Source: REGISTER OF OLD SETTLERS , BOOK One, page 180, 187 & 188
submitted by Kevan Chown, Sept. 10, 2007


Tributes of the Old Settlers’ Society,
The Old Settlers’ Society of Muscatine convened at the City Hall this morning at 9 a.m. to take action upon the death of Hon. Suel Foster. There was a large attendance of prominent members.

President Walton called the meeting to order and G. W. Van Horne was elected secretary.

The President remarked that the meeting was called to honor the memory of one who was the oldest resident, at the time of his death, of the city and county, and a man who was equally distinguished for the virtues and honors of his citizenship.

Joseph Bridgeman Esq. said it would be better perhaps to remain silent in the presence of this dead. But we have often heard Mr. Foster in eulogy of old settlers, and there is certainly cause for paying similar honors to him. He was a rare man, eminently fitted for pioneer life in his readiness and ability and fertile resources to move in making a city, county and State better for his presence. He took great interest in every cause affecting the welfare of his town, his State and the nation. His name is a household word in all the West. He was a radical of radicals, opposed to class distinctions, hostile to monopolies, a friend of the poor and in sympathy with every movement for lifting then up. His door was never closed to appeals of want. If we follow his steps as a Christian we can not err – a man on whom his pastor and church leaned as on a granite pillar of support. Hon. D. C. Richman had known deceased since 1844 and always respected him. The striking characteristic of his life was his unselfishness. Foremost and active in every public and progressive movement, it is to be recalled that he never had an ax to grind, never a personal or selfish aim in view, but there was always, simple, a grand devotion to whatever promoted the private and public welfare of his fellowmen.

Hon. D. C. Cloud had been acquainted with Mr. Foster since 1839. He possessed a character peculiarly and strongly marked. There were often times when one might differ from his views and conduct, but there was always the highest confidence for …. honesty and public spiritedness .… whatever he did was from the standpoint of conscience.

R. B. Huff, Esq., said he was not a member of the Society, but in behalf of the Louisa county Association of Old Settlers, he desired to pay tribute to the name and character of Suel Foster. For years his name a household word in Louisa county. It was the speakers pleasure to introduce him to many old settlers at the Wapello meeting last year, and he was received with every expression of gladness. All had heard of him, and it was surprising how much he knew of the pioneer history of those he had never met before. He possessed the freshest and most brilliant memory of events, dates, names, etc., running back over a period of 50 years, and was indeed a walking compendium of past history. He not only lived with all this interest and accuracy in the past, but what member of the Academy of Science will forget his ever fresh and active participation in and enjoyment of its proceedings, and his performance of duty in the present abounded in every sphere of action. He was an exceptional man.

Mr. Mahin, of the Journal, said that in his long and intimate journalistic relations with deceased, he had been struck with his remarkable patience and forbearance. Mr. Foster was tenacious in his views and bold in their deliverance and he often extorted sharp criticism and abuse; but he invariably received these animadversions with composure and gentleness of spirit, void of animosity or retaliatory feeling. His distinguishing trait of character was disinterestedness, which he exhibited to a higher and nobler degree then probably any citizen amongst us. Next to this example of public spirit stood as remarkable, his unabated and glowing interest in all the affairs of life – the social circle, communal enterprises, politics, the church and government.

Peter Jackson, Esq. spoke of the good so predominating in the character and life of deceased, that we all loved him and will miss him greatly. He was one of the most faithful of men.

Hon. J. Scott Richman had known the deceased since 1840. Mr. Foster had the courage of his convictions. He did not shift with the wind. His grand characteristic was that we always knew where to find him. Like all descendants of the Puritans, he had his “views,” and we could not agree with all of them. Sometimes he was too far ahead of us, and got impatient waiting for us to catch up; and sometimes his tenaciousness of opinion may have kept him behind. But we knew that he was striving for the …………. best. He was not a self-seeker. He had opportunities for acquiring one of the largest private fortunes in the city, and if he had served himself as he served the public, great wealth would have been his. But he was always ready to spend his time and money for others. He would go as a delegate at any time to any convention, far or near, in which he saw a great purpose or good to be attained. He has gone now to where the good of the earth go.

