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ROOT, Charles L.


Posted By: Nettie Mae (email)
Date: 4/19/2021 at 17:05:30


In every community are found men who, by reason of their forceful individuality, ability and keen foresight, are recognized leaders in business circles. Their influence is widely felt as a determining agent in public progress, and their efforts result not alone in individual prosperity but also promote the welfare of the community which they represent. Such a man is Charles L. Root, the president of the Root Land Company, of Lyons, and a well-known attorney and real estate and insurance agent. He has also won distinction in military circles, and no history of this section of the state would be complete without an extended mention of his life work. He comes from, an ancestry honorable and distinct and his lines of life have been cast in harmony therewith.

According to family tradition, the name of Root is of French origin, and the earliest American records show that John Root was married at Badley, Northamptonshire, England, to Mary Russell, in 1600. Their son, John, after his father's death, went to live with his uncle, a man of wealth, who was advanced in years. He belonged to the nobility and was a stanch Puritan. This uncle insisted that the nephew should enter Cromwell's army and fight against Charles I. and the English crown, but the aversion which John Root felt to war led him to join a body of pilgrims and, with them, he came to the United States, settling at Farmington, Connecticut. There, in 1640, he wedded Mary Kilbourne, a daughter of Thomas and Frances Kilbourne. The next in the line of descent was their son, Thomas, born in 1648, and the line is traced down through John Root, who was born December 25, 1676; Elishu, born February 28, 1703; Joseph, born December 5, 1743: Joseph A., born May 2, 1784 ; Aurelius Clark, born November 19, 1818; and Charles L., of this review. The grandfather, Joseph A. Root, married Aphina Clark, and his death occurred in 1844, at the age of sixty years. His wife was of English lineage, and was a daughter of Joseph Abbott, who was born and reared upon a farm, redeemed by his grandfather, in the mountains of Hampden county. He, too, was of a sturdy Puritan family, and he died at the old home, at the age of eighty-four years. The maternal grandmother of our subject, and the wife of Joseph Abbott, was Polly Buchanan, and she was of English and Irish lineage, while from his mother's family, the Clarks, Mr. Root is of French and English extraction. His maternal grandfather was a member of George Washington's staff, and was distinguished for his splendid physique. The grandfathers on both sides of the Root family were officers in the Revolutionary war. Aurelius C. Root was born in Hampden county, Massachusetts, November 19, 1818, and his boyhood and youth were passed upon a farm. He acquired a practical education in the public schools, and, at the age of eighteen, he became a traveling salesman. Later, in connection with his brother, he opened a store at Blandford, Massachusetts, conducting the enterprise from 1838 to 1841, when he removed to Chester, Massachusetts, and opened a general store. In connection with the management of both mercantile houses he sold goods upon the road, carrying his merchandise in trunks, hauled on wagons, and calling the same traveling stores. He thus carried on business until 1860. In 1852 he became identified with western interests, locating at Belvidere, Illinois, where he accepted a position as cashier in the bank. There he worked for a year and, in 1853, he came to Lyons, then a small but promising town, and here he established the first bank, and in the business was still associated with his brother, under the firm name of Root Brothers' Bank, the institution being established in a small building at Exchange and Water streets; but in 1856 he erected a fine brick block, to which he removed his banking business, now owned by the First National Bank, of Lyons, and became extensively interested in real estate transactions, in which he was very successful, handling large tracts of land in northern Iowa, southern Missouri and Nebraska. He had considerable property in Lyons, including a fine residence. He was also treasurer of the Iowa Air Line Railroad, and his business interests were of so important a character that they had a marked influence on the upbuilding and improvement of this section of the state. Mr. Root was always very active in educational matters, and the cause of education found in him a warm friend. He was one of the most energetic, determined and reliable business men of the county, active in establishing enterprises and carrying forward to successful completion whatever he has undertaken.

In political affairs he has been very prominent, and his wide reading enabled him to support his position by intelligent argument. He was a Democrat in early life, but in 1860 he joined the Republican party and has remained one of its most stalwart advocates. He represented his district in the Massachusetts legislature, and has filled a number of local offices, serving as mayor, alderman, supervisor and justice of the peace in Lyons, Iowa.

His wife is still living, and they are the parents of six children: Joseph C, of Omaha, Nebraska, who is a founder and organizer of the fraternal organizations known as the Modern Woodmen of America, also the Woodmen of the World. Hattie B., who died in 1875, and Abbott A., a retired shoe merchant of Lyons. Belle E., who became the wife of George A. Stiles, of Topeka, Kansas. Charles L., and Herbert D., who is living retired in Lyons.

Charles L. Root, whose name forms the caption of this review, was born in Chester, Massachusetts, October 8, 1856. He pursued his education at Cornell College and was graduated at Northwestern University in 1878. Subsequently he read law under the direction of A. R. Cotton, and was admitted to the bar in 1879, after which he began to practice at Lyons. In 1893 he organized the Root Land Company, and under that name has carried on a very extensive real estate business. He purchased the Dennis Warren plat, of one hundred and twenty lots, and has since disposed of most of it, and it is among the finest residence portions of the city. He was associated with his brother in the boot and shoe business, in both Lyons and Clinton, for a few years, but since 1890 he has dealt extensively in farm lands in northwestern Iowa and northeastern Nebraska. In 1891 he built the handsome Root block on Main street. This is a modern structure, divided into stores and offices, the dimensions of the building being eighty-eight feet by eighty feet.

From 1890 to 1894 Mr. Root served as mayor of the city, and the latter year was elected on the Republican ticket to represent his district in the Twenty-fifth General Assembly. He was also alderman at large of the city of Clinton in 1896 and 1897. During his college days he became interested in military exercises, hoping thereby to benefit his health, and in 1889 he organized the C. L. Root Company, a drill corps, of which he was made captain. This company won the championship of Iowa, in the year 1889, at Council Bluffs; 1890, at Marshallton ; 1891, at Cedar Rapids; and in 1893, at Chicago, having the same twenty-seven men under drill for five years. In 1893 tne company escorted the governor on his tour of inspection at the World's Fair, in Chicago, where the military organization won much praise. In 1892 he organized Company L, First Regiment, Iowa National Guards, at his own expense. In 1897 this company acted as escort to the governor in Chicago at dedication of the Logan monument. At the first call for troops for the Spanish-American war, he received orders to have his company in readiness. He discharged all married men and minors of his finely drilled military organization. In three days he recruited his company to the standard and reported in Des Moines, Iowa, where the company became part of the Forty-ninth Iowa Volunteers. Captain Root had full charge of his company for two months. He tendered his services in the volunteer service. But the United States Board of Surgeons would not pass him on physical examination. He applied to the State Board, but they refused to pass him. He then tendered his services to the Secretary of War. Captain Root is a splendid disciplinarian, with a thorough knowledge of military tactics, is cool and collected and, while demanding implicit obedience, he is, at the same time, considerate of his men and enjoys the highest regard of those serving under him.

Captain Root was married December 17, 1884, to Thora Wiborg, daughter of E. G. Wiborg, of Lyons, and they have two children: Aurelius C, and Charles W. Both Mr. Root and his father were members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and the former still belongs to the organization. He likewise holds membership in the Masonic society, and the Woodmen, the Knights of Pythias and the Elks fraternities, and is a member of various social clubs. He is to-day one of the most popular, prominent and honored representatives of Lyons, having wide influence among his fellow men by reason of his personal qualities, as well as on account of his business ability and prominence.

Source: "The 1901 Biographical Record of Clinton Co., Iowa, Illustrated" published: Chicago : S. J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1901.


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