Transcribed by Teresa Kesterke from: Biographical Review of Des Moines County, Iowa: Containing Biographical and Genealogical Sketches of Many of the Prominent Citizens of To-day and Also of the Past, Hobart Publishing Company, Chicago, 1905.


George B. P. Carpenter, of Burlington, whose mercantile career, characterized by all that was straightforward and honorable, and in harmony with the highest commercial ethics, won for him the confidence and respect of his fellow-men, while his manly virtues and kindly, considerate spirit gained him warm and enduring friendships, was born in New Holland, Pa., Dec. 19, 1836. He was the son of Anthony and Catherine Carpenter, who went to Pennsylvania as children, the father from Germany, and the mother from Ireland. For many years the father engaged in the jewelry business at New Holland, remaining a resident of that place until his life's labors were ended in death. He died about the time of the Civil War, but his widow lived many years longer, surviving all of her children except G. B. P. Carpenter, who was a most devoted, loyal, and loving son, never letting a year pass without returning at least once to the old home to visit his mother. She passed away about 1877. In the family were twelve children, of whom A. W. Carpenter, one of the pioneer residents of Burlington, was the eldest, while George B. P. Carpenter was the youngest.

In his native town G. B. P. Carpenter spent the days of his boyhood and youth and acquired his education in the public schools. He learned the first principles of the jewelry and watch-making business with his father in New Holland, and later went to Philadelphia, where he entered upon a regular apprenticeship to the watch-making trade, thoroughly mastering the business in every detail. He then came to Burlington, arriving in this city in May, 1856. Here he entered the employ of his two brothers, Anthony W. and William Carpenter, who were engaged in the jewelry business, remaining in that connection with the house until a few years later, when William Carpenter died, and George B. P. Carpenter was admitted to a partnership, under the firm name of A. W. Carpenter & Brother. The business had been establish by the senior partner in 1837, and was therefore one of the pioneer mercantile enterprises of the city. It was also soon recognized as the leading jewelry house of Burlington a position which it has since maintained.

Upon the death of A. W. Carpenter, the remaining brother admitted his nephew. E. H. Carpenter, son of A. W. Carpenter, to the firm, which became known as G. B. P. & E. H. Carpenter, their store being located at the corner of Third and Jefferson Streets, the firm owning the building. In this line of commercial activity Mr. Carpenter continued with marked success up to the time of his demise, which occurred May 3, 1880, and since that time E. H. Carpenter & Son have conducted the store, which for almost threescore and ten years has been a factor in the business life of Burlington.

In 1861 occurred the marriage of George B. P. Carpenter and Miss Sarah Stockton, a daughter of Judge L. D. Stockton, a prominent citizen of Burlington, now deceased. There was one child of this marriage, Flora, the wife of C. E. Brooks, who is connected with the National State Bank of Burlington. Mrs. Carpenter died in 1863, and on the sixth of October, 1868, Mr. Carpenter married Miss Ella Harman, who was born in this city, a daughter of Phillip Harman, who died in California during her early girlhood. He was a contractor and builder of Burlington at an early day and went to California for the benefit of his health, but after three months died of heart trouble. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Eliza Hayden, is a native of Ohio. Following the death of her first husband, she married L. M. Runyan, a native of Kentucky, the wedding being celebrated in Burlington. Mr. Runyan conducted a grocery store in Burlington from 1857 until 1878, and for a long period lived retired in this city. He and his wife now make their home with her daughter, Mrs. Carpenter, at No. 102 Polk Street. Mrs. Runyan came to Burlington in 1838, when it was a small town containing only two brick houses, and she has seen it develop to its present extensive proportions, with all of the improvements and equipments of the larger cities. Mrs. Carpenter is her only child. Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter became the parents of three children, of whom one died in infancy: Elsie is the wife of William M. Davis, a practicing attorney of Iowa City, Iowa: Porter Harman, who learned telegraphy in Burlington, is now with the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad in their offices at Chicago.

In his political affiliation Mr. Carpenter was a Democrat. He belonged to the Methodist Episcopal church and took a very active and efficient part in its work, doing all in his power to promote its growth and extend its influence. Mrs. Carpenter also belongs to the same church, and is a member of the Ladies' Aid Society. At the time of the Civil War Mr. Carpenter, because of his Quaker principles, did not enlist in the army, but his sympathies were with the North. He was always a public-spirited citizen, doing everything in his power to promote the welfare of his adopted city and State. He built a fine home at 100 Polk Street in 1878, but after his death, Mrs. Carpenter sold this property to Frank Millard, and has since lived with her mother at 102 Polk Street, where they have a beautiful residence overlooking the Mississippi River.

During his last two years Mr. Carpenter was in ill health and spent considerable time in travel, hoping to be benefited thereby. He went to Florida and Colorado, and was at Pueblo when he was taken suddenly worse, and was advised by his physicians to return home. He rallied under the treatment given him, and feeling much better, started for Burlington. Even at Ottumwa, Iowa, he said, "I am all right now," but before the train had reached Fairfield he had expired. His death caused universal sorrow in Burlington. An old-time friend said of him: "As a young man no one in Burlington had more or warmer friends. The circle of his acquaintance was large, and his cheerful, lively disposition, his cordial manner, and his thorough manliness made him one of the most popular young men in the city. He was very successful in business, his friendly, hearty ways contributing greatly to that result." All through his life he had "the love and honor of troops of friends." There was nothing narrow or selfish in his nature; on the contrary, he was kind, generous, and good, faithful to his friends, and having no enemies. In his business career he did not prosper at the sacrifice of other men's fortunes, as is too often the case at this day, but in the field of legitimate trade accumulated his competence as the result of diligence, enterprise, and honorable dealing. He was yet in the prime of life when called to the home beyond, but in the forty-four years of his earthly pilgrimage he accomplished much good, his being such a life as awakens the faith and confidence of men in their fellow-men, and inspires their emulation of his noble example.


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