Hon. Wm. F. Brannan thought that perhaps eulogy came best from those who had known Mr. Foster longest. But there was much for all to say something. To the speaker, Mr. Foster showed himself the frankest and most out-spoken of men. There was no guile in his composition. No man heard him utter that which he did not believe. He was one of nature’s noblemen. All respected him. As a public spirited man he had no superior in the State. He labored assiduousiy, intelligently, zealously to promote the material, educational and moral interests of Iowa. And in this distinguished service, when burdened with the weight of three score years and ten – in his seventy fifth year, there was no abatement of interest, no dimness of vigor in his service of his fellowmen. How generous of his time and means! The speaker had sometimes occasion to solicit his subscription to public objects. One had to but ask. He gave beyond expectation in every worthy call upon him. He will go down to his grave honored by all.

Mr. J. G. H. Little moved that a committee of three be appointed, with J. Scott Richman as chairman, to draft appropriate resolutions. Carried.

The chair appointed Mr. Richman, Mr. Little and G. W. Van Horne.

It was moved and carried that the Old Settlers attend the funeral in a body, and that they meet for this purpose at the JOURNAL office at 1:45 Sunday afternoon.

It was stated by Mr. A. M. Winn that the hour of the funeral had been changed from 3 to 2 o’clock, Sunday afternoon, in order to better accommodate the return home of attendants from the country.

On motion adjourned.-----J. P. WALTON, Pres.


G. W. VANHORNE, Secretary pro tem.


Again and again have the Old Settlers of Muscatine been called upon during the present winter to express their regrets at the decease in their number – and their own and the public sence of loss occasioned by the inroads of death.

Suel Foster, one among the earliest settlers, is no more. His familiar form will no more be seen in our public gatherings, in our streets or at his hospitable fireside. He was old in years but young in his activities and aspirations. He was unselfish, and spent much of his time and energy in promoting the public interest not only of his own county but of the State; and especially were his labors conspicuous in the agricultural, horticultural and educational interests of the State. His presence, his activity, his energy, will be missed in every good work. Who will fill the void occasioned by his absence? Time alone can answer the question. Feeling that his death is not only a private, but a public calamity as well, we must not, while recording his public, omit to mention his private virtues:

He was a religious man.
He was a punctual man.
He was a faithful man.
He was an honest man.
He obeyed his highest convictions in all things.

He was a model man in his domestic relations; and she, his wife, who survives him and their children, will alone be capable of estimating her own loss. We extend to her the assurance of our kindliest sympathies.



Academy of Science Meeting.

Pursuant to call the Academy of Science held a meeting this afternoon at 3 o’clock in Dr. J. Hardman’s office to consider its action upon the death of Hon. Suel Foster.

President Witter was in the chair.

The following resolutions were offered by Mr. VanHorne, and upon due consideration were unanimously adopted:

    Resolved, That the Academy will honor the memory of Suel Foster,
    1st, By attending his obsequies.
    2nd, By devoting the next regular session of the Academy to memorial exercises, to include sketches of the relations of deceased with the Academy and other educational institutions to be prepared by President Witter and ex President Walton.
    3rd, By resolutions of respect to be presented by a committee of three appointed at this meeting.
The meeting appointed Hon R. M. Burnett, Dr. I. L. Graham and Mr. VanHorne on resolutions. On motion adjourned.
F. M. WITTERS, Pres.

*** continued on page 187 ***

The Obsequles of Suel Foster,


Tribute fron the Pen of Hon. J. B. Grinnell.

The interest in all things pertaining to the life and character of Suel Foster has grown with every day following his decease, and the JOURNAL will be thanked for adding to its memoirs the funeral address of Rev. Dr. Robbins and tribute from Hon. J. B. Grinnell, The funeral service was held in the Congregational church, at 2 p. m. yesterday. An impressive feature of the occasion was the large attendance of Old Settlers who marched to the church in a body and whose members filled nearly an entire row of pews from the pulpit to the door. The Academy of Science was also present in nearly its whole membership. Delegates were also noticed from the State Horticultural Society and the attendance from the country was large. Among the mourners were Messrs. A. F. and J. L. Moore, of Polo, Ills., and Mr. Will Foster, of Ladora, Iowa, nephews of deceased, and his friend, Mr. Davenant, of Cedar Rapids.

After a beautiful service of song and reading of Scripture, Dr. Robbins delivered the following address:

    If we look at the history of this town and county, we find the first mentioned among the first settlers of 1836 is Suel Foster.

