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. Samuel E. Nixon, one of the prominent physicians and surgeons of Burlington, was born at Guyandotte, W. Va., on Aug. 9, 1849, his parents being Edward and Mary Ann (Phelps) Nixon. The Nixons, several generations remote, were of German birth, but persecution in their native land drove them to Ireland, and from that country Alexander Nixon, the great-grandfather, came to America. Because of the non-emigration act of Great Britain, he had to leave Ireland secretly, and swam out two or three miles in order to reach a vessel bound for an American port. He then hid in the hold until the anchor had been lifted and the ship under way. He settled in Marietta, Ohio, then a wild frontier district, and was often engaged in fighting Indians, who still roamed over that section of the country. He was also a great hunter, and spent much time in the forests with his gun. At his death he left a large family.

His son, who was also named Alexander Nixon, possessed many of his father's salient characteristics, and lived a life very similar to his. He married, and by that union had eight children. Later, after his first wife's decease, he married a widow with eight children, and they had five children, making twenty-one children in their family. Alexander Nixon, Jr., died at the age of sixty-five years, and his wife passed away later, at the age of seventy years.

Edward Nixon, father of Dr. Nixon, was born at Marietta, Ohio, June 15, 1815, and became a merchant tailor: but his health failed him, and accordingly he removed to West Virginia in 1840. He was a stanch Abolitionist and a very outspoken man. Because of his views concerning the slavery question he was obliged to leave the South, and came to Iowa in 1852. He was forced to make his escape secretly and at night, and he took with him two horses and some of his clothing. He owned property to the value of thirty thousand dollars in West Virginia, but was obliged to leave this, although afterward through an agent he received five horses for his property. He came by wagon to Iowa, settling near Dubuque, where he secured land at a dollar and a quarter per acre. He was himself in poor health and his wife was sickly. In West Virginia he had married Mary Ann Phelps, who had gone South to teach school. She was born in Cambridge, Mass., in 1817, and was a daughter of Samuel Phelps. Her paternal grandfather was a soldier of the Revolutionary War, and served in the battles of Lexington and Concord. Her father was a carpenter and builder. Mrs. Nixon was educated in a young ladies' school in Cambridge, and afterward went to West Virginia, where she had wealthy relatives living. After Mr. and Mrs. Nixon came to Iowa they suffered many of the discomforts and hardships of pioneer life. Mr. Nixon had to go to Kentucky to get the horses that came to him from his West Virginia property. There were great snowstorms the first winter, and although Mr. Nixon was a man of great energy and endurance, the exposure which he suffered in a night, while going three miles from a neighbor's house to his own cabin, leading a horse through the crusted snow, so exhausted him that he was confined to his bed for a year. As soon as possible, however, he resumed his labors and made two trips a day, thirty-two miles, hauling rails through the cold and snow, in order to fence his farm. An earnest Christian man, he placed his faith and dependence in God, and in time was enabled to overcome all the early difficulties which attended his life in Iowa. He remained upon his farm until 1865, when he removed to Danville, where he engaged in merchandising, but later he resumed agricultural pursuits near Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

Dr. Nixon, who was one of a family of five children, remained at home and assisted his father until seventeen years of age, when he started out upon an independent business career. When but thirteen years of age, however, he ran a header for weeks, cutting wheat, and made three dollars per day. When seventeen years of age he began teaching school in McDonough county, and spent two years in teaching in or near Table grove, Ill. His leisure hours were devoted to study, and this greatly broadened his own education, giving him a good foundation for his professional learning when he entered Hahnemann Medical College at Chicago, from which he was graduated with the class of 1874. He read medicine in the office of Dr. W. T. Virgin, of Burlington, and after his graduation was associated with him in practice for a year. He was then alone in practice for four years, after which he became the successor of Dr. Virgin, who removed from the city. He has since prospered, and now has a large and continually growing practice. The consensus of public opinion concerning his ability is most favorable, for he has many times demonstrated his skill and comprehensive knowledge in the manner in which he has handled difficult cases. He belongs to the Iowa State Homeopathic Medical Society.

Dr. Nixon was married, in 1878, to Miss Lucy Wilcox, who died in March, 1892. Their only child died in 1889. On the 30th of June, Dr. Nixon was again married, his second union being with Miss Mary Hillhouse, who died July 26, 1900, leaving two children: Edwin Allen and Norman Kennett. On Nov. 25, 1901, Dr. Nixon married Mrs. Mary A. Kunz, a daughter of L. Link, a retired merchant and capitalist of Burlington. She has a superior musical education, having received training under noted teachers in Germany and France.

Dr. Nixon has advanced high in Masonry, belonging to Malta Lodge, No. 318, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, of which he is a past master: Iowa Chapter, No. 1. Royal Arch Masons ; St. Omer Commandery. No. 15, Knights Templar, of which he is a past eminent commander ; and Kaaba Temple of the Mystic Shrine, at Davenport. He is also a member of the Crystal Lake Hunting Club. A man of scholarly attainments and broad mental culture, occupying a position of prominence in professional circles, he also enjoys the social life, which indicates a well-rounded nature.

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