Crawford County, Iowa, IAGenWeb


Zachary T. Hawk

No man has been more closely identified with the school system of Crawford county than Z. T. Hawk. A man of large ability and of the most extreme uprightness of character, he left a permanent impression for good upon all the many youths with whom he came in contact. He was particularly thorough ann systematic in all that he undertook, and to him more than any other man may be given the credit for raising the standard of the schools, both of Denison and the county, and placing them first upon a systematic basis. A good disciplinarian, Mr. Hawk always acted with justice and with leniency.

A simple, quiet. rugged, honest nnd honorable man, he taught his pupils far more than was given in the text-books. He taught them the primal virtues of life and gave to them an example of conscientious right living. Many a man and woman have forgotten some of the frills of education, but the clear, forceful and elementary teaching of Mr. Hawk was etched on the minds of his pupils and that was a part of their education which can never be forgotten. In appearance Mr. Hawk is still a strong, vigorous, forceful man. Straight as an arrow, he well illustrates that advancing years need have no terrors for the man who has lived his life aright. We believe Mr. Hawk's proudest possession is the knowledge that he is surrounded by the love of all his former pupils and that none have known him but to honor and esteem.

Zachary Taylor Hawk, third son of Martin and Nancy (Burroughs) Hawk, was born in Delaware county, Ohio, and spent the first five years of his life in that beautiful region, made historic by the struggle between the white settlers and Indians in the latter part of the eighteenth century. The father was of Dutch descent, the mother of Scotch, but in the course of many American born generations all traces of foreign nationality had been lost.

In 1854 the family emigrated from Ohio to Iowa, making the trip of seven hundred miles in a "prairie schooner." One hundred and sixty acres of raw prairie land was purchased in Pleasant Grove township, Mahaska county, and here, in 1855, a little home was built and a portion of the farm brought under cultivation. The privations of pioneer life were many and the luxuries few. The first crop of wheat and a part of the com were destroyed by prairie fire, but kind hearted neighbors came to the rescue with a bushel of wheat each until plenty was contributed for bread and for seed for the next crop. Succeeding years brought plenty and comfort, but money was scarce and the mother made the winter garments for the family from wool that she herself had spun.

The subject of our sketch trudged two miles to school across the open prairies with his two older brothers, all proudly wearing their suits of homespun. His winters were spent at school, his summers on the farm, and when a flock of two or three hundred sheep was added to the stock the hours of work were long indeed. The homestead was situated on a much traveled east and west roadway and along this road in 1857 and 1858 went many bands of heavily armed "free soilers" on the way to join John Brown in Kansas.

Our farmer boy mingled freely with these so called border ruffians when they camped on the little stream near by and found them such good fellows that he was filled with the war spirit and fain would go to Kansas too. He saw and talked with John Brown himself many times in the spring of 1859, but he was not aware of the identity of the venerable stranger until the latter's portrait appeared in the papers after the fatal venture at Harpers Ferry. Immaturity in years condemned him to fight weeds on the farm while his older brothers fought slavery in the south. Consolation was offered him in the form of two years instruction at the high school in the village of Indianapolis, Mahaska county, and later a short course at Hull's Classical ancl Normal School in Oskaloosa, a famous school in its day.

In 1867 Mr. Hawk commenced teaching and after four terms of most successful work in rural districts he was tendered a grade position in the city schools of Sigourney, Keokuk county, Iowa. He remained there two years, then spent six months in the office of the Sigourney Review, learning the printer's trade. In the fall of 1872, on the invitation of R. Heffelfinger, director, he came to Crawford county to organize the graded school of Denison, then about to occupy the fine new building now known as the "west brick."

He gave the school its first course of study in 1873 and its second one in 1883. In all he was principal of this school ten years, broken by one year at the State College at Ames, and by one term as county superintendent (1878-79.) He graduated the first two classes, 1886 and 1887, and turned over to his successor a thoroughly organized and graded institution. He had managed the school almost continuously from the time it employed two teachers until it had nine.

In 1887 he accepted the city superintendency of the Audubon (Iowa) schools, which position he held for four years, and in 1S92 he was elected principal of the Vail (Iowa) school, where he remained eight years. He retired from teaching in 1900, spent three years on his farm in East Boyer township, and in 1904 removed to a comfortable new home in Denison, where he still resides.

In 1876 Mr. Hawk was married to Miss Emma Wheeler, of Massachusetts Puritan descent, who has been a teacher in all the schools where her husband has been employed. They have no children, but they feel justly proud of a great family of boys and girls now bearing nobly their share of the world's burdens and responsibilities. It is honor enough to have been their teacher.

Source: History of Crawford County, Iowa. Vol. II. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1911.