RALPH GURLEY PHELPS.
HON. RALPH GURLEY PHELPS, the leading attorney of Cass county, Iowa, residing at Atlantic, was born in Monmouth, Warren county, Illinois, January 26, 1846. He traces his ancestry back to William Phelps, who came from England in 1630 with the Warham congregation of Puritans, and located for a time in Massachusetts, and then removed to and founded Windsor, Connecticut. William Phelps was the father of Lieutenant Timothy Phelps, who was born at Windsor, Connecticut. The latter also had a son named Timothy, who was born in the same place and who afterward removed to Hebron, in the same State. He had a son whom he named Timothy and who was born at Hebron. He was the father of Timothy Phelps, who was also born at Hebron, and had a son named Samuel, who was a soldier in the Revolutionary war and who was the father of Porter Phelps, who was born in Madison county, New York, March 23, 1804. Porter Phelps was a farmer and merchant in his native State and there married Mary Rees, also a native of Madison county, New York, and a daughter of David Rees, a native of Wales, who came to America in 1802 and located in Madison county, New York. The marriage ceremony took place, at the home of the bride's parents, in 1826.
In 1837 Porter Phelps with his family emigrated to Warren county, Illinois, and settled on a farm near Monmouth, the county seat, where he engaged in farming, in which occupation he continued during the remainder of his life. A pioneer of Warren county, Illinois, he was well and favorably known throughout all that region of country and died at the ripe age of eighty-four years. His wife, the mother of our subject, died at the age of eighty-two years and the remains were interred in the cemetery at Monmouth, where they await the summons of the great day. They were the parents of eight children, of whom Gertrude M., Ann E. and Kenneth J. are now deceased. Samuel D. now resides in Monmouth, Illinois, in the employ of the United States Government; De Witt, who also resides in Monmouth, is living a retired life; Delos P. is at present United States Assistant Treasurer, at Chicago and is a member of the firm of Shope & Phelps, attorneys, 1110 Exchange Building, Chicago.
The subject of this sketch was reared on the home farm near Monmouth, Illinois, and received his primary education in the district schools. He later entered Monmouth College at which he was graduated in the class of 1867, being the class valedictorian. On leaving college he commenced reading law with Stewart & Phelps and was admitted to the bar by the Supreme Court of the State at Alton, Illinois, in 1869. In 1877, he removed to Lewis, Cass county, Iowa, where he remained one year, and then came to Atlantic, where he has since been engaged in practice with great success. For the past fifteen years, he has been attorney for the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway, and since 1886 for the Western Union Telegraph Company. The very fact that he has been retained as attorney by these companies is proof positive of his ability in his profession.
On the 21st of September, 1871, Mr. Phelps was united in marriage, at Lewis, Iowa, to Miss Alice Hardenbergh, a native of Ulster county, New York, and a daughter of Thomas H. Hardenbergh, also a native of New York. She came to Lewis, Cass county, Iowa, in 1858, with her parents, and here grew to womanhood. Mr. and Mrs. Phelps are the parents of two sons: Porter I., born May 13, 1881, and Robert G., born September 21, 1889.
In politics Mr. Phelps is an uncompromising Democrat, with which party he has been identified since attaining his majority. He has ever taken an active interest in political affairs of State and nation and, while never aspiring to office, has advocated with voice and pen the principles of his party. As a speaker, he ranks among the best in the State and is logical and conclusive in his arguments. He is a man of great executive ability and for two years was [a] member of the State Democratic central committee, and did much toward reducing the large Republican majority of Iowa. For two terms he served the city of Atlantic as Mayor, to the satisfaction of his constituents.
In connection with his duties as an attorney Mr. Phelps has given some attention to other business interests. In 1886, he established the Commercial Bank at Atlantic, of which he was elected president. Under his management and counsel the bank has had a successful existence. Fraternally he is a member of Pymosa Lodge, No. 271, A. F. & A. M.; Ophir Chapter, No. 84, R. A. M.; and of Kedron Commandery, K. T. In each of these bodies he has filled most of the chairs. For years he has been an active member of the order and for two years was Grand Master of Iowa. He is also a member of the Knights of Pythias. Few men are better known in the State and none more highly honored than the subject of this sketch.
From A Memorial and Biographical Record of Iowa, Volume I, Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1896, pp. 121-123. Transcribed July, 2015 by Cheryl Siebrass.