Source: REGISTER OF OLD SETTLERS , BOOK One, page 72 & 73
submitted by Ronna Thuman, November 14, 2007

Gen. John G. Gordon no More—A Brief Sketch of an Honorable and Useful Life.

For several days the community has been expecting, with painful and anxious hearts, the dread news of the death of Gen. John G. Gordon. At 2 o’clock this morning the end came, and the spirit of the beloved husband, and father, the honored citizen and esteemed friend, crossed the dark flood, to mingle with the celestial band on the other shore. Surrounded by weeping wife and children, sweetly, peacefully, like a child hushed to gentle slumber, and unconscious of the physical pain too often inflicted by the arrows of Death, he sank to rest, only the still pulse and marble-like features indicating the great transition from time to eternity.

“So fades the summer cloud away,
So sinks the gale when storms are o’er,
So gently shuts the eye of day,
So dies the wave upon the shore.”

Thus passed away one of Muscatine’s oldest and most esteemed citizens one whose form and face and pleasant voice and kind greeting were familiar to the young and old of the city. It will be remembered that the cause of his death was a paralytic affection. Until this sudden and unexpected attack he had been remarkably free from disease, never before having, in his recollection, been ill a day, and never, practically speaking, having taken medicine. The attack which loosed “the silver chord” of life came on Saturday evening, Dec. 16, two weeks ago last Saturday. It was about 7 o’clock, and Mr. Gordon was in the store standing by the counter, listening to the reading of the evening paper by his associate, Eugene Klein, when he experienced a singularly painful sensation, and, on the impulse of the moment, started towards the door. It was noticed by Eugene that one leg seemed to drag heavily, and that it seemed to be a painful effort to walk. On reaching a point about half way between the stove and the front door, the General stopped and leaned over the counter, evidently in distress. In reply to the tender inquiries of Eugene he remarked that he felt very strangely. Eugene and Mr. Hunt, the head clerk, at once assisted him home. He then left the store, never to return. For a day or two he was able to move about the house, and hopes of his recovery were entertained, but his strength gradually failed and he, was soon compelled to keep his bed. During the last week or ten days of his illness the General was only conscious at intervals, the trouble having, it seemed, most seriously affected the brain. It is believed that the attack was superinduced by a severe fall received on the steps of his house last spring.

We can give here only a brief sketch of the eventful life of this well-known and loved citizen. He was born in Baltimore, Md., February 16, 1810, his age being nearly 67 years. At an early age he was sent to York, Pa., to serve an apprenticeship for the mercantile business. When a young man he removed to Louisville, Ky., and there embarked in business for himself. After a short but very successful career here, he transferred his headquarters to Pittsburg, Pa., and such was the popularity he had gained at Louisville that he carried with him in his new home a large part of his old custom. In the spring of 1844, following the tide of etigration and the course of the empire, he came west and located in Muscatine, commencing business as a general merchant. His first stand was an old frame standing on the site of the brick now occupied by McQuesten and Sawyer; his next a similar structure standing where Mr. Gerndt has his meat market, next to Dougherty’s drug store. He occupied this stand till 1851, when he completed and moved into the handsome brick block which is so well known as the store of J. G. Gordon & Co. During all those busy years his has been the controlling spirit in the store. For eight years—from 1866 to 1871—O. P. Waters, Esq., was a partner, and for several years before and ever since Eugene Klein, his brother-in-law, was associated with him in the business, but the General has ever taken a pride in giving his personal attention to its supervision, and the customer who entered the store without being greeted by the General himself with a hearty salutation, a cheery word, a bright smile and a cordial hand-shake would have felt as if something was wrong.

In his business relations, the General ranks with the pioneers of the city and the best-known and most prominent and influential in the State. In earlier times, when dry goods, groceries, hardware and queensware were combined, his trade commanded a sweep of country taking in a radius of from 100 to 140 miles, and his large establishment was known as one of the finest and most extensive in the west. His popularity as a merchant was commensurate with the extent of his trade. Every one liked to deal with one who was at once so courteous, obliging and straightforward in his commerce with all.

General Gordon was twice married first at Louisville, to Miss Sarah Reinard, who bore him six children (five daughters and one son) and second, in 1856, in Muscatine, to the widow of James M. Dougherty, and daughter of Edward Klein, by whom he had one son and one daughter. All his children are living save the daughter by his second marriage. His surviving daughters are Ella, wife of Wm. R. Stone, and Mary, wife of Col. J. B. Culver, both of Duluth, Minn.; Susan, wife of W. S. Humphreys, of St Louis; Maria, Wife of M. W. Griffin, of Muscatine, and Miss Annie, at home. Gardner, the elder son, has been in St Louis the past few years, and Glenn, the younger, is at home.

The distinguished title of “General” was bestowed on Mr. Gordon in 1847 by Governor Ansel Briggs, of Iowa. The commission, the original of which we were shown, was dated at Iowa City June 27, and appointed the General to the command of “the second division of Iowa militia.” We do not hear that he ever performed any active service, but the appointment was a deserved recognition of the worth …

*** continued on page 73 ***

… and talents of a prominent and esteemed citizen.

Though at home no man stood higher in the confidence and affections of the people than Mr. Gordon, we believe that during his long residence here he held but one public office, and that was the humble municipal trust of alderman. Not that he was not urged to serve the public with his clear judgment and fine abilities, but that it was a part of the philosophy of his life to abstain from active participation in politics, preferring rather the quiet and pleasures of home and the honors of a successful business to the turmoil and strife of the political arena. As a Mason, however, he was one of the oldest and most esteemed members of the order.

General Gordon will be missed in every walk and circle of Muscatine life and society. Prominent and active in business; liberal and zealous in forwarding public enterprises; denial, intelligent and communicative in society, with a rich store of anecdote and reminiscence to entertain friends, his death will leave a void hard to fill and bring a pang to every heart. Who that was not familiar with his fine figure and handsome presence as he made his regular diurnal trips between the store and house? Time, with his magic wand, had touched him but lightly; yea, so gently that in his more than thirty years of reputable citizenship he seemed but little changed, either as to the cheerful and intellectual face or the lively and sympathetic spirit animating him, and he glided almost imperceptibly into the ripeness of old age. At heart, he was kindness itself. Talmage told us that a single flash would sometimes reveal all the secret springs in a man’s life, and so a simple incident will serve to illustrate Gen. Gordon’s character. On the bitterly cold Friday just before his illness, a well-known professional beggar, a woman, came into the store to solicit charity. She stood near the door some little time without receiving attention, when the General chanced to observe her for the first time. Hastening forward he placed a piece of money in her hand and politely bowed her out, remarking on his return that he “couldn’t turn a dog away without something on such a day.”

But we cannot speak further of those admirable traits of character which so endeared him to his relatives and immediate friends and made him personally so popular. His long life of usefulness and activity will be an enduring monument that speaks more eloquently than words and will keep his memory green. The General was a regular attendant at Trinity church, and was one of its most zealous and liberal supporters.

The bereaved widow and children of deceased have the deepest sympathy of the community in their sore affliction.

The funeral will take place from the family residence on Second street, on Saturday, at 10 ½ o’clock a. m. The pall-bearers selected are: H. W. Moore, G. A. Garrettson, P. Jackson, F. H. Stone, J. Carskaddan, A. Jackson, John Lemp, J. J. Hoopes and J. P. Ament.

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