Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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WHEELER, J.H. Vol. II. Pp. 395-98. Lewis Pub. Co. Chicago. 1910


Numbered among the most distinguished members of the bar of Cerro Gordo county and where he has been engaged in the practice of his profession for nearly forty years, Mr. [John] Cliggitt has not only attained to marked precedence in his profession but he has also been an influential factor in public affairs in his county and state. He has given the full force of his influence to advancing the civil and material development and progress of his home city and county, and no citizen has a more secure vantage place in the popular confidence and esteem of the community. His career has been one of close and consecutive application to the work of his profession and he has ever stood the exponent of liberal and public-spirited practice.

John Cliggitt was born in Montgomery county, New York, on the 25th of August, 1840. When he was one year old his parents moved to Burlington, Vermont, where he secured his rudimentary education in the public school, which he there continued to attend until May, 1850, when the family removed to the west and located in Madison, the capital of the state of Wisconsin, where they remained until the following autumn, when the removed to Naperville, Du Page county, Illinois, where they remained until December, 1851. They next removed to Kendall county, that state.

John Cliggitt, the immediate subject of this review, contributed his quota to the work of the home farming and continued his residence in Kendall county, Illinois, until his removal to Iowa in 1871. He duly availed himself of the advantages of the common schools in Illinois, attending the same during the winter terms and assisting in the work of the farm during the summer months. He applied himself diligently and finally was able to complete the prescribed course in the high school at Oswego, Illinois. He taught several terms of school and in 1865 he began the study of law, to which he devoted his attention at all spare times during his pedagogic and other work. In the autumn of 1868, he entered the Chicago Law School, in which institution he finished his work in 1869. In February of that year he was admitted to practice in the supreme court of Illinois and in June, 1871, shortly after his arrival in Mason City, Iowa, he was admitted to practice in the district court of Cerro Gordo county. Here he has continued to devote his attention to the work of his profession during the long intervening years. In 1873 he was admitted to the supreme court of the state at its term held in April of that year in the city of Dubuque, and he later was admitted to the United States district and circuit courts of Iowa.

In September, 1871, Mr. Cliggitt entered into a partnership alliance with Charles Husted, and the firm of Husted & Cliggitt continued in practice in Mason City until the spring of 1875, when Mr. Husted moved elsewhere. Mr. Cliggitt thereupon became a member of the law firm of Miller & Cliggitt, the senior member of which was Captain George R. Miller who had been for several years previously a member of the firm of Card & Miller. The partnership alliance between Miller and Cliggitt proved most grateful and successful and was severed only by the death of Mr. Miller in October, 1886. In 1889 the firm of Cliggitt & Rule was formed, composed of the subject of this sketch and Duncan Rule, and both are now members of the strong and well known firm of Cliggitt, Rule, Keeler & Smith. B. C. Keeler entered the firm in 1898 and Earl Smith became a member therof in April, 1908. Mr. Cliggitt's life and labors in Iowa have been devoted to the study and practice of law. For a short time each he held the offices of justice of the peace, recorder of the incorporated town of Mason City, and secretary of the independent school district of Mason City. In March, 1880, he assumed the office of mayor of his home city and he continued as the chief executive of the municipal government until March, 1884. During his incumbency of the office of mayor, in 1882, he directed the work of changing the municipal organization of Mason City from that of an incorporated town to that of a city of the second class, in which position it has since been assigned. In politics Mr. Cliggitt has been and is a Democrat, believing in the great generic and fundamental principles of the Democratic party as taught by its great leaders from Jefferson to Cleveland and Carlisle. He was a delegate to the national convention which in 1884 met in Chicago and nominated Grover Cleveland as candidate for the presidency and he supported the policies of Mr. Cleveland through his two presidential terms. He much regretted what he judged to be a great and serious error of the party in pledging itself to the unlimited coinage of silver at the ratio of sixteen to one. This he believed to have been historically and logically a doctrine of the Republican party, and he maintained that that party should have been left to cherish and support it or abandon it as the case might be. On account of the radical silver issue wrongfully imposed on the party, as he believed, Mr. Cliggitt refused to give his support to William J. Bryan as the presidential candidate of the Democratic party and he therefore gave his support to Palmer and Buckner, commonly designated as the Gold Democratic ticket. Circumstances called him from his home state at election time and consequently he was unable to exercise his franchise in support of the ticket mentioned. Since 1896 he has voted for the presidential nominees of the party as the issues advocated by the party since that time have in most respects been acceptable to him and met the approval of his judgment.

Mr. Cliggitt has been nominee of his party as candidate for representative in congress, district judge and judge of the supreme court of his state, but on each occasion he has met defeat with the party ticket in general, under the heavy, normal majority of Republican votes. In 1897 the convention of gold-standard Democrats, desiring to restore the party in Iowa to "sane and safe" Democratic policies and doctrines, nominated a full state ticket and Mr. Cliggitt was named as its candidate for governor. The nominees for this ticket received but a small vote at the election but they still believed that their efforts toward the restoration of the party in great measure to proper principles have borne good results.

Mr. Cliggitt has ever had great interest and faith in our common school system and its great and beneficent influence and calling. He strongly believes in keeping and supporting it for the education and uplifting of the many, -- the children of the poor as well as those of the wealthy. He is not affiliated with any of the church denominations but has been a free contributor and attendant most of them. He believes in a supreme being, the immortality of the soul and the basic doctrines of Christianity and he has a deep reverence for the spiritual verities. Besides his law studies he has kept in line a course of general reading and study so far as his time and strength have permitted and this has been directed along historical, literary and scientific channels. He has taken great pride in the growth and progress of Mason City, where he fully intends to pass the residue of his life and which has for so many years represented the scene of his trials and labors as well as that of his generous measure of success.

On the 1st of September, 1879, Mr. Cliggitt was united in marriage to Miss Ella C. Brightman, who was born and reared in the state of New York, and in the attractive home, at 216 East Ninth street, they delight in dispensing hospitality to their wide circle of friends.

NOTE: John Cliggitt died on June 17, 1914. Ella C. (Brightman) Cliggitt was born on October 7, 1855, and died on February 19, 1939. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery, Mason City IA.

Transcription and note by Sharon R. Becker, January of 2014



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