Governors of Iowa

Source: Portrait and Biographical Album, Muscatine County, Iowa, 1889, page 131


WILLIAM M. STONE, the sixth Governor of Iowa, was born Oct. 14, 1827. His parents, Truman and Lavina ( North ) Stone, who were of English ancestry, moved to Lewis Co. N. Y., when William was but a year old. William's grandfather, Aaron Stone, was in the second war with England. When our subject was six years of age his parents moved into Ohio, locating in Coshocton County. Like many other self-made men, Wiliam M. had few advantages. He never attended a school of any kind more than twelve months. In boyhood he was for two seasons a team-driver on the Ohio Canal At seventeen he apprenticed to the chairmaker's trade, and he followed that business until he was twenty-three years of age, reading law meantime during his spare hours, wherever he happened to be. He commenced at Coshocton, with James Mathews, who afterward became his father-in-law ; continued his reading with Gen. Lucius V. Pierce, of Akron, and finished with Ezra B.Taylor, of Ravenna. He was admitted to the bar in August, 1851, by Peter Hitchcock and Rufus P. Ranney, Supreme Judges, holding a term of court at Ravenna.

After practicing three years at Coshocton with his old preceptor, James Mathews, he, in November, 1854, settled in Knoxville, which has remained his home since. The year after locating here Mr. Stone purchased the Knoxville Journal, and was one of the prime movers in forming the Republican party in Iowa, being the first editor to suggest a State Convention, which met Feb. 22, 1856, and completed the organization. In the autumn of the same year he was a Presidential elector on the Republican ticket.

In April, 1857, Mr. Stone was chosen Judge of the Eleventh Judicial District. He was elected Judge of the Sixth Judicial District when the new Constitution went into operation in 1858, and was serving on the bench when the American flag was stricken down at Fort Sumpter. At that time, April, 1861, he was holding court in Fairfield, Jefferson County, and when the news came of the insult to the old flag he immediately adjourned court and prepared for what he believed to be more important duties---duties to his country.

In May he enlisted as a private ; was made Captain of Co. B. Third Iowa Inf., and was subsequently promoted to Major. With that regiment he was at the battle of Blue Mill, Mo., in September, 1861, where he was wounded. At Shiloh, the following spring, he commanded the regiment and was taken prisoner. By order of Jefferson Davis he was paroled for the time of forty days, with orders to repair to Washington, and if possible secure an agreement for a cartel for a general exchange of prisoners, and to return as a prisoner if he did not succeed. Failing to secure that result in the period specified, , he returned to Richmand and had his parole extended fifteen days ; repairing again to Washington, he affected his purpose and was exchanged.

In August 1862, he was appointed by Governor Kirkwood Colonel of the Twenty-Second Iowa Infantry, which rendezvoused and organized at Camp Pope, Iowa City, the same month. The regiment was occupied for several months in guarding supply stores and the railroad, and escorting supply trains for the Army of the Southeast Missouri until Jan. 27, 1863, when it received orders to join the army under Gen. Davidson, at West Plains, Mo. After a march of five days it reached its destination, and was brigaded with the Twenty-first and Twenty-third Iowa regiments, Col. Stone commanding, and was designated the First Brigade, First Division, Army of Southeast Missouri. April 1 found Col. Stone at Milliken's Bend, La., to assist Grant in the capture of Vicksburg. He was now in immediate command of his regiment, which formed a part of a brigade under Col. C. L. Harris, of the Eleventh Wisconsin. In the advance upon Port Gibson the Colonel and his command distinguished themselves, and were successful. The brigade was in the reserve at Champion Hills, and in active skirmish at Black River.

On the evening of May 21, Col. Stone received Gen. Grant's order for a general assault on the enemy's lines at 10 A . M. on the 22d. In this charge, which was unsuccessful, Col. Stone was again wounded, receiving a gunshot in the left forearm. Col. Stone commanded a brigade until the last of August, when, being ordered to the Gulf Department, he resigned. He had become very popular with the people of Iowa.

He was nominated in a Republican convention, held at Des Moines in June, 1863, and was elected by a very large majority. He was breveted Brigadier-General in 1864, during his first year as Governor. He was inaugurated Jan. 14, 1864, and was re-elected in 1865, his four years in office closing Jan. 16, 1868. His majority in 1863 was nearly 30,000and in 1865 about 16,500. His diminished vote in 1865 was due to the fact that he was very strongly committed in favor of negro suffrage.

Gov. Stone made a very energetic and efficient Executive. Since the expiration of his gubernatorial term he has sought to escape the public notice, and has given his time to his private business interests. He is in partnership with Hon. O. B. Ayres, of Knoxville, in legal practice.

He was elected to the General Assembly in 1877, and served one term.

In May, 1857, he married Miss Barbonet Mathews, a native of Ohio, then residing in Knoxville. They have one son--William A.

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