Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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BIOGRAPHY - BRIG. GEN. JAMES RULE.

A strong and noble character was that of the late General James Rule, who died at his home in Mason City on the 28th of November, 1907, and measured by its beneficence, its rectitude, its productiveness, its optimism and its material success, his life, counted for good in its every relation. He played a large part in the civic and material development and upbuilding of Cerro Gordo county, where he took up his abode when a young man and where he rose through his own forces and ability to a position of prominence and influence, the while he ever commanded secure vantage place in the unqualified confidence and high regard of all who knew him. A life guided by high ideals and regulated by the strictest adherence to principle was that of the honored subject of this memoir, and no man could be more essentially human, more free from asceticism, more altruistic and more ready to find good in "all sorts and conditions of men." He meant much to Mason City and Cerro Gordo county, and they meant much to him, so that in every publication purporting to take cognizance of the lives and labors of the representative citizens of this county, must, if consistency is to be conserved, accord a tribute to the one whose name initiates this article.

"As the years relentlessly mark the milestones on this pathway of time, the older generation slowly gives way to the new, and gradually there pass from our midst the men who made our country what it is and who built up this western empire for the men of now. In every generation and every community some few men leave an indelible imprint upon the history of that community and upon the memories of those who have known them by the ability to fight and win, even against great odds, and by that kind of character which wins lasting friends because of that innate quality which people know as loyalty. James RULE, who passed into the great beyond, was one of those.

"The life story of James RULE is one which is inseparably connected with the history of our community and interwoven with all the important events in our development. As a young man he was strong, vigorous and self-reliant. He trusted in his own ability and did things single handed and alone. His intellect was keen, his personality was strong and forceful, he stood by his friends with all his might to the last extremity. He was an infallible judge of human nature and the deserving always received help from him. Many young men in this county got their start to prosperity through him, many a young farmer now owns a farm because James RULE helped him to get started. He was an active and intense worker and it was finally his terribly close application to his duties that brought about his illness which has afflicted him for the last few years.

"James RULE was a noble illustration of what independence, self-faith, self-reliance and lofty ideals can accomplish in America. He was absolutely self-made. No one helped him in a financial way and he was self-educated. His early education was gleaned from the district schools in Wisconsin in the winter time. He worked in the summer always to help the family exchequer. At fourteen he had to give up his educational facilities and yet his intellect was so keen and his purpose to become educated so persistent that he mastered the German language with other studies and became so proficient in it that he taught it to others as a tutor. He loved literature and oratory and though not an orator himself he was a superior judge of the divine gift. He was as strong too, in body as in mind up till the day when he fell on the sidewalk of Mason City, the culmination of overwork, and during his active life in his young manhood and middle age, it can be said that there was no more forceful or more resourceful character in the country. He was a typical knight in his active days, entering all lists, dealing and taking forceful blows with good nature, gallant in every political contest, chivalrous to the one who needed help, fighting their battles for them and never asking self-preferment. In the strenuous politics of this county he was always endeavoring to help someone else and when he became a financial factor he followed the same trait and many owe their start in material prosperity to him. Defeat was not in his dictionary, but optimism and courage were written large therein. He mingled freely with all classes, he was an aristocrat in intellect and the larger world of real culture.

"General RULE devoted much time to serious thought. Especially was this true of the later days of his life. He was a splendid scholar, much of it secured, as we term it, from the universe of nature. He knew men and he knew methods. He was resourceful, possessing patience, courage, business sagacity and remarkable foresight. He did not jump into the prominence he held in the community and in the state. He came to it by slow growth. He was loyal to his friends and was not severe with those who politically or in any way disagreed with him. He was liberal-minded, yet with a conviction settled, he was unfaltering in defense. He believed in humanity and he believed in a just and true God. In life General Rule was an unassuming man. He gave largely to public affairs. To everything that had a tendency to help along benevolent of philanthropic enterprises he was able and he willing contributed. As a public-spirited man, Mason City owes more to the work of General Rule than to any other of its residents. His money he invested largely in city property, and at the time of his death there were a number of monuments standing in honor of his faith in this city. We have said that he did not come into prominence by leaps and bounds. As Bishop Fowler says: 'Greatness is of slow growth.' General RULE grew slowly yet surely. In early days he was a stone mason, and a good one he was, for that was one of the early principles he adopted: 'Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well.' He was popular and he stepped into official position in the county and he kept on stepping, until he finally was made president of the City National Bank, one of the leading financial institutions of this section of the state. He was born with a military spirit deeply imbedded in him, and from a private he rose to the rank of captain of the local company. And still he was ambitious and finally he climbed to the highest office in the Iowa National Guard—that of General. General RULE possessed a big, warm heart. He was a friend to a friend and a friend of the helpless. No one ever turned toward that big warm heart in times of need but that he found a cordial response. He will be missed. The bells have tolled his departing, but in the hearts of very many people he will live on and on."

General James RULE was born in Green Lake county, Wisconsin, on the 11th of June, 1846, and was the son of James and Mary (CAMERON) RULE, who were born and reared in Scotland, where their marriage was solemnized and whence they emigrated to America in 1844. In his native county, the subject of this memoir was reared to maturity and his early educational facilities were limited to a somewhat desultory attendance in the county schools of the pioneer days. When sixteen years of age, he went to the city of St. Louis, Missouri, for the purpose of volunteering his services in the Union army, but on account of his youth he was rejected. He was determined, however, that he would in some manner show his distinctive loyality (sic) and his pertinacity he was finally assigned to a position in the ordnance department of the Second Division of the Army of the Frontier, under General HERRON. He served in this capacity that last six months and came home with his company. After received his honorable discharge he returned to Wisconsin, where he followed farm work and other occupations until the spring of 1865, when he accompanied his parents on their removal to Cerro Gordo county, Iowa, where they located on a farm in Lincoln township.