    Born at Hillsboro, N. H., Aug. 26th, 1811, he has lived most of the time in this county and town till this month of January, 1886. In seven months more he would have reached the good age of 75 – 50 of which have been spent mostly in Muscatine.

    At 20 years of age he is at Rochester, N. Y., and six years after that in this county and town. With only an occasional absence he has given his entire attention to the business coming to him, and to the interests, of various kinds, of this commonwealth for 50 years. He has taken upon his mind and heart very many of those interests, and often at sacrifice of strength, time and money, has given his attention to them.

    His reputation throughout the State and the county, among the common people, who make up most of the people, and among specialists in various directions, is such as to make our State and county and town to be greatly honored; and this much more than many of more pretentions and of larger education. He has been uniformly on the right side of those subjects involving any moral question. He has been outspoken and bold in the advocacy and promotion of what has seemed right to him and what appeared to him would be profitable to the people generally. It would not be difficult perhaps to point out flaws in his character and mistakes in his judgment – but as to his general intent and purpose (and at the sacrifice of his own interests) – his general intent, cannot be doubted, has been true and benevolent. Like most of the old settlers he had a character of his own, and unlike anybody else. He never thought of being a model to anybody else and whether many or few followed in his line it made little difference to him. He cared as little for popularity as he did for length of his pants or set of his collar. If he desired others to agree with him, it was chiefly that some good result might be secured.

    The ……… drinks, that great agency of Satan, which does more then anything else to degrade the manhood and womanhood of our noble State, and for the maintenance of which has combined many men and woman who are the greatest foes of our prosperity in every good direction, was an object of special abhorrence to Mr. Foster. There were no good round Saxon words too vigorous and no measures too severe, in his estimation, to be hurled against such a foe to God and man.

    Our brother died with his armor on, panting, as for his breath, under the power of the untimely and fell disease, to do something to break down that cruel and wicked and contemptible business One of his last efforts for the good.of his fellow men was in his battle. There can be no death more to be honored than that which finds a man protesting, as his last act in life, against the wrong and outrage done to his fellow men. He could be ill spared. His broad influence throughout the great and noble band of men engaged in the improvement of the soil and in securing the desirable products of the State, was much needed, and just now his knowledge in agriculture and arborculture, pomology etc., and his broad and varied correspondence, commanding, as it did, the respect and honor of many such men, all over the country. He was ready to work in enforcing the cause of education, morality and temperance. The ancestors of Mr. Foster were, in part at least, of the society of Friends or Quakers, and there were lines of their peculiar influence in him. Of one at least of his brothers I have a profound admiration – for his talents, his broad education and spiritual influence. This was the Rev. Aaron Foster, of Massachusetts. A daughter of his was the wife of a distinguished war correspondent of the Springfield Republican. Under the name of “Dunn Browne,” he wrote letters from the war which are said “for truth and faithfulness, wit and humor, burlesque and pathos, strangely intermingled, have no superior, perhaps no equal, in all the journalistic literature of the war.” This correspondent, whose letters I have in my library, was connected of course only by marriage. But we all know how grand the reflective influence of any such man coming into connection with the choicest of another family, will be felt throngh all the branches of that family.

    Mr. Foster had not, and so far as I know never had, any bad habits. I don’t know how much occasional influence in this direction might have prevailed with him from the pressure of such kind of men as were not a few, as are always not a few, of pioneer settlers. He was an enthusiast in his chosen pursuits of life. He was so robust in his physical system and so simple in living, that he smiled in the face of many diseases that prostrate others, and we, none of us, expected that he would die of anything but old age. And when I parted from him about two hours before his sudden departure, I confidently expected to see him stronger at my next visit.

    If any of the older men among us might expect to be of those at whose “side a thousand fall at their right hand and yet death come not nigh them,” he might well be expected to be of that number.

    In this necessarily brief but scarcely needed notice of our friend I have left to the last what I have to say of his religious character, or of Mr. Foster’s life religiously. * * * * The first I recollect of the manifestation of religious interest from my brother was about the year 1853 when he asked if the way was open to be received into this church. With what wisdom I had 30 years or more ago, I asked him if he was willing to devote himself, his time and all his property to God? This was perhaps too severe a question to ask, too “strong meat” to offer to a new convert. But with great simplicity and honesty he replied that he did not think he was; and withdrew his request.

