Joseph William Blythe, general counsel for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, at Burlington, Iowa, comes of a family noted for strong intellectuality. Among his ancestors were those noted in educational circles and others along professional lines. Of Scotch lineage, the first representatives of the name in America located in North Carolina. Rev. James E. Blythe, LL.D., D.D., grandfather of Joseph W. Blythe, was a distinguished educator, for some years connected with Transylvania University, at Lexington, Ky., and afterward president of Hanover College, of Indiana. He was also at one time moderator of the general assembly of the Presbyterian church, but his later years were devoted more exclusively to educational labors in the colleges.
His son, Rev. Joseph William Blythe, was born in Lexington, Ky., pursued his literary education in Transylvania University, and then matriculated in Princeton Theological Seminary. Following his ordination as a clergyman of the Presbyterian Church, he devoted the first years of his ministry to the home missionary department of the church, and later accepted a pastorate in Michigan. On leaving that State he went to Pittsburg, Pa., and subsequently to Cranberry, N. J.: after which he removed to Hanover, Ind. to become financial officer of Hanover College, this occurring about 1856. He represented the financial interests of the college until 1862, when he entered the army as chaplain, remaining in the hospital at Madison, Ind., until the close of the war. Afterward he was pastor of the Presbyterian church at Charleston, Ind., where he continued until his death, which occurred in 1876. His wife, Eleanor Henrietta (Green) Blythe, the mother of the subject of this sketch, was born in Lawrenceville, N. J., and was a daughter of Caleb Smith and Eleanor (Van Cleve) Green.
Joseph William Blythe, in early boyhood, was a student in the Lawrenceville school, and was afterward a student in Princeton College and in Hanover College. Preparing for the bar, he was for three years a student in the office and under the direction of Thomas S. Aitken, of Trenton, N. J. He taught in the Lawrenceville school for three years. The degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts were conferred upon him by Princeton College, and that of Doctor of Law by Bethany College, of Kansas, and Hanover College, of Indiana.
Coming to Iowa in 1874, Mr. Blythe located in Burlington, was admitted to the bar, and entered upon practice. Soon afterward he formed a partnership with the Hon. Thomas Hedge, now a member of Congress, under the firm name of Hedge & Blythe. In 1876 he went into the service of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company, as attorney for their Iowa lines. Afterward he was appointed general solicitor, and in 1901 general counsel.
On the 15th of October, 1877, Mr. Blythe was married to Miss Margaret E. Gear, a daughter of John H. and Harriet Graham (Foote) Gear. They have one son, Hugh Blythe, born Aug. 22, 1878, a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School.