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DUNCOMBE, John F. (ca. 1916)


Posted By: Jennifer Gunderson (email)
Date: 3/22/2021 at 22:50:22


John F. Duncombe, deceased, who was a prominent attorney at law in Fort Dodge, Iowa, was born in Wattsburg, Pennsylvania, October 22, 1831. Under the parental roof he spent his boyhood days and in his native town acquired his early education, which was supplemented by study in Allegheny College, of Meadville, Pennsylvania, and in the Central College at Danville, Kentucky. He was graduated from both of these institutions before taking up the study of law in his native town in the office of Marshall & Vincent. He was admitted to the bar in Pennsylvania and for one year engaged in the practice of his profession there. In April, 1855, he went to Fort Dodge, Iowa, and began the practice of law in that city. He made for himself a creditable place in the ranks of the legal fraternity and was widely known for the care with which he prepared his cases. In no instance was his reading ever confined to the limitations of the questions at issue; it compassed every contingency and provided not alone for the expected but as well for the unexpected, which happens in the courts quite as frequently as out of them. His logical grasp of the facts and principles of the law applicable to them was another potent element in his success, and his remarkable clearness of expression and precise diction were counted among his conspicuous gifts and accomplishments. For thirty-seven years he acted as attorney for the Iowa division of the Illinois Central Railroad, and he served in the same capacity for the Mason City & Fort Dodge, the Des Moines & Fort Dodge and the Cherokee & Dakota Railroads. He practiced in twenty-five counties in the state.

In political and public life Mr. Duncombe was equally prominent. In 1857, when the news of the Spirit Lake massacre reached Fort Dodge, he took an active part in raising the troops which were sent against the Indians and acted as captain of Company B. In 1859 he was elected to the state senate from the senatorial district which was then composed of one-fourth of the entire state. He also was a member of the lower house for two terms and attended four general and three special sessions. In 1872 he served as chairman of the Iowa delegation to the national democratic convention at Baltimore. For sixteen years he served as regent of the State University of Iowa, and he was appointed by Governor Gear to serve on the capital commission, but this honor he declined. Because of his public energy and liberality his name is identified with most of the institutions of Fort Dodge. The Duncombe Hotel stands in proof of his public spirit and it is an acknowledged fact that his individual efforts and support were employed in all enterprises persuading railroad companies to extend their lines into Fort Dodge. In conjunction with C. B. Richards, he developed the coal mines there and at Boone, and he served as secretary for both the Fort Dodge Coal Company and the Rocky Ford Coal Company of Wyoming territory.

On May 11, 1859, Mr. Duncombe was married to Miss Mary A. Williams, a daughter of Major William Williams, the patriot-pioneer of Fort Dodge. To this union seven children were born, including the following: William E.; Charles F., publisher of the Chronicle and former mayor of Fort Dodge; Mary J., wife of Senator W. S. Kenyon; Gertrude; and John A. In politics Mr. Duncombe was an inflexible democrat, stanchly supporting the policies and activities of that party. His influence was always used along the lines of reform progress. He was a charter member of the chapter and commandery of the Masonic fraternity of Fort Dodge and also attained the thirty-third degree of the Scottish Rite. Mrs. Duncombe is president of the Webster County Historical Society, an office which she is well qualified to hold, as she has been a resident of Fort Dodge since her arrival there in 1855. At present she is living at the old home, Fair Oaks. Mr. Duncombe's death occurred August 2, 1902. His interest in community affairs was that of a public-spirited citizen who recognized the opportunities for reform, progress and improvement, and he labored to achieve what could be attained in that direction.

Source: Brigham, Johnson. Iowa : its history and its foremost citizens. Chicago : S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1916. Transcribed by Jennifer Gunderson (Mar 2021).

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