of Company F. 19th Infantry.

     B. F. Wright came to Wapello in 1851, practiced law, continued until the Civil War, and was the brightest men at the Wapello bar. He was a born orator. If orators are born, an?? one of the biggest hearted men that ever had a heart in him. He has gone to his reward now to dwell, we believe with the immortals.

    Hon. James S. Hurley was a pupil of Mr. Wright’s, a good lawyer advocate and general practitioner. He commenced the practice of his profession in 1854 and continued up to a most of the day of his death. He was county attorney in the year 1855 and until the office was abolished by the constitution of 1857-58.

    He was state senator for eight years and took high place in the councils. He was public spirited and was active in promoting of railroad and like improvements. In 1871 he took into partnership John Hale, one of the old timers of Louisa County. This co-partnership was kept alive as long as James Hurley lived, and was of profit to both Mr. Hale, from his large experience as clerk of courts was a complete probate lawyer, as well as abstractor of titles. Hale would have made a great Proctor in admirably had he been located in a commercial center, would have made more out of his profession in one case than the Wapello bar make in a court’s ??arming. We say this because he is especially fitted for the work. John Hale still continues at the old stand a partner of his son, Oscar, who, not so found of the hard, dry detail’s as his father is a bright, scholarly man, ought to make his mark as an advocate and trial lawyer.

    Lew A. Reiley is a product of this county, while not born here nearly all of his life has been spent here. Receiving a good primary education in our schools, he further pursued studies of a higher grade in Mt. Pleasant and at Knox College, Illinois; was afterward teacher in the public schools, superintendent of schools in the county; studied law (a portion of his time with D. N. Sprague); was admitted to the bar in April, 1891, and into partnership in law with Sprague, who soon afterward removed to Keokuk, leaving the care of the law office with Reiley and had a large clientage, Sprague attending the courts, but in 1879 they dissolved. Mr. Reiley is a fine specimen of a thorough business lawyer, writes a most complete business letter, telling you just what you wanted to know and the more, is hard worker in getting at all the facts of the case. We believe he could plan and lengthy, but we cannot omit t record the name of Austin Williams, one time partner of D. N. Sprague. His was the most loveable, kind nature we ever saw in man, too good, too fair, all too frail for this cold and cruel world, and everyone who knew him loved him.

    And there was A. W. Jarvis, an able public prosecutor stricken down in early manhood by a half crazed murderer. We only endeavor to write about our early lawyers supplementing by naming list present active survivors and must draw this article to a close. Stating Wapello with its ?? of high integrity and worth, the able legal for those in Columbus Junction and Morning Sun are capable and deserving of the management of all legal business of the county. Nor are Wapello lawyers society drones, or non-producers of material growth and prosperity, one half dozen handsome homes placed by lawyers in our city help beautify its residence portion. To every public enterprise they are cheerful givers. No other class, profession or avocation of men in our midst excell them in benefactions.

Pictures: H. O. Weaver, Oscar Hale, C. M. Wright, L. A. Reiley, W. H. Hurley, C. A. Carpenter, Columbus Junction, Fred Courts, Morning Sun, P. M. Molesberry, Columbus Junction.

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    There isn’t a business house in Wapello that holds a higher place I the estimation of the people, or one that is more deserving, than the above named firm. W. C. and F. R. Morgan, two our most popular young men, have the supervision of the business and that they are making a financial success of it is a foregone conclusion. The store is conveniently located on the corner under Myron Hall, and is filled with a stock of shelf and heavy hardware, tinware, cutlery, stoves, pumps, etc. This home was established about twenty-five years ago by the late C. Morgan, and at the time of his death, in March 1892, his two sons took charge of the store. They were familiar with all departments business, and being endowed with the necessary energy, and good business principles and sound judgement, they at once gained the good will and confidence of the people and have continued to hold it. In the stove lines they handle these well-known makes: The Peninsular and Model line of cook stoves; Universal and Quick Meal ranges’ Round Oak and Cole’s Air-tight heaters; Richardson & Boynton and Keith furnaces. In windmills they handle Aerometer, and their leader in pumps is the Red Jacket. Another feature of their business is plumbing, and they are prepared to do all kinds of work in that line. This house is well established in the good graces of the people, and is a credit to our town. Socially, both of the boys are leaders, and move in the best circles of society. Will now holds the honored position of city recorder, and Frank has won considerable fame in the musical line.

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