Concerning his advancement from that time forward the following succinct statements have been made; "he worked on the farm during the summer and taught school during the winter, by way of getting a start. In 1868 he because a resident of Mason City, commencing to work as a mason and contractor, forming a partnership with D. FARRELL and later with his father-in-law, Thomas K. GALE; In 1870 he was appointed deputy county treasurer under H. I. SMITH, working at his trade in the summer and the treasurer's office in the winter. In 1872, he was, himself, elected to the office of country treasurer, in which he succeeded himself by re-election in 1874 and again in 1876, serving for a total period of eight years. In 1880, General Rule became interested with T. G. EMSLEY and O. T. DENISON in the City National Bank, which was an evolution from a private bank, and he served as vice president of this institution until 1890, when he was made president, an office of which he continued incumbent until 1899, when he retired from active connection with the bank on account of ill health and for the purpose of giving his attention to his private interests.

"In politics General RULE was a staunch supporter of the cause of the Republican party, but was not a member of any church. He was affiliated with the Masonic fraternity and in the same was at one time eminent commander of the commandery of the Knights Templars in Mason City, where he also held membership in the lodges of the Knights of Pythias and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks."

On September 27, 1871, was solemnized the marriage of General RULE to Miss Jennie A. GALE, a daughter of Thomas K. GALE, who was long one of the representative and influential citizens of Mason City. Mrs. Rule was born April 4, 1853 in Portland, England, and was four years old when she came to America, the family locating in Iowa Falls in 1857, where she was educated in the high school and in Elsworth College of Iowa Falls. In 1870 she came to Mason City and was an active worker in the Methodist church. During this time she was president of the Marshalltown district for five years of the Woman’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal church. She was one of the charter members and officers of Unity Chapter, No. 58, Eastern Star of Mason City and in 1895-6 was Grand Matron of the state. She served as grand treasurer of the state for eight years, and in 1902 was made secretary of the Board of Trustees to locate and build and Eastern Star home, which was dedicated October 18, 1905, at Boone, Iowa. The edifice costing about $40,000, was built and maintained by the Eastern Star and is the only one in the world. Mrs. RULE and Mrs. Jennie E. MATHEWS solicited the first $3,000. Mrs. RULE has been very active in the building and maintaining of the above, she having devoted a great deal of time to the work.

Mrs. RULE survives her honored husband and of their three children, the one daughter died in infancy. Two sons, Arthur L. and Harold V., still reside in Mason City, and concerning them individual mention is made on other pages of this work. The parents of General RULE continued to reside in the county until their death, and of their children there are now living: Duncan, who is an attorney and a resident of Mason City; Mary, who is the wife of Lyman LEACH of Mason City; and Belle, who is the wife of George D. TAYLOR, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

At the time of the death of General RULE the following general orders were issued from the office of the adjutant general of the state under date of November 29, 1908, by the order of the governor:

"The death of the late Brigadier General James RULE at his home in Mason City, Iowa, at nine o'clock p.m., November 28, 1907, is announced with sorrow. General RULE has an honorable record as a soldier in the Civil war and in the Iowa National Guard, and his comrades mourn his death.

"The military record of General RULE was as follows: Driver of ordnance train, Second Division Frontier Missouri and Arkansas from November, 1863, to May, 1864; Sergeant, Company A, Sixth Regiment, Iowa National Guard, July, 1873; second lieutenant, November 9, 1873; captain, July 11, 1884; major, September 21, 1891; lieutenant colonel, Fourth Regiment, April 30, 1892; brigadier general, Second Brigade, November 23, 1894; term expired November 23, 1899."

In conclusion of this brief memoir an extract is made from a long appreciated estimate of life and services of General RULE, the same having been written by his life-long and intimate friend, Hon. John C. SHERWIN:

"I need but say little about Mr. RULE'S place in this community for his place and position are manifest and speak for themselves. Time can never efface the impress his ability, character and citizenship has left. Until his physical power was weakened by a serious illness some years ago he was easily the foremost in everything touching the advancement and welfare of this city. His strength, courage and influence were manifest in all matters of public interest, and no man gave more of his time or gave it more unselfishly for the public good than he did. But however great his achievements in other matters, they are not to be compare with the wealth, strength and beauty of his friendships. James RULE was a true friend in the fullest sense of the word. No road was too long, no night was too dark, no weather too inclement to deter him from needed service. His friend's cause was his own, and he championed it with the same vigor and determination that he brought to the conduct of his own affairs. He as once of the comparatively few men who friendship was so deep and true that he never found it a burden. The loyalty of such friendship is second only to loyalty to one's country.

"General RULE'S acute illness began a little over a year ago, and during all of the weary intervening months there were frequent periods of the most intense pain and suffering, yet through it all he displayed the same bravery and force of character which were so characteristic of his active life. His great and tender love for his devoted wife and children made him tenacious of life, and even after he knew that recovery was impossible, he battled on for the life that had been intrusted to him, as only brave men battle. But the conflict had been an uneven one from its inception, and a few days before the end came he fully realized that he could stay with his loved ones but a little longer. The end finally came as he had anticipated, and in the silence of the quiet and beautiful Thanksgiving evening he heard the great waves breaking on the farther shore and felt already upon his wasted brow the breath of the eternal morning."

SOURCE: Wheeler, J. H. History of Cerro Gordo County, Iowa. Vol. II. Pp. 384-91 Lewis Pub. Co. Chicago. 1910

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, February of 2011

 

 

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