IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.


Hon. Frank Davis Bayless

Hon. Frank Davis Bayless

Hon. Frank Davis Bayless. Among those who have been residents of Clayton County since the close of the Civil War, there is perhaps no one who has wielded a greater influence in its business and political affairs, or has achieved greater success in business pursuits, than has the subject of this sketch. He was born in Pendleton, Madison County, Ind., October 9, 1840, and with his widowed mother, a younger brother and two younger sisters came to Iowa in 1853, settling near Postville. There he was a student in the common school, and commencing at the early age of fourteen years, he displayed his aptitude for business as a clerk in general stores in Postville and Monona.

In 1855 Mr. Bayless emigrated with the family to Dodge County, Minn., where he assisted in opening and operating a farm. In the fall of 1856 he returned to Indiana and for nearly two years devoted his attention closely to study in the high school. In 1858 he again went to Minnesota, and his time until the breaking out of the war was occupied in farming, teaching school and studying medicine. Patriotic in spirit and in response to duty, he promptly enlisted in 1861 in the Second Minnesota Infantry, and marched to Kentucky to assist in putting down rebellion and preserving the integrity of the Union. He served with credit in the Kentucky and Tennessee campaigns, but his health being impaired, he was honorably discharged and returned to Minnesota, where he was happily married in February, 1863, to Miss Harriet Dresser.

His health being re-established, Mr. Bayless could not remain at home in peaceful pursuits while his comrades were braving the dangers of the battlefield, and the following winter he re-enlisted in the Third Minnesota Infantry. Until March, 1864, he was engaged in the recruiting service, and with over two hundred recruits, joined his regiment in Arkansas early in April of the same year. Soon afterward his knowledge of medicine and drugs caused his assignment to the medical department, where he served faithfully until the close of the war, receiving his final discharge September 21, 1865.

During the winter of 1865-66, Mr. Bayless was employed as clerk in a drug store at Manterville, Minn., and in May, 1866, removed with his family to Iowa, settling in Elkader, Clayton County, where he bought an established drug business, and where he has since made his home. With the necessary push and activity of a thorough business man, he soon enjoyed a large and lucrative business, and in time established branch stores at several points. A feature of these ventures is the fact that all his business partners were young men who had served a long apprenticeship in the home store, and we may add, that all have been faithful and successful, and are rated of high credit in the commercial reports.

Although he has sold some of his business property, Mr. Bayless continues the senior member of three drug firms, and is also the owner of bank stocks, business and residence buildings for rental in Elkader, and much property outside, and altogether is recognized as a thououghly successful business man. While his prosperity is largely due to his own unaided exertions, yet he attributes much of his success to the advice and counsel of his loyal and good mother, who died at the old home in Minnesota in 1878. Four sons have been born of his marriage, of whom the two eldest are enterprising business men of Waukon, Allamakee County, Iowa, and the two youngest are at the Elkader home.

In his youth an Abolitionist opposed to slavery, Mr. Bayless joined the Republican party upon its organization, and continued to support its candidates and measures until 1872. He then allied himslef with the Democratic party, in which he has since been a leader and a tireless worker. For twelve or more years he was Chairman of the Democratic County Central Committee, and was noted as a thorough organizer and successful leader. Being a business man, he refused for years to accept a nomination for a political office, but in 1883 he was prevailed upon to accept a nomination for State Senator, and being elected and re-elected four years later, he held the position for a period of eight years.

In the Iowa Senate the record made by Mr. Bayless was that of a statesman of more than ordinary ability. His career was characterized by such close attention to business that he soon gained a large influence, and during his incumbency he was the author and champion of, or assisted in passing, some of the most salutary laws on the Iowa statutes. He was a close attendant to committee work, and for several sessions (though a Democrat and his party in the minority) his worth was recognized by his being made Chairman of important committees. He was a member of the Elkader School Board continuously from 1870 until 1894, a period of twenty-four years, during all of which time he was zealous in educational work and the improvement of our schools. As a member of the Town Council and of the Committee on Streets and Alleys, he has contributed to the permanent improvement of Elkader. His culture and genial manners have won for him many friends among the people of the state of Iowa.

source: Portrait and Biographical Record of Dubuque, Jones and Clayton Counties; Chicago: Chapman Pub. Co., 1894; pg 361-362
-transcribed by Sharyl Ferrall

Return to 1894 Biographies Index