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.


Dr. Jacob Sylvester Caster, Mayor of Burlington, called to the office in 1904, by the largest vote ever given in the city to its chief executive, stands as a high type of our American citizenship — a man whose business success is the direct outcome of consecutive and honorable effort, and whose political career has been actuated by high principles and lofty patriotism, as exemplified in his tangible and practical labors for the public good.

A native of Iowa, Dr. Carter was born in Franklin Mills, Decatur county, Sept. 15, 1860, his parents being Dr. Paul and Nancy (Hatfield) Caster. His paternal grandfather, John Custer, for so the name was then spelled, was of German lineage, of an ancestry that was represented in Pennsylvania at an early day. He removed from the Keystone State to Hagerstown, Ind., becoming one of the pioneers of that locality, and there Dr. Paul Caster was born and reared. The latter, subsequent to his marriage and the birth of their eldest child, came with his family to Iowa, settling in Decatur county, where he early followed the wheelwright's trade and also engaged in the milling business, being one of the pioneer representatives of industrial interests there. In 1866 he took up the profession of magnetic healing, and gained wide and lasting reputation by his skill and efficiency. Removing to Ottumwa, Iowa, be erected a building there, in 1869, at a cost of eighty-six thousand dollars — now the Ottumwa Hospital. There he treated people from nearly all parts of the world, patients coming to him from distant sections of this country, as his fame spread abroad and his power was demonstrated by the practical results that attended his efforts. He died in April, 1881, while his wife passed away when her son Jacob was but two years old. Paul Caster married, second, Mrs. Sarah Ferl, a widow of a soldier who was killed at Lookout Mountain, Tenn.

To the first marriage were born five children: Mary Ann, wife of Samuel Gilbert, both dead; John L., Samuel L., both of whom live in Ottumwa; Sallie, wife of George Rutter, of Chicago; and our subject.

To the second marriage were born three children: Lizzie, who died in childhood; Wm.; and Ella, wife of Seneca Cornell, County Attorney of Wapello county, Iowa, and Nettie, now Mrs. Bangs, of Ottumwa.

Accompanying his parents to Ottumwa, Iowa, when about eight years old, Dr. Caster continued his education in the public schools of that city, and later entered the Commercial College, from which he was graduated. During the last five years of his father's life he was associated with him in practice as superintendent of his infirmary. It was the father's earnest desire that the son should take up his profession, but Dr. J. S. Caster refused because of the close confinement necessitated in the conscientious performance of the duties involved. Instead he turned his attention to the machinist's trade, and for nearly nine years was in the service of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company, in that capacity. He came to Burlington while so employed, and while still in the railroad service he treated a number of charity cases here, his sympathy being aroused and his broad humanitarian principles prompting his ready aid in behalf of those who had not the means to secure other professional treatment. The cures he effected drew to him the attention of many of the citizens of Burlington, and many pleaded with him to treat members of their families. Thus, without effort on his part, he gradually worked into a practice that made heavier and heavier demands upon his time and attention, until he resolved to direct all his energies into the channels of magnetic healing, and in 1889 he opened his office. Since that time patients have come to him in Burlington from forty different States and Territories, extending from Maine to California, and from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico. Since the third of September, 1891, he has kept a record of his business, having given eighty thousand treatments, of which thirty-four thousand were to residents of Burlington — showing his high position in the public regard in his adopted city.

In his political views Dr. Caster has always been a Republican, and the questions and issues of the day have claimed his earnest consideration and careful thought. He has come to be recognized as a leader in the ranks of his party in Burlington, and in 1897 was chosen alderman, being the first Republican elected to that office in the third ward in many years. In 1904 named as his party's candidate for the highest office within the gift of the city, he was elected mayor of Burlington by a plurality of 1992, the largest received by any mayoralty candidate in Burlington. Thus, with the endorsement of public opinion, he entered the office, and the favorable regard evinced in the ballot has been in no degree set aside or modified as he has discharged the onerous duties which devolve upon him. When he took the office after a Democratic administration, there was an indebtedness for completed contracts amounting to $108,992, and yet Dr. Caster has been enabled to do a large amount of paving, repairing, and other practical and beneficial work. The fines from the police department have averaged over eight hundred dollars per month, against less than one-half that amount in previous times. His administration of the affairs of the city is conducted along strictly business lines, appealing to the sound judgment and keen discernment of the citizens, and his course is winning high encomiums. He was elected president of the Iowa League of Municipalities, at the convention held at Burlington in October, 1905.

Dr. Caster has attained high rank in Masonic circles. He is a member of Des Moines Lodge, No. 1. Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, of Burlington, has taken the thirty-second degree of the Scottish rite in the consistory at Davenport, and also belongs to Kaaba Temple of the Mystic Shrine, at Davenport. He is likewise a member of Excelsior Lodge, No. 268, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, of which he is a past noble grand, and Eureka Encampment, No. 2, together with the auxiliary — the order of Rebekah, belonging to Paul Caster Lodge, No. 348, which was named in honor of his father. He is likewise connected with other fraternal organizations, and is in full sympathy with the beneficent spirit which forms the basis of all these organizations.

On the 23d of March, 1880, Dr. Caster married Miss Mary Biederman, formerly of Ottumwa, Iowa. They had four children, but the first born died at the age of eighteen months. The others are Charles E., of Burlington, who married Anna E. Stoerzbach; Mable R. and Mary E., at home. Dr. Caster is a member of the First Methodist Episcopal church, while his wife and daughters are members of the Christian Science church. They have a beautiful home at the corner of High and Fourth Streets, in one of the most attractive residence portions of the city.

Through the open door of opportunity, which is the pride of our American life, Dr. Caster has made his way to professional, social, and political prominence, and in the light of public criticism, whereby every individual is judged, his course will bear the closest investigation, and can not fail to awaken admiration. A blending of geniality and dignity in his manner, of courtesy and kindliness in his deportment, of big purpose and honorable action in his political career, he stands among the representative men of Burlington — an honor to the city which has honored him with high official preferment.


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