    Sometime after, I think many months, continuing his attendance at church, he again came and was received, I found that from the same way which he had, always, of looking at the blunt end of any subject, he supported that to consecrate his money to God was to put it all out of his own hands and have it used for some, so called, religious purpose; as a woman sometimes puts her money into a church and goes to a nunnery. But upon seeing that what was meant was this – that he was to make Christ his sovereign in his heart and life, and do all that he did as unto Christ, he thought he could honestly say this. I am not to judge as to the clearness and particularity with which he has done this. I can say that there has ever been, though a slow, yet a real advance in this. He certainly adopted this as his principle of action. And when at times, as in one marked instance it did, it required that he sacrifice quite a lucrative line of business he brought himself to it, and has had a blessing in the sacrifice. It became a principle with him to be a Christian. Hence he has been uniformly and regularly, in storm and sunshine, at the Sunday service and the prayer meeting. Hence he would every now and then call at the house of his pastor to express, by so doing, his interest in his work.

    Hence he began to be regularly a contributor to the various benevolences of the church. He began to move in the line of precepts of Christ and with more or less success. He meant to do right in all things, and lived up to his apprehension of right. There was a grand adherence to what he thought was duty and this increasingly.

    I would be glad to say of him, as of not a few others in the church, and, with more confidence, in my own experience that there was a grand realizing of spiritual things and an enthusiastic devotion to the blessed Lord Jesus and to his work in leading souls to Christ and in increasing the bright and cheering and heavenly experience of divine truth and divine facts. Sure I am that with great reluctance I part with him as his pastor, and that, with great sorrow, I shall have no more his help and the cheer of his presence and the uniqueness of his way of praying and living for the truth.

    When I open my Bible to find a passage which might be not inappropriately used on this occasion, there comes to me those sweet words of testimonial as to Nathanael, “Behold an Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile.” The guilelessness in the character of our brother was such as to sometimes expose him to the charge of extreme simplicity. Perhaps had he been less guileless he had seemed more devout and spiritually minded, I doubt whether he had any doubt as to any truth or doctrine of God’s word, and it seemed strange to him that any body should refuse to be a Christian.

    As I look still farther I find passages which make of interest a recollection of Mr. Foster. When I read. In Exodus 15-27. “And they came to Ellim where were 12 wells of water and three score and ten palm trees, and they encamped there by the water.” When I read, in Isaiah 65 – 22, :As the days of a tree are the days of my people.” When I read in Numbers 24 – 6, that God compares the abodes of his people to “valleys spread forth as gardens by the river’s side, as the trees of high aloes which the Lord hath planted and as cedar trees beside the waters.” When I read in 1 Kings 4 – 33, that the wise man “spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hysop that springeth out of the wall.” And in Revelation 22 – 14, “Blessed are they that do his commandments that they may have right to the tree of life and may enter in, through the gates, into the city” – and call to mind the wonderful beauty, even just now, of the many evergreens that move and …

    *** continued on page 188 ***

    …almost oppress you, round the earthly home of our brother, and when I remember that “heaven is a place fitted for men and for which they are fitted,” I have wondered whether it might not be that our brother would not reach, at least after death, that sense of God in all His works which would spiritualize all his earnest and yet hurried employment and enthusiasm which he had for trees and plants on earth.

    The interest felt by the angels of God in man, especially so soon as any one honestly lays hold of the salvation of the Gospel, however feeble may be the principle of life in him, is a remarkable interest.

    They rejoice with great joy, at his repentance. “Are they not all ministering spirits of them who shall be heirs of salvation? They follow him, in his course on earth whether slow or rapid. They welcome him to the heavenly hills. When a child comes to our home we show him pictures; when a scholar comes we show him our Homer – a pomologist our apples – a book-worm our library. Will not the angels of God show, in the Heavenly Home that in which each new comer will be most interested, that which he will be the best able to comprehend? And when led to Christ, and, “the lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall lead them unto living fountains of waters and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” will not the grandest moment in all their past lives be that supreme moment when they decided that come what will and let others do as they will as for them they will serve the Lord?

    In the few moments I spent with our brother, just before the end, he asked that in the prayer meeting which came on, as usual, that Thursday evening, he might be remembered in our prayers to God. But ere the hour came he had quietly, as though falling asleep, passed out of his laborious and active life on earth, into the greater life beyond. Christ on the cross said to the penitent one of His companions in death: “To-day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” Let us not forget that that promise came to penitence and prayer.

    As we bury our brother let us realize that alike to us and to him the question in the hour of departure will not be, are we good and kind and true and patriotic and unselfish, but have we turned away from earthly confidence and do we in penitence and obedience believe on the Son of God?

    Brethren of this church, we bury, this week, two more of our number, making this addition to the five of last year. Are there not special lessons intended for us in these repeated strokes of God’s hand?

    Brethren of the Old Settlers: The Saddest thing in the history of ant of us will be a life and death in which, search as we may, there can no evidence be found that Christ our Savior has the supreme place in our hearts. The most blessed thing will be the saying of which no one doubts, “there goes out of this life a Christian man.”

    On the table in the plan, yet, in its surroundings exceedingly beautiful home, are unanswered letters and important papers and penciled memoranda; and so in an hour we think not, the son of man may come to any one of us. Is it anywhere recorded of us that we really belong to Christ? Upon that record we can go up in peace, and the clearer evidence in our lives of this fact, the more comfort and satisfaction and blessed remembrance we shall leave in our darkened earthly home, and among our companions left. Let us not fail to bear on our hearts to God the bereaved and lone and sick one left of her children and her husband.

    Opportunity was given to view the remains, which was taken by the large congregation. The procession to the grave was escorted to the top of the hill by the Old Settlers, many of whom proceeded to the cemetery. In the sequestered nook of the family lot, protected by its walls of evergreen, was performed the closing service of religion by the venerable pastor, and with casket covered with the sprigs of green dropped upon it from the hands of Old Settlers and others, the last sad office of respect and affection was paid to the beloved dead.

    We append as an appropriate part of this memorial service, the following tribute from the pen of Hon. J. B. Grinnell, whom probably Mr. Foster would have chosen of all others of the State at large to be his eulogist:

    Desmoines, Iowa, Jan, 23, 1886.

    HON. JOHN MAHIN, Muscatine, -
    My Dear Sir: I received your telegram in reply, giving the time of the funeral of our lamented friend, Suel Foster. Being one of a committee appointed by the State Horticulture Society to testify our great loss on the death of our friend, I regret that a sore throat forbids exposure at this time, and can only hope that other members of the committee will be present at the sad obsequies.

    Truly on of our historic personages has fallen, worn with dutiful toil and crowned with honor. Before the advent of railways, heat, nor cold, nor storms, deterred him from long journeys where the trees, flowers, farm, education, morality and religion were to be discussed, and plans laid for the advancement of the State and the weal of our race. He labored with enthusiasm for the Agricultural College as an officer; made fruit growing and tree-planting an honored vocation by his writings, example and the broad views of an official president of the State Horticultural Society; a lecturer without pay; a critic of shams in fearless exposure; in feeling, a radical democrat save in politics. He won the favor of true gentlemen in the ranks of advanced science and progressive thought.

    As an early writer, I associate him with the lamented Gov. Grimes, Mark Miller and others and even their superior in originality and practical results at his beautiful home; with national association as the champion of the Wealthy apple and the vigorous, beautiful Catalpa, by ten thousand fields which may sing his praises by the soft breezes in the branches of the arborial blessings he above all other admiring champion has brought to our State.

    I can not say he made no mistakes; that can without praise be said of those who attempt little, but his forecast as a citizen, patriotic arc or and generous emotion flowing from his pen, and gems of wit and thought in conventions would, gathered in a volume, be historic; and the able reflections of an enthusiastic scientist; one bold to lead where others were asked to follow.

    We mourn that he leaves behind so few worthy to be classed his peers imbued with that devotion to those great interests which our times demand. I plucked clusters from his vines, and luscious fruits from loaded branches, slept under his hospitable roof, bowed our heads in grief together as death has invaded our families, and to-day, like his neighbors, am oppressed with a personal sorrow, and under the shadow of the cloud which nothing can lighten or dispel but the thought and example of a pure and upright life, and the sure and glorious rewards for him whose fidelity to man and allegiance to his Spiritual Captain was unquestioned, sincere, constant and ardent.

    Truly Yours,

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