Buena Vista County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Extracted from:  Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. 
 Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa
Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 652-54.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  Elwood Price Layman

Elwood Price Layman is a self-made man, who through his own careful management and well directed labors has accumulated a valuable farming property, comprising three hundred and eighty-five acres in Newell township, near the city of Newell.  He was born in Grantsville, Maryland, November 2, 1856, a son of George Louis Layman, who was likewise born in Maryland, of German parentage.  The father acquired his education in the district schools of his native state and his first business venture was as a real-estate dealer.  He later became proprietor of a hotel and met with success.  A democrat in his political affiliations he was called to fill important public office, at one time serving as sheriff of Allegany county, Maryland.  While serving in that office, a murderer was sentenced to be hanged and Mr. Layman was forced to perform this unpleasant duty.  In connection with other business interests he was an auctioneer and cried all the sales in his home locality, becoming well known in that connection.  The father was twice married.  He first wedded a Miss McKinzie, by whom he had one son, Thomas, who is a farmer and auctioneer, residing in Maryland.  For his second wife Mr. Layman chose Miss Louisa Rench, who was born in Hagerstown, Maryland, of Irish parentage.  Both parents are now deceased, the father passing away in 1892, while the mother was called to her final rest five years later.  The father is buried in Maryland, while the mother was buried in Newell, Iowa.  Of the father's second marriage there were twelve children, the brothers and sisters of our subject being:  John C. and Lula E., both of whom are now deceased; Etta V., the wife of Ralph Engle, a farmer of Maryland; Norval M., who is engaged in the livery business in Newell, Iowa; George B., who is engaged in the real-estate and insurance business in Newell; Anna, the wife of Frank Point, a resident of this city; Owen A., Helen and Lloyd Lownes, all of whom have departed this life; Laura E., the wife of Dr. Carl Stocker a practicing dentist of Armstrong, Iowa; and Harry C, who is employed as bookkeeper in a railroad office in Chicago.


Elwood Price Layman, the subject of this review, pursued his early studies in the district schools of Maryland and while yet a youth came alone to the middle west, locating in Illinois.  He worked during the summer months and with his earnings met the expenses of his schooling in the winter seasons, although he was obliged to contract some indebtedness.  He had, however, managed to buy a wagon, one horse and a harness.  One day he learned of an Iowa emigrant who wished to dispose of eighty acres of land in Buena Vista county near Newell, and that the same could be bought for a team, buggy and harness and one hundred dollars in cash.  Believing this an excellent opportunity to become the owner of a farm, Mr. Layman borrowed this amount of money and with the money which he himself possessed he purchased a horse and thus the deal was consummated.  On the 19th of March, 1879, being then a young man of twenty-two years.  Mr. Layman started to his land in Buena Vista county and it proved to be an excellent location, his farm being located just north of Newell, which at that time, however, contained but three hundred inhabitants.  When he started on his journey he had but twenty-five dollars in money and when he reached Newell he had but ten dollars.  This he paid for feed for his horses.  He then planted a piece of ground in potatoes and in due time had raised a good crop of this product, but for three months he was without funds, not having enough money to buy even postage to mail a letter to his mother.  One day learning that a circus was to be held in Storm Lake, he took a sack of potatoes to that city and disposed of them for fifty cents.  This was the price of admission to the circus and would leave Mr. Layman nothing with which to buy his dinner.  On the street he encountered a man who was selling jewelry and was giving fifty cents additional on each purchase made.  Mr. Layman saw where he might speculate and in this manner he accumulated five dollars.  This proved the starting point of his future success.  At the close of the summer he had three hundred dollars in money and this he invested in horses, which he took to Illinois and sold, making a profit of two hundred dollars.  As time passed and he prospered in his farming operations[,] he invested in more land from time to time until his place now embraces three hundred and eighty-five acres, this being considered one of the valuable farm properties of this section of the county.  In addition to carrying on general agricultural pursuits he is also a stock breeder and is an auctioneer, crying a large amount of sales throughout the county.


On the 1st of January, 1880, Mr. Layman was united in marriage to Miss Mary Esther Linskill, who was born in Pennsylvania and comes of English parentage.  This Union has been blessed with five children, four sons and one daughter, namely:  Harry Thornton, who follows farming near Newell; Laura Lee, who died in infancy; John Clarence, who resides in Newell; Ralph Engle, at home; and Denton Norval, who is a college student at Sioux City, Iowa.  Mr. Layman is a democrat in principle and practice and has held a number of township offices.  He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, while his fraternal relations are with the Knights of Pythias, the Modern Woodmen of America and the Court of Honor.  Mr. Layman is largely a self educated as well as self-made man, who through the inherent force of his nature and the utilization of opportunities has gained a prominent place among the substantial citizens of Buena Vista county.  Much of his success is due, too, to the assistance of his estimable wife, who has proved to him a faithful companion, ever ready to offer aid and encouragement in the early days of their married life when they were struggling to make for themselves a home.  They are both highly esteemed in the community where they have so long resided and the hospitality of their pleasant home is freely extended to their numerous friends.