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BOPP, Colonel Jacob W. (ca. 1916)


Posted By: Jennifer Gunderson (email)
Date: 3/22/2021 at 22:49:02


The subject of this biographical review was born in Chicago, Illinois, on the 28th of September, 1853. At the time of his birth his parents were on their way to the then frontier country designated on the map as Iowa. He is the oldest child of John Michael and Margaretha Bopp. Jacob W. Bopp was reared amid the environments of pioneer life and his early years were spent in attending the district school and in working on the parental farm. But he early developed a taste for reading and study which ultimately led him into schools of higher standing and he soon developed into a district school teacher. But after two years employed in teaching, he again returned to his studies as a student, at Ainsworth's Academy, in West Union, where he spent two years very profitably. During his two years of teaching, it may be added, he spent his evenings in teaching night schools in the surrounding districts and in private study. This special teaching was in the nature of instruction on bookkeeping, commercial arithmetic and penmanship, and Mr. Bopp says he believes he was as much benefited by his work as any of his students. In the autumn of 1876 the subject became a student in the collegiate department of the Iowa State University, and continued there for two years, when he transferred his allegiance to the Upper Iowa University, in his home county. He earned the money to prosecute his collegiate work as a newspaper correspondent, a line of literary endeavor in which he became very prominent and well known throughout the northwest, and in which he continued, in connection with other lines, for many years. In the spring of 1880 he became associated with the local papers at Mason City, Iowa, and at the same time served as special correspondent to several metropolitan dailies in the west.

At the convening of the legislature in 1882, Mr. Bopp was elected secretary of the railroad committee of the senate and discharged the duties of that position in connection with his work for the press. On adjournment of the legislature he entered upon his journalistic work with renewed vigor, being very actively engaged in politics, and supplied the leading republican papers of the northwest with a daily resume of political news. In his capacity as a reporter his presence was required at the leading summer resorts, fairs and expositions, and thus he was enabled to combine sight-seeing and extensive travel with a pleasant and profitable business. While thus employed Mr. Bopp came in contact with the leading men of the state and nation, and was well acquainted with prominent politicians everywhere.

Mr. Bopp took up the preliminary study of law in the office of Miller & Cliggitt, at Mason City, thus multiplying his manifold duties; but he has always been noted as a busy man, and even now, after fortune has smiled upon him, rendering work unnecessary, he probably devotes as many hours to business as any man in Fayette county. In the autumn of 1882 he entered the law department of the State University and was graduated therefrom with the class of 1883. He took up this study, he says, for the mental discipline it afforded, and without any intention of ever practicing law; but it is noticeable that in the manipulation of his extensive real estate business his legal advice is often sought, and is found to be accurate and reliable.

While in law school, in recognition of his ability as a writer, Mr. Bopp was chosen editor of the Vidette Reporter, conducted by the students attending the university. During commencement week, in connection with a fellow student, he published a special edition, designating it, for the time being, as the Law Times. In this was published a full synopsis of addresses delivered on that occasion, also a general review of the public exercises, notes by the way, and a large amount of information valuable to the embryo lawyer.

After his graduation Mr. Bopp took a few weeks' vacation to visit his home people, and then allied himself with the interests of the republican party in the capacity of special correspondent to the leading journals of the state. He was employed by the state central committee to report speeches, joint debates, etc., and assisted Hon. H. S. Fairall in the preparation of a volume entitled “Manual of Iowa Politics.” He continued his association with the Associated Press until the convening of the legislature, when he resumed his former position as secretary of the railroad committee of the senate, and also served in the same position at the succeeding session. While thus employed he was a regular correspondent to the Burlington Hawkeye, Davenport Gazette, Dubuque Times, Cedar Rapids Republican and other daily papers.

At the close of the twentieth general assembly, Mr. Bopp accompanied the delegation of Iowa physicians on their excursion to the International Medical Congress, at Washington, D. C., and reported their proceedings to the press of the country. Following the close of the congress he spent a month in sight-seeing in the national capital, in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and the great cities of the east and south. Returning to Iowa, Mr. Bopp took an active part in the congressional campaign in 1884, and in the winter following attended the world's fair at New Orleans, visiting the jetties and other points of interest in the south. Mr. Bopp was the founder of the syndicate letters in Iowa, a system of correspondence now generally followed by newspaper correspondents. For many years he furnished the farm department for the West Union Gazette, which matter was syndicated to most of the leading papers in Iowa. He assisted in organizing the Fayette County Farmers' Institute, as he did many others, and was an officer or director during all the years that the local institute was in active operation. He was for fifteen years a director of the Fayette County Agricultural Society, and has always been active and zealous in promoting its interests.

Several years of his life were spent in connection with the republican state committee as reporter for special campaign work and big meetings everywhere. Mr. Bopp has been an extensive traveler, both in the capacity of a newsgatherer and for his own pleasure and enlightenment. He has made five extensive trips through the south and several through the east, and has made two extended trips through the British possessions. During the summer of 1900 Mr. Bopp and his brother, Charles W., made a memorable trip through all Europe. They embarked on the 1st of May, and landed at New York on their return on October 23 of the same year. A handsomely printed “Souvenir Itinerary” designated the points to be visited each day during the six months' sojourn, copies of which were sent to their many friends. In the summer of 1915 Mr. Bopp and his homekeepers, Mr. and Mrs. Whorley, visited the expositions on the Pacific coast, and while so engaged Mrs. Whorley was run down by a bicycle and killed. This tragedy rendered necessary a complete revision of home affairs. Being a bachelor and quite domestic in his tastes and habits, Mr. Bopp maintained his home at Linden Park for fifteen years, and the suddenness of this dissolution, coupled with the severing of lifelong friendships between himself and his trusted and efficient friends, was a severe blow, not unlike the disrupting of congenial home surroundings.

The subject is a lover of the beautiful, both in nature and art. While on his European trip he made notes and diagrams in the matter of home adornment. which he transplanted to his beautiful suburban home, “Linden Park,” on the western margin of West Union. This is one of the most artistically arranged homes and grounds to be found anywhere. The newspapers of the state, both local and foreign, have found “Linden Park” the subject of much favorable comment, and handsome cuts of the premises have been printed in the home papers, the Des Moines papers and others. There are two sets of old English gates, with iron grill work, and handsome ornamental fences enclosing the grounds. The latter are ornamented with beautiful flowers, vines and shrubbery, some of which have been imported from Russia and other northern European countries, while the northern portion of the United States and Canada have been searched for hardy plants. trees and shrubs. These have been arranged after the manner of experienced land-forever.”

The conveniences of the place are greatly enhanced by the placing of water hydrants, electric lights, etc., about the grounds, house, barn, poultry houses and pastures. We will not attempt to describe the interior of the house, except to say that it is modern in all respects and fully in keeping with the outside surroundings. It also contains one of the finest private libraries in the state.

For some time after his return from Europe Mr. Bopp was in great demand as a lecturer, and entertained large audiences, both in public and at parlor parties. in reciting the beauties of other countries. But he has always devoted considerable time to the lecture field, usually on topics relating to agriculture, horticulture, stockraising, etc. The “good roads” movement has always received his full support from voice and pen. The souvenir edition of the West Union Gazette, published in 1898, gives Mr. Bopp some well deserved compliments, intermingled with a superfluity of “hot air,” fired off with the clearness and versatility characteristic of the late Charles H. Talmadge. Mr. Talmadge seemed to deprecate the fact that Mr. Bopp had “swapped” the ever alert faber of a talented, active and popular journalist for the more staid and “homey” employments of a real-estate man. This was about the beginning of Mr. Bopp's career in that business, which he took up after a successful siege of farming, or managing, the home estate in accordance with the latest methods in scientific farming, and in which he and all concerned were phenomenally successful. But Mr. Bopp has always been successful in his varied undertakings, a result achieved only by hard work and careful, intelligent management. He is today one of the most successful and widely advertised real-estate men in northeastern Iowa. But Mr. Talmadge again charges that Mr. Bopp accepted the appointment to a place on the staff of Governor Drake, serving two years, and thereby acquiring the title of “Colonel,” which is liable to stick to him through life.

Mr. Bopp possesses a rather striking personality. Even during his student life he took no interest in the usual sports which engage so much of the time and energies of the average student, nor has he ever “acquired the habit.” He has never been associated with any secret societies, though admiring their work for humanity and often encouraging others to join them. He is not associated with any religious organization, but is a liberal contributor to the support of the gospel and the upbuilding of all social and benevolent institutions. During the great temperance movement in Iowa, which placed the prohibitory amendment on the statute books, he took a decided stand in favor of its adoption, and with voice and pen rendered every assistance possible to the cause of temperance and sobriety. Since its adoption, and the ruling of the supreme court in rendering it inoperative, he has rendered all possible assistance in furthering legislative enactments looking to the state control of the liquor traffic. He is a man of positive convictions, and whatever he believes to be right and just receives his hearty support, even though alone and unsupported by popular opinion. Mr. Bopp wears a smile that will not come off and a temperament adjusted to all occasions. No one ever saw him “ruffled,” but a genial smile and pleasant, seductive voice meets every rebuff, and stamps Mr. Bopp as a polished gentleman. He is exceptionally well informed. particularly on political topics, and enjoys the acquaintance and friendship of a greater number of prominent officials, office seekers and politicians than any other man in northern Iowa. His democratic friends delight to place him at the head of the so-called “republican ring,” and Bopp rather enjoys the distinction. He has always declined public office, preferring to help his friends, or his party principles, but would never accept a nomination, though easily within his grasp.

Mr. Bopp is an extensive property holder in West Union and Fayette county. accumulated mostly through his own unaided efforts. Besides his beautiful home property, he owns fifteen handsome residences in West Union, all of which have been built or rebuilt within recent years, modernized and rendered “up-to-date.” by the owner. These, besides being a handsome addition to the town, are always in demand at good rental figures. The Bopp block, a modern two story brick building, with handsome stone front, was constructed in 1898, and is occupied by several permanent tenants, besides Mr. Bopp's commodious offices.

Such, in brief, is the record of a man, now in the prime of life, who is distinctively “self-made,” as that expression is understood. He was born of German parents who came to this country in pioneer days, and were poor, ignorant of the manners and customs of American people, and also ignorant of the usual methods of money-making. The subject heard no language in the home except the German until after he was six years old, but the memory of the mother tongue is one of the sweetest remembrances of childhood's happy days. In later years he studied the language and is fluent and accurate in the use of German.

It is not the purpose of this article, nor of consistent biography generally, to unduly extol the merits of any individual, except as their recital stimulates an effort to imitate the example of a worthy subject. If this object lesson should encourage any struggling young man to work for attainments above the mediocre, and pave for himself the pathway to success, it will have served a worthy purpose.

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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