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.


James Lyman Edwards, president of the Merchant's National Bank of Burlington, has attained distinction in financial and business circles as the youngest bank president in Iowa of an institution of the size and character of that of which he is now the head. A native son of Iowa, his career confers honor upon the State, illustrating its possibilities and opportunities that lie before the young man of determined purpose and laudable ambition. With a ready recognition of opportunity, without which there is no success, Mr. Edwards has steadily advanced in those walks of life demanding close application, strong intellectuality, and determined purpose.

Born in Morning Sun, on Oct. 2, 1864, he is a son of Manasseh and Orra W. (Hurd) Edwards. His father was a native of Wales, born Oct. 4, 1839, and in his childhood days was brought to America by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Edwards, who established their home in Iowa, the former following the occupation of wagon-making in order to provide for his family. Manasseh Edwards, having acquired his education in the public schools of Iowa, learned the trade of cabinet-making and located at Morning Sun. There he was married to Miss Orra W. Hurd, a native of Ohio, who had come to Iowa with her parents in her early girlhood. In 1881 Mr. Edwards removed with his family to Burlington, and has since been connected with the lumber business of this city. While a resident of Morning Sun he was elected recorder of Louisa county, and his capability led to his re-election, so that he was the incumbent in that position for four years. His political allegiance has always been given to the Republican party, but he has had little time or inclination to seek public preferment. He and his wife hold membership in the First Presbyterian church, and he has made for himself a creditable name in social and business circles.

James Lyman Edwards acquired his early education in Morning Sun, continued his studies in Wapello, and after his arrival in Burlington in 1880 pursued a course of study in Orchard City Business College. He then secured a position with H. A. Brown & Company, dealers in boots and shoes, as a bookkeeper, but soon accepted a similar position with the Burlington School Furniture Company, with which he remained for two years. Later he spent a brief period at Red Oak, Iowa, and then entered upon his first active connection with the banking business as an employee in the Red Oak National Bank. On Oct. 21, 1885, he entered the Merchant's National Bank of Burlington as general bookkeeper, and was the accountant for the institution until Oct. 4. 1897, when he was promoted to the position of cashier, acting in that capacity uninterruptedly until April 28, 1904, when he was elected president. The election came to him as an honor, and one well deserved, he being the youngest bank president in Iowa, having control of a moneyed institution of such extent and importance as the Merchant's National of Burlington. This bank was organized in October, 1870, and now has a capital of one hundred thousand dollars, with surplus and undivided profits amounting to one hundred and twelve thousand dollars. In this respect the Merchant's National surpasses any bank in the city. For twenty years Mr. Edwards has been connected with this institution, working earnestly and untiringly for its welfare, and gradually he has gained advancement until he today stands at the head of one of the most important financial concerns of Burlington. The bank occupies fine quarters in its own building at the corner of Main and Jefferson Streets, the building being elegantly furnished and equipped with every modern device for convenience and safety. There are also modern safety deposit vaults, affording every possible protection to the depositors.

Mr. Edwards is also a director of the Merchant's National Bank, and is well known in connection with other banking institutions, being a prominent representative of financial interests of the Middle West. He is a director of the First National Bank of Dallas City, Ill., and was one of the promoters in building up this institution. He likewise has made investments in other banking houses outside of Burlington, and is today one of the leading representatives of financial circles. He belongs to the Iowa State Bankers' Association, of which he was at one time vice-president, and he has declined the presidency on account of business interests. He likewise belongs to the American Bankers' Association, and is a regular attendant at its meetings.

In his political views Mr. Edwards is a stalwart Republican, thoroughly informed concerning the questions and issues of the day. Fraternally he is connected with Malta Lodge, No. 318, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. He belongs to the Commercial Exchange of this city, and he is a member of the First Presbyterian church of Burlington. By the consensus of public opinion he ranks with the leading men of his adopted city, occupying a notable position among those in control of financial interests. His energies have been directed to banking as a focusing point, and his close application, systematic effort, and unfaltering purpose have resulted in the successful culmination of his laudable ambitions and expectations